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Home Audio Shopping Guide

Most people would agree that there's nothing like sitting in a movie theater and experiencing the full effect of a booming surround sound system. From the vibrant sights to the cacophonous sounds, the two elements blend together to take you to a far away place.

For many years, you could only find this type of enjoyment in a movie theater; but nowadays, a full-fledged cinematic experience can be easily enjoyed in the comfort of your home. Everyone wants their home to echo with theater type sound, but many consumers believe the hassle of choosing and installing the best home audio system is more work than it really is. However, many home audio companies have begun to manufacture "home audio in a box" set ups, so customers can easily install quality theater sound right in the comfort of their own home.

But the challenge today is not necessarily setting up a home audio system, but rather being able to find the best brand and style that fits your needs and within your budget. With dozens of home audio manufacturers on the market and even more models to choose from, finding the best home audio system at the lowest price can be a daunting task. Luckily, Dealio's step-by-step shopping guide is here to simplify the process for you!

Home Audio System Features

Most "home audio in a box" systems include everything you need to get your TV equipped with theater type sound:

  • Speakers and subwoofer
  • Receiver and amplifier

Home audio sets usually come with five to seven speakers, each of which are strategically positioned around your room to optimize the sound. One speaker is usually positioned above or below your TV, while two additional speakers are usually positioned on each side of your TV at an equal distance. The remaining two speakers are positioned just slightly behind the sides of where you sit to provide the surround sound, and the subwoofer can be positioned just about anywhere. If you're a base fanatic, then you should probably choose a system with an adequate subwoofer.

(1) Speakers

The most important thing to remember when shopping for the best home audio system is this: listen to the speakers before you buy. A good rule of thumb is to bring a familiar DVD or CD and play it on the demo unit. The more you are familiar with the way a movie or music should sound, the better you'll be able to tell the differences between each set. You'll find that being prepared will help you find the best sounding home audio system relatively quickly.

(2) Subwoofer

If you are fan of loud, quality base, bring a DVD or CD that challenges the subwoofer, and make a determination with your ears. If this is not possible, a good rule of thumb to remember is this: the smaller the subwoofer, the more difficult it will be to produce good sound. This doesn't mean you need a huge subwoofer to get the job done, but it is true that small units won.t produce the same sound affect.

(3) Receiver

While the receiver has multiple functions, one of the main controls is the surround decoding, which is the way two-channel Dolby Surround is decoded to derive left, center, right, and a mono surround channels.

There are a few surround decoding options worth noting. In general, if your home audio system consists of a 5.1 speaker configuration, you won't need anything more than a Dolby Pro Logic II decoding format. This type of format will make full use of your CDs, DVDs, VHS tapes, radio, and standard TV. If you plan to go with a 7.1 speaker configuration, then the Dolby Pro Logic IIx format is best suited for your needs.

(4) Speaker configuration

In general, speakers can come in one of the four following configurations:

(a) 4.0 - Includes front left and right, center, and mono surround speakers.

(b) 5.1 - Same as 4.0, but with the addition of low frequency affects channels, which allow you to hear those bass rumbles and booms you feel in full-size theaters.

(c) 6.1 - Same as 5.1, but with the addition of a third surround speaker directly behind the seating area.

(d) 7.1 - Same as 6.1, but with the addition of two back-surround speakers that are positioned behind the seating area instead of just one.

(5) Frequency response

Any frequency response that has a lower limit of below 40 Hz will produce excellent sounding base, and any frequency response below 30 Hz will ensure you are never base deprived.