Considering Price and Quality For Your Home Entertainment System

The onset of the latest recession means that across the board, consumers are looking for the best bargains and discounts on different purchases, and this also includes the purchases of speakers to add to their home entertainment systems. There are options available when choosing the best speaker to enhance your entertainment system, and it is possible to find one at a lower price that still functions efficiently. Let’s look at the different places you could investigate for speaker purchases that you can afford and that will save your sanity in the process.

Always Consider Online Purchases

If you’re looking for the greatest selection, start off by surfing online because all the main retailers and many more now have online shop fronts. A bonus to shopping this way, you will find, is the availability of reviews for the systems you are interested in, as this is now a standard occurrence included in all online stores, and you can also view the opinions and comments of other people who have bought the same product. In the end, shopping online is an economical option, yet the products will match the quality of products at your local shop. Not only will you save on costs shopping online, but you can compare best prices from different online stores at the same time, allowing you to make the best decision for your budget, and still come away with the best possible speaker for your entertainment system.

Your Local Retail Chain

Of course, there are specific stores now that cater entirely to home entertainment products, and even the larger department stores will usually stock quite a range of products and probably have their own electronics department in store for you to visit and see the products they are selling. Normally, these kinds of products are found next to the televisions or other electronic appliances and gadgets on sale, and possibly situated out of the way, at the rear of the shop. Be aware, though, that you choice of options will be restricted because generally, home theater products are not a large division in these kinds of stores.

Depending on the size of speaker you aim to purchase, if you buy one from the bigger retail chain stores, the quality may be lacking, particularly larger speakers to fit the now substantial television sizes being sold. The kind of speakers stocked in these stores range from basic function up to medium quality to match average television sizes and likely are imported from other countries. The benefit is they will be attractively priced allowing you some financial room to later upgrade to a more impressive home entertainment system and accessories when you are ready.

A Revolution in Home Entertainment Systems – Touchscreens & Media Servers

Home entertainment systems have come a long way since you ooh’ ed and ahh’ed because your neighbor had a few pairs of speakers that actually fit flush into his walls. That’s old news now. Even homes in comparatively modest new developments are being outfitted with a full complement of audio, network, TV and telephone wiring. In many developments the builder offers a standard wiring package and various upgrades for additional wiring, speakers, wiring enclosures and even full control systems.

Systems have evolved to include sleek, wall-mounted touch screens that allow simple access to your music and other house functions such as security, lighting, HVAC, and motorized window treatments. A talented programmer can make these systems function with true “one touch” simplicity. It’s almost as if they’re reading your mind.

The touch screen’s advantage is that it can change the control interface to only show what you need at any one time. This affords tremendous flexibility while retaining the simplicity people desire. The touch screen interface is extremely powerful when combined with another technology that has come into prominence recently; the hard disc based media server.
Your CDs are downloaded, or ripped, onto a hard drive. This combination allows your entire music catalog to be displayed on the touch screen for easy searching. You can typically search by artist, song title, genre, or album. Once the desired selection is located, you just touch it on the screen and it begins to play.

These hard drive servers use computer hard drives and modern compression techniques to store phenomenal amounts of music in a simple audio component less than half the size of a 200 disc CD changer. They function just like a typical CD player, not your computer, so they are reliable and easy to use.

Media servers have exploded in popularity recently because of the enormous popularity of compressed music formats such as MP3 and the fantastic array of functionality a disc based system allows.
For those who have, or do, own CD mega changers, a hard drive music server will be like a breath of fresh air.

Access to any song is typically less than a second away. Contrast that to selecting disc 94 in your 300-disc CD changer when you are playing disc 201. With a multi-room audio system, you may be on the other side of your house trying to do this with a keypad or remote control. The wait for your changer to return the disc it was playing then trundle the carousel around to your desired disc can seem like an eternity.

Another advantage is easy cataloging. Most hard drive systems will recognize any CD you insert for ripping and if they don’t, they are connected to the internet for access to a giant database. This they access automatically to gather artist, album and track information. Gone are the days of using a keyboard or remote to tediously enter the information about your CDs into a CD changer. You can also stop worrying about which slot your discs are in. “Let’s see, was Led Zeppelin IV in slot 90 or 190?”
Using a hard drive server frees up your CDs for use elsewhere such as your car, boat or vacation home.

In addition, since your CDs are not locked up in a changer, your collection is able to be enjoyed by many members of the family at once. With a changer, if someone is listening to it, all of the discs inside it are basically off limits. With a changer, not only are your CDs free for use in other locations but many hard drive servers provide multiple audio outputs.

Multiple outputs enable you to listen to different discs in different areas of the house if your system is so configured. For example, one person could be listening to Korn in the rec room while Bach’s Requiem is being played in the kitchen and Dire Straights in the bedroom. With a conventional CD changer, this is impossible.

You can also buy and store music from many online music services and store those on your hard drive server.
Hard drive servers offer advantages over music files stored on a computer as well. Because they function like a traditional audio component, they are easier to use for many people. It is also easier to integrate them with touch screen based home control systems. This will begin to change as the popularity of multimedia PCs such as those running Microsoft XP Media Center Edition 2005 increases.

These units are many steps closer to delivering the long promised “convergence” between consumer electronics and computers. Multimedia PCs, also known as HTPCs [Home Theater PC] function as DVD players, personal video recorders (similar to a TiVO), and hard drive media storage.

They allow storage of digital photos for easy display on your TV or monitor. HTPCs can, of course, browse the net on your TV via your broadband connection. As hard drive storage becomes more economical and compression techniques become better, the storage of HD movies and HDTV programming will become commonplace.

Soon these types of servers and interfaces will become the norm rather than the exception. You’ll think nothing of the amazing array of features offered and the ability to easily access your media collection throughout your home. Once a rarity, media servers, in one form or another, will be found in almost every home.

Personal Budget for Home Entertainment Systems in America

Many of the newer audio and video systems for home entertainment systems have added many features the products. It is a minefield in trying to determine how much money must be allocated towards a system of ones choosing – especially when the consumer is not certain about the level or depth of the components may be desired.

Let’s take a look at the basic idea of a home entertainment system. There are really three general system ideas that are prevalent in the marketplace.

ONE: An audiophile system that is capable of High Fidelity reproduction of music. It consists of a stereophonic amplification system with two loudspeakers – maybe a subwoofer to extend the low frequencies – and a source device such as a CD player. This kind of system is for the serious music lover and is generally in a separate room or space from the tv or surround sound system associated with playback of video or multi-media programs.

TWO: Television and Video entertainment system – combining a television receiver, surround sound receiver and a set of loudspeakers. Usually contained within an entertainment room in the owners house and of great interest for television programs, movies, home video and other media programs. The number of loudspeakers is typically 6 – such as in a 5.1 playback environment: Front right, Front left, Rear right, Rear left and a subwoofer for reproduction of the low frequencies and special effects.

THREE: This is usually a variation of item TWO above but including a game system for home entertainment level games. The high level game player may be interested in PC based games also which requires a high performance PC for the more advanced game that are popular in the marketplace today.

Here we must talk about the range of product or classes of performance. Let us, in order to simplify the analysis, think of the consumer as being divided into three classes of seriousness of purchase: Good, Better and Best.

In category ONE above where the consumer is an audiophile and looking for a music system only the range of expense that will be needed can range from under $100 to as much as $5,000! A budget buyer can purchase a really good system from thrift stores for under $100 by shopping wisely. However, it is most likely the range for a “Good” system would range from, let’s say, $100 to $400.

A person in the “Better” category will need to allocate financial resources in the range or $400 to $1500. For example, a good amplification system will run $300 to $500 and a pair of speaker systems with subwoofer can easily fetch $1000 for “good” fidelity sound.

The “Best” sound which will satisfy the esoteric music lover can easily run up to $5,000 – or even more.

In category TWO above, we are talking more than just audio because it requires a flat screen LCD or LED television system. Depending on size the tv alone will run around $200 to $1000. Surround sound systems – all in one box like from Walmart or BestBuy can start at $100. So, for the lower end or “Good” category the range might well be around $400 to $1500 range.

The “Better” category of systems will run $1000 to around $3000. This level of system will have a larger screen, say up to 46″, 50 or even 55″. That alone will be $800 to $2000. The surround sound system will always be over $250 for a system of this quality. So, here we are easily up to $3000.

The “Best” category would likely be a 3-D television receiver with component grade surround sound which could not be gotten into for under $3000 and will easily build up to $10,000 range total for all the “stuff” necessary to complete the package.

OTHER: Keep in mind that cables, installation, system design and addition of game consoles would be extra for categories TWO and THREE. Installation can be a DIY project for those with the tools, the know-how and the desire. It is not an easy job to hook up everything, hide the wires, run them through walls, etc. Cabling and hookup connections can be down right aggravating if you have a complex system requirement for recording and time shifting, full motion cameras and so on. In a sophisticated system one may need the services of an engineer for system design.

CONCLUSION: We are looking at an investment of a minimum of a few hundred dollars and as high as several thousand dollars for a glorious and exciting comprehensive system with the very best performance parameters. We did not get into Internet connectivity but where that is desired another monthly cost must be added thereon.

For a person in the $120,000 annual salary class it should be expected that maybe one months salary could be a targeted budget for a system in the “Best” quality category.

Closing comment. This author recently desired a very “Better” grade audio system to add to a summer home – a system that would be used only for a few weeks out of the year. It was desired to be a low budget system but high performance. Solution: Visit a few thrift stores, watch Craigslist and follow a few threads on the Internet for good quality sound. Final purchase: Sony heavy, good quality pair of bookshelf speaker systems from Salvation Army for $5. A Kenwood receiver, 600 watts of power, from Craigslist for $40. Subwoofer with outstanding low frequency gut shaking bass output from Goodwill for $15. DVD/CD player new from discount store for $30. Conclusion: Very good sound quality with great power, thundering low frequency response all for under $100! You can’t beat that!