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Home Theatre for Apartments and Smaller Rooms

7/10/2011 11:14:48 AM

If you live in an apartment or a smaller home, there’s no need for you to miss out on home theatre and what it can do for your movies, TV and video games.

If you live in an apartment or a smaller home, there’s no need for you to miss out on home theatre and what it can do for your movies, TV and video games. In fact, companies have built systems specifically designed to work best in these environments. From sound bars to multimedia systems, surround sound emulators to Quiet Mode, there’s a solution that’s right for your home, whether you’re at university or a Sydney apartment block.

 

Belly Up to The Sound Bar

One relatively recent entry to the low impact home theatre arena is the Sound Bar. Originally introduced by Yamaha, this is essentially an all in one stereo and speaker system that runs the length of your TV stand, (as long as you have a wide screen TV.) It uses one of several techniques to simulate the effect of surround sound, with varying degrees of success. These are perfect for small rooms because in order to get the most from them, you need to be sitting fairly close and toward the centre from left to right. 

You might think that something like this would struggle to compete with a full 5.1 or 7.1 channel system, and for the most part, you’d be right. However, if you’re in a tight spot, a sound bar could be a great option that combines sleek looks, decent sound and a low form factor into a surprisingly palatable home theatre cocktail. 

Not all sound bars are created equal. For instance, there’s the $2,999 Bowers & Wilkins Panorama, probably the best sound bar on the market today and with a price to show for it. While these typically do only a so-so job of simulating surround sound, the Panorama does considerably better. It does this by shooting beams of sound at specific angles off your walls and any other obstacle, which is the same way Yamaha does it. The end result is that planes and helicopters sound like they’re going to fly straight through your brain. 

The drawback to this unit is that it doesn’t come equipped with an HDMI input, so it can’t decode the newer sound formats found on Blu-ray discs. Blu-ray's will still work; you just won’t be able to play the high end sound tracks that the format is known for. The next model should take care of this oversight.

If you’re not willing to spend a month’s salary on something that merely simulates surround sound, Yamaha, Samsung, JVC and LG make quality units that sell for significantly less. For instance, Yamaha’s YHT-S400 sells for $999, and as the inventor of the sound bar, it still has an advantage over the competition. You’ll find sound bars that include Blu-ray players and others with a wireless subwoofer and even wireless rear speakers. Your best bet depends on how much you’re willing to pay, along with the characteristics of your room.

 

Computer Speakers Can Roar, Too

Do you take all your entertainment through your computer or video game system? If so, all you need is a good set of multimedia speakers, and you can rock your neighbours to sleep every night. 

These speakers typically consist of a subwoofer with built-in amplifier and five satellite speakers. You can easily hang these speakers from a wall, shelf or most any other tall object for optimum sound. With this type of system, you’re going to get better sound than a sound bar for less money, but you’ll need to deal with the associated wires, which can be messy in a cramped apartment or dorm room. 

Logitech has been one of the leaders in multimedia home theatre speaker systems for years. They typically make systems that sound as though they should cost much more than they actually do. For instance, the Z523, a 5.1 channel system perfect for a dorm room or small apartment, has an RRP of $150 and can be found for less than that. 

Polk Audio, Altec Lansing and JBL are some other companies which offer full 5.1 home theatre systems that can shake up an apartment. They range from less powerful systems best for a dorm room to scintillating scorchers that sound just as good if not better than a home theatre system costing twice as much. 

 

Quiet Time

If you already own a powerful home theatre system, and you’re worried it will be overkill for your new living arrangements, don’t forget about Quiet Mode. This is referred to by many other monikers such as Night Mode, etc. and is a mode found on many home theatre receivers that reduces the bass and volume of sound effects found in movies without affecting the dialog. If you want the power of a major system but need to put a muzzle on it from time to time, this could be the perfect solution.

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