NY DAILY NEWS
Professional touch helps get the most from your home theater system
Thursday, June 26th 2008, 10:06 PM
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Eye-popping picture. Crystal-clear sound. Your own comfy couch.
The appeals of home theater are many. Generally described as a TV larger than 32 inches connected to a surround sound system and DVD or Blu-Ray player - home theaters are becoming more and more commonplace in New York homes, whether for playing video games, watching sporting events or just catching up with your Netflix list.
And with the economy in a slump, time-starved New Yorkers are discovering entertainment value that matches or exceeds the movie theater experience, right in their own homes.
Roughly 22% of U.S. residents have a home theater system, according to a recent study by research firm Parks Associates. And new home builders are increasingly offering home theaters as built-in standard packages, the firm said.
But that's not to say everyone is getting the most from their home theater systems. While prices may be dropping on electronics with each major holiday, the complexity seems to increase with each new model.
Perhaps that's why home video installation is becoming a fast-growing field. While they may never be able to compete with chains and online stores as a retailer, installers are busier than ever tending to upscale clients who want their systems to work seamlessly together.
Cost for a single room starts around $5,000 depending on equipment, while an integrated apartment - with video and audio controlled from a central location - can easily cost $50,000. A whole house integration could easily set you back $1 million.
But even if you're not prepared to spend six figures on your system, a professional can help you fine-tune your existing equipment for just a few hundred dollars.
"All TVs need to be calibrated," said Kerry Bright of Bright Home Theater. "Manufacturers deliberately set the TV too hot. They jack up the contrast and the intensity so it'll look good in the showroom. But keeping those settings right out of the box can be bad for the TV."
For $300 or $350, he said, an installer can calibrate your set to make the picture more natural and film-like, and eliminate "crushing whites" - those white splotches that show up on HDTVs.
Audio components should also be properly positioned and calibrated to ensure proper sound levels, Bright said. If you want to try it yourself, a $50 sound pressure level (SPL) meter can help get the job done.
"Sound is our biggest concern," Bright said. "It's easy to get a big TV, but receivers are more complicated. Everybody wants to see a kick-ass movie that sounds great. We use 'Lord of the Rings' and 'I Am Legend' in our showroom, and they look and sound better than the movies."
Bright said in the last couple of years, he's noticed that customers are choosing sets much larger than the 42-inch models that were once the standard. "Now it's at least 50 inches, with more and more people going for 60 inches or 65," he said.
Another trend he has noticed is a "backlash" against buying top-of-the-line equipment.
"Midpriced gear provides an amazing experience," he said.
Regardless of price, customers should have a professional do the installation, as even experienced home electronics shoppers can become overwhelmed.