Video and Audio Center Blog

Tuesday, January 28, 2014

Keep Your Home Theater Electronics in Tip-Top Shape

All of us want to enjoy watching television and listening to music at home. So we expect our TVs and speakers or sound bars to work as good as they can the moment we turn them on. But there's some unexpected problems hiding in the home that can keep our electronics from working their best and which don't stand out so that we can see what trouble they're causing. These problems can't be avoided because they're just a part of what makes an electronics product like a TV or a speaker work. But that doesn't mean we can't do something about them.

Don't Get Zapped By Electricity

The electricity that comes into our home and powers our electronics is far from stable — in some parts of the country, spikes and momentary power surges are commonplace, and who hasn't experienced a sudden loss of power due to overuse of air conditioners or the wrong wire being cut when the street was cut up by city workers or even a fuse blowing from a hair dryer pulling too much power? Most of our electronics — TVs, audio amplifiers, sound bars, for example — don't just go on or off: they're always drawing some power so as to be in a "standby" mode. This means they can do things that otherwise they couldn't — like connect with the Internet or retain a setting when they are turned back "on." But it also means that when the power cuts out for a moment, they're vulnerable to the sudden rush of current "returning." This is not good for electronics and, over time, can impact them in such ways as reducing their effectiveness in performing their tasks or even shortening their "life." This can be especially true of TVs which are so full of electronics performing so many tasks that it's almost incomprehensible. And your Blu-ray or DVD player gets a free pass either . But what can make things even worse is that the quality of the "build" of electronics can vary from manufacturer and the less able a device is to handle power surges, the more prone it will be to having problems.

But there's something else that isn't so well known about electricity coming into the home: it's really "dirty." By that we mean that it has a great deal of radio frequency interference (RFI) inherent in the signal. This affects the quality of the video and/or audio coming from the device. You might not be able to see or hear it, but it's there and there's no reason to accept anything less than the full quality that your TV or DVD player, etc. can provide. So what's the solution?

The solution is to get a surge protector to start. These devices, like the Monster Cable MPEXP650USB, plug into the wall outlet and have their own set of outlets to plug the electronics into. They defend against surges and even storm conditions which generate electrical energy — plus filter RFI/EMI (electromagnetic interference) which can degrade picture and sound. Surge protectors are priced very reasonably and will protect your computer and even add additional features like protecting a cable box signal cable or charging up a mobile device (as is the case with the Monster). Of course you can up the game by having enhanced protection, for that you'd go with a microprocessor controlled unit like Monster's High Definition Power Center HDP1800.

Another solution is to get an uninterruptible power supply (UPS). This device has a battery built into it that takes over for when the electricity "pulls back," and so maintains a constant source of power to the TV or front projector or amplifier that is plugged into it. The length of time that the UPS works depends on the size of its battery, but even having a few minutes in the case of a total power failure means there's time to turn off electronics that otherwise would go out immediately. Of course the UPS also takes care of surge and interference issues as a surge protector does. This does make it cost more than most surge protectors, but not horribly more.

Speaker Pads/Subwoofer Pads

Vibrations are anathema to sound reproduction, and having speakers on stands always allows for the off-chance of one getting knocked over accidentally because its position had been changed over the time it was used. Putting a speaker pad beneath the speaker will do a number of things: provide a more secure base between the speaker and what's beneath it (stand or floor); reduce the vibrations being caused that could move the speaker about; isolate the sound so that it isn't being influenced ("colored") by the furniture. And let's not forget that it will help to mollify the neighbors who get annoyed by the sound of bass booming into their apartments. Speaker pads are made of a foam-type material and isolates the speaker from what is directly beneath it and in no way causes any harm. There's no batteries or assembly hassles either — just wipe off the bottom of the speaker or subwoofer, place the pad where the speaker was and put the speaker back down. The cost will vary depending on the size of the speaker/subwoofer, but in no way is exorbitant. It's a simple thing to do but will bring a lot of benefit to what you're hearing.


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