Video and Audio Center Blog



Thursday, July 30, 2015

KEEP YOUR HOME THEATER CABLES UNDER CONTROL


Everyone knows that they have to consider just what kind of TV they want in their home will it be a 1080p HDTV or a 4K UHD. And what about size, how BIG will it be? The same goes for the Blu-ray player that will be supplying video from disc or perhaps subbing with smart TV features for streaming video or playing music. But what about the cables that need to connect between the TV and the Blu-ray player or DVD player? Or the cable box or satellite receiver that brings in broadcast and cable networks?

Good Cables Versus Bad

Where once multiple connectors for both video and audio were commonplace, now the HDMI cable rules supreme for video and, because it does this too, for audio as well. So making sure that the best quality HDMI possible is used for these connection is a must. That means brand names, because unknown HDMI cables that might have come for free or are lying around might not have the transmission speed that the video/audio signal needs to provide the best results. And getting good results doesnt mean spending hundreds of dollars for these cables, like it did in the early days either. But it does mean that you get what you pay for, and being price conscious is easy, since getting the proper length of HDMI cable will help to avoid unnecessary costs as well as insure a good connection. And while HDMI cables are prevalent, in a normal home theater there will be other cables as well, for example, S-Video and RCA type audio cables going to/from legacy devices such as a VCR player. These are found mostly populating an A/V receiver, which will of course have HDMI cables attached to them for sending audio to the home theater speakers. So just as with HDMI, its important to get quality cables for audio. This is especially true of these analogue cables as they are more likely to exhibit noise and interference if they are inexpensive (meaning poor materials poorly constructed).
Checking the Connection

Everyone knows that if a battery connection gets all crusty the battery wont be able to transfer power correctly. The same can happen if the connections to your home theater are shoddy. Since the HDMI cable (the bulk of all cables used in a home theater today) holds itself in place through friction, its important to make sure that theres no strain pulling on it that could cause it to loosen or fall out. Thats the easy part. Whats a bit harder is to first make sure that the HDMI connectors on both the cable itself and where its going to be inserted are clean and free of dust and/or detriment. A few wisps of a feather duster will keep the dust from gathering on an A/V receivers top, or the tops of speakers, but what about the connectors on the back of the receiver? Or the back of a Blu-ray player or TV? These can all benefit from a bit of dusting maintenance before the cables are inserted (that includes optical cables for audio too). Want to make sure theres no dust that could cause issues? Then take a Q-tip and lightly circle any connector that looks like it could use some gunk removed before inserting a cable (but dont insert the Q-tip into any connector since the cotton could come loose). And if the connectors cant be easily seen due to how theyve been placed, try a penlight or flashlight so youre not working in the dark. 

Placement of Cables

Most people have televisions set against the wall or mounted to the wall whether theyve done it themselves or had it done by an installation service, for example, Just One Touch. In either case, theres going to be cables going from the TV to the various devices that supply it with a picture. These cables dont get in the way of anyone and can be tucked behind the cabinet the TV is on or hidden inside a runner going up the wall (if non-invasive means are in use), but what about speaker wires (which are also cables of a sort) that have to trail from the AV receiver or from the TV and go throughout the room if theres a surround sound system. The wires need to reach the left/right surround speakers and whats important here is to keep any weight from impacting on these cables. There are a number of ways to do this: either will have to go under the rug (difficult to do by oneself) or they will have to be on top of the carpet but placed under a runner so people/pets wont trip on them or trample them or the cables will have to wind its way across the walls. Of course speaker placement in the ceiling will avoid all this but thats definitely a shout-out for a professional installer because of structural needs, electrical wiring avoidance and city codes.

The attractive quality of a big screen TV or a set of surround speakers may catch the eye, but its the cables that affect just how good the picture and sound that will be seen and heard will be. Take care of the cables and they will do their job and you can concentrate on whats important: enjoying your home theater.


Thursday, July 16, 2015

SOUNDPROOFING YOUR HOME THEATRE


Theres no arguing against the fact that a television with a big screen can rival the appeal of a movie theater, especially now that home theaters can have the same level of surround sound effects. But having great sound and hearing great sound arent the same thing not when theres all kinds of surface noise that interrupts the experience. Just turning up the volume on an A/V receiver isnt the answer either, especially if you live in an apartment or have other people in the houseor apartment uninterested in hearing what you are listening to. So whats the answer? Creating an envrioment where the external sounds are deadend and so what you are hearing is just what is playing.


Checking The Area for Problems

The key to controlling the external sound begins with a check through the area where your home theater will be. Are the speakers close to a window? If so, then they will be competing with noise from the outside be that cars on a road or people walking by outside. Is the area where you have your home theater right up against the kitchen, with all its foot traffic, refrigerator and microwave noises? Are there vents for the whole house heating/AC on one of the walls where the sound blows out into the room next to where you or yours will be sitting? These are all things that you can keep from interfering by avoiding the area where they are most prevalent.

Working On Improving The Sound

The first thing to do is remove extraneous noise from your speakers and subwoofer besides potentially bothering others (especially a subwoofers deep bass penetrating the floor to another apt.), vibration and surface noise results. There are pads designed to go underneath the speakers/subwoofer and which control the vibrations and reduce the leaking sound without affecting what the speakers are doing.


Next up are the entrances/exits to the room, which in most cases means a door. Weatherproofing foam tape material placed around the edges will help to keep the sound down, as well as keep light from leaking in. For the bottom of the door, it can be as simple as putting a towel down, or you can create a door trap This is basically a piece of material placed against the door that just kisses the floor and so negates sound (and light) coming from beneath the door.

For curtains, there is blackout materials to block light but also material that will better muffle the sound (blinds are noisy by definition and hanging up something in front of them is another way to go). And placing foam material around windows to control sound leakage will work as well for this as a door. As to vents, while it is possible to cover them up, a more concrete approach is to put baffling material inside should you feel competant to do that. But for most, the simplest method is to just not have the AC or heat on when youre using the home theater.

Its also important to consider any vibrations/noise that might be coming from the TV if its wall mounted. Also the same as regards electrical boxes and AC wall outlets if some cauklng around the edges knocks down on the air passage, its worth considering and doing.

Of course the main issue are the walls but in a non-invasive situation there is little that can be done here (hanging blankets or sound paneling material on walls can work but it could be hit and miss, besides looking somewhat odd). 

 
The Professional Sound Solution

Another solution, one that involves invasive means, could prove the easiest and most satisfying. Instead of a DIY project, bringing in a professional custom installation team, for example, Just One Touch, takes all the burden off you and lets you dictate what you want, while knowledgable pros handle all the issues. The main advantage here is that the installers know what you dont  in fact they know the answers to the questions about sound isolation and sound absorption that you dont even know to ask!  And when theyre done, your home theater will be isolated from all the annoyances that extraneous sound can bring, even as you will be freed from the aggravation and hardship of having to try and do it for yourself.




Thursday, July 09, 2015

THE IMPORTANCE OF PROPER LIGHTING IN YOUR TV ROOM


There was a time when the TV dominated the room in every sense of the word: people sat across from the “tube” and marveled at the picture that played on the 19” screen and didn’t mind that the seating had been arranged with the TV in mind, not comfort. Times may have changed — TVs are high resolution, big screen displays — but treating the TV as the main occupant of the living room, bedroom or den is still predominant. But the viewers of the past would turn off the lights, close the curtains and make sure that the TV was the only light coming into the room, so that they could see every iota of the picture. This is no longer the case and the lighting coming in from windows and overhead lights and other lighting isn’t expected to pay homage to the TV — in fact it’s not even considered. This means that the TV display must “fight” against this lighting, sometimes to the detriment of the viewers (raising the contrast to battle glare, for example, negatively impacts the picture). So lets attack this problem head-on.

The first thing to realize is that having a totally dark room is NOT a requirement — in fact most find that having a light near the TV (a dim one) makes for a more pleasant and healthy viewing atmosphere — it also avoids tripping over things when you move around, be they a wire or pet or that edge of a table that has your shin-bone in mind. But you don’t want your TV, whether it’s a 4K Curved or 4K Flat or HDTV, right up against a window that’s open and “throwing” light.

SOLUTIONS

Closing the blinds makes sense when there’s too much light entering the room, but having to get up to close them and then go over to open them back up afterwards is more than just time-consuming; the blinds mechanism can be damaged from those doing it in a hurry or incorrectly. A better solution would be to get a professional installer service, for example, Just One Touch, to automate the blinds for you. This would mean that the blinds would automatically take care of cutting down on the light without you doing anything (certainly a big help with a big screen TV’s image, not to mention those who have a front projection system with a projection screen on the wall). This can be connected to when the TV goes on, or even for certain hours of the day. There’s even system now in place to use batteries (not AC) to control the motors that operate the blinds, making for easier professional installations that work to your best desires.

Eliminating all lighting is to be avoided — instead get a standing lamp or one that can be put on a table where the light itself is slightly to the side and behind the TV. Called a “Bias light” (to get technical), it will raise the ambient light in the room without affecting the TV adversely and will also lessen the eye fatigue that otherwise will occur. These lights need to be color-neutral (as the light’s inherent color subtracts that color from the TV: example a yellow casting lamp will make the TV look “less” yellow). That’s another reason why getting a professional installer’s help will guarantee that everything being done is right.
Layering the lighting in the room is another way to ensure the lighting doesn’t negatively impact the TV’s picture. Putting in track lighting or wall sconces can be used to “hit” the room with light without blanketing it overall — not just ruining the mood but causing so much light to bounce from the walls that the TV hasn’t a chance. Using dimmers on the light fixtures that you already have is another option too, and these can be used for more than just table lamps (you’ll have to do some research as to getting the right kind of dimmers for the lighting you want to control). Of course bringing in a professional installer to do the lighting allows for much more control overall, so that’s something to also keep in mind as you look at your options for controlling the lighting.

The purpose of watching TV is to enjoy yourself — something that can’t be done if you have to strain to see what’s on the display or take your life in your hands every time you move around. And at the same time, the purpose of the TV is to give you the best picture possible — something that can’t happen if the lighting is fighting a winning battle against the display. Help your TV out so it can be the victor. That means you win too.