Living At The Movies
The Evolution of Home Theater
Recent innovations have made the home theater experience more immersive, affordable and convenient. A seismic shift has occurred since the days of VHS and cathode ray tube televisions.
John Rein, principle partner at Nashua’s Audio Video Therapy, notes, “The biggest change is formats. You have 4K video, which has made a picture that is more defined and clearer than ever. Atmos sound gives you a three-dimensional sound field which you never truly had in a theater before. These have all happened in the last few years. … I will say that Atmos alone is probably the biggest sound difference I’ve heard in 15 years. … You are having sound come from a specific point in the room now. Not just ‘kind of over here, kind of over there.’ It’s 3 feet down and 4 feet over.”
There are other changes, starting with the quality of digital projectors, which replicate the full movie experience more closely than the biggest televisions. And the televisions are getting better. What’s more, the price of the technology means homeowners can achieve or exceed cineplex quality.
“The projector that’s $3,500 today is better than what I was selling a decade ago for 40 or 50,000 dollars,” Rein says. “4K TVs are cheap compared to what they were even two or three years ago. The biggest thing that’s happened is that you can get to high levels of performance for less than you ever could in the history of audio and video.”
For John McDermott, co-owner and system designer at Tailor-Made Audio + Video in Salem, New Hampshire, another big shift involves the ways we access content.
“Streaming video has been one of the biggest changes in the industry,” McDermott says. “People have been using Netflix and Amazon Prime Video for a few years now. Devices are now streaming 4K video for 4K TVs.”
Unfortunately, streaming is limited by bandwidth. For the immediate future, home theater owners who care about having the best picture and audio quality are generally opting for Ultra HD Blu-ray. According to McDermott, “The average household’s internet connection is anywhere from 100 to 150 mbps. … You can’t send true 4K or true Dolby Digital or even Dolby Atmos, for that matter, over that 150 mbps connection.” That will change as service providers upgrade their networks and replace megabits with gigabits.
Innovation is coming in other forms. High-backed leather chairs are being designed for maximum comfort. Projectors can operate in a wider array of spaces — even those with a previously prohibitive level of ambient light. Smart home capability is allowing homeowners to integrate their media with air conditioning and security systems. Voice activation means you no longer have to worry about getting remoulade on your remote. High quality in-wall speakers are approaching the point of invisibility. Outdoor systems are increasingly popular, and landscape components such as weatherproof or weatherized speakers and screens let viewers watch the Sunday game as they lounge on pool rafts and deck chairs.
While popcorn still tastes best with real butter, everything else about the home theater experience has been radically transformed. We probably won’t see another such period until 8K formats take over, and that’s years away. So, until then, fire up the laser projector, sit back and enjoy the show.
Audio Video Therapy
Tailor-Made Audio + Video