AVRev 2009 New Year's Resolutions 
Home Theater Feature Articles Other
Written by Brian Dailey & AVRev.com   
Tuesday, 06 January 2009

Eating better, exercising more and quitting smoking may be the most common New Year's resolutions, but what about some ideas for our home theater and audiophile readers?  Here are some resolutions to increase your knowledge and enjoyment of your home theater and audio systems in 2009.  We would also love to hear what your audio/video related new years resolutions are, so leave us a comment at the end of the article.  

 
Learn About Video Calibration and have your HDTV calibrated

When the average consumer walks into a big-box AV retailer, trying to pick out a new set from the wall of HDTV displays can be intimidating.  Determining which set has the best picture in the store can be like finding a needle in a haystack. Not only are the lighting conditions, with bright fluorescent lights, less than optimal, chances are the source content being fed to the sets is poor at best and most likely the sets were never calibrated. With salespeople who often have little or no knowledge about video calibration, consumers often simply pick the set that looks the brightest.


Brightness, contrast, picture, edge-enhancement; these are terms you have probably seen on the menus of your TV but do you actually know what they mean? Sure you probably have a general idea, but did you know there are classes you can take to learn exactly what they mean? The Imaging Science Foundation (ISF) is a group that provides educational seminars for consumers and certification programs for those who wish to be professional video calibrators.

If you have a front projection, rear projection, LCD or plasma, having your  video monitor professional calibrated can not only provide you with a stellar picture, but in many cases can extend the life of your set, which can easily pay for the several hundred dollars you can expect to pay  for a professional calibration. Rear projection sets, although not being manufactured by many companies anymore, have a lamp in them that burns very hot. When a new set comes out of the box, it is often much too bright so it can look good next to the other TVs at the store. When you get it home and are watching in a darker room, the resulting picture is too bright and a great amount of fine detail and contrast are lost.

Having the set ISF calibrated will often result in the light output being reduced dramatically. This means the bulb will burn cooler and will in turn last longer. I have seen calibrated rear projection and front projectors last twice as long as comparable sets after being calibrated. Of course individual results will vary. Be sure to never unplug your set without letting the cooling fan fully cool the bulb down, and never touch the bulb as the oil from your skin will make the bulb burn out faster.


Learn About Room Acoustics and have your room tuned

Other than perfectly tuned sound rooms, virtually no room is acoustically perfect. Square corners, windows, sofas, curtains, tile floors and shag carpet are just a small list of things that affect the way that sound travels around a room. There are automatic EQ systems, both outboard and built into receivers, that can analyze the way sound travels around a room and can automatically compensate for flaws in the room. This can be a good solution for some rooms, but there are times when a professional needs to be brought in to analyze the room and then make the necessary changes.


Perfectly flat frequency response is not always the end goal for acoustic spaces. Depending on the type of music you like to listen to, you may want to have a more “live” sounding room with a great deal of reverberation or you might want to have a more muted, and “dead” sounding room. Dead does not always mean bad as some people like to hear how their speakers and electronics sound rather than how the room itself imposes its own sonic character on the music.

Professional acousticians are available to come in to your home or room and analyze your existing set up and suggest changes. These changes can run from simple things like moving your speakers or sofa to expensive solutions like knocking down walls or buying new speakers and gear. Room tuning can be a never ending process that some people love and others find maddening, so you’ll just need to figure out how important it is to you. You just don’t know how good your room can really sound until you explore your options with room tuning.

Get Your Analog TVs Ready for the February 17, 2009 Deadline

For those of you who have not stepped into the digital world, time is running out. Unless your TV is more than 8 to 10 years old, it is probably equipped to accept a digital signal. If you have HDMI or DVI inputs you absolutely are ready for the February 17, 2009 date when all over the air television signals will be broadcast digitally. If your TV only has the red/white/yellow composite video or a screw-in coaxial video input, you will need to get a converter box to be able to view over the air digital broadcasts.


There have been discount coupons mailed out to many consumers and most electronics stores have these units for sale, so if you have an old set that you want to continue using, head out early and get your converter box before the rush starts in early February.

The better but of  course more expensive solution would be to get a new HDTV set and if you have been considering upgrading from an old-school analog standard set to a digital HDTV, there are some amazing deals to be had on 2008 closeout models.


Watch Every Best Picture Winner in High Definition

Now that the smoke has cleared and Blu-ray has been declared the winner of the format war, studios are putting out more back-catalog films on this high-def format. Even if you aren’t a serious student of film, it could be a fun project for the year 2009 to watch as many of the best picture winners as you can find in high-definition. Most of the older films on the list may never make it to Blu-ray or pay television so trusty DVD is there to fill in the many holes that are going to exist for quite some time.

Scan through your HD channels on your cable or Satellite provider and pick every academy award winning best picture you can find on the HD channels. Then go through the standard def channels and do the same. If you have a subscription to a service like Netflix or Blockbuster, you can start having the films sent to you via mail or digital streaming.

 

Convert all of your new CDs to digital format for the music server

Tired of popping in an endless stream of compact discs in your CD player?  Having trouble locating that Christmas gift that’s lost somewhere in a large 200 disc CD changer?  Take the time this year to convert all your music into a smaller digital format.  There are plenty of compression options that offer close to the same sound quality as compact discs.

Check out AVRev’s media server reviews to see which one is right for you or build your own out of an old personal computer.  Load up all the music on your server and take the time to tag each song with identifying information from locating easily.  You also may want to come up with a few play lists ready to go for any situation; parties, relaxing at home, etc…

 

Re-structure your home theater cabling system, upgrading to HDMI

If your home theater cabling is tangled beyond belief from swapping out components over 2008, it’s time to unplug everything and re-organize the wiring.  Grab a handful of zip ties and start wrapping up extra cable length to tuck away.  It’s also a good idea to start measuring the distance between your electronics and pick up some cabling of the appropriate length.

 

If you have picked up a new receiver with several HDMI inputs recently, it’s time to upgrade old cabling to HDMI if possible.  You will see a noticeable difference in 1080p picture quality and the digital connection eliminates most of the ghosting found with component cables.  HDMI also eliminates the need for two cables as it combines the multi-channel, digital audio signal with the video.   Fewer cables mean less work organizing the wiring behind your home theater system as well.






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