Buying the Extras - Furniture, Racks, and Cables
There's more to home theater than a big screen and a pile of speakers. The right seating, cables and even mounts can make a world of difference.
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The right theater seating, like these loungers from CinemaTech, can make even a Godfather marathon feel like a walk in the park.
November 19, 2007 by EH Staff

Video Display Mounts
They used to be mundane things, but since more and more people are buying flat-panel TVs, video display mounts have become more popular. There are many different types of these, from wall mounts to ceiling mounts, but by far the most popular today are wall mounts for plasma and LCD TVs. These come in all different shapes and sizes.

First and foremost, you need a mount that will work with your display. Check what mounts your TV or other device is compatible with, and check the weight limits. You can get just a standard mount that will stick out a few inches from the wall or one that allows you to tilt or swivel the TV. These often have articulating arms.

Newer mounting systems can hide the folded arms of a mount in a wall recess, often mounted between wall studs. Some companies even offer full panel recesses. It is important to check for wiring channels, so wires can be hidden. Also check to see how the systems mount onto wall studs or ceiling joists.

View “Products of the Year - Best Furniture & Mounts” slideshow.

Cables & Connections
Audio and video cables connect your components to one another and to your video display or TV. Here are some different types of cables and connectors you will likely encounter. Gold connectors for audio, video and speaker cables offer better connectivity.

Category 5, 5e and 6 cables are high-speed data cables used for broadband Internet connections and home networking, specifically with IP (Internet Protocol)-based home networks. Category 5 (or Cat 5) has a bandwidth of 100 MHz for networks up to 100 Mbps, and Cat 6 has 200 MHz and is recommended for Gigabit Ethernet (1,000 Mbps). Cat 5e is an enhanced version of Category 5. They all require an Ethernet jack (RJ-45).

Component video separates the video signal into distinct streams and is carried via three individual cables, colored red, green and blue and normally bundled together with RCA-type jack connectors. It will provide better color resolution, purity and fidelity than S-Video and composite video signals.

Composite video is a standard video connection that allows for the passage of a video signal with a maximum resolution of 330 lines. It is characterized as a single RCA-type jack with a yellow casing and is often bundled with analog audio cables. You should avoid these and use component video if possible.

Digital audio outputs provide less noise and interference than any other type of connection. It is either a coaxial cable that looks like a single audio cable or a TosLink optical connection that looks like an illuminated phone jack.

DVI (digital visual interface) is a video-only connection that provides a high-bandwidth interface between a video source and a display device. To protect content transmitted over DVI, a high-bandwidth digital content protection (HDCP) scheme provides a secure digital link between source and display. DVI supports HDTV resolutions of 720p, 1080i and 1080p.

HDMI (high-definition multimedia interface) passes both uncompressed digital audio and video signals. HDMI also uses HDCP (high-bandwidth digital copy protection), an antipirating technology. You can find these connections on DVD players, audio/video receivers and HDTVs. Watch for newer HDMI version 1.3, which will provide better bandwidth for features like higher-fidelity Dolby TrueHD and DTS-HD audio.

IEEE1394 (or FireWire or i.LINK) is a flexible digital connection that can pass HDTV signals using MPEG2 video to devices such as high-definition D-VHS recorders. It also supports daisy chaining.

RCA jacks are standard analog jacks that pass both analog audio and video signals. Standard audio cables are color coded white and red.

S-Video will provide up to 400 lines of resolution and will improve your picture clarity beyond the standard composite cables, though it is not as good as component video. An S-Video input uses a nine-pin connector.

Speaker wire recommendations may call for 16-gauge speaker wire or a lower number; the lower the gauge, the higher the conductor inside and the better the wire. Multiroom audio systems where some speakers may be a distance from the amplifier may require 14- or 12-gauge wire. A number of different connector types are available for all types of speaker wiring, from bare wire to plug-in RCA-type cables to “banana plugs” to “spade lugs” that wrap around binding posts. Also look for shielded speaker cables if power cords are nearby.

View “Products of the Year - Best Wire & Cable” slideshow.

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