It seems like everyone is hopping on the home theater bandwagon. What was once a diversion only for the wealthiest has now become a hot new trend in households along every point in the socioeconomic strata. As home theater interest has increased, manufacturers and retailers have created new products designed with entry-level buyers in mind. These simpler, smaller systems retail for extraordinarily low prices and make the promise of a home theater experience available to anyone with a television and an interest.
This may seem like a wonderful thing. The idea of bringing entertainment to the masses does have an egalitarian appeal. Besides, not everyone needs a great system to enjoy watching his or her favorite movies at home, right? For years, many of us were satisfied with late night flicks in black and white on local affiliates, after all.
However, when push comes to shove, no one should invest in a cheap home theater system. They under-perform, offer virtually no flexibility, and tend to create far more disappointment than they do thrills and excitement.
Some of these cheaper systems will come with a DVD player, speakers and a built in amplifier. All of it is designed to connect quickly and easily to your television, suddenly turning that dusty old TV into the centerpiece of an entertainment system. It is a seductive idea, but one that usually fails to deliver.
The DVD players are generally of relatively low quality and are prone to breakage. They usually have a short lifespan and often lack many of the desirable features one can find in better DVD players. They tend to be bare bones players. They will play your DVD, but will not do too much else.
The sound system is generally underpowered. A true home theater system amplifier should be able to power all speaker channels and a subwoofer in way that really brings out the best in movie audio. These cheaper systems are usually low-wattage devices that fail to adequately power the included speaker set. Anemic amplifications guarantees a lack of quality sound in any space and certainly assures one that sound will suffer in a larger space.
The speakers, too, tend to be less than stellar. Small speakers, lacking in an ability to fill a room that tend to miss both the highs and lows that make movie sound so wonderful are usually packaged with these cheaper solutions. Speaker quality is really simply inadequate in these rigs. They usually lack subwoofers and if one is provided, the unit itself is unlikely to power it to the degree necessary to produce truly fulfilling bass.
In addition to technological shortfalls on multiple levels, these cheap home theaters also suffer from a decided lack of flexibility. If you begin down the home theater road with less expensive individual components you can upgrade as your interest grows. With an all-in-one solution you are limited to what you bought in the first place. Everything is integrated and there is no real opportunity for growth.
Additionally, there is generally very limited opportunity to even add something to the system. Input and output jacks are usually sparse, making it difficult to plug in the old VCR to watch a home movie or the video game console to play with the kids. The systems simply handcuff owners too much to be a sensible home theater option. They may promise a home theater but they deliver only a few cheap components permanently fused together.
The idea of making home theater experiences widely available is a great one, but the systems hyped as doing that on the lower end of the price spectrum right now tend to fail miserably. Instead of purchasing a lousy cheap system that will do no better than hooking up a $30 DVD player to a cheap stereo, consider investing in components individually and building a truly great home theater system over time. It may not provide the immediate satisfaction of a box of new goodies, but in the long run it will be far more desirable than the alternative
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