A web site called televisions.com has compiled an interesting list of The 20 Most Common Mistakes in the Home Cinema. The article has a lot of worthwhile tips and advice, and points out many errors in home theater design that I see all the time.
I’m not going to repost the entire list here. You can visit the original article for that. What I will do is look over some of the highlights.
Some of the more obvious tips include buying a TV that’s large enough for the intended viewing angle, and making sure to calibrate it. Seating distance is also important. If you sit too far from the screen, you won’t be able to make out a lot of that important fine object detail in a high definition picture.
Another big mistake is mounting the TV too high. I bet we all know someone who’s bought an expensive HDTV and then placed it above a fireplace, practically flush with the ceiling. That’s only going to serve to give you neck pain. Ideally, the center of the screen should be at eye level or slightly below.
Light-colored walls and furniture are very bad for home theater purposes. They cause reflections on the screen, which will wash out the image.
I’m a big believer in having a general “Off” switch. All of my home theater gear is plugged into a power strip that I can switch off when not in use. Many pieces of HT gear suck up an unexpected amount of electricity even when in Standby mode. That’s going to run up your electric bill, and may put unnecessary wear on the electronics.
I have a feeling that a lot of home theater owners expect their surround speakers to produce localized sound effects. Back in the day, when I installed my first surround sound package, I kept the back speakers too close to my head, because I thought that I wanted to hear sound effects ping-ponging between them. In fact, the surround channels should produce a very diffuse soundfield that fills the entire back of the room and is difficult to localize.
There is one item on the list that I don’t necessarily agree with, or at least don’t understand what the site is getting at. It’s listed as “Mistake No. 17: Converting the video signal.” On the one hand, the text of the article advises, “Don’t use playback devices to tailor the video to the display device. This should only happen later in the chain, at the point where it becomes impossible to avoid.” And yet, the graphic to go with this item promotes the DVDO Edge video processor as a good tool to “convert video signals.” I assume that when they refer to converting the video signal, they mean deinterlacing and scaling. I don’t believe that there are really hard-and-fast rules for this. You should use the device that does the best job of it. In some cases, that may be the DVD or Blu-ray player. In others, it may be an A/V receiver, a video processor, or the TV itself. This will entirely depend on the specifics of the equipment in the signal chain.
Regardless, overall this is a very useful list of suggestions. Although some of our hardcore home theater fanatics may find many of the items obvious, I’m sure others will learn something interesting. Give it a read.