Setting up a home theatre can be intimidating. How do you know which components you need, and how do you balance that with what you really, really want? You know you need a great TV, but what about the audio? Let’s take a look at some of the audio essentials that you will need to consider when looking to upgrade your home theatre. In this blog, we will help to provide answers to three simple questions you may encounter as you begin your home theatre journey:
- What is the easiest way to upgrade from my TV’s built-in audio?
- How can I easily connect to my home network to stream audio to my home theatre system?
- What can new technology, like Dolby Atmos do for me?
Audio Upgrade: get a Sound Bar
For many years as a student, I had a great television, but on the audio side, I was simply using my television’s built-in speakers. Don’t make the same mistake that I did.
In order to easily boost your system’s audio capabilities, you may want to consider purchasing a sound bar.
Sound bars are the entry way into richer home theatre audio. They are a single unit that usually contains at least 2 channels of audio plus a subwoofer to give you a fuller sound. Some units connect wirelessly like the Sony HTMT300 and some of the units are fully wired like the Sonos Beam Sound Bar. Either style of sound bar can quickly bump up the quality of your audio through a simple one or two cable audio setup. With the rapid advances in technology over the past few years, these sound bars can also allow you to easily enjoy your music through voice using your favourite voice assistant (like Alexa).
If you already own a sound bar, the next steps would involve much more preparation. I wrote an article last year that covered some of those options.
Audio Essentials: Connecting to Your Home Network
In 2019, connecting your home theatre setup to your home network is essential to consume content. You may not have to make a huge investment, however, as there are a myriad of different options to accomplish this task.
Streaming Device (like Apple TV or Chromecast)
Apple TVs and Chromecasts are incredibly pervasive in most people’s audio setups because they’re very easy to set up and use. You may have already known this, but for homes that are filled with Apple devices, the best way to get audio through your home theatre system may be the Apple TV 4K. This device hooks up to your receiver via HDMI and can easily connect to your Apple devices through AirPlay.
For households with Android phones, the Android-friendly Chromecast can mirror what’s playing on an Android device very easily. Within the Chromecast family of streaming products, there are a few options, including the Chromecast Audio for audio only, Chromecast and the Chromecast Ultra for 4K video.
Your Existing Gaming Console, Sound Bar or Television
Before you run out to your local Best Buy location though, consider what you may already have. Most gaming consoles and even your television may be able to play audio on demand. On the gaming side, both the PS4 and the Xbox One have their own Spotify apps and with the appropriate subscription to the service, you can play all of your favourite tunes on the big screen. If you buy a sound bar, it may also support a connection to your home network either directly to your home network or to your favourite apps. The previously mentioned Sonos Beam Sound Bar, supports AirPlay 2 from your Apple devices (like a MacBook Pro or Apple iPad, for instance).
New technology: Dolby Atmos
Home audio is a constantly evolving medium and the wide availability of Dolby Atmos in home theatre audio systems has changed the game for in-home audio. You may have seen the logo in your local Best Buy home theatre section, but do you really know what makes this technology so earth-shattering?
In most audio contexts, sound is programmed into distinct channels (like “Left” and “Right” channels, for instance). When you’re wearing headphones while playing a video game, for example, you may notice that the sound of a distant vehicle may move from your right ear to your left ear. With Dolby Atmos, however, the granularity of sound is multiplied. That’s because the sounds no longer rely on individual channels. Sound instead is programmed on an “object” basis. In your favourite action movie, that means that each vehicle in a chase scene can be programmed to travel through the room with a distinct sound trajectory. Up to 128 of these “sound objects” that can be moved anywhere within your room instead of having sounds move between a limited set of channels. Dolby Atmos has also been called ‘3D Sound’ because of this ability to place sounds more precisely in space. Atmos also uses overhead audio channels, so when that chopper flies above the characters in the movie, you feel it more realistically too.
Dolby Atmos as a concept may seem incredibly interesting but in theory, it’s surreal. While an ideal Dolby Atmos set up does involve more audio equipment than a soundbar, you can get sound bars, like this Sony Dolby Atmos sound bar, that have overhead-firing speakers to create that same effect. Your local Best Buy store may be able to help you experience the magic with a Dolby Atmos demo and walk you through what it takes to get Dolby Atmos in your home. Contact your local store for more details.
Audio Essentials: Tons of Choices
We have covered the simplest ways to level up your home audio experience, but you can always take it another step further. Best Buy carries everything that we have covered previously and more including all-in-one systems, for example. These systems, like the Pioneer HTP-076 5.1 Channel Home Theatre System (with Dolby Atmos), gives you everything you need to get full surround in your house in one box. Instead of buying every component on a piecemeal basis, you get a receiver, subwoofer and speakers from the same manufacturer.
Just know that not only are choices abundant, but the help that you can get from Best Buy Canada comes in many different shapes and sizes. You can start your research on the Best Buy Canada Home Audio website!