There are three things you absolutely need in order to have a proper home theatre. Of course you can add any number of accessories and peripherals, but without these items from my Top 3, your home theatre is just a poser.
#1 A wall mount
Flatscreen TVs are made to be mounted on the wall. They look better, cleaner, and more streamlined, not to mention you can position them for any viewing angle or furniture configuration with a proper wall mount. It’s also much safer for children in the house if the TV is securely mounted, as recent news stories have told of terrible accidents when kids are able to pull top-heavy TVs over onto themselves.
There are two kinds of wall mounts, but only one of them is in my top 3.
Fixed wall mount
This mount screws into the studs and holds the TV firmly in place, usually flat on the wall. While some of these mounts do allow you to raise or lower the TV, you’re basically stuck with a fixed number of movements. Nonetheless, it’s a good inexpensive and basic option to get introduced to wall mounting. This one from Dynex is good and basic, and a great value.
Swing or full motion arm mount
Articulated arm mounts give you the most versatility, and that’s why this style makes my top 3. Swing arm mounts firmly adhere to the wall studs, but they allow you way more motion, from basic up and down, to turning the screen for side viewing, to pulling it further out from the wall, or even tucking it up and out of the way (how you might need to use your TV in a kitchen or bathroom, for example). This version by Sanus has all the angles covered.
By the way, there’s bonus points if you install a cable tube in the back of the wall so none of your power or accessory cables are visible.
#2 A streaming device (or smart TV)
There are several smart TVs on the market now. From Samsung’s line to VIZIO, it’s becoming more common to have streaming services built in to the TV. Getting a smart TV means there’s no need for an external device like Roku, Apple TV or Google Chromecast.
That said, if you’ve already purchased a ‘dumb’ TV, one of these gadgets is an easy and inexpensive way to increase your available content.
What’s so great about streaming? A recent article published in the Hollywood news bible Variety says streaming has now become people’s preferable way to watch TV. In part, that’s due to people watching more programming on their tablets, smartphones and other devices, as well as a developing preference for binge watching TV shows. Another interesting number? The study found 42% of Americans use a video streaming service like Netflix. It’s becoming the way we watch TV now because it’s the most convienient.
So this is all to say, if you’re not on the streaming TV bandwagon, you’re falling behind.
Yes, yes, yes … your TV comes with speakers. But even the best among the built-in speakers is no match for a quality soundbar. Why not? Part of the reason is fancy flatscreens themselves. As manufacturers have thinned our TV screens, there’s much less room left for a quality speaker in that narrow package. This results in wispy, tinny sound that can’t carry those low tones. Add in the fact that in many cases the built-in TV speakers are pointing to the rear, or to the sides, and you’re not optimizing the sound’s directionality, meaning you’re going to get muffled audio. I could dazzle you with more science, but take my word for it, a soundbar is the way to go, until you’re ready for a full-fledged surround sound system. Prices range from inexpensive all the way up, so you can easily get something that will fit in your budget.
I prefer soundbars without separate subwoofers for my living room area, mainly just to keep things streamlined. I have a Sony like this one and it works great, but if you can’t bear to be without lots of bass, then there are plenty of options, like this other wireless version from Sony or this from Samsung or LG that get great ratings.
Those are my top 3 must-haves because they cover all the basics (assuming of course you already have a TV as your base) and they give you the most important basic functions, while looking good and creating a safe and streamlined home theatre.
Dare to disagree with my top 3? Let’s have it! Tell me what territory you’d stake out with your own home theatre top 3 in comments below!