Complete Your Home Theater Experience with the Proper Seating

After installing a home theater, the perfect addition to complete the theater experience is home theater seating. After all, you should enjoy your entertainment in utmost comfort. Installing comfortable, functional seating has its benefits and is easier than you might think.

Photo Credit: Fortress Seating

Photo Credit: Fortress Seating

Theater seating is fully customizable to fit your needs. If you’re working with a small space, seating can be built to your space’s specifications with zero-clearance and yet still fully recline – even when placed directly against a wall. Seating can be built with manual or motorized reclining functions and can also include a leg rest if desired.

Think of the seats at a deluxe cinema. Now think of those seats in your home and you have the ultimate theater experience. Theater seating is built to help you withstand long periods of binge watching your favorite movies. To discover more about home theater seating, visit our showroom at 9 Forest Street in Wellesley Hills and spend a few minutes in our home theater.

Is a Soundbar in Your Future?

Soundbars are a popular item right now.  When I’m traveling to product shows and conventions, every company seems to be making and displaying their soundbars.   Next time I go through a drive through to get my salad and yogurt (yeah, right), I will not be terribly surprised if someone asks me through the scratchy speaker “Want a soundbar with that?”

DO I?   Do I want a sound bar?  More importantly, do you want a so soundbar or would you like to know more about them? 

Let’s explore the wide world of soundbars, and whether a soundbar is something you should consider for your home.

What is a soundbar?

Sonos playbar and subwoofer

Sonos playbar and subwoofer.

A soundbar is a speaker system enclosed in a rectangular-ish box designed to work with your television.  Today’s TVs are so thin there is not much room for speakers inside. The sound quality tends to be uninspiring.  If you cut open a sound bar – which would be silly – you would see lots of stuff packed into the chassis including speakers, digital amplifiers, crossovers and other signal processing wizardry…and some tiny little people who live inside soundbars.  You may not see the wee soundbar people, but trust me they are in there.  Late at night, they speak to me  – but let’s keep that between us for now please.

Soundbars have a wide variety of designs and performance levels.   For instance, the number of audio channels may range from two channels (left and right) to many more.   Three channels are common (left, center, and right), but much of the simulated surround sound relates to the digital signal processing (DSP) capabilities of the soundbar.  Even if more channels are part of a particular soundbar’s specs, all of the sound is still generated from the single soundbar unit, although most soundbars are designed to provide the best results when used in conjunction with a separate subwoofer.

Another important differentiator is whether the sound bar is active or passive.  This does not mean an active subwoofer needs to be walked like a new puppy.  When a speaker is active it means that it provides its own power (amplification), whereas a passive speaker requires external amplification.   Whether you should consider an active or passive soundbar really depends on the application, and what you expect from your soundbar.

Should I use a soundbar?

The most important thing to consider before answering this question is the location of your TV and the design of your system.   For example, imagine you want better sound for your master bedroom TV.   In this instance, you could consider a powered soundbar from a quality company such as Bose or Sonos, and I certainly suggest using the subwoofer designed for those products.  As a side note, don’t just think explosions and crashes when you think of a subwoofer.   There is a lot going on in the low frequencies of programming and music, and your soundbar will sound much better when paired with a subwoofer.  So yes, for smaller to average-sized rooms a soundbar can be a good idea.  In this example, the soundbar would most likely be active, as would the sub.

Another way we frequently deploy sound bars is by specifying a “LCR” bar as part of a larger system.  LCR refers to left, center, and right audio channels, not political leanings.  In this type of system, imagine a TV over a fireplace in a multi-purpose family room.  We would mount a soundbar directly under the TV, and use rear surround speakers along with a subwoofer to create a true surround sound system.  This style soundbar is passive, and would rely on a separate amplifier and signal processing, either from an integrated Audio-Visual Receiver (AVR) or separate components.   In this type of design, there is usually a compromise because of design and space considerations and the LCR bar fits the bill nicely.  We can even order a custom soundbar so it is the exact length of your TV in order to get the best appearance.

IMG_2557

Samsung TV and custom sound bar from Leon recently installed at a client’s Wellesley, MA home by Elite Media Solutions.

This photo shows one of our recent installations in Wellesley with a Samsung display and a low-profile custom soundbar from Leon.  Note how the soundbar almost appears as part of the TV to keep a sleek appearance.   Not shown are the ceiling mounted surround speakers and a subwoofer.  This sound bar provides the left, center, and right audio channels.

Connectivity Considerations

When using a soundbar (with or without a subwoofer) with a TV in a stand-alone system, your source devices (like a blue-ray player or Apple TV) will connect to your TV through an HDMI cable, and then the digital audio return from the TV connects to the soundbar, normally with a digital optical cable.  The bad news is that most TVs down convert the incoming surround sound signal back to stereo.   This is where the soundbar’s signal processing circuitry comes back into the mix; to take the stereo signal and simulate a surround-sound effect.   Some manufacturers are better at this than others.  There are some sound bars that also have HDMI inputs, and will decode Dolby and DTS audio formats properly.

 Installations

A soundbar can get mounted on the wall, usually below the TV.  Although this isn’t really difficult, nobody wants to see the wires, so it is best to have a professional handle the install.  Another option is to place the soundbar on a cabinet.  Some soundbars have side-firing speakers, so avoid placing those soundbars inside cabinet for best performance.

What to Remember

Soundbars certainly have a place in today’s homes, whether as part of your main system or in a secondary location such as a bedroom, playroom, or vacation home.   A big consideration is where the TV and soundbar will be located, and your performance expectations.   A compact soundbar is not going to give you the same immersive experience as larger separate speakers, whether those speakers are built-in or floor-standing.  Make sure you get advice from a home electronics expert because you may feel overwhelmed by all of the soundbar options on the market!   Click here for a short video from Bose about their Lifestyle 135 soundbar and subwoofer combo.  This is one of my favorite soundbars with great sound processing, something that Bose does extremely well.   Give us a call at (781) 237-2929 to schedule a demo for yourself in our Wellesley, MA showroom. 

Elite Media Solutions provides quality audio, video, home theater, lighting control, motorized shades, home automation, and more to clients in the Boston, Brookline, Newton, Wellesley, Dover, Sherborn, Medfield, Weston, Wayland, Westwood, Walpole, Norfolk and surrounding areas.   Bose dealer, Sonos dealer in the Boston area.

5 on 4! 5 Questions on Ultra HD 4k Televisions

By Steve McDonough

4k Ultra HD takes your video to the next level

4k Ultra HD takes your video to the next level

By now, most people have heard about the arrival of 4k, or Ultra High Definition televisions.  You probably have questions about 4k televisions, and are wondering if you should consider a 4k TV for your next TV purchase.  So, let’s venture into the world of 4k Ultra HD and answer some common questions about the newest Ultra HD displays, available content, and more.  4k projectors are also available.   Don’e get confused by the terminology, 4k, Ultra HD, and UHD all refer to the same thing.

Q: Just what is 4k / UHD?

4K is not just a shorter road race, but a significant increase in picture quality over the current offering of standard High Definition televisions.  Without getting too technical, current HD sets provide a resolution of 1920 x 1080, making an image of about 2 megapixels.  4k resolution is 4096 x 2160, but Ultra HD TVs have a resolution of 3840 x 2160, or four times higher than the full HD spec of 1920 x 1080.    The take away is that Ultra HD picture quality is a significant bump in picture quality.

Q: Why Are the 4k sets only available in larger sizes?

A higher pixel count allows larger images to be created before they start to break up. Picture resolution is also related to your viewing distance, meaning  you can sit closer to a higher-quality display without the pixel grid becoming noticeable.   Viewing distance and screen size relate to how much of an immersive viewing experience can be experienced.

The first 4k sets released were 84″ sets from Sony and LG.  Smaller sizes, such as 55″ displays are also rolling out.   Would it make sense to buy a small 4k TV, even if they were available?  Probably not right now; but 4k really pays off with larger televisions.  I have seen the Sony 55″ UHD TV, and it was nice, but the 65″ and larger sizes seem to make more sense if you are going to spend the money on a 4k television, at least in my opinion.  Of course, as prices adjust this situation is fluid.

Q:  I read there is limited content available for 4k TVs, is that true?

Yes, you can only watch The Wiggles or a new 4k channel that only broadcasts synchronized swimming.

Seriously now, this is a completely reasonable question, but the answer is somewhat involved.    It is important to remember that as a new technology, the amount of 4k content available is somewhat limited, but that situation is expected to change soon, and there are good reasons to feel confident about the expanding amount of 4k content on the not too distant horizon.  There are other benefits of a 4k TV that will make your existing content look even better.

Here is some background info about what you can watch on your 4k TV, and why I wouldn’t worry about a lack of content.

  • First, many existing movie cameras already film at 4k and higher resolutions.  Most major films and television shows are filmed in 4 or even 5k already.
  • Many films are mastered at 4k resolution.
  • 4k Blue Ray discs are going to be stunning.  The Blue-Ray disc association is apparently still trying to agree on universal standards, but reports state that machinery designed to make 100GB discs is already in production.    Industry insiders hint at announcements concerning this exciting new format to be announced soon.
  • 4k content is already broadcast on TV.  Content in Europe (by satellite) started in early 2013, and the BBC is filing shows for broadcast in 4k, or even 8k.  South Korea also has 4k programming, though limited.
  • Sony provides a 4k movie vault pre-loaded with movies, and has already introduced their 4k movie download service with 7o titles, and lots more on the way.   In fact, there could be more titles available by the time you read this.
  • Sony is introducing a 4k video camera for consumers.
  • 4k video games are expected to provide amazing detail, and are on the horizon.

And let’s not forget who the big players are in the video market and in terms of movies and other media.   With companies such as Sony, Samsung, and LG all clearly on board with 4k, I don’t think we need to worry about a lack of content.   When you purchase a 4k TV today, you are future-proofing yourself…at least until the next big thing comes along!

Q:  Besides 4k content, are there any real benefits to getting a  4k/ UHD display?

Absolutely!  A 4k set does make current programming look better.  Greater pixel density makes for a smoother picture, faster frame rates, better contrast, and deeper colors are all real benefits that make for a superior viewing experience. Upscaling technology takes 1080p content and improves it to near 4k quality; meaning you can watch one of your Blue-ray movies on your 4k Ultra HD display and see a better image; but the difference with a non Blue-ray disc is even more noticeable from what I have heard.  Haven’t tried that experiment myself yet.   Of course having a quality disc player is another important factor to realize this benefit.

Q:  Should I buy a 4k TV or not?

If you search the web, you will find plenty of articles that say hold off on a 4k purchase, but check the dates carefully of those articles and posts.   Manufacturer’s have already reduced prices of some 4k sets, and more choices are rolling out.  Remember years ago when HD first arrived and how much of a “wow!” it was; 4k technology is even a bigger “WOW!” and it is not a gimmick, like many people think of 3D.  So, yes…go ahead and buy a 4k TV if you are looking for a larger display (at least 55″) and want to have the best image quality and not be outdated in the near future.

If you want more information about 4k / Ultra High Definition televisions, please call Elite Media Solutions of Wellesley, MA at (781) 237 – 2929. 

4K and Ultra HD TV dealer serving Weston, Wayland, Dover, Boston, Sherborn, Medfield, Natick, Newton, Brookline, Winchester, Bedford, Concord, Lexington areas and beyond!

 

KEF Loudspeakers – Product Spotlight

Product Spotlight – KEF Loudspeakers

KEF Muon pair

The KEF Muon Loudspeakers

KEF’s tagline is “innovators in sound.”  Although certainly known for their advanced engineering and design, KEF has a rich history in the loudspeaker industry dating back to 1961.

Founded by former BBC electrical engineer Raymond Cooke (1925-1995), KEF was initially located upon the premises of the Kent Engineering & Foundry (KEF), located on the banks of the River Medway in Kent, England.

Throughout the years, KEF has earned a solid reputation for their high-performing loudspeakers and advancing technology in loudspeaker design.  The list of KEF’s technological innovations is long and significant, and KEF was the first company to use computers in loudspeaker testing and design.   Dating back to the 1970s, KEF’s Reference Series Model 105 featured three drive units, the top two being mounted in separate housings above the main enclosure.  These speakers, like many of KEF’s products, received excellent reviews for their natural sound quality and stereo imaging.  Today, their Reference Series speakers, updated and refined, continue to offer an exceptional listening experience.

Another major technology milestone developed by KEF is the Uni-Q driver.  Not be confused with a Unicorn, the Uni-Q driver incorporated a neodymium/iron/boron magnetic material developed by NASA that had ten times the power of standard speaker magnets.  As explained on the KEF website, “this advancement was a giant step for mankind as KEF engineers could make a tweeter small enough to be mounted at the acoustic heart of the bass unit coil, providing for the first time a single point source of sound.”  This design allowed the optimum listening area in any room to be significantly expanded.

If you are interested in speaker design or reading more about KEF, they have an informative website at www.kef.com which includes many images of their past designs.

Today, innovation at KEF remains strong as evidenced by their top two offerings for audiophiles – especially audiophiles with some spare cash.  The Muon is made from aluminum, and frankly, it has a curvy shape that makes we want to take one, or perhaps the pair,  out on a date.  The Muon was built to be the best you can get, and only 100 pairs were produced, with a price tag of $140,000.00.   They are about 6.5 feet tall and combine the ultimate in design and performance.   Please ship mine to my house, thank you very much.

Speakers

The KEF Blades, shown in white

KEF also produces the Blade, which consistently gets rave reviews and is marketed as the world’s first single apparent source loudspeaker.  The Blade was made to commemorate KEF’s 50th anniversary, and creates stunning stereo imaging and natural sound reproduction.  Although not inexpensive, many experts feel that performance of these speakers more than justifies the price tag of $30,000.00.   Click here to learn more about the Blade, and see a nifty video on the KEF website!   The Blades are available in traditional finishes, and custom colors are available.

Next in the current KEF line-up is the Reference series, one of my personal favorites.   The R Series sound fantastic, and are quite versatile, performing admirably in a home theater setting.  In my media room, I use R500s for the mains, an R200 for the center channel, and R100s for my surround speakers.  Following the R Series are the Q and C lines, which include floor standing models,  bookshelf and/or stand mounted speakers, and a center channel for home theater applications.   The Qs, are moderately priced, yet offer a rich sound.

KEF also produces quality home theater systems, including the T series which is a low profile design with high-profile performance.

If you would like to hear KEF speakers for yourself, please contact me directly at smcdonough@elitemediasolutions.com to schedule an appointment at our Wellesley, MA showroom.   We have a variety of KEF speakers in stock, including a beautiful pair of Reference Series floor standing speakers and a variety of speakers from the R series.

KEF dealer in Massachusetts, stereo speakers, audiophile speakers, hi-fi, serving Wellesley, Weston, Wayland, Newton. Brookline, Medfield, Boston, Concord, Lexington, Bedford, Lincoln, Sudbury, Carlisle, and the Metrowest MA areas.  Stereo, hi-fi, 2 channel audio dealer in Wellesley, MA.