It doesn't matter if you're starting from scratch, looking to give your living room a boost or already have the best gear on the market, there's usually always something you can do to improve the quality of your viewing experience, make life easier, or protect your investment. Our 16 Tips run the spectrum from zero-cost tweaks through to expensive new purchases. All of them are designed to give you the best bang for your buck and make a noticeable difference the next time you kick back for some quality home entertainment.
We've split our tips up into five main categories to help you skip to the most relevant section for your home theatre. We still recommend going through all the tips, as many have bonus tips of their own!
What we see makes up a huge part of our viewing experience, so it's only natural that improving the picture is the first on our list.
Bigger screens or newer technology make a big difference.
The price of a high quality flat-panel has dropped sharply, even for newer technologies like OLED. While it is now possible to spend big dollars on 8K screens, it's absolutely more effective to aim for better display technology instead. A 4K OLED with HDR support is going to give you a huge wow factor right now, with 4K content available both on disc and through streaming services and the internet. 8K content is nowhere to be seen, and you'd need to get a screen over 100-inches in size to notice any benefit over 4K!
Dedicated home cinemas may benefit from a projector instead.
They don't boast all the same benefits as a swanky new TV, but projectors still have a place in the modern home theatre if size is your primary goal. Nothing gets a bigger picture on the wall for the same money, so they're a good fit if you have a dedicated home cinema room with low ambient light. If you're considering a projector, don't forget about the rest of your AV equipment and how you'll control it. Longer cables and/or IR repeaters will be on your shopping list, too.
Get your TV off the furniture.
Investing in a wall mount does several things to improve your home theatre. Better viewing angles offer a more relaxed posture on your couch and help eliminate glare from lights or windows, and getting them off furniture can free up room for other devices (or ornaments). You can hang both TVs and Projectors on walls or from ceilings. You can get corner mounts and extending swivel-tilt models that offer perfect placement or even frequent adjustment. It also looks incredible, and brings up the style of any room. We have a full range of brackets to choose from, and a blog all about helping you choose the right bracket for your needs!
It only costs a bit of time to properly calibrate your display.
Calibrating your TV or Projector costs nothing but a little time, and can drastically improve your viewing experience. Out of the box, most brands are set to showroom mode or 'torch' mode. This mode looks great in store and as humans we equate brighter pictures with better pictures (and louder sound with better sound). But don't let those oversaturated colours and blinding whites trick you! We have a comprehensive guide on calibrating your display here, but you don't even have to go that far if you're short on time.
Modern televisions have a wide variety of presets for you to flip through. Put on your most-watched type of content (movies and series differ from sports and reality shows) and move through each setting until you get a good balance on black levels and colour accuracy - skin tones are a good thing to get right. Also, try turning off frame-interpolation (also known as motion-smoothing, TruMotion, Auto Motion Plus, Intelligent Frame Creation and AquoMotion to name a few!) as this is often enabled by default and most people don't like the soap-opera effect it creates.
Sound is the second big piece of the entertainment pie, and a good home theatre experience absolutely requires a good speaker or two. If you've been putting up with the sound your TV produces, all of the tips in this section will be valuable because you're missing out on an entire dimension of enjoyment.
You don't need to spend big to enjoy decent audio.
Sound bar technology has improved greatly in the last five years, and you can now get a range of options at a range of price points. Just about any investment in this area will be a huge improvement over your TV's built-in speakers, but if you can look at soundbar sets which include at least a separate subwoofer, or a sub and two satellites. This will widen your soundscape and give you back those bass frequencies you never had. As a bonus, a good set of speakers doubles as a jukebox for parties or to enjoy your Spotify playlists while doing housework.
Wireless speakers like the Sonos range can offer exceptional audio quality without having to hook things up via cable. Some wireless speakers work exclusively via phone app over WiFi, while others can hook up to Smart TVs via Bluetooth. If running speaker wire around your house is a non-starter, wireless may be a good option.
Full speaker systems are definitely worth it.
If you're not happy with your existing soundbar, or you're rocking a hodgepodge set of scrounged speakers you've collected over the years, it may be worth saving up for a matched speaker set. The addition of an Amplifier/Receiver alone makes the investment very attractive, as a good amp will have multiple HDMI inputs and outputs to service all your source devices and also offer features like multi-zone audio that can improve your entertainment options, and automatic calibration that makes everything sound even better. Granted, you need the room to put all these speakers and the speaker cable to hook them up. Definitely one for the to-do-list!
Dolby Atmos and DTS:X are the final word in surround sound.
Upgrading to Dolby Atmos or DTS:X may only require a compatible amplifier/receiver to do the job. Your existing 5.1 or 7.1 speakers may be all you need to get started with these new formats. DTS:X in particular is marketed on its flexibility, being able to work with "any speaker configuration within a hemispherical layout". Although Dolby Atmos relies on new configurations, they are possible to retrofit onto current systems. Atmos configurations are 5:1:4 and 7:1:2, and include either upward firing or ceiling-mounted channels.
DTS:X and Dolby Atmos are designed to place distinct sounds in three-dimensional space, positioned around the viewer. Rather than the comparatively vague directional cues you get from traditional surround sound, Dolby Atmos and DTS:X offer more precision and flexibility for all types of sound effects and even dialogue. This can bring your viewing experience up a notch and add a lot of immersion.
These tips are all about enhancing how you interact with your home theatre - ways to make your living room a nicer place to be, a better place to watch movies and keep things easy.
Sit back and relax.
Unless you're the sort of person who can't help but fall asleep in the middle of a film, there's a lot to gain from having a nice place to sit when enjoying your favourite shows. Recliner lounge suites can be pricey, but if you spend a considerable amount of time in front of your telly, then it should be as comfortable as you can afford to make it. They even make lounge suites designed for home cinemas with cup holders and the like built-in. And nobody would blame you if you caught a quick nap every now and then!
Sit back and relax.
Consider investing in some blackout curtains or opaque blinds that can be closed to block out sunlight. Darkening your lounge room helps tremendously with image black levels and contrast, especially for projectors. Granted, most of us enjoy films at night when the sun is less of a problem, but even street lights and neighbours can impact our viewing experience. Blackout curtains also offer benefits in privacy and heat reduction as well as some sound damping, so there plenty of upsides.
Combine all your remotes into one.
For our money, the Logitech Harmony range is the easiest recommendation to make when it comes to universal remotes. Even if you have a modest home theatre with only a few devices to juggle, a good universal remote combines them all together and runs macros for your most commonly used operations. A universal remote can turn on all the relevant devices and set their inputs and outputs accordingly, from a single button press. Setting them can be a little tricky, but for 99% of your devices you won't have to do any 'teaching' via IR - you can grab ready-made profiles through the config software.
Not long ago we all got by with four commercial channels and a VCR, but today we're beset with options for content delivery. We've got three we think are worth mentioning.
Watch DVDs and Blu-rays from all over the world.
Multi-region Blu-ray players like the Laser BD3000 open up a wider range of film titles by allowing you to get around geoblocking on physical media. This means you can import discs from overseas and play them alongside your local purchases with, at most, a quick change on the setting screen of the player. For movie lovers, this is great for owning and watching lesser-known titles that aren't distributed in Australia, and for multi-cultural households it can bring foreign films back for the family to enjoy again.
They can do more than just games.
Arguably the best course of action right now is to wait for the PS5 and XBox2 releases in 2020 before splurging on a games console, but the reason to consider adding one to your home theatre goes beyond just playing some games. Future consoles (as well as a new PC) will offer VR experiences which are quickly moving past the 'tech-demo' phase and are becoming uniquely crafted experiences that will fit alongside conventional entertainment. Likewise, games consoles are offering media streaming services like Netflix via apps, adding Smart-TV functionality to any display. Plus, you can play games on them.
Store and access your favourites from a NAS.
A good NAS drive or Media PC allows you to access your digital downloads and personal video collections without going to the trouble of copying them to USB or plugging in your laptop every time. By connecting to a network or directly via HDMI, you can immediately play back any saved media - no transcoding, no waiting. This is a big help for large collections that are encoded on formats your TV can't understand. NAS drives in particular are handy as they easily handle storage redundancy to prvide data recovery if a HDD fails, and can run apps that help you curate and expand your collection. Synology, Netgear and QNAP are all great brands to look into.
Not impressed with our previous tips? That's OK. We have a couple more ideas which may find a place in your heart and in your home.
Prevention is way better than cure.
At the very least, your home theatre should be insulated by a high quality surge-protecting power board. The best of them protect against under-current, over-current and most surges short of a direct lightning strike. If you have thousands of dollars in Hi-Fi equipment in your home, it's a no-brainer to spend accordingly to keep those devices safe. If you want to go even further, or if you have always-on systems like a security NVR, you could consider an Uninterruptable Power Supply (also known as a Battery Backup). The point of a UPS in this case isn't to keep watching movies when the power goes out, but to ensure there is a sacrificial device between a catastrophic power surge and your gear. Unfortunately the batteries inside the UPS need to be replaced every couple of years, and some models are no safer than a good powerboard, so your mileage may vary and it's worth doing your homework.
It's time to tidy up!
Stuffing fistfuls of loose cable down the back of your TV cabinet and forgetting about it sounds like a great idea, but I'd like to recommend you take the time to organise that tangled mess so that future generations can know what the heck is going on behind your AV equipment when the time comes to replace something. Our range of cable management options includes zip ties, hook-and-loop cable ties, cable labels and smart wrap. Marking your cables (at each end) will save you plenty of headaches, while bundling cables together will look nicer and may make them less interesting to pests that might otherwise chew on them.
Wireless cans with a base-station are more versatile
A good pair of wireless headphones can be very helpful to anybody with hearing loss who find that frequencies in the dialog range are difficult to hear when played into a room. Bringing the source closer to the ear, with the addition of noise isolation from the soft pads, allows easier listening without increased volumes. Likewise, people with good hearing but thin apartment walls will find using a pair of headphones means volume isn't an issue with neighbours. Wireless sets with a base-station can be more versatile than Bluetooth-only options, but audio quality and range can vary greatly between brands and technologies.
If you need to convert between Analog and Digital audio formats to make use of a device like this, we carry some great audio converters.
Feel free to contact us if you have any tips to share!