Upgrade from home theater to media room

The term “home theater” usually conjures up images of big projection screens and rows of Barcaloungers, low, unflattering lighting and maybe even a popcorn machine. Sound dated? Even the term itself sounds dated.

Welcome to the 21st century! As home builders and home buyers look for the latest technology to incorporate into their living quarters, home theaters have evolved into family-oriented entertainment and technology centers. These rooms aren’t just for movies anymore. And Barcaloungers are giving way to well-designed multiple seating areas that offer comfort, style and actually allow for human interaction.

On a larger scale, whole-home connectivity is becoming the standard for apartments, condos and homes alike. Internet controlled electronics are the future of home integration systems, from security, thermostats and webcams to your sound system, television and computers.

But let’s deal with “home theaters.” You don’t have to break the bank to get an awesome new media room. And don’t forget, a well-done media room adds to your home’s resale value.

Here are five simple steps to consider:

1. Determine your budget and what equipment you want to invest in. Good 50-inch to 65-inch flat screens TVs start at $500. A good Surround Sound system starts at $250. Apple TV or Roku for streaming, a bargain at $89. Think about adding a great receiver/amplifier and a universal remote. Next generation universal remotes run off your phone’s Wi-Fi and are a great investment at $200-$400.

2. Order a robust Internet connection. Most ISPs offer bundled services at deep discount even if you don’t use all the services offered-like phone service. Get the “triple play” and just use two of the services … it’s a lot cheaper than a la carte.

3. Assess your home computing environment for streaming services. If you use Windows and don’t use iTunes or other Apple services, you’ll be happy with Roku. If you’re an Apple devotee, you’ll want to leverage the interconnectivity of Apple TV with all your Apple appliances.

4. Think about the design and use of the room. You’ll want to include comfortable, attractive furniture, ambient lighting, and child-friendly environments. You will also want to keep all wires and equipment out of sight. I highly recommend new Wi-Fi remotes that work through coffee table arrangements, cabinets and other obstacles. You can also place your audio speakers in walls and floors today and still get stunning surround sound.

5. Design and install your system. If you’re tech-savvy, you can DIY this. You can order 95 percent of high-end AV equipment today from Amazon Prime. If necessary, returns are a breeze. If you’re a bit of a tech-phobe, hire a professional systems integrator. A true test of installer integrity is whether they try to sell you on a video projector. Projectors are high margin items that can’t compete with flat screen televisions in rooms with ambient light.

Follow these initial steps, talk with an integration professional and an interior designer if necessary, and you are on your way to a 21st century media room and a mind-blowing audio-visual experience.

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John Brimelow is a 30-year audio-visual industry veteran. He consults, designs and integrates systems with Experiential Consulting. Contact him at john.brimelow@experiential-consulting.com or post your question on the EC blog at www.experiential-consulting.com.