Expert Advice

Plasma vs. LCD or LED:

Plasma: Plasma TV's generally cost less than LCD or LED sets with similar features and sizes. Video motion is better Less blur) and picture depth is better and more lifelike. A plasma TV creates a more "filmlike" picture, with excellent contract and black levels and uniform brightness over the entire screen area. Plasma screen sizes are limited (42 to 65 inches), they are heavier and thicker, generate more heat and are less energy efficient than LCD or LED TV's. Some models may not be as bright as LCD or LED TV's. Plasma TV's are best watched in low to modestly lit rooms.

LCD or LED: LED TV's are just LCD TV's that use an LED backlight instead of a fluorescent light. They are thin and leightweight and are the most energy-efficient displays available. Choose a model with advanced local dimming backlights and you can have black levels rivaling plasma. They may look a little "flat" and less "filmlike" than plasmas and viewing them "off-axis" tends to diminish contrast and color. LED or LCD sets are best for watching in brightly lit rooms.

What's the best size TV for my room?

You can always go for the biggest TV possible within your budget, but if you want to calculate an ideal size it's easy to figure out how big your TV should be for any room size.

Measure the number of feet between you and where you normally sit while watching your TV.

Now grab a calculator and multiply the number of feet times 12 to get the inches.

Divide that number by 3 to get the minimum size of your TV.

Divide the number by 1.5 to get the maximum size.

Example: Viewing distance = 10 feet X 12 = 120. 120 divided by 3 is 40, and divided by 1.5 is 80. Your TV should be between 40 and 80 inches.

What type of speakers should I buy?

Just like types and sizes of TV's, speakers are a matter of personal preference and listening environment balanced against budget. Take yout time when shopping and bring a few of your favorite CD's to listen to them on different systems and in different environments. Most good audio stores will give you a variety of listening conditions.

Speaker types include floorstanding, bookshelf, satellite, in-wall and on-wall models. Floorstanding and bookshelf speakers usually put out the best sound because the speakers tend to be "performance matched" with the enclosures they come in, but they take up space on the floor or on your shelves. Satellite speakers are very small and are used with a subwoofer. They can be placed on stands or on shelves and take up less space, and a set of satellite speakers can have a sound every bit as good as larger speakers. In-wall speakers can sound very good, take up no room space at all and can be practically invisible, while on-wall models work well as part of an entertainment system along with your TV.

5.1 vs. 7.1 Surround Sound

5.1 Channel Surround Sound systems have been around for quite a while now and make for great listening, especially in small to medium size rooms. The center channel provides an anchor for dialogue or music vocals, the left and right front speakers are for the main soundtrack or for stereo music, and the rear speakers help create ambient sound and side and front to rear motion. The ".1" is of course the sub-woofer for deep bass, like for explosions or heavy bass instruments.

The 7.1 channel system adds more depth to the surround sound experience, creating an even more realistic, specific and directed sound experience, especially for larger rooms. A 7.1 channel system divides the surround and rear channel information into four channels instead of combining both surround and rear channel effects into two channels.


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