Do you consider your home theater a finished project? We doubt it — between new technological innovations and the constant stream of products designed to tempt home theater enthusiasts, you’ll probably never run out of home theater upgrades to buy. There’s no doubt you’ve been busy before – you’ve outfitted your home theater with a big screen, popcorn maker, comfy seats and maybe even a selection of geek bars for your smoking friends. However, you’re always looking for new ways to take your home theater to the next level, and we have some ideas for you. These are the home theater upgrades you need to buy in 2022.
Enhance your screen with bias lighting
Have you ever looked at photos of the best home theater setups and marveled at the screen sizes? Chances are these home theaters used biased lighting. A bias light is a string of lights that is mounted on the back of a screen and illuminates the surface behind the screen. Lights are usually white and are designed to produce light at a specific color temperature – 6500K, to be exact – because it is the shade of white used for color grading by the film industry.
Bias lighting serves several purposes. As you’ve seen when watching home theater images, this can make a screen feel much more spacious, as if the image isn’t really constrained in a rectangle. Biased lighting also improves on-screen image contrast and relieves eye strain that can result from staring at a bright image against a dark background for hours.
If you like the effect that bias lighting adds to your home theater, you might consider using lights that can change color in response to what’s on the screen. Reactive bias lighting can “see” what’s on the screen in two different ways: you can connect it directly to the HDMI data channel or you can point a small camera at the screen. Color-changing bias lighting can make your screen look almost endless. However, color changes are still slightly delayed from what’s on screen, and some people find the lag a bit annoying.
Enhance your viewing area with blackout curtains and ambient floor lighting.
As a home theater enthusiast, you know that managing the lighting in your viewing area is a major part of having the best possible viewing experience. If the environment is too bright, on-screen details will appear washed out – and if you increase your screen’s brightness to compensate, you’ll lose contrast in darker scenes as black areas will appear grey. In the worst case, light shining directly onto the screen can cause glare that makes it hard to see what’s on the screen.
You need to control your home theater light for the best possible experience – and if your viewing area has windows, the best way to do that is to install Blackout curtains like those found in most hotel rooms. Blackout curtains are made from thick fabric – often with a layer of insulating foam – which blocks almost all light from passing through. Installing blackout curtains will allow you to enjoy your home theater without distractions any time of the day or night. If a light is sneaking through the bottom of the curtains, that’s not a major issue – you can just consider it ambient lighting.
By the way, if your home theater doesn’t have windows, ambient lighting is an upgrade you should seriously consider. That’s another thing you’ll see whenever you look at pictures of the best home theater setups – they always have recessed lighting that allows you to control the level of lighting in the room without any risk of distracting glare. You may not have the budget to install recessed lighting in your walls and ceiling, but it’s worth considering at least some ambient floor lighting. The darker your home theater, the more difficult it will be for people to find their way around when they want to go to the bathroom or have a snack. Ambient floor lighting makes it easier for people to move around without bumping into each other, but it’s not bright enough to distract from the viewing experience.
Upgrade your audio with a surround system or soundbar and subwoofer
Enjoying a big, bright picture is only half the movie-watching experience. Audio is the other half. An action movie just isn’t the same if you can’t feel the explosions in your chest. In the worst case, a poor sound system can make it difficult to listen to a movie’s dialogue, which can make the experience almost impossible to enjoy. It’s true that modern televisions are vastly improved in their sound reproduction capabilities over televisions of the past, but size is still a major constraint. Rich sound can’t expand if it doesn’t have space, and modern TVs are thinner than ever. You’ll never get jaw-dropping bass frequencies from a one-inch-thick TV.
The best way to upgrade your home theater’s audio capabilities is to purchase a true surround sound system. To ensure that your sound system has the best possible audio quality, don’t put the speakers on the floor – mount them on walls or place them on stands. Remember to use a calibration utility to ensure that individual speaker levels are set correctly for the speaker placement in the viewing area.
If you don’t have the budget to buy a full surround system, you can still massively upgrade your home theater’s audio capabilities by buying a soundbar and subwoofer. A soundbar’s speakers are much larger than your TV’s, and they’re slightly offset from each other to give the illusion of positional sound. Paired with a good subwoofer, a soundbar can give you the clear dialogue, soaring music, and booming explosions you crave.