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Optimize your home theater with these easy tips



By Austin Pettit Luminous Audio and Video Owner

The definition of a home theater varies from person to person. To some, it’s simply a living room TV with the most basic functionality. To others, it’s a dedicated room with the latest surround sound, a state of the art control system, and a projector. With a few simple improvements, even the most modest setup can truly become your own personal “home theater.”

Ever wonder why your equipment doesn’t look or sound like you remember it at the store? Often times, using the wrong type of cable is to blame. I’ve been to many homes with beautiful, modern equipment paired with old style RCA cables—the ones with the little red, white and yellow plugs.

RCA cables are great if you want two-channel sound on an old tube television, but to take full advantage of your high definition TV and surround-sound features, you’ll need to connect your devices with the latest HDMI (High-Definition Multimedia Interface) cables. You’ll be astounded by the difference from that simple and inexpensive upgrade.

Use your existing audio/video receiver’s auto-calibration feature to drastically improve an existing setup’s sound qualities by implementing bass management, adjusting crossover frequencies, sound delays, and much more. The improvements can be dramatic, yet this important step is not utilized nearly enough and is usually pretty easy to do.

Typically, you just plug in the microphone that came with your receiver and follow the on-screen instructions. I like to verify the measurements with some additional equipment, but in most cases the receivers do a pretty good job.

An SVS subwoofer located tidily next to the couch—Luminous AV also offers in-wall subs, which are perfect for new construction. They create big sound, big power and a small footprint! PHOTO COURTESY OF SV SOUND

An SVS subwoofer located tidily next to the couch—Luminous AV also offers in-wall subs, which are perfect for new construction. They create big sound, big power and a small footprint! PHOTO COURTESY OF SV SOUND

Display height
We often allow aesthetics to win the battle between form and function. In Big Sky, we frequently see the family’s primary television installed prominently over a grand fireplace. The heat and soot are hard on your TV and this setup is even less ideal for your neck.

For movie viewing, I prefer the center of the screen to be closer to eye level. Fortunately, it’s a pretty painless procedure to drop the mount a few inches to make your movie viewing far more enjoyable. One of my favorite (and easy) methods to place my TV before installation is to “frame out” the television with painters tape. It not only gives me a good feel for what it will be like to watch TV at that height, but also shows me what that size TV will look like in relation to the room.

Appropriately sized and powered subwoofers
If your bass isn’t up to snuff, usually an undersized subwoofer is to blame. When you have an appropriately sized subwoofer for the cubic footage of your room, you should be getting bass that blows away commercial cinemas.

With music, the bass should seamlessly blend in with your speakers and allow you to feel the lows of the bassoon and the pounding of the timpani. I’ve been to homes where a cavernous room is outfitted with a tiny, underpowered subwoofer better suited for a small dorm room. With that combination, it is little wonder the homeowner is unhappy.

Upgrading your subwoofer is the single item that will give you the largest improvement in your home theater—a new sub (or two) can really be the showstopper that blows away your friends.

Speaker placement
Improper placement, angles or the wrong type of speaker are some of the most common home theater sins I see. The good news is that speaker issues are some of the easiest things to fix.

I’ve had customers tell me that they can’t hear dialogue very well—most of a movie’s dialogue comes from the center channel speaker, so by simply angling that speaker toward the listener’s ears clearer voices can be achieved.

The vast majority of in-ceiling speakers aim straight down, which can make it difficult to hear your audio clearly. Swapping out those down-firing speakers with some angled versions—which send sound to the listener’s ears instead of to the floor—can create clear sound without cranking the volume.

For more tips, tricks, advice and demonstrations, stop by Luminous Audio and Video’s new retail showroom at 33 Lone Peak Drive, Suite 203 in Big Sky Town Center, or visit We can guide you in selecting and installing new hardware that may suit your living space more optimally to get the most out of your home theater.

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