2016’s Biggest Trends In Home Theater
Over the last few years, the biggest trends in home theater have been 4K HDTV, Smart TVs, better surround sound – and for so-called “late adopters,” simply installing their very own home theater for the first time. (For those without the budget or space for a full A/V installation, the biggest trend has been to describe their TV and stereo as a “home theater.”)
When it comes to home entertainment, though, eye-opening improvements never stop. Some require a big investment, but others are simply add-ons to what you’ve already got. Here’s a quick rundown.
Brighter 4K HDTVs
The first trend does require replacing the centerpiece of your home theater if you already have a 4K TV. Most people, however, have yet to bite the bullet on 4K; they’re either waiting for prices to come down or for the rapid improvements in technology to slow down.
When you’re ready to go 4K (or if you simply have to have the very latest model), 2016’s HDTV trend is toward brighter displays. This improvement doesn’t involve the amazing detail made possible by the eight million tiny pixels in a 4K screen; it concerns the brightness and contrast possible in the display.
The biggest move is to HDR-compatible TVs, which can produce more light in very specific areas of the screen than standard 4K monitors and TVs. That enables them to show specially-produced HDR content which contains metadata controlling brightness and color, frame by frame. There’s not much HDR content available yet, but it’s a giant step forward in display quality. Some new HDTVs also use quantum dot technology, which uses incredibly tiny nano crystals to display brighter pictures across a wider color palette.
Smart TVs Get Their Graduate Degrees
Another trend is for Smart TVs to have additional screen capabilities so a “second screen experience” can be enjoyed on just one large HDTV screen. Some of the latest models allow you to open multiple browsing windows while watching television; this lets you chat with friends or Tweet about the show you’re watching, without having to deal with a laptop or tablet while you’re trying to focus on the action. Some models also have built-in cameras for FaceTime or Skype sessions.
Sound Bars Get Better
When sound bars first hit the market, they were an inexpensive but inferior alternative to a “real” audio speaker system. They still can’t fully duplicate the surround sound experience, but they’re a whole lot closer. Today’s soundbars are worth a close look if you can’t afford a receiver or install a ton of speakers around your theater, and are still listening to the tinny sound that comes out of your TV.
Like their predecessors, modern soundbars occupy a small footprint above or below your TV, but the better ones now have multiple high-quality speakers and come with a wireless subwoofer that can be placed anywhere you have space. They come with Bluetooth capability allowing you to stream music to your audio system, they support modern DTS and Dolby standards – and the best soundbars sound almost as good as a surround sound system, particularly in a small room.
Most of us have of ton of devices to control in our home theaters and use universal remotes to do it. The latest iterations of remotes, though, are smarter than ever thanks to the availability of macros. You may be familiar with macros from working on your computer; they’re simply a series of instructions you can program to occur simultaneously.
The latest home theater remotes can be programmed so they’ll perform a number of functions at the same time – like turning on power to your TV and Blu-Ray, switching inputs on your TV, setting the volume to a specific level, and starting the movie, just with the push of one button.
And in a smart home, you can also have the macro also close the shades and turn down the lights at the same time. For a small investment, that’s quite a convenience.