Friday, June 17, 2005

Home Theater Hacks - An essential reference

"Home Theater Hacks" illuminates the technical, complex world of home theater systems, HDTV monitors, and more. Part of the O'Reilly Hacks series, it is true to form in its structure and content, delivering many easy and complex insights into the subject area.

It is quite technical in parts, which is informative for someone who has a passing familiarity with electronic equipment, and enables a regular user to understand the intricacies of the complex equipment at his/her disposal. It addresses the needs and interests of both high-end and middle-of-the-road consumers.

The sections covered include buying gear, selecting the right video and audio components, high definition planning, speakers, wiring, connectivity, calibration, and also discusses Home Theater PCs (HTPCs) and the must-have TiVo. The hacks go into interesting areas like techniques for squeezing large TVs into smaller basements through a process of careful dismantling and moving the TV components. The HDTV chapter expounds on antenna selection and setup, and problems associated with SD programming on an HDTV monitor.

I found much value personally in the speakers, wiring and audio sections. My home theater setup feels much more effective post implementation of a few of the hacks, such as the addition of a bass shaker to really feel the low frequencies, and effective calibration of my receiver. The book gives the low-down on "wiring upsell", comparing it to the plumber's recommendations to put in 6-inch, gold-plated pipe that will never corrode, carry all the water you want and will taste good. The recommendation to use your receiver for video switching is a good one, which I was following and glad to see validated. The book cautions against using the THX Optimizer found on most recent Lucasfilm DVDs, declaring them to be inconsistent, like the films (ok, the book doesn't really say that last part :) )

The Do-it-Yourself section is a challenging set of projects ranging from building your own antennas, speakers and stands. Not quite my cup of tea, but worth many people's attention, I'm sure.

The TiVo section is more of a teaser for the full-length TiVo Hacks, but a few techniques presented here like Speed Reading, the 10-FF-40 solution and how to stream Internet Audio broadcasts to your TiVo are worthy of note.

The book is an effective guide to getting down and dirty with the wonders of home theater equipment, and necessary reading for anyone wanting to maximize their experience.

Home Theater Hacks (Hacks)/Brett McLaughlin Home Theater Design: Planning and Decorating Media-Savvy Interiors/Krissy Rushing Home Theater Practical Home Theater: A Guide to Video and Audio Systems, 2005 Fourth Edition/Mark Fleischmann Home Theater for Dummies/Pat Hurley TiVo Hacks (Hacks)/Raffi Krikorian Understanding Media: The Extensions of Man/Lewis H. Lapham

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