Guide How to set up your home entertainment system

How to set up your home
entertainment system
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ome entertainment equipment is supposed to be
fun, but setting it up can be daunting. In this guide
we’ll take you through some of the more common
traps that ensnare the unprepared, and help you
get the most out of your home entertainment purchases. I’ve
pulled together a number of articles highlighting some
of the more common mistakes and try and help
you differentiate between what’s important
and what is just the retailer trying to catch
your eye. Once you’ve spent your money we’ll
show you how to avoid the things that can get in
the way of your viewing and listening pleasure.
This guide will take some of the mystery and
complexity out of home entertainment
equipment and let you get on
with using it for its
intended purpose –
having fun!
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Chris Ruggles
Team leader, Digital Home
Position your TV
Having the biggest TV in the street is all very
As TVs become smarter and wireless connectivity
well, but you’ll feel a bit silly if you’re sitting so
the norm, making the switch from a wired home
close all you can see is pixels
entertainment system has never been easier
Connect your TV 8
Powerline network16
The days of simply making sure your VCR is plugged
Using the power lines in your walls is a novel way to
into the TV are long gone – particularly given the
connect up your home network. If Wi-Fi or ethernet
number of extra devices we now use
doesn’t work for you, it’s a viable alternative
Surround sound
Home networking 12
Know your cables 18
Speaker placement is a dark art. Here we give you
HDMI is the cable of choice, but there are still so
the lowdown (to the nearest degree of angle) on how
many options out there – vastly increasing the
best to set up your speakers
possibility for things to go wrong
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Positioning your TV
Measure the distance of your preferred sitting
position and the screen. In the shop, stand about the
same distance from the TV you’re interested in
real benefit unless you go for
Keeping the old TV
a really big TV.
We are moving rapidly into a
Measure the distance
digital age for TV and home
between your preferred sitting
entertainment, but you don’t have
position and the screen. In
to chuck out that trusty old TV just
the shop, stand about that
yet. There’ll be compromises, but
distance from the TV you’re
if you don’t mind having a slightly
interested in buying.
smaller screen or losing some of
the digital picture at the edges,
A person sitting two metres away from a 127cm, 1920x1080p screen won’t see any pixels
How do I avoid reflections?
an aging CRT TV can be converted
Avoid placing the TV where
to display a digital signal with the
you can see reflections in it,
addition of a relatively cheap
if possible. If you can’t,
digital set-top-box (STB). You’ll
choose a TV with a matt
need to make sure the TV has (at
screen. Most plasmas will
the least) a component video and
have a reflective screen and
analog audio in connection. Just
How close should I sit?
of the same size would allow
most LCDs are matt or semi-
connect the aerial to the STB and
As a rule, people shouldn’t be
you to sit about two metres
matt. However, recently
the box to the TV. Choose an high
able to see pixels on a 127 cm,
from the screen.
manufacturers have tried
definition STB so you can see the
to reduce plasma screen
HD channels. They won’t be in HD,
1366 x 768 pixel screen when
However, if you like to
they sit about three metres
sit about three metres from
reflections and increase LCD
but most of the programming is in
from it.
the TV screen, the higher
screen contrast by making
standard definition these days
resolution alone will have no
screens more reflective.
anyway, so you won’t miss much.
A 1920 x 1080 pixel screen
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If you’ve an AV receiver which can handle HDMI
pass through, you can connect all your devices to it
and have only one cable going into the TV
Connecting your system
In an ideal world
Speakers/home sound system
Game console
Given the huge variation in
ways you can set up your
system, we thought it would
be best to show you what
we think is the ideal way
to connect things. HDMI
possible, and we believe an
speaker cable
cables should be used where
AV receiver is a key bit of
DVD/BluRay player
kit. If you don’t have an AVR
then use your TV as the hub
– but make sure it ships with
enough HDMI slots!
AV receiver
Pay TV
What to look for on your TV
Input connections Check those
same time. (See p18 for more on
back of the TV. Most models have
HDMI cable going into the TV.
on the TV match the output on
at least one digital audio output,
Your digital video recorder
the devices you want to hook up
HDMI (High-definition multimedia
which makes it possible to send
(DVR) should be connected
to it, such as a DVD player/
interface) is a digital connection
the sound from your TV to a home
directly to the TV aerial, then
recorder, cable TV or games
for sound and video in one cable;
theatre system. If you’ve an AV
connect it to the TV directly or
console, and that there are
the latest DVD, Blu-ray and HD
receiver which can handle HDMI
via an AV receiver. If you’re not
enough connections for all the
set-top boxes should have one.
pass through, you can connect all
using a DVR, the aerial should go
devices you want to attach at the
Audio outputs are usually at the
your devices to it and have only one
directly to the TV.
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Set up your surround sound
Try not to put the centre speaker too far below the
screen as this will mean voices will sound like they
are not coming from the actors
The position of the front three
speakers. This will help to mask
speakers is by far the most critical.
any odd sounds and is usually a
The centre speaker should be facing
good starting point. Don’t put it
directly in front of you and as close
hard up against a wall or jammed
to the screen as possible. Try not to
into a corner, because this will
put it too far below the screen as this
most likely result in boomy and
will mean voices will sound like they
unpleasant bass sounds.
are not coming from the actors.
Tuning your room
The two front speakers should be
equidistant from the listening
It might seem odd, but the room
position and at the same height as
and its contents does have an
each other. Ideally they should be
effect on sound. Rooms with
placed at an angle of 22.5 from the
lots of glass and hard floors will
listening position if you’re watching
produce much harsher high notes
movies, and a little wider (around
than if they’re heavily curtained
30 ) for music.
A typical speaker
set-up for your living area
The correct angle isn’t critical, but
making sure they are equal in every
and filled with soft furnishings
on a carpeted floor. On the other
hand the latter may sound dull or
other respect is, because the sound
and distance from the listener as
keeping them at the same height is
flat. If you’ve set up the speakers
will be unbalanced and surround
the front ones and at an angle of
important and try to angle them so
as best you can and the sound
sound effects will be reduced or
110 from the centre. In other words,
they face the back of your head.
is too harsh, it may not be the
lost altogether.
they should be just behind you and
Subwoofer placement is a bit of a
speakers that are entirely to
The rear (also called surround)
facing the back of your head. If this
dark art. The simplest way is to
blame. Try a rug or soft wall
speakers should be the same height
isn’t possible, and it rarely is,
place it near one of the front
hanging to soften the sound.
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Some bigger more expensive TVs with wireless
capabilities are beginning to arrive on the market
Networking your home
hese are, of course,
router (and be called
for allowing you to share the
if your modem already includes
the days of Wi-Fi. And
a “residential gateway”
internet connection among
a router? Look at the rear: in
in an ideal world we
as a result).
more than one machine.
addition to a socket to plug
wouldn’t need to use cables
These days, most
The exception can be
in your phone line, there will
at all. Some bigger more
broadband modems
cable modems, which may be
usually be four ethernet sockets
expensive TVs are beginning
include a router, primarily
stand-alone. How can you tell
as well.
to come with wireless
connectivity, but there is
plenty already on the market
to help you create your own
Phone line
home entertainment network.
What you need
The router is the centre of
Desktop computer
your network. It’s the device
that forwards information
from computers and devices
to other computers and
devices. And, if you connect
a modem to it, it allows
your network to access the
internet too. As a router is so
important, many broadband
modems will also include a
Media hub
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Tablet and smartphone
Media hubs
Before you start, it pays to do some
the rest of the home without too
planning. See what equipment you
much trouble. Once you know what
want to attach to the network, and
goes where, plugging in cables is
sure all your TV shows, films
include an HDMI port, but not
where it will be. Which ones will
simple. Note that it doesn’t matter
and music play smoothly
all provide an HDMI cable. And
use wireless? Which will be wired?
what ethernet port you plug a cable
across the whole system too.
check whether the media hub
Where in the house will they be and
into on the router, except when it
And if you own a great deal
supports the cables you wish
how much cable do you need? Feel
comes to your modem. To facilitate
of digital media, the best
to use on your TV. Connections
free to get out pencil and paper and
easy set up of internet sharing,
solution is a media hub.
vary, but most will have a USB
draw up a diagram of your network.
among other things, most routers
That way, you can work out exactly
these days come with a WAN
world of free internet TV
networking capability (ethernet
what you need to connect it all.
(wide area network) port, which
and subscription services
port and/or Wi-Fi); a HDMI port
The modem, for example, may
looks the same as the others but
as alternatives to free-to-
(for HD TV); Toslink (optical audio)
be constrained by an existing
is intended for sole use by your
air and cable TV, without
and component (RGB) or
phone port, and it makes sense
modem. It’s usually labelled and
you having to go near your
composite (RWY) video sockets.
to have the modem, the router,
colour coded differently too
Some of the hubs available may
and any equipment that will attach
so it’s easy to
directly to the router close together.
pick out.
Connecting cables
nce you’ve connected
Connecting it up
up all your hardware,
Make sure you’ve got the right
you’ll want to make
cables beforehand – most hubs
They can also open up a
Many offer internet radio
port for external storage;
support Wi-Fi but only offer an
and direct access to online
adapter as an extra cost. And
If using wireless, the router is best
sharing services YouTube,
some of the others let you plug in
positioned near the centre of the
Picasa and Flickr. They can
a USB hard drive for virtually
house, where its signal can reach
also be a jukebox for your
unlimited storage, while some
digital music collection and
hubs only stream files across
photo albums.
your network.
A typical router back panel: notice the WAN
port (also called “Internet”) for the modem,
and four LAN (ethernet) ports.
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Powerline networking
Low speed and inconsistent performance dogged
the f irst two generations of this technology,
but it has f inally come into its own
Using your electrical wiring
to network devices across
on each one. The two devices
your home is not new
will find each other anywhere
technology, but it is only now
across your home’s electrical
coming in to its own.
wiring and create a secure
network link.
How it works
This simplicity can be
Powerline networking
invaluable when you just
has long been considered
want to connect a new
the poor cousin to wired
device to your network
ethernet and Wi-Fi. Low
without the hassle of
speed and inconsistent
configuring software settings
performance dogged the
on a PC. For example, you
first two generations of this
might want to add a new
technology, but the latest
network device to your
adapters seem to have solved
entertainment centre –
these issues.
perhaps a digital video
recorder (DVR), games
Simple setup
console or Blu-ray player.
The best thing about
It is worth remembering
powerline networking is that
that the network speed your
you don’t need any technical
at its finest. Simply insert
sockets, connect them to
kit might achieve is reliant on
knowledge to create a basic
two of the devices into
the devices to be networked,
the type and quality of your
network – it’s plug and play
separate wall-mounted power
then press the setup button
home’s wiring.
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Which cable is that?
We’ve found no statistically signif icant variations in
score either for picture or sound in [more expensive]
HDMI cables
nowing the difference between cables will help you work out how
to best connect your devices. Two things to remember are:
Universal serial bus (USB) is a standard
• Some devices can be connected with more than one type of cable.
• Some digital cables enable copy protection that lock content.
Is dearer better?
connection originally designed for PCs and
Macs. The data transfer speed of USB 2.0
has improved from the original USB 1.0.
HDMI During tests, we’ve found
no statistically significant
variations in score either for
picture or sound in HDMI cables.
FireWire is used in some Apple computers
We did find that for longer
for audio and video but some PCs also
lengths, the results were slightly
use the connection. FireWire requires a
better for the more expensive
special inbuilt chip in the device so it is
brands. However, the differences
more expensive.
were not enough to conclude any
HDMI cables support standard
brand delivers a significantly
and HD television and video as
better result.
well as multi-channel audio,
Digital audio Results for the
Digital audio
such as Dolby Digital surround
digital audio cable were even
Digital audio cables are used with PC
sound. However, they can enable
more conclusive, with no
audio cards, CD players, DVD players,
content protection to lock or
advantage to be gained through
car audio systems and other digital audio
restrict what you can do with
the use of more expensive cables
systems. They carry mono, stereo and
that material.
for better performance.
multi-channel audio signals.
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A video graphics array (VGA) cable has
This was developed to allow one plug
a 15-pin plug and connects monitors to
to connect many different devices.
computers to carry video signals. They’re
SCART will carry both video and audio
also used to connect computers to TVs
signals and is used with TVs, VCRs, DVD
and projectors.
players, projectors and games consoles.
RCA is the common round audio or video
This is an analogue video cable, which
connector used in home entertainment
carries data as two signals – luminance
equipment. RCA plugs are used for
and colour. The cables use a small, round,
both component and composite video
four-pin connector and are used in TVs to
connect DVD players and game consoles.
A composite cable is an analogue cable
Digital video interface (DVI) cables use a
used to carry TV and video images. It
rectangular connector with up to 29 pins.
doesn’t carry sound. It uses an RCA plug
They’re used with monitors, projectors
and is usually yellow. A composite cable is
and some DVD players and TVs.
often accompanied by white and red RCA
cables to provide stereo sound.
TV aerial cable
A component cable is a type of RCA cable
The connection to your aerial is via a
that transmits analogue video signals
coaxial cable. Connections are either
where the picture is split among three
F-type with a screw connection from the
cables – red, blue and green. Component
wall, or the push-on 'PAL' type on most
cables are used with TVs, VCRs, DVD
TVs. Both come in male and female form,
players and personal video recorders.
but the TV connection is always female.
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