Home theaters rivaling stadiums
By Ryan C. Perry firstname.lastname@example.org
Aug. 22, 2012 at 10 p.m.
In the past, large screen televisions were well out of the budget of most Americans. More recently, however, technology quickly advanced while prices sharply dropped.
Home theater options have so greatly improved that watching sports at home, especially in the case of professional football, rivals going to the game.
<strong>The sight and the sound</strong>
Televisions are the centerpiece of home theater, as they will be the main focus on game day.
Televisions, perhaps only rivaled by cell phones, have advanced faster than any other technology in the past 10 years. Where some televisions used to weigh hundreds of pounds and cost thousands of dollars, a better picture is now available on a 20-pound television with a price tag of about $500.
"Every year, the prices have gone down," said Michael Clayton at Best Buy in Longview. "Some of the models from last year that we still have in-store are higher than the new versions."
While there are many technical considerations for television, some choices are fairly simple. The resolution should be 1080p (almost the only option any more), and the size for a living room should be no less than 40 inches. (Less than 40 inches is fine in normal-sized bedrooms.)
The buyer should measure the space they have available for the new tube. Since new televisions have a more horizontal rectangular shape than old-style sets, some entertainment centers might not fit what is needed. The good news is flat television panels can be wall-mounted or set on a simpler entertainment center, so the upgrade is not as expensive as it might have been in the past.
There are three main choices for your new set, they are LCD, LED and plasma.
"Plasmas are going to be better for sports because they have the 600 hertz refresh rates, so the motion is going to be a lot better," Clayton said. "There is no drag or delay with it. The only down side to plasmas are they need a darker room because they have a darker picture, and they'll glare because they have glass screens."
LEDs and LCDs can work well in rooms with a lot of lighting, but LEDs can be expensive. Also, some people claim to notice blur during fast action with LEDs that have a refresh rate of 60 hertz. LEDs and LCDs usually also lose some quality when not viewed straight-on, unlike plasma.
"The plasmas are also better for action movies and games," Clayton said.
Check the back of the television for enough HDMI (High-Definition Multimedia Interface) inputs for the devices you have.
"You need to run an HDMI cable to get the best signal," Clayton said. "It's one cable for video and audio, so it's a lot simpler to hook up."
If you aren't getting a high definition feed from your cable or satellite provider, you're missing out. Networks have focused on high-definition broadcasts, and the quality is stunning.
Satellite providers - and some cable providers - also offer packages where all games are available. For some satellite customers in the Marshall area, if they are a Dallas Cowboys fan, they might have the feed out of Shreveport's KMSS station and only have the option of the Saints games. If you're not comfortable swearing in front of friends and family on a Sunday, it's time to upgrade.
For hardcore professional football fans and fantasy football owners, a second, smaller television tuned to the NFL Network or NFL RedZone channel has become an increasingly popular option.
The standard sound on most televisions needs upgrading to capitalize on the sound potential.
"The audio on most televisions is going to be pretty awful," Clayton said. "There are surround sounds you can add to the televisions or sound bars. Sound bars are going to be a lot more convenient. It's a way of improving the sound quality without having to run all the wires through walls. Those usually run you from $250-350."
To truly maximize the sound, a wired, multi-speaker setup is needed.
"In my opinion, you'll get a much better sound by piecing together a surround-sound system," he said. Even though wireless systems are available, the quality is not ideal. "You'll lose a considerable amount of sound quality. Really, unless it's not an option, I would wire it."
According to Clayton, the biggest consideration is figuring out what feature you want and what you are willing to spend.
Seating is second only to the television when it comes to the ideal sports-viewing setup. Much like the television, careful consideration should be paid to what space is available.
Consider where the television is in the room and how the seats should be arranged. If the seating is curved, the shorter side should be on the right or left.
Also, consider how comfortable multiple people will be sitting next to each other for hours.
"People usually want stuff that is rounded and all sits together with cup holders and individual seating," said Bryant Hayner at Ivan Smith Furniture in Longview. "People want their own individual features where they will all recline and all have a place to put their drinks."
Theater seating is ideal for many setups, and the customer should try out various options with comfort in mind since football games can last three hours or more.
"Media pieces are made for comfort. When people are testing them out, if they're not comfortable, they're not going to sell. They're very, very comfortable."
Seating prices can range greatly depending on the fabric covering. Microfiber is less expensive than leather, and the comfortable can be comparable.
For many beer drinkers, draft beer is the ultimate choice. The problem is that it is rarely available outside of bars or restaurants.
With an at-home keg refrigerator, or kegerator, draft beer becomes a more reasonable option.
"A lot of those beers started off as draft beers, and then they put them in bottles to mass produce them," said Rocky Nichols of Harley's Cut-Rate Liquor on Loop 281 in Longview. "Some beers are better on tap, but for some, it's psychological. It's like how some prefer glass over cans. To me, they taste better our of a bottle, but I know that's 90 percent in my head. It seems people prefer draft - especially your beer connoisseurs."
Some liquor stores carry the regular domestic beers, such as Budweiser, Miller and Coors, in kegs. Nichols said more varieties are available through Harley's.
"If it comes in a keg and it is available locally, we can probably special order it," he said. "Just give a call. We can get microbrews as well, but we don't carry a lot of those."
Kegerators are great options for larger gatherings of beer drinkers or for people who regularly drink beer and prefer it on tap. They are available online through stores like Amazon, Sears, Home Depot, Walmart and Lowes.
"We sell a lot of kegs on holiday weekends and during the summer - New Year's Eve, of course, Fourth of July and Memorial Day weekend. Weekends like that, we'll sell more than we normally would."
Nichols said sales during big sporting events would run second only to holidays.
"A lot of people when they figure out the cost, a good chunk of them buy packaged beer or go to the sports bar to watch the game," he said.
With a complete kegerator setup, draft beer is less expensive than packaged beer - even less than 30 packs. The larger the keg, the less the beer costs per glass.
A lonely keg sitting in a small wading pool full of ice in the middle of the floor can make you look like a drunken buffoon, but a brushed aluminum kegerator with a Guinness tap handle can add a touch of class to the favorite room in the house.
With a variety of stylish kegerator options available, it won't be an eyesore in your ultimate sports-watching setup.