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A Buyer’s Guide to Flat Screen HDTV Accessories

February 23rd, 2010

hdtv-accessories-review.jpgOwning a flat screen high-definition television (HDTV) without the right accessories is like driving a Ferrari at 25 mph; it will do the job, but there is a whole world of untapped potential under the hood screaming to be set free. To enjoy the full benefits of that crystal clear picture and digital sound that have revolutionized the television industry, it is important to have the correct mounting hardware, a high quality antenna, a home theater system, the right cables, and some power protection.

Mounts

Instead of taking advantage of the compact size and light weight of a flat screen television, most units come prepackaged with a table stand which requires the consumer to have ample free space on a table or in an entertainment center. Mounting brackets reduce space by hanging a flat screen television on a wall like the work of art it is.

There are five major types of mounting brackets designed to fit any need: flat, tilt, swivel, articulating, and ceiling mounts.

Flat Mounts – These are the most common types of mounts, which hang a television in a fashion similar to a painting. These mounts are low cost, space saving solutions for locations where the vantage point is unchanging, such as a living room or a boardroom. For those who do not like the sight of raw metal behind their television, flat mounts allow for the use of flat panel picture frames; these museum quality frames come in a variety of colors and fit the most common television sizes. With an optical mirror kit, a flat panel television is given a purpose when it’s not in use.

Tilt Mounts – These mounts allow a television to be hung higher on a wall by providing the option of angling it up and down by 15 to 20 degrees. Tilt mounts are a perfect solution for the bedroom, providing the viewer with that ideal angle to laze back on their pillow and watch.

Swivel Mounts – Swivel mounts can angle a television left, right, up, and down for those who desire more versatility than a tilt mount.

Articulating Mounts – The ultimate range of motion is offered by articulating mounts, which have an extension arm permitting the television to be pulled away from the wall. When extended, this arm allows the television to pivot up to 180 degrees left or right. When the arm is retracted, the television rests as closely to the wall as with a flat mount.

Ceiling Mounts – If wall space is limited, another option is a ceiling mount; these mounts attach to the ceiling and will allow the television to tilt and swivel like wall mounts.

With any style mount the size, weight, and VESA standard need to be matched to the television. VESA standards determine the placement of the mounting holes. Consumers should be aware that not all televisions adhere to these standards. However, universal mounts are available for those unorthodox measurements.

HDTV Antennas

Rabbit ear antennas were great for VHF stations before the digital conversion made them obsolete. Today, over-the-air digital television is broadcasting on the UHF spectrum which requires a different style of antenna called an HDTV antenna. Over-the-air digital television broadcasts in HD are often of a superior quality to the HD programming found on cable and satellite, making an HDTV antenna a wise investment for any HDTV owner.

To help consumers know which antenna is right for them, the Consumer Electronics Association devised a hierarchical color code system with each color corresponding to different antenna sizes and types as well as different signal strengths. Larger, more directional antennas are needed to obtain a signal from more distant broadcast stations, while closer stations can be picked up with smaller omni-directional antennas.

AntennaWeb.org can be a helpful tool in determining the style of antenna needed for any location by providing the color code, distance, and compass heading of nearby broadcast stations when an address is entered.

Yellow - The strongest signals are yellow and require a small outdoor omni-directional antenna or an amplified indoor antenna to receive them.

Green – For good reception of green coded stations, a medium outdoor omni-directional antenna is needed.

Light Green – A large omni-directional antenna is needed for distant, light green signals. As an alternative, a small directional antenna can be used provided it points toward the broadcast station.

Red – These signals require the use of a medium directional antenna.

Blue – A medium directional antenna with an amplifier or a large directional antenna is needed for blue signals.

Violet & Pink - The most distant signals require a large directional antenna with amplification.

Remember, the color code system is hierarchical, meaning antennas coded for pink signals will be able to obtain all signals. However, directional antennas must be pointed toward the compass heading of the broadcast station to work. For this reason, some locations will require multiple antennas to obtain all channels if broadcast stations are at different compass headings. Also, televisions labeled “HD ready” will require a tuner in addition to an antenna.

Home Theater Systems

The picture is only half the package with HDTV. HD broadcasts include a crisp picture and Dolby Digital 5.1 surround sound, so without a home theater system, the package is incomplete. Although some televisions are advertised with built-in surround sound systems, this does not compare to the experience of a five-speaker home theater system with a sub-woofer.

Dolby Digital 5.1 surround sound has six separate channels of sound or one for each speaker. A home theater system separates out these channels the way they are meant to be heard. A center speaker, placed near the television, is used for dialogue, while the left and right channel front speakers provide the soundtrack, and spatial cues provided by the front and rear speakers, enhance the background. The full ambiance is completed by those low frequency effects provided by the sub-woofer that we feel even when they are below our range of hearing.

Cables

Often, people grab whatever cables are lying around the home, thinking any connection will do. New televisions have many different connection options, but some will not even allow HD video to display properly. Those who want the best connection for their television should use HDMI cables.

Both HDMI and DVI cables transmit signals digitally between devices eliminating the noise interference that can occur with analog signals. What makes HDMI cables superior to DVI cables is that HDMI cables handle both audio and video with a single connection. With any other connection type, audio needs to be hooked up separately so HDMI cables will not only deliver the best quality audio and video, but they will eliminate the “rat’s nest” found behind most entertainment centers.

Equipment that does not have an HDMI or DVI port should be connected with component video cables: the red, green, and blue three wire cable with RCA style jacks, and digital audio cables for the sound. Those old red and white RCA cables should only be used as a last resort. Remember, Dolby Digital 5.1 has six channels of sound. With RCA cables, only the right and left channels are being used for transmission.

Power Protection

Everyone knows that plugging electronic equipment into a surge protector will save their investment in a lightning storm, but few realize that not all power strips are equal. The antenna, television, home theater system, and other equipment should run to a surge suppressor with a power rating of over 1,000 joules and a clamping voltage of 150 volts for maximum protection. This will protect the equipment from getting a jolt, increase its lifespan, and can even improve the picture.

Ever notice images look better in stores than in a home on the same equipment? The reason is voltage regulation. Minor fluctuations in voltage and brownouts are common problems in many areas. A voltage regulator will maintain a constant voltage of 120 volts provided it receives between 87 and 140 volts and this will keep equipment running at the optimum level.

With voltage regulation, HDMI connections, a Dolby Digital 5.1 home theater system, the right antenna, and the perfect mount, a flat screen HDTV becomes a truly awe inspiring experience. Become the envy of the neighborhood by unleashing the full power under the hood!


This article on HDTV accessories was supplied to us by Christopher Gryniewicz from Constant Content.


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