My home cinema has evolved over the past few years. This page details the different stages that the components were added, and gives you ideas about how your system might be constructed based on your budget and requirements.
When I last moved house, I had enough space to build a proper home cinema system. My first buy was a Dolby Pro-Logic processor that I connected to my existing Hi-Fi Amplifier. The Processor had amplification for the two Rear Surround Speakers and the Front Centre Speaker. Additional sources have been added ever since. I hooked up my Satellite Receiver to the Amplifier, and also a basic PAL Laserdisc player.
The system has since been substantially upgraded. The addition of a DVD Video Player produced a much improved picture quality that really amazed me! The only problem was that my Processor didn't have a Six-Channel Input for the addition of a Dolby Digital Decoder to take advantage of the digital surround sound on the DVD discs. I had two choices - I could change the Processor to a model with a Six-Channel Input (such as the excellent Yamaha DSP-E492) and add a separate Dolby Digital Decoder, or I could replace the Stereo Amplifier and Processor with a dedicated Dolby Digital equipped Amplifier. As I had a lot of boxes on my Hi-Fi stand already, I chose to the Dolby Digital Amplifier, in the form of the Sony STR-DB 925 Receiver. This unit has more than enough inputs to take all the Video and Hi-Fi sources I am using, with some spare, and the sound with 5.1 channel digital surround and even standard Dolby Pro-Logic processing is very, very good! It also has a good built-in RDS Radio Tuner that would replace my existing separate unit.
Digital Satellite Television has now been connected to the system, together with a 28" Widescreen Television to take advantage of the widescreen ratio found on DVD, VHS Video and an increasing number of digital television transmissions. Only one item is missing - a Sub-Woofer. I will probably add one soon but at the moment the bass from my speakers is enough to shake the walls without any help!
CURRENT SYSTEM: SONY KV32-FX65 16:9 WIDESCREEN TELEVISION
One of the BEST looking widescreen televisions around. It is finished in gun-metal grey and has subtle curving styling that sets it apart from the many angular-looking sets available.
SONY STR-DB925 DOLBY DIGITAL / DTS A/V RECEIVER
The Sony has decoding for Dolby Pro-Logic, Dolby Digital and DTS, although I only use it with Pro-Logic and Dolby Digital - DTS software is only just becoming available on DVD. The Dolby Pro-Logic decoding on this machine is perhaps the best I've ever heard. It also has an RDS radio tuner that sounds good. It has now been replaced by the upgraded STR-DB930.
Sony STR-DB925 Dolby Digital/DTS Receiver
SONY DVP-S715 DVD PLAYER
This DVD player has two laser assemblies - one for audio and one for DVD and can be used as a decent CD player if required. It can read DVD discs with both Dolby Digital and MPEG 2 Multi-channel surround sound, but has no decoder built-in. Dolby Digital is decoded in the matching Sony A/V receiver. The S-715 can also output the high standard Linear PCM stereo audio for superior CD playback. This machine has been replaced by the DVP-S725 with a DTS sound output.
Sony DVP-S725 DVD Player
PIONEER CLD-S 310-S PAL LASERDISC PLAYER
The base model laserdisc player from Pioneer. It only reads PAL discs, so no NTSC imports, and you have to turn the disc over onto side two. But it wad dead cheap with a load of free discs so I'm not complaining. Bought for £200 with five discs, this player is used for watching classic movies and has been replaced as the main video source by the Sony DVD player. Until the eventual release of the Star Wars movies on DVD, I only use this machine to watch the three first Star Wars films.
Pioneer CLD-S310-S Laserdisc Player
PHILIPS VR600 NICAM STEREO VHS VIDEO RECORDER
A great machine featuring the usual list of functions. Never any problems and both video and audio playback is good.
ARCAM ALPHA 5 PLUS CD PLAYER
A fantastic CD player, now replaced by a later Arcam machine. Still excellent with stereo CD playback, and far better than playing CD through a DVD player. £470 when new.
GRUNDIG DIGITAL SATELLITE RECEIVER (SKY Digibox)
The latest addition to the system. Great sound and pictures and ideal for a widescreen / surround sound setup. The receiver costs £200, or £160 if you are an existing SKY Television subscriber. Digiboxes are now available free from most suppliers, whether or not you subscribe to a Sky Digital package.
MISSION 760i SE SPEAKERS (Front Stereo)
These were my original hi-fi speakers but still perform very well. They have been bi-wired with CableTalk 3.1 Bi-wire cable. They are no longer available to buy, but I originally paid £130 when new. They have performed faultlessly for the last few years for both hi-fi and home cinema, and are due to be upgraded soon.
MISSION 731 SPEAKERS (Rear Surround)
Although these speakers are newer than the 760i SE's, they can't be bi-wired so take second place to the front Missions. They work very well in this system and can be driven hard with Dolby Digital surround soundtracks. Bought for £100.
JBL Mr. CENTRE (Front Centre Speaker)
A great centre speaker that matches the front Mission speakers quite well in this system. Bought as end of line stock for £10 when I bought the Mission rear speakers.
SONY PLAYSTATION GAMES CONSOLE
Resident Evil in widescreen, with Dolby Pro-Logic surround sound and the lights turned off? Clean underwear all round! My first Playstation cost me £300 on the day of launch. The one I use now I bought for £100 new. And by the end of 2000, the new Playstation2 will take its place within the system.