Switching on to home entertainment

The demand for home entertainment systems shows no sign of slowing down. Not only does home technology bring our music and movies to life, but it plays an important part in the family dynamic.

Investment in home entertainment technology has proved popular in the past 12 months, according to research from the British Video Association - which champions video entertainment in all its forms from DVD and Blu-ray discs to digital services available on demand.

Topping tech shopping lists are LCD/plasma/flat screen TVs (which 69%of people now own), DVDs or Blu-ray players (84%) and surround sound speakers (24%). Forty-nine per cent of these purchases were driven by the desire to enhance the film viewing experience.

And 2011 could be a boom year for the video entertainment industry, with UK households planning to invest a whopping £4.2 billion on home entertainment equipment in the next 12 months alone.

If you have a passion for movies or music, don’t you owe it to yourself to hear, or see them in all their glory with crystal clear images and note-perfect audio? It may be a projector that brings the cinema experience into the comfort of your own home, and beats the local multiplex hands down, or speakers that pick up every nuance of the music, making it sound like it’s almost being played live, right there in your living room.

“You’ve got all this music, but how are you listening to it?” says Nick Wearmouth, director of The Home Cinema Centre in Edinburgh. “There’s such a huge choice of music out there, from streaming services, buying CDs and downloads - you can get music everywhere. It’s the same with films. The choice in 2011 is amazing, there’s something for every kind of genre and subgenre you could ever imagine. You can download, buy a disc, watch on your phone or computer monitor.”

A home entertainment system delivers new life to your existing music film or computer game collections. “If you’ve got 500 CDs and have been listening to your music on a micro-stereo in your kitchen, it’s like you’ve just bought yourself 500 new CDs because you’re going to hear them all again, presented in a new, much clearer and accurate way with far more detail.

“When you watch a Blu-Ray or play a computer game, so much effort has gone into the sound, as well as the visuals, and you’re missing out on a major part of a film or game by not having that.”

The Home Cinema Centre supply and professionally install the latest in high quality home cinema and hi-fi systems, specialising in projectors, large televisions, surround sound and multi-room audio distribution.

Nick and his team are passionate about films and music, which drives them to recreate the best cinema experience in your home as well as offering some of the finest audio equipment to play your music collection on. Their Morrison Street store stocks an extensive range of televisions and projectors, as well as stereo products from turntables to newer technologies such as MP3 streaming and video storage devices.

For them, it’s all about bringing an extra layer of enjoyment. “The starting point of a new system is a speaker of some description,” says Nick. "It’s the biggest impact, or biggest compromise, on the aesthetic of a room. A few people do come in and say ‘what’s the biggest speaker you’ve got, we want that’. But for most customers, it’s picking a style they like, that will fit with their room, and building the system from there.”

Nicks adds, “Before, speakers that were compact sounded pretty average. Now, there’s a whole raft of products that look good and perform exceptionally well.” With more of us now wishing to bring that big-screen feel into the home, will it be a case of upgrading the existing TV or creating a dedicated room with projector?

An online YouGov poll of more than 2,000 respondents found that half of those asked have invested in home entertainment technology for their living room in the last two years, including HDTVs (28%), video games consoles (20%), cable satellite and HD services (17%) and Blu-ray players (10%). Furthermore, 73% of us now spend between one and six hours a day staying in to enjoy home entertainment.

While the top reason amongst those who have invested in home cinema in the last two years is to enjoy recent advances in sound and picture quality (27%), one in ten (10%) say they did so because it’s cheaper than going out and more than one in four of us (26%) say enjoying home entertainment is one of the most important ways we now socialise with our loved ones.

“Most people have the local cinema as their benchmark, they go to the Odeon and believe that’s the very best on offer,” says Nick. “But you can far and away exceed that for not a huge sum of money. Even the smallest cinemas hold around 40 to 50 people, yet in the home we have a much smaller space to work with, so you get a better picture from a projector and the surround sound is far more focused on the seating area.”

Having music filtered throughout the house is an important trend at the moment. “There has been a real explosion in this area,” says Nick. “Our customers are looking for a room of good hi-fi or surround sound, but also want to add audio throughout the house, in the kitchen, bedroom, bathroom or garden.”

Nick continues “Before, you would turn up the hi-fi in the living room so that you could hear it throughout the house but now it’s about having music stored in a central area of your house with music piped to four or five or more areas. Once you’ve had audio in every room, there’s no going back. If you enter a room with no music, it somehow seems empty compared to the rest of the house.”

Nick and his team will help customers tailor a system to suit their lifestyles and their aim is to make the buying process as easy, and enjoyable, as possible. While some home entertainment showrooms can be, well, a little aloof shall we say, Nick’s store is friendly and inviting. “We can all talk tech, but it just gets boring!” he laughs. “Families are driving entertainment now and are one of our biggest clients. In the past it was a guy and his hi-fi but the majority now want music for the whole family, whether it’s piped into the dining room, iPod docks in the kids’ bedrooms or games consoles.

“We don’t want it to be techy and geeky because it doesn’t need to be. Some people can be put off by the technology side and if they don’t understand something, then they don’t enquire,” he adds. “The aim with our shop is to be as welcoming to everyone as we can. We work hard to be as open as possible, not blokey or full of jargon, because it’s so important to come in and hear, and see, the value of what you’re buying.”

The store can take as much, or as little, control as need be, depending on the customer’s knowledge or understanding. “It’s always nice when we get a customer who says ‘there’s the space, what do you suggest’ and want us to get back to them with a plan,” says Nick.

And they can work within a range of budgets too. “If someone’s got a budget of £30,000 to £40,000 then lovely, but recent projects have been between £5,000 and £10,000,” continues Nick. “A good starting point is putting a system together with music in a couple of rooms for £1000. We want everyone to enjoy their music more.”