Thursday, September 22, 2011

Home Cinema Paradise

Recently I was lucky enough to travel to Hong Kong, which involved more than a few forays into their famous markets. On one of my trips I ran into a small technology stall selling everything from lava lamps to remote control helicopters and strobe lighting to speakers bursting with bass. What caught my eye though, was a mini-HD projector. My mind was awash with the possibilities of having up to 200" Blu-ray movies blasting against my wall as my windows begin to explode with the sheer number of decibels being produced by an equally impressive sound system.

The start of a home cinema dream

Projector bought and transported back halfway across the world, and the transition of my world from 22" flat screen to a seemingly infinite resolution began. I was initially preached to by the small Asian salesman on how the projector had its own in-built stereo speakers, but as my 2.1 speakers were moved into the auxiliary socket an immediate improvement on the audio output was produced.

The overloading of a poor wall socket didn't end there; after the Blu-ray player was duly added to the single HDMI input the Xbox was next to be transported away from the viewing wall - followed by the Homeplug Broadband adapter to keep my machine up to date. Alas, I ran into my first problem when there was simply nowhere to plug the Xbox in - on either the wall or projector! As I dug out an old iPod dock as well my imagination ran wild with plugging that into the speakers as well - two inputs for one output. I needed some wires.

Ahh, wires.

After a quick £42 trip to Amazon, the next few days brought a surge of parcels through the door. First up, the Belkin 8-socket surge protection remote control socket. Three thoughts on why I chose this: I refuse to blow up my house, I'm too lazy to turn it off at night and eight sockets run out fast on a home cinema. Following quickly behind this was a couple of extra HDMI cables along with a 3-way smart auto-switch adapter. For those of you who haven't tried this it's very effective. The auto-switching is so efficient in fact that technophobes may be advised to try this rather than using up all the HDMI sockets on their television sets.

Finally, a bit of an experiment but at £0.80 for a headphone splitter it was worth seeing if it could work the other way around. Speakers into one female jack, a male-male adapter for the iPod dock into the other and the final male connection for the projector and it turns out that yes, two inputs can output on the same speakers... and yes, simultaneously for mixing if you so desire.

It's a start, anyway.

The result? A 75" projected screen with full HD compatibility. Halo and Call of Duty look better than ever and the slightly underpowered 2.1 speakers cope well with the immersive sound. Blu-ray movies are equally impressive with Battle: LA's CGI looking immense. My only niggle is the tiny projector's over-imposing fan noise but this is easily overlooked during the higher volume moments in any game, movie or song.

From this experience of clobbering together bits of tech found around my house I can conclude that my hunger for creating a better home cinema is bigger than ever before. Imagine 7.1 speakers, a completely blacked-out room and a 200" projection - in full 3D, of course. First on the shopping list? A new wallet. This one has taken too much of a hammering already.

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