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Updating Your Home Theater Setup

Does Your Home Entertainment Setup Need a Refresh?

Justin Stoltzfus

Today’s home entertainment or home theater setups look almost nothing like the ones we enjoyed even 20 to 30 years ago. Yes, we still watch TV, but we watch it a little differently than we used to — and the same goes for our music and movie options.

Some of us still have outdated systems in our homes — or a mix of the old and the new.

Essentially, many of those who like the newest and best stuff are quickly moving away from analog and traditional home entertainment toward new services that are digital and wireless. So it may be time to take your old hardware and sell it or otherwise get rid of it responsibly.

Cutting the Cable Cord

One of the biggest changes is the move away from the cable TV model that has been so dominant over the last several decades. When cable TV started providing extra options to network channels, it was a big new development. It’s not a stretch to say that cable changed the world, in more ways than one.

Now, cable itself is becoming a dinosaur. Why? Because new streaming models are giving consumers better and more flexible options. Cable has become expensive, with few regional providers, consumers get “tethered” to high-priced packages that don’t always offer all of the channels that they want. At the same time, some very interesting other choices are emerging that many consider more affordable and more flexible, and they are rivaling cable in a big way.

The first step to replacing cable with streaming services — also referred to as “cutting the cord” — is choosing the vehicle through which your TV will receive the streaming video content. Some households achieve this with a video game console like a Nintendo Wii or a PlayStation. Others use a Roku box, or services from Google, Amazon, or Apple. Many new “smart TVs” also come with the streaming capability built in.

Once you’ve identified the right hardware, you’ll choose the streaming services that will actually get you the content that you want. The “big three” — at least at this moment — are Netflix, Hulu, and Amazon Prime.

Each of these streaming video platforms competes with its own exclusive content — for example, Netflix, which first made its name as a shipper of movies on DVD, now keeps building its streaming movie library and is widely known as a purveyor of quality documentaries.

Hulu stays relevant as a service that offers yesterday’s TV shows and films, along with its own exclusive series options. Amazon Prime ties its own proprietary content to its free shipping model, so that you can buy your video content and your Christmas presents at the same time.

The bottom line is that if you’re still paying the cable company for television service, you have a number of attractive options for cutting the cord and getting rid of this expensive household bill, while still having plenty to watch at the end of the day.

Consider adding personal property coverage to your home insurance because it protects your entertainment set up against damage or theft at home.

Watching Movies

When it comes to viewing a movie that you went out and rented (from a kiosk instead of a traditional video store), there’s also been a lot of change. Do you still have a VHS player in your living room?

Most households have upgraded to a DVD player, but that doesn’t mean they’ve caught up to the new tech that’s available. The big deal now is high definition, or HD — if your DVD player doesn’t support Blu-ray and high-def, then you’re missing out on quite a bit of picture quality. If your DVD player is more than 10 years old or so, it might be time to upgrade it, too. This 2017 list from TopTenReviews shows how the most popular DVD players now include features like Blu-ray support and smart TV connectivity.

Playing Music

There’s also been a corresponding revolution in music across this same time period. You could call it the move from “disc to digital.”

Up until just a few years ago, the majority of music was recorded onto physical containers. First there was vinyl, than the 8-track and cassette tape, and then the CD, which hung around for a long time. But then digital music files started replacing the CD and, these days, you just as commonly hear music that isn’t on any physical media at all, but instead forwarded to you in bytes and bits.

The last leg of this revolution was to move past a single-track or album ordering system (think iTunes) to a music delivery service that’s device-independent, and usually cloud-based. Pandora has been one big mover in music delivery. With ad and ad-free versions, this “internet radio” app plays a selection of tracks that their algorithm makers think you’ll enjoy, based on the artists you enter into it. Another very popular music service is Spotify, which offers its own unique delivery model.

The bottom line is that more of us can get rid of our CD collections, which can take up a significant amount of space and require a good bit of upkeep and organization. That’s another way to renovate your home entertainment system with today’s technology.

As for the MP3 player — that short-lived portable device that helped to kill portable AM/FM radios — its job has been replaced by the smartphone. Not many people want to carry separate devices for music and data, so we just use our phones to download music tracks — and put the MP3 player in a box somewhere.

Even the auto industry is building in-vehicle infotainment systems more for smartphone compatibility than for the MP3 player and, with a standard 1/8″ audio jack, it’s easy to plug your smartphone into your home stereo, too.

Where are you on the spectrum of old to new? Consider updating your home’s entertainment setup to match what’s available today. Updating could save you a good deal of money and frustration, since new competitive models and technologies have changed considerably the way we access and consume entertainment at home.

READ MORE: 15 Gadgets to Make Your Home Smarter

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