dvd & bluray

Pick of the Best Home Theatre Surround Sound Systems

Pick of the Best Home Theatre Surround Sound Systems

Do you love the immersive sound experience when you go to the cinema? Of course you, who doesn’t? Do you want to bring some of the magic home with you? You can, thanks to the range of surround sound home cinema systems available on the market.

Some home entertainment systems represent a significant financial investment (they can cost in excess of £1500) and some are far more affordable. Whatever you pay for your system, however, you want to ensure that it is well protected against various risks, including breakdown and theft. This makes insurance something of a necessity.

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What type of system do I need: Wireless surround sound, compact soundbar, 3D audio and visual capabilities?

The first thing you need to do is decide what type of sound system you want; for example, you can simply use a hi-fi system to ramp up your sound, or you can buy a sophisticated wireless home theatre system, or you can get a nifty, space-saving soundbar which mimics surround sound without all of the speakers.

If you go the home theatre route you can choose between 5.1 surround sound (3 front speakers, 2 rear speakers and a subwoofer) and 7.1 surround sound (which means you get 7 speakers and a subwoofer). All of those speakers come with a lot of wires, which can get messy and confusing. Fortunately there are some wireless surround sound options that are much neater to set up.

Home cinema systems are comprehensive, which means they usually come with a Blu-ray or DVD player, and also include 3D TV and audio options.

Soundbars (or sound bars, depending on the brand) don’t have external speakers, instead they have several speakers enclosed in a bar or base that can be placed in front of your TV or wall-mounted. The speakers are designed to mimic surround sound, so you don’t have to sacrifice sound quality just because you don’t have the space for 5 or 7 speakers. Some soundbars come with an external subwoofer so that you can get even better sound.

The option you choose depends on how much space you have, how fussy you are about sound and how much you want to spend. Soundbars are usually the cheapest and most compact option, and while the definitely offer good audio quality, they don’t provide the ultra-immersive surround sound that many people crave.

Home theatre systems with surround sound offer superior audio (provided you buy a good quality system) but the speakers do take up a lot of space and you may need someone to help you with installation if all the wires and connections intimidate you.

Connecting your hi-fi to your TV is the most basic and affordable option. You’ll get better sound quality than from your TV speakers and you can adjust the audio settings to suit you. You won’t get the surround sound experience though.

Features to look for

Good sound quality, obviously. The system needs deliver clear dialogue and the sound effects and background audio shouldn’t drown out dialogue.

Easy set-up is very important, especially if you’re going to do the installation on your own.

User-friendliness is also important, after all, you don’t want to breeze through the installation part and then spend the next few days trying to figure out how to open the DVD player.

Our pick of home theatre surround sound systems

  • Sony BDV-N5200W Home Cinema System

Winner of the best home cinema system of 2014, it also got 5 stars from What HiFi. It delivers crisp, immersive surround sound, great picture quality, compact speakers and it’s easy to set-up. The entire system consists of a Blu-ray player, 5 speakers, wireless subwoofer, compact amplifier, and a range of smart features.

Expect to pay around £500.

  • Sony HT-RT5 Hybrid Home Cinema System

This Sony model is a hybrid soundbar-surround sound system that may fall short on surround sound quality but still delivers clear sound and delivery. It comes with a subwoofer, and two rear wireless speakers, as well as 3 HDMI inputs and one output.

Expect to pay between £500 and £680.

  • Philips Fidelio B5 Soundbar Surround Sound System

This Philips home theatre system earned 5 stars for sound, build and features from What Hi-Fi? One of its selling points is its Bluetooth-powered multi-room surround sound speakers. All aspects of audio gel with one another, so you can clearly distinguish between the special effects, the dialogue and soundtrack. It comes with 2 HDMI inputs and one output.

Expect to pay around £550.

  • Ruark Audio R7 Mk2

The R7 earned 5 stars from TrustedReviews, thanks to the incredible sound from its CD player, FM internet radio, stereo speakers, Wi-Fi, Bluetooth and optional TV mount. The main unit can either sit on a sideboard, on its own feet, or on legs. The long retro-designed unit comes with a subwoofer and ‘one of the coolest remotes around, no question’. The optional AV/TV mount can accommodate televisions up to 50”, and comes with space for a satellite box and Blu-ray player.

Expect to pay around £2000.

  • Cambridge Audio CXN

The Cambridge Audio CXN also earned 5 stars from TrustedReviews. It comes with Wi-Fi and Ethernet (and optional Bluetooth), Spotify Connect and internet radio, incredible sound, and a 4.3” colour display. It may carry a high price tag, but the superior sound quality is deemed well worth it.

Expect to pay around £700.

  • Samsung R7

Another 5-star winner, the Samsung surround sound system is good looking, easy to use, delivers great sound and boasts a wealth of features, including Omni-directional sound, Bluetooth, Wi-Fi, and online music streaming.

Expect to pay around £500.

  • LG LHB725 Surround Sound Home Cinema System

This LG home theatre system earned 4 stars from ExpertReviews, thanks to great picture and sound quality and compact components. It boasts a 3D Blu-ray player, subwoofer, 5 speakers, Bluetooth, Ethernet port and wireless connectivity options. You can also choose between a multi-room setup and Private Sound mode.

Expect to pay between £300 and £400.

  • Pioneer SBX-N500 Soundbar

Another 4-star winner from ExpertReviews, the Pioneer Soundbar offers a quick and simple way to create a home cinema experience without taking up all the space of a proper 5.1 surround sound system. There are a range of connectivity options, including Bluetooth, Wi-Fi Direct, Ethernet, and HDMI and USB ports. The 2.1 speaker configuration offers great audio quality and the system supports MP3, WMA, and various AAC files.

Expect to pay around £250.

  • Yamaha YSP-5600 Soundbar

The Yamaha YSP-5600 soundbar is one of the best small home theatre systems on the market. The soundbar consists of a whopping 44 speakers and comes with 2 subwoofers that mimic 7.1 surround sound. It also has 6 ‘height’ channel speakers that provide the illusion of sound from above – a 3D audio experience. It comes with 4 HDMI slots, Wi-Fi, Ethernet, and Bluetooth.

Expect to pay around £1600.

  • LG LHB745 5.1 Smart 3D Blu-ray & DVD Home Cinema System

LG’s smart 5.1 surround sound system delivers a multi-layered audio experience, thanks largely to its Aramid fibre speakers. There is also a 3D Surround Processor that provides a fully immersive sound experience. It comes with built-in Wi-Fi, Ethernet and Bluetooth. Smart features include BBC iPlayer, YouTube, Netflix, and Amazon Instant, full web browser and access to apps from Premium Content Zone.

Expect to pay between £350 and £450.

  • LG BH9540TW 9.1 Smart 3D Blu-ray Wireless Home Cinema System

If you want a serious surround sound system for a fully immersive home theatre experience then you should consider this LG smart cinema system. You get 9 speakers, the rear of which are wireless. The Amarid Fibre Speaks and subwoofer make sure you feel the audio in your bones, without any distortion. What’s more, the system can upscale DVDs to HD quality as well as upscale HD to 4K, and convert 2D to 3D without compromising quality. Enjoy built-in Wi-Fi and Bluetooth for online media streaming, full web browsing and social networking.

Expect to pay between £700 and £800.

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Posted by Surewise in Appliance Insurance Articles

Bluray player vs. PS4 – Which is Right for You?

Bluray player vs. PS4 – Which is Right for You?

If you’re a gamer and you also watch a lot of Blu-rays should you combine both and go for the Sony Playstation 4? Or should you just stick with a dedicated Blu-ray player? Tech manufacturers such as Microsoft and Panasonic seem to side with Sony since most of them have added the Blu-ray option to their next generation gamers. However, we weren’t entirely convinced and put forward the ‘digital age old’ question of whether it’s best to have a multi-functional or single-function system by reviewing both the Blu-ray player and the PS4. This is what we found:

PS4 Advantages

  • There are many advantages to the PS4. Of course, not only can you play games but stream live videos and play blu-ray discs. And the blu-ray disc quality is excellent on it. However, it does take a few extra minutes (up to five in some cases) for the PS4 to load up the blu-ray disc format, which can be annoying for some users.
  • The PS4 is an attractive model with its matte black plastic and tilted edges. The power supply is part of the appliance so there’s no need to look for someone to plug it in.
  • There’s an option for background music and the menus are easy to follow.
  • The audio quality and picture resolution is good with the PS4 for 24p films.
  • Also has Wi-fi internet, plays MP3s and has a slideshow option for photos.

PS4 Disadvantages

  • The PS4 is a lot more expensive to buy than a blu-ray player – quite a lot more expensive so would put it out of the price range of many individuals.
  • The glass panel on the PS4 is black and smart looking but it’s also liable to get scratched easily so could look used pretty quickly.
  • Videos and certain films (such as those from foreign sources) have reduced vertical resolution compared to a standalone Blu-ray player, especially when it comes to playing PAL DVDs. Also the PS4 has no 3D blu-ray playback function.
  • PS4 has a tendency to get quite hot when used for long periods.

Blu-ray Advantages

  • Best device for those who watch mostly movies rather than play games since the picture quality is excellent.
  • You can still stream videos as many models have Wi Fi and access to many streaming services
  • Players have a huge storage capacity (from 50 GB up to 200 GB) but the average disc can only store up to five hours of TV.
  • Some Blu-ray players are ‘backwards compatible’ ie users are able to read CDs, DVDs and Blu-ray discs, as well as play them.
  • All the main tech manufacturers approve. Philips, Sony, Panasonic, Dell and Apple have all given their backing to Blu-ray.

Blu-ray Disadvantages

  • Blu-ray players and the discs themselves are still regarded as too expensive for the mass market.
  • Not that many movies support Blu-ray.
  • There’s competition from the HD-DVD market which could potentially make Blu-ray obsolete.
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Is your Blu-ray Player Overheating?

Is your Blu-ray Player Overheating?

Overheating is one of the more common problems with Blu-ray players. If your device is prone to crashing, hanging, or requires frequent restarts, then it could be a result of overheating of the device. This is typically caused by poor ventilation, or heat dissipated by other electronic devices in the vicinity.

The following problems/ symptoms indicate that your Blu-ray player may be overheating:

  • Poor audio quality
  • Choppy playback
  • Device restarts on its own
  • Device crashes
  • Freezes
  • Disc does not play
  • The player is hot to touch (especially the top and bottom panels)

Overheating problems left unattended can cause irreparable damage to the Blu-ray player. If your Blu-ray player is overheating, try the following troubleshooting steps:

Improve ventilation

The most common reasons for your Blu-ray players to overheat is poor ventilation. All Blu-ray players come with ventilation holes that promote air flow in and around the device. Obstruction of the vents raises the internal temperature in the device and causes the player to overheat.

Check if the vents in the Blu-ray player are clogged or if there is any obstruction.

  • If the device is pushed against the wall or cabinet, create some space (at least 4 inches) between the appliance and the obstructing factor.
  • If you find that dust or grime have clogged the cooling vents in the Blu-ray player, use a soft, dry cloth to clean them. Ideally, you should adopt this as a regular maintenance practice to prevent the player from overheating.
  • Raising the height to allow better airflow under the Blu-ray player will also help.

Reduce proximity to other devices

Often we place the Blu-ray player in proximity to other home-entertainment devices such as a television, HD TV box, and amplifiers. However, this is not a great idea, because the heat from these can cause the Blu-ray fan to overwork, and overheat the device. If your Blu-ray is overheating, move other electronic devices located near the Blu-ray player further away. Alternatively, move the Blu-ray player to a dedicated shelf. Avoid placing the player in a drawer, small spaces, or closed cabinets.

Using the Blu-ray player for extended hours can heat it up. Give it a 30-minute break after every 3-4 hours, or use an external fan to cool the device.

If none of these tips solves the problem of your Blu-ray player overheating, we’d recommend getting in touch with the customer support team of the machines manufacturer.

Tip: Downloading regular software updates from the manufacturer will help your Blu-ray player work more efficiently.  

Posted by Surewise in Appliance Insurance Articles