The rise of the home cinema has been exponential in recent years, with a simple 24-inch big-backed TV giving way to flatscreen TVs with 4K resolution, sound bars and accompanying HD set-top boxes.
The sheer choice on offer can be overwhelming, so we have looked at what you need to create the perfect home entertainment system in 2016.
The TV is the pièce de résistance of any home cinema set-up, and arguably one of the most important elements of the entire house. After all, the average person in the UK watches around 4 hours of TV a day, which is almost as much time as we spend asleep.
The HD revolution brought about a raft of plasma, LCD and LED variants, but the next big thing in home entertainment is 4K, and LG has been making waves with the industry-leading 55-inch 55EG960V.
Super slim and featuring the de rigueur curved-screen, as well as a stand that appears to be invisible, the TV certainly looks the part, but the proof is in the pudding with its picture quality.
The 3840 x 2160 display allows even the smallest details to be displayed clearly, with the lush foliage of a nature documentary and the pitch black of space in a sci-fi movie being equally stunning.
Of course, the range of 4K content available is still in its relative infancy, but with Netflix now screening the likes of House of Cards, Better Call Saul and Daredevil in 4K, BT Sport now broadcasting football in the format, and major film studios making 4K the de facto standard, viewers have a feast of options to choose from.
On the sound front, the TV’s two meaty 10W speakers are perfect for programmes that do not necessarily require surround sound, and although its near-£4000 cost may alarm some buyers, Stuff magazine rated the OLED TV its number one, declaring LG’s latest offering was “everything we’d been hoping for”.
With greater demand for picture quality comes a similar yearning for crisp sound, and in 2016 that does not simply mean a sub-woofer and speakers dotted around the room.
Sonos has established itself as a market leader with its multi-room streaming system that allows people to listen to music in any part of the house, and the manufacturer’s Playbar has become one of the most essential pieces of kit in any home cinema set-up.
As always, the design is simple to enable the soundbar to blend into the background, while the audial detail, weight and tonal balance enhances the sound quality of even the highest spec TVs on the market.
A further benefit of the Sonos Playbar is its unrivalled musical choice, offering the ability to play the owner’s stored music through a smartphone or iPod, as well as tens of millions of tracks through Spotify, Napster, LastFM and almost any other music streaming service wirelessly.
All of this is controlled through an easy-to-use iOS or Android app, while the two ethernet sockets enable seamless synchronisation with smart TVs and routers to offer a fully immersive and exclusive home cinema and Hi-Fi experience.
Blu-ray and DVD
With 4K Blu-ray around the corner, 2016 is likely to present the biggest battle yet for tech giants eager to steal a march on their rivals, but in the meantime there are plenty of devices capable of 4K upscaling, most notably the Panasonic DMP-BDT330, which offers an incomparable disc-playing experience.
From the moment it leaves the box, the Blu-ray player catches the eye with its sleek silver finish, but this is nothing compared to its visuals, which display 2D and 3D alike in crystal clarity, and are also futureproofed through in-built 4K upscaling.
The sound is rich and powerful compared with rivals, while the vibrancy of the colour palette is something that has industry giant Sony turning its head in envy.
The dashboard also has a direct line to a variety of apps, including Netflix, which is proving hugely popular with the service’s subscribers, while the flashy interface is yet another feature that stands out and makes the Panasonic DMP-BDT330 the film fan’s choice of Blu-ray player.