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AV Receivers

Digital Life: Square pegs for round holes

How do you set up a home entertainment system in odd shaped rooms?

Pam Carroll

How do you set up a home entertainment system in odd shaped rooms?

One of the perks from this gig is that we get to review some pretty cool home theatre gear. With not much planned for this past week-end, happily I took home a home-cinema-in-a-box kit and an LCD projector to put through their paces.

Luckily, both products were easy to set up and the family enjoyed a screening of The Day After Tomorrow, enlarged to a stunning 2.5 metre wide image.

But - you knew this 'but' was coming, didn't you - the downside was that my lounge ended up looking like it had been hit by one of the movie's LA tornados.

Can't resist two quick asides here:
1. Having grown up in a tornado prone area, I can tell you that no one, not even intrepid TV reporters, would stand in the street and watch a twister race toward you. Ditto peering at them from behind plate glass windows.
2. One of the most enjoyable apsects of watching movies at home vs the cineplex is the ability to heckle and guffaw loudly in places not meant to be funny. It's something you would never subject other paying customers to.

Back to the layout of my lounge and, I suspect, the layout of many Australian lounges.  I'm sorry, but it in no way resembles the rectangular room diagrams of the manual's 'suggested surround sound speaker placement'.  Ours is an open plan space. The right front and rear speakers should rightly be somewhere in the kitchen - one on top of the Neverfail water cooler and the other on the edge of the island benchtop. Solution? Barstools were called into duty as speaker stands.

I was able to take a picture off the wall to hang the small left front speaker and the left rear fit nicely on a bookshelf.  Centre speaker and sub fit easily on the TV stand, so the surround sound system was rockin', but there were speaker cables all over the place.  That's fine for a few days, but no way would I drill into the hardwood floor to hide them. And did I mention that the wall on the left side has a doorway right in the middle, so pulling cables through the wall cavity would be difficult too?

Right, now for the projector.  Setting it up was a breeze; finding a wall to project the image on, not so.  Neither of two corner walls of this room are set at 90 degree angles, so our current TV sits on diagonal shelving between the aformentioned doorway in the middle of the left hand wall and a triple sliding glass door. Considering the projector had to be near the video source, that left only the wall behind our big 3 ½-seater sofa which is sort of opposite the TV.

Another picture taken down, sofa moved without incidence of hernia, and dust bunnies captured, we were set to go.  Except now the rear speakers were in the front, and the front, centre and subwoofer speakers were behind the sofa. Bugger. But with the popcorn getting cold, not an issue we were willing to address. Lights down and DVD on.

OK, we set this up without much planning, but there weren't really a lot of options. Thinking about the TVs at my friends' houses, most are in corners, under stairwells or in open plan kitchen/family rooms. One neighbour I know of jammed their new 55 inch plasma screen on a 60 inch wall between the fireplace and a window wall. Dad's chair is square on to the screen, but the L-shaped sofa for the rest of the family is set up at a 65 degree angle.  There are bound to be stiff necks after a 3-hour movie in that household.

In-ceiling/wall and wireless speakers, as well as things like motorised stands and screens begin to address the problem. Unfortunately, the only real solution is to build the room from scratch, so that cabling, equipment and furniture can all happily co-exist in some kind of ergonomic and aesthetic harmony.  You may want to budget for a few tradespeople and cans of paint, as well as your new HD surround sound big screen.

What do you think? Have you hit any home theatre set-up dilemmas? How did you work it out? Let me know your thoughts below!