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Universal remote control

When it comes to improving the audiovisual quality and usability of your home cinema system, some people can spend thousands on incremental upgrades, but this doesn't have to be you.

We've assembled a series of tips, which range from a new remote control to doing a bit of a tidy up. Following these steps you can improve the quality of your system from as little as $2.

If you have a desktop PC you can also use most of these tips to improve the look and performance of your computer, monitor and attendant cable mess.

Price: from AU$60

Though it's one of the "dearest" options here, it is also the best. Most people's coffee tables are cluttered with remote controls and if you've got kids in the household they're usually the only ones who know how to use them. If you want to simplify things, then buying a universal remote will not only clear some room but also make your TV and stereo easy for everyone to use.

Decent models start at AU$60, but our favourite is the Logitech Harmony One which can be found for under AU$200

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Cable or wire ties

Price: AU$2

Go and take a look behind your TV. Don't mind us, we can wait. Back now? Good. If you haven't been in there for a while it'll look kinda gnarly. Cables all over the place, and if you're unlucky you can probably see the tangled mess while sitting on the couch.

There is a way to fix this, and it costs almost nothing. Garden wire ties are not just for tying your bread together or keeping tomato vines in check — they can also tidy up your home theatre. It comes in large rolls, so you can cut off different sizes depending on how thick the cable run is.

When threading cables together try and keep power cables separate from the speaker and audio cables to stop electrical interference spoiling your sound. Bunch them together and where possible tie them to legs or shelves to get a cleaner look.

While you can use specialised cable ties, they are one-use only. Also, if you need to make changes you'll need to cut the cable and put a new one in. Wire ties can simply be untwisted.

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Calibration DVD

Price: AU$69

If you own a television, what you want to achieve is the most natural picture possible. Most people set their TVs to "Vivid" mode because it looks exciting, but the problem is you end up losing image details and everyone tends to look orange! Vivid mode pumps up colours and washes out details, and buying a calibration disc such as the Monster/ISF HDTV Calibration Wizard on DVD can give you a sterling picture for a fraction of the cost of a professional. In fact, we've even got a professional to show you how to calibrate your TV.

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HDMI cable

Price: from AU$15

If you have a TV and Blu-ray/DVD player which you've bought in the last five years, then odds are they both have what is known as an HDMI port. HDMI is a single cable that carries both sound and vision and in much higher quality than the yellow, white and red cables you might be familiar with. Make sure all of the parts in your chain — eg, TV, DVD player and sound system — have the connection and use it to cut down on the clutter.

While cheap AU$15 cables are great for most sources, if you're watching 3D movies you may want to upgrade to more expensive, version 1.4 cables that allow more signal to pass through them.

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Power board

Price: from AU$30

Though we all use them, cheap AU$5 power boards have no place behind a home theatre system. Typically, these four-outlet boards become overloaded with double adapters, and they don't even fit the large power packs of some components. And in the case of a power surge? You're outta luck.

The way to fix this is to get a dedicated AV power-board. Eight-way adapters start as little as AU$35 and come with spaced outlets to fit the largest of power packs. Most come with some form of protection in case of a lightning strike or other disaster, and while the cheapest ones will only protect your gear from one surge, models that run into the hundreds will be more reliable in the long term. Some golden-eared types also claim that power boards with EMI (electro-magnetic interference) filtering make their equipment sound better, too!

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