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  • Writer's pictureAndy Ross

To Upgrade or Not To Upgrade

Those of you who read this column regularly know that I talk about new and interesting releases on blu-ray and 4K blu-ray. But I don’t often talk about my home theater I watch those releases in before I share my reviews with you. I’ve had a home theater for about 20 years now, starting in the DVD era with a good ole boxy CRT TV and a JVC home audio receiver with Dolby Digital surround sound processing.

There have been upgrades over the years, the CRT was replaced with a rear projection HDTV, the JVC receiver was replaced with a Panasonic one that added DTS sound to the mix, and then when it died I upgraded to a Yamaha one I still use which was able to process the high-resolution, master audio grade formats from Dolby and DTS that are commonly found on most blu-ray discs.

It’s always been a basic 5.1 sound system, where you have five speakers and a subwoofer for those rattling exploding sounds that go off during James Bond movies. One thing about my theater is I don’t like to upgrade if something is still a perfectly working piece of equipment. That’s one reason that the 2006 TV wasn’t replaced until last year when it began to get difficult to track down the replacement light bulbs for the back.

Last year I upgraded to a very nice 4K OLED TV that I love, it’s been about a year with the TV, and the shocking quality I get out of this TV gives me a near-cinematic experience in my home theater. Because things never go simple, just weeks after upgrading the fancy TV one of the speakers in my home theater went out, which isn’t too shocking when you consider those speakers have been serving me well for 20 years. So after I replaced that one speaker, and after being so impressed by what my new TV could do, it put a bug in my ear.

Should I upgrade my sound system? 5.1 has been a standard format for 30 years now, and over time it was expanded to 7.1 and now you can use a 7.1 system with Dolby Atmos, which from my understanding uses some kind of magic to make it seem as if the objects in the movie are whizzing right by your year, over moving from speaker to speaker. But I’ve never heard anything in Dolby Atmos so I don’t know how much of an improvement upgrading would be, any disc I have that has a Dolby Atmos track will automatically down-mix itself to a 5.1 mix for my system—it’s designed that way.

All of this got me thinking about one thing. I miss Circuit City. In particular, I miss that little soundproof demo room they had where you could in and test out various speakers, receivers, and surround sound demos to get a feel for what you wanted in your own home. What if I don’t need to upgrade? As I don’t. Everything is working fine and I love the Yamaha receiver that is the heart of my home theater.

Plus, at the end of the day, I only have a few discs with Dolby Atmos mixes on them, most of my surround soundtracks on the movies I own are 5.1 mixes. This is why I wish I could sit in a demo room and just see for myself if it is something I think I’d benefit from. But alas, if I upgrade I will just go for it and hope for the best. I suspect I won’t. I suspect I’ll wait till something happens to the Yamaha, then I probably will upgrade it to Atmos. But with my luck something fancier will come along after then and then I’ll wonder about upgrading all over again. See you next week.


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