Super Bowl Home Theater Setup

Get Your Head in the Game

It’s the TV spectacle of the year. No other single event lends itself so perfectly to a party centered around a big screen. Whether your Super Bowl planning involves one TV or multiple TVs, big screens or little, we’ve put together some helpful tips to make sure everything gets set up correctly for game day.

Buying an HDTV

Even though the Holiday buying season has passed, the big screen shopping season doesn’t end until after the Super Bowl. Great deals can be had just about anywhere.

LG and Panasonic have a wide range of THX Certified plasma and LCD models, some under $1,000. Why a THX Certified model? Glad you asked. Check out this article.

Trying to figure out what size to get? You can always go bigger than you think. Most people sit about 10-feet from their televisions. At that distance, even a 65-inch model isn’t “too big,” as in, you still won’t be seeing pixels. There’s a great article here for more info. The standard rule of thumb is to buy the biggest TV you can afford. You won’t regret it.

Buying an Audio System

Great picture is really only half of the experience. Great audio is what puts it over the top. The Super Bowl, like nearly all HDTV shows, will be broadcast in 5.1 Dolby Digital. This is the same sound format found on all Blu-ray Discs and DVDs. Even the least expensive Home Theater in a Box (HTiB) is going to offer better sound than the speakers built into your TV. You don’t have to spend a lot to get a big upgrade. Check out this great article to help you sort through your audio buying options.

Install and Placement

If you’re getting a new TV for the game, and this is your first flat panel, a word of caution. It’s quite common to consider mounting the flat panel above the fireplace. This is a bad idea on nearly every level. The level, being the issue. Watching a TV that’s above your normal line of sight will be like sitting in the front row of a movie theater… every time you watch TV. It’s pretty much a guaranteed pain in the neck – literally. Check out this article for more info. The short version is, if you’re going to mount the TV on the wall, the center of the screen should be roughly at or below the center of your vision while you’re seated. This is going to seem somewhat low if you’re just walking into the room. Trust us, it will be far more comfortable to watch. With some TVs, the picture quality will be better as well, as they can sometimes loose contrast and color accuracy the further you are away from their centerline.

Multiple TVs Setup

This is where the real fun begins. With multiple TVs, party guest can get the same experience in your kitchen as they can in your living room. The biggest issue with this is distributing the signal. Somehow you’ll need to get the game on that new TV. If you’re lucky, your house is already hooked up with cable outputs in all the rooms. In which case, you’re all set. For everyone else, it’s a little more difficult.

Though it would seem to be the easiest route, it is not advisable to have the main TV hooked up to one source , say cable or satellite, and the new TV with a different source, say an antenna. This is because each content provider will have a different delay to the game. For example, if the TV in the kitchen is plugged into an antenna and the TV in the living room to satellite, everyone in the kitchen will cheer a big play 5-7 seconds before everyone in the living room.

Thankfully, there are a few options to ensure each TV is playing as close to the same moment in the game as possible.

  1. The first is to have everything run off antennas. A few inexpensive antennas from Best Buy or Radio Shack will pull in your local Fox affiliate, and in most areas in HD. Check to see what kind of antenna you need. This method may result in a bit more setup time (getting the channels setup on each TV, etc), but it should result in HD signals for everyone. As an added bonus, over-the-air signals often have better picture quality than cable or satellite. Just make sure you can get a strong signal where you’re going to place the TV (or run the antenna to where you can get a good signal).
  2. The next method is to use all the outputs on your cable/satellite box. Most boxes will have HDMI, component, composite, and maybe s-video. Hopefully you’re using HDMI for your main TV, so that leaves, in descending order of quality, component, s-video and composite. Keep in mind that only HDMI and component are HD, composite (the single yellow connector) and s-video (the single cable with multiple small pins) are SD (480i). You’ll also need to run audio cables. There is one big potential problem, though. Some cable boxes won’t output component signals if the HDMI is active. If this is the case, your other TVs will have to make do with an SD signal.
  3. The last method is to get a small distribution amplifier (DA). The HDMI switches you’ve probably seen at Best Buy and other stores won’t work. They’re designed to switch multiple sources to one TV, not one source to multiple TVs. Make sure you get one that has HDCP copy protection and can handle at least 1080i. With this, you plug your cable/satellite box into the DA, then run cables from the outputs to all your TVs. HDMI cables don’t like really long runs, the best max out at 50 feet. Decent component cables can run somewhat longer, and you can get DAs that distribute those signals instead. If you’re going with a full HDMI setup, just make sure that you’re using a version of HDMI (1.3 or higher) that supports passing audio between devices. Otherwise, you’ll have sound on your main TV and none on the other(s).

Once you’ve got the picture and TVs sorted out, don’t forget the audio. Whether you’ve just bought a new surround sound system or want to check to be sure your current system setup is optimal, check out this article for THX’s recommended speaker placements.

Don’t Forget!

The most important thing is to make sure that everything works before Sunday! You don’t want to be setting up that morning and find you need a different cable, or that your cable box won’t output the signal you need. Even if you don’t have a lot of spare time during the week, a dry run can save you lots of stress on game day.

During the opening kickoff, listen for THX Deep Note, that trademark THX sound. They’ll be playing the THX logo and sound on the stadium’s 175-foot diagonal screens (the largest HDTVs in the world).