A few HT definitions...
A system of sophisticated electronic equipment for the presentation of theater-quality images and sound in the home.
An audio/video entertainment center that has a large-screen TV and hi-fi system with three speakers in the front (left, right and center) and left and right speakers in the rear. Starting in the early 1990s, video inputs were added to stereo receivers and preamplifiers. Today, almost all vendors make a combination audio/video control center for home theater listening and viewing. See AC-3.
Home cinema, also called Home theater, seeks to reproduce cinema quality video and audio in the home.
The video aspect usually involves a large-screen and/or high definition television or a projection system. Quality audio reproduction is usually achieved with a high fidelity surround sound system.
"Home cinema" has become something of a buzzword. Technically, a home cinema could be as basic as a simple arrangement of a Television, VCR, and a set of speakers. It is therefore difficult to specify exactly what distinguishes a "home cinema" from a "television and stereo".
However, "home cinema" implies a real "cinema experience" and therefore a higher quality set of components. A typical home theater would include the following:
A large, high quality, display--generally a big-screen television ( Liquid crystal display television, plasma tv or crt tv but not rear projection tv) or possibly a projector, often HDTV capable.
One or more audio/video sources. High quality formats such as DVD or Laserdisc are preferred, though old home cinema setups use a stereo VHS. Cable, KU or C band are also common. As are hard disk based systems.
An audio system that is capable of surround sound (at least 4.0 though most are 5.1 or higher). This usually consists of at least 4 (though more are common) full range speakers and in some cases a subwoofer for LFE. Sometimes a specialized decoder is used to allow the playback of newer surround-sound formats.
Comfortable seating and organization to improve the cinema feel. This might include several comfortable recliners and curtains or subdued room lighting (required for projectors) to enhance the experience.
Some home cinema enthusiasts will go so far as to build a dedicated room in the home for the theater. Such a room is often decorated to resemble an actual cinema, with specialized furniture, movie posters, or a popcorn or snack machine. These more advanced installations often include sophisticated acoustic design elements, including "room-in-a-room" construction that isolates sound and provides the potential for a near ideal listening environment. These installations are often designated as "screening rooms" to differentiate from simpler installations.
These days it is possible to purchase "home theater in a box" kits from various promiment electronics companies. These kits include a set of speakers for surround sound, an amplifier/tuner for adjusting volume and selecting video sources, and sometimes a DVD player or VCR. Though these kits pale in comparison to a true custom built home cinema, these kits are attractively priced. One needs only to add a television and some movies in order to create a simple home theater.
A fairly recent addition to the Home Cinema world is the Home Cinema PC (HCPC). These systems are very versatile and make a great addition to any home cinema because of their relatively simple integration into any set up. They can be easily customised and with the right configuration the picture and audio quality can match the performance of some of the best equipment availalbe for a fraction of the cost.