Gaming in a Home Theatre
Can you game in a home theatre?
After steady growth over the last decade or two, gaming is now the worlds favourite form of entertainment, bigger than music and movies combined. It's grown from humble beginnings in the 1970's when the first Atari consoles began filtering into lounge rooms, to the multibillion industry we see today. Modern consoles have massive amounts of computing power that are easily able to create lifelike worlds and characters that rival any Hollywood movie.
Gaming is often as much about social activity as it is about playing the actual games and the real driver for the explosion in popularity has of course been the internet. Gamers can now connect with friends and enemies around the globe with at least 1.5 billion people with internet access now playing video games. Over half of frequent gamers report that their hobby helps them connect with friends and 45% use gaming as a way to spend time with their family.
This is certainly a trend that we've noticed at Soundline, with gamers of all levels spread throughout our staff. We've also noticed that the things that make watching a movie enjoyable also apply to gaming (at least as far as your lounge is concerned, PC gaming is an entirely different beast and beyond the reach of this article).
So what's the appeal? Well games are now fantastic to look at and have reached the point where it's often difficult to tell if they are filmed in the real world or have been computer generated. The levels of realism and immersion continue to improve year after year, with worlds to explore in higher resolution and more detail than ever before. Storyline depth and game characters now rival those of movies, and gameplay can stretch into tens of hours or even be endless for some titles. It's a little like binge watching a favourite series except now you're the lead character or director.
So what do you look for if you decide to incorporate gaming into your home entertainment system? In general a good home theatre system will also make for a great gaming experience but there are a few small details to keep in mind if you're chasing the best possible performance.
As with movies, bigger screens allow for a more engaging experience and allow you to make the most of all of that extra detail that 4K and 8K can offer. This is aided by modern TV and projector technology, and manufacturers are now incorporating gaming focused features that allow for huge levels of brightness and dynamic range, as well as high frame rates that guarantee crisp and instant response for when the action heats up. Blurry movement and input lag are now things of the past. 4K and 8K projectors mean you can make the most of big screens without sacrificing any quality, with laser light sources providing more light and lasting for tens of thousands of hours.
This is one area to pay attention to if you're a gaming fan. New consoles like the PlayStation 5 and Xbox Series X can output resolutions of up to 8K so you'll need to make sure the gear you're using is up to the task. Perhaps the main feature to consider here is something called HDMI 2.1. HDMI is the system used to connect AV equipment and version 2.1 brings a few features that are especially relevant to gaming, namely Variable Refresh Rate (VRR), Auto Low Latency Mode (ALLM) and 120fps (frames per second) at 4K resolution. What these acronyms ultimately boil down to is a smoother and more responsive image that while not really necessary for enjoying a movie will definitely make your gaming time a whole lot more enjoyable. Having HDMI 2.1 support means you can make the most of these new features as they become fully implemented in consoles and games.
Bear in mind that as resolutions and frame rates increase, your TV may start to struggle. As games start to support 4K at 120fps, your TV will need to support HDMI 2.1 in order to display the image. It's also worth noting that a 120Hz TV won't necessarily display at 120fps. Subtle but important differences, and a great reason to talk to us before you make any upgrades.
In years gone by, projectors have had a reputation for dull images and slow refresh rates, but this is no longer the case. There are now some excellent options available that feature laser light sources, 8K input and low-latency modes ideal for game playing. These options can produce some stunning, large images that will fill almost any room. To take full advantage of this, Soundline recommends screens from Stewart Filmscreens. These are specialist projection screens that are used by the movie industry and theatres around the world to provide the best levels of colour and brightness, and make movies and games look as good as they possibly can. Available in many different finishes and sizes, they are by far the best option if you're serious about your gaming or movie setup.
JVC DLA-N7B projector
The DLA-N7B projector would be one of our first choices for a gaming or home theatre. Featuring 4k input at 120fps it can handle everything the new generation of consoles can throw at it, and is also capable of upscaling to 8K if required. Plenty of brightness and compatible with HDR10+ to ensure you're getting an image with the best possible dynamic range. A laser light source means this projector will perform into the tens of thousands of hours. See more..
Projectors are a great option if you want the largest possible screen.
PANASONIC TH-65JZ1000Z TELEVISION
A great option if you prefer a TV over projector, the TH-65JZ1000Z is an OLED display for deep blacks, rich colours and most importantly HDMI 2.1 support. This means High Frame Rates (HFR) and Variable Refresh Rate (VRR) come baked in, as does Panasonic's Game Mode Extreme which is designed to cut lag even further. See more..
TV's are now now including features designed specifically for gaming.
It's often said in the movie making world that good audio is at least as important as the visual element and the same goes for games. In-game sound has come a long way in a short time and there is now support for technologies like Dolby Atmos that further pull you into the virtual worlds and make for an experience that can be truly enveloping. Characters can appear to be behind you, cars roar across the room and gunshots can ring out everywhere. Modern game consoles now contain hardware that is dedicated to providing 3D audio with depth and quality that is often unnervingly realistic.
Our experience with speaker choice and room setup means we can do the hard work for you. Some speakers are definitely more suited to home theatre or gaming applications and positioning them can often be a tricky process with no hard and fast rules for final placement. Optimal speaker positioning can often come down to inches and it's important to get right, especially with a 3D audio setup where surround and height speakers are being used.
What works for home theatre also applies to gaming with most of the ground work being done by a quality pair of front speakers. These should be appropriately sized for the room and you AV receiver. Bigger isn't better so it can pay to seek some advice here.
Often overlooked is the centre channel which is crucial for clear dialog. Modern games can have detailed and intricate storylines that often rely on conversations between characters to guide gameplay and give clues. Make sure you don't miss anything important in your next movie or game by paying attention to your centre channel.
Quality front speakers and a centre channel are the foundation of a good home theatre or gaming setup.
Surround or rear speakers bring most of the immersion that we're looking for in a theatre. They play a big role in adding space and dimension to a movie or game so it's important not to cut corners here. It's a good idea to maintain the same manufacturer or ranges across your main and surround speakers if possible. They will be well matched and provide smooth panning and levels as a scene plays out, disappearing into the action.
A subwoofer will add huge depth to your games as you feel the power of an explosion or rumble of a car racing alongside you. The low frequency energy from a sub is the wow factor that will make games really come alive and again, it's worth getting some advice here to make sure you get the correct size and placement. Often two smaller subwoofers will give a better results than a large single one, so get in touch with the Soundline team and we can guide you here.
Last but certainly not least are the height speakers. These might also be known as Dolby Atmos speakers and are placed overhead to envelop listeners in a dome of sound. As you might expect, this can be a significant addition to a home theatre or gaming room. Sounds and voices can be 'placed' at exact points in a room, taking immersion to a whole new level. Game developers are taking full advantage of this technology so it's worthwhile incorporating this technology if possible. Again, your AV receiver will need to be able reasonably up to date with the ability to decode an Atmos soundtrack.
There are a few options for adding Atmos speakers. If you're building or renovating, then adding them into your ceiling is a good option. There are some great in-ceiling speaker options available designed specifically for that purpose.
If you don't feel like cutting holes, you can opt for some upward firing speakers that bounce sound off of the ceiling and towards the listener. Generally either two or four ceiling speakers are added to a home system, although the Dolby system does support many more.
Dolby Atmos speakers will put you in the middle of the action with 3D sound.
Monitor Audio Silver 7G Dolby Atmos 7.1.2 cinema system
The Silver range from Monitor Audio is one of our most popular, and for good reason. It offers excellent performance and covers all of the bases when it comes to music, home theatre or gaming. The Silver 300 floorstanding speakers have plently of capacity to fill a moderate sized room, especially with the two pairs of Silver FX surrounds to provide the extra depth. Add in the C250 centre channel, W-12 subwoofer and a pair of AMS Dolby Atmos speakers and you have a system that will deliver impressive performance whether you're watching a movie or enjoying a favourite game.
However, all of this is academic without a good recevier to manage everything; it's essentially both the brains and muscle of the operation providing a place to connect all of your home theatre devices like Blu-Ray players, set-top boxes, game consoles etc, then providing amplification and output to your speakers.
Almost any new receiver will give you good performance for home theatre, but from a gaming perspective, there are a couple of things to look for. The main one is HDMI 2.1 support which brings the previously mentioned benefits and ensures you'll have the best possible experience. In particular, you should look for support for Variable Refresh Rate (VRR), Auto Low Latency Mode (ALLM). This will give you the power you need to get the most from the newer consoles and keep you future-proofed for years to come.
If you really want to kick it up a notch, you can consider substituting a receiver with a separate processor and amplifier. Although a more expensive and complex option, separates will provide more power and potentially better sound, especially if you want to do a lot of music listening. There is also an option with some receivers to use a preamplifier output to connect a more powerful separate amplifier, allowing you enjoy some of both worlds. Have a chat to one of the Soundline team and we can give you some further guidance on this.
MARANTZ SR8015 11.2 CHANNEL 8K AV RECEIVER
The SR8015 is a very highly rated receiver that offers 8 HDMI inputs including one for 8K/60Hz and 4K/120Hz so it should allow your new game console to really shine.
Solid build quality, power to burn and Dolby Atmos support make this a great choice if you want all of the options. Noted for being a great audio performer in both 2 channel music and surround sound, the SR8015 is hard to beat.
YAMAHA RX-A2A HOME THEATRE RECEIVER
A more affordable option, but still hugely capable is the RX-A2A. Featuring 4K/120 and 8K/60 abilities, makes this a very attractive option for game fans looking to make the most of a new console. ALLM and VVR provide smooth gameplay, while Dolby Atmos HDR10+ and many other modern standards are supported.
Also worth considering are acoustic treatments. These are placed on the room walls and floor and work to absorb reverberation and echo which can easily ruin an audio experience. If you've ever walked into a theatre or studio and noticed how quiet it feels, this is the acoustic treatment at work, with sound reflections from the walls, floor and ceiling being greatly reduced. Adding these treatments is one of the easiest and most effective improvements you can make to a home theatre or gaming room and we work closely with ArtNovion to determine the best size, type and placement. It can be quite a complex thing to get right, with room size and sound wavelengths to consider, and we actually use specialst software to calculate exactly where treatments should be placed. There is a wide range of colours and materials to choose from, so it should be easy to select something that matches your decor. Read more about acoustic treatments here.
There are a huge range of colour and material options available for acoustic treatments.
The experience of gaming in a good home theatre is certainly addictive and it's difficult to go back to a small TV with a pair of headphones or underpowered speakers. The immersion of a large screen and high quality surround sound system is really something that has to be experienced to appreciate properly. Having a home theatre that can be used for both gaming and movies makes the case for putting together a quality theatre even more compelling. Some forward planning and expert knowledge will definitely go a long way so drop in and have a chat with the Soundline team. We're happy to help and even play a few games while you're here.