A compact home theater system is an electronic device that, in a single unit, is able to emulate all the features of a home theater: film display, multi-dimensional sound, and music playback, to name a few. Most of the time, the unit is portable. It gives owners the flexibility of bringing deluxe-quality sound and display features to nearly any television or computer, without the financial or space commitments of more permanent theater systems.
True to its name, the compact home theater system almost always manifests itself as but one do-it-all machine. The specifics of each system vary by manufacturer, but most are smaller than a standard television. Capabilities are nevertheless often quite expansive.
Sound is one of the most important features of any home theater system. A compact home theater often looks like little more than a large, contoured speaker on first glance. The speaker is one of the system's central features. It is usually designed to project sound outwards at certain angles and frequencies so as to emulate the surround sound capabilities of more conventional home theater systems.
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Standard systems often involve multiple parts, mostly speakers, which must be placed strategically around a room. When movies or music play, the sound is relayed between the different units such that viewers and listeners actually feel like that are in the center of the action, be it a gunfight, a casual conversation, or a symphony. A compact home theater system attempts to recreate this feeling without so many parts or, importantly, cords.
In most cases, a compact home theater system connects to a host television or computer system using dual audio and visual output cables. More advanced versions are often able to transmit and receive signals digitally, using wireless technology. These models can be completely wireless if they are powered by battery; otherwise, a power cord is usually required. Home theater installation is often as easy as arranging power and syncing devices.
To truly be considered a theater system, the device must also support other sorts of multimedia technology. Most systems can also act as compact disc (CD) and digital video disc (DVD) players, often supporting both ordinary and so-called “high definition” recordings. They can also usually route media from external devices, including video recorders, digital music players, and sometimes even smart phones.
A compact home theater system is often an attractive option for people who want a more flexible media room design. Rooms dedicated exclusively for home cinema use might be well-served by a more robust system, but a multipurpose space is often better suited to something a bit more low-key. One of the prime advantages to a more compact system is that it can easily be moved out of the way when needed. Unlike mounted speakers, a compact home theater system is never a permanent part of a room.