Advances in the design of entertainment centers
have kept up with the advances in home electronics.
Whether you want to hide your electronics away
or highlight their sleek design, there is something
on the market to suit your needs.
The wide-screen dimensions of new TVs
don't often fit in older entertainment centers.
Many newer designs are adjustable to accommodate
different sized TVs; however, you should still
measure your TV before you go shopping for an entertainment
center. Measure all three dimensions: height, width
and depth. Technology has changed a lot in recent
years, so you should not assume that all set dimensions
are pretty much the same.
Entertainment center is a general term
that can apply to a number of different pieces
of furniture used to house TVs, stereos and the
like. This article will outline some of the different
options that are available.
A TV cart is the most basic piece of
furniture designed to support a TV. The TV remains
in the open, sitting on top, and limited storage
is located in the lower portion of the cart. The
storage may be open shelves or it may be concealed
Entertainment armoires are designed
to hide away the TV and other electronic components.
They offer more storage than a TV cart and when
the doors are closed, they give no hint as to their
contents. Newly manufactured armoires on the market
today can be used to house a TV. Manufacturers
build the armoires with cord access holes for this
purpose; some even incorporate double hinges or
pocket doors that tuck away for better TV viewing.
Consoles have become more prominent
as high-definition TVs have become more common
in the market. They are wider than TV carts and
offer a more stable support for modern, wide-aspect
TVs. Some console designs have built-in hydraulic
lifts that can move a flat-panel TV (one no more
than 5" in depth) up and down, tucking it away
when not in use. Some consoles come with hutches
that allow you to mount flat panel TVs and provide
additional media storage.
Entertainment walls are designed to
be customized to your storage needs
and give you the look of built-in cabinetry. Several
different components can be mixed and matched to
suit your needs. TV carts, armoires and consoles
are all options that can be incorporated into an
entertainment wall, usually at the center. This
center piece is flanked by other storage pieces.
Media piers go on either side of the
TV housing. They consist of a narrow cabinet with
doors or open shelves. Many piers incorporate glass
doors at the top with interior lighting. If you
choose a pier like this, be sure the lighting is
easy to access and operate. Many media piers offer
built-in storage for CDs, DVDs and videos.
A light bridge is part of an entertainment
wall that connects two media piers or cabinets.
The bridge can be used over a consol or TV cart,
or it can simply frame a free-standing big-screen
TV. It has integrated lighting and often incorporates
a shelf and a back panel that ties the wall together.
Open curio/bookshelf units are another
option to add to your entertainment wall. They
offer additional storage and complete the look with
attractive, coordinated display areas. Shelving
units with lights should be easy to access and
Features to look for
Many manufacturers offer different
options for the doors on their entertainment furniture.
Some offer glass doors so that the remote will
work without having the doors open. Speaker grills
are another option offered by many manufacturers:
cabinet doors are fitted with speaker fabric that
allows sound to travel through them.
Better manufacturers integrate easy
hook-up systems that don't require you to crawl
inside your entertainment unit to install a new
DVD player or other component. An integrated cord
management system means that not only will your
components be easy to hook up, but the cords will
be tidy and out of the way too. Integrated surge
protectors help to protect your electronics from
power surges and voltage spikes.
Housing for each of your components
is important to consider when you are shopping
for a home entertainment center. Take inventory
of everything you hook up to your TV and make sure
the entertainment center can not only house it,
but house it so that it is easy to access and use.
Storage designed specifically to house gaming controls
and cartridges are another great feature. They
hide all the clutter away, yet keep it easy to
access and use.
Don't forget about storage for DVDs, videos and
other entertainment media. Many entertainment systems
have built-in, easy access storage, some with pull-out
organizers that allow you to easily flip through
If you expect to upgrade your electronics
in the next few years you might want to consider
an expandable entertainment wall. Some manufacturers
design consoles and light bridges have multiple
settings to fit TVs from 45" to 67".
Like any case good purchase, you will
want to look for the following structural details
before you buy. Overall, the piece should be sturdy
and should not wobble when rocked. Corner blocks
should be used to insure the stability of the piece
and levelers will help to make sure that all the
doors and drawers line up correctly.
Drawers should be constructed with
dovetail joints for strength and stability. The
drawers should move easily on their glides and
should have stops to prevent overextension. Good
quality glides will use ball bearings or nylon
wheels to make it easier to move the drawer. Drawers
for media and component storage should have compound
glides for full access to the drawer contents.
Doors should fit well and should not
have any visible gaps. They should be easy to open
and should not squeak or rub. Be sure to check
out all the options that are available for doors
in the entertainment center you choose.