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HDTV: Will It Fit in Your Entertainment Center?

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RALEIGH — Big screen televisions have been around for a long time. However, many of the new HDTV sets need different entertainment centers.

The wider, 16 by 9 sets might not fit, but furniture companies and custom builders are taking up the challenge. The companies are beginning to catch up with sales of wide screen HDTV sets.

"There are companies that are now making units that will straddle [the HDTV] with piers on either side to accommodate the audio equipment and speakers," says Karen Brautigam with NOW! AudioVideo.

Many commercial units are adjustable. They can handle a standard big screen TV or the wider HDTV units, but do not assume the new sets will fit.

"Sometimes that's a concern right up front, especially if somebody is building a new house. And other times it's 'We just want the best we can get, and we'll fit it in however we can,'" Brautigam said.

It is expensive, but buyers can solve the cabinetry problem by using a flat panel monitor and simply hanging it on the wall.

Craftsmen at Woodleaf, a Raleigh custom furniture builder, work with audio visual technicians to create masterpieces found in expensive homes.

"We would do a layout based on what information they gave us as to the technical requirements of the equipment, and then we would marry that with the aesthetic needs the designer has or what we have suggested to the client," says Matthew Smith, a custom furniture builder.

Custom built entertainment centers can cost around $9,000. Smith says the popularity of home theaters is growing in the Triangle. As for the demand for special entertainment centers, "I think it's going to be largely driven by the consumer and how many of them will buy HDTV," he said.

With new designs coming from furniture makers, there should be plenty of choices when buyers are ready for their HDTVs.

Deciding which HDTV set to buy depends on personal viewing habits and room size. Manufacturers are adding to their list of models this year, and prices are coming down.


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