Also known variously as Micro DVD systems or Home Theatre-In-A-Box, these solutions contain components selected by the manufacturers and integrated into one device footprint.
They are ideally suited to small apartments, bedrooms or discrete simple home solutions. They are easy to use and friendly, while having a minimal impact on the living environment they share.
A lifestyle solution by its very nature is a prepackaged selection of interconnected devices wrapped in a stylish skin and bundled with a preprogrammed control system and speakers.
As the old saying goes "You get what you pay for" and the thing to look for is the least tangible. It is the design philosophy. This is what should be measured against your criteria when selecting a lifestyle system.
Different manufacturers have different goals in mind when they create a lifestyle system. They may place appearance highest on the agenda, whereby they design a "look", then go ferretting around in their parts catalogue to find speakers that will fit in their beautiful housings, or an amplifier the size of a cigarette packet with just enough power to take the skin off milk.
First of all decide upon the reasons you want a lifestyle system. Then rate them in order of importance to you, then compare that with what is available. Audio Junction emphasizes the sonic and video performance of our lifestyle solutions over the aesthetics, although having said that, a few performers stand out for their iconic designs (think Bose)
Our choice of product reflects our belief that performance is paramount. There is already a compromise when selecting a home-theatre-in-a-box in as much as there are plenty of better bits than any of the bits inside your gleaming silver box, but at least you don't have to worry about making it all work properly - you just trust that it does.
Traditional loudspeaker design has always aimed at finding a way of reproducing the entire audible frequency spectrum. In the process maintaining a very close spatial cluster of drivers to maintain the integrity of the stereo imaging. The sound is captured from two points and it should be reproduced from two points..points being the active word. Any spread of sonic source from the basic point goal will result in significant loss of cohesion and directionality of the information contained in the resultant sound waves.
Sub/Sat technology turns this idea on it's head somewhat. By breaking the audible spectrum up into low frequency sounds and "all the rest" the vast majority of the directional content of the music is maintained. The higher the frequency the more directional it becomes to us. Because low frequency sounds have long wavelengths they have less directional content and tend to shake the whole room.
The advantage of this is obvious when you realise that the size of the speaker required for low frequency sounds is ideally larger to move more air, it makes sense to put one huge one in a subwoofer and only feed it the lower end of the frequency range. Since these require by far the most power, it's also a sensible place to put the amplifiers as well. So we have the big low frequency effect subwoofer (LFE) and that leaves us with only a need for fairly small speakers to perform the higher frequency directional duties.
The design of these satellite speakers is critical, as the shape of the chamber becomes incredibly important at the small sizes required, in order to deliver a rich sound. Poor design will always result in a thin tinny sound that is so common in most cheap systems.
Beyond these measures, there is also a lot of clever circuitry and software inside the better lifestyle systems to control the delay and crossover points for each speaker.
Always look for the manufacturer that puts music first.
Traditionally one of the most expensive areas to include on any lifestyle system is video switching. Savings are very often made on these circuits so as to only provide a composite and/or an S-Video output. There is also typically very limited number of video inputs of any description.
Better brands will include the higher quality Component Video switching for their output. This is to be preferred.