written by Mike Shea on 26 August 2000
The following article has been outdated by new trends in technology and standards. I am leaving the article online for archival purposes and for research into the movement of trends over time. Please take the date into account when following the advise of this article.
This is the second full home theater system review. This system probably hits the budget of 90% of those who are entering the world of home theater at around $2500 total for the entire system. It is built with a very high dollar value in mind, and also built with very strict guidelines for where the money is going. The most money is going to the important parts (speakers, TV) and the rest is based strictly on what is required (cabling, audio electronics, DVD player).
Under our realistic philosophy of science and engineering, we have accepted the fact that room environment and speakers will make the largest difference in sound quality. Picking a good solid speaker package can make all the difference in a good system. For this system we chose B 302 bookshelf speaker for the fronts and rears (four total speakers) with a B CC3 center channel. The 302 speakers are widely known to be excellent budget music speakers and are very cost effective at $200 a pair. Here is a Audioreview.com review of the B 302 and a Audioreview.com review of the B CC3 center speaker. By matching the front and surrounds with identical models, we ensure a solid sound field for the entire theater. For filling out the lower end of the sound range, we added in an Energy ExlS-8 Subwoofer. Here are the Audioreview.com reviews of the Energy ExlS-8 subwoofer. While this won't peel the paint off of the walls, it will fill out the sound nicely with good clean bass. At $300 this sub is a steal. Read the following reviews of the Energy subwoofer or the following Audio Advisor consumer reviews of the EXLS-8.
Other speaker recommendations:
Since we have already covered the quality issues of the sound by picking a strong set of speakers, we can pick a receiver that offers us the features we need. The Sony STR-DE845 gives us decent power with both Dolby Digital and DTS decoding. It has three S-Video inputs and one S-Video output so it can handle all the switching we need. The price comes to about $399 MSRP but is usually on sale at Best Buy or Circuit City for less. You can also buy the Sony STR-DE845 online from Outpost. Read the Audioreview.com reviews of the Sony STR-DE845.
Other Recommended Receivers:
Toshiba has gone through many evolutionary steps in their DVD players and now we come to the Toshiba SD1200 DVD Player. For only $230 you get one of the best DVD players available. It includes all the features that are required for this system and even a couple we can't use like Component Video (we are hooking it up with S-Video). A very strong player from a company that has been working with DVD for years. Here are the Audioreview.com Reviews of the Toshiba SD 1200 and you can even buy the Toshiba SD 1200 online from Buy.Com.
Since this price range excluded a 16x9 TV we went for a large 36" tube TV with a good quality picture and all the required features. The Toshiba CZ36T31 offers us a good solid TV with a single S-Video input for $750. Since it only has one input, we will use the Sony Receiver for all the video switching, which it can handle quite well. Read the reviews of the Toshiba CZ36T31 form Audioreview.com.
Continuing our realistic view of audio equipment, we follow the philosophy that cables are cables. While we can get some generic Radio Shack cables for little money, it cost us almost the same for the high quality Acoustic Research Interconnects which you can buy online at AVConnect. These interconnects are very reasonably priced and can fill out all the requirements of this system for very little money. This includes the Digital Coax cable ($12), S-Video Cable x2 ($12), Subwoofer Cable ($19), and 16 Gauge Speaker Cable 100' ($40). Because of the spring clip terminals on the Sony receiver, it is better to go with 16 gauge wire than the ideal 12 gauge. Because of the relatively short runs, there will be no audio loss.
Since this is mainly a living room based home theater system, we don't expect you to run out and treat every smooth surface of the room with foam or insulation. A lot can be done to help tame harsh reflections by just putting down a thick rug or carpet on the floor, have thick comfy couches, recliners or love seats, lots of throw pillows and even book cases on the back wall. Make sure to have good blinds that will allow you to reduce all light from the room. Try to put something up on any large open walls to help reduce their reflection (wall hangings or blankets work wonderfully). Don't let the room decor ruin the sound of your system.
Easily the best dollar value in the home theater world right now is the One For All Cinema 7 remote. This $20 remote can be purchased at K-mart or WalMart and offers an excellent programmable remote with learning capabilities. It can easily control just about any piece of equipment you get. Don't miss this gem, it can easily make or break a good system. What good is it if you can't control it easily?
With this system, you have an excellent home theater that didn't break the bank. You can now sit and enjoy the true in depth wonder of excellent films like Lost in Space and Sphere without having to beat the creditors back with a bit stick. Lets break down the various components in the system:
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