written by Mike Shea on 16 April 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The following article has been outdated by new trends in technology and standards.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.
There are many home theater packages out there in the market today. As this subject gets more and more popular, many companies are throwing "home theater" on every product they ship. While this large proliferation of merchandise is good for the masses, it can dilute the pool of truly excellent home theater systems. This article is the first in a series of in depth system reviews that attempts to put together ideal home theater packages for different price ranges. To see smaller reviews of many other systems, take a look at the Dream Systems article
This system is built as the high end system within an achievable (though high) price range. You don't have to win the lottery or figure out the stock market to afford this one, but it obviously will mean a quite few discussions with the significant other in order to purchase it. This system is built around the idea of dedicating a room to your home theater. It isn't meant as a living room system. Keep in mind, this is an absolutly no comprimise system. Every element is hand picked to be one of the best in it's area. Here we will cover the speakers, electronics, source, display, controller and room treatments required to piece together this system.
SpeakersIn order to truly represent the audio portion of our movies, we require a truly powerful speaker package. For this we look to the Definitive self powered speaker lines. A pair of BP2000TLs floorstanding self powered speakers run as the mains. Each of these speakers has a 15" 500 watt powered subwoofer built into it enabling it to run full range. The center is a C/L/R 3000 powered center channel with a 10" 150 watt powered sub. The surrounds are BPVX surround speakers. Just to make sure there wasn't any lack of bass, there is a 15" Definitive PF15TL subwoofer added in as the main LFE channel. This gives you five full range speakers and a dedicated subwoofer. Each of these speakers is capable of going down into the 30hz mark with the mains getting to less that 20. You might think that no one needs this much bass, but for the true reproduction of films, this is just right. These speakers have been heralded by almost all the trade magazines including Stereophile's Guide to Home Theater, Widescreen Review, Sound and Vision and Home Theater Magazine. All gave them sterling reviews.
Decoder and Amplifier
For the main decoder and amplifier I picked out the new Yamaha RX-V1 receiver. This is the new bigger brother of the Yamaha DSP-A1 (my own amplifier) that includes Dolby Digital, DTS and a new 6.1 channel mode resembling the Dolby Digital EX mode of some newer DVDs. It can actually run a total of eight speakers not including subwoofers. For this setup we are only running the traditional 5.1 speaker setup.
The DVD player is the Toshiba 5109 Progressive DVD Player. This affordable DVD player has the ability to output a digitally doubled 480 progressive signal, effectively doubling the lines of resolution shown per frame. It also has Dolby Digital and DTS out. Because DVD players are all basically the same, there wasn't a need to pick a more expensive player.
The video display is the new Sony VPL-10HT LCD Projector. This projector matches almost all of my requirements for a digital display. It can accept almost any signal including VGA, both HDTV standards (720p and 1080i), the DTV standard (480p) and regular NTSC (480i) all of which are upconverted to the projectors native 1366x768 resolution. For this overall system, we are mainly concerned with the fact that it can take the 480p signal of the Toshiba DVD player and upconvert it for an almost perfect picture. The only shortcoming of this projector is the fact that it does not do true perfect blacks. Considering the ease of setup and the cost, this is a small price to pay. Figure in a 100" diagonal screen into this equation as well for a large cinema-like display.
In order to control all of this system, we really need something that will make running the system as transparent as possible. The Philips Pronto will make short work of this task. It is the proverbial blank slate of remote controls, allowing you to configure it any way you wish. You can turn your whole system on and have it pick all the right settings with the click of one button. It is widely known as the best mass market remote control available and has one of the largest online support communities for any remote. Take a look at Remote Central for more information. I also have a full review of the Pronto.
When building this dream home theater, it is important to remember that room treatments need to occur in order to get the most out of this system. Plan ahead and paint the room a dark color (a dark maroon is nice) so that your walls do not reflect the light output of the projector. If you plan on hosting over four or five people, you may consider building a rear platform for a second row of seating. Room treatments are a must. Most untreated rooms will create inaccurate reflections of sound and take away from the true power of your system. Many times, simply decorating the room with rugs, carpets, hanging fabrics, throw pillows, thick couches and chairs can help tame a room's harsh sound, but if you are going as professional as possible, companies like RPG Diffusers can sell you all the treatment you will need. Many of their products are available from Audio Advisor.
Finally we have a system that covers all of the requirements for a true powerful home theater system. It is a system like this that takes us out of the theater and gives us the best way to experience what a director originally intended us to see. While the cost of this system is usually enough to scare anyone away, if you consider the years of entertainment it will bring, it is truly a bargain. Here is a summary of the above equipment along with costs:
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