written by Mike Shea on 8 June 2002
The following components are ones of quality and value. While not necessarily the cheapest components you can buy, they are the ones of the lowest price that have the required features of quality home theater equipment. They represent a true value in home theater equipment. Remember that equipment is only one third of the home theater experience. Both environment and the movies you watch matter greatly.
Current Top Buys:
- Monitor: Toshiba 57H83 57" Widescreen CRT Projection TV $2000
- Receiver: Onkyo TX-SR 501 $300
- DVD Player: Panasonic S25K Progressive DVD Player $80
- Speakers: Two pair Home Theater Direct Level 1 Bookshelf Speakers $60 one Level 1 Center Speaker $30
- Subwoofer: HSU VTF2 Subwoofer $450
- Remote: Home Theater Master MX-500 $120 (prices)
- connectors $100, SPL meter $30, THX Optimizer DVD $20, THX blue filter glasses $2
A good quality TV for home theater use can be purchased for as low as $900. The minimum specs for a home theater TV includes a 32" screen, Component Video and V-Compression also known as a 16x9 mode for DVD playback. $2000 is the sweetspot for a good HDTV Monitor with a 50" or larger screen. This is your biggest bang for the buck. A true home theater monitor has a 16x9 widescreen display and a screen diagnal that is 1/2 the distance to the primary seating position. For example, if you sit 8 feet away, the screen diagnal should be at least 48 inches.
Receivers handle all of the audio decoding of a home theater system. While power and proper decoding are required, receivers often don't sound different from system to system. Make sure any home theater receiver can decode both Dolby Digital 5.1 and DTS and has equal power to all five channels. $500 is the sweet spot for a good receiver. Any more is a diminishing return and any less could sacrifice quality.
DVD Players are probably the easiest component to pick out. There are many good players at many price ranges. Don't spend more than $200. The unit below is probably the best dollar value you can get in a DVD player. For $100 you get a solid high quality progressive DVD player. There is no need to buy anything else.
Speakers have the widest range of quality manufacturers but almost none of them can be purchased in your larger stores. $1000 is the sweet spot for a high quality speaker setup. $500 can be done but it is harder to get a good quality system for that low. Often it is better to get a separate subwoofer such as an SVS or HSU subwoofer direct over the internet than the one that comes with a package deal.
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