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Electronic Toys

I've decided to spend some money on a good home theater system. Some might consider that odd, as I don't really watch that much television. Why spend the hard-earned wages on something that may be somewhat superficial?

There are a couple of good reasons, I think. The first reason is necessity: I do not currently have a television, receiver, or speakers for my living room. Thus, I need to get something. The second reason is a "life-style choice": If I am going to purchase something for my home (for my life), I should aspire to the best. The third reason implies a reward for good behavior: I work very hard, and sometimes very long, and it is pleasing to think that my work is translated and crystallized into something pleasing. (I suppose that is a similar reason why I sometimes want to pick up the bill in restaurants, or take my girlfriend to interesting places.) The fourth reason relates to art appreciation: I like listening to good music (having played saxophone in classical and jazz groups), and so I believe that my ear may be better trained than some. The fifth reason is simply that I am a technology junkie. And the final reason is pragmatic: I can afford it, without endangering my other ventures.

I admit that I didn't know that much about home theater systems. Several weekends ago, I went with my knowledgeable friend, Andrew, to various stores in the west Los Angeles area. One of the critical locations was a Ken Cranes store, where the salesman took the time to explain and display several options. (Of course, as a salesman, he tended to push my spending envelope.) I decided that my "starter kit" would consist of a television, a receiver, speakers, and the wiring needed to bring them all together.

KV32HS510The television chosen was the Sony KV32HS510. This has a 32 inch flat screen, accepts component video, and is high-definition ready. I was very impressed with the picture quality while in the store. (Let's see how it turns out in my living room.) One reservation that I had was that it is a 4:3 screen, rather than the wide screen that is superior for watching DVDs. But it is advanced technology, and I hope believe that the 4:3 format is reasonable enough for now.

Denon 1803 rearThe brains of the home theater system is the receiver. It seemed like the closest high-quality receiver that I could get for reasonable amounts of money was the Denon 1803. It has all of the optical and component inputs, as well as the smarts to handle and power good quality speakers.

Bowers and
Wilkins 602 Good quality speakers are expensive. The standard setup seems to be three front (left, center, right), a subwoofer, and two rears (left and right). I decided to start with just the front right/left, and get the subwoofer and rears later. I listened to the Bowers and Wilkins DM602S3 front speakers, and was impressed at the quality of sound. These are bookshelf units. The floor-standing units might have had marginally better bass sounds, but I couldn't justify the difference in price. (If I get the subwoofer someday, it will be a moot question, anyway.)

With home theater (as in most things, I think), one pays increasing amounts of each marginal bit of performance. A $500 receiver might be much better (in performance and available options) than a $100 unit, but can one really tell the difference between it and a $1000 unit? Some might, most probably would not. It does seem like there are different plateaus, though: If one can get on the bottom edge of the high-end stuff, than maybe the majority of the benefits are available without paying for functionality that is unneeded.

In any case, I want to make sure that I configure my equipment properly. The Avia Guide to Home Theater DVD from Ovation Software seems to be a popular choice. It contains test patterns for television and test sounds for the audio subsystem, and even comes with polarized colored samples to assist in proper color configuration.

The equipment arrives next Saturday. I hope that it will be worth it, and I look forward to hosting a football gamewatch party or just listening to some good music.



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Your girlfriend is a lucky lady!

Looks great! Can't wait to to see a good movie.

Your photos are so professional looking. How does the DVD picture look?

Talk to Speights about home theater. He's the expert.

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