a Home Theater, Part two - the components
By Jim Bray
Part One: First Steps
Part Two (This article): The Components We Used
Part Three: Buying a TV
Part Four: Buying a
Part Five: Accessorizing
Part Six: Buying a Receiver
Part Seven: Speakers
Part Eight: More on Buying Speakers
High movie theater ticket prices, rip-off snacks and they still
make you sit through commercials?
Time to invest in your own home theater!
In part one of this series,
I opened this series on putting together your own home theater with some
initial thoughts about budgeting, room size and shape, etc. To make the
series as relevant to our readers as possible,s I figured the best way
to do a home theaters would be to do it for real, by begging a couple
of civic-minded manufacturers (who were looking to publicize their wares)
for samples, and to use their equipment.
It worked, too! Riding to my rescue were Thomson Consumer Electronics,
makers of RCA
and ProScan, and Rotel, a high end audio component manufacturer. Now,
you may think theres a bit of an anomaly between the quite mainstream
RCA and Rotel, but its all a matter of ones priorities. I
wanted higher end audio (after all, a home theater is also a stereo, and
I wanted stuff to match my existing high end speakers), and Ive
always liked Rotel.
Anyway, RCA kicked in its $1999 model MM36100
(click the link for a full review), a 36 inch digital TV that doubles
as a computer monitor. It was its S-VGA capability that really turned
me on and, though I didnt use it as a monitor all the time, I grew
fond of it especially for family surfing where we gathered
around the TV and explored Web sites. The 36 inch screen isnt big
enough for my dream theater (see an upcoming column!), but its no
slouch. Its also forward compatible, in that you can add a set-top
box to it and upgrade to high definition TV down the road (though it isnt
With as many inputs and outputs as you could need, however, its
a high tech set thats easy to live with.
RCA also kicked in its $450 RC5910P five disc DVD changer (click the link for a full
review). I didnt really care about the multi-disc capability for
DVDs (can you imagine how sore your bum would be after a movie marathon
like that?), but its nice to have a CD changer for those times when
you want to play a lot of music. This RCA is a decent performer that comes
with higher end features like component video jacks and coaxial (and optical)
digital audio output, and those were important features to me. It also
sports Dolby Digital and DTS capability, though it wont play back
your home-recorded CD-R disc.
My VCR needs arent nearly as great as they used to be. I rarely
tape from TV any more, so I dont need the high resolution SuperVHS
format (which is hard to find now anyway). I rarely play VHS tapes, either,
having been converted first to laser disc and then to DVD. So RCAs
$229 VR702HF VHS Hi-Fi VCR (click
the link for a full review) fit the bill nicely. It works well, is easy
to use, has four heads, Hi-Fi audio and one of the most wonderful
features ever designed for a VCR: Commercial Advance, which skips through
commercials when youre playing back a tape.
One mistake I made was asking RCA for its WSP200
$230 wireless speakers (click the link for a full review). I had intended
to use them as wireless rear surround speakers, but when I actually tried
them I didnt think they were up to the task. As portable speakers
for piping music into another room or onto the patio theyre great,
but I ended up leaving my old surround speakers (which were no slouches
to begin with) where there were.
RCA capped things off with some accessories like a video source switcher,
power bar/surge suppressor, patch cords, etc.
The pair of components that really caused me to start thinking about
selling my soul was the Rotels (click
the link for a full review). The RSP-985 Surround Processor/Preamp and
RMB-1095 Power Amplifier tip the financial scale at $2000 each, and I
think theyre a bargain. Both sport the THX Ultra designation and
bring outstanding audio quality to your home theater. The amplifier pumps
out 200 awesome watts into each of the home theaters five channels,
and the preamp/processor offers Dolby Digital and DTS. It also comes with
a universal remote control.
You may not need such esoteric stuff or you may think this equipments
entry level. It doesnt matter.
The point is that, whatever your budget, only get what you need, and
choose components that offer the features you really want, not a bunch
of bells and whistles youll never use.
And, of course, enjoy!
Next: Buying a TV.
(Thanks for the manufacturers for the loan of their equipment in the
creation of this series.
Jim Bray's technology columns are distributed by the TechnoFILE and Mochila Syndicates. Copyright Jim Bray.
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