Home Theater Equipment interests soar

by Mike Shea on 31 March 2003

There has been a huge lag in good movies recently but this hasn't stopped me from getting all interested in home theater equipment. There has been a couple of interesting technical developments. Texas Instruments DLP has a new single chip DLP that has improved black level, a 16x9 layout, and enough pixels to do native 1280 x 720 HD resolution. The initial projectors run about $10k but they will go down. When they hit about $3k they will be a great deal.

I saw a neat new digital speaker that Meridian released. For the most part anything with the word "digital" on it is usually marketing hype, but these speakers really are digital. They take in a digital signal, convert it to analog, and send it to four individually amplified drivers. More interesting was the fact that the speaker can self-tune itself to your environment promising an accurate sound in just about any situation. It is extremely hard to get flat response from a speaker system without some serious room tuning and equalization. The more systems self-tune automatically, the better systems will sound without requiring major tweaking. Still, these speakers are gimicky at best and cost an ungodly $15k a pair.

Back in the real world, I am always interested in finding value home theater gear for the masses. My boss recently picked up a Home Theater Direct Level 1 system. The $150 price would scare just about anyone away from thinking it is quality, but the specs are good. I plan on spending a good hour reviewing them once he invites me over. I'll give them a good once-over before I decide if they are worth a recommendation for a budget system.

I have updated my equipment recommendations and my $3500 Stereophile Killer Recommendation. I've really decided that $3500 is about the bare minimum for a good home theater system. This is about the least you can spend and still have a Liquidtheater Certified system.

I have a good understanding of what is needed for a good receiver and a good DVD player. I am pretty sure my recommendation of a cheap 16x9 HDTV is a solid buy. I still can't quite figure out if speaker packages like the Home Theater Direct Level 2 is as good as a set of B&W 300 series speakers. The snob in me would pick B&W but part of me wonders if the HTD speakers are just as good. Most everyone would be happy with a HTD Level 2, and at $500 for the set or $350 without the sub it is a hard price to beat. Still, a set of B&W 300s and a HSU sub is probably my pick for the $1300 range. Both HSU and SVS have probably the strongest subs for the money and both sell over the internet. Either an HSU VFT-2 at $450 or a SVS PCi 20-39 at $700 would be a top-end sub for a normal home theater. So the quest for a perfect budget home theater system rolls on. It is easy to sit back and dream about B&W Nautilus 802s, Krell Pre/pro and amps, the Home Theater Direct Level 1 is probably more within people's price range. So I will focus on the reachable components and day dream about the big ones just like everyone else.