Home Theater Systems Reviews

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Mark Fleischmann  |  Apr 09, 2006  |  1 comments
Trendy yet rebellious.

The audio industry seems about to leap off a cliff. Permit me to suggest that this may be a rash decision. True, component audio sales have diminished, but that's no excuse for the industry to abandon its principles and give up on sound quality. What consumers are rebelling against is not good sound but bad design. They've had enough of big, dumb, room-hogging speakers. "It doesn't suit the room, but it sounds good" doesn't cut it anymore. "It looks as good as it sounds" is the winning combination.

Geoffrey Morrison  |  May 09, 2002  |  First Published: May 10, 2002  |  0 comments
Can home theater really be simplified into one box?

A home theater in a box? Can it really be that simple? Do you really get everything you need in one package? HTIBs are huge sellers. Some complete systems sell for less than $500, and others cost more than $2,500. We gathered three that fall somewhere in the middle: the JBL Cinema ProPack600, the Sony DAV-C900, and the Unity, codeveloped by Kenwood and Boston Acoustics. All three retail for $1,200, but you should be able to find them for a bit less. Promising free ice cream, I gathered the usual suspects to participate in the Face Off: audio editor Chris Lewis, executive editor Adrienne Maxwell, copy editor Claire Lloyd, and the ubiquitous Ron Williams, our technical consultant. Much was voiced about the ruse of free ice cream, which was a lie.

HT Staff  |  May 01, 2004  |  0 comments
If you've got $5,000 to spend, we've got five great systems to show you.

It's tough being a consumer in the home theater market these days. You want eye-popping visuals and earth-shattering sound, but sometimes the only eye popping and earth shattering that occurs is when you find out the prices of some A/V systems. Never fear. We at Home Theater hear your cries for a powerful system that won't give your wallet a beating, and we understand. That's why we've gathered our top minds and put together five excellent home theater systems that cost around $5,000. Loudspeakers, universal disc players, HDTVs, projectors, and screens—you name it, we've got you covered. So take a peek over the next few pages, and see the systems for yourself. With all the money you'll save by purchasing the systems we've shown you, you'll be able to spend a little extra to upgrade your wire, cable, and interconnects—and maybe even purchase a sexy stand to hold your new gear. You definitely deserve it.

Mark Fleischmann  |  Sep 18, 2006  |  2 comments
One awesome box.

To say the Geneva Lab Model XL is merely the largest of the one-piece iPod-compatible speaker systems would be unjust. It is the wildest flight of fancy the iPod has inspired. Plugging your iPod into one is like boarding a 747—you get a distinct feeling that something more powerful than yourself is about to lift you into the air. I must note, however, that the XL looks, sounds, and smells better than any commercial aircraft I've been on.

Geoffrey Morrison  |  Apr 18, 2006  |  First Published: Apr 19, 2006  |  0 comments
Excelling at being cheap.

One of the several local electronics stores within throwing distance from our studio is a chain called Fry's Electronics. It is a nerd's heaven, a kind of Best Buy, CompUSA, and a local computer repair shop all thrown in a Cuisinart. Every week, the much-heralded Fry's ad announces what loss leaders they will have on sale that week. This could be a $99 computer, a $20 hard drive, a $1,000 plasma, or really anything that they have only two of that they can sell quick and use to sucker people into coming to the store. Their regular sales can be pretty good, too. For example, this home-theater-in-a-box, complete with a subwoofer and a progressive-scan DVD player, was only $60. They also had an interlace-only model for $47, but I mean come on, this is a home-theater-in-a-box we're talking about here. Lets not be cheap.

Mark Fleischmann  |  Nov 15, 2007  |  0 comments
Dr. Harman meets Dr. Bronner—all one!

Every day, I wash with Dr. Bronner's Magic Soap. A soap-

Adrienne Maxwell  |  Jun 16, 2005  |  0 comments
It's all in the name.

Let's see. The CP 35 features a DVD player, receiver, and 7.1-channel speaker system that arrives packaged in one box. Around these parts, we'd call that a home-theater-in-a-box, but Harman/Kardon has wisely chosen the descriptor "home theater system" instead. I say "wisely" because the HTIB moniker brings with it certain expectations (for better and for worse), and Harman/Kardon doesn't want to confuse us reviewer types by forcing us to realign our expectations when evaluating this system. How thoughtful.

Mark Fleischmann  |  Sep 18, 2006  |  0 comments
Tune in to wood.

There's something unusual, novel, even peculiar about this compact system. But I'm not going to tell you what it is yet. Instead, I'll tell you what I think is most significant. The JVC EX-A10 takes me back in time, back to when I was a kid, before everything went digital. I used to carefully clean my records, put them on the turntable, flip sides every 20 minutes, and play music for hours upon hours. This JVC system has that old-time analog feel.

Mark Fleischmann  |  Jun 14, 2010  |  0 comments
Price: $400 At A Glance: Wireless sub goes any place with a power outlet • Soundbar contains four full-range drivers • Dolby Digital, DPLII, and DTS 5.1 surround processing

One Less Cable

Do you become a different person when you walk into a different room? For many people, the answer is yes. They’ll endure the rigors of component matching and system setup to equip the family room with a big phat flat screen and an AVR-based surround system. But they don’t want to repeat the process in every bedroom. Outside the main system, it might be OK for the screen to be 720p instead of 1080p if it’ll save a few bucks (especially if you don’t wear glasses in bed). And it may be OK to substitute a no-hassle soundbar speaker for a discrete speaker system. But that doesn’t mean you should go without surround—we’re not going to extremes here.

Mark Fleischmann  |  Dec 08, 2008  |  0 comments
Price: $500 At A Glance: Each speaker handles front and surround channels • Integrated DVD (not Blu-ray) player • Strong aesthetics and build quality

4.1 Channels from 2.1 Speakers

Manufacturers of home theater gear work within a rigid framework. That makes it easy for consumers to recognize product categories—speaker systems, receivers, separates—and investigate the trade-offs between performance and price. But these product categories can also be staid and boring because they rarely investigate alternative system architectures. To shake things up a little, you have to look into compact systems, including entry-level ones like the JVC TH-F3 DVD Digital Theater System (to use the official nomenclature).

Mark Fleischmann  |  Jun 14, 2010  |  0 comments
Price: $2,500 At A Glance: Three-channel soundbar with coaxial drivers • Satellite surrounds, also with coaxial drivers • 10-inch wireless sub with distinctive round enclosure

Slim Bar, Wireless Sub

It goes without saying that the soundbar and satellite/subwoofer categories have grown in stature along with the overwhelming popularity of flat-panel displays. As those displays have become rigorously slimmer, their skinny bezels have provided less room for speakers—not just home-theater-worthy speakers, but even something adequate for watching the news. Thus, it’s created a desperate urgency for a flat-panel-friendly audio solution.

Chris Lewis  |  Dec 12, 2005  |  0 comments
This time, it's all English.

After the parade of international system mates that we've had in every other installment of this column recently, we finally settle into a system whose parts share their nation of origin. Don't be too quick to assume that it is the United States or Japan I speak of—this month's system hails entirely from merry old England. This isn't terribly surprising, but it does give me an opportunity to say a few things to our friends across the pond that I've been meaning to say for a while, such as: Sorry about that whole revolution thing (although I don't really mean that sincerely), and thanks for the Rolling Stones, Lord Stanley (who gave us the Stanley Cup), and Elizabeth Hurley—in no particular order, of course.

Kevin McNulty  |  Sep 03, 2000  |  First Published: Sep 04, 2000  |  0 comments
With Kenwood's HTB-503 home-theater-in-a-box, you can enhance your home on an average budget without sacrificing your firstborn. To take advantage of surround schemes that use more channels than a 5.1-channel receiver offers, you'll need to chain-in an external amplifier. Theoretically, any THX-certified amp of equal power will work fine with a THX-certified receiver that has the appropriate line outs, but it's usually a good idea to stick with the same manufacturer—if for no other reason than the components look as if they're from the same family. Denon offers the POA-5200 two-channel amp ($699) as a complement to their AVR-4800 receiver. The 5200 is a THX Ultra-certified two-channel amplifier that delivers 120 watts per channel into 8 ohms or 200 watts into 4 ohms. It features a rear-panel jack for remote power-on/-off control through the AVR-4800. The 5200 differentiates itself from many stereo amps in that it's actually two mono amps in one box—each channel has its own power transformer and DC-storage-supply section. It also features A/B switching for each channel so that one or two speakers can be connected to each channel and can be turned on or off as needed. When testing the POA-5200 in conjunction with the 4800, I found no distinguishable sound or level differences between the two, proving that the 5200 is an excellent addition to the 4800 for bringing THX Surround EX to life.
Kevin Hunt  |  Mar 18, 2005  |  0 comments
The only game in town?

If you're going to mess with the Kenwood HTB-S715DV, better put on your game face. This home-theater-in-a-box comes to play. The HTB-S715DV blends a 6.1-channel surround package with creature-comfort features for the gamer of the house. It's a modern-day multitasker, too. While you're grooving to "Nasty Girl," your favorite little game-boy or game-girl can play Pikmin 2 on the big screen while immersed, oblivious to the outside world, in the gaming sounds of the HTB-S715DV's Dolby Headphone technology.

John Higgins  |  Dec 22, 2006  |  0 comments
  • $350
  • Attractive speakers and player have distinctive look
  • Wireless-surround-speaker ready with wireless adapter (sold separately)
The LG LH-T9654S does its best to differentiate itself aesthetically from a menagerie of cookie-cutter HTIBs. The attractively shaped speakers are glossy black soft-cornered triangles with silver linings. The subwoofer, as well, is very distinctive, with a cut-corner design. It's also glossy black with silver accents. The player continues the sleek design with its relatively bare front panel—it's limited to the disc tray, the LCD, and a headphone jack. The navigational CD buttons are located along the top of the player.