Home Theater Essentials

BUDGET ESSENTIALS:

Yamaha RX-V463Yamaha RX-V463 receiver, $300

At this price, you’re getting a great deal on a full-featured receiver, with 2-in/1-out HDMI and 105W per channel across 5.1 channels. There’s also an optional iPod dock and Bluetooth receiver available, and it’s XM- and Sirius-ready too. (Check Price)

Oppo DV-980HOPPO DV-980H upscaling DVD player, $170

If you’ve got an HDTV that suppors 1080p but you don’t have a high-def AV source like a Blu-ray player or HD cable box, this upscaling DVD player is a perfect fit. It takes audio and video from standard-def DVDs and upconverts it to fit your high-def screen and surround sound speakers. (Check Price)

Cambridge Soundworks Newton MC155Cambridge Soundworks Newton MC155, $250

This 5.1-channel package includes front, center, and surround speakers, as well as a 10-inch subwoofer with a built-in 75W amp. The satellite speakers are compact — and so is the system’s price. Plus Cambridge has an excellent repair program should anything go wrong. (Check Price)

Olevia 537HOlevia 537H 37-inch LCD HDTV, $840

Olevia’s budget HDTVs generally have excellent image quality. This 37-inch model supports resolutions up to 1080i, and it has an HDMI input as well as an optical audio output. It’s even firmware-upgradable via the on-board USB port. (Check Price)

Netflix Player by RokuThe Netflix Player by Roku, $100

Don’t have that premium cable TV package? Netflix subscriptions that offer unlimited movie streaming start at $8.99 a month, and you get instant access to about 12000 movies and TV episodes via this inexpensive set-top box. (Check Price)

BUDGET ALTERNATIVES:

LG LHT888LG LHT888 DVD Home Theater System, $650

LG’s new all-in-one package takes the work out of putting a system together, combining gorgeous floorstanding front and surround speakers, a center channel and subwoofer, and integrated DVD player/amplifier. Best of all, the rears speakers are wireless! (Check Price)

Sony HT-CT100Sony HT-CT100 Soundbar, $300

Instead of having surround speakers and wires running everywhere, you can get impressive sound from a single bar-shaped speaker and a beefy subwoofer. And with 3 HDMI inputs and 1 output, you can forego a bulky receiver, saving even more space in your living room. (Check Price)

STEP-UP ESSENTIALS:

Denon AVR-1909Denon AVR-1909 receiver, $650

This midrange receiver supports all the latest high-def codecs like DTS-HD Master Audio and Dolby TrueHD, and it pumps out 90W of audio across up to 7.1 channels. Other highlights include 3-in/1-out HDMI 1.3a, 1080p video upscaling, and Audyssey’s excellent MultiEQ auto-calibration system. (Check Price)

Samsung BD-P1500Samsung BD-P1500 Blu-ray player, $400

Samsung’s entry-level BD player handles Blu-ray, DVD, and CD, and the built-in Ethernet port lets it receive firmware upgrades over the Internet. It supports Dolby TrueHD, not DTS-HD Master Audio, but receivers like the Denon AVR-1909 can fill in that gap. (Check Price)

Aperion Audio Intimus 4T HybridAperion Intimus 4T Hybrid 5.1 speaker package, $1570

Why go through all the trouble of finding separate speakers when you can get a gorgeous matched set like this? Available in black or wood finish, this package includes narrow floorstanding mains, plus bookshelf surrounds, center channel, and dual-driver subwoofer. (www.aperionaudio.com)

Samsung LN40A650Samsung LN40A650 40-inch LCD HDTV, $1900

We’re continually impressed by the picture quality on Samsung’s LCD TVs, and this 40-inch, 120Hz model is no exception. The piano-black frame has a hint of reddish amber, and the Ethernet port lets you access RSS feeds from USA Today right on the TV. (Check Price)

Tivo Series 3TiVo Series 3 HD DVR, $600, plans start at $12.95 a month

Hook your cable TV up to this high-end DVR, and you can record up to 2 channels at once for up to 32 hours of HD or 300 hours of standard-def. The included TiVo Glo backlit remote is better than what you get from your cable company, and you can increase the DVR’s storage capacity with an optional expander. (Check Price)

STEP-UP ALTERNATIVES 

Pioneer Elite HTS-LX70Pioneer Elite HTS-LX70, $1800

This speaker system includes 2 multi-directional front speakers, 2 separate center channel speakers (for easier placement under your TV screen), and a beefy subwoofer. You control the LX70 with the convenient touch-screen remote, and a separate control display gives you a little extra flexibility for system layout. (Check Price)

Yamaha YSP-3050Yamaha YSP-3050 Soundbar, $1400

This one-piece digital sound projector’s 82W amp powers 23 small speakers, which beam the sound at you, creating the illusion of surround sound without using wall-reflection techniques. It has HDMI connectivity and can upscale standard-def content to 1080i. A great solution if you want surround sound but are tight on space. (Check Price)

EXTRAS

FlatwireFlatWire 5.1 Surround Sound Install System, $400

You can make these truly flat speaker wires disappear under a rug or behind some paint, and they’re designed to be completely safe if punctured. This package includes 120 feet of wire, 12 connectors, mesh tape, and adhesive spray, so you can connect a 5.1-channel speaker system.

SumoSacSumoSac, Starts at $200

Bean bags have come a long way. These soft chairs are filled with urethane foam that never goes flat, and they have a removable micro-fiber cover. Available in sizes from Gamer to Gigantor. (www.sumolounge.com)

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