Home sweet home theater
Gift Guide 2011 | 10 Picks for the Home Theater Buff
As rabid movie, music fans and gamers, we’re always on the hunt for gear that can push our home entertainment experience to 11 (much to our better half’s chagrin). This roundup includes some of our favorite home theater products out today that we’d love to host in our living room.
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Verus Forte Tower HD System
In the world of home theater audio, Aperion’s bang for the buck value is second to none. Their latest flagship 5.1 home theater system is the winner of countless editor’s choice awards and packs enveloping big theater sound in a beautifully crafted set of speakers that will fit in nearly any living space. Free shipping, a risk free 30 day in home trial policy, and lifetime technical support just pile on to the value insanity.
Elite Pro X5FD HDTV
When Pioneer announced it was exiting the TV biz back in February of 2009, a part of us died. After all, their Kuro line dominated the market in terms picture quality and even the majority of today’s high-end sets have to yet to best many of its benchmarks. A small part of that legacy lives on in Sharp’s newly branded Elite line of LED TVs — which licensed the Elite name from Pioneer. While plasmas from Samsung and Panasonic unquestionably present a better value in terms of cost to performance, the THX and ISF certified Elite 60 and 70-inch sets equipped with full-array local-dimming technology have been crowned by many videophiles as the new flat-panel champ.
Oppo BDP-83 Blu-ray Player
In a world where disc-based media is dying, it’s increasingly hard to justify paying for components like Blu-ray players. Oppo’s BDP-83, however, is an exception, since it offers comparable performance levels to home theater components costing up to four times as much, for both video and audio material. Thanks to an incredibly rich feature set that includes, Qdeo video processing by Marvell, dual HDMI 1.4 outputs, wireless N-networking, dual-USB ports, an eSATA port, and access to streaming services such as Netflix, Pandora, and VUDU — this may very well be the last Blu-ray player you’ll ever need to buy.
NAD T757 A/V Receiver
NAD has a cult following in the home theater community thanks to its Apple-like design approach of “less is more” and intense focus on quality. Subsequently, the T757 A/V receiver avoids the majority of the convoluted features touted by competing brands and instead simply produces stellar audio with minimal setup hassle. Thanks to so-called MDC design (Modular Design Construction), the T757 is also uniquely suited to battle obsolescence, since core components of the receiver such as the HDMI specification can be swapped out in the future without scrapping the entire receiver. That kind of long term thinking is unheard of in this space, which makes investing in a NAD an easier decision over the similarly priced competition.
Stand Out Designs Haven TV Console
Stand Out Design’s new made in the USA 82-inch solid wood TV console is the perfect man cave companion for the true home theater geek. It’s got room for up to 6 beefy components plus a spacious 10-1/8 x 39-1/4 x 20-1/2 middle shelf for optimal center channel placement. Other well thought out details include ample wire chase holes for large plug heads, adjustable vented glass shelves, integrated temperature controlled quiet exhaust fans, media drawers, and remote-friendly glass.
Roku LT Media Streamer
Roku’s new LT Media Streamer provides access to up to 300 different content services to any TV with an HDMI input for an incredibly low price. While most of those offerings are admittedly not that exciting, the combination of Neflix, Hulu Plus, Amazon Instant, Pandora, Epix, Disney (for the kids), MLB.TV, NBA League Pass, NHL Gamecenter and HBO Go makes this purple puck the ultimate gateway drug for your content addiction.
As much as we love the look of home theater gear, it doesn’t always make the best impression when it comes to interior design. The Sewell InjectIR is an ingenious HDMI adapter that allows users to keep home theater components hidden in closets, without the pain of wiring separate IR extenders. It works by sending IR signals through the unused CEC channel (Consumer Electronics Control) of the HDMI cables already connecting your system. As a result, installation takes less than 60 seconds and cost a mere $45, which is an absolute steal compared to the time and money you’d wind up dropping on a custom installation.
Optoma HD33 3D DLP Projector
Projectors are typically an intimidating product category that leaves many consumers scratching their heads. The Optoma H33 refreshingly bucks this trend, as the first front-facing full HD 3D projector available for less than $1,500 aimed squarely at the casual home market. For the price, it delivers outstanding 2D and 3D video performance that should leave both gamers and movie lovers pleased as punch.
Sennheiser RS 220 Wireless Headphones
The days of sacrificing sound quality for the convienience of wireless connectivity are officially over. Sennheiser’s new top of the line circumaural RS220 headphones can provide rich, uncompressed audio from both digital and analog sources that even audiophiles should be impressed with. It’s sleek multi-purpose transmitter also functions as ‘easy-charge’ cradle and docking station for the headphones when not in use.
Digital Video Essentials: HD Basics
This is definitely the geekiest pick on the list, but for the true home theater fan, it may very well be the most rewarding. The classic calibration disc developed by industry legend Joe Kane can help amateur enthusiasts get the best possible picture quality from any HD display (short of a $300+ professional calibration), by walking them through a variety of menu-based tests. There’s also plenty of background information on the basics of HDTV and the factors that affect picture quality, which should be the biggest treat for those looking to gain expertise. If you’ve already blown your gifting budget on a new TV, you can always add this to your Netflix queue, instead of paying for it outright.