This might be my favorite tent in the annual Home Theater circus. The Home Theater Top Picks of the Year are the very best components we’ve reviewed over the past year in all the major categories. We also call out an overall Product of the Year and a Budget Pick of the Year. This year we see a terrific mix of emerging new technologies—3D and next-gen media servers are both represented—and stalwart audio brands that deliver high-end sound year in and year out amid the constant churn of technology.
So you've walked into an electronics store or decided to find a system online, and now you're confronted with scores of HTiB choices. Now what? Well, remember that HTiBs exist for two basic reasons. The first is cost; the other is convenience. If cost is your only concern, find the least expensive system that looks the coolest for the money (just stay away from the guys selling them out of the backs of white vans). The entire experience will be painless, mindless, although it might leave you feeling cheap and dirty – not to mention the fact that you run a high chance that it will sound like pig doo-doo on a swelteringly hot day.
Loudspeakers may not be the hardest things in the world to shop for (cars win by a landslide), but the search hasn't gotten any easier in the past few years, as the decline in dealers offering serious demonstration facilities (particularly the big-box, warehouse stores) has reduced the opportunities for an ears-on audition.
Shopping for a big screen TV is only slightly less daunting than hitting your local used car emporium. The sales promos say they're givin' 'em away, but hey, their job is to make money on the sale. And our job is to help you keep the scales balanced and make sure you get what you need and don't buy the set with the most bells and whistles and the least in pure performance chops.
You're a newbie to this audio game, and are just putting together your first home theater. Or perhaps you're making your first major upgrade. You're pouring over the spec sheets, looking for the best AV receiver for the cheapest price.
Be Careful Buying A Flat Panel On The Internet
Flat panels, and especially plasmas, are big, relatively heavy and very fragile. Internet sites often offer the best price, but be sure you know who you're dealing with and what their return policies are should your TV be defective, or if you just plain don't like it. A flat panel is a big, expensive item to ship. A local retailer might charge more, but offer invaluable service should you not be happy with your purchase or have a defective unit.
No matter what type of display you're looking for, you're no doubt going to be comparing the specs and feature lists of each. Things like contrast ratio, lumens, 3:2 pull down, and others are a marketing departments favorite tools to make their product sound better than another. Take many of these with a grain of salt. Take others as an undersold but vital aspect of a product. To sort though them, here's what they all mean.
When shopping for an HDTV, know what you're looking at.
OK, so you're finally ready to take the plunge and buy an HDTV. I'll leave the decisions regarding technology, screen size, and other matters for another time. For now, I'll concentrate on how to judge the performance of the display's video processor, which is a primary factor in determining the quality of the image you see on the screen.
With the emergence of HDTV and a ton of new display technologies, now is the most exciting time to buy a new TV--and also the most confusing. With so many factors to consider, it's crucial to do some research before you shop. Here are some guidelines to help in your search.
Three HT editors don their consumer personas to find out how much the average mass-market salesperson really knows about today's most popular technologies.
You've heard us say time and time again that the specialty retailer is the place to shop if you want personalized attention from a truly knowledgeable sales staff. Still, many of you insist on wiling away the hours at a mass-market retailer conveniently located in a strip mall near you. We can't really blame you. Convenience is a precious commodity in today's world. The question is, can you get a little knowledge and sound advice to accompany that convenience, or are you being led astray? We loaded up three of our editors with an arsenal of questions and sent them off to the Big Three retailers: Best Buy, Circuit City, and relative newcomer Ultimate Electronics. Their mission: Bring us back the goods and the not-so-goods from their buying experience.
Do you want your home theater system to have that "sucker punches in your gut" feel you got at your local cinema when T-Rex stomped his way through San Diego? Do you need your pant legs to flap with each bass line, just as they did at the recent Metallica concert? Want to be as emotionally attached to the recorded version of Beethoven's Fifth as when you heard the cellos and timpani pound out that familiar triplet live at the concert hall? Would you like James Earl Jones' voice-over for CNN to sound less like Mickey Mouse and more like, well, Darth Vader? If so, it's time for you to invest in a subwoofer.