Choosing home theater electronics, with all the models and performance statistics, might be overwhelming, whether you're analyzing signal-to-noise ratio or calculating a custom aspect ratio that deviates from the standard anamorphic widescreen format of 2.40:1.
Oh, does that sound confusing? Here are some numbers that you'll find much easier to swallow: big bargain prices. We've gathered up five deals in the home theater realm with information to decide whether it fits your needs. Now, just find a director's chair, a bullhorn for shouting instructions to the crew, and you're all set. Annnnnnnddd… rolling!
Infinity TSS-500 5.1 Home Theater Speaker System
Store: Best Buy
Price: $179.99 with free shipping
Lowest by: $42
Is it worth it?: The 5.1 format is cool because unlike earlier attempts (remember quadrophonic?) it actually gives sound 3D depth, meaning that jet flying by you or car chases ending in explosions take on a thrilling, frightening reality. For most folks, Infinity's 100-watt subwoofer offers plenty of power, as most people don't understand that to get double the volume, you'd actually need 1,000 watts! For an effective entrée into the world of 5.1, you'd be hard pressed to find a better deal than this one.
Harman Kardon 530W 7.1 DVD Home Theater System
Store: Best Buy
Price: $549 plus free shipping
Lowest by: $225
Is it worth it?: Need more power? Need more "surround"? Then this system by the renowned Harmon Kardon is just the ticket to the movies. For audiophile newbies, 7.1 is like 5.1 except that it combines the surround and rear channels into four channels instead of two. Along with fine-point audio detail, you get more than 500 watts power, meaning that you might send your own walls crumbling if you turn up that demolition scene extra loud. If you're converting an entire basement space into a home theater, for example, this system will help you achieve a more theatrical realism on par with a night out at the Ritz. While the price tag might seem high, keep in mind some folks spend 10 times this much, or more, to deck their home theaters out with killer sound arrays.
Refurb Logitech Harmony One Advanced Remote
Price: $99.99 via coupon code "logi_h1_9711" with free shipping
Lowest by: $35 less than new
Is it worth it?: Remotes are as much a certainty of home electronics as death and taxes in life itself. And like death and taxes, most of us despise remotes. You need one those ridiculously huge ones to avoid losing it in the couch, and even the simpler ones seem way too complex for anyone who isn't a computer programmer. That's why this model seems so refreshing; it has bonehead-simple keystroke instructions such as "WATCH TV" or "LISTEN TO MUSIC." A 90-day Logitech warranty applies.
- Pioneer 550W 5.1 3D-Ready Home Theater Receiver
Store: Best Buy
Price: $209.99 with in-store pickup
Lowest by: $51
Is it worth it?: Pioneer remains a reputable brand, if not the audio powerhouse it once was, and this receiver pushes a mighty 625 watts total power — way more than enough to make any 7.1 surround system come to life. Best Buy customers give it a cumulative four out of five stars, and this product (speakers not included) has the goods to make your HD video system sparkle with crisp detail. It also includes HDMI 3D pass-through technology for compatibility with 3D-ready HDTVs, Blu-ray disc players, and gaming consoles.
Samsung 1,000W 5.1 Blu-ray Home Theater System
Store: Paul's TV via Buy.com
Price: $199.99 with free shipping
Lowest by: $100
Is it worth it?: For the price you're getting quite the bargain, and some tradeoffs. No doubt that 1,000 watts will tear even The Terminator's head off, but do keep in mind that this system is for 5.1, not 7.1, and lacks some basic features such as a radio tuner, iPod connectivity, and a headphone jack (not that you'd want to put 1,000 watts directly into your eardrums). Regardless, this system offers a price-conscious solution for getting started in the 5.1 realm, and makes a potentially nice pairing with the Infinity TSS-500 5.1 speaker system.