Year end recommended home theater gear

December 16, 2004

holiday_plasmaWith the end of the year rapidly approaching, I wanted to recap what I felt were some of the better equipment buys for 2004/05. It’s been a big year for home theater, with the refinement of surround receivers, and the continuing expansion of HDTV. I expect 2005 will be the biggest year for HDTV thus far, for one of two reasons, yes the sets are continuing to drop in price but more importantly next year will be the year of ‘Content’. High definition display sales were up by some 33% over 2003, next year all of those buyers are going to be looking for something to watch, and crap 480p up-conversions aren’t going to cut it, look for all three major satellite providers and the various cable systems to ramp up to meet demand.

The products I’ve picked represent the absolute best values I’m aware of, key word aware, my firm doesn’t sell everything under the sun, by design. But I also have friends and acquaintances that work at other local shops, and I pick their brains from time to time, on what their favorites are and what their customers seem to enjoy the most. So in no particular order.


DVD players:

Denon in my opinion makes some of the best DVD players for home theater or any use for that matter, the ‘10’ series that was introduced this past summer is full of winners, to be honest the entire line, Denon DVD-1910, DVD-2910 and the Denon DVD-3910 are all rock solid performers. I love my 1910 and would easily recommend it to anyone looking for a great performing player, that won’t bust the bank. The Denon DVD-2910 on the other hand would satisfy all but the ‘Trump Set’ of home theater enthusiasts.

Surround Receivers:

Here we break it up a bit as 2004 produced some real leaps in performance, from several manufacturers. One feature common in all three recommendations is auto room calibration, or sometimes called ‘easy-setup’. Starting off with the Denon AVR-3805, I found it to be about all the receiver an average size home theater would need, it was warm open and packed enough punch to fill my overly large room.

For the slightly less demanding home theater buff the Denon AVR-2805 at ($899 MSRP) would be an excellent buy, as it provides many of the same features as its big brother while providing slightly less watts per channel.

sr-7500My pick for overall best value and performance of 2004 however was the Marantz SR-7500, the Marantz just provided me with that nth degree of detail without sacrificing any listenability. Hey I bought one, what bigger recommendation can I give?

Speakers:

This one’s a little harder as speakers vary so much in style and listener preferences, but I do have a few general recommendations. For a mini sub-sat system the Canton Movie 22X2 System is a powerful package, ideally this set-up would be for smallish rooms or a room where unobtrusive speakers are a must.

Moving up to a larger speaker system PSB’s “Dynamic Theater System” consisting of speakers from their “Alpha” line would make an excellent speaker system for the enthusiast or a near ‘reference’ level system for the more demanding.

For the truly demanding home theater fan looking for absolute realism and musicality I wholeheartedly recommend Totem AcousticsDreamcatcher” series, mated with some high quality speaker stands. Totem is likely what I would purchase if my beloved Linn speakers weren’t gracing my listening room.

Subwoofers:

Easy, two words ‘HSU Research‘ or is that one word and some letters? Regardless if my neighbor didn’t already hate my gut’s I’d own a HSU Research STF-2. The STF-2 and all of HSU’s subs for that matter are steals not deals, excellent tight bass response and a hell of a value to boot.

Remote Control:

The Universal Remote MX-800RFS is my favorite (Crestron notwithstanding). With its included RF-250 base unit, the remote is not limited to line of sight IR commands. Easy PC based programming makes it a breeze to import all of your gears IR codes and program macros with a simple ‘record’ button, followed by the individual keystrokes.

Plasma Displays:

This is a tough one, every customer we’ve installed a Panasonic TH-50PHD7UY for has remarked something to the effect “that looks better than the plasma’s I saw at the store”. I don’t know if that’s a testament to our calibrating capabilities or the great black levels on Panasonic plasma’s.

For something a little larger we’ve also had excellent results the NEC 61XM3 now at over 10k this is by no means a ‘budget plasma’ but it is one of the better performers I’ve seen of late.

For something a little more ‘down to earth’ I like the Samsung HP-P4261, I especially like the fanless design, as it makes for quieter ‘up-close’ viewing.

LCD Displays:

To be honest up until recently I didn’t even recommended LCD’s at all. I just couldn’t get past the pixilated look many of them had, that is however until I saw the Sharp LC-45GD6U. This LCD has an awesome picture and from a much larger viewing angle than I’d previously seen on LCD’s, if you must go LCD Aquos is the way.

sp4805The InFocus ScreenPlay 4805,
My pick for Home Theater product of the year.

Front Projectors:

I saved the best for last, 2004 was a huge year for DLP projectors, and LCD’s to some degree. My hands down pick for best value in front projection is the InFocus Screenplay 4805, sure it’s only EDTV but at $1,299.99 you can have a 92” image that’s 75% as good as HDTV projectors costing twice as much. This is a no brainer steal of a deal.

But in overall ‘true’ HDTV performance I’d have to go with the InFocus ScreenPlay 7205 , the recent price drop is what allows me to make this recommendation, as it was a little too pricey compared to other makes before this recent price correction.

As for LCD projectors both the Sanyo PLV-Z3 and Sony VPL-HS51 are must see’s in this category. Yeah LCD came along way this year, all the way to “Qualia’dom”.



Posted by Bryan Greenway | | Filed Under Home Theater Equipment


Comments

  • B.Greenway

    I tried to only recommend products I’d seen first hand in the article, but the Fujitsu P50XHA40US you mentioned would likely outperform the Panasonic. I haven’t seen it in person, but in specs alone it would seem to be in another league than the Panasonic.

  • B.Greenway

    I tried to only recommend products I’d seen first hand in the article, but the Fujitsu P50XHA40US you mentioned would likely outperform the Panasonic. I haven’t seen it in person, but in specs alone it would seem to be in another league than the Panasonic.

  • Michael

    I am in the market for either a 42″ or 50″ plasma. I am debating between the Fujitsu P50XHA40US (their newest model with the AVM-II processor) or the Panasonic TH-50PHD7UY which you referenced in your year end recommendations. Do you know whether the Panny still outperforms the new AVM-II chip in the Fujitsu? I looked at both models in several stores and the Fujitsu appeared crisper than the Panny when viewing a basic 480i signal over satellite. Any help you could offer would be much appreciated. Thanks.

  • Michael

    I am in the market for either a 42″ or 50″ plasma. I am debating between the Fujitsu P50XHA40US (their newest model with the AVM-II processor) or the Panasonic TH-50PHD7UY which you referenced in your year end recommendations. Do you know whether the Panny still outperforms the new AVM-II chip in the Fujitsu? I looked at both models in several stores and the Fujitsu appeared crisper than the Panny when viewing a basic 480i signal over satellite. Any help you could offer would be much appreciated. Thanks.