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Home Theater Upgrade Diary Part 1: Determining What to Buy

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Experts can talk all they want about purchasing and setting up home theater systems in theory, but in reality, it's a long, involved, and not always smooth process. Writer Michael Miller just finished setting up his new home theater system and put together a diary of his travails. In Part 1 of a three-part series, he takes you through the process of deciding which components to buy.

Over the past few months I've been in the process of setting up a new home theater system. My old system was installed back in the fall of 1992, so even with some interim updates, it was getting just a tad dated. I decided that documenting the process of choosing, installing, and configuring a new system might be of interest to the Digital Lifestyles readers; fortunately, the Informit folks agreed, which is why you're reading this series of three articles.

My challenge was to assemble a new system that would not only be up-to-date on the video front, given today's HDTV broadcasts, but also be audiophile-quality in terms of music reproduction. My budget wasn't quite unlimited, but it was a bit higher than it was 12 years ago. I also didn't want to limit myself to any particular form factor, so I decided to shuck the old custom cabinetry and go with a more flexible approach.

Read on to learn more.

The Old System

In case you're wondering, my old system was nothing to sneeze about, at least at the time. It consisted of the following components:

  • Mitsubishi 40-inch CRT television (standard definition, of course, in the traditional 4:3 aspect ratio)
  • Sony STR-DA777ES A/V receiver (this was, arguably, the best A/V receiver Sony ever made, an upgrade I made in 1999 to my original 1992 Sony receiver, which was pre-Dolby Digital)
  • Canton bookshelf speakers for the (3) front channels
  • Sonance in-ceiling speakers for the (3) surround channels
  • Velodyne subwoofer
  • Panasonic DMR-E85HS DVD player/recorder/hard disk recorder, a relatively new addition to the system (and a replacement for an older Sony 5-disc DVD changer)
  • DIRECTV satellite system (w/ Sony satellite receiver)

I paid close to 10 grand for the old system back in 1992, plus another couple of thousand for a custom cabinet. It was good equipment for its time, but woefully outdated in today's high-def environment.

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