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Old 01-30-2007, 02:26 PM   #1
astroglide
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astroglide\'s home theater: what i own, what i would buy today

i consider myself an educated consumer, not an expert, but i am completely satisfied with the products i'm using.

TELEVISION
own now: sony kdf-60xs955
would buy: sony kds-60a2000

TELEVISION STAND
own and would buy: bush vs74377-03

DVD PLAYER
own now: oppo opdv971h
would buy: oppo dv-981hd

HOME THEATER IN A BOX
own now: onkyo ht-s580
would buy: onkyo ht-s590

UNIVERSAL REMOTE
own now: logitech harmony 680
would buy: logitech harmony 670

DIGITAL VIDEO RECORDER
own and would buy: tivo series3

NETWORK AUDIO
own and would buy: slim devices squeezebox v3

TELEVISION REBROADCASTER
own now: sling media slingbox classic
would buy: sling media slingbox av
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Old 01-30-2007, 02:27 PM   #2
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Re: astroglide\'s home theater: what i own, what i would buy today


my tv still rocks. i refuse to stretch 4:3 content and i am extremely averse to burn-in, so plasma is out. flat panel lcds are not yet large and cost-effective enough for me to consider, but i don't see the big glamour of wall-mounting anyway. i don't have enough light control for a front projector, and i also wouldn't want to use one for general television. even if my fiancee didn't see dlp rainbows i still wouldn't purchase one out of concern that a guest might, or that i could develop the ability to do so. i would buy the sxrd set because it's 1080p and its quality stands out when viewed side-by-side with other televisions. the xbr version of the set is reported to look the same, and has some features such as front hdmi that don't really concern me.

the bush tv stand was a lot cheaper than the sony one. it looks and holds just fine.

i can't really say enough good things about the dvd player. the performance is excellent, they add features and bugfixes via firmware updates that can be burned to cds, i love the quality, and it has a wide/squeeze mode which ensures that widescreen stuff stays widescreen while 4:3 stuff will be shown unstretched. the biggest deal for me is the control response though. when you press pause, it pauses, instantly. when you press play after that, it plays, instantly. going from a 16x fast forward to playing is instantaneous, etc. unlike every other player i've used, it doesn't feel like you're operating a disc that is being read by a laser. the responsiveness is more along the lines of a dvr. the new version also uses a faroujda chip, but it features native hdmi and 1080p upconversion.

i haven't done a lot of research on audio. i live in a condo, so i'm not at liberty to blow the walls down. onkyo had the top-rated budget htib setup at cnet when i made my purchase, so i listened to one at circuit city before buying. i'm not concerned with hdmi switching on my receiver, my television can output digital audio to the receiver from all of its inputs. i find a 5.1 setup sufficient for surround, and it minimizes my cabling annoyance because i only have to deal with two rear speakers. i bought some cheap stands at circuit city and attached the rear speakers with velcro. this setup is completely adequate, but i will probably kick it up a few notches when i purchase a home.

the harmony remotes are another thing i can't really praise enough. i initially purchased what was then and might still be the top of the line model, the 880. i found the experience attrocious because of the button layout. the dvr functions were too low on the remote, and there was no tactile identification outside of a couple dots to let you know which button you might be hitting in the dark. compared to the stock tivo remote, this was a huge failure. i investigated further and the best button layout appeared to be on the 680, which was marketed and sold as a media center pc remote. the button layout and operation is great. apparently logitech agreed with my position, because they have discontinued the 680 and released the 670 as their dvr remote. it looks like the same thing with different button labels and a new finish. the big deal with harmony remotes is that you program them by plugging in a usb cable and going to a web page. they have a huge database of devices, you simply select what you own. when i press the tv button, it turns on my tv, sets its input, turns on my receiver, and sets its input. if i go from that to the dvd button it will leave the tv on, change its input, leave the receiver on, change its input, and turn on the dvd player. it knows what is on and what should stay that way based on your previous activities. if i went to the digital audio button from there, it would turn off the tv, turn on the squeezebox, and change the receiver's input. it also has a great, simple help button which asks questions like, "is the television on?" and "is the television set to the right input?" you answer the yes/no questions and it will automatically drill down onto whatever your problem might be. this makes complex systems easy enough for a grandmother to use.

the tivo series3 is fantastic. if you have owned a tivo and a non-tivo dvr, you probably know where i'm coming from. prior to this i used a moxi hd dvr supplied by my cable company as well as a tivo series2. why use the series2? because the moxi dvr sucked by comparison. i used the series2 for all of my standard definition recording, and only did digital/hdtv with the moxi. this worked out okay, but i leapt at the chance to get a cablecard-supporting hdtv tivo. well worth the money in my book, and i don't want to imagine television without tivo.

as some of you may know, i'm a huge fan of the rhapsody music subscription service. i pay $15/month for unlimited downloads, streaming, and transfers to my portable sansa rhapsody music device. this is similar to itunes, except i don't own the music and it's all i can eat as long as i pay the monthly fee. it's about $8/month if you pay for a year up front and don't have a compatible portable device. i think that price is worth it just to sample music before buying, or legally listen to music that you would never purchase. the squeezebox connects to your home network via wireless or ethernet. i bought it to play local mp3s, but i didn't hook it up until i read about how they added direct rhapsody support. now i can go in and play any music through my stereo from just about any artist i want using my harmony remote. the interface is simple and it works great. it also supports ad-free pandora if you pay the $36/year fee, but rhapsody's "channels" offer similar functionality for no additional cost.

the slingbox i bought on a lark. i had a pda and a smartphone, and it could stream television to those over wireless internet. i could watch stuff off of my tivo while i was at work or on another pc. the quality isn't bad, but i found the tivo controls too slow over my 256k upload broadband connection. i ended up splitting my cable and putting a coax connection directly into it, which limited the device to live television and analog cable. which is fine, because the only reason i really use it is to watch daytime baseball games while i'm at work. for that purpose, it works great. they discontinued the original product and released a trio, but the slingbox av appears to be about the same as the classic.
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Old 01-30-2007, 03:03 PM   #3
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Re: astroglide\'s home theater: what i own, what i would buy today

As the one who asked you in that OOT Tivo thread to start a thread on your setup, thanks !

I consider myself only slightly-above-avg in terms of knowledge of these things, but I do enjoy a good setup. I recently got the Sony KDL-40V2500 which is a great TV.

I would have gotten an Oppo dvd player, but due to a large Circuit City credit that I needed to use, I got the Samsung DVD-HD960 which also has a Faroudja chip.

I haven't been sold on the Series3, so am still using my Tivo Series2 for SD content, and a Cablevision DVR for HD.

I'll certainly check out your recommendation on the remote control. Right now I've just got a pile of remotes on the coffee table..
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Old 01-30-2007, 03:10 PM   #4
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Re: astroglide\'s home theater: what i own, what i would buy today

Quote:
i consider myself an educated consumer, not an expert, but i am completely satisfied with the products i'm using.

TELEVISION
own now: sony kdf-60xs955
would buy: sony kds-60a2000

A $4000 TV.

Quote:

HOME THEATER IN A BOX
own now: onkyo ht-s580
would buy: onkyo ht-s590

A $400 audio system.

Something seems off here.

J
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Old 01-30-2007, 03:13 PM   #5
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Re: astroglide\'s home theater: what i own, what i would buy today

I am very suprised to see Home Theater In A Box on your list, but seeing that you live in a condo, I can understand why.

If you where to move to a blastable location, which Receiver / Speaker combination would you be looking at as a replacement?
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Old 01-30-2007, 03:14 PM   #6
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Re: astroglide\'s home theater: what i own, what i would buy today

astroglide,

Wow, thanks. First step for me, buying that remote.
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Old 01-30-2007, 03:32 PM   #7
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Re: astroglide\'s home theater: what i own, what i would buy today

Quote:
astroglide,

Wow, thanks. First step for me, buying that remote.
Yeah, I went with the Harman Kardon TC-30, which is basically the same as one of the other Harmony's, and it was easily my favorite purchase of my setup.

Having one thing to control all devices at the same time, when you have 4 components, is great. Plug it into your computer, and it walks you through the selection of your compnents, etc. The LCD screen on it is also programmable, so for my DVR function for example I have it display MyDVR, OnDemand, page up page down, etc. Switch to the DVD player and it shows other functions instead (haven't messed with all of those yet).

I thought spending that much on a remote would be sort of a waste, but it's well worth it for the convienence factor.

I just got the Slingbox as well, waiting on the ethernet bridge package so I can hook that up next.
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Old 01-30-2007, 03:36 PM   #8
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Re: astroglide\'s home theater: what i own, what i would buy today

You guys shouldn't knock the Onkyo. I have one (7.1) in my basement and can't turn the volume up to half max without rattling a few windows. The knock on Onkyo is the big, boxy speakers, but those big boxy speakers do deliver some nice sound.

El D,

I love my harmony remote. You can throw away all your other remotes once you program the harmony.
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Old 01-30-2007, 03:43 PM   #9
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Re: astroglide\'s home theater: what i own, what i would buy today

Astro,

Great thread. However, I have to disagree on the awesomeness of wall-mounting. The volume saved in our master bedroom by going with a wallmount LCD vs. a standard TV with a pedestal/entertainment center/etc. really opens up the room for me. I am really big on open space, though. I would mount all my electronics in/on the walls if possible.
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Old 01-30-2007, 03:45 PM   #10
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Re: astroglide\'s home theater: what i own, what i would buy today

Quote:
If you where to move to a blastable location, which Receiver / Speaker combination would you be looking at as a replacement?
i would probably target a price range, troll around avsforum and cnet for recommendations, and then try to listen to the elements of the setup in-person.

i find the idea of somebody not being able to tell the difference between dvd and hdtv somewhat revolting, but i think i would put myself in that same category when it comes to audio. unless two things are literally side by side, i think i would be unlikely to perceive something as being signifigantly better. but then again, i question the veracity of so many people's claims on audio because there are such varying opinions. hundreds of brands and combinations, and it still seems like so many of them are individually just brand loyalists. if that's what the discriminating ear is boiling it down to, maybe things really are close within a given price strata.

i sort of liken it to people having intense feelings about specific branded liquors when they would probably be unable to pick it out of a lineup. if simply asserting that a specific, esoteric brand is tops makes one an expert i'll probably never get there. i actually kinda hope that there is a medium to high end equivalent of a home theater in a box. for most people that's probably just going to the local high-end store and asking for a packaged recommendation, but if i'm going to be taking a lot of it on "well it's plenty good for me!" faith i figure i might as well get a deal.

perhaps all of this will open up and change for me when i begin investigating, but i doubt it.
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Old 01-30-2007, 03:55 PM   #11
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Re: astroglide\'s home theater: what i own, what i would buy today

Quote:
Quote:
i consider myself an educated consumer, not an expert, but i am completely satisfied with the products i'm using.

TELEVISION
own now: sony kdf-60xs955
would buy: sony kds-60a2000

A $4000 TV.

Quote:

HOME THEATER IN A BOX
own now: onkyo ht-s580
would buy: onkyo ht-s590

A $400 audio system.

Something seems off here.

J
more or less weird: i have the 50" version of that TV (its unbelievably awesome, btw) hooked up to a ~$2k stereo audio system rather than surround sound.
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Old 01-30-2007, 03:56 PM   #12
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Re: astroglide\'s home theater: what i own, what i would buy today

Quote:
Great thread. However, I have to disagree on the awesomeness of wall-mounting. The volume saved in our master bedroom by going with a wallmount LCD vs. a standard TV with a pedestal/entertainment center/etc. really opens up the room for me. I am really big on open space, though. I would mount all my electronics in/on the walls if possible.
i see it as a perfectly functional decision if one is space-limited, or particularly enjoys open spaces. i think the general appeal of wall-mounted flat panels is the "ooh ah" though, and it's got nothing to do with the picture. i think all of the indiscriminate purchases of crappo plasmas from costco attests to this. i wouldn't avoid a flat panel just to make a statement about that stuff, i'm just saying i wouldn't seek it out for those reasons.

most flat panels i've seen in homes are what i'd consider to be improperly mounted too: too high, too low, off to the side, etc. i particularly hate the visual distraction of the over-the-fireplace mount, in addition to the height thing. it's not like we read books by holding them over our heads with a busy landscape right in front of our face.

immersion the thing that matters most to me when watching high definition content, and those are the sort of things that pop you out of it. another thing is viewing angle though, and a wall-mounted set is going to be set back a good 12-18 inches from where a rear projection set would have been. that effectively translates to a smaller screen, and less immersion. in other threads i've made a big deal out of screen size because it's a big, big deal to me. i think most people look at a 42" and say, hell, i've only got a 27" set now this is gonna be more than enough! once they sit 10' away from a 60" screen someplace else they should quickly realize that it isn't too big, it's just right.

it seems likely that flat panels will become the eventual standard, and i'll still be the first in line if it's cost-effective, large enough, and i'm able to mount it properly in the room.
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Old 01-30-2007, 04:04 PM   #13
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Re: astroglide\'s home theater: what i own, what i would buy today

as an aside, the harmony remote provided the impetus i needed to start using rechargeable batteries. i picked up an energizer kit at sam's club, extremely happy that i did. less hassle, less waste. with a quick-charger and charged spares there's never a problem.
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Old 01-30-2007, 04:10 PM   #14
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Re: astroglide\'s home theater: what i own, what i would buy today

borodog,

I have the wall mount in the bedroom and family room. It kicks ass in the bedroom but in the family room we still had to get a decent sized cabinet for all the other stuff.

astro,

I have the harmony 890. I love it but then again i don't know any better.
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Old 01-30-2007, 04:17 PM   #15
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Re: astroglide\'s home theater: what i own, what i would buy today

To be honest, I was forced to mount our wall-mount LCD too high for my taste, but that was to make the wife happy. I found a very subtle thing that really mitigated this was tilt angle. A 5 degree downward tilt made a huge difference (one I can't really explain; perhaps it's entirely a placebo effect), and I now hardly notice that the TV is "too high."

The real problem is that I have been too lazy to run my power and HDMI cables into the wall, so I have an ugly cable protector tube running down the wall.
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Old 01-30-2007, 04:22 PM   #16
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Re: astroglide\'s home theater: what i own, what i would buy today

I just wanted to chime in and agree that mounting your tv over the fireplace is really really stupid.
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Old 01-30-2007, 04:25 PM   #17
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Re: astroglide\'s home theater: what i own, what i would buy today

astro,

I'm really surprised that you're talking about burn-in on plasma. Do you disagree with the conventional wisdom that it isn't an issue anymore with newer models.

I want a harmony remote really bad.
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Old 01-30-2007, 04:29 PM   #18
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Re: astroglide\'s home theater: what i own, what i would buy today

Well, it looks like if I ever get my money out of Neteller, I'll be treating myself to a new remote and a new HTIB. I have an earlier model of Sony's SXRD TV, and the 50", and I'll vouch that it's awesome.
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Old 01-30-2007, 04:35 PM   #19
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Re: astroglide\'s home theater: what i own, what i would buy today

Sean,

We have the electronics for the bedroom on a low slung set of shelfs on the floor beneath the TV, about 18 inches high. The footprint is small, but the important thing is that it opens up a couple of cubic yards of volume that would have been taken up by a regular entertainment center.

I will probably be going flat panel in the living room this year for the same reason. We have a regular TV in an entertainment armoir type thing, and it looms like a frigging refrigerator in my living room. It annoys me more and more every day. Just typing this has made me want to go TV shopping.
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Old 01-30-2007, 04:40 PM   #20
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Re: astroglide\'s home theater: what i own, what i would buy today

Quote:
The real problem is that I have been too lazy to run my power and HDMI cables into the wall, so I have an ugly cable protector tube running down the wall.
really, that's the biggest issue with LCD's and plasmas: the hidden cost of hanging them. unless you are handy with drilling holes/covering them up and such, you need to get this done professionally, or it will end up looking bad. you also have the issue of setting up a storage system for 'everything else' like your tivo, cable box, receiver, etc.

at the same time, it's silly to see LCD's sitting on a table that was designed for a regular TV, which I sometimes see.

right now I have a 55 inch projection tv, which is gigantic. the great thing about it (besides the picture) is that I just put all my components on top of it (about 6), and wires behind it, and it actually looks ok, b/c the top of the TV is basically a coffee table 5 feet up in the air.
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Old 01-30-2007, 04:56 PM   #21
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Re: astroglide\'s home theater: what i own, what i would buy today

Quote:
I'm really surprised that you're talking about burn-in on plasma. Do you disagree with the conventional wisdom that it isn't an issue anymore with newer models.
i think the effects are dramatically overstated. you're not going to blow up your television by playing a video game, etc. but i have seen enough slightly smoked sets in-person to have lingering concerns about 4:3 black boxes, since i refuse to stretch. the bottom line for me is that a 0.25% or whatever chance of burn-in is too great when i get just as easily get 0.0%. it's the same thing as the dlp rainbows, not many people see them but i can avoid the risk entirely. i will take impossible over extremely unlikely if it's reasonable.
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Old 01-30-2007, 05:00 PM   #22
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Re: astroglide\'s home theater: what i own, what i would buy today

boro,

We just built a house and had all the crap pre wired I think. No wires in the bedroom that i remember but the DVD player is just laying on the floor. Our bedroom is intentionally small no way we could have fit an entertainment center of any sort in there.

In the family room we just ordered a cabinet for all the stuff just sitting on the floor right now. I think it was 4'tall, 3' wide and 22" deep and will just sit under the wall mounted TV. I think this will look much better than having an actual massive entertainment center.
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Old 01-30-2007, 05:06 PM   #23
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Re: astroglide\'s home theater: what i own, what i would buy today

Quote:
I will probably be going flat panel in the living room this year for the same reason. We have a regular TV in an entertainment armoir type thing, and it looms like a frigging refrigerator in my living room. It annoys me more and more every day. Just typing this has made me want to go TV shopping.
i abhor built-ins, cabinets, etc. the more enclosed spaces, the more i hate them. i've run into that before. somebody's talking about hdtvs, they don't know their viewing distance, they have a lot of disposable income...but they can't exceed 37" because they have to maintain compatibility with their built-in. i would rip anything out of my house, wall, or whatever if it was preventing me from making complete decisions about what i buy. to me it's like somebody having a tiny garage and saying they want the best new car they can buy except it can't be any larger than a toyota yaris. i'd rather buy what i want and park it on the street.

you seem to be implying that you'll get rid of your setup, which is cool. i'm not at all directing this at you, it's just a rant. i've always been a flat desk, open shelving kind of guy.
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Old 01-30-2007, 05:16 PM   #24
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Re: astroglide\'s home theater: what i own, what i would buy today

It's cool. It's just that my psychological makeup has drifted over the 6 or so years since we got this entertainment armoir thing. The wife picked it out, and I didn't really make a fuss about it. But in the intervening years I have really become minimalist and anti-clutter in home furnishings. I really prefer open space. If you can believe it, it's one of the reasons I really enjoy dancing and taking and teaching dance classes. Just a big empty space with beautiful hardwood floors. So I'm really into cathedral ceilings, open second stories, open floor plans that move through most of the living space, low clean furniture lines, and electronics on/in the walls. I hate feeling compressed by the walls and "stuff" in a room, especially where I live.
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Old 01-30-2007, 05:31 PM   #25
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Re: astroglide\'s home theater: what i own, what i would buy today

oh, i'm with you. when i bought my condo it was in okay condition, but i did a lux-lite makeover of the entire thing. part of my design ethic in the guest bathroom was that there couldn't be any enclosures: no cabinets, no drawers, etc. if all of the clutter is forced out into the open, it seems like it is less likely to happen. and i just totally hate it when misc screws, bottles of cleaning products, etc are simply thrown into a cabinet and never touched again. so the guest bathroom has a pedestal sink with a flat cultured stone top and an open shelf. i went with glass cabinets over the "bar" in my kitchen for similar reasons. i would have taken the idea further if i didn't think it would harm resale value. i'm sure most people are going to want cabinets and drawers in the master bathroom, etc.
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