The Gear's the Thing
Dear Gear Guy, Everybody used to envy the stereo in my frat-house room, until a pledge poured Coors into it. I want to replace it with something decent, but I can't spend more than $2,000. Of course I want a DVD player, but the house has a vast library of educational videotapes, so I need a VCR too. Don't worry about the TV, though - my current set is pretty good.Frat Boy
SAMSUNG DVD-V2500 DVD player/VCR ($250) www.samsungusa.com 800-726-7864
PANASONIC SA-HE100 receiver ($300) www.panasonic.com 800-211-7262
BOSTON ACOUSTICS CR95 speaker system ($1,250) www.bostonacoustics.com 978-538-5000
Alternate: CAMBRIDGE SOUNDWORKS MegaTheater 510 home theater system ($850) www.hifi.com 800-945-4434
BDI Vector 9523 A/V stand ($485) www.bdiusa.com, 800-428-2881
Dear Frat Boy, I'll bet those tapes are highly "educational." In fact, I have a pretty nice library of my own. Well, in less time than it takes to solve a second-order differential equation, I can lay out a very spiffy system for you.
Let's start with the player - the Samsung DVD-V2500 ($250, reviewed in April 2003), to be specific. This little beauty is a DVD player and a VHS Hi-Fi VCR, plus it handles recordable discs in the DVD-R/RW, DVD+RW, and CD-R/RW formats and even Memory Sticks with JPEG and MP3 files. Along with VHS tapes, it can play (but not record) S-VHS. While all tape signals emerge from a composite-video output, which limits picture quality, DVDs can take advantage of its clean progressive-scan component-video output. (If your current TV doesn't have a progressive-scan component-video input, make it a priority when you're ready to upgrade.) And in case you're wondering, you can't copy from DVD to tape. Reviewer David Ranada liked the Samsung player's slide-show capability and called its progressive-scan output "superior," declaring it a "winner." Not too shabby for $250.
For your receiver, go with the Panasonic SA-HE100 ($300, reviewed July/August 2002). This inexpensive, feature-packed powerhouse boasts a six-channel amplifier delivering 100 watts per channel; Dolby Digital and DTS decoding, plus Dolby Pro Logic II and DTS Neo:6 processing to extract 5.1-channel playback from two- or four-channel sources; and a respectable number of inputs and outputs, including a six-channel input for upgrading to DVD-Audio or Super Audio CD (the Samsung can't play either of those formats, though). It doesn't have any onscreen displays and has only one coaxial digital input, but it does have three optical inputs. Reviewer Daniel Kumin praised the Panasonic's audio quality as "outstanding" and said this receiver would "rock your world." In fact, it was so good that we gave it a Reviewer's Choice Award last year.
|Boston Acoustics CR55 surround speakers and PV500 subwoofer.|
Just don't forget to open your window so the sorority across the street can enjoy your new system, too. For $1,800, this rig will make you Big Man on Campus.
If you're really pressed for space (and bucks), check out the Cambridge Soundworks all-in-one MegaTheater 510 system ($850, reviewed December 2002). These guys practically invented big-bang-for-the-buck audio, and the 510 is a splendid example of good econo-technology. You get five speakers, a subwoofer, and a main unit that packs a progressive-scan DVD player and surround sound receiver. This system plays loud and sounds good, and the money you save can be wisely spent on DVDs. You know - the educational kind.