I Know Nothing, But It Doesn’t Stop Me!

Mistaking my confidence for actual knowledge, many of my friends have inundated me with home theater questions lately. I don’t know why this is happening more now. Perhaps waves of unemployed people finally have the time to do that installation they’ve put off. Or maybe they’re preparing for the Blu-ray release of Twilight: New Moon (sexy shirtless werewolves are a powerful motivator). I thought I’d answer these questions in a feature called A Socratic Dialogue with an Imaginary Amalgam of All the People Who Have Been Asking Me Home Theater Questions as of Late.

“I’m building a home theater. What kind of TV should I get?”

“What will you be using your TV for?”

“I’ll be watching it. Are there other uses I haven’t heard of?”

“Don’t get smart. You came to me, remember?”

“Sorry.”

“Will you be watching mostly cable or satellite? Sports? Movies? Will the room be bright or dark?”

“Um, let me think. I guess—”

“Well? Yes? Out with it, man!”

“Stop yelling! I can’t think under this kind of pressure.”

“Sorry. I would go with a projector system if you have total control over the light. Otherwise, I’d go with a plasma, especially if you have seating off to the sides. You’ll get the best viewing angles with a plasma, whereas with an LCD, you’ll get a shift in color and contrast as you move off axis. But if your room is very bright, you may want to go with an LCD because of its ability to throw out a lot of light.”

“Well, I like movies...”

“Big New Moon fan, are you?”

“What? No! I’ve never even—”

“You have a picture of Edward Cullen under your pillow, don’t you?”

“Who’s Edward Cullen?”

“‘Who’s Edward Cullen?’ Yeah, sure. Anyway, it sounds like you’re a candidate for plasma. Blu-rays look great on plasmas because of their good black levels.”

“I thought they weren’t making plasmas anymore.”

“Well, that’s why you work at Arby’s and not for Plasma TV Manufacturing Quarterly magazine, isn’t it?”

“I’m a highly regarded patent attorney.”

“Uh-huh. Well, Clarence Darrow, it just so happens that there are a number of companies that still make excellent plasma TVs.”

“Clarence Darrow? Do you even know—”

“Tut! The subject is closed. Next question.”

“I don’t want to wire extra speakers. Is surround really that great?”

“The enveloping soundfield that a good Dolby or DTS mix can produce is at least as important as a good picture for drawing you into the home theater experience. I never listen to music in two-channel stereo anymore. I always use a surround setting, and I find that everything sounds flat and unconvincing without it.”

“But the wires...”

“Come on, sack up, man! You’re a patent attorney; you should be able to figure it out!”

“Actually, I’m studying to be a patent attorney. I’m putting myself through school by working at Arby’s.”

“Yeah, I thought I recognized the hat. But listen, there are wireless surrounds. You could also try one of those soundbar speakers that simulate surround. I find they only get you about 30 percent of the way to a true surround sound experience, but that’s better than nothing.”

“Is Blu-ray really necessary? I mean—”

“Yes.”

“You didn’t let me finish.”

“Yes. Yes, you have to get Blu-ray.”

“But I—”

“There’s no excuse not to have it. Why would you buy an HDTV and not get the best source for high-definition movies?”

“But DVD looks pretty good to me.”

“Go to hell.”

“What?”

“Sorry. What I meant to say is that, yes, a well-shot and transferred DVD can look pretty good. But a well-shot and transferred Blu-ray is light years better than that.”

“OK, I’m sold. Which player should I get?”

“I’m a big fan of the PS3. It’s a great Blu-ray player and has a ton of other capabilities, including Netflix streaming and video on demand. But there are plenty of other good players. Read HT’s reviews.”

“What about 3D? Should I wait to buy anything until 3D equipment comes to market?”

“‘Comes to market?’ What are you, from the 1800s?”

“Well, I—”

“Look, in the interest of full disclosure, I run a small company that’s partners with a slightly larger company that owns a proprietary 3D technology, and even I don’t think you should wait.”

“But isn’t home 3D coming?”

“It is, and I wouldn’t discourage you from buying a 3D-ready TV. But the majority of software won’t be 3D compatible for many years to come.”

“My wife thinks we should buy silk flowers for the home theater.”

“I begged you not to marry her.”

“Hey! She’s standing right here!”

“I mean, yours is a love that will transcend the ages.”

“That’s beautiful.”

“Buy the biggest TV and subwoofer that you can afford. She deserves it. She’s that special.”

“Thank you. You have saved my marriage.”

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