Every day, in audio/video superstores across this great land, the same scenario plays out with frightening regularity. Someone, lusting after high-definition TV, spends thousands of dollars on the set of his dreams. And then, having been turned on to surround sound by hearing his buddy's home theater, he asks the salesman to recommend a speaker system. The salesman steers the pour soul to a $500 home-theater-in-a-box (HTiB), telling him that its tiny speakers and bass module will give him all the surround sound he needs. And, the guy, with the price of the TV still dancing in his head, buys the system.
Blame it on low-fidelity MP3 or on the hefty price tags for the early flat-panel TVs, but somewhere along the way the scales tipped heavily from audio toward video. People used to spend about the same amount of money on their sound systems as they did on their TVs, but today the scenario of a $5,000 plasma display paired with a $500 HTiB is all too common. That's like finishing off a beautiful Armani suit with a polyester tie you pulled out of a bin at Goodwill, or throwing some bald tires on your new Ferrari. It's just not right!
Don't cheat yourself. Budget at least $1,000 for a 5.1-channel speaker system that can give you immersive, theaterlike sound worthy of your new HDTV. But when you go out in search of the right system, you'll quickly find that there is an overwhelming number to choose from. To give you a hand, here are some suggestions to consider for systems in the $1,000 to $2,499, $2,500 to $4,999, and $5,000-plus price ranges. While these systems yield greater dividends the more you spend, each holds the promise of terrific surround sound that will put almost any HTiB to shame.
Small systems can still deliver the sonic goods ($1,000 to $2,499) Step on up to towers, bigger subwoofers, and more ($2,500 to $4,999) The very best - with looks and sound to prove it ($5,000 and up)