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John Higgins

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John Higgins Posted: Dec 18, 2006 0 comments
  • $250
  • 12-bit/108-MHz video processing
  • DVD, (S)VCD, MP3, WMA, CD(RW), and Picture CD
  • 200 watts RMS total power
Very often, home-theater-in-a-box speakers are something to be hidden on the shelves or, at the very least, put by a work of art that takes the visual emphasis away from the silver plastic box. With the Philips MCD735/37 Micro Theater, that work of art will have some fierce competition. All of the speakers—four satellites, a center, and a subwoofer—have a wood finish that adds a warm feel to the unit and might blend into a room more easily than the usual silver found with most systems. Adding to the distinctive look is the two-module component setup. The system comes with a top-loading DVD player that is designed to sit on a separate power amp. Included is a stand meant to minimize vibration and overheating from the player and the amp. When a disc is playing, a blue light illuminates the disc. While it's elegant looking, the extra light could be a distraction while you're watching a movie, so you'll need to take system placement into consideration. Another reason placement is an important consideration is due to the top-loading DVD player. The player's clear lid stylishly swings up to allow access to the disc but requires space above the unit for the lid to open.
John Higgins Posted: Dec 18, 2006 0 comments
  • $300
  • Portable audio-player input
  • Five-disc DVD/CD player
Sony's entry-level home-theater-in-a-box, the DAV-DX255, manages to fit a couple of surprises into its relatively low price point of $300. For one, it can hold five discs at a time that are slot loading instead of carousel loading. It can also play SACs. Yes, you read that right. This $300 system can play that beloved Sony-backed audiophile format—Super Audio Compact Disc. We could talk about the pluses and minuses of using a $300 system to listen to SACDs, but, no matter what, SACDs will sound better than regular CDs. To complement its ability to read SACDs, the player will also recognize a myriad of other formats, including burned DVDs, MP3s, and VCDs.
John Higgins Posted: Dec 18, 2006 0 comments
  • $200
  • DVD, DVD+R/+RW, DVD-R/-RW, CD, CD-R/-RW, MP3, WMA, VCD, SVCD, and JPEG; HDMI with HD upconversion
  • Includes two front speakers, two surround speakers, one center-channel speaker, and one subwoofer
  • DVD/CD changer
RCA's RTD258 is full of surprises. There's a front-panel USB connection that you can use for most MP3 players, thumb drives, or digital cameras to play music or display pictures. There's also an included HDMI cable. What could this cable possibly be for, you might ask? Why, it's for the upconverting DVD player that has an HDMI output. If your television isn't as new as this system, you can connect the two with a component cable, although that is not included.
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John Higgins Posted: Oct 15, 2006 0 comments
It's time to get a projector.

At the Home Entertainment Show this past June, the Home Theater staff put together the HTGamer Gaming Pavilion. The purpose was twofold. Not only did it give expo attendees a place to rest their weary feet for a spell, the pavilion allowed them time to relax and experience gaming on three different home theater systems. The first image these lucky attendees set their eyes on as they entered the room was a small rebel force attempting to break through the tyrannical Empire's lines of storm troopers in Star Wars: Battlefront II. An Alienware Aurora 7500 high-performance PC fed the image to the InFocus Play Big IN76 DLP projector and onto a Stewart GrayHawk screen. Even in a less-than-optimal convention environment, the IN76 produced an awe-inspiring image. But how would it perform in a theater?

John Higgins Posted: Apr 12, 2006 0 comments
This Isn't Your Grandfathers Remote Control.

Say the words "universal remote" to some, and disturbing visions of programming a remote button by button fill their minds. Quite often, after these long, intimate sessions between you and your remotes, the universal remote doesn't perform exactly as expected, and you find yourself keeping the old remotes within reach in case something doesn't work as planned. After some time passes, the old remotes are used more often and the universal remote eventually disappears beneath the couch to be forgotten. So, why bother with another remote that supposedly does everything?

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Mark Fleischmann John Higgins Posted: Apr 11, 2006 0 comments
Dolby and DTS help renovate high-def DVD digs.

Have you ever heard wine lovers obsess about the bottle? Of course not. True oenophiles care most about what's in the bottle. There, in a nutshell, you have what's most peculiar about the high-definition-DVD format race. All we hear about is the vessel. What about the contents?

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John Higgins Posted: Feb 28, 2006 0 comments
The power of the PC in your HT.

Back in the age of acid-wash jeans, my dad brought home our first home computer: a MacPlus with 512 kilobytes of RAM. I would stay up late into the night playing Zork and Planetfall, all the light radiating from its small CRT screen keeping me warm. We kept the beige box in the spare bedroom of my house, far from our TV room. My parents claimed it was so I would not disturb them as they watched the nightly news, but, in my mind, it was just the opposite. For years, the computer and television were in separate rooms so that the use of one would not interfere with the use of the other. Now 512 K has turned into 512 mega-bytes or more, and PCs are begging to be near the TV. Only recently, while reviewing games for www.htgamer.com, have I started integrating my own PC into my home theater. But it is still a rather bulky, unattractive proposition to permanently move my computer to my equipment rack. HP has an aesthetically pleasing solution that can act as the source hub for the home theater of the future.

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John Higgins Posted: Jan 13, 2006 0 comments
Computers are everywhere, from our desktops to our phones to our planes, trains, and automobiles. If we look at movies like I, Robot (strictly from a conceptual standpoint, not a why-did-Hollywood-ever-make-this standpoint), there is a possible bleak future ahead of us. I prefer to look at Star Wars, where machines help, even if they can be annoying know-it-alls. Granted it's not our galaxy, but it is a lot more fun to watch than I, Robot (no disrespect to the Fresh Prince). What better way is there to improve your home theater experience than the addition of a PC? But what should you look for when setting out to buy one?
John Higgins Posted: Oct 15, 2005 Published: Oct 30, 2005 0 comments
Bouncing off the walls.

In a time when housing prices are rising at an exponential rate, making affordable square footage scarce, one of the major challenges to having a home theater system is space. The home-theater-in-a-box phenomenon has attacked this problem by packaging smaller, matched speakers together with a receiver, but there's still the issue of finding space for proper speaker placement and the messy wiring that follows. Yamaha offers the YSP-1 Digital Sound Projector to alleviate this problem.

John Higgins Posted: Sep 30, 2005 0 comments
A home theaterphile's guide to universal remotes.

Most audio/video buffs would agree that the most frustrating thing about having a home theater is the loss of coffee-table space. Magazines have been replaced by numerous remotes to control receivers, televisions, DVRs, DVD players, even air conditioners. On occasion, one of these remotes might be able to control multiple components, but it's rare that a single remote will be compatible with every component in your system. Hence the market for universal remotes. We've all seen them, either on the racks at electronics stores for $30 or reviewed here, retailing in the neighborhood of $700. However, many of us are hesitant to spend more on a remote than on a DVD player. But don't panic. Those $30 remotes may be just the thing you and your coffee table are looking for. Some of them are easy enough to use that any non-buffs in your household won't have to go back to school for their electrical-engineering degrees.

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