Holiday Gift Guide 2003

Not so long ago, people used the 12 days after Christmas as an opportunity to continue to give gifts - and from that generosity the well-known carol was born. It's a tradition well worth reviving, but you might want to make some revisions to the classic selection, since drummers drumming, pipers piping, lords a-leaping, and ladies dancing (let alone maids a-milking) probably won't be a big hit with the folks on your gift list. Better to give some MP3 players humming, digital cameras shooting, DVD players spinning, and cellphones a-ringing. And since it's not so bad to get as well, you might want to leave this issue of Sound & Vision lying strategically around the house, open to these pages. The 12 gift ideas here, ranging from $50 to $700 could inspire a new family tradition.

Boxed Punch The first thing you notice about the Philips LX3750W home theater system ($600) is its "look." There's some seriously sleek mojo working here. Platinum-colored cylindrical cabinets, a mirror-finish control panel, and a bass module that could pass for a handsome hard drive give this system an "audio architecture" vibe. But the Philips doesn't just look good: it puts out, too. And since the surround speakers are wireless, you've got the freedom to position them to get as close as possible to a movie theaterlike surround sound experience. The main unit's progressive-scan DVD player smoothly handled everything I fed it. The elaborate battle-scene finale of The Lord of the Rings: The Two Towers played back in all its grungy beauty, with the dark warrior masses just as detailed as the glint of that golden ring. And the AM/FM tuner, which offers 40 presets, pulled in the full range of my local stations. The 45-key remote control has a quick learning curve but still covers all the bases. And, no surprise, it looks really good, too., 800-531-0039