Kenwood HTB-503 Home-Theater-in-a-Box

With Kenwood's HTB-503 home-theater-in-a-box, you can enhance your home on an average budget without sacrificing your firstborn.

To take advantage of surround schemes that use more channels than a 5.1-channel receiver offers, you'll need to chain-in an external amplifier. Theoretically, any THX-certified amp of equal power will work fine with a THX-certified receiver that has the appropriate line outs, but it's usually a good idea to stick with the same manufacturer—if for no other reason than the components look as if they're from the same family. Denon offers the POA-5200 two-channel amp ($699) as a complement to their AVR-4800 receiver. The 5200 is a THX Ultra-certified two-channel amplifier that delivers 120 watts per channel into 8 ohms or 200 watts into 4 ohms. It features a rear-panel jack for remote power-on/-off control through the AVR-4800. The 5200 differentiates itself from many stereo amps in that it's actually two mono amps in one box—each channel has its own power transformer and DC-storage-supply section. It also features A/B switching for each channel so that one or two speakers can be connected to each channel and can be turned on or off as needed. When testing the POA-5200 in conjunction with the 4800, I found no distinguishable sound or level differences between the two, proving that the 5200 is an excellent addition to the 4800 for bringing THX Surround EX to life.

Well, friend, all isn't lost. You, too, can own and operate a great-sounding home theater system for under a thousand bucks. You don't have to make a CEO's salary to impress and entertain your friends or that someone special. Kenwood's HTB-503 home-theater-in-a-box ($499) may be your answer. It's a good way to start yourself on the road to theater independence and an impressive reason to stay home and take it easy. Six speakers with a total of 600 watts of power (100 watts per channel) are more than enough to create the theater impression, take care of that nasty theater envy, and make your neighbors very upset with you. And you can get all of this without taking a huge bite out of your budget.

Now, don't get me wrong when I use the word budget because this isn't low-end equipment. The system includes two of Kenwood's KS-401HT main speakers, each with two 4-inch cone woofers, a 1-inch dome tweeter, and a rated frequency response of 100 hertz to 20 kilohertz. The center speaker has a single 4-inch cone driver and a rated frequency response of 100 Hz to 20 kHz, while each of the rear channels consists (again) of a 4-inch cone-type woofer and a rated frequency response of 100 Hz to 20 kHz. The SW-32HT subwoofer has a built-in amplifier pumping 100 watts of juice. The 8-inch woofer is enclosed in a bass-reflex, downward-firing, ported enclosure. All the speakers are encased in high-density particleboard laminated with wood-grain vinyl (sorry, no endangered rain-forest wood here), which is appealing to the eye but typical-looking of today's mass-produced speakers. Still, these speakers yield good-quality sound.

HTB-503 Home-Theater-in-a-Box