The Return of The Gear Guy Page 2

Dear Gear Guy: My wife and I have two kids, and we love doing things as a family - especially watching movies. (The Incredibles was awesome!) We'd been saving for a swimming pool, but rather than build something we can only use for four months, it would be great to have a movie room we can use all year round. Since we want everyone to be able to enjoy the space, the system has to be easy to use. Also, my wife and I like to relax with some music after the kids have gone to bed, so we need a variety of listening choices. And for those times when the kids are monopolizing the system, I'd like to feed music to a couple of other rooms. We'd saved up around $10,000 for the pool, so that's what we have to work with. Family Guy

Dear Family Guy: First, I'm glad that your show is back on Fox.

All kidding aside, it's great you've found an activity your whole family loves to do. Movies definitely bring together people of all ages, and what better way to watch them than in your own cinema?

You'll want amazing video, of course, and Samsung's HL-P5063W 50-inch DLP rear-projection HDTV would be a terrific choice. It's one of the first DLP sets to use Texas Instruments' new high-definition HD3 chip, and its Smooth Picture technology eliminates the bothersome "screen-door effect" that makes the black spaces between pixels apparent as you move closer to the screen. Even though Al's taste in movies didn't improve for this review (The Station Agent?), the Samsung's picture quality came through. He was impressed by the set's remarkable detail, brightness, and wide viewing angle, saying that the image had a satisfying sense of depth, skin tones were dead-on, and bright colors were vivid. And at only 14 inches deep, the Samsung won't eat up a lot of precious floor space.

You know that the Gear Guy loves front projectors, and a good alternative to the Samsung would be Sony's Cineza VPLHS51 ($3,500, see "Super-size HDTV"). Al loved its top-notch HDTV and progressive-scan DVD performance, finding that color rendition was excellent, skin tones looked natural, and blacks were rich and fairly deep. He also liked its sleek design, calling it gtotally pimp.h Stewart's Luxus Deluxe Screenwall ($1,874), a 100-inch screen with a widescreen 16:9 aspect ratio, would be a good match for the Sony projector.

A great surround speaker package is a must, and Definitive Technology's Mythos Gem will be your system's crown jewel. It includes four Gem satellite speakers, a Mythos 7 center speaker, and the diminutive yet powerful SuperCube III subwoofer to handle the bottom end. Rich Warren found the Gems way more than capable. "Calling what I heard a 'wall of sound' would be inaccurate . it was more like an enveloping horseshoe waterfall of sound. Drums and percussion were tight withoutbeing constricted, torrid without sizzling."

A roughly 10-inch cube, the SuperCube III was one of the smallest subs Rich had ever used. But small doesn't have to mean wimpy. Definitive manages to cram a 650-watt amplifier, a 7.5-inch woofer, and a pair of 7.5-inch passive radiators into the tiny cabinet, almost producing enough foundation-rattling bass to register on the Richter scale!

An A/V receiver is the foundation of a great system, having a big impact on how your home theater sounds. But, since recent models also let you switch all your video components through them, a receiver can have an impact on picture quality, too. Harman Kardon's AVR 7300 fits your requirements like a glove. Dan Kumin called it "one helluva digital surround receiver," offering "tremendous setup flexibility, top-drawer performance, truly superb surround options, and unusually customizable video outputs." The Harman Kardon actually improves picture quality by using Faroudja's renowned DCDi video processing to upscale 480i (interlaced) video - like your old VCR tapes and standard-def TV programs - to 480p (progressive), producing a smoother, more filmlike image. And all of the upscaling is done through the component-video output so you have to make only one connection to your TV.

To give you plenty of music-listening options, I've included Yamaha's DVD-S1500 universal DVD player, which will spin all your CDs, DVDs, DVD-Audio discs, and Super Audio CDs. David Ranada found that it "successfully reproduced the warmly enveloping and natural-sounding churchlike ambience of Handel's Messiah." And it didn't skimp on video performance . David said that the picture quality left nothing to be desired. When you tire of your music collection, turn to Delphi's MyFi XM2Go portable XM tuner. Yours truly found it "the coolest piece of gear I've played with in a while." The great thing about the MyFi is that it lets you take XM's terrific programming with you - for a jog or in the car - and it includes accessories for any installation imaginable.

For a full-blown house-wide audio system, I'd usually recommend Elan's System6 (see "Music Around the House"). Its sound quality and control interface are both terrific. But since you want to send music to just a couple of rooms, we'll go with a simpler A-Bus system (see "Music Around the House"). The Harman Kardon receiver includes outputs ready to feed two A-Bus amplified keypads, so just add the Russound A-KP2 keypads, some wiring and speakers, and you're ready to go. While the keypads' amplifiers are rated at only 7.5 watts per channel, they have enough oomph to fill most rooms with background music. Adding an A-LC2 local-source module ($129) will let you play your iPod or TV through the speakers in the room where the component is located. The AVR 7300's multizone feature will allow you to enjoy your favorite tunes in one room while the kids are watching the Disney Channel in the home theater.

You might want to buy lighting control, cool seating, and some posters, a popcorn machine, or other movie accessories to complete the room's transformation. And, don't forget to invite the Gear Guy to your Grand Opening!

The Price Tag
Samsung 50-inch DLP rear-projection HDTV ($3,000) Definitive Technology Mythos Gem speaker system ($2,048) Harman Kardon AVR 7300 digital surround receiver ($2,399) Yamaha DVD-S1500 universal DVD player ($450) Delphi MyFi XM2Go portable XM tuner ($350, plus $12.95-a-month subscription) Two Russound A-KP2 A-Bus keypads ($378) Total: $8,625