The Return of The Gear Guy Page 3

Dear Gear Guy: Quality is very important to me, and I understand that it doesn't come cheap. I'm looking for a system on par with my new Lamborghini Gallardo - no-holds-barred performance with sexy styling. But the walls of my oceanfront home are all glass, filling my viewing room with light. I own hundreds of CDs and DVDs, so media management is a requisite. After a long day, I retire to my bedroom to finish watching a movie, so I need a system for that room as well. But I don't want to clutter up the space with components. My Gulfstream is waiting to fly me to Cancun for a meeting - I'd like this done when I get back. You accept the American Express Black Card, I trust. Money No Object

Dear Money: Like the grapes that go into a bottle of Kristal, each piece of your system has been hand selected from the choicest components available.

While those windows are great for seeing the ocean, they pretty much rule out a front-projection system. But there is an HDTV out there for a man of your discriminating taste - Sony's Qualia 006 SXRD rear-projection set (see "Object of Desire"). Its 70-inch screen will let you read the stock ticker from across the room, while its 1080p resolution can render every drop of detail from any movie or HDTV show. David Katzmaier nailed it when he said, "It's hard to overstate just how good HDTV looks on the Qualia. This is how high-def was meant to be seen: larger than life, and finally with all 2 million-plus pixels visible."

Few speaker manufacturers have Bowers & Wilkins' pedigree, and its Flat Panel Monitor series incorporates many of the technologies from its famed Nautilus speakers. Al Griffin reviewed the FPM5 and FPM4 satellite speakers, and ASW675 subwooofer (see "Speaker, Speaker on the Wall"), calling them "probably the best example I've seen of a company trying to get into a 'flat' mindset and succeeding. The B&W rig had a surprisingly deep and larger-than-life sound."

If you don't want to deal with the minor compromises that come with using even the best on-wall models, consider full-sized, floor-standing speakers - like Definitive Technology's BP7001SC system ($5,695). Al concluded, "If you're looking to take your audio rig to the next level and want to check out some serious home theater speakers, [this] system demands your attention."

When only the best A/V receiver will do, look no further than the THX Ultra-certified Denon AVR-5805. Like a waiter at a snooty restaurant, the Denon looks down its nose at lesser receivers offering a mere seven channels of power, instead serving up ten channels delivering 170 watts each. And it performs setup and calibration chores automatically, helping to ensure great sound for every seat in the house. Dan Kumin found that "the AVR-5805 really delivers the goods. It had plenty of power and sounded equally superb on whatever I sent its way."

Selecting your DVD player is a no-brainer. Denon's DVD-3910 universal player is literally made to order for the AVR-5805. Its Den-on Link jack lets you use a single digital connection to send high-resolution multichannel signals to the receiver from DVD-Audio discs and Super Audio CDs, making the SACD of Miles Davis's Kind of Blue sound smoother than a glass of Macallan 25-year-old single malt. Looking at run-of-the-mill 480p video is like buying an off-the-rack suit at the mall. The Denon player upconverts DVD signals to either 720p or 1080i via its DVI and HDMI video outputs. David Ranada said, "From its wide range of outputs to its wealth of adjustments, the Denon DVD-3910 is the most versatile disc player I've ever reviewed. Add its topflight audio and video performance, and you'll see why it's now my favorite universal DVD player."

Finding a title amidst your vast collection of CDs and DVDs will be easier than choosing a Cohiba from your humidor once you have Xperinet's Polaris DVD server (see "Serve It Up!"), which automatically sorts ripped discs by title, genre, rating, and so on. The 1.75-terabyte version can easily hold 350 uncompressed DVDs. I wrote the Polaris review, so I can wholeheartedly vouch for this server - I'm still mourning having to return my review sample!

Why settle for a simple tuner when you can have one that produces the best sound satellite radio has to offer? Polk Audio's XRt12 uses audiophile-quality parts to produce sparkling highs and deep, tight bass. And its video output lets you use your big screen to see what's playing.

If you want your bedroom system to be relatively component-free, go with a single wall-mounted speaker. "Surround sound from a single speaker? Impossible!" you scoff. But you haven't heard Yamaha's YSP-1 digital sound projector. As Ken Pohlmann pointed out, the YSP-1 "incorporates all of its own electronics [including] digital amplifiers for each of the 42 drivers (yes, that's right - 42!) behind the grille." And he was mighty impressed with the result. "I pushed the YSP-1 to its volume limit, and I must admit it played loud enough to make even the naval mayhem of Master and Commander seem pretty real." Ken did say, though, that the YSP-1 needs a subwoofer to round out the low end.

Done. Barely larger than a 9.5-inch cube, Sunfire's True Subwoofer Super Junior ("Tiny Killer Subs") easily disappears into a corner. But how much bass can you really expect to get from something that small? Dan Kumin said, "Its ability to generate palpable amounts of [deep bass] continually amazed me."

You'll want to have a flat TV to go with your flat speaker, and Pioneer's PDP-4350HD 43-inch plasma HDTV (see "Plasma Panorama") is the perfect companion. Al Griffin found that "the Pioneer's sleek design heightens its already considerable appeal." But, like a velvet Elvis painting in a beautiful frame, it doesn't matter how stylish a TV looks if the picture quality isn't up to par. Fortunately, the Pioneer rose to the occasion. "The set's color rendition was pretty much perfect."

You could build a rack full of components to feed this system - and you could play golf at a public course. But you'd be better off hooking up one of Xperinet's Taurus clients to your main system. A simple connection to your home network will let you stream everything stored on the Polaris server to the bedroom.

Since I doubt you like to get your hands dirty, you'll want the services of a professional installer. Like a chauffeured ride in a Maybach 62, working with an installer will make sure that your installation sails as smoothly as your Gulfstream.

The Price Tag
Sony Qualia 006 70-inch SXRD rear-projection HDTV ($13,000) B&W FPM Series on-wall speaker system ($4,650) Denon AVR-5805 digital surround receiver ($6,000) Denon DVD-3910 universal DVD player ($1,499) Xperinet Polaris DVD server ($7,995) Polk Audio XRt12 XM tuner ($330, plus $12.95-a-month subscription)
Bedroom System
Pioneer PDP-4350HD 43-inch plasma HDTV ($5,500) Yamaha YSP-1 digital sound projector ($1,500) Sunfire True Subwoofer Super Junior subwoofer ($995) Xperinet Taurus server client ($1,895) Grand total: $43,364