Super Bowl XLII: Party of the Gear

Quick, think of the person you know who always throws a great Super Bowl party. That's right - Phil. Phil has that big-screen HDTV, a cool sound system, and that comfy couch. People are always high-fiving him after the game, telling him what a great party it was.

Dude, that could be you. You can do the Super Bowl just as well as Phil, if not better. Sure, he's got some great equipment, but yours could be better, and everyone knows throwing a killer party is all in the details: tweaking your settings, setting up the room, and getting the right accessories are the ways to maximum 'Bowl-ing. We asked the experts for a play by play on how to compete in the Super Bowl party big leagues.

The Screen: Go Big, Go Deep For an event like the Super Bowl, the type of TV you get is a lot less important than the size. Matt Polk, a cofounder of Polk Audio, sums it up perfectly, if predictably: "Bigger is better." The lesson is clear: If in doubt about size, lean toward more inches, not fewer.

But can it be too big? With today's HDTVs, not really, says Polk. In fact, he recommends going with the largest of the large - a front projector with a screen - as long as your room can handle it. Traditionally, those types of setups can suffer from a washed-out image if there's any room lighting, but Polk says modern technology has solved that problem.

"Most DLP projectors are plenty bright," he explains. "Just be sure to get an HD screen that has high gain [reflectivity]." But don't go too high on the gain, or your off-angle viewing goes bad.

If a front projector isn't your thing, Janna Robinson (a.k.a. The Chic Geek / Entertainment Lifestyle Specialist) says your room lighting should determine the type of set you get. Says Robinson &mdsash; whose company, Janna Rachelle, routinely sets up home theaters for celebrities - LCD is the best choice for a brightly lit room, while a plasma set is the way to go for dim light.

John Sciacca, S&V's resident custom installer, agrees. "I'm partial to plasma because of its handling of motion and off-axis viewing."

Sound: Surround Still Matters That big screen is virtually useless unless you have great sound to go with it - you don't want your guests competing with the color commentary, since it's natural for people to be yelling at the screen during the game. Surround sound is definitely the way to go, says Robinson. "While you're obviously not getting the nuances you'd get from a movie soundtrack, the surrounds play a role. The crowd is often back there."

Polk agrees, and has a few tips on setting up your system for best sound. "If you're using anything bigger than small bookshelf speakers, set your front speakers to 'large' and use the sub's crossover controls to fine-tune the sound. Receiver crossovers are generic. Your subwoofer's crossover is designed to match well with the rest of your system."

But stringing cable to the back of your room might give you nightmares of people tripping right into your dip bowl. If that's an issue, Robinson and Polk both think a single speaker that simulates surround sound should be part of your game plan.

"I have a Philips AmbiSound speaker, and it's great," says Robinson. "If you don't have a lot of money and want something really simple, that's an easy solution."