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Home Theater A/V Equipment 

Unlike a lot of home theater enthusiasts, I don't really consider myself to be an audiophile. Don't get me wrong. My hearing is good and my eyesight is fine, but I came to the conclusion a long time ago that I didn't want to pay for differences in sound that I couldn't hear, or that were essentially just "different" rather than "better." A lot of home theater enthusiasts will be unimpressed by my setup. I would characterize my setup as "high-end consumer." It probably doesn't even rise to the level of "low-end audiophile." But  I think my setup is well balanced and providers a lot of bang for the buck, and I'm very happy with it.


Yamaha RX-V2400 receiver. I love this receiver! It supports 7.1 surround sound and provides as much power as I need (and probably a lot more). It has every conceivable connector on the back that I could need--I counted more than 100. The sound is great, and the remote control is easy to program for use with all my components. The feature I like best is the auto calibration. You can put the receiver's microphone in the center of your listening area, and then the receiver itself figures out how far away each speaker is, how sensitive each speaker is, where the subwoofer's crossover point should be, etc. It will also adjust for each speaker's tonal imbalances. I'm sure you could do all this manually with other systems, but I know that (a) I would never actually do it, and (b) even if I did do it, I wouldn't get it right, so I like this auto-balancing capability.
Cambridge Soundworks Newton Series MC300IW In-Wall Front-Center Speaker. I've been a fan of Cambridge Soundworks products for many years. Their products tend to provide very accurate sound, their systems are well-balanced, and they provide a good bang for the buck. I chose the MC300 as the front-center speaker because I wanted to mount it in the wall behind the screen. My only complaint about the speaker is that it comes only in white. I had to paint it black so that it wouldn't cause distracting reflections through the screen.
Cambridge Soundworks Newton Series MC200 Front L&R Speakers. These are nicely balanced speakers and provide a good soundstage.
Cambridge Soundworks Newton Series S300 MultiPole Side Surround Speakers
Cambridge Soundworks Newton Series S200 MultiPole Rear Surround Speakers.
Cambridge Soundworks Newton P200 Powered Subwoofer. This is the one part of my system that's a little better than the rest. It can definitely shake the whole house. For home theater, I think splurging on the base was a good idea!
Da-Lite Cinema Contour Screen with HC Audio Vision Screen material from RTZ AV. The selection of the screen is more important than you might think. Here are some tips for choosing the right screen for you

Panasonic AE900U


Sanyo PLV-Z4

Panasonic AE900U and Sanyo PLV-Z4 Projector. After 2 1/2 years with the Infocus X1, I decided that the home theater projector market had advanced enough that it was time to upgrade. I initially purchased a Sanyo PLV-Z4 based on stellar reviews. What the reviews didn't mention, at least for my application, is that the Z4 produces a very noticeable screen door effect (SDE) at close viewing distances. You need to be at least 1.5x the screen width away from the screen before the SDE isn't noticeable. That isn't how I have my theater room set up, so I ended up returning the Z4. 

I then purchased my second choice, the Panasonic AE900U. After the initial setup, my initial opinion was, "Pretty nice upgrade. Way better color saturation. Contrast seems somewhat better. Nice to get widescreen aspect ratio instead of 4:3 aspect ratio. Worth the money, but it will be nice to upgrade again in a few years." But this was using the projector with a component video connection

Running new cables in my home theater is a chore, so a month later I finally ran an HDMI cable and hooked it up. I cannot emphasize enough how big a difference this makes. The difference from using  HDMI instead of component video is way more significant than the difference from upgrading from the Infocus X1 to the Panasonic AE900U. (And that's a great deal for $50!) When I saw the images produced by the HDMI connection, I was stunned. The black is amazingly black. The color saturation is intense. The detail in dark scenes is vastly improved. Scenes from Batman Begins that had been dark blobs on the X1 have lots of detail on the AE900. The images have much more depth than they ever had before. It just looks great. The image quality of DVDs is so good I can't really imagine how much better HDTV could possibly look. Even normal TV looks pretty good (and that had looked terrible on the Z4). All in all, this ended up being a huge upgrade. 

In the Z4's defense, I never viewed it with an HDMI cable, and it might have performed as much better as the AE900 does. Also, I watch DVDs 99% of the time and never viewed the Z4 with an HD source. The Sanyo also looks much nicer than the Panasonic. I liked the Z4's automatic lens door. And its position adjustment wheels work way better than the Panasonic's joystick does. 

Infocus X1 Projector. This has now been replaced. See above. My goal for the home theater projector was to minimize the amount I spent now, betting that in a couple years I'll be able to get a much better projector at a much lower price. With that as my goal, I have been delighted with the Infocus X1, which has got to be the outstanding cost-performer of my home theater. The X1 currently retails for about $899. It has nice color fidelity, great contrast, and puts a consistent image onto the screen. I get the best image quality by using the component video output from my DVD player, and using the VESA to Component Video Adapter ($10) to put the signal into the X1's VGA input. Other people have said they get better quality using the S-Video input, but that isn't what I've seen.

Note that the X1 is the same hardware as the Screenplay 4800, which retails for about $400 more. The only differences are that the X1 comes with different preset factory settings and a different remote control.  You can get the remote for the 4800 for $24 from Infocus. It's part #590-0567-01. You won't be able to find it on their website. It will probably take the phone rep (800-660-0024) awhile to find it, but it's worth the hassle because it's a lot more home-theater oriented than the X1's remote, which is really oriented toward doing Powerpoint presentations.

One for All Home Theater Universal Remote Control URC9910. I put all my AV equipment into a storage closet that shares a wall with the theater room. The factory remotes for the receiver, DVD player, etc., are all IR, so they won't work through the wall into the storage area. The URC9910 is a combined IR/RF remote that can control devices through the wall. It has a good learning mode, so, for example, I usually leave it in DVD mode, but I've programmed the volume keys to operate the receiver even when the remote is in DVD mode. It also works in both RF and IR mode, so I can control the projector, which is line-of-sight in the theater, as well as the receiver, DVD player, VCR, etc. that are in the storage closet.
Lutron Spacer Dimmer, SP-600-HTH Remote Light Switch. Being able to control the lights remotely is a nice touch for a home theater. The Lutron Spacer is a relatively inexpensive remote control light switch. (Remote and the switch itself are about $60.) The remote is an IR remote. I was able to use the learning mode on my universal remote to program it to operate the light switch.

Email me at stevemcc@construx.com.