April 30, 2002
I have been a reader of your articles in Stereophile
and SGHT for years, and I just discovered this site. I would appreciate any help
you can provide on a subject that has me more than a bit perplexed.
I have read in various publications that rear projectors
aren't really designed for small rooms (such as my apartment). However, there exists in
the marketplace several good 16:9 models from Toshiba, Hitachi, and others. For the first
time, I actually feel like I can buy an RPTV without feeling like I'm breaking some
forbidden rule, and my pocketbook.
Right now, I am making do with my venerable 32"
direct-view Proscan TV that I bought about four years ago. I sit about eight feet from the
screen. There is no possible way to increase this distance in my apartment.
Now, according to the "rules," I probably should
not have a screen any larger than 36". Yet, when I look at RPTVs in stores, even
50" sets look great at 8'. Perhaps this reaction is due to my lack of experience, or
the "wow" factor of such a large screen (by comparison to my own).
Nonetheless, I really want an RPTV as it is the only
possible way I can afford a true "theater" experience. But I do not want to
suffer from eye fatigue, or a bad decision based solely on misguided emotion.
I would appreciate any suggestions or comments you may have
on this matter.
Yes, people used to cite a formula dictating that, to avoid
eyestrain, viewers should sit no closer than a distance equivalent to five times the
diagonal of the screen. Maybe that's true of direct-view monitors, but most RPTVs I have
experience with don't put out nearly the lumens a direct-view TV screen does. I have used
60" RPTVs in rooms where I could sit no further than 10' away, and this distance was
fine. Actually, it was pretty darn impressive.
My general advice these days on TVs is buy the biggest you
can afford. I've never met anyone who wished he had a smaller television....Wes Phillips
April 27, 2002
How low does a subwoofer have to play to provide good LFE
The LFE channel is specified with an upper cutoff
frequency of 120Hz. The practical lower limit is 20Hz. Generally, though, most LFE
information is centered between 30Hz and 80Hz, so that is where a subwoofer needs to be
strongest. For state-of-the-art performance, the deeper the better, but if a subwoofer is
strong to 30Hz (with low distortion and good output capability), you'll get the vast
majority of what the sound engineer intended for you to hear.
April 22, 2002
Could you please tell me who makes the best-sounding
surround-sound receiver? The only thing I care about is pure sound quality, whether it be
movies or music; it's only sound quality I care about. As well as receivers, could you
also let me know who makes the best-sounding speaker in general?
I really don't know how to answer questions like these.
There is no single "best" unit -- it all ties in to what you can spend and what
you need it to do. Frankly, I think the average mass-market $1000 surround-sound receiver
is a pretty amazing bargain.
Not all that long ago, all A/V receivers lacked sound
quality and power. They sounded tinny and unbalanced and they tended to "cheat."
They either offered two or three hefty channels and puny surround amps or they were loaded
down with fake-sounding DSP modes.
But the major companies actually listened to what the
consumers wanted and, gasp, gave it to 'em.
These days, it's much harder to buy a bad-sounding A/V
receiver, even the $300-500 models are pretty good, But at around $1000, you start getting
great sound, reliable power ratings, several surround-mode choices, and a universal or
learning remote control that makes using a complex HT system a lot easier. It's a wonder
they can make any money selling 'em, but that's not our problem, is it?
As to speakers, that's another area where it's hard to buy
crappy sound anymore. Even at $250 per pair, you can buy speakers that sound good and
Now I realize that you want a simple answer, but there
isn't one. There may be a single receiver -- or speaker -- out there that YOU prefer to
all others, but I don't have any way of knowing what it will be. You'll have to decide
what you can afford and go out and listen. Then it'll come down to what floats your
April 19, 2002
I want to build a home theater in my home's basement. The
room dimensions are 20'L x 15'W x 6' 2"H (floor to joist). I am concerned about the
height even though it's no problem for me as I'm 5' 9".
Can I can build a proper home theater given the room's
dimensions? If so, should I use a ceiling or floor projector, and what screen size should
Hi Mr. Laza:
It sounds like your basement was designed by Frank Lloyd
Wright -- Wright was around your height and he designed his rooms to feel comfy to someone
his stature. I visited Fallingwater once and -- at 6'4" -- I felt like I needed to
duck going through the doorways (it wasn't that bad, but I was careful walking from room
I'd say it probably doesn't much matter whether you use a
ceiling-mount or put the projector on a pedestal -- you don't have a lot of clearance to
the ceiling, so you don't necessarily gain a lot of use of the room by putting the
projector on the ceiling. On the other hand, you could sit under it, so maybe that is the
way to go.
So let me rephrase that. From the standpoint of image
quality, you could go either way, but you'll need to give some thought to projector
placement and the largest image size you can achieve. You may want to mount the projector
on the ceiling just to keep your seating options open.
As for screen size, that'll depend on the projector you
choose and its distance from the screen. I can't see where the room's size would dictate a
particularly small screen, however. I'd say start by thinking about an 84" diagonal
and go up to 120" if your projector will support it.
Incidentally, it sounds like you'll have a neat home
theater when you're done -- one great thing about basements is they usually don't pose
huge problems with their ambient light levels. And some of the most comfortable home
theaters I've been in have a certain womb-like closeness to them....Wes Phillips
April 16, 2002
I enjoy your articles. I am now budgeting for a
home-theater system, but I don't know how much to spend. I won't change my TV now, but how
much do I have to spend minimum on the rest of it to get "decent" sound?
That's a really hard question to answer because there are
levels and levels of "good." These days, you can buy pretty darn good
home-theater-in-a-box systems from companies like Polk (the DS7200 system for $2599) or
Linn (the Classik Movie system for $2995). Or you can buy a separate DVD player,
surround-sound receiver and speakers for around that to up to $10,000 -- or you could go
the separates route all the way and take the cost as high as you want.
If what you're really asking is how do you get started on a
home-theater system without spending a huge amount of money, I suggest you start with a
good surround-sound receiver that puts out at least 50Wpc (and get as much power as you
can afford -- even receivers putting out 125Wpc into five channels aren't that expensive
With the receiver connected to your TV and even as few as
two loudspeakers, you'll take the action out of the box and make the TV experience bigger
and more involving. Then add more equipment as your budget allows -- I'd start with a DVD
player, because I like to watch movies on my own schedule. Then add a center-channel,
followed by a subwoofer and -- finally -- effects speakers.
Even though I'm usually an immediate-gratification kind of
a guy, I love the upgrade-path approach. It means you can buy two good speakers for the
left and right front channels, instead of five cheap ones. And you can make sure each
upgrade really makes a difference by buying the best you can afford (as long as you hear
the difference and think it's worth the price).
While the sky's the limit on what you could spend, I think
it's amazing how much good-quality equipment is available at even the entry level
April 13, 2002
I am thinking about buying a DVD player. I am concerned
about availability though, as I like to rent my movies. Will DVD remain widely available
from rental chains?
Yes! As an example, Blockbuster is claiming that by
the end of 2002, DVD will occupy nearly 50% of their floor space. So I'd say you are
completely safe in buying now, with the rental market assured....Wes Phillips
April 8, 2002
looking for some speakers for a home theater being powered with a Pioneer Elite VSX-49TX
receiver. While this is a pretty beefy receiver, it doesn't have the oomph of
separates, so I'd like to find speakers of fairly high efficiency. I've already
decided on Sunfire Jr. subwoofer. Any suggestions? I want to spend less than
$5000 for the other five speakers.
talking about the same unit -- the Elite VSX-49TX I know is rated at 160W per channel into
6 ohms. Granted that 6-ohm spec is a bit of an odd one, but it makes the 49TX a pretty
hefty A/V receiver!
think you'll have too much of a problem finding speakers to match, but check out the Polk
LSi series I just reviewed. There's a lot of bang for the buck there....Wes