To reproduce the authentic cinema experience at home, you need not only the visual components but also the audio ones — typically, five speakers and one subwoofer. This setup is based on Dolby Digital 5.1 technology, which breaks down audio into six "channels," each intended for a separate speaker: dialogue to one of three front speakers, ambient sounds to a pair of rear (or "surround") speakers, and low-frequency "end-of-the-world" booms to the subwoofer.

Wattage. Wattage is a good indicator of how loud a speaker can play without distortion, but watts enough to power a Who concert will be wasted in an 8-by-12 room. Instead, choose speakers that are closely matched to your receiver's watts-per-channel rating. That ensures that the speakers won't be fried by the movie's bang-up climax. (Don't worry about small differences in wattage; to double volume, you need ten, not two, times the power.)

Ohms. Although some speakers are available in 4- and 6-ohm designs, stick with standard 8-ohm units. The lower the ohm rating, the more electricity needed to generate the same volume, which can cause the receiver to overheat. If you happen to fall in love with the sound coming from 4- or 6-ohm speakers, at least make sure that the receiver is compatible.

Magnetic shielding. Speakers located within a few feet of a CRT television should be shielded to prevent them from interfering with the picture. (Other types of TVs are safe.)

DVD Players
If the hundreds of programming options offered by your cable or satellite TV provider aren't sufficient, it's nice to know you can always run out to the video store to grab a DVD.

Progressive-scan DVD. It's worth spending a little extra for a DVD player with this feature ($130 and up). Unlike traditional interlaced-scan, which first paints every other line on the screen and then goes back and fills in the rest, progressive-scan paints them all at once, making for a smoother picture. And if you don't want an intermission during multiple-disc movies, get a player with a disc changer.

Digital video recorders (often called digital VCRs). DVRs, such as TiVo and ReplayTV ($200 and up), work much like personal computers, recording programming from cable or a satellite dish onto a hard drive. Newer models can even burn copies of a movie or television show using an integrated DVD recorder ($1,000).

Videocassette recorders. Unlike DVDs, VCRs don't have widescreen or surround-sound capability, but don't throw the old one out just yet. Because DVD manufacturers haven't agreed on a universal recording format, videotape remains the most reliable and economical medium for recording movies.

Video outputs. For the sharpest picture, choose a player with Component Video (a trio of red, green, and blue RCA jacks) or S-Video (a round jack with four pinholes) outputs rather than lower-quality Composite Video ones (a single yellow RCA jack). Just make sure your TV has inputs to match.
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