Sound Advice: Setting up a quality media room on a budget

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Question: I have a completely dark 20x30 room and would like to set up a projector and sound system for watching sports and movies. I want quality, without going too crazy on price. Can this be done, and what do you recommend?

PATRICK SANDY
Canonsburg

Answer: Video projectors have become quite a bargain for those with a proper room for them. Nothing beats the impact of a huge screen for sports and movie watching. The new Optoma HD25 1080p DLP projector is available for less than $950 and can throw a huge image up to 301 inches diagonally. It is even 3-D ready, so if you get a 3-D Blu-ray projector and compatible 3-D glasses, you can really duplicate the movie theater experience at home -- www.optoma.com.

You will need a proper sound system to go with your projector, and when building a sound system it is best to start with the speakers. I recently finished reviewing the Pioneer SP-FS52-LR tower speakers that retail for only $248 per pair. Designed by acclaimed audiophile speaker designer Andrew Jones, these simply styled yet attractive speakers are very pleasing to the ear, producing detailed, transparent sound that is warm but not too lush and soft-sounding.

Match the SP-C22 center channel for $96 and for surrounds get the $127 a pair SP-BS22-LR bookshelf speakers. Monoprice's powerful 150 watt/12-inch powered subwoofer for $137 rounds out the system for a total for the $608 -- www.pioneerelectronics.com and www.monoprice.com.

The Pioneer speakers are easy to drive, and most any receiver will work well with them. Though it is not necessary to use the same brand of receiver and speakers, I am going to go with Pioneer for the receiver as well. The Pioneer VSX-523 sells for only $249 and features 80 watts per channel and Pioneer's fantastic MCACC system, which uses a microphone to automatically balance the speaker levels and optimize their sound for your specific listening environment.

Next comes the screen. Buy Carl's Blackout Cloth screen material in 66-inch by 110-inch size for only $29.99, build a frame, and have a huge screen for less than $50. Many other sizes are available, as well as fittings for building your screen and complete screen kits -- www.carlofet.com.

Finally, you need a Blu-ray player, speaker wire and HDMI cables. Get an inexpensive Panasonic player, ordinary 16-gauge speaker wire and buy your HDMI cables online. The total should be about $100 for everything.

The final tally is $1,957 for a complete home theater with a 3-D video projector, 110-inch screen and very good sound. That's about the same price as a lot of high-end TVs with much smaller screen sizes and no sound systems. While the system I have specified is not state of the art, it will look and sound excellent and will thrill most anyone.

Of course, you can go down or up from there. You can get a 720p HD projector for as little as $450, project on a wall, and connect the cable box to sound equipment you already own.

Going in the other direction, upgrading to Epson's excellent 8350 projector for $1,350 will give you an even better picture than the Optoma and you could upgrade the speakers and receiver as well. You could end up doubling your budget before seeing and hearing worthwhile differences, though.

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Read product reviews by Don Lindich at soundadviceblog.com


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