Easier, Cheaper Surround Sound

Watching movies in your living room with surround sound is great, but getting set up can set you back big bucks. Home-theater-in-a-box systems can save you money and a lot of hassle.

Consumer Reports has tested dozens that cost anywhere from 250 to nearly two-thousand dollars.

Mani Sanguiliy is a real movie buff. Getting sound that does justice to his big-screen TV was a must.

Sanguily says, "I was able to get a digital high-definition receiver, and all the speakers and subwoofers to go with it. And now I have movie-theater-quality sound and picture in my own home."

Mani bought his stereo components separately. Another option is to get a home-theater-in-a-box system.

These come with all the components you need: a center channel speaker, two speakers for the front of the room, another set for the back of the room, and a subwoofer to enhance the bass. Many systems also come with a Blu-Ray player.

Jeremy Wright of Consumer Reports says, "The big advantage is that all the components come together in one box. Everything matches. And generally the price is less than buying everything separately."

In Consumer Reports' audio lab, testers use a reference-speaker system to judge the sound quality of each setup.

The good news-the quality of these systems has improved.

Wright says, "It used to mean that if you bought a home-theater-in-a-box system you had to compromise on audio quality. But that isn't necessarily true anymore. Some of the best models that we tested had audio quality that approached those of buying separate components."

An 800-dollar system from Samsung is among them. It delivers terrific sound, includes a Blu-ray player, and has other nice features like an iPod dock, so you can listen to your iTunes library as well.

If you don't need a Blu-ray player, you can get a surround-sound system for half as much money. Consumer Reports recommends the Yamaha YHT 497. It cost about 400 dollars. It delivers very good sound and also has an iPod dock.


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