Since today is Black Friday (with Cyber Monday just around the corner), we figured that this week’s Roundtable ought to have a holiday shopping theme. So, today we discuss the best home theater gifts we’ve ever given, ever received, or gifts we’d like to ever-so-subtly hint to our loved ones that they ought to buy for us.
This week, we’re also joined by a new guest contributor, Chris Boylan from Big Picture Big Sound.
My obsession with home theater started in college. Via my work study job, I had access to a pair of Laserdisc players and four-hour evening shifts with absolutely to do nothing but watch movies. (Seriously, this was the best job ever!) Every day after class, I’d stop by a local store called Laser Craze, rent two movies on LD, and bring them with me to work. I did this almost every single weekday for four years (minus summer break and other vacations). I watched hundreds of movies at that job, and became a real Laserdisc aficionado.
Sadly, I was a poor college student turned poor graduate. The work study job itself paid for all those disc rentals, but once I graduated, I couldn’t afford a Laserdisc player of my own. Those things were expensive back in the day! However, that first Christmas after graduation, unbeknownst to me, the future Mrs. Z saved up her pennies and bought me my first Pioneer LD player. It was an entry level model, could only play one disc side at a time (meaning I had to manually flip the disc after an hour of play), and had no frills whatsoever. Even that would have cost a good $300 or so at the time – a fortune to a struggling 20-something. And it was amazing.
The player itself didn’t last (Mrs. Z still gives me grief for eventually upgrading to a fancier model), but I knew that the relationship would.
My first television was a hand-me-down from Josh’s in-laws. I thought it was great, even though there was no remote, so I had to change the channel by turning a knob. There was also a coat hanger/tinfoil antenna arrangement. My father came to visit for a few days as I was recovering from knee surgery. By Day Two with the antique TV, he was so distraught that he made me hobble with him down the street to a bar to watch the games on a proper television. That Christmas, there was a new TV under the tree for me.
Now, that was some time ago, but I did pass that Christmas TV along to a very happy recipient who is still using it. In this season of thanks and giving, if you’ve got last year’s gadget that you’re not using – pass it along!
Adam Tyner (DVDTalk)
I’m more than a little bit of a Blu-ray evangelist. Last Christmas, I bought pretty much everyone in the family shiny new Blu-ray players. I gave my mother, stepfather, and kid sister a Panasonic DMP-BD60 along with the seventh season of ‘24‘, ‘Up‘, ‘Monsters vs. Aliens‘, ‘Enchanted‘, ‘Ice Age: Dawn of the Dinosaurs‘, the remake of ‘Dawn of the Dead‘, and ‘Rachel Getting Married‘.
I handed a Sony BDP-S360 over to my father, stepmother, and kid brother. To start them off, they also got ‘Ben 10: Alien Swarm‘, ‘Aliens in the Attic‘, ‘Ghost Rider‘, ‘Inglorious Basterds‘, the ‘Ultimate Avengers‘ collection, ‘X-Men Origins: Wolverine‘, and ‘Monsters vs. Aliens‘ under the tree from me.
Finally, I gave my grandfather an LG BD-370 player along with ‘Rio Bravo‘, ‘Deliverance‘, ‘The Assassination of Jesse James by the Coward Robert Ford‘, ‘Quantum of Solace‘, ‘The Searchers‘, ‘The Wild Bunch‘, and ‘From Russia with Love‘.
I guess the moral of the story is that it’s kind of worth it to be on my Christmas list.
I’ve always loved drive-ins and watching movies outdoors, so I think the perfect movie related holiday gift would be an all-in-one projector. It doesn’t have to be perfect. I don’t need 1080p image and perfect sound. Yeah, I’m a snob when it comes to home theater. But when it’s for the purpose of grabbing the projector, a movie, and a big orange extension cord, and watching an old black and white movie like ‘Animal Crackers’ in the backyard, probably on a bedsheet nailed to the side of the house, this is exactly the kind of setup I’m dying for! Sure, I’d probably run a couple of speakers up front, cause tin can sound coming from behind me would just drive me nuts – but other than that, a simple, solid, reliable all-in-one unit is just what I’ve always wanted. This is the best gift, for me, for you, for anybody!
[Since Mike asked me to add in a recommendation for this, I might suggest that a business projector would be a good fit. They’re generally smallish, portable, and geared for high light output so that corporate folks can read their PowerPoint slides in a room with the lights still on. You probably won’t get 1080p, and the picture quality may not be at all suitable for home theater; but for the purpose described, it should be adequate. Bring along a laptop with a DVD or Blu-ray drive and a pair of computer speakers, and you’re good to go. -JZ]
Chris Boylan (Big Picture Big Sound)
Shortly after I got married, around 1993, my wife knew I had been lusting after a 32-inch Sony XBR TV (CRT, of course, there were no other choices back then). For Christmas, she cut out a picture of the KV-32XBR35 and put $1,000 in $100 bills into an envelope. (She knew I would prefer to shop for it so I could get the best deal.) A Merry Christmas indeed. I knew then that she was a keeper. The TV looked amazing, hooked up to a Pioneer Laserdisc player. Of course, by today’s standard it was positively archaic – not even widescreen! Over time, we’ve gone through quite a few more TVs, but I’ve kept the wife (and she has kept me).
I distinctly remember my father having a decent home theater when I was a kid. It wasn’t anything amazing, but he had a Yamaha receiver with left and right speakers and a record player to go with it. Somewhere through the years, the system went away and he was left to watch through TV speakers. A few years back, my sister, my brother-in-law and myself all went in on a new home theater system for him. Thanks to a Best Buy discount from the brother-in-law, we were able to get a pretty good Home Theater in a Box for a reasonable amount of money. It wasn’t amazing, obviously. It was just a $500 or so home theater system, but those times when the family gets together to enjoy a movie are a whole lot better because of it. It’s nice that dad’s got a subwoofer again – especially when I bring over my Blu-ray player for a viewing of ‘Star Trek‘.