Weekend Roundtable: Next Upgrade for Your Home Theater

Every home theater owner comes down with a case of Upgraditis at some point. No matter how thoroughly equipped, no home theater ever really feels complete. Either some piece of gear needs replacing with the latest and greatest model, or some new toy that just hit the market needs to be added. For this week’s Roundtable, we’ve asked our contributors what upgrade is next in line for each of their home theaters.

Josh Zyber

  1. 3-D, Somehow – This seems to be the direction that the home theater hobby is going, and (unlike some here) I’m not a 3-D hater. I like 3-D when it’s done well. The problem for me is how to integrate it into my HT room. I’ve written about this previously. My primary high-def display is a projector, and I simply have no room to add a large 3-D TV in my limited space. I already have a small TV off to the side of the room, and wouldn’t mind replacing that. However, at least initially, almost all manufacturers have focused their 3-D TV models on sizes 42″ and up. Recent news that several manufacturers are releasing a new 3-D projectors later this year sounds promising to me, though I think I’m going to wait to see how these shake out, rather than jump on the first thing to come along. So this will be an eventual upgrade, once I can figure out how to make it work for my situation.

Mike Attebery

  1. Sezmi* (*maybe) – Like I said last week, Conan is the upcoming fall show I’m most excited to see. There’s just one problem, I happily cut my cable back to nothing last year since I spend most of my time watching Blu-rays and DVDs anyway. Aside from the shows I catch on the networks, and the repeats I stream to the TV from Hulu, I don’t need any of the programming on the upper channels. Unfortunately, my most eagerly awaited program, featuring a certain red-headed wiseass, isn’t gonna be on the networks. As of now, TBS doesn’t stream shows on Hulu. Hopefully that will change, but I’d really like to b able to watch the new episodes on first airing when I’m up late. That leaves me either giving even more money to the sinister, deceptive folks who run my cable company, or looking for an option to get TBS into my house for cheap. Sezmi seems to be the best option. They’re been promoting their brand of broadcast and select cable offerings with ever-increasing fervor and media reach. There’s just one problem, aside from one market in the entire NATION (?!!) the only stuff you can get in most cities (including mine) with your snazzy new Sezmi setup is the stuff you can get free over the airwaves already. I keep crossing my fingers and hoping that the folks at Sezmi will make an announcement before the middle of October, so I can get the equipment and fire up my account in time to see Mr. O’Brien’s debut. That will make me a very happy man. But if there’s no word on new offerings in the next month of so, I’m gonna have to ante up and pay the good ol’ cable company extortionists in order to catch my preferred programming. Come on, Sezmi, let’s have some news so I can add a shiny new Sezmi console to my home theater setup!

Dick Ward

  1. HTPC – I’ve looked through all the potential options for getting digital entertainment on my TV, and I’m just not satisfied. I like the idea of the Boxee Box, and the Nixeus Fusion HD had plenty of great features, but for my needs it’s got to be a PC. The problem ends up being that I’m just far too geeky for one of the other devices. The Boxee Box won’t let me watch live streams from Blizzcon, and the Fusion HD won’t work with the Gom TV player so I can watch Korean ‘StarCraft’ tournaments. I’ve been using my netbook in the meantime, which would be fine if it gave me a picture that fills the screen. Sadly, the resolution is too low, which means I’m going HTPC shopping.

Drew Taylor

  1. A New TiVo – I bought my TiVo a while ago. Like, a good long while ago. In fact, I believe I saw a Tyrannosaurus Rex wander by as I was setting it up. (Please note: this may be a bit of an exaggeration.) Anyway, at the time I entered into a devil’s bargain: I would get the TiVo, plus the lifetime subscription, all in one go. The “lifetime” subscription was $300 bucks. I thought that meant my lifetime, but no, no, no, it meant the lifetime of the actual machine. I desperately want a new TiVo, but am too stubborn and cheap to actually go through with canceling this subscription that I could still be using well into my senior citizen years. Thanks to the greedy gods at Cablevision, you can’t even see basic channels like ABC or Fox without a cable box. This also means that I can’t record two things at the same time, since the TiVo recording has to “hijack” whatever I’m watching on the television. Also, this whole thing happened before the high-def revolution, so I go from watching pristine Blu-rays for the main site to watching an episode of “Glee” that looks like it’s from that pirate television station that gave James Woods so much grief in ‘Videodrome.’ The only time I’ve been able to upgrade my recorder is when my original one broke; I still had to pay for a new one,but they had to send me the model closest to the one I originally purchased. But you don’t understand,” I pleaded on the phone, “I will pay for a new one, a really expensive one. Just let me use my unlimited subscription.” Nope. Ideally, I’d want to get the bad-ass new TiVo Premiere box, which supplants your need for even the cable box. It’s a glistening, all-important beacon of the future, if the future relates directly to be recording episodes of ‘Man Men‘ – which of course it does. Until then, I’m stuck with my prehistoric TiVo box – one that is, I’m fairly certain, powered by some kind of wise-ass dinosaur.

Adam Tyner (DVDTalk)

  1. New A/V Receiver – Next up on the hit parade for me would be replacing my Harman Kardon AVR-247 receiver. The receiver does what I need it to well enough, but it’s definitely starting to creak along in its old age. First of all, it only has two HDMI inputs, and that really doesn’t cut it anymore. For whatever reason, my old HD DVD player – which I do still break out from time to time! – won’t handshake with it anymore. That dusty Toshiba HD-A3 works fine if I plug it directly into the TV, but even when I try to use the same cables and same inputs that my Blu-ray players are using, nothing comes through. This last hiccup hasn’t happened in quite some time, so I’m probably jinxing myself by bringing it up, but the center channel completely disappears every once in a while. If I power-cycle the receiver or even switch back and forth from different inputs, the center immediately comes back on, so there’s no question that the receiver’s to blame. Otherwise, I’m pretty happy with my setup.

Jason Bovberg (Connected Home Media)

  1. Universal Remote – I work at a tech publisher, and sometimes we receive inconsequential holiday gifts from vendors, such as vanilla cookies or Dove chocolates or silly USB sticks or universal remotes. What’s that? Universal remotes? Yes, a second-tier consumer electronics company once sent us a piece-of-crap universal remote as a gift, perhaps clearing out old inventory. It was cheaply made, with an unintuitive button layout, but I took it home to try it out. I’ve never owned a universal remote – despite the urgings of home-theater guys, such as Josh Zyber, much wiser than I – so I needed to take some kind of first step before buying into the whole notion. It was a fiasco, of course. The remote’s learning capability was non-existent, half the buttons elicited no response (or ended up opening my garage door, or making all the neighborhood dogs twist their heads and whine). I ended up trashing the thing. So, I still have my ridiculous collection of remotes – my hulking A/V receiver remote, my Blu-ray and HD DVD player remotes, my DVD and CD player remotes, and my projector remote, not to mention my Xbox controllers – littering the chair next to mine. It’s a chaos of devices. There’s a part of me that’s reluctant to upgrade to a universal remote, partly because of my previous (albeit limited) experience, but also because, in a weird way, I actually like the purity of using each dedicated remote for the purpose it was intended. Crazy! I know. Universal remotes have evolved into extremely helpful, convenient devices that make home theaters far more user-friendly and less cluttered. So it’s high time I jumped on the Harmony bandwagon. Unless you have other recommendations for me…

Those are our plans. Now tell us in the comments how you’d like to upgrade your home theater.


  1. I JUST upgraded my A/V reciever. As I was on a budget, I bought CHEAP speakers (the center and rears are Sony that came in a three-piece set for $70, the front sides are sony bookselves, $50 for the pair), so that will probably be my next upgrade, although I am fairly happy with how it sounds now (WAY better than before). That being said, I am seriously looking at getting 3D somehow. I have been playing with TriDef, the same technology used on many TVs to convert 2D to 3D, and have it exporting in anagraph right now, and am impressed with just how well it does, and would REALLY like to get off the Red / Blue Glasses. Problem is, I am still paying off the old set, and I don’t think its 120Hz, so don’t know if I can go with an NVidia solution. Anyone have any suggestions on shutter glasses on a 60Hz TV?

  2. SHELVING. I think it’s spoken of far too rarely. My shelves are overflowing with all the movies I have, and I need bigger ones. Up until this point, I’ve been using the kind you buy from Best Buy, but now that I actually own a house, I would like something built on to the rec room wall that looks reasonably nice.

  3. Alex

    I’m still using an old Onkyo HTiB receiver from like 5 years ago. It has no lossless support, no HDMI, no pre-amp for the subwoofer. I think the next thing is to upgrade that thing. I was considering both the Pioneer VSX-1020-K and the Onkyo TX-SR608. Any thoughts?

    • What are you looking for in a reciever? 5.1 fine, or do you want 7.1 or 9.1? Does it need to have video processing (the ability to convert analogue and component sources to HDMI)?

      If you just want something that does lossless HD audio and HDMI support and 5.1, Pioneer has come out with some entry level recievers. I picked mine up for $229 at Best Buy. Just remember to budget in the price for new speakers, subwoofers, and cables, as you most likely won’t be able to use the old speakers.

      If you want 7.1, you would probably look at adding about $200 to the price. Or, if you don’t mind an extra piece of equipment in your home theater, the Pioneers that are $229 will do 7.1 on a pre-out – so you could just take those two analogue channels and run through your current HTiB to get the rears or height.

      Anyways, that’s my thought.

    • I got the Sony STR-DH800, that one isnt being made anymore I dont think (its about a year old) but they have a similar newer model that does all the HD audio decoding, its 7.1, it has 4 HDMI inputs and cost me about $300 a year ago, so you can get a great affordable receiver that does almost everything (it doesnt have video processing but I’m thinking most people dont even need to use this) and its a good piece of equipment, look that one up and see which one is the current model, cant go wrong with it as I love it, sound is great and its easy to setup, it has an included microphone that will auto-setup your speakers and your ready to go 🙂

  4. Speakers speakers speakers! I’ve had the same shitty little satellite set for 8-9 years.

    Oh and that’s my Logitech Harmony One remote in the pic up there. One of my favorite things in the world. Good choice. 🙂

  5. Only thing I need to upgrade now would be a harmony remote, I just upgraded my TV to a new 50″ LG Plasma and I got HD audio last year and have 7.1 surround, I wouldnt mind getting better speakers but the ones I have came with my Onkyo 7.1 HTiB and they can pump out some great sound with my new HD audio Sony receiver so thats not too important. I also just upgraded my entertainment center with a $400 unit that houses everything I have, it has a mesh middle door to hold my center channel, a built in drawer and shelf in there as well and six shelves in two other doors, so I have my Wii, Xbox 360, PS3, Receiver, HD DVD player, my upconvert region free DVD Player and my Viewsonic media player and external hard drive, plus my network switch, its awesome and its baby proofable (my wife and I just found out we are having a baby next year) so I think I’m pretty good to go with everything I need, if I had money to just throw around though I would get a Harmony remote and new speakers just because and a 3DTV, otherwise I’m not bothering with anything 3D until they make passive glasses like the theater have

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