The BRASH 10: Home Theater Systems

Bose Lifestyle 48 Home Entertainment System
Sony BDV-IT1000ES
Onkyo HT-S990THX
Harmon/Kardon HS 300
Samsung HT-BD2
Bose 3-2-1 Series II
Sony DAV-X1
Klipsch CS-500 2.1 Home Theatre System w/DVD
ZVOX 425 Speaker System
Panasonic SC-PT660
Bose Lifestyle 48 Home Entertainment System Sony BDV-IT1000ES Onkyo HT-S990THX Harmon/Kardon HS 300 Samsung HT-BD2 Bose 3-2-1 Series II Sony DAV-X1 Klipsch CS-500 2.1 Home Theatre System w/DVD ZVOX 425 Speaker System Panasonic SC-PT660
By Willy Perez-Feria October 11, 2008
The coolest Home Theater in a Box (HTIB) five speaker DVD/CD surround sound system for bigger rooms we’ve heard. Silky smooth with amazing depth, your “date night” playlists will never sound better! Not only does the Bose Lifestyle 48 automatically customize its audio to your room's acoustics, the speakers deliver that monster Bose sound with just a tiny footprint. This top-of-the-line system doesn’t just sound great; it also looks killer in the room. She’ll never know what hit her.
If you’ve been less than satisfied with most of the Blu-Ray home theater in a box systems out there, then maybe this Sony (HTIB) is for you. This one boasts 700W of total power (that’s a lot), and includes some wireless rear speakers for added convenience and slim speakers all around that Sony says are made possible thanks to its brand new finger-sized full-range speaker drive units. Yeah, whatever. They’re Amy Winehouse thin and sound just as amazing. All that and Blue Ray too, hard to beat!
The world's first THX-certified home-theater-in-a-box system. That’s THX as in movie mogul George Lucas THX audio encoding used by every major Hollywood studio! It has a huge sound and comes with seven large speakers, a 12-inch powered subwoofer and a full-size A/V receiver. It's also XM Satellite radio-ready should you feel a need to feel surrounded by Howard Stern’s voice. You’ve got to provide your own DVD player, but that’s no big deal. In the end, this Onkyo system’s quality not only blew us away, but easily justified its price.
This five-speaker (HTIB) system’s got a few quirks, starting with a slightly confusing interface (that means it’s hard as hell to get it to do stuff you want) and high price. But this system’s look is ultra sexy, the sound is polished and sophisticated and it’s connectivity is much better than previous models at this price point. We love it for its amazing sound and small footprint. It’s the best sounding (HTIB) we found for a medium sized room and if your space is limited, this may be the one.
This is the first Home Theater in a Box (HTIB) to have an included a Blu-Ray player. Yeah, except that we found about 8 other compatible Blu-Ray (HTIB)’s so really, who cares who was first? I guess Samsung does! This badass system is composed of said Blu-Ray Disc player, four tallboy speakers, a center-channel speaker, two rear satellite speakers and a dedicated subwoofer. While the speakers don’t exactly have a small footprint, the futuristic look and killer sound of the tallboy speakers will complement any room.
This compact Home Theatre in a Box (HTIB) uses signal processing to give the impression of surround sound from just two small satellites and a subwoofer. That beats having your buddies recite Scarface dialog from opposite sides of the room. Especially while you and your girl are watching The Notebook. We think this system sounds great, especially if your TV room just can’t accommodate the typical five-speaker setup. Bose’s latest refinements include updated signal-processing technology, a smaller DVD player/tuner unit Bose likes to call a Media Center (as if it’s going to deliver breaking news or something) and a redesigned remote control. If space is at a real premium, we like this (HTIB)’s upside.
Sony's answer to the Bose 3-2-1 System, the Sony DAV-X1 quality is right up there with the Bose system (for a thousand bucks it should make mojitos too!) Those two systems fall under the heading of “lifestyle-friendly" virtual surround systems, but really what they mean is “tiny-ass room.” An assortment of key improvements includes a slot-loading multidisc changer and automated speaker calibration. Like pretty much all-virtual surround rigs, the admittedly huge sound of the DAV-X1V will fool you into thinking you're hearing a multichannel system the moment you down that third mojito!
Sleek, simple, and small, this little guy puts the Hollywood Cinema experience in your living room with fewer wires, components and talent agents (popcorn not included). Dolby Virtual Speaker technology powers this amazing little setup and just like the Bose 3-2-1 and Sony DAV-X1 systems, delivers the full effect of a large 5.1 home theater system with just two satellites, a subwoofer, and an A/V center. It sounds great and may have the best bottom end of all of them! In the words of Spinal Tap, How Can I leave This Behind?
So you basically stick this rectangular (ugly) box on top of your TV, plug in an analog stereo RCA cable (how 20th Century!) find an outlet for a single AC power cord and press the power button and that’s it, you’ve got a damn home theater! No separate processor and amplifiers, multiple speakers, long, tangly speaker wire or a subwoofer hiding discreetly under your coffee table. The ZVOX 425 is “the world’s first full-range, wall-mount single-cabinet home theater with built-in subwoofers” and it “requires only one connecting cord.” Sold!
The entry-level SC-PT660 features a smooth-running five-disc DVD changer that up-scales video to 1080p, a surround speaker system, and even an integrated, flip-down iPod dock. It has wired speakers though so that kind of sucks. Still, for the price it’s pretty amazing what you get! It sounds great from the TV and pretty good from the CD and iPod. We think if you're on a tight budget and can live with the wired rear speakers, the Panasonic SC-PT660 delivers a great bang for your home theater buck.
C'mon, admit it. If you could upgrade something right now it'd be your Home Theater System. All of these pass the test of total and completely surround sound, visual awesomeness. Awesome!
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