The Perfect Vision: Product of the Year
A serious hi-def home theater system for under $3500? That’s what we’ve assembled here from our Product of the Year contenders. In TPV 69, reviewer Lawrence Ullman called the Vizio P50 PDM monitor, at its then-suggested price of $2500, “the best value in the red-hot flat panel marketplace.” ( Full Review )The current model boasts all the qualities he praised, and has been upgraded with the addition of an HD tuner, while its price has dropped. As we went to press, the Vizio P50HDTV could be found through many retail channels at $1899, sustaining its lead as a high-value product.
Our chosen universal player is Oppo’s DV-970HD, whose video
performance, complete with 720p/1080i upscaling and HDMI output, is good, and whose well-rounded, multi-format audio performance is even better. If you can find a superior player for $149 (which we doubt), buy it; otherwise stick with the Oppo. One caveat: Don’t be surprised if you wind up spending more on good interconnect cables than you did on the player.
In the AVR department our favorite loss leader by far is Pioneer’s XM-ready, 7x110wpc VSX-816K. We were wowed by the VSX-816K’s open, high-resolution sound, and by features such as Pioneer’s signature MCACC automated setup/room EQ system—previously offered only on the firm’s more costly Elite-series receivers. The bottom line: This receiver sounds good and works well, meaning it’s nothing like typically wimpy-sounding budget AVRs.
Our recommended speaker system is an odd bird, in that the SLS Q-line Silver system is sold only as a quasi-HTiB (Home Theater in a Box) rig, complete with its own serviceable, but modest AVR. Our thought: Buy the Q-line Silver package for its 5.1-channel speaker system, and consider he AVR a cool freebie you can give to your kid sister. Don’t be fooled by the SLS speakers’ inexpensive-looking molded plastic enclosures; on the inside, the SLS satellites provide serious technology, including an honest-to-goodness ribbon tweeter flanked by a pair of
polycomposite mid-bass drivers. Recently, we’ve seen the SLS system offered by reputable retailers for the shockingly low price of $299 (no, that’s not a typo). At that price, nothing—and we mean nothing—equals the SLSs system.