Geoffrey Long
Tip of the Quill: Archives
HD on the cheap.

I know, I know – I've been harping on this whole home theater thing for over a week now. Only a few more posts, and hopefully I'll have this out of my system.

This evening I realized something interesting: I think I may have successfully constructed an entry-level 1080p HD home theater for well under $2000. The majority of the cash was dropped on the TV, a Vizio VU42LF that I acquired at Costco for around $1099. The HD-DVD player is an Xbox 360 ($350 at Amazon) with the HD-DVD add-on ($180 also at Amazon) with the Pioneer HTS-GS1 5.1 Surround Sound Speaker System ($100 at, although it's currently unavailable). Add onto that the Logitech Harmony Xbox 360 universal remote ($79.99 at Amazon), an XtremeHD TOSLink optical audio cable ($10.99 on Amazon) and the Xbox 360 VGA HD AV cable ($33.99 on Amazon) and the whole kit and caboodle comes to $1775 before taxes.

It's not the greatest system in the world – the sound is solid but not as jaw-dropping as you'd get in an Onkyo TrueHD setup, and the picture is crisp and beautiful in HD but the blacks aren't as rich and dark and solid as you'd find on a Samsung – but considering that the grand total is less than many people would pay on a TV, I'd say this is a great setup for someone just entering the world of home theater. I plan to upgrade the setup bit by bit over the next half-decade or so, of course – I'll probably start with a PS3 this summer so I can grudgingly follow the rest of the world to Blu-Ray, and maybe upgrade the TV in a couple of years, followed by the sound system – but for someone on a limited budget and trying to pay down their student loans and whatnot, this is a great, great system. New college grads, grad students, media scholars and creative professionals take heed!

In the name of full disclosure, I should add that I do have some extra components in my own setup that bump the final cost to over the two grand mark: the cable box, of course, as well as a Wii, an Apple TV and two HDMI cables running them to the TV. A second TOSLink optical audio cable is also required to wire these beasties into the speakers, and an XtremeHD HDMI switch will have to be added to the kit when a PS3 enters the scene because the TV I bought only has two HDMI ports in it – but since it does have a VGA cable and my Xbox 360 is old enough to not have an HDMI port, this setup is dang near perfect for me. Yesterday's unveiling of new Mac Pro towers without any high-def disc drives suggests that Apple is still holding off on the HD front, but hopefully they'll add HD content to the Apple Store so I can get it onto my Apple TV.

Whatever. I'm currently watching the third season of Lost in SD on this system and the scene where gunmen are tramping about overhead in the boat freaked me out so much in surround sound that I had to pause it and check there wasn't someone really banging around upstairs. Money well spent indeed!


Hi, and heres a neat advice to Xbox 360 users with HDMI and Audio Output.
re plugging the new AV cable in then losing video: try using a screwdriver and popping the lower plastic casing off of the connector on the cable that comes with xbox 360 pro. It will fit perfectly with hdmi plugged in at the same time.
For me, this is how things will look like in '08: cant get any better than this: CNet's 5 big home audio.
speakers cables guide

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