Samsung's HT-F9750 home theater system embraces future and past with tubes, 4K upconversion

Vacuum tubes are an anachronism in any modern home audio device, and even more so if that same device supports the cutting-edge 4K resolution standard.

Samsung's HT-F9750 doesn't shirk from the unusual juxtaposition, with the 7.1 channel home-theater-in-a-box (HTIB) system featuring both glowing tube preamps and 4K upconversion. Although both features look and sound cool, they're more gimmick than anything else. The tube preamp (which is paired with a digital amplifier) promises a more "natural" sound, although I didn't hear anything particularly special when I listened to the tubeified DA-E750 last year. And … Read more

Poll: Sound bar speakers vs. home theater in a box systems

It wasn't that long ago that Sony, Panasonic, Samsung, and Onkyo were locked in a fierce competition in the home theater in a box (HTIB) market. Every year I'd report about the latest advances in their systems in my CNET reviews. These days, fewer people want to deal with all of the wires and setup requirements of a five-speaker, subwoofer, receiver, and Blu-ray player based system. Skinny sound bars that sit under a TV are now more popular than HTIB systems. Most sound bars are 2.0- or 2.1-channel stereo systems, though some promise a "virtual&… Read more

Hands-on with Unity home theater

During CES, I got a chance to hook up with Engage, the company behind Unity, a well-built home theater system.

Unity is the brainchild of Todd Beauchamp, an ex-Apple audio engineer (he worked closely on iPhone acoustics, for example) and Mike Fidler, an individual with a strong marketing and engineering background in Sony.

The sound system looks familiar because it has a design similar to the many sound bar and subwoofer combos out there, but stacked on top of each other. Unlike most sound bars, Unity's modular design has a depth to it that can support a 60-inch TV.

I quickly learned that the idea is a "system that can be set up in little as 15 minutes," Beauchamp said enthusiastically. You can tell that a lot of time and dedication went into the first version of the home theater and future versions could be compelling as the design evolves. … Read more

LG's Blu-ray home theater systems bet big on wireless rear speakers

LAS VEGAS--LG's latest batch of home theater systems will make it tough for other manufacturers to treat wireless rear speakers as a premium feature.

LG announced four new home Blu-ray theater systems this morning at CES 2012, with all but the entry-level BH6720S featuring wireless rear speakers. That's a big shift from years past, when wireless rear speakers were typically only available on the flagship model.

The major features break down like this:

LG BH6720S: Smart TV + Wi-Fi + 3D LG BH6820SW: Smart TV + Wi-Fi + 3D + wireless rear speakers LG BH9220BW: Smart TV + Wi-Fi + 3D + wireless rear speakers + Bluetooth + &… Read more

Samsung's Blu-ray home theater systems get tubes, cloud DVD storage

Samsung's audio announcements yesterday included an innovative sound bar and tube-based iPod speakers, the company also rolled out its new line-up of all-in-one Blu-ray home theater systems.

Two new systems were announced, the HT-E6730W and HT-E5500W, both with a similar set of core features, including built-in 3D Blu-ray, hybrid vacuum tube amplifiers, built-in Wi-Fi, and Samsung Apps.

The higher end HT-E6730W is a 5.1 home theater system features two tall-boy front speaker, while the HT-E5500W has smaller, bookshelf front speakers. The press release mentions that the HT-E5500W has two HDMI inputs and an iPod dock; it's … Read more

Is Unity a true all-in-one home theater system?

At first glance, the Unity Home Theater is a T-shaped speaker system that looks like a Jenga tower of home theater equipment.

The setup aims to give consumers a Swiss Army Knife of entertainment with the inclusion of a 5.1 surround sound bar, subwoofer, Blu-ray/DVD player, HDMI pass-through, surge protector, and TV stand (up to 60 inches) in a single package. A power cord to Unity and a HDMI connection to the HDTV would be the only wires you would need to get started.

A home theater system without a jungle of cords that uses only one remote is enticing, but is Unity the end-all accessory for someone buying a first HDTV? I recently had a chance to speak with the co-founders of the company behind the product, In2Technologies. … Read more

Get a Philips Blu-ray home theater system for $198

Remember when a Blu-ray player all by itself cost $400? Talk about the bad old days. Thankfully, times (and prices) have changed.

Today, for example, Wal-Mart has the Philips HTS3251B/F7 Blu-ray Home Theater System for $198, plus sales tax and around $6 for shipping (or not if you choose site-to-store). That is one mighty fine deal.

Let's start with the Blu-ray player. You'll want to run an Ethernet cord to it so you can take advantage of features like BD-Live 2.0 and Netflix streaming. (The product description suggests that the player also supports Wi-Fi, but it … Read more

Are home-theater-in-a-box systems yesterday's news?

The home-theater-in-a-box systems (HTIBs) I reviewed 10 years ago were pretty lame, but I've been amazed by the progress of these systems over the years. The best of the breed, like the Onkyo HT-S990THX and the Samsung HT-BD1250, produce astonishing sound quality for not a lot of money.

But the market appears to be moving away from HTIBs, as more and more of today's buyers are opting for easier-to-install sound bar speakers. I can understand why; HTIBs may be one-box solutions, but they still require extensive setup routines, and you have to run wires to five or more … Read more

Get a Blu-ray home-theater-in-a-box for $219 shipped

Audiophiles and videophiles alike tend to turn those noses up at home-theater-in-a-box (HTIB) systems, the idea being that the closely integrated components rarely measure up to standalone counterparts. But I think in terms of price and simplicity, they're hard to beat.

In fact, here's one that's really hard to beat: Sixth Avenue Electronics has the Panasonic SC-BT230 Blu-ray Home Theater System for $218.88 shipped. That's after applying coupon code AFL4COUPON at checkout. (FYI, I'm not sure how long that coupon is good.)

I'm no audiophile myself, but I know decent specs when I … Read more