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How to Buy a Home Theatre System Part 4: What should you pay?

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Part 4: What should you pay?

We return to our series on buying a home theatre system, after numerous requests for a guide to pricing. It comes down to one crucial question: what’s your budget? JOEL KOPPING delves into what you get for what you pay.

My previous three articles on How to Buy a Home Theatre System (What you need, Sound advice, Power to the receiver) all focused on the features and issues you should look at when buying a system.

Inevitably most people wanted to know how much they should spend on their new Home theatre system. This question is often expanded into their wish for a high-end system, or an entry-level system, or even a mid-range one.

My problem with answering this question is that I’ve never been able to define exactly what the terms Mid-range, High-end or Entry-level actually mean.

If you’re lucky enough to be a millionaire then your entry level system would be a working stiff’s dream system.

I was once phoned by an acquaintance of my brother who, on hearing that I was involved in the Audio and Video industry, thought I could get him huge discounts from every distributor on the planet (by the way, I can’t).

When I asked him what his budget was, I was told that money was no object.

Taking him at his word, and being slightly irritated that the only reason this person deemed me worthy to be phoned was to get a discount, I said something like: ‚Right, then let’s start at a million Rand.‚

What followed was the sound of static from the other end of the line. After waiting a few seconds, I asked if he was still there. A slightly subdued voice replied that he was and that R1 000 000 was more than he wanted to spend. When pressed, he said he wanted to spend around R20 000.

Clearly budget was an issue.

I mention this as it’s important to have some idea of how much you want to spend on a Home Theatre system. This helps in deciding on what products to look at, and it also makes a salesman’s job easier as he will have an idea of what to show you.

Sometimes it’s a good idea to spend a little more, to get a system that will perform to your expectations, than to save a little bit of money and buy a system you won’t enjoy.

So what can you expect to pay for a Home Theatre system that fulfils the requirements I laid out in parts one to three of this series?

The following pricing for Home theatre systems assumes that people are looking for a High Definition-capable system. This means that the source component will be a Blu-ray player and the corresponding A/V receiver is capable of decoding High Definition audio formats. My trusty Audio Video Magazine Buyers Guide lists Blu-ray players from around R1 900 for the Panasonic DMP-BD45. Samsung, Philips and LG all have models at a similar price, and you can spend a lot less if you’re lucky enough to find a special at a large retailer.

For interest sake, Blu-ray player are listed up to around the R70 000 mark. At the other extreme, a Pioneer DV 220K DVD player can be had for around R500. A/V receivers that Are HDMI equipped and that can decode start at around R2 600 for a Pioneer VSX-520, and models from Marantz (NR1501) and Onkyo (TX-SR308) retail for a little under R5 000. From there, the sky’s the limit and there are models that sell for around R100 000. Fortunately, many distributors offer pretty big discounts if you buy an A/Receiver and a Blu-ray player as a package. Marantz Distributors HFX Systems (www.hfx.co.za), for example, offer their NR 1601 receiver (R7 999) and their UD 5005 universal player (R6 999) that plays pretty much all disc-based formats, including Blu-ray and SACD, for R12 299 combined. This represents an 18 per cent discount off the normal retail price. HFX Systems has dealers nationwide, so you don’t have to be up in the big smoke to get this deal. You can get the Cambridge Audio 650R A/V receiver (R12 990) and their 650 Blu-ray player (R8 990) as a package for R19 999 from Volco Enterprises. If you’re a Yamaha fan, you may want HD video but not necessarily HD audio. You can get their RXV-367 A/V receiver, BDS 667 Blu-ray player and a set of NSP surround sound speakers (and a set of Yamaha earphones too) for R7 990. For just a little more, you can upgrade this to a Full HD audio and video system. One of the best ways to get good value for your speaker budget is to buy surround sound packages, and the AVSA Buyers Guide lists these from R2 990 for a Yamaha NSP 280 package, up to R1 103 700 (no, this is not a mistake) for a full JBL Synthesis K2 system. Finally, cost aside, my usual caveat about any system still applies: to get the most out of a system, it has to be correctly installed and set up.

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