Big rooms usually make the best home theaters - the whole family can stretch out comfortably, and you can also invite friends to watch a football game or after-dinner movie. But with all that space, you'll need to super-size both your TV and speakers. Front-projection systems - two-piece rigs that use a small ceiling-mounted projector to beam images at a separate screen - deliver the biggest pictures. But rear-projection HDTVs are another, more flexible option for rooms that can't pull off the crypt-like darkness that front projectors require. Rear-pro sets come in screen sizes from 46 inches all the way up to a staggeringly big 73 inches, and they're driven by a variety of technologies, including LCD, LCoS (liquid crystal on silicon), and DLP (Digital Light Processing).
The same rule that applies to HDTVs in large spaces also carries over to speakers: Bigger is better. Fortunately, there are a number of slim, décor-friendly systems that will blend in with your room while still delivering a really big sound. With a room this large, you'll want to look beyond compact satellite/subwoofer packages to a system using either on-wall or tower speakers. Larger spaces tend to suck up bass, so the subwoofer's size and output capability become important here. You might find you'll need a bigger model than you thought - or even a second sub altogether - to get bone-shaking impact with action-movie soundtracks.
Mirage Omnisat V2 Series Home Theater Speaker System
Until recently, most tower speakers were space-hogging monoliths. But they looked petite next to the even bulkier tube-based rear-projection TVs, so nobody complained. Now, with technologies like LCoS helping shrink the depth of rear-pro cabinets, tower speakers have slimmed down, too. Mirage's Omnisat V2 FS front left/right speakers are a fine example of the svelte new breed. The company's distinctive, top-mounted omnipolar driver array - a feature also found in its V2 CC center and V2 surrounds - delivers a wide, lifelike presentation that doesn't skimp on detail. The S10 subwoofer, a deep-bass diver sporting a 10-inch woofer, rounds out the $2,400 rig.
The Mirage system's black aluminum cabinets nicely match JVC's similar-toned HDTV. Even more important, its sound will equal the impact of the set's 70-inch screen, with more than enough volume for stuff like explosions and helicopter flybys. You can thank the S10 sub for much of that power. Mirage's new ribbed elliptical woofer design helps increase efficiency and lower distortion, letting the sub play louder and lower than most others in its price range. Chances are you'll need only a single S10 even in a room this big. (Reviewed in September 2005)
JVC 70-inch HD-ILA rear-projection HDTV
You probably could make do with a smaller TV in this space, but a 70-inch rear-projection TV will ensure that nobody - the dog included - misses the onscreen action. With full 1080p resolution and a mechanical iris that delivers deep, nuanced blacks, JVC's LCoS-driven 70FH96 ($6,000) will please high-def sports aficionados and movie fans alike. It also has a sleek, matte-black finish and an up-to-the-minute suite of video inputs. Aside from delivering gobs of high-def picture detail, the key advantage of 1080p-res HDTVs is that you can sit close to the screen and not see distracting pixel structure in the image. But that advantage diminishes with distance, so you might want to opt for a less expensive 720p-resolution model if your couch will be far from the screen. (Reviewed in February/March 2006)
If ambient room light is an issue for plasma TVs, it's even more of a problem with rear-projection models. Once you've adjusted the TV for best picture quality, you'll probably find that the image isn't nearly as bright as what you saw at the store. No problem - just draw the drapes and dim the lights, and your picture will shine.
As for sound, you'll want to make sure the subwoofer is set into a corner to get the most bass. And mounting surround speakers high on the sidewalls or on the ceiling will give you the widest, most dramatic surround sound effects.
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