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Integrated systems

Many home-theater systems include a progressive-scan DVD player, and some newer models include a Blu-ray player. The player might either be built into the receiver or be a separate component. Systems that integrate the DVD player and the receiver in one box tend to offer a bit less functionality and fewer connections than those that have two separate components. Integrated units are somewhat simpler to set up, but they might not allow you to connect video devices other than a TV to the receiver. Some systems bundle in a VCR as well.

Price: $150 to $1,500 for typical systems, and $2,000 or more for systems aimed at audiophiles.

Separate components

Some consumers already have a DVD or Blu-ray player or simply prefer to keep the receiver and player separate. This choice offers more functionality and more connection options. These units are not as easy to set up, but they might allow you to connect video devices other than a TV to the receiver. Also, because each device has its own controls, they tend to be somewhat easier to use than an integrated device.

Price: $150 and up.

Multichannel systems

Other systems save space and simplify installation by using only two or three speakers plus a subwoofer. Those give you multichannel sound—typically left and right front channels and a center channel. But without rear speakers, they are not able to reproduce true surround, and they’re not full-fledged home-theater systems.

Price: $100 to $2,000.

Sound bars

If you want a simple way to enhance your TV’s sound without going to the trouble of assembling a full surround-sound system, you might be interested in sound bars. These are thin bars, sometimes about 40 inches long, that hang on the wall or sit on a shelf very near to the TV. The bars contain two to five speakers in a single enclosure, and some connect to a separate subwoofer. The advantage is that you can connect a sound bar directly to your TV, without using a receiver, and you’ll have few wires to deal with—and none that must run to the rear of the room. Speaker arrangement or electronic techniques are used to provide multichannel sound or to emulate surround sound.

Price: $300 to $1,800

Bose, which is known for its audio products, has single-, 2.1-, and 5.1-channel systems in its product lineup. These systems are offered with and without an internal DVD player. Bose products tend to be higher-priced.

The Denon brand is well known for its products in all categories of home-theater products, including single-, 2.1-, and 5.1-channel units. It also has surround sound bar units that are 1.1 (single bar speaker and subwoofer) or just a single bar speaker. The 5.1 systems are usually not offered with a DVD player included, while the 2.1 systems do include an internal DVD player. The products tend to be mid- to high-priced.

While generally known for its standalone audio components, Harman Kardon also has 5.1 home theater packages, which are generally mid-priced.

Well-known for its audio products, JVC offers 1.1-channel surround-sound bars, 2.1- and 5.1-channel systems with and without an internal DVD player. The cost is considered low- to mid-priced.

LG Electronics owns the Zenith brand in the United States. Its products include 5.1-channel home-theater systems with an internal DVD player or a Blu-ray player. Its products include 5.1-channel home-theater systems with an internal DVD player. The cost is considered low to mid-priced.

Onkyo products include 5.1- and 7.1-channel systems with and without an internal DVD player. Prices start at the mid-range and increase with additional features.

Panasonic manufactures 2.1-, 3.1-, and 5.1-channel systems that usually come with an internal DVD player—and in at least one case, a Blu-ray player. The products are competitively priced and widely available, including at Costco.

Philips has products in all home-theater categories, including the surround sound bar with subwoofer (with an internal DVD player), 1.0-, 1.1-, 2.1-, and 5.1-channel systems. Philips uses the Magnavox brand for its entry-level value products aimed at mass-market retailers. Philips products are now made by P&F, a joint venture between Philips and Funai, while Magnavox models are made by Funai.

Alco Electronics, a large Chinese consumer product company, acquired RCA’s name and product franchise for video products in 2007 and continues to introduce new products to this category in the value market, using the RCA brand.

Samsung carries all categories of home-theater systems including 1.1-channel sound bars, 2.1-, 5.1-, and 7.1-channel systems, including some with Blu-ray players. Prices tend to vary, ranging from low to high.

Sony makes consumer home-theater products in all categories, including a virtual surround sound bar and 5.1-channel systems, including some with Blu-ray players or wireless connectivity. Sony products cover the market, from low to high, with models for every budget.

The leading LCD TV brand Vizio now offers sound-bar speaker systems to complement its TV line.

Yamaha sells products in all categories of home theater, including surround sound bars and 5.1-7.1-channel systems. Prices tend to be on the higher side, but the line generally includes some mid-priced models.

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