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Super Bowl Special: How to Build the Ultimate Home Theater
The single most watched event on television is the Super Bowl. The Nielsen Co. says that an estimated 111 million people saw the Green Bay Packers outlast the Pittsburgh Steelers in professional football’s ultimate game in 2011. Unfortunately, many watched it on a simple TV. We think that’s just wrong.
Watching sports on television is a way of life here in the U.S. Over the past 25 years, some of the most popular events on the airwaves have been sports-related. There are some fairly straightforward reasons for it. Psychologists say sports teach us about loyalty, perseverance and honor. Watching them gives us a way to bond with our fellow man. It’s cathartic. And allows us to live vicariously through the players and teams we follow. Plus, we just like sports -- no other reason is really needed.
So why not watch your favorite games, especially the big one, the ultimate home entertainment system for sports enthusiasts? To figure out what that would entail, we turned to Jonathan Ages, editor of BloodSweatAndCheers, a free daily newsletter guide to the best sports life in New York City. If anyone knows more about where and how to watch sports, we haven’t met them.
The Ultimate Super Bowl TV
“Plasmas are better for most sports-watching situations,” says Ages, and we agree. “They typically have less blurring of fast-paced action, and still offer better image quality than LCDs.”
With excellent black-level performance and accurate color reproduction, this 59-inch plasma can handle bright rooms well and exhibits nearly perfect screen uniformity, as well as superb 3-D picture quality. Plus, it comes with a comprehensive set of picture controls. “You’re going to want to increase brightness and contrast during day games, and adjust for differences in image quality when you switch between channels,” says Ages. It also comes with built-in Wi-Fi and the Smart Hub Internet portal, which boasts more apps and streaming services (such as NetFlix) than the competition, along with a functional Web browser. “With Wi-Fi, you can quickly and efficiently check fantasy sports updates and chat/heckle league opponents during the game,” says Ages ($2,999, Samsung.com).
The Ultimate Super Bowl Surround Sound
“You’ll be amazed how heightened your enjoyment of a game will be when you can clearly hear the crack of a ball and bat, the smack of a hockey stick or the sound of a shoulder pad digging into a football player’s chest,” says Ages. “And 7.1 channel surround sound will make you feel like you’re in the heart of the action.”
To get surround sound, you need both a surround sound processor and amplification.
Emotiva Electronics Sound Processor and Amplifiers
Emotiva might be a relatively new name in the audio world, but it’s anonymously been making gear for some of the biggest names in high-end audio for years. It’s an Internet-direct brand and, thus, is able to sell better-quality gear at value-oriented prices. Its products are feature-laden and very reliable. They also happen to sound amazing. The XPA amps offer up practically no coloration, yet deliver tons of power. And the UMC-01 preamp/processor is no slouch either. You’d be hard-pressed to find a better system for double the price (UMC-1 7.1 channel preamp/processor, $699; XPA3 three-channel amp, $529; XPA2 two-channel amp, $799; Emotiva.com).
Bowers & Wilkins Speaker System PM1 and PV1
The PM1 is an exquisitely finished, compact two-way monitor that sits among product line just under their lauded 800 Series but above the CM Series. The PM1 is the first and only speaker (thus far) in its range, so you’ll need seven of them to complete the 7.1 channel surround system. According to Andrew Robinson of Home Theater Review, “The PM1’s soundstage is phenomenal, possessing both width and depth that easily exceeded the boundaries of my room. Mate it to a single PV1 subwoofer (or two) and its aural footprint becomes that much bigger and its performance that much stronger” (Seven PM1 Bookshelf Speakers, $9,800 at $1,400 each; PV1 Subwoofer, $1,700; Bowers-Wilkins.com).
The Ultimate Super Bowl Gaming Console
“Halftime shows are for amateurs,” says Ages. “You want to play video games, like ‘Madden 2012’ or ‘Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 3.’”
Xbox 360 250 GB With Kinect
This slick-looking console offers a solid gaming and entertainment experience. It’s armed with integrated Wi-Fi and tons Web-entertainment features. With a subscription to Xbox Live, you can challenge -- or play cooperatively -- with other gamers, access and update your Facebook and Twitter accounts, and stream or download the latest content from ESPN, Last.FM and Netflix. Plus, it delivers visually. The system’s graphical output is light-years beyond the Nintendo Wii and is on a par with the Sony PlayStation 3. Our only dig is that it doesn’t have a Blu-ray drive. However, that is forgiven because it does offer Kinect, which turns your body into the game controller, mirroring your movements in the game ($399.99, XboxLive.com).
The Ultimate Super Bowl Blu-ray Player
While you might think having a Blu-ray player in a sports-oriented entertainment system is a waste of money, we beg to differ.
Sony Internet TV NSZ-GT1
This Blu-ray player is the first to offer integrated Google TV. While Google TV doesn’t currently offer many advantages, it does allow you to get easier, integrated access to ESPN streaming video, for example, so you can watch an Internet-based analysis of the last touchdown during half-time. And it has a dual-view feature for watching TV and surfing the Web at same time ($399.99; SonyStyle.com).
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