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Innovation

Holiday Gift Guide 2008: High-end home theater setups

Economy be damned, you want to upgrade your home theater—and do it right—for the holidays (and/or in anticipation of the Super Bowl). If you have the means to spend more than two grand on a set and the hundreds and hundreds more to round out your setup with primo components, you won't lack for superb options.
Written by Sean Portnoy, Contributor on

Economy be damned, you want to upgrade your home theater—and do it right—for the holidays (and/or in anticipation of the Super Bowl). If you have the means to spend more than two grand on a set and the hundreds and hundreds more to round out your setup with primo components, you won't lack for superb options.

High-End HDTVs

Panasonic Viera TH-50PZ800U

Believe it or not, you can get Panasonic's fantastic 50-inch 1080p plasma for around $2,000, showing how even top-of-the-line sets are free falling in price. As with the best plasmas, the TH-50PZ800U produces deep black levels that most LCDs can't hold a candle to. But what really sets this HDTV apart is its inclusion of THX Display Certification; the THX mode automatically calibrates the picture according to the content being displayed, so you don't need to endlessly tweak picture controls manually for the best image quality.

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Samsung LN46A950

Thanks to its LED backlighting, this 46-inch 1080p set is one of the few LCDs that can even compete with plasmas when it comes to black level performance. It also offers the best color reproduction around. You're paying for the bleeding-edge technology, but you're also getting the best LCD available that doesn't cost $7,000.

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High-End Speakers

Definitive Technology Mythos SSA-50

This soundbar solution is a step up from cheaper versions, including tweeters for the front channels, which sit in front of the mid/bass drivers. The result is precise sound that better emulates a five-channel speaker system. Depending on your love of bass, you could even get away without a dedicated subwoofer with the SSA-50. You will need a dedicated receiver, but it's a small price to pay for this sleek unit.

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Definitive Technology ProCinema 800

Definitive Technology is on a roll, and the ProCinema 800 is another fine offering for those who want a true 5.1 surround-sound speaker set. Despite the small size of the satellites, they output impressive audio, as does the 300-watt subwoofer. The satellites also have a more attractive finish than cheaper competitors, providing both style and sonic substance.

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High-End Blu-ray Player

Samsung BD-P2550

You can find a Blu-ray player for under $200 these days, but if you can afford more, the BD-P2550 gives you some additional bells and whistles. In particular, it lets you stream movies from Netflix's Watch Now service and stream audio from online music service Pandora. Of course, this device handles its disc playing with aplomb, performing well with Blu-ray titles as well as upconverting standard DVDs with superior HQV video processing.

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High-End Universal Remote

Logitech Harmony 1000

Finish your home theater setup with flair with Logitech's first tablet-sized universal remote. It comes with a 3.5-inch color screen and a docking station for recharging its battery, and you can use it via RF with the purchase of an optional extender. And since it's a Harmony remote, it's easy to program with its Web-based setup, so you won't have to call in a home theater specialist to show you how to use it.

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