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The Home-Entertainment Makeover

An advertising executive’s puny TV and stereo (plus his wire-chewing dog) make for a less-than-thrilling living-room experience. We asked an audio-visual expert to give his system an overhaul.

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The Mess:
The sound on Follett’s TV is annoyingly tinny, yet he can’t attach external speakers because his dog chews up wires.

The Cleanup:
Opt for smaller external speakers with wireless accessories.

Most flat-screen manufacturers, Fuller says, “don’t bother to make the internal speakers any good, because they already expect you to have a full stereo system.” Vizio’s Sound Bar ($350 at Sears, 2307 Beverley Rd., at E. 23rd St., Flatbush; 718-826-5800) is a relatively inexpensive step up.

“It’s got a compact form, so you can lay it on a cabinet right underneath your screen,” he says, “but the quality still mimics a surround-sound experience.” The wireless woofer sits discreetly on the floor without being used as a chew toy.


The Mess:
Follett wants to upgrade his “stereo system”—a MacBook and a cheap pair of external speakers— so he can play music in different rooms.


The Cleanup:
Set up extra “audio zones” by networking additional speakers throughout the house.

To help Follett play music in the kitchen without dragging in his laptop, Fuller recommends pairing an Apple Airport Express (available refurbished for $85 from apple.com; works with Macs or PCs) with a small speaker set like the USB-powered iHome iHM77 ($50 at J&R Electronics, 23 Park Row, nr. Broadway; 212-238-9000), which can draw power right from the Airport instead of tying up another wall outlet. Plug the speakers directly into the Airport’s mini-plug jack, and the Wi-Fi connection will stream music from a computer anywhere else in the house. “This will genuinely change my life,” says Follett.


The Mess:
Follett would like to improve his 23-inch TV-DVD combo as cheaply as possible.

The Cleanup:
Buy directly from a manufacturer.

Many high-definition TV companies, including Sharp and Philips, are currently dangling deals on new and last-generation models. As long as you don’t mind receiving occasional promotional e-mails, an HDTV can be had for hundreds of dollars less than retail. “The sweet spot for discounts is in the 32-inch-screen range, which is big enough for most apartment living rooms,” says Fuller. But stay away from combo TV-DVD models like the one Follett currently owns: “It’ll only limit your options in terms of finding good deals, and you can get a good stand-alone DVD player for $40 anywhere.”



The Mess:
He puts “obscure art films” into his Netflix queue and then loses interest by the time they arrive weeks later.

The Cleanup:
Eliminate the time delay by using an on-demand box for instant gratification.

Movie-streaming boxes abound, and even game consoles like the Xbox 360 and PS3 can be used to play movies over the web—but Fuller prefers the Roku digital video player ($100 from roku.com) for its built-in Wi-Fi, super-easy setup, and recent addition of 40,000 Amazon titles to Netflix’s already formidable 12,000-film catalogue.


The Mess:
Whenever Follett wants to watch TV (often late at night), his wife doesn’t want to hear it. And vice versa.

The Cleanup:
Watch silently with wireless headphones.

Follett has tried tethering himself to the TV with headphones, “but I figure, I’m in my own house—I should be able to sit more than three feet away from my television.” Fuller suggests Sony’s stereo Bluetooth headset and transmitter adapter ($99.95 and $49.95 at B&H Photo & Video, 420 Ninth Ave., nr. 34th St.; 212-444-6615), which beam sounds up to 30 feet. “Bluetooth doesn’t require an unobstructed line of sight in order to work,” Fuller says, “so you can tuck the transmitter away anywhere you like.”


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