A few weeks ago, we received our federal tax return, and with the First Time Homebuyer tax credit, we got quite a hefty sum. The bulk of that money is going right back into the property with a few home improvement projects. But we took a small chunk and set it aside to complete the entertainment system. So I went ahead and bought a receiver and a set of speakers. What a difference it makes. I’m not new to the 5.1 surround scene. In college, I had a shelf stereo system that was actually an all-in-one theater system: a 3 CD/DVD changer, two boom box speakers, and three satellites (center and two surround speakers). This was a vast improvement over the TV speakers at the time, though the system wasn’t perfect. It only connected to the TV via RCA component cable and didn’t process DTS sound. The picture quality was sub-par as was the overall build quality. Eventually, it had problems and became more of a hassle than it was worth, so before moving out to Idaho, I finally got rid of the thing. It had been boxed up since my parents moved to Virginia 4 years ago anyway.

So here I am, finally with decent sound again. It really does make the movie watching experience that much more involved, and I can actually watch movies with the DTS track. But more importantly, I can listen to music once again, like really listen to it. Had I unlimited funds to spend, I would have certainly bought speakers and a receiver specifically for the music experience. But I’ll make due until then. What’s really great is that our Blu-ray player also plays Super-Audio CD’s (SACDs). A while back, I had bought a couple of hybrid SACD’s since they were the same price as the regular CD album with the hopes of someday having a system to take advantage of the SACD layer. All I can say is WOW. I’m not even sure how to describe the difference, but I really wish that the SACD format had taken off. Unfortunately, the audiophile is becoming a rare breed as we sacrifice sound quality for the convenience of the digital MP3 format.

Speaking of Blu-ray, we got a chance to test out the system with our firs Blu-ray disc. Erin’s favorite movie is First Knight with Richard Gere and Sean Connery. She lost her DVD copy in the move and has been bummed out about it, so when I saw it on sale for less than $10 on Blu-ray, I figured I’d make her happy. Those Blu-ray ads at the beginning of new DVD’s aren’t kidding when they talk about improved quality. The picture is crisp and clear, and the frame rate must be higher as it displays fast motion quite smoothly. The most important picture improvement has got to be the color depth and compression quality. Even though the DVD’s get unscaled to high definition, I can still notice artifacts and banding in gradient tones, all of which are seemingly nonexistent with the newer format. So, I think I’m hooked, though I will likely save my Blu-ray purchases for specific movies that I deem worthy. That leads to the question: will it be worth upgrading to the Star Wars original trilogy and the Lord of the Rings extended editions on Blu-ray?

So, now that I’ve got everything set up, it’s time for a movie night party.