Image: Theater chair
This chair has speakers built into the cushions for a real seat-of-the-pants experience.
By Columnist
updated 6/23/2005 1:25:29 PM ET 2005-06-23T17:25:29

This year’s Home Entertainment Show at the New York Hilton is chock-full of big-screen TVs, and everything for your home theater from projectors and screens to some really super seating choices, speakers, vinyl LPs and even some items that fit in your pocket.

In the TV department there are flat-screen plasmas, LCDs, DLPs, plus one-chip and 3-chip projectors, most of which can be found in one room. Samsung has some very impressive HDTVs on display, including their 61-inch, Digital Light Processing HL-R6167W model.

Digital television doesn’t necessarily mean the same thing as high-definition television, and the people at RCA were eagerly explaining the difference.

They were showing off their 27-inch 27V514T standard-definition digital TV set. It has a 4:3 ratio 27-inch picture tube. It looks a lot like TVs you’ve watched over the years, but the big difference was that this set has a digital tuner. 

Image: RCA's 27-inch digital TV
RCA's 27-inch digital TV.

The same TV set with an analog tuner was placed right next to it. Both were fed by the same indoor antenna buried behind the display set-up.  Both were tuned to the same over-the-air TV station – one picking up the analog signal the other locked into the digital.

The difference was mind boggling. The analog set’s picture was plagued by ghosts, snow and noise. The digital set was pretty great. RCA calls it DVD quality.

I’ll have a lot more to say about this TV, but the most important thing you should know is that the suggested retail price will be under $300.  For those who want the benefits of receiving cable-quality digital video with an antenna – sometimes you might even be able to use ‘rabbit-ears’ — this TV is the first of what might be a flood of terrific affordable sets.

In the home theater displays areas I saw a lot of great looking set-ups, but what caught my eye was the chair from BodySound Technologies. It’s simply called their theater chair. Their pamphlet describes it as “the fusion of hearing and feeling resonating throughout your body.”

I’ll describe it as a seat-of-the-pants experience. One channel is aimed at your back, another at your posterior. It attaches to your home theater system via cables or a wireless module.  Thrills don’t come cheaply, though. The BodySound chair sells for $2,750. And by the way, the seat is actually comfortable even without the special effects.

Small system, big sound
There are many rooms with great looking and sounding two-channel audio systems, but no home entertainment gathering, these days, could be considered complete without a bunch of items that take advantage of iPods and compressed music. The best ones I’ve seen and heard come from a company named Zvox. 

They have two wonderful small sound systems that let you plug in your music, computers, satellite radios or even LCD TVs. You can even think of it as a single-box home theater speaker system with built-in amplifiers.

Their model 315 is 17-inches wide. Their new Mini is only 13-inches wide. Both have built-in subwoofers.  Both sell for $199. And the 315 comes with a remote control. There’s an optional rechargeable battery ($49) and a carry case ($49) for the Mini. I have to tell you — both provide knock-out sound. The bass coming out of these small boxes is quite impressive.

For better or worse, if you want to hear what your iPod really sounds like, I highly recommend either Zvox. They sound amazing and are well priced.

Image: I-Sonic
Polk Audio
The I-Sonic can do AM, FM, digital AM and FM, DVD, CD and even XM!
Keeping up in the all-in-one-box theme, Polk Audio was showing off their new I-Sonic boom box. It’s a compact home entertainment system (14.5 in. x 9.75 in. x 4.75 in.) with an AM/FM tuner, a digital HD radio (for high definition AM and FM broadcasts) and a DVD/CD player crammed inside. But, that’s not all. For $49, the price of an XM Connect and Play antenna, the I-Sonic is also a satellite radio receiver. There are 30 presets, a headphone jack and lots more.  Suggested retail price is set at $599.

As for headphones, there are new offerings from Sennheiser, including the new lightweight, affordable and ‘over-the-ear’ HD201 ($24.95) and HD215 ($149.95), plus two new ultra-compact noise-canceling models, the  PXC150 ($129.95) and PSC300 ($219.95).

Image: E3c
Shure Incorporated
The E3c, pictured here, and its new sibling, the E4c, are amazing sounding earphones.
At the other end of the spectrum there was an all-new earphone model from Shure called the E4c. With a suggested retail price of $299, it fits between the great sounding E3c ($179) and the top-of-the-line E5c ($499). Get rid of that piece of junk that comes with your iPod and hear the difference.  It’s the best present you can give yourself — or someone else. (Hint, hint!)

There’s a lot more to explore at the Home Entertainment show. It runs through Sunday, May 1.

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