I spent today setting up a home theater, not because I had my heart set on owning one, but because I finally got to the point where I had too many things to connect to the TV. I went with this RCA package due to its power, price, and ample number of inputs on the back (most low priced “home theater” systems have a minimal number of inputs, this one has a couple dozen on the back).
Even though it was an integrated package, getting my tivo/satellite, vcr, and dvd player talking to the receiver was a bit of a pain, and doesn’t operate as smoothly or as easily as I envisioned. Two things were pretty lackluster about it; the remote is supposed to be able to control up to five devices, but the manual only lists codes for tv, vcr, and cable boxes (not a single dvd player is listed). The second thing is that all devices have to use the same input types if you want to be able to switch between sources. In order to watch a tape on the vcr, I’d have to get rid of the s-video inputs and go with lower quality rca cables throughout. So for now I’ve got to contend with multiple remotes and I have to unplug the s-video to the tv whenever I want to use the vcr (which isn’t very often, thankfully).
While poking around for setup tips, I found Donald Norman’s screed on the ails of home theater design and I can say now, after having gone through an installation, everything he said is exactly right. Industry folks should print it out and post it above their desks, as there’s no way the average consumer will take the time to learn the pointless jargon and work around the limitations of various standards.