Eye-popping entertainment

New gadgets enhance TV viewing experience

Each fall, DMA Electronics sees an upswing in DIRECTV subscriptions.

Many of the new subscribers are signing on just for NFL Sunday Ticket, said Mindy Newell of DMA.

But she doesn't receive many orders for new home theater systems, despite the advent of a host of new home entertainment hardware -- including digital video recorders and LCD televisions -- that can enhance the football fan's armchair quarterback experience.

In part, that's because DMA installs its systems -- wiring an entire house -- during construction, Newell said.

Once a home theater system is installed, homeowners wait for several years to upgrade, she said.

"More people want the best value so they don't have to come back. Every three to five years, they get new toys. They keep the best features and upgrade," she said.

DVRs, or digital video recorders, are one of the hottest items in home entertainment, said Tom Cotton of Bresnan Communications.

Similar to a TiVo, a DVR records a program as one watches it and allows viewers to rewind to previous moments in the program, while it still records. DVRs are essentially an 80- gigabyte computer hard drive, Cotton said.

Many of the district managers of Radio Shack are football fanatics, and they never have an unresolved argument over a play because they all have DVRs, said Ed McGuinness of Jackson's Office Supply and Radio Shack.

"The district guys get it and if anyone wants to argue a call you rewind it and play it back," he said.

Viewers can fast-forward through the recorded program to catch up to real time.

Cotton said Bresnan currently has a few DVRs out in the field, but he expects home entertainment buffs to begin transitioning from VCRs as the price of DVRs comes down and the public becomes more aware of their existence.

Watching any sporting event on high definition televisions is an awesome experience, McGuinness said. A liquid-crystal display television sits on display in Radio Shack's show room, but it carries a $2,999 price tag. All the same, people have been asking questions about it, he said.

At Craig's elevation, LCD televisions work better than plasma televisions, McGuinness said. The gas in plasma televisions tends to make a humming noise at high altitude.

High-altitude plasma televisions are available, but the prices are extremely high, Newell said.

Still, both televisions provide high clarity images and sound.

"Is it the wave of the future? The picture quality is better, but most people can't see the difference," Cotton said.

But with a quality speaker system, the improvement in sound is obvious, McGuinness said.

He said many people head out of town to replace their home entertainment systems, then come to his store for upgrades in wires and speakers. Radio Shack's wireless speaker systems feature a receiver that transmits a signal to speakers with small antennas that can be positioned anywhere.

But with wired systems, the quality of the wires makes all the difference, McGuinness said.

Rob Gebhart can be reached at 824-7031 or rgebhart@craigdailypress.com.

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