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February is the best time for families and friends to gather around the electronic hearth, and it's not just because it's cold outside. This is the month that the four big networks broadcast their top crowd pleasers starting with the Super Bowl and culminating with the Academy Awards. Viewers can enhance these spectacles with certain types of audio/video gear. So here, in chronological order, is our list of not-to-be-missed programs matched to the appropriate hardware that exploits each showstopper for all it's worth.
Super Bowl XLIII
Feb. 1, NBC
You'll want a super-size HDTV set to experience the big game in all its glory. After all, how do you expect to see something as puny as a football on a small screen? Jumbo flat screens abound including the Samsung PN63A650, a 63-inch plasma TV with 1080p resolution. The neighbors will be knocking down your door for an invitation. The same manufacturer has a smaller HDTV (but not too small) in the form of the Samsung LN52A750, a 52-inch LCD TV also with 1080p resolution
However, if you want that picture to loom even larger – like 300-inches – you should consider a front projector such as the Sanyo PLV-Z700 Full HD 1080p Home Theater Projector. Get a big screen to go with it.
Whatever size picture you choose, think about decorating your home with an appropriate canvas such as the Studio Dynamics Stadium Backdrop (6- x 8-feet). The backdrop, available in different sizes, is normally used by studio photographers. So, even if you're not photographing your friends in front of it, the canvas should at least help dampen their hoots and yelps.
To empower you with viewer control, you'll want a high-def DVR that lets you replay the fumbles, touchdowns, and wardrobe malfunctions in glorious slow motion. Consider the dual tuner TiVo HD XL DVR with a terabyte of storage suitable for saving 150 hours of programs in high-def. With its ATSC tuners, you can receive the game from an over-the-air NBC station even before your cable operator installs a CableCARD. (If you do have cable in place, TiVo lets you record the game from cable and over-the-air simultaneously so you can compare the quality.) Meanwhile, if you couldn't care less about the game but love the entertainment value of the pricey advertising, you can record the show, then skip over the football in order to watch just the commercials.
To accommodate extra guests, order a chair 4-pack such as one containing the Balt ReFlex Chair (Blue). The chairs are built to withstand abusive fans.
51st Grammy Awards
Feb. 8, CBS
A week after the visual action of the Super Bowl, audio is posed to dominate your home theater with what is arguably the best pop show of the year, the Grammy Awards. Before the music starts up, check your sound system. Broadcast in Dolby Digital 5.1, the program is engineered to put you in the sweet spot of the Staples Center audience. You can shop for separate audio components and assemble a sound system yourself or you can get an all-inclusive home theater in a box. On the higher end is the Bose Lifestyle V20B, an elegant 5.1 system with amazing sound. On the more economical end is the Onkyo HT-S6100 7.1-Channel Home Theater System. Both include an AV receiver (which Bose calls a Media Console) and all the speakers you’ll need.
Set one of these systems up in advance of the Grammys, and you'll be astounded how much a great audio system will bring to the show. By the way, these systems' surround speakers will be useful for watching football, too, since you'll be able to hear rabid fans screaming over your shoulder just like you're in the stands.
51st Daytona 500
Feb. 15, Fox
Keep that sound system ready for the following Sunday. Grammy Award winner and country music star Keith Urban will perform at the Daytona 500 during the pre-race extravaganza. As for the race itself at Daytona International Speedway, you should pay advance attention to the subwoofer. Vroom is best served up by a powerful sub. If you don't have one or own a system put together with separate audio components (as opposed to a home theater system, which already includes a matching sub), you may be ready for a new sub. Here's one of many, the JBL L8400P Studio L Series 12-inch 600-watts Powered Subwoofer. Plug it into your receiver, and get ready to feel the Speedway.
As a flourish, sport a pair of Konus Konusol Proevent Sunglasses. After all, it is afternoon in Florida.
81st Academy Awards
Feb. 22, ABC
While a flat screen TV noticeably complements the slenderness of actresses walking the red carpet, a darkened home theater with a front projector suspended from the ceiling pointed at a wall-mounted screen has more in common with the aesthetics of the movies. There are a variety of 1080p projectors available, but opting for a 720p projector will save you some money and its native resolution matches the high-def format favored by ABC (as well as ESPN and Fox). One to consider is the Optoma Technology HD65 DLP Home Theater Projector.
Keep in mind that combining a big-screen HDTV and TiVo (see above) is a great way to study the moment when each winner is announced and the screen is split into close-ups of the nominees. Replay the picture in slow-mo and look for the smile transformed into a grimace or straight face turned ecstatic. Also, you'll be able to experience clips from the latest Oscar-nominated movies often for the first time outside a cinema in the grandeur of your home theater.
Finally, for that extra bit of atmosphere, you can install a pseudo red carpet of your own in the form of Savage's Widetone Seamless Background Paper #8 in Primary Red. At 26-inches in width and 12-yards in length, this pathway can lead right through your front door, though you better tape it down and advise guests to be careful not to rip it.