Sound vs. picture: What's a better investment?

When budgeting your home entertainment dollars, should you go for the latest and greatest video, or think long-term satisfaction?

For long-term satisfaction, speakers trump video every time. Steve Guttenberg

A good friend of mine is still fuming over picking HD-DVD over Blu-ray. He's held the grudge so long he just recently dumped the player and even some of the discs and bought a Blu-ray player.

I know another guy who's steamed that his $2,000 6-year-old receiver doesn't have HDMI switching, so to get Dolby TrueHD and DTS Master Audio he plays his Blu-ray over the receiver's 5.1 channel analog inputs. Fine, but the receiver doesn't do any sort of bass management over its analog inputs. The sound isn't so hot.

Do you know anybody who bought a plasma TV in 1999 for around $10,000 who still uses it as their primary display? I don't, but I'd bet most of those buyers are on their second or third display by now.

But a large percentage of folks who invested in great speaker systems for stereo or home theater five or even 10 years ago are still enjoying great sound. I know tons of folks still using stereo speakers they bought 20 or more years ago. Video formats come and go, and today's high-resolution displays will inevitably become yesterday's news. Displays and video-related audio formats keep changing.

CDs and LPs have been around for decades and will be for decades more. Blu-ray? Who knows? High-end speakers and power amplifiers may appear to be expensive to buy, but they're cheap to own over the long haul.

My point, don't short-change your next speaker purchase to buy a new display or player.

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