Just for the sake of completion, the one that had caught my eye was the Sony DAV-S500. They call it one of their "dream systems." Ha. Makes me chuckle. Thanks again.
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Here's a combination that ought to do the trick. It will be light years better than what they're likely to get from a one box solution. And now, without further ado, here's the combination that I was talking about.
(01). DVD Player -- Toshiba SD-1700 -- Retails for around $200.00, though you can probably get one for around $130.00 to $150.00 on sale.
(02). Audio/Video Receiver -- Onkyo TX-DS494 -- Retails for around $330.00, but you can probably get it for under $300.00, also on sale.
(03). Speaker System -- RCA/Radio Shack PRO-LX550 sattelite/PRO-C550 center channel system -- Retails for $750, but wait until they go on sale, that way, you can get this system for 50% off of retail (here's a trick around this situation..... get them a Radio Shack gift certificate for around $400.00 or so, and tell them that it is for their speaker system, and that they should wait until they go on sale). A subwoofer is optional. They can get a subwoofer later on when they get their tax refund. That is, if they want one. And even then, I guess a RCA/Radio Shack sub would be sufficient for them. Personally I wouldn't get one, but for your parents, it may suffice.
Good Luck and Merry Christmas.........
Buy a $99 dvd player...no frills & the pic will still be much better than vhs. Home Theater magazine recently had 3 seperate systems set up with a $1500, $3000 & $5000 budget. These included the T.V. sets, so you may be able to stay within your budget. For the $1500 one they used the Kenwood HTB504 (home theater in a box) which is a receiver 5 speakers + sub and all the cables you will need. For the DVD they recommended the Toshiba SD-2700 as it has quality inputs instead of just coaxial. You can read the article at www.hometheatermag.com in their archives section november 2001 issue. The article is titled "the good, the better & the best". Myself, I would still go for 2 channel with an old nad receiver, some used speakers & a sub & a new cheap dvd player.
Home theater mag says you can get the Theater in a box at www.sears.com
Hey, if you can get me the Linn plus 5 speakers for $500, I'll take it in a second... On second thought, you could even leave out the speakers.
Honestly, I think I'm going to go with the Sony unless I see a great deal on a reciever / speakers combo and then throw on a cheap DVD player. Don't underestimate what we're dealing with here -- every time I come home to the parents place there is six months worth of tasks built up ranging from reprogramming the VCR, resetting the clocks, figuring out why the remote control doesn't work (yes, sometimes it's batteries) to hooking up X, Y, and Z new trinket. In short, anything more than idiot-proof just won't get used. Also, like anyone who has, over the course of years, dropped obscene amounts of money into stereo gear, and then another rather-not-think-about-it amount into HT gear, I promise that I have no problem figuring out how to spend MORE money on this stuff. The trick is how not to (compromise is a bitch, no?).
Finally, at the risk of outing my own parents, their "main" system is Bose and JVC. Yea, yea, I'd like to think that I have risen above my origins into a new realm of understanding. Mom's got a grand paino and plays nearly every day, so when I sit her down in front of my system I like to think I am making progress -- but Pop's a lost cause. Know your audience. I don't want to beat them up over trying to make them love something they think is a waste of money, and they don't want to get beat up. They're convinced I'm nuts, I assure them they just don't get it, and everyone's happy. $600 worth of Sony whistles and bells (which is still more than I could ever admit to having spent) will make them go "ooh" at appropriate moments, sound infinitely better than the little squeek-box in the TV, and it will be a merry x-mas for all. Thanks for your thoughts, and I hope ya'll have a wonderfull holiday.
Mezmo- I think you've got it pegged. My mother in law has to have me re-initialize the VCR every time the power goes out and won't rent a movie because she is afraid she will foul up the programming for her soaps. Don't know how old your folks are, but after about 75 they are not much for anything new or different. Tight integration, one dedicated remote and goof-proof may get used; any complications and you can guarantee it won't. Hope they enjoy it and have a happy holiday.
Mezmo: It's probably too late for this, but my advice would be to NOT give your parents a whole home theater. They probably don't want five or six speakers scattered around the living room, plus even the simplest HT receiver is a complicated device. Give 'em a nice progressive scan DVD and they'll be happy. (And ask yourself: who is this "better" system for: them or you?)