The basic home theater setup is a large television, a source of video, such as a VCR or a DVD player, an audiovisual receiver, and at least five speakers, plus a subwoofer. "It reproduces all the rumble, action, and dinosaur footsteps," says Rick Jensen, owner of Custom Technologies Inc., a home theater consulting and installation firm based in West Hartford, Connecticut.

On the bargain basement level, a handful of manufacturers offer home theater packages - usually five speakers, a receiver, and a DVD-CD player - for as low as $500. For those with a room to spare and a little over $5,000 to burn, incredible adventures in sight and sound await. "The general public's equipment has really come down in price, and there are a lot of options within a manufacturer's line," Jensen says.

If you plan to bring home theater to your place, don't think that you have to throw out your existing system. If you bought your stereo system and VCR in the last couple of years, there's a good chance that it's already set to become part of your new system. But if you want to spring for a complete home theater package, Wilson recommends allotting half of your budget to the picture and half to the audio equipment. For an optimal viewing experience, you'll also want to invest in heavy curtains, remote control light dimmers, and comfortable furniture.

SCREENS
When it comes to improved quality, image is far behind sound, for the moment. The much-discussed HDTV is just around the corner, yet there are still a few years to go before all television is high-definition. Today, broadcast stations in the major markets have just a few hours of programming in HDTV, and the larger-screen high-quality televisions are still on the expensive side. Plasma screen TVs and rear projection sets are sure to stretch most budgets. For that reason, traditional tube televisions still offer the best picture for the money. Sony's Trinitron WEGAs are available in sizes up to 36 inches so that you'll be ready when the broadcasters catch up with the TV makers.