A home theater receiver, or AV receiver, is similar to a traditional stereo receiver but has more channels and input and output capabilities to accommodate the additional speakers - usually at least five - that are a part of most home theaters. These five-channel receivers re-create the movie experience with all-out surround sound or with a more neighbor-friendly "night" setting that tones down the blasts and rumbles. If you plan to play DVDs, you'll need a receiver with Dolby Digital decoding, the audio standard for digital television.

The DVD player is here to stay, as the VCR is going the way of the eight-track tape player. Today's DVD players also play CDs, so consider a five-disc changer model. If you're still intent on getting a new VCR, consider investing in something other than bottom-of-the-line models. Your picture and sound quality will only be as good as what's coming out of the VCR. Look for a high-fidelity model that will deliver stereo sound.

Although most AV receivers have five channels, having eight speakers has become the norm in home theater: three front and four surround sound speakers, and a subwoofer. This is what really separates a true home theater system from a larger television set connected to a two-channel stereo receiver. The five channels allow the rockets seemingly to fly out of the TV, pass over your head, and explode behind the couch, and the subwoofer produces only the lowest of earthshaking sounds. The receiver and the speakers don't have to be made by the same manufacturers: Jensen recommends Tannoy speakers, while Wilson recommends Sony products. Whatever you choose, don't skimp on the speakers.