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Sound Advice: First-rate surround sound for an affordable price

By Don Lindich, McClatchy-Tribune News Service –

Q. I am looking to put surround sound in my apartment living room, which is perhaps 12 feet by 16 feet in size. I have the TV and Blu-ray already. What would you recommend for around $1,000?

—M.W., South Bend, Ind.

A. This is an easy one to answer since I recently did this in one of my bedrooms. You can get extremely good sound for $1,000 in a compact, high quality system using components from top-name brands. In fact, when you hear it the sound is likely to be a lot better than you were expecting!

I am going to recommend exactly what I bought for myself. To power the system I recommend the $399 Marantz NR1402 A/V receiver, which I have praised recently for its excellent sound and ease of setup and use.

Connect the receiver to the new 5.1-channel Definitive Technology ProCinema 400 home theater speaker system, which sells for $599 complete with 8-inch powered subwoofer. This is another one of those products that makes me want to stand up and cheer. It checks all the right boxes: great sound, a top-brand name, an affordable price, high-quality construction and innovative engineering that produces notably superior results. I hate to say it and possibly hurt Definitive’s feelings, but I think the ProCinema 400 sounds better than some of their more expensive systems of a few years ago.

The ProCinema 400 satellites are very small and have sturdy snap-off bases that can be removed if you wall mount the speakers. Though tiny, the satellites have a radiator on top of the cabinet that allows them to produce more bass than other speakers of the same size. The extra bit of bass from the radiator keeps the satellites from sounding thin or weak. The radiator is ribbed for stiffness and firmly sprung with a rubber surround. I get to handle a lot of speakers year after year and it is obvious a lot of precise, thoughtful engineering went into the ProCinema 400 satellites. Though they don’t have the bass “oomph” of larger bookshelf speakers, these satellites still satisfy.

The sonic performance of the ProCinema 400 system greatly exceeded my expectations, which were pretty high to begin with given Definitive Technology’s reputation. The ProCinema 400 satellites sound pure and clean without any hint of sterility, with precise, richly rendered tone that makes you forget you are listening to speakers at all. They effortlessly fill the room with sound, and the clarity and definition makes surround effects even more enveloping, cohesive and convincing. I gave the speakers a real workout with the “Avatar” Blu-ray and there wasn’t a hint of strain. At one point I felt like I was soaring through the skies of Pandora along with the characters on-screen, and it was at that moment I thought, “Wow, this is something my readers would really enjoy in their own homes.”

The only caveat to this system is if you put it in a much larger room it might start sounding thin, give the 8-inch sub and small satellites. In rooms the size of your living room or a bit larger, the Marantz NR1402 and Definitive ProCinema 400 speakers will provide a first-rate home theater experience.

Definitive Technology’s web address is

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