Adam Besse is a friend I met through random coincidences. We've found out we have similar passions and I want you to know this guy knows his stuff - production or gear, he knows it. This is a longer post, but worth it! I promise! "Dear Santa, I want an Official Red Ryder Carbine-Action Two-Hundred-Shot Range Model Air Rifle!"

ok, so maybe I don't want a Red Ryder Carbin-Action rifle for christmas, it's just one of my favorite things to say this time of season. My good friend Matt Hawkins gave me an invitation to do some blogging.

Some quick background on myself/qualifications for writing said article - I gunslinged the sales floor at *Big Box Retailer* (which will now be referred to as BBR for the rest of the article, as I don't want the BBR that I work for to think that I am writing this on their behalf or whatever they may think) for 3 years, and have been working as a Home Theater Installation Specialist for said BBR for the past 1.5 years. I claim to be NO guru on home theater. But I don't feel lost in it, and teach it out 6 times a day. May be even to some of you. I'm just going to go through a bunch of questions I get asked daily, or problems I encounter, or whatever else I can think of. I won't go into the specifics of contrast ratio, or wattage.. I will try and keep this as simple as possible.

SO without further ado or in any particular order - The Unofficial Rambling Holiday Home Theater Survival Guide -Down to Earth Edition !

You want to buy a new tv? You have had your tank of a tube tv starring back at you for ever. You think to yourself "man, the picture is awesome on this thing why would I ever get rid of it?" Well my friend, cause its big clunky out dated technology with piss poor picture. And sound.. Yah, you are connecting it to your digital cable box, but it still looks like garbage. There should be no question in your mind. Go out and snag up a new flat panel. They are dirt cheap right now. The television that is.

9 out of 10 people that I talk to about home theater say the same thing. " I went in to just spend 9 hundy on a tv and came out spending 2 grand." Double the price.... How and why?!?!

Well A) they weren't prepared. B) they weren't educated on what they were least not until they dealt with a sales associate C) they weren't prepared.

If you are going in to just buy a FLAT PANEL HD (High Definition) Television, and are hooking it up to basic cable, STOP right now. Don't do it. Save your money. Even if the TV is dirt cheap. It WILL look worse then your tube tv. A standard definition tube tv displays a regular cable signal at the SAME resolution. A high def TV will do lets say double the resolution of a tube TV (nerdy know it all I told you I will not go into specifics, I am breaking this down in the easiest possible way. If you want exact numbers and math conversions of resolution or features goto CNET. ) Not only that, but the new HD TVS are more rectangular instead of being sqaure like the tubes. The aspect ratio is completely different. Regular cable is square (4:3 aspect for the nerdy know it all ) and the Flat Panels are Widescreen (16:9 aspect ratio). So this means if you put a regular feed into the HD sets, you will still get a square image unless you STRETCH it to fill the whole screen up... Or as my customers say " Short and Fat" . Sure a lot of the newer generation of panels have improved on this and conform the pixel aspect ratio to not look as stretched, but either way, its streched..

Well that sucks. Yep. Come join the rest of us.

Get a High Definition source of some sort.

You say - "I don't watch much TV.. mainly movies" Ok, cool. You probably don't care about regular cable then, or how it looks. If you are more of a movie kind guy/gal, then you want to make sure you get your self hooked up with a slick piece of hardware. Right now DVDs are a thing of the past. BLU RAY is the next craze phase. And I love it. Picture and Sound (if you have the right surround sound set up , which we will chat about later) are awesome. A Blu Ray movie plays in full HD. It will match your new tv's resolution.No questions asked. Get a blu ray player. Samsung has the BDP-1600 for dirt cheap right now. It's like $180 bucks..may be even cheaper when you are reading this.. This is crazy. Less then a year ago they were more like 250 to 300 bucks. They probably wont get cheaper, so don't tell yourself you will wait.. Just be happy and buy it.

If you want to spend a little more, get a Playstation 3. I still feel this is the best blu ray player out there..In my opinion.. Sure it will cost more then stand alone players, but you can do sooo much more with it. Its not JUST a game console, I rarely play a video game on my machine. It just does so much. You can stream movies, music, pictures from your computer. Yes so can a lot of stand alone players now, BUT the playstation does it a million times easier, and has a built in wireless network card. Which the other players DO NOT have.. you either spend a lot more and go to one that does include it , or you buy the wireless stick seperatley. The Ps3 slim is like 299.. OR probably 150 bucks when you buy a tv. ITS THAT TIME OF SEASON when deals like that ARE around.

So you got your Flat Panel TV, BluRay player (which still plays regular DVDs and upconverts them to give you a little better picture. IT WILL NOT MAKE IT HIGH DEF. But it will clean it up) what else?!?!?! Oh, well you need a cable to go from your player to TV. This is the most debated topic when discussing home theater. And I dont want to argue or prove facts or any of that. You NEED an HDMI cable. spend 50 or 300 dollars on an HDMI cable. You probably wont be able to spot the difference. And if you are questioning yourself on this, then you arent anal enough to want to spend the extra money so that you have the highspeed cable. Monster cables..yah they are more expensive. They ARE higher quality cables. They are more durable. The cheap cables are just that. Cheap cables. The end might break off if you reef on it too hard or in an akward position (aka mounting the tv, and trying to move it or adjust it..things like that).

Ok. what next. Plasma or LCD. I absolutley hate this question. When working on the sales floor I would hear this question with every customer.. I would want to shoot myself in the face everytime I would hear someone start to say this. Its not as bad anymore since installing the gear, but I still hate this question.

I like plasma. I prefer plasma. I own an LCD but wish I had a plasma. I ended up buying a flat panel tv years ago when they were three times the price then they were now. My LCD came up as a screaming deal that I could not pass up. So I bought it. But I still wish I had a plasma, and my LCD knows that.

whats the diff?!?!

LCD is brighter, which DOES help in brighter rooms. However the reflection you get off of plasmas (because they have a glass) is pretty much the same on LCDs now. LCDs have more of a reflective screen these days. Mainly to try and give better black levels on the sets. So the reflection debate in my mind doesnt exsist anymore. Burn in- not a big issue anymore for plasmas, most plasmas have anti-image retention technology built into their menu systems to hook you up if you run into issues. But regular watching..I doubt it will happen. Even if you sesh a lot of games. Running it as a computer monitor I would be a little more worried, but even then.

The craze with LCDs now is the 120hz and 240hz sets. GET RID OF THE MOTION blur. I dont know if I am the only person out there that thinks this, but the `120hz and 240hz on LCDs looks like garbage.. It takes the realism away. Makes the image look 100x more processed and fake. Unrealistic. I just cant stand it. I want to puke everytime I see it. I just dont get it.

I would say go plasma, looks more 3D, realistic, better viewing angles, better colors, better black levels.. just feels better to watch a plasma.

Umm. Ok so this is turning out to be a lot longer then I expected.. And I doubt anyone is reading this. I also have a feeling that I have missed stuff, and its generally getting to be a massive article.. Lets shorten this up with few extra points?

-Should you wait to buy after christmas, boxing day?!?! Well people. There will always be a sale. Lucky for us, there is usually a 30 day price protection policy. TVs, Speakers and the works will always get cheaper, or there will always be a deal. Look at the stuff that you want, price it out and dont think... well I will wait and see what happens to the prices. Cause they will usually get cheaper.. And when you go to buy it when it is cheaper something else might come along for a better price.. I mean really the cycle never stops.. Find the product and price you are comfortable with and go for it.

- Warranty? Well In my opinion its a good idea on big ticketed items. Myself, I don't want to be out a ton of money. I like the idea of being protected in case there is a problem. Sure I may sound like a salesmen.. but I am not. At least not anymore. Ive seen it all. Ive seen people with warranty get screwed around. Ive seen people with warranty get the world given to them, Ive seen people walk in with a faulty product and leave with a brand new even better product, ive seen the faces on people who havent had warranty. And in my opinion I would rather take the chance with warranty and if its not used, so what, its like saying, well I havent been in a car accident ever. I shouldnt pay for car insurance.

-USE THE INTERNET. Do a bit of research. Every question you want to ask the sales person. ASK GOOGLE. whats the difference between plasma and LCD. Whats the Best amplifier out there, blah blah blah.. Get a little knowledge and then go in and talk to the salesmen and have a convo with him about the product. See what he/she knows.

- Just because you are a customer it doesnt mean you have to treat the salesmen like shit. NOT every sales person is a slime ball. Ive dealt with commission and non-commisioned sales people and its usually the commisioned sales person who is more helpful and knowledgeable. Sure you know they are going to make money off of you. So what. Don't be an ass. Chances are the less of a dick you are the more the sales person will want to help you and go that extra mile. The grinders who grind on price. Those are the people who a sales person will most likely walk. Be up front, find out what they can do for you. Its such a competitive market that they will generally give you a solid deal. But if you are buying generic brand equipement that is on sale and are buying no accessorys or warranty or anything..Well you wont be getting much more then the price it is. Also think about this when you are going in there. When you go to buy groceries, and you buy a shopping cart full of it. Do you ask the cashier, hey I'm spending 130 bucks you think you could give me a break on the jug of milk..

Summary -

I need to end this, because really I can go on and on and on about various things when shopping for home theater stuff. And I am positive I missed a bunch of stuff. The thing is and the most important thing, there are a million articles out there about home theater. There is way more information then what I just wrote , stuff you can actually learn from. I'm not saying go in an be a pro about it all, just know some basic stuff. Know that you are going to need some sort of High Def source to make your picture look good. And you will need some sort of cable to make that HD source connect to your HD tv...and the list goes on.

The best place I find to check on TVs or Amps, etc. is CNET. they usually are pretty up to date with their reviews on products. Go there see what they rate the best tv for the money and see whats comparabale at your local store.

Enjoy it too! Cause again, thats the whole point of buying a new tv right?