Progress report... Yesterday was audio-visual day here. The various components of our new system started showing up on Wednesday, and by Friday afternoon the last of them were here. I spent the entire day assembling and wiring an AV equipment stand, a TV stand, speakers, amplifier/receiver, TV, cable modem/DVR, and BluRay player. We picked out a pretty basic system, with a 5.1 speaker arrangement (left/right/center front speakers, left/right surround speakers, and a sub-woofer), but with good gear. The amplifier is a Yamaha, speakers Atlantic Technology, BluRay player Oppo, and TV from LG.
By yesterday afternoon I had the system wired to the point where I could try it out, and the results were very satisfying. Music in stereo sounds better than any other system I've ever owned. The imaging (i.e., hearing where instruments and voices are located) is particularly good. The surround sound part has a bewildering set of options and tweaks that I've just barely begun to explore. However, a test with a Lord of the Rings BluRay showed that it was all working fine.
It's been quite a few years since I last purchased any AV gear, and things have changed quite a bit since then. Perhaps most surprising to me: every piece of the gear is now network connected. At least one of them (the amp/receiver) has a web server built into it. The amp/receiver also has the ability to update its firmware over the Internet – when I first lit it off, it came up with a message telling me there was an update and offered to download it! I haven't connected the BluRay player or cable modem/DVR to the network yet; I'm not sure what they do with it. The TV has the ability to play movies from the Internet, and Debbie is planning to make good use of that with our Amazon Prime membership, as it comes with free access to many of the movies and series she likes (especially some of the British TV series).
Today I have a friend coming over to help me lift the TV (which weighs 80 pounds) up onto its elevated stand. It was a bit too heavy for Debbie to feel safe about hefting half of it. After that I'm going to be spending the day connecting the rest of the gear to the network, bringing up and configuring a universal remote (BluMoo), and tweaking things until we're happy with the setup. Once it's all working the way we want, and we've got the final positions of all the equipment, I'm going to be making all the wiring “disappear” into the walls and under the floor. Right now we've got wiring running over the floor, which for some reason Debbie's not real fond of :)