Sunday, July 15, 2007

Looking for the perfect gift for the man who has everything? How about some quiet time and a remote control?

Women with buying power are taking time out of their busy schedules to do something special for their mates. They are enrolling in a home entertainment gadget class for beginners where they learn the difference between plasma televisions and big screens.

The Audio-Visual 101 class, offered at Acute Home Theaters of Norcross, Ga., is designed to help ease conscientious women into the idea of purchasing high-tech toys for their homes, with their husbands in mind.

“Most women don’t think about home theaters,” says Zahanine Streeter, who owns Acute Home with her husband, Newton. “Typically, they are something that guys want, we think costs a bazillion dollars. What I tell women is, ‘If you take the money you spend on your hair, your nails, your shoes and clothes for the year and invest the same amount in the home theater the husband has been asking for, you could purchase a $6,000 system.’ ”

Some women who attend the class are looking to equip a “man room” where their husbands can go to sink into a comfy couch and scream at a basketball game. Others simply want to spruce up the family den with a television set that is functional, not too boxy or intrusive.

“My husband is certainly interested in the newest technology — HDTV, LCD, plasma. It’s like another language just to understand it,” says Kristin Connor. Mrs. Connor attended the gadget class at Acute Home recently to learn the TV lingo. She hoped to understand why her husband and two sons would want to invest their disposable income in a flat-screen TV rather than the new kitchen counters she wants.

“Our television is probably seven or eight years old,” Mrs. Connor says. “They want something more sophisticated. The boys love their video games.”

The audiovisual beginner class provides the basics someone should know before stepping into an electronics store.

The class meets once a month. Women talk technology over chocolate muffins. They chat about equipment, wiring and a touch-screen remote that can run everything in the house from DVDs to the security system. Students leave equipped with handouts about gadgets like DLPs (digital light processors), which use mirrors to broadcast an image. They also learn about problematic flat screens that “burn” an image onto a screen as a permanent shadow.

“That can be particularly irritating when you are trying to watch a football game,” says Mr. Streeter, an audio-visual consultant with 20 years of experience.

But before the class gets rolling, the Streeters drop this bombshell on students: You may need to upgrade anyway. On Feb. 17, 2009, some televisions will become obsolete. A federally approved technology upgrade will allow signals to televisions to switch from analog to digital. Noncompatible sets won’t work unless they are connected to a converter box or programming service.

“On that date at midnight your TV set will look like snow,” Mr. Newton told students recently. His candor was received with gasps. “Folks don’t know this. Knowledge is power.”

Acute Home’s packages can range from just over $1,200 to about $16,000. A recent $1,299 Daddy’s Den special included a basic home theater in a box with surround sound, while the deluxe $16,000 model includes a projector system with the trimmings — lighting, a remote control, an eight-piece sound system and leather theater seats.

Lisa Grell has her eye on the deluxe model. She wants a projector TV that she and her husband, Mat, can use to entertain their two children and guests.

“We have this great room with high ceilings that has a beautiful entertainment center and a really small television in it,” she says. “I like the idea of having a movie night every so often.”

Paul Eben, a cardiac recovery nurse, has already gotten his wife to agree to splurge on a home theater. His system has everything he ever wanted — big sound and a big picture.

“I have a plasma hooked up to some speakers,” he says. “You can feel the sound pounding in your heart … but you don’t know where the speakers are. They are decorative.

“Now that it has been installed, my wife loves it,” he says. “It’s a gift from us to us.”


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