Electronic gifts for everyone

PLUGGED IN

November 27, 1994|By JOE SURKIEWICZ

In the holiday gift guide that ran in the Nov. 27 issue of Su Magazine, Audio-Video Interiors was misidentified.

The Sun regrets the errors.

First, families gathered around the radio. Then, a black-and-white TV became a living-room essential. Next, it was color TV and cable. What electronic gadget for the home will the family unwrap this holiday season?

There's a whole new world of electronic wizardry on the market, including pizza-size satellite dishes, home theaters that make videos as vivid as movies at the multiplex, and an electronic cookbook that fits in the palm of your hand.

FOR THE RECORD - CORRECTION

SOMETHING FOR EVERYONE

* It's a channel-surfer's dream come true: RCA's Digital Satellite System.

"Digital transmission is the clearest type of reception you can get," says Roger L. Spurgeon, president of Action Antenna Earth Satellite Corp. in Arbutus. "You get CD-player-quality audio and the picture is superb -- there's nothing better. And you can install the dish almost anywhere."

The system uses an 18-inch-diameter dish to capture digital TV signals broadcast from satellites. The dish passes the signals to a VCR-size receiver, which is hooked up to a customer's television. The receiver lets customers select from more than 150 channels.

The cost is just under $1,000, including installation; plus $6 to $65 a month, depending on the programming package you choose. At the higher end of the price range, packages include multichannel premium services such as HBO, Showtime and 40 to 50 pay-per-view channels. In addition, more than 25 commercial-free music channels are available.

The systems are sold by several distributors in the Baltimore area, but don't be surprised if the demand for the system affects its availability.

"It's available in 12 to 15 states already and there's a tremendous shortage of supplies," says Mr. Spurgeon, whose company sells and installs the systems. "I could sell 1,000 units a month -- but if I'm lucky, I'll get 50."

* Another buzzword of electronics retailers this holiday season is home theater.

If you think a videocassette recorder, a 19-inch color television and a couch qualifies, think again:

"A bare-bones home theater has a Surround Sound receiver with five channels of amplification and a VCR with hi-fi VHS, which has the ability to read the better hi-fi sound track on a tape," says John Dorsey, president of Soundscape stores in Baltimore.

For the basic components of a home theater, estimate you'll spend $600 for a 27-inch television, $300 for a receiver, and $600 for five speakers and a subwoofer (specialized speaker), he says. Add about $400 for the VCR. If you're looking for a better system, expect to pay up to double this estimated $1,900 investment.

If you already have a modern television and VCR and you want home-theater sound, consider adding the Sony SA-VA3 (about $800), which has the Surround Sound electronics and amplification built into speakers.

* The anchor of any home theater or satellite system is a high-quality television.

Panasonic's "super flat line" series of sets is winning trade-magazine awards for high performance.

"The flatter the screen, the less distortion you get around the edge and there is less glare," explains Eric Szyz, manager of Video Wizard in Cockeysville. "They also work better in rooms with difficult lighting" than do other types of televisions.

The Panasonic sets come in two sizes: the CT31SF21 ($1,199), with a 31-inch screen; and the CT27SF21 ($799); with a 27-inch screen.

SIGHTS AND SOUNDS

* If you envision a laser-disc player under the tree, consider the Pioneer CLDD503 ($599 list price.)

"It's a player that plays both sides of the disc at a reasonable price," Mr. Szyz says. "Some people get really irritated at having to turn the disc over in the middle of the movie."

* Camcorders are another gift the whole family can enjoy. New this season is the Nikon 870 ($995), which features a black-and-white viewfinder and a flip-out color screen that can be used for taping or playback.

"People liked the Sharp version that came out last year with a color screen instead of a traditional viewfinder, but they didn't like holding it," says Matthew Cooper, general manager of Cooper's Camera Mart in Baltimore and Baltimore County. "This model answers everyone's needs."

* Compact-disc players that hold more than one CD are popular gifts.

"Good, multiple-CD players are available from a lot of manufacturers," Soundscape's Mr. Dorsey says. "For example, the Denon DSM340 ($279) holds five discs, and you can change four of them while one is playing."

KEEPING KIDS HAPPY

* How about electronic items for the younger set?

"The arena is taking two paths -- games and learning toys," reports Christopher Byrne, editor of Market Focus: Toys, a toy-industry newsletter.

"For computer games, the hottest Christmas gift will be Doom II." You can battle the forces of the nether world on an IBM-compatible computer for $43 (3 1/2-inch disk) or $49 (CD-rom).

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