Theater 2000 boosts old stereo systems' clarity...

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July 10, 2000

Theater 2000 boosts old stereo systems' clarity, richness

Connecting the black box that Spectrum Research calls Theater 2000 to a two-speaker audio/video system was akin to taking wads of cotton out of my ears.

Theater 2000, employing technology that Dolby Labs has certified as "virtual" for Surround Sound-like effects, wrung more audio from my old setup than I would have believed.

Yes, it boosted the volume a tad - about 3 decibels, Spectrum says. But a bypass button let me compare the playing of soundtracks with Theater 2000, then without it, proving to myself that I wasn't just hearing things.

With the unit in TruSurround mode, I winced from the piercing clang of metal on metal when hangar doors opened in a video of "Independence Day"; explosions from alien missiles seemed to rumble not from the two 18-year-old stereo speakers in front of me but from a much wider area.

In 3-D Sound mode, Theater 2000 produced a clarity and richness from CDs that my system previously couldn't touch. The remote allowed me to adjust the music for the best sound according to where I sat in the room.

For the product to work best, Spectrum recommends that the TV and VCR be run through a stereo receiver with a tape monitor, although alternative hookups are explained.

Theater 2000 connects to a receiver with RCA jacks.

The $199 Theater 2000 isn't the equal of genuine, five-speaker surround-sound systems. Then again, many of those cost hundreds of dollars more.

Information: www.theatersound.com or 1-877-857-3484.

-- Rick Barrick/KRT

New flat-screen monitor saves space at high price

When considering the purchase of a monitor, you have to ask yourself: "Flat-screen or cathode ray tube?"

After a two-week trial of IBM's new T54 15-inch flat-screen monitor, I'd have to answer "CRT." Unless space is your prime consideration, there's no point in spending $979 on an ultra-compact, ultra-light monitor when a hefty 17-inch CRT model available for $300 or less works just as well.

Not that the T54 doesn't perform well. If you have more money than space, this sleek number will give your workstation that cutting-edge look.

The screen is 15 full inches and bright with extremely saturated colors. Graphics are presented crisply, and there's little of the shadowing that was so annoying in earlier liquid crystal-display monitors.

Text is a different matter. Boldface text was a bit chunky, especially when using America Online. And unless you're a longtime laptop user, the image "bleaching" that occurs when you view the screen from a side angle is annoying.

Most of the controls are black-on-black and hard to make out, though they're easy to use once you identify what you want.

IBM promotes the T54's energy savings, but until another energy crisis develops, I'll save the money and stick with my trusty old CRT.

Information: 1-800-426-4968 or www.ibm.com/ pc/us/accessories.

-- Martin Zimmerman/KRT

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