This Christmas, I wanted to purchase a decent starter Home Theater System. Luckily, I found this forum. Here's my buying and set up experience. I've gone into great detail because the information I found on this forum was great, and I wanted to give something back by compiling some of it into 1 post for future users that are looking for an inexpensive set up. Here's what I started with: 15' x 18' living room, 35" Sony Trinitron, Sanyo DVD player, and 10-year-old JCPenny stereo. I had never watched a movie on a Home Theater System, so my frame of reference for what sounds good is limited to 1) I know what a movie theater sounds like, 2) I went to large retail stores that have systems set up, and listened to many systems at different price ranges, and 3) I know what my 10 year old JCPenny stereo sounds like. Frankly, I don't know much, but here are my recommendations to someone just starting out in Home Theater, from someone just starting out. My budget was $500 or less (without DVD player). I wanted to get something a couple steps up from the bottom, inexpensive but good. I don't plan on upgrading much, but I wanted to purchase with an upgrade path in mind, just in case. Not knowing anything about HT, I scoured the Web and retail stores to get info. What I can tell you is that the majority of people both online, and in retail stores, will recommend the Kenwood HTB-504 as your best bet for under $500. Here's the most recommend options I came up with. All have good reviews, and price under $500. 1) Kenwood HTB-504 600 Watt Home Theater in a Box 2) Spend a little more to buy a good receiver and main speakers that can be upgraded later 3) Don't buy a home theater in a box no matter what; instead purchase a separate receiver (Kenwood VR-507 or Onkyo TX-DS494) and speakers like Home Theater Direct Level 1 or Fluance AV-HTB. (Search for reviews on these speakers). Basically, the ease of purchase lead me to buy the Kenwood HTB504. I could walk into Sears and get it, and it was a little less than the other options. Additionally, I feel I could keep the receiver and sub, upgrade the speakers later, if I decided to. Following advice I found here, I took a print out of an online retailer price into Sears, and they matched it, no problem. I got my system by matching http://www.mjshow.com for $379. My Sears sales person didn't add shipping to the price, though they did later when I bought a DVD. A couple days later, I returned my month-old Sanyo DVD player to Wal-Mart, so I could replace it with a Panasonic DVD-RV31K. The Sanyo was given to me as a gift, and the Panasonic would only cost me $20 more than the Sanyo. The Panasonic seemed to be the best cheap DVD player from the reviews here. I bought the DVD player from Sears, and price matched etronics.com at $148, the Sear's salesperson added $10 shipping, no matter. I also looked at the Pioneer DV-440 which is super slim, and supposedly has real good audio. It would have been about $20 more, and doesn't have a lot of reviews yet, so I stayed with the Panasonic DVD-RV31K. This brings us to my current set up, 15' x 18' living room, 35" Sony Trinitron, Panasonic DVD-RV31K, and Kenwood HTB-504. Wire: I took another tip from this site, and bought some 12 gauge speaker wire at Lowe's (closer for me than Home Depot) to hook the system up, it's made by Acoustic Research and was 0.27 a foot. For newbies like me, here's some clarification. You can use the wire that comes with your HTB if you’d like, but 12 gauge speaker wire should provide better sound. The speaker wire comes on a 100-foot spool; they'll cut whatever length you want. The wire is copper in color, with clear plastic insulation, and will be thicker than you expect. Other wire recommendations I found here include Sound King 12 GA from http://www.partsexpress.com. System setup notes: My DVD-player and DirecTV receiver are hooked into the Kenwood VR-507 receiver that comes with the HTB-504, and out to the TV through S-Video cables. I hooked the DVD player up to the receiver with an optical digital cable, and the DirecTV with analog cables. The VR-507 receiver lets you adjust the levels of any of the speakers up or down. You also enter into the receiver how many feet from the sweet spot (middle of my couch) each speaker is placed. Most of my 5 speakers are about 8-10 feet away, and I've left all my speaker volume levels flat, except the sub, with I have set at plus 3. The volume knob on the sub is set in the 1 o'clock position. You can turn the power on the sub on, and leave it on, as it clicks itself off and on as needed. The Kenwood universal remote has a nice feel to it, and works well with my Sony TV, Panasonic DVD, and DirecTV receiver. This is a minor issue, but an onscreen display would be a nice addition to the receiver. In a large room, you might have trouble reading the receiver display. The surrounds come with a wall-mounting bracket, I had to drill out the holes a little to hang them by screws on the wall. In all, I probably spent 4 or 5 hours getting everything hooked up, and tweaking the settings of the receiver, and DVD menus. For volume reference, I watch normal TV at around -45, and DVD at around -25. -25 is very loud. The sound: After a week or so of watching TV movies, sports, and 2 DVDs (The Matrix and Pearl Harbor), my wife and I are hooked. The sound is enveloping, and adds a new dimension to viewing. Regular TV is certainly more interesting. A quote from my wife on one of here favorite HGTV shows- "Extreme Homes sounds really great, I never noticed the soundtrack before.". Football, particularly on Fox, gives you a nice "in the crowd" feel. HBO and other TV movies sound great, but the system really shines when playing DVDs. Pearl Harbor was a wonderful viewing and listening experience. Things flying all around you, and the bass will not disappoint you. The Matrix is just plain cool for HT. The subwoofer has no problem shaking the room, and you feel the deep hits. I was a little skeptical that a Home Theater in a Box would be as loud as I wanted, and have great thumping bass. The Kenwood HTB-504 puts out all the volume and bass I want. It sounds nice and clear at higher volumes. I simply can't imagine what some of the systems I've seen on this forum are capable of. If this is entry level, you high-end guys must be having an absolute blast, I hope you at least invite your neighbors over so they can see the movie they're hearing from across the street. Hopefully, this well help folks looking for a starter system, or an inexpensive set up. I was looking for inexpensive, but good, and I couldn't be happier. Thanks for all your recommendations.