Let me apologize in advance for a long post, but there are several facets of this issue and it really makes the most sense for me to be as complete as possible in the initial post.
After several years of kicking the idea around and prodding by me, my mom and dad have finally decided to do "something of a home theater". Some background information will be helpful here, as it directly pertains to the rest of the post.
My parents are in their mid 70s and live a couple of hours away. My mom is a technophobe who is regressing a bit. She lost the hearing in one ear as a child, and surround sound means absolutely nothing to her. Physically, she will of course miss spatial cues but more importantly, she's simply not interested. Clarity, however (especially of dialog) is important to her. In very simplistic terms, I explained that the majority of actor's voices coming through "the speaker that's near the TV" means that I can turn that speaker up a little louder than the others so she can hear the dialog better… she misses a fair amount of what actors are saying now. She liked that idea.
My dad is a forty-year IBM retiree. He's never been afraid of technology, but he's not keeping up with it the way he used to. For him, the cost is the issue. They are what I would consider middle-class by retiree standards, but my dad always buys the cheapest type of product available. If he were to buy a traditional TV, he would buy the cheapest one that BJs or Sam's Club has in that screen size…regardless of whether or not he's heard of that brand or not (yet I remember 30 years earlier, he bought his
parents a 20" Sony Trinitron because it was the best). Go figure. He thinks his $150 Wal-Mart boombox/shelf system sounds just fine. Anyway, his budget will figure into this just as strongly as mom's technophoby.
MEET THE PARENTS:
My parents watch different things on TV. My mom watches typical prime-time fare, and my dad hates that stuff, preferring the History Channel, PBS, the National Geographic Channel, and football. About 90% of the time, he watches TV in the bedroom while she watches in the living room since they don't share the same tastes. This, of course, won't change if they have a separate HT room…it'll just mean that dad won't end up watching TV while sitting on the edge of the bed. One thing they do
have in common, though, is the fact that they watch, via Netflix, 6-8 movies a week. Regarding music, I honestly don't think my mom would listen to anything if my dad didn't occasionally put her Josh Groban or Clay Aiken discs on for her. My dad would enjoy listening to music I think… if he had a quiet place such as this to do it. It was his interest in stereo equipment when I was a kid that lead to my interest.
So it's been years since my parents have visited here in NH, but my dad remembers very much liking my old, pre-axiom HT when I had a 32" CRT, etc. I've asked him over the years if he would ever want something like that, and he felt he would only want something if it were in a separate room other than their living room, and my mom refused to give up any room in their 3500 square feet. She would wave her hand in the air and say "we don’t need anything like that".
Anyway, that was before this weekend. Let me digress for a moment on a related topic, because it factors in a bit. On the way to visiting Joyce's and my family in RI, we stopped to visit her grandmother, a resident in a nursing home. I couldn't help but notice that the nursing home has installed a "theater-room" in the home for residents to watch movies. I didn't poke my head in to check it out, but saw through the glass doors a front projection screen. I told Joyce after we left that I thought it was a great idea to put a theater in a nursing home as there would probably be no other group of people that would appreciate a very large, easy-to-see screen and clear sound. Anyway, I thought it was interesting and wonder if other members here have seen theaters in nursing home-type facilities or if that was an anomaly? It also made me think that sometimes it just might
be the older folks who can benefit the most from good sound and picture.
So quite a few years ago, I set my parents up with a simple receiver and a couple of Radio Shack bookshelf speakers I had to help my mom hear the TV a bit better. Well, my dad mentioned not long ago that the receiver was giving him some trouble, so I bought him a new one for Christmas this year. While setting it up, we started talking about the whole home theater thing and surprisingly, this time my mom said that she would give up her "no-longer-used" dining room if my father wanted to pursue the HT. That's the room that would be most suitable for a HT.
Likely room layout (12'x15' with a 7.5' ceiling)
My mind has been reeling since. I would, of course, enjoy helping them with this project. It's something I know pretty well, but it will also give me an excuse to spend some time with them. My dad's rheumatoid arthritis wouldn't even allow him to hold a hammer, but he'd enjoy "supervising". I've started thinking about the equipment that would be suitable for them, and how the requirements for that equipment might end up being vastly different than what I would consider for myself. Simplicity will be most important, followed by cost/value.
Let me mention the different classes of equipment that I'm looking at and my thoughts on each, and see what suggestions some of you might have. I haven't started looking for equipment yet. I'm not looking for others to do the legwork for me… I just figured I'd post this early in the process so you guys can make sure I don't stray too far off-track!
The requirements for this are pretty straightforward, but I don't know if the beast exists or not. Simple, simple, simple. And relatively inexpensive. I would say under $400 is a definite… under $300 would be better. Twenty different processing modes, etc.. will freak out my dad and get a complete blank stare from mom. Unfortunately, the low-price receivers like to offer more bells-and-whistles than their shelf-mate at Best Buy, so even inexpensive receivers offer more features than what would be necessary. In conversations with mom and dad, I realized a "Night Mode" would be helpful, though, since my mom needs to keep dialog reasonably loud…meaning explosions and car crashes would then blow out a window if the dynamics weren't compressed a bit.
My parents aren't going to be looking for lots of volume or deep bass. Yes, a sub would be appropriate, but a cutoff of 32Hz is fine…. Intelligibility is key here. My mom hasn't really shown a "WAF" factor to be necessary, but I do believe she'll be happier with small, wall-mounted speakers and not floorstanders. Not to mention their cats would be using the grills for a scratching post…or worse. Likely candidates would be something like a Ventriloquist (opinions??) or similar system as I think even a FO M2/VP100/QS4 system would be too pricey for them. In-walls won't be an option as the wall they would be mounted on has real-wood paneling that they wouldn't cut into.
Look, I don't mean to sound condescending regarding my parents, but here's the thing: They have cats. Quite a few actually… I believe eight at the moment. And, these cats are strays that they've brought in…. strays who….ummm…. sometimes mark their territory. There's an accordion door leading into the room, but they'll only close it when they're no in the room. In a nutshell, even though I chose a DLP as the best value for me, I think keeping things off the floor by choosing a wall-mounted plasma will be the best option for them. I think a 42" will be fine, and I'm probably looking for the least expensive name-brand HDTV that I can find…. Only because their budget would otherwise be more suitable for DLP. They already have hi-def cable and my dad uses the DVR that the cable company has supplied…though he doesn't have a hi-def TV.
Here's where I'm really looking for good ergonomics. I'm using an MX700, but I have to wonder if some of the Harmony or other models aren't a little more user-friendly based upon some reports I've seen. I can do the programming, but they need something east to see/read, with the lowest number of buttons to get the job done.
One DVD/VHS combo player will be it…excepting their cable source. Mom still time-shifts VHS (Gotta give her credit for that!) and a unit such as this will also enable DVD and CD playback. I'd still like to see progressive output.
Bottom line with all of this:
I need to remember that the system has to fit their
needs…not mine. They will not be messing with crossover points, aspect ratios, surround modes or RS meters. If a wrong button is hit, I'm the nearest "help" at 2 hours away. My dad in particular would appreciate something above a HTIB once it was paid for and installed, but it really can't be something ostentatious.
Has anyone been down this road setting up a simple, but good-quality system for a borderline or elderly couple? Come across programmable remotes that are easy for old eyes and arthritic fingers? See a simple receiver without bells and whistles…maybe from a less-obvious brand like NAD?
As I said, I'll be spending lots of time looking, but if someone has been down this road before and can offer some suggestions, that would be great!
Does this post quality as the Mother Of All Posts…Senior Addition?