Dear Unplggd, I would really like to educate myself on the basic ins and outs of home theater, but don't know where to start. Do you have any recommendations for someone who wants to learn the differences between sound processing formats and other confusing jargon for any everyday Joe (but not plumber) such as myself?
Joe, we're warning you that you're about to delve into a hazardous hobby to both your wallet and any free time. But if you're so inclined to jump down the rabbit hole, we have a couple resources that could get you started on your magical journey toward home theater nirvana, all set to a 7.1 channel surround sound soundtrack...
First, get yourself a copy of Mark Fleischmann's, Practical Home Theater: A Guide to Video and Audio Systems. In its 8th edition and penned by the audio editor of Home Theater Magazine, this is your go-to answer resource, filled with info for both newbs and prosumers alike:
Pros and cons of new DTV technologies are discussed including LCD, plasma, DLP, and CRT based sets. Among the other technologies discussed are HDTV, DTV up- and downconversion, copy-protected DTV interfaces, Blu-ray, DVD-Video, 7.1- vs. 5.1-channel surround sound, the latest surround standards, high-res audio formats including SACD, and audio file formats including MP3 and FLAC.
If you're looking to delve into the wonderful world of 1080p HD displays and Blu-ray, we'd also point you out to Joe Kane's Digital Video Essentials: HD Basics, a home theater calibration tool with chock full of information about the basics of HD image quality, and maximizing it (and least, on a basic level; you can also look into a hardware solution).