Easier, cheaper surround sound

FRESNO, Calif.

Home-theater-in-a-box systems can save you money and hassle. The box has all the components you need: a center channel speaker, two speakers for the front of the room, another set for the back of the room, and a subwoofer to enhance the bass. Many systems also come with a Blu-ray player. The big advantage is that all the components come together in one box - everything connects easily.

In Consumer Reports' audio lab, testers checked out dozens of those systems, costing $250 to almost $2,000. Some of the best systems had audio quality that approached that of separate components.

An $800 system, the Samsung HT-E6730W, is among them. It delivers terrific sound, includes a Blu-ray player, and has other nice features such as an iPod dock, so you can listen to your iTunes library as well.

If you don't need a Blu-ray player, you can get a surround-sound system for half the price. Consumer Reports recommends the Yamaha YHT 497, which costs about $400. It delivers very good sound and also has an iPod dock.

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