Much Adu About Plasmas

Soccer phenom scores a high-tech entertainment setup

In the professional soccer field, D.C. United’s Freddy Adu runs circles around seasoned veterans. But when it came to setting up a home theater, the 16-year-old Ghanaian-born athlete needed an assist from the experts.

Make no mistake, Adu knew what he wanted — a killer stereo system that gave him easy access to the latest hip-hop sounds, plasma screens for high-quality digital viewing, and a home theater that would entertain his friends and family in style. “You pretty much don’t want to leave the house,” Freddy says of his new setup.

With the help of home theater designer Bob Gatton and Philips Electronics style and home designer Stephen Saint-Onge, Adu got the home entertainment setup of his dreams: 50-inch Philips Ambilight flatTV in his and his mother’s rooms ($4,499.99 each); 42-inch screens in several other rooms ($2,699.99); the pièce de résistance, a home theater that features a custom-built, remote-controlled, 120-foot drop-down Marantz 12S4 projection screen; Lutron motorized window shades that descend to block outside light; and a Canton/Marantz sound system.

Adu’s setup is built around the HP z545 Digital Entertainment Center (starting at $1,349.99), with an Intel P4 processor Windows XP Media Center, and a personal video recorder that enables him to make the most of his tech. He can play online games, organize and control music remotely, or just watch videos.

Adu says he appreciates the flexibility of the system but also likes the interactivity that connecting devices afford him. “I pop in CDs and the stereo system picks the ‘vibes’ from my laptop. It’s wireless from the PC to the sound system,” he adds. The home theater setup also features a wireless keyboard, and Gatton and his team added a Philips 9800i remote control with touch screen remote and wireless capabilities. “You can also screen audio from the PC, which you can put through the system,” Adu says.

While consumers might look at a celebrity’s high-tech (and high-priced) home theater system and simply think it’s out of reach, that may not be the case. Terry Ulick’s book Building a Digital Entertainment Network (Que; $24.99) provides a step-by-step guide to making your home a multimedia haven. The book uses simple language and photos and covers topics ranging from setup to creating radio stations and video programs. Also check out Jim Doherty and Neil Anderson’s Home Networking Simplified (Cisco Press; $24.99), an illustrated guide for setting up a wired or wireless home network.

But what if you’re tech challenged? Consider a slice of Pie (www.piehome.com), a simple box that sits next to your PC and coordinates your electronic devices. The product is built on a variety of standards, including USB and USB 2.0, FireWire, Ethernet, 802.11 a/b/g, Bluetooth, and Rendezvous, and works with your PC to detect and monitor all your devices. The product is scheduled for release in the first quarter of 2006 and will cost approximately $100 in addition to a $100 annual subscription.

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