GET MORE BANG FOR YOUR BUCK

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Even though it should be obvious, the secret weapon of a home entertainment system is its speakers. Many buyers focus on what they can see, either in the quality of the TV picture or, worse, in how a flat screen or other component blends in with the divan.

You can test this question of component supremacy for yourself, however: Pop, say, "Jurassic Park" into your DVD player and watch for a few minutes without sound. Then add sound and hide the screen and see which one gets your juices flowing.

I was reminded about this relationship when I tested a set of Flat Panel Monitor 4 speakers from Bowers & Wilkins, a British manufacturer with a substantial presence among higher-end equipment. They're No. 4 in speaker sales in North America measured by dollars spent, and No. 1 worldwide in the market of speakers costing more than $1,000.

Although those figures come from the company itself, the performance of the speakers did nothing to undercut the claim. Not all the movies tested seemed substantially different on this system, but the ones that worked on the sound as much as the vision - such as "Finding Nemo" - came alive to a startling extent.

I've purchased high-end speakers before only to be unable to discern the difference from the old ones once I got them home. At $700 apiece, not including stands, these speakers are not inexpensive, particularly if you're building a surround-sound array, but at least they deliver.