20 most worthless pieces of junk: #9 -- The home theater sound system

How many remotes controls do you have in your living room? Three? Four? Seven?

And how many do you lose on a regular basis?

In my house, we've got four -- one that came with the TV, one for the cable box, one for the DVD/VCR player and one for the DVD recorder unit. And I can never put my hands on the one that I want when I want it. So imagine my chagrin when my sisters-in-law chipped in and got us an external sound system for our TV one holiday for a present. It came with four speakers, two boxy units that sat near the TV, and its very own remote. Just what I needed.
Because our HDTV only has a certain type of output -- my husband can name all the acronyms that are involved here, but I cannot parse them down to understandable language, another drawback of the external sound system -- you can't adjust the volume of the TV with the system attached. You have to use the remote that came with it.

So basically, it would work like this: You turn on the TV with the cable remote, then turn on the sound system with the other remote. Then adjust the sound on the TV with the TV remote and then adjust the surround-sound with the sound-system remote. And when you didn't want surround sound, you'd have to readjust the TV sound again.

I'm all for making the home theater experience as wonderful as possible, but that's just too much trouble. Too many remotes. Too much equipment. The great thing about the modern-era HDTV -- no matter what kind you get -- is that the sound system that comes with it is pretty terrific. You don't need an external sound system to get the thrill of bombs blasting and football pads crunching. It's good on its own.

So my external sound system has migrated to a stack in our bedroom, where hopefully the children will not decide they look like Lego pieces and try to make a fort out of them. Some day, I'm sure we'll try to sell the unit on eBay, but I'm not sure who would buy it.
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