Buying an audio-video system should be more than just a roll of the dice.

But thls is what usually happens when consumers walk into an electronics store totally unfamiliar with the intricacies of the complex components, let alone putting them together into a system. And the news doesn't get better as familiarity with the products increases. It's one place where a little knowledge can definitely be dangerous.With this in mind, a shopper's first priority should be finding a reputable store and a knowledgeable salesperson. After that, says the current issue of Video Magazine, there are a few things that consumers should keep in mind as they're dealing with their retailer.

First, remember good reception is the paramount objective. It's easy to assemble a sexy, mind-blowing group of components, but the shiny equipment doesn't guarantee the best sound and picture. For instance, if the local cable TV company has transmission problems, then picture problems that may look minor on a 13-inch set are going to be magnified tremendously by a giant-screen TV. Buying the biggest, most expensive screen can be like putting a magnifying glass on a wart.

Also, if your objective is a multi-room system, make sure the retailer has expertise in installing these systems. Getting good reception from room to room is more than stringing together a few wires.

Next, don't assume costlier means better. Look at models in a variety of price ranges. Some moderately priced equipment can deliver sounds and pictures superior to high-end units.

Despite the allure, think twice about surround sound. This new audio technology can produce fantastic results, but only in the proper environment. In a small room, expensive surround-sound equipment isn't going to produce any better results than a moderately priced receiver with four common speakers.

Experts also advise considering how each piece will fit in down the road. For example, the monitor being bought today may have built-in speakers, but someday you may want to hook it up to your audio system.

Finally, unless you're creating a private media den, pay attention to the needs of others who may end up using the system. In addition to a spouse, this may include children or older relatives. By involving all concerned at the beginning, there's a better chance the system will fit everyone's needs.