Q&A # 169 - March 23, 2000
Q I am thinking of going with Windows 2000, but I am afraid of what might go wrong. I need to be able to play DVD movies on my computer.
A I have been using Win2000 since early 1999 (beta version), and even the beta version was superb. It almost never crashed compared to the many times that Win 98 crashed in the same time period. However, there are several caveats, even though the final version has been released. (1) Drivers for many peripherals, such as DVD players, modems, scanners, etc., are not ready yet. This means you would not be able to use the peripherals unless there is a basic driver embedded in Win2000. (2) Some of your applications will probably have to be reinstalled. This includes Office 2000 and others. It might amount to about half or so of your apps. The others can be used by clicking on the appropriate exe file in the apps folders, testing them to make sure they work alright, then right-mouse-clicking and dragging a shortcut icon for that exe file to your desktop. (3) Once you install Win2000 on a hard drive or partition, you cannot uninstall it and go back to Win98. My suggestion is to get an additional hard drive to use just with Win2000, learning the OS, and then when all your peripherals drivers are available, you can move all the way over to Win2000.
Q What is the situation with DTS now?
A It appears some DVD movies are being released with both DD and DTS tracks, which I am very pleased about. I hope this continues, since most movies seem to be in DD, DTS, and other formats, at the theater. We might as well have the choice at home too.
Q I have a good stereo Hi-Fi setup (Marantz PM 17 and B&W CMD7 SE). How can I upgrade to a home theater configuration while using the B&W speakers as the L/R front speaker and keeping the PM-17? Of course, I am looking for a solution other than switching the cables at the back of the speakers each time I want to listen to one set or the other.
A I would suggest getting a DD/DTS receiver and connecting the front left/right pre-outs to one of the input sets on your PM-17. Then, connect the speaker outs from your PM-17 to the front left/right speakers, and the speaker outs from the front center, and rear left/right of the new receiver to the center and rear left/right speakers. This will use your PM 17 to drive two of the speakers and the new receiver to drive the rest of your speakers.
Q I have been using a California Audio Labs CL-15 CD player connected to an EAD TheaterMaster (Ovation). With this setup, I am doing D/A/D/A since the CL-15 doesn't have digital out and the EAD doesn't have analog pass through. Recently, I have borrowed a Mark Levinson No.380 preamp and routed the CD and the EAD to it. This allowed me to have two different routes, one for music and the second for movies (since No.380 has surround processor pass through input for front channels). This connection yielded a better music experience without compromising the movies experience. In addition, this eliminated the need for switching cables, which would be needed if I would want to go from the CD to the front amps directly. My question here, would you advise me to invest in the preamp now ($6,500 for No380s) or upgrade the CD with another one (i.e., ML No.39 or Wadia 830 or 850), keeping in mind we're talking $5,000-$6000? This would have digital output to go to the EAD directly. I am contemplating to upgrade to an expensive CD player at this time, even though there is a lot of uncertainty as to which route CDs will go (i.e., SACD and DVD-Audio). Your advice will be important not only for me but for lots of people who are about to make an expensive purchase. As for my situation, shall I go for the preamp now, high end CD, or just wait?
A If you have to buy something now, I would suggest the preamplifier. SACD and DVD-Audio will require a completely different kind of player, and it would be a shame to invest that kind of money now and then find you can't play the new discs. The other option is to find a player that is upgradeable to SACD and DVD-Audio, but get it in writing.
Q I have noticed hardly any questions in regards to turntables. Is this because of a perceived lesser quality sound? I have some LP albums that I still love to play, and they sound very good. Can you recommend a good turntable that will equal or even best the sound of CD players? I am willing to pay up to $1000.
A I would suggest the VPI HW-19 Jr Turntable with AudioQuest PT-6 Tonearm, and a Sumiko Blue Point MC Cartridge. This will set you back about $1,200 from the websites I looked at, but you can probably find them for less if you do a search. LPs and turntables are still around, and actually, some LPs are being re-released. The question about LPs vs. CDs is sort of like the one about tubes vs. solid state. All of these products have their supporters.
Q I just wanted to ask a quick question about interference or more particularly EMI. I presently have my television set on a stand approximately 1.5 feet from my audio rack (from the closest corner of the TV to the edge of the rack). My audio rack has four metal beams in the four corners so there no side walls to block anything. I was wondering if this is dangerous, not recommended, or if it is perfectly fine. The reason I am asking is because my CD-player (Marantz CD-67se) has developed a slight hum, I expect from the transformer. I was wondering if this could be caused by my T.V.
A If your TV is 18" away from the CD player and the rest of the rack equipment, I suspect the hum is not from the TV. It is more likely a ground loop problem, or the interconnects have moved close to an AC cable, or perhaps something caused by a rheostat on one of your room lights, assuming you are talking about hum in the speakers when you are using the CD player. If it is a mechanical hum in the CD player chassis, that is usually caused by noisy AC, which includes noise induced by rheostats for lighting controls. You can minimize this hum by having the light all the way on or all the way off.
Q I don't really understand some things about the upcoming DVD-Audio. First of all, isn't the sound on the current regular DVDs 96 kHz/24 bit? So, although DVD is a big improvement over CDs, is it an improvement over the sound tracks in current DVDs? Also, why do you need a special player to play DVD-Audios? I understand that the DVD-Audio players coming out will only have 6 channel analog outputs so you need an amp with a six channel input. Why is that? It seems much simpler and cheaper to output the digital signal, not to mention compatibility with most current amps and receivers.
A We all need to remember that the companies who make all this wonderful new technology are doing it for the primary reason of making money. Also, each company or group of companies wants to have its particular design be the one that becomes standard. This is based on the principle of territoriality (read the classic "The Territorial Imperative" which basically says we do just about everything because of our need for controlling territory). Large corporations merge and tell us it is better for consumers. Bull****. It is for gaining territory. How many times have corporate mergers made your life better as a consumer? Anyway, SACD and DVD-Audio are competing to be the standard in new CD sound (DVD is the heir to CD). DVDs are currently 48 kHz - 20 bit for DD and DTS movies, and there are a few DVDs out there that have 96 - 24 with music. There are some DD music DVDs, but they are 48 - 20. There are also some DTS CDs, but again, they are 48 - 20. It is SACD and DVD-Audio that represent the future of music on disc, however, because they have a high rate bit stream, and room for lots of channels. The issue of only having analog outs on the DVD-Audio players and SACD players is, again, one of territory. They don't want anyone copying the digital bit stream. They say, "Copyright", but it is territorial control. Nothing illegal or even despicable about it, but it is sure inconvenient to us consumers.
Q I am a complete novice when it comes to stereo equipment. However, I decided to begin a piece-by-piece purchase to eventually complete a home theater package. My first piece, recently purchased, is a Denon AVP-8000 Preamplifier/Tuner. I carefully and meticulously read the Owner's Manual cover-to-cover and attached a Pioneer CD Player (from my former stereo) and attached two Pioneer speakers. In order to attach the speakers, I used Monster cable, attaching the cable to the preamplifier through the appropriate pin connectors, and attaching the other end to the speakers by inserting two wires in the base of each speaker (they do not have pin connectors). I have ensured the connections are correct by examining the Owner's Manual. In order to ensure I have the speakers configured correctly, I even attached a small TV to the preamplifier/tuner and, using a remote, went through several menu items to set up the speaker configuration (using a monitor/TV to set up the preamplifier/tuner is evidently available for this system). When I put in a CD or try to listen to the tuner (the preamplifier/tuner automatically picks up the radio stations), I can hear music from either source through the speakers, except I have the volume turned up as high as I can, and it's as if the volume is on low. My questions are: 1. Is this thing working correctly, or do I need an amplifier to actually hear anything? 2. Is there a way to test the preamplifier/tuner to ensure it is working correctly? 3. Is there any information available through the Internet (or otherwise) to find out more about stereo equipment? I thought since the tuner was built-into the system, that it seemed unlikely that I would require an amplifier. I appreciate any advice you provide. I as of yet have not contacted Denon.
A I know some of our readers are laughing, but remember, consumer electronics is not an easy thing to get into at first. Yes, you need a power amplifier. The purpose of the preamplifier/processor is to switch among the various input sources you might have, such as DVD, Tuner, Satellite, CD, VCR, etc. and then to decode the signal into Pro Logic, DD, or DTS 5.1 sound, then to allow you to control the volume and output it to the power amplifier. The preamplifier only creates output of around 1 or 2 volts. Much more than that is required to drive speakers, say, around 25 volts, which is the job of a power amplifier. So, get yourself a five-channel power amplifier. Connect it to the pre-outs of the Denon AVP-8000 and connect your speakers to the outputs of the five-channel power amplifier. (I am still not sure how you connected the speaker cable to the pre-outs of your Denon, pins or otherwise.)
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