Q&A # 178 - May 17, 2000
Q You discussed the Toshiba 5109 DVD player, and Toshiba's 9100 DVD player is about twice its price. Can you please tell me what extra features do you get from the 9100 over the 5109? I hope I am not confusing 2 different animals here as I don't really know what progressive scan means.
A Most consumer TVs are interlaced. Your TV is made up of 525 horizontal lines. Only half (called fields) are drawn on the screen at any one time (e.g., 1, 3, 5, 7, etc. . . field A). Then the other half are drawn (2, 4, 6, 8, etc. . . field B). If you look close at the TV screen, you will see the scan lines. A black line is there between each image line on the TV. When you look at a progressive source, those black lines will not exist because all 525 lines are being drawn at once. A progressive DVD player will output both field A and field B at the same time giving you a single "Frame" of video. I have not yet done an in-depth look at the 9100. Toshiba claims that they user higher quality parts. The 9100 also has some internal user adjustments like brightness, contrast, sharpness, etc. They say the 9100 has higher quality DACs for audio, but if you are using the digital audio output, then the analog DAC quality will be of little importance to you.
Q I am curious to know what, if any, big screens support 720p scanning. I'm in the market for a big screen (rear projection) to compliment my home theater system. Any suggestions?
A Yes, Panasonic has just introduced a new 56" model that supports 480p, 720p, and 1080i. I believe theirs is the only current TV that supports all of the standards. If you want a smaller TV, Princeton Graphics also offers 30" and 34" models that support 720p. If you want a really big screen, front projectors can support just about any scan rate.
Q Can you recommend S-Video, composite video, and audio interconnect cables that represent a good "bang for the buck?" My system is modest enough (Harman-Kardon 50w/ch Pro Logic receiver, 27" TV with S-Video input, Philips 825 DVD player, inexpensive speakers I had on hand) for which exotic cables would be overkill and beyond my budget. I'm looking to upgrade from the inexpensive cables supplied with the equipment or purchased for $5 at WalMart. I could see spending $25 to $50 on a video cable or interconnect pair but not much more (preferably less). I'm hoping to upgrade my audio and video components at some point (planned for a $1000 +/- A/V receiver, HDTV-ready RPTV, and $2500 +/- speaker system) and would like to buy cables that are appropriate for both levels of system performance. Any ideas?
A A new Internet startup called http://www.bettercables.com is selling high quality cables at a lower cost than some of the high-end products you can buy at retail outlets. Bettercables.com sells Canare video and digital cables. Canare is well known in the pro world, and they make some of the best video cable there is. Canare coax cables have true 75-ohm RCA connectors. A 1-meter video cable from bettercables.com is cheaper and equal to or better than Monster video cables, in my opinion. Part of that, of course, is that you are bypassing the Brick and Mortar store (and their costs) when you purchase on the Internet.
Q I've recently purchased a Toshiba TW65X81 TV and have noticed that my picture is not square to the frame (screen). When I'm watching something that has black bars, they are 1/2" wider on the left side than the right, both top and bottom. Everything is proportional, and the picture looks great, but it's just crooked. The obvious thing to me is that whatever the CRTs are mounted on is tilted. What do you think?
A There is an internal adjustment that can correct your problem. You should be able to contact Toshiba and have someone come out and fix it. If you are more adventurous, you can search some of the home theater forums and you will find access to these controls. Be warned that this might void your warranty.
Q My home cinema amplifier is a Sony STR830 , 5 x 100 watt. I also have a Dolby Pro Logic JVC amplifier (55 watt), and two studio monitors from Infinity , the SM255 (300 watt). I've noticed that I can give much more power to the Infinitys with my old receiver. I use the Infinitys only for CD music. Is that normal, because I always thought more watts means more power?
A You are probably caught in the ratings (specs) game. You have to read the spec sheet carefully to see if the watts for one product are rated into 8 Ohms, 6 Ohms, or 4 Ohms. Secondly, you have to look and see if the power is rated at 20 Hz - 20 kHz with all channels. It may actually say the rating is at 1 kHz.
Q I am in the process of putting together a combo HTS/music system, and the more I read the various manuals and research online, the more confused I seem to become regarding a number of issues. Actually, I have a much better understanding than I had two months ago, and your website has been a great source of info. You folks are "the bomb". Back to my system. I now have a Toshiba 3109 DVD player, Adcom GFA-7300 5-channel MOSFET amp (60W per channel into 8 ohms, and 90W per channel into 4 ohms), Adcom GTP-600 surround sound tuner/preamp, Adcom GDD-1 DD decoder, and a Panamax 1000 +. (I know, I know. The amp is a little puny per your standards for the HTS, but I purchased the three Adcom units as a package deal for what seems like a very reasonable price, $900.) All these are still in the boxes waiting for the Monitor Audio speakers to arrive this week (Silver5i's for the fronts, Silver Center 10i, ASW210 sub, and the Silver Surrounds, which are tonally matched to the others and can be wired as bi-polar or di-polar). I know you prefer to use the 5i's or 3i's for the rears, but my room is oddly shaped for placement of the rears, i.e.., no room behind the seating area on the right half, with the left rear half opening into the dining/kitchen area. I thought the bi-pols or di-pols might give me more options, and I will have to experiment.
The dealer said I could exchange them if I am not satisfied. I would appreciate your comments and advice on how I might experiment with these and what to expect from them. I currently have in use a Mitsubishi VS-5075 rear projection TV that I use with a cable box and a VCR. Please make life easier for me by helping me with several daunting questions. I think my biggest confusion at this point is getting all this stuff properly connected, and getting the best sound I can for a limited budget, which I have already far exceeded. What I would like your knowledgeable advice on is "exactly" how many, and of what type of cables, interconnects, etc., I need for these components. BTW, I also have a tape deck and a cheap CD player, but they are not priorities at this time. I can determine the necessary lengths.
I have made a tentative list, but prefer to rely on your experience and expertise, so that I don't mess this up. And in particular, I need advice concerning S-Video vs. composite. My preamp requires they all be one or the other. My VCR does not have an S-Video jack, but my understanding is that S-Video is much better. Can I hook my DVD player directly to my TV via S-Video and bypass the preamp, and if so, how should I do this? I read one of your Q&A's awhile back in which you spoke about the pros and cons of S-Video and composite, where the TV had a comb filter, and this has confused me even more. My TV does have a comb filter.
Another area I really need help is how I should go about setting up the sub in my particular system (what cables, hooked up to where, settings, etc., the whole tutorial). Then, there's the ongoing debate concerning how much to spend on cabling. I certainly want the best sound possible from my system, but am already over my budget, so for now, I must consider only inexpensive to moderately priced cable, and would like to stay within $300 for everything and will be happy to spend less if it will get me the same quality. I am considering AR and AR Pro, "Better Cables.com" (I can't find much on them except what they have on their website. They're not inexpensive but not very expensive either), UltraLink Discovery (Brian Florian reviewed these), etc. I will most gratefully appreciate any and all info, guidance, and recommendations you can give me concerning this final, yet very daunting aspect and finally putting together all of my new and old components.
Also, do you prefer optical for the digital audio? It seems to cost a little less and there is no interference, as I understand it. Also, is it better to use less expensive speaker wire so that I can afford to bi-wire, or pay twice as much for better quality and not bi-wire?
Oh, one more important question. My DVD has a DD decoder. Do I really need the Adcom decoder that came as part of my "package"? Alone, the Adcom GDD-1 retails for $800 vs. the whole DVD player costing several hundreds less. Do you think there will be a substantial difference in the quality of the Adcom vs. using the DVD's decoder? I could probably sell the Adcom since there seems to be a number of folks looking for a decoder, and you say they are harder to find. If there is a substantial difference in quality, then I would keep it. But now, I am lacking a DTS decoder and don't foresee repurchasing a new DVD player soon, or buying an expensive DTS separate decoder. Do you know whether I will be able to have my current DVD upgraded in the near future with the DD/DTS chip, and if so, how much it might cost?
A For your system, go to Radio Shack and get their Gold Patch cables. They are inexpensive and are pretty good. The way I do it is to lay all the components out and then write down Interconnects 3 ft, 6 ft, and 12 ft on a piece of paper. Then I look at each component and check off 1 mark on the paper for each interconnect I will need, and how long it should be. Then I go to Radio Shack and pile the cables into my arms for the checkout counter. Usually, when I get home, I find I am missing at least one cable and have to go back. Two trips are enough most of the time to get everything. For a complete setup, $300 is about right. Skip the bi-wiring.
Toslink optical cables are what I use most of the time, because they eliminate problems with ground loops. Connect your S-Video cable directly to the TV, rather than going through the processor. It is best to use DTS decoding in the processor rather than the DVD player since processors offer many more features with respect to configuring the sound. Speaker placement, including the subwoofer, it totally an individual thing that depends on your room acoustics, so you have to just experiment. However, I suggest a slight toe-in with the front and center speakers, and the subwoofer in one of the front corners, about 1.5 feet out from the front wall and 1 foot out from the side wall. I don't think any mass market DVD players will have DTS chip mods available.
Q I am using a DD processor that has a sub-out frequency X-over set to 80 Hz (everything 80 Hz and less is sent to the sub). I am using a DIY Shiva/Sonotube sub powered with a Yamaha 120 wpc integrated amp. The problem I am having is that I find the 80 Hz crossover setting too high. I can localize the subs, and there is an overlap in the subs and my main speakers (Klipschorns) because my mains go down to 35 Hz. This causes a slight softening of some soundtrack material. Is there something that I can put between the processor and the subs amp that will eliminate most of the higher frequency material (everything above 50 Hz)? It seems to me that this type of filter should be very inexpensive, but I have only been able to find something like the Paradigm X-over that, although probably a good product, seems to be far more than I need or want to spend. I have seen products for car systems that are exactly what I need except they run off the car battery and only cost $25. Is there anything equilivant in Home Theater?
A All of the home theater active crossovers are a bit expensive for what you want to do. I would suggest using the car system crossover and getting a 12 V DC supply for it. I have been thinking of doing this myself for some time. You should set the crossover low pass to about 50 Hz or less.
Q I currently have a Yamaha RX-V795 receiver with Klipsch speakers that have two sets of binding posts for bi-amping/wiring. I am thinking of buying 4 Marantz MA-500 monoblock amps (rated for 125 watts into 8 Ohms) and bi-amping to power my two main front speakers. I assume this setup would provide a noticeable improvement in sound quality. I would have to use Y connectors from each speaker output of the Yamaha to connect two amps per output -- is this OK? Will I lose some frequencies? And is this roughly equivalent to having a single 250 Watt amp driving the speaker? Would I get similar/better/worse sound if instead of bi-amping, I were to buy the MA-700 amp (200 watts into 8 Ohms) and use one amp to power one speaker?
A The Klipsch are so sensitive, probably just one MA-500 would be plenty. Bi-amping the Klipsch is unnecessary. However, connect the Marantz power amplifiers to the pre-outs of the 795, not the speaker outputs. If you are thinking of buying new speakers within the next five years though, get the MA-700s instead.
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