Q&A # 194 - August 8, 2000
Q I need to replace an ailing tuner for a fairly ancient system. It would be paired with a JVC AX-R450 amp. I know almost nothing about what to look for in tuners. I live in the sticks and would like to be able to pull in distant stations without spending a lot of money or installing an exterior antenna. Can you provide any guidance?
A The best possible thing you can do, regardless of the tuner, is to install an exterior antennae up high. The best ones are directional and will require a rotator (Channel Plus makes an IR controllable rotator with presets for under $100). This will not only improve your chances of pulling in any particular station, but improve the sound quality of nearby stations too. The best FM I've heard to date, in terms of sound quality, was a friend's Aragon Tuner with just such a setup. In my experience, the best tuners for simply pulling in a station without a well-placed antenna were boom boxes. For some reason or another, the better tuners seem more picky about the quality of the signal. If don't really care about the sound quality that much, you can find one with a headphone output and get an adapter to plug it into your JVC.
Q I enjoyed Brian Florian's product review of the Smart Systems Center Surround CS-3X Jr. I have a Yamaha RX-V2095. What 3 channel amplifier would you recommend I use to power the surrounds? Would I use a Y-connector to hook up the two center surrounds? How would this affect power output of the center surround channel in relation to the left and right surrounds?
A Thank you for your kind words on the essay. Bryston, Rotel, Adcom, and Anthem (to name just a few) make great 3 channel amplifiers that could be used for the three rear channels. Your budget will decide exactly which one. Although an easy implementation, you would end up with arguably better power in rear than the front, so I have something better in mind. Your 2095 has pre-main couplers for the front left and right channels which can be used to do the job. It's a little more intricate, but worth it. Run the pre-outs of the main left and right to a new 3 channel power amp, run the new center surround output from the CS-3Xjr to it as well. Then run the new left and right surround outputs from the CS-3Xjr back to the main-ins on the 2095. You will have the new, more robust amplifier driving your front left and right speakers, as well as the center surround. The main left and right amp of your 2095 will be driving the left and right surrounds, and no speaker will be connected to its surround amps. Front center is still driven by the 2095 normally. No matter how you do it, if you want to run two center-surround speakers, you can do so off of one amplifier channel. If the speakers are 8 Ohms, and the amp is robust, you can wire them in parallel (which will show the amp ~4 Ohms). If the amp is not rated to handle 4 Ohm loads, you should wire them in series (showing ~16 Ohms). If the speakers are 4 Ohms, you should run them in series only (which will show the amp ~8 Ohms). Here are some diagrams to help you out:
Q In Q&A 189, a reader asked, "When I play my DTS DVD Sheryl Crow album, the vocal comes out from the CC6, but when I play Titanic DD, no sound comes out from the CC6," and you replied that some soundtracks don't have discrete center channel info. True enough, but possibly not the answer to this specific question. DTS soundtracks default to 5.1 channel sound automatically, but the Titanic DVD defaults to a two channel soundtrack - you need to explicitly choose the discrete DD 5.1 soundtrack buried in the setup option off of the opening menu. Once you do that, there's plenty of center channel info throughout the movie; otherwise, you miss out on the superior 5.1 soundtrack.
A Thanks for the info. However, remember that if the disc plays in two-channel, the receiver would decode it as Pro Logic, sending some audio to the center channel, unless, of course, the receiver were set to play as two-channel stereo. You are right about the default playing format. I wish all discs would default to the same format instead of pot luck. Also, the choice of DD vs. two-channel is sometimes under "Languages" and sometimes under "Audio Setup".
Q I am currently running five NHT speakers (2.5s and 1.5s + AC1) with a Denon 5700 receiver (the Sub 1 to be added shortly). My question is, should I use my spare 200 Watt NAD Power Envelope 2 channel amp (NAD 2700) to run my front 2.5s, or just stick with the Denon to power everything? I have heard that doing so may give me a "better soundstage", or possibly a cleaner sound coming from the 2.5s.
A You will likely experience a much more dynamic sound by using the NAD to drive two of the channels. This takes much of the load off the Denon's power amplifiers.
Q I have a mono TV and recently bought a stereo receiver with surround sound. I would like to hook up my TV to this. I was informed if I bought a "Y" adapter and then hooked up the audio lines from the TV to the receiver I could have surround sound. I did that, but it is not working. Does that sound right?
A In order to have surround sound, you need to have a stereo TV. The Pro Logic is decoded from stereo, and cannot be decoded from mono. If you have a stereo VCR, you can connect the stereo audio outputs from the VCR to your stereo receiver, and use the tuner in the VCR to watch TV programs, or at least for the audio portion of the programs.
Q I am in the market for a DVD player. I already own a Sony receiver with Dolby Digital decoding, so I was wondering about sampling rates on players. When a player boasts about having 96 kHz 24 bit sound, is that any better when I use my digital connections? Is the digital signal actually different when you use a player that is not capable of 96 kHz 24 bit sound? I once heard that the digital signal is always the same, so does that mean the sampling rate only applies to analog outputs on the DVD unit itself?
A The 24/96 spec is part of the DAC rather than the DVD transport, so as long as your receiver has 24/96 capability, you can use the digital connection from your DVD player to your receiver. If the player has 24/96 DACs, but your receiver's DAC is, say, 20 bit, then you may get better sound by using the analog outputs from your DVD player to your receiver.
Q I have a Yamaha DSP-A1, and I'm wondering whether it's worth the cost to trade it in and buy the RX-V1. The RX-V1 has (supposedly) better sound quality, EX/ES modes, a tuner, numerical volume indicators, component video switching, discrete remote control codes for custom installers, and a much improved remote. The tuner would be nice to have, but wouldn't get much use. I might eventually have a second component video source, but right now I don't. I use a Philips Pronto, so the remote itself doesn't make much difference, but the discrete control codes (intended for custom installers) could be useful. So for me the primary draw would be the EX modes, better sound quality(?), and better usability. Everything else is a bonus. Does this unit actually sound noticeably better? Is it worth the $1500 or so it'll cost to upgrade, or should I be upgrading in some other way?
A There is not much software out there that uses EX right now, and if it becomes popular, you could always just decode it from the rear channels using an old Pro Logic receiver. From the comments you made about the other features, I would suggest staying with the DSP-A1. It is an excellent product. Wait a year or two and see if discrete 6.1, DPL-II, and Neo:6 get into the system, and also, if DVD-A gets the go ahead for decoding in the receivers rather than having to use six analog cables from the player to the receiver.
Q I am in the process of recreating my home theater (80% HT, 20% music). This question is directed toward the audio portion of my next home theater. I currently have a thirteen year old Sony receiver (110 WPC, 2 ch) based system with an inexpensive Fisher DVD player (no DD Decoder). I have planned to execute the upgrades in this order: Main speakers first (I can listen to them without any of the other components); Power source for the speakers next along with the center and surround speakers; then HDTV; finally upgrading the DVD player. As I am operating on a somewhat limited budget, each component cost increase delays completion of the entire system (as I save for the next component). I have fallen in love with the B&W Nautilus speakers, specifically the 804s as main LRs, the HTM series Center, and the 805s for the rear channels. I am also hooked on the Sunfire MK.II Subwoofer. I have heard these speakers connected to several different systems, and they always ring my bell. My question concerns powering the B&W speakers. I am currently leaning towards the Denon AVR-4800 receiver (I have not yet actually heard this receiver). The icing on this receiver is the ability to easily integrate a separate power amplifier later for the main channels, and use the EX capabilities of the receiver.
A Today's receivers do an excellent job of serving as preamplifiers in conjunction with outboard power amplifiers, so I would say yes, the 4800 should work fine in this regard. However, you definitely should audition it before you buy it, and also to check out its ergonomics (user friendliness).
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