Q&A # 205 - November 10, 2000
Q I have a 4.1 sound speaker system on my computer, and I live two blocks from a radio station. When listening to DVDs, I can hear the radio. How can I eliminate the noise from the radio station?
A Putting ferrite rings around the cables going into your computer might help. Ferrite absorbs radio frequencies, and your cables are acting as antennae. You can pay a lot of money for the snap on type, but here is a link for some inexpensive ones http://www.rfparts.com/choke.html. Catalog # FERCKE1 will fit cables up to 1/4" in diameter, and are $2.50 each.
Q I've got a problem in my family room. I need to install a new TV that does not take up that much room - right now I have a Pioneer Elite 51" that I have had for five years with PSB Stratus Golds. These take up way too much room. I am looking to adding a Plasma display above the fireplace (the mantel keeps the heat from getting up as high as the TV would be, so that is not a issue.) I also have lots of windows in the room so the light level would prevent the use of a projection TV - as would the room itself. Also,
the placement in the room above the fireplace centers the TV in the room and allows for the speakers to be place correctly for a surround system - rather than the placement I have now with the TV off in a corner with the speakers on either side.
My real question is about whether the 42" Plasmas (Fujitsu or Sony with 1024x1024) - true 1080i HDTV would be better than the Pioneer 50" with 1280x768 be a better choice. The 50" certainly would present a larger picture and I do think I would prefer this (as the 51" Pioneer screen seem perfect for the seating location)- I am just worried if the Pioneer display is that inferior and should I wait for a 50" to come on the market with a 1024x1024 display or would the 42" Fijitsu or Sony be acceptable. Oh and one more thing. Do you think it is acceptable for a home owner to be able to install one of these Plasma displays - I know that I can have the bracing done (behind the sheet rock) in the wall to support the plasma bracket.
A 1920 x 1080 is true 1080i, not 1024 x 1024. No Plasma can deliver true 1080i today. The last time I looked at Plasma TVs, they did not produce a very bright picture off axis. The quality of Plasma in no way justifies the very high price. I have also been told that they do not work well at high elevations, but I have not verified that. You might want to look into this if you live in a high altitude city.
The 50" is about twice the cost of the 40". $10k for the 40" and >$20k for the 50" Plasma. Prices are coming down everyday, but the quality has not appeared to move up.
A home owner should be able to install a Plasma providing you are capable of doing the bracing work. Don't forget you will also need to place wiring from the screen to the TV tuner.
Q Following is a letter from one of our readers to Sony regarding a Wega TV that had big problems. So far, they have not responded.
I am writing you at this time in reference to my Sony Wega 36” XBR set. I purchased the set in January of this year. I was very pleased with the set. I did find it quite front heavy with little to no weight in the rear of the set, but that I contributed to the flat screen. Unfortunately in March of this year I was forced to move from my home in Connecticut to the Delaware Valley area in New Jersey. Being as this set was my baby, I packed it up in its carton and put it in my own vehicle and drove it to its new home myself. Unpacked the set, placed it in its new home and found it with no picture. Needless to say, I was more than a little upset. I proceeded to call the Direct Response number in order to get my set fixed ASAP, confident in the fact that Sony would take care of it. The authorized serviceman came out to my home, and advised me that Sony has deemed that the set was damaged, internally due to physical damage. I must admit I was irate to say the least. I took better care in transferring this set than I did my children (speaking figuratively of course). I called again and complained regarding this decision, but to no avail.
I then find out that there is a backorder on the part (an “A” board) that is required to fix my set and the total for me to fix it would be over $ 400. Here lay a few of my frustrations. Physical damage done internally, and the consumers are at fault. The serviceman already told me that he could not find any signs of physical damage, and that Sony is the one that deemed it so. Then on top of paying $ 2,000 for the set, I now have to pay another $ 400 for a set that is not even three months old. And an indefinite backlog on a piece that is deemed breakable only with physical damage that would be caused by the owner. Something is amiss.
Awaiting a call from the serviceman regarding the piece, I finally decided to pay him a visit. Mind you this is now going on six months. He advises me that the piece is STILL not available. The shop also informs me of the fact that the required piece is made with no support whatsoever making it susceptible to damage in almost any situation. How can this be? Why would this be? How is this fair to the consumer?
During my visit to the shop, I was also advised that a bulletin was issued to servicemen and movers on how this set should be moved. Apparently it is recommended that a ¾” piece of plywood be placed under the set and used to carry the set. But this information was never (as per the service department) forwarded to the consumers. How is a consumer to know that this set requires a very specific handling during moving? Why is Sony making a $2,000 set that can only be moved by an authorized serviceman? Why is the consumer being help responsible for these sets, for things that are not even under his control or of which he is even knowledgeable? Why is SONY making a set that can only be owned by the consumer that can will live in one place forever, and never change his decorum without running the chance of being held responsible for internal damage beyond his control.
Where has Sony’s reputation gone? Why does SONY no longer stand behind their products and their ability to last?
If the part is not available, why are we not being offered a replacement set as well as would be offered to others?
Why are owners of one of the most expensive consumer sets you offer being made to pay the piper after shelling out so much to begin with?
Let me just say, not to drop names, but I have had a Toshiba, 32 inch television since my 21st birthday. In the eight years since purchasing that set, I have unfortunately had to move (due to employment shifts) a total of five times, across three states. I am not an amateur in this matter. And let me tell you, that that set still looks as good as the day I bought it. And it does show signs of age in its cabinetry, but the set still performs like an ace. Thank you Toshiba. If only you had a flat screen.
IF I HAD KNOWN THAT SONY WAS MAKING TELEVISION SETS LIKE THIS NOW, IN THIS DAY AND AGE I WOULD HAVE NEVER PURCHASED THIS WEGA. WITH THE WAY THAT THIS SITUATION IS BEING HANDLED; I MAY NEVER PURCHASE ANOTHER SONY PRODUCT EVER AGAIN. I KNOW THAT I AM SMALL DROP IN YOUR BUCKET, BUT IT IS A BIG DROP FROM MY POCKET.
This is a very disheartening situation. It makes me want to write to everyone in the world of electronics so that it doesn’t continue to happen.
I would appreciate a response to this letter ASAP. I think after having paid in good faith for your product, I deserve some answers and feel that you can provide them, since your service area seems unable to.
I do not want this matter to go any further than it already has.
Thank you in advance for giving this matter your prompt attention.
(Name Withheld) Ref. # E07397242
A If Sony wishes to address this, the reference number above should be in their system. They are also welcome to send a response to Secrets, especially if the issue is resolved.
Q I've been looking around for a good home theater system, and have developed a liking for AIWA products. But, I checked out their home theater systems, and all of them consist of a woofer and several tiny speakers that surround the room. And that's what worries me. I used to have in my house a simple home theater. It sounded great and when watching movies it would blow me away with the sound. The speakers would have the impact that I'd notice at a movie theater. But, they were big speakers, with several around the room. Well, my question to you is, is bigger better? I haven't bought the AIWA system yet, but it doesn't seem like those tiny speakers they offer could be as good as my old system. I picture them sounding high-pitched because of their size and not delivering the full impact of what I would hear and feel from a large speaker set. I was thinking of getting AIWA's "HT-D2000" Home Theater system. if you take a look at their website you would see the speakers are very small.
A Many companies now offer the modular type of system that has been so successful for Bose. The entire system takes up very little space, and that is obviously appealing to lots of consumers. The drawback is that all the low frequencies, say below 200 Hz, go to a single subwoofer, and that subwoofer usually does not produce much sound below about 40 Hz. Because frequencies above 50 Hz are directional, the soundstage is altered significantly. Because of your expressed concerns, I would strongly suggest you get a system with larger speakers where the response for each speaker reaches at least 50 Hz. Also get a good subwoofer, specifically one with at least a 10" driver and plenty of amplifier power (at least 250 watts).
Q I have recently built a house and had cables run for speakers throughout the house. I had all of my wiring centered in our "mud room" and ran sensors for my remote equipment. Unfortunately, the pre-wire people who work with my builder were well versed with phones and satellite dishes, but did not know what composite video or S-Video cable is (I could write an article for you on the problems with home theater wiring in new house). I am therefore running it myself. I can use some of the coax cable they ran through walls for leaders. The problem is finding basic information regarding wiring. For S-Video cable, can I use any 5 wire cable (shielded)? Are there required gauge specs? Are the connectors wired straight through? What is the maximum length of an S-Video cable? What is a good web site for purchasing cable and connectors?
A S-Video appears to be wired straight through, and you could make your own. Here are some links for cables and connectors (http://www.daburn.com) (http://www.hometech.com/video/svideo.html). The length is important, as the information on the second link will indicate. They make 75 foot lengths already terminated, for $46. For custom lengths, you should contact them direct.
Q What is Virtual Stereo, or Front Surround and how do they achieve this?
A It is difficult to say specifically in your case, because marketing terminology is sometimes confusing. However, virtual surround sound is done with DSP (Digital Signal Processing). A computer chip looks at the signals, and adds and/or subtracts specific parts of the signal to put into other channels. Often, a bit of reverberation (echo) is added, and perhaps one channel is delayed a few milliseconds with respect to the other. The overall effect is a production of 3-dimensional sound. Recently, several companies have started marketing virtual surround sound for use with just 2 speakers or a pair of headphones. I have seen praise and condemnation in various reviews.
Q (1) Is it a good idea to get speakers of the same brand for all channels, so that they are matched?
(2) If you're familiar with infinity speakers, what advantages do the current models have over last years? What other brands of speakers do you suggest that are comparable to Infinity in performance and price? I have looked at three-way front and center speakers; are these better recommended than two-way? An obvious difference?
(3) What about front speakers with powered subwoofers? Are these recommended even if one has a separate powered subwoofer? Would the difference only be detected when playing an audio source like a CD or tape because the subwoofer does not have its own channel like it has in 5.1 Dolby Digital?
(4) Is a 75 watt subwoofer worth it, or should I look at ones of at least 150 watt?
(5) Is there any signal improvement (noticeable?) by having a receiver with digital decoding and a DVD with digital decoding as opposed to just one or the other component having it?
A (1) Yes, although the brand is not so important if the actual design of the speakers isn't very similar. If the company voices the speakers for a specific sound, then it may help. However, if the driver arrays aren't similar, with similar crossover features, then it may be just as likely to get a good match with a different, though similar-sounding, brand. For the front three channels, the ideal setup is identical speakers. For the rear channels, speakers should be at least similar, although the nature of the surround information, and the reality of speaker placement, make selection somewhat of a judgment call.
(2) I would like to point out that neither a two-way or three-way speaker is inherently superior to the other. The performance of either depends on a lot of variables. However, everything else being equal, a three-way speaker will allow the individual drivers to concentrate on a narrower range of frequencies to reproduce, which may allow lower distortion and greater output, compared to a two-way design. That's not to say that a two-way design can't equal or surpass a three-way design in that regard, but that a three-way design makes performance along those lines easier to achieve. It also adds the cost of more drivers and crossover components, as well as generally larger cabinets, where from a budget perspective a two-way speaker could put the money into better parts and construction. A two-way speaker, though, has an advantage in that by eliminating a crossover point, there is not only less work to do in crossover design and testing, but no induced phase shift in the region where that crossover would have been. There may still be a phase shift at the crossover between the tweeter and mid-bass, although if that point is high enough (roughly 2 kHz and up), then the human ear has much more difficulty detecting any phase changes. That's not to say that phase doesn't matter, as it still affects the way that the output of the drivers will sum, affecting the dispersion pattern (directionality characteristics) and frequency response of the speaker.
(3) Powered subwoofers attached to speakers is a great way of making a full-range speaker without a lot of enclosure volume, as it allows the designer to simply compensate by equalizing before the dedicated amplifier, just as most separate subwoofers do in one way or another. Whether or not a separate subwoofer receives bass information is a function of the bass management of the receiver or processor. With some of them, to get bass content from the speakers to go to the subwoofer, the user must set the speaker outputs to "small."
(4) That depends very much on the subwoofer. The amplifier is just a small part of the system. A long time ago I reviewed an M&K subwoofer, the V-75mkII, which had a 75 watt amplifier, a medium-sized box, and a reasonable quality 12" driver, and it performed well-enough to improve the bass response and quality of many already good systems. Granted, it didn't have the output capability of some of the bigger, more expensive subs, but for under $700, it was terrific. OTOH, if you're talking about a $299, small-boxed "sub" (using the term loosely) with 6" drivers, it's unlikely that would have any positive effect with decent floor-standing speakers, and would most likely just add bass, rather than extension, and muck up the quality as well.
(5) So long as the DVD player can output the digital bit-stream, and the receiver can decode it, there's no reason that having the decoding in the player would be of any benefit, unless the player's decoding and D/A conversion was substantially better, and the receiver had 5.1 analog inputs.
Q I've been busy raising my children since 1980 and am now hoping to resurrect my old Pioneer receiver and Advent speakers that have been collecting dust. With college tuition payments, I'd rather not have to buy a new receiver and was hoping that there may be a component available out there that separates sound (it doesn't have to be the quality of DTS or DD) that could be used with my old receiver.
A I would suggest purchasing an inexpensive pair of bookshelf speakers for the rear (Paradigm makes some nice ones), and just wiring them in series with the front speakers, but left to right reversed, and phase reversed. You should get speakers with the same impedance as your Advents and about the same sensitivity. Here is a diagram. This will give you an enveloping sound that has a nice effect in my experience. It is about as inexpensive a modification as you can get.
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