Q&A # 29 - September 16, 1997
Q I'm just starting my home theater system, and I wanted to ask some advice about a powered sub. I have the Yamaha RX-V990 with a Bose AM-10 series speaker system along with the Toshiba DVD SD-3006. I'm wondering
since all of the satellite speakers connect into the bandpass. How do I go
about bypassing that, or would I just instead use the bandpass like a
midrange speaker? And also could you suggest any subs? This is for a small
apartment. Suggestion made from the salesman was to go with the Polk PSW50. And last but not least. Could you all give me some suggestions on an AC-3 decoder to add also? I was looking at either the Yamaha DDP-2, DDP-1, or the Onkyo ED-901. The salesman suggested the Onkyo due to the fact that
it has the new Motorola chip that offers 24-bit data path.
A You should just leave the Bose system with its bandpass since the satellite speakers are so small. The Bose bass unit will serve as mid/bass. Connect the new subwoofer to the line-level subwoofer output on the RX-V990, and set it (the subwoofer) with a low-pass frequency of around 60 Hz. Since you have a Yamaha receiver, probably stick with the Yamaha AC-3 decoder. The DDP-2 does not have an RF demodulator on it, but since you have a DVD player, you don't need that anyway. So, go for the DDP-2. It has an easier control panel than the DDP-1. For a small apartment, get the Sunfire Subwoofer. I have not listened to the Polk PSW50 so I can't make recommendations on it, one way or the other. But, deep bass is a very important part of home theater, so get the best one you can afford.
Q I'm planning to buy a good CD system, which could be a separate D/A converter and transport or a good CD player. My budget is about $2500. I'm currently considering:
Theta Chroma D/A converter + Theta Pearl transport
Theta Miles CD player
1. What do you think about these two options? Which is better? Does Miles allow
inputs from other sources (i.e., DVD player, another transport) to use Miles'
2. Miles comes with 2 versions, one with balanced (more expensive). Should I
get the balanced version? I don't know what it's for.
3. What do you think about Theta Chroma and a CD changers instead of Pearl
transport? Any good CD changer sound as good as the Pearl transport?
4. Do you have other suggestions beside the above two?
My current system:
Parasound ps/p 1000 preprocessor
A Usually CD players have digital outputs so you can connect the
transport portion of the player to another DAC. I am not familiar
with the Miles, but a CD player that has inputs to its DAC for
connection with another CD transport would be unusual. The balanced
output on the Niles CD player could be the balanced digital
output of the transport, or balanced analog outputs of the DAC (if there is a pair). But you would need a DAC with a balanced
input in order to use the balanced digital output, or a balanced set of inputs on the preamplifier to use balanced analog outputs from the DAC. Balanced connections are becoming more and
more a part of hifi components, but they are useful only if you have
long interconnects (reduces hum), and for sonic benefits, the
component must have balanced circuitry from input to output. I will
be talking about this more in an upcoming review of a fully balanced
preamplifier. But, in any case, don't spend a lot on a CD player
with the idea up front of getting another DAC. That would be a waste of money. If you
want to do separates, get a good transport and a DAC to go with it.
Theta is fine. But go listen to them, with the transport and model of DAC that
you are considering to purchase. Don't pick a transport that you have listened to with whatever DAC is in the store, and then pick out some other DAC without hearing it connected to that transport. They all sound slightly different. Also consider that 96 kHz - 24 bit CDs are coming. DACs with this capability have just been released. They should work with any transport.
Q Are video data encoded on DVD in Y/C or Y/Cr/Cb (Y, R-Y, B-Y) format? How much real quality difference is there, using the S-Video connection vs. the new component level connection? Is it possible (or does it really make sense) to
modify existing TV/Projectors with S-Video connections to component level
connections? What is the maximun cable run length for S-Video vs. component
before signal degradation?
A Video is recorded on the DVD in the component format (Y, R-Y, B-Y). The
quality differences include less noise in the colors and, depending on the TV, a
more accurate color representation due to avoiding the TV's internal
color decoder. If the TV has a non accurate color decoder, like most do,
you will see more accurate colors with component video, and normal reds and greens, rather than having them overemphasized. It is unclear right now whether existing TVs can be upgraded to have component video inputs. Probably someone will come up with a PC board to do it. Cable lengths for audio and video should be kept as short as possible. However, I have used 25 foot lengths of S-Video cable without any obvious degradation.
Q When you have your projection TV calibrated by ISF, how do they adjust the lens focussing? I get fuzzy reception with football games on my TV, even after I tried focussing the lenses.
A Generally, an ISF tech will do two types of Focus. First they do an
electrical focus which is used to determine the beam spot size. The second is the mechanical (probably what you did), which is like focusing a camera's lens. Convergence could also be an issue. If the bottom portion
of the screen is out of convergence, it could blur a little bit. What is the
source of your Football games? If it is cable, perhaps you are just
receiving a bad signal. If on the other hand, you can read the scores with a different TV, you might just have a problem with your TV.
You can find a list of ISF trained dealers at
http://www.imagingscience.com. Here you can search your area and start
contacting someone about your TV. NOTE: Not all ISF trained personal
are equal, so you should call around. Ensure that they have either the
Philips Color Analyzer or Photo Research Spectrum Analyzer.
Q Whilst reading your Q&A #27, I noticed you mentioned something about
"Data/Graphics Grade Projectors". I've also seen this term applied
elsewhere before. Just what are "Data/Graphics Grade Projectors" and
are they different (better?) than normal projectors?
A Standard NTSC TVs scan at 15 kHz. When a projector is data grade, it can
scan at 31.5 kHz allowing the use of a PC (VGA) or line doubler connected to
it. A graphics grade projector can scan to 63+ kHz, which will allow for a
line quadrupler or a PC running in SVGA and more (HDTV).
Q I am interested in buying a decent hi-fi system and am interested to know the following:
1) What is the difference between micro, mini, and midi systems? 2) What is a good combination of a hi-fi system, say with a budget of $2,000 to $3,000? 3) Why is one system more expensive than the others even if options are more or less the same? 4) Is it better to buy a hi-fi
with all components made by the same company or a combination? I mean a
tape deck, amplifier, equalizer, audio/video, CD player, etc?
A Micro, mini, and midi refers to the overall size of the system. They are all stacks of components, one on top of another, with the speakers at the sides. Micro systems are perhaps 10" wide by 12" high and 8" deep, including all the components. You can pay a lot for this miniaturization. Mini systems are a few inches wider, deeper, and higher. Midi systems are compact full systems with larger powered amplifiers and bookshelf speakers. Micros and minis can be in the same price range, and the minis have lots of gadgets (flashing equalizers). Micros and minis would fit on your desk, while midis are more for placement on a shelf. For your budget, I would suggest a midi, or a set of separates that you assemble into the package you like. If you like remote controls, having the same brand of receiver, VCR, CD player, etc., will generally be easier. But with the new learning remote controls that are quickly becoming popular, you could have a number of different brands, and use one learning remote to control them all. Using your budget as a guide, I would suggest about $250 for the CD player, $250 for the cassette tape deck, $1,000 for the receiver, and $500 for a pair of speakers. Most receivers these days are powered for surround sound, and you could add more speakers later. If you really like rental movies, and your local store has DVDs for rent, then I would suggest getting a DVD player rather than a VCR, unless recording video is really important to you. I have seen the Toshiba 2006 on sale lately for about $450.
Q Just curious if you had opinions on older Audio Alchemy units. I can get them used for a really good price ($165) and was wondering if you think they would improve my sound. My CD player is a Parasound C/DC 1500 changer. I would
like some more detail in the highs (cymbals, brushes, etc.) and tighter
bass. The rest of my system is:
Parasond HCA-806 amp
Rotel RSP-960 preamp/surround decoder
B&W P5 front mains
B&W CC6 center
Kimber PBJ cables
12 AWG speaker cable
A We still have a complete AA CD system in the lab, and nothing has ever gone wrong with it. The sound is terrific. However, as you know, AA is no longer in business, and you would need to have them repaired using outsourced shops. So, you have a double caveat here. One is for the "buyer beware" situation faced with all used components, and the other is with having to find someone to repair them later on if they become defective. A serious repair could easily cost you more than the $165. But, it sounds like a good price. If it is someone you know who is close by, get them for a trial period (say, 30 days), and use them heavily.
Q Before I start asking you guys for help, I would like to thank you for your
wonderful magazine. I think the blending of measurement and opinion on
the various equipment reviewed is impeccably presented. You guys don't mix
words, and come right to the point. Without a doubt, my favorite audio/video
I currently own a modest home theater, installed in a 12 x 12 room , that
includes a Yamaha 3090, Definitive Technology BP 2002s (main channel),
CLR2002 center channel, and BPX surrounds. While I like certain aspects of
my speakers, (Dynamics, large soundstage) after about an hour or so of
listening, I find that my system starts grating on me. Above this, at about
11 o’clock on the volume dial, the center channel speaker starts to lose
its focus and becomes quite edgy. Also, my listening position is against
my rear wall, and I seem to have a problem in that the rear channel has very
little presence, even when adjusted with an SPL meter and speaker position
recommended by Def Tech.
I have received a recommendation from my dealer to 1.) trade in my Def Tech speakers for a B&W HTM center speaker and 4 B&W Matrix 805s to get a more detailed and laid back sound and to provide direct
radiators for the rear channel which would be a better choice for my
listening position 2.) get a Sunfire sub. 3.) get a Sunfire CinemaGrand amp to
stop the clipping of the center channel and provide a "mellowness". I would
like to get a non-money-grubbing-scum opinion on these recommendations from
somebody that I trust and guess what? You guys fit the bill!
A My opinion on this is that it is the 3090 amplifier clipping that is the real problem here, not the speakers. So, get the CinemaGrand. It has tons of power. If you prefer a softer sound, you could also consider the Adcom GFA-5500 and 5503 for about the same price and rated power. The CinemaGrand uses bipolar output devices, while the Adcom uses MOSFETS. Also, the Sunfire Subwoofer is a real kick for the money, and will add 20 Hz sound to your system. Def Tech is fine, so forget about buying new main, center, and surround speakers. As to your rear channel, sitting against the rear wall is a problem. If you can't move the couch out from the wall, then move the rear speakers so that they sit on some end tables at the side of the couch, aming just slightly away (towards the TV) from you on the couch. Or you could leave them on the wall but aim them in a different direction, like upward to the ceiling or towards the rear wall, in a way that the angle of reflection off the ceiling or the rear wall aims the sound at the sitting position. Consider it like shooting pool, with the cue stick where the speaker is, and you are the pocket. Aim the speaker to reflect and come to where you are sitting.
© Copyright 1997
Secrets of Home Theater & High Fidelity
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