A few noob technical/opinion questions for you pros...

Discussion in 'AV Receivers' started by Theogenes, Aug 31, 2006.

  1. Theogenes

    Theogenes Agent

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    Hello!

    I am a newcomer to the home theater world, and I have a few questions I thought I would throw out there for you more knowledgable guys. First of all, I am in the process of building my first HT. I recently purchased a Toshiba 52hm95 and really like it so far. I have a Philips DVP642/37 DVD player outputting 480p through component cables directly into my TV. I just got a HD box from Adelphia (which was absolutely nothing like the lady promised me- thanks Adelphia) and, as the HD channels are not working as of this evening (thanks again), I have no idea what a good HD picture really looks like (aside from the browsing I've done in every electronics store in east Tennessee), so I'm not going to be able to really evaluate the picture quality with any sort of deep knowledge. I was originally looking for an HTIB, but as this really doesn't seem to add any value to the system (not to mention being utter anathema to the HT crowd) I am now looking for a low-cost component system. Ideally, I would like to have at the very least a DVD player with 'very good' to 'excellent' video upscaling (my Toshiba's native resolution is 720p, but accepts 1080i and p) and a 5.1 Dolby Digital surround sound system, preferably with wireless rear speakers. (Video is, at least at the moment, a more pressing concern for me than audio). I was initally deadset on HDMI technology. However, having read through a bunch of threads here (most notably the HDMI vs DVI debate involving the Outlaw eschewing of HDMI technology), I have become considerably more cautious about using this type of technology. I have already posted a more detailed question about HDMI on that thread, so I'll just eagerly await the responses there. I have a few more general questions here:

    1). Does anyone have any ideas on how to build a system somewhat close to what is specified above (or better) and keep within about a $600 budget? I'm definitely open to ideas!

    2). As my TV has a native resolution of 720p, is there really a distinct advantage to having something like the HD-A1 over a good SD upconverting DVD player? And how close is component video to HDMI?

    3). I would really like to have everything up and running as soon as possible. But would I be better off to just do without and buy one component at a time, waiting until I could afford the nicer stuff? (BTW, my definition of 'nicer stuff' probably resembles most of your definitions of 'decent to pretty good stuff.')

    4). Is anyone else having trouble with Adelphia? The customer service rep on the phone told me I would have 16 HD channels, 60 more normal channels, and a HDMI port on the back of my device. As far as I can tell, all of this is absolute hogwash. Not only that, but after racing home to meet the Adelphia techs (who were pretty nice guys, in their defense) to make sure everything got set up, I now find that I am not 'authorized' to watch the HD channels I'm paying for. What is the best way to deal with these people?

    4). I am currently reading "Home Theater for Dummies" along with a vigorous regimen of HTF and other online sources. Does anyone have any reccommendations (especially books) of resources for really delving into HT? I'm something of a gadget freak (I have a BlackBerry 7130e and an LG vx9800) and I would really like to be able to hit the ground running and get up to speed quickly. The 'Dummies' book has been just wonderful so far, but I'm looking to supplement that info with more good stuff.

    5). This one is related my earlier ramblings: what's a really good buy on a DVD player with good to great upscaling and a HDMI out? (And if it happens to be a PVR as well- more power to it!) And are there any reasonably-priced A/V recievers with HDMI passthrough? I saw a Sony online (sorry, model number escapes me) but I believe I read somewhere on HTF that Sony is not a good brand for that sort of thing. Any thoughts?

    Whew. Sorry to be so long-winded. I'm just new to all this and very excited by the prospect of figuring the whole HT thing out. I am open to any advice and reccommendations anyone may have. Thanks for taking the time to read my post, and special thanks to anybody who has any help for a hopelessly addicted newbie! I look forward to hearing from you!
     
  2. FeisalK

    FeisalK Screenwriter

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    does your budget include a DVD player?
     
  3. Theogenes

    Theogenes Agent

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    Ideally, yes. But do you think it would be better to keep the Philips I have now until I can afford an HD-DVD player or go ahead and try to find a good deal on an HDMI-out upconverting player? Again, I'm really open to ideas since you guys know a lot more about this stuff...
     
  4. FeisalK

    FeisalK Screenwriter

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    keep the philips for now. I'd suggest building a system over time since the budget is somewhat lean - the nice display deserves better sound and you can achieve that in stages. First off a receiver (Panasonic XR57 - $285, from J&R, it can pair with Panasonic;s wireless speakers)
     
  5. Mort Corey

    Mort Corey Supporting Actor

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    As far as Adelphia (soon to be Time Warner in my area), they should have a toll free customer service number. Their service people can ping the box as well as turn on and off various channel options.......assuming it's hooked up properly. Do you know the box manufacturer? Is it connected to your display via component or HDMI (or even DVI)?

    Mort
     
  6. Theogenes

    Theogenes Agent

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    When the installation guys were here, the HD was up and running. I briefly (less than 2 mins) looked around and tried to get some of my settings where I wanted them before dashing back off to work (I was on my lunch break). By the time I got home that evening, however, I was apparently 'not authorized' to watch the HD channels I was and am paying for. On top of that, I specifically asked the rep on the phone if the box they were sending had an HDMI out. She absolutely assured me that it did. And, of course, it did not. And to add further insult to injury, she told me I would have 16 HD channels. I have 9, two of which are pay-per-view movie channels, which almost doesn't even count for me. She specifically told me I would have NFL Network (as my utter insanity about football is maybe the primary reason I finally decided to go with HD). She was quite pleasant to speak to, and I don't imagine (although I could be totally wrong) that she meant to mislead me, but her product knowledge was pretty monumentally poor. She didn't even know (nor could she find out, even after looking) what resolution the HD programming was. Sigh. Sorry to rant, but it's frustrating. As far as the receiver, I looked at that Panasonic XR57 and it looks pretty sweet! On something like that, would there be any significant improvement or degradation to the video signal by running it through the receiver versus plugging it directly into the TV? I know part of the advantage to such a device is the ability to route everything through it and simplify the connections to the TV, but it's something I was wondering about. Additionally, should Adelphia actually correct their mistake and send me a box with an HDMI out, would it be better to run that to the TV or the reciever? (It's a Motorola, btw). I'm guessing it would be better to run the video to the TV (so it isn't downgraded to component) and the audio to the receiver, but if that's not right, lemme know. Thanks for the input so far! I'm planning on going to the UT-California game tomorrow, and when I get back I'm really looking forward to firing up the Toshiba and watching some more games!
     
  7. Theogenes

    Theogenes Agent

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    I've been reading everything I can on the Panasonic SA-XR57, and it sounds like a heck of a deal to me! Unless anyone has any other suggestions of recievers to check out or provisos to noobs like myself about buying such devices, I'll probably order one soon. How about speakers? Looking through some of the stuff on the web, it looks like getting a set of speakers from the same manufacturer that are timbre-matched is very important. What else should I look for? The Panny supports 7.1 but I think 5.1 is going to be all I'll use for now, since my living room is not particularly large. Also, is it possible to get the wireless upgrade for the Panny but use another brand of speakers? If not, is it a good idea to get the Panny receiver and speakers, or try to find something else?

    Also one more random question. (Or, as you'll see as you get to know me a bit better, series of questions.) First of all, it is possible to run your video through HDMI but your audio through something else, right? And also, what is the best value as far as audio connections? My audiophilic tendencies are (appropriately enough) somewhat muted, so I don't necessarily need the very best, but I would like for the sound to be pretty good. Any thoughts?

    And, if anyone is interested, I did in fact go to the UT-Cal game today, and it was ABSOLUTELY AWESOME BEYOND MY WILDEST DREAMS. Tennessee is back, and in a big way! It's gonna be one heck of a season...
     
  8. FeisalK

    FeisalK Screenwriter

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    I think with the wireless speakers you are stuck with Panny (if i am not mistaken the XR57 transmits a digital signal for the rear speakers to amplify; and if this is true, any other speaker would require a DAC and amplifier setup at the back of the room)

    more reading: XR57 owners thread, XR55 thread (the 57 is a 55+HDMI, advanced dual amp and wireless)
     
  9. Theogenes

    Theogenes Agent

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    Unfortunately it appears that the XR57 supports only the SH-FX50/SH-FX60 wireless attachments. This is good in that it would allow me (if I understand it correctly) to use whatever speakers I like, but kind of pointless in that it would require running wires to the rear surround speakers from what appears to be a wireless amp. This seems like about a metric ton of silliness to me, as I wanted a wireless speaker system to be, well, wireless. Well, seems like I'll be stuck wiring my speakers, but that's okay. Thanks for the help! (Of course, if you find that I'm wrong, and there is a speaker system like the one you just described w/ in-speaker amps and wireless receievers, let me know!) I think I will probably order the XR57 tomorrow. Thanks for the help!!
     
  10. Mort Corey

    Mort Corey Supporting Actor

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    It sounds as if you might have a Motorola 6200 HD box (assuming yours doesn't have a DVR) and it comes with a DVI interface (and component/composite/s-video connections as well). You can check all the default settings using the remote. Here's the manual. http://broadband.motorola.com/consum...eEntertainment

    There are some firmware adjustments that the cable company feeds to the box once it's up and running. The box employs a copy protection scheme over the DVI connection and the box needs to have the latest firmware to enable the "handshake" easily. (It's all done automatically....just leave the box on for a while).

    Mort
     
  11. BillSuneson

    BillSuneson Stunt Coordinator

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    Theogenes,

    If i can make a suggestion STAY AWAY FROM WIRELESS SPEAKERS. You will be able to stay more in budget and find a better sounding speaker from a speaker that is wired. Assuming the goal is to not see any wiring, typically in any room the baseboard covers a 1/4 to 1/2 inch gap between the drywall and the floor, you can pull this back and hide wires there or you can purchase strips that attach to the wall to hide wiring in and they can be painted to match the walls of the room, they are very inexpesive at places like Menards/Home Depot/Lowes.

    The other thing you may want to consider with speakers, Buy just a stereo setup for now and add the center/rears later on this way you'll be able to experience better sound while still staying in budget, you'll get the excitement now of having new stuff and then when you add center/rears you'll have that excitement all over again. Not to mention the improvement in the level of speakers that you can get now to make it sound so much better than TV speakers.

    Bill
     
  12. Theogenes

    Theogenes Agent

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    Matt - you're right on the money, I do have a Motorola 6200 box. And as neither my TV (Toshiba 52hm95) nor the receiver I just ordered (Panny SA-XR57) have DVI inputs, I guess I will be going with a DVI-to-HDMI cable. Now I know you can spend fairly insane amounts of money on cables, but I also understand there is (as with everything) a large degree of getting what you pay for. On AVSForum everybody just raves about the cables on monoprice.com, which are waaaay cheaper than, say, Monster cables. I found this there:http://www.monoprice.com/products/product.asp?c_id=102&cp_id=10231&cs_id=1023104&p_id=2404&seq=1&format=2[/url]. Do you think this is a good idea or no? If there is a really good cable you know of that'll fit the bill without requiring me to pawn my bodily organs to afford it, I'd appreciate it. Thanks for the manual link too!!

    Bill - fair enough. I was actually having trouble figuring out how to run my setup anyway. I guess I'll just wait until I have a bigger living room. But this does segway nicely into my next question: what are a great value on a set of stereo speakers? I do more watching of television and movies than listening to music, but I will occasionally listen to music as well. Once again, I am looking for good value that gets me pretty good sound while not putting me in the poor house. (Also, and you guys have probably guessed this by now, but the WAF is an issue as well, even though we aren't technically married. Using holdouts as revenge oughtta be illegal...) Any ideas? I hear good things about Best Buy's Insignia brand, but if there's something better out there at a reasonable price point, I'm game.

    Everyone - THANK YOU!! I have (as I said at the beginning of this post) already purchased a receiver based on the advice you guys have, and I am really excited. After doing a good bit of research, I found nothing with that feature set that was anywhere near that price. You guys are lifesavers!!
     
  13. Mort Corey

    Mort Corey Supporting Actor

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    Check out Blue Jeans Cable (a forum sponser) for your HDMI to DVI cable.....depending upon length, under thirty bucks. Then just run a coax digital out from the cable box to your receiver and "presto"......surround sound (at least on the channels that carry DD 5.1).

    The Motorola manual will show you the menus so you can set the box to output 720p or 1080i for hi def channels......for the rest it needs to be set to 480i override IIRC. Once it works, no adjustments seem necessary.....least I haven't had to for the last couple of years.

    Mort
     
  14. Theogenes

    Theogenes Agent

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    Cool deal. I've already configured my HD box to output 1080i and you're right, it does look great. I just ordered a DVI-to-HDMI cable, a digital coax cable, and an HDMI cable for my system. Blue Jeans is a lot more than monoprice.com, but a lot less than Monster or QED, so I'm excited to see how they do. The next step is going to be speakers, so if you have any ideas about that, lay 'em on me. Additionally, I'm starting to look around for a good calibration DVD as well. If anyone knows of a good one, I'd appreciate it.

    Hope everybody is ready for the UT-Army game... just shoring up the stats a bit before crushing UF on our way to a national championship!! (Maybe I'm a little deluded. But it was one heck of a season opener!!)
     
  15. Arthur S

    Arthur S Cinematographer

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    Well, it is too late, since you ordered the XR-57, but for future reference, there is an XR-58 coming soon, that has some worthwhile additions, like room correction. There was a post about the 58 a couple weeks ago.
     
  16. Theogenes

    Theogenes Agent

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    Yeah, I was reading about it over on AVSForums. Sounds pretty great, but this is my first HT, and I'm trying to get everything set up fairly quickly. The only reservations I have about the XR57 are that it only has one HDMI input and one output, and that it does not have upscaling or true switching among inputs. Other than that, it sounds like a heck of a unit, and I think it'll be great for my setup. If I need to I can get a good HDMI switcher a little further down the pike. Thanks for the heads-up, Arthur. Here are a couple of questions I do have, though:

    1). What are some decent speakers to go with the XR57? Right now I'm looking to just get the stereo speakers for now and add surround speakers later (a nod here to Bill's post earlier). As far as budget goes, I'm looking at definitely below $200, and preferably under $150. Any time I purchase HT gear, my girlfriend uses that as an excuse to buy more Vera Bradley purses and whatnot, and if I see one more item covered in Green Apple paisley, I might just lose it. So budget is kinda important.

    2). I recently purchased a Philips MANT510 HDTV antenna. Only had time to play with it briefly and haven't gotten it to work yet. My uncle has an HDTV and an antenna, and he says we do indeed get several channels broadcast in hi-def in this area. One of the channels is ABC, which has several football games I want to watch (not the least of which is the Ohio State v. Texas, which I will unfortunately be unable to watch, as I will be at the Tennessee game). Anybody with ideas or suggestions about antennas (as I know less than nothing about them) would be greatly appreciated as well.

    3). I've heard good things about the Avia calibration disc. Any thoughts?

    On a side note, I am absolutely loving delving into the HT world! My coworkers and loved ones are quickly tiring of my constant chattering about this connection or that feature, but my loved ones at least can't really disown me, so they'll just have to listen. Thanks for all the help!
     
  17. Mort Corey

    Mort Corey Supporting Actor

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    The Avia disk will give you the best bang for the buck. There's a Sound & Vision Home Theater tune up disk that's a little less expensive but not as in depth. In your price range Athena makes some pretty nice bookshelf speakers that are sold at BB.

    Mort
     
  18. Arthur S

    Arthur S Cinematographer

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    Burnley

    You might consider the Insignia 6.5 inch coaxials from Best Buy. Check the thread in the speakers forum from a couple weeks ago. These $50/pair speakers have gotten a lot of good reviews. For $100, you can get 2 pair and have surround sound now. When your budget allows, you can upgrade, and move the Ensignias to the bedroom...
     
  19. Theogenes

    Theogenes Agent

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    Cool deal! I'll check them out. I have recently been alerted that my granddad (an audiophile from way back when) purchased some top-of-the-line speakers which he apparently does not need and is willing to donate to my cause. What kind? Not sure. But you can bet the whole bundle that I'm gonna check them out. I'm tentatively excited... I'll keep you posted...
     
  20. Theogenes

    Theogenes Agent

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    If anyone is still reading this sucker, just wanted to let you know I ordered an Oppo 971H DVD player and an Avia calibration disc. Haven't arrived yet, but they shipped tonight. I still haven't gotten my speakers, but hopefully I will tomorrow. If I end up tarrying much longer, I'll probably just bite the bullet and buy one of the sets we talked about. My home theater is really starting to come together, and I'm extremely excited. Thanks so much to everybody who has helped out so far!! I'll post again when I get the Oppo hooked up and when I get my speakers, or if I find any more questions about 'em!
     

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