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Today's receivers need a better user interface

Discussion in 'Archived Threads 2001-2004' started by Ted Todorov, Apr 2, 2002.

  1. Ted Todorov

    Ted Todorov Producer

    Aug 17, 2000
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    I have a major complaint -- receivers are getting absurdly difficult to use, indeed almost insurmountably so for someone who is not an HT wiz -- one of us, as it were. Particularly galling is the disappearance of one button, front panel solutions for commonly used functions.

    I just set up my parents new Denon 3802, (a replacement for their circa 1978 Marantz). The Denon does double duty as their 5.1 Home Theater system in the TV room and powers the stereo speakers in the living room for music listening.

    I am amazed at how difficult the Denon is to set up and use. If I hadn't been there to set it up, and if I weren't around now for continuing customer...I mean parent support, they would never have managed on their own. The same could absolutely not be said about their old Marantz, or for my circa '83 Onkyo which was replaced in my house by a Denon 2800 1.5 years ago.

    My parents (ages 80 & 68) are no dummies, I should add -- my step dad is a retired physics/mathematics professor, my mom has a masters in physics, and both use computers to do their work.

    For instance: try configuring/explaining though one simple (or so I thought) thing -- A/B main speakers. On their Marantz, on my Onkyo, even on my Denon 2800 it couldn't be any more simple -- you plug in the speakers in the same room as your receiver in the "A" L/R posts, the ones for the second room in the "B" L/R posts. On the front panel of the receiver there is an "A" & a "B" button. You can press one, both or neither depending on whether you want to listen to the music in one or both rooms or on headphone. You can do it very quickly -- if the phone rings, you better half complains, etc.

    On the 3802, the A/B posts & buttons are gone. You now have a vastly more flexible and powerful tool -- you can set the volumes on the A/B speakers independently, you can choose some source to go to both sets of speakers and some to only one, you can use the "B" speakers either in a different room or as rears in a 7.1 setup. But you have lost the easy ability to switch between them, it took me ten minutes to explain how to use the remote to change the volumes separately, and sure enough I got a call today complaining that they couldn't turn off the sound in the living room.

    The setup itself took me 20 minutes of manual reading and playing with menus -- and I already own a very similar Denon product! I have never actually looked at the manuals of the Marantz/Onkyo mentioned above.

    This is but one of many, many examples. Yes, I am comparing apples to oranges -- today's AV receivers do vastly more. But there is no excuse for them to make so difficult the same basic functions that receivers have been doing for the last 30+ years. There should be easy set up & controls for basic functions -- leave the complicated menus and remote modes for the fancy new functions.

    More powerful should not equal more difficult. There is no excuse.

  2. Marc Rochkind

    Marc Rochkind Second Unit

    Aug 26, 2000
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    Agree completely. Well said!

    Here is my more specific list of what is wrong. It applies as well to other consumer items where the technology has exploded, such as digital cameras.

    1. Many levels of menus with important options mixed in with obscure options, both given exactly the same weight.

    2. Use of terminology that nobody understands. For example, on my JVC disc player you can set the Dolby Digital downmix to "Lo/Ro." Not even people on this forum knew what that meant. I had to find it in a white paper on the Dolby site. You know what it means? It means "regular normal run-of-the-mill vanilla Dolby Pro Logic."

    3. Horribly written instruciton manuals, with some critical information buried in picture captions. Just as much space, if not more space, is given to obscure things like setting up the remote to control a MiniDisc player vs. setting the channel sound levels. (I am very familiar with Denon manuals, and they are among the worst I've seen. However, at least they are accurate.)

    I'd better stop now... once I start it's hard to stop!
  3. mctague

    mctague Stunt Coordinator

    Nov 9, 1999
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    How bout some people chime in with what they consider easy to operate receivers?

    About every 6 to 9 months I must struggle with my father's misconfigured Home Theater, as he swears up and down he didn't change anything! He has an Outlaw 1050, whose digitial input selection and 6.1 selection have caused him some grief.

    Once I get my Stage-1 (with its Pronto Neo remote), I think I will give him my Pronto, and streamline ALL remote features....

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