Sweet Setup!

Even though I have posted a photo of the new TV, I haven’t blogged about the new A/V setup yet. Today I went to BestBuy and bought a A/V selector and a bunch of cables so I finally able to hook up all the gears (almost). So here are what I have so far:

  • HDTV – Toshiba 46HM94
  • Cable – Scientific Atlanta 8300HD with DVR
  • DVD player – Zenith DVB318
  • DVD/Receiver – Panasonic SC-HT900
  • A/V Selector – Pelican PL960

Current A/V setup

Originally uploaded by alexhung.

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The Setup

The 8300HD is connected to the TV via HDMI (for video) and regular RCA cables for audio. The optical output from the 8300HD is sent to one of the input in the A/V selector. Why the RCA cables? Coz Time Warner Cable messed up their firmware in the 8300HD and there is no audio through HDMI even though it supposes to. At least I get Dolby Digital 5.1 signal out from the optical output as many 8300HD users have problem with getting a DD5.1. Most of them can only get stereo signal and forced to have the video through component video. This of course defeats the purpose of using the HDMI in the first place!

Both the Zenith and Panasonic’s video are connected to the A/V selector via component video, with the Zenith’s optical output also connected to the selector. Since the Panasonic is also the receiver, the optical output from the A/V selector is sent to the Panasonic. The component video output from the A/V selector is connected to one of two Toshiba’s component input.

I didn’t mention the XBox because right now it is not connected to the A/V selector which is my plan eventually. It is connected directly to the Toshiba via component video only with its optical audio sent to the Sony DP-IF4000 wireless surround sound headphones. Eventually, the XBox video and audio will be routed through the A/V selector with the Sony headphone sitting between the A/V selector and the Panasonic. This will allow me to use my headphones for all the sources.

By the way, the Zenith is a kind donation from my friend. The Zenith is a one of the cheapest DVD player that upconverts regular DVD output (480i or 480p) to HD (720p or 1080i). He now has a much nicer, top of the range, Denon DVD player that has a newer generator of the scaler chip.

The Result

Straight out of the box, the Toshiba delivers a really nice picture without much adjustments. The image was not over-saturated or over-processed with the contrast well in the watchable region. But after calibrating with Avia DVD, the image is almost perfect. Images from Discovery HD are especially stunting, almost life-like. Ideally, I need to get a ISF technical to calibrate the TV using professional equipment. This will set the correct greyscale setting which I can’t do. But with the quoted price of $450 from one of the Tri-States area calibrator, I think I will be holding off this process until I feel I really need it.

As for the Zenith DVD player I am so impressed with the result after watching Gladiator this evening, I can’t imagine what the latest upconvert DVD player can do. The scaler chip in the Zenith is so much better than the Panasonic (it converts regular DVD/480i to 480p), especially with less than perfect source such as the Band of Brother DVDs. With the Panasonic, the images are just what you would expect; a regular DVD image enlarged to HD size. With the Zenith, the images are much smoother with previously noisy area much less prominent.

The sound is very much adequate for what I paid for. The Panasonic produces decent sound for such a surprising cheap package ($350 for a 5 disc DVD player/receiver plus 6 speakers setup). But then, nothing can reach the setup I had in London (Yamaha A-2 receiver outputting 120W/channel, 4 B&W 602 speakers, B&W centre, and a 10″ active subwoofer) unless I spend a few more thousands dollars. Not to mention my neighbours will hate me!

The Annoyances

One of the annoyance is the proliferation of the remote controls. I can control the channel switching and TV volume with the 8300HD remote but I need the TV remote to switch picture stretch mode. And when watching DVD, I need to use the Zenith remote to do the usual stuff while using the Panasonic remote for receiver volume. As you can see, this can get a bit annoying. Eventually, in a month or so, I will have to buy the Logitech Harmony 880 universal remote control to consolidate everything into one.

Another annoyance is that the A/V selector is not remote controlled so every time I change the source, I’ll have to get up and do it manually. You get what you pay for, I guess, because if I spend 4 times more I can get the JVC model that does the same thing as the Pelican but with a remote control. Oh, and the Pelican is not silver. BestBuy only has the black model in the 23rd St. store.

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