Exotic Cables, AVR Upgrade, DVD Recorder
The Great Audio-Cable Debate
Are exotic audio cables worth the money? Can you really hear the difference? I have a hard time putting my arms around spending thousands of dollars on cable made of 99.9999% long-grain copperas I understand it, copper is copper. Also, I've been told to use XLR interconnects.
At the risk of pissing off my audiophile brethren, I don't believe that super-expensive cables are worth the cost. Many audiophiles claim to hear a big difference in the sound quality of different cables, but I hear a minute difference at best, and whatever improvement there might be isn't worth the huge extra cost to me. I do agree that using balanced XLR interconnect cables if possible is significantly better than unbalanced RCA cables, but this is because balanced cables are much better at rejecting EMI and RFI noise.
For more on the whole cable debate, click here.
Plenty Good Enough
I recently purchased a Rotel RSX-1057 AVR on sale for $1000, and it sounds great. However, the new Rotels (RSX-1550 and RSX-1560) have HDMI 1.3, which would be compatible with my PS3 for decoding Dolby TrueHD and DTS-HD Master Audio. The new Rotels are $2000 and $2600, and I'm wondering if it's worth the price to upgrade in order to hear the HD audio, or if the audio does not actually sound better enough to warrant it. Perhaps the 1057 is good enough?
You'll be happy to learn that you have no need to upgrade. The PS3 cannot send DTS-HD or Dolby TrueHD bitstreams, so the receiver needn't be capable of decoding them. The PS3 decodes these bitstreams to PCM and sends them via HDMI, and any version of HDMIincluding 1.1 as on the RSX-1057can handle PCM, so there's no need to upgrade your receiver for that purpose. You can hear the new audio formats in their full glory with your current system. I'd say the 1057 is plenty good enough.
Update: Since I posted this response, it has been brought to my attention that the RSX-1057 cannot accept any digital audio via HDMI, information that is buried in the owner's manual. I would never have thought this possible, especially since the RSX-1057 review on UAV says that it can accept multichannel PCM via HDMI. Like Home Theater, UAV fact-checks its reviews, so Rotel had an opportunity to correct this error, but it apparently slipped through the cracks.
Thus, my original answer was incorrect. In order to hear DTS-HD and Dolby TrueHD at full resolution, you need to either (1) replace the receiver with one that can accept PCM via HDMI, or (2) replace the PS3 with a Blu-ray player that has multichannel analog outputs, which can be connected to the RSX-1057's multichannel analog inputs. The first option is more expensive, but I recommend it over replacing the PS3 because sending multichannel analog audio to the RSX-1057 bypasses the receiver's DSP, EQ, and bass-management functions, and it requires six or eight interconnect cables.
DTV to DVD
I want to record over-the-air digital TV programs on a DVD recorder. Is there a way to record channel 11-1, 7-2, etc. on a DVD recorder?
Unfortunately, there's no way to record DTV signals directly on a DVD recorder, which is designed to record analog standard-def signals only. You could get a DTV converter box and connect its analog output to the DVD recorder, but all recordings will be standard def. Also, there's no convenient way to automate the processyou'll have to set the channel and start and stop the recording manually.
There are no standalone, high-def Blu-ray recorders available in the US, though they are available in Japan. The only way to record HD programs in this country is with a hard-disk-based DVR; for over-the-air high-def, I recommend the TiVo HD.
Update: Since I posted this response, I've learned that Panasonic makes several DVD recorders with ATSC tuners built inthe company calls this its "DTV transition solution." These units, which list for $230 to $300, record all DTV signalsHD and SDin standard def and then upconvert the recordings to 1080p for playback. This seems like the perfect solution for Pete.
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