Universal Remotes, Budget PJs, Subwoofers
Living in Harmony
My son just broke my TiVo remote. Should I buy a Logitech Harmony 650 universal remote to replace it and four other remotes?
Absolutely! The Logitech Harmony remotes are my favorite universal remotesthat is, the ones with the physical buttons, not the touchscreen models. Why physical buttons? Because you can learn where the buttons are by feel and not have to look at the remote to operate it. With a touchscreen remote, you have to take your eyes off the TV to see where the buttons are, and the remote screen is often very bright, which can be uncomfortable.
Unlike many such remotes, the Harmony paradigm is based on activities, such as "Watch TV," "Watch a Movie," and "Listen to Music," treating your entire system as a single integrated entity. To configure the remote, all you do is connect it to your computer via USB, navigate to the Harmony website, enter the make and model number of each device in your system, and specify which device changes channels and controls the volume for each activity as well as which input they need to be on. If Logitech's database doesn't have the codes for a particular devicehighly unlikely, since it currently has over 5000 brands and 225,000 devicesyou can teach it the IR codes from the unit's own remote, and those codes are then added to the database for future users. Once you've specified your system, the proper codes and macros are automatically downloaded into the remote, and you're good to go.
Then there's the superb Help feature. If a device doesn't turn on or off or change to the correct input when it's supposed to, simply press the Help button, and the remote asks you about the status of the various devices. Is the TV on? Is the receiver set to the right input? If your reply is different than what the remote expects, it issues the appropriate command and asks if that fixed the problem.
The 650 replaces up to five remotes, and it offers three dedicated activity buttonsWatch TV, Watch a Movie, and Listen to Music. Other activities can be selected using the "soft buttons" on the sides of the small color LCD screen, which change their function and corresponding labels depending on what you're doing. The 700 is essentially identical except that it replaces six remotes and runs on rechargeable batteries, while the 650 uses standard AA batteries. In both cases, the button layout is among the best I've seen, so I heartily recommend either one.
Projecting a Budget Surplus
What is the best budget projector you've seen? Also, what is the best bargain screen you've seen? I've read good things about the Epson 8700UB and 9700UB; in particular, the black levels are amazing for the money. According to one reviewer, you would have to spend something around $4000 to do any better. I would like to stay around $2,000 to $2,500.
BTW, I love the Home Theater Geeks podcast. Geek out!
I agree that Epson's projectors offer outstanding blacks and superb performance in other areas for the money. I'm just starting my review of the Home Cinema 8350 ($1300), and I'll report my findings here on HomeTheater.com.
The Home Cinema 8700 UB lists for $2200, while the Pro Cinema 9700 UB, reviewed here, lists for $3100. These two models are identical except that the 9700 has a black chassis and comes with an extra lamp and mounting hardware, a longer warranty, two anamorphic-lens modes, and ISF certification. In your budget range, I'd definitely recommend the 8700 UB as the best bang for the buck.
A Tale of Two Subwoofers
I'm torn between two subwoofersthe SVS PC13-Ultra and PB13-Ultra. I prefer the PC13-Ultra because of it's smaller footprint, lower price, and cylindrical shape. However, I have noticed that there are more reviews of the box-shaped PB13-Ultra, and the specs are different. They both use a 13.5-inch woofer and have the same electronics, but I was told by someone that the PB13-Ultra can go lower in frequency and play louder in volume because of volume. My question is, what is volume? I would like to buy two of these for my apartment for even bass distribution and to wake up my neighbors.
As far as I can see, the specs look virtually identical13.5-inch driver, three modes (16Hz, 20Hz, and Sealed), frequency range from 18 to 150hz (±3dB, anechoic) in 20Hz mode, 1000W SVS Sledge power amp. The only difference I can see is their shape. I suspect the person you spoke with was referring to the geometric volume of the two subs, but loudness and bass extension are inversely correlated to geometric volume, so what you were told can't be entirely correct.
According to Hoffman's Iron Law, you can have any two of the following three attributes with a given driversmall cabinet, bass extension, and high efficiency. So in principle, a smaller cabinet can provide greater bass extension at the expense of efficiency, which means it will play less loudly with a given amount of power. Thus, the PC13-Ultra might provide lower bass because it's geometric volume is less than that of the PB13-Ultra (10,172 versus 12,454 cubic inches), but it might also play less loudly because of its lower efficiency.
However, there are many other factors involved, including how the driver and power amp are optimized for the cabinet as well as the room itself and where the sub is placed within that room. I believe these factors influence the actual performance of the subs at least as much as their geometric volume. Thus, I don’t think you can go wrong either way. And I agree that two properly placed subs can even out bass distribution nicely.
As for waking up your neighbors, I wish you wouldn't. Put yourself in their positionwould you like to be awakened from pleasant dreams by incessant thumping from next door?
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