Editor makes stupid grounding mistakes and pays with fried gear.
Those of you who have installed your own satellite systems have seen RG-6 coaxial cable with a second wire attached to the outside. I can't speak for the rest of you, but I know I never paid a whole lot of attention to that second wire. Sure, it was handy for tying the cable to stuff and so on, but, frankly, who really gives it a whole lot of thought? Even our detail-oriented (PC for anal retentive) technical editor Mike Wood admits he's never found much need for it, either. That is, until he heard my tale of woe.
The world's most complete guide to DVD-player features.
If you're thinking of buying a DVD player, the number of features most players offer might overwhelm you. Sure, you know the basics: DVD is the hottest thing since the first time man invented something round. It consists of a disc the size of an audio CD but with 10 to 15 times more storage capacity. The disc has enough room to store a full-length motion picture with a digital picture that's better than that of laserdisc or satellite broadcasts. A progressive-scan DVD player connected to a widescreen TV can even approach the quality of high-definition television. The digital audio can include up to five full-range, discrete (meaning separate) channels with one LFE, or low-frequency-effects (aka the .1), channel for impact. The best part is that DVD players and movies should be compatible with your current system, no matter how archaic it is. You can buy a DVD player now and almost certainly enjoy the benefits right away, and you can upgrade various parts of your system and glean even more performance from the DVD software that you'll undoubtedly start collecting. What you really want to know, though, is what features to look for in your first/next DVD-player purchase. As usual, we're here to explain them to you. We've also included a couple of tips on how you can take your DVD/home theater experience to the next level.
Essential Audio Features Basic Surround Decoding
Today's AVRs feature a ton of surround decoding features from Dolby and DTS, from basic 5.1-channel surround decoding to several ways of decoding stereo into 5.1-channel surround, or beyond.
In the continuing saga to explain our measurements charts, senior technical editor Mike Wood explores ground control for your home theater: the preamp/processor.
Launching the space shuttle requires the actions of thousands of control systems and hundreds of people all directed by, ultimately, one person. Technicians sit in front of dozens of monitors, checking systems, subsystems, weather patterns, and so on—all to make sure that, when the chief gives the order, the big hunk of steel sitting on the launch pad is able to take off without a glitch. You may not be igniting hundreds of thousands of pounds of rocket fuel when you press play on your DVD-player remote, but you are trying to launch your home theater system, and you usually want it to happen without too many hang-ups. The main component that controls this process is the pre/pro, or preamp/ processor. This is the subject of our latest Boot Camp in the series explaining the technical measurements that accompany our product reviews.
Last month, we explained our speaker measurements. Now, senior technical editor Mike Wood tackles the intricacies of video-display measurements.
It's only fitting that our video measurements be displayed in an obscure, almost-illegible triangle. Three-sided geometric shapes have always been somewhat mysterious objects, implying power or fear. Our measurements can do both. In this, our second attempt to explain to you, our faithful readers, what the ancillary boxes labeled "HT Labs Measures" mean, we'll discuss what our detractors call the triangle of death, why we use it in our display measurements, and what it means to you.
Wondering what those confusing charts in our gear reviews are really telling you about a product? Just ask senior technical editor Mike Wood. This month, he explains speaker measurements.
Unless you're looking at a powered speaker (with built-in amplification), the power-handling rating (which is often incorrectly referred to as the number of watts a speaker has) will tell you little about how the speaker integrates into your system, let alone how it sounds. This isn't to say that the spec is useless. After all, some people like to play music really loud—I'm talking head-near-the-speaker-stack-at-a-rock-concert loud. In those rare cases, this specification may be useful. However, for the rest of us, this is probably the least necessary information, even though it's usually the most common question we get about speakers.
Just dipping your toes into the home theater waters? Home Theater editor-in-chief Rob Sabin lays out the basics of home theater in plain English in a recent interview on Real Estate Today Radio, the syndicated radio show of the National Association of Realtors. Listen to the segment here.
I like to think of myself as a do-it-yourself kind of guy. I'd like to think of myself this way, but, in reality, this is not the case. I don't change my own oil (you want me to go under where?), I'm on a first-name basis with my mechanic (honestly, what Ford owner isn't?), and I call my landlord when the kitchen sink leaks (hey, that's why I pay rent). The two things I do myself are haircuts (thank you, King C. Gillette) and computers (sorry, no funny joke). I've been fascinated with computers since my parents bought me an Apple IIc in the mid-1980s. Since then, I've been modifying and building my own. A few months ago, some part of my brain came up with the idea to build a home theater PC from scratch—and make it silent. Keep in mind that this was the same part of my brain that thought it would be a tremendous idea to build a 13-foot-long subwoofer. Thanks to the deluge of e-mails I received after that piece (one—thanks, Mom) and the difficulty in finding a company that makes an HTPC (last count at CES, there were only 13,002 or so), I figured I'd design and build Home Theater's HTPC, the ugliest and quietest ever.
I must admit, onboard video and audio have come a long way. It used to be that they were just a line item on a features list. Now both are far more capable. Compared with what you can get as a separate card, though. . .well, let's say it's not worth comparing (although I did, of course).
It was way back in the June 2005 issue that I built an HTPC from scratch—I mean really from scratch, as in out of wood. For those of you who may have missed it, you can find it at www.hometheatermag.com under the GearWorks section. It was a great experiment, and it basically worked. I haven't felt any effects of the RF radiation of 3.6 gigahertz (there was no shielding), and the minimal amount of innards-securing hasn't been an issue. (At 54 pounds, it does not get moved much.)
Well, all the parts are in, and it's time to build the beast. If you missed it, check out last month's GearWorks for all the doodahs and pieces for this all-new HTPC. If you're using this as a guide on how to build your own HTPC, let me give a few tips to start.
It's no secret that, if you have a new projection display (front or rear), you'll eventually need to replace its light source. Take one look at them, and you'll see that these aren't your ordinary 100-watt bulbs—that, and the fact that these light sources cost hundreds of dollars each.