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HINTS & TIPS 82

 

SECRET SERVICE

Name                Kamran Mallick, via email               

Kit                    Sony KP-41DS1 41-inch rear projection TV

Problem            After replacing his 28-inch Sony TV with a 41-inch rear projection model -- also made by Sony -- Kamran found to his dismay that half of the screen was out of focus. Fortunately the faulty set was speedily replaced and the new one seems to be in fine fettle but Kamran is curious and wants to know if there’s a way for him to fine-tune the convergence, possibly by getting into one of the ‘engineering’ menus?

 

Expert Reply Service menus are dangerous places, which is why manufacturers go to a good deal of trouble to hide them away or protect them with access codes. Without expert knowledge, a service manual and essential test equipment it is quite possible for users to change settings that could actually result in damage to the unit. If Kamran feels the convergence requires further adjustment -- over and above what is possible from the user controls -- then he should contact the dealer and have it looked at by a qualified service engineer. Incidentally convergence errors on projection TVs are quite common at switch-on however they usually disappear as the device warms up. It’s not unknown for users to carry out adjustments when the TV is cold, only to see errors appear after it has been on for half an hour or so.

 

TUBE LINES

Name                Onali Ismail, via email

Kit                    in the market for a 32-inch widescreen TV       

Problem            Onali read with great interest our review of the Philips 36PW9525 widescreen TV in HE XX. He says that he is very interested in the 32-inch version - model number 32PW9525 – and would like to know if the general comments in the review of the 36-inch models are relevant to its 32-inch cousin?

 

Expert Reply Apart from the picture tube and the cabinet Onali can be confident that the bits that count in both TVs – in other words the chassis with all of the tuning, AV processing and power supply components -- are identical in both models. Even though the tubes are a different size they have a near identical specification. Differences in screen and cabinet design can sometimes have an impact on AV quality but in this case he can safely assume that what we said about the performance of the 36W9525 holds true for the 32PW9525.

 

PROJECTING THE RIGHT IMAGE

Name                Simon North, via email

Kit                    CTX EZ Pro 550 video projector           

Problem            The offer of a CTX EzPro550 video projector prompted Simon to search through HE to look for more information; finding nothing he assumes that it is an old model. He wants to set up a small home cinema system and would like to know if this device is suitable, can we tell him anything about the specs and possibly an idea of how much it usually costs?

 

Expert Reply To be honest the EzPro550 wouldn’t be out first choice for a home cinema projector. It was designed primarily for PC/laptop graphic displays and multimedia presentations and the spec is well suited to that kind of application. It is based around a single LCD element with a 800 x 600 pixel resolution, a 400 watt halogen lamp provides a 300 lumen light output, maximum screen size is 240-inches though the optimum is between 40 and 80 inches. It’s reasonably compact and in addition to a full set of PC inputs (SVGA, VGA, VESA, Mac) it also works with PAL, NTSC and SECAM video signals. It has a built-in stereo amplifier (3 watts per channel) and monitor speakers and it weighs 4.2kg. This model is still available and according to the specialist firms we contacted it normally sells for around £1400 (including VAT).

 

Whilst there’s nothing to stop Simon using an EzPro550 as a home cinema projector he might like to bear in mind that the single element display is not going to give as good a video picture as a triple-element model – it’s fine for static graphics but moving video is much more demanding -- and 300 lumens brightness is borderline for living room use, unless he is prepared to only watch in dark or near dark conditions. For the record lamps for that model have a life expectancy of around 100 hours and cost around £120 to replace.

 

BATTLE OF THE BIGGIES

Name                Bobbie Jones, via email                                    

Kit                    Interested in a big widescreen TV  

Problem            In the market for a big widescreen TV -- between 40 to 43-inches – Bobbie is quite taken with the Sony KP41. She – we assume Bobbie’s a she from the spelling -- says that the picture looks good on the ones that she has seen but she is also very impressed by the Hitachi C43WP910 but her problem is that she already has a Dolby Digital/dts sound system so she would never use the onboard processors. She was wondering therefore if Hitachi had any plans for a stripped down version, for people like her with an existing audio setup? If not, what else would we suggest to someone with a budget of around £2200 (with a further £500

available in case of emergency…).

 

Expert Reply  Since Bobbie specifically includes a widescreen display on her wish list the choice of the Sony KP41 seems a little curious since this is a 4:3 model, nevertheless like most displays over 40-inches in practice it makes very little difference and this set works well with any display format so it is definitely worth considering. A Hitachi spokesperson told us that there are no plans for a large screen rear projector with reduced feature set, so it’s the C43WP910 or nothing and unless she can squeeze a bit more out of her budget it has to come off the shortlist. One other model she might want to have a look at is the Toshiba 43PJ93. Like the Sony TV it has a 4:3 display and picture quality is very good, there are no superfluous audio features and the price is a reasonable £1700.             

 

FLASH CRASH

Name                Matt Smal, via email             

Kit                    Sony KV-28WF1U     

Problem            Matt’s Sony widescreen TV is a little over 2 years old and he thinks there could have something wrong with it. A couple of months ago, whilst watching a video, the screen suddenly flashed for a second, then the screen went blank. Switching off and on the TV using the main power switch on the front, caused the front red light to flash on and off continuously. He couldn't get the TV to come on again at all. After around 10 to 15 minutes with the mains plug out he tried it again and this time it seemed to work OK with no more trouble. The other day it happened again, a large green flash on the screen, but this time he turned it off straight away and the TV seemed fine. Do we have any ideas what the problem could be, he asks? Is it a known problem with Sony TVs or is the tube on the blink he wants to know?

 

Expert Reply. One possibility is a tube ‘flashover’, due to high voltage arcing around the outside of the CRT, causing the power supply to ‘trip’. This type of intermittent fault is amongst the hardest to diagnose but it is most likely to occur in conditions of very high humidity. There is a chance Matt’s problem could have been caused by a surge in the mains. It’s worth him noting next time it happens if electrical devices in the house had just switched on, central heating boilers, freezers and fridges are all capable of sending ‘spike’s down the mains. It may be worth his while trying a surge or spike protection plug or adaptor – the type used to protect PCs – just in case. However, it starts happening with any kind of regularity then there is almost certainly some kind of fault that needs attention and its time to call in the experts.

 

ONE MAKE OR TWO

Name                Martin Beatty, via email

Kit                    JVC AV-32WR2EK widescreen TV, JVC HR-S7500EK VCR, Kenwood KR V6070AV receiver, Grundig Sky digibox and Celestion Ditton 15 speakers

Problem            The time has come to retire Martin’s Kenwood AV receiver and add a DVD player to his system. Being a bit of a JVC fan he likes the sound of the XV-523 DVD and RX-6001 AV receiver, he says he’s not after the ultimate in home cinema sound, just a really good value and "sonically" pleasing setup. His question therefore is there any advantage in using all JVC components. He also has a bit of a problem in that the AV receiver will be sited around 5 metres away from the rest of the kit.

 

Expert Reply             Five metres really is quite a distance to send AV signals. Even if he uses top-grade cables Martin might find that noise levels rise to unacceptable levels and there’s a much higher chance of interference creeping in with very long cable runs. If at all possible Martin should find a way to get his AV components closer together. As far as one-make systems are concerned, the main benefit is the comfort in knowing that there shouldn’t be any compatibility or mis-match problems. Most (but not all) manufacturers use unified remote control systems across a model range, JVC are quite good in this respect and this could come in handy if Martin can’t reduce the separation, nevertheless, universal remote controls are pretty good these days so it’s not such a big deal as it used to be. 

 

SIDELINED SIDECAR?

Name                Alan Whitcombe, via email                           

Kit                    considering digital television          

Problem            Analogue reception is poor in Alan’s part of the world and there is no ONdigital coverage, so it’s SKY or nothing at the moment. He remembers reading some time ago that as part of its licensing conditions Sky and ONdigital had to develop some kind of ‘sidecar’ module that would allow each box to pick up all the channels. What happened? Surely such a thing must be available for Sky customers or how else will the big switch off of analogue ever really happen?

 

Expert Reply The sidecar module was originally touted as one of the selling points of digital television and to allay public fears, that they wouldn’t have to buy two set-top boxes in order to receive both satellite and terrestrial digital services. The last we heard of it was last year when SKY announced they had developed a module, but as far as we know it never went into production and it has now all been quietly forgotten. It was never a very popular idea with the broadcasters and manufacturers in any case, but to some extent they are justified in letting the matter drop since they are effectively ‘giving away’ set-top boxes. However, Alan is right about one thing, analogue TV can’t be switched off for a good while yet, at least not until ONdigital has 100% national coverage and SKY Digital carries a full compliment of ITV channels. 

 

SPEEDY SONY

Name                Neil Barton, via email                                   

Kit                    Sony 715 DVD player, Panasonic TX25MD1 TV

Problem            Neil’s problem is that some discs seem to run fast during certain scenes, but only when playing the movie in widescreen mode. The disc ‘extras’ seem okay, and it doesn’t affect all recordings in the same way. Wild Wild West, for example is fine until chapters 21 and 22 then it stops putting up a blue screen and flashing numbers.  If he sets it to play again it continues to the end of the disc with out any problems. It only happens sometimes on The Matrix, so Neil was wondering if the player was at fault, and would investing in a 100Hz widescreen television help?                       

 

Expert Reply The first thing to make clear is that the odd behaviour Neil has been seeing has nothing whatsoever to do with the TV and there’s no need for him to buy a 100Hz set, unless he actually wants one. As far as the player problem is concerned this sounds very much like the firmware glitch that afflicted some Sony 715, (and 315) players about a year ago. Neil’s machine must have slipped through the net or maybe it’s an early model that’s been sitting on the shelves. The cure is fairly straightforward and involves replacing a read only memory (ROM) microchip, this work is carried out free of charge, Neil should contact Sony’s Customer Service Department on (0990) 111999.

 

DISPLAY OPTIONS

Name                Nick Pitman, via email

Kit                    Pioneer DV-717 DVD (region 1, chipped), Onkyo TX-DS575 amp Mission Cinema 7 speakers), Japanese Dreamcast, ONdigital box    

Problem            Do we know of any widescreen televisions – hopefully costing less than £3,000) -- that can display at a higher resolution than PAL standard, asks Nick Pitman? He says he is interested in a TV with a VGA standard 640x480 input or better and quotes the Pioneer PDP-501MX plasma TV, which displays 1024 x 768 pixels, but as he points out, it is a bit pricey. Also he asks, is he right in thinking that S-Video is the same resolution as normal PAL but is of a higher standard?

 

Expert Reply  Since there is no need for the current generation of ‘domestic’ TVs to resolve images of a higher resolution than standard PAL (theoretically up to 550 horizontal lines) the answer to Nick’s first question has to be no. High resolution and HDTV monitors are available from the professional and broadcast video equipment suppliers but he will be very lucky to find anything within his budget. The only TVs with VGA inputs are a small handful of high-end 100Hz models from the likes of Philips and Sony. The association with 100Hz is not a coincidence because the horizontal scan frequency on these models is doubled from 15.6kHz to 31.2kHz, which is very close to the VGA scanning frequency of 31.4kHz and with some relatively simple electronic jiggery-pokery it’s possible for a TV to be adapted to display the ‘progressive scan’ VGA signals (normal TVs use ‘interlaced scanning’).  S-Video is basically a means of transporting and processing video signals. The problem with a conventional ‘composite video’ feed is that colour and brightness information is mixed together and interacts, producing the characteristic ‘herringbone’ and cross-colour effects you see on highly patterned objects (pin-striped suites etc). S-Video keeps the brightness (Luma or ‘Y’) and colour (chroma or ‘C’) components in the signal ‘separate’ (that’s what the S in S-Video stands for), so they can’t interfere with each other but as Nick suggests it has no impact on resolution. 

 

UNIVERSAL MYSTERY

Name                Timmy Landers                        

Kit                    Sony RM-AV2000 remote control, Sony STR-DB925 AV amp 

Problem            After reading an excellent review of the Sony RM-AV2000 universal remote control Timmy decided to purchase one and he has been very pleased with it, except for one niggling problem. He has a new Sony STR-DB925 amplifier but when he goes to the menu on the remote for amplifiers there is no input listed for a DVD player, yet all of the other inputs are there (video, tape, DAT, MD, CD, tuner, phono etc), and they are all working fine. The only other input is for a laserdisc player/auxiliary but he cannot get this to work with the DVD player and he has to set it manually since there is no dedicated button for an LD player on the remote. He says that he finds it strange that Sony has included an LD button on the amplifier menu but nothing for a DVD player.

 

Expert Reply  The RM-AV2000 is actually getting a bit long in the tooth and the root cause of Timmy’s problem is that it the software was developed a few years ago, when DVD was just coming onto the market. Nevertheless, we must admit to be a little surprised that he can’t get it to work since the AV amplifier section does include an input select function and there’s no reason why he cannot use the LD/aux input. The only possibility is that there’s something wrong with the DVD output connection, or the AV amp’s input, the simple way to find out is to connect the DVD output to a know good input on the amp (video, DAT MD, any of them will do), if he still hears nothing then the DVD play has a fault, if it works then the LD input on the amp has failed. 

 

FUTURE TENSE

Name                Alan Hardisty, via email                           

Kit                    Samsung 909 DVD player, Pioneer midi hi-fi, Panasonic TX W28R4

Problem        A recent convert to home cinema, Alan purchased a Samsung 909 DVD player on the basis that it was affordably priced and had received quite reasonable reviews. However, he says that in hindsight he may have made the wrong choice. He says he is pleased with the results. He has a 16-year old Pioneer midi-hi-fi system, which still gives good results and has served him well, he says. The DVD player is connected to the stereo, as is his VCR, via a switch box, as the Pioneer amp has only one external input. It’s a mess, he admits, but what else can you do with such old hardware?  The DVD player has replaced his old CD player to reduce the number of boxes in the living room and to appease the other half!

 

Alan is now thinking of buying a Denon AVR 3300, which he says he can get hold of for about

£660 (after some surfing), then some decent speakers and good quality cabling, bought at intervals to spread the cost and burden to his pockets.  What do we think about this combination of components would we suggest he buys a new DVD player to suit the new amp?

 

Expert Reply              Our advice to Alan is to suck it and see! Their is no reason to suppose that the Denon AV amp and Samsung DVD player won’t work perfectly well together, compatibility is simply not an issue, but that is not to say that other combinations won’t produce more or less pleasing results. However in the end it is mostly subjective and rather than suggesting Alan goes out and buys this or that component the first thing he should do is assess what he’s got. He should get the Denon AM amp, if that’s the one he wants and best suits his needs and try it with his existing components. As and when he upgrades deficiencies and inadequacies in other parts of the system may well become apparent and that is the point to consider where the weaknesses lie, rather than trying to anticipate problems.                     

 

OILY PLASMA

Name                Walter Ceolato, via email                           

Kit                    considering buying a Plasma screen 

Problem            Walter hails from Italy and has been reading up on plasma TVs, he was impressed by the Fujitsu HTM42  and decided to buy one but he is not happy with what he calls an ‘oil-on-water’ effect and noticeable colour fringing. He decided to return the unit to the dealer and tried the superior model PDS-4211 but the problems he describes are even more apparent. Walter has seen the Philips plasma screen and thinks that is better, but it still has the problem. Do we think the Philips model is a better buy?

 

Expert Reply As far as we are aware the display panels used in Philips plasma TVs are made for them by Fujitsu, the company also supplies displays to quite a few other manufacturers, which may explain the similarities in performance and the ‘oil-film’ texture Walter mentioned. Our expectations for plasma displays are possibly a bit too high, probably due to the very high prices being asked. The fact is plasma screen technology is currently the only way to make large flat panel displays above 40-inches. It’s not practical to build CRTs over 36 – 38-inches and other flat screen systems are not yet economically feasible (projection systems have their own inherent disadvantages). It’s still at a relatively early stage of its development (remember CRTs have been around for more than 100 years) and they are getting better all the time, but the simple fact is that picture quality is still not as good as CRT.

                       

GETTING STARTED 1

Now that high-performance PC monitors are so cheap you may be wondering what’s to stop you using one as a video monitor, after all the picture tubes in these things are built to a much higher standard and should therefore be capable of much better picture quality? The bit about build CRT performance is certainly true but TVs and PC monitors work in a quite different way and whilst is possible to get a TV picture on a PC screen, it takes the processing power of a computer and some pretty fancy hardware and software to do it.

 

The basic problem is that PC monitors and TVs have evolved in quite separate ways to do what appears to be similar but are in reality very different jobs. Television is an old technology that has been in more or less constant development over the course of the last seventy years and during that time has involved a mish-mash of compromises, to overcome the technical constraints of early video transmission systems and later the need to maintain backwards compatibility with earlier systems. PC monitors on the other hand are a comparatively recent innovation and without the need for them to be compatible with TV or anything else for than matter monitor designers started out with a clean slate and were able to establish a new set of standards, for displaying static displays -- usually of text or graphics -- that can be comfortably viewed at a distance of no more than a couple of feet. The upshot of all this is that most living room TVs – even the ones with PC input sockets -- make piss-poor PC monitors and it takes a great deal of effort to get a decent TV picture on a PC monitor. Of course it can be done in both instances but the results are generally disappointing or uneconomic or both. This is a classic case of horses for courses.

 

GETTING STARTED 2

If your memory of television goes back more than fifteen to twenty years you may recall that when you bought a new TV set more often than not a man in a white coat had to come round to set it up for you. When the TV went wrong – as first and second generation colour TVs did with alarming regularity  – another man with lots of test instruments, tools and a soldering iron would spend a couple of hours poking around in the back trying to get it working again, before declaring that it had to go back to the workshop for repairs and the necessary part invariably took at least a week to arrive.

 

Colour TVs started to get more reliable from the late seventies onwards, firstly with the introduction of ‘all-transistor’ models and later with the increased use of microchips. However the major breakthrough came with the design of electronic circuits able to adjust themselves to compensate for the aging effects of various components and changing conditions. Even so until around ten years ago the printed circuit boards inside most TVs had dozens of ‘pre-set’ adjustments for engineers twiddle, then things started to change with the introduction of microchip digital processing and control circuits. These opened the door for self-diagnostics, where the TV tries to identify the faulty component or system, and on-screen engineering menus, where many adjustments – in particular things like picture geometry -- can be carried out ‘in software’ from the TVs remote control handset, or specially designed engineering keypads. All this has been very good news for consumers, not only have TVs become cheaper to built and more reliable, it makes it easier for engineers to identify faults and carry out on-site repairs when they go wrong.

 

 

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Ó R. Maybury 2000 2407

 

 

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