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BENDY SONY

Name                            Malcolm Stanley, via email (Malcolm@sumpark.demon.co.uk)       

Kit                                Sony KV28FX20U

Problem                        Malcolm says he is very pleased with his shiny new 28-inch Sony Wega 28-inch widescreen TV, but… He says the picture has a slight upward curve in it. It is most noticeable when displaying teletext and the lines of text appear arched, it also shows up on pictures containing straight lines or edges. The dealer who sold the set to him said it was not a fault but a ‘characteristic’ of the Trinitron flat tube.  Malcolm pressed the dealer who contacted Sony on his behalf and he now says that it might be possible to reduce the curvature but not eliminate it altogether. In any event it will require the set to be in the workshop for 10 to 14 days. If this is a feature of the set Malcolm wants to know how can the company get away with selling TVs with such obvious flaws? 

                       

Expert Reply                 What a scallywag that dealer is… Sony wouldn’t last five minutes selling TVs with bent pictures. Malcolm’s dealer chappy sounds like a throwback to the bad old days when it was anything for an easy life. The TV is off bonk pure and simple and adjusting the TVs linearity and geometry controls would take an averagely competent service person about ten minutes – and that’s with a leisurely tea break mid-way – no way does it require a trip to the workshop. Malcolm should stand his ground and demand a visit, pronto!

 

TV/VCR AND SATELLITE QUERIES

 

THAT’S PROGRESS

Name                            Kane Williams, Bexleyheath, Kent                

Kit                                about to buy a new TV

Problem                        Can we clarify a few points regarding Progressive Scan technology, asks Kane Williams? He wants to know if a video signal, from any source, is sent to a TV, which has Progressive Scan, will the picture then be a true progressively scanned image? His supplementary question is He says he knows the question sounds odd, and the answer is probably yes, but he says, would this only work if the source – i.e. a DVD player – has Progressive Scan as well?  Do we know of any CRT TVs that have Progressive Scan but not 100Hz, which as he understands eliminates the same anomalies as 100Hz, but without the artefacts, and one final request, will any CRT TVs ever have component inputs (Y, Cr Cb)?

 

Expert Reply                 I think I see where the confusion has arisen. Progressive Scan 480P and Hitachi’s Progressive Scan feature on its recent top-end TVs are two different things – confused? You will be, we are… Hitachi’s Progressive Scan is a proprietary video display technology, a digital processing system that works independently of the source signal. In other words it is a purely internal function of the TV, designed to eliminate the line structure of a 625-line picture when shown on larger screens and displays. As you know a TV picture is made up of hundreds of fine ‘lines’, on larger screens the gaps between the lines become more visible. Progressive Scan effectively fills in the gaps by generating extra picture lines. Since these lines do not exist in the original picture signal they have to be made up and Progressive Scan does this by a process called interpolation, which basically means it looks at the lines either side of the gap and takes an educated guess at what would be there. This has the effect of making the picture look sharper and more detailed, though in fact there is no more actual detail since it is all guesswork.

 

Progressive Scan 480P is all to do with the way some movies is encoded onto DVDs. The whys and wherefores are unimportant but the key point is that a DVD player has to convert the signal coming off the disc into a standard interlaced video signal, that the TV understands, and this conversion process can introduce a small amount of degradation and processing artefacts. In the US Toshiba has launched a DVD player (SD-7108) that has the facility to output a Progressive Scan signal, but this can only be viewed on TVs and display devices with the a ‘ColorStream’ component video input. ColorStream? Don’t ask, you don’t want to know, life’s complicated enough… (Oh all, right, see Getting Started)  

 

100Hz is quite different kettle of fish, it’s job is to eliminate picture flicker, which is caused by the relatively low refresh rate – the time it takes to build up one frame of picture information – which in the PAL system is 50 times a second, or 50Hz. Flicker can become a problem on larger screens – 28-inches and above – TVs with 100Hz displays get around the problem by doubling the refresh rate, the number of picture lines remains unchanged. All Hitachi sets with Progressive Scan also have 100Hz displays.

 

Component video is mostly confined to NTSC equipment, where it does most good, there’s no advantage on PAL video, which already has three widely used video signal schemes (composite, S-Video and RGB); a couple of top end multi-standard home cinema sets and a few projectors have it but I think it highly unlikely it will ever be adopted on mainstream products.   

 

OFF DIGITAL

Name                B. Mayo, via email                         

Kit                    ON digital set-top box      

Problem            Since becoming an ON digital subscriber last November Mr Mayo (at least we think he’s a mister) has been having problems. At various times of the day and on some channels the picture freezes and ‘blocks’ at other times it is okay. He says he lives on the top floor of a clock of flats; he has upgraded the aerial to a high-gain type, which is installed in the loft space.   

 

Expert Reply             Clearly it shouldn’t be happening, freezing and blocking are usually symptoms of a weak signal; though there is an outside chance something could be wrong with Mr M’s receiver. The first thing to do is check the quality of coverage in your area with a local dealer or since he has Internet access try the postcode search facility in the Q&A section at: www.ondigital.co.uk. Second, upgrading the aerial only works if the downlead is replaced at the same time, if he’s using the same old cable that should be renewed as well, check all the connections and watch out for kinks, and sharp bends. If the aerial was installed professionally call the company back for a thorough check. If all else fails, and signal strength is okay, then ask to have the set-top box replaced.

 

MY FRIEND FLICKER

Name                            Iain Fletcher, via email                           

Kit                                ageing Sony KVA2542

Problem                        Later this year Iain is going to replace his five-year-old Sony DPL TV with a 28-inch widescreen. He has short listed several Sony WEGA and Panasonic TAU sets but his question concerns the value of a 100Hz display, and whether or not it’s worth the £250 premium on some models, which as far as he can see, is the only difference?

 

Expert Reply                 It all depends… Iain probably won’t have been troubled by picture flicker on his 25-inch set but for some people it does start to become quite noticeable on TVs with larger screens and it can be exacerbated by a widescreen display, especially in bright areas at the corners and edges of the picture. It’s very much down to personal preferences and the only way to find out is to spend some time looking at various types of display in dealer showrooms. 100Hz sets certainly counter flicker but some models can have trouble displaying fast movement – moving objects blur or become indistinct -- so it’s a good idea to check the picture when it’s showing something like a football match, and compare it with nearby 50Hz sets. 

 

UNECESSARY DUPLICATION

Name                            Will Fleming, via email               

Kit                                Ferguson C51F TV, Panasonic NV-F65 VCR, Sherwood RVD-6090RDS

Problem                        Will is planning to replace the TV and buy a DVD player, he has a budget of around £1000, £500 of which will be used up on his chosen DVD player (Sony DVP-S725) and some decent interconnects. The £500 left for the TV is flexible, he says. His problem is that he reckons he knows little about the current TV market and wants to know what features he can safely ignore, there also seems to be a huge differential between 28 and 32-inch sets. He’s happy with either size screen but wants to avoid unnecessary or duplicated features and wants to be able to watch ordinary terrestrial broadcasts.

 

Expert Reply                 The first point to make is that all current widescreen TVs, whether ort not they have built in digital decoders, or come plastered with ‘Digital Ready’ stickers can still receive analogue TV channels, and that’s unlikely to change in the foreseeable future, so there’s no need to worry about that. The price differential between the screen sizes will narrow as time goes by and already, if he shops around, he will find that it can be as little as £100 on some model ranges, though he’s going to have a very tough time finding a 32-incher at or close to his £500 budget. As far as the extra features are concerned, Will already has Dolby Pro Logic/Dolby Digital facilities via his Sherwood AV Receiver, so he can save a few bob by shortlisting non-DPL TVs, and not worrying about things like 100Hz displays and fancy digital tricks, but most other gadgets and gizmos add little or nothing to the price. There’s certainly nothing wrong with the Sony DVP-S725 but unless he’s wedded to it, it’s worth looking at some alternatives – check recent Home Entertainment group tests – which come out a little cheaper, there are some really good players in the £250 to £400 price bracket, and this would give his a little more to spend on the TV.

 

GHOSTS IN THE MACHINE

Name                            Simon Darius, via email                       

Kit                                Panasonic PK1 TV, Philips OnDigital set-top box

Problem                        Strange ghost-like text appears on the screen of his new Panasonic TV when it’s connected to the Philips digibox by SCART cable, using an RGB connection. Simon says that since using RGB he’s noticed a slight improvement in picture quality – cleaner and sharper digital Teletext etc – but the ghost images from other channels is annoying him. He says they scroll across the picture, usually its very faint but occasionally he can read words and programme titles. This doesn’t happen when he uses the composite video setting on the TV and OnDigital box, so what’s happening?

 

Expert Reply                 What Simon is probably seeing is ghost images from terrestrial channels emanating from the TV or VCR’s tuner circuitry. The simple way to prove that is to unplug the aerial lead and see if they disappear or disconnect the VCR, if it’s daisy-chained with or connected to the OnDigital box. As to the cause, the main suspect is a poorly screened SCART cable, Simon should try swapping it with a good quality lead, and preferably the shortest one he can get away with.

 

BOX COPY 1

GETTING STARTED

It probably won’t happen here but forewarned is forearmed. In the US Toshiba has started calling the component video inputs and outputs on its home cinema TVs and DVD players ‘ColorStream ™’ which sort of implies that it is a new standard and it has led to some confusion. In fact it is the normal analogue colour difference signal format favoured by our American cousins for high quality DVD to display (TV projector etc.) hook-ups, which does indeed give superior results, compared with normal composite video feed, and to a lesser extent S-Video connections, on NTSC equipment. Component video is in the same ballpark, relatively speaking, as the RGB type connection, which we use, to get the best possible video quality. In the normal course of events we wouldn’t have heard much about component video and marketing terms like ColorStream but several companies, for reasons best know to themselves, are selling high-end DVD players with component video outputs, here in the UK. Unfortunately there’s precious little they can be used with, but it leads some people to think they’re missing out on some new facility or other. You can relax, component video only makes a difference on NTSC kit, and even then it’s still not as good as dear old PAL.

 

LD AND DVD QUERIES

 

STAR LETTER

 

KEEP IT CLEAN

Name                            Andrew Murr, via email (Andrew@amurr.Fsnet.co.uk)    

Kit                                Pioneer 310 DVD player

Problem                        A short while ago Andrew bought a CD/CD-ROM lens cleaner from W H Smiths. He put it in his DVD player but it didn’t want to know and spat it out 10 seconds later. He tried it with a Packard Bell PC with a DVD-ROM drive and the activity light came on but the music that was supposed to be on the disc didn’t play. Andrew asks if he should have used an ordinary CD lens cleaner?

 

Expert Reply                 Compatibility problems with cleaner discs, that’s all we need! Andrew is getting us into dark and scary areas we hadn’t even thought about. First off it’s worth saying that unless a DVD player is used in an excessively smoky or dusty environment it shouldn’t need cleaning more than a few times in its life. Air currents around the spinning disc should be enough to blow away dust and debris from the lens, and provided discs are returned to their cases as soon as they’re ejected lens contamination shouldn’t be a problem. However, the occasional wash and wipe over with a good quality cleaner can’t do any harm. Logically any normal audio CD cleaner should do the job on a DVD player as they all play audio CDs, so the reluctance of Andrew’s cleaner to load is a mystery. Nevertheless, for the player to have ejected the disc it must have been spun up to speed to read data and even though it only went through a few revolutions that probably would have been enough to wipe the lens. At the risk of opening up a new can of worms we’d be interested in any other reader’s experiences with cleaner discs and DVD players, we want to know about those that work, and those that’s don’t, if we get a good enough response we’ll publish a list.

 

GOOD ENOUGH?

Name                            Alex McNiven, via email               

Kit                                Sony KV29F1 TV, SLV-AV1000 VCR/AV amplifier

Problem                        Three years ago Alex brought a home cinema package from a local Sony dealer. This consisted of a KV29F1 TV and a SLV-AV1000 VCR with built in Dolby Pro Logic decoder amplifier plus Sony surround speakers and a sub-woofer. Alex is now interested in getting into DVD and want to know whether his current system is good enough to see and hear the benefits of DVD. He would like to keep the cost of the player down to around £500 and is quite keen on the Sony DVP-S525 and Pioneer DV-626. Would a cheaper player do just as well with his present set-up, he wants to know, and should he be thinking about buying a Dolby Digital AV amplifier?

 

Expert Reply                 Alex will notice a major improvement with DVD picture quality, compared with watching movies on tape. The mixed stereo output from his new DVD player can be hooked up to the AV1000’s auxillary input, to make use of its Dolby Pro Logic decoder and amplifier. DVD surround soundtracks will sound even better than VHS, background noise levels are much lower and it brings out quieter effects that are often lost on tape.

 

As to the choice of player, in the normal course of events we’d say that £500 is a fair amount to pay for a DVD player these days, even ones as good as the two models he’s mentioned. However, Alex’s possible interest in Dolby Digital makes things a bit more complicated. The Sony and Pioneer machines have on-board Dolby Digital decoders so he can get away with a simpler 5.1 channel amplifier. Or he could go for a cheaper Dolby Digital player, or a decoderless machine and put the money he’s saved towards a Dolby Digital AV amplifier. On balance we feel it’s better to have the decoder inside the player, it adds relatively to the cost (typically £50 to £100 on most ranges) but it does give you a little more flexibility.

 

YAM JAM

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BOX COPY 1

GETTING STARTED

 

BOX COPY 2

 

 

 

 

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Ó R. Maybury 2000 XXXX

 

 

 

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