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HINTS & TIPS HE 81

 

SPAGHETTI JUNCTION

Name                Graham Head, Rainham, Essex
Kit                    Sony STR-DB930 AV receiver/amp, two VCRs, two cassette decks, CD & record deck, Pace Sky decoder, multi-region DVD, TV with one SCART

Problem            Because of the single SCART socket on his TV Graham has used a SCART to phono lead on the TV and joined it with a single lead to the monitor socket on the amplifier, consequently all of the video connections are fed through the amplifier. He says that DVD picture quality is great through the composite video feed, but if he uses an S-Video connection he looses the red part of the picture. His local Sony dealer tells me this is because of the copy protection on the disc, but he thought that would have affected the composite output as well? His second problem is video-to-video recording. The first recorder is connected using the S -Video sockets and the second, composite. When copying he get sound but no picture. Using composite for both works great. The dealer says he shouldn’t play pictures through the amp and he should get a TV with a fistful of SCART sockets. Is he right?

Expert Reply             Rather than try and work through the nightmare Graham has created, my advice would be to rip it all out and start again because it’s just too confusing. It would have been helpful to know a bit more about the make and model numbers of the VCRs and DVD players but we can probably work through that and assume from what he says that one or both of the VCRs is an S-VHS model. The missing red on the S-Video connection is a complete mystery. It has nothing to do with copy protection (presumably his dealer chappie was referring to Macrovision but that is a function on DVD players and has nothing to do with discs). It can’t be anything to do with the integrity or otherwise of the leads since an S-Video connection carries colour information as a single signal component. It might indicate a fault on the DVD or the TV but that seems unlikely. The way to find out is for Graham to try an S-Video feed from the S-VHS VCR to the TV, if red is still missing it’s the TV, if not it’s the DVD player. When that problem is sorted the best DVD to TV connection will be via an S-Video lead, with the audio output (mixed stereo or bitstream) going to the AV amp. For VCR to VCR copying he should connect both machines together by SCART to SCART cable (or S-Video to S-Video and phone, if they’re both S-VHS machines). Graham should use another SCART to SCART for the TV to VCR connection, and another SCART to SCART for the satellite to VCR connection, so one of the VCRs will be able to record from the satellite box.

 

KEEP IT DOWN

Name                Tim Veale, via email            

Kit                    Denon AVR-3200, B&W 600 front speakers, B&W CC6 centre, Mission 731 rear speakers

Problem            The speakers in Tim’s systems are rated 100W, 120W and 75W respectively, and they currently sound excellent connected to the AVR-3200, which is rated as 80 watts per channel. However, he is planning to upgrade to a Denon AVC-A10SE and POA-T10 amps, which has channel outputs of 125 watts. He says he’s forgotten the physics he studied at school, will his current speakers be able to handle the power from the new amps, or should he upgrade some or all of his current speakers?        

 

Expert Reply  Manufacturer’s speaker power ratings are deliberately conservative and generally indicate the maximum power that can be safely used. It’s unlikely the new amp will come anywhere near to straining his old speakers and he can continue using them without any problems, providing of course he doesn’t run the amp at maximum volume for any length of time, in which case they might well start to grumble a bit.

 

DISC OF DOOM?

Name                Mark Kirkup, via email                                   

Kit                    Hitachi 28-inch widescreen TV  

Problem            Mark says he came across a cover mount disc on a DVD magazine – he can’t remember which one – that checked the picture, colour, sound of any TV. Using this disk he was able to move the picture from left to right, up or down so that the picture filled the screen correctly. He mucked around with the picture and checked for colour bleeding. Then he somehow lost the disk, and then discovered that the picture was too far to the right. When watching DVDs he noticed a very thin green line at the top of the screen where he must have pulled the picture down. He is now stuck with it and can't find any way to correct it in the manual.

 

Expert Reply                 This really is rather baffling, we haven’t been able to track down the disc Mark mentions, and assuming that it does exist, cannot understand how it could affect the geometry setup on the TV. Normally the only way to change a TV’s preset picture parameters is via a hidden service menu – that can only be accessed by service engineers with the appropriate codes – or by manually adjustments on the circuit board, inside the TV. The green line he describes sounds more like a fairly common side effect on DVD players that have been ‘chipped’ or hacked to disable the regional coding. If the green line is present when viewing other video sources or off-air broadcasts then there may be a fault, or the TV setup needs looking at, in which case he should consult his local Hitachi dealer or service centre.

 

CRYING WHARF

Name                            Ian Maltby, Guildford, Surrey              

Kit                                Wharfedale DVD-750 DVD player

Problem                        Having spent some time tracking down a Wharfedale DVD-750 – Ian finally managed to buy one from Tesco’s home shopping catalogue – he got it home and immediately set about disabling the Region lock, as per the instructions we gave in Hints and Tips (HE 76 April 2000). According to Ian it didn’t work, he tried it with several Region 1 discs, but all he gets is a picture split into three horizontal bands, and it’s completely unwatchable. He wants to know if the instructions were correct, or possibly it doesn’t work with the latest batch of players?

 

Expert Reply             The instructions published in the April issue was correct: open the disc drawer, place an R1 disc in the tray but don’t close it, press 0,1,2,3 on the handset and then Play. The drawer closes and R1 discs play as normal. We’re not aware of any changes to the player ‘firmware’ so it sounds as though Ian’s TV could be an old or unusual model, that is unable to display an NTSC or PAL 60 signal. He can easily check this by connecting the player to another TV -- preferably a fairly recent model -- and try again.  

 

CABLE CONUNDRUM

Name                Martin Hayes, Wokingham, Berkshire                                 

Kit                    Panasonic A350 DVD, Panasonic TX28PK10 TV, Denon 3300 AV amp, Panasonic VN-HD100 VCR, Sky digi-box     

Problem            The addition of a new Sky digibox to his system is causing Martin a few headaches. He wants to know how to connect it all up, his main criteria is to be able to use the TV on its own, citing ‘wife’ problems with the volume of his surround sound system…           

 

Expert Reply Fortunately Martin’s AV components have plenty of AV sockets so it shouldn’t be a problem to satisfy everyone in the Hayes household. Starting with the DVD player he should use an S-Video to S-Video and phono to phone cables to connect it to the TV, and a coaxial or optical bitstream connection from the DVD to the AV amp. Two SCART to SCART cables can then daisy-chain the TV to the VCR and the Sky digibox, with the stereo line outputs of both units going to spare line inputs on the back of the AV amp. The aerial cable should loop through the VCR. In this configuration all components will work as normal, and be heard through the TV’s stereo speakers, but if he wants full-blown surround sound he simply mutes the TV, switches on the AV amp and select the appropriate input. This arrangement will also allow him to record programs from the sat box and watch terrestrial TV at the same time.

                       

SOLDERING ON

Name                M. J. F, via email
Kit                    Yamaha DVD-S795        

Problem            A plea for help from Slovenia, MJF wants to buy a ‘code-free’ upgrade chip for his Yamaha S795 DVD player. He asks us to recommend a company.

 

Expert Reply As we’ve said before we can’t condone mods that involve tinkering around inside the machine since it would invalidate the guarantee but we’ll make an exception in this case. We suspect that MJF’s options for buying DVD software and hardware locally may be rather more limited than here in the UK and a Region 1 mod may be the only way to ensure a decent supply of discs. His Internet connection makes things a good deal easier and he can order on-line. One site he might want to visit is Link Electronics at: http://www.linkonline.co.uk/av/p360.htm, there he will find details of a reasonably priced mod for his machine (Ł30) plus a link to a downloadable instruction manual that shows how to do it (this one is quite simple, though it does involve a little soldering). He should read the manual before buying, to make sure it’s something he can tackle himself, otherwise enlist the help of a techno-savvy friend.
 

GHOST IN THE MACHINE

Name                Stefan Robinson, via email                           

Kit                    Sony TV, Sky digibox

Problem            Whilst watching Sky Stefan says he’s seeing a slight ghost on the picture, from whichever broadcast TV channel he was watching before switching to satellite. He’s tried all sorts of things but nothing seems to work. He maintains that it is most obvious when the sat box is connected to the TV by SCART cable, but he’s ruled out any problem with the actual digibox as exactly the same thing happened with his old analogue satellite receiver. It’s not the SCART lead either, he says, because he’s tried others, including an expensive one, but that made no difference. Stefan thought it might have something to do with a strong signal, so he fitted an aerial attenuator, again no joy. He’s also tried disconnecting the aerial feed from the Sky box and retuned the VCR, all to no avail. He says the only thing left is the aerial or the aerial cable, which both seem unlikely, so he’s hoping we can suggest something.

 

Expert Reply                 The only way to track down problems like these is through a process of elimination. The first thing to do is confirm whether or not the ‘ghost’ signal is coming down the aerial cable by removing it from the back of the TV and VCR and looking at the satellite channel. Hopefully it will have disappeared. If the ghost is still present with no aerial connection it could be RF breakthrough, which can occur in areas of high signal strength where the satellite dish can act as an aerial. If that’s the case it’s worth having a word with the firm that installed the dish with a view to checking the installation – especially the integrity of the cable shielding -- or fitting an RF filter to the downlead. If the ghost disappears when Stefan removes the aerial cable he should try re-connecting the aerial feed to the VCR (but leave the aerial cable unplugged from the TV), and check again. If the ghost comes back then it is creeping in through the VCR’s SCART cable. This suggests a fault or design flaw, but without knowing the make or model number we can only speculate. He could try substituting a friend or neighbour’s VCR – preferably another make – and see if that makes a difference. If the ghost comes back when the aerial is plugged back into the TV then the RF ‘bleed-through’ is clearly happening inside the TV, if so a call to Stefan’s local Sony dealer or service centre seems in order.

 

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Ó R. Maybury 2000, 2306

 

 

 

 

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