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Name                            James Duffin, via email

Kit                                Sky Digital system

Problem                        After reading our reply to a reader in June’s Hints and Tips (Cool Reception), concerning disappointing digital satellite TV picture quality, he wonders if he’s got the solution, and asks whether we, or HE readers can help solve his little problem. James says that when he had his system installed the engineer left his existing analogue dish in place and simply replaced the ‘receiver’ bit on the end of the arm and realigned it. James says that the engineer told him that the larger dish would provide better reception than the smaller Sky Digital dish and he has indeed been very pleased with the picture quality on his LG widescreen TV. The engineer left the digital dish, which is now sitting in his garage. He wants to know if there’s anything useful he can do with it?


Expert Reply                 The engineer was basically correct and old analogue dishes – provided they are in good condition and correctly aligned -- often perform better in marginal signal areas. Whilst digital satellite broadcasts are generally more robust the signal becomes progressively weaker the further north you are and a standard Sky mini-dish may be working at the limits of its capabilities in some localities. A larger dish also helps in situations where the signal only just manages to squeeze through gaps in buildings or vegetation. The ‘receiver’ unit he referred to is actually a LNB or low noise block converter and this has to be changed as Sky Digital operates on a slightly different band of frequencies to the other analogue satellite channels, which some older LNBs cannot process. As to what to do with the spare dish, we find they’re perfect for straining large quantities of boiled cabbage and hiking dead goldfish out of garden ponds (if you attach them to a stout stick), but if anyone has any better suggestions please let us know.



Name                Son Lett, Wolverhampton
Kit                    Sony KV-32DS60U Wega TV, Sony DVP-725S DVD, Hitachi FX 770E VCR, Ixos SCART to S-Video cable

Problem            When using SCARTs to connect everything, Son gets colour playback from the DVD, but if he uses the Ixos lead it's always black and white no matter which settings he uses on TV and DVD. He also complains that the sound levels are much lower from either playback source, compared with TV reception, and he can't find any source levels adjustment.

Expert Reply             The Ixos SCART to S-Video lead is the problem, the DVP-725 only outputs RGB and composite video on the SCART sockets. The lead is wired so that the composite video signal goes to the ‘Y’ or luminance connector on the S-Video plug at the other end, but there’s nothing on the ‘C’ or colour conductor. The TV processes the brightness information in the Y signal, producing the black and white picture Son is seeing. The solution is to use an S-Video to S-Video lead or stick with a SCART to SCART connection. Sound level mis-match is a common problem, unfortunately there are no user-level controls – apart from the volume controls – and it’s something he’ll have to live with.    



Name                Richard Thwaite, via email
Kit                    Sony KV-28DS60U integrated digital TV

Problem            Richard is contemplating buying a Sony KV-28DS60U integrated digital TV, but he has read that it does not allow you to video a digital channel while watching an analogue one. Is this correct? If so it seems like a serious shortcoming on a £1400 TV. 

Expert Reply             The basic problem is that VCRs only have analogue TV tuners so in order to record a digital TV programme a video recorder requires a video and audio output feed from the decoder inside the TV. In this instance the problem is compounded by the fact that on this particular TV digital reception gets priority and analogue operation is treated very much as a secondary functions. This is clearly a design flaw and something we predicted would happen when we reviewed the 32-inch version of this model in the January issue.



Name                Phil Melia, via email                         

Kit                    Panasonic TX32PK2 TV, Panasonic NV-HD650B VCR, Philips 710 DVD player, Panasonic TU-DSB30 digibox, Nokia Sat 1800 IRD satbox, Yamaha AV amp/decoder with 3 spare AV inputs

Problem            Quite a varied kit and now that Phil has added the TX32 he wants some guidance on how to connect it all up for the best results. 


Expert Reply             With only three spare AV inputs on the Yam amp and four AV components vying for sockets something is going to have to go. Since Phil has two sat boxes maybe he can ditch the Nokia sat box altogether or pipe it through to the TV speakers by daisy-chaining a SCART connection with the VCR. The simplest solution would be to hook up the stereo audio outputs from the VCR, DVD and digibox to the AV amp. There are three SCARTs on the back of the TV, AV1 is RGB enabled so this will have to be used exclusively by the Philips 710 DVD player since it doesn’t have an S-Video output or SCART bypass; AV2 and AV4 can be used by the digibox and VCR, (AV3 is the front AV input) with another SCART lead on the VCR’s bypass socket for the Nokia satbox.



Name                Barry Whitelaw, via email
Kit                    Toshiba SD-K310 DVD, Sherwood 6095RDS         

Problem            Not so much a problem Barry says, more of a question. He has connected his DVD player to his newly acquired amp via a Cambridge Audio Digital Co-axle cable. His previous amp was connected to the DVD player by standard audio cables. The question is; how does the digital co-axle (sic) cable work? He says it comprises of only 2 separate wires!

Expert Reply             Inside a digital coaxial cable there’s actually only one ‘wire’, surrounded by an outer shield. Unlike the audio cables used on Barry’s previous system, which carried analogue audio signals as separate channels, the coaxial digital cable transports digital data, a stream of pulses or a ‘bitstream’. This is basically the raw unprocessed six-channel (Dolby Digital, dts etc.) soundtrack data stored on the disc. The data is decoded by the Sherwood amp and converted into six analogue audio channels, which are amplified and fed to the speakers. Simple eh?



Name                Alex Leach, via email                        

Kit                    Sony DVP-S725 converted to multi-region playback, Panasonic TX28PK1  TV    

Problem            Region 2 DVDs play fine on Alex’s system, but R1 DVDs flicker and roll continually, though trailers and other extras play okay, does this suggest some PAL/NTSC compatibility problem, he asks? Someone advised Alex that it could be an interference problem (there is a cable TV decoder and VCR connected to the TV also), but the problem remains even when they are unplugged.  He tried using a SCART instead but the problem stayed the same.

Expert Reply      You know what we’re going to say.  DVD players with region locks that are disabled by a hardware modification lie well outside of our jurisdiction since we’ve no way of knowing about the type of mod, and how well it was carried out. In Alex’s case it sounds like a bit of a bodge job and he should argue the toss with whomever he bought it from. At the risk of repeating ourselves we cannot condone or help with any region lock fiddle that involves removing the player’s lid and thus voiding the warranty. Software region hacks are another thing entirely since for them to work the facility must have been built into the original design.



Name                            Pat Caruth, via email
Kit                                Sony DVP S725 DVD, Sony KV32 FX60 TV, Panasonic NV HD640 VCR

Problem                        Pat has been getting conflicting information from shops about S-Video and RGB video connections and she wondered if we could look at her system configuration and give some advice on the best way of connecting it up. Pat says that she does not wish to use the S-Video outlet on the front of the TV and when playing Region 1 discs on S-Video there is intermittent jumping and the colour goes to black and white & back again.


Expert Reply                 The loss of colour on an S-Video connection is almost certainly due to intermittency in the lead or one of the plugs or sockets. There’s no need for Pat to use the front panel S-Video input since two of the three SCART sockets on the back panel (AV2 and AV3) are configured for S-Video and the S725 has a S-Video output socket, so all she needs is a S-Video to SCART cable. Two sorts are available and she must make sure she has ‘wired in to SCART’ type. Alternatively Pat can use a fully wired SCART to SCART cable and use the RGB connection on the TV (AV1). The differences in picture quality will be relatively small but in general she will find the picture will be easier to adjust with an S-Video connection, but she should try both and see for herself. Pat’s VCR and future digibox upgrade can use the other two SCART sockets.



Name                Jusa Pina, via email                          

Kit                    n/a       

Problem            Jusa begins by saying she is Italian and apologises for her ‘bad English’ – she should hear our Italian sometime… Anyway, the problem concerns a video recording she is making for an important interview. She has created a short animation on a PC and wants to copy it to tape. The trouble she’s encountering concerns excessive ‘frying noise’ as she calls it on the boundaries between light and dark areas of the picture. What is it, she asks? The original animation doesn’t have this problem so it must be connected to the recording. Could it be something to do with the quality of the tape, if so which brand do we recommend?


Expert Reply                 There are two potential trouble spots here, the first is the PC and the means by which it generates a video image and the second is the type of VCR Jusa’s using.  PC to video conversion is a tricky process and the quality can be variable. A few high-end graphics cards can do a very good job, others generate a picture that you can see on a TV but that’s about the best you can say about it. Recording a poorly converted picture on a VHS VCR has precisely the effect Jusa describes. Instead of converting the animation to video Jusa might consider presenting it in its native PC format. If it’s not too large she might be able to download it to a removable media, the file can be compressed or ‘zipped’ to make it fit on one or several floppies. If available other high capacity disc formats (Zip, Jaz etc.) or write it to a CD-ROM with a recordable CD drive. If the computer she’s using doesn’t have these facilities she might be able to send it as an email attachment to someone who can help, or send it to whoever needs to see it. If it has to be presented on standard tape then Jusa should try to ensure that the graphics card is up to the job, and the VCR is in good condition and loaded with a good high-grade tape, and hope for the best…    



Name                Lindsay Bowen, Bromsgrove
Kit                    thinking of buying a DVD player  

Problem            In the group test of budget NICAM VCRs (HE75) we said that some machines have NTSC playback, elsewhere in the magazine we refer to NTSC replay, what's the difference?


Expert Reply            NTSC playback means the VCR or DVD player converts the colour information recorded on an NTSC tape into a PAL signal, but leaves it up to the TV to sort out the difference in picture lines and frame rate.  Most recent TVs have a wide tolerance and will happily display an NTSC standard 525-line/60Hz picture. This process is known as PAL 60. NTSC playback refers to multi-standard VCRs and most DVD players, which output a raw NTSC signal when playing NTSC tapes or discs (region code permitting), naturally this can only be viewed on a TV that can handle NTSC video signals.




Ó R. Maybury 2000, 1206



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