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HINTS & TIPS

 

REAR ADMIRABLE

Name                D. Greenaway, via email                                       

Kit                    Looking to buy a rear projection TV    

Problem            With a budget of around £2000 to spend on a projection TV, and bearing in mind that he already has a good AV amp, the question is which model gives the best picture for under two-grand?       

 

Expert Reply             At the moment there is only a small handful of rear projection TVs selling for less than £2000 but fortunately one of them happens to be the excellent Toshiba 40PW03, which we last looked at back in the June issue of Home Entertainment. This model should suit Mr Greenaway’s needs admirably and it has only basic audio facilities, so he’s not buying any superfluous facilities. The 40-inch 16:9 aspect ratio screen uses a CRT projection system, which, no-matter what anyone says, is still ahead of LCD when it comes to things like colour rendition and dynamic range.             

 

CRYING WHARF

Name                Terry Rea, via email

Kit                    Hitachi C28W510TN, Wharfedale DVD-750          

Problem            Terry has two questions; when HE looked at the Wharfedale DVD-750 player recently we suggested it was not dts compatible. Terry begs to differ and a friend with one says that he’s getting a dts bitstream into his AV amp, so what do we make of that? His second question concerns his own recently acquired Hitachi TV and Wharfedale DVD player. He would dearly like to make the leap to full surround. He says he was mightily impressed with the review of the Videologic dts Digitheatre in HE78, would this suit his present set-up or would he be better off going for a simpler and cheaper Dolby Digital setup?

           

Expert Reply            When we first looked at the Wharfedale 750 back in the February issue of HE, the sample we tested wasn’t billed as having a dts compatible bitstream output, so we didn’t check for it. Thanks to Terry for bringing this improved functionality to our attention.

 

Moving on to Terry’s second question, we’re still finding it difficult to get too excited about dts. It’s not as if there are huge and compelling differences between dts and Dolby Digital, they do exist and are mostly concerned with dts’s improved bass handling characteristics, but the bottom line is that both systems sound great. The other point to bear in mind is that at the moment there is only a small handful of Region 2 discs with dts soundtracks and although more will become available, Dolby Digital is much too deeply entrenched for it to get to the point where it becomes a deciding factor. Maybe if Terry is heavily into Region 1 titles he should give dts a higher priority, but if he really is that serious then he should really be thinking along the lines of investing in some high-end kit, that’s really going to get the best from the format. As we said in the review of the Videologic Digitheatre, this product is best suited to smaller rooms; nevertheless it is still a very good deal and brings dts down to an affordable level.

 

ON GOING DIFFICULTIES…

Name                Louis Dare, via email

Kit                    Philips IDTV    

Problem            At the beginning of this year Louis took the plunge and bought a Philips 28-inch widescreen IDTV. He says that he’s having a lot of trouble with it and nobody seems to be able to help. It concerns the interactive stuff, like Carlton channels ON Request, ON Offer and the Teletext functions none of which seem to work. He has spoken to ONdigital on quite a few occasional and have been told various things, including that the interactive digital text services are not available on ID TVs, and a few months ago he was informed that the shop he bought the TV from should supply him an upgrade module for the interactive digital text services. When he spoke to the shop they said they wasn’t aware of any problems with IDTVs. They sent a technician but when he arrived a few hours later he didn't know about the problem either.

 

Louis wants to know what’s going on, is there a problem with IDTVs and ONdigital’s interactive services? If so is ONdigital going to fix it or will it try to brush it under the carpet? If they are trying to fix it, why don't they inform their staff and suppliers with information? At the moment Louis has to use a set top box, and he sys that it appears he has wasted a great deal of money on an IDTV that is only 50% useful.

 

Expert Reply                 We spoke to ONdigital on Louis’s behalf and the latest information we have is that at the time of writing (mid August) the necessary upgrade for Philips IDTVs is still being worked on. Our contact at ONdigital seemed fairly confident that it would be finished ‘in a couple of months’ which should mean it will be available sometime in October or November, probably… If Louis bought the set from ONdigital he will be advised by letter when it is ready, otherwise he should check the on-air update facility from time to time. We agree with Louis, the people who make market and sell this stuff should be better informed but our suspicion is that ONdigital is like most other companies struggling to get to grips with a slippery cutting edge technology, make it up as they go along…  

 

GREY AREAS

Name                David Sheridan, via email                           

Kit                    3-year old 32-inch Philips TV, Sony 725 DVD player  

Problem            During DVD replay David says that there is a dark area occupying the right hand side of screen and a smaller vertical bar, approximately one inch wide on left hand edge of the screen. This happens on his three year Philips old 32 inch set and it’s also on his friends brand new 36-inch Phillips TV and he has a Pioneer player. David says it’s most noticeable when he and his friend use S-Video connections, it’s still there with a SCART cable, though to a lesser extent, and it only occurs on DVD, VCRs and satellite boxes are fine and the grey patches remain whether or not they are connected to the TV. His friend took had his TV returned to the shop and took along his DVD player and cable and the grey areas disappeared but when he got the set home again the problem returned, though this time it wasn’t quite so bad. He has tried all setup options with no improvement.

 

Expert Reply             We have to admit to being completely baffled by this one. The only common factor is the make of David and his friend’s TV. We’re not aware of any specific faults that give the symptoms he describes, though it does sound a bit like one of the side effects of 100Hz processing and digital video noise reduction but in any case, with an age difference of at least three years it is unlikely the TVs share the same chassis. Unfortunately that’s the only thing we can think of. There is the slimmest chance that the two TVs are related in some way and they have the same rare affliction, but that still doesn’t satisfactorily explain why the fault on David’s friends TV disappeared when it was tested on the bench. Service engineers are renowned for their magical powers and faults often vanish in their workshops, only to return as soon as the product is back in the customer’s home, but it is very unusual for said faults to get a little bit better… If anyone has any bright ideas or had a similar experience we’d be very interested to hear from you.

 

AERIAL MANOUVRES

Name                Andrew David Murr, Sheffield

Kit                    Recordable DVD           

Problem            After reading about the new DVD recorders that we’re being told will eventually replace video recorders, Andrew wants to know why in pictures of the rear panels on the ones he’s seen, he cannot see any aerial sockets. Are these new devices designed to record TV programmes? If so he cannot see how? Could we shed some light on the matter?

 

Expert Reply             Any DVD recorders Andrew may have seen would be dummies, prototypes and pre-production models, or machines destined for other markets, the fact is there are still a lot of things to be settled before recordable DVD reaches the shops, including the small matter of which format we’ll use, indeed there is still a chance two (or more) rival systems will attempt to slug it out in the marketplace, though fingers crossed, good sense will prevail.

 

The point about aerial sockets is also open to question. There is a good argument for DVD recorders not having built-in tuners. Given that analogue TV is going to be switched off within the next few years a UHF tuner would probably be redundant within the lifetime of the product, and for various reasons not everyone can receive digital terrestrial or digital satellite broadcasters. Fitting all three types of tuner/decoder (UHF, digital satellite and digital terrestrial) would be the only ‘universal’ solution but it’s not economically or technically feasible, instead we suspect most DVD recorders will have to be used with an external tuner/decoder, though we wouldn’t be at all surprised to see a few models with UHF tuners, if it turns out analogue terrestrial broadcasts will continue to 2010.

 

ON THE FRINGE

Name                Daniel Chapman                                             

Kit                    Sharp 66FW widescreen TV, Hitachi DV-P250 DVD player (multi region)    

Problem            When Daniel first acquired his new Sharp TV and Hitachi DVD player he connected them together using an RGB link, however, when he switches the facility on from the DVD remote he says he has noticed a red outline around certain images on the screen. More recently, whilst watching DVDs, he has noticed colours changing up and down the screen, but when he switches RGB off the picture looks fine. He says it’s not as sharp as an RGB signal and adds that RGB works perfectly on other TVs he’s tried; he has tried swapping the SCART lead, but the problem remains.

 

Expert Reply             By a simple process of elimination Daniel’s Sharp TV seems to be the culprit. One possible explanation for the colour fringing is that the TVs convergence needs tweaking. Convergence is the process whereby the three colour images (red green and blue) in a TV picture are accurately superimposed over one another. Minor errors – that might otherwise go unnoticed -- tend to be exaggerated on an RGB feed. That also fits in the progressive change Daniel describes as convergence can drift over time, though under normal circumstances it tends to occur much more slowly. The fact that the ‘colour change’ symptom has only just surfaced also points to the TV and possible misalignment, or it could be the early stages of a developing fault. In either case the only way to find out it to have it looked at, which shouldn’t be a problem since the TV is only a few months old and still under warranty. 

 

BOXING CLEVER

Name                            Andy Miller, via email             

Kit                                Sony DVP-S725D DVD, Panasonic NV-HD625B VCR, Pace BSKYB 2200 digibox, Sony STR-DB930 Amp, thinking about Hitachi C43WP910TN Rear Projection TV

Problem                        Andy is in the throes of buying a Hitachi rear-screen projection TV and he would like some advice on how to connect it up to the rest of his system for the best possible AV performance.

 

Expert Reply                 All of the components in Andy’s collection are blessed with an abundance of sockets and there shouldn’t be any problem using the best connections for the job. So, from the top, the DVD player to TV should use a fully wired SCART from AV1 to the TV’s number 1 SCART, which is RGB configured. It’s worth Andy experimenting with the audio connections, he should try using the built-in 5.1 decoder in the amp first, using an optical/coaxial bitstream connection, then compare it with the DVD player’s built-in decoder, our guess is the decoder in the AV amp will have a very slightly cleaner and more clearly defined sound, but the only way to find out it to try both. The VCR and the Pace digibox should be daisy-chained with SCART cables to the TV, so Andy will be able to record from the satellite box, the stereo line outputs from both devices go to the appropriate line inputs on the AV amp.

 

HIT BITS

Name                John Smith, via email                        

Kit                    thinking about a Hitachi C32WF810W widescreen TV

Problem            A lengthy search for a widescreen TV has finally led John to the Hitachi C32WF810W 32-incher. He made his mind up after reading the review of the 36-inch C36WF810W in issue 77 (May 2000). When John tried to place an order he was told that the 32-inch version didn’t come with the separate centre speaker and sub-woofer, yet he says that in the Rival Buys section of the article we say that the 32-inch model has an identical feature list. John goes on to say that he hasn’t been able to find any reviews on the 32-inch set. Do we have any idea about how its digital surround sound system performs?

 

Expert Reply      Tricky blighters Hitachi, you have to watch them… The company’s marketing department has a habit of bundling and unbundling extras with its TVs, like speakers and console stands, often without telling anyone. However in this case they appear to be innocent. We have been assured by Hitachi that you do indeed get the same speaker package with the C32WF810W; however, we think we know what may have happened in John’s case. Hitachi has another 32-inch widescreen model in its range, the C32WF523N, which is very similar, but has a 50Hz display instead of the 100Hz display on the WF810. It is out guess that the dealer or whoever he spoke to got the two models mixed up. John can place his order for the C32WF810W with confidence (making sure he has the correct model number) and he can also be assured that the technical specs and the speakers are identical. Whilst we haven’t actually tested the 32-inch set we are reasonably satisfied that it will sound pretty much the same as the 36-inch model since the only physical difference is a very slightly smaller cabinet.

 

VIDEO VARIATIONS

Name                Robin Taggart                        

Kit                    TX32PK2 widescreen TV, DVD-A360EB DVD, NV-HS850 VCR, Sky Digibox, all Panasonic

Problem            Choosing a Dolby Digital surround sound system to match the visual performance of his TV is Robin’s main concern at the moment. Clearly he is a big Panasonic fan, he says that he deliberately stuck to this one brand after watching and comparing many other different set-ups. He started with the TV and features like Q-Link helped everything else to slot into place. However, Robin’s question concerns video connections and he wants to know if a SCART cable gives better results than an S-Video or other types of video connection?

 

Expert Reply             SCART for all of its many faults is a remarkably flexible interconnect system and many DVD players, including the Panasonic DVD-A360, can squirt three different types of video signal down the cable, namely composite video, S-Video and RGB. (We have also seen players with a YUV ‘component’ video output on the SCART socket).

 

Composite is the bog-standard video signal format and the least good in terms of quality. That’s because the frequency modulated colour component in the video signal (chrominance or ‘C’) is mixed in with the amplitude modulated brightness (luminance or Y) component and synchronisation pulses. Whilst it’s handy to have everything travelling along one single wire, the signals have a tendency to interact with one another, producing the characteristic ‘herringbone’ cross-colour interference in highly patterned areas of the picture.

 

S-Video or ‘Y/C’ signals avoid that problem by having the colour and brightness components separated at key processing stages and when moving the video signal from one component to another. Actual picture ‘quality’ in terms of resolution, colour fidelity (apart from the lack of cross colour) and noise levels are about the same as composite video.

 

The best video connection system for PAL equipment is RGB, where the three colours are sent down separate wires. Colour rendition is as good as it can be, and because fewer stages of processing are involved in the source and display devices, less detail is lost and noise levels are generally lower. The short answer to Robin’s question is that where there’s a choice an RGB video connection usually gives the best results, although he should be aware that on some TVs have a limited range of picture adjustments with an RGB feed.

 

HISSING SONY

Name                Kevin Bragg

Kit                    Sony STR-DB930      

Problem            We’re not exactly sure how to take this but Kevin says that with HE’s knack for finding fault with AV products, he wondered if we had ever come across a problem with the Sony STR-DB930 AV receiver/amp/AC-3/dts decoder. In particular he says that with no devices connected, turning the volume up past ‘4’ produces a hiss from all speakers. This only seems to happen in one of the 'cinema' modes (2-channel stereo is fine he says) and it gets worse if you turn on the EQ or BASS BOOST settings. Also, he adds, it seems to affect analogue connections as switching to the DVD coaxial removes the hiss. Kevin says he’s not alone and has come across reports on the web from other DB930 owners mentioning the hiss. He says various fixes have been suggested ranging from grounding the unit to cleaning the power.

 

Expert Reply             Our own report on the STR-DB930 and those in several other magazines we’ve seen (both here in the UK and published overseas), have almost unanimously praised the DB930. Normally if a piece of equipment has any significant shortcomings, or even minor ones, we’ll pick up on it, and so will most other diligent reviewers, so it’s probably fair to assume the hiss Kevin and others are hearing is not a common problem. From his description it only seems to happen in a relatively untypical situation – with no inputs and in one particular mode – so maybe it’s not something to worry about unduly. Digital signal processing (DSP) systems can often introduce extra noise but in view of the fact that they are meant to be used with mono material or older non-surround movie soundtracks – that are usually already quite noisy – any additional noise will probably go unnoticed.  

 

WHICH VIDEO?

Name                Malcolm Robertson, via email                                   

Kit                    Looking for a new VCR  

Problem            Malcolm’s present video recorder is on its last legs and he’s seeking advice on what to buy next. He says that he is mostly interested in picture quality, but not only from recordings made on any new machine, he has a library of pre-recorded tapes purchased over the course of several years, and this includes a number of recordings that he has made. As he points out this could be the last video recorder he buys, so it wants to be a good one. In particular he wants to know which of the mid-range and top-end VCRs have the best picture quality, when replaying their own recordings, which models do best when replaying pre corded tapes, and thirdly, if there are any VCRs that do both things equally well?

 

Expert Reply             Compatibility is not big issue with VHS. We check for it with calibrated test tapes but in the end it comes down to the alignment on individual machines and it’s not possible to generalise on the basis of make or model. The best advice we can give to Malcolm is to get the best machine he can afford. We reckon it’s worth his while getting a Super VHS machine since this will give him the widest format accessibility and they are normally built to the highest specification moreover since only JVC and Panasonic are making them right now he won’t be taking any chances brand-wise.       

 

BOX COPY 1

GETTING STARTED  – MENU MADNESS 1

Some newcomers to DVD are often confused by the profusion of on-screen menus, and with good reason! Depending on the disc and player most users can expect to encounter at least three layers of on-screen displays, not to mention things like screensavers, manufacturers logos, warning messages and we’ve even see introductory ‘splash screens’ with the manufacturer’s customer help line number – a real confidence builder for a technology that’s supposed to be virtually idiot-proof…

 

The display that causes the most problems is generally the setup menu that can be accessed when no disc is loaded, or the deck in stop mode. This covers a number of one-time only adjustments such as the type of TV it will be connected to (4:3 or widescreen), the video connection (PAL/PAL 60/NTSC and composite/S-Video or RGB), your picture preferences for 4:3 display (pan & scan or letterbox), and the type of audio system you’ll be using (Dolby Pro Logic, internal or external 5.1 decoder). Most players sold in this country have the language defaults set to English but the setup menu contain option to change the selection for the soundtracks, subtitle and on-screen displays.

 

A few machines have video adjustments (brightness, contrast, saturation, hue, sharpness etc) in the setup menu. Occasionally you’ll come across things like Gamma correction or Display Type, these change the contrast balance, increasing or decreasing the amount of detail that can be seen in picture highlights and lowlights to suit different types of lighting condition and display devices (direct view CRT, LCD or CDR rear and front projectors etc).

 

Players with built-in Dolby Digital/dts surround sound decoders may also have adjustments for setting channel levels and delays, the latter is meant to compensate for varying room sizes and speaker placement. A white noise generator sends a white noise signal (hiss) to each channel in turn so the levels can be adjusted to achieve a balanced soundfield.

 

Lastly there may be a number of housekeeping functions, like front panel display brightness and screensaver settings. The latter generates a low intensity moving or slowly changing image that is supposed to protect CRT-based display devices from ‘screen burn’, when the player is left switched on and connected to a TV or projector for any length of time.

 

 

BOX COPY 2

GETTING STARTED – MENU MADNESS 2

In addition to the setup menu most DVD players have two other types of on-screen display. The one you usually see a few moments after inserting a disc is the disc menu. This is recorded on the disc and the presentation and content is decided upon by the studio however its structure is rigidly fixed so that it can be accessed on any make or model of DVD player using the format standard set of four arrow/cursor keys and an Enter key.

 

The third type of display is what will appear on the screen when a disc is playing. It can vary widely, from simple ‘information-only’ mode and status indicators showing track and chapter numbers, times, soundtrack and subtitle selection, to full-blown menu-driven access to the player’s operating system. How much (or little) control access is provided is up to the manufacturer, on some models changes to things like soundtrack and subtitle are carried out from dedicated buttons on the remote handset, on others you have to call up the on-screen display menu and make selections using the cursor buttons. The first method is quicker but it means more buttons on the handset, the second method is slower but the remote is less cluttered and it also means you can get to a lot of other functions, some of which would normally be buried in the setup menu.  Menu design is also an area where DVD player manufacturer’s can demonstrate how clever they are (or not, as the case may be), and we have seen some stunningly good and bad examples of the on-screen display designers art in the past couple of years. If you get a chance try a few for size, if you can figure out how it works, without asking for help, it’s doing its job!

 

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Ó R. Maybury 2000 0708

 

 

 

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