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HINTS & TIPS


NAME Tony Smith
KIT Sony STR-DB940 receiver
PROBLEM
Tony has recently bought a Sony STR-DB940 receiver to match his Sony DVP-S725 DVD player, and wonders if the Energy Take Five speaker system would complement this set-up. Or are there any others we would recommend? He also asks for us to recommend some suitable speaker cable.

REPLY

We were suitably impressed by the Take Five package when it was reviewed last year in the July issue (HE 79). Despite some initial misgivings about the cosmetic design, which is clearly in the fancy-schmancy 'lifestyle' category, it turned in a very respectable performance indeed, though Tony should heed our warning and go for the full Monty deal, preferably with the largest of the three sub-woofers on offer, or one of his own choosing; the satellites on their own are going to sound thin and unsubstantial. Although we haven't tried this combination we think the Take Five speakers should work well with the STR-DB940. As for cable, since we haven't used these components together we can't make any specific recommendations but we can help Tony along the way with a few general comments. This kind of set-up calls for a decent quality, mid-range cable. There's little if anything to be gained by him lashing out on the high-end exotic stuff. The best place for him to start would be the Buyer's Guide at the back of the mag, and good old HE 79 again  – if he's a regular reader – which carried a cable Mega Test. Otherwise he can check out the reviews on the HE website, if he goes straight to the search page at: http://www.home-entertainment.co.uk/search.asp.

 

 

 

NAME Allan Albery
KIT Toshiba SD-100E DVD player and Sony TA-VE150 amp
PROBLEM
Allan recently purchased a Toshiba SD-100E DVD player and already owns a Dolby ProLogic amplifier, the Sony TA-VE150, which has 5.1 phono connections. His DVD player does not have 5.1 connections, but does offer coaxial and optical digital outs. It also has the Dolby Digital and dts badges on the front. He has been using the two phono connections between the DVD player and amp, but asks if he can buy a separate Dolby Digital processor, which he could hook up to his DVD player via the
optical/coaxial out, then to his amplifier via 5.1 connections. Where can he buy such a processor, and would this give him Dolby Digita sound, or does he have to upgrade his amp?

REPLY

Separate Dolby Digital and dts decoders are available but they tend to be high-end components, costing significantly more than either a new DVD player with on-board decoders, or a similarly equipped AV amplifier, so we'll put that option to one side for the moment. That brings us to the age-old question of whether it is better to have the decoders in the DVD player, or the amplifier. In Allan's case the balance tips in favour of replacing his amplifier since his DVD player is a reasonably recent model with a good performance record. His present amplifier is getting on a bit and as he has found out, not especially well equipped in the decoder department. Nowadays the chips needed to decode Dolby Digital and dts data add comparatively little to the cost of an amplifier. The other advantage of having the decoders in the amplifier is simpler connections. If the decoder is in the DVD player then he will need five or six separate phono-to-phono leads between the player and the amplifier. If the decoder is in the amplifier then he needs just one optical or coaxial cable. All other things being equal a digital connection is virtually immune to noise and there's less to go wrong.

 

 

NAME Owen Gallagher
KIT Manhattan DVD 2000
PROBLEM
Owen bought a Manhattan DVD 2000 player and tried to get into the menu for multi-region and Macrovision disabling, but was unable to do so using the key presses we printed in our review. Do we know the codes to access these 'secret' menus?

REPLY

The procedure we published was correct but as with all things DVD, it is rarely as simple as it seems. That particular hack was for players using an early 'firmware' version. (In case you are wondering, firmware is the software that controls how a player operates). Anyway. To cut a long story short, for reasons best known to themselves – possibly to fix bugs or glitches – the manufacturers subsequently updated the firmware, and probably changed the odd chip as well, because there is now an entirely new hack for this machine. Owen should try this: press the Open button on the remote handset then Setup, followed by a number for the region he wants to convert it to (i.e. 1 for Region 1, 2 for … well, you get the idea, or 9 for Region Free). Next, press 2, 0, 1, 0. (There is a chance this may not work – yet another revision -- in which case try 3, 0, 1, 0), then to finish off press Step, Shuffle, Next. Owen can check that the change has taken place by pressing Open, Setup, Shuffle, Step, Next and a menu will appear. Scroll down to 'Debug Item' and the current Region number should be displayed.

 


NAME Tim Simond
KIT Sony 32" FD1 TV, Bose Acoustimass 10 (with VCs 10 centre speaker),
Sony 150 commander
PROBLEM
Tim is looking to upgrade his system and asks if he should replace his
Bose system with the KEF mini series speaker we tested in the April 2001
issue. He also asks if the latest range of TVs produce a notably better
picture than his FD1? Is it worth buying a new one, such as Panasonic
plasma.

REPLY

Tim would almost certainly get some improvement by upgrading to the Kef KHT-2005AV package. In the review we commented on its balance, power and sensitivity, all the more impressive from such a distinctive design. We awarded it one of our coveted Best Buy tags and rounded off the review with some simple advice, 'Go buy one', so from that Tim can conclude that we quite liked it!

 

As far as improvements in picture quality are concerned, Tim's Sony KV-32FD1 was – and probably still is – a real cracker and even though his one is now two or three years old. The FD1 was one of the first TVs to use Sony's groundbreaking FD Trinitron picture tube with its near perfectly flat faceplate. Since then there hasn't been any significant developments in TV technology, at least none that would make us want to rush out and buy a new set if we owned an FD1. In fact the only reason we could see for Tim wanting to replace it is to get a bigger display, which is really the principle justification for spending a very large amount of money buying a Plasma screen. The bottom line is that he'll get a big picture and a flat display that he can hang on the wall and impress the neighbours, but he won't see any improvement in picture quality, compared with his current Sony TV.

 

 

NAME Julian Hall
KIT various
PROBLEM
Julian wants to update his TV to a 36-inch widescreen set, as he has decided against rear projection and cannot afford plasma. He asks us to rank these sets for him: Sony KV36FS70S, Philips 36PW9525C, Panasonic TX36PG50, Hitachi C36Wf810N and Panasonic TX36PF10. Is this the best option or would he be better off with one of the top-end 32inch screens such as JVC AV-32WFT1 or Philips PW9616C. He also wants to know whether to go for an all-in-one home cinema system or to go the separates route.  He also asks if it is worth waiting for recordable DVD?

REPLY

From the tone of his letter, and the questions Julian asks it is clear he really needs to sit down and work out precisely what he wants from his home cinema system. The TVs he has short-listed have all done well in various tests and reviews but it is impossible and unfair for us to 'rank' them since the only thing they have in common is screen size, and then he goes on to further muddy the waters by asking if he would be better off buying a 32-inch set… Only Julian can decide what screen size is most appropriate for his living room and he should be aware that there can be quite a difference in the cabinet sizes of 32 and 36 inch sets.

 

However, Julian really needs to focus on the sound side of things. Without knowing a great deal more about his circumstances and preferences there is no way we can advise him on the choice between one-box, package and separates systems. As for recordable DVD, all we can say is that it's coming, first generation products will probably cost four or five times as much as a VCR and if past experience is anything to go by there will be tears before bedtime for early adopters…

 


NAME Reshad
KIT various
PROBLEM
Reshad has bought the following Sony kit, the KV-36FS70 TV, the
DVP-S735D DVD player, the STR-DB940 AV Receiver, the SA-VE705 speaker system and the SLV-SF99 VCR. He also has an NTL/Cable & Wireless Pace digital cable box. How should he connect them all up?

REPLY

Big Sony fan eh? Reshad is in luck; Sony kit has always been a notch or two up on most of the opposition when it comes to the provision of socketry. His KV-36FS70 telly is quite well endowed in that respect with no less than three back panel SCART sockets. Two of them are configured for composite and S-Video, the third can handle composite and RGB signals and that's the one he should use for the DVD player as RGB usually gives the best picture. For that he needs to use a fully wired (Type U or 'universal') SCART-to-SCART cable, no other type will do! Reshad should make sure the TV video input and video output for the DVD player are set to RGB, the latter option can be found in the setup menu. The VCR and cable box can be daisy-chained together using a pair of regular Type V SCART leads to one of the TV's other SCART sockets. This arrangement will allow him to record programmes from the cable box. The ever-popular STR-DB940 just needs a coaxial or optical digital connection to the DVD player. Reshad can figure out the speakers connections for himself…

 

 

NAME Alan Grimes
KIT n/a
PROBLEM
Alan has compiled a wish list of three items, and wants to know when
they might become available. 1) A TiVo box (or equivalent machine) with
a built in digital terrestrial tuner; 2) A portable IDTV (14inch
screen); 3) A portable widescreen IDTV (approx 17inch screen).

REPLY

TiVo type devices that record TV programmes on a hard disc drive and can simultaneously record and playback, effectively letting you 'pause' a live TV program have so far only been available for analogue terrestrial and SKY digital services. There's no technical reason why an ONDigital/ITV Digital version can't be developed but we haven't heard of one yet and given that terrestrial digital has got off to a comparatively slow start, Alan might have a bit if a wait ion his hands…

 

The 14-inch IDTV could happen tomorrow or next year or not for another five years. Confusion reigns in the UK over digital TV and there could be a shed load of problems for people with existing digital subscriptions buying a second TV/decoder – will they have to pay for a second subscription, for example as viewing cards only work in one designated decoder? Manufacturers are none too keen on the idea of 'dual standard' Sky/ONDigital sets either, and then there's the problem of a TV with a Sky decoder requiring connection to a dish. A 17-inch widescreen set seems like a very distant prospect, the 16:9 format simply doesn't work on screens smaller than around 24-inches, it looks very odd!

 

 


NAME Martin Beatty
KIT Kenwood KRF-V7030D, Scan SC2000 DVD player
PROBLEM
Martin has bought a Kenwood KRF-V7030D AV receiver and is looking to get a Scan SC2000 DVD player to give him multi-region capability as well as
CD-R and CD-RW compatibility. But how should he connect these to his TV?

REPLY

This shouldn't be a problem since only the video output from the DVD player needs to go to the TV. The Kenwood box does have a set of video inputs and outputs but these are only used for source switching, so unless Martin needs those facilities they can be safely ignored. If memory serves the SCAN DVD player has both RGB and S-Video outputs, as well as the format standard composite video output, so Martin can use the one that's appropriate for his make and model of TV (in ascending order of picture quality it's composite, S-Video & RGB). The DVD player needs both analogue and digital audio connections to the amp if Martin is going to use it to play CD-R and RW discs with MP3 tracks, and regular audio CDs, in which case he will need a simple twin phono to phono lead, that goes from to the player's stereo output to the CD input on the amp. For DVD replay he should use a single lead from the player's coaxial or optical digital outputs to the relevant socket on the amplifier for 5.1 digital surround.

 

 

NAME Kerry Hancock
KIT Denon AVR-F100
PROBLEM
Kerry has just bought a Denon AV-F100 system and wants a widescreen TV to match. He wants to spend under £800 and has his eyes on a Panasonic
TX28PK3, Toshiba 28ZD06B, and a Sony KV-28FX60. Finally he asks whether he should use RGB or S-Video connections.

 

REPLY

It's a tough choice and Kerry has come up with three quite similar models, typically selling for within £100 or so of each other. The only significant technical difference is that the Sony and Toshiba models have 100Hz displays, whilst the Panasonic makes do with a conventional 50Hz display. A 100Hz display is definitely worth having on 16:9 TVs with 32-inch or larger screens but the flickering effect – which the 100Hz display neutralises -- tends to be less noticeable on a 28-inch screen. 100Hz displays have a downside and that's a tendency for blurring or smearing when showing fast moving objects, it can irritate some people. However, if the choice were to come down purely to picture quality then we suspect that Kerry will find that the Sony set has a very slight edge with its Wega FD Trinitron picture tube, though it's a very close call and Toshiba's Pure Flat tube is also capable of excellent results. However, in the end it is all down to personal taste and Kerry really should try to see should see each of these sets in action.

 

 

 

NAME Steven Batey
KIT n/a
PROBLEM
Steven wants to know what the serial socket on the back of his digibox is for, and how he can link this to his PC. He also asks if there is any software for it yet.

REPLY

As Steven has rightly surmised the serial socket is for connection to a PC but it's not really meant for the consumer to use. It was originally intended as a way for engineers to upload new software and carry out diagnostic checks on sick receivers. However, Most software upgrades – to add functionality, fix bugs etc.  – are normally carried out by on-air downloads. Doubtless it can do lots of other things besides, and we wouldn't be at all surprised if the serial socket may well provides hackers with access to the receiver's vital inner workings, including things like encryption routines, for such nefarious purposes as card cloning and hacking. 

 

The software needed to access the receiver is proprietary to Sky and not available to the public, however, we know of at least one enterprising company that has developed a way of using a PC to program the receiver to make timer recordings, though as far as we are aware it only works on Panasonic receivers. You can find out more from the following web site:

http://www.satcure.co.uk/accs/page5.htm

 

 


NAME Jonathon Noyce
KIT Eltax Symphony A8 subwoofer
PROBLEM
Jonathon has an Eltax Symphony A8 subwoofer, and wonders if we know why it gives out a sharp thump noise when the film goes quiet (e.g. just after
an explosion). It is an active woofer, which is rated at 60Watts, and he asks if this effect occurs when it just runs out of 'oomph'?

REPLY

Needless to say it shouldn't be doing that – whether or not it has run out of 'oomph' – but it doesn't appear be a known problem with the Symphony A8, so it is most likely a fault. The on-board amplifier and its power supply have to be the prime suspects. This sort of thing could occur if the power supply's smoothing and regulation circuitry can't keep up with a sudden demand from the amplifier. However, before we jump to any conclusions there's a chance it might be coming from the source component and there's a way to find out.

 

The first step is to find a sequence in a movie where the effect always occurs. Next he should monitor the sub-woofer output from his DVD player, decoder or AV amplifier using another amplifier and speaker or headphones. The Sub out is at line level so it can be safely connected to one of the amplifier's auxiliary inputs. With all of the other channels turned down he should be able to hear if the thump is present, if so then there's something amiss with that component, otherwise it's the sub-woofer, which requires attention.

 

 

NAME Malcolm Williams
KIT Philips 28PW9616
PROBLEM
Malcolm is thinking of getting a Philips 28PW9616 and he wants to know
how to connect it to his Samsung 709 DVD player. Does he need a Dolby
Digital decoder to get the full 5.1 sound effects, or does the TV set
have one built in? The TV says that it has Dolby Digital, but Malcolm
has no idea what that really means. He also asks if we have any idea
what the maximum range of the wireless speakers is.

 

REPLY

We'd better start at the beginning, Dolby Digital is one of two '5.1' digital surround sound systems in widespread use at the moment, the other is dts (digital theatre system), which has a very similar specification to Dolby Digital. The 5.1 bit refers to the fact that both systems have five full bandwidth (i.e. high quality) sound channels driving front stereo, centre front and rear stereo speakers, plus one narrow band channel that's used for low frequency bass sounds and effects heard through a sub-woofer. So far so good?  Malcolm's Samsung DVD player doesn’t' have a Dolby Digital decoder of its own but it does have an output connection that carries the 5.1 channels – in the form of digital data -- that can be used to connect it to the Dolby Digital decoder in his TV. Malcolm's TV and DVD player only have one type of digital connection (there are two sorts, coaxial and optical); luckily for him they are both the same (coaxial). As for the 'wireless' speakers, in the open the maximum operating range is 20 to 30 metres but since they will normally only be used within two or three metres of the TV that is largely academic. By the way, whilst there is no physical connection between the speakers and the TV they are linked together by cable, and have to be plugged into a mains socket.

 

 

 

NAME Andrew Lewis
KIT various
PROBLEM
Andrew has approximately £1,300 to spend on a widescreen TV, DVD player and VCR. At the moment he is looking at either the Philips 28PW6615 or
the Panasonic TX28DK2 as his TV, the Sony DVP-S735D, Toshiba SD-200E or Pioneer DV-636D as his DVD player and the Sony SLV-SE800 or the
Panasonic NV-FJ615 (or 715) VCRs. Is there anything we would particularly recommend, or are there any compatibility issues he should consider? Finally, if he plays a region free disc on the DVP-S735D, he understands it will be output as pure NTSC? Will he be able to view this on these televisions?

REPLY

Compatibility problems between mainstream AV components are actually quite rare, though that is not to say it doesn't happen. It does but it is usually because one or both devices are at the limits of their respective tolerances and it's just an unlucky combination. Changing one or both of the devices solves the problem in nine out of ten cases. As for making recommendations we'll have to do our usual fence-sitting act on this one since. All of the items on Andrew's shopping list have come out well in our reviews, so there shouldn't be any problems with AV performance so he can concentrate on buy the components that have the features he wants.

 

Andrew's won't have any problems playing Region 0 discs on his Sony DVD and the two TV's he has mentioned since both of them can display NTSC signals via their AV inputs. As a matter of interest there are now quite a few Region 0 discs available. Most of them are American in origin, hence the need for an NTSC-capable TV but there are now a few PAL titles. If you're interested have a look at the August issue of our sister magazine What DVD, which has an interesting article on this very subject.

 

 

NAME Clive Wicks
KIT Pace digibox, Xantech infrared relay systems
PROBLEM
Clive has a Pace digital cable box that has future capability for what is described as a remote accessory and there is a small jack socket in the rear panel. He wants to put the cable box and other kit in a separate room but the cable company has no information when a cable and eye will be available.  He has been recommended the Xantech infrared relay system but he has been told that this will not operate the cable box as the cable remote operates at a much higher frequency to other remotes. How can he operate the cable box remotely using an infrared relay.

 

REPLY

 

---WAITING---

 

 


NAME Kelly Smith
KIT Bush 2004 DVD player
PROBLEM
Kelly is struggling to get rid of the subtitles that appear on the Bush
2004 DVD player. They will not disappear whatever buttons are pressed.
Can we help, or do Bush have a website for technical help?

REPLY

Some Bush DVD players have the annoying habit of defaulting to subtitle display on mode as soon as a disc is loaded and it starts playing. However it is something most users get used to and they usually remember to reach for the subtitle off button without giving it a second thought. The only thing that catches some users is that on some remotes there are two subtitle buttons, side by side, and the labelling is not that clear. The button on the left is responsible selecting subtitle language and if that's pressed the display won't go away, unless the right button is pressed, which switches the subtitle off. Now we're not saying this is what's happening ion Kelly's case, but it is very easy to get into a tangle with this illogical arrangement.

 

Bush assures us that they are not aware of any problem with the subtitling function on the 2004 so assuming that Kelly is not falling prey to always-on subtitle syndrome, and the subtitle off button on the remote is not playing up, then there has to be fault with this machine and Kelly should return it to the shop.

 

---end---

 

Ó R. Maybury 2001, 1105

 



NAME Duncan Whittall
KIT various
PROBLEM
Duncan has a Sony FS36FS TV with a Sky digibox and a Panasonic VCR. When he watches Sky Digital, then switches Sky off using the Sky remote, he
gets a horizontal red line, about a quarter of an inch wide, across the middle of the screen. Sometimes it can appear at the top or the bottom of the screen instead. This only happens for a few seconds, before the terrestrial picture appears. He is currently using a SCART cable from the digibox to the TV, and has tried using each of the three SCART inputs, but with no change. He has also changed the SCART cable, but the same thing happens. Any ideas?

REPLY

It is probably caused by some obscure interaction of switching or video processing circuits somewhere in the TV or VCR but quite honestly, in the great scheme of things it doesn't sound like that much of a problem…



 

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