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NAME Mike Harding
Mike has just bought a Sony DAV-S300 system to accompany his JVCAV-32WFP1EK 100Hz TV. When he connects the DVD to the TV (via an S-video lead), he finds there are two vertical dark grey bands approximately one and a half inches wide, each about four inches from the edge of the TV.To the right of each band, is a lighter band about a quarter of an inch wide. These bands are only evident when the S-video lead in connected,and are still there when the Sky and video SCART leads are disconnected.He has read of similar bands in Hints and Tips before (HE86, no.15), and
asks if it is the same problem, and how he can get rid of them.


The banding Mike describes doesn't appear to be an inherent problem with this particular model, though we have seen reports of poor geometry (picture shape) and one or two relatively minor picture faults. The fact that it only happens when the S-Video lead is used is unusual, though, and it might be worth trying another one, just in case the lead in question is generating some kind of  'spook'. It sounds a bit like an effect known as 'ringing', which can be caused by a harmonic of one of the components of the video signal, reflected back and forth along the cable. It's also worth changing the route of the cable, just in case it is inadequately shielded and picking something up from an adjacent signal or power lead. Lastly, to confirm or eliminate the TV or cable as the source of the banding, Mike should try them both with another AV device with an S-Video output, another DVD player, or maybe a high-band camcorder, and see if the effect persists. If the TV is the guilty party then, assuming it's still in guarantee, he should have the boys in white coats come round and take a look at it.



NAME Malcolm Dartnell
Malcolm has just bought the Toshiba 40WHO8B widescreen TV and has acouple of questions. He asks what is the best way to connect up aWharfedale 750 DVD to get the best picture and sound. He also read thatwe recommended using the TV speakers as a centre channel and addingfronts, rears and a subwoofer. He is thinking of upgrading his Bose Lifestyle 5 to the home cinema version, and asks if we recommend using this, or any other speakers.


Malcolm is fortunate and has a choice as his Tosh TV and Wharfedale 750 both support RGB and S-Video connections. He can also use a composite video connection, but it's the least good, in terms of picture quality. Normally we prefer to RGB as this gives the purest colours and least noise, but on some TVs and in some people's perception the image may look darker or more contrasty, which is not to everyone's taste. Our advice to Malcolm therefore is to try both, and remember that in order to use RGB he will need a fully wired Type U (Universal SCART lead) and check that both the player and TV's input and outputs are set to RGB.


On the subject of speakers, in general it is better to use outboard speakers for the front stereo for two reasons: they are likely to be a lot better than the ones built into the TV, and they'll produce a wider and more easily configurable soundstage. If Malcolm is content with the concept and performance of the Lifestyle system then he can stick with it, however he might like to read through a few reviews of more conventional speakers and AV systems before deciding.  


NAME D.Harper
KIT Sony Pascal SA-VE705 speakers, Sony STR-DB930 amp, Jamo Classic
Mr. Harper has recently purchased the Sony Pascal SA-VE705 surround speakers for his hi-fi. He wants to use these for movies and already has a pair of Jamos for music. He has arranged to use the Sony's through port A on his Sony amp, while the Jamos work through port B. His problem is that the Sony speakers use an 8 Ohm impedance while the Jamo's use a 4 Ohm impedance. His amp has a selector switch to choose between four and eight ohms and is just using the Sony's under the correct impedance. Will he damage the Jamos if he uses them under 8ohm impedance, or would he damage the switch if he changed it all the time (it is not easy to et to).


Speaker impedance is a bit of slippery customer and it's worth knowing that manufacturers stated values are very nominal. Speaker impedance can and does vary quite considerably; moreover it can be affected by any number of external factors, including the amplifier, the ambient temperature and the type and length of connecting cables. Most amplifiers will work happily with speakers over a range of 4 to 16 ohms; moreover most models have built-in protection circuits to prevent damage occurring if the speaker's impedance or electrical resistance falls outside of the normal/safe operating range. In other words it is very unlikely that any harm will come to the either the speakers or the amplifier, if the impedance is 'mis-matched', but he really shouldn't try running the system at full whack, or switching the impedance when the amp is on. There may well be a change in the character of the sound, and this will vary from amp to amp, and speaker-to-speaker, sometimes it's a change for the better, at other times the effect is neutral or it results in distortion. If Mr Harper wants to play completely safe then he should leave the amp on the 4-ohm setting and see how the Sony speakers sound. 


NAME Shaun Bagley
Shaun is looking for the best 36-inch widescreen TV on the market. He has seen the Panasonic TX 36PF10, the Hitachi C36WF810N and the Sony KV-36FS70 but sales assistants all say different things. He asks us to clear up the problem and asks which set has the clearest picture and with all the functions that he needs. He is not worried about price.


Sales assistants saying different things eh, whatever next…? But seriously, asking us, or anyone else for that matter to nominate the 'best 36-inch widescreen on the market' is a pretty tall order, in fact it's nigh on impossible. Our notion of what makes a good TV may be quite different to Shaun's, and we have no idea what 'functions' he wants, however, what we can do is point out the features, say how it easy it is to use and how well it performed using our test routines and what we thought of it, in relation to rival products, but in the end it comes down to personal preferences.


In that context the sets Shaun mentions are indeed three of the finest specimens available and they're Home Entertainment 'Best Buys' or, in the case of the Sony TV, the Editor's Choice, but Shaun shouldn't let that influence him. He needs to see each of them in the flesh, preferably side by side, though obviously that's not always possible, but as we keep saying, the best judge of quality and performance is your own ears and eyes, and only you know how much you are prepared to spend, though in Shaun's case that doesn't seem to be an issue, which is another point in favour of the Sony model, and given the choice and funds, probably the one we'd buy.


NAME Mark Doney
KIT Philips 28PW6515 TV.
Mark recently bought the Philips 28PW6515 TV and everything was great until the set had warmed up. Whenever the picture changed, the set hummed, a noise, which varied in volume depending what was on screen (Teletext was a steady noise, while the sound on news would vary between studio and outside broadcasts). The same problem occurred on the replacement. He asks if this is picture noise, which he has read about or if a loose connection in next door's fuse board (fixed after he returned the second set) could have caused it.


The condition of 'next door's fuse board' is way down on our list of suspects, a loose or intermittent connection would stop the TV working and minor fluctuations in the mains would be ironed out by the TVs power supply. The fact that the noise only appears after the TV has warmed up suggests some kind of thermal fault, but the odds are against it happening on two separate samples, unless it's a design problem or there's been a dodgy batch of sets, but if so it's not something we're aware of.


There is another possibility, TVs sometime make noises in very dry conditions, it is caused by the high voltages (around 25,000 volts in fact) flying around inside the back of the set, making the air crackle and hiss (and occasionally 'buzz'). The noise varies in sympathy with the image brightness, and it's just possible this is what Mark is hearing. It's most likely to happen in centrally heated houses with efficient double-glazing, though it can vary according to the weather. If the atmosphere in Mark's house is very dry he can check to see if this is the cause by opening a few windows or trying an air humidifier for a few days.



NAME Shokat
KIT Pioneer CLD 2950
Shokat's son has poured milk onto his Pioneer CLD 2950, which killed it. He can't find a replacement anywhere, but asks if we can help. He has a large collection of laserdiscs and has a budget of £500. He would prefer to buy new from a shop in case there are problems in the future. Any ideas?


The chances of Shokat finding a 'new' CLD-2950 are very slim, this machine first saw light of day in 1994 and was eventually discontinued in 1996, when it was superseded by the CLD-515. It's worth pointing out that the 2950 was one of the last Laserdisc machines able to play the old style discs with analogue soundtracks, though this is only relevant if any discs in Shokat's collection predate the changeover to digital which happened in 1989.


Of course it's possible someone somewhere has a mint 2950 squirreled away in its box somewhere, if so could they please get in touch and we'll forward the details to Shokat. Otherwise he will just have to settle for a later model – the Pioneer DVL-919 is still available, and it also plays DVDs, but the cheapest we've seen it selling for is £680. There are quite a few people selling second hand LD players on the Internet, and it's worth keeping tabs on the on-line auctions and buying classified sales magazines like Loot every so often. There are also a number of US web sites dealing in refurbished players, so one way or another he should be able to keep on playing his discs but sadly it's an obsolete format and he had better take very good care of his next player because he might not find another one.   



NAME Ian Russell
KIT Panasonic TX32PK20 TV
Ian bought his Panasonic TX32PK20 TV last year but had problems when he daisy chained his ONdigital and DVD player into the AV1/RGB SCART socket. On ONdigital, the colours were washed out and disturbed, while DVDs looked awful, with a pale band of disturbance across the top of the screen. He has changed the SCART leads and tried a different DVD player, but without results. He has since connected the ONdigital to AV1 composite input and the DVD player to S-video, but misses the clarity of RGB. When he reported the problem, Panasonic fitted a new printed circuit board (PCB) but this made no difference.
Panasonic said that there was no need to use RGB as the pictures via composite are just as good, but Ian doubts this. Panasonic also said that the band on DVDs is down to the way the DVDs are encoded as they interfere with the TVs processors. Do we have any comments?


If composite video is so good why do Panasonic go to the trouble of also fitting RGB and S-Video outputs and inputs on its DVD players and TVs? Panasonic spokesperson plainly speak with forked tongue or he/she thinks that a bit of techno babble will make Ian – and anyone else who complains – shut up and go away. The bit about DVD interfering with TV processors is another good one and we'll be adding that to our list of favourite crapola excuses proffered by experts and salespeople as to why things don't work…


Anyway, that's all beside the point, the basic problem is that only one of the SCART sockets (AV1) on the TX32PK20 is RGB enabled and that daisy-chaining doesn't work, for reasons unknown, though it might have something to do with the Macrovision anti-piracy systems in the DVD player. The simplest solution is to use a two into one SCART switch box, so that both devices can share the same socket. There are two types, manual ones where Ian will have to flip a switch, and automatic models, that switch according to whichever device is being used. They are widely available from video accessory dealers and shops like Tandy and Maplin, though Ian should make sure that any one he buys is RGB compatible, not all are. Prices for manual models start at around £10, in case Ian lives out in the sticks here's a few web sites for him to peruse.





NAME Dave Fletcher
KIT KEF reference 103/4 fronts, Yamaha NS90 centre channel, Cannon V-100  rears, Yamaha M&K V 75 subwoofer
Dave wants to improve his speakers for home theatre and has two options. He could either replace his Yamaha centre speaker with a KEF 100 centre speaker to match his KEF reference 103/4 front stereo pair.  0r should he separate his hi-fi and cinema set-ups and buy a 5.1 system instead?


It's a tough call but if Dave has the room, resources and keen auditory sensibilities then it's usually better to split home cinema and hi-fi. Of course it is possible to combine the two technologies and produce very satisfying results, but purists in both disciplines usually prefer not to make compromises, and they're inevitable when home cinema and hi-fi are forced to share components like speakers and amplifiers. At the very least the speaker placement for a home cinema system – typically a couple of feet either side of the TV screen – is unlikely to be the ideal position, or even in the best room, for hi-fi listening. High-end home cinema and hi-fi speakers are also tuned differently and designed to have quite different radiation patterns and characteristics. Home cinema sound also benefits from dedicated bass handling – i.e. a meaty sub-woofer – whereas serious hi-fi buffs tend to favour the big speaker approach, but large speakers should be kept well away from TV screens because of problems with magnetic staining. Hi-Fi and AV amps are also quite separate breeds and if Dave wants full-blown digital surround he'll need -- shock-horror -- a five or six channel amplifier with lots of knobs and buttons, preferably one with on-board Dolby Digital and dts decoders.

NAME Chris Bassett
KIT n/a
Chris is investing in home cinema kit and asks which speakers we think would be best to accompany a Sony DB-940 amplifier. He has a maximum budget of £800 and doesn't mind what they look like as he is just interested in the sound, especially the bass.


There are two schools of thought on speaker selection for home cinema. Perfectionists usually lean towards a money-no-object mix and match philosophy, seeking out that elusive combination of components that work together in perfect harmony. Maybe they exist, maybe they don't but the point is it's hard work and there's no guarantee that the 'best' centre speaker will blend in with the 'best centre and rear speakers. No two set ups are identical and our notion of the 'perfect' mix of speakers can sound quite different – not necessarily better or worse -- when it is transposed into another environment.


The other route, and the one we tend to favour when the budget is below £1000 say, is to go for a speaker package. This has several advantages, the main one being that the components are designed to compliment and work with one another, which is half the battle.  Package system will usually share a common cosmetic theme and although Chris says he doesn't mind what they look like we're fairly sure he rather not have a ragbag of uncoordinated boxes cluttering up his living room. If Chris can squeeze a bit more out of his budget (circa £950) then we'd suggest he has a listen to the Def Tech Procineama, alternatively the Polk 5XRM6200 is an affordable combo with good meaty bass.


NAME Dave Garrett
KIT Toshiba 2812DB TV
Dave is thinking of getting a widescreen set to enjoy the increased
number of widescreen transmissions and also to try and avoid a fault that has recently started. When he plays DVDs or watches movies from Sky Box office (and sometimes pre-recorded video tapes), the brightness dims, then increases at regular intervals.  He suspects that this 'breathing effect could be caused by his relatively old set and the Macrovision encryption used by some sets. He wants to know whether this will happen on a new set and, if so, what can be done to prevent it. Finally, he is thinking of buying the Toshiba 32WD98 and wants to know if we recommend this set.


The pulsating brightness Dave describes is similar to one of the effects of Macrovision anti-piracy measures on pre-recorded tapes and used in DVD players but it is unusual for it to start spontaneously, even on an old TV. A more likely explanation is that it started when Dave bought his DVD player, which he daisy-chained by SCART cable, through the VCR. All DVD players have Macrovision circuits, which basically muck around with the video output signal just sufficiently to confuse the automatic gain control (AGC) circuits on a VCR – to prevent copying – but not enough to upset a TV. If that's the case the solution is to separate the DVD and VCR, preferably using an RGB or S-Video feed from the DVD player direct to the TV. However, if Dave's TV is really old and only has one SCART and no S-Video inputs then he'll have to use a SCART switcher, until he gets his new TV. The Toshiba 32WD98 would be a good choice in the £1000 ish price bracket, in fact it was an Editor's Choice a while back and although it has been around a little while it is worth shortlisting, but Dave should try to see and listen to one first.



NAME Roy Balsillie
KIT n/a
PROBLEM After a fire in his house, Roy is in the process of replacing his Bose Lifestyle 5 system. He is thinking of using a Bose Acoustimass 15 (speakers and subwoofer) with Sony's STR-DB940. He wants to know if he would also need a DVD player such as Sony's DVP-S735, or would the amp do all the 'clever stuff', allowing him to buy a cheaper DVD player.


Bose Acoustimass probably wouldn't be our first choice of speaker system to use with the DB940 but if Roy's wedded to the style and he's not going to be using it in a really large space then who are we to try and talk him out of it? The bit in Roy's query about the DB940 doing all the 'clever stuff' is almost certainly a reference to the fact that this amp has on-board Dolby Digital and dts decoders, so too have a lot of DVD players these days, and it's got to the point where it's adding very little to the price because all of the audio and video processing can now be done on a single chip. Indeed there are several sub £200 models available with built in Dolby Digital decoders, but it's a mixed blessing. In order to make use of the player's Dolby Digital decoder you need a five or six channel am (five channel plus a powered sub-woofer) and connecting the two together entails an absolute rats-nest cables with one lead for each channel. Using the decoder built into the amp is a lot more convenient, to begin with you only need one optical or coaxial bitstream connecting cable, and secondly, there's a potentially wider choice of decoder/amp combinations, and all DVD players have at least one and usually two bitstream outputs, so he can choose the one that best suits his needs and budget.


NAME Phil Whiteley
KIT Akai hi-fi kit
Phil owns some old Akai hi-fi equipment (AP Q55 turntable, AM U22 amplifier, CS F12 cassette deck and SR H44  (3-way) speakers) that he is thinking of bringing back to life. He asks how it compares to current equipment and where he could get the cassette deck repaired. He stresses that he is not a hi-fi connoisseur and just wants a cost-efficient system and also asks whether it would be a good idea just to add a CD


The words 'old' and 'repair' always sound alarm bells. In theory almost any AV product can be repaired but as components get older so the supply of spares starts to dwindle, become increasingly hard to find, and usually more expensive. The point is that if there's a major fault on the cassette deck that requires the replacement of a major electronic or mechanical component it will almost certainly end up costing more than it is worth. Since Phil didn't say what was wrong with it we can't say if this is the case or not so his first port of call should be to a local repair shop, to get an estimate.


The good news is that amplifiers and speakers generally do not usually deteriorate, indeed many speakers mature with age, as the cones become more supple. On the question of performance the few reports we've found on the CS-F12 suggest that it was very good for its day but many of today's mid-range cassette decks are almost certainly going to give it a good run for its money, and that's when its in pristine condition, even if it was repaired it is likely that wear and tear would take it's toll on sound quality. If the cost of repair is more than £50 to £80 say, Phil will almost certainly be better off buying a new deck.



NAME James Godden
KIT Sony DVP-S735D DVD player, Sony STR-DB940 amplifier
James has recently acquired a Sony DVP-S735D DVD player and a Sony STR-DB940 amplifier and wants to know what the best method of connecting the two units together. The manuals suggest that he could use either a digital coaxial cable or separate channels, using speaker leads from DVD to amp. He wants to know which is the best way of hearing 5.1 channel
 sounds using these components.


Suck it and see… Sorry to be so blunt but since James has all the bits and pieces in front of him and can presumably afford a set of decent connecting leads, he can jolly well use his own ears to decide what type of connection sounds best, to him!  From a practical point of view, one optical or coaxial bitstream cable is going to be a whole lot easier to connect than six phono to phono leads, less liable to failure and easier to fault find, if anything goes wrong. On a more general note, having the digital audio processing circuitry in a separate box and well away from video signals can often be helpful, cutting down the potential for interference, and amplifiers generally have more substantial and better regulated power supplies, which eliminates another possible source of interaction. There is no definitive argument one way or the other in favour of either optical or coaxial bitstream digital connections. Sustained listening checks during HE group tests have usually been inconclusive, nor have any of our cable tests shown any marked performance differences, at least not on mid-range amps and DVD players, and mid-priced cables.



NAME Neil Lowrie
KIT Sony STR-DB940
PROBLEM Neil is considering buying a Sony STR-DB940, but has heard comments of a 'hissing' noise coming from it. He asks if this is a fault of the machine or whether it is because poor cables are being used.

This topic has indeed been exercising a small number of STR-DB940 owners around the world on Internet Newsgroups and if you read enough of these 'postings' there does seem to be a pattern. Firstly it seems to be mostly affecting owners in North America, there have been very few reports of hissing Sony amps from European or Far Eastern owners, and those that have noticed it have almost unanimously agreed that it only happens when the volume control is close to maximum.


Take from that what you will but it seems that the problem, if it exists, mainly concerns US owners; we can come up with a number of suggestions as to why this should be so. Maybe it's because they live in larger houses and can turn the volume up, they may sit closer to the speakers, it could be US speakers and source components are as well designed as out, or it could be genetic, with US owners having different hearing characteristics to the rest of us... The fact is all amplifiers 'hiss' if the input signal level is low and the amplifier is turned up high but in the real world this is rarely a problem. If Neil listens out for hiss on the DB940 he'll probably hear it, as he would on most comparable mid-range AV amps. 



NAME Martin Rourke
KIT Loewe TVs
PROBLEM Currently living in the UK, Martin is going to work in North America and is fed up with having to sell all his TV and video gear every time he works abroad. A friend of his in Germany bought a Loewe TV in Indonesia and told Neil that it was dual voltage and not PAL or NTSC dependant.

What Martin wants to know is that, if he buys a Loewe TV in North America, will he be able to bring it back with him when he returns to Europe? He has had enough of buying cheap short term solutions and knowing he has to virtually give them away after a short time.


It occurs to us that regularly shipping a large home cinema TV halfway around the world isn't exactly an easy or cheap option either. It is possible that there are such things as multi-standard/dual-voltage Loewe TV sets on sale in America, but they would almost certainly have an 'International' or US baseline specification which means no NICAM stereo sound, non-standard Teletext, possible tuning problems, no SCART sockets and that horrible 'mockwood' finish they seem to like so much. To be on the safe side Martin would have to stick to a 4:3 TV, if he buys a widescreen model he'll  open himself up to another set of potential problems with format switching. The bottom line is that it is inadvisable to buy any sort of AV equipment abroad unless you know exactly what you are doing and are prepared to accept the inevitable compromises.


We do have an alternative suggestion though. A video projector might be the solution, one of the small and highly portable DLP models would do the job. They can cope with all TV/video standards and screen formats, all Martin has to do is connect it up to a locally bought VCR (for receiving TV programs) and a multi-region DVD and an audio system, which will work anywhere.




Σ R. Maybury 2001, 1902



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