& TIPS HE 107
This is my first venture into home cinema and I have a couple of
questions to help me get through this! TV is Sony 28LS35B and sound system is
Yamaha HTiB65. My main niggle is that to get audio to my AV receiver from the
Sony I need to use the menu to turn the speakers off. This setting is not held
in memory so I have to do this every time I want this feature. The VCR is
playing the TV audio perfectly but when I select the input for the TV the sound
volume is very low unless I set speakers to off. Also, what is the preferred
arrangement for the 2 SCART sockets on the TV? SCART 1 can accept RGB input.
Any advice would be most welcome!!
The problem with this setup is that the audio output from the TV varies
according to the volume setting. The simplest solution is to bypass the TV
tuner altogether and use the one in the VCR instead. That way you can just mute
the TV volume and use the audio output from the VCR instead. In that way the only
time you need to use the TV sound is when you use the VCR to record. It makes
sense to use SCART 1 for connecting to the VCR since this is the first one to
be selected when you enable AV input, since your VCR only has composite video
output (unless it’s a Super VHS model) the RGB input is effectively redundant.
If, at some time in the future you add a DVD player to your system, with RGB
output you should connect it to SCART 1 and move the VCR to SCART 2, which it
can share with a satellite tuner or digit box. It makes sense to ‘daisy-chain’
these devices, as it will allow you record digital channels.
Never try to daisy-chain a VCR with a DVD player using SCART leads. DVD
players generate Macrovision spoiler signals, designed to stop you recording
from DVDs and these will interfere with the picture on the VCR, even if a disc
isn’t playing. It is possible to disable Macrovision on some players, using a
‘hack’ similar to the kind used to change region codes, and ‘chipping’ some
players for all region playback also removes Macrovision but it’s a risky
business, it may make some discs unplayable as well as invalidating the
I have read various articles in your magazine mentioning the quality of
pictures from Sky. Sometimes it's called 'near DVD quality', however, with my
set-up the quality of pictures from Sky falls far short of that of my DVDs. I
am using component video from the DVD player to Fujitsu PDS4229E plasma screen,
and for Sky a SCART to composite lead from the digibox to an Arcam AVR100 amp,
and then S-Video into the plasma TV.
I also have a SCART to S-Video lead but when I use this from the digibox
to the AVR100 (or directly into the plasma) I only get black and white
pictures. I have seen RGB to S-Video gadgets advertised. Does this mean
there is more to changing RGB into S-Video than a simple lead can do? Would you
recommend any of these gadgets?
You are right, the picture quality from a digital satellite tuner is
not as good as DVD quality but there are important technical similarities, most
importantly the low noise levels and freedom from ghosting and multi-path
signals which affect analogue channels so in that respect they bear comparison.
Also, a lot depends on the type of material, live transmissions and footage
shot on video tape (which most TV programmes are) a have a quite different
textural quality to movies shot on film.
Your satellite receiver only has composite and RGB outputs, which
explains the black and white output you’re seeing when using an SCART to
S-Video lead, you are in fact just seeing one colour output, which the AV amps
converts to a luminance (Y) signal that your TV interprets as a monochrome
signal. An RGB to S-Video converter will restore a full colour picture but it
involves an extra layer of signal processing and is unlikely to improve picture
quality to any significant degree. Your plasma screen does have an analogue RGB
input and you should be able to use it to connect your satellite tuner but this
will require a special lead, which your dealer should be able to supply.
Converting RGB to a S-Video (or Y/C) signal involves a fair amount of
circuitry and it can’t simply be done with just a lead. The three colour
signals (red, green and blue) have to be combined to in order produce to the
chrominance (C) component and at the same time it has to derive the brightness
or luminance (Y) component. This will involve some loss of colour fidelity and,
depending on the quality of the converter, may also introduce additional noise
and processing ‘artefacts’ into the picture signal.
I have been looking at your web site and I would really appreciate some
product advice. I want to buy a TV which allows a decent quality
Picture-in-Picture. This is because my wife hates watching football and
has the idea that I could watch the football on one side of the screen and she
could watch her stuff on the other.
Relationship counselling is not necessarily an area of expertise for Hints and
Tips but we doubt that a picture in picture display will be a path to marital
harmony! For starters, who gets to watch the big screen and what about the
sound? Besides this kind of display is really only meant for briefly monitoring
what’s happening on another channel, sustained viewing will probably be
incredibly irritating for both of you. There is another possibility in the
shape of TVs with dual channel split-screen displays. Sony calls this feature
Picture and Picture or PAP and it’s available on several high-end widescreen
models and also on some JVC tellies. This is where you get two reasonably sized
pictures side by side but you are still going to have problems with who gets to
hear the sound, and the inevitable distraction of watching two pictures at
Why not consider some more less contentious alternatives, the most
obvious one being having a second TV, this could be in another part of the
room, if you can’t bear to be parted from one another (one of you will have to
use headphones though). Better still put the second TV in another room, where
you won’t disturb each other – absence makes the hear grow fonder… Another even
cheaper solution would be for one of you to record the programme they want to
see on a VCR, and watch it later, or simply wait for the inevitable repeat…
Picture in picture (PIP), picture and picture (PAP) and picture out of
picture (POP) are all ways of displaying two or more pictures on the screen.
It’s a neat idea but it’s worth checking the small print in the TV specs to make
sure you can actually watch two TV channels at once. In a lot of cases the
second sub-screen or split screen relies on an external video input, from a VCR
or digibox and for a TV to show two channels at once it must also have twin
I wonder if you could help me with a picture query on my TV? On very
dark films - Alien for example, I notice a line darker than the actual picture
maybe one a second scrolling left to right across the screen. Once you notice
it, it becomes very annoying and difficult to not watch out for. I've checked
the SCART lead for directionality and it is OK. Will I have to live with this
or could it be as simple as buying a newer SCART cable?
One possibility is RF breakthrough, where the TV is picking up
interference from a nearby radio transmitter, try removing the aerial lead and
see if the problem disappears. It could be a TV broadcast and this can happen
in strong signal areas, in which case you may need to fit an attenuator to your
TV aerial. If it is interference it could be getting into the TV via a poorly
screened SCART or AV lead, so disconnect everything except the SCART to the
DVD. If the lead you are using is old, cheap or of dubious origin it might be
worth replacing – do it in any case if you have any doubts about the quality.
Other nearby components, even the DVD player could be the source so temporarily
move the amplifier speakers and any other devices well away from the vicinity
of the TV. Whilst looking for fault reports on this model on the Internet we
came across one newsgroup user seeing what sounded like fairly distinct
vertical white lines when replaying Region 1 discs on this TV. This seems to
have been a one off and at the time of writing there were no other reports or
suggested cures but it may be related so we’ll keep an eye on it and if anyone
else has experienced similar problems we’d be interested in hearing from
RF Breakthrough is a very common problem. It doesn’t take much to upset
the picture on modern TVs which nowadays are often connected to a vast array of
electronic devices, most of which generate radio frequency fields, or provide a
conduit for interference. There is no easy solution but one way of minimising
the risk is to use good quality AV connecting leads and regularly check the
condition of cables from rooftop aerials and satellite dishes, which can
deteriorate after being exposed to the elements for a few years.
I have had a Panasonic HS900 S-VHS deck since 1998. During the
first year, there were intermittent screeching noises, but not enough to
warrant repair under guarantee. The screech has become worse, appearing
with virtually any tape. The deck has been back to the Panasonic dealer
several times to try to fix the problem, with no success. The noise now
appears almost all the time, especially once warmed-up, and after rewinding or
search rewinding a short distance, and has some cyclic nature to it.
Earlier this year, the dealer replaced the capstan rotor unit, pinch wheel and
tension band unit in the hope it would solve the problem. The noise
disappeared for 3 months after this, and then returned to its original bad
level. I have attached an MP3 recording of the noise, made at about 10cm
from the cassette slot.
Thanks for the recording, it’s got a good rhythm, we’re thinking of
re-mixing it… The noise is obviously mechanical in nature, it sounds like a
shot bearing but whatever it is, we can’t understand why the engineer wasn’t
been able to fix it properly first time? If the problem has been identified as
a fault and repaired – as it clearly was in your case – if it goes wrong again
within a reasonable period, the company that carried out the work has a clear
obligation to take it back and have another go. The danger is that you resign
yourself to living with it or leave it too long, which will weaken your case.
If the repairer guaranteed their work -- and you shouldn’t deal with a company
that doesn’t -- then take it back and ask them to have another look at it, and
you might like to tell them to check to make sure that this time the
replacement part is correctly fitted and lubricated!
I am an ex-pat working in the Middle East and have just bought a Sony
DAV-S800, which I am extremely pleased with. I bought the system out here, consequently
it is multi-region from new. My wife and I have been ordering DVD's through the
Play247 web site, which we are very impressed with.
My question is, there are about 10 or so Superbit DVDs on sale through the web
site, and having read a review about these discs, I am keen to buy a couple.
But upon reading the info on the Play247 site, they have said that these
special discs will not play on some players. To avoid spending money and time,
buying these can you tell me if Superbit discs will play on my Sony machine?
It may help to know -- and indirectly answer your question -- that the
originator of Superbit is Columbia Tristar, which is part of the Sony
Corporation, so it seems highly unlikely that there would be any compatibility
problems. In fact Superbit DVDs should work with all DVD players because they
remain within the format specification. It works like this: Superbit DVDs have
all of the extra features stripped out, which leaves more room on the disc for
the movie picture and sound data. That basically means using higher bitrates,
or to put it another way, lower compression, so more picture and sound detail
can be packed in. To put some numbers on that the movie component on a normal
DVD with half an hour’s worth, say, of extra features has a bitrate of around 4
or 5 megabit/sec. Superbit DVDs have an average bitrate of between 6 and 7Mbps,
this is still well within the DVD spec, which allows for bitrates of up to
What does Superbit recording mean in the real world? Thus far opinions
appear to be divided with some reviewers claiming to see a real improvement in
picture quality – sharper colours, more detail and so on, and crisper, sharper
sound. Incidentally, it benefits dts more than Dolby Digital, which can make
better use of faster bitrates. Then there are those who maintain that the
performance gains are marginal and only noticeable on high-end home cinema
systems and there’s little to be gained when played on budget or mid-range
equipment. Several Region 2 titles have just been released so check them out
for yourself and let us know what you think.
I have an ‘active’ 5.1 channel loudspeaker system, which only has a
volume control at the subwoofer. This means that I'm looking for a DVD player
with a volume control on the analogue output. This detail is never mentioned so
it's hard to guess if they have it or not. I really don't want to buy an
amplifier, as it would defeat the object of having active speakers. As you seem
to have tested lots of good players you might help me out in this matter.
Also, when a DVD players has a ‘3D surround mode’ does that mean that I can
play CDs through the 5.1 speakers? With the player I have now music only plays
through a 2-channel" output, which means my subwoofer isn't helping the
small speakers at all. As I want to play CD's (also MP3) through the same
system as the DVD output.
In fact in our Group Tests and First Looks we always note whether or
not a DVD player has a volume control for the analogue outputs but since it
concerns only a relatively small number of models and, we suspect, is of little
interest to the vast majority of users it only appears in the extra features
listings. Your setup appears to be most unusual and we would guess that you are
using a PC sound system as most if not all of the active speaker packages we’re
aware of have a remote control facility. It would have been helpful to know how
your system is configured; are you using Dolby Pro Logic surround derived from
the stereo output or are you after a player with an on-board 5.1 channel
decoder? If it’s the former then some recently players we’ve tested that have
volume controls include: Bush DVD-2008, Goodmans GDVD131, Truvox DVD-600. Level
controls tend to be a little more commonplace on models with 5.1 decoders and
players worth investigating are the Haus H-615L, Lecson DVD-1000 and LG
Generally speaking the 3D surround modes on DVD players only operate
during DVD replay, the CD and MP3 outputs are normally unprocessed. There are
bound to be exceptions but for the moment we can’t think of any.
Active or cordless speakers may sound like a great idea, especially
when your spouse, partner or parents has made it clear that wires all over the
place are not welcome but there really is no substitute for proper speakers and
an amplifier. Active speaker systems are inflexible, you can’t easily change of
upgrade the speakers for example, and there may be problems with interference,
this can be a real nuisance on wireless systems, especially if a next-door
neighbour or someone nearby also has any cordless/wireless devices in their
My current system includes a Rotel RA-840BX4 amplifier, Yamaha DSP
E-492 AV Processor/Amplifier, Sony KV-28FQ75 TV, Sony SLV-SE720 VCR and Pioneer
DV-626D DVD. As you can see, parts of my system are over 10 years old! I
am very happy with the sound it produces for both music and films but I can't
help thinking that it could sound much better, especially for films. My
plan is to upgrade the speakers and replace my tuner, amp and AV processor/amp
with a single AV receiver. The room is not very large but it is very
minimalist so there is ample room for a full surround setup. Are today's AV
amps able to do as good a job with music as my 10-year old Rotel and should I
go for a 6 or 7 channel amplifier?
There’s no denying the fact that most budget and mid-range AV
amplifiers are something of a compromise but in most cases they manage to
strike a very good balance between the quite different requirements and
dynamics of CD audio and DVD movie soundtracks. You have obviously become very
attached to your present setup and are clearly loath to part with it so any new
system will have a lot to live up to and may well fall short of your
expectations. However, you will find that the leap from stereo to multi-channel
surround, and the difference it make to watching movies, and the convenience of
having everything in one box will help you to get over any nostalgia for your
old components. In any case, there’s nothing to stop you keeping the Rotel amp
on standby just for CD replay; there should be plenty of spare room after all
of the other boxes have gone.
If you budget allows it’s worth buying a 7-channel AV receiver with Dolby Digital EX, dts ES and so on as it provides a
degree of future proofing so even if you don’t got for a full blown set-up
straight away, you have the option.
BOX COPY 1 – SPATIAL SOUND
3D spatial and surround systems do a pretty good job of fooling us into
thinking we’re hearing natural sounds from two or more loudspeakers but they’ve
still got a long way to go. In the real world psychoacoustical
research has shown that there are at least eight ways our ears and brain figure
out where sounds are coming from.
Interaural Time Difference is a measure of the delay between a sound
reaching the right and left ear. If the sound arrives at both ears the same
time we judge the source to be directly in front or behind; a delay of just 63
milliseconds tells us that a sound is coming from the right or left. Early Echo
Response is the reverberation of a sound – reflections from solid surfaces etc.
-- that reach our ears between 50 and 100 milliseconds after the original sound
and this tells our brains a lot about the distance and direction of the sound.
Head Shadow is the reduction in amplitude that occurs when a sound has
to go through or around our head to reach an ear and again it contains
information that our brains use to gauge direction. Pinna Response is the
effect the outer ear – the flappy bit – has on higher frequencies, it acts like
a filter and helps our brain work out if a sound is coming from above or below.
Shoulder Echo affects low to medium frequency sounds (1 to 3kHz), these sounds
are reflected by the upper body and shoulders, which our brains register as a
time delay and this helps it to work out how high or low the source is. Head
Motion -- the way we move our heads when trying to localise a sound – works
best on higher frequency sounds, which tend to be very directional. Finally,
our hearing is closely bound to vision and we use our eyes to locate the source
of a sound, and confirm our perception of its direction.
BOX COPY 2 – NOISY DECKS
VCRs are usually amazingly quiet, considering the complexity of deck mechanisms. In the early days of VHS it was widely
believed that deck mechanisms would wear out after a couple of years and need
replacing. They do go wrong of course but most VCRs are retired long before it
ever becomes a problem. There are plenty of other things that can go wrong
though and with so many moving parts, lots of opportunity for noisy operation.
A constant high-pitched whine could be due to a lack of lubrication on the
spacers beneath the supply or take-up reel hubs. These ensure the tape reels
are at precisely the right height when the cassette is loaded. This can be due
to a manufacturing fault, and it has also been known to happen when a VCR has
been in for repair and the spacers have not been replaced or fitted
Bearings on the head drum and drive motors can become noisy though
these are normally designed to last the life of the VCR -- plus a bit extra for
good measure -- and it is fairly unusual for them to wear out prematurely. A
continuous noise – as opposed to odd noises when lacing and unlacing tape or
ejecting the cassette etc – is often due to a worn or ‘dry’ (i.e. unlubricated)
bearing along the tape path. In addition to the supply and take-up reels, other
potentially noisy parts on most decks include the Impedance Roller, which helps
smooth tape flow, and the rubber-covered Pinch Roller and Capstan Shaft. The
tape passes between the two rotating surfaces, which are pressed tightly
together. This is what actually moves the tape during replay; a servo motor
driving the capstan shaft draws the tape around the spinning video head drum
and then past the Audio, Control and Erase (ACE) head assembly at a constant
and carefully controlled speed.
Ó R. Maybury 2002,