HINTS & TIPS
HUE’S TO BLAME?
Recently I've been experiencing what can only be described as a green hue
bleeding onto white areas of the picture of my Sony KF-SX100. It is more
noticeable on flesh tones and sometimes on certain TV material it causes a
green ghosting effect. No matter what kind of menu adjustment I try it just
doesn't seem to disappear.
This sounds like an alignment problem and not something you can fix
from the TV’s ‘customer’ controls. The chances are the colour balance settings
need a quick tweak but it’s also possible that there’s a more serious fault
developing. At worst it could be a sign of premature aging in the picture tube
though it’s more likely to be a component failure in the colour processing
circuitry; either way it’s something that needs to be looked at by an engineer.
If it is an alignment issue then it can probably be done quite quickly.
Sony TVs have what is known as Electronic Service Adjustments that can be
carried out from a set of hidden service menus. These are accessed by entering
a code or pressing a sequence of buttons on the remote control.
Before you ask Sony won’t thank us for revealing the codes because the
service menu includes settings that require specialised knowledge, service
manuals and test pattern generators or test equipment to use and incorrect
settings could potentially damage the TV.
The service mode on most Sony TVs includes a range of options covering
picture adjustments (colour levels and balance etc.) picture geometry and
diagnostic information. Some models also include a facility to counter the
effects of aging on the picture tube and electronic components, which can lead
to changes in colour accuracy. There may also be the facility to limit maximum
volume levels (so called ‘Hotel’ mode), return the TV to its shipping or
factory settings and status displays which can help a trained engineer to
locate and identify faults.
Last year I bought a Wharfedale DVD-750 player. Most DVDs were okay but disc 2
in the special edition of Singin' in the Rain would not play. Initially both
the dealer and Wharfedale professed never to have heard of such a thing
Wharfedale, when pressed admitted that this player couldn’t cope with the
increased content now appearing on discs. I asked them about a firmware update
but they said this was an older product and upgrades only help in a small
number of cases. The guarantee has run out so it seems I am stuck with this
player for the foreseeable future. If, as I guess, it comes down to the amount
of content on a disc, how can I tell if it discs I buy in the future will play
on my machine?
It’s true that some early players had problems with DVDs with
multimedia content (i.e. material meant for a PC), and a few discs containing
material that wasn’t strictly within the DVD-Video specification but such
incompatibilities are comparatively rare these days. Unfortunately if a
manufacturer can’t or won’t provide upgraded firmware – it is simply not an
option on some machines – there’s not a lot you can do. As we’ve said before
DVD is still a work in progress and new features are being added to discs and
players all of the time so you can never be 100 percent sure that a disc will
play in every player. The only small grain of comfort is that new budget
players that can play all ‘standard’ DVDs are now ridiculously cheap – we’ve
seen multi-region models selling for between £40 and £50. You could probably
get at least £30 to £40 by selling your current player on the online auction
site ebay (see Getting Started), so replacing your current machine needn’t be a
Upgrading a DVD player’s firmware – the software that controls how it
works -- is often quite straightforward. On many recent players it simply
involves loading a special CD-ROM disc in the player. This contains a set of
data files that are automatically ‘read’ into a microchip memory; the whole
process takes just a few seconds. On some models the firmware is stored in a
socket-mounted microchip that can be changed by an engineer but on a lot of
early players the chip is fixed to the circuit board and cannot be economically
THIRD TIME LUCKY?
I recently purchased a 32-inch Philips plasma TV and the first one was
replaced due to a faulty fan. The second one was returned for the same reason
but it wasn't quite as bad. Now on my third plasma I am unsure if I am hearing
things! As you look at the screen about 10-20 cm from the right, there is a
distinct buzzing sound, which seems to be affected by what the screen is
displaying. It is most noticeable when two people are talking and light is
bouncing of one of their foreheads! Please tell me is this normal or am I being
Plasma screens, like conventional CRT-based TVs make a variety of
noises. Inside both types of display there are electronic circuits that buzz
and hum and others that generate high voltages that makes the air around the
cables and display panel or picture tube crackle and hiss. These noises are
usually at a very low level and unlikely to be noticeable at normal volume
levels, or unless you are very close to it. The buzzing sound you’re hearing is
probably coming from components in the power supply, or one of the AV
processing circuits responding to the changes in volume and screen brightness.
It’s all perfectly normal so stop worrying and remember what your old mum use
to say about sitting too close to the TV!
Not only do TV make noises, they can also smell! A good service
engineer will always have a quick sniff around the backside of a dead or dying
television when trying to track down a fault. When electronic components and
circuit boards overheat they give off a characteristic burning smell. High
voltage circuits ‘arcing’ have a distinctive ozone type odour but the one
engineers dread are old, burnt-out triplers and EHT transformers, used to
generate high voltages used by CRTs. These components are filled with an
insulating compound that smells of rotten eggs when it gets hot.
I'm upgrading my AV system and changing the viewing position. I want to buy a
plasma screen to go into a recess next to the fireplace. I’m torn between three
42/43-inch plasmas from LG, Panasonic and Pioneer. The missus hates seeing
cables so everything has to be hidden. The trouble is the screen will be 3m
from my amp and DVD player but the VCR and cable box will be underneath. What
cables will I need and will a separate tuner be more user friendly?
It’s always preferable to have your AV components grouped together and
as close to the TV as possible to keep cable lengths short and reduce the
chance of interference and signal degradation. Apart from anything else it’s
also more convenient and the novelty of pointing your remote controls in
different directions soon wears off. If it is physically impossible to keep the
boxes together then make sure you use top quality cables for the video
connection between the DVD player and the screen (preferably RGB or S-Video –
depending on your plasma screen) and the same goes for the phono to phono
stereo cables between from the VCR and cable box to the amplifier. There’s not
a lot to choose between plasma screens with internal and external tuners, from
an ergonomic point of view at least, but separate tuner boxes generally have
more sockets, and they’re easier to get at.
I am the proud owner of a Yamaha AUX S80/DVD-80 Home Cinema System. I
chose the multi-region version, because I have about 100 'Region One/NTSC'
DVDs, all of which played on my previous 'chipped' Sony player. My problem
is that most R1 disks will play, but a couple will not; the offending disks
appear to be those marked ‘NTSC’. The player has been returned to the dealer
and found to be okay apart from two elderly R1 discs ('Top Gun' and 'True
Lies') that I sent for them to try and would not play on my machine. They have
been unable to offer an explanation and are more or less saying tough luck - we
cannot guarantee that all disks will work! Are you able to recommend a
practical solution - offered maybe by a specialist conversion/chipping company?
We hope the dealer put it a little more delicately but what they are
saying is essentially true and there’s no way anyone can guarantee that a disc
will work in a particular player. The NTSC marking has nothing to do with it as
all R1 discs carry NTSC material. However, some R1 discs definitely will not
play on R2 machines that have been chipped or hacked for ‘All Region’ replay.
Discs that carry Region Code Enhancement or RCE data check the region code
setting of the player as soon as they are loaded and if it is set to Region
0/All Region it will refuse to play. The solution is to change the player to
Region 1 replay and the disc should work. However, this doesn’t apply in your
case, as neither Top Gun nor True Lies are RCE coded. Since these are the only
two discs affected and you say that they are ‘elderly’ it’s possible that they
are scratched or scuffed, so try cleaning them with a proprietary disc cleaning
kit (see Quick Tip).
Grubby and greasy finger marks on the surface of a DVD can be easily
removed with nothing more complicated that a dab of washing up liquid some
water and a wipe over with a clean, soft lint-free cloth. Light scratches and
scuff marks are best dealt with using a cleaning kit that uses a mildly
abrasive cleaning fluid. As an absolute last resort for basket case discs with
deep scratches that cannot be revived by any other means and are destined for
the bin, try polishing out the scratches using Brasso and a soft cloth.
LONG DISTANCE PLASMA
I've got a Panasonic 42 inch Plasma with a PC input and downstairs in my
basement (15ft as the crow flies) I've got a PC. What I'm trying to do is
wirelessly connect my PC to my plasma TV, with wireless sound (stereo if not
Dolby Digital) running to the amp, and a wireless/Bluetooth keyboard mouse.
Does the technology exist? People are telling me its impossible but I like a
challenge. Due to the design of my house running wires is absolutely the last
Yes it can be done but you are going to have to make some sacrifices on
display image quality since there doesn’t appear to be any ‘consumer’ wireless
VGA to VGA devices on the market. The closest is the Ultimate Presenter,
available in the UK as the Trust Wireless Televiewer 1620W (see: http://www.gadgitz.co.uk), which costs
around £120 This converts VGA to PAL video and transmits it over a 2.4GHz
wireless link to a receiver with composite and S-Video outputs. You can use a
conventional AV ‘sender’ for the PC’s stereo audio.
It should work but a lot depends on the way your home is built; 15 feet
doesn’t sound much and should be well within the range of the Bluetooth and
2.4GHz devices but if there’s a lot of heavy masonry or metal in between your
plasma and the PC in the basement AV quality and the reliability of your mouse
and keyboard may be compromised. The alternative is to hook your plasma screen
up to a laptop and if you need network connectivity with the PC in the basement
– to access the Internet for example -- use a Wi-Fi card in the laptop and
Wi-Fi router or access point on the basement PC.
Wi-Fi or 802.11b is the current standard for wirelessly networking PCs
and peripherals. It operates on the 2.4GHz band and allows devices to
communicate at speeds of up to 11Mb/sec over distances of up to 100 metres. A
high speed variant, operating on the 5GHz frequency band, called 802.11a, is
also available and this works at up to 54Mb/s but it is likely to be replaced
by yet another standard, 802.11g, which also has a 54Mb/sec transfer speed but
shares the same frequency band, and is backwards compatible with 802.11b.
I have a Cyberhome CH-DVD 402; when it is connected to my Bush 2871NTX TV and I
play a disc, the sound level is much lower than normal and the volume has to be
altered when switching between DVD and normal TV - by quite a lot, in fact. If
you stop the DVD and it reverts to TV then you are deafened! This does not
happen with VCR playback. Am I doing something wrong? I have tried SCART and
phono leads, but it makes no difference.
No, you’re not doing anything wrong and it has nothing to do with the
connecting leads. The chances are the audio output level on the DVD player has
been set too high. Believe it or not there is a standard of sorts for a ‘line
level’ audio output, which for the teccies out there is –10dBv, but it’s not
written in stone. For the sake of convenience and conformity most manufacturers
stick with it but it doesn’t stop sloppy alignment or poor quality control.
Unfortunately there’s not a lot you can do about it – we’re not aware of this
model having any manual or service menu level controls (but double check the
setup menu, just in case). Have it looked at – assuming that it is still under
guarantee -- if not you could always use some kind of in-line volume control.
Inexpensive audio mixers/faders designed for home movie making are available
from camcorder dealers for between £10 and £15
DO YOU KEN?
I have a Kenwood DVR-7000. I want to buy a DVD writer for my PC and be
able to play discs created on the machine on my DVD player. Do you know what
recordable discs this machine can play and what would be the most suitable
writer for my PC?
According to the manufacturer’s specs the DVR-7000 isn’t listed as
being compatible with any recordable DVD format though it can handle CD-R/RW,
which bodes well for it being able to read DVD-R discs and are part of the DVD
specification. However, when it comes to recordable DVD take nothing for
granted and it would be very unwise to purchase a DVD burner without first
testing the capabilities of your player. There’s no easy way to do this, though
it might be worth approaching a local PC dealer to see if they can provide you
with a couple of test recordings. You should also make absolutely certain that
your PC is up to the job. DVD burning is a demanding application, requiring a
fast processor, lots of memory and masses of free hard disc space. The PC will
also need some means of importing video from a source device, presumably a
camcorder since you won’t be able to make recordings from other copyright DVDs
or video tapes, at least not legally and not without extra software and
GETTING STARTED 1 – ONLINE AUCTIONS
If your loft or garage is steadily filling up with old or redundant AV
equipment then turn your surplus kit into cash and sell it on an online
auction? It’s really easy and it only takes a few minutes; the only danger is
that you’ll get hooked and end up buying even more equipment!
The best-known and most successful Internet auction is ebay (www.ebay.co.uk) and it’s an absolute treasure
house for AV enthusiasts, whether you’re after the latest 42-inch plasma panel
or a 1950’s valve amp. To buy and sell on ebay you need to go through a simple
free registration process. It costs nothing to bid but for sellers there is a
modest listing fee and a final valuation fee based on a percentage of the final
Ebay doesn’t handle the money so there is a small risk when buying but
this can be minimised by checking a sellers ‘feedback’, which is awarded to
regular ebayers by satisfied (or dissatisfied) customers. Sellers with a high
positive feedback are generally trustworthy but if the seller lives locally you
can always pick up the goods and make sure they are what they claim to be,
before parting with any money. For an extra fee you can use a system called
‘Escrow’ which holds the money in safe keeping until both parties are satisfied
with the deal.
Selling is very simple and you will almost certainly get a fair price
for your goods if you include a picture – it helps to have a digital camera –
are honest about the condition and set a low reserve price, to get potential
GETTING STARTED 2 – RECORDABLE DVD ON PCS
If you want some simple unbiased advice about buying a PC with a DVD
burner, or you are contemplating buying a DVD writer for an existing PC with a
view to making recordings that you can play back on your living-room DVD player
then don’t, at least not just yet!
Quite a few high-end multimedia PCs now come with DVD burners and the
price of ‘bare’ drives has fallen dramatically over the past year or so but you
really have to know your onions and read the small print in order to find out
what they are actually capable of.
Until very recently DVD burners fell into one of three camps, split
broadly along the same lines as domestic ‘set-top’ DVD recorders. Pioneer was
an early contender with drives using the DVD-R and DVD-RW format, and then
Philips weighed in with attractively priced DVD+R/DVD+RW drives, quickly
followed by Panasonic with a range of DVD-R/-RAM burners. All of these drives
had compatibility problems of one sort or another with homedeck players and
there was no way you could guarantee any of them could produce discs that were
playable in any DVD player.
Earlier this year it looked as though Sony were about to make sense of
it all with a new multi-format drive (DRU-500A) that can handle all current
record-once and rewritable format, i.e. DVD-R, DVD-RW, DVD+R and DVD+RW. It
certainly seems to work well, but there are still some loose ends to be
resolved before it qualifies as the idiot-proof, plug and play solution we’ve
been waiting for. Unless you’re a computer buff with an urge to act a guinea
pig it’s worth waiting a few months for the bugs to be ironed out and with a
bit of luck the price will come down too.
Ó R. Maybury 2003,