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HINTS & TIPS


PLASMA ON THE CEILING
Is any special handling required if I move my plasma television? I was told I would ruin the television if I lay it down (not keeping it in the upright vertical position). Can I lay a plasma television down? I thought I saw a television commercial advertising a plasma television where the television was installed on the ceiling above the bed. Is this okay to do?
Tom Noble

A

As far as I am aware there’s nothing inside a plasma display panel that can be damaged by it being laid flat or operated horizontally and I consider it unlikely that there are any other components inside the case that could come to grief – certainly none of the plasma TV’s I’ve opened up have anything flopping around loose inside -- but before I get myself into trouble with any manufacturers I suggest you consult your TV’s instruction manual, which will include comprehensive handling and mounting advice.

 

Keeping the set upright when moving it around simply makes it easier to handle, get through doors etc., and I suspect slightly improves its chances of surviving an accident since it won’t have so far to fall and is less likely to hit something on the way down. As for ceiling mounting a plasma screen, assuming the manual say’s it’s okay then before doing anything else I strongly recommend that you consult a qualified structural engineer. These things weigh in excess of 40kg and few ceilings can support that sort of weight without reinforcement, the consequences of a botched or inadequate ceiling installation don’t bear thinking about!

 

QUICK TIP

It might look like a good idea in the ads and movies but ceiling mounted video displays in bedrooms are literally a pain in the neck. To find the best spot for your TV get into a comfortable semi-reclined position on the bed and don’t forget that you should be able to snack and drink comfortably (try that laying down on your back staring at the ceiling…). Relax and make a note of your field of view, ideally the TV screen should be somewhere in the middle of it.

 

 

LOOK TO THE SKY
I'm trying to find an easy solution for my in-laws. They are in their 70s in a poor reception area and have Sky to get decent pictures. Recording onto VHS is a nightmare for them - setting the VHS to the satellite, setting the satellite to the right channel and so on and their cheapo VHS recorder is not up to it really. I've suggested Sky+ but it's expensive. Is there a VHS recorder that could take control of the Sky box or integrate with it better? They have recently bought a Panasonic widescreen TV and that was a major
techno-fear experience for them so ease of use is a prime consideration after cost.
Tony Crockford

A
Given their reception problems Sky+ would be the best solution, allowing them to watch one channel whilst recording another but getting your in-laws a Panasonic VCR would definitely help. All current models have a facility called Q-Link, which allows the TV (almost certainly Q-Link compatible, but do check…) and the VCR to communicate via the SCART lead. This will let them record whatever is showing on the TV screen by pressing one button on the remote. The front panel and on-screen displays are also better coordinated on this kind of setup, so it’s a lot easier to see what the VCR is up to. However, I have found that the best way to get people used to unfamiliar technology is to sit them down and take them through it step by step. Maybe write out a couple of crib sheets for them, detailing how to record a satellite channel, but make sure you have it off pat first... The worst thing you can do is tell them to read the instructions that will really confuse them!

 

QUICK TIP

The main drawback with an analogue VCRs (and most digital video recorders for that matter) is that you can’t watch one satellite or terrestrial digital channel whilst recording another. It’s not so much of a problem when you can receive terrestrial channels TV as well but Sky+ gets around it by having two independent satellite tuners. Of course you could have two separate satellite receivers but that would mean paying two subscriptions. This currently costs £99 for the extra box plus another £15 per month for the second subscription, irrespective of which package they are receiving.

 

 

 

GET IT ALL TOGETHER
I have just purchased a Sony KD32DX100 TV, a Philips DVDR890 and a Sony STRDB1080 AV receiver and would like to know the best way of connecting them (and my satellite box) together to get the optimum performance. I'm fairly new to all of this, so any tips would be most
helpful. I have got loads of SCARTs, a digital coaxial lead and lot of phono leads, but I'm unsure of whether I need to use the analogue phono leads as well as the digital coaxial one.
Mervyn J Sims

A

The first step is to connect the DVD player to SCART 2 on the TV using a ‘fully-wired’ lead; this is important because it allows you to use an RGB connection for the best picture quality, and enable automatic widescreen switching (WSS). Check the SCART plugs and make sure that all of the pins are present in the plugs. You will probably have to configure the DVD player’s setup menu for RGB video output. There’s no significant difference between ordinary phones and ‘digital’ phono cables in this sort of setup but if you have one use a digital coaxial lead to connect the DVD player’s bitstream output to the digital audio input on the AV receiver. Your satellite receiver connects to SCART 1 on the TV; if you also have a VCR this can be ‘daisy-chained’ with a second SCART lead between the satellite receiver, or connected to the second SCART socket on the back of the sat box, if it has one. Use fully wired SCART cables if you have them but ordinary AV SCARTs will do. The stereo audio outputs from the sat box and VCR go to the appropriate stereo inputs on the AV receiver using twin phono leads, use the best ones you have for these connections.  

 

QUICK TIP

Never connect a DVD player and VCR together using SCART cables, if you do you’re likely to suffer serious picture problems on both devices. That’s because DVD players superimpose ‘Macrovision’ anti-piracy signals on its video outputs, these are meant to stop anyone making taped copies from DVD movies. It won’t damage either device, or the TV, but the Macrovision spoiler signals will upset the brightness (luminance) and chrominance (colour) decoder circuits in the VCR, leading to pulsating brightness and unstable colours.

 

 

 

DISCS ARE-A-CHANGIN'
What has happened to the UK market in DVD multi-changers (if there ever was one)? The supply has now have dried up. I searched through several message boards and user groups and found details on the following models: Kenwood DVF-J6050 (no longer in production); Pioneer DV-F727 (not available in UK); Sony DVP-CX850D (no longer in production); Sony DVP-CX860 (no longer in production); Sony DVP-CX875P (not available in UK). Why the lack of interest by manufacturers to sell these in the UK? Have you heard of any rumours that some may soon become available?
John Hay

A

There was a brief spate of DVD autochanger decks and integrated hi-fi systems a couple of years ago but you are right, they do seem to have thinned out somewhat. Part of the problem was that the turntable models tended to be quite large, which makes it difficult to incorporate them into setups using mostly mini and midi-sized components. Some of the cheaper decks were also a bit clunky and one or two that I’ve seen could be temperamental. The extra gubbins makes them significantly more expensive and I suspect that’s a consideration for the UK market where price is important. Nevertheless there are still a few models around if you’re prepared to do a bit of digging. Sony still has one; the DVP-NC615 is a 5-disc turntable model.  The JVC XV-M52 triple tray player and XV-SA92 7-disc turntable deck are listed as available from online retailers like qed-uk.com. I suspect that few if any new models are in the pipeline for the reasons already outlined, which is probably a good thing; getting up out the sofa to change discs may be the only exercise some people get…

 

QUICK TIP

There are two types of DVD autochanger. The simplest ones have a large rotating turntable with space for five discs. More complex designs use a tray loading system, with the discs stacked vertically. Both types take up extra room inside the case and make the machine wider or taller, though only marginally so in the case of some tray loading models. If you’re a serious couch potato you might like to consider a professional DVD ‘jukebox’, like the Pioneer DRM-1004, which holds up to 100 discs; the only drawback is the £9,000 price tag…

 

 


ARE YOU RECEIVING LASERDISC?
I'm trying to buy a Dolby Digital RF demodulator to connect my older Sony Laser Disc player to my new receiver. I need to convert AC3-RF signals to Dolby Digital coaxial or optical SP/DIF. Can you help me find someone that can sell one of these in Europe? I've found some older models like: Pioneer RFD-1; Yamaha APD-1; Kenwood DEM-9991D; Sony MOD-RF1. But it looks like they are discontinued.
João Lopes Manso, Portugal

A

With the demise of Laserdisc the market for ancillaries like RF Demodulators has all but dried up and there’s no incentive for manufacturers to continue making them. Despite an extensive Internet trawl I couldn’t find any ‘domestic’ units still in production, though I did come across a DIY kit at: http://www.soundlabsgroup.com.au/BDE/BDE_RF_Demodulator.htm, which may be of interest if you can wield a soldering iron. I also managed to find at least half a dozen Yamaha APD-1’s and Pioneer RFD-1s selling on the on-line auction website ebay. Some of them were going for as little as £70, which is a fraction of the original retail price, and they all seemed to be have been well looked after, in good or ‘as-new’ condition.

 

 

CAUGHT IN A WEB
I purchased a Toshiba WT29 50-inch rear-projection TV in July 2002. The problem is that when watching - especially dark scenes - the screen appears to have three bands approximately 2cms in width going down the screen from top to bottom on the left hand side. These appear to be behind the screen. On this side the screen also appears to be much lighter than the right hand side on dark scenes. The retailer sent a technician, who said the TV was faulty, and replaced it with a brand new one.  However, I have the same problem with the replacement. Since then I have taken all equipment away from the TV, i.e. subwoofer, speakers, satellite receiver, amp, video and DVD player in an attempt to eliminate the problem but to no avail. I have contacted Toshiba directly and was told the problem was a spider's web behind the screen! Can give me a more sensible answer?
Anthony O'Neill

A

I rather like the spider’s web excuse; ten out ten to Tosh for originality, but it fails to explain how the spiders managed to make the ‘bands’ move down the screen. My own theory is that they are good old fashioned ‘hum bars’, caused by a 50Hz mains waveform creeping in on one of the TV’s AV inputs, or maybe even coming in through the aerial. To test this out try disconnecting one source component at a time and see if the bars disappear. If one of them turns out to be the culprit, try changing the connecting leads, an open circuit shield or intermittent connection on the plug or socket could be responsible. If that doesn’t help make sure there are no other potential sources of interference nearby. If possible move the TV in case there are buried cables or metal structures in the wall or floor and watch out for telephone wires going to set-top boxes (see Quick Tip).

  

QUICK TIP

With so many different devices plugged into the TV it’s a wonder that interference isn’t more of a problem! In the olden days the only thing you plugged into the back of your TV was the aerial socket; these days the average TV sits on top of a growing pyramid of electronic devices, connected together by a web of cables, and not only to each other. In addition to whatever is picked up by rooftop aerials and satellite dishes, high frequency signals from a broadband connection can also find their way into the system via the satellite box’s phone cable.

 

 


SOUND ADVICE
I bought a Grundig Freeview box as soon as they were available, on the basis that the quality of the sound was supposedly as good as NICAM. Using my excellent speaker system and a Denon 3802 to decode Dolby Pro-Logic II, I've found the results to be nowhere near as good as NICAM. The NICAM decoding out of my Philips VCR is superb. The NICAM out of my 33inch Toshiba TV is not as good... but not bad. However, the Grundig box is not a patch on either. High frequencies, especially, seem to be curtailed. Is it simply that digital terrestrial TV sound is just not as good as NICAM?
Dan Sasson.

A

I’ve seen several ads and promotional brochures claiming that terrestrial digital TV sound is ‘CD-quality’. It is not, nor is satellite TV sound and nor is NICAM (see Getting Started). Making direct comparisons is difficult, though, due to the way the various transmission systems work. Digital terrestrial and satellite broadcasters can jiggle around with bit-rates, to squeeze in more channels and accommodate different types of programme material. For example a news or shopping channel, with talking mostly heads and uncomplicated sound requires less bandwidth than a film channel showing action blockbuster movies with multi-channel surround sound. There are other factors too, such as the quality of the source audio and the route it takes to reach the transmitter and local reception conditions but all other things being equal NICAM delivers the best quality sound simply because it’s transmitted as a separate signal and is not subject to changes in bit-rate. There are also variations in digital receiver performance and design; it’s probably too late for you to change but I suspect you would notice differences in sound quality between different brands of receiver on your setup. 

 

 

 

AGAINST THE GRAIN
I have a Sony DVP-NS900 DVD player, renowned as one of the best around, and a Panasonic TX32PL1 TV, again outstanding reviews for a 50Hz TV. The player is connected via a QED SCART gold-plated SCART cable and the DVD is set to output RGB into my TV's RGB input. The picture clarity and definition is superb but suffers from very bad picture noise or graininess. Can you offer me any advice on what the problem is? It occurs on even very new, top quality discs.
Bill Weir

A

One of the main reasons for using an RGB connection between a DVD player and TV is the freedom from picture noise. RGB cuts out several stages of processing in the source component and display device, each of which can introduce noise into the signal, so the effect you describe simply shouldn’t happen. It’s very unlikely that the SCART cable has anything to do with it but just to be on the safe side swap it for another known good one. You should also compare the picture quality when using composite video and S-Video feeds. If RGB is noticeably noisier then there is something wrong with the TV or DVD player and you should substitute one or the other to find out which is responsible.

 

 

GETTING STARTED

Mains hum, whether it manifests as visible bars on a video display or a noise coming through the loudspeakers is caused by effect known as ‘ground loop’. This happens when there is a difference in the ground potential between any two devices in an audio-visual system. In the olden days when most mains powered devices had an earth connection but now virtually all-home entertainment products have two-wire live and neutral mains connections. However provided that at least one component in the system has an earth connection the conditions that can result in a ground loop shouldn’t arise. Large AV amplifiers, video projectors and plasma screen usually have an earth connection in the plug; the metalwork in aerials and satellite dishes may also be at ground potential.

 

Even if there is no mains earth connection in an AV system you can usually fit one. On the back of many AV amplifiers and hi-fi systems you will find an earth terminal. Never connect this to the earth pin in a main plug, one mistake and your whole system could become live, instead connect it to the metalwork on a nearby radiator, central heating or gas pipe; ‘earth clamps’ are readily available from DIY and electrical suppliers.

 

Other sources of ground loops include incorrect mains wiring. It’s not unknown for the earth connection to be left out or the household earth lead  (usually to a water pipe) to have corroded away. There are also plenty of reports of cowboy builders and clumsy DIY installations where the live and neutral connections inside wall sockets have been reversed. Most electrical shops stock simple mains socket testers but if you have any concerns the best thing to do is have your house wiring checked by a qualified electrician.

 

 

GETTING STARTED

If you think TV and video standard are confusing have a look at the sound side of things. At the last count there were almost a score of different audio formats and systems responsible for the sound coming out of your TV and AV system speakers.

 

UK analogue terrestrial TV uses two sound systems, analogue FM mono and digital NICAM stereo, additionally NICAM can carry 4-channel analogue Dolby Surround information. Cable TV companies use a mixture of technical standards, including mono FM, NICAM and MPEG-2 digital (the same as that used on DVD), which can assign up to 6 audio channels to each video stream. Digital satellite and terrestrial TV also uses MPEG-2 digital encoding and again it is up to the broadcaster or channel operator how many audio channels are allocated to each video stream.

 

Analogue VCRs usually have three sound channels, one lowish quality mono linear soundtrack and two full bandwidth FM ‘hi-fi’ soundtracks, also capable of carrying analogue Dolby Surround.

 

DVD has numerous sound options, not all of which are utilised at the moment (and we’ll only confine ourselves to DVD-Video, DVD-Audio is another story…) There can be up to up to 8 digital steams per video track, the format standard allocation is a pair of Linear PCM (the same as audio CD and used to carry Dolby Surround) and 6-channels for Dolby Digital surround. These audio streams can also be used for DTS surround (6 or 7 channels) MPEG audio (up to 8 channels) and 6 or 7 channels of SDDS (Sony Dynamic Digital Sound), though this is not currently used.

 

---end---

 

Ó R. Maybury 2003, 1002

 

 

ADD COPY – EXTRA QUICK TIPS

 

QUICK TIP (relates ‘Plasma on the ceiling’)

If you absolutely must have a ceiling mounted video screen, rather than suspending several tens of kilograms of hardware above your head, why not use a video projector? Installation is much easier, there’s no need to strengthen joists, or run power cables, though you might want to fitr a couple of small speakers.  If you have a flat white ceiling you can project on to it directly and as an added bonus there’s nothing to be seen when it’s switched off. Check with the projector manufacturers instructions about vertical mounting, if that’s a problem you could use a right-angle mirror arrangement to deflect the beam upwards.

 

QUICK TIP 2 (relates ‘Look to the Sky’)

Another compelling argument for Sky + and most other hard disc video recorders for that matter, is the facility to freeze live TV programs. This comes in useful when the phone or doorbell rings for example; you can then catch up to where you left off, either by playing back at a slightly faster speed, or skipping forward. This is possible because video data can be simultaneously recorded and replayed from a hard disc drive.

 

 

 

 

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