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FEATURE

 

HOME CINEMA SOURCES

 

INTRO

Youíve got your AV amplifier, youíre sat in front of a large-screen TV and surrounded by speakers of all shapes and sizes, so whatís next?  Dolby Surround material is now available from a surprisingly wide range of sources, and itís growing all the time, but hereís a few you can try right now

 

VCRS

No, not just any old video recorder, only a stereo VCR with a hi-fi sound system and a NICAM decoder will do! The VCR is the core component in a home cinema system, and the primary source of Dolby Surround material in the form of pre-recorded tapes and off-air recordings made from terrestrial and satellite TV channels. Forget mono VCRs they simply do not work. The DFM (depth frequency multiplex) hi-fi recording system used on VHS stereo VCRs has a frequency range and immunity to wow and flutter (speed variations) thatís comparable with compact disc. Moreover itís  well suited to the demands of NICAM sound and more than capable of handling the four-channel surround-sound information contained with a Dolby Surround soundtrack.  You get what you pay for though. Some budget machines do quite well, but dearer stereo VCRs generally sound a lot better and have a wider range of audio-related facilities.

 

LASER DISC PLAYERS

Currently laserdisc is second only to off-air TV transmissions in terms of picture and sound quality and it has become the medium of choice for dedicated home cinema fans. However, the format has a comparatively small share of the AV market, particularly in the UK, and this has resulted in a correspondingly limited choice of software in the form of PAL encoded discs. Many movies -- even some blockbuster titles - never make to laserdisc. Hardened laserdisc fans usually end up buying imported NTSC coded discs from the USA. Virtually all laserdisc players on sale in this country have the facility to replay NTSC discs, usually on any recently made TV, though a couple of models will only work with multi-standard TVs. There is a small reduction in picture quality of NTSC discs, though itís still vastly better than tape. There are presently around half a dozen laserdisc players on the market, costing from around £500; donít expect to see many new machines though, with DVD just over the horizon...

 

OTHER SOURCES

Satellite receivers are an abundant source of material with plenty of movies and TV programmes having Dolby Surround soundtracks. However, picture and sound quality can be a bit variable and some surround sound information can be lost in the rather noisy analogue audio channels. It will get better, possibly within the next five years when digital broadcasting from satellite begins, though it will mean replacing both the dish and receiver. Dolby Surround is also available from a surprising number of other sources, including Video CD recordings, audio CDs and the occasional radio broadcast. There are also plans to enable home video movie-makers to add surround sound effects to their recordings, using specially written computer software. The UK developed system is currently being evaluated by a US software company. Surround-sound effects are also be incorporated into the stereo audio generated by some recent computer video games; the PC version of Doom is said to be really scary when heard thorough a home cinema system...

 

FIVE THINGS EVERY LD PLAYER SHOULD HAVE

 

* NTSC replay, for the widest choice of software, including imports

* S-Video output, if you want the very best picture quality

* Digital output, for the best sound possible, using top-end hi-fi components

* A full set of CD replay features, with performance to match

* AC-3 ready spec, or potential for upgrade          

 

FIVE THINGS EVERY VCR SHOULD HAVE

* Front AV sockets, for temporary camcorder and video game hook-ups

* Twin SCARTs, for maximum AV interconnect flexibility

* NTSC replay, so you can watch imported tapes, and your US cousinís home videos

* A Video Plus+ timer, for idiot-proof time-shifting

* Auto install, unless you enjoy reading VCR instruction books...

 

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” R. Maybury 1995 3010

 

 

 

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