Hang 'em High!
Nope – this isn't another story about the Feb 17th analog cut-off designed to incite people living under a rock for the last few years into vigilante justice. Heck, I'm just as guilty of inaction as anyone else, because I still have no plans for that 13" glow box sitting on my kitchen counter (besides the set of ear plugs I keep in the night stand to block out Gina's screams when she goes down to make coffee and turns on the TV on that infamous day.) I was supposed to handle it. But like everyone else, I plan on taking no personal responsibility and will simply blame the gooberment.
"It's not my fault, I got in line and put in my order, but all I got was a glare and a 'No Coup For You! Come Back One Year' growl from the coupon Nazi!"
But I digress. This blog is about the forever delayed replacement of my DWIN CRT projector with a JVC DLA-HD1 projector. Oh sure, I haven't used the Dwin in years (a combination of the inability for its aging electronics to control convergence and the dimness of the bulbs that were well past their half life), but it still hung proudly off my ceiling. In its place, I sustained myself with a steady diet of plasma and the occasional front projector that found its way into the den.
Then about a year and a half ago, I sprung for the JVC. Cabling was going to be the big issue. I definitely wanted to use HDMI, but that meant replacing the RGB (plus H/V synch) cabling that ran through my walls and ceilings to feed the Dwin. Worse, a preliminary tug on the wiring indicated this was not going to be a simple tape-and-tug replacement.
So until recently, the JVC sat perched behind the seating area, a fat HDMI cable from Monster running under the Oriental rug. Meanwhile, the wheeled stand supporting the projector always seemed to be a bump-into magnet, so use of the projector usually meant repositioning the image so it fit on the screen again. Needless to say, after a year, I had barely 300 hours on the bulb.
In a moment of weakness, I pulled into Circuit City a year ago and hired their Firedogs to come in and give the room a once over. The fellow that showed up a few weeks later to survey the job kept eyeing my equipment in a way that suggested he'd done time. Worse, he was stupid and uncreative. There's $100 I'll never see again.
Of course, I was quite into following all the wireless HDMI offerings, seeking them out only to be disappointed when they never actually materialized. There are some now, like Belkin's FlyWire ($1,499 for the whole house solution or $699 in one-room flavor), using Animon's technology, that could do the job. Of course, without any independent tests of drop-outs and compression, the jury is still out and wire is still king.
Enter my good friend and owner of Take 5 Audio Video in New Haven, Ralph Cortigiano. Ralph is partially responsible for my unnatural interest in all things audio and video. I walked into his store in the late 80's just off a buying binge of components that worked well separately but not necessarily together. The first thing Ralph did was sit down with me and spend an hour talking about things that had nothing to do with audio.
By the time we got around to talking about the Magnepan MG IIIa speakers I had purchased used, Ralph had me convinced he'd forgotten more about audio than I'd ever learned. In short, it was the beginning of a beautiful friendship. The older McIntosh electronics I was using (MC-2105 amp, C26 pre-amp and MX-114 FM tuner/preamp used as a tuner) were not very good examples of early solid-state Mac design. A Bryston 4B amp would drive the torturous Maggies to new heights, and yes, the Vandersteen 2W subwoofer I'd read about in Stereophile would be an excellent choice mated to the system. Ralph even helped me find buyers for some of the old equipment to help pay for the new stuff. The front end electronics would wait another year until I could scrape up funds for the ARC SP-14 preamp I picked up used at Lyric HiFi in NYC.
If you're a regular visitor to this site, your eyes are probably starting to glaze over with all this two-channel talk, but just so you know, Ralph's business has very successfully bridged the gap to the 21st century. Hanging in his store is the very same JVC projector you see hanging in my room. Sure, he still has Magnepan, Martin Logan, Wilson and Revel speakers set up in his big two-channel room, but he also puts in multi-room audio-video systems into McMansions throughout Connecticut.
So when I called Ralph and told him about my projector hanging project, he immediately started in with the questions, quickly determined the Costco universal projector bracket I had purchased wasn't up to the job (yet another $100 I'll never see again), and that Mirek, his installer, would do his best to get the HDMI through the wall without ripping apart the walls and ceiling. Oh, and would I be home that day to help? You bet.
When Mirek arrived, he quickly formulated a plan brought together with my hazy recollection of the original RGB cable install. If we took the Stewart screen down from the ceiling, there should be a pathway to get the cable through the 2nd floor joists and over to the bay where it would drop down the wall. Before sending me to Home Depot to secure a 6" x 18" oak board to use as a cross-brace for the Chief projector mount, Mirek explained that he would try not to cut into the wall, but basically, it would be a surprise. When I got back, the wire was run without additional surgery. Of course, when I asked Mirek how he had done it, he answered in his heavy Polish accent, "I have to keep some secrets, you know."
Now that the projector is up, and just a remote control click away from being used, movies and hi-def TV are, of course, getting more play time on the big screen. Fan noise, not a huge problem with the very quiet JVC behind me, is now not even a consideration with it mounted a few feet in front of me and on the ceiling. And the picture is always in the same place when you turn it on, with no one in our family tall enough to bump into it (not that the Chief's death grip on the projector would ever loosen).
Of course, I'm not quite done yet. Removing the large DWIN projector and replacing it with the smaller JVC exposed pencil marks, sheetrock cuts and other un-niceties that need to be cleaned up in due course. And that new JVC DLA-RS20U (and DLA-HD750) with its 50,000:1 contrast ratio, is starting to look awfully tempting. But the important thing, boys and girls, is that chump factories like Circuit City may come and go, but your local high-end dealer and custom installer is still your best bet.