PIP, Bi-Amping, Burn-In

PIP, PIP, Cheerio!
Why is it difficult to find new TVs with PIP (picture-in-picture). I'm looking for a new set to watch multiple sports channels on, so motion blur is also an issue.

Brent Iverson

Actually, many flat-panel TVs still have PIP capabilities, but unlike TVs in the past, today's models do not have dual tuners. Instead of being able to tune in two different channels within the TV and display one in the main portion of the screen and the other in an inset window, one or both signals must come from an external source, such as a Blu-ray player or cable/satellite box. This makes sense when you consider that something like 80 percent of households get their TV via cable or satellite, not over the air using the TV's internal tuner.

In fact, most modern cable and satellite receivers provide multiple tuners and PIP functionality independent of the TV. In most cases, you can tune in two different channels in the cable or satellite box and display them both on the TV, either side by side or with one in an inset window; the specific capabilities depend on the box you're using.

FYI, current-model flat-panel TVs that provide PIP with external sources include those from Samsung, Sony, Vizio, and Pioneer. TVs with no PIP capabilities include those from Panasonic, LG, and Sharp. Toshiba hasn't gotten back to me with an answer to this question.

Here's a thought—if you have an ATSC antenna (rooftop or in-room) as well as a cable or satellite box, you could connect the antenna to the TV, engage PIP in the cable or sat receiver, and also engage the TV's PIP function in order to watch three different channels at the same time. You'd need to arrange the windows in the cable or sat box and the TV so the PIP windows didn't overlap, which might or might not be possible depending on the box and TV.

If motion blur is important to avoid, the best choice is a plasma TV from Samsung or Pioneer (while they last). However, I'd be a bit concerned about image retention if you're going to have PIP windows on the screen most of the time. In this case, just engage the TV's screen-wipe function every once in a while to combat this.

Otherwise, a 120Hz or 240Hz LCD would work if you don't object to a "video-like" look that these sets impart to the picture when frame interpolation is enabled (which it must be to reduce motion blur). Also, keep in mind that watching any LCD off to one side reduces the apparent picture quality substantially, which is another reason to prefer plasma.

Two Amps Aren't Better Than One
I have two pairs of B&K monoblocks, 200W each, bi-amping my speakers. If I want to replace them with one pair, how much power should that one pair have in theory to get an equivalent or better result?

Charles Frierson

I'll let Tom Norton handle this one:

It's not clear whether or not you are bi-amping with or without using the speakers' internal crossovers. In the pro world, bi-amping implies a direct amp feed to each driver with electronic crossovers in front of the amps. But in the audiophile world, more often than not it means using the bi-wire/bi-amp input terminals of the speakers with a separate amp feeding each one. That means the speaker's passive crossovers remain in the circuit.

The situation is complicated by the fact that most consumer speakers use the crossover network for more than just dividing the audio into frequency bands suitable for the drivers. They often to correct for driver anomalies, flatten driver impedance, provide proper phasing between the drivers, etc. You can do these sorts of things in the pro configuration (no passive crossovers) with complex equalization and other processing in front of the amps in conjunction with electronic high- and lowpass filters, but that's beyond the reach of most audiophile hobbyists.

If you were to rip out the passive crossovers from your speakers and connect the drivers directly to the amps with an electronic crossover to direct the frequencies to the proper drivers but with no additional processing, the result would most likely sound terrible, because you will have removed all the other correction factors that are an inherent part of a carefully balanced speaker design. (You will also have voided your warranty!)

Assuming you are using the audiophile approach for bi-amping—a pair of full-range amps driving the separate woofer and tweeter (or, more likely, woofer and midrange/tweeter) terminals of each speaker—it's possible you are gaining little by using bi-amplification, though the amp manufacturer and dealer have gained by the sale of two more amps! One way to check this would be to reconfigure the system to use just one of the amps to drive each speaker in the conventional mode, setting the other amps aside for the moment. Does the system sound better? Worse? The same? I would suspect the latter, though without hearing the specific system, it's hard to say.

You might think you'd need a single 400W amp to replace two 200W amps, but it ain't necessarily so. For one thing, the tweeter and midrange consume very little power compared with the woofer, so much of the 200W available from the amp that's currently driving those elements is probably going unused. Also, a different amp—even from the same manufacturer—can easily sound different than the ones you have, so achieving an "equivalent or better result" is more complicated than simply considering power output. If you like the sound of the B&Ks you have, I'd try using only one for each speaker before I'd buy new ones.

Worry Wart
I was finally able to purchase my dream TV (a Pioneer Elite Kuro). I'm eager to power it up, but I won't do so until I have some consistent information on burn-in protection. I've been told that burn-in is a thing of the past and aside from long-standing static images, I need not worry.

My concern is that I still watch some standard-def television (gasp!), so should I worry about the black bars on the sides? Should I likewise worry about the small logos at the bottom of the screen (CBS, NBC, etc.)? I'm also an avid sports fan, so should I worry about the scoreboard that's constantly at the top or bottom of the screen during broadcast sports?

Jamil Johnson

There's no need to worry; burn-in is indeed mostly a thing of the past. I have a Kuro, and I watch 4:3, 16:9, and letterboxed movies on it with no problem. If you watched only 4:3 or letterboxed movies, it might cause uneven aging over many months or years, but as long as you display some full-screen material on a regular basis, no worries. I don't think the network logos or scoreboards are a problem either, as long as they don't stay on the screen for months or years. If you're still concerned, the Pioneer provides a "screen-wipe" function that removes any temporary image retention, so you can use that once a month or so just to be sure.

If you have a home-theater question, please send it to scott.wilkinson@sorc.com.

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COMMENTS
ender21's picture

Which providers have boxes that provide PIP? I know DirecTV doesnt and I really hope they add it at some point. They could go a long way towards interactivity for things like NFL Sunday Ticket or MLB Extra Innings with built-in PIP functionality. We also have Fios and Time Warner in our area and neither of them offer built-in PIP for their boxes either. I've never had DishNetwork so don't know what their boxes provide.I recently purchased a Planar 8150 for my HT rebuild and part of the reason was because it has its own PIP. I had to bite the bullet and get an extra DirecTV receiver, but I missed it and am glad I got it!

Scott Wilkinson's picture

I have Dish Network and Charter cable, and both provide PIP, which is ironic, since I never use it. I contacted Verizon and verified that FiOS does not provide PIP, which is really strange, since the FiOS DVR provides more than one tuner (watch one channel while recording another), so it would be trivial to add this feature.

Scott Snyder's picture

Regarding the discussion on bi-amplification, Mr. Norton stated:"For one thing, the tweeter and midrange consume very little power compared with the woofer, so much of the 200W available from the amp that's currently driving those elements is probably going unused."I believe this is inaccurate. Without an electronic crossover preceding the amplifiers, both amplifiers are receiving a full range signal. If a low frequency transient generates a clipped signal, the distortion products will be evident for both amplifiers and will affect the high and low frequency ranges.There is a way to address this situation. You can use you a high quality electronic crossover ahead of your existing amplification. The electronic crossover will not be used to perform a true crossover function. It will simply remove the signal demands outside of the crossover region. i.e. set the low pass filter well above and the high pass filter well below the passive speaker crossover frequency. Say at least one octave o

Mark Ludwiczak's picture

Just wanted to add that I have a Panasonic G10 (50 inch model) and I was watching PIP last night through a time warner cable box, so it is possible to do so on that panasonic TV (said in the article that panasonic didn't have PIP capabilities).

Jeff_DML's picture

I disagree in your burn in comment...I have owned Pioneer Kuro 5020 for about a year and have the DISH HD only programming package. I now have faint burn-in of the black SD pillar bars. Luckily I do not notice it on normal programming but they are there are obvious on black screen, my wife even noticed it. Like I said I have HD only programming so I watch very little content with pillarbars. I now have enabled pioneers auto-gray pillarboxing in hopes of removing the current burn-in. I have always run the orbiter too.

Scott Wilkinson's picture

Mark, I suspect you were using the PIP capabilities of the TW cable box, not the Panasonic. According to the company, their current sets do not have PIP.Jeff, have you run the Pioneer's screen-wipe function? That should help as well. Personally, I hate gray pillarbox bars. I haven't been using my Pioneer for a year yet, so I'll stay on the lookout for image retention. I still say it's nowhere near the problem it used to be.

Tom Norton's picture

Scott Snyder: The input section of the mid-high amp will indeed receive a full range signal, as you say. But this section's job is relatively easy. The amp's output stage, however, will be working through the high-pass section of the speaker's internal crossover network. The impedance of this network increases rapidly as we drop below the crossover point simply due to the nature of passive crossover networks. And the higher the load impedance, the less power drawn from the amp. Except in unusual circumstances, such as a very low speaker sensitivity or a low woofer-mid crossover point (say below 400-500Hz), the mid-tweeter amp is unlikely to be called on to produce anywhere near its full 200W rating. I consulted with Home Theater's Audio Tech Editor Mark J. Peterson and he added that putting another crossover ahead of the amp as you suggest, while sounding logical, will not only serve no useful purpose but might cause other audible issues from cascading two high-pas

scott Snyder's picture

Hi Tom:I generally agree with where you are going in your response and at the same time, still feel their is some validity to my comments. The character limits prevent a lot of caveats, in my prior comments. One, I don't know about the "unusual circumstances" you mentioned. I would venture that many systems powered by four 200 watt mono blocks are inefficient and may be three-way systems with lower crossovers. For example, PSB Goldi speakers. As to Mr. Peterson's comment, I offer the following example. 400 hz passive crossover, active high pass filter set at least one octave below 400 hz, depending on the passive filter slope. If the passive crossover is 18 db/ octave or higher, 1-2 octaves below the passive crossover point is not likely to create adverse audible impact. If 12 db/octave, 2-3 octaves lower should be safe. I would not recommend this for 6 db/octave crossovers, as implemented on Thiel or similar speakers. The useful purpose is eliminating the low freq. demands from the high

Charles Frierson's picture

Yes, I bi-amp the conventional way using the twin pair of binding posts on my Mirage M3si speakers, so the tweeter/midrange gets an amp, the woofer gets one. The signal goes direct from the preamp to the amps; no external crossovers are involved.At one point I did use only one pair while one of the other pair was getting repaired (whew!). I heard no appreciable difference, except that recordings which were light on bass to start with were a bit lighter. I heard no difference in recordings with heavier/fuller bass.

Tom Norton's picture

The bottom line here is that the possible benefits of bi-amping, where possible, will vary from system to system. You should not expect miracles. That said, I must note that I have not logged much bi-amping time myself. My comments here are based primarily on the technical realities of bi-amping with audiophile speakers. In the original inquiry the four required amps were already in place, so experimenting with a single pair would be relatively simple. But when the amp purchase is still under consideration, a single more powerful pair of amps might be a better bet than four lesser ones. But there are a lot of variables involved on the user end, including the characteristics of the amps themselves, the listening level, the speaker, the room, and the program material. I would not recommend buying an extra pair of amps on the assumption that bi-amping will produce a significant improvement. Borrow first if you can, and listen for yourself, in you own system, before pulling out your checkbook.

Colin Robertson's picture

My 2 cents regarding the Bi-amping question... Generally bi-amping most improves bass performance. So to get an "equivalent" single amp to replace your bi-amp setup, look for high-power amps (but not necessarily double) with good bass characteristics, and hopefully the rest will follow suit. Generally speaking, an amp with a high damping factor has better control over the low frequencies, and again, generally speaking, higher power amps tend to have more bass "slam".

Charles Frierson's picture

On burn-in or image retention, I've had my Pioneer 111FD for just over a year, watching everything, and seen no evidence of it. Today's plasmas are supposed to be better at avoiding this. During the break-in prior to an ISF calibration (at 162.5 hours), I stuck to HD channels mostly, but watched a variety of content. Now, a year later, I've seen no evidence of image retention. Obviously, my experience may be different from someone else's, but suffice it to say image retention is not guaranteed to happen. I do use Orbiter 1 and gray sidebars on 4:3 material, which doesn't bother me.On bi-amping, perhaps when I'm ready to buy something I'll revisit the single-pair test with the current setup, especially since I have new front-end equipment and the result may be different for that reason.

Charles Frierson's picture

As for the potential new amps (if I decide to go that route) I was looking at Emotiva's XPA-1 monos, at 500 watts per channel. One pair to replace my two B&K pair. That could well be overkill, but bass, dynamics, etc. would not be an issue. I'd have to watch the volume, though; I wouldn't want to feed the Mirages anything like the full 500 watts, since I dont want to blow anything out (the M3si rated at 100 to 300 watts).I'm in no hurry to buy anything, so I can think about this a while longer.

Douglas Fitzpatrick's picture

For plasma owners, when you get your plasma display reduce the contrast to about 65% and/or take it out of "Factory Torch' (Vivid) mode! It's ideal to keep things full screen, the higher the contrast the greater the chance for image retention which is temporary at best. "Burn-in" is for the most part permanent! If left in "Factory Torch' mode (high 100% contrast) you will greatly shorten the life of your plasma panel and after a time have permanent "Burn-in". DougIf you limit the time you spend viewing still images, avoid ultra-bright modes like Vivid, and are extra cautious during the first 100 to 200 hours of the set’s life (the phosphors are most prone to permanent burn-in when they’re new), you shouldn’t experience any problems. Quote from right here at Home Theater Magazine! Doug

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