Soundbar, TV Setup, Multichannel Music
I have a very large room with high ceilings and a loft, and I have a 5.1 system with satellite speakers. Will a Polk SurroundBar 360 work together with the speaker system I have, or does it work only by itself?
I would not try to combine a soundbar that simulates a 5-channel system, such as the Polk SurroundBar 360, with a discrete 5.1 system. I can imagine all sorts of weird interference effects and other anomalies. On the other hand, there's no problem combining a 3-channel soundbar with discrete surround speakers. And most soundbars benefit from the addition of a subwooferin fact, many soundbars come with a sub, either wired or wireless.
According to HT audio editor Mark Fleischmann, "A distinction should be made between soundbars that have their own surround processing (i.e., they accept digital connections from source components) and those that don't (i.e., they accept speaker-level inputs). With the former, you may be able to add a sub if the soundbar has a sub output, but probably not anything else because there are no center and surround outputs. With the latter, you can treat them as speakers and route speaker cables to whatever configuration of speakers you want."
If you're having trouble filling that much space, I'd upgrade the speaker system to larger models and/or increase the amplifier power.
I finally purchased the Avia II setup DVD for my Samsung LN52A750. The settings I ended up with are great for watching DVDs, but how do I use the disc to set up the TV for my AT&T U-Verse box, which is on a different input? Do I just copy the settings from one input to the other? My U-Verse box is connected via HDMI and my DVD player is connected via component. (My AVR has no HDMI, so I don't use it as a video switcher.) I don't see how the settings for the TV's component input can be the same as the settings for HDMI.
Great question! Unfortunately, there's no consistently reliable way to optimize the basic picture controls for broadcast sources in general. If you can find a channel that signs off at night and displays color bars with PLUGE (an area with above-black and below-black bars on a video-black background), that would work, but few if any channels even sign off any more, and those that do probably don't display this pattern.
TiVo just announced two new DVRs, the Premier and Premier XL, and the Premier XL includes THX Optimizer onboard, which provides all the patternsand a pair of blue filter glassesyou need to set the picture controls. This is a great idea that I hope other set-top boxes will adopt because it solves precisely the problem you identify.
Without either of these solutions, the best you can do is use the settings you've established for the DVD player as a starting place and tweak them by eye until the picture looks its best. For black level, look for a very dark scene, pause it, boost the brightness control so the picture looks pretty washed out, notice all the details in the darkest part of the image, and reduce the control until you can just barely see those details. For white level, find a mostly white scenesay, a snow fieldand crank the contrast control until the snow looks flat, uniform white, then reduce it until you find the highest setting that reveals as much detail in the snow as possible. For color and tint, look at a variety of skin tones and make them as natural as possible by adjusting these two controls.
I recently started listening to your podcasts, which I find really informative. One question about AIX Records, which I thought of as I was listening to your conversation with founder Mark Waldrep. Would you recommend going with his Blu-ray titles, or are his DVDs worth the price of admission to start? I have yet to get a Blu-ray player as I try to decide on a price point. I have a 60-inch Pioneer Elite plasma, which my local A/V guys feel could support the best Pioneer Blu-ray player. However, I was interested in trying out 5.1 music after I heard your interview; up to this point, I have been strictly 2-channel for music. Also, are there other labels out there like AIX?
Thanks for the kind words! In my opinion, any recordings from AIX are absolutely top flight, regardless of the medium. Blu-ray and DVD-Audio sound the best, with no significant difference between them, followed by the lossy DVD versions.
If you can plan to spend $500 for a Blu-ray player, I would recommend the Oppo BDP-83, which can play Blu-ray and DVD-Audio as well as virtually all other optical-disc formats. While you wait to buy the Oppo, you can get AIX titles on DVD-Audio, which include lossless DVD-A and lossy DVD versions, and listen to the lossy versions on a DVD player, then switch to the lossless versions when you get the Oppo.
As for the Blu-ray player, there is no reason to get a Pioneer just because you have a Pioneer TV. Pioneer players perform well, but in my experience, they are quite slow at booting up and loading discs. If you can't afford an Oppo, look at Panasonic and Samsung players as well as the Sony PS3, though none of those can play DVD-Audio.
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