System Recommendation, Analog vs. PCM, TiVo & FiOS
Starting from Scratch
I have a family room that measures 16x25 feet, and I intend to install a projection home theater with a good, affordable sound system. My budget is about $8000. What do you suggest for the projector, receiver, and speakers?
First of all, putting a projection system in a multipurpose family room might not be a great idea unless you can completely control the light in the room. But if you're going to watch during the day with non-sealed windows or at night with the lights on so the kids can play in the same room, front projection is not the best solution.
If you still want a projection system, here's what I recommend:
- Epson PowerLite Home Cinema 6500 UB ($3000), Sanyo PLV-Z3000 ($3300), or Panasonic PT-AE3000U ($3500) projector
- Fixed 82-inch projection screen from Stewart or Da-Lite (~$2000); motorized retractable screen costs more
- Onkyo TX-SR607 AV receiver ($600)
- Hsu Research HB-1 ($1100), PSB Alpha ($1300), Mordaunt-Short Alumni ($1500), or JBL ES20 ($1750) speaker system
I'm an audiophile living in Egypt. I have a small home-theater system built around a Pioneer VSX-918 receiver, which has HDMI but no Dolby TrueHD decoder, and a pair of Monitor Audio BR2 speakers. I want to get a Sony or Pioneer Blu-ray player, but how do I get the best of the new HD audio formats? Do I connect using HDMI or multichannel analog? Pioneer UK told me that I can benefit from the HD audio by connecting the multichannel analog output of the Blu-ray player to the receiver. Is this true?
Yasser Sharaf, MD
You can benefit from the HD audio on Blu-ray in one of two waysconnect the multichannel analog outputs from the Blu-ray player to the corresponding inputs on the receiver, or have the player decode Dolby TrueHD and DTS-HD to PCM and send that via HDMI to the receiver. Many audiophiles prefer the sound of the multichannel analog outputs, but I generally prefer the PCM option for several reasons.
First, the multichannel analog inputs on most AVRs bypass the bass-management and EQ functions. A few players offer rudimentary bass management for their analog outputs, but this is relatively rare. Second, the volume level from the analog outputs is often quite different than the level via HDMI, requiring you to reset the volume for that input compared with other HDMI sources. Third, using the multichannel connections requires six or eight analog cables, which I'd rather avoid for convenience.
So you need to get a Blu-ray player that can decode Dolby TrueHD and DTS-HD to PCM and/or multichannel analog. Both Sony and Pioneer make such players; you might also look at the new Oppo BDP-83. I don't know if you can get it in Egypt, but I would think so since it's available online. The Oppo is the one to beat these days, and at $500, it's not even that expensive.
I'm having a problem with the picture quality from my Verizon FiOS TV service. Here's my setup:
I've tried a few things to correct the problem per suggestions from message boards, like attenuating the signal, waiting for a firmware upgrade, etc. I've even swapped out the TiVo for a new unit, but the problem persists. There's got to be a problem with how the TiVo processes the FiOS signal. I don't remember having the same problem with the Verizon DVR, but I don't want to go back to that terrible interface. Do you think a DirecTV box would have a similar issue? I've used the DirecTV DVR and don't mind its UI.
Are you feeding the TiVo box directly with the FiOS-delivered signal? Or is the FiOS receiver connected to the TiVo box somehow? Either way, it seems to me that the TiVo box doesn't know what to do with that signal, which is why it isn't working well. The TiVo box is designed to be used with off-the-air broadcast signals or digital cable using a CableCard, so I think the problem is that you're using it in an unintended way. And I suspect you'll have the same problem with a DirecTV DVR, which is intended to be used only with DirecTV satellite service.
You didn't have this problem with the Verizon box because it was designed to be used with FiOS. If you're going to pay for FiOS, I see no way around using its box and interface.
If you have a home-theater question, please send it to email@example.com.