Xbox 360, Bose Cubes, Extended Warranties
Don't Hold Your Breath
I was wondering if you could provide any info about streaming from a Media Center PC to an Xbox 360 acting as a Media Center Extender. I asked Xbox tech support if there are any plans to allow streaming from a Blu-ray drive on a PC to an Xbox 360. I could not get any kind of straight answer. Any info you could dig up would be greatly appreciated and possibly keep me from spending 400-500 bucks on a standalone player.
My contact at Microsoft says there is no legal way to stream the content from any copy-protected optical disc playing on a Media Center PC to an Extender such as the Xbox 360. Microsoft often gets requests for this, and it is on a long list of possible features for future releases. But I wouldn't hold my breathI doubt the studios will ever allow such a thing.
My system consists of a 50-inch Samsung PN50A400 plasma, a PlayStation 3, an Onkyo TX-SR606 receiver, and a speaker system that includes five Bose dual cubes, a Polk CS10 center channel, and an Infinity IL100 subwoofer. I do not have the Bose subwoofer module, so I run the cubes directly from the receiver.
I have used the Onkyo's Audyssey calibration, which I believe has adjusted the cubes to an acceptable frequency range. I do know that the cubes will not function correctly without the module, but this is my only option at this time.
I am moving to a new home that has cathedral ceilings in the living area. Aside from buying a new speaker system (which is not feasible), how can I set up this system for the best possible sound? What would you recommend for the proper mounting height and frequency settings for the cubes? And do you recommend that I place an identical Bose cube (I have an extra) for the center channel, or continue to use the Polk?
Finally, what are the best settings for the PS3 and Onkyo to produce the best sound for Blu-ray's high-res codecs? PCM or Bitstream? I am using HDMI cables.
Last question first: The PS3 cannot send Dolby TrueHD or DTS-HD bitstreams, but it can decode these formats to PCM. So you have no choiceyou must send PCM from the PS3 to the receiver via HDMI to get the best sound from Blu-ray discs.
As far as the Bose cubes are concerned, I'm sorry to hear that you can't upgrade. No matter how you set them up in your new home, they simply aren't going to sound very good. The best you can do is mount them roughly at seated ear height and use the Audyssey system in the receiver as you did in your current room.
Normally, I recommend using matched speakers in a surround system, which would mean putting the extra Bose cube in the center. But the Polk probably sounds a lot better, and dialog is the most important sonic element in most movies, so maybe the CS10 would be better in your case. Try them both to see which one you prefer.
To Extend or Not To Extend
I'm in the market for a new Samsung 61-inch rear-projection TV and surround-sound system. Do you recommend getting an extended warranty? I know they will try to push this once I agree to purchase.
Yes, they will no doubt try to push an extended warranty on you, because this is a big profit center for most retailers. I've even heard stories of salespeople who were told that their jobs depended on selling extended warranties.
This is a form of insurance, and I'm a big believer in insurance, but I normally recommend against buying an extended warranty on consumer-electronics products. Most electronic failures happen in the first few weeks or months, well within any manufacturer's standard 1-year warranty. If the product doesn't fail in that time frame, it's unlikely to in the period of the extended warranty.
On the other hand, a DLP rear-projection TV has moving partsspecifically, the color wheel that filters the white light from the lamp into its red, green, and blue componentsand moving parts have a higher failure rate than solid-state electronics. Also, these sets have a lamp that will most certainly die in a few thousand hours, but I very much doubt that any warranty will cover that. (The standard warranty might cover premature lamp failure.)
For another perspective on this issue, see the comment posted by Paul Martinez in "Ask Home Theater" from March 24, 2009. His experience makes him very glad he opted for an extended warranty on the RPTV he purchased from Best Buy.
In any event, be sure to read the extended warranty's fine print to see exactly what it does and does not cover—don't trust what salespeople tell you about the coverage. They might be telling the truth, or they might be saying what you want to hear to make the sale.
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