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Al Griffin Posted: Jun 04, 2014 1 comments
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Q I want to get better sound when watching movies on my new Panasonic ZT60 plasma TV. (I stream a lot of Netflix and Vudu via the Panasonic’s built-in apps.) To that end, I recently bought a small stereo setup: an NAD C326BEE integrated amp, a Musical Fidelity V90 DAC, and a pair of Monitor Audio Apex 10 speakers. The only way to connect the TV to my audio system is by using an optical digital output from the Panasonic to the DAC, which then connects to one of the NAD’s stereo RCA inputs. Here’s the problem I’ve been having: When I watch Netflix or Vudu, I hear nothing but static noise coming from the speakers, though the sound is fine when I watch DirecTV (I have my satellite receiver connected directly to the TV via HDMI). This noise went away when I switched from 5.1 to 2.0 audio in Netflix, but I don’t get the same option for Vudu. I’m kinda stumped at this point. Shouldn’t the Musical Fidelity DAC automatically dumb down 5.1 signals to stereo? Is there another possible configuration that can solve my problem? —Gilbert Solis / via e-mail

Al Griffin Posted: May 27, 2014 8 comments

PRICE $499

Involving gameplay and graphics
Powerful Smart TV features
Wide range of remote control options
Features may be overkill for some
No DVR control

Microsoft’s next-gen console is a home entertainment powerhouse. Games, movies, music—it’s got it all.

Microsoft wants to take over the living room. OK, maybe that premise isn’t exactly new. About 10 years ago, tech pundits used the same words when discussing the Windows Media Center PC, an all-in-one solution that combined computing and home entertainment in a big, ungainly box. You don’t hear much about Microsoft’s Media Center PC ambitions anymore. What you do hear about is the Xbox One, the latest version of the company’s successful game console. And yes, Microsoft still wants to take over the living room, except now they plan to do so through the Xbox One.

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Al Griffin Posted: May 26, 2014 8 comments
How Important Is a Receiver’s Power Output in 7-Channel Mode? Got a tech question for Sound & Vision? Email us at

Q I love Sound & Vision’s reviews for the objective bench tests, though the results often don’t seem to sync up with the reviewer’s opinions. I’m looking to replace my damaged but terrific sounding Pioneer A/V receiver with a Yamaha RX-V773. The RX-V773 and its siblings get stellar reviews, but they exhibit a huge power drop-off when driving five or seven channels compared with their two-channel measurements. Pioneer’s VSX-52 receiver delivers around three times the power as the Yamahas into seven channels, though this doesn’t seem to make a difference in the subjective part of the review. Here’s my question: Is a receiver’s power output in seven-channel mode not an important factor when it comes to sound quality? Just looking at test results, I would have expected the Yamahas to get a poor rating for sound, but their reviews are consistently excellent on that point. &mash;Jonty Rees / Austin, TX

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Al Griffin Posted: May 22, 2014 5 comments
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Q My system consists of Aerial speakers, a Rotel 5 x 100 watt amp, a Marantz AV-7701 pre/pro and a Panasonic Blu-ray player. All my music is stored on a Mac computer and streamed to an Apple TV which is connected by an optical cable to the processor. The sound with movies is fine, but digital music lacks detail and has no WOW to it. My car’s Krell audio system sounds far superior in comparison. All music files on my Mac are in 16-bit WAV format. What am I missing? —Roland Bertha / South Florida

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Al Griffin Posted: May 15, 2014 5 comments
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Q I’ve owned two high-end plasma HDTVs, but recently purchased a new LCD UHDTV (Samsung HU8550). Watching Blu-rays on the new set using an Oppo player and Onkyo NR929 AVR, I am seeing something disconcerting that I never noticed before with the plasmas: Whenever there’s a fade-to-black transition between movie scenes, the screen abruptly goes black for about 1-2 seconds in the middle of the transition/edit. Is this sort of thing typical for LED-backlit LCD TVs? It ruins the viewing experience for me. —Richard Rife via email

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Al Griffin Posted: May 12, 2014 4 comments
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Q I was thinking of buying a Sony XBR-65HX950 3D LCD HDTV based on Sound & Vision ’s positive review of that set. [Editor’s note: We actually reviewed the smaller XBR-55HX950.] However, I see plenty of ticked-off people on Amazon complaining about banding issues with that model. Do you consider banding a factory defect or just a quirk that has to be accepted with LCD technology? —Mike Cahan / via e-mail

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Al Griffin Posted: May 08, 2014 1 comments
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Q I plan to buy a Pioneer BDR-XU03 Blu-ray burner for my iMac. I'd also like to connect it to the HDTV in my family room for watching movies. Is there such a thing as a USB to HDMI converter? If not, do you have any other suggestions? —Kendall Knights via email

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Al Griffin Posted: Apr 30, 2014 4 comments
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Q I have an old Harman Kardon receiver that has served me well for several years and would like to continue using it. Do you have any suggestions for a way I could stream audio from my computer (primarily from iTunes and Spotify) to my receiver over Wi-Fi? —Doug Burton / via e-mail

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Al Griffin Posted: Apr 24, 2014 10 comments
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Q I have an Integra DHC-80.3 preamp/processor with Audyssey MultEQ XT32. Reading the manual, I learned that I should set the speaker crossover to 80 Hz because “Audyssey recommends that speakers are ALWAYS set to Small when there is a subwoofer in the system.” This apparently allows for proper bass management and more headroom in the receiver or amplifier.  

So here are my questions. My speaker system is based around full-range B&W CM10 towers (powered by 250-watt mono amps) and includes a single subwoofer. Do I still need to choose an 80 Hz crossover point for my setup? Also, is there a point in upgrading to speakers with more powerful bass if I do cross them over at 80 Hz? —Bill Wong / via email

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Al Griffin Posted: Apr 17, 2014 6 comments
Q I am in the market for a new 3D player and have been looking at the Oppo 103 and 103D.  But the various online forums I’ve visited all say that there is hardly any picture quality difference between the Oppos and other Blu-ray players like those from Sony and Panasonic. Is that true? —Joe Montanez / via email