Q&A - September, 2007

TV Central

Q. The sound quality of high-end televisions has generally improved. Is it possible to route the center-channel output from my receiver to my TV and use its speakers for the center channel, rather than having a separate speaker on the wall? Jay Pringle Show Low, AZ

A. Ian G. Masters says: It's tempting to reduce the number of speakers that way, but there are a couple of good reasons you shouldn't go this route. First, although it's true that the internal speakers in many newer HDTV sets can sound pretty good, they're unlikely to match your other speakers tonally. That means that sounds moving about the soundstage will change character as they pan through left, center, and right. Second, the purpose of having a dedicated speaker placed above or below the screen is to anchor center material - dialogue, especially - in the middle of the screen. In the configuration you suggest, the TV is likely to send the sound to two speakers positioned on either side of the set. Unless you are sitting right on axis, the sound will seem to come from one side or the other, not the middle - which is exactly what would happen if you had no center speaker at all.

FiOS: Copper Robbers?

Q. I was having issues with my cable modem and got chatting with the Roadrunner tech about his new competition coming into my area, Verizon FiOS. He was quick to point out that, even though fiber-optic cable was coming to the house, all benefits are lost once the signal goes back to copper. My question is, how will I realize the benefits of FiOS? Am I better off staying with DirecTV? Even if Verizon does lay fiber-optic cables to my home, is there not a transition somewhere, perhaps between the box and the TV, where the signal falls out of the fiber-optic range and the benefits are lost? Gernot Simon Oldsmar, FL

A. Al Griffin says: The major benefit that FiOS has over its cable and satellite TV competitors is huge headroom for transmitting data - a result of the wide bandwidth provided by the system's extensive network of fiber-optic cabling. But, as your Roadrunner guy said, the fiber-optic pipe ends right outside the home. What gets installed inside your house is regular old copper - the same stuff that the cable companies use. That said, the FiOS system's seemingly unlimited bandwidth means that Verizon doesn't need to aggressively compress (and thus reduce the picture quality of) high-def signals prior to distribution to your home - something that the cable companies reportedly do. This fact more than any other holds the promise of better HD picture quality from FiOS. For related info, see The HD Deluge Is Here.