Blu-ray Shy
I would like your thoughts on Toshiba's XDE DVD players. As one who is hesitant to adopt Blu-ray fully, I have had a PS3 from the beginning, just no standalone player. I'm thinking of replacing my worn out upconverting DVD player with an XDE model, although Toshiba is quick to point out that it does not output or produce native HD content. Seeing how fiber-optic Internet speeds of 100Mbps are within reach, should one really look at Blu-ray with all the trappings that come with it?

Gregory Nils Johnson

I don't recommend Toshiba's XDE DVD players because the quality of their upconversion is poor; see UAV's review here. This is especially odd because the company's SRT upscaling technology in some of its LCD TVs is outstanding, though even that is no match for true HD.

I don't understand why you are hesitant to adopt Blu-ray. You even have a PS3, so you can play Blu-ray discs no problem, and the picture quality of Blu-ray is way better than any upconverting DVD player.

As for online content delivery, I'm not a big fan yet. From what I've seen, the picture quality is not great due to high compression. If you want the best picture quality you can get from commercial media, Blu-ray is it.

Zone 2 Delay
I recently purchased the Integra DTC-9.8 pre/pro based on your magazine's glowing review. It is a fine piece of equipment, but I have one major problem that Integra has been unable to resolve. The system feeds the main home theater and a second zone at the other end of a large open space. We often entertain and have the same sound in both zones. Unfortunately, the sound in the main theater is delayed with respect to zone 2 by an eighth to a quarter second. This delay makes it impossible to enjoy the system as intended.

I called the Integra help line twice. The people I spoke with said the main zone does so much processing, the sound is delayed compared to the analog stereo output of zone 2. They suggested I try using "Direct mode," which supposedly requires less processing and should shorten the lag time. Well, that didn't work either, and the sound was dry and flat. I also tried using all the different audio hookups possible (HDMI, digital coax, optical, analog). None of these experiments solved the problem, even comparing analog to analog in each zone.

Then Integra tried to blame my Sony ES Blu-ray player. So I hooked up my old Sony DVP-S7700 DVD player. Same problem. I tried the cable box as well as AM and FM radio. Basically, I tried every combination of audio cable hookup and multiple input sources and the problem persists. Do you have any suggestions?

Dave Greiner

I contacted an Integra rep about this, and he said that processing in the main zone is indeed one of the culprits. The other culprit is probably that the main zone is "looking at" a digital signal instead of analog as in zone 2, which can only play analog input signals. The one thing you might not have done is set the main-zone Audio Selector to "Analog."

Here's what he recommends:

Step 1: Switch the main zone to "Analog" so it is looking at the same audio signal as zone 2. This can be done from the front panel by pressing the Audio Selector button.

Step 2: Put the main zone into "Direct" mode. At that point, there will be no delay because both zones are looking at the same audio signal and processing them exactly the same.

When zone 2 is turned off again, set the main-zone Audio Selector back to "Auto," which will lock it onto the digital-audio signal and process the signal based on the last processing mode (or however it is defined in "Listening Mode Preset").

Permission to Buy
I would like to get your opinion on which LCD to buy in the next two months. This is my first flat screen and I think my wife is now ready to "let" me get one. I am about quality over size. I am looking for the following:

- Price $900 - $1100
- 37-42 inches
- Great contrast
- 3-4 HDMI inputs
- No visible speakers, maybe no speakers at all (I will always use surround speakers)
- PC input
- 24p
- V-Chip or some type of parental control

Also, which universal remote would you recommend that has somewhat easy programming (preferably with a computer) and operates with both IR and RF?

Matt Lano

Among my favorite LCD TVs from 2008 are the Samsung A750 and Sony W4100 lines; see my reviews of the Samsung LN52A750 and Sony KDL-52W4100. The Samsung A750 line is a bit pricier because of its extensive connectivity options, but the less-expensive A650 line is very similar without some of those options. So I recommend looking at the 40-inch Samsung LN40A650 ($1700 list) and Sony KDL-40W4100 ($1500 list); I've seen both for sale online in the $1000 range.

Both have a PC input, four HDMI inputs, unobtrusive speakers, and good contrast, and they can accept 1080p/24 and display it at 120Hz with or without frame interpolation. I don't know about V-Chip, though it only works with the onboard tuner, so it is not applied to satellite or cable feeds. I strongly prefer the Samsung's menu system, but it also has a much more reflective screen than the Sony, which could be a problem in a brightly lit room.

My favorite universal remote by far is the Logitech Harmony One ($250), but it operates with IR only, not RF. Reviewer David Vaughn really liked the URC MX-980 ($600), which does have RF capabilities, though you need the MRF-350 RF module for that, which is an extra $250. Both can be programmed from a computer; the Harmony One is much easier to program, but the MX-980 offers more complete system control, albeit at a much higher price.

If you have a home-theater question, please send it to scott.wilkinson@sorc.com.

Ron Mayfield's picture

First of all, the site, and the mag are absolutely amazing. I'm a major fan of the (not so new anymore) changes.Now, I'm very frustrated with my TV (Sony KDS-60A2000) and the Optical Block debacle! I don't have an ext warr with Best Buy, and I've gone as far as the Exec Review Committee with Sony. I've even contacted Best Buy Corp, and HSBC (which finances the Best Buy credit card purchases), and no one seems to be able to help me. As you may know, Sony has multiple class action lawsuits against them on this SXRD tech. After a short period, in many cases, yellow staining, green "blobs", "blue" blacks, magenta staining, etc are ruining the picture. Sony has extended the warranty (on the part only) through mid 2010, but they are replacing the OBs with refurbished (if anything)ones! I just had my first replacement, and it came back in worse condition. I still owe quite a bit for this set that was purchased in Nov '06. Do I have any hope of somethin

John Nemesh's picture

It should be noted that the MX-980 is a custom installer product ONLY. An end user does not have access to the software needed to program the remote (and the EULA for the software specifically says "DEALER ONLY"), nor would it be advised that they try!The WORST thing for a customer to do, would be to spend $850 on a remote solution that doesnt work right. A (good) custom installer will not only sell the remote, but program it for them and ensure it does what it is supposed to do.

Rick hawkins's picture

I live in Bothell Wa, and have Comcast cable. They are a nightmare.!!! Am I the only one that has this problem?

Per Schwensen's picture

I agree that Logitech Harmony universal remotes are very good, however I think one of the less expensive models are just as good as the Logitech Harmony One. I prefer buttons to touch screen for a home theater remote so I do not need to look at the remote to find the right spot to "touch".