Publishers of technology books, eBooks, and videos for creative people

Home > Articles > Gadgets and Digital Lifestyle

Home Theater Upgrade Diary Part 2: Audio and Video Components

  • Print
  • + Share This
Continuing his series on the successes and problems of setting up a new home theater system, writer Michael Miller explains how he chose the audio and video components of his new home theater system — and how they worked out.

In Part 1 of this three-part series, I told you about my plans for a new home theater system. After deciding on what type of system to buy, it was time for the hard work—installing and configuring the main components.

The Television: Sony 60-inch LCD RPTV

We'll start with the visual centerpiece of my new home theater system: the television display. I wanted something in the 55–60-inch range, which meant going with some sort of rear projection set. (You can't find traditional CRT television sets anywhere near that big.)

Originally, I'd been thinking about a plasma flat panel display, but several factors ruled that out. First, the price; I'd anticipated prices for a 50-inch plasma dropping to $5,000 by this point in time, and that hasn't happened—at least not for quality sets. Second, the burn-in factor; plasma sets suffer from burn-in and ghosting of static images, and because I prefer to watch my 4:3 programming unstretched (with windowpanes on the side), I didn't want to risk burning in the pillars.

So my choice was down to some sort of rear projector. I ruled out a CRT projector as being too big and bulky and non-state-of-the-art, which narrowed things down to either DLP or LCD microdisplay technology. (At this point, LCoS isn't really a player.)

I did extensive viewing tests, and seriously considered one of Mitsubishi's DLP models. (I earlier ruled out Samsung's DLP sets, despite their popularity because I have trouble considering Samsung as a high-end alternative; this is strictly a personal issue for me, and not a knock on their products.) However, I'm one of those rare individuals who see "rainbows" resulting from the DLP's rotating color wheel. In addition, I tend to notice a significant amount of digital noise and artifacts in most DLP pictures, and I'm not overly fond of the artificially vivid colors typical of DLP technology. Bottom line, I wasn't sold on DLPs.

This led me to the LCD rear projectors. The most popular LCD RPTVs today are made by Sony, and it's easy to see why. To my eyes, Sony's LCD sets display a more natural, more film-like quality than that found on the DLP models. Plus, LCD sets don't generate rainbows—and, as far as I can tell, digital noise and artifacts are less of a problem. So Sony was my brand of choice.

I went with the 60-inch model KDF-60XS955, which cost around $3700. The XS line is a step-up line that offers slightly better color rendition and a greater variety of configuration options than Sony's base WEGA models. The setup controls proved especially useful when it came time to adjust the set for optimal picture quality.

The purchase made, it was time to take delivery. Right out of the box, the Sony was a joy to behold. At just 113 lbs., it's at least 100 pounds lighter than the 40-inch Mitsubishi CRT set it replaced; that's the difference between microdisplay projectors and old-style CRT models. Initial setup was a snap; it worked perfectly out of the box, minimal adjustments necessary. The dual NTSC/ATSC tuners and CableCARD capability meant I could use it on digital cable without a set top box if I so desired, although this ended up not being a viable option. (More on this when I discuss HDTV over cable Part 3 of this series.) Programming the tuner was as easy as pressing a button and letting it scan through the available channels; this took about 10 minutes, a little longer than I expected.

To obtain the best possible picture, I ventured into Sony's advanced setup menu. The first thing I changed was the overall picture mode setting. Sony offers three settings: Standard, Vivid, and Pro. The default setting, unfortunately, was Vivid, which might look good in a brightly lit retail display room, but is extreme overkill in any normal living room. I changed the picture mode to the Pro setting, where I could then access additional controls.

I could have adjusted the picture just by eyeballing the screen, but decided on a more professional approach, which entailed the use of the AVIA Guide to Home Theater DVD. The AVIA disc includes a number of adjustment screens and tests, and walks you step by step through the necessary procedures. Using the AVIA disc, I was able to really fine-tune all aspects of the picture. In my case, that meant increasing the contrast (picture) level to the max, slightly decreasing the brightness, and slightly increasing both color and sharpness. I then delved into the pro-level adjustments, tweaking the white balance via R-G-B gain and bias controls. I spent about a half-hour making these adjustments, and the resulting picture is stunning, with a perfect balance between whites and blacks and superb color rendition.

Another nice thing about the Sony is its plethora of video inputs. You get two coaxial inputs (which accept both NTSC and ATSC over-the-air digital signals), four sets of composite video/S-Video inputs, two sets of component video inputs, and two HDMI inputs. The HDMI inputs are a new thing, which enable a direct digital connection from a similar digital video source. In my case, I used the two HDMI inputs for my DVD player and my HD cable box; I connected my Media Center PC via component video.

You also get the standard stereo line audio outputs, as well as an optical digital audio output. This way you can feed the Dolby Digital signals from over-the-air HDTV broadcasts to your A/V receiver (or, in my case, the preamp/processor unit). Although the Sony has a fairly nice internal speaker system, this is something I always disable in favor of feeding the sound through the larger home theater surround sound system.

The Sony includes a number of advanced operating features that are pretty nifty, but unfortunately aren't usable when you're using an external tuner, such as a cable or satellite box. The most interesting is the twin picture option, which puts pictures from two different channels side-by-side on the screen. You can use the remote to resize each picture in relation to the other, which is a vast improvement over the traditional picture-in-picture control. Alas, this feature doesn't work when you're feeding the video signal from a cable set top box, which is a waste of attractive technology.

Other than that slight annoyance, which really isn't Sony's fault, I'm very pleased with the Sony rear projector. It's a very bright picture, even with all the living room lights on, and the picture quality—especially with an HDTV source—is simply stunning. Some people complain that LCD projectors don't offer true black levels, but Sony has obviously improved this aspect of performance in its current models; blacks look pretty darn black to me, especially after making adjustments with the AVIA disc.

For anyone investing in this type of set, my recommendation is to spend a few extra bucks and the necessary time to fine-tune the picture with the AVIA DVD. The difference between my fine-tuned picture and the picture out of the box is significant—as good as this set looked on the showroom floor, it looks twice as good when properly adjusted for my living room.

  • + Share This
  • 🔖 Save To Your Account

Peachpit Promotional Mailings & Special Offers

I would like to receive exclusive offers and hear about products from Peachpit and its family of brands. I can unsubscribe at any time.

Overview


Pearson Education, Inc., 221 River Street, Hoboken, New Jersey 07030, (Pearson) presents this site to provide information about Peachpit products and services that can be purchased through this site.

This privacy notice provides an overview of our commitment to privacy and describes how we collect, protect, use and share personal information collected through this site. Please note that other Pearson websites and online products and services have their own separate privacy policies.

Collection and Use of Information


To conduct business and deliver products and services, Pearson collects and uses personal information in several ways in connection with this site, including:

Questions and Inquiries

For inquiries and questions, we collect the inquiry or question, together with name, contact details (email address, phone number and mailing address) and any other additional information voluntarily submitted to us through a Contact Us form or an email. We use this information to address the inquiry and respond to the question.

Online Store

For orders and purchases placed through our online store on this site, we collect order details, name, institution name and address (if applicable), email address, phone number, shipping and billing addresses, credit/debit card information, shipping options and any instructions. We use this information to complete transactions, fulfill orders, communicate with individuals placing orders or visiting the online store, and for related purposes.

Surveys

Pearson may offer opportunities to provide feedback or participate in surveys, including surveys evaluating Pearson products, services or sites. Participation is voluntary. Pearson collects information requested in the survey questions and uses the information to evaluate, support, maintain and improve products, services or sites; develop new products and services; conduct educational research; and for other purposes specified in the survey.

Contests and Drawings

Occasionally, we may sponsor a contest or drawing. Participation is optional. Pearson collects name, contact information and other information specified on the entry form for the contest or drawing to conduct the contest or drawing. Pearson may collect additional personal information from the winners of a contest or drawing in order to award the prize and for tax reporting purposes, as required by law.

Newsletters

If you have elected to receive email newsletters or promotional mailings and special offers but want to unsubscribe, simply email ask@peachpit.com.

Service Announcements

On rare occasions it is necessary to send out a strictly service related announcement. For instance, if our service is temporarily suspended for maintenance we might send users an email. Generally, users may not opt-out of these communications, though they can deactivate their account information. However, these communications are not promotional in nature.

Customer Service

We communicate with users on a regular basis to provide requested services and in regard to issues relating to their account we reply via email or phone in accordance with the users' wishes when a user submits their information through our Contact Us form.

Other Collection and Use of Information


Application and System Logs

Pearson automatically collects log data to help ensure the delivery, availability and security of this site. Log data may include technical information about how a user or visitor connected to this site, such as browser type, type of computer/device, operating system, internet service provider and IP address. We use this information for support purposes and to monitor the health of the site, identify problems, improve service, detect unauthorized access and fraudulent activity, prevent and respond to security incidents and appropriately scale computing resources.

Web Analytics

Pearson may use third party web trend analytical services, including Google Analytics, to collect visitor information, such as IP addresses, browser types, referring pages, pages visited and time spent on a particular site. While these analytical services collect and report information on an anonymous basis, they may use cookies to gather web trend information. The information gathered may enable Pearson (but not the third party web trend services) to link information with application and system log data. Pearson uses this information for system administration and to identify problems, improve service, detect unauthorized access and fraudulent activity, prevent and respond to security incidents, appropriately scale computing resources and otherwise support and deliver this site and its services.

Cookies and Related Technologies

This site uses cookies and similar technologies to personalize content, measure traffic patterns, control security, track use and access of information on this site, and provide interest-based messages and advertising. Users can manage and block the use of cookies through their browser. Disabling or blocking certain cookies may limit the functionality of this site.

Do Not Track

This site currently does not respond to Do Not Track signals.

Security


Pearson uses appropriate physical, administrative and technical security measures to protect personal information from unauthorized access, use and disclosure.

Children


This site is not directed to children under the age of 13.

Marketing


Pearson may send or direct marketing communications to users, provided that

  • Pearson will not use personal information collected or processed as a K-12 school service provider for the purpose of directed or targeted advertising.
  • Such marketing is consistent with applicable law and Pearson's legal obligations.
  • Pearson will not knowingly direct or send marketing communications to an individual who has expressed a preference not to receive marketing.
  • Where required by applicable law, express or implied consent to marketing exists and has not been withdrawn.

Pearson may provide personal information to a third party service provider on a restricted basis to provide marketing solely on behalf of Pearson or an affiliate or customer for whom Pearson is a service provider. Marketing preferences may be changed at any time.

Correcting/Updating Personal Information


If a user's personally identifiable information changes (such as your postal address or email address), we provide a way to correct or update that user's personal data provided to us. This can be done on the Account page. If a user no longer desires our service and desires to delete his or her account, please contact us at customer-service@informit.com and we will process the deletion of a user's account.

Choice/Opt-out


Users can always make an informed choice as to whether they should proceed with certain services offered by Adobe Press. If you choose to remove yourself from our mailing list(s) simply visit the following page and uncheck any communication you no longer want to receive: www.peachpit.com/u.aspx.

Sale of Personal Information


Pearson does not rent or sell personal information in exchange for any payment of money.

While Pearson does not sell personal information, as defined in Nevada law, Nevada residents may email a request for no sale of their personal information to NevadaDesignatedRequest@pearson.com.

Supplemental Privacy Statement for California Residents


California residents should read our Supplemental privacy statement for California residents in conjunction with this Privacy Notice. The Supplemental privacy statement for California residents explains Pearson's commitment to comply with California law and applies to personal information of California residents collected in connection with this site and the Services.

Sharing and Disclosure


Pearson may disclose personal information, as follows:

  • As required by law.
  • With the consent of the individual (or their parent, if the individual is a minor)
  • In response to a subpoena, court order or legal process, to the extent permitted or required by law
  • To protect the security and safety of individuals, data, assets and systems, consistent with applicable law
  • In connection the sale, joint venture or other transfer of some or all of its company or assets, subject to the provisions of this Privacy Notice
  • To investigate or address actual or suspected fraud or other illegal activities
  • To exercise its legal rights, including enforcement of the Terms of Use for this site or another contract
  • To affiliated Pearson companies and other companies and organizations who perform work for Pearson and are obligated to protect the privacy of personal information consistent with this Privacy Notice
  • To a school, organization, company or government agency, where Pearson collects or processes the personal information in a school setting or on behalf of such organization, company or government agency.

Links


This web site contains links to other sites. Please be aware that we are not responsible for the privacy practices of such other sites. We encourage our users to be aware when they leave our site and to read the privacy statements of each and every web site that collects Personal Information. This privacy statement applies solely to information collected by this web site.

Requests and Contact


Please contact us about this Privacy Notice or if you have any requests or questions relating to the privacy of your personal information.

Changes to this Privacy Notice


We may revise this Privacy Notice through an updated posting. We will identify the effective date of the revision in the posting. Often, updates are made to provide greater clarity or to comply with changes in regulatory requirements. If the updates involve material changes to the collection, protection, use or disclosure of Personal Information, Pearson will provide notice of the change through a conspicuous notice on this site or other appropriate way. Continued use of the site after the effective date of a posted revision evidences acceptance. Please contact us if you have questions or concerns about the Privacy Notice or any objection to any revisions.

Last Update: November 17, 2020