Wednesday, October 03, 2007

Home Theater Upgrade



So it's been about 10 yrs since I've upgraded any of the home theater equipment. We finally decided to just replace almost everything.

before shot:


So this is my second HDTV. The upgrade you see in this post is in the family room. My first hdtv is the samsung lnr-409d 40" LCD which sits in the game room. Most of my consoles are hooked up to that tv so I'm going to have to float the ps3 and 360 between the two tv's. I'll most likely play most of the games on the 40" and then watch high definition movies on the 52" (ps3 blu-ray, 360 hd-dvd). UPDATE: I now have two 360's and two ps3's so the only console I float between the two hdtv's is the Wii.

Old Equipment that I'm retiring(purchased 10 yrs ago)
- Mitsubishi 35" CRT TV
- Kenwood vr309 receiver
- front speakers: cerwin vega re-30
- center speaker: some free bose speaker I got when buying the 35" tv
- surround speakers: BOSE 2001 DIRECT REFLECTING SPEAKERS BOOKSHELF
- subwoofer: klipsch SWS, Yamaha YST-SW40, some $30 aiwa sub (yes I had 3 hooked up)
- furniture: matching tv stand, some cheap stereo rack, and bookshelf.
- Panasonic VHS VCR.
- Pioneer Laser Disc Player

Existing Equipment I kept:
- Philips dvp 642 Progressive Scan DVD Player
- HTPC (needs to be upgraded and soon. UPDATE: I just built a new one!)
- Surround speaker stands
- Harmony 676 remote
- a few cables but most I had to replace. Bought them from monoprice of course.
- PS3 60GB.

New equipment:
- Sharp Aquos LC-52D64U 52" LCD HDTV
- Onkyo TX-SR705 receiver
- speakers: Definitive Technology ProCinema 1000 Plus: 4X ProMonitor 1000, ProCenter 2000, ProSub 1000
- furniture: BDI Avion 8529 (espresso)
- Scientific Atlanta Explorer 8300HDC (DVR, Live TV, Time shifting)
- Scientific Atlanta Explorer 3250HD (hooked up by firewire to htpc for channel changing and capturing premium content to the pc though only through s-video standard definition)
- Monoprice 5X1 HDMI switch (REV 2.1)
- Got a second new XBOX 360 with HDMI and moved my existing hd-dvd drive from my old 360 to this new one.

High resolution shots are included for all of the following. Just click on the photo after the jump.

Sharp Aquos LC-52D64U 52" LCD HDTV
Casino Royal (ps3 -> hdmi 1080p, hdmi audio linear pcm -> multi channel 5.1 pcm)

Chuck (SA 8300HD -> hdmi 1080i)

Heavenly Sword (ps3 720p)


HTPC (ati 9600 pro, dvi -> hdmi, 1920X1080 @ 60hz, spdif digital coax)

laptop (9600 pro turbo vga at 1920X1080 60hz)

- Purchased directly from sharp through friends and family deal. I got it for $1800 free shipping plus tax which makes out to around $1950.
- Three HDMI 1.3a ports.
- The 64U model is their latest line that just came out which makes it 25% thinner than the previous line (62U) and lighter.
- Clear QAM works just fine.
- Good system of favorite channels (4 separate buttons each which you can add 5 channels to cycle through).
- All shots are on "standard" settings with no calibration or tweaking.
- The grey shot(1920X1080 jpeg) above shows pretty good back light uniformity. There is little to no banding/clouding. UPDATE: If you really go looking for banding, you can sometimes pick it out during uniform grey scenes (think clouds or something) and the camera pans vertically. Once you see it you tend to go looking for it. It really isn't that bad and isn't a deal breaker for me. It's odd how it's only visible during a camera pan but not a static screen shot.
- I also played around a bit with TVblink. I found one stuck green pixel in the upper left corner. I don't notice it during normal viewing so it's no big deal.
- on the ps3 I tested:
Casino Royal(blu-ray) - Watched the first action scene which looked stunning in 1080p.
- Ninja Gaiden Sigma (1080p), Gran Turismo (1080p), Heavenly Sword, Motorstorm, Ridge Racer 7 (1080p) which all looked fine. No ghosting, motion looked as good as any LCD, response was good, no lag.
- On resistance fall of man I tried their fast motion tech and turned it on and off and I couldn't tell any difference while panning the view 360. It pretty much looked the same so I left it off.
- For response/lag testing I tried Blastfactor(1080p) and Super Stardust HD(1080p) and both felt fine.
- Watched some standard definition analog live and some pre-recorded stuff. It looked quite a bit better than my samsung lnr-409d. Of course it still won't match a SD TV but I was pleasantly surprised.
- Haven't noticed any audio sync issues.
- Blacks are really great on this TV.
- Tips on getting DVI to hdmi to work with ati. Just make sure you are running the latest catalyst drivers and uncheck "Reduce DVI Frequency"
- I tried hooking my laptop up to the tv through vga. I actually was able to display it at a full 1920X1080 60hz contrary to what the manual says. The only issue I had was I couldn't get it to fill the screen completely. I tried adjusting it in the ati drivers and the tv. This could be because my laptop is pretty old and the drivers are pretty out of date.
Overall I'm really happy with the TV especially for the price.

Onkyo TX-SR705 Receiver

- This model just came out and has been selling out a lot. I got it from ABT. Talk to Robert 888-228-5800 X2787 which will make you a very fair deal. I got it for $640 shipped.
- Discrete IR for all the inputs.
- I love how it converts everything to HDMI. Basically I plug everything into this receiver (all the way down to composite) and this receiver will output it through hdmi. This means I only have one cable going from the receiver to the tv. It sure makes things much simpler.
- It has 3 component, 3 hdmi, 3 digital coax, and 2 optical (why not 3? UPDATE: actually there are 3. I forgot about the 3rd optical up front under aux). When you use any of the component or hdmi inputs you first have to map it to a device button. That basically overrides any of the standard definition (composite/svideo) inputs for that device. They only give you 5 devices to map to (dvd, vcr/dvr, cbl/sat, game/tv, aux). Why not six??!!!??? This basically means you can only have 5 out of the 6 HD inputs mapped at any point in time. If you need 6 well then you have to go into setup and remap every time you want to swap between your 5th and 6th HD device. It really is kind of annoying. This really is a gui/software issue and not a hardware limitation and could have been "fixed" so easily. And yes you can easily fill up six HD inputs (hdmi: sa 8300hd dvr, htpc, ps3; component: dvd player, 360, wii). I float my 360 and ps3 between the upstairs game room and the downstairs family room or I could have ditched the stand alone dvd player I guess.
- Mapping the digital audio (3 coax, 3 optical) to any of the 6 HD inputs is easily done.
- I like the OSD and the ability to set everything up using menus on your TV. Everything is also duplicated on the display on the receiver so a TV isn't required to set things up. OSD for volumne changes is nice but doesn't show up for HDMI sources since the signal is just passed through in that case which is a good thing.
- There are a ton of listening modes. I've just been sticking to surround and all channel stereo for music. I still need to play with all those THX modes.
- I tried the auto speaker setup thing with the mic. It's not a bad starting point. I thought the distances and speaker levels were pretty good but I'm still tweaking the crossover frequencies (which you have full control over each set of speakers). I'm experimenting with 90hz on all speakers and LFE at 120hz with the actual crossover on the sub set to the highest setting so that way I control all crossover settings on the receiver. Sub is connected through a single LFE RCA cable.
- Music and movies sound good to me. I tried a few mp3's, and I like the all channel stereo mode.
Price, performance, feature set, are all great except the lack of one more device mapping. Other than that I highly recommend this receiver.

Definitive Technology ProCinema 1000 Plus
ProMonitor 1000

ProSub 1000

ProCenter 2000

- I also picked these up from ABT after talking to Robert. I got the entire set for $1340 shipped.
- They sound good to me and the wife likes the size and look of them so I guess everybody is happy. Does a good job of filling the room with sound.
- I didn't want to spend much more than this on speakers, and I think there are diminishing returns after a certain point. I'm no audiophile so they are plenty good enough for me.
Highly recommended

BDI Avion 8529 (espresso)

Vents and sliding/removable back panel:

- Picked this up from the Home Theater Store for $1800. It's a nice piece of oak furniture but it sure ain't cheap. I would have been happy with just a $200 metal glass stand from costco. But I have to admit it. The BDI sure does look nice.
- I required something I could expand in the future (fit a 65" TV and additional components) and has good cooling. The wife was all about the looks. Many of the pieces we looked at in furniture stores were basically giant wood ovens!
- For cooling it has slits in the bottom and the back. The back panels slide or you can easily just remove them. It has pretty good cable management. I like the center speaker drawer. Smoked glass passes IR through fine though I think I prefer metal mesh (for even more cooling). Yes, I'm paranoid of heat and electronics.
- It's a nice 77" long so putting the front speakers on the edges gives pretty good separation.
- Side shelves are adjustable.

BDI Fan Mod



- Yes I'm obsessed with cooling. So I wanted to add some low speed 12cm DC fans to get some active cooling in the cabinet. AC fans are expensive and noisy. PC fans should work great but I didn't want to use a big pc power supply.
- USB to IDE cable with AC adapter. The should work perfectly. All I'm going to use out of this box is the power supply. It provides your standard +12v (and +5v) molex connector and 2A which should be enough to power about 10 fans at .2A each.
The SATA version works fine too or try this.
- Enermax Marathon 120mm Fan. I bought 6 but you should get at least 4. Here is a nice review.
- molex splitters
- molex extensions
- 3 to 2 pin on the ac power plug to remove the ground so you can connect it directly into the ac outlet on the back of the receiver. This way the fans turn on/off with the receiver.
- Each fan comes with a 3pin to 4pin converter and has a built in split so you probably don't need that many dedicated splitters.
- You might want to get some fan grills. This is mostly for any additional fans you might want to put near the rear of the cabinet.
- Velcro dots to attach the fans to the cabinet
- So the idea is to attach a fan to each of the air slits in the floor of the cabinet. That would be a total of 4 fans forcing air into the cabinets. You can't see them at all unless you stick your head on the floor.
- I'm a bit worried about dust but since the fans won't be on 24/7 (only when the receiver is on) hopefully it won't get too bad.
- I've got 6 fans so far: 4 attached to the bottom, 1 blowing across the top of the receiver, another one cooling the sa 3250hd.
- So far this solution is working great. You can't even hear the fans unless the room is quiet and you are within 3 ft of the fans.

Miscellaneous:


So after everything is all said and done the upgrade ran close to 6K and 8hrs of labor (wiring, cable management, labeling, etc). I'm sure we will be enjoying it for at least 10 yrs if not a lot longer.

UPDATE: 10/5/2007

TV Settings:
I tweaked some of my TV settings. I started with this set from baloo75:

from there I changed:
backlight +5
contrast +32
brightness 0

OPC off
I/P Setting: fast
active contrast off
fine motion off

XBOX 360
Temporary xbox 360 with hd-dvd drive setup:

Halo 3(XBOX 360 component direct to TV. 360 set to 1080p output so games are scaled to 1080p, hd-dvd movies are 1080i)

Geometry Wars(Scored pretty well for my 2nd game of the night. There is little to no lag between controller input and the display)

The Last Starfighter (hd-dvd)

The Chronicles of Riddick (hd-dvd)


So I temporarily hooked up the 360 to the new TV. I have an older 360 without HDMI so my only options were VGA and component. Here is what I found out:
- 1080p over VGA does NOT work.
Tried to set 1080p but all I got was this:

1360X768 works fine though
UPDATE: Apparently if you wait at the invalid signal screen for 10 seconds or so, it will eventually start working! I'll test this out tonight and see if I can get 1080p over vga.
UPDATE 2: I guess I was pretty tired when I was doing the 360 vga 1080p tests last night. I think it was working but it was taking so long, when it came back asking me to accept the changes, I just assumed it failed. In fact 1080p works just fine over vga it just takes like 10 seconds before it kicks in.

- Next I tried using component through the receiver. That worked up to 1080i but not 1080p. The receiver doesn't have the bandwidth/processing power to convert analog 1080p to digital 1080p hdmi. The best it can do is 1080i component -> 720p hdmi. You can see details here. (It's for the 605 but seems to apply to the 705 too)

quote:
Option 2) component in -> HDMI out (Hidden menu set to Auto)
480i component -> 605 -> 480p HDMI ->TV
720p component -> 605 -> 720p HDMI ->TV
1080i component -> 605 -> 720p HDMI ->TV
1080p component -> 605 -> NO OUTPUT FROM 605 (This could be an isolated HDCP thing)

- The other option is of course hook up a set of component cables between the receiver output into the TV component input. Then the receiver will just pass through the 1080p component signal. I didn't get to try this since I'm out of component cables. I have some on order. Yeah I could use some cheap composite cables I have but I think I'll wait for the good stuff. So I connected the 360 directly to the TV through component and the the audio through optical to the receiver.
- I played some halo 3, geometry wars, and a couple of hd-dvd movies.
It all looked very good and there was no controller/display/audio lag that I could detect.

Audio Sync testing:
- These tests were done with a 5.1 setup in surround (dd 5.1) listen mode. I didn't try any of the other listen modes like THX. HDMI sync is off and audio sync is 40ms.
I've tested the following with no noticeable audio sync issues or controller/display lag.
- ps3, hdmi, 1080p, blu-ray movies - no issues
- ps3, hdmi, 1080p, 720p, games
- philips dvp 642 dvd player, 480p, component -> hdmi
- sa 8300hd, hdmi, 720p, 1080i
- XBOX 360 component direct to TV, optical audio to receiver, movies, games, 720p, 1080i

If you are having audio sync issues then have a look here.

You can check the temperature of the receiver through some hidden menus. After about 40 min of music on all channel stereo my temp never goes above 104F (cabinet door closed, fans on). Firmware: main 1.02./07712b

UPDATE: 10/17/07
So I moved the fan that was behind the receiver to on top of the receiver near the back right corner. Now, it sucks air out of the top vents and blows it out.
So now I have one fan below the receiver forcing air in through the bottom:


and another on top pulling hot air out:


Temps dropped from a max of 104f to 96f.

UPDATE: 10/19/07



Currently all my HDMI ports on my receiver are being used:
htpc, ps3, and sa 8300hdc dvr. If I want to add another hdmi device (say maybe a new 360) then I'm going to need an hdmi switch.

I just got the Monoprice 5X1 HDMI switch (REV 2.1):

hdmi path:
device -> monoprice switch -> Onkyo TX-SR705 receiver(input 1) -> Sharp Aquos LC-52D64U (input 5)

- About $50 + shipping.
- Nice remote with discrete input selection
- Works just fine with the harmony remote
- What I did was stick this in front of the onkyo sr705 receiver. Basically I can feed in 5 hdmi devices into the monoprice switch and then the monoprice switch is hooked to one of the inputs on the onkyo receiver. At first I was using hdmi input 3 on the onkyo and I had all sorts of issues. My SA 8300 DVR and ps3 wouldn't work on ports 1-3 but worked fine on ports 4-5. After moving it to hdmi input 1 on the onkyo everything worked great.
I tested the following:

PS3 blu-ray move (fantastic 4 rise of the silver surfer, 1080p, 5.1 pcm audio)
htpc with ati 9600 pro using dvi->HDMI
scientific atlanta 8300hdc
XBOX 360 with HDMI

All 4 devices worked fine on all 5 ports.


Highly recommended if you can get it to work with all your equipment. For me I just had to use a different hdmi input on my receiver. YMMV.

Discussion on the switch:
http://www.avsforum.com/avs-vb/showthread.php?t=640183
Other HDMI switches:
http://www.avsforum.com/avs-vb/showthread.php?t=786829

UPDATE: 1/23/08
- so for kicks I decided to flash the new firmware(U0709111) on the sharp 52d64u. Just make sure you meet the serial number requirements and follow the instructions carefully. I had an ancient lexar jump drive 128mb that I formatted to FAT (not fat32). It worked perfectly. Also, my TV settings were retained.
- Here is a list of changes. I really didn't notice any difference.




UPDATE: 3/3/08
I just built a new htpc.

UPDATE:9/9/08
For a more detailed test on Input Lag visit here:
http://blog.arogan.com/2008/09/lcd-hdtv-input-lag-tests.html

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