Upgrade House with Kick'n Theater System

Karen and I upgraded the home theater system. Back on my birthday in August, Karen gave me an AppleTV, which gave me the green light for upgrading home entertainment.

So, the search began.

I was looking to have a setup that would support the current standards for video. I focused my attention on the HDMI standard 1.3a, which would provide me with an integrated video and audio experience on a single cable. This HDMI standard handles all of the capabilities of the Blu-ray and HD DVD players. According to Joseph D. Cornwall of Impact Acoustics,

“The HDMI 1.3a standard increases single-link bandwidth to 340 MHz (10.2 Gbps), which will support demands of future HD display devices incorporating higher resolutions, Deep Color and high frame rates. Keep in mind that previous versions of HDMI are fully capable of 1080p performance.

HDMI 1.3a incorporates automatic audio syncing (lip sync) capability. This is a system that will automatically adjust for the difference in electronic latency between the processing circuits of the sound and image. This discrepancy sometimes manifests itself as a slight delay in the sound compared to the image.

HDMI 1.3a supports output of Dolby TrueHD and DTS-HD Master Audio streams for external decoding by AV receivers. TrueHD and DTS-HD are lossless audio codec formats used on HD DVDs and Blu-ray Discs. If the disc player can decode these streams into uncompressed audio, then HDMI 1.3 is not necessary, as all versions of HDMI can transport uncompressed audio.”

What does all that mean? It boils down to one thing. You get more with the latest standards. So, I started looking around for devices that support HDMI 1.3a, which turns out to be not that many.

I started with the A/V receiver thinking it would be the centerpiece of controlling the system. I started reviewing the high-end Sony receivers, but I saw too many bad reviews. A friend put me onto the Yamaha receivers and I liked what I saw.

I wanted either the Yamaha RX-V1800 or the Yamaha RX-V3800. The key difference is the network capability of the Yamaha RX-V3800. But, the Yamaha RX-V3800 only has an RJ-45 jack and I am running 802.11n around my house. Plus, I have an AppleTV, which gives me more than the capabilities of the Yamaha RX-V3800.

With receiver selection out of the way, I moved onto the screen. I had decided that I didn’t want a projection-based system. I work with them at work all the time and I think highly of them, but I don’t want to spend the kind of money required to get the brightness desired. LCD screens don’t have the size and price that I am looking to get. My father was pushing the Pioneer plasmas. At work, I have Panasonic plasmas. The Panasonic doesn’t have blacks as black as the Pioneer. And, I have had failures on some of the Panasonic units. I focused on the Pioneer KURO PDP-6010FD 60" 1080p Plasma HDTV and Panasonic TH-58PZ750U 58" 1080p plasma HDTV when doing my comparisons. The blacker blacks won out, especially since the price difference is so small.

With the screen selected, I wanted to decide on getting a Blu-ray or HD DVD player. I decided to hold off after looking at the players in the marketplace. Every player is limited in capability or overpriced given what you are getting. But, a deal did come available after I had given up. A number of Blu-ray players were being sold with a rebate providing you 5 free Blu-ray movies. The straw that broke my back was Amazon would give you 2 more free movies. Well, I picked the Sony PlayStation 3 (60GB), which is cheap so I wouldn’t mind upgrading in the future and I get 7 Blu-ray movies. You can’t beat $499 and 7 free movies.

I ordered the HD cable box with integrated TiVo with the limited selection of HD that you can get in Huntsville, Alabama on the Knology cable system.

The whole integrated system includes a Mac Mini for Internet access; a PS3 for movies and games; an AppleTV for music, shows, podcasts, and photos; a Scientific-Atlanta Explorer 8300HD cable box for TV and HD recording; a Panasonic DVR for recording; and the Pioneer 60″ plasma for viewing all with wonderful stuff.


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