Home Theatre Archives (35 posts)

BD-Live Is A Waste Of Time

I’ve had a Blu-ray player for over a year now and as far as I can tell, BD-Live is a complete waste of time.

No Web No BD-Live

If your Blu-ray player isn’t connected to the Internet then you can’t access BD-Live features. My Sony BDP-S350 Blu-ray disc player doesn’t have a wi-fi connection and needs an ethernet connection to get online.

Wi-Fi Rules

My Wii has built-in Wi-Fi and makes it super easy to get online. If Blu-ray player manufacturers want consumers to waste their time with BD-Live then make it easy! Add built-in Wi-Fi to your players! There are a few Blu-ray players on the market now that have built-in wi-fi. Sony is just now releasing a Wi-Fi player but it won’t be available until August - Sony BDP-S560.

What is BD-Live?

It’s taken me over a year to really want to know what BD-Live is. Sony describes it on their site as:

a newly developed Blu-ray feature that enables you to access content via your internet-connected Blu-ray player. BD-Live can allow you to download a variety of up-to-date content (e.g., refreshed previews and exclusive special features), and can also enable an exciting state of the next generation possibilities, such as ringtone/wallpaper downloads, peer to peer interactions, live events and gaming activities.

Yawn. Apparently exciting state of the next generation possibilities means “IM friends while watching the movie and comment on your favorite scenes”. This is the one feature that is common discs for Ghostbusters, The International and The Da Vinci Code.

Useless Features

C’mon. Are you really going to use your remote and a crappy messaging interface on your TV to chat with friends? No. You’re probably going to pick up your BlackBerry or iPhone and communicate with them instead through text messages, tweets, email, or gasp, voice!

BD-Live wants to engage the user and put them at the center of the movie experience. My question is why? When did consumers start asking for this? Watch this rather unconvincing demo of BD-Live on YouTube. BD-Live is nothing more than a cheap gimmick to sell Blu-ray disc players and older movies in the studio catalogs.

If the studios want to sell more Blu-ray players and movies they should stop wasting their R&D dollars on BD-Live. Nobody wants useless “interactive features” when they watch a movie. Lower the price of the players, lower the price of the movies and sales will increase.

Posted in Home Theatre and Movies at 7:37 PM

What Are LED TVs?

So you think you’re a home theatre buff but do you really know the difference between LED TV, LCD TV and OLED TV? Didn’t think so. Neither did I.

Before you go and buy a new HDTV you may want to visitHDTV Almanac and understand why LED TVs are really just LCD TVs.

Posted in Home Theatre at 11:23 PM

Free HDTV in Toronto

The antenna is making a comeback in Toronto. People are buying a antenna’s to pick up free HDTV signals from Toronto, Hamilton and Buffalo. In some cases you may need to buy some coaxial cable and an HDTV tuner but that’s nothing compared to what it costs to watch HDTV on cable and satellite these days. To

I use Bell ExpressVu to get my HDTV programming. Last month my bill jumped from $85 to $90 per month. No explanation given. I guess Bell’s profits are down.

The satellite bill is a business write-off for me but I can’t believe that I pay that much to watch television. When I was a kid we watched TV for free. We had an antenna on our roof that was hooked up to a dial on the top of the TV set. The dial was hooked up to a small motor that could rotate the antenna and improve your reception.

I download the shows that I miss (don’t have a PVR) and hardly watch any of the movie channels I pay for. I bet that I could buy all of the TV shows I actually watch, from iTunes, and I would be paying far less thatn $90 a month. Television is going to change a lot in the next couple of years. No wonder the cable and satellite companies are looking for handouts from the CRTC.

The only thing keeping me tied to satellite TV are some of the specialty channels that my wife likes to watch. It’s the only way she can watch the shows that she directs and produces. The consolation is that we can use the satellite bill as a business expense. Still, I hate paying ridiculous amounts of money to an oligopoly like Bell Canada.

See How to get free HDTV at thestar.com for more information.

Posted in Home Theatre and Technology and Television at 12:03 PM

MUJI CD Player


The MUJI CD Player is featured at the beginning of Gary Hustwit’s latest documentary film that deals with the design of manufactured objects - Objectified.

It’s a wall-mounted CD player that you turn on and off by pulling on the cable that hangs out of the bottom of the player.

The design is compact and functional. The audio controls are on the top of the player and the speakers are built-in to the case. As cool as this CD player is, I think the price is a little steep at $180.

You can see the MUJI CD Player in action by watching the Objectified movie trailer.

Posted in Home Theatre at 11:56 PM

Designing a Home Theater on a Budget

Every movie enthusiasts dream is to one day have an incredible home theater in their own home. As the picture and sound quality continues to improve in the realm of digital home media, there is little reason to take a trip to the local cinema anymore. Why compete with crowds and crying children when you could enjoy the movie going experience without ever having to leave your home? The only issue is, home theaters aren’t exactly cheap and in this economy investing in a home theater may seem like much more of a luxury than a necessity. That may be true, but that doesn’t mean you can’t build your own home theater on a budget. Here are a few simple steps you can take to build a great theater in your own home without breaking the bank.

For starters, don’t hire a professional to design and install your home theater. If money is a factor, you could quickly burn through your budget on design plans alone. The key is simplicity. Sure a fancy wall mounted projector screen, surround sound speakers, and authentic movie theater seating would be nice, but none of these things are needed to build a great home theater. With a little creativity and ingenuity, you can design a quality theater at a fraction of the cost.

The most important part of any home theater is the screen. Whether you are using a projector screen or a plasma TV, you’re going to need a place to store it. A projector screen would help you enjoy a more traditional home theater experience. Depending on the size of your room, you may want to purchase either a wall mounted screen or a portable screen. Mounting a projector screen on the wall is simple, and it will help give your theater a more professional look, while a portable screen can be easily rolled up for space saving storage. A portable screen can also be used in other rooms, if you suspect you’ll be using it in rooms other than your theater. Investing in an HD projector and screen can be rather pricey however, in most cases a pre-existing plasma TV may be a better route.

Plasma TV’s are a very popular choice, as high definition TV’s have made some tremendous strides in picture clarity over the past few years. In terms of presenting your TV, you can choose to either set it on top of a modern plasma TV stand or you can have it mounted on the wall. Wall mounted plasma TV’s are the ultimate in modern entertainment and while it may look difficult, mounting a TV is a simple job. No need to hire an installer, all you need is a screw driver and a few sets of hands to help your hold the TV in place.

In terms of stereo sound, if you have an amplifier and a set of speakers, it is easy to set up your own surround sound system. Speaker mounts are inexpensive and can be easily mounted to your wall. If you have the money, consider picking up some wireless speakers to help avoid bothersome wires. By positioning your speakers behind your theater seating, you will experience the greatness of surround sound, without paying a fortune for the latest sound system. You’d be surprised at the quality sound that some inexpensive speakers can offer.

Posted in Home Theatre at 5:02 PM

Cheap HDMI cables and picture quality

You don’t have to spend a fortune on expensive HDMI cable to get great picture quality with your HDTV or Blu-Ray player. I’ve mentioned before that expensive HDMI cables are a waste of money.

Cheap HDMI cables are just as good as the expensive HDMI cables and don’t have a noticeable effect on picture quality.

My brother was looking for some inexpensive HDMI cable and found that the discussion on redflagdeals.ca was suggesting some 12-foot cable from Zellers of all places. You’ll have to go to an actual Zellers store because their website is like a ghost town with very little inventory.

For $12.97 you can get a 12-foot HDMI cable - a “cheap brand out of Quebec that is made in China and called Chateau.”

After testing the HDMI cable with a Rogers HD PVR he was impressed with the results:

Did a comparison with the ThunderCable brand that I paid $45 for last month (and that is only 6’) and couldn’t tell the difference.

I’ve gone through a lot of home theatre forums and talked to quite a few people about expensive vs. cheap HDMI cable and nobody has ever complained about picture quality.

Posted in Home Theatre at 11:01 PM

AMC Theatres have terrible projection

Why do I have to visit a film festival or a home theatre to watch a movie projected properly? I’m sick of going to AMC Theatres and paying a premium for movies that are poorly projected.

AMC Kennedy Commons 20 is consistently bad when it comes to poor projection and they have the most expensive ticket prices in the city at $12.50 (CDN)! Last year I watched No Country For Old Men and their theatre and the experience was awful. The entire length of the film was slightly out of focus, projected on a five degree angle and had a bright flicker all the way through. One patron stood up and yelled that he was getting his money back.

I left the theatre to find a manager and complained about the projection as well. He gave me a couple of free passes and admitted that there was a problem with the projector. Instead of canceling the screenings until the projector could be fixed AMC just carried on like everything was fine and probably figured that the stupid public would never notice.

Yesterday I watched Valkyrie at AMC Whitby 24. The entire freaking movie was out of focus! What the hell is wrong with AMC? What’s wrong with the audience that they put up with this crap?

Disappearing Projectionists

Part of the problem is that most movie houses aren’t using projectionists anymore. According to Torontoist, AMC’s newest theatre at Yonge and Dundas has 24 screens with more people running the concession stand than the projectors:

Instead of projectionists, there are one or two non-union workers overseeing all 24 screens from a single console; their duties are essentially limited to pressing a “play” button and being aware of any error messages that might pop up.

To be fair to AMC, most movie theatres are guilty of poor projection and sound. I don’t know how many out of focus documentary films I’ve watched at the Bloor Theatre. They have a speaker on the east wall that has been crackling for the last 3 years as well. Maybe I should complain more but I don’t think the theatre owners care.

First Run Films

Why should I pay $12.50 to watch a film and another $10 for popcorn when I can watch a movie in Blu-Ray at home that has more clarity than anything I’ve seen in any movie theatre to date? First run films. I like to see movies when they are first released and unfortunately that means lousy projection at the cineplex. You might think that digital projection is the answer but read You Pay Thirteen Bucks, And What Do You Get?

I suppose I could download the screeners that are floating around on the BitTorrent sites but I prefer quality over crap. Most of the DivX movies that are “free” suffer from really poor quality, lack of surround sound and audio drift. I can’t watch a movie that sounds like a poorly dubbed marshall arts movie. And not to sound self-righteous but there is also the whole piracy thing. If people continue to steal movies the industry will continue to suffer but that’s another rant.

Posted in Home Theatre and Movies at 10:04 AM

Sony Blu-ray player on sale at Future Shop

Future Shop is having a 2 day sale (Dec 16-17) that includes the Sony BDP-S350 Blu-ray player for $229.99.

I picked up the Sony BDP-S350 at Future Shop for $249.99 when it was on sale about a month ago. The normal price is $269.99 at Best Buy and Blockbuster Video. To sweeten the deal you get 3 Blu-ray movies (Kingdom of Heaven, I Robot, Devil Wears Prada).

If you’re looking to put a Blu-ray player under the tree this year for a great deal, then you’d better hurry. Sale ends tomorrow.

Posted in Home Theatre at 11:51 AM

Expensive HDMI cables vs cheap HDMI cables

Tis the season and this year a lot of people will be purchasing their first HDTV or Blu-ray player. Most people don’t plan ahead and consider what kind of cables they should get. HDMI or component? Do you need 3 metres (10 feet) or 5 metres (16.5 feet)?

Most people walk in to Best Buy, purchase a 40” HDTV and watch as the salesperson rubs their hands together and explains how they need HDMI cables for the best picture quality. You wouldn’t pay $3,000 for an Denon receiver and hook up some crappy $20 speakers would you? Of course not!

So here are some of your options at Best Buy for HDMI cables:

Do not purchase the Monster cable no matter what the sales person tells you!

Purchasing the most expensive HDMI cable on the market will not make a difference to the picture quality on your TV. Take a look at the prices at a discount electronics store like Modcom.ca:

Do yourself a favour and do your homework. Figure out how much cable you need for your home theatre setup before your purchase your HDTV or Blu-ray player. Buy the cheapest HDMI cable you can find and spend the money you saved on some Blu-ray movies instead.

Posted in Home Theatre at 8:09 PM

The Criterion Collection and Blu-ray

Gizmodo has a great feature on The Criterion CollectionHow Criterion Hones Its Restoration Magic for HD. Criterion is getting ready to release some of their titles in Blu-ray but it sounds like it is going to take them a long time to transfer their entire library into the new HD format.

I was surprised to read that Criterion uses a PlayStation 3 as their reference Blu-ray player. Huh?

A friend of mine claimed the PlayStation 3 was the best Blu-ray player on the market and I thought he was kidding. Nope. It tops the list as the best Blu-ray DVD player reviewed by CNET. Please don’t tell my 9 year-old.

Posted in Home Theatre and Movies at 10:29 PM

Monster Cables vs. Coat Hangers

If you’re a regular reader of this blog then you know that I’m not a huge fan of over-priced Monster cable. So how over-priced are Monster cables?

A member of the Audioholics Home Theater Forum conducted an interesting blindfolded listening test. A CD was listened to using Monster Cable and again with coat hanger wire. The joke is that none of the audiophiles participating in this test could tell the difference in the sound quality between the two cables used.

According to Google, the monster cables vs coat hangers test isn’t a new one but I find it amusing. Unfortunately Monster Cable Products, Inc. has a great marketing department and a lot of people believe the hype they sell.

Posted in Home Theatre at 10:29 AM

Netflix chooses Blu-ray

Netflix put another nail in the HD DVD coffin by announcing exclusive support for Blu-ray high-definition DVDs. They’re going to phase out their inventory of HD DVD discs by the end of the year.

Blockbuster decided back in June of 2007 to only stock Blu-ray discs. I wonder when Zip.ca will jump on teh bandwagon and make an announcement?

Posted in Home Theatre at 1:33 PM

HDMI Monster cables are a ripoff

HDMI Monster cables are a ripoff. In fact, most HDMI cable that you see at Best Buy or Radioshack is over-priced. The Consumerist blogged about 80% markups on Monster cable after they saw an inventory list from Radioshack.

The inventory list apparently shows that Monster Cable has incredibly high markup pricing (based on the difference of wholesale and retail pricing shown on the list).

Many online retailers sell quality HDMI cable that costs much less than Monster Cable. I use Blue Jeans Cable which is way cheaper than anything Monster sells and it is just as good.

Gizmodo also advises its readers that Monster cable is over-priced:

It never pays to buy a Monster cable first. It doesn’t even make sense to buy the “marked down” $50 cable you can buy if you don’t want Monster. Go online, order your cables, and wait.

I completely agree with Gizmodo but what happens when you purchase a brand new HD LCD television or Blu-Ray DVD player from Best Buy? How many people really plan ahead and order their cable online and save bundles of money? I did.

When I purchased a HD projector I saved hundreds of dollars by purchasing my HDMI and component cables from Blue Jeans Cable. When I purchased a Sony Bravia HD LCD television I paid a premium for the HDMI cable that was slightly cheaper than Monster Cable called Rocketfish HDMI cable.

I wanted to watch the new TV as soon as I got it home so I was forced to purchase Best Buy’s, Poor Buy, over-priced HDMI cable. They know most people need HDMI cable or component video cable when they purchase a high-definition TV or DVD player. They also know that most people don’t plan ahead and purchase their cables online so they stock the most expensive, highest margin cable they can find — Monster Cable.

I never heard of Rocketfish but I can guarantee that Best Buy and whoever sells their products is marking it up by 50-80%. If you can plan ahead, purchase your HDMI cable online. Another good online retailer that Gizmodo recommends is MonoPrice.com in California.

If you’re planning a home theatre or looking to upgrade your old television to a high-definition LCD or plasma set then figure out how much cable you need now and order it online. If you purchased standard RCA audio video cables to hook up to your new high-definition TV then you have no right purchasing anything with the words high-definition before it. If you purchased S-video cable for a better quality picture then read my previous sentence again.

You might be wondering if you should get HDMI or component video cable for your new television. Now we’re talking! You want to read an earlier blog entry where I talk about HDMI vs Component Video cable.

Posted in Home Theatre at 1:25 AM

How long will the Blu-ray disc format last?

In 2002 I blogged about DVDs outselling videocasettes for the first time. In the past six years the standard DVD format has peaked and is in serious decline. Up next is the Blu-ray Disc format but how long will it last?

Videocasettes dominated home video for over 20 years. DVDs were the preferred home video format for just over 6 years. How long will the Blue-ray disc format last?

I’ve invested a lot of money in the standard DVD format and have a great collection of films. I doubt that I’ll upgrade many of these discs to Blu-ray. I think that would be a complete waste of money. Thankfully, Blu-ray players are compatible with standard DVD.

The next 10 years should be interesting in terms of the digital distribution of film. A lot of people think that Blu-ray will be the last disc format. In the future, movies might be sold on flash media or via the web.

I like being able to own a physical disc with liner notes. Having my entire film library on a server seems too risky. I think it will take another generation or two for people to get comfortable with the idea of having all of their digital data on a server or flash memory devices.

For now, I just hope that Blu-ray lasts for more than 6 years before it becomes obsolete.

Posted in Home Theatre at 9:18 PM

Paramount and Universal moving to Blu-ray

The Digital Bits is reporting that Paramount and Unviersal are moving toward Blu-ray soon. Universal may not make an announcement until February (their contract period with HD-DVD expires the end of January).

Home Media Magazine’s top story today is New Line, HBO Turn Blu. There were hopes that Microsoft might release an Xbox with an internal HD-DVD drive at CES. Not surprisingly, that didn’t happen. When asked about the format war some Microsoft at CES had this to say:

The fate of HD-DVD is not critical to the success of the Xbox 360, according to senior Microsoft officials, who have noted that the company would consider supporting rival technology Blu-ray if it were victorious in the high-definition format war.

Posted in Home Theatre at 9:47 PM

Blu-ray vs HD DVD: Game over

Blu-ray vs HD DVD

This pie chart from Wikipedia helps to put the Blu-ray vs HD DVD format war into perspective. With Warner putting their support behind Blu-ray, I’d say that HD DVD’s days are numbered if not over.

I wonder if HD DVD manufacturers like Toshiba knew Warner Bros. was bailing on HD DVD? It would explain the recent price cut on HD DVD players — sell off as many players as possible during the busiest shopping season without looking desperate. We’ll probably see further price cuts on HD DVD players before they become boat anchors.

Was it a coincidence that Warner Bros. held off on their announcement to support Blu-ray until after the busy holiday season? Was it a nice gesture to the HD DVD camp before they pull the plug? You bet. I feel sorry for the early adopters that went for the cheaper disc player.

I wonder if Apple will finally announce support for Blu-ray discs at the upcoming Macworld? Maybe one of their new computer models will ship with Blu-ray support.

Posted in Home Theatre at 4:16 PM

One step closer to a Blu-ray world

By the end of the year, Warner Bros will be releasing all of its high-definition DVD content in the Blu-ray format. They will stop releasing HD DVD discs by May.

Warner Bros. currently released their movies in Blu-ray and HD DVD formats and say they wanted to give consumers a choice. A long drawn out format war continues is only going to confuse consumers and prevent them from investing in either format. President of Warner Bros. home Entertainment Group, Kevin Tsujihara feels that:

Consumers have clearly chosen Blu-ray, and we believe that recognizing this preference is the right step in making this great home entertainment experience accessible to the widest possible audience.

I think this is a step in the right direction and hope that Hollywood can figure out this ridiculous HD format war in 2008.

Posted in Home Theatre and Movies at 5:29 PM

Blu-ray or HD-DVD?

This HD format war between Blu-ray and HD-DVD is heading into its second year and my gut feeling, is that Blu-ray is winning. As a consumer I tend to notice Blu-ray discs (Spider-Man 3, Ratatouille, Cars) more than HD-DVD discs.

Did you know that Blockbuster and Target are promoting Blu-ray discs and not HD-DVD? Steve Spielberg’ first film to be released in HD (Close Encounters of the Third Kind) is only available in the Blu-ray format. Disney, Fox and MGM have announced a slew of Blu-ray titles for next year (many of them exclusive to Blu-ray).

The Digital Bits endorses the Blu-ray format and advises people not to invest in an HD-DVD players and discs.

HD-DVD is not going to win this format war. In fact, one of two things is possible right now: Either Blu-ray will win, or neither format will win. But the best HD-DVD can hope for is to just keep hanging in the game as long as possible.

Industry rumours say that Microsoft is financially subsidizing HD-DVD losses for Toshiba and Universal. Microsoft has an HD-DVD player in the XBox 360 and HD-DVD uses a Microsoft video codec. Isn’t it ironic that Microsoft is backing the weaker system (think Vista).

The more I read about it, the more I think Blu-ray is the clear winner here. I’m going to hold off getting a Blu-ray DVD player but it is very, very tempting when it comes to purchasing new DVD releases. For now I’ll wait and see how things play out.

Posted in Home Theatre and Movies at 12:20 AM

Philips DVP-5140 or DVP-5982 for DivX and PAL playback

I’ve been looking for a cheap DVD player that handles DivX for all of the TV shows I download and that can playback PAL DVDs.

I used to have a Philips DVP-642 DVD player until the tray became jammed. When the public library called for an overdue copy of Zathura I unplugged the broken DVP-642 and gave it a shake.

Yup! Something was loose inside. I undid several screws, peeled back the sheet metal and found the missing DVD. Then I went to my son’s room and yelled at him for 5 minutes.

A year later, I’m in need of a DVD player that can play my DivX TV shows. Converting the shows into DVDs with Visual Hub just takes too long.

The Philips DVP-5140 looks like a good update to the DVP-642. I can get one at Best Buy for $46.00 CAD which is much less than what I paid for the DVP-642.

I found a great site with an indepth review of the new player — Comparing the Philips DVP-642 and DVP-5140. The DVP-5140 has:

  • a much nicer remote (still no open/close button),
  • better onscreen menus,
  • improved video playback (updated video codecs)
  • and it runs much quieter.

I’m also looking at the possibility of getting the Philips DVP-5982 for $76.49 CAD. It has an HDMI input, a USB port and it up-converts the signal to take advantage of HDTV displays. Other than that it seems to very similar to the DVP-5140.

Hmm. I just read a comment on Videohelp.com about the Phillips DVP-5982.

I recently bought two Sony Bravia HDTVs and decided to go with this upconverting Philips model until I see how the HD-DVD/Blu-Ray war plays out. I have been astonished by the fidelity and quality of the image of regular DVDs played through this unit! Although my Bravia’s only support 1080i (and not 1080p) I am still amazed by the detail this unit seems to tweak out of SD DVDs.

Having recently purchased a Sony Bravia HDTV with 1080i support this might be the DVD player to get. The region-free hack for this unit is also available at videohelp.com and enables playback of PAL discs.

Does anyone have any experience or opinions on the Philips DVP-5140 or DVP-5982?

Posted in Home Theatre at 12:15 AM


With my home theatre in a shambles and my satellite dish disconnected since May, I’ve been watching TV and movies on my 23” Apple Cinema display. For me, BitTorrent has been the only way to catch up on Heroes and House.

Last week, the brother-in-law gave us a very generous house-warming gift — 40” Sony BRAVIA® LCD HDTV (Model Number: KDL-40S3000). It looks fabulous in our new living room. Now I just have to get my dish reconnected so that I can watch some football or hockey in HD.

Sony Bravia

I have to say that Sony’s Xross Media Bar on-screen menu system is the nicest I’ve seen in a television set. No wonder it won an Emmy. The graphic user interface is beautiful. The animation is fluid and the graphics are very slick. I found myself playing around with the menus just to see them animate.

The 10-bit processing and 10-bit display is supposed to provide better colour reproduction with HD content. I haven’t had a chance to test this yet but it’s nice to know that it has that capability. The LightSensorâ„¢ is another interesting option that “intelligently adjusts screen brightness to match the ambient light in a room” — no need to adjust the brightness/contrast during the afternoon and evening.

Another option called S-Forceâ„¢ Front Surround provides better sounding audio from the two front speakers. It’s by no means a replacement for a proper surround sound installation but if you don’t want to make your living room into a home theatre, then it’s a nice feature.

Lastly, this model has had nothing but favourable reviews on various websites. I hope I have better luck with this Sony product than the last one I purchased.

Posted in Home Theatre at 11:15 AM

The Trouble With LCD TVs

I’ve been considering an LCD TV for the livingroom when our home renovation is completed (if I have any money left). This wouldn’t replace the projection screen in the home theatre, it would be a second TV for the upstairs. I just read The Trouble With LCD TVs: Motion Blur and the 120Hz Solution on Gizmodo and now I’m wondering if I should be looking at a plasma screen instead.

Any advice from people with LCD screens? I’m looking at a 30 inch display for HD content.

Posted in Home Theatre at 11:36 PM

Apple iPod Hi-Fi

My brother Drew recently purchased an Apple iPod Hi-Fi. Below is his review of the product.

Apple iPod Hi-Fi

The iPod Hi-Fi is pretty impressive. I’m not sure if you’ve seen one up close but it’s about the size of a small toolbox, pretty heavy and similar to a Bose system in that the only real buttons on it are for volume.

The remote control is pretty cool… it’s slightly smaller than the actual iPod Nano and it lets you adjust the volume, skip or fast forward tracks and pause. One neat thing is that there’s a Speaker option added to the iPod’s main menu when you put it in the dock, letting you boost the bass (or minimize it). It’s just a little more accessible than going to the iPod’s EQ menu via the Settings selection.

Interestingly, the dock adapter for the Nano that came in the box didn’t seem to work. There are about 8 or 9 different adapters but the Nano one won’t let me put the player in the dock because it seems a little off centre. I went online to check this out and read feedback from a couple other people who had the same problem. I ended up having to use the adapter that came in the Nano box and it works fine.

The sound on this thing is awesome. Amazing bass and really loud.

One thing that Future Shop screwed me on was not including the $20 iTunes card that was supposed to be part of the deal. Guess I’ll have to follow up with them on it.

Overall, I’m pretty happy with the purchase.

Posted in Apple and Home Theatre and Music at 11:04 AM

The Harmony 880 Advanced Universal Remote

Harmony 880

I have 7 remotes scattered around my home theatre. To watch a movie I usually need to search for 3 of them so that I can turn on the projector, control the DVD player and turn control the volume on the receiver.

Harmony 880

My Onkyo receiver has a learning remote but it’s difficult to program and doesn’t have enough programmable buttons for two DVD players, a satellite receiver, VCR, etc. Solution? The Harmony 880 Advanced Universal Remote from Logitech.

The Harmony 880 allows me to control every piece of AV equipment in my house. By connecting the remote to my Mac via a USB cable, I can download remote control functions from Logitech’s website. They have a huge database of remote control codes from a lot of hardware manufacturers. I didn’t have any trouble finding codes for any of my equipment.

The Harmony 880 has a colour LCD screen that you can customize — create your own backgrounds in Photoshop, choose from several icon presets and edit the names of any button.

You can create up to 8 macros to save time. For example, I created a button called ‘Watch Movie’ that will turn on my projector, set the video input to HDMI, turn on my DVD player, eject the tray, turn on my receiver and set the audio input to the DVD. Whew!

I can stop purchasing AAA and AA batteries for all of my remotes. The Harmony 880 is rechargeable and has a nifty docking station that glows in the dark. There is a battery indicator on the remote as well but I found that it keeps the charge for a long time.

The remote is also backlit. Whenever you pick it up or tilt it, the screen and backlit keys come to life. You can decide how long the screen stays on or just press the ‘glow’ button to turn it off.

I found a couple of surprises when setting up the Harmony 880. The remote for my Panasonic DVD player doesn’t have an eject button. Logitech’s database had a code for eject that I could program into the Harmony 880. Another remote I have for a Yamaha CD player got mauled by the dog. I was going to replace it for $35 but now I don’t have to.

I haven’t mentioned the comfortable grip or the numerous design awards the Harmony 880 has won. No wonder Logitech bought the company.

Below is a photo I took of the remotes I used to use. If you’re looking for a solution to the remote control clutter in your home theatre then check out the Harmony 880.

My remotes.

Posted in Home Theatre at 2:28 PM

Home Theater Blog

I came across the Home Theater Blog this morning (via Digg) which I found really interesting. There is a good article on Bose speakers and why they aren’t necessarily the best speakers on the market.

The content on this site is updated frequently and full of useful information. If you’re a home theatre enthusiast then you’ll want to bookmark Home Theatre Blog.

Posted in Home Theatre at 11:24 AM

33 ways to use your Mac in your home theatre

If you’re like me you have your home theatre in one room and your computer in another. I had no idea that there were so much software out there to integrate your Mac with your home theatre. Pure-mac.com has a list of 33 applications that you’ll want to check out.

Posted in Home Theatre and OS X Software at 3:37 PM

Philips DVP-642

Best Buy has the Philips DVP-642 DVD player on sale for $74.99 (CDN) so I picked one up yesterday. I already have a good quality DVD player in the Panasonic S97S that works fine so why get another player?

Aside from the sale price, the Philips DVP-642 has excellent support for DivX playback and it is a region-free player. I have several documentary films in DivX that aren’t available yet on DVD or haven’t had a theatrical release. Watching them on a computer screen is a drag and not as comfortable as watching in a home theatre.

The Philips DVP-642 will also play DVDs encoded for PAL quite easily. One of my favourite photographers, Charlie Waite, did a television series for Grampian TV in Scotland. The series is called Seeing Scotland and is now available on DVD (PAL).

If you’re looking for a cheap DivX DVD player then you can’t go wrong with the Philips DVP-642. The LG LDA-530 is another good DivX player as well.

There are also several hacks for the Philips DVP-642 at videohelp.com that you’ll want to check out if you own this player.

Posted in Home Theatre at 1:53 PM

HD Projector Woes

There won’t be many DVD reviews here in the next little while. My Panasonic HD projector decided to go on strike after 1500 hours. The bulb seems fine but it keeps powering down after a few minutes.

This is a major drag as the holidays approach. I guess I’ll have to spend more meaningful time with the family, read some books and take a lot of photos. Life is harsh.

Posted in Home Theatre at 2:20 PM

Panasonic DVD-S97

The home theatre fun continues. Today I picked up a new DVD player—the Panasonic DVD-S97

Why a new DVD player you ask? The S97 is one of the first on the market to offer HD (high-definiton) picture quality using an HDMI cable. With the HD projector I have, this means that I can get 1,080 lines of resolution.

Right now my Pioneer DVD player is putting out 480 lines of resolution and the funny thing is that I’m already impresssed with the picture quality. I’m looking forward to seeing how much better the picture quality is using the HDMI cable.

The Panasonic site has this to say about the higher resolution using HDMI and DCDi (Directional Correlation Deinterlacing by FAROUDJA).

When the DVD-S97 is connected to an HDMI-compatible monitor, DVD images can be upconverted to 720p or 1080i for output. The converted images have much higher resolution than the 480p images of conventional component output. You get beautiful, high-resolution theatre perfect images for today’s large-screen HD plasma display panels, LCDs and LCD projectectors.

The difficult part in acquiring this DVD player wasn’t price or availability. I managed to get once at cost like my projector (thanks Neal). The difficult part is trying to convince your wife that you need 1,080 lines of resolution, that the two year old DVD player you have is completely inferior in terms of picture quality.

Fortunately I have a wife that works in television with a bunch of guys that are very impressed with our new h-tech toys.

Posted in Home Theatre at 8:07 PM

HDMI vs Component Video

Should you be using hdmi or component video cable for your home theatre? Which one is better?

I’m using component video cable with my HD projector (Panasonic PT-AE700) and HD satellite receiver. The picture quality looks outstanding.

I upgraded to an HDMI DVD player (Panasonic DVD-S97) and wondered how much better the picture quality would look if I used HDMI cable instead of component video cable. It is difficult to tell but I feel that the HDMI picture looks a little crisper with my home theatre set-up.

The results in this photo from Hi Fi Writer shows that the HDMI image is sharper and brighter.

BTW, if you’re looking for affordable cables in your home theatre set-up, I recommend Blue Jeans Cable. They are a lot cheaper than Monster cable and the quality is just as good.

The Blue Jeans Cable website also has a good article on DVI and HDMI versus Component Video which might provide a few answers for you.

GreatHomeTheater.com has another take on the HDMI/component video debate that involves an anti-piracy measure known as High Bandwidth Digital Content Protection (HDCP). This only affects HDMI cables and possibly the video quality of the signal.

Most of the articles that I’ve looked at don’t have a simple solution to this debate. I think it all comes down to personal preference. Try component video cables and HDMI cables with your home theatre setup to determine which looks better to you.

Posted in Home Theatre at 4:58 PM

Setting up your home theatre receiver

Stephen Dawson in Australia has a great blog for home theatre junkies. His article on setting up your home theatre receiver may shed some more light on using a Sound Level Meter (from Radioshack) to calibrate your receiver.

Posted in Home Theatre at 3:35 PM

Loudspeaker Placement Guide

Audioholics.com has a decent guide to placing the speakers in your home theatre. My speakers are direct radiating and probably best if they are closer to the ceiling and toward the rear of the room.

If you have a 6.1 receiver then you’ll want to have dipole speakers that are closer to ear level (on the side walls) and toward the rear of your theatre. A lot of this will come down to personal preference, your receiver and the size/shape of your room.

I can think of a few people that should read this guide and position their speakers properly for better sound imaging.

Posted in Home Theatre at 3:49 PM

My Home Theatre

I finally received my Panasonic PT-AE700 high definition projector last night. I was up until 1:30 AM setting it up and the wait has been well worth it.

I’m projecting onto an 88” Carada screen and I was completely blown away. Watching DVDs on a 27” Panasonic GAOO TV just doesn’t compare. In fact, I sold my TV to a friend yesterday.

I watched a little bit of Monsters Inc. (2001) last night and was amazed at the level of detail in the picture. In my opinion, a lot of these minute details enhance the viewing experience, make it more believable and help to immerse you in a film. You just have to experience what I’m talking about.

My extra long component video and HDMI cables just arrived from Blue Jeans Cable in Seattle, WA. Canada Post generously helped themselves to GST and PST. Despite this it was still much cheaper to purchase these 20 foot cables from the US.

Thanks to Neal for getting an awesome deal on the Panasonic projectors. I’ll be in my basement, er, I mean home theatre for the rest of the week rewiring my speakers and catching up on my backlog of DVDs.

Posted in Home Theatre at 3:44 PM

Pogue’s Posts

David Pogue has a new blog at The New York Times called Pogue’s Posts. He rips 60 Minutes for their shoddy reporting on a recent story about a 12-year-old musical genius.

There is also a great post about LCD vs Plasma televisions that my dad sent to me last week. Pogue’s advice—don’t buy a plasma screen.

Posted in Home Theatre at 3:36 PM

Carada not Canada

The home theatre plans are rolling along. I just ordered an 84-inch projection screen from Carada. I don’t know how they got their name but I always want to say Canada when I see it.

I’ve done a lot of research around projection screens lately and Carada has some great reviews. AV Science Forum is an excellent resource if you want to know more about home theatre.

Once I set up the screen I’ll be reconfiguring the home theatre area—some of the larger IKEA furniture will be sold off or moved to make room for smaller, more efficient furniture. For example, where do you hide a DVD collection? You get a couple of BENNO CD towers from IKEA. They have a small footprint and each one holds 88 DVDs.

Next on my list is the projector. The Panasonic PT-AE700 is just starting to ship and is supposed to be better than the PT-AE500 in a number of ways. There is a new review of this projector at Projector Central. I just hope that I can order one. There is plenty of buzz around this model and a lot of people have been pre-ordering them. My worry is that they will be sold out of the first shipment.

Posted in Home Theatre at 5:04 PM

SONY DVP-360 DVD player

BTW, if any of you have a SONY DVP-360 DVD player, get an extended warranty now or face the consequences. This model is a warranty timebomb. There have been numerous complaints over at audioreview.com, mine included.
On Christmas eve, 18 months after I purchased it, the player died. The first signs of trouble were the occasional C 13:00 errors that would require the player be turned on and off. Then the player started giving me NO DISC errors. Sony has ignored the complaints of everyone who purchased this lemon. This has many people in the US crying, “class action suit.” I can only hope. Luckily for me I used my trusty Royal Bank Gold VISA card which doubles the 1 year warranty to 2 years. I’ve filed a claim to Royal Bank who said they will reimburse me for any repairs.
Sony hasn’t heard the last of me though.
I’m off to Ottawa for a couple of days. More updates will follow on the weekend and then I think I’ll start promoting the site.

Posted in Home Theatre at 1:47 AM