Monday, May 26, 2008
Putting the Video in AV Receivers
My apologies to my 2 readers of this blog for not writing anything in 6 months. Just lazy.
However there is a new wave of av receivers that are hitting the market and I have to chime in on them.
With the advent of blu-ray comes a new and exciting field of audio and video possibilities. On the audio front there is Dolby TrueHD and DTS-HD. These sound codecs are uncompressed audio tracks, unavailable on DVD or otherwise because there was not enough space on the discs for the video and audio to fit. Since blu-ray can have up to 50 gigs of space the discs allow for uncompressed master audio to be fit on the disc. However, if you have an older receiver you will not be able to enjoy the uncompressed master track. Many receivers on the shelves still do not offer dolby or dts' newest technology. Buyer beware. The bit by bit lossless technology is truly remarkable. Any foray to the electronics retailer should include you leaving with the new tech under your arm as you stroll away gleefully.
Now lets talk video.
Everyone knows about HDTV. Aside from resolution differences (720p, 1080p etc) there are also other factors to consider. Without going too, too deep let me stay on task and say that the kind of receiver you elect to purchase will determine the quality of video you end up seeing. I recently read an article in Home Theater Magazine, and they rated the video quality output by various mid to higher end receivers. The differences were pretty shocking. The testers input various types of video signals via digital (HDMI) and analog connections and then they judged how the receiver would process the final output signal. Only 2 receivers were able to pass all of the tests. (One was a $5000 Denon and the other a $1700 Onkyo) Only 6 receivers were tested but represented a good cross section of the market. Both receivers were equipped with a video chip from a company called silicon optix. The others, (mostly with the faroudja DCDI chip) failed at many of the tests. This to me was shocking since I have long considered faroudja one of the best video processing companies around. This does not mean however that the video quality was BAD. It just means that there was some aliasing, ghosting, shadowing and artifacting of the various output signals. Whereas those that passed these test output a signal virtually distortion free. This becomes a bigger deal on larger displays.
Let us not dismay. The new offerings on the AV Receiver front are a true upgrade to what we have been used to in the past 10 years. Not to mention affordable. Onkyo recently launched the TX-SR606, a $500 receiver with not only Dolby TruHD and DTShd, but 4 (4!!!) HDMI 1.3 inputs and a high current amplifier section. This would allow you hook up an Xbox360, PS3, HD-DVR, and whatever else you want all through HDMI (which carries up to 1080p video and lossless audio) and still run just one video lead to your monitor. The days of swapping input sources on your TV would be long gone. Even Grandma could run the thing.