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FAQ for newbies buying a first HDTV, sound system, cabling, etc

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Old 01-06-2009, 05:42 AM   #1  
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Default FAQ for newbies buying a first HDTV, sound system, cabling, etc

This FAQ was created from two great members (Loves2Watch & ImRizzo) here who have spent a considerable amount of time to collect this info to help people make the best choices, and to be INFORMED consumers which is a basic purpose of this site.

Thanks to both of these great members for there dedication to helping others here.


Your choice of display is the first step in assembling your HOME THEATER. Your choices are Plasma, LCD, DLP and the newer entries LED, LASER and Other newer technologies being developed. We will only be discussing the flat screen technology here since this is the most popular form factor now.

HDTV: Resolution 720/768p & 1080p. 1080P is currently the highest resolution commercially available, and will result in better image display.

PLASMA: This display option has the some of the best current Image qualities and the ability to recreate True blacks, better shadow detail, great color reproduction, and superior viewing angles.

CAUTION: Avoid the lower tier products as their quality may not be up to acceptable viewing quality or dependability. The top 2 mfg lines to be considered PIONEER & PANASONIC are the top candidates to be considered, with Samsung getting an honorable mention.

PROS: These displays are usually the best in image quality and are less expensive than comparably sized LCD displays. And the viewing angles are much better and less critical than most other displays.

CONS: The biggest draw back to this type of display is the highly reflective front screen and consideration of this should be factored into your decision. (if your viewing area has many light emitting sources IE windows / glass doors / etc. these may cause annoying distractions, take this into consideration when shopping for your display). Of course for windows good light blocking blinds can eliminate most if not all of this issue, and ditto for placement of lights. The Plasma displays usually weight about 10-20% more and operate slightly warmer than most LCD panels. The electrical usage is comparable with other display types when properly calibrated and taken out of factory torch mode. Burn-in can also be an issue if static images are left on the screen for long periods so computer monitor users of more than about 5% would likely be better with an LCD, but for TV/movie watching, a properly adjusted/cared for plasma should not have any burn-in issues.

LCD: This display technology also has excellent picture quality and color rendering abilities. The reproduction of True blacks is not as good as the Plasma sets, but recently offered display panels have greatly improved in this area. Once again your purchase choice should be directed towards the upper tier manufacturers; SONY, TOSHIBA, SAMSUNG and Sharp products,etc. and one of the newer budget entries in the TV field VIZIO (a high quality budget display maker)

CAUTION: Once again the purchase of a lower tier product will be a disappointing to you in the long run, and as this is purchase of considerable expense your first choice should be the right one.

PROS: The advantage of most LCD displays is their Matte display panels, which drastically reduce reflective properties (glare). NOTE: some LCD panels have a glossy front panel, this will result in the same viewing distractions/reflections as plasma displays
(once again, take this into consideration when shopping for your display and see the plasma section above with these glossy LCD panels for how to overcome most of this issue). These panels are usually slightly less in weight (in same size screens) and operate a little cooler than plasma displays.

CONS: The biggest draw back with LCD is the inability to reproduce 100% accurate black renderings which tend to only get as dark as dark gray unless the more expensive LED back lighting models are chosen. Also a lesser degree of viewing angles compared to plasmas, despite mfg stating wide viewing angles in the LCD specs.

This is a question that perplexes every newcomer to HD viewing " It's a widescreen HD TV why am I getting bars on the side or on the bottom & top". This is due to the various aspects or degrees of "Wide screen" modes used based upon the films original format. There are several online sites (CNET) that explain these ratios and their effects and display abilities. It is just too lengthy to explain here.

CHECKOUT LINKS: http://www.highdefforum.com/20848-post1.html


Do not be mislead by many of the retailers and E-tailers that would lead you to believe that you must purchase expensive HDMI cables to get pictures with the best image quality, this is untrue and only a means by which these sellers try to gouge you for unnecessary purchases. Many of the people here on this forum have purchased and use cables and connectors from WWW.Monoprice.com and get absolutely the best quality picture possible for the least cost.
A quick comparison ( without using the trade marked name of cable company MC ) MC HDMI 6" cable typically @ 69.95 to 149.95 , same quality from monoprice for $5.95 / $6.95, and believe us there is no visible difference.


Now that you have resolved your display purchase the next thing to consider, is an Audio Video Receiver (AVR) for the full Sound Surround experience.

# 1 priority in your choice is to include HDMI inputs (to facilitate a more convenient mode of connecting components and to have more available inputs for future add-ons).

HDMI connections are a ONE-WIRE solution for Video / Audio (transfer of both picture & sound 5.1 / 7.1). The best way to enjoy the surround experience is to purchase a full feature AVR. One that is capable of reproducing and decoding all of the newest and current surround effects available on DVD's and/or Blu-ray disc
IE: DD (Digital Dolby), DTS (digital theater sound), for SD DVDs and for Blu-ray (and the defunct HD DVD) players we also have DD+ (Dolby Digital HD audio), HD DTS (high definition digital theater sound), for less lossy HD audio and for true lossless HD audio we have; DtHD (Dolby TrueHD) and HD DTS MA (Digital Theater Sound High Definition Master Audio) the latter two are the latest sound decoding available as it provides you with uncompressed originally recorded material the director produced for in theater viewing, with truly amazing results. You must also consider that if your going to setup 7.1 system or a 5.1 system (this refers to a 7 speaker system or an 5 speaker system the .1 is the Sub-woofer necessary for those deep bass effects, you'll want a quality Subwoofer, for deep, clean bass reproduction).

You'll want an AVR with sufficient HDMI inputs for connecting your DVD or Blu-ray, your gaming system, your cable or satellite connections, etc. Now after that brief education we can get on to the available hardware. Once again we must stress that quality will add to your experience and the purchase of lesser quality components will only lead to disappoint and monetary losses. Some of the better products available include ONKYO which provides the most Bang for the Buck and from the 700 series on up, provide most of the current decoders for the above listed modes with more than ample wattage to drive most speaker systems without displaying any distortion problems. There are also higher end products available like Denon, Pioneer Elite,Yamaha and the upper tier Harmon Kardon products. A trip to their prospective Internet sites will provide you with all the necessary info needed to make an educated purchase based on your needs and many of the sites will let you do a side by side comparison to review available features and Spec's.

HTIB (Home Theater in a Box) Sound Systems:

There a numerous HTIB systems available these are usually packaged deals that include; AVR & speakers and some that also include DVD players, even a few with Blu-ray players included. Normally these systems a of a lesser quality (to include lower tier products of reputable companies) and/or provide fewer features and lower wattage. Many do not provide true HD audio decoding via HDMI and require the use of analog connections, and even then some of them handle only some of the playback modes. There are some HTIB's that are of acceptable quality but are still limited in options and functions, these are made by Onkyo, Denon, Yamaha, Cambridge Soundworks, Panasonic, and of course BOSE (which is high priced for lower end sound quality despite the marketing hype).


These are a major component in your home theater system, and your choices are:

1. Standard DVD which will play standard DVD's play video and usually 5.1 audio sound if connected to a surround sound system.

2. DVD Upscaling Players which will play standard DVD's and will convert/upscale the picture up to 1080i (interlaced scan) with some new models upscaling to 1080p. THIS IS NOT TRUE HD 1080p (progressive scan) since the source on SD DVDs is only 480i, but in most players it can deliver a better image display than standard disc players if it scales better than the display, and also plays 5.1 audio sound if connected to a surround sound system. (There are wide varying degrees of quality in these players and price plays a fctor of course in the quality you will get from these types of players)

3. BLU-RAY (BD) Disc players are the newest and best type of player for the home which is TRUE HD and produces the best image/picture quality available and many models decode most of the present HD audio modes, you must be sure to buy a player capable of decoding the newest HD audio codec's IE DD+, DtHD, DTS-HD & DTS-HD MA to take full advantage of the latest Blu-Disc's being produced and to get the maximum effect from your sound system. Many of the newer BD players are 2.0 comparable which will allow you access to online updates and extras/features for the movie downloadable.


SETUP & PLACEMENT: You will need (for 5.1) Left Front - CENTER - Right Front - Left Surround - Right Surround and a SubWoofer. For (7.1) you will need two additional speakers Left Rear Surround - Right Rear Surround. Some systems can be setup for 6.1 or 8.1 which will necessitate additional speakers.

SPEAKER PLACEMENT LINK: http://www.highdefforum.com/746822-post1.html

Sound is a very subjective matter as there are so many speakers available from Mini systems to Monster speakers. Once again you must keep in mind is that cheap speaker are just that, "cheap" speakers producing poorer quality sound with lots of distortion and other problems and are a definite waste of money.

The best recommendation is for you to do a personal audition of the different speakers available at your local Electronic store like Best Buy, Circuit City, Magnolia stores or a local audio dealer. The list of speaker systems is to numerous to list here. First listen to systems owned by friends or relatives and ask them what they like about them and what they dislike about them. Once you've compiled a list of speaker you'd like to hear then head off to one of those stores. When you go be prepared, take a CD you're familiar with and a DVD you're familiar with, so that you can do a comparison of sound with something you already know and are familiar with because most retailers have specifically selected CD's & DVD's that will exploit what your listening to and may deceive or mislead you. Also take a friend with you who can act as an impartial critic, who won't be afraid to point out deficiencies you may or may not notice or hear. Also try to have the store play these speakers on the same AVR you intend to purchase or have already purchased. Most importantly try to confine your speaker purchase to the same brand and type so that you will have the same tonal sound consistency (Timbre matched) from all speakers throughout your system so as to create a seamless sound field. (So that when that car drives from the L/S spk thru the Center spk to the R/S speaker so there is no tonal difference, thus a seamless sound field). Do not be mislead or directed towards certain speakers, but do not be afraid to listen to a suggested speaker just do not let the SALESMAN sell you on those speakers, you must be the decision maker. And in the final analysis you are the one who is going to listen to them, and you are the one who has to be satisfied by them so be sure it's your choice. Some suggested speakers to be considered are: Klipsch, Infinity, Paradigm, NHT, Mirage, Definitive Technology, Kef, Polk, and so many more. These are the better mid price level brands with various price points.

We hope this helps answer many of the questions people new to Home Theater (HT) video and audio might have when trying to navigate the sometimes scary number of choices available to them when they first start out in this process. See this other sticky thread for info to provide when looking for additional help BEFORE posting for that help:


Again, a big thanks is due to Loves2Watch & ImRizzo. The two great members here who took the time to provide this detailed info as a starting point for you.
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