Thursday, December 21, 2006

CES 2007 Coverage Starting January 8

We will be posting this year from the 2007 International Consumer Electronics Show (CES) from Las Vegas from January 8-11.

Tuesday, September 05, 2006

How to connect PC to Stereo?

I want to use my stereo to play back the music on my PC. How do I connect them?

The best way to connect a PC to a stereo depends on a few things.
Do you want the connection to use digital audio or analog audio?
Do you need stereo or surround sound?
Is your Sound card good enough to give you the results you want?

It is possible to use an adapter or a cable to do this directly from the soundcard. The results depend on the sound card.
A good example of a cable to go direcly from sound card to Stereo is our M2RCA "Ultimate iPod cable". It has the standard RCA connectors at the Stereo connection end, and the usual 1/8" (3.5mm) mini jack connector at the computer end to plug directly into most sound cards in PC's and Macs.
See here:

For an easy, good sounding connection over USB, a Xitel "Hi-Fi Link" is a great way to go.
It connects to the computer using USB and sidesteps your sound card, so those with inexpensive sound cards will still get very nice results.
See here:

For more professional results, or digital audio, M-Audio has a number of USB and firewire interfaces with two or more audio channels and combinations of Digital and analog audio. They have great driver support for the recording musician and the HTPC geek as well.
See here:

For the ultimate in sound quality most people use PCI cards and we carry the best cards in their price ranges, M-Audio, RME and Lynx Studio Technology.
See here:

If you need more information on the topic, please see our PC to Stereo main page, here:

Tuesday, August 22, 2006

How do the audio/Video over CAT5 Baluns work?

Q) How do the audio/Video over CAT5 Baluns work? Do these allow me to run audio/video over an Ethernet Network? Does the Audio/Video pass through network Hubs, Routers, Switches etc?

A) The A/V signals are not converted to Ethernet, they are converted to "balanced" audio or video signals
for transmission over twisted pair wiring. The cables should be dedicated to A/V signals, and should NOT be connected to your Ethernet network, Ethernet hubs, routers, etc. Here are the basics:
The Balun converts the audio or video signal into a "balanced" audio or video signal which will allow any picked up noise to be canceled out at the receiving balun. It is very important that the "halves" of a balanced run be as similar as possible in length and other attributes. Otherwise the ability to cancel out noise is effected. Using CAT6 or high quality CAT5e cable with tight tolerances will give the best possible results.
Each CAT5 balanced signal run has to be separate - you can't do splices or "Y" cables with balanced signals.You have to split the signals with distribution amplifiers before the baluns, which means you would need a separate balun for each and every sent and received audio/video signal. There are some baluns that combine audio and video or multiple separate video components (like separate RGB signals or Y-Pr-Pb) into one box, but these boxes actually contain multiple baluns in one box and will require more and more twisted pairs to be used within the CAT5 cable. If more signals are needed than there are twisted pairs in a CAT5 cable, then multiple CAT5 cables would be necessary.

Thursday, August 03, 2006

How to connect HDMI to VGA/Component Video?

(Q) I have a HDMI male cable but my projector has only a VGA female input.
So, what i need is an adapter for the HDMI male with a HDMI female which can then connect to a 15 point VGA female. The problem is that it is all wired and the basement is finished.

(A) The first question that needs answering in these scenarios is what will be connected at the other end? Is it a DVD player with HDMI, a set top box with HDMI or DVI, or is it a computer with DVI?
Virtually all components with HDMI output, and most devices (other than computers) with DVI output have copy protection scheme built-in called "HDCP". When connecting video source devices like DVD players or Cable/Satellite Set Top Boxes that have HDCP, you must use a display with a digital input (DVI or HDMI) that supports HDCP as well. If the source has HDCP and the display does not - you will not get a picture.
All right, but you don't want to connect a digital device, you just want to connect your analog display with Component Video or VGA. Why can't you do this? Well, first you would need to convert the Digital video to analog video, and this is possible, although these converters do cost several hundred dollars. If there was no HDCP involved this would do it. It is not legal to make devices that will take an HDCP encrypted digital signal in and output that signal as analog video. The "rules" are actually a good deal more complicated than this, and there have been devices made that broke the rules, but they are very hard to find and not cheap in any case.
So what are your options?
1) Use a Source device (DVD player/Computer) that does not have HDCP and then use a Digital video to analog video converter to convert the digital video to the VGA signal you need. Be careful when selecting a DVD player, since most with digital outputs have HDCP. A DVI/HDMI adapter is generally not going to cause any problems.

Some Digital to analog video converter examples:
Gefen converters
Calrad converter

2) Replace the Projector with one that has a HDMI or DVI input with HDCP.

3) Run a "temporary" cable until you can do #1 or #2.

Wednesday, April 05, 2006

Question about HDMI to VGA with a Projector

(Q) I have a question about HDMI to VGA with a projector.
My DVD player has a HDMI output as well as Component video output, and my projector has a VGA connection input. Currently I am using a VGA to component cable and the component output from my DVD player.
My DVD player is capable of up-converting my DVDs to 720p or 1080i, but only through the HDMI output. I am wondering if there is a way via a cable or adapter to connect my DVD player via HDMI to my projectors VGA input.

(A) Every DVD player that has HDMI output also has HDCP copy protection. HDCP equipped outputs generally cannot be converted to analog video without "down rezzing" the signal to non-HD resolution, when at all. DVI to VGA converters can convert various digital video formats to analog, including the typical HDMI output formats, but when the DVI output has HDCP it is typically not allowed to convert to HD resolutions. In any case these converters are around $400 and it is really questionable if you want to spend that much money to have your DVD player de-interlace and upscale the image, rather than let the display de-interlace and upscale the image. You also have to ask will the outboard converter box convert from digital to analog better than the DVD player will make the D/A conversion? What about the extra connections?
Try comparing the DVD outputting 480p to the projector and 480i to the projector and see which looks better. This will tell you whether the DVD player or Projector is better at de-interlacing. There are some good de-interlacing test signals on AVIA, DVE and the HQV calibration and test disks if you are interested in testing.
The real question would be, when do you plan to upgrade the projector? If you will keep it for some time and want the best DVD playback, consider getting a used higher end 480p DVD player, or one of the rare players with upscaling VGA output.

Thursday, March 30, 2006

Laptop to Hotel TV connection for watching DVD's

(Q) When I'm on the road, I'd like to play DVD movies on my laptop. It has a VGA output, but no composite video or S-Video output. What can I use to transmit the DVD signal from my laptop to a hotel TV?

(A) It is hard to be sure what you are going to get on a hotel TV as far as connections go. Some only seem to have a coax "F" type standard Cable TV/Antenna input. Some will have a separate A/V input. That is usually about it.

Either scenario still require you to get the audio from the laptop to the TV (unless you have some external speakers for your laptop). You will need to go from a stereo 1/8"(3.5mm) connector on the laptop to two RCA connectors for left and right stereo channels.
An iPod connection cable like this will work very well for this, it has a six foot cable:
We will soon be offering custom length mini 1/8" stereo to dual RCA cables like this at a variety of lengths with very good Belden cable and some very nice connectors.

For a TV with A/V inputs (RCA jacks for Video and Right and Left Stereo audio) you will need a VGA to Video converter box. This will take a VGA signal from the laptop and down convert it to a standard definition NTSC or PAL output on composite video or S-Video.
This would be a good sized portable adapter:
More choices:
The audio cables will go to the left/right TV audio inputs.

For a TV with a coax "F" type standard Cable TV/Antenna input:
You will first need to convert from VGA to video and audio, then modulate it to RF for the TV input. Two boxes. Not real travel friendly.
This would again be a good sized portable VGA to Video adapter:
Then you will need to take the video and audio and modulate it to an RF signal the TV will be able to "tune".
Here's an F modulator:
The audio cables will go to the left/right audio inputs on the RF modulator audio inputs.

Friday, March 24, 2006

USB to Serial or Parallel Conversion question

Q) We have an older model laptop computer with no usb port. Recently it became necessary to replace our printer and it seems all the low end models have no parallel or serial connections. Is there a cable or adapter that would plug into the computer’s parallel or serial port and the usb (female b type) port on the printer?

A) No, sorry there is no way to connect a USB device through a serial or parallel port. There are adapters for the reverse connection, from serial or parallel to USB.
There are cards you can install into most fairly recent computers to add USB or USB 2.0 ports. These adapters have varying support for computer Operating Systems (Mac OS9.x/OSX or Windows XP/2000/98SE) and you will need to make sure that either the drivers are supplied or the Operating System includes generic or specific drivers for the device or chipset used in the device.

Tuesday, March 21, 2006

Q/A DVI VGA conversion question

I bought a monitor that supports both analog and digital but my PC only has a VGA connection. So I am only using analog right now. But from what I have read digital gives off a better picture quality. So, is there a cable that will connect my DVI-D male monitor to my VGA female PC?

Connecting a monitor with digital input to a computer with digital output should give a better quality video signal, mainly because all digital to analog and analog to digital conversions have been removed.
By adding a VGA to DVI-D converter for your monitor you are only just taking the analog to digital conversion and moving it outside of the monitor, since the monitor was doing this internally in the first place.
Is the external A/D converter going to be better or worse than the internal one? It is impossible to say without knowing the equipment. Most likely it will not be as good, since the internal converter was designed with the display in mind.

Thursday, February 09, 2006

Ces 2006: 1080p Displays/Scalers, HD-DVD and Blueray what you shouldn't buy and why not?

Two of the product areas of most interest to us as connectivity manufacturers for Home Theater and computers were High Definition Disk players (Blueray and HD-DVD) and the anticipated proliferation of new model Displays with 1080p resolution. To be honest, the number of 1080p displays was slightly disappointing. Those that were there were not disappointing at all. Surprisingly, many consumers are already holding off on purchasing new HDTV's and DVD players in the hope of jumping onto the HD-DVD, Blueray or 1080p display bandwagons. There are some interesting problems with this stratagy.

HD-DVD and Blueray
Let's start with the HD-DVD vs Blueray vs new DVD player choice. HD-DVD versus Blueray is a format war. It looks like a really, really nasty long lasting affair. Call them idiots if you want but this is a very big deal. Whichever format wins is going to be "the" HD medium for quite some time. Of course, if this goes on too long, they run the risk of being replaced by a third candidate.

Anyone jumping on one bandwagon may as well buy both if they want the maximum possible catalog of movies. This, of course, is going to be rather expensive and a nightmare in user friendliness. Imagine you buy both format players. When the wife, kids or husband can't figure out which movie to put in what player to get it to work, well, you are going to hear about it. Sure they may put big, noticeable labeling on the players and disks but it's not a sure thing - check out an SACD disk, you have to look really close to tell it from a regular CD, don't you? What about in your darkened HomeTheater? Time for a flashlight or raising the lights every time you want to change disks. Most people are simply not going to buy both. They will buy neither. Interestingly, a high quality upscaling DVD player right now is going to be a good choice for a lot of people. Why? There are are now some inexpensive upscaling DVD/universal players with extremely good video quality and very good sound quality. The very good universal DVD players have excellent multiformat audio and DVD video playback quality for the current Disk types. It is really not likely the initial HD-DVD or Blueray players are going to match the better current DVD players for the ultimate in standard DVD playback and even audio playback. If you have a lot of DVD's or rent them, you are still probably going to need a good DVD player for best results. Also, with a new expensive HD/Blueray player you will probably not want to wear it out with lowly DVD playback anyway, since the early models are likely to fail more quickly than later models. Hate to say it...but most likely true.

Upscaling DVD Players and Scalers (480i/480p/720p/1080i) 480i/480p - Why some don't see a difference
Alright, for the first thing, we need to stop thinking we are comparing apples to oranges when we are actually comparing granny smith with red delicious.
Consumers comparing 480i to 480p DVD players over component video to a HDTV is a good example.
It is easy to tell the difference when comparing a DVD player playing a good 480i DVD through a standard definition, 480i Tube TV and a good DVD played at 480p through a HDTV which can properly display a good 480p. When comparing a DVD player at 480i and then 480p through your new HDTV you may have a very hard time seeing this difference. Many consumers will try this and conclude that this whole interlaced and progressive thing is some kind of scam, or just blindly convince themselves they are, indeed seeing some huge difference. There may be a big difference or may not, but it depends on the HDTV's and DVD players processing. That 480i is not 480i when you see it. It is processed into a/the resolution that the display can handle - 480p, 720p or 1080i, but it sure isn't 480i.

Upscaling to 720p or 1080i
First of all, you cannot really add any resolution to a signal that is not there to begin with. Converting a lower resolution video to fill a higher resolution display involves a lot of adding information to the signal. If you have an HD display and play a DVD on it, it has to somehow get from 480i to 720p/1080i or whatever the resoluion of your display actually is. The DVD player/scaler can do some or all of this, or the Displays internal electronics can do this. Some do a better job of this than others - sometimes by a broad margin. In any case, taking a best case DVD resolution and deinterlacing and scaling it with the best processing available will never result in a compareable image to a true High Definition image quality. Not even close. What a great scaler/processor or upscaling DVD player can do is replace the displays need to process the video as much as possible, and generally do this with much better results.

1080p Displays
New 1080p Displays? They were awesome at CES 2006.
Most 1080p displays so far will not accept 1080p input. Some will accept 1080p input - the high end models, but most early models will accept only 720p or 1080i. Not that there is a whole lot of 1080p content out there to watch anyway.... It will have to wait for HD-DVD or BlueRay players to come out with 1080p outputs to even have a decent 1080p source. So, anyway, when you do have HD at 720p/1080i going into your 1080p display, what method is being used by the displays processing to get to 1080p? That is the million dollar question. Using the simplest "bob" deinterlacing method as many 1080p displays initially will, is it really going to look that much better? With the best content available limited to 720p or 1080i how much better is a 1080p deinterlaced (from 1080i) or scaled (from 720p) version likely to look? Many of these scalers and TV's are likely to go from 1080i to 540p and then scale up to 1080p. How does that make you feel about 1080p? Not quite worth all of the hoopla yet?