Wednesday, October 24, 2007

Won't get fooled Again! - PC/Mac Lossless Sound over HDMI

Yes, we consumers are getting screwed again. Most people don't have an inkling, and that's partially why it continues. The same big companies that want to sell you that "Media Center PC" computer, that HD DVD or Blu Ray friendly playback software, that HDMI video card, or HDMI equipped motherboard, and most of all that HD content on Blu Ray or HD DVD are the same ones who are crippling the quality you can get from it.

Is Collusion the word? No.
Is a built-in lack of future capabilities the game? Er, maybe...
Make sure we have to upgrade again next year for the latest and greatest? Duh, makes sense...

HD audio, which maybe you don't care about, is the issue. But, why not care? Because you are told not to care? Because people say that only Dogs can really hear the difference? Will you believe 16 bit is as good as 24 bit five years from now? It's funny how the overall perception of quality changes. Every year we to get the promise that we can use a computer as a full fledged media center with all of the capabilities of stand-alone players. Every year it is a lie. Whose fault is it? Microsoft? Sony? The Hollywood establishment? The software developers? Hardware Audio/Video card manufacturers? The HD format war? They all get the blame to some extent, but overall, in my opinion, the blame must go to the "SEP"* principle. It's SEP - "Somebody Else's Problem".

They promise us a breathtaking new version of a multidimensional audio/video universe every year at the Consumer Electronics (CES) show in Vegas while, in the end, they feed us weensy little incremental upgrades to our "Lifestyles" throughout the year. Gee, I wonder what the promise is this year? Whole house Audio/Video over wireless connections? Media Extenders? Yeah, that's the ticket... Just ignore anyone who mentions lossless audio to go along with their pristine 1080p video. In fact, why don't they make sure to push the 1080p thing again like last year, but leave that part out for any wireless, media extension or whole home solutions. For that, 1080p is for some strange reason not so important. OK, this is a big digression, but c'mon - all we are talking about is HD audio formats from a PC to a Home Theater system. If the PCI bus is insecure, put it on the motherboard. Figure it out. Instead of going Medieval on the Big Media Server companies take that energy and money and invest it to develop the hardware/software to make things right for the customer. Remember us?
As far as all your favorite tech and media companies are concerned, it's all "SEP". Somebody Else's Problem. Don't you wish you could get away with that? I know I do.

*For more about "SEP":
Somebody Else's Problem field

Tuesday, October 16, 2007

HDTV Video Connections or why is everyone fat on my TV?

Part II

VGA and component are analog sources of high definition signals. Analog HDTV signals were first introduced on computers, satellite/cable set-top boxes, VCR and high-end DVD players. The picture quality was superior over composite or s-video, which is not capable of HDTV resolutions. VGA, some times called RGB, is a small format 15 pin, three(3) row connection used on most computers for connecting your monitor and gave us our first view of high resolution video. You will also find these connections on HDTV monitors designed to accept computer standard video and frontal projectors.

Component is a very popular HDTV connection using three (3) cables labeled YpbPr and distinguished by the familiar three (3) colors red, green and blue connectors found on most consumer electronic equipment. Connecting component is simple and trouble free for 480, 1080i or 720P HDTV installation plus the connection of choice by installers. However, the newest HDTV format 1080P is generally only available over a HDMI connection.

Here is where the confusion starts. VGA from a computer is capable of many resolutions, but the standard computer display resolutions are not compatible with HDTV unless the TV monitor can accept computer resolutions over VGA. If you purchase a VGA to component cable or BNC, to connect your computer to a HDTV that is component, it will not work. These cables are for special purpose applications.

For example some older Mitsubishi, Pioneer and other HDTV ready monitors sometimes used the same VGA connector called RGBHV and accepted the signal through five(5) RCA or the professional equivalent BNC connection at HDTV resolutions. These HDTV monitors require a converter box to convert component HDTV to these inputs.

Now you understand why there is so much discussion over the best installation method and if you need a converter from VGA to component and component to VGA. The converter boxes have electronics built in to take the horizontal and vertical sync signals in VGA and convert them to component or RGBHV or if you are going the other direction. Most are confused and for good reasons.

Quiz time! If component is sometimes mis-referred to as red, green and blue what is the HV in RGBHV?

Oh no, that is not the end of it. If the VGA resolution, from a computer source, is not a HDTV standard resolution of 480, 1080i, 720P and now 1080P, a simple VGA to component converter will not pass a picture compatible with the display. Most computers are not HDTV resolution outputs. What do you do now? Look at our PowerStrip user guide for one option to force your computer to a HDTV resolution, but this is not for the faint at heart. Read the entire article before you decide to try it.

Your best option is an external scaler.

Are you lost yet? Well let throw one more at you. Some displays, projectors, and HDTV’s use the VGA, 15 pin, three (3) row PC connector for both RGBHV and component signals. So how do you know?

  1. First, frontal projectors with VGA will also accept component to save space.
  2. If a VGA to component cable fails to yield a picture then you need a converter.
  3. To save space some converters use VGA connectors for both signals to save space.
  4. Read the equipment manual, it will tell you what signals will work over the VGA.
  5. This is why VGA to component cable exist, but seldom work unless on a frontal projector or special application!

Finally, we stated that component connections are only HDTV resolutions and VGA has multiple PC resolutions. Check out this Wikipedia link on all the resolutions and picture geometries options. The visual graphic array is just, exciting.

Stay tune for part III as we look at scalers and other HDTV switching options.

Wednesday, September 12, 2007

HDTV Video Connections or why is everyone fat on my TV?

We get a few questions on connecting DVI, VGA and component sources, equipment and monitors. In Part I, we will discuss various DVI connection types. Our Part II will look at the popular VGA and component connecting options. Part III will cover scalers/converters for different display configurations, and we will throw in some switching.

Part I


DVI comes in three different formats DVI-D, DVI-A and DVI-I. What are the differences?

DVI-D, which is the most popular, is an all digital video only signal and the predecessor to HDMI. On consumer devices it will have a HDCP(High Definition Copyright Protection) features to prevent non HDCP devices and displays from connecting and copying the signal. This feature requires a handshaking by all equipment to verify that the equipment connected is HDCP. Some earlier monitors designed for computer application are not HDCP compliant. They will work with a computer, but not with set top boxes, DVD players and other DVI consumer electronics that require HDCP compliance. All second-generation HDMI connections are HDCP compliance. Since DVI preceded HDMI it is backward compatible, if the DVI equipment is HDCP compliant. A simple DVI to HDMI adapter or cable can connect HDCP compliant equipment.

DVI-A is an analog display connection only and compatible with VGA. DVI-A to DVI-A only cables are very difficult to find, since the design purpose of DVI was a digital interface. DVI-A to VGA cables are used with some graphic cards and Mac computers that have a dual purpose DVI-I connector, which leads us to the next configuration.

DVI-I is a combination DVI-D and DVI-A connection. You can find these on high-end video cards, frontal projectors, and Apple Mac computers. They are used to save real-estate on the output connection interface. By using a DVI-D/VGA splitter or adapter you can chose either the digital or the analog connection for your specific requirement. This is application dependent.

HDMI is the next generation of DVI and digital only. HDMI has digital sound included in the connection, however when you adapt from DVI to HDMI no audio is passed.

Note when connecting a DVI/HDMI connection to your computer the native computer resolutions available will not be a HD TV’s 720P/1080i format signal, unless your video driver has HDTV outputs resolution settings. There are third part programs like PowerStrip, which are not perfect and require experimentation to match computer output resolutions to HDTV displays. The ultimate solution is an external scaler/converter, which you can program to match the display input requirement, independent of the signal source.

Stay tuned for part III when we discuss scalers.

Wednesday, August 29, 2007

Converting Component Video and Digital Audio to HDMI

Converting Component Video and Digital Audio to HDMI

OK, we hear some of you snickering and saying - "Convert Component Video and digital audio to HDMI? Why? Doesn't just about every HDTV have both nowadays?"
Well, yes, that may be true, but there are still some very good reasons why a lot of people still want to do this. All of the reasons are based around running a single HDMI cable to your display for audio and video, or as near to that ideal as is possible. So, if you can turn all of your sources into HDMI, you can use an HDMI Switcher to Select between your sources and run a single cable, or very few cables, to your display.

A) Wall mounted Plasma or LCD Display
Even if you run the cables through your wall, this can be a tricky bit of business. You have to get in-wall rated cables. You have to carefully route them through your wall without breaking them. You may need complicated and more expensive wall plates with multiple connectors for all of those cables. Basically, every added cable makes it that much harder and more expensive to hide your cables.
B) Projectors
This is almost self explanatory. You usually have to run some pretty long cables over to your projector from your A/V rack. Some people run them through ceilings, some through walls, some through raceways and some, well, they just find a way to get them there. The longer the cable the better it usually has to be. Better is more expensive, and in-wall rated and better, gets more expensive still. Have to run Plenum to be within code? Ouch!

C) Neat Freaks (or those with very high WAF levels)
All those ugly cables behind a nice piece of furniture can make even a normal person cringe. If you are a "Monk" like being, or have a significant other who keeps getting enthralled by Bose commercials, with that "no visible cables" look, well, if you can keep things to a sane level, you may be able to keep a happy household. You'll still have to think of something for those speaker cables, but we'll tell you your way around that another time.

What you need:

Component Video and Digital Audio to HDMI

If you need a model with analog stereo audio here's the one you need:
Convert Component Video and analog Audio to HDMI

Need to convert two Component Video sources with audio as well as switch two additional HDMI sources?

Want to convert Component Video and Composite or S-Video as well as switch two HDMI sources, outputting everything to HDMI?

Have a Computer you want to connect through HDMI? If you need DVI and audio there are ways to do that as well.
Convert DVI and Digital Audio to HDMI
Audio Authority Model 1311

Need an HDMI Switcher?
HDMI Switchers

Tuesday, August 14, 2007

High-Def Digest -> High-Def FAQ: Is HDMI 1.3 Really Necessary?

Great new article by Joshua Zyber on High-Def Digest
High-Def FAQ: Is HDMI 1.3 Really Necessary?
Basically, a nice article about real world HDMI 1.3 pros/cons of Deep Color, Lip Sync and HD Lossless Audio format capabilities.

Wednesday, August 01, 2007

Is the format war over? Do I need a new Receiver? What do I need to enjoy these new high definition audio formats?

Another question this week. Sort of one of ours...

Q) Is the format war over? Do I need a new Receiver? What do I need to enjoy these new high definition audio formats?

A) Well, despite the recent announcements of Sony gains in the HD Disk format war, there is still no clear winner. Now about the receiver and all that...

OK, lets see here, do I need a HDMI receiver to decode Tru HD or do I need the player to do it and just send it PCM? What was that thingy about some receivers passing Video or audio, or one or the other but not that other thing? Doesn't everything have to be HDMI 1.3a or I can't get all of that really cool stuff in HDMI 1.3a no matter what I do? What if I have a great sounding Receiver or Preamp/Processor that sounds great but doesn't have HDMI? Problems, problems, and to top it off HDMI incompatibility issues* are as confusing as ever. What do I have to do for everything to just work, without me having to get an EE degree?
Right now, if you are considering one of the new HD DVD players or Blu Ray players, and have been looking into the whole audio mess of it all, you have probably reached a point where you just want to throw up your hands and give up. No wonder sales are so slow for the new HD players - not only do they go ahead and have an ill-conceived format war, but the complications of connecting them and getting all that the new formats can deliver in audio and video is so complicated that the most dedicated of A/V nerds shivers at the thought of helping a friend get it working in any demonstrable way.
Sure, you could go out and preorder one of the new Denons (or other brands coming soon) to decode everything you think you could want, but don't think for a minute that there might not be a "software" update possibility in your future to enable something you feel you "need", or to fix a problem. This is tricky with receivers. You usually have to send it into the shop for this.

Another solution
If you have a Receiver or Preamp/Processor with 5.1 multichannel analog inputs for surround sound, or maybe 7.1 inputs, you may want to consider this...
Here's the premise: You must use DVD/Blu Ray/HD DVD players with multichannel outputs to do all the decoding and digital to analog conversions. You can use HDMI, Component Video or whatever for video output to the display. If you have only one player, connect it with a multichannel cable and set the receiver to "External input" and you are done. If you have several players with these multichannel outputs you should think about a multichannel switcher. Connect the Audio/Video Source components to the switcher with some multichannel analog audio cables, connect the multichannel outputs of the switcher to the input on the receiver, and you are done. No worrying about the receiver supporting Tru HD or DTS HD, no worries about the receiver passing or not passing anything, and no HDMI issues. If the player can do the right thing, your receiver will not be a problem at all.
If you can't stand to deal with all of this nonsense anymore, go analog, baby. It just works.

Zektor 5.1 multichannel switcher (no remote but with IR Learning)

Zektor Passive 4x1, 200MHz, Multichannel switcher, RS-232, IR-Jack, Includes Remote

Zektor 7.1 channel switcher with HDMI, digital coax audio and Optical Toslink MAS7.1

5.1, 6.1, 7.1 Multichannel Cables from RamElectronics.Net

* Hey, HDMI is going to be great. It can work beautifully if you are careful with your product selections. Then again, it can, get pretty tricky, with all of the constant adding of new features, it gets better, but with less "compatibility". The used market is going to get ugly.

Wednesday, July 25, 2007

HDMI Cable Quality question

(Q) I am really confused about HDMI cables. I need to connect my DVD to my Receiver (1.5 - 3 feet) to my TV (1080p)(6 feet). Do I need to buy the high end cables? Some people say yes (they advocate Monster 400's) and others say no. I just want to make sure they have good shielding. Any suggestions?

(A) Normally, you do not need a special HDMI cable, even for 1080p at relatively short cable lengths. Any good quality HDMI cable should work at 6 feet or less. As the cable length goes over 10-12 feet and beyond it gets harder and harder for a small gauge inexpensive cable to work adequately, and there will start to be more and more "bit" errors. The higher the video resolution, the higher the bandwidth required, and the shorter the cable length can be.
Unlike analog video, when digital video goes bad it goes really bad. With analog video, if a signal is weak, you just get slightly less signal, so the color or brightness level is a bit less. With digital, increases in errors mean more and more bits of information that have nothing to do with the original signal. What you start to end up with on the screen is pixels that are not the correct color, often referred to as sparkles. Worsening errors cause wide swathes of obviously digital distortion on the screen or throughout the screen. This is a really, really ugly sight.
Aside from a cable working properly when you first plug it in, there are some other longevity issues you may want to take into account. If the cable is too delicate or cheaply made, it will damage easily. Small amounts of damage to a twisted pair cable like these hdmi cables, such as a small kink in the cable, slightly over bending the cable or even stepping on the cable may render an HDMI cable unusable. Contacts can also oxidize or retain contaminants from the air causing problems. These are all pretty good reasons to get a "better" cable. We are not saying to get one that costs 5 times the price of your average cable, but we are saying that in the long run, cheapest is not always best.

more info Link:
Real World DVI and HDMI Cable limitations

Friday, June 22, 2007

HQV Video Quality "Test" disks

Evaluate your Video System

HQV (Hollywood Quality Video) DVD, HD DVD and Blu Ray video quality evaluation test disks by Silicon Optix can help you determine just how good of a job your equipment is really doing getting the video encoded on the disks onto your display.

You can use them to do a basic evaluation of your system as a whole or run it multiple times with different settings on the various components to see what gives the best results for your system as a whole. For example changing which device does the de-interlacing - your DVD player or your display, or trying a 720p and 1080i setting from a source to a display and comparing results. The results can be surprising and counter intuitive, and even go against the usually prescribed preferences. They aren't as cheap as you may like, but using the same disks that many review sites use for part of a displays evaluation can give you a lot of insight into reviews as well as point to where the weaknesses of your setup reside.
We do want to be clear that these disks do not offer test patterns or much in the way of help in calibration. They are solely for evaluation.

Silicon Optix is not without bias, since they do make some very nice video processing chipsets used by a lot of manufacturers and they do include many tests that are designed to highlight the benefits of these products, but they are still undoubtedly among a shortlist of disks that are great to have for troubleshooting and evaluating video processing of a complete video system. Highly recommended.

Where to buy:

Wednesday, June 13, 2007

HDMI/HDCP to VGA/RGB Conversion

HDMI/HDCP to VGA/RGB Conversion

We get constant questions about how to convert HDMI to VGA or Component video. Really constant. Everyday. There are so-called "HDCP strippers" available out there in cyberspace and we hesitate to tell customers about them because of the potential legal issues of doing so. Nobody wants to be sued by HDMI or Digital Content Protection, LLC. On the other hand, information is freely available about these solutions on the net, and we felt a need to give our visitors "the scoop". We'll give you some links later to sites dealing with the legality of these devices. They are strictly available in Europe or elsewhere overseas and are not considered "legal" to sell in the USA.
We tested out one of the new HD Fury converters from which we, er, found laying in the street somewhere....

Connecting the HDFury to your average DVI or HDMI DVD player to an LCD monitor, or LCD TV through a VGA port results in an image shifted to the left a bit. You can adjust the monitor for this in most cases so it is not such a big deal. Using an LCD monitor as a TV is not really so awesome as they have pretty crappy contrast ratio, etc. Besides, spending this much money to use an LCD monitor as an HDTV monitor is silly, with all of the HDCP enabled LCD monitors coming out with goodprices and better performance. So, using this as a Playstation 3 to VGA LCD monitor display converter does not really seem like a smart investment.
Connecting the HDFury from a PS3 to a Plasma with VGA 1080p compatible input? It works. And isn't that cool?! We are not sure which Plasmas and LCD's can take 1080p over VGA input, but those that can are likely to be able to get 1080p over VGA with nice results. Of course you could also do it over HDMI in most cases so whats so great about that? Well, some people do have displays that will take 1080p over VGA but nor DVI or HDMI. We are not saying it is worth it, just saying that it can work. Not that the image wasn't "smokin", just that for 1080p vs sources to 1080p displays, the difference between a 1080p or 1080i connection is pretty much usually about 99% hype. This could be a highly variable thing among different displays, since some will down convert 1080i to 540p, and other variations on this kind of thing. New displays that are 1080p native usually will accept a 1080p input. Those that only can accept Component video will still need a transcoder, too, so we are talking about $150 for the HDMI to RGB (VGA) and then more for the RGB to Component video (Y-Pr-Pb) converter. For those who just have to know that their 1080p player is pumping out 1080p to their display, well, there are a couple of other things to consider before dropping your money over in Europe.
This thing caused our expensive Sencore video signal generator to shutoff every time we connected it. Scary. This was with short cables and with or without power to the generator. We stopped trying to connect it, which is a shame since we were looking to see if there were overscan problems, noise or other possible video artifacts introduced. This could be a sign of something that could mean reduced lifespan of your connected devices. or not.

So, generally this is a device for big front CRT projector owners, nothing more and nothing less. Sure there may be some special cases, but most people who want a HDMI to analog HD converter are barking up the wrong tree. If you have a big, expensive CRT projector and need to get an HDMI signal into it, this may be worthwhile. Only people with these projectors will really be able to evaluate the picture quality they are going to get, in any case, since most available digital projectors can't do what those projectors can with an analog signal.
What about those old HDTV's with RGB inputs? What about those early adopters with HDTV'swith Component video inputs? Yes, you can do it, but doesn't it feel like your getting screwed a second time? Why bother? You can still get HD in Component video, right? OK, so those with the early early RGB sets, might think about using this. Not a bad idea, right? Well, maybe so, maybe so... on you, baby.

Legal issues:
Will the FBI come and break down your door?
Well, probably not - unless you are doing something wrong, like sharing. It is hard, legally, to say anything about the legal aspects of this, so we won't. We will just give you some links to check this out for yourself.
HD Fury Legality link Strange that this is not a URL actually on the site?

Quote from HDFury site:
" we cannot see how these devices can pass the Digital Millennium Copyright Act (DMCA)"

Buyer Beware. It is not impossible that these devices will be rendered inoperable in the future by an update coming from a HD DVD or Blu ray disk. This is something you also need to think about.
Anyone with any more info or corrections is encouraged to comment.

Thursday, May 24, 2007

Some more Questions and Answers from Support emails

We occasionally like to post some of the good Support questions we get. Here are some from today.
Q) Can I use component video cables (Green-Red-Blue) to connect analog to analog (Yellow-Red-White)? If not why not?

A) You cannot convert between Composite video and Component video with a cable, you will need a converter box.
The Red, Green and Blue is Component video.
The Yellow is Composite Video.
The Red and White are analog stereo audio

Component Video uses a bandwidth reduction method to convert RGB to signals called Y, Pr and Pb (analog) or Y- Cr-Cb (digital)
Composite video uses a single RCA or BNC connector with color, brightness and sync in a single connector)

Video Converters

Q) I've been serching the Net and I am confused. Is there such a beast that will accept component video, s video, and component video, and convert it to HDMI output? If so can I purchase a home theater amplifier which has this switching and conversion internally?

A) Yes, there are video processors that will do this as well as take care of the audio/video switching between A/V sources. Many new Receivers offer some or all of these capabilities as well, but generally at a much lower level of processing quality.
Video Processors

Q) Hello, I read your DVI-I page and am still a little confused. I have a Radeon X1900 XT video card and would like to buy an LCD display (2560x1600 60hz) to use with it.
According the manufacturer web sites:
The video card has dual link DVI-I.
The display has dual link DVI-D inputs and will come with 2 DVI-D cables.
Will one of the DVI-D cables be sufficient to connect these devices?

A) Yes, one "dual link" cable for one "dual link" capable monitor connected to one "dual link" output from the video card.
The term "dual link" is confusing, it only requires a single cable.

Dual link DVI cables, in case you need a longer, shorter or better one.

Q) What is the best way to distribute HD video though out the house. Can Cat5 be converted to component video?

A) Cat5 (cat5e or cat6) is the most cost effective way. Fiber optics is great, but costs a lot more, is way harder to repair, and the associated equipment will cost way more. There is also the "Pro" solution - SDI. The cable you need is not too expensive, but the equipment sure is.

Cat5 can be used to distribute Component video and audio using either baluns or proprietary conversion systems.
Audio Authority has a good example of proprietary system:
The AVAtrix Whole-House Routing System

more Distribution from Audio Authority

With the method that uses baluns, you use standard distribution amplifiers, like the Key Digital or Calrad ones:
AV Distribution Amplifiers

along with baluns to convert the audio and video for Cat5 cable runs over long distances:
AV Baluns

Rather than baluns there are other proprietary Cat5 extension solutions such as Gefen's:
Gefen Home Theater Distribution
These are great when you want the latest or best technologies such as HDMI.

Well, that's it for today. We wish everyone a great holiday!

Friday, May 11, 2007

Future proof audio and video cables

We are often asked about what cables to run in-wall, or in ceiling, raceway, etc to a projector or other video or audio device(s) in order to "future proof" the installation. Closing up a wall or ceiling is usually a pretty final act and having cables for any future necessary connections already installed is paramount.

Several years ago, having numerous 75 ohm cables installed to the necessary local would support all the necessary forms of Component video with analog and digital audio. Six of them would be fine to support Component video, digital multichannel audio and stereo analog audio.

HDMI changed all of that. Running an HDMI cable could support digital video and audio. You have to test before installation and assure that the cable will work at the length you need with the resolutions you may need now and in the future.

So what about the future? With HDMI continually changing its requirements for cables you probably need the latest, amplified and equalized cables to offer support for 1080p, high resolution audio and possibly available formats coming in the future. While HDMI will be a great solution for a number of years, since there is no sure way to know about where the future lies, HDMI at its best, is possibly a temporary solution, albeit a pretty nice one, and certainly the best currently to use.

Adding Cat5e/Cat6 Cables or Fiber optic cables to the installation is as close as you can be at this point to a "future proof" solution. You don't have to use them now. Just have them in the wall for future possible use. Cat5e or Cat6 is particularly cheap to add. You should add several cables, depending on what the possible usage may be. Running four or five CAT5e/6 cables will cover most any video and audio requirements that the future will bring, using external baluns or converters. The more you run, the more flexibility you will have for the future formats, converters and Baluns. Running two cables will offer a lot of options for video or audio separately. Even two connections may be enough in the future for high resolution audio and video in coming formats.

The conclusion? Cat5e/Cat6 is definitely worthy of considering along with HDMI for inwall solutions, for now and in the future. Fiber is more expensive to have installed, and the devices which take advantage of it are generally more expensive, but it is capable of great data bandwidths. If you are only running audio, or digital audio, baluns using Cat5e/Cat6 are a great way to go.

Cat5 for Audio and Video

Fiber Optic and other DVI and HDMI extension

Wireless Audio/Video

Friday, May 04, 2007

How to connect your Home Theater

Our Home Theater connections page was very popular for a long time with its pictures of the various connections and explanations of what they were for. It has been a long time since we updated it. With the new HD DVD and Blu Ray connections, 1080p, HDMI 1.3 and new digital audio formats, we felt it was time to update our guide with the latest information. We also added in a section on Speaker cables. Please check it out and let us know if you'd like us to add anything to it.

Home Theater Connection Guide

Wednesday, April 04, 2007

Gaming on your HDTV!

With the introduction of new Game consoles with high definition video outputs and surround sound audio outputs, more and more people are getting into a phenomenon called "Home Theater Gaming". If you have a High definition capable TV, a surround sound system and a new Game console like the Xbox 360 or Playstation 3, you can play your games at the highest resolution on your TV and listen with your Home Theater or Stereo Receiver. If gaming was addictive before, it is beyond addictive with widescreen high resolution video and surround sound effects.
We have the latest high quality Monster cables to get the best quality audio and video from your setup. We also have solutions for those problem setups with devices that don't have compatible connectivity options and we can help you sort out the best way to connect your system for the best results at the lowest price.

Please see our Monster Game cables page.
Feel free to call, online chat or email us with your HD Gaming connectivity problems.

Friday, March 23, 2007

We have added a new "DIY" article on the RAM website:
Building a Core 2 Duo Vista PC.
It is about building a basic Vista core2 duo pc for regular use, and has some speculation about when it might be wise to try a Vista Media center style or HTPC High definition PC with Blu ray and/or HD DVD capabilities. Please feel free to comment here on the article.

Tuesday, March 20, 2007

How do I connect the VGA monitor output from a computer to a HDTV Component video input? Can I just use a VGA to Component video cable?

You will need more than just cables, you will need video format converters.
VGA signals are in the RGB format, while TV's with Component video is a Y-Pr-Pb encoded format.
We have several different models depending on exactly what you will need. The "non scaling" converters output the exact same resolution and refresh rate as they have going into their input. This is confusing to many people, because it is, well, pretty confusing. It converts only the color encoding, not the resolution, and the scan rate stays the same. So for a TV that only takes 720p (1280x720@60Hz) you must set the computer output to 1280x720@60Hz. Not 75Hz, or 70Hz, but 60Hz. Not 1280x1024 or 1024x768, it would need to be 1280x720@60Hz. 1080i settings are the same type of deal, only often trickier. Some of the new video card drivers have specific HDTV (720p/1080i) output settings which usually work very well.
With a converter that has built-in scaling you can convert the color encoding while also converting the resolution and refresh rate so you can take most common video formats of the PC type and convert to most of the common formats of the TV type. This is much easier of course, but also can tend to distort the image if you try and convert from/to very dissimilar formats. For example, converting an image from standard TV size - 4:3 to Widescreen - 16:9 will distort the image, making average people appear rather overweight.

Low cost Audio Authority Converter

Key Digital KD-VA5 bi-directional converter

Calrad Scaler/Converter

Audio Authority 1365 Scaler/Converter

Related Blog posts:
How to connect HDMI to VGA/Component Video?
Question about Converting HDMI to VGA with a Projector

Wednesday, February 21, 2007

Video Calibration - The Best looking Bikini Destination
or, how about some FREE BEER!

The situation:
You buy your lovely HD Display, take it home, hook it all up with everything else and sit back and watch some lovely HDTV programming, DVD's or new HD Blu Ray or HD DVD's. It looks pretty good, right? Well in almost all cases it could look a whole lot better. The ugly truth is that almost all TV's are pre-adjusted by default to show the brightest, sharpest picture they possibly can. Well, that does certainly sound good, so what could be wrong with that?
There are a bunch of reasons, some of which are a bit counter intuitive. Here's one, you know how you can "whiten your clothes by adding bluing for extra whiteness"? Well you can make whites look whiter by adding blue in video as well. Guess what? A lot of manufacturers use this trick to make their displays look brighter in a showroom. As a matter of fact, most manufacturers default settings use every trick in the book to make their displays (your display) look brighter and more colorful at the expense of accuracy. It may look great at first, but you will never see the movie the way it was meant to look using a display as it comes from the factory. Overly Sharpening the picture is another trick used by manufacturers to make their pictures "pop". Unfortunately, this usually creates a lot of visual "artifacts" that many people would never guess are caused by that overly high "sharpness" setting in their video displays setup menu.

It is true that a full ISF calibration will usually give you the best possible picture your display can provide, but it is not inexpensive and somewhat difficult to justify for an inexpensive display.
You could go by the settings posted on your favorite home theater forum web site. Some spudnik claims they have an even more 3D image than "supervidman1"'s settings with a "15" rather than a "7" for their "contrast" setting. Are you really going to go for that?

Well, thankfully, there are alternatives. There are Calibration DVD's which will not only give you the instructions on how to calibrate your display, but give you the test patterns to do so. Avia and Digital Video essentials will pretty much walk you through the process. It is very hard not to get a better looking picture after using these disks.
The next step up in Calibration technology is a system with a colorimeter (video brightness/color meter) and software that allows you to use it to get the best picture possible without having to use your eyes to "guesstimate" your settings. The Datacolor Spyder products are easy to use and do a great job. You can even use them to do all the TV's in your house. Do you have friends with HDTV's? Do they know your absolute favorite beer?

Read our DVD Video Calibration Guide

Friday, February 02, 2007

Q) Can somebody help me out? I don't understand all the technical jargon I am reading about Blue-Ray vs HD DVD, but I need to make a decision on which to buy because soon I am purchasing a 52" Sharp LCD TV. If someone could just tell me in layman's terms the advantages and disadvantages of those two units, I would truly appreciate it.

A) It is very hard to recommend one over the other. Either one could end up the winner or loser in the format war. A good strategy as far as we are concerned is to rent movies rather than buy them and to try and pay the least possible amount of money on your player. HD DVD drives are generally less expensive, and shopping around or getting a used or open box player are options you may want to think about.
The Blu-Ray bargain is the Playstation 3. If you think you will be even remotely interested in games at all, it becomes that much better of an option. In any case it is a very good Blu-Ray player and is likely to hold its value since even if Blu-Ray were to lose the format war, it would still have value as a game console.

Besides keeping in mind the cost of the player, you need to see which titles are available and upcoming for each format to help decide which will give you the most satisfying content from your perspective. Some of us have gone "format neutral" by getting a PS3 as well as a Toshiba HD DVD player.

Thursday, January 11, 2007

CES 2007 Venetian High End Audio

The location of the high end audio gear is in a new location at the Venetian, which is a fantastic place, but we still missed the relaxing walk around Alexis Park Hotel and the easy walk to "The Show" (the "other" high end audio show) next door at the St Tropez.

We heard the Gradient Evidence Mk III speakers with Sonneteer transport and amplification first and the combination was wonderfully musical and refined. Highly recommended. In addition, the Sonneteer Sedley phono stage is available with a USB connection for backing up vinyl recordings to a computer. This is the highest quality way we have yet seen to record your records to your computer.

We next got to listen to the Symposium Panorama Loudspeaker prototypes. These use planar dynamic ribbon mid/high drivers of very low mass, with a separate twin driver aperiodic folded transmission line bass enclosure. They are huge and a bit ungainly looking and may not pass the WAF test, they are truely something to listen to. They take detail to a new level well beyond what cone speakers can provide. The bass enclosures match incredibly well which is very hard to do with planars or electrostatics.

Any chance possible to listen to the AvantGarde Acoustic Duo would be crazy to miss. These are not popular because they are beautiful and amazingly efficient, so that they can be driven by the most simple low wattage tube amps. They are popular because they sound so damn realistic. Presense is the definition of these speakers, as in the singer or instrument sounds like they are right there in front of you.

Finally, we went to the McIntosh room. Everyone knows them for their incredible amplification and transports, but they do make loudspeakers as well. I believe what we saw and heard was the new version of their line source XRT2K speakers with redesigned woofers which we were told are a huge leap forward for the woofer design. All drivers are sized in order to properly disperse their entire frequency range, with 2" midranges and 3/4" tweeters (lots and lots of both). Well the truth is in the listening, and the results are spectacular. I cannot say I have ever heard bass of this quality and volume. The soundfield was also remarkable, particularly for a line source. Moving about the room you could still hear the far end speaker sound field properly located. Dynamics to die for and loud clear and totally musical, these things may make people forget that McIntosh makes amplifiers. Well, ok, that's a bit much. Check them out if you ever get the chance.
CES 2007 International Hall
We didn't get many pictures at the International Hall, doing so requires long conversations and exchanges of business cards which can really make covering the hall take a long time. We prefer to try and snatch up the brochures of what looks interesting as we go by and run off before they can catch us. It's great execise and really speeds things up. Besides, to be honest we wanted to get to the Venetian so we could listen to some awesome sound systems.

HDMI was very hot this year, with many vendors for cables, switchers and distribution amps. Memory card picture frames were also everywhere at CES this year, so much so that you may soon see them for sale in 7/11.

Genmore International Showed off some real eye candy cables.

Carve had the usual computer cables, adapters and KVM stuff, but what really stood out was their selection of small USB hubs. Small is in with USB hubs, and they had small ones, a nice looking variety.

Racewood Secu-Tech had some very small Audio/Video recorders which would record to SD cards. They also had a small quad recorder for 4 signals which could take hard drives under 300GB and LCD audio/video recorders that used SD cards.

Unitek had everything USB, Card readers, hard drive cases, flash drives, Hubs, audio adapters, PCI Express cards, PCMCIA ExpressCards and the usual adapters.

VideoHome had all kinds of PC/TV recording and connection, icluding video capture, video tomonitor, and wireless audio/Video.

That's it, we are off to the Venetian for our desert!

Wednesday, January 10, 2007

CES 2007 Central Hall

We jumped on a bus to the central hall where all the buzz is. This is the splashiest hall where the biggest of the big boys display. Throw a rock and it will bounce off at least 12 flat panal displays before it hits the ground.

CES 2007 Central Hall
Microsoft, Intel, Sony, Toshiba, Samsung, LG, all the big players are here. Some of the displays you would swear are as big as a city block.

Before we get into the big boys, please forgive a little bit of a rant.
Like many people, I have Cable TV, multiple HD DVR's multple HDTV's in multiple rooms and it does cost a bit of money. But, I can't watch what I want, where I want, when I want without having to go to the room with the DVR that has that program on it unless I want to go into "on demand" which is a pita, and is not always even available, and sometimes has an extra charge even though I have the bloody program recorded on a different DVR. This has gone on too long for the sake of "content protection". When can I have a solution that will allow me to have happiness? Sure there are non HD solutions. Is that happiness? No, it is not. I don't want to record this content to DVD, or "steal" anything, I just want to time shift things, and have a complete, converged system with plenty of reasonably priced, easy to add storage to allow me to enjoy all the possible HD goodness available. Even normal people with a single HDTV and a single DVR should at least have easily upgraded storage options and a gui on their set top box that is not like windows 1.0. Vista could change this, but only if a lot of others get their act together. Pretty soon, we consumers will all just throw in the towel on the whole mediacenter thing, go to Apple TV or forget the whole thing and just spend all of our time on youtube. Um, ok, rant mode off.

Vista Does stuff
Microsoft is doing the big Vista push. It looks good, sounds good and it does great things. Thrilling and all, but XP works ok, and, well, see above.

Intel was very impressive. Their core2 Duo laptop video editing demo was great. Their core 2 Quad processor demos were equally great. The knowledgeable people manning their booths were great at showing off the capabilities of their great new processors. The Viiv booth was informative and even manned by sympathetic people who understood our general rantiness about the whole big multimedia splash that "seems" sans HD. In fact they gave us some hope. There will be (maybe already are D-link?) networked media "extenders" with HDMI output that will allow us to build a new DIY Media center with Vista that can transmit HD video to our HDTV's. We'll see.

DLP with LED? Yes, there was at least one displayed. This could be a great thing for DLP for more reasons than bulb life. Brightness, Color accuracy and gamut improvements would be nice added features.

LG Blu Ray/HD DVD Dual player - with the "Blues Brothers"
Blu Ray was all around as was HD DVD, but we are annoyed by the format war as much as anyone. Yes, LG did announce their dual format drive with the "Blues Brothers" which was entertaining. We certainly applaud LG for this.

Interesting too, was the blocked view of all connections on the back of the LG dual format drive. Is this product really real yet? We hope so. Might take a little while, but we love 'em for it.

Samsung people told us that snapping pictures of their new displays was not allowed, so we will not show any pictures. We might have said something good about their new displays, but with their attitude, we will not show any pictures of anything Samsung, just to be fair.

Toshiba had no problems with everybody shooting their new HD DVD players including their HD-XA2 player with Silicon Optix HQV processing. Sweet!

Enough for now, tomorrow, the International Hall at the Hilton, and hopefully a little High end audio at the Venetian.
CES 2007 Sands Expo Center

Well, we made a quick change of plans today. The monorail line was too long so we trekked on foot to the Sands Expo center rather than go straight to the Hilton International part of the show. The Sands grows every year and is filled with all kinds of products as well as the Innovations award winners. After that, on to the Central Hall. OK, lets get started.

While Enermax makes great cases, this is not one of them. It is a very unusual demo though. Liquid cooling is all the rage at this years CES, but this may be going a bit too far.

Lian Li is another great case manufacturer with some great cases this year, including some nice HTPC/Media center cases. This case is apparantly from their "snail period".

Cool cleaners - the iRobot vacuuming robots not only can avoid bumping into things, but they also can avoid falling off of them! Soon they will be furry, cute and have big loving eyes and smiling mouths so you can do away with the vacuum, dog or cat.

It's a house, no, it's a plane, no, it's a Runco projector!
Always amazing, but if you have to ask the price, well....

What's French, cute, and reads RSS feeds out loud? The Nabaztag Smart Rabbit is all that, hopefully it has a sexy french accent.
CES 2007 the South Hall
Some highlights.

Qualcomm Wireless Mobility booth was one of the most interesting we have ever seen. We dug it.

Belkin really had a great booth, with a group of different home settings and quite a few interesting devices set up to show how they might be used in the various locales...
Their Tunestudio was a new Audio interface connection for recording to iPods. Is this a new Belkin or what?

D-Link had a great booth with tons of great networking stuff. Their partner - Pure Networks has a great looking, easy network setup program called Network Magic that helps you setup, maintain and get more out of your network with a great gui design that looks like it can help network novices get the most out of their home networks without the help of their poor, overburdened geek freinds! You can download a free 30 day trial from:

Seagate/Maxtor had way too much to mention, just an amazing variety of storage solutions. Our favorite is the FreeAgent Pro - Access your content from anywhere, share it with anyone, and sync it to almost anything. Locally on your network or over the Internet. Wow!

Faroudja and Meridian had a fantastic demo showing off their MCTi film judder reduction technology. If film judder bothers you (hey who doesn't it!) you will be amazed at the difference this makes. Of course we did NOT ask for the price! Maybe someday this will get down to current DCDi type priced products. Fantastic demo, nonetheless.

Algolith had the new Flea with HDMI miniature Mosquito Noise reducer, compression artifact reducer which is around $1000, quite a budget device in comparison to their other video processors.

Gennums VXP processing was also shown off with great demos of most of their features. Very impressive demos in a large booth this year.

Gefen had a vast number of interesting new products including a budget Component video and HDMI scaler, two media recorders, Wireless USB 2.0, Wireless HDMI, Wireless Component video with audio, and a new high end scaler with Gennum VXP processing. Woah.

Thermaltake and Silverstone had amazing cases for HTPC or Windows media PCs. Stunningly nice lloking cases ready for proud display in the living room. Shown is the massive Thermaltake Mozart IP. Yikes!

That's just some of the great stuff we ran across in the huge South hall at CES 2007.
more tomorrow....

Monday, January 08, 2007

Yes we are here at CES 20007 in Las Vegas! So far we are still in the recovery stage. Coming from New Jersey to Las Vegas is never easy, and a quick resurgence of energy is best accomplished with a good Sushi dinner and some refreshing adult liquid jet lag reducers. Mission accomplished, we prepared for tomorrows (Tuesday, January 9th) slog through the most brutal of torture tests.

The Plan:

Tuesday - The infamous "south hall."
Larger than most U.S. cities, the south hall is a brutal walkfest through a gigantic variety of Audio/Video, computer and all manner of consumer electronics devices.
As an athletic event, the CES show should be done in stages. The South hall is like the Mountain stages in the tour de france. Never ending and filled with interesting twists, turns, traffic and unforeseeable problems it just seems to go on forever.

The plan is to do the International hall and central hall with the "quickie" run through the north hall to catch some of the amazing auto "booth babes" which are a good way to pick up some steam between halls. The International hall is mostly Chinese and other importers. Despite the popularity of the other "hot technology" halls, this one has some of the most interesting products imaginable, some good, some truly odd to our sensibilities. The Central Hall is the big time splash hall of technology for a lot of the major players in computers and A/V. Unfortunately this hall is very large, and among the dreck in the back there are some really interesting finds.

The Sands Expo center and a bit of the Venetian.
The Sands expo center has the innovations award winners and a lot of other real interesting stuff. Many importers also display here. The Venetian has the high end audio stuff.
Unlike before, the Venetian is not going to be next door to "The Show" - the other high end audio show in Vegas, which was formerly right next door. This is a big drag, since that was a great thing, two shows of great, high end audio right next to one another, but what can you do?

We will try to give you some decent pictures and a few highlights of less reported things. We are not going to give you another picture of the latest 104" plasma which everyone else will give you. We are here for the stuff you use to connect it.