Adding a DVD recorder, recordable DVD formats, ohm ratings on speakers and receivers explained

Week of December 26, 2004

Q: Any advice on adding a DVD recorder to my entertainment system?

-Bill Anderson, Maple Grove, MN

A: First, you have a choice of formats: DVD-R or DVD+R. One of the first things asked when I receive correspondence from readers is “What format should I buy? There are many available such as DVD-R, DVD+R, DVD-RAM, and DVD+RW, but the primary distinction is between DVD-R and DVD+R.

The original recordable format is DVD-R.  This format is often called DVD minus R, which is incorrect. The – is a dash, so this format is properly referred to as simply DVDR, as CD-R is simply called CDR.

DVD+R was not part of the original recordable DVD specification and was introduced later by Sony and Philips to compete with DVD-R. This has resulted in consumer confusion and an industry format war, which is bad for consumers and the industry in general. A large reason audio and data CDs and video DVDs have been so successful is the industry all got behind the new format and supported it together.

Good quality recorders are available for both DVD-R and DVD+R. I’ve tried both formats and my own preference is for DVD-R recorders. From a functional standpoint, recorded DVD-R discs tend to be more compatible with older players. From a personal standpoint, I do not like the idea of supporting the DVD+R format, which started this format war. Some newer recorders support both formats, which is probably your best bet from a consumer standpoint. If one format beats out the other as VHS did to Beta, you won’t be left out in the cold.

If you plan on recording a lot of television programming, consider a unit with TV Guide On Screen, which will make finding and recording shows much easier. TV Guide On Screen is a free service and you do not need a phone line to use it. TV Guide On Screen works with cable and antennas, but not with satellite, which has its own program guide system.

Recorders with a hard drive allow you to record to the hard drive, edit and then record to DVD. Combined with TV Guide On Screen, you have a very efficient way to find and record programming, the archive it on DVD discs.

Q: What does those ohm numbers on the back of my speakers mean? What does it have to do with my receiver? It has an ohm number at the speaker terminal, too.

-Tricia Etheridge, Hilton Head, SC

A: The rating you refer to is the impedance. It specifies the electrical resistance of the speaker, rated in ohms. The symbol for ohms is the Greek letter Omega [which looks like a horseshoe.] The lower the number, the more demanding the speaker is of the receiver or amplifier.

Most speakers are rated at 6 or 8 ohms. Many high-end designs are rated at 4 ohms, and some exotic speakers are rated as low as 2 ohms.

Receiver and amplifier ratings are usually rated into 8 ohms. When you see a rating such as “75 watts per channel” it is probably an 8 ohm rating.

Many modern receivers cannot power a speaker with a 4 ohm rating, especially if you have more than one pair running in a surround sound system. If you try this and it places too much of a strain on the receiver, it will shut down. This is most likely to happen when you turn up the volume.

Most audiophiles buy separate power amplifiers with strong power supplies that can handle 4 ohm speakers easily. Among receiver brands, mid to upper range models from Denon, Onkyo, Harman/Kardon, and Yamaha tend to perform satisfactorily as well.

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