Sound Advice, Week 9, 2011 : Digital SLR Focusing, replace DVD with Blu-ray, $400 stereo system

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Sound Advice
By Don Lindich

Week 9, 2011

Q. My digital SLR (an Olympus E-520) focuses much slower in live view mode than it does when I use the viewfinder. I really prefer using the live view. Is there a problem with my camera and is there anything I can do to speed it up?

-F.P. Woodside, North Hills, PA

A. Your camera uses different autofocus systems depending on whether you are in through-the-lens viewfinder (TTL) mode or live view mode. TTL mode uses a focusing system called phase detection, which focuses much faster than the contrast detection focusing of the live view mode. Contrast detection is inherently slower and there is not much you can do about it other than choose your focus points with care so the camera has a good place to focus on.

Q. I have an older Mitsubishi 65-inch projection TV with no HDMI. I am not ready to replace the TV and I need a new DVD player. Is my best bet to buy a Blu-ray player with component outputs and use it to replace my DVD player?

-John Adams

A. Yes, that is absolutely your best bet, especially since an entry-level Blu-ray player can be had for under $100 these days. That’s not much more than a decent quality DVD player and it gets you a lot more picture and sound quality. A 65-inch TV will really show the difference between an ordinary DVD and true high definition from Blu-ray. When you do decide it is time for a new television you can use your new player’s HDMI outputs with it. Act soon though as component outputs are starting to disappear as the industry goes HDMI-only.

Build some systems with Don: Every week I get several dozen emails from readers building systems for music or home theater, asking about different components they are considering or a direct recommendation on what to buy. Over the next few weeks I am going to build some systems for both music and home theater to show readers how easy it can be to get great results and to build something truly unique if you want something different. I hope the system building exercises will entertain as well as give you some ideas for building or adding to your own system as you are introduced to some great products.

To start us off, how about a nice sounding stereo music system, complete with USB turntable, for under $400?

Start with the warm, crisp sounding NS-B2111 bookshelf speakers from Best Buy, $87.98. Power them with a new Sherwood RX-4105 stereo receiver, which was recently improved with a cleaner amplifier section. It can be had for only $79.99 at or DVD and CD playback will be well handled by Panasonic’s DVD-S38 DVD player for 29.99. The crowing touch is the $200 Audio-Technica AT-LP120-USB turntable for $199.98.

Your total? Only $397.96 for a system that plays DVDs, CDs, vinyl records, and can import the vinyl records into your computer. If you can spend just a tad more, speaker stands will make your system sound better and look better. Get some Sanus Systems BF-31B stands for the speakers for $30.97 and you are all set at a very affordable price.

Questions? Email Don

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