Sound Advice Week 11, 2011 : Connecting computer and sound system, image stabilization and unsteady hands, under $1,000 complete home theater with soundbar and streaming

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Sound Advice
By Don Lindich

Week 11, 2011

Q. I have a desktop computer I use with powered computer speakers. Nearby I have a vintage stereo receiver with speakers. Is it possible to run the computer audio through my receiver and speakers, and will it work when using Netflix or iTunes?

-Dale Nielsen, Shoreview, MN

A. This is very easy to do and the receiver and speakers will play all audio from the computer, be it music, movies, video games or web content.

All you need is a $5.00 miniplug to RCA cable. Connect the miniplug end to the output you currently use with your computer speakers. Connect the other end to an RCA input on your receiver, using any input but phono. Select the input on the receiver, turn the computer volume to 75% so you send out a strong but undistorted signal, and adjust the volume on the receiver. The sound will now come from the speakers.

Q. After reading your column on the Olympus PEN cameras I am considering buying one. Due to a medical condition (familial tremors) my hands are very unsteady. I am concerned this will affect picture quality. I was also planning on getting the telephoto lens. Will the telephoto lens compound my problem?

-Name withheld for reader’s medical privacy

A. Any hand movement at the moment of exposure will likely affect picture quality. Though I do not know how pronounced your condition is I am afraid that the tremors may cause some fuzziness, and with the telephoto lens it will be more pronounced. Using a higher ISO so you can use higher shutter speeds may help, but it is dependent on factors such as lighting, the lens used and the shutter speed.

You may want to try a Tamrac ZipShot, an ultra-compact 11-ounce tripod not much longer than a foot when collapsed. You hold out the collapsed tripod at arm’s length, release your grip and it automatically extends and locks the legs in place. It’s a useful tool for any photographer and only costs $49. You can use it as a tripod or monopod to combat the problem. See it at

System of the week: This week’s system is a complete home theater for under $1,000, using a powered soundbar so you do not need to run speaker wires. This compact, simple setup combats one of the most frequent complaints I receive these days, namely thin, weak sound from the speakers in flat-panel TVs.

The Samsung PN42C450 is my favorite TV selling for under $500. This 42-inch 720p plasma regularly sells for $499 and has a sharp picture with vivid yet natural color. Providing sound is Sony’s HT-CT150 Sound Bar system, only $299. It has been playing to rave reviews from customers and is simple to set up and use.

Add an Insignia NS-WBRDVD2 from Best Buy for only $129. It will play Blu-ray movies, DVDs, CDs, and wirelessly stream content from Netflix, Pandora and CinemaNow.

Get three $5 HDMI cables from Amazon or Monoprice. Use them to connect the Blu-ray player and your cable/satellite box to the soundbar, then connect the soundbar to the TV. You will have an easy to use system with a great picture, great sound, and the ability to use both discs and online sources to watch movies and listen to music.

Questions?  Email Don

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