Sound Advice Column: Subwoofer cables and setup, recording VHS videotape to Blu-ray or DVD

Sound Advice
By Don Lindich

Distributed By McClatchy-Tribune Information Services

Q: Do I need to buy a special subwoofer cable to connect the subwoofer to my receiver?

Clinton, PA

A: You do not need a special cable, just a cable with RCA jacks on each end. When connecting with the subwoofer cable you set the receiver to “Subwoofer>Yes” and set the front speakers to the appropriate size. Small would correspond to teacup-size speakers; large applies to anything bookshelf-size or larger.

Please note that there is more than one way to connect a subwoofer. If your subwoofer has speaker-level inputs you may get better results with them, especially if you have very small front speakers.

To use the speaker-level inputs, you connect the receiver’s left and right channels to the subwoofer with speaker wire, then from the subwoofer to the front speakers. Then you set the receiver to “Subwoofer>No” and “Front Speakers>Large.” Balance the sound using the subwoofer’s volume and crossover controls.

Try both connections and use the one that sounds best to you.

Q: I have several VCR tapes (of various important family events, weddings, anniversaries, etc.) that I would like to copy to DVD format with a DVD/VHS Recorder. However, now that Blu-ray will be the standard, should I wait for a VHS/Blu-ray recorder that will copy to that format? Since the quality of the VCR tapes and the few current DVD from my camera are not high definition Blu-ray quality, I think it should not make a difference. What do you think?

Livermore, Calif.

A There is no need to wait for a Blu-ray recorder. A DVD far exceeds the video quality of VHS, so it will capture all of the resolution as long as you use it in the SP mode, which records two hours on a single recordable DVD disc. I recommend recording on DVD-R discs over DVD+R as the DVD-R discs seem to be more compatible across brands of DVD players.

Though we aren’t seeing them in the marketplace just yet, Blu-ray video recorders have been around for a long time, and the history behind the Blu-ray format may surprise you.

Blu-ray was originally developed for the Japanese market as a high-definition recording format, not as a home movie format. Blu-ray discs hold the data very close to the surface of the disc, which meant that a smudge or tiny scratch would be enough to make the disc unplayable or even ruin it entirely. Because of this fragility, early Blu-ray discs came in plastic cartridges for protection. Clumsy cartridges were deemed unacceptable for a mass-market home video product, so as Blu-ray evolved into a prerecorded movie format, the manufacturers sought a solution to make the discs more durable.

This led to TDK’s development of Durabis, the hard coating that makes Blu-ray discs smudge- and scratch-resistant to the point where they can take steel wool being taken to them and not show any scratches. It’s a classic case of turning lemons into lemonade.

Though recordable Blu-ray for mass-market consumers is still a long way off, as a movie format Blu-ray has had some very positive developments lately. Though many movie fans plan on sticking with DVD, there are some good reasons you may want to seriously think of getting into Blu-ray sooner rather than later. More on that next week.

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