Sound Advice Week 5, 2011: Upgrading receivers, HDMI and Component Video Sunset

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Sound Advice
By Don Lindich

Week 5, 2011

Q. I have a Kenwood KRV 7040 audio-video receiver. It was purchased in 1992 and I’ve been very pleased with it. I was considering upgrading to one of the $500 digital HDMI receivers you recommend (either the Onkyo or Pioneer, leaning towards the Pioneer) but after reading your column about older audio receivers being of excellent quality I started to second-guess my plan. Do you think it will improve sound quality sufficiently to justify the cash outlay, given your comments in the recent column?

-Jane M., Pittsburgh, PA

A. If you re-read the column you will see that I said, “Anyone looking to build a two-channel system should strongly consider 1980s-vintage gear for receivers and amplification.” Two-channels means stereo, not surround sound. A/V surround receivers are one area where performance has definitely made huge strides. Your receiver only does Dolby Pro-Logic surround. Since it was manufactured a multitude of new surround formats have been introduced such as Dolby Pro-Logic II, Dolby Digital, DTS, DTS NEO:6, Dolby True HD, and DTS Master Audio. These new formats offer greater fidelity and more convincing, more realistic surround effects with full-range sound. With Dolby True HD and DTS Master Audio you can reproduce the full quality of the movie studio’s master tapes. This was a pipe dream in the 1980s-1990s. Add the Pioneer’s MCACC room correction to improve the way your speakers interact with room acoustics and it isn’t going to be much of a contest at all. Plus, HDMI switching at the receiver will make your life simpler.

In my case where I use an older NAD amplifier in my main home theater, it is just an amplifier with no controls other than a power button. All it can do is power speakers, and at this job it does excel. My Blu-ray player, DVD drive and satellite box are connected to an Anthem AVM 50 surround sound processor/preamp, a thoroughly modern piece of gear. The Anthem provides the signal and the NAD takes it and drives the two front speakers. Another amplifier handles the other channels. By using a modern processor with the amplifier I can use a really powerful claasic amplifier uniquely suited to the speakers I use while enjoying the modern surround formats.

I suggest you go ahead and upgrade to the Pioneer, and use your current receiver in another system devoted to music in another room.

Q. I have an older HDTV that does not have the HDMI so I will be using the component connections. In the Blu-ray player’s manual under ‘component video resolution’ it states the following: “This menu sets the video output resolution when connected via the component video terminal. Even if you select 720p or 1080i the video output resolution is restricted to 480p when images of DVD-video discs are output from the component video out terminals.”

I was under the impression that if I played a Blu-ray disc I would get up to 1080i resolution. What am I missing?

-Janet Hauge, Minneapolis, MN

A. Please note they are referring to DVD-Video discs, meaning a standard DVD, not a Blu-ray disc. DVDs cannot be upconverted to HD resolution over component. HDMI is required to upconvert DVDs to 720p or better resolution. Blu-ray discs will indeed output at 720p or 1080i over the component connection.

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