Matching printers and photo paper, simulated surround sound with only two speakers

Week 17, 2003

Q) I purchased a Canon S830D printer based on your website’s recommendation.   I used the sample pack of 4×6 Canon paper that came with the printer for my first photographic prints and they looked wonderful.   I then tried some Kodak paper I bought along with the printer, and now the prints are terrible.   They look very grainy.   Can this much difference be caused just from different paper?   Is there anything I can do to make my Kodak paper prints look better?   I hate to waste the paper because I bought a big box of it.

-Caroline Rhinehart, Mount Lebanon

A) I am afraid there is not much you can do to get better results from your Kodak paper.   Inkjet photo printers almost always work best with paper from the same manufacturer.   If you try a different manufacturer’s paper results can vary widely from brand to brand.   Unfortunately, you have stumbled across one of the most incompatible combinations: a Canon printer and Kodak paper.   Canon printer users I correspond with universally report terrible results using these two together.  

The best paper for your Canon printer is Canon’s Photo Paper Pro.   It is also the most expensive, at around $13 for a fifteen-sheet pack in 8.5×11 size.   A close second would be Canon’s Photo Paper Plus glossy, at $13 for a twenty-sheet pack of the same sized paper.

Of non-Canon photo papers, many Canon printer users report great results with Office Depot Premium High-Gloss Photo Paper and the “Photo Paper Pro” paper setting with the Canon printer driver.   Results are reputed to be very close to Canon’s top-of-the-line paper, and at $39.99 for a 100-sheet pack (8.5×11 inch size) it is around 65% less expensive.   To avoid repeating your Kodak mistake, you may want to try a 25-sheet package before committing to the 100-sheet box.

Q) I have a new 16×9 46 inch Sony HDTV and a progressive scan DVD player which are used in a small, 10×15 foot room.     I’m looking for a way to simulate surround sound without the back speakers. I know Bose offers such a system, but surely I can find something for less than a grand.   Plus, the Bose includes a DVD player and I already have one.

-Bob Foster, Mobile, Alabama

A) Most DVD players have a simulated surround setting that works with two speakers, even the speakers in your TV.   For example, Panasonic calls their simulated surround “V.S.S”, for Virtual Surround Sound.   Some televisions also have this feature.   In your case, Sony calls it TruSurround ® SRS ® Sound, found in the audio setup menu.   These settings will not make sounds come from behind you, but you can hear sound effects coming at you. The sound will also be more spacious and enveloping.   Try it with your TV- you should hear a difference.

With the simulated surround from your TV and DVD player, all you need now is a stereo receiver and a pair of good speakers.   For between $450 and $650 you can get what most would consider better pure sound quality than the $1000 Bose, though the surround effect will not be quite as strong.   A great inexpensive stereo receiver is the $199 Onkyo TX8211.   For the best sound quality, I would recommend bookshelf-size speakers on stands on either side of the TV.   Some of my favorite small speakers are the Monitor Audio Bronze B2 at $399/pair, the Polk RTi28 for $329/pair, and the PSB Alpha Bs at $249 per pair.   Any of these speakers will provide spectacular sound quality with movies and music.     Listen to them all to decide what is best for you.

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