Media Centre Musings (Part 4: Starting implementation)
This post is part one of a five-part series. Skip to related posts:
- Media Centre Musings: Part 1 – The Theory
- Media Centre Musings: Part 2 – The Plan
- Media Centre Musings: Part 3 – Third Time’s the Charm
- Media Centre Musings: Part 4 – Starting Implementation
- Media Centre Musings: Part 5 – Putting it all Together
So, I’ve spent the money buying all the things I previously talked about.
First, a small rant – you may skip past this to the “what did I actually buy?” section of the post if you prefer:
I thought things were working out OK; and they will in the end, but I have come accross some caveats of operation through either my own ignorance or mistake or through clever non-mentions of information by the sales person at Harvey Norman.
The caveat I’m most interested in is this: as we all know, HDMI carries video and audio data compatible with DVI and PCM. So, alongside all the kerfuffle and marketing about how great HDMI is, I naturally assumed that the advancement and simplification of the home theatre system had come to a point where you could mostly plug everything into each other using only HDMI cables and not have to worry about anything else.
Well, I was wrong. My receiver (which I’ll talk about in more detail later on) has three HDMI inputs, and its manual proudly states it is “HDMI switching capable”; naturally I assumed I could simply plug my PS3, XBox360 and HTPC directly into the HDMI inputs with no other cables and have the receiver decode audio out to the surround speakers and pass the video onto the television. Seems pretty straight-forward, right? Not so!
Apparently the receiver I’ve purchased is capable of HDMI pass-through, but this is wholly and soully what it does. It passes it through without looking at it, at all. If I want to get my receiver to decode the audio from anything I plug in via HDMI (because this is the whole fucking point of the receiver and the surround speakers!) I have to connect both a HDMI for video and co-axial or optical audio cable from the device into the receiver.
Thankfully my receiver has three such inputs which will account for all of my devices and I can live happily ever after with the purchase of some additional cables. But fuck me! Is it just me, or is that ridiculous?
What did I actually buy?
In the end, my purchase planning worked. I ended up with everything I planned to buy at around the cost I was expecting to pay. Some things were cheaper than I expected but that was made up for by having to buy additional cabling.
- Television: Sharp LC46D77X, as planned.
- Games: I ended up buying a PS3 instead of a standalone BluRay player. I could have paid about $350-$400 for a standard player, or, what I did do in the end was pay $450 for a PS3 Slim 120Gb. I swore a few years ago never to buy anything Sony again, but what can I say? I really want to play GT5 when it comes out. I’ll also have an XBox 360 in a few weeks after my redemption with Sharp is processed. I’ve gone from owning no consoles to owning two-thirds of all the latest consoles. Great!
- Home Theatre Speakers: Onkyo TX-SR307 and JBL 5.1 “Simply Cinema” SCS-200.5 speakers. More on this later.
- HTPC: I went with the Pentium option. It was cheaper, after all.
How did I go from Yamaha to Onkyo and JBL? Well, that’s pretty much luck. I left hospital on Sunday, helped my dad with his new home theatre setup, and then headed to Harvey Norman to check out the sale that was ending that very day. Luckily for me, it was 30% off home theatre speakers. They had a few setups, none of which appeared to be particularly impressive (or if they were impressive, totally out of my price range) except two; the one I ended up buying and a Yamaha setup which was the model below what I wanted. The confusing part was the Yamaha setup with Klipsch speakers was $1500 versus the $1100 I paid for the Onkyo and JBLs – as I understand it, Onkyo and JBL are both better quality than Yamaha and Klipsch; the sales guy explained it was because the latter system had more overall power output. I am not terribly concerned with overall output as I live in a town house complex, so high volumes are a no-no anyway (as it stands, the total system output of my new system is something like 500 Watts, and previously a 125 Watt 5.1 computer speaker setup was sufficing). The marked price was $1200 but he dropped it to $1100 because he didn’t actually have them in stock on the day.
My current dilemma is trying to figure out the best way to connect them all together. Originally my plan with my new home theatre was to connect everything to everything else through the A/V receiver as explained above in my rant.
So I thought I could do all that with HDMI cables only. Apparently not: my A/V receiver will only pass-through HDMI directly without touching it. So any audio carried over HDMI will go straight to the TV stereo speakers and not to the surround sound where I want it.
- First option: So, what I want to do is have all of the devices plug via HDMI into the A/V receiver and then have a seperate (S/PDIF, co-ax or optical) cable for the audio also plugging into the A/V receiver.
- Second option: Or, do I want to plug all of the HDMI cables straight into the television and only connect the audio cables from each device to the A/V receiver? Saves me buying another HDMI cable to go from A/V -> TV.
- Third option: OR! Do I want to plug all of the HDMI cables, carrying both audio and video, and ONLY the HDMI cables, into the TV, and then have a single audio cable from the TV’s optical audio out to the A/V receiver?
All three “should work”, but what’s the best way? I guess I’ll have to experiment when I actually get my receiver later in the week.