In addition to home entertainment becoming better and cheaper, it is now also easier
Up until just a couple of years ago, to get the best picture from your DVDs you had to use a thick bundle of cables to connect your DVD player to your TV. Now, that bundle can be replaced with just one cable. We now find that it takes only half the time to install a new home theatre receiver compared to how long it used to take.
In this section we will explain how to make these connections, and which types of connection you should use. To do this, we shall look at three different scenarios.
1. Integrated HD television
Now that the TV stations are getting serious about high definition, with more HD programming – sometimes different to what is being shown on the regular channels – an LCD or plasma with HD television tuners built in is becoming an increasingly valuable home entertainment option.
With this setup, there are only two connections to be made. One is to plug the TV into the power point, of course. The other is to connect the aerial.
We think it’s worth paying a little attention to the aerial. Digital TV – including HDTV – can deliver superb picture and sound quality in places where analog TV reception is a bit iffy. The digital TV signal includes lots of ‘redundant’ material that helps the TV correct any errors in the signal, so there is no ghosting or fade-out of the kind you get with analog.
But that correction works only to a certain point, beyond which the TV works only intermittently, or not at all. You will notice if this is a problem because the picture will be marred with noticeable blocks of odd colours, and the whole picture may freeze briefly, or the sound may drop out.
To fix this, upgrade your aerial.
The best way to do this is to spend a little money on a competent aerial installer in your area. They can come out with a signal strength meter and optimise your aerial in minutes, far better than you could do with hours of fiddling around.
2. Sources and a TV
A more common scenario is that you have a DVD player plugged into your HDTV. In addition, you may have a Foxtel box or a VCR or a Blu-ray player. What’s the best way to connect all these items to your TV? Happily, most modern TVs come with plenty of input sockets.
For each item of equipment you should use the highest quality connection that both your TV and that item can support. We’ll explain what these are in a later chapter in this article, ‘Tying it all together: picture‘.
3. TV, sources and a home theatre receiver
Integrate a home theatre receiver into your system will allow you to achieve better sound than that offered by your TV. Much better sound. In addition to providing performance a lot closer to a high fidelity system, it also delivers real surround sound if you use the preferred five speakers.
Home theatre receivers have to do more than just amplify the sound, otherwise they would be rather inconvenient in use. In fact, they are designed so that you plug all your different sources into the receiver, and then just run video cables from the receiver to the TV. The home theatre receiver handles the sound, and sends the picture off to the TV. All you have to do is select the correct source via the receiver’s remote control.
The connections you use for home theatre receivers are the same as those used for direct connection to a TV. The one exception is that you can’t use SCART because home theatre receivers don’t come with SCART connections. Otherwise, use the best standard available for the video. So use HDMI if your player has HDMI, or component video if not. And so on.
Some home theatre receivers have an exceptionally useful video conversion feature. Different models have different capabilities, but they boil down to the receiver converting lower quality composite and S-Video signals to component video, and in some cases to HDMI. We explain all of these in more detail later in this article. The advantages of this are that you only need one video cable to run from the receiver to your TV, and you don’t have to select a different video source on your TV when you switch from VCR to DVD or back again. Without this, when you switch your receiver from, say, Blu-ray with HDMI to VCR with composite video, you will also have to switch your TV from HDMI to composite video.
Gadget Guy tip
There are different types of audio and video sockets, and they can be either digital or analog. The type used has an influence on sound and picture quality, with digital typically offering better quality in a more convenient cable. So where possible, use a digital connection as your first choice.
To maintain quality throughout the chain, though, all equipment – HDTV, HD set-top box, home theatre receiver – needs to have matching connections. Adaptors can be used to link equipment that lacks ‘like’ connections, but the quality defaults to the lesser of the two connections.