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Disc Reviews
Welcome back. It's been twenty-seven months since I reported on any significant changes in my home
theater and it's been almost six years since I purchased my reference DVD player. With the intervening
introduction of great progressive players and EX capable audio decoders, I think you might agree that I
was overdue for an upgrade.
The DVD Player
Since DVD's March '97 seven -city rollout, my player of choice has been the Sony DVP-S7000; Sony has
yet to produce a player that rivals its interlaced picture quality. To transform the 7000's interlaced
video to progressive video, I used a Faroudja LD-100 Line Doubler, the piece of equipment that
originally inspired me to believe that a film-like presentation was possible at home. As satisfying and
revealing as this combination has been, it also has its limitations. Published reports show that the
Sony's video frequency response is down only 1.5 dB at 5 MHz, but continues to decline as the
response approaches the limit of DVD's frequency content (6.75 MHz). So while fine textures and small
details are far from invisible, they are a tad suppressed. There's also an issue related to the Faroudja's
processing, which causes an interference pattern within the 6.75 MHz circle of an AVIA resolution test
pattern. And I've been forced to assess DTS audio tracks on an auxiliary Panasonic DVD player since
the 7000 isn't DTS-capable.
I've been watching progressive chip set technology mature and finally, as 2002 was drawing to a close,
I decided that it was time to buy a new player. Unfortunately, hard test data describing DVD player
performance is rather hard to find these days. Very few of the slick magazines publish test bench
numbers any more. Even “The Perfect Vision,” once the most visible (no pun intended) advocate of
achieving the best possible performance in home theater, ceased to publish player test-bench results.
TPV's current player reviews are purely subjective, no more helpful than “Audio Video Interiors.”
“Sound & Vision” continues to publish analytic test reports, and the Secrets of Home Theater web
site (SoHT) is also very helpful. But S&V doesn't address the Chroma Upsampling Error or ringing in
the anti-aliasing filter (which I'll explain briefly). And while SoHT addresses both, it publishes hard data
so infrequently that I simply couldn't wait. What's this obsessive home theater enthusiast to do?
Something odd.
I grabbed my oscilloscope, two 75-ohm cables, two pass -through BNC terminators, a few appropriate
75-ohm adaptors, the AVIA Guide to Home Theater DVD, the Toy Story DVD, and headed for my local
home electronics stores. I was amazed to find that in every store in which I asked, the salesman or
store manager allowed me to connect its floor samples to my ‘scope to test the players of interest. I
spent a couple of hours in each store, measuring and noting my results, moving from one candidate
player to another, much to the amusement and bewilderment of the sales staff. Not surprisingly, in
every store I was told that my antics were a completely new experience for them. What was I looking
Published reports revealed enough about various players' performance (frequency response, signal-tonoise ratio, Y-C delays, and so on) to limit my interest to a short list of about five candidates. I knew
that some didn't have the chroma upsampling error, but others were unknown, so I first observed the
Toy Story main menu screen on the most revealing CRT -based, HDTV rear projector each store had.
That was easy. I then verified the players' frequency responses on the ‘scope using AVIA's multiburst
advanced video test pattern, found at Resolution / Multiburst, and observed AVIA's widescreen
enhanced resolution pattern, found at Widescreen Enhanced / Resolution, taking particular note of the
6.75 MHz circle on the lower right. That was less critical, since I had already read published video
frequency response findings. Next came my single most important measurement, overwhelmingly
ignored, video ringing in the anti-aliasing filter.
Readers of my DVD reviews know that I always comment on edge halos, those pesky outlines seen at
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high contrast transitions in the video, which are either an MPEG -2 artifact or an intentional attempt to
sharpen the image artificially (or sometimes both). I continue to maintain that edge halos are the
single greatest impediment to a film -like presentation at home, so I wanted to avoid any player that
worsened or caused halos in hardware. If you're curious, I'll try to explain the problem as succinctly as
I can (for everyone else, feel free to jump to the next paragraph). Unique problems occur at the points
of entry and exit in all sampled systems - digital video systems among them. The input analog-todigital converter must avoid data frequency content higher than half the sampling rate; if present, such
data will “fold over” and cause nasty-looking distortions. This phenomenon is called aliasing. Similarly,
there are residual high frequency sample rate contaminants at the digital-to-analog converted outputs
of digital systems. Filters are applied at such inputs and outputs to remove offending signal content.
Input filters are found on the professional equipment used to create content; that's out of our control
but they tend to be very high quality, so it's not a concern. But the way video output filters are
implemented in consumer-grade DVD players can cause a damped oscillation or ringing in the video.
Onscreen, video ringing looks just like edge halos. An initial half cycle of overshoot will appear as a
bright halo around a dark object. An additional half cycle of rebound undershoot will put a dark halo
around the first bright halo, and so on. So for my next in-store test, I navigated to one of AVIA's 50
IRE test patterns, found at Gray Scale & Levels / Black and White Levels / Black Bars + Half Gray, and
looked at the video transition on the ‘scope. (I had confirmed previously that there is no ringing on the
disc by performing a screen capture on my computer and magnifying the image.) Sure enough, on the
‘scope's screen, ringing revealed. For each player, I noted the number of half-cycles, and their
amplitudes and widths. After I had finished all my measurements, I looked at my data and factored in
published measurements; my initial leading candidate had been eliminated. This was a great
disappointment, since the price of that player was reasonable. (I also had hoped that the winning
player would have the Sage/Faroudja chip set; that was not to be, but Silicon Image does a fine job as
well.) The player that came out on top was the obnoxiously expensive Denon DVD-9000. Sigh.
Okay, at this point you're probably asking yourself what does this have to do with me? I wouldn't
expect you to buy an oscilloscope and to duplicate my nonsense when you find yourself in the market
for a new player, so here's what I'd suggest. Before you begin, read test reports that contain hard
data; put together a short list of leading candidates that have the best performance for your target
budget. If you don't already have the AVIA Guide to Home Theater DVD, pick one up; you should own
one to set up your display properly anyway. When you visit brick & mortar shops to assess players,
make sure they're connected to a fine CRT-based, HDTV rear projector's 480p (progressive)
component video inputs, and make sure that each player is in the progressive mode. (Even if you
currently don't have a display that can accept progressive video, trust me, you eventually will. Plan on
buying a progressive player.) Make sure that the display's scan velocity modulation (SVM) is disabled
and that the sharpness is at the nominal setting. SVM may be considered another form of artificial
image sharpening and it, too, adds halos to the image. If the display doesn't offer the option of turning
SVM off, ask to see the player on a display that can disable SVM. (And if possible, you should consider
turning SVM off at home.) Check AVIA's widescreen enhanced resolution pattern; every frequency
(they are labeled and appear as increasingly tighter spaced vertical bars within circles) should be clear,
particularly within the 6.75 MHz circle. Take a look at both the sharpness test pattern, found at
Resolution / Sharpness, and the Black Bars + Half Gray test pattern. Observe the halos. Notice widths
and subjective halo brightness. Then display the main menu from Toy Story and look for banding (see
the Chroma Upsampling Error article). Seriously consider purchasing the player that has a flat and
extended frequency response, no chroma upsampling error, and rings the least. That's the player that
should come closest to providing a film-like presentation.
The Transcoder
So I bring my new treasure home and eagerly connect the DVD player to my system. I can now bypass
the Faroudja and connect the component video outputs from the Denon directly to the Extron CVC200
component-to-RGB-HV converter (transcoder). I pop the AVIA disc into the player for a quick
performance check and, as I navigate, I'm immediately struck with the speed of the player's drive. It
snaps from screen to screen; layer transitions should be virtually invisible, an added bonus. All the test
patterns look fine, so I replace the AVIA disc with arguably the best-looking DVD to date, and certainly
the best-looking of 2002, Star Wars Episode II: Attack of the Clones. I jump to a chapter at random
and sit back, smiling in anticipation. Uh, oh. What's that? The contrast is changing, cycling up and
down every twenty seconds. Twenty seconds? Damn! It's the cursed Macrovision! I quickly replace
AOTC with Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone, famously free of Macrovision. A lovely stable picture,
wonderfully detailed.
Is the problem in my projector? The new player? Is it the transcoder? Out comes the oscilloscope. I
connect the Y-output from the Denon to the ‘scope's channel A and examine the R, G, and B outputs of
the Extron on the ‘scope's channel B. There they are, the Macrovision pulses from the Denon's Youtput, obscenely thrusting up and down. And on Extron's R, G, & B outputs, the video gain rises and
falls synchronous with Macrovision. Damn! A quick bit of web research revealed that Macrovision has
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been required on the component video outputs for some time; the earliest reference I found is for the
Sony DVP-S9000, introduced years ago. More studio paranoia. To the best of my knowledge, the only
devices currently available that can record 480p analog component video are horrendously expensive
D5 professional digital VCRs. Professional pirates may own a D5 machine, but it's unlikely that a
consumer - even one as crazy as yours truly - would own one. And we all know how effective
Macrovision is for stopping a pro pirate, so why in hell do the studios insist on screwing things up for
the consumer?
The Extron CVC200 may be vulnerable to Macrovision, but this very capable and professional company
stepped up to the plate. An exchange of e -mails quickly confirmed that it is a known problem and that
an upgrade was available. Better yet, since my transcoder was still under warranty, the upgrade would
be covered. Two weeks later, the modified transcoder had made the round trip to California and was
ready to be replaced in my system. (While it was away, I had switched the Denon into the interlaced
mode and resumed using my Faroudja Line Doubler; the Faroudja's component video inputs are quite
impervious to Macrovision's nonsense.) I found that the updated Extron did indeed pass stable video,
but alas, only for interlaced video; progressive video was still modulated by the idiotic copy protection.
I reported the results to Extron and it's currently reproducing the problem using a Denon player in its
West Coast facility. I anxiously await a solution, but I want to solve this problem now.
Perusing a few forums pointed me to Key Digital Systems, a manufacturer of specialized products for
home theater hobbyists and video game enthusiasts. Of particular interest is its One Component to
Two VGA Video Adaptor, model KD-CTCA2. This very reasonably priced transcoder accepts component
video from a DVD player or from an HDTV set top box in any of the three currently implemented
formats (480p, 720p, and 1080i) and transforms any of those signals into the RGB-HV my projector
craves. Manipulating a tiny bank of dipswitches allows configuring the transcoder for display
compatibility, for automatic sensing of the input video format, or may be set to a dedicated video
format. An exchange of e -mails with Key Digital indicated that the video gain should remain constant in
the presence of Macrovision, so I acquired a unit.
When it arrived, I was impressed by its tiny size. The transcoder is packaged in a small plastic housing
just big enough to hold the component video input jacks, two VGA output connectors (you'll need a
breakout cable to connect the transcoder to your display), and a jack for the external power supply
that plugs directly into an outlet. I set Key Digital's dipswitches as described in its manual for my
application (negative sync, auto-format detection, separate sync pulses), hooked it up, slipped in the
AVIA disc to do a cursory check of the waveforms on my ‘scope, and didn't recognize any problem. I
then checked the waveforms with the Star Wars Episode II: Attack of the Clones DVD and found that
the video gains on the RGB channels were stable; Macrovision was gratefully ignored. With a sigh of
relief, I substituted the Key Digital for the Extron in my system, jumped to an AOTC chapter at random
and sat back, smiling in anticipation. Uh, oh. What's that? Everything's too bright!
When I examined Key Digital's waveforms on my ‘scope, I noticed that the transcoder passed the sync
pulses on the three RGB signals (the Extron strips them out), but I assumed that my projector would
clamp on full black and ignore the sync pulses. Nope. My projector, seeing horizontal and vertical sync
pulses at its HV inputs, processed the sync pulses on the RGB lines as video and put the images up on
a huge brightness pedestal, so high that adjusting the projector's brightness didn't help. I tried an
alternative dipswitch configuration (negative sync, 480p, separate sync pulses). Same result. An e-mail
to the very helpful Key Digital people revealed that an undocumented dipswitch configuration
(0000000xx for negative sync, auto-format detection, sync on green) would put the transcoder in the
RGsB mode. I tried it. Eureka! My projector recognized the RGsB signal, stripped the sync pulses out of
the RGB channels, and I had a stable, Macrovision -free picture. I jumped to an AOTC chapter at
random and sat back, smiling in anticipation. Uh, oh. What's that? White clouds are slightly pink.
Everyone is sunburned. Everything's too red! My color temperature is screwed up.
Out again came the ‘scope and the AVIA DVD. I selected the 100 IRE and 50 IRE (100% white level
and 50% white level) test patterns, found at Gray Scale & Levels / Gray Fields, and checked the Key
Digital's R, G, & B outputs. I found that at 100 IRE, the red channel was 10% higher than the green
channel, and blue was 2.1% higher than green. (For RGB video, green is 59% of the luminance, red is
30%, and blue is 11%, so I use green as the reference.) For 50 IRE, red was 10.6% too high, blue 3%
too high. The three-color channels should be the same amplitude for a pure white or pure gray video
signal. It's time for a short explanation; those wanting to avoid the technobabble may skip the next
Typically, a display's color temperature is set by adjusting the red, green, and blue drives for high
amplitude and low amplitude video. A color analyzer would be used to ensure that over the full video
dynamic range, white is white, black is black, and the grays in between are gray. No apparent tint
should be visible at any gray level; this is characteristic of the desirable 6,500 degree Kelvin color
temperature. I heartily recommend an Imaging Science Foundation (ISF) certified calibrator to
achieve these results on your display. Unless you have an extraordinarily good eye and know exactly
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what you're doing, making this adjustment on your own without instrumentation could get you in deep
trouble. If you insist on trying, please write down the numerical settings for every adjustment you plan
to change before you begin. You must have a way of returning to the original settings if you can't get
acceptable results! And be aware that some rear projector manufacturers may void your warranty if
factory authorized service personnel detect that you accessed the service menu.
I spent the next hour or so reworking my projector's six color temperature settings and its brightness
and contrast. I replaced the AVIA DVD with AOTC, jumped to a chapter at random and sat back,
wincing in anticipation. And smiled. The video was highly detailed, the colors well balance, vivid, and
noise free. Fine details and revealing textures make it through the transcoder's circuitry thanks to Key
Digital's video frequency response, -3 dB at 110 MHz, very impressive for a $350 list price product. So
when I later examined bandwidth on my ‘scope with an AVIA test pattern, I was not surprised when I
found no variation in frequency response when I compared Key Digital's input to its output. Nor did the
long coaxial cable runs to my projector cause any drive problems for the transcoder's output buffers;
no visible ringing was imposed by the KD-CTCA2.
Since the transcoder's working configuration is an auto-format mode, it was time to confirm the Key
Digital's ability to handle HDTV's broadcast standards. With the exception of WCBS, which had a
backup antenna and transmitter on the Empire State Building, I haven't been able to receive HD
transmissions from New York since the barbaric attack of 9/11. (Fox and UPN share the CBS antenna,
but since they aren't transmitting in 720p or 1080i, they're certainly not high definition.) Fortunately,
by rotating my antenna toward much farther away Philadelphia, I can receive PBS in HD from Trenton
and HD transmissions from Philly's CBS, ABC, NBC, and WB affiliates.
I'm pleased to report that, with one unique exception, the Key Digital performed flawlessly. Each
format locked in transparently and remained stable. The glorious 1080i resolution from CBS and PBS
looked as great as they did with the Extron. ABC's 720p looked lovely as well and the subtle resolution
differences when compared with 1080i were still apparent; this indicates that the Key Digital's
extended bandwidth was more than adequate for the job of transcoding HD content. There was one
small glitch that will be an issue only for some CRT-based front projectors (CRT-based rear projectors
that are capable of high definition display modes are equipped with component video inputs, so a
transcoder is not required).
The NTSC video system, on which DVD is based, has bi-level sync; each pulse extends below the
image's full black level. HD video signals have tri-level sync pulses; they resemble two linked pulses
of opposite polarity similar to one cycle of a square wave. HD's leading horizontal sync pulse is
negative going, just like NTSC's, but HD's trailing pulse is positive going, and its amplitude pushes well
up into the visible video's amplitude range. When I tested the Key Digital transcoder with HDTV
signals, the positive going portion of HD's tri -level sync was reproduced just like image data. The pulse
was located at the extreme edge of my projector's CRTs, beyond the linear areas projected onto the
screen by the projector's lenses, so I didn't see the pulses as bright artifacts on my screen. But, the
pulses illuminated the phosphors at the CRTs' edges so brightly that a lens flare was projected onto my
screen's right edge. During dark scenes or black transitions, a gray streak was quite visible.
Attempts to manipulate my projector's picture width and blanking did not help. Apparently, those
adjustments only work within my projector's visible video data area, within the linear portions of the
tubes that are projected through the lenses. While this problem will not occur in fixed resolution
projectors (DLP, LCD, D-ILA), it may affect CRT front projectors besides my own. Since this is a
problem I cannot work around, I decided to dedicate the Key Digital transcoder to my DVD player and
to dedicate the Extron Transcoder to my HDTV set top box. I could then switch between the Extron's
RGB-HV and the Key Digital's RGsB signals with my existing high -bandwidth Extron SW2ARHVxi
switcher. Wrong again.
When I connected through the switcher, the HDTV was great, just as it had been for the last few years,
but DVD content was distorted. The right edge of any bright to dark transition was contaminated by a
thin red outline, similar in appearance to misconvergence. At first, I thought there was some kind of
delay in the red channel that displaced red to the right, but red was not absent at the opposite edge on
the left. I then recalled that the Extron switcher, an electronic device as opposed to an
electromechanical device, had restricted input specifications. Perhaps the high amplitude I found on the
red channel was overloading the Extron's electronics and I was seeing a delay in recovering from
saturation. Once again, I investigated waveforms and made a few quick amplitude measurements.
At a video amplitude of 100 IRE, the Extron transcoder produces about 670 mV at the red channel, 690
mV at the green, and 680 mV at the blue. For the same input (excluding offsets), the Key Digital
produces approximately 770 mV at the red channel, 710 mV at the green, and 720 mV at the blue.
Also, unlike the Extron, which was within a couple of mV of zero for 0 IRE, the Key Digital had offsets
of about 960, 165, and 840 mV for R, G, & B respectively. And the Key digital passed the sync pulses,
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while the Extron transcoder blanked them. I consulted the input specifications for the Extron switcher
and found compatibility issues with the Key Digital's HD signals. In all fairness, I must point out that
the offsets and sync pulses are unlikely to affect your display; my projector provided lovely pictures
when I drove its RGB inputs directly. So I'm raising this issue only for any reader who may own an
Extron switcher similar to my own.
For those who may have an HD set top box that produces RGB -HV directly, Key Digital offers another
helpful product, a transcoder/switcher, model KD-XB, called the XBlaster. This unit has one VGA output
for RGB (the KD-CTCA2 has two outputs), one VGA input connector that accepts RGB -HV, and a
component video input that accepts 480p, 720p, and 1080i video formats. It isn't as versatile as the
KD -CTCA2, since it's intended to transcode the component video output of an X -Box or GameCube and
to provide the means to use a computer's monitor for game playing. For example, it produces negative
sync only, while the KD-CTCA2 produces negative and positive, switch selected; the Xblaster has no
switches. The XBlaster will output either RGB -HV or RGsB automatically based on the nature of the
signal at its component video inputs, and RGB-HV only from the VGA input connector. So it might be
possible to connect a progressive DVD player to the KD-XB's component video inputs, an RGB-HV HD
set top box to the KD-XB's RGB video inputs, and automatically transcode and switch. (The RGB input
has first priority; transcoded component video is outputted only in the presence of a signal at the
component video inputs.) Should you choose to try the Xblaster for this type of application, you should
communicate with Key Digital about your specific equipment configuration to verify compatibility before
The Key Digital KD-CTCA2 transcoder - with three caveats - can be a wonderful solution for the home
theater enthusiast who owns a display that requires RGB -HV or RGsB rather than component video. For
about a third of the cost of the Extron, you'll have a solution. Follow Key Digital's instructions first,
applying the recommended switch configurations for your source and display. Only if those all fail, and
only after you've confirmed your display's compatibility with RGsB by consulting its user manual,
should you try the undocumented switch settings I mentioned. The downsides of the Key Digital
transcoder are that if you own a CRT-based projector, HDTV's tri -level sync may cause a visible
problem, you'll very likely have to adjust your projector's color temperature, and in the event that you
own an electronic RGB switcher, like the Extron, you may have signal level compatibility issues.
The Interconnects
The Extron's input connectors are BNC and the Key Digital's are RCA, so I needed a new component
video cable for the connection between my new player and my new transcoder. I cannot stress enough
the importance of proper cables for your interconnects. Each video cable must have the appropriate
characteristic impedance - for video, 75 ohms - and appropriate distributed reactance to avoid placing
a destabilizing load on the output devices driving the signal down the line. Failing to provide these
basic characteristics, a deficient cable can cause ringing and smearing in the video. Too often, cables
are hyped like snake oil. Some cable companies, perhaps to justify outrageous prices, make all kinds of
fantastic claims. I prefer cables that are well made with quality materials and simply perform the task
for which they are intended: conveying the signal from one electronic device to another without
adversely affecting the quality or character of the waveforms. For this deceptively simple task, I choose
the cables offered by BetterCables , reasonably priced, high-performance interconnects that I've been
using for years. For the new connection between the Denon player and the Key Digital transcoder, I
needed a one-meter long component video cable equipped with 75-ohm RCA connectors on each end.
My choice is the Silver Serpent . (BetterCables also makes quality breakout cables, handy for those
who may have taken an interest in Key Digital's transcoder.) Compared to conventional cables,
BetterCables provides higher bandwidth and is very well behaved. Subtle details in the video become
more apparent when compared to conventional video cables. In other words, it's completely
transparent to the signal, just as it should be. Highly recommended no matter what other equipment
choices you make.
The Audio
The need for upgrading here was clear, and finding the right solutions was much easier than for my
video chain. In my Pseudo-EX piece, I described how it was possible to reconfigure an existing Dolby
Digital 5.1 system to perform 6.1 decoding by adding a Dolby Surround decoder to a digital audio
decoder's analog surround outputs. My trusty old Shure HTS-5300 analog Dolby Surround decoder
worked very well with my B&K AVP -3090 digital decoder/preamp, but three issues remained
unresolved. I could not adjust independently the time delay to the center surround speaker. If the
delays aren't right, imaging suffers and the audible locations of sound sources in the surround channels
become vague and sloppy. That problem's easy to resolve, virtually all respectable 6.1 decoders or
receivers permit an independent delay setting for each loudspeaker. An inconvenience was the 3090's
inability to automatically detect DTS; that, too, was easy to resolve since any DTS-capable
replacement will switch automatically as it recognizes the incoming audio bit stream. And the AVP-3090
did not offer THX re-equalization; correcting that deficiency required a little more selectivity.
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In my review of Blade II, I mentioned one of DVD's dirty little secrets: The X-Curve. Allow me to quote
myself, “For reasons too involved to describe in detail here (but associated with theater electronics and
the acoustics of a large room, as opposed to the acoustics of the typical small space found in a home
theater), film soundtracks are pre-emphasized. Frequencies above 2 KHz are rolled up at 3 dB per
octave (or better put, 1 dB per third-octave as measured with pink noise and a third-octave analyzer).
When the soundtrack is played back at home, to restore a ‘flat response' and remove the unnatural
brightness, the high frequencies are rolled off at -3 dB per octave from 2 KHz upward. For those of you
who own THX certified decoders or digital receivers, that's what THX re-equalization does. DVD's are
usually shipped with the pre-emphasis intact, requiring de-emphasis to restore tonal balance, so
without equipment capable of THX re-equalization, you may be at a disadvantage. ...there is one DVD
audio production house that removes the pre -emphasis as the audio is transferred to the disc: Mi Casa
Multimedia. They may be out there, but I'm unaware of other audio subcontractors that re-equalize the
audio prior to compression and authoring.” Learning in advance which DVDs have the X-Curve
removed is a challenge. Recently, that information has been included on some New Line DVDs' audio
set up screens. A helpful list of de-emphasized titles may be found at this Mi Casa Multimedia link.
When you listen to film audio at home in which the pre-emphasis is intact on the DVD and without XCurve de-emphasis (THX re-equalization) applied by your decoder, the sound will be too hot - too
much high frequency content. If you listen to a Mi Casa de-emphasized DVD with THX re -equalization
enabled, the sound will be too dull - too little high frequency content. The decoder mode must be
matched to the way the DVD's audio was produced: pre-emphasis removed, apply the flat mode; preemphasis intact, apply the THX re -equalization mode. To ensure that I'd have that level of control, I
was predisposed to purchase a THX-certified decoder, the decoders that offer THX re-equalization. I've
always been rather partial to B&K Components. The company makes a fine product at an outstanding
price/performance ratio and supports its customer base with updates should they become necessary. I
chose the B&K Reference 30 THX Ultra preamp/decoder.
As for the other electronics, I didn't have to purchase anything else; on hand were a beefy power
amplifier from a German company for which I had provided engineering consulting services a number
of years ago, and a parametric equalizer prototype I had designed. For the loudspeaker, I had been
using an M&K S-100B for my EX center surround ever since I put the Pseudo-EX configuration in
place; it was chosen for its timbre-match to the other M&K loudspeakers in my system. It's rather
important that the audible characteristics of all of a system's speakers be very, very similar. Otherwise,
as a sound travels around the room (like during a 360 degree pan), the timbre will change; if the
sound's character varies depending on its location, it will draw attention to itself and possibly distract
the viewer to the point of collapsing a willing suspension of disbelief. And differences in frequency
response may also destroy accurate spatial imaging. So the S -100B remains.
Parting Thoughts
Improving the video chain was a little painful, but the results are wonderful. My presentation is closer
to film than I was able to achieve before. I'm looking forward to resolving my remaining RGB video
switch issue; I'm sure that will happen within a month or so. I'll report back with an addendum when I
finally have the total solution in place. Less recent was the audio upgrade; it's actually about two years
old. That upgrade was painless to implement and proved to be very satisfying, providing a noticeable
improvement in sonic accuracy.
I know there's a lot to consider here. Buying home theater equipment should be much easier (and
testing publications should be a lot more informative). I'm looking forward to the day when capable
audio and video equipment become pure plug-and-play. Until then, you almost have to hold an
engineering degree to get it done right. Once again, I hope you find some of the lessons I learned
while going through my upgrade helpful. The best of luck with yours.
During the delay between my submission of this sixth installment of "Mr. Blandings Build His Dream
Theater" and its publication, Extron completed its investigation of my CVC200 transcoder's Macrovision
problem and devised a solution. My transcoder was returned to me, and it no longer pumps the video
gain for Macrovision protected DVDs; once again, it produces splendid images. At a higher price, the
Extron's output is free of sync pulses and offsets, and maintains color temperature with much greater
accuracy than the Key Digital. It was only necessary to boost my projector's green drives by about 4%
to achieve proper color temperature with the CVC200 (nothing's perfect). It's my understanding that
the changes made to my Extron transcoder have been passed along to manufacturing and all future
production units will be insensitive to Macrovision. And now I'll also be watching with great interest to
see if Key Digital corrects the problems I uncovered during my upgrade adventure as they introduce
future products.
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(If you have any questions or comments for the author, say hello to Dan here.)
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