Tuesday, November 20, 2007

Chain Reactions...

So earlier this month Walmart and Toshiba ran a promotion on a $99 HD-DVD player. Specifically the HD-A2. Coupled with the "5 free HD-DVD disc promotion", I felt like this was too good of a deal to pass up so I talked it over with Shannon and she decided that this player (and a copy of Transformers on HD-DVD would be my birthday present (and part of of my Christmas present).

So I still remain in the Blu-Ray camp, and where possible I will be purchasing Blu-Ray instead of HD-DVD, but in-a-sense I'm future-proofed... depending on which side of this format war things come down on.

So... now to the meat of this post.

One of the reasons I've been a bit reluctant to explore some of the newer formats is that I was a relatively "early adopter" of HD and Home Theater... and unfortunately none of my gear supported digital connections like DVI or HDMI. I had mentioned before that it would be a chain reaction if I was to buy one thing I would end up wanting/needing all new gear. Well that time has come.

It all stated when I was perusing posts for this weeks "Black Friday deals". Specifically Best Buy is going to run a promotion on a 65" Mitsubishi 1080P DLP set. So I cracked.

Ironically I ended up not buying it from Best Buy, but rather Amazon.com due to their bundling of the free Mitsubishi TV stand. So I now have a Mitsubishi WD-65733 HDTV coming.

Then I started talking with Shannon about our current setup with both a DVR and a TiVo... she decided to purchase me a TiVoHD as my Christmas present. This will greatly simply my Home Theater wiring as I will have only one box to setup instead of two. This arguably also eliminates the need for my Iscan Pro Line doubler to upconvert the 480i S-video signal from the TiVo as the TiVoHD can upscale to either 720p or 1080i.

Then we started talking wiring problems. If you've seen my wiring diagrams, you know that I have to use multiple levels of switching: anyone wanting to use my Home Theater needs to worry about switching inputs on a Video Switch, the Receiver and on the TV. To make matters worse only the new TV would support HDMI. Neither my Video switch nor my Receiver can accommodate HDMI. This initially left me with two options:

  1. Run three 20' HDMI cables from my component Rack to the new TV to accommodate the PS3, HD-DVD Player, and Tivo.
  2. Purchas a cheap. HDMI switch and use short cables for the devices and 1 longer cable.

The problem with option 1 is that this would consume all three HDMI inputs on the TV leaving me no room for expansion. As soon as I bought 1 additional HDMI device I would have to buy a switch and this would render two, potentially quite expensive cables obsolete.

Option 2 is less then desirable as well. It turns out that Passive HDMI switches have lots of compatibility problems with various devices. The state of the market today is that you simply have to buy one to try with your hardware to see if it would work. This is less than desirable as all the good, cheap switches can only be purchased online and I don't really want to have to deal with return shipping if it doesn't work. On top of that.. the good, cheap switches don't switch audio!. So I would either need to unplug some devices or continue to use my old "video switch" as an audio switch... but this now means switching four devices.

A 3rd option entered into the picture... a new Receiver.

The Denon 3808CI (which is the same series as my current receiver... just a several model years newer). Can accommodate 4 HDMI devices. It upscales all video connections and sends that signal out over HDMI. This means that I can have 1 cable running to my TV. It supports The latest High-Definition Audio standards like DTS Master Audio and Dolby TrueHD which is used on both Blu-Ray and HD-DVD. It has about twice the power of my current receiver. It can even connect to a network and stream .mp3 files from a media server all on its own! Better still... I can use the PS3 to play SACD discs over HDMI into the player.

This means that I will now have:

  1. 1 level of switching... in the receiver... no more changing inputs on a switch box or the TV.
  2. 1 device for "watching TV" instead of 2. Plus the ability to transfer for shows from my old TiVo (which will be moved to the office).
  3. High Defintion Audio/Digital Audio from the sources that support it.
  4. Much, much simpler Wiring as HDMI caries both Audio and Video over a single cable.
  5. I will be able to disconnect the following devices:

    1. SACD Player
    2. Audiotron mp3 player
    3. Cable box
    4. Video switch
    5. Line Double
    6. VCR... (actually we are unhooking it because we just don't use it enough... we kept it hooked up because there wasn't really a reason to unhook it, but disconnecting the "analog" TiVo means its time).

Arguably I could also unhook the old DVD Player but as it's the only thing I have that can play DVD-Audio... I'm going to leave it hooked up as a DVD-Audio only player. The PS3 or the HD-DVD Player will be used to play movies.

This is a lot of money and we financed the whole mess... but we got 18months no interest on both the receiver and the TV. The receiver will be here this week but there's no point in wiring everything up until the TV gets here... and it looks like that won't be till the end of the month. I look forward to my new Wiring Diagram. :)

Oh... and I would be totally remiss if I didn't mention that I'm married to the best wife ever! :)