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New to Home Theatre, any advice welcomed

by bartbrown / November 17, 2012 3:04 AM PST

For 17 years, my wife and I have been completely satisfied with our 27" Panasonic CRT TV, which not only refuses to die, but the picture quality of which seems as good as when new (maybe our eyes are just older). We have finally decided to go with HDTV, incorporating it into a whole new A/V setup in our family room.

While I can plug in a TV, and have a lot of Apple IT experience, the world of HDTV is a bit of a daunting mystery to me, but at 64, I'm willing to learn. Through some monster deals on Amazon and elsewhere, the advice of friends, and eye-wearying perusal of reviews here at Anand and all over the web, I've put together what I think is a fairly respectable system... well, "collected the components for" would be more accurate than "put together" -- I've gotten as far as putting the Viera 42" on its stand and connecting it to Comcast's HD cable box (as you'll see if you don't tire of reading this plea, the Viera will be wall-mounted on the wall opposite its current location, and the Comcast cable box will be returned to Comcast -- we're only getting the most basic of local channels on it now, and I'm much more interested in streaming than broadcast network TV, except PBS, ion, and our three local ABC/CBS/NBC affiliates). I need advice and help, and I hope some in the forum will be kind enough to take the time to read this rundown of equipment, connection options, etc., and give their frank opinions, technical advice, spiritual advice, whatever.

Here's my A/V equipment run-down:

42" Panasonic Viera (TC-L42E50)

Denon AVR-3312CI Receiver

Comcast-leased Scientific Atlanta Explorer 4250C cable box

Panasonic DVD-S68 NTSC/PAL auto-detect and convert Region 1 and Region 0 (All) DVD player

Panasonic DMP-BD75 Blu-ray player

Magnavox ZV457MG9 Digital Video Disc Recorder & Video Cassette Recorder (bi-directional dubbing, though why anyone would want to dub DVD to VHS tape escapes me)

Wii console

Roku2 XS (Model # 3100R) streaming box, which will be ethernet-connected to my Apple AirPort Extreme Base Station (802.11n), which, in turn, is ethernet-connected to a Comcast-leased Motorola SB5100 Surfboard Cable modem (is there anything that will improve cable performance? Comcast is not exactly the Champeen Speed Demon of ISPs, but here in the CT sticks, the state DPUC has left us with the choice of Comcast or nothing (there's satellite, of course, but I'm not interested in that leaky vessel). Also ethernet connected to the Apple AirPort Express Base Station (802.11n) Router, Network switch, Wi-Fi base station and NAS is a mid-2011 -- (most current, AFAIK, and getting a bit long in the tooth) 2.7 GHz Intel Core i5 27" iMac.

One of the questions to which I'd like to find an answer concerns this Gen 5 Apple AirPort Extreme Base Station (NOT the Express, which I also have, but which is another kettle of fish altogether). On September 10, 2012, Apple Insider reported:

"Availability of the AirPort Extreme base station has run out at some major third-party resellers, potentially signaling that an updated model with support for 802.11ac could be en route."

While I generally use Apple hardware as much as possible, I realize there are better and less expensive 802.11n (and 802.11ac, once it's adopted) WiFi routers out there. I don't know how much WiFi matters in my case, as from the AirPort Extreme Base Station, all throughput for streaming will be by ethernet from the Airport Base Station to my Denon Receiver, and possibly a simple passive Ethernet router for the Roku box/Wii, Viera TV, as experience shows which combination serves my streaming needs the best.

Another question about which I know zilch is the possibility of using a hard drive, connected to the USB port on the Airport Base Station, or to the Denon A/V Receiver, as a do-it-yourself TiVo -- is it doable? If so, what do I need to get content on to the drive for time-switching and later playback, and is it better to connect to the Airport Base Station (or whatever ends up replacing it, if it gets replaced) or the Denon Receiver?

The Comcast cable feed comes into the basement on the extreme northeast corner of my house, where it is split by a typical RatShack-quality diplexer into two RG6 cable paths. One path runs diagonally through the basement, about 36' to where it pops out of the floor and connects to my cable modem and 5th Gen Airport Extreme Base Station.

The other RG6 cable path runs a further 12', to where my basement ends, and the cable comes up through the southwest corner of the step-down to the family room, which is built entirely on a slab between the otherwise fully-basemented main part of the house and the slab-based 2-car garage.

Right now that RG6 cable that comes out of the slab-based family room step down runs just another 6'-8' to the north wall of the family room, and connects to the Comcast HD cable box.

What we're doing now is mounting the Viera TV on the south wall of the family room, directly across the room from where it is now. This will necessitate any kind of cable run that comes into the slab-based family room step down to travel around the perimeter of the floor (no basement to run through) to the new TV mounting, which will add a total of 40+ feet to the RG6 cable length.

This what I want to do: get rid of the Comcast cable box, AND the RG6 cable that goes to it, AND the splitter, so I have just ONE unbroken run of RG6 (from Comcast's service-in at the north-east corner of the basement) 36' to where it pops out of the floor and connects to my cable modem and Airport Extreme Airbase. The Airport Extreme Base Station, which has three extra Cat5E Ethernet cable ports (one of which hardwires to the 27" iMac, which is within 2 feet of the Airport Extreme Base Station), and run 40-50 feet of Ethernet cable, not RG6, to the Denon AVR-3312CI Receiver in the family room, which has more HDMI ports than I'll ever use. The ethernet, obviously, will be for streaming. Whether I'll be streaming through the Denon A/V receiver, the Viera TV, the Roku box, the Wii, or one of the 2 or 3 DVD/Blu-ray players that ALSO have streaming capability. Oh, yeah -- I also have an Airport Airbase Express that I use as a repeater and, of course, to run music on my iMac through.

To make up for the lousy 5 or 6 channels we'll lose from Comcast's Subterraneanly Basic package, I'll be using a Leaf or similar flat antenna (which my son-in-law uses quite successfully in Kansas City), which will be enough to get our 4 basic news channels: PBS, NBC, ABC, and CBS, plus ion and a couple other oddball local stations.

So that's the plan. I'm sorry to leave the forum with such an open question, but any advice on different hook-up schemes, or any other ideas, comments (polite, please!), or where I may be having unworkable ideas, and how I can make my ideas better. All I want is to be able to watch DVDs, play music (I'm not even going to mention the subject of the speakers I'm using -- that's all too much of a personal preference and esoteric subject), watch a minimum of local TV, stream movies and video/audio content from both my iMac and online sources like Netflix/Hulu/Vudu/DuDu, play some games -- you know, the stuff we put home theaters together for.

My most particular area of ignorance is streaming -- though I've done it thousands of times on my Macs, I've never set up a system like the one I'm contemplating, with so many diverse choices for streaming. For example (here comes my ignorance!), I believe the Panasonic Viera TV can stream Netflix, but not much more, I know the Denon receiver, Wii, Roku, and a couple of my DVD players can also stream, but I don't know how to figure out which devices can access what, including really limited, or really specialized (I'm a huge fan of vintage sports car racing, for example) content.

Hope some of you can give me some good advice, especially if you see me going down a wrong path with any of this stuff. I know this is a lot to divest, but I'm one of those cranks that has to research buying shoelaces, and there's just too much stuff in this project to confuse me.

Thanks very much for your time and -- I hope -- help.


Bart Brown

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All Answers

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Sounds like a plan
by Pepe7 / November 17, 2012 11:09 AM PST

I'd say you have it all covered fairly well Wink


-There's nothing wrong with having Comcast as an ISP. In fact, they have rolled out DOCSIS3 service in most of their service areas. That would be the logical upgrade path, along with upgrading your SB5100. For about $80-100, you would get to access the channel pair bonding that really speeds up your cable broadband service. Look at Amazon or big box store prices on the Moto 6100 series. Nice stuff! Understandably, you might not want to fork over $65/mo for broadband service though.

-Running ethernet to your Denon is perfect. I do the same thing with my older Onkyo HT setup from an airport express. Works fine, even on my older receiver using mini-toslink to toslink. Great way to stream from iOS, etc. I also use VLC as a media player sometimes. Works on Mac too, I believe.

-There's really no way to create a 'standalone' DVR by adding a HDD via USB to your Denon. You could however employ some sort of software solution to record programming on your mac if you installed a TV tuner card, and used an external (or internal) drive that way. I am more familiar with that avenue in the PC world unfortunately. Same principles should apply though.

-RG6 cable is wonderful, along with your current connections/splits.

-Netflix app on the Panny is fine (I set my parents system up this way), but make sure you run ethernet from your repeater or router directly to the E3 HDTV. Much better in the long run than dealing with netflix over wifi IME.

-Yes, now there are many ways to stream various content, it's almost ridiculous, really. I am still partial to doing so on the desktop environment and sending it along via HDMI to a large HDTV. IME sometimes the app quality on the various blu ray players or HDTVs leaves something to be desired.

If you have more specific questions, feel free to ask Wink

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Many interfaces to utilize
by mjd420nova / November 17, 2012 11:45 AM PST

In the last 6 or 7 years, the HDMI interface haas taken on the world. An A/V reciever should become the main mixer/controller for the main system. Comcast scrambles and encrypts so much content that the no box reception is quite limited. The HDTV and outside antenna would possibly only duplicate what's on the cable. Now that everything is broadcast digital, over the air and on cable and satelite, older analog sets can even display all the content anymore, even with a converter box. I hate splices, taps and splitters, every connection steals a little signal strength and when dealing with multiple units, amplifiers and boosters might be needed for the RG6 equipment.

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Comcast cable modem Docsis 3.0 and IPv6 - streaming?
by bartbrown / November 18, 2012 2:52 AM PST

First, thanks for the very helpful replies to a long, involved post. Sadly for those reading, this will also be a long-ish post on a slightly digressive path, but still very much on-topic, dealing with Comcast's "approved" Docsis 3.0 modems, and their so-far Arris-modems-only (if I'm reading their post right) deployment of IPv6, as of 10/23/12. Sorry this wanders a bit, but it's important info to me, and should be to any Comcast subscriber. Let me state up front that, though I've researched both Docsis 3.0 and IPv6 online, I don't entirely understand what I've read, and I don't know what effect Comcast's eventual (targeted for mid-2013) full deployment of IPv6, and Docsis 3.0 cable modems are going to have on streaming from the net. If anyone can shed some light on this part of it, please do so.

Apparently, as of present moment, if you want (IPv6) and you're a Comcast subscriber, you can choose any modem you want from Comcast's fleet, as long as it's an Arris -- in which which Comcast must surely have a financial interest. See this interesting gem from Comcast's IPv6 Information Center (, posted October 23, 2012:

<< Deployment Update

Published on Tuesday, October 23, 2012

IPv6 has been launched on all Arris DOCSIS 3.0 C4 CMTSes, covering over 50% our network. We are targeting completion of the rest of the network by mid-2013. Our progress has led to nearly 2.5% of our Xfinity Internet customers actively using native dual stack. Additionally, IPv6 traffic has increased 375% since World IPv6 Day in June 2011. Following World IPv6 Launch in June 2012 Comcast also observed that approximately 6% of the 2012 Olympics served over YouTube to Comcast customers was over IPv6.>>

So if you're on Comcast and DON'T have an Arris Cable Modem, it seems -- if I'm reading the above deployment update correctly, and PLEASE correct me if I'm not -- you're apparently SOL if you want IPv6 AND DOCSIS 3.0. Also see Comcast's list* of "approved" DOCSIS Devices below: the first 12 (out of 32) are Arris

And, for what it's worth, from an entirely unrelated forum, another Arris-related post and reply:

<< Arris vs Motorola

Due to the recent discussions about cable speed, I decided that since Comcast finally got around to upgrading the service here to docsis 3, I would get a new modem. I bought the Motorola SB6120, something that seemed to have good reviews on the net. When I tried to register and activate it, the Comcast phone tech could not connect, so he sent out a service tech, who concluded the modem was bad. He gave me one of their Arris modems which is working now. I don't know anything about the Arris, and wonder if it will be worth my time to try to exchange the Motorola for a working unit to replace the Arris or just get my money back for it and leave the working setup in place. Anyone with info regarding either of these modems who can offer an opinion? thanks in advance.

Reply: (it would seem this reply is possibly from a Comcast IT worker bee -- it's certainly from some IT worker bee ):

I can't speak for the NJ market, but I'm pretty sure corporate has mandated ARRIS C4 CMTS routers across the country.

We mainly use Arris EMTA's (modems) for High Speed Internet & Customer Digital Voice (VOIP) all in one.

Arris was our Digital Telephone Service (DTS) provider before VOIP came out too.

If you want my .02......I am not a fan of Motorola.

I run the C4's at work, we have 18 of these presently at my location. >>

From Comcast Forums, discussion Re: Docsis 3.0 modems:

The question was: "Which Docsis 3.0 modems does Comcast have for leasing?"

The immediate answer was "" <<< these are the approved modems check box for docsis 3 [X] Show only the latest models (DOCSIS 3.0 and above)"

The "Solution" answer (06-30-2012) was, basically, buy your own: "I see the experts here and at different site posting about a Zoom modem 8x4 docsis 3 for future proofing:" >>

Which seems to be no help at all, according to Comcast's post at ( if you want IPv6 implementation -- lots of interesting stuff about current and future IPv6 deployments.

State secrets, my monthly Comcast bill:

INTERNET SERVICE $48.95 x 12 = $587.40/year
LIMITED BASIC SERVICE $20.50 x 12 = $420.25/year
LEASED INTERNET MODEM $7.00 x 12 = $84.00/year
BASIC HD CONVERTER [Is this the cable box?] $2.35 x 12 = $28.20/year
FRANCHISE RELATED COST $0.58 x 12 = $6.96/year

Total Monthly Service Fees $79.38 x 12 = $952.56/year

So, if I bought, for example, the Arris WBM760A Touchstone DOCSIS 3.0 Cable Modem for $79.99 (any other thoughts on Docsis 3.0 or higher modems gladly entertained), that would knock $84.00/yr off my ISP bill, and more than pay for itself in the first year, so: $952.56 - $84.00 = $868.56.

"Limited Basic Service" is the Subterranean Homesick Blues version of cable TV, which provides me the local ABC/CBS/NBC franchises, The CW, ion, NY & CT PBS, Fox (but, thank god, NOT Faux News), WCTX (other than Faux News, THE most useless channel in the spectrum, any TIME, any WHERE), Telemundo, and, of course, the heartbreakingly irreplaceable HSN and QVC. From what I've seen, heard, and read about HD broadcast antennas, including likely channel reception based on our GPS position about 4 miles inland from the CT shore, with a straight shot to Long Island, we'd get about the same -- probably more -- channels with an HD antenna strapped to a mast attached to our chimney. That would allow me to dispense with Comcast's Limited Basic Service @ $20.50 mo x 12 = $420.25/year. Now we're at $868.56 - $420.25/year (that's a chunk!) = $448.31, also minus Basic HD converter ($28.20/yr) and Franchise Related Cost ($6.96/yr) = a bird's-eye low-down rock-bottom price of $413.15, a total savings of $539.41. I could sign up for Blast!® (apparently the polite thing you say when your Comcast service craps out, and refined ladies -- if any still exist -- are present) for $707.40/yr. "Blast!®" promises "download speeds up to 50 Mbps and upload speeds up to 10 Mbps." While this is hardly nosebleed speed, it IS a significant (maybe?) improvement over what I have now: "Performance," which advertises "download speeds up to 12 Mbps and upload speeds up to 2 Mbps with PowerBoost® (anyone know exactly what "PowerBoost®" is?). And, at $707.40/yr, I'd get a significant (maybe?) increase in speed, and STILL save $245.16/yr. THAT's why I'd like to go with a regular "one time/one price" physical HD antenna.

Unfortunately, AFAICT, the next step up Comcast's Stairway to Internet Heaven is "Extreme 105," which advertises "downloads up to 105Mbps, uploads up to 20Mbps." It costs what is for me a whopping $99.95/mo = about $1200/yr. (I'm retired and on a fixed income). OTOH, $1200 - $952.56/year (current Comcast highway robbery) is only $247.44. or another $20/mo. Does anyone think this is worth the extra price? There's supposed to be an "Extreme 120," but I can't find it anywhere on Comcast's site.

*Comcast's list of "approved" DOCSIS Devices. Speed tiers "Performance," "Blast!," "Extreme 50," "Extreme 105" (in fact, in ALL tiers, when "DOCSIS 3.0 and above" is checked), all the same modems show up:

1 Arris CM820A Touchstone Cable Modem CM820A
2 Arris ! TG852G (IMS) Touchstone Telephony Wireless Gateway Modem TG852G (IM...
3 Arris ! TG852G (NCS) Touchstone Telephony Wireless Gateway Modem TG852G (NC...
4 Arris ! TG862G (IMS) Touchstone Telephony Wireless Gateway Modem TG862G (IM...
5 Arris ! TG862G (NCS) Touchstone Telephony Wireless Gateway Modem TG862G (NC...
6 Arris TM702G (IMS) Touchstone Telephony Modem TM702G (IMS)
7 Arris TM702G (NCS) Touchstone Telephony Modem TM702G
8 Arris TM722G (IMS) Touchstone Telephony Modem TM722G (IMS)
9 Arris TM722G (NCS) Touchstone Telephony Modem TM722G
10 Arris TM822G (IMS) Touchstone Telephony Modem TM822G (IMS)
11 Arris TM822G (NCS) Touchstone Telephony Modem TM822G (NCS)
12 Arris WBM760A Touchstone Cable Modem WBM760A
13 Cisco DPC3000 Cisco DOCSIS 3.00 Cable Modem DPC3000
14 Cisco DPC3008 Cisco DPC3008 DOCSIS 3.0 Cable Modem
15 D-Link DCM-301 D-Link DCM-301 DOCSIS 3.0 Cable Modem
16 HitronTechnologies BRG-35503 Hitron BRG-35503 Cable Modem
17 Motorola SB6120-Retail Motorola SURFboard SB6120 Cable Modem
18 Motorola SB6121 Motorola SURFboard SB6121 DOCSIS 3.0 Cable Modem
19 Motorola SB6141-Retail Motorola Surfboard SB6141 DOCSIS 3.0 Cable Modem
20 Motorola SBG6580-Retail SBG6580 DOCSIS 3.0 Wireless Cable Modem Gateway
21 Netgear CMD31T Netgear DOCSIS 3.0 Cable Modem CMD31T
22 SMCNetworks SMCD3G-CCR SMC DOCSIS 3.0 Cable Modem and Router SMCD3G-CCR
23 SMCNetworks SMCD3GNV (IMS) SMC DOCSIS 3.0 Wireless Gateway Cable Modem and Router...
24 SMCNetworks SMCD3GNV (NCS) SMC DOCSIS 3.0 Wireless Gateway Cable Modem and Router...
25 Ubee DDM3503 Ubee (formerly Ambit) DOCSIS 3.0 Cable Modem
26 Ubee DDM3513 Ubee (formerly Ambit) DOCSIS 3.0 Cable Modem
27 Ubee DVM3203B (IMS) Ubee(formerly Ambit) DOCSIS 3.0 Telephony Modem
28 Ubee DVM3203B (NCS) Ubee (formerly Ambit) DOCSIS 3.0 Telephony Modem
29 Ubee U10C035 Ubee (formerly Ambit) DOCSIS 3.0 Cable Modem
30 ZoomTelephonics 5341 Retail DOCSIS 3.0 Cable Modem 5341
31 ZoomTelephonics 5341J Retail DOCSIS 3.0 Cable Modem 5341J
32 ZoomTelephonics 5350 Model 5350 DOCSIS 3.0 Wireless-N Cable Modem Router

Some other worthwhile and interesting info from this Comcast forum, including:

[If you buy your own Docsis3 modem] "PS save your receipt for new modem and check your first bill from comcast to make sure they're not charging you a rental fee for owned modem .

"Also you will need to call into comcast with MAC address of new modem and get it provisioned."

"Stay away from the combo gateway devices modem&wireless . Best to get modem and seperate wireless router"

Amen to that.

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by Pepe7 / November 18, 2012 3:51 AM PST

Whoah. I think my brain blew a socket from reading that long post Wink Might be easier to condense that for us folks who are easily distracted on the interwebs 8-).

To summarize Comcast's DOSCIS3 service, it's a great improvement. You can run simultaneous things such as online gaming and multiple downloads (on several PCs), without the typical slowdowns of DOCSIS2 service.

Don't get too bogged down in the details. You can easily buy your own modem, such as the SB6120, 6121 or 6141 and enjoy their upgraded service. You only see D3 modems on their list because they are moving all service areas to D3 service. FWIW, I have always had more issues dealing with the comcast issued Arris equipment than I have had with the vast majority of their Moto stuff. The last three Motorola modems I have not rented but owned too, with never any sort of rogue fee for phantom features that are no longer applicable. If you see such a fee on your bill, it means they did not provision your account properly, and you need to call CS.

The Blast tier is where you should start seeing immediate benefits of having a DOCSIS3 modem. It's possible though, if you are a heavy downloader, the 6120 on the Performance tier will still get you a bit of a bump in speed, due to less congestion/channel bonding. OTOH, Comcast is known for regularly bumping up speeds on various tiers w/o raising price. In this sense, if they bump up the performance tier to 16, then you likely see better performance than you would otherwise only having a DOCSIS2 modem. I'm not a heavy gamer, so increased upload speeds don't mean much to me, only how many simultaneous downloads I can maintain.

By all means go with your own wireless router vs their combo devices.


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