TVs & Home Theaters forum

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Advice, Please

by Dave Konkel [Moderator] / May 26, 2008 12:15 PM PDT

Hi, All.

Our 10-yo Hitachi 45" rear projection set is starting to go off-color again (no -- the color, not what's playing!) Experience shows that means one of the three color tubes needs replacing, about a $600 investment in an outmoded technology. Mrs. K (pleased to have new laminate floors and a new dining room set) has agreed to a replacement, and we've already bought a terrific entertainment center at a going-out-of-business sale ($2800 list ---> $1k!) So -- what to put in it?

1) Until today, I was going to get a 58" Panasonic TH-58PZ7000U plasma. Then I saw the new 50PZ800U, which has a much higher contrast ratio, next to the 50PZ7000U; seeing them side by side, there's simply no comparison. But -- I won't be seeing them side-by-side. Furthermore, the 58" won't be out until August. So -- 50" now, or wait for the 58" in the Fall (with a flaky color tube, I really don't want to wait...) Decisions, decisions!

2) We have a flat-roof house, so the rear speakers in the 5.1 setup must be wireless. I've seen several recommendations (both online and at two stores) for the Panasonic SCPT960 home-theater, which features rear wireless speakers, a 5-disk CD/DVD changer, and 1250 watts. The only drawback -- some complain that the rear speakers are weak, while others can't see what the complainers are talking about. Anyone familiar with the system to give an opinion?

Thanks in advance for the input!
-- Dave K, Speakeasy Moderator

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From my past experience...
by grimgraphix / May 26, 2008 12:45 PM PDT
In reply to: Advice, Please

... from when I used to sell home A/V stuff (4 years ago) the panasonic home theaters in a box systems were very nice... but the Pioneers of that time had a bit more omph to their amplifiers. Things are probably way different today.

The one thing that is not different is my old school predilections to hard wiring the back speakers to an integrated amplifier / receiver. if it concerns you that the wireing is too expensive to run through the walls... then you can hide the wires through self sticking, pre painted, wire channeling or "raceways" such as this...

You can stick it along the corner edge of walls or ceilings.

Ultimately, I do not care for Home Theater in a Box systems because if one thing goes bad in the system, you are faced with sending it out for repair, or limping along with a crippled system. Separate components may be more expensive but they do allow for more flexibility in upgrades and/or replacing a single part if it breaks down. That being said, I do appreciate why an HTIB is so attractive for so many people.

Cheers !


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I, too have a flat roof house. It took a little
by NM_Bill / May 27, 2008 12:33 AM PDT
In reply to: Advice, Please

determination, but we fished wires to the back by going up the front wall & across the ceiling. We bought the house new so were able to get confirmation from the builder that the roof trusses ran the appropriate way (parallel rather than perpendicular.)

Yes, the base & top of the front wall had to now have blank cover plates (just the normal, smallish size) & they are not obtrusive looking at all. The rear wall happens to have a vertical bulkhead area where the rear surrounds were mounted with a downward tilt. That covers the wire hole there & the whole shebang solved the problem. It was worthwhile the hassle.

Just an audiophile user, not working in any industry capacity, I am still spooked by the wireless speaker performance problems. I would have to see/hear it in person to believe the wireless ones perform well. Dropouts have been the wireless problem.

Other that the rectangular wire mold mentioned, there are fine quality specially made flat ribbon speaker wires. They work perfectly, the only drawback being they are fairly expensive, but probably worthwhile when they are the logical solution. But not moreso than the ongoing decisions faced by going like monoline vs. way expensive Monster Cable.

Dave, it is up to you & your other half. But, my inclination is to go for current fine value rather than wait for more expensive jacked up contrast values. Your eyes must judge what you feel you need. The early adopter price premium is always substantial. It is so nice that HDTV availability is so much more value priced with just the past couple of years. One can't really win any future proofing quest because tech is a moving target. I lean towards value as the quality level is already so high.

Best of luck...& enjoy.

I must say, as an old stereo enthusiast, that I also recommend a one disc player over the greater convenience of a changer. They just don't equal the greater performance & reliability of single disc models. Yes, I too can be easily lazy, but will get my butt up off the chair to change programming.

I, too like to see people assemble pieces rather than get the convenient HTiB. All HTiBs try to do too much at their price point. They all have some serious compromise. Todays receivers are so capable & are great values.

Electronics are made to sound neutral & they pretty much do. A $200 receiver & a $700 one sound pretty much alike (for practical level reasons.) The biggest difference is among speakers as they have their own brand characteristic sound. So speakers are the most personal variable in the AV setup.

Speakers worthwhile for the long term start at about $150- $200 each. And one can start with just two for stereo & add on as more money is available for a full surround system. There are both no perfect speakers but there are many in the marketplace. No one concise list can be perfect but I recommend looking at the speaker article from the free online mag, playback, Feb issue. Check out:

Every brand of these bookshelf models for under a grand for the set - are makers of really fine speakers of value. Please do yourself an educational favor. Yes, It takes a bit more involvement this way.

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In terms of your audio question...
by stuntman_mike / May 27, 2008 6:29 AM PDT
In reply to: Advice, Please

it seems that you have some good suggestions there.

As far as your TV question, I would absolutely wait until the 58" comes out.
1. You have lived with the old TV this long. Will another couple of months really kill you?

2. Unless you have money to burn, you will only get one chance at getting it right. Size matters an awful lot. Don't kick yourself later.

If you have the budget, I would even think about getting one of the Pioneer Kuro 60" models from 2007, or even waiting until their 2008 line up comes out.

You only live once right lol?

Good luck

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My advice for Dave
by jostenmeat / May 28, 2008 7:00 AM PDT
In reply to: Advice, Please

1) I no longer keep up with TV specs, but if the differences in contrast are natural (not dynamic), yea it can make a big difference IMO. So will the big increase in size from 50 to 58.

-How far will you sit from the TV?
-When at the movies, where do you prefer to sit? (I myself prefer about 1/3 from the front).

2) I've never heard a Panasonic HTIB that I haven't been plainly, flatly, outright disappointed with. Sound is tinny, not full, the speakers look cheap to me, lightweight plasticy, with perforated plastic grills, etc. I've heard a few systems. I very, very honestly would rather have one pair of decent bookshelves than 5 or 7 of those speakers, even with that sub. Just my impressions so far. I really enjoy Panasonic products otherwise, whether Bluray player, clothes iron, cordless telephone, fax machine, you-name-it.
The DVD changer that is typical of the Panny systems also give me that "cheapish feeling". Well, this purchase does give you many little pieces for an affordable amount. I think Onkyo HTIB's completely annihilate Pana HTIBs. However, Onkyo speakers aren't sexy any means. Definitely not wireless either.

If you have a wide viewing angle, and have some vertical space allowed, I recommend 3 identical speakers for your front. Add receiver. I think Oppo has a new dvd player out, the 983, that is definitely worth investigating. (If not just going straight to Blu to begin with. I highly recommend it. The difference is pretty serious, especially with a decent viewing angle).
Anyways, back to speakers, one rec to think about for now are 3x Ascend 170's. Firstly, they will sell an individual speaker to you. One audio extremophile pro has figured out how to do cabinet modifications to it that make it better than speakers costing in the thousands (if you ever cared). There is an extended sale, $50 off the pair right now. If they will knock off $25 on the thrid speaker, that is $450 for a very, very decent front 3 that is in a completely different league than any HTIB speaker. At this budget point, you are still a ways away from the "diminishing returns". However, it stands 1 foot tall.

Some people like Bill_NM may advocate not matching your speakers in the front. My argument here is that it costs less to get superior multi-channel home theater, or music, reproduction, and for less money. PERIOD.

**You know, I just really hate the idea of horiz MTM center speakers. Just because it isn't designed that way does not mean it becomes a good speaker on its own. But, I just hate buying into such a design flaw that is so fundamental, easily avoidable, that is imposed on the most important speaker of any multi-ch system: The Center,

end of rant, off the soap-box. My complaints with horiz MTM could be of very little concern if viewers are only front and center.


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Thanks, JM and all
by Dave Konkel [Moderator] / May 28, 2008 1:59 PM PDT
In reply to: My advice for Dave

The difference in contrast seems inherent. We'll be about 11 feet back, in twin La-Z Boys (occasionally a couple of friends may be in a couch set perpendicular to the right of the main viewing angle: ┐) At the movies, we like to sit about 2/3 of the way back, but that's with compact stadium seating (probably 15-16 rows back). The calculator says bigger is better (81" diagonal), though we can move forward some if necessary (we use the current distance with a low-res 45" rear projection set).

2) I've already ordered the Panasonic HTIB, so we'll see what happens. This is the latest iteration, which supposedly is much better than previous years' versions. My wife won't go for surround sound wires -- period.

BTW, can one use both the built-in speakers and those that come with the HTIB in the front?

I do appreciate the input!

-- Dave K, Speakeasy Moderator

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my pleasure
by jostenmeat / May 28, 2008 3:31 PM PDT
In reply to: Thanks, JM and all

1) Yeah, I would experiment with moving the chairs forward. Adjust to taste. I once had my former tv, a 61" DLP, in my bedroom for a little while because I was getting some work done to the living room. That temporary setup completely spoiled me. The immersion with HD sources was incredible. As long as it was a decent source, it looked amazing. Once it went back to the living room, I was actually pretty bummed. Then I even finally went back to the movie theater again, to watch American Gangster. As much as I loved my HT, I was just thinking to myself, gosh it just doesn't feel the same as the "real thing"...

I got myself an enormous screen now. 159". I measured the front row at THX, and the back row at almost SMPTE. (Not my living room anymore). Guess what? I moved both rows even closer! However, I must say I no longer watch TV, and by far most of the viewing is done with aspects that are smaller than 16:9. Anyway...

2a) Well. You know how I feel. To reiterate my opinion, I would rather have two decent speakers than the other Pana systems I've heard. This is truly honest, btw, no hyperbole. However, I completely understand how any normal guy would want surround! Well, whether you keep it or not, another factor (just as can be with video) that is very, very important, almost as important as the speakers chosen, is the placement of speakers. Try to make them pointed at main listening position, and see if you can make sure that the rear speakers can fire over the furniture to get to your ears. At least the tweeter if you can.

2b) Regarding the dvd combo players. I don't recommend changers, firstly, as I find they are much more prone to malfunctioning. Secondly, very good quality dvd players are not very expensive. Thirdly, most of us here do not recommend all-in-one components, not just due to reliability, but also upgradability, and quality in general. I know that all of my ramblings inevitably lead you to spend more than you originally intended. Do not begrudge me, as I am one sadly obsessed poor soul.

One ex of a separate quality dvd player. I like any Denon as well. But a blu-ray player not only decently upscales, it can also play high-definition sources. A dvd being upscaled is like putting "lipstick on a pig". Its just not the same.

Another opinion I would like to repeat... if you have a perfectly functional dvd player, I would wait to buy a BluRay player. Even if you want a year or so. Player prices will eventually fall, the technology will be better bug-proofed, and some of them upscale dvd's pretty decently already. The load time is presently longer, like 20 seconds, rather than 5 seconds or whatever. The biggest argument? Just watching a well-mastered native 1080p movie on a native 1080p high quality display. You'll never leave your La-Z boy.

3) You don't want to run your TV speakers at the same time with the surround system. Firstly, you will have phase issues and dialogue will sound anywhere from slightly different to very "distorted". Dialogue is easiest to tell with, but really that's for all your audio. Secondly, since your tv is only "stereo", any discrete surround effects will be usurped by your tv speakers. For example, let's say a jet plane roars left to right in a surround system. That pan will also then be playing from your "front" during that entire scene. IOW, all of your discrete surround cues will always also be present from the front. I think you will become very familiar with the mute button on the TV. Wink


I simply recommend against ANY Panasonic HTIB. I hate to burst your bubble, but in all my forum wanderings, I do find people that appreciate brutal honesty. They are extremely sub-par. Like I said, even an Onkyo system completely destroys those. I think just one, single, surround bookshelf that I own would single-handedly destroy all speakers combined in that system. Oh, my single bookshelf costs $150 brand new. Its not really THAT much. Yea, come to think of it, I might prefer not just a pair, but just one single $150 speaker over that ENTIRE Pana speaker set. This is orders of magnitude we are talking here.

I can't explain what I know and experienced to you very easily. Sure, if you followed my recommendations to the hilt, you would spend about 3x as much on the audio portion. But I think you will get about 10x the benefit. My very honest opinions. I have three friends with Pana HTIBs, one of which is long time employee of theirs. They are the weakest performing surround systems I've ever heard. The reason why I would prefer two decent bookshelves is because the Pana speakers are not nearly beautiful enough to just sit there, as I find them useless to me for audio. Really. Ok, I think I've beaten that dead horse enough..

Anyways, again Im sorry to be over-bearing... C'mon man, live it up! You're a CNET mod, do us proud!!


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