Adventures in High-Definition

Well, the previously mentioned Big Freakin’ TV showed up right on schedule, and so far, it’s all I could hope for. It’s huge, was simple to hook up. It’s even fairly svelte–about 9″ deep at the lowest point, and despite its size weighs in at about 70 pounds once it’s unboxed. There’s also no sign of the “high pitched whining” some users of this TV had complained about. Best of all, the picture is gorgeous–especially when viewing HD broadcasts or (even better!) a Blu-ray movie. I thought my Dell lash-up was pretty spiffy before, but this new rig puts it to shame.

There were two reasonably major problems, however. First, my receiver (a Panasonic) lacked HDMI inputs–not to mention an input-selector knob since we managed to shear it off by slamming it with the sliding glass door to the my stereo rack. More importantly, it apparently felt intimidated by its new neighbor the TV, and decided without warning to go from being a stereo receiver to a mono one with the left stereo channel going out entirely. 45 minutes of connection-checking later, I concluded that the left side amp was kaput.

Anxious to get the TV up and running in full surround-sound glory, I decided to drop $200 down a the local Best Buy to pick up a Sony STR-DG510 receiver. I can’t claim to love its display or interface, but I certainly appreciate the sheer amount of technology in the receiver. In addition to HDMI inputs, it adds two or three types of new theater decoding (Dolby Pro Logic II, Dolby Surround EX, etc.) as well as a very nifty system for auto-configuring your surround speakers. Basically, you just sit where you’d normally be in your living room holding the supplied microphone, then the system blasts white noise from the various speakers and automatically adjusts the relative gain levels and calculates the distance delay that Surround signals should have in order to keep the whole thing in sync. Neat!

Unfortunately, this particular receiver also seems to have some oddities regarding the use of HDMI inputs. To wit: video comes across fine, but instead of hearing sound, the receiver shows the cryptic message “Unlock” — a message which appears nowhere in the 70 page user guide. Browsing the internet, however, it seems that for whatever reasons, the receiver does not allow Audio to pass through the HDMI cable, but instead only accepts digital audio if you hook up the separate optical or coaxial cable from your device. There’s definitely some sort of story here, since the HDMI cable should be able to handle both video and audio through a single cable…but at this point, I’ve decided to just play along and string the extra cables. If anyone can shed light on this weird behavior of the receiver, please let me know!

…Now I just need to drop $150 on a Harmony remote so I don’t need to use three different remotes just to watch TV…

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