Equipment Mini-Reviews

This page is somewhat dated as I have not posted any reviews of my current equipment. However, I’m keeping this page up for archival purposes.

Marantz VP-12s1 DLP Video Projector:

My dream purchase finally become a reality when I purchased my first projector! After almost 5 years of planning and waiting for a high-resolution, 16×9 digital video projector, I found the one I wanted an made the purchase. It was well worth the wait. The internal scaling and processing are outstanding on this unit, although newer DLP chips have increased performance levels, this is still a great projector. When I moved, my projector was sold with the house in early 2004.

Onkyo TX-DS939 receiver:

I’ve been very impressed with this receiver since I purchased it in 1997. Back then, it was the best integrated receiver available because it offered Dolby Digital certification and because it was THX certified (by the new standards it meets the THX-ultra specification). This means it met much higher standards on the amplifier section, added THX cinema re-equalization, and insured discrete surround sound channels in the Dolby Pro Logic mode.

Two years after I bought this unit, it was still Onkyo’s flagship model, although it was be replaced in 1Q-2000 by a new model.

The features offered by the 939 were unmatched by most of the receivers designed two years later. This lasting performance has made the initial cost of the unit forgettable. However, there are a few short comings with this unit, namely no DTS decoding, no discrete on/off remote control commands, only 3 digital inputs, no digital outputs, and a slightly bright sound quality. Now that I’ve compared Dolby Digital and DTS, I don’t feel like I’m missing out on a big improvement in sound quality- both sound incredible – but it would be nice to have the added flexibility of DTS. Not having discrete on/off codes makes automation with the remote control a bit more difficult but I’ve learned to live with it.

I understand the the replacement for the 939 fixes all of these shortcoming and adds even more features. As much as I’d like to upgrade, I doubt I will. My complaints are minimal and I’m very satisfied with my 939. I don’t see the cost of the upgrade being worth it.

Philips DSR6000 TiVo PVR / DirecTv Satellite Receiver

This is the most watched component of my system. It’s much more convenient to now watch shows recorded by TiVo versus messing with a VCR or watching them live. I would hate to go back! I’ve modified by DirecTiVo by adding a by adding a CacheCard ethernet adapter, connecting it to my home network and cable modem connection. I have telnet, FTP, and HTTP, and caller ID servers running from the TiVo. The most useful application installed is tivoweb, the HTTP server that allows remote access and programming when away from home. I don’t use this feature frequently but it is nice to have it available. Step-by-step instructions on how to modify Series 1 and Series 2 TiVo can be found at tivohelp.com.

Toshiba SD 2108 DVD player

When I first hooked up my DVD player in 1998, I was very impressed with it. The sound was absolutely amazing and justified the expense of the rest of my system. I couldn’t believe the difference Dolby Digital made and was wondering why I hadn’t purchased a DVD player sooner.

Since that time, I’ve identified a few shortcomings of my 2108 DVD player. The most noticeable is the pause that sometimes occurs when the disc transfers from the first to the second layer. It seems to be worse on this player than on some others I’ve seen. I’m hoping the newer players have more memory and better transports to compensate for this problem.

As with other Toshiba products, this one doesn’t have discrete power on/off codes. This is not really a problem because hitting the play button acts as a discrete power on. It just means that a macro must be used for power on/off.

Also, the 2108 doesn’t have 480 Progressive scan outputs. Since no other player had this feature until 4Q 1999, it can’t say I’m disappointed at this omission. However, when I upgrade my TV to HD, it means I will have to upgrade my DVD player as well. Right now, I’m leaning toward a PC-based DVD player, but I may change my mind before making the purchase, which is quite some time away.

Velodyne HGS 15 subwoofer

This is a very impressive subwoofer. I can’t say how pleased I am with this unit. Since my home theater is located in large (1000 square foot / 9000 cubic foot) room in my basement, adequate bass reproduction is very difficult. My previous Polk Subwoofer was very underpowered.

The HGS 15 fixed my bass response problem. The massive amplifier produces enough power to shake the furniture even in a very large room. The sealed enclosure insures very flat, accurate bass reproduction and the closed-loop monitoring of the woofer insures that it never produces clipping or distortion.

The huge number of inputs (including balanced) and a remote control are just icing on the cake. The blue power LED on the front of the unit produces a nice added visual enhancement as does the black gloss finish cabinet.

This subwoofer will be the last component I would want to upgrade, I can’t image ever needing to do so.

Toshiba CX35f60 35″ television – it’s upstairs now!

Other than the fact that my Toshiba TV doesn’t have discrete on/off remote control commands, I’m pleased with the unit. The default settings have the sharpness and contrast set too high, but this is to be expected. A quick recalibration using the Video Essentials DVD fixed the problem. The only performance problem is a bit of image blooming as the contrast was turned up, so I just leave it turned down for the best picture quality.

I find the 2-tuner feature useful for watching my 2 different satellite receivers at once (unfortunately with satellite, it requires to tuners.) This feature is especially useful due to the dual-room capability of my Onkyo receiver. It lets me switch both video inputs to the TV from the receiver, so I have all 7 sources available to either of the TV tuners.

10 Comments

  1. Hi,
    I have a short question regarding your receiver: I have exactly the same one ONKYO, just with MSB DSP add-on card for 9 years..
    But I am a bit frustrated by lack of latest audio HD decoding, have you thought to add some processor, .. any upgrade? It is really good receiver, but quite old

  2. Michael: Actually, I haven’t had time to post about it yet, but my Onkyo is dead. It started shutting itself off occasionally, displaying an over-current message. Them it completely died, making a horrible shrieking sound in all speakers before powering off.

    In short, I had to upgrade to something else. But if you want support for things like component, HDMI, and newer sound formats, you’re going to have to replace what you have. I switched to an Anthem Statement D2 combined with my existing Sherbourn 72100a amplifier and I’m very happy with the results.

  3. I own a 50″ Samsung DLP tv and a Harman Kardon AVR 245 7.1 receiver w/ Cerwin Vega surround and tower speakers w/ Cerwin vega 300 watt sub.I also stream hi-def video from my computer to my PS3. I am impressed with your room and I have a room that Im going to convert inro a HT. Do you think I need to upgrade my receiver or do you think this receiver would be good to use. It is 3yrs old only downfall it is not thx certified.

    1. I wouldn’t place too much importance on THX certification. I think the biggest value of the newer receivers is 7.1 channel uncompressed audio over HDMI from Blu-ray. HDMI video switching is nice to have, but HD audio is the only critical aspect for receivers. Hope this helps.

  4. Carlton,
    I am currently building home theater setup very new to this could you give me information on your media cabinet and what is brand of your walls you constructed. Lastly, I constructed a wall two feet from another wall for TV with built-ins for books and media components, Do it make sense build extra wall?

    1. Author

      Hi John. The equipment rack is a Middle Atlantic, and the customer rack shelves for each component are from them as well. They have a huge database of home theater components and they custom laser cut the shelf faces to fit. If they don’t have your component, you send it to them (or send the measurements) and they make it.

      As for the extra wall, it’s really more of an aesthetic choice. I think it looks better to have a more integrated / recessed look, so I think the extra walls are generally good because they allow for this.

  5. Any recommendations for a portable projector to be used for business presentations AND video watching?

    1. Author

      AnGela, most DLP-based projectors will work for mixed-use. They are compact, bright, and delivery OK black levels. I’d recommend one with WXGA resolution (wider screen better matching movie aspect ratio.) Something like the Epson PowerLite 1761W http://amzn.to/1KfM4fz

  6. I am plannign a home theatre for 11x15feet room size please suggest equipments and projector specificaitons for a budget home theatre

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