Help - I Have TV, Calibration & Blu-ray Dilemmas
CE Pro senior editor Bob Archer and one consumer discuss the world's best TV and how to output Dolby TrueHD on a Pioneer Blu-ray Player.
July 02, 2009 by Robert Archer

Q. If money did not matter, what is the best TV on the planet that’s 50 inches or more? - Matt Ubel, Minn.

A. The easy answer is the Pioneer Elite Kuro plasma, but Pioneer is phasing out of that product. So if you’re going to buy one, you should do it now.

You should also look into products from Runco and Panasonic.

Many people these days, however, are investing into projection systems (projector and screen). These have larger screen sizes and the ability to play anamorphic movie content in the correct aspect ratio.

In this category look at companies like: Runco, Digital Projection, SIM2, DreamVision, JVC, Marantz, Sony and Sharp.

Q. Is it worth calibrating it for $400?

A. I would say yes, if you have the money. It’s small things that an ISF- (Imaging Science Foundation) or THX-certified installer can do to get the most out of a video system. You’ll notice those details in shadow detail, color accuracy and picture brightness/balance.

If that’s too much, there are discs from companies like Joe Kane Productions (JKP) and the ISF that bring a fundamental baseline of those parameters to your system.

Q. Can Dolby Digital optical/co-axial inputs or outputs handle the new Dolby TrueHD signal?

A. No Matt, it cannot. If you connect a Blu-ray player’s audio outputs to a coax or Toslink (optical) cable, the audio will automatically kick down to Dolby Digital or DTS 5.1.

You need to have a receiver that decodes Dolby TrueHD and DTS Master Audio via HDMI (select bitstream output) in order to listen to the uncompressed Dolby and DTS formats.

The other option is to buy a Blu-ray player with built-in decoding and multichannel analog outputs. A Blu-ray player with these options will send the uncompressed audio out through the multichannel outputs. You will need the necessary RCA cables to make the connection.

Most newer receivers and preamplifier/processors have the multichannel analog inputs because they were included to support the almost-extinct DVD-Audio and SACD audio formats. New receivers and pre/pros include them today because it’s something they can offer affordably as another line-item option.

Some of the new Blu-ray players that include the multichannel analog and built-in processing include:

  • The forthcoming Sony BDP-S560
  • Panasonic DMP-80
  • Pioneer BDP-320

All of these players can be found for less than $400.

Q. Can you walk me through it? I have a Harmon Kardon AVR 7200, Pioneer Pro151FD Plasma, Pioneer Elite BDP-05FD Blu-ray Player and Comcast HD cable box.

A. Matt, your in good shape. Your Blu-ray player has the built-in analog outputs and decoding and your receiver has the analog inputs. You’ll need as many as eight RCA cables depending on whether your system is 5.1 or 7.1. It’s simply a matter of matching up the outputs from the Blu-ray player to the inputs of the receiver.

Once you’ve done that, you’ll need to go into the Blu-ray player’s audio menu settings and select the analog audio output. It may also ask you to select the built-in decoding option. I haven’t seen the player personally, but it’s not much more than that. Keep the receiver and Blu-ray player’s owner manuals nearby to reference them in case you hit a hang up.

Then you’ll need to select the analog inputs for audio playback. You’ll probably be able to toggle through all of the receiver’s inputs before you come upon the analog multichannel option. Make sure to save it so it comes up automatically when you select your DVD/Blu-ray player.

Here’s a couple of suggestions:

  • You’ve got the best plasma in the industry, use good HDMI cables
  • Your Blu-ray player is also one of the best, so use good RCA cables
  • Look into companies like Straight Wire, Transparent and Tributaries, which all make good products

You’ve got some impressive pieces in your system, and if finances allow, you shouldn’t hold back on cables. Also, think about a good power conditioner. Companies like Richard Gray’s, Transparent, APC, Furman and Torus make some excellent units that will protect your gear from spikes, brown-outs and surges. They will also filter out line noise like EMI and RF interference that detract from a system’s performance.

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Robert Archer - Senior Editor, CE Pro
Bob is a dedicated audiophile who has been writing about A/V for Electronic House sister publication CE Pro since 2000.

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