Wednesday, December 31, 2008

The Epson 6500UB Arrives

The Epson 6500UB arrived this morning around 10 am. By 10:15 I had it mounted, and by 10:30 I was ready to test it out. So far, so good! No dead pixels, no convergence issues, no stuck focus ring, and no dust blobs. The image is stunning compared to my old Panasonic AE700. So far it has exceeded my expectations in everything but the Frame Interpolation feature is very 'freaky'. It is one of those things you just have to see to understand, as it is difficult to describe in words.

Not only does this projector throw an extremely sharp, and bright image, but it is also quiet in the "Theatre" modes. I am not sure how it compares to the Panasonic AE-3000, but it is only audible in very quiet scenes. In fact, I now can hear the Panasonic BD-35 fan which I didn't hear before. This projector shows every flaw in the source material, dust, scratches, noise, you name it.

Monday, December 29, 2008

The Epson 6500UB is on the way

I got the phone call tonight from AVS, my projector is shipping tomorrow. I am hopeful that it gets here by Friday, but it is difficult to say with NYE holiday. A very good review was posted on Projector Reviews

This will complete the upgrades for the year, and I think I finally have everything in place. I have converted from HD DVD to Blu-Ray, from a 720p to 1080p projector, and upgraded my receiver. I think I can finally relax and not think about any more changes for now.

Friday, December 19, 2008

Onkyo TX-SR805

Decision time is over. I went with the Onkyo TX-SR-805. Should be here sometime next week. Until then, I am without sound...

Thursday, December 18, 2008

HK-635 and Panny V2600 GONE!

I am now without a receiver to power my theater. I recently sold both the Harman Kardon and Yamaha receivers. I thought it was time to move up to HDMI 1.3 and the new audio decoders (True-HD, DTS-MA) to use with my BD-35. Perhaps it is time to try another brand, like the Onkyo TX-SR805? It seems to do all the things I want, and without all the video processing that I do not need.

Thursday, December 11, 2008

On the Wait List

The decision is over, I went with the Epson 6500UB. I am on the wait list, and the first batch of these projectors should ship out next week. Whether or not I make the cut for the first shipment is still unknown. At best I could have the projector by Dec. 19th. More realistically, it will be mid-January. A lot depends on how many Epson is actually able to ship to the distributors, and how many people are ahead of me on the list.

In the meantime, I can practice taking measurements with HCFR software and the Spider 2 sensor on the old AE-700. The more I practice, the easier it will be to calibrate the Epson when it arrives. If rumors are correct, a similar projector is almost spot on right out of the box

Monday, December 08, 2008

DMP-BD35 Player

Well I finally took a swig of the blu-ray kool-aid, and so far it is not too bad. This weekend Costco was having an $80 off sale on their two BD players (BD-30 and BD-35). I stopped by 3 stores trying to locate the BD-35, but all they had was the BD-30 (which I did not want). At the last store, I had one of the employees look up the sku for the BD-35 and he came back with some interesting news. They did have several of these players, but they would not put them out until all the BD-30's were sold. It seems there was a note that indicated that the BD-35 were meant to be a replacement for the BD-30's so they were not bringing them out. That sort of frosted me, so I thanked the guy for his help and left. When I got home, I grabbed the Costco Connection magazine that had the ad, and headed by to the second store (which had 72 units). There I spoke to another employee, who was very knowledgeable about the BD-35. He knew where they were, but also gave me the same story about having to sell all the BD-30's before they could bring them out. I showed him the ad, and pointed out that the sale specifically mentioned the BD-35. I also explained to him that they had different sku numbers, and even a different price. After a little more small talk, I was able to convience him.

I had to wait 30 minutes or so for the forklift to make it to the far end of the store where the prized BD-35's were sitting in wait. When they were finally lowered, I snatched one up and headed home. I had also picked up a copy of Iron Man in BD to test it out (since they were $5 off). A neighbor and his friend stopped over to give the player its first showing. There was some issue getting the PCM channel working through my receiver, but after about 5 false starts, we finally had full audio. Something still seems a bit odd about that experience, but I didn't have time to figure out what component was at fault.  

The BD-35 is quite nice, from the time I have had to play with it.  It loads fast, has a very nice menu layout, and was easy to update the firmware over the internet (took about 10 minutes to load V 1.5).  It is hooked up through my DVDO Edge, so it is hard to judge the picture quality without bypassing this processor.  Everything seems to look good hooked up through Edge.

This definitely pushes me one step closer to purchasing the 1080p projector. Just need the first user reports to start rolling in on the 6500UB. 

Wednesday, November 26, 2008

Ceiling Mounting the AE-700

In preparation for the purchase of either an AE-3000 or 6500UB, I have been moving around my 4+ yo AE-700. This past weekend, I purchased a universal mount from Monoprice and moved the AE-700 from ~20 ft (back of room shelf mount) to ~10.5 ft ceiling mount. My screen is 106" High Contrast Cinema Vision (HCCV), a gray screen rated at 1.1 gain, so I am just a tad too close to fill the entire screen. (Oddly it seems to fill horizontally but is a sliver too narrow vertically). This is my first attempt at ceiling mounting and alignment, and I would rather learn on the old than on a brand new one. The learning curve has been steep, but I am finally getting the hang of it and better understand how everything works.

What I have noticed is that the picture is definitely much brighter and has an apparent increase in sharpness. So far I am liking this change in mounting location, and I had someone ask me last night if I had purchased a new projector since it looked so much better. (I know I was stretching it to have the old projector that far from the screen).

Bottom line is that I can wait just a little bit longer now before the upgrade, and I don't think I would ever go back to shelf mount. Hopefully it will be an easy swap out when the new projector gets here.

Monday, November 17, 2008

What will it be: Panny 3000 or Epson 6500

The purchase of a new 1080p projector has been on hold all summer. The two main contenders are the Panasonic AE-3000 and the soon to be released Epson 6500U. The reviews of the 3000 are slowly rolling in, and they are mixed. They have made improvements in brightness and contrast, but it appears they haven't solved the dust blob issue. I have never had a dust blob on my SE-700, so I don't know if I have a cleaner environment, or if it is just luck of the draw.

The 3000 seems to have more user features, like the waveform monitor, zoom memory for 2:35 zooming, and color correction features. Some of these I would use, other features -not so much. If the Epson is quieter, less prone to dust blobs, and has a better brightness and contrast, I may be swayed to go that route. Predictions are that the Epson may be a few hundred more, but no street prices are available yet.

There is also the "Dark Knight" factor. I would like to have the projector installed and calibrated by the second week of December for the 'Dark Knight" movie night. The Epson looks like it will be delayed until around that time frame or longer. That might just be the thing that gets me to confirm the Panny purchase.

Until then, I keep reading and watching as all the information trickles in.

Wednesday, October 22, 2008

Goodbye 805

Well as much as I loved the Onkyo HD-805, it was no longer needed in the rack. I recently purchased a DVDO Edge video processor, and I have been using that for upconverting SD disks from my Oppo. The REON chip in the 805 did an excellent job, but I was running out of space and trying to make an effort to get rid of redundency. I also was not using the 805 as much as I thought I would, with barely 10 hours of use since I got it.

So what is next? I have been keeping my eye on the Panasonic AE-3000, and so far it looks like the projector for me. I will wait until the first user reports come out, and then purchase it around Christmas. It will make a nice gift to myself.

I was also quite impressed with the PS3 that a couple of my friends brought over last weekend. We watched "The Fall" on Blu-Ray, and it was a very enjoyable movie. Afterwards, we tried some of the games. As much as I hate Sony, this does seem to be a very nice system. Is it worth $399? That is the ultimate question, especially with cheaper standalone BD players coming out. Now if they dropped the price like MS did on the XB360, I might be more tempted.

Wednesday, August 27, 2008

The MFW-15 Arrives

After many months of pacing the floor, the MFW arrived last Friday. I wasted no time in dragging it down the stairs and ripping it out of the shipping box. I plugged it in, connected it to my system, and listened for the dreaded 60Hz hum. It was there, so I started to track down the source. Without the coax cable connected, the sub was nearly silent so I knew the source of the hum was either coming from the wall power or from the input. A cheater plug was added, and that had a small impact on the hum. As soon as I bypassed the BFD 1124, the hum went away. I had found the source. I added an RS 250-054 line filter to the output of the BFD and once again the hum was eliminated. Problem solved. With the ground loop isolator in place, I ran the Yamaha equalization routine and balance the sub with the rest of the speakers. All was good.

Now came the true test, how would it sound? I popped in my demo discs and ran through the clips one by one. With each clip, the smile grew wider. This is what was missing from my setup, the low end was extremely impressive. The clip of Darla tapping on the fish tank from "Nemo" made the whole room rumble! "Flight of the Phoenix" never sounded more realistic. Musical clips were also impressive, the sub was tight and deep at the same time.

I am very pleased with this sub and look forward to the next Theater Night to show off the new toy!

Monday, August 11, 2008

Deadening the Front Wall

I had a very enjoyable phone call with Bryan from GiK last week. After reviewing my theater layout he made some suggestions.

First, he recommended that the side surrounds be at least 38% of the total room length from the rear wall. With my room being about 20 ft long, that would mean that my rear seating should be around 7 ft from the back wall. Currently I am only at 4 ft. This would take some major adjustment to the seating to make this happen, but I will consider it.

Second, he suggested that all speakers should be set to SMALL, except the mains, with a cross-over of 80 Hz. By doing this, I could use the two Pro-Subs in the rear for the redirected bass and LFE. That may help balance the room once the MFW arrives as I was planning on putting that up front.

Third, he suggested that the front wall should be deadened. We discussed the need for some reflective area directly behind the bi-pole towers (7001's). The reasoning is to absorb any of the center sound that may be bouncing off the front row. This reflection can cause a muddy sound, especially during dialog.

After giving it some consideration, I decided to go half-way and add 2 inch cotton baffles behind the screen. This will absorb much of the reflected sound, but still give the towers some area to bounce. I spend last evening mounting the panels and moving the screen out from the wall by 2 inches. Tonight I will recalibrate the room and see if this was helpful or if it deadened the room too much. The front surface of the screen should allow some reflectance, and the insulation behind the screen will absorb most of the mid-high that passes through. This seemed like a fair compromise to me. A diffuser could be added behind the towers, but that is something for another day. The Tri-Traps should ship the end of this week, and arrive the following week. I plan on placing them in the corners of the rear wall.

Wednesday, August 06, 2008

The Tri-Traps are Coming!

GiK is having a limited time 10% off sale on their Tri-Traps, making them even more affordable. I picked up a pair to try in the rear corners of my room. I may have to build my own for the front corners because of the limited space I have between the wall and screen.

Monday, August 04, 2008

Theater Layout

I finished the theater layout, just in time to change it all around again. I will be moving all the A/V equipment from the built-in shelving at the rear of the room to the area outside the theater. I am waiting on my 40 ft HDMI cable to get here from Monoprice before I move everything. The projector will stay on the back shelf, but all the other gear will be moved out of the room. When I get around to buying a new projector (after CEDIA), I will mount it on the ceiling behind the rear seating. I am very anxious to see what comes out of Panasonic AE3000? or Epson 1080UB+?

Still waiting anxiously on the MFW-15 sub, and it should be 'coming soon'! At least I have a serial number for it now, just need a shipping invoice and I will be all set!

Thursday, July 17, 2008

Scored a pair of BPX's !!

Myer-Emco is having another warehouse sale, so I thought I would at least give them a call to see if they had the BPX surrounds. They don't normally carry them, but when they have their warehouse sale, sometimes the have items that were ordered but never picked up. It was my lucky day, and they had a brand new pair for $249 ea. Now I can finally finish my 7.1 surround system!

Thursday, July 10, 2008

The Onkyo DV-805 Arrives!

Well after my experience with the Toshiba XA2 and the fan noise, I decided to give the Onkyo clone a try. I really couldn't pass up the price of $106 shipped for a REON-VX upconverter. I really liked the picture of the XA2, and I am expecting the 805 to be just as good. The guts of these players are the same, but the Onkyo has a different case design and remote. This dvd player should last me a while longer until the Blu-ray players and discs are finalized and become more reasonably priced. I do like HiDef discs, but I refuse to pay $35 for them, nor will I pay $500 for a half finished 1.1 profile player.

Until then, I will be happily upconverting SD discs that I can get at the corner grocery for 99 cents!

Sunday, June 29, 2008

Swapping out the HK 635

I picked up a second hand Yamaha RX-V2600 and swapped out my HK 635. I couldn't pass up the sale price. My Hk635 doesn't have HDMI inputs, so in order to use the new sound formats (True HD, DTS-HD, etc. ) I was using the 5.1 analog outputs. The Yammy does have HDMI 1.1, so I can now send the multichannel PCM straight to the receiver when using the HD DVD player. This should hold me over for a few more months until I replace it with a receiver that has HDMI 1.3.

One advantage to the Yammy is that it is THX 2 certified and has the surround options for THX cinema. I have only had a chance to play a couple of movies, and so far I can not tell that much of a difference in the two receivers.

Another difference is that the Yammy has the ability to be configured as a bi-amp for the front speakers. My Def Tech towers could be wired for bi-amping if I decided to go that route. It is something to consider when I am bored one afternoon.

Wednesday, June 04, 2008

The New Toys for Calibration

I ordered an MFW-15 Sub from AV123 on May 7. Not sure when it will be delivered, as they are backorder because of their popularity right now. This will allow me to have a dedicated LFE channel instead of using the SuperCubes built into the DefTech 7001's. The DT's will then be free to handle the main fronts on their own.

In preparation for the arrival of the MFW-15 sub, I started reading and learning more about tools for sub calibration. After doing some research at a couple of the forums, I downloaded Room Equalization Wizard software and purchased an external CreativeLabs Live24 USB soundcard for my old laptop. I tinkered around with the software long enough to know I really liked it and decided to take the next step and purchase a Behringer SSP 1124P Equalizer (BFD) and M-Audio USB to Midi dongle last night.

I got everything set up last night and started taking measurements and downloading filters to the BFD through the Midi device. Amazing what you learn from looking at the graphs and playing with the filter combinations.

I think I have it figured out well enough that when the MFW-15 arrives I will be able to tune it in. Right now I am just playing around with the front tower subs to get a feel for how everything works. This is going to be a very valuable tool in positioning the sub and knocking down some of the room modes.

From what I have gathered so far, there are 3 room frequencies that will be problematic. The first occurs down around 28 Hz. This is a huge bump in the graph of almost 15 dB. The next two occurs further up and are more on the magnitude of 6-7 dB. Definitely need to get the corner bass traps in place to tame things down and smooth out the response.

Friday, May 02, 2008

Visiting other Theaters

I had the fortune of visiting my second home theater in the area. I was able to gather some good information on how I would like to continue to improve my theater. From the two visits, there are 3 things that I would like to work on this year, in no particular order

1) Build a stage in front of my screen
2) Enclose the speakers and build a shadow box for the screen
3) Add decorative panels or chair railing to the side wall

The first item shouldn't be too difficult, it will just take time and a few trips to Home Depot.
The second item is going to be more difficult as I need to figure out how much of an area I want to close off with the framing and black fabric. Because I use bipolar speakers, they need more room to 'breath'. Ideally I would like to somehow incorporate the speaker enclosures into a screen shadow box. It is going to take a lot of fabric, some very straight framing, and some trial and error to make it work. The third item will probably take the longest, as I haven't really finalized the look. If I can get two of the three done this year, I would be satisfied.

Monday, April 21, 2008

Germ-inator 2

Christian, a good friend of mine from Germany, sent me a very special gift today -- T2 in HD . He had watched 300 in HD with me the last time he was in the USA. As it is only available for import, I was very happy to get it. This is one of my all time favorite action flicks, and I can't wait to check it out tonight in the theater. This version is the Ultimate HD-Edition from Kinowelt. The SPoT will be rocking and rumbling tonight!

Wednesday, March 05, 2008


I am sort of in limbo land these days trying to decide on whether to upgrade my projector or receiver. My AE700 has been a good projector, but so many advances have been made in the newer models that I would rather upgrade than buy a new lamp for it. It seems that the projectors that fall into my price range all have 'issues'.

The Panny 2000 seems to be suffering from dust blobs. The Epson 1080UB is having QC problems with convergence. I am concerned that the Sony VW40 will not be bright enough or have the throw distance that I need for shelf mounting at the rear of the room. So I wait....

I would also like to replace my HK635 with a receiver that handles HDMI inputs. This is something that can wait a while longer until I buy a BD player. It all seems to be an endless spiral of upgrades.

At least I still love my Def Tech speaker system! Of course I would like to replace the BPX surrounds with a new pair of BPVX speakers....

Tuesday, January 08, 2008

Star Trek TOS on HD

I have some free evenings this week, and a backlog of Netflix movies, so I finally got around to watching some of them. Last night I watched one of the Star Trek discs. As a big fan of this series as a kid I was very pleased with what CBS has produced for HD DVD. Not only have they cleaned up the video and CGI, but the PiP was awesome! I turned on the Starfleet control option which automatically put additional information on the screen at appropriate spots. The commentary was very educational and fun. I really hope to pick up this box set if there is a fire sale on HD DVD discs.

Friday, January 04, 2008

The Death of HD DVD

A very sad day indeed. Warner Bros decided they would no longer back HD DVD as of May -08, essentially killing the format. Since this is my favorite studio, it means that HD DVD is no longer of use to me. I will be returning my XA2 and use the A1 for playback of my HD DVD discs and my Oppo 971 for SD. I guess on the bright side of things I will save money by renting HD DVD and buying SD media.

In my opinion this is a setback to HDM, as the Blu ray spec's are not completed, and the MSRP on the media and players are well above what I am willing to pay. Perhaps in the coming year the the Blu crew will get their act together, put out a 2.0 player, drop the price of their media, and start putting bonus material on the discs. I will not be putting a gaming machine (PS3) in my rack!

Now let's bow our heads for a moment of silence......

New Fan Arrives

I received the new Adda fan and replaced the original Delta fan that was inside the XA2. The replacement was not as easy, nor was the reduction in noise as dramatic as I had hoped. I was unable to locate a 2-pin connector that was the right size, and the mounting holes were larger in diameter than the original fan. To resolve the connector issue, I cut the connector and a short length of wire from an old ATI video card and spliced it onto the fan leads. Fairly simple and straightforward with the right tools. I used #6 nuts and bolts to fasten the new fan to the chassis and placed a grommet between the back of the fan and the player chassis. I then powered up the player and noticed that the whine of the old fan was gone, but there was still too much air movement noise. I am going to try a few other methods of mounting the fan to see if I can further reduce the noise.

My initial thoughts are that the punched grid in the rear of the chassis is too small and that is leading to backpressure on the fan. Adding the grommet may also have increased the back pressure, so I am going to try flush mounting it. A better solution would be to replace the 50mm fan with a 60 mm fan, cut a larger exhaust port in the rear of the chassis and add a wire grid. I do not plan on doing this until the warranty has expired.

A couple pictures of the new fan and exhaust port: