I’m a movie fan. I go to the cinema as often as I can, but I also watch a lot of movies in the comfort of my own home. I’ve got a neat little setup that is not at all high-end and hasn’t cost me an excessive amount of money. I did hand-pick every component. But because I bought all the components one by one and didn’t quite go through all the specs beforehand, some things didn’t work out as well as they could have. Here are some things to be aware of when buying AV equipment.
1. Get a TV with more than one HDMI interface
Mine has only one. I didn’t even use it at first, but now my cable decoder is connected to it. So I’m out of HD connections. No fancy set-top boxes or blu-ray players for me, unless I go for a switch box of some kind too. Most of those come with yet another remote control, and add to the already pretty embarassing power consumption of my setup.
Having a digital reciever built into your TV set also saves you an HDMI position, but here in The Netherlands, where DVB-C is the most popular option, TVs with the right tuner are scarce.
2. Make sure your TV and PVR talk to each other
Mine don’t. My LG television doesn’t support Follow-TV or any of its more advanced successors (CEC/AVlink) and as a result does not allow me to pause live TV with a single button. If both devices would have talked the same language, the TV would have told the recorder what channel to start recording. That would have been pretty nifty. So don’t be blinded by high contrast and brightness numbers alone. These things are usually mentioned in very small print, but can make a significant difference in the way you (need to) control your setup.
3. Don’t go for ‘ready’ when there’s ‘full’
My TV is HD-ready, as opposed to ‘Full HD’. And while I know that with the relatively small screen size and my current viewing distance I won’t be able to tell the difference, it does make my friends shake their heads in disbelief. And if I ever decide to sell this TV I’m pretty sure potential buyers will too.
Generally speaking I think it’s recommendable to go with standards that will last. 1080p will probably remain the norm when it comes to video for the foreseeable future, so anything less is probably not a good investment.
4. Invest in good universal remote
It’s no fun having to change channels with a different remote than you need to turn up the volume. I got one of the cheaper Logitech Harmony models and it rocks. Your main investment will be in time though, as these things need you to configure them carefully and tweak settings until everything works the way you want.
5. Watch out for lip sync issues
I thought it was pretty smart to buy a DVD mini system, so I could get decent sound when watching DVDs. And it works. The thing is that my TV delays the video a little because it processes the image digitally. Just enough for me to notice that audio and video are out of sync. And the audio system doesn’t have a lipsync adjustment option like some others do. Another thing to look out for in the fine print near the bottom of the specs list.
Things I did do right
Besides that whole CEC thing, I love my TV. It’s got a good screen with wide viewing angles and good colour rendition. It’s probably better to have a good screen with a few bells and whistles missing than the other way around. I also think I made the right choice in going for a stereo audio system. Every surround sound setup I’ve ever listened to (outside movie theatres and not including anything more expensive than my car) hasn’t sounded quite as good as my little Yamaha. Especially not with regular music CDs. I also don’t like sounds coming from everywhere when the image is in from of me, but that’s a matter of personal preference. Once surround television becomes the standard I’ll hook up more speakers…