Adapter could be cheaper

February 19, 2012 12:00 am

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Question: I read with great interest your recent column regarding HDMI receivers. We are currently using a Yamaha RX-V793 Dolby Digital AV receiver that is at least 15 years old. While considered very good back then, I can't help but think we are not getting the maximum home theater experience.

We have an HDTV with a Blu-ray player and very high quality home theater speakers. Would you please comment on what we might experience by switching to a new HDMI receiver?

San Francisco

Answer. Your suspicions are correct and you are missing out with your current receiver. You will find the new receiver easier to set up and use due to the HDMI connections, which require only one cable between components. When you select a source on the receiver, it will play the sound through the speakers and route the video signal to the HDTV, a big convenience over changing inputs on both the TV and the receiver.

Most importantly for the home theater experience, the new receiver will unlock the full sonic potential of your Blu-ray player.

Your receiver can only decode Dolby Digital soundtracks. Most Blu-ray discs have lossless audio soundtracks that duplicate the sound quality of the movie studio's master tapes. On a good sound system, the improvement over Dolby Digital is as big of an improvement as HDTV is over SDTV when comparing television picture quality.

When Blu-ray first came out a lot of enthusiasts raved about the sound, finding the improvement to be greater than they were expecting and just as big of a deal as the high definition picture. This was my own experience and when I did demonstrations for non-enthusiasts in my home, they would rave about the sound as much as they raved about the picture.

Lossless audio on Blu-ray discs comes in three versions: Dolby TrueHD, DTS-HD Master Audio, and uncompressed PCM. All modern HDMI receivers can decode these lossless audio formats. The maximum your Yamaha can work with is Dolby Digital, so upgrading to a new receiver means your system should experience a big sound quality improvement. Just be sure to select the lossless track in the audio menu when you play the movie.

Question: I recently purchased the Pioneer VSX-1021 receiver. I anticipate using the AirPlay feature frequently to stream music to my system from my computer. I didn't realize that "built in" means I need to buy a $150 Pioneer adapter for this feature to work. Is there a less-expensive alternative?

Winter Park, Fla.

Answer: The VSX-1021 has an Ethernet connection that works with Airplay. You can buy a powerline Ethernet adapter kit to turn an AC outlet into an Ethernet port. Just plug in an adapter near your computer and connect it to your router, plug in another one near your receiver and connect it to the Ethernet port, and you will be all set. You can get an Ethernet adapter kit for well under $100. I have had good luck with Netgear models, which are available for $60.

If you want to go wireless, try Apple's AirPort Express, which plugs into a wall and connects to your wireless network. The AirPort Express unit has an Ethernet port to communicate with your receiver for the Airplay feature. It sells for $99.

First Published 2012-02-18 23:14:19

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