HDMI receiver best for Blu-ray upgrade

January 29, 2012 12:00 am

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Question: What is the highest fidelity connection I can use with my new HDTV? I have an Onkyo TX-SR603 receiver without HDMI connections. Is HDMI strictly a video connection? I have a Dish satellite box and an upscaling DVD player, but no Blu-ray yet. I may be willing to upgrade components if necessary.

Los Angeles, Calif.

Answer: An HDMI carries both audio and video signals. You will get the best possible picture using HDMI.

The audio signal of your DVD player and satellite box is Dolby Digital. The coaxial or optical digital connections on your components will provide 100 percent of Dolby Digital sound quality so you could connect HDMI cables to your TV and separate digital audio connections to the receiver and not lose any video or sound quality.

The downside is with multiple connections, and you have to switch inputs on the TV and the receiver, rather than just the receiver itself.

Given this, and the likelihood your next disc player will be a Blu-ray player, I recommend upgrading to an HDMI audio/video receiver. With Blu-ray, HDMI is required to enjoy the full sound quality, which is dramatically better than broadcast or DVD sound.

An HDMI receiver will allow you to use a single connection from each component to the receiver, which will then route the chosen signal to a single input on your TV. Just select the source on your receiver and enjoy.

I think you will be pleased with how much receiver you can get for the dollar these days.

For only $185 online, you can get an Onkyo TX-SR309, and the Pioneer VSX-1021 at a street price of $399 is a good option if you want a plethora of connectivity features and 7.1 channels. I have written about the Pioneer in the past, and it is an excellent fit if you want a very full-featured model.

Another great choice at $399 is the Marantz NR1402. I am quite fond of the NR1402 for its sound quality and ease of use.

When I tested it recently, I thought, "Wonderful sound and refreshing simplicity; this is just what most people want and need."

Many modern audio/video receivers come with a bewildering array of features and controls that look great on paper but are not often used and ultimately make the system harder to set up and operate.

The Marantz NR1402 gives you everything you need for home theater -- no more, no less -- and delivers it with quality all the way around.

Few people have 7.1 channels, so the 5.1 channels are enough, and the solid amplifier section provides a very clean, low distortion 50 watts per channel, providing more real-world power than many receivers with higher advertised power ratings.

The inputs on the back are clearly labeled with names to make it simple to identify your components with the source selector, and it has HDMI pass-through so you can watch TV without turning on the receiver if you are so inclined.

The unit is only four inches high and looks and feels expensive.

As a product from a premium brand, the Marantz NR1402 may cost the same as competitors that may have more features, but the quality and simplicity remind me of an Apple product where less is more and simplicity satisfies.

Read product reviews by Don Lindich at soundadviceblog.com .
First Published 2012-02-09 20:16:25
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