Home Theater

HDTVs, projectors, and surround sound systems.

What's the best way to get surround sound at home?

Episode 1046

Max from West LA
Denon Receiver with Boston Acoustics Surround

Max bought a Panasonic Viera Plasma HDTV. Leo says those TVs are great. Max paid the Geek squad to come out and calibrate it. Leo says Max was probably lucky, as it's unlikely the Geek squad is professionally trained for monitor calibration. It's best to get it out of dynamic mode. "Movie mode" is best, then he should play with the contrast and color until it's to his liking.

What projector should I get for movies?

Episode 1046

Dave from Venice Beach, CA
Epson Projector

Dave wants to upgrade his projector for movies. Leo recommends the Epson PowerLite Home Cinema 2030. Quality is great, and there's several HDMI connections. He'll want to make sure it has sufficient "throw," and he should be mindful of the cost of replacement lamps. Epson says it should last about 6,000 hours. They aren't cheap when they do need to be replaced, though.

What HDTV should I buy?

Episode 1046

John from San Diego, CA

John was planning to cut the cord, so he bought a Roku. He's discovered he doesn't have an HDMI port on his old TV, though. So he needs a new one. Leo says that there's many options that won't break the bank.

Vizio has a great line of affordable HDTVs. He should go as big as he can afford. Leo likes 50" to start and he can get them for around $500.

How can I create a DVR out of an old PC?

Edward from Northridge, CA

Episode 1045

Edward has been trying to learn more about HTPCs (home theater PCs). He wants to make an old PC into a DVR. Leo says that copy protection is often an issue with this, and cable boxes are encrypted to prevent people from using their signal that aren't paying. A computer can descramble it with a cable card, but cable companies aren't that helpful with using them. They have to give you one by law, but they don't like it. The cable company pretends they don't know anything about it, even though it's been the law since 1993.

Are my plasma problems normal?

Ricky from Albequerque, NM

Episode 1045

Ricky took Leo's advice and bought a pair of LCD HDTVs. He thought they were too bright, so he returned them and got a Panasonic plasma. He was concerned because he lives at an altitude of 5,000 feet, but Panasonic rates it at 7200 feet, so Leo says that Ricky is OK. LG's plasma's are rated at 9,000 feet. Ricky says he loves the blacks and colors. But his issue is that after 100 hours the network logo in the corner of the screen has some ghosting and remains on the screen. Leo says it'll fade over time.

Scott Wilkinson Goes to CES

Episode 1045

Scott Wilkinson at CES

Scott joins us via phone to talk about CES, which is coming Tuesday in Las Vegas, NV. Leo says it's the last big digital trade show in the United States with hundreds of thousands of people and products in attendance. The idea is to bring manufacturers with dealers to see what's coming, and often, concept products are also shown which may or may not ever be released. Last year, it was 4K OLED TVs, which Leo says was a tease. Scott says we'll definitely see more 4K TVs for sure, but maybe some more OLED too. Leo bought an OLED TV, and it wasn't cheap at all.

How can I configure my DVD player to hear it via TV Ears?

CJ from California

Episode 1044

CJ's mother is hard of hearing and would like to get something that will help her listen to the audio on DVD. She's currently using TV Ears and it's not working. Leo says it should and it's likely that she doesn't have it set up properly to get the DVD audio as well. Leo advises contacting their help line toll free to have them walk her through configuring it correctly.

Scott Wilkinson

Episode 1043

Scott Wilkinson

This week, Scott answers a question from Robert in Upland, CA. He wants to know why the dialogue is far more quiet than sound effects and music on his home theater system. Leo suspects a center channel problem.

Scott says that the dynamic range of a movie is very wide, meaning that quiet parts are quiet and effects are louder. In the movie theater there isn't much he can do of course, but at home Robert can use "midnight mode," or dynamic compression mode, which compresses that range. He can also increase the center channel volume.