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A Home Theater Build Project - Part II

ARTICLE INDEX

The Current System: Video Chain, Audio, Other Equipment

Video Chain

My current video chain is fairly streamlined. I moved about a year ago from the PS3 to an Oppo BDP-83. This decision was made not from dissatisfaction with the PS3 necessarily, but more ease of use. Being based on IR protocols vs Blutooth, the Oppo integrated more easily into my remote control system. In addition, it ran cooler and quieter than the PS3.

The Denon does absolutely nothing to the video signal. From the Denon, video is passed, unaltered, via a 25 foor Blue Jeans Cables Series F2 HDMI cable to a JVC RS-25 projector. This cable is the thinnest, most robust cable that I'm aware of. Its low guage makes running of the cable exceptionally easy - especially with side inputs on the RS-25.

The RS-25 is three generations past the RS-1 that I originally had and is an exceptional unit. Because the RS-25 has an integrated Color Management System and I am only using one main source, I no longer had use for a video processor as sophisticated as the Lumagen RadianceXD. The implementation of capable video processing in displays over the last few years has lessened the need for video processors in the video chain. Displays with sophisticated and extensive calibration can achieve essentially perfect calibration results without the aid of an external box. Paired with the exceptional de-interlacing and upscaling capabilities of high-end players such as the Oppo BDP-83, I simply couldn't justify the cost of having an external video processing. For more reflections on video processing in today's home theater, please see my review of the SpectraCal "Calibration Bootcamp" class as well as my "CalMAN 4" review in our "DIY Calibration Software Article". I am still using a Carada Criterion Brilliant White Screen.

Audio

Audio is passed via HDMI from the Oppo to the Denon 3808 which no longer as a receiver, but as a pre-amp and processor. Audio is decoded and room correction and Dynamic EQ'ing are applied to the signal.

I use two old sets of component video cables, also from Blue Jeans, to transmit the audio to a Wyred4Sound MMC-5 five channel amplifier. This amplifier is a Class D, 220 WPC unit, exhibiting a nice low profile and cool operation that makes sense for my current configuration. The same speaker cables that I originally ran (ProFlex 14/4) are still used to distribute the amplified audio to my speakers.

I had always heard that moving from a traditional receiver to separate components, or more specifically a stand-alone amplifier, was one of the most significant steps anyone could take to improving the overall sound quality in their room because amplifier sections in receivers are often lacking. Because space and heat were a concern, I opted to look specifically at Class D amplifiers. An internet direct company called Wyred4Sound had been generating a lot of positive buzz with their Class D amps - I opted for one of their smaller "mini" 5 channel amps - the 225 wpc MMC-5.

I recently said goodbye to my original PSB front sound stage and upgraded to Usher Audio Mini Dancer 2's (L/R) and BE-616 (C).

I was turned onto Usher by a local dealer/friend. I will be doing a review of these speakers for Secrets. I am still using the same surround sound speakers. Matching surround isn't nearly as critical as having fronts matched. The PSB Image 1B's are sufficient for this room and my current needs.

For a subwoofer, I recently upgraded the PSB Subsonic 7 to a JL Audio Fathom F113 subwoofer. What I liked about the JL was the performance it was able to bring in a small package. There are literally dozens of excellent subwoofer options available now from numerous outlets that I readily recommend to friends. However, I don't know of any other sub that has the capabilities of the JL, without taking up a ton of space.

My room isn't large and this was an important consideration. The audio to the sub is fed through an Audyssey SubEQ Sub Equalizer. I was first introduced to the concept of subwoofer equalization by Secrets senior editor Chris Heinonen. He brought over a bunch of gear and helped me set-up a Behringer Feedback Destroyer to see if my room would benefit from some subwoofer equalization. Lower frequencies are easily corrupted in many rooms, and my small room was no exception. The addition of some dedicated subwoofer equalization smoothed out my bass response considerably, making for a much tighter, more pleasing experience.

Because the Behringer required quite a bit of infrastructure to function (mic, external sound card), I opted to switch it out for the Audyssey AS-EQ1 to make re-calibration a little more streamlined.

Other Equipment

The only other piece of the puzzle equipment wise is power management and surge protection. I currently have 6 pieces of gear in my set-up and only two outlets in the gear closet. Much can be said about "power conditioning", filtering and its necessity. Those discussions are better suited to other venues. What is not arguable is that we often have more equipment than outlets and that surge damage is a very real problem. I have owned a bevy of different power management solutions over the years but am currently using a piece from PS Audio. I know that the power coming into my house is often below the standard 120V that it is supposed to be so I opted for a PS Audio Power Plant Premier which rectifies this problem in a fairly compact package. You can read a terrific review of this product by Jason Serinus here at Secrets

(http://www.hometheaterhifi.com/power-conditioners/power-conditioners-reviews/ps-audio-power-plant-premier-power-regenerator.html).