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Affordable Home Cinema System (incl. TV)

Posted on 2010-08-19
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Hi experts

I know it's a broad topic, but I'm search for a Home-Cinema-HiFi system (desired specs below).

the tv would be approx. 3.9m away from where I'm sitting, so I thought a 42'' to 46'' lcd-tv would be what I need. and of course full HD.

What am I using the tv for?
Watching the regular program (but that's not that important since most of the time they send crap ;) ), watching movies and play videogames. Currently on a PS2, but I thought instead of buying a blue-ray player I could go with a PS3.
it would be nice if I could plugin a computer to the tv (would be D-Sub, I guess) so I could surf the internet or watch movies from my harddisk. Alternatively a internal mediaplayer which plays videos from usb would be interesting. But I think the pc/laptop option would better and cheaper.
if this is true, I need absolutely no DLNA, Internet@Tv etc., just a plain TV.
HDMI connectors would be nice but I think most current tv's have them anyway.

the sound system
the soundsystem should be capable of playing mp3 music (not just from Ipod) via USB or, that would be very cool, from another pc (via streaming or directly from the harddisk via LAN) and it should play the good old CD of course.
Should be 5.1 capable but doesn't have to be top notch (I mean most of the time, I listen to mp3) , just good (suround) sound.
Last but not least, a tuner. if it would play internet radio that would be nice, but this isn't necessary.

the budget?
it's difficult to tell, since the prices vary from country to country (I live in middle europe). But I would say 2000-2500$ (max) without the ps3

I'll give 500 points because it's a rather big question :)
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Question by:Arikael
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fredshovel earned 250 total points
ID: 33482361
Most 42" or 46" TVs are full HD these days 1080p -- progressive (1080 lines 1920 pixels).  As you say PS3 will play back 1080p BluRay.
The basis of most of your questions is about playing media. A PVR or DVR (Personal/Digital Video Recorder) will not only record TV but also play media like mp3 or photos or video files (check the spec of any PVR/DVR you buy to see which media it plays). I currently use a Beyonwiz DP_P2, which can pause live TV and actually records huge buffers without even pressing record -- more than an hour of buffer. Plus it has a 500G HDD to record TV or to import media. A PVR should be the hub of your system -- this PVR can either be a client or server for streamed programs including Internet.
I went with a Sony 6:1 surround system, which is fantastic.
You don't need a tuner to listen to Internet Radio as you don't tune it in to local frequencies -- it is streamed via your telephone line or cable.
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by:Merete
Merete earned 250 total points
ID: 33482758
just offering you ideas but this a delicious topic
also considering you live in Europe
Consider online shopping Arikael,
Incase you didnt know straightup Windows 7 bundles the Media Center
http://www.microsoft.com/australia/windows/windows-media-center/
http://gizmodo.com/5095414/10-really-cool-windows-7-media-center-features

you could go an entirely different direction, with Internet access, PC access wall to wall video, HDMI etc
home theater projectors
 a projector not ceiling mounted but sitting on a trolley with shelves and a large fabric screen, fixed or pull down very nice inexpensive and can be hung for you, of course there is a lot of different types of screens, with the right projector most hardware can be added to it.
here's a video guide
http://www.ehow.com/video_4458924_choosing-home-theater-projector.html
 a bit about home theater screens
http://www.practical-home-theater-guide.com/Home-theater-screens.html
then the projector, just consider what you'd like to able to add to it, like an xbox pc etc
http://www.d-logik.com.au/hd-66-lcd.html?gclid=CK7hv4TEx6MCFQUwbgod2HZgvw
Epson Home Cinema 6100, entry level
http://www.projectorcentral.com/epson_6100_home_theater_projector_review.htm
shelf for projector
http://www.directav.com.au/

You also asked about Home-Cinema-HiFi system this differs from a TV per say
My personal choice was a Pioneer AMP with 5 Sansui speakers.
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by:Arikael
ID: 33483381
thanks for your answers.

I think have not enough space for a projector. A 50'' is absolutely the biggest screen I can use.

One questions which came to my mind. Is an a/v reciever absolutely necessary?

@fredshovel
I also thought about a Dune HD Prime 3 Box.
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by:Merete
ID: 33483515
Audio /Video receivers are as the name states, great for the home theater audio ,
 no not necessary but if you want more sound yes absolutely
As far as I know no TV or DVR / set top box etc DVD player supports adding speakers direct you need AV.receiver to bind it all together in surround sound
you mentioned> Home-Cinema-HiFi system
http://www.yamahamusic.com.au/products/av/av-receivers/

 the DVR come in handy for adding USB hard drive ../ Xbox PC or other hardware to send the signal to the TV then connect the audio to that AMP..,
my panasonic DVR only supports the avi divx format on the USB HDD, just so you know,
so I have Panasonic AMP as I call them or av receiver hooked up to everything for the stereo
That's where the Media center can save some devices, all you need is a video capture card  then connect the PC to the TV and play your movies from the PC with USB hard drive or your internet anything really. Whatever you play on the desktop appears on the TV
a  large TV is great  and the stereo amp or AV receiver with 5 speakrs
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by:fredshovel
ID: 33490051
<One questions which came to my mind. Is an a/v reciever absolutely necessary?>
AV receivers are actually incorrectly named (in my opinion) they are really audio amplifiers that can decode a digital signal plus distribute the necessary wattage to power the relative speakers. So you can't have a surround sound system without the Av Receiver/Amplifier. AV receivers also will take a video signal -- but can't do anything with it except give you the option via your AV remote to switch various video signals to other equipment.
Re the Dune, I personally would look at the streaming features in a PVR/DVR. My Beyonwiz DP-P2 does this sort of thing.


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by:Arikael
ID: 33498419
thanks again :-)

Concerning the dune, I though this device had connectors for audop (on the back).
Do I still need an a/v receiver?
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by:Arikael
ID: 33498480
@fredshovel

Do you have any recommendations for a PVR?
Unfortunately Beyonwiz seems to be australia only
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by:Merete
ID: 33498592
Arikael look to good brands for a PVR they should be available in other countries
My personal choice is Panasonic and or Sony, more expensive though but more reliable, Samsung
LG is good and cheaper
Use the internet to google find a brand you like and a price you can afford then look fore the user feedbacks. Like this
http://www.which.co.uk/reviews/pvrs
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by:fredshovel
ID: 33498819
Of course the major brands will kind of do the job. But there's a worldwide conspiracy going on in the video world at the moment: In Australia the major brands have signed up to a system called Freeview. They are trying to con the Australian public with a big advertising campaign under the pretence they they are somehow responsible for all the new free-to-air channels that are now available here. This couldn't be further from the truth. In fact what is happening here is called multichannelling, and it was written into government legislation when digital TV was introduced here around 2001. But what Freeview really represents is a kind of DRM (Digital Rights Management) branding that has signed up all the manufacturers, advertisers and TV networks. So the manufacturers hobble their PVRs with regards to recording data more than once and also to actually make it very difficult to get program off the bloody things -- like no USB out etc and no compatibility to play personal HDD with media on them into the PRVs. They are even going to stop actual recording of some special first release movies on TV with DRM generated by the TV studio that the hobbled PVRs recognise.  Also they have hobbled things like fast forwarding adds etc. All the time these free-to-air programs were available without any Freeview product -- but they've  now hobbled all the major brands. But not the Beyonwiz DP-P2. It's clean.
But there's an even more sinister plot in the brewing: Remember when it was soooooo illegal to copy CDs -- and you were going to go to jail if you copied one? But that all disappeared after all the majors did their sneaky deals with Apple to usher in the iPod and all the generics that followed, and they were convinced that they could control the market by selling you mp3 and m4a downloads.
Well you can bet your Wellington boots that's why they're holding back the DVD market. It's sooooo illegal to copy your own DVDs because soon they will be replacing the outdated plastic disaster with a digital format that you will have to re-purchase. And the greedy corporates get to double-dip on movies that you have already purchased. That's why they're blocking DVD ripping. It's got nothing to do with piracy. Pirates will always operate. It's all to do with corporate greed!
Anyway back to what to buy. Check with your supplier and then ring the manufacturer to see if there is any DRM for TV and also make sure you can get program on and off via USB or Ethernet.
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by:Arikael
ID: 33498906
ah, sounds like the HD+ thing in germany.

thanks for the advice. In germany they do it via the CI+ slot, so if you want to have HD+ (read: HD-Programs) you have to get a CI+ card to receive the HD-Program. Additionally you're equipment gets crippled like you explained above.

I thought this doesn't depend on your hardware.
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by:Merete
ID: 33499189
If I may add, the panasonic I bought lets use that as reference, I'm in Ozzie too as you may have gathered only up the road a bit from Fredshovel :)
I have a 68 CM TV which unfortunately is analog, so get round the digital  TV switch over and get as much as I can through this device, Panasonic twin HD Digital tuner 250 gig hard drive was the one I went with.
what it gives me is digital TV  access including Hdef channels, supports USB2 and Simm cards
 includes a DVD burner, I have connected my Cable TV set top box to it as well including my Media center PC I can also watch youtube  Picasa via lan cable VIErA Cast
The best way to think of these products is as an HD PVR with DVD backup and feature dual-HD tuners which means you can watch one program in HD while recording another.
This price has dropped as I paid over a 1000.00 dollars australian, I am very happy with it
http://www.panasonic.com.au/products/details.cfm?objectID=5001
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by:fredshovel
ID: 33505243

Merete, just on your Panasonic DVR. It's been doctored by Freeview as Panasonic are a signatory to the Freeview cartel : Here's the press release:

"A new Freeview service will be launched in Australia on 5th April 2010 following the cutting of a deal between Freeview and Macrovision the owners of over 100 patents in Australia relating to the delivery of content information via an electronic program guide.
Also cutting EPG deals with Macrovision are Sony and Foxtel."

Note: Macrovision is DRM

"According to Robin Parkes the CEO of Freeview Australia, which is a not for profit organisation owned by several free to air TV stations in Australia, agreement has been reached with Macrovision in the US that will see $6.00 added to the cost over every Freeview device sold in Australia as of April 2010. The new Freeview devices will incorporate MHEG 5 technology which will restrict the recording of content. It will also allow TV stations to deliver a TV commercial in between the 30X fast forward of content.
The $6.00 fee which will be paid by set top box and TV manufacturers as of April will be for the use of a patented Macrovision template that is used in the delivery of common electronic program guide information (EPG) according to Parkes.

She said 'We have negotiated a flat volume fee that will not impact small volume manufacturers Vs larger manufacturers. This fee will be paid by the manufacturers who have a Freeview licence".
In recent week's lawyers for Macrovision, who own over 4,000 issued or pending patents and patent applications worldwide have visited Australia to review the delivery of content in EPG's and set top boxes as well via Freeview compliant devices."

Note: The new Freeview devices will incorporate MHEG 5 technology which will restrict the recording of content. It will also allow TV stations to deliver a TV commercial in between the 30X fast forward of content.
Yes folks "restrict the recording of content". In fact with the MHEG 5 technology they could do anything. Like give you one week to watch a program before it's deleted or even, which I'm told is already in the pipeline, only allow a 'record once' facility. Also the 30X FF means that they are restricting you fast forwarding adds on the recording or the time slip. Cute eh? And as I've said it gives the networks (notice that they own this farce called Freeview) the ability to prevent a recording (in a deal with the big movie and DVD companies) altogether -- like on special movie showings.
Also a note on the USB terminal: This is not for say, plugging in a portable HDD to watch your movies on. It wil probably only accept the old FAT32 formatted drives -- all the flash drives are formatted FAT32 and athat's what it's designed for. So your NTFS drive most probably won't work (they did this deliberately). Even if it did, they have hobbled the types of files that it can read -- like VOB or ISO etc (DVD files). And, as you know FAT32 files have to be individually under 2Gb in size. Also these USB drives won't look at Dolby Digital -- so even if you could get them to look at a movie (and you can if you do a bit of format fiddling) they mess you up with the file formats like AC3 audio and DVD formats.
Also note that the USB input is just that -- an input. There's no output, so you can't copy anything to a PC or HDD. You can only copy via DVD recordings and they've put restrictions on that. I've read that on some programs it's a 'copy once' facility. Don't know how that really works -- but I wouldn't touch these things.
Also a note about plugging Foxtel in: I used to do this with my old Sony PVR. Sure it's fine and you can record -- but try recording Box Office and the DRM kicks in and stops the recording and delivers a warning. In fact they could stop you recording cable altogether with the flick of a switch if they wanted to. The only thing that I found that I could record outside of regular programming was a live event as DRM is very difficult and expensive to apply to a live event. But all the Box Office movies were 'no go'.
And just another note. My old Sony PVR crashed recently with 300Gb of recorded data on its HDD. I tried everything to get this off as I had some really good stuff including personal recordings that I had transferred from my old analogue camera tapes that dated back some time. These HDD are Linux and you can't just pop them in your PC. There's no USB or Ethernet out. So ultimately I had to record all the material to DVDs. It filled up 26 DVDs and a hell of a lot of my time. But the new Freeview thingos are even going to try to stop you transferring the DVDs to a PC by putting Macrovision on them.
Cheers
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by:fredshovel
ID: 33505419
Just a note about the analogue TV switch-off.  This has very little to do with your 68cm TV. You can simply buy a $75 HD set-top-box from Dick Smith or anywhere these days. You simply make sure that there's no Freeview crap in it. And the most important thing is that it has a USB terminal. One trick with these boxes is that say on the "Strong" brand the USB terminal is two-way. So you can actually record TV programs to a HDD wth the flick of a record button. And there's no re-encoding as they record in beautiful MPEG-2 PS (program stream), which will playback on any PC or can be uploaded directly to Youtube - and it's DVD resolution. Also if you format your HDD to FAT32 and rip your DVD collection to VOB files (then re-encode the AC3 to MPEG-2) you have your entire DVD collection on your HDD ready for archiving or viewing. All this for $75. And of course they work with analogue (CRT) and digital (LCD, PLASMA) TVs.
In fact Arikael, you might want to look at the Strong brand of set-top-boxes as they have a model that says it's "PVR ready" and all that means is that you just add a portable HDD. Easy.
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by:Merete
ID: 33508948
Thanks fredshovel, not a real problem I held off buying the new Digital TV for this reason , but yes it's sign of the times.
NZ has already incorperated the MHEG-5 technology in freeview
Much of Australia's first Freeview equipment not Freeview-compatible
http://blogs.smh.com.au/gadgetsonthego/archives/2009/04/much_of_australias_first_freev.html

I just use DVD-rw to transfer the recorded stuff but maybe I wont type in everything I can do incase someone is watching this :)

The USB HDD I use is a Western digital Buffalo, I learnt the the My Book WD HDD will not load in the USB2 on the Panasonic, but the Panasonic accepts up to 250 gig of divx avi on the other HDD
did you know we are about to get another channel 7?
I remember in the old days my parents had to pay a lisense to listen to the radio remember?
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by:fredshovel
ID: 33514751
<The USB HDD I use is a Western digital Buffalo, I learnt the the My Book WD HDD will not load in the USB2 on the Panasonic, but the Panasonic accepts up to 250 gig of divx avi on the other HDD>

That's because the  Buffalo Drive Station comes pre-formatted with the FAT32 file system. You can simply check this on your PC by Right Clicking it and selecting 'Properties'. It will show that it's a FAT32 format not an NTFS -- that's why your My Book WD won't load.
As stated FAT32 has a limited file size of 2GB so I don't know how it can store a 250Gb divx avi.  To clarify: you can, of course, have as many 2GB files as the HDD's capacity can take. One good method of getting around the 2GB limit is to simply use the original DVD VOB files -- and in Shrink you just tick the box that tells it to make multiple 1GB files, which will later be stitched together because theres something in the VOB container that triggers this (you don't load the IFO files). But since most DVDs have AC3 you have another problem in that a lot of FAT32 device inputs won't play back the Dolby AC3. To get around this I drop the videos into Super and keeping the VOB container and the MPEG-2 video codec but change the audio codec to MPEG-2. It's super fast if you tick 'Stream Copy' in the video box as you don't need to re-encode the MPEG-2 video.
Looks like this is the new channel:
http://news.smh.com.au/breaking-news-business/seven-gets-blokey-with-new-channel-20100819-12rod.html

Still on about multichannelling: When digital terrestrial TV (DTT) was introduced in Aus in 2001 there were a number of players that wanted to compete with the existing broadcasters. In one of the biggest cons in Australian broadcasting -- to keep all opposition out -- the broadcasters got together and said that they needed the entire bandwidth for HD and multichannelling. When the government agreed they immediately dropped the ball and weren't interested in either. The government had to mandate a compulsory 20 hours per week of HD to force the channels to comply or we wouldn't have had anything. They also held off on multichannelling because most broadcasters believed that it would scatter audiences and turn off advertisers who didn't have the budgets to cover all the channels.

Re the FAT32 format. Windows doesn't allow you to format big HDD to FAT32. But someone wrote a great little programme that works very well and is free. I've already formatted a 300G Seagate using this software.
http://www.sendspace.com/file/w57yga

Can you explain about the divx 250Gb files.


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by:Merete
ID: 33520432
no sorry Fredshovel your wrong here matey,
 the My Book USB HDD  has an auto run tool called smartware which loads a virtual CD drive first then the my book drive is created,  the other WD does not have the smartware like this and loads fine on the Panasonic
both my WD USB drives are NTFS
I noticed a lot of the movies missing on the WD HDD on the Panasonic but all were ok on the PC eventually I downloaded the manual and noted the Panasonic will only read up to so many gig the rest is not listed, that was a bit of a bummer.

my-book-ntfs.jpg
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by:Merete
ID: 33520491
Oh and the Panasonic only supports avi divx movies, so I had to convert my dvd to around 700 megs Xvid or divx avi, both play fine, it was nice way to have a lot video in one easy couch potato mode with stero surround. works great
cheers
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by:fredshovel
ID: 33525498
Wrong about what? I'm talking about the Buffalo Drive Station, which comes preformatted in FAT32. I don't know what a WD Buffalo is -- to the best of my knowledge Buffalo is a UK company that makes HDDs and WD is a North American company listed on the New York Stock Exchange with its Oceania office in Singapore.
But you have clarified that the USB2 reads the dead-in-the-water format of divx -- but won't read conventional DVD files like VOB or ISO.
As you've said they've put limits on what it can read from a HDD and limits on the files. I wouldn't touch anything like that. But good luck with it. I loved my Sony PVR but it only lasted 18 months before it crashed and was irrepairable -- and the new one has all the restrictions that you are left with -- plus it's Freeview hobbled. So I've got the Beyonwiz and loving it. Just to piss them off (the advertisers) I delay most programmes for about 30 minutes -- especially the football (you can do this live without even pressing record) and then I just FF all the ads. I don't watch ads anymore.
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by:Merete
ID: 33526845
lol understand your sentiments with the adds
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by:Arikael
ID: 33528676
Hi

thanks for all the answer
After some research, I decided that I probably won't by any tv/BluRay Player because of AACS. I don't want to support something which strips the rights every paying customer should have.
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by:fredshovel
ID: 33528699
I agree totally.
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by:Arikael
ID: 33556778
please read the whole thread because many of the posts contribute to the solution :-)

thanks for your comments
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