Home Theater Upgrade

Posted in Home Theater at 8:44 pm by mike

This February I decided to take on the Home Theater upgrade project.    I installed the 60″ Pioneer Elite Pro-140 Monitor (fantastic) along with Elite SC-07 (somewhat disappointing) in time for the Superbowl.    Then I added a Velocity Micro CineMagix Grand Theater™ Entertainment System with Vista Media Center (Duo E8500, 4G, 2 ATI DCTs, BD Burner).    Between setting all this up, pulling all the wiring through the walls, and mucking with VMC plugins and extras, it’s no wonder I haven’t had time to write anything up until now.    So now that I’m sitting at my mother-in-law’s in Vegas, borrowing wireless from the neighbor, I figured I’d outline the topics I’d like to cover in future posts in the hope that I can save someone else some time and money.   Here are the summaries:

I’m not 100% happy with the SC-07 and had planned to write a searing review.   Lately, I’m growing to like the sound, but the Home Media function on mine is completely broken, and I just don’t want to tear it out right now to take it into the dealer, since I can listen to Internet Radio via the VMC box.  I eventually will before my warranty is up with the hope something good will come out of it.  The bottom line is you can probably get more bang-for-the-buck with the equivalent Denon.   Check out the review at Audioholics.  On the otherhand, now that the price has dropped to $1099, it might be worth reconsidering.   Still waiting to find that great 7.1 movie soundtrack to work the whole system.

Can’t say enough about this Plasma monitor.   The picture is amazing, and I believe it’s basically the best 60″ picture money can buy right now (for < 10K anyways).  Of course, Pioneer has stopped production.   You may be able to find better value Plasmas out there, but don’t believe any of the LCD BS about glare vs blacks.   There is no noticeable glare problem with this screen and you’re going to get a better picture on plasma with no LCD speed artifacts.  Note I purchased both the monitor and receiver together from Gear4Less on EBay.  Very happy with their delivery, price and customer service.

Price/performance, Velocity Micro is by far the leader in Media Center PCs.   Their support team was very good even though I ran into some pretty obsure issues.   There are a couple things I think they could do to improve the product without vastly increasing the price.

These guys are just unbeatable when it comes to quality and price.   There’s nothing I hate more than having to go to Best Buy and fork out $30 for a 15ft ethernet cable.  A 100ft CAT 6 cable at Monoprice will set you back $10.   I ended up buying some HDMI cables at Tarten, because Monoprice was out of the lengths I wanted.  Monoprice also has speaker stands, wall plates and wall mounts.   Check them for anything before buying elsewhere.

After being a ReplayTV user for years, I was pretty impressed with VMC.   Vista is bearable on a machine this fast, and you MUST have TV Pack 2008 to deal with digital broadcasts in a sane manner.  It’s now a free update from MS, so it’s not that hard to find.   Also, I’m hearing very good things about Windows 7 Media Center, which should have everything built in.   That said, this has been by far the largest timesink battling the DCT cards and DRM issues.   I’ll be covering those in detail in a later post, along with the gory details of adding commercial skip capabilities.    The one thing to know now is you DO NOT need CableCards to recieve 90% of your cable channels.   You only need it if you want to record HBO or other premium channels, and if you do install the CableCard, ALL of your content will be encrypted and only playable on that PC.

That seems like a good starter post for now.  I’m sure I’ll never get around to covering everything I want here.


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