Sound advice: Newer AV receivers do a much better job

  • Article by: DON LINDICH , Special to the Star Tribune
  • Updated: February 11, 2011 - 6:23 PM

Plus: Upconverting DVDs

Q I have a Kenwood KR-V7040 audio-video receiver. It was purchased in 1992, and I've been pleased with it. I was considering upgrading to one of the $500 digital HDMI receivers you recommend (the Onkyo or Pioneer), but after reading your column about older audio receivers being of excellent quality I'm second-guessing my plan. Do you think it will improve sound quality sufficiently to justify the cash outlay?

A If you reread the column, you will see that I said, "Anyone looking to build a two-channel system should strongly consider 1980s-vintage gear for receivers and amplification." Two channels mean stereo, not surround sound.

AV surround receivers are one area where performance has definitely made huge strides. Your receiver does Dolby Pro-Logic surround only. Since it was manufactured, many surround formats have been introduced, such as Dolby Pro-Logic II, Dolby Digital, DTS, DTS NEO:6, Dolby True HD and DTS Master Audio.

These formats offer greater fidelity and more realistic surround effects with full-range sound. With Dolby True HD and DTS Master Audio, you can reproduce the full quality of the movie studio's master tapes. This was a pipe dream in the 1980s and 1990s. Add the Pioneer's MCACC room correction to improve the way your speakers interact with room acoustics, and it isn't going to be much of a contest at all. Plus, HDMI switching at the receiver will make your life simpler.

In my case, where I use an older NAD amplifier in my main home theater, it is just an amplifier with no controls other than a power button. All it can do is power speakers, and at this job it does excel. By using a modern processor with the amplifier, I can use a really powerful classic amplifier uniquely suited to the speakers I use while enjoying the modern surround formats.

Upgrade to the Pioneer, and use your current receiver in another system devoted to music in another room.

Upconverting DVDs

Q I have an older HDTV that does not have HDMI, so I will be using the component connections. In the Blu-ray player's manual under "component video resolution," it states the following: "This menu sets the video output resolution when connected via the component video terminal. Even if you select 720p or 1080i, the video output resolution is restricted to 480p when images of DVD-video discs are output from the component video out terminals." I was under the impression that if I played a Blu-ray disc, I would get up to 1080i resolution. What am I missing?

A "DVD-Video discs" are a standard DVD, not Blu-ray. DVDs cannot be upconverted to HD resolution over component cables; HDMI is required. Blu-ray discs will indeed output at 720p or 1080i over the component connection.

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