Q: I have an Onkyo TX- SR502 receiver and want to get the lossless audio from my Blu-ray player. Do I need a player that can output via non-HDMI audio cables in order to get the best sound? Would I be better off ditching the Onkyo for a receiver with HDMI connections?
A: You can get a Blu-ray player with 5.1-channel analog audio outputs and use them with your existing receiver. Such players tend to be more expensive than a new receiver, and having HDMI capability will bring additional benefits besides the lossless audio.
The biggest is probably the convenience of having only one cable between each component as well as one button on the receiver to switch between sources such as Blu-ray and your cable or satellite box. It will probably be less expensive to get a new receiver with HDMI than a Blu-ray player with multichannel analog outputs, so given the benefits from having an HDMI receiver I would go in that direction.
"Lossless" audio duplicates the sound quality of the original studio master tape. It is a noticeable improvement in sound quality compared to compressed Dolby digital sound found on DVDs or HDTV broadcasts. When I started demonstrating Blu-ray discs in my home, one of the first comments people would make is "Wow, the sound!" Granted, I have top-echelon home-theater equipment, so it is going to sound great no matter what, but I never had quite the same comments from anyone when I played DVDs.
SLR eye strain
Q: I am looking to buy either a mirrorless or digital SLR camera with interchangeable lenses. Have you received any comments or had any experience regarding eye strain when using the digital viewfinder of the mirrorless camera, as compared to the optical viewfinder of the digital SLR?
A: I have not heard of eye strain being any better or worse with either type of camera based on the viewfinder technology. I have not experienced any strain myself and I use both camera types almost daily.
Where strain may become an issue is if the viewfinder itself is very small, meaning when you look through it the visible image is tiny or large. Some early digital SLRs had very small viewfinder images, but most any camera on the market today has a viewfinder image that is at least adequate.
Sony's hybrid SLRs implement both technologies. Their translucent mirror technology combines a mirror with an electronic viewfinder and a larger, more traditional digital SLR form factor. I am currently testing the Sony A37 model and the viewfinder is excellent. It is large in size, bright and sharp.
CES report continued
Over the past year I have praised speakers from GoldenEar Technology for their beautiful sound, which rivals or exceeds more expensive competitors. At the Consumer Electronics Show, GoldenEar (www.goldenear.com) demonstrated its new Triton Seven tower speakers. They are the first GoldenEar Triton speakers that do not have built-in powered subwoofers and will retail for $699 each. The sound combines GoldenEar's typical transparency and openness with an incredibly well-defined midrange and solid, tight bass. They will be available this summer.
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