Q: I have a very early model Blu-ray player without Internet connections, hooked up to a Samsung plasma TV by HDMI. The TV has two only HDMI inputs, and my cable box is connected to the other one. I want to buy an Amazon Fire Stick to play Netflix, but there is no open input. Does anyone make an HDMI switcher so I can add HDMI inputs?
A: HDMI switches are available for about $40, but they can be unreliable. Besides, you can replace your old Blu-ray player for not much more than that. It has been a long time since they made Blu-ray players without Internet connectivity, so your player is very old and probably slow-responding, anyway.
You can get a Samsung BD-J5700 Blu-ray player with Wi-Fi and Web streaming for $65. Get the new player and retire the old one to another room. I am specifically recommending Samsung in your case because the remote for the Blu-ray player also will work your television.
Check flash's color index
Q: I want to take pictures of handmade jewelry. Will I get better results with big flashes and umbrellas or with one of those portable lighting tents with fluorescent bulbs? What do you suggest I buy?
A: Studio flash is better and has more creative potential, assuming you know how to use it. That's a big assumption, and simplest is often best. I suggest you start with a lighting tent outfit.
When buying fluorescent lighting for video or photography, pay attention to the Color Rendering Index, or CRI. CRI is a measurement of how accurately a lighting source's color spectrum can reproduce colors. Daylight and xenon flash tubes and have a CRI of 100, which is perfect, while many fluorescent bulbs included in these inexpensive kits have a CRI of only 81. This can cause inaccurate colors in your images, even after you adjust white balance or tweak images in software. You can learn more about CRI at topbulb.com/color-rendering-index.
A CRI of 90 or higher is considered excellent for fluorescent and capable of producing high-quality images. Fovitec's StudioPRO 24-inch tent kit includes CRI 90 bulbs for $79. Though it costs more than the $30 kits with CRI 81 bulbs, it is well worth the difference. If you already have a lighting kit, Fovitec offers CRI 90 bulbs as well. fovitec.com
My new site is up and running at soundadvicenews.com.
I have a complete archive of my 2015 columns there, as well as some new product reviews. I also have a few audio system configurations posted, along with illustrated setup guides for the two most popular television sound solutions, the Insignia NS-B314 soundbar and the ZVOX SoundBase. The site will be updated regularly with reviews, tips and advice, and of course, my weekly column.
If you have been to my aesthetically challenged and disorganized old site, you are in for a shock when you see the new one. Stop by.
Send questions to Don Lindich at firstname.lastname@example.org. Get recommendations and read past columns at soundadvicenews.com.