3 Blunders That Can Ruin Your Home Theater Experience

Whenever I'm tweaking and calibrating my home theater and music system well into the night I get stupid. The late night sessions always end with me thinking I've done the best I can and I've set everything correctly. The next morning and into subsequent viewing and listening sessions I retain the confidence in my skills and blame any oddities or failings of the system on bad software and limited hardware. On closer inspection I find that carefully coaxed dials and user menus have not retained their sweet spots.

Some recent blunders:

  • My Panasonic S97 HDMI DVD Player forgets its picture settings after a power cycle: In my second to last screen calibration I set the DVD player's sharpness to a perfect, edge halo free -4. Unfortunately I didn't save this setting into a custom user memory and the next time I watched a movie the S97 defaulted back to 0. This glitch led me to complain about Pirates of the Caribbean and Akira. After my last calibration, Akira looks great, with little to no halos. As a consequence, I now obsessively check the sharpness setting before every movie.
  • Bypassing the benefit of the Onkyo TX-DS989 AV receiver's DAC: While setting up my Airport Express's digital optical audio connection to my receiver, I thought I would get the best sound by using the Onkyo's Direct Mode (it bypasses as much digital processing as it can). What I really wanted was the Stereo mode. In Stereo the Onkyo can employ its DAC's 192kHz/24 bit upsampling and jitter reduction circuits. Oops. I'll have to listen to my Apple Lossless tracks critically again.
  • Subwoofer Level and Crossover: Toddlers, aren't they precious? Toddler_o_Geek likes to squeeze into the corners of the house and hide. One of these corners is where my Hsu Research VTF-2 subwoofer sits. Every once in a while my daughter will sneak behind it and play with the crossover and volume knobs. After having to recalibrate the settings twice, I took a picture so I could set it back without the aid of a Radio Shack SPL meter.

Except for the subwoofer, I can only blame myself and my lack of sleep. I promise to get more sleep and double check all my dials before any critical viewing and listening sessions when I intend on reporting on my results.

If you want to avoid such stupid blunders yourself, I find writing down all your custom settings and reviewing them in the morning helps.

2 thoughts on “3 Blunders That Can Ruin Your Home Theater Experience

  • September 21, 2006 at 1:28 am

    For older projectors that essentially only have brightness/contrast controls, is there anything in particular to look out for when calibrating via the source device (eg. a Macbook Pro’s VGA display preferences)?


  • September 21, 2006 at 6:23 pm

    You can really improve the image from an Apple laptop by going through its Display Color Calibration wizard. While connected to the projector click past the initial steps of the wizard and set Gamma and Color Temp both to native. Finish the wizard and it will create a new display profile for the projector, the brightness and contrast and gamma should be much improved.

    To adjust the controls on the projector you could display a gray gradient in an image editing program and make sure it was smooth and not peaking on whites or plugging up blacks.

    If you’re going to use the Mac Book’s DVD player you can always step through a calibration DVD like Avia.

    Hope this helps.


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