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Got a New A/V Receiver

Over six years ago, when I purchased1 my first home audio setup from a Best Buy in Boca Raton, my needs were fairly simple: an optical port or two for a PS2 and a DVD player were all I needed, and something that could do surround sound.

Six years, a few moves, and countless "adjustments" to the setup must be the life span of that receiver, because recently it's begun "clicking" a lot and oftentimes after a "click" the center speaker would shut off. After re-checking the connections, verifying that it's not the speaker or the source (usually the DirecTV DVR), etc., it still misbehaved. It was easily fixed… if you didn't mind waiting either five seconds to ten minutes or getting up and walking across the room to gently tap the receiver a few times until the sound would "come back."

So, I set out to find a new receiver that would simplify my needs.

My needs haven't advanced a ton in six+ years, but they are a little further along than they used to be. My setup involves a TV that's capable of taking eight sources, two of which can be HDMI and three of which can be component (IIRC). I have an s-video VCR2, a Wii (component video, stereo audio), a DirecTV HD DVR (the HR-20 - it can do HDMI, optical, component, stereo, s-video, etc.), and an upscaling DVD player (HDMI, optical, component, s-video, etc.).

My old setup involved plugging the audio from each device into the receiver and the video into the TV. The "HDMI Receivers of the Future" aren't here yet, so I went back and forth a few times (including buying and returning another Sony receiver), before going with the STR-DG910, a 7.1-channel stereo receiver with 3 HDMI input, one HDMI output, and more than enough other inputs and outputs.

The DG910 does a nice job and has one key feature: it can output everything - from either analog or digital sources - via the wired-in speakers and the HDMI-out port that goes to the TV.

In other words, my setup is now rather simple. I connected an HDMI cable3 from the receiver to the TV. I connected an HDMI cable from the DVR and the DVD player. The VCR hooks up via the standard red/white/yellow cables4 of yesteryear, and the Wii's stereo and component plugs hook in. My AirPort Express hooks into a pair of stereo inputs for CD/SA-CD5. I've cut the complexity of my wiring in half.

I've barely tapped into the power of the DG910, too: I only have 5.1 speakers set up now instead of the 7.1 it can take. It still has another HDMI port for a PS3 or an XBox 360 or something. I still have only an upscaling DVD player instead of an HD-DVD or Blu-Ray player. I can re-assign audio ports (for example, the optical audio in for the DVD player) to align with different video inputs. There's a lot of power left, and if the thing last six years or longer, I still doubt I'll tap into it all.

I'm just glad that a) I have a true A/V receiver with just one cable to the TV (so I don't have to switch TV inputs every time I change the source), and b) everything is on the proper ports. No more bastardizing the "MD-DATA" optical port to carry my DVD audio signal while the video is sent to the TV on another input.

The remote… well let's just say I won't be using that except to change sources. It's big, could likely be programmed to do a lot more… but whatever. We use the DVR remote 95% of the time and it powers on everything and adjusts the volume just fine.

P.S. $599 at Best Buy? I found it at Circuit City for well under $400. Sure, it was special pricing, but I think their regular pricing is either $424 or $499 or something. Best Buy also had several other things for more - $205 vs. $179 for the low-end 5.1-channel Sony receiver, for example.

Footnotes

  1. On Microsoft's dime.
  2. Some of our children's movies are on VHS
  3. Which, by the way, must be an awesome business to get into. Most of the "cheap" HDMI cables still run $50 or more, and that's for a three-foot length. Probably costs $2 to make and package. Some cables run $150 for six or eight feet! Why isn't the cable industry considered "organized crime"? It's certainly theft!
  4. Oddly, this receiver doesn't have a single s-video input, despite having room for it.
  5. I don't have much need to run the optical from my AirPort Express. I only ever use it to play Christmas music from iTunes.

11 Responses to "Got a New A/V Receiver"

  1. A great web site to get cheap (I'm talking ~$7 with shipping) HDMI cables is Monoprice (http://www.monoprice.com/). They don't have the fancy gold connectors or anything, but the key thing to remember: HDMI is digital. It doesn't matter what wire is carrying the signal, as long as it gets from point A to point B. Especially on short runs, there is no need for a $50 HDMI cable.

  2. Chris Gonyea said on November 14, 2007:

    http://www.monoprice.com/

    I second that, and had I not been eager to set up the darn thing the night I got everything, I'd have gone that route too.

    But yeah, to others: don't be suckered into buying Monster HDMI cables (or any other Monster cables, usually). As Chris says, these aren't analog cables that can suffer from interference: the 1s and 0s either get there or they don't.

  3. A new AV receiver is always fun. 😀

    A few years ago I upgraded from a Sony STR-D865 to a Marantz SR5300, and what a nice upgrade that was. I don't yet need HD support in the receiver (I have no HDTV), so I don't yet need to upgrade from the 5300, but when I do I'll be looking for an upconverting receiver so that I only need to hook a single HDMI cable to the TV.

    One thing you might want to consider is a programmable remote. I recently purchased a Logitech Harmony 670 remote, and have now put all of my other remotes in the closet - I don't need any of them anymore.

  4. Daniel said on November 14, 2007:

    One thing you might want to consider is a programmable remote.

    I think the Logitech Harmony remotes suck (for my purposes). I use one remote for 95% of my tasks. The other 5% is divided up: 4% for the DVD player remote, 1% for the receiver remote. A universal remote is more trouble than it's worth in my house.

  5. Yeah, when I had a TiVo I used that remote 95% of the time. It could power my TV (but not my receiver), and control the volume on my receiver; everything else I did was a TiVo function, so that remote was good enough.

    Now that I have a Time Warner DVR (which sucks compared to the TiVo, but that's another story), I had to pull out multiple remotes: the DVR's "universal" remote would allow me to control volume from my TV, but NOT from my receiver - go figure! Since I do not use the speakers in my TV, my entertainment setup required one remote to control the receiver's volume, one remote to control the DVR, and other remotes to control other things that the DVR's didn't do or didn't do well.

    Maybe the Logitech software has changed in the last 2 years, but I have mine set up to "Play Xbox" and "Play Atari." The "Play Atari" activity uses the same input as "Watch TiVo" (which I still have set up temporarily, until I get everything moved to the DVR), and it all works fine.

    But we might be ditching this DVR for a new cablecard TiVo anyway, and if we do that we won't absolutely need the Harmony remote, but I doubt we'll regret buying the remote.

  6. Daniel, I've heard enough good things about the Logitech Harmony remotes that I keep considering them from time to time, but in addition to their uselessness as I pointed out above, I forgot to mention one other obstacle to their adoption: I'd have to teach the wife how to use it, and she'd not be too keen on the eventual experimentation I'd be compelled to do in order to arrive at the "perfect" settings.

  7. Not to jump in with a "me-too," but my dad invested in a Logitech after he re-did the home entertainment system and mom freaked out at the abundance of new remotes. To quote him, the remote "saved the marraige."

    Of course, nobody was tinkering with the remote after the first day, since I configured it while I was visiting.

    FWIW, the software has both improved and regressed. The configuration is much simpler and you seem to have far more options. the regression comes from the Mac implementation, which dumps a "browser - logitech" folder in your home directory and a "remotecore.app" in /Applications. This was fairly annoying, but I was at least able to ignore these by setting the invisible flag.

  8. How is the receiver's quality? I've been looking at STR-DG910 for a while, but I was a little turned off by cnet's review of its little brother (810). I'm not an audio snob, but I don't want to buy a receiver that doesn't have decent sound.

  9. Tim said on November 14, 2007:

    How is the receiver's quality?

    Quite honestly, I have no idea. I did the auto-setup (it comes with a little microphone) so it could auto-set the levels and whatnot and I've left it at that.

    I don't turn the volume up super-loud, and I don't really pay enough attention to discern whether the "highs are slightly metallic" or whatever people say about audio reviews. I think my speakers cost a grand total of $900, so I'm not using top-end audio gear by any stretch.

    If anything, it's an improvement over my previous model (STR-DE945). It's definitely no worse.

  10. Are you still happy with this receiver?

    I'm looking at starting to upgrade to HD, but it'll likely be a step-by-step process. My current setup includes an older Sony receiver, TiVo, Dish sat, Mac Mini, PS/2, and an older TV. Replacing the receiver seems like a good first step, especially at this price.

  11. Don said on November 29, 2007:

    Are you still happy with this receiver?

    Very, yes. You've got a ways to go, so good luck. Piecemeal is the best way to go, but if I were you I'd try to buy as much together as possible so you can negotiate a deal. Get a TV and a new receiver, for example, and maybe they'll take $200 off the receiver or throw it in free (depending on the price of the TV you get).


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