Tag Archives: Surround Receivers

Bluetooth, AirPlay and Play-Fi Audio Streaming

One of the latest trends in home theater is streaming audio to your home theater receiver from your iOS or Android device. You can do this via an app and a Wi-Fi connection (AirPlay or Play-Fi), or via Bluetooth. But it’s not that simple; there are a myriad of ways to get your audio from your phone or tablet to your speakers. I’ll try to go over the main ways this is accomplished here, but ultimately you need to understand your needs and the pros and cons of each method.

Wi-Fi Audio Streaming

There are multiple ways for you to use your wireless home network to stream audio. You can opt for one of several proprietary formats or you can simply connect your laptop or PC to a network and use DLNA services to pull audio from your library. When we talk about Wi-Fi streaming, however, we’re typically referring to the proprietary formats. There are many, but here are a few of the leaders:

Apple AirPlay

Apple AirPlay is a Wi-Fi streaming protocol that lets you easily redirect music from your iOS device to a compatible surround receiver or powered speaker. The thing about AirPlay that makes it attractive is that, as a wireless technology, AirPlay operates on top of your home’s existing wireless network. You just connect your device to your home network, and when you activate AirPlay your iOS device will let you send your music or video to any compatible device on the network. If you happen to have multiple Airplay devices in your home, you can stream to individually or all at once.

Play-Fi

Play-Fi, which is owned by DTS, is a new streaming media format that works on compatible devices and caters in particular to the Android-powered device market. Like AirPlay, and unlike proprietary systems like Sonos, Play-Fi connects devices over your existing WiFi network. The only present issue with Play-Fi is that, being a new technology, there are only a few devices currently supporting it. Play-Fi also hasn’t partnered with many streaming media providers as of yet, so Pandora and Spotify are the primary music providers for compatible applications. Conversely, AirPlay works within nearly all of the major streaming media provider apps, giving you near-limitless sources of music.

With current Play-Fi technology, file support is limited to 16-bit 44.1kHz (CD) quality for now, but hi-res audio support at up to 24-bit resolution is on the way.

Proprietary Mesh Networks

There are a number of proprietary mesh networks that ride atop your existing WiFi network to connect devices. One of the most popular is Sonos, which has a variety of speakers and powered or unpowered access points that can be networked within a home to play music. They even have a soundbar and the ability (with their latest update) to repurpose existing Sonos speakers for use as surround channels.

Proprietary mesh networks almost universally come with both limitations and cost. They are limited to a single manufacturer and so your product selection is likely to grow very slowly. Proprietary systems are also typically very expensive because they are designed to be an ecosystem into themselves, with special control software and unique features unavailable on other systems. The Denon HEOS speakers are similar to this type of system except that, unlike Sonos, they ride atop your existing WiFi network.

Bluetooth Audio Streaming

Bluetooth wireless technology is a standard designed for short distances (it uses the a band from 2.40–2.48 GHz) up to 30 feet.

You might think Bluetooth audio streaming is a single “designation”. It’s not. There are a variety of versions and profiles, but we can help clear up the most common profile used for audio streaming. The latest Bluetooth version is almost always the best, requiring the least amount of setup, giving you more flexibility and offering the highest audio quality.

Advanced Audio Distribution Profile (A2DP)

You’ll see the A2DP designation a lot when you look at Bluetooth speakers and devices for streaming audio. A2DP simply refers to Bluetooth designed for one-way transfer of stereo audio. What really matters for user interaction, setup and features is the version. There have been seven, but the latest is V.4.

Bluetooth V.4 is also called “Bluetooth Smart” and has been out since 2010. It incorporates standard Bluetooth as well as the WiFi-based Bluetooth high speed and Bluetooth low energy protocols. There were two big problems with Bluetooth that kept it from truly being adopted as a leading wireless audio standard in the past. For one, it was originally designed as a replacement for Ethernet and USB cables tethering devices together on a desktop. That means that long range connectivity was not inherent in the design. With a limit of 30 feet, Bluetooth audio is naturally limited in how it can function in a whole-home scenario. Another related issue was connectivity. Bluetooth allows for a myriad of pairing methodologies, from passcode verification to near-automatic device pairing. It is still a crapshoot as to which system any particular device will use and how easy or difficult it will be to connect. In the past couple of years most newer Bluetooth devices have utilized better and more convenient discovery methods.

Apt-X High Quality Bluetooth Audio

The second big problem with Bluetooth is sound quality. Bluetooth audio is far inferior in quality to lossless streaming over WiFi. To combat this, manufacturer-specific layers have been added to enable functionality not available by default in standard Bluetooth. Of these, Apt-X seems to be the best, offering near-lossless quality but still optimizing the stream to take into account bandwidth requirements of the format.

Apt-X has seemingly re-made Bluetooth into a viable streaming method, particular for portable devices and connected PCs.

Bluetooth vs. “the other” Streaming Formats

So getting back to our original topic, the issue is which makes sense for streaming audio. If you’re looking at audio quality then lossless streaming of high resolution media streams is the way to go. Apt-X Bluetooth fits in well here, but it requires a bit more proximity to your host AV system.

AirPlay also allows for 44.1kHz lossless stereo streaming and can be a great means of sending and receiving streaming media over your existing wireless network.

What you probably want to avoid, if quality is your goal, is standard Bluetooth streaming. The stock Bluetooth is very much a lossy medium and there is a huge difference between that and a lossless file. The difference is more than a little noticeable. Unfortunately, your other options are going to be a bit more proprietary, with AirPlay leading the way and Play-Fi just starting to get out of the dugout and looking hopeful. Of course, the proprietary streaming music systems are also an option, but they are typically pricey and offer a limited range of hardware that is compatible with the network audio streaming system.

Shop Network Streaming Players on Audiogurus

The post Bluetooth, AirPlay and Play-Fi Audio Streaming appeared first on Audiogurus.

Bluetooth, AirPlay and Play-Fi Audio Streaming

One of the latest trends in home theater is streaming audio to your home theater receiver from your iOS or Android device. You can do this via an app and a Wi-Fi connection (AirPlay or Play-Fi), or via Bluetooth. But it’s not that simple; there are a myriad of ways to get your audio from your phone or tablet to your speakers. I’ll try to go over the main ways this is accomplished here, but ultimately you need to understand your needs and the pros and cons of each method.

Wi-Fi Audio Streaming

There are multiple ways for you to use your wireless home network to stream audio. You can opt for one of several proprietary formats or you can simply connect your laptop or PC to a network and use DLNA services to pull audio from your library. When we talk about Wi-Fi streaming, however, we’re typically referring to the proprietary formats. There are many, but here are a few of the leaders:

Apple AirPlay

Apple AirPlay is a Wi-Fi streaming protocol that lets you easily redirect music from your iOS device to a compatible surround receiver or powered speaker. The thing about AirPlay that makes it attractive is that, as a wireless technology, AirPlay operates on top of your home’s existing wireless network. You just connect your device to your home network, and when you activate AirPlay your iOS device will let you send your music or video to any compatible device on the network. If you happen to have multiple Airplay devices in your home, you can stream to individually or all at once.

Play-Fi

Play-Fi, which is owned by DTS, is a new streaming media format that works on compatible devices and caters in particular to the Android-powered device market. Like AirPlay, and unlike proprietary systems like Sonos, Play-Fi connects devices over your existing WiFi network. The only present issue with Play-Fi is that, being a new technology, there are only a few devices currently supporting it. Play-Fi also hasn’t partnered with many streaming media providers as of yet, so Pandora and Spotify are the primary music providers for compatible applications. Conversely, AirPlay works within nearly all of the major streaming media provider apps, giving you near-limitless sources of music.

With current Play-Fi technology, file support is limited to 16-bit 44.1kHz (CD) quality for now, but hi-res audio support at up to 24-bit resolution is on the way.

Proprietary Mesh Networks

There are a number of proprietary mesh networks that ride atop your existing WiFi network to connect devices. One of the most popular is Sonos, which has a variety of speakers and powered or unpowered access points that can be networked within a home to play music. They even have a soundbar and the ability (with their latest update) to repurpose existing Sonos speakers for use as surround channels.

Proprietary mesh networks almost universally come with both limitations and cost. They are limited to a single manufacturer and so your product selection is likely to grow very slowly. Proprietary systems are also typically very expensive because they are designed to be an ecosystem into themselves, with special control software and unique features unavailable on other systems. The Denon HEOS speakers are similar to this type of system except that, unlike Sonos, they ride atop your existing WiFi network.

Bluetooth Audio Streaming

Bluetooth wireless technology is a standard designed for short distances (it uses the a band from 2.40–2.48 GHz) up to 30 feet.

You might think Bluetooth audio streaming is a single “designation”. It’s not. There are a variety of versions and profiles, but we can help clear up the most common profile used for audio streaming. The latest Bluetooth version is almost always the best, requiring the least amount of setup, giving you more flexibility and offering the highest audio quality.

Advanced Audio Distribution Profile (A2DP)

You’ll see the A2DP designation a lot when you look at Bluetooth speakers and devices for streaming audio. A2DP simply refers to Bluetooth designed for one-way transfer of stereo audio. What really matters for user interaction, setup and features is the version. There have been seven, but the latest is V.4.

Bluetooth V.4 is also called “Bluetooth Smart” and has been out since 2010. It incorporates standard Bluetooth as well as the WiFi-based Bluetooth high speed and Bluetooth low energy protocols. There were two big problems with Bluetooth that kept it from truly being adopted as a leading wireless audio standard in the past. For one, it was originally designed as a replacement for Ethernet and USB cables tethering devices together on a desktop. That means that long range connectivity was not inherent in the design. With a limit of 30 feet, Bluetooth audio is naturally limited in how it can function in a whole-home scenario. Another related issue was connectivity. Bluetooth allows for a myriad of pairing methodologies, from passcode verification to near-automatic device pairing. It is still a crapshoot as to which system any particular device will use and how easy or difficult it will be to connect. In the past couple of years most newer Bluetooth devices have utilized better and more convenient discovery methods.

Apt-X High Quality Bluetooth Audio

The second big problem with Bluetooth is sound quality. Bluetooth audio is far inferior in quality to lossless streaming over WiFi. To combat this, manufacturer-specific layers have been added to enable functionality not available by default in standard Bluetooth. Of these, Apt-X seems to be the best, offering near-lossless quality but still optimizing the stream to take into account bandwidth requirements of the format.

Apt-X has seemingly re-made Bluetooth into a viable streaming method, particular for portable devices and connected PCs.

Bluetooth vs. “the other” Streaming Formats

So getting back to our original topic, the issue is which makes sense for streaming audio. If you’re looking at audio quality then lossless streaming of high resolution media streams is the way to go. Apt-X Bluetooth fits in well here, but it requires a bit more proximity to your host AV system.

AirPlay also allows for 44.1kHz lossless stereo streaming and can be a great means of sending and receiving streaming media over your existing wireless network.

What you probably want to avoid, if quality is your goal, is standard Bluetooth streaming. The stock Bluetooth is very much a lossy medium and there is a huge difference between that and a lossless file. The difference is more than a little noticeable. Unfortunately, your other options are going to be a bit more proprietary, with AirPlay leading the way and Play-Fi just starting to get out of the dugout and looking hopeful. Of course, the proprietary streaming music systems are also an option, but they are typically pricey and offer a limited range of hardware that is compatible with the network audio streaming system.

Shop Network Streaming Players on Audiogurus

The post Bluetooth, AirPlay and Play-Fi Audio Streaming appeared first on Audiogurus.

Bluetooth, AirPlay and Play-Fi Audio Streaming

One of the latest trends in home theater is streaming audio to your home theater receiver from your iOS or Android device. You can do this via an app and a Wi-Fi connection (AirPlay or Play-Fi), or via Bluetooth. But it’s not that simple; there are a myriad of ways to get your audio from your phone or tablet to your speakers. I’ll try to go over the main ways this is accomplished here, but ultimately you need to understand your needs and the pros and cons of each method.

Wi-Fi Audio Streaming

There are multiple ways for you to use your wireless home network to stream audio. You can opt for one of several proprietary formats or you can simply connect your laptop or PC to a network and use DLNA services to pull audio from your library. When we talk about Wi-Fi streaming, however, we’re typically referring to the proprietary formats. There are many, but here are a few of the leaders:

Apple AirPlay

Apple AirPlay is a Wi-Fi streaming protocol that lets you easily redirect music from your iOS device to a compatible surround receiver or powered speaker. The thing about AirPlay that makes it attractive is that, as a wireless technology, AirPlay operates on top of your home’s existing wireless network. You just connect your device to your home network, and when you activate AirPlay your iOS device will let you send your music or video to any compatible device on the network. If you happen to have multiple Airplay devices in your home, you can stream to individually or all at once.

Play-Fi

Play-Fi, which is owned by DTS, is a new streaming media format that works on compatible devices and caters in particular to the Android-powered device market. Like AirPlay, and unlike proprietary systems like Sonos, Play-Fi connects devices over your existing WiFi network. The only present issue with Play-Fi is that, being a new technology, there are only a few devices currently supporting it. Play-Fi also hasn’t partnered with many streaming media providers as of yet, so Pandora and Spotify are the primary music providers for compatible applications. Conversely, AirPlay works within nearly all of the major streaming media provider apps, giving you near-limitless sources of music.

With current Play-Fi technology, file support is limited to 16-bit 44.1kHz (CD) quality for now, but hi-res audio support at up to 24-bit resolution is on the way.

Proprietary Mesh Networks

There are a number of proprietary mesh networks that ride atop your existing WiFi network to connect devices. One of the most popular is Sonos, which has a variety of speakers and powered or unpowered access points that can be networked within a home to play music. They even have a soundbar and the ability (with their latest update) to repurpose existing Sonos speakers for use as surround channels.

Proprietary mesh networks almost universally come with both limitations and cost. They are limited to a single manufacturer and so your product selection is likely to grow very slowly. Proprietary systems are also typically very expensive because they are designed to be an ecosystem into themselves, with special control software and unique features unavailable on other systems. The Denon HEOS speakers are similar to this type of system except that, unlike Sonos, they ride atop your existing WiFi network.

Bluetooth Audio Streaming

Bluetooth wireless technology is a standard designed for short distances (it uses the a band from 2.40–2.48 GHz) up to 30 feet.

You might think Bluetooth audio streaming is a single “designation”. It’s not. There are a variety of versions and profiles, but we can help clear up the most common profile used for audio streaming. The latest Bluetooth version is almost always the best, requiring the least amount of setup, giving you more flexibility and offering the highest audio quality.

Advanced Audio Distribution Profile (A2DP)

You’ll see the A2DP designation a lot when you look at Bluetooth speakers and devices for streaming audio. A2DP simply refers to Bluetooth designed for one-way transfer of stereo audio. What really matters for user interaction, setup and features is the version. There have been seven, but the latest is V.4.

Bluetooth V.4 is also called “Bluetooth Smart” and has been out since 2010. It incorporates standard Bluetooth as well as the WiFi-based Bluetooth high speed and Bluetooth low energy protocols. There were two big problems with Bluetooth that kept it from truly being adopted as a leading wireless audio standard in the past. For one, it was originally designed as a replacement for Ethernet and USB cables tethering devices together on a desktop. That means that long range connectivity was not inherent in the design. With a limit of 30 feet, Bluetooth audio is naturally limited in how it can function in a whole-home scenario. Another related issue was connectivity. Bluetooth allows for a myriad of pairing methodologies, from passcode verification to near-automatic device pairing. It is still a crapshoot as to which system any particular device will use and how easy or difficult it will be to connect. In the past couple of years most newer Bluetooth devices have utilized better and more convenient discovery methods.

Apt-X High Quality Bluetooth Audio

The second big problem with Bluetooth is sound quality. Bluetooth audio is far inferior in quality to lossless streaming over WiFi. To combat this, manufacturer-specific layers have been added to enable functionality not available by default in standard Bluetooth. Of these, Apt-X seems to be the best, offering near-lossless quality but still optimizing the stream to take into account bandwidth requirements of the format.

Apt-X has seemingly re-made Bluetooth into a viable streaming method, particular for portable devices and connected PCs.

Bluetooth vs. “the other” Streaming Formats

So getting back to our original topic, the issue is which makes sense for streaming audio. If you’re looking at audio quality then lossless streaming of high resolution media streams is the way to go. Apt-X Bluetooth fits in well here, but it requires a bit more proximity to your host AV system.

AirPlay also allows for 44.1kHz lossless stereo streaming and can be a great means of sending and receiving streaming media over your existing wireless network.

What you probably want to avoid, if quality is your goal, is standard Bluetooth streaming. The stock Bluetooth is very much a lossy medium and there is a huge difference between that and a lossless file. The difference is more than a little noticeable. Unfortunately, your other options are going to be a bit more proprietary, with AirPlay leading the way and Play-Fi just starting to get out of the dugout and looking hopeful. Of course, the proprietary streaming music systems are also an option, but they are typically pricey and offer a limited range of hardware that is compatible with the network audio streaming system.

Shop Network Streaming Players on Audiogurus

The post Bluetooth, AirPlay and Play-Fi Audio Streaming appeared first on Audiogurus.

Choosing the Best AV Receiver

Everybody wants the best. It’s no less obvious than when people ask me “Which is the best AV receiver?” To which I reply, “That depends. What’s your budget and what do you want to do with it?”

Budgeting for the Best AV Receiver

The best place to start when choosing an AV receiver is budget. How much you are able to spend determines how much receiver you can afford. Think of how silly it would be to walk onto a car lot saying “I want to buy a car!” What’s your budget? Are we talking luxury or economy?”

Budget is an important question. With that in mind there are several break points for AV receivers. An “entry level” model is anything from the $249 to $399 range. These will typically get the job done, providing plenty of HDMI inputs, enough amplifier power for smaller or more efficient speaker systems, and even the potential of network streaming services like Pandora. At around $600 or so, you get the ability to upconvert analogue video to HDMI. You also get additional amplifier flexibility for the Surround Back channels (like being able to assign them to a second discrete zone). At $999 AV receivers start to add more advanced features. They may have some video processing, additional zones, significantly greater amplifier power and additional functions like advanced network features and scaling.

Features That Matter

We hinted at many features above, but features matter. It does no good to buy a flagship AV receiver if it’s going to power an efficient set of satellite 5.1 speakers. Conversely, you don’t want to get an entry level model with HDMI video switching when what you really need is analogue video upconversion to handle a legacy piece of gear. It’s also a good idea to think about how many zones you want to run and if you want to enjoy features like Internet radio, Bluetooth, or streaming files from a networked PC or server.

Questions are your friend. They will help you decide what is truly needed. There are so many questions, in fact, that I’ve outlined a few key ones here which I hope will be helpful in selecting the right product for your needs.

Question Worksheet

  1. What is your budget?
  2. What size speakers are you planning on powering with this receiver (How much power do you need?)
  3. How many zones do you need?
  4. Do any of those zones need to be powered?
  5. Do you want to stream audio from a connected server or PC (via DLNA)? How about Internet radio?
  6. Do you want Bluetooth or Apple Airplay?
  7. How important is video upconversion? (Do you have legacy analogue video sources?)
  8. Do you need 4K support?
  9. What is your priority (audio quality, features, budget)?
  10. Do you need seven channels of amplification or just five?
  11. Do you need an MHL front input for sending photos and video from portable electronics?
  12. Do you want a USB audio input?
  13. Do you want THX certification (And does any of your other gear have THX certification)?
  14. Do you need two HDMI outputs? Do they need to be discrete?

Shop for AV Receivers at Audiogurus

The post Choosing the Best AV Receiver appeared first on Audiogurus.

Choosing the Best AV Receiver

Everybody wants the best. It’s no less obvious than when people ask me “Which is the best AV receiver?” To which I reply, “That depends. What’s your budget and what do you want to do with it?”

Budgeting for the Best AV Receiver

The best place to start when choosing an AV receiver is budget. How much you are able to spend determines how much receiver you can afford. Think of how silly it would be to walk onto a car lot saying “I want to buy a car!” What’s your budget? Are we talking luxury or economy?”

Budget is an important question. With that in mind there are several break points for AV receivers. An “entry level” model is anything from the $249 to $399 range. These will typically get the job done, providing plenty of HDMI inputs, enough amplifier power for smaller or more efficient speaker systems, and even the potential of network streaming services like Pandora. At around $600 or so, you get the ability to upconvert analogue video to HDMI. You also get additional amplifier flexibility for the Surround Back channels (like being able to assign them to a second discrete zone). At $999 AV receivers start to add more advanced features. They may have some video processing, additional zones, significantly greater amplifier power and additional functions like advanced network features and scaling.

Features That Matter

We hinted at many features above, but features matter. It does no good to buy a flagship AV receiver if it’s going to power an efficient set of satellite 5.1 speakers. Conversely, you don’t want to get an entry level model with HDMI video switching when what you really need is analogue video upconversion to handle a legacy piece of gear. It’s also a good idea to think about how many zones you want to run and if you want to enjoy features like Internet radio, Bluetooth, or streaming files from a networked PC or server.

Questions are your friend. They will help you decide what is truly needed. There are so many questions, in fact, that I’ve outlined a few key ones here which I hope will be helpful in selecting the right product for your needs.

Question Worksheet

  1. What is your budget?
  2. What size speakers are you planning on powering with this receiver (How much power do you need?)
  3. How many zones do you need?
  4. Do any of those zones need to be powered?
  5. Do you want to stream audio from a connected server or PC (via DLNA)? How about Internet radio?
  6. Do you want Bluetooth or Apple Airplay?
  7. How important is video upconversion? (Do you have legacy analogue video sources?)
  8. Do you need 4K support?
  9. What is your priority (audio quality, features, budget)?
  10. Do you need seven channels of amplification or just five?
  11. Do you need an MHL front input for sending photos and video from portable electronics?
  12. Do you want a USB audio input?
  13. Do you want THX certification (And does any of your other gear have THX certification)?
  14. Do you need two HDMI outputs? Do they need to be discrete?

Shop for AV Receivers at Audiogurus

The post Choosing the Best AV Receiver appeared first on Audiogurus.

Choosing the Best AV Receiver

Everybody wants the best. It’s no less obvious than when people ask me “Which is the best AV receiver?” To which I reply, “That depends. What’s your budget and what do you want to do with it?”

Budgeting for the Best AV Receiver

The best place to start when choosing an AV receiver is budget. How much you are able to spend determines how much receiver you can afford. Think of how silly it would be to walk onto a car lot saying “I want to buy a car!” What’s your budget? Are we talking luxury or economy?”

Budget is an important question. With that in mind there are several break points for AV receivers. An “entry level” model is anything from the $249 to $399 range. These will typically get the job done, providing plenty of HDMI inputs, enough amplifier power for smaller or more efficient speaker systems, and even the potential of network streaming services like Pandora. At around $600 or so, you get the ability to upconvert analogue video to HDMI. You also get additional amplifier flexibility for the Surround Back channels (like being able to assign them to a second discrete zone). At $999 AV receivers start to add more advanced features. They may have some video processing, additional zones, significantly greater amplifier power and additional functions like advanced network features and scaling.

Features That Matter

We hinted at many features above, but features matter. It does no good to buy a flagship AV receiver if it’s going to power an efficient set of satellite 5.1 speakers. Conversely, you don’t want to get an entry level model with HDMI video switching when what you really need is analogue video upconversion to handle a legacy piece of gear. It’s also a good idea to think about how many zones you want to run and if you want to enjoy features like Internet radio, Bluetooth, or streaming files from a networked PC or server.

Questions are your friend. They will help you decide what is truly needed. There are so many questions, in fact, that I’ve outlined a few key ones here which I hope will be helpful in selecting the right product for your needs.

Question Worksheet

  1. What is your budget?
  2. What size speakers are you planning on powering with this receiver (How much power do you need?)
  3. How many zones do you need?
  4. Do any of those zones need to be powered?
  5. Do you want to stream audio from a connected server or PC (via DLNA)? How about Internet radio?
  6. Do you want Bluetooth or Apple Airplay?
  7. How important is video upconversion? (Do you have legacy analogue video sources?)
  8. Do you need 4K support?
  9. What is your priority (audio quality, features, budget)?
  10. Do you need seven channels of amplification or just five?
  11. Do you need an MHL front input for sending photos and video from portable electronics?
  12. Do you want a USB audio input?
  13. Do you want THX certification (And does any of your other gear have THX certification)?
  14. Do you need two HDMI outputs? Do they need to be discrete?

Shop for AV Receivers at Audiogurus

The post Choosing the Best AV Receiver appeared first on Audiogurus.

What is 4K Upconversion and Do I Need It?

So you may have settled on whether or not you need a new 4K television but what about the new Blu-ray players, receivers and other systems that talk about “4K upconversion”? What is 4K up conversion and is that a feature you really need? What does it do? Those are the questions we’re attempting to answer in this article. And, frankly, they are questions and answers you need to understand to make informed buying decisions on a new surround receivers or Blu-ray players.

What is 4K Upconversion, Anyway?

4K is really amazing in terms of its improvement over 1080p. For starters, some may think, initially at least, that 4K is simply twice the resolution of 1080p (or 2K). In fact, it’s four times the resolution. 4K, or Ultra HD (UHD) as it’s also known, is 3840 x 2160—twice the pixel resolution in width and twice the line resolution in height. So you can stack 4 HDTVs together to get the pixel resolution of a single 4K display.

While that’s impressive, all of that extra resolution comes at a cost. When you’re dealing with 4x the pixels, you have nearly 4x the bandwidth as well. That means 4x the overhead in transmitting that data and 4x the amount of video processing. Now, it’s not an exact ratio, but you get the idea. 4K is a completely different animal—and consumers are still trying to learn how to adopt to Blu-ray and their newer high-definition displays. Even digital content providers are getting into the game with 4K DISH Joey set top receivers and the like.

4K Upconversion Explained

With new 4K televisions, you don’t have the choice to operate them in “1080p mode.” They have the pixels and you need to fill those pixels, so what you get is a situation where the TV will upconvert input signals to the native resolution of the display: 4K. In essence, it’s taking a 1920×1080 signal and scaling it up to 3840×2160 resolution. It HAS to do this, but while that sounds easy, it’s not. You don’t just resize the content, you also have to make sure that you don’t mess things up in the process. Horizontal and angled lines need to stay smooth, and you must make sure you get the timing right to avoid flickering on the hardware. It’s a pretty big deal, but most of the new 4K televisions and home theater projectors are doing a pretty decent job.

Which begs the question: If TVs are forced to provide 4K upconversion (and they are) then why do we need that feature on our surround receivers and 1080p Blu-ray players?

You don’t. Unless your TV does a horrible job of the upconversion process.

And there’s the rub. Manufacturers are putting out these scalers and upconverting devices simply to give themselves a marketing edge. “4K Upconversion” is something to talk about with respect to a feature-set in one product that may not be present in the competition. Still, it’s gotten to the point where, like 3D, everybody’s doing it.

That means that 4K upconversion, as a feature, isn’t important—yet—but it also shouldn’t steer you away from a product, should that feature be included. Just understand that 4K TVs won’t be hitting the market en masse anytime soon, and the 4K upconversion feature is going to be something that’s more important on your television, than on your Blu-ray player. The one exception, of course, will be gaming systems. Natively putting out 4K resolution on a video game will be a definite advantage for displays that can handle it—but that’s a different article altogether!

We’re not going to touch on everything, so if you’ve got something to add about 4K upconversion, drop us a line on Facebook or comment below and join in the discussion.

Shop for Projectors

The post What is 4K Upconversion and Do I Need It? appeared first on Audiogurus.

What is 4K Upconversion and Do I Need It?

So you may have settled on whether or not you need a new 4K television but what about the new Blu-ray players, receivers and other systems that talk about “4K upconversion”? What is 4K up conversion and is that a feature you really need? What does it do? Those are the questions we’re attempting to answer in this article. And, frankly, they are questions and answers you need to understand to make informed buying decisions on a new surround receivers or Blu-ray players.

What is 4K Upconversion, Anyway?

4K is really amazing in terms of its improvement over 1080p. For starters, some may think, initially at least, that 4K is simply twice the resolution of 1080p (or 2K). In fact, it’s four times the resolution. 4K, or Ultra HD (UHD) as it’s also known, is 3840 x 2160—twice the pixel resolution in width and twice the line resolution in height. So you can stack 4 HDTVs together to get the pixel resolution of a single 4K display.

While that’s impressive, all of that extra resolution comes at a cost. When you’re dealing with 4x the pixels, you have nearly 4x the bandwidth as well. That means 4x the overhead in transmitting that data and 4x the amount of video processing. Now, it’s not an exact ratio, but you get the idea. 4K is a completely different animal—and consumers are still trying to learn how to adopt to Blu-ray and their newer high-definition displays. Even digital content providers are getting into the game with 4K DISH Joey set top receivers and the like.

4K Upconversion Explained

With new 4K televisions, you don’t have the choice to operate them in “1080p mode.” They have the pixels and you need to fill those pixels, so what you get is a situation where the TV will upconvert input signals to the native resolution of the display: 4K. In essence, it’s taking a 1920×1080 signal and scaling it up to 3840×2160 resolution. It HAS to do this, but while that sounds easy, it’s not. You don’t just resize the content, you also have to make sure that you don’t mess things up in the process. Horizontal and angled lines need to stay smooth, and you must make sure you get the timing right to avoid flickering on the hardware. It’s a pretty big deal, but most of the new 4K televisions and home theater projectors are doing a pretty decent job.

Which begs the question: If TVs are forced to provide 4K upconversion (and they are) then why do we need that feature on our surround receivers and 1080p Blu-ray players?

You don’t. Unless your TV does a horrible job of the upconversion process.

And there’s the rub. Manufacturers are putting out these scalers and upconverting devices simply to give themselves a marketing edge. “4K Upconversion” is something to talk about with respect to a feature-set in one product that may not be present in the competition. Still, it’s gotten to the point where, like 3D, everybody’s doing it.

That means that 4K upconversion, as a feature, isn’t important—yet—but it also shouldn’t steer you away from a product, should that feature be included. Just understand that 4K TVs won’t be hitting the market en masse anytime soon, and the 4K upconversion feature is going to be something that’s more important on your television, than on your Blu-ray player. The one exception, of course, will be gaming systems. Natively putting out 4K resolution on a video game will be a definite advantage for displays that can handle it—but that’s a different article altogether!

We’re not going to touch on everything, so if you’ve got something to add about 4K upconversion, drop us a line on Facebook or comment below and join in the discussion.

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The post What is 4K Upconversion and Do I Need It? appeared first on Audiogurus.

AV Receiver Setup Guide

Setting up an AV receiver is much more complicated than it should be. Manufacturers have largely opted for more features over simplistic use. The result is the advent of powerful AV receivers that are full of rich, wonderful features that no one understands how to fully set up, configure or operate. To help you simplify the process, we’ve designed this AV receiver setup guide that will give you some step by step instructions. Follow these, and you’ll be well on your way to surround sound bliss!

AV Receiver Setup: Physical Connections – Inputs

The first thing you want to do is connect your source components to the appropriate inputs on your receiver. Two things are important here: 1) Use the best cable technology possible, and 2) Know and understand where to plug in your gear. The first item really just means to ensure that, if you can use an HDMI cable, that you do so. An HDMI cable from your Blu-ray player will let you view the actual high definition content contained on the disc, while a composite cable (and now likely, a component cable, will not). Continue plugging in all of your devices until everything has its own input. Note that you likely cannot “double up” on inputs, so if you have all available HDMI connections filled in for the receiver, adding new inputs to a composite “Blu-ray” input won’t allow you to use it. When Blu-ray is selected, the receiver will simply default to HDMI.

Once you’re done connecting all of your gear, be sure to take notes for later—you’ll need them.

AV Receiver Setup Guide

The Yamaha RX-A3030 with ample rear inputs

AV Receiver Setup: Physical Connections – Outputs

Once your inputs are all connected, then your outputs are next on the AV receiver setup checklist. There are only two types of outputs when dealing with an AV receiver: Speaker cables and video (typically HDMI video). Wiring up speakers is simple if you did a good job labeling the cables. The key is making sure you have a solid connection to the binding post without any stray wires that could short across the inputs. For HDMI video, you just want to make sure the cable you are using is adequately spec’d for the distance. An HDMI cable that needs to go 4 feet from the AV receiver to a flat panel TV can be made from chewing gum…well, not really, but any cable will work. An HDMI cable that needs to go 40 feet between the walls and ceiling to a projector requires a very precise set of tolerances. It better be high-speed and it better be made well.

Some AV receivers have dual HDMI outputs. These are typically for running either the same source to two different displays (like when you have a front projection system with an LCD present behind the screen) and also when you want to run a separate video source to a different room or zone. There are typically limitations involved on each, so be sure to understand the full audio and video capabilities of your surround receiver before you buy one to accomplish a particular task you have in mind.

AV Receiver Setup Guide

Optional – Network Settings

Another thing AV receivers setup guides now need to include are provisions for dealing with network connectivity. These surround receivers may connect to a DLNA source to allow you to stream media from a home computer or server, or they may let you connect to an online source like Spotify to stream music. Whatever the case, you may need to connect an Ethernet cable to your receiver with an active Internet connection. If you don’t have a router nearby (almost no one does) you can either choose to install a network cable drop to that location or even utilize a solution that allows networking over power lines.

Know and/or Name Your Inputs

One of the biggest gripes I have with surround receivers is that, once you have everything connected, it still doesn’t know where anything is. This is especially true of models that feature numbered inputs (HDMI 1, HDMI 2…) instead of named inputs (BD, Sat, DVR…). So, once everything is connected, I used to find that I had to once again go in back of the receiver to look at what I had done because I didn’t take good notes. With nots in hand, make sure that the proper input is selected as desired and that the proper audio channel is used (HDMI, digital, analogue) for each input. Doing this will ensure you get the correct device (and audio) when you select it via the remote control.

Tell the AV Receiver About Your Speakers

Just because you connected your speakers doesn’t mean it knows what you have. It should mean that, but most (all?) AV receivers don’t have any idea if there are speakers connected to various inputs or not until they run an auto-setup using an included microphone. To properly configure your AV receiver, go into the Settings menu and find the section where you can set the speakers to Large, Small or None. Set any unused speakers to None (meaning you didn’t connect them, nor will you in the next few hours). Next, set any speakers that can play all the way down to 20Hz to Large. Seriously, all speakers—no matter how huge you think they are or what you paid—should be set to Small unless they play down to 20Hz. Setting them to Small actually gives you better sound for three reasons:

  1. Your speakers work more efficiently. Speakers set to Small don’t waste energy receiving and trying to play back signals they can’t—like low frequency bass information below 30-40Hz.
  2. Speakers set to Large receive a full-range signal whether they can play them or not. If there are frequencies at 35Hz or lower that your main tower speakers can’t play, those sounds are lost completely.
  3. Your subwoofer is typically much better and adept at producing lower frequencies than your main speakers. Setting your speakers to Small means that your sub gets to do what it’s good at—play down low.
AV Receiver Setup Guide

Yamaha’s speaker setup OSD lets you adjust the speaker size with deceiving vsual cues.

AV Receiver Setup of Distance & Levels

So you’ve got your connections, the speakers are set up for size and you have your network read (if applicable). The last thing you want to do (for basic setup) is set both the distance and levels for your speakers. A lot of times this can be done with an included microphone, but we also like to use our SPL meter—particularly for the subwoofer, which is much harder to measure and set up automatically. Distance, or Delay, settings let the system properly understand the required signals needed to simulate the space in your home theater room. Surround speakers that are further away from you than your main speakers need to get the correct audio at the correct time so that everything sounds cohesive. This is the goal of Distance Delay settings.

Optional – Connect Network Streaming Accounts

We had you set up a network drop above for receivers that feature network streaming services, however you still need to connect your accounts. In the Settings menu, find where you can add your account credentials (user name and password) to log in, and you’re all set. After that, in the case of Internet streaming from Spotify or another online service, you’ll be listening to music in no-time-flat.

That’s about it for setting up an AV receiver. It should really be easier than it is, but, alas, it may take a company like Apple Computer to fix the industry and teach it that less truly is more.

Shop Surround Receivers at Audiogurus

The post AV Receiver Setup Guide appeared first on Audiogurus.

Home Theater Receiver Setup Guide

Setting up a home theater receiver is much more complicated than it should be. Manufacturers have largely opted for more features over simplistic use. The result is the advent of powerful home theater receivers that are full of rich, wonderful features that no one understands how to fully set up, configure or operate. To help you simplify the process, we’ve designed this AV receiver setup guide that will give you some step by step instructions. Follow these, and you’ll be well on your way to surround sound bliss!

Home Theater Receiver Setup: Physical Connections – Inputs

The first thing you want to do is connect your source components to the appropriate inputs on your receiver. Two things are important here: 1) Use the best cable technology possible, and 2) Know and understand where to plug in your gear. The first item really just means to ensure that, if you can use an HDMI cable, that you do so. An HDMI cable from your Blu-ray player will let you view the actual high definition content contained on the disc, while a composite cable (and now likely, a component cable, will not). Continue plugging in all of your devices until everything has its own input. Note that you likely cannot “double up” on inputs, so if you have all available HDMI connections filled in for the receiver, adding new inputs to a composite “Blu-ray” input won’t allow you to use it. When Blu-ray is selected, the receiver will simply default to HDMI.

Once you’re done connecting all of your gear, be sure to take notes for later—you’ll need them.

Home Theater Receiver Setup Guide

The Yamaha RX-A3030 with ample rear inputs

Home Theater Receiver Setup: Physical Connections – Outputs

Once your inputs are all connected, then your outputs are next on the home theater receiver setup checklist. There are only two types of outputs when dealing with an AV receiver: Speaker cables and video (typically HDMI video). Wiring up speakers is simple if you did a good job labeling the cables. The key is making sure you have a solid connection to the binding post without any stray wires that could short across the inputs. For HDMI video, you just want to make sure the cable you are using is adequately spec’d for the distance. An HDMI cable that needs to go 4 feet from the home theater receiver to a flat panel TV can be made from chewing gum…well, not really, but any cable will work. An HDMI cable that needs to go 40 feet between the walls and ceiling to a projector requires a very precise set of tolerances. It better be high-speed and it better be made well.

Some home theater receivers have dual HDMI outputs. These are typically for running either the same source to two different displays (like when you have a front projection system with an LCD present behind the screen) and also when you want to run a separate video source to a different room or zone. There are typically limitations involved on each, so be sure to understand the full audio and video capabilities of your surround receiver before you buy one to accomplish a particular task you have in mind.

Home Theater Receiver Setup Guide

Optional – Network Settings

Another thing home theater receivers setup guides now need to include are provisions for dealing with network connectivity. These surround receivers may connect to a DLNA source to allow you to stream media from a home computer or server, or they may let you connect to an online source like Spotify to stream music. Whatever the case, you may need to connect an Ethernet cable to your receiver with an active Internet connection. If you don’t have a router nearby (almost no one does) you can either choose to install a network cable drop to that location or even utilize a solution that allows networking over power lines.

Know and/or Name Your Inputs

One of the biggest gripes I have with surround receivers is that, once you have everything connected, it still doesn’t know where anything is. This is especially true of models that feature numbered inputs (HDMI 1, HDMI 2…) instead of named inputs (BD, Sat, DVR…). So, once everything is connected, I used to find that I had to once again go in back of the receiver to look at what I had done because I didn’t take good notes. With nots in hand, make sure that the proper input is selected as desired and that the proper audio channel is used (HDMI, digital, analogue) for each input. Doing this will ensure you get the correct device (and audio) when you select it via the remote control.

Tell Your Home Theater Receiver About Your Speakers

Just because you connected your speakers doesn’t mean it knows what you have. It should mean that, but most (all?) AV receivers don’t have any idea if there are speakers connected to various inputs or not until they run an auto-setup using an included microphone. To properly configure your receiver, go into the Settings menu and find the section where you can set the speakers to Large, Small or None. Set any unused speakers to None (meaning you didn’t connect them, nor will you in the next few hours). Next, set any speakers that can play all the way down to 20Hz to Large. Seriously, all speakers—no matter how huge you think they are or what you paid—should be set to Small unless they play down to 20Hz. Setting them to Small actually gives you better sound for three reasons:

  1. Your speakers work more efficiently. Speakers set to Small don’t waste energy receiving and trying to play back signals they can’t—like low frequency bass information below 30-40Hz.
  2. Speakers set to Large receive a full-range signal whether they can play them or not. If there are frequencies at 35Hz or lower that your main tower speakers can’t play, those sounds are lost completely.
  3. Your subwoofer is typically much better and adept at producing lower frequencies than your main speakers. Setting your speakers to Small means that your sub gets to do what it’s good at—play down low.
Home Theater Receiver Setup Guide

Yamaha’s speaker setup OSD lets you adjust the speaker size with deceiving vsual cues.

Home Theater Receiver Setup of Distance & Levels

So you’ve got your connections, the speakers are set up for size and you have your network read (if applicable). The last thing you want to do (for basic setup) is set both the distance and levels for your speakers. A lot of times this can be done with an included microphone, but we also like to use our SPL meter—particularly for the subwoofer, which is much harder to measure and set up automatically. Distance, or Delay, settings let the system properly understand the required signals needed to simulate the space in your home theater room. Surround speakers that are further away from you than your main speakers need to get the correct audio at the correct time so that everything sounds cohesive. This is the goal of Distance Delay settings.

Optional – Connect Network Streaming Accounts

We had you set up a network drop above for receivers that feature network streaming services, however you still need to connect your accounts. In the Settings menu, find where you can add your account credentials (user name and password) to log in, and you’re all set. After that, in the case of Internet streaming from Spotify or another online service, you’ll be listening to music in no-time-flat.

That’s about it for setting up an home theater receiver. It should really be easier than it is, but, alas, it may take a company like Apple Computer to fix the industry and teach it that less truly is more.

Shop Surround Receivers at Audiogurus

The post Home Theater Receiver Setup Guide appeared first on Audiogurus.