Sunday, January 21, 2007

Making Beautiful Music

Anyone who knows me is aware that I have an addiction to electronics. Even when Susan and I were living on an almost-bare-bones budget (I was a college student workng part time, she worked in the payroll department of a manufacturing plant), I still managed somehow to buy the occasional bit of stereo equipment or a massive 25" color television. (Hey, that was large as they made 'em back in the early 1970s!)

So it's probably no surprise that I have bought a Pioneer VSX-84TXSI 7.1 A/V receiver. It's probably more surprising that this is the first non-theater-in-a-box receiver I've bought in about six years. I had been pretty satisfied with the whole Sony HTIB approach for a few years, but I found myself really wanting a unit that would process DVD-Audio and Super Audio CD, and the only quality units I could find were components rather than all-in-ones. I ended up getting a phenomenal deal on a Pioneer Elite DVD player that could handle both formats (along with DivX and DivX Ultra) and this receiver.

Then I let it sit for about a week. I enjoy electronics, but I don't always enjoy hooking up electronics. Particularly something like this, which has about eighteen thousand connections on the back. Even worse, the only way to connect it was to disconnect the old Sony receiver I had, and that meant that I was going to inevitably end up with a half-dozen wires left over once I got through with everything.

Today was the day, though. Right after lunch, I crawled behind the downstairs stereo cabinet and somehow found a way to pull the Sony receiver through the back of the cabinet, standing it up on end so the connectors were in front of me. I undid the speaker wires, attached banana plus connectors to each to simplify future switchouts, and hooked 'em up. Then I transferred the various component and composite cables, ran an HDMI or two, hooked up the six RCA plug connectors for the DVD players, and turned everything on.

Lo and behold, it was about 90% effective at the first turn-on!

Of course, every time I hook up electronics, there's something that doesn't work. In this case, there was one speaker that had reversed polarity; on a lesser stereo, this wasn't much of a problem, but on this receiver, it was a major (as in no sound coming out of the speaker) problem. Once I realized what was wrong, I revered the cables and all was hunky dory.

Finally had to break down and read the manual to switch the DVD player from 2 channel to 5.1; got it working, though, and I have to admit that the sound is simply phenomenal. And that's with a totally unbalanced speaker array--two huge left and right speakers, a mid-sized center channel speaker, and four small wall-mounts for the side and rear surrounds. Even with this motley speaker arrangement, the automatic setup for multi-channel sound worked flawlessly; the sound is well balanced, crystal clear, and enveloping.

So why's the new stereo in the basement, where I don't spend most of my time? If you want the answer to that, you'll have to back up a few entries and see why Anna didn't want me to put any new equipment in the upstairs A/V unit...

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