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Old 11-17-2012, 12:54 PM   #1
bartbrn
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Default New to Home Theatre, any advice welcomed

For 17 years, my wife and I have been completely satisfied with our 27" Panasonic CRT TV, which not only refuses to die, but the picture quality of which seems as good as when new (maybe our eyes are just older). We have finally decided to go with HDTV, incorporating it into a whole new A/V setup in our family room.

While I can plug in a TV, and have a lot of Apple IT experience, the world of HDTV is a bit of a daunting mystery to me, but at 64, I'm willing to learn. Through some monster deals on Amazon and elsewhere, the advice of friends, and eye-wearying perusal of reviews here at Anand and all over the web, I've put together what I think is a fairly respectable system... well, "collected the components for" would be more accurate than "put together" -- I've gotten as far as putting the Viera 42" on its stand and connecting it to Comcast's HD cable box (as you'll see if you don't tire of reading this plea, the Viera will be wall-mounted on the wall opposite its current location, and the Comcast cable box will be returned to Comcast -- we're only getting the most basic of local channels on it now, and I'm much more interested in streaming than broadcast network TV, except PBS, ion, and our three local ABC/CBS/NBC affiliates). I need advice and help, and I hope some in the forum will be kind enough to take the time to read this rundown of equipment, connection options, etc., and give their frank opinions, technical advice, spiritual advice, whatever.

Here's my A/V equipment run-down:

42" Panasonic Viera (TC-L42E50)

Denon AVR-3312CI Receiver

Comcast-leased Scientific Atlanta Explorer 4250C cable box

Panasonic DVD-S68 NTSC/PAL auto-detect and convert Region 1 and Region 0 (All) DVD player

Panasonic DMP-BD75 Blu-ray player

Magnavox ZV457MG9 Digital Video Disc Recorder & Video Cassette Recorder (bi-directional dubbing, though why anyone would want to dub DVD to VHS tape escapes me)

Wii console

Roku2 XS (Model # 3100R) streaming box, which will be ethernet-connected to my Apple AirPort Extreme Base Station (802.11n), which, in turn, is ethernet-connected to a Comcast-leased Motorola SB5100 Surfboard Cable modem (is there anything that will improve cable performance? Comcast is not exactly the Champeen Speed Demon of ISPs, but here in the CT sticks, the state DPUC has left us with the choice of Comcast or nothing (there's satellite, of course, but I'm not interested in that leaky vessel). Also ethernet connected to the Apple AirPort Express Base Station (802.11n) Router, Network switch, Wi-Fi base station and NAS is a mid-2011 -- (most current, AFAIK, and getting a bit long in the tooth) 2.7 GHz Intel Core i5 27" iMac.

One of the questions to which I'd like to find an answer concerns this Gen 5 Apple AirPort Extreme Base Station (NOT the Express, which I also have, but which is another kettle of fish altogether). On September 10, 2012, Apple Insider reported:

"Availability of the AirPort Extreme base station has run out at some major third-party resellers, potentially signaling that an updated model with support for 802.11ac could be en route."

While I generally use Apple hardware as much as possible, I realize there are better and less expensive 802.11n (and 802.11ac, once it's adopted) WiFi routers out there. I don't know how much WiFi matters in my case, as from the AirPort Extreme Base Station, all throughput for streaming will be by ethernet from the Airport Base Station to my Denon Receiver, and possibly a simple passive Ethernet router for the Roku box/Wii, Viera TV, as experience shows which combination serves my streaming needs the best.

Another question about which I know zilch is the possibility of using a hard drive, connected to the USB port on the Airport Base Station, or to the Denon A/V Receiver, as a do-it-yourself TiVo -- is it doable? If so, what do I need to get content on to the drive for time-switching and later playback, and is it better to connect to the Airport Base Station (or whatever ends up replacing it, if it gets replaced) or the Denon Receiver?

The Comcast cable feed comes into the basement on the extreme northeast corner of my house, where it is split by a typical RatShack-quality diplexer into two RG6 cable paths. One path runs diagonally through the basement, about 36' to where it pops out of the floor and connects to my cable modem and 5th Gen Airport Extreme Base Station.

The other RG6 cable path runs a further 12', to where my basement ends, and the cable comes up through the southwest corner of the step-down to the family room, which is built entirely on a slab between the otherwise fully-basemented main part of the house and the slab-based 2-car garage.

Right now that RG6 cable that comes out of the slab-based family room step down runs just another 6'-8' to the north wall of the family room, and connects to the Comcast HD cable box.

What we're doing now is mounting the Viera TV on the south wall of the family room, directly across the room from where it is now. This will necessitate any kind of cable run that comes into the slab-based family room step down to travel around the perimeter of the floor (no basement to run through) to the new TV mounting, which will add a total of 40+ feet to the RG6 cable length.

This what I want to do: get rid of the Comcast cable box, AND the RG6 cable that goes to it, AND the splitter, so I have just ONE unbroken run of RG6 (from Comcast's service-in at the north-east corner of the basement) 36' to where it pops out of the floor and connects to my cable modem and Airport Extreme Airbase. The Airport Extreme Base Station, which has three extra Cat5E Ethernet cable ports (one of which hardwires to the 27" iMac, which is within 2 feet of the Airport Extreme Base Station), and run 40-50 feet of Ethernet cable, not RG6, to the Denon AVR-3312CI Receiver in the family room, which has more HDMI ports than I'll ever use. The ethernet, obviously, will be for streaming. Whether I'll be streaming through the Denon A/V receiver, the Viera TV, the Roku box, the Wii, or one of the 2 or 3 DVD/Blu-ray players that ALSO have streaming capability. Oh, yeah -- I also have an Airport Airbase Express that I use as a repeater and, of course, to run music on my iMac through.

To make up for the lousy 5 or 6 channels we'll lose from Comcast's Subterraneanly Basic package, I'll be using a Leaf or similar flat antenna (which my son-in-law uses quite successfully in Kansas City), which will be enough to get our 4 basic news channels: PBS, NBC, ABC, and CBS, plus ion and a couple other oddball local stations.

So that's the plan. I'm sorry to leave the forum with such an open question, but any advice on different hook-up schemes, or any other ideas, comments (polite, please!), or where I may be having unworkable ideas, and how I can make my ideas better. All I want is to be able to watch DVDs, play music (I'm not even going to mention the subject of the speakers I'm using -- that's all too much of a personal preference and esoteric subject), watch a minimum of local TV, stream movies and video/audio content from both my iMac and online sources like Netflix/Hulu/Vudu/DuDu, play some games -- you know, the stuff we put home theaters together for.

My most particular area of ignorance is streaming -- though I've done it thousands of times on my Macs, I've never set up a system like the one I'm contemplating, with so many diverse choices for streaming. For example (here comes my ignorance!), I believe the Panasonic Viera TV can stream Netflix, but not much more, I know the Denon receiver, Wii, Roku, and a couple of my DVD players can also stream, but I don't know how to figure out which devices can access what, including really limited, or really specialized (I'm a huge fan of vintage sports car racing, for example) content.

Hope some of you can give me some good advice, especially if you see me going down a wrong path with any of this stuff. I know this is a lot to divest, but I'm one of those cranks that has to research buying shoelaces, and there's just too much stuff in this project to confuse me.

Thanks very much for your time and -- I hope -- help.

Regards

Bart Brown
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Old 11-17-2012, 02:53 PM   #2
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You seem to have a pretty good grasp of what you want. Seems your most hung up on streaming. Let's get one thing out of the way, just because it can stream doesn't mean you should use it. Many many devices can stream Netflix, few do it well. The Roku is going to be you main streaming source. I'd skip the TV and Wii all together for streaming, if the Roku has the audio stations you want I'd skip the Denon as well and steam everything via the Roku or Airplay. I can't think of anything the other devices can get that the Roku can't. Only exception I could think of is internet radio sources the Denon may be able to get the Roku can't. For streaming it's hard to beat a Roku or Boxee type box. I'm not sure how you would "Tivo" streaming media. Their are a few way's to record OTA depending on how much you want to put into it.


For your internet, it wan't installed correctly to start with. The internet and TV should have their own dedicated lines coming into the house. By getting rid of the TV and using that line only for internet will improve things. Look up the modem they gave you. If it's junk ask for a better one or buy your own for ~$100.
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Old 11-17-2012, 03:41 PM   #3
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heat --

Thanks for the prompt and informative reply. I was thinking the Roku would be the most robust (and have access to the most content) streaming device of all of them -- nice to know I guess right once in a while!

I'm a little hazy on Airplay. Does it only play content stored on your computer, and does it play video as well as audio?

My cheapo kludge idea to get my 8842 (99.9% audio) items/51.2 GB worth of iTunes to the A/V receiver was to use my Airport Express 1/8" stereo-to-RCA-plug, like any old RCA-plug-equipped audio component. What else do I get out of Airplay, and what do I need?

"For your internet, it wasn't installed correctly to start with."

That qualifies for the World "Understatement of the Century" Championship!

"The internet and TV should have their own dedicated lines coming into the house."

That's what I told Comcast's installer, but he said "Yez won't know no difference when we run it through these here two splitters."

I'm just dimly-aware enough to know splitting a data cable into two data cables is going to cause signal loss, but the Comcast person I spoke with on the phone a couple days ago insisted the signal loss was so minimal as to be undetectable. I'm almost willing to concede that may be true as far as HDTV signal is concerned, but I can't accept that it's also true for streaming, where you're grabbing for as much bandwidth as possible (thus the ethernet connections, rather than trying to stream over Airport) from an ISP whose bandwidth/speed is fairly pathetic, unless you want to pay a couple hundred bucks a month -- I don't -- for "Premium Bandwidth." Ten years ago or so I figured it was just a matter of time before ISP bandwidth would be sold as "tiered" options, and here we are.

I made an appointment for a service call to fix some of the more egregious installation errors, which are compounded by the fact that we've lived here for 17 years (and been a slave to Comcast that long), and there's still a rat's nest of Standard Def coax hanging like multi-split cobwebs around the basement. The Comcast "tech" I spoke with on the phone said the service tech may recommend running RG6 from the service in, around the OUTSIDE of the house, and into the shared wall between where the TV will be mounted and the garage. I don't know if that's a good or bad idea, I'll just say around about January and February it tends to get a tad chilly down here on Connecticut's Fabulous Vacation Shoreline.

"By getting rid of the TV and using that line only for internet will improve things. Look up the modem they gave you. If it's junk ask for a better one or buy your own for ~$100."

Where would I go about finding comparative specs on cable modems, and a layman's explanation of what the specs mean?

Again, thanks very much for helping to educate me. I'm glad I haven't stepped into any really big piles of manure yet. Except for the one I can't miss -- Comcast.

Peace

Bart Brown
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Old 11-17-2012, 05:14 PM   #4
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Quote:
Originally Posted by bartbrn View Post
I'm a little hazy on Airplay. Does it only play content stored on your computer, and does it play video as well as audio?
AirPlay can play content from any device that supports sharing via AirPlay. iTunes can do it, but so can an Apple portable device such as an iPod, iPhone or iPad.

It does video and audio, but in my experience, not all devices support each. For example, my Denon receiver supports AirPlay, but only audio. XBMC, the home media software, supports both video and audio. My AppleTV, as you would expect, supports both.
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Old 11-17-2012, 06:48 PM   #5
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Aikouka -- Thanks for the info! What do you think of Apple TV vs Roku XS?
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Old 11-17-2012, 07:35 PM   #6
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Originally Posted by bartbrn View Post
Aikouka -- Thanks for the info! What do you think of Apple TV vs Roku XS?
Depends on what you want out of it. If you get most of your media from either iTunes or your connected system the Apple TV. If you want a lot of streaming sources get the Roku. Outside of Netflix and Hulu your streaming choices on the Apple TV are over. Roku has a lot of "channels" you can add like Crackle and such. I own an Apple TV and love it. I use it mainly for Airplay from my iPad and Macbook. It's Netflix is decent but not as good as the PS3's. I don't own a Roku but set one up for my father in-law and it looked like it had a ton of things to source from. Also the Apple TV can pull from iTunes running on your mac via Home Sharing. Unless something has changed the Roku can't pull from a PC/Mac/NAS at all. Maybe Playon or something similar now works on it but I don't know.
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Old 11-18-2012, 03:20 AM   #7
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One of the biggest issues with the ATV3 is that there isn't a jailbreak for it available yet and there may never be one. You would need to find a revision 2 (ATV2) on eBay or something to be able to jailbreak it and install XBMC or Plex. That's just for playing network content though.
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