Video system

[last updated: 29 October 2016]

AV system diagram

The audio side of the system is described here.

My multi-channel Rotel RSP-1572 A/V control pre-amp has seven digital audio and six HDMI inputs. Plus a 5.1 set of analogue inputs, and quite a few more stereo analogue pairs for good measure.1 It handles all incoming high-resolution digital audio formats.2

Digital video signal sources

DVDs and Blu-rays: The Oppo BD player contains a Qdeo video processing chipset to squeeze maximum video quality from standard definition3 480i/576i DVDs (and network video files) by upscaling everything to the native 1080p resolution of my plasma display. The Oppo is multi-region for all my DVD viewing, multi-zone for all my Blu-ray viewing, and handles any DVD-audio, CD or SACD listening.

A/V files: The Oppo is a competent network media streamer, adept at pulling video (and audio) files off my NAS boxes and presenting video to the Kuro at 1080p. (There are some streaming thoughts here.)

Satellite TV: When digital TV became the only game in town I fitted the 80cm dish we'd been using for Christa's analogue German TV with a new quad LNB and re-aligned it to the digital Astra II cluster to deliver a more robust "Freesat" signal. I watch almost no broadcast4 TV — my Humax Freesat PVR spends 99% of its time set to BBC radio.

TV sound: Transmitted TV sound in analogue days, although mono, was on a par with FM radio, so I used a separate TV sound tuner for a while. I avoided all forms of video recording until the arrival of so-called "VHS Hi-Fi". In 1983 I hired a Ferguson VHS Hi-Fi VCR (a JVC clone) to try for a year before buying two VCRs of my own. From then on, I always routed TV audio direct to the amplifier.

Drawbacks of digital?

HDCP is the bane of my (video) life, adding nothing but inconvenience, and ultimately forcing me to upgrade from a perfectly acceptable 50" 768p plasma to the 60" 1080p because of my need for HDCP handling via HDMI.

Don't get me started on the idiocy of variable Blu-ray user menu interfaces... Or BD Java... Or live interaction with other viewers over the Interweb thingy...


1  My first micro-controlled audio/video switchbox — built to my design by my late friend Colin — was an analogue device. It had four fully-buffered composite video inputs, an independent video recording bus, eight analogue stereo audio inputs of around 90dB S/N ratio, and two independent stereo audio recording buses. S-Video (Y-C) and RGB video had hardly reached the UK back then, with the honourable exception of early Philips LaserDisc players. I recently discovered a letter (dated 28th May 1988) that's relevant.
2  The Rotel pre-amp decodes both the "traditional" Dolby Digital and DTS 5.1 formats, and also all the fancier new surround sound formats found on Blu-rays. However, in July 2010, I reverted to simple stereo — hence the Rotel stereo power amplifier. The Oppo outputs a marvellous analogue stereo down-mix from all current hi-res audio formats on Blu-ray.
3  A well-mastered standard definition NTSC (480i/60) or PAL (576i/50) video image skilfully de-interlaced and upscaled on to my 60" Kuro hi-def (1080p/24) plasma screen looks fine. This is just as well, as I'm in no rush to replace all my DVDs by Blu-rays. At my viewing distance, there would be no visible benefit from a 4K screen.
4  I pay the licence fee as I consider some, at least, of the BBC's output to be a national treasure. The various commercial channels I generally dismiss as tabloid fodder. I'm a cultural snob. Bite me.