email: cavebear2118 AT verizon DOT com

Friday, January 31, 2014

Sometimes, Doing Nothing Is Good

And by that title, I mean that good things sometimes come to those who just sit in frustration.

Warning, long post ahead!


Six years ago, I desired to connect my stereo system to my 1st HDTV because flat screens are too thin to have good built-in speakers.  I couldn't get it to work.  Oh, I got TV sound through the stereo system, but in one arrangement, I got off-synch sound from both the stereo and the TV which was too annoying to listen to.  In the other, I got only stereo system sound but with a 1/2 second delay which was too annoying to watch.  So I gave up and separated the 2 systems.

Two years ago, my stereo tuner died and I ended up with a Pioneer VSX-42.  It did everything!  Way more than I had any use for, as a matter of fact.  Not just controlling stereo components, but the TV, the DVD, internet radio, gameboxes, Pandora, bluetooth, and some things I don't even know what they are!  All I wanted was a new tuner.

Turns out it made my old "dedicated buttons radio station controller" obsolete.  I miss having dedicated buttons to 20 radio stations.  With the Pioneer, you just have a single preset button and if you want station #12, you have to press it 12 times.  Not exactly the end of the world, but annoying.  And instead of dedicated buttons for each function (like radio, CD, tape deck, phono, and all those others I don't understand), there is a dial you turn to see each function choice displayed on a LED screen.

As you might guess, I am not intuitively good at modern electronic components.  I have to really work at it.  But as a "success through persistence" kind of person person who can (eventually) sift through instruction manuals, I get by.  Seriously, sometimes I actually draw flowcharts to figure out what the technical manual is trying (badly) to tell me.

So with the new Samsung HDTV in place, I dragged the old stereo system back into the TV room (I wanted to rearrange the rooms anyway).  First thing was to add a surge protector to the new HDTV.  A tech guy (not the floor salesman) at the store told me that power surges cause the cycling on/off problem I had with the previous HDTV.  So I bought one that had 2 more outlets than I thought I needed.

At home, I discovered I needed a 2nd coaxial cable, so I started a list of more stuff I needed.  That's when I decided to try again to connect the old stereo system to the HDTV.  I figured that "Hey, this Pioneer control unit seems designed to be the central control point for seriously integrated home theater system, I have to at least be able to listen to the TV through the stereo speakers".

So there I was, with the HDTV stand pulled away from the wall in one direction and the stereo cabinet angled in the opposite direction so I could see all the ports and cables.  I had a flashlight and all the manuals by my side.  Well, "almost all".  I couldn't find the Pioneer manual.  But I looked stuff up on the internet and I had some basic diagrams of various cable connections.

First instruction was to find the "audio out" ports on the TV or cable box.  Naturally, nothing was labled "audio out" on either.  The TV had "audio in" ports and an "optical audio out" with a plug shape I have never seen anywhere.  The cable box had some ports just labeled "AV"  The Pioneer tuner had every type of plug imaginable.  It was daunting!  I was very worried that connecting cables to the wrong ports might blow out some piece of equipment.

But I was willing to try.  Actually, just re-attaching the stereo speakers to the Pioneer tuner was an exercise in frustration.  Whoever designed the connectors was either an idiot or a sadist.  There are little knobs to loosen to expose a tiny hole to stick bare wire into.  The knobs are so close together that you need tweezers to hold the speaker wires to get them at the connection holes.  Anyway, it took me 15 minutes to guide the speaker wire into the required spots.  My previous tuner had connections where the wire went into a hole in the facing side just like sticking an electrical plug into a wall socket.  Who designs these things?  But I got that done.

Then came the cable connection fun.  The internet helped.  At one site, I found a reference to "unlabeled audio ports" being "out", and the cable box was unlabeled.  So I plugged in the red/white/yellow cable there.  Looking at the Pioneer tuner ports was like looking at a final exam for The Geek Squad hiring test.  The entire back of the thing is nothing but ports of all shapes and labels!

There are 6 different HDMI ports, several pairs of regular round red/white/yellow ports, several "optical", some "component" ports, and "some other stuff".

I finally chose to connect the cables from the cable TV box labeled "AV" to the Pioneer ports labelled "sat/cable" (satellite or cable TV I assume)  I crawled out, set the Pioneer to "sat/cable" and counted to 5 (set to "radio", the sound comes on instantaneously).  No sound.  Discouraged, I crawled back behind the equipment and tried some other connections.  When I had the cable box audio cables connected to DVD and nothing happened I just sat there discouraged.

And then, after about 30 seconds, I suddenly heard the TV through the stereo speakers!  HAL-aluhiah!!!  30 seconds in FOREVER in electronics time.  But I was never going to remember that the TV was controlled on the Pioneer tuner set to"DVD".  So I cautiously switched the cables back to the sat/cable ports and waited.  Damn, the TV sound came on after only 15 seconds.

And that's why I'm saying that sometimes doing nothing is good!  If I hadn't just sat there behind the electronics and glared balefully at the ports for a while, I never would never have known that I had the right connections!  Doing nothing for 30 seconds (a really long time to sit sometimes) worked.  Just sitting there solved my problem.

After that success, I sat down in my TV chair to listen to the speakers.  It was sightly fuzzy and minutely out of synch.  So I studied the Samsung manual.  I had already set it to "external speakers" so that I would know if the cable connection were working.  But I found that I had both the TV internal speakers AND the external stereo speakers on.  I shut off the TV speakers.  Much better.

But the speakers weren't balanced, so I went to the Pioneer tuner to adjust the balance between the 2 speakers.  The left speaker is a little further away from my chair than the right speaker.  Guess what?  There is no speaker balance on the Pioneer tuner.  WHAT?  Well, apparently you can download an app to do that.  Great, I don't have a smartphone...

There ARE ways though to adjust balance.  I moved the left speaker forward a couple feet and angled the right speaker away slightly.  I tested it by closing my eyes and aiming my head at the balanced sound point (try it, it works).  When I was off the center of the TV, I adjusted them again and again.  I have it balanced pretty good now, but it looks a little odd.  I'd rather have a speaker balancer.

The Pioneer manual says I could balance the speakers and have other controls I would like using the remote control.  I wish I had it.  I searched the house for 2 hours looking for it.  I know where I would normally keep it.  It wasn't there.  Nor in any other spot I could thing of.  I may have to buy a replacement.  Mainly because I change the volume a lot as I move from the TV room to the kitchen (where I can still see the TV as I prepare food), and back.  Adjusting the volume manually on the stereo is a bit annoying.

Want to bet that the day I receive a replacement remote control for the Pioneer tumner, I find the ols one within a week?  LOL!

BUT, the point is that I figured out all the connections, they work, and I understand the system right now. 

This is a MAJOR SUCCESS in a lifelong battle with electronics.


Andrea and the Celestial Kitties said...

Whew! That exhaused me just reading it, glad I'm not the one who has to do it! lol!
Years ago I got my husband speakers for a surround sound.. he still hasnt installed them. We have an HDTV and the sound on them, as you say, is bad because they're too flat for good speakers. Surround sound would be great for that, right? Someday maybe.. Do you rent yourself out for things like that?? LOL!

Megan said...

I'm with Andrea - can you come over to my place sometime and fix all the electronic gizmos so they work as they should? LOL
Given that you don't perceive yourself as an expert, it is very courageous of you to even set out to give it a whirl, in my book. Congratulations on your success.
As for the sound quality on flat screen TVs - my husband has impaired hearing, and we always run captions on the TV and have the sound turned up high. Knowing that flat screen TVs have a reptuation for poor-quality sound is one of the reasons why we have delayed purchasing one. I'm not sure what we're going to do about it when the current television dies.

Sydney, Australia

Andrea and the Celestial Kitties said...

I have tried three times to email you in response to your comment on my blog and I keep getting it returned saying it was rejected. So I give up! lol Here's what I was trying to email you:

Hi Mark! Or should I call you TBT?

I appreciate the offer, but figuring out how to set it up isnt the issue around here, it's getting Greg to find the time or inclination to actually do the work! lol He has a degree in electronics so you'd think he'd want to have his own stuff all done up nice and neat, but no. Drives me crazy! lol but I do understand, he has crazy work hours and he knows that no matter how much time you think something is going to take, it will take longer and he doesnt want to get stuck half way through and have to leave with nothing hooked up. Cause then I'd really kill him! ;)

I'm glad you got yours up and running! Hope someday Greg finds the time to hook ours up!

Andrea and the Celestial Kitties

Tina T-P said...

#1 - I think Owners Manuals are written by Someone who has never seen the unit, then translated by the same guys who translated the Bible - "Oh, hey, I don't agree with that, I think I'll make it say this..."

#2 - And that is the reason why the DVD player that I WON is still sitting on a chair in the family room -I have no idea how to hook it up to our TV.. Maybe someday...

Good luck finding that remote. Have you looked under the bed where the kittehs may have swatted it? Enjoy your new TV :-) T.