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Zen and the Art of Home Theater Systems

It’s been a nice holiday, we have the week off (yes! I started a job less than a month ago and I have a paid week off–I plan to remember this when the going gets tough), and I done be graduated with my MFA, which I need to post about.

But the big thought on my mind tonight is none of that… I’m back to the pleasant absorption of home theater setups… and am puzzling my way through the next set of tasks related to getting my entry-level HDTV configured with my entry-level home theater system, my nice old speakers, my new upconverting DVD player, and my mature but warm-sounding CD player.

I currently have everything kludged together with a mix of HDMI and RCA cables in an “HTS 2.1” hack pulled together the day before our parishioner open house (I wonder how many home theater systems stall at the rear-speaker stage?), but now it’s time to get some mojo going and get to that digital-experience, surround-sound, OMG-that-sounds-too-real Home Theater Experience. Because what else are the holidays about if not hearing people scream in full digital stereo?

Here’s my setup and what I think I need to do… though I have questions:

TV: Samsung LN-S3251D
Setbox: Motorola DCT-6412 III Comcast digital setbox/DVR
DVD player: Sony DVP-NS75H upconverting
HTS: Sony HT-DDW900
CD Player: Yamaha CDC-575

1. Setbox

Comcast RF in to setbox

Setbox HDMI to receiver HDMI

Setbox digital optical out to receiver digital optical in

For analog channels, setbox RCA audio out to receiver RCA audio in (is this truly necessary? If so, why don’t I need it now?)

2. HTS to TV

HTS HDMI to TV HDMI (um… no audio here?)

3. DVD player

DVD HDMI direct to TV (in theory, this could go DVD to HTS, but several sources have said I should go direct to the TV, which does have two HDMIs. Which is correct?)

DVD digital coax out to receiver digital coax in

4. CD player

I may be able to connect this with a digital optical cable. It’s currently connected with a cheap RCA cable, and I don’t want to drag it out just yet to find out what’s back there, but I’ll have to pull it out anyway when I work on the other components. If it has digital optical, that’s how I’m going (digital optical out to HTS digital optical in).

5. Speaker wire

16 gauge is fine for the front and center speakers (I have a pile of this on hand); 12 gauge is better for the longer runs to the rear speakers… but if I’m running the 12-gauge through our crawlspace, is it better to get in-ground wire? I’m currently using the cruddy 22 gauge included with the stereo, but not for long.

Ahhh, that felt good! I just wish I could hop in the car and go to Fry’s to pig out on geek cables. The Web will do, and I’m adjusting just fine, but there’s nothing like the chance to touch absolutely every single cable in the world before making my purchase.

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