Home Theater Roundup

I went through half a dozen home theater receivers last year, trying to find one that would work connected to my Mac Mini media PC. Here are the results:

Onkyo 607: Video from PC does not sync. So says the manual:

There’s no picture from a source connected to an HDMI IN
• Reliable operation with an HDMI-to-DVI adapter is
not guaranteed. In addition, video signals from a PC
are not supported (page24).

So I get a picture for two seconds, black for two seconds, picture for two seconds, and on and on and on. One solution would be to plug the PC directly into the HDTV, but then why did I get the receiver?

Yamaha RX-V665: Supports HDMI video and optical audio… just not at the same time.

Next up… the Harmon/Kardon 254! Will it overcome the design flaws of its predecessors, or is its giant surfboard remote an indicator that HK just doesn’t know how to design a home theater system?

Well, gigantic remote issues aside, I was able to successfully connect a Harman/Kardon AVR 254 to my 2.0 GHz Mac Mini without too much hassle. There was an initial problem with the screen syncing, but rebooting the Mini seemed to fix it. Now when I select the Media Center input on the HK with HDMI for video and optical for audio, the audio comes through immediately, followed by… wait for it… static… GREEN… hold on. Followed closely by the video. But I will say this: it finally works.

Even turning the unit off and on again didn’t break my settings, which is a plus.

I love the slick new interface on the HK, which is a vast improvement over models from two years ago and the blue text on shiny black buttons matches my FrontRow interface beautifully. I am going to have to get used to the two second delay when switching inputs, along with the garbage static that appears when switching (seriously HK, this is just sloppy) but overall I am happy with the results.

Adding a Gefen DVI Detective may help both the Mini and the AVR find each other’s signals, but that’s a story for another time.

So far the only drawbacks I see are the HK has the fewest HDMI ports out of similar systems I tested, compared to the Yamaha’s four and the Onkyo’s five. But the Onkyo won’t sync to the Mini (although maybe it will with that Gefen adapter?) and the Yamaha isn’t configurable to mix audio and video inputs — maybe the next model up will, but I don’t feel like dropping $800 to find out.

The other complaint is this is a wimpy 50 watt system. The HKs are usually underrated, but if it has all the niceties of the 254, the Harman/Kardon AVR 354 with its 75 watts might be the ideal system. Someone buy me one of these so I can know for sure.

Compensating for something?

How I spent my weekend:
How I spent my weekend

By Tim

An animator, video producer, Lego artist, and author—I am moderately skilled at a lot of different things.

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