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Ok. I browse quite a few forums and normally hate posts like this, but I need some help and I'm feeling a little overwhelmed. Sorry, but I really appreciate any help I get...


I have been absolutely satisfied with my home theatre set up for about the last 6 years. I have bought absolutely nothing new except for the TV and DVD player, and never needed to upgrade. However, I recently bought a Blu-Ray player and have decided it's time to upgrade, and I need some help.


To start things off, I have a 46" Sony LCD Bravia, Sony BDP-S350 with the firmware upgrade, Xbox 360, and the old receiver that I'm wanting to upgrade. I have a 5.1 speaker set, 2 Kenwood floor standings for the front, a junk center speaker that i'm going to replace, and 2 bose shelf speakers for the rear. The only thing I'm looking to upgrade right now is the Receiver. Probably do the speakers before long.


I'm really looking hard at the Harmon/Kardon AVR 254. Read some good things about it here, so I'm really leaning that way. I have just a few questions. I'm wondering how good the auto calibration feature is. I normally have to manually do everything, but I'm really excited to hear a auto calibrate might be good enough.


I'm also wondering what the importance of onboard decoding of DTS-HD and other HD audio sources will be, considering the Blu-Ray already does onboard decoding. Is there a way to shut off the Blu-Ray's auto decoding in order to let the receiver do it, or is it better to let the player do it? I'm new to the HD world of audio, so I'm not really sure how that all works.


Lastly, I'm also kind of new to HDMI. My old DVD player had upconvert, so I had an HDMI cable running video straight to the TV, and then Optical running audio to the receiver. I'm hearing that audio from HDMI is great, so what I want to do is run everything into the receiver and then one HDMI into the TV for video. That would be an Xbox 360 HDMI cable and the Blu-Ray. I'm pretty sure that would be the right way to do it. However, I'm reading some things about using the receiver to pass video, and some of it is bad. Most of that is talking about upconverting stuff, but since I'm not upconverting things, that shouldn't be a problem for me, right? Since everything I have is HD, that would be moot. Just wanted to make sure I'm getting the best video I can from a decent receiver.


Thanks to everyone who will take the time to read this and help me out. I'm really appreciative!
 

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I did not carefully read the whole post, as it's late and I am tired.


But, you mentioned auto setup. Auto setup seems to work pretty well. You can always lurk in the threads dedicated to what you have bought to see how well it's worked for people. You often get room correction along with the usual channel leveling stuff, and people seem happy with it.


I have not evaluated my Yamaha with YPAO on and off, so I can't give much feedback on auto calibration.


Your decoding options depend on exactly what Blu-ray player you own and what receiver you own. One common option is to let the player do the decoding, and send the audio via MPCM (Multi-channel PCM) over HDMI. Some people prefer letting the player do the decoding. Which also works fine.


One possible limitation of player side decoding is with players that do not decode DTS-HD Master Audio. If your receiver decodes DTS-HD Master Audio, and your player does not, you might prefer to use receiver side decoding. Players will commonly have a PCM and a bitstream option which determine whether the player or the receiver will do the decoding. The AVR FAQ covers this in a bit more detail. There are also a lot of web resources which explain this topic.

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...I'm hearing that audio from HDMI is great, so what I want to do is run everything into the receiver and then one HDMI into the TV for video.

That's what I do, more for simplicity than anything else. HDMI provides a few advantages, see the stickied AVR FAQ.

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However, I'm reading some things about using the receiver to pass video, and some of it is bad.

I am not sure why it's bad. There are some problems with HDMI, but video quality is not the main problem. The only substantiated issue I know of is Blacker than Black clipping on some receivers. But that's a minor issue, and should not affect a properly calibrated system. Clipping whiter than white could result in some loss of contrast, but it seems like movies should not really have whiter than white info, and I believe only a few do.


Some people have been unhappy with conversion from analog to HDMI. But that's not the fault of HDMI, that would be a limitation of a receivers analog to HDMI conversion.


One advantage of HDMI for video is that digital sources would not have to be converted to analog just to be converted back to digital at the TV. Not a huge, deal, in my experience either way - but HDMI offers the promise of maximum fidelity with digital sources and fixed pixel displays.


It's an imperfect world, and HDMI does not always work. If you read here for any length of time you will see constant complaints about HDMI and set top boxes such as cable boxes. Another oddity is overscan. You could send perfect 1080p to your TV, it could be rescaled due to overscan anyway (see the AVR FAQ.) I turned off overscan on my TV, but now I often see noise in the top lines of the picture. So don't lose too much sleep over all of this.
 
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