When I was in high school, I had several friends who were audiophiles. This was back in the days of two-wire connectors, when an amp still had a dedicated set of input jacks for a turntable. We’d spend hours discussing the merits of one brand over another, with German names competing with the latest in Japanese technology. I always favored Teutonic simplicity over bell-and-whistle laden Asian design, but my pocketbook was never able to afford anything better than third-rate Taiwanese gear. I did, however, build my own speakers, with the aid of a book from Radio Shack, several catalogs (this was pre-internet) and a trip to Canal Street in NYC to find a pair of 8-ohm woofers. I’d studied, I’d planned, I’d done the math. I had boxes of cabling, the right crimping tools, and the know-how to dive into the back of a component–featuring the complexity of a passenger jet’s flight controls–and make things work.

Somewhere in the summer of 1995, after years of crushing poverty, I’d saved up enough cash to buy myself a big-boy TV to replace the alley-sourced B/W Zenith I’d been dragging around since college. It was a 23″ color Sharp with a remote (a remote!), and it fit comfortably atop my bass amp at the foot of the bed. And it was great! It followed me from house to house and served faithfully, hooked up to all manner of AV equipment, even though it only had a coax jack for input. It saw its share of dents and cracks; a year ago or so, Finn pushed the Power button so hard that it fell backwards into the casing, prompting the creation of some plexiglas shielding. At some point in the last five years it started randomly making a high-frequency whine for no reason, but has remained the largest screen we have in the house and thus our main window to the outside world.

At my first Christmas party as a full-time employee, I was given a $100 gift card to Best Buy, and due to the limited purchasing options therein, I earmarked it for a future TV purchase. At that time the den was still a distant dream and we had a newborn to care for. Fast-forwarding two years, I had two more gift cards of equal value in hand and a big empty spot on the chimney in a finished room. Doing some research, and based on experience with computer monitors, I decided to spend on a Samsung, and looked at 32″ and 37″ offerings. I was afraid a 32″ would be too small for the space, and after measuring out a 37″ the width looked just right– about 16″ inches of clearance on either side of the chimney. I found a real nice 37″ LCD on sale and took the girls up to look it over on Monday evening. After getting one of the Best Buy floor guys to load it on a cart, I had to wade through five different upsell pitches (Blu-Ray player, extended warranty, Best Buy card, Best Buy rewards club, and Monster cable) before I could slap down all three cards and watch the balance decrease. (Points to Best Buy for not deprecating the value of two-year-old gift cards).

In the time between TV purchases, I’ve been eclipsed by several different types of technology. Component, Optical, HDMI, DVI… This new TV has an ethernet port, for christ’s sake. So now, the issue becomes: How do I get signal from the FIOS box through our amp and to the TV? Our amp is a 10-year-old Onkyo, which predates HDMI, and only passes signal through one source (meaning one must start the chain with Component and end with Component, for example). Currently, the pathway is
FIOS box -> Onkyo -> RF modulator -> TV
but I think it will have to shift to something like
FIOS box -> TV
where the TV becomes the hub for all of the components (assuming, of course, there is even a place to put the amp and speakers). I don’t have money for all new audio components, so I’m going to have to make what I have work–which means I’m going to need HDMI or Component cabling in 25″ lengths or more. My preference is to go completely digital to preserve signal quality, but we can go with component if need be (it will still support 1080p).

The first order of business is to get the stand I’ve crafted back from the welder (sometime next week, hopefully) and drill cutouts for the cabling. Then I have to cut a hole in the floor (groan) to add a plug and passthrough for cabling, and finally install the stand itself.

And, apparently I can use Serviio to connect the TV to my computer (in absence of a MacTV, which will be coming at some point in the future), so I’m going to give that a try in the meantime.

Serviio requires Java 1.6, which is not offered for OS 10.4. Because my server is running on an older G5 tower, I can’t install anything above 10.4, and thus, can’t use Serviio. Oh, well.

Date posted: January 17, 2012 | Filed under appliances, projects | Leave a Comment »

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