Other equipment in the system includes at present: Samsung T240HD monitor. No, it is a
No, it's a computer monitor. What is it?
Sanyo VTC-M40 Beta Hifi
video recorder .
Sharp MD-MT20 portable MiniDisc recorder, now replaced by a Sony MZ-N910 net-MD recorder.
Speakers include a Paradigm PDR-10 sub woofer for rattling the floorboards, and Eltax HT-2 centre channel speaker, a pair of Eltax Symphony 6.2 floorstanders for the front, and some elderly but nice KEF Coda III speakers bringing up the rear.
For the back room, a nice little Sony CHC-CL5MD midi system with CD autochanger and MD recorder never fails to astound me.
Is this Hi-fi system a dream or a nightmare?
Aiwa F770 Three-head cassette deck. This unit is quite old now, and cassette is giving way now to MiniDisc. But it was a fine machine in it's day, boasting Dolby B, Dolby C (noise reduction), Dolby HxPro (headroom expansion by use of continuous retuning the bias), and automatic tape tuning - which can only really be done on three-head decks. Autoreverse is of course NOT fitted, since this does not improve sound quality. Unusually, the unit has two pinch rollers, one before and one after the heads, a system which improves head contact. The only reserve I would have about buying one now, is the chances are the head azimuth (alignment) would need checking. Aiwa had a long standing problem of failing to set this up accurately during manufacture, and after14 years of use, I would not trust this. Mine seems pretty well aligned, as far as I can tell. I fitted new drive belts to this in 2007 and have documented that here.
Panasonic NVFS88 SVHS video recorder. This dates back to around 1992. I bought this largely for video editing, which the Sanyo Beta hi-fi machine was only rather average at doing. The Panasonic was, and still is, an excellent editor. The jog and shuttle dial is particularly well thought out, in that it can be used to find edit points when in record mode, and after a few seconds will drop back to record-pause ready to assemble the next shot. SVHS performance is good, better than the JVC decks I have tried, but does not benefit from a Digital Timebase Corrector, so a certain amount of wobble and colour bleed is inevitable. Especially colour bleed, which is a weakness of this machine. My complaint with the Panasonic has been reliability, unusually for this manufacturer. There is a toothed belt on the underside of the deck, which drives the capstan. This unit and other models with similar decks, have the tendency to stretch this belt. Being toothed, you might think this wouldn't matter much, but the effect is to make the machine noisy in operation. It will make a constant chattering noise whilst playing or recording, and is very noisy in REW/FF. This might not sound like an issue, because the results still seem good on the screen. But if you take a VHS tape from here, and play it on some horrible mono VHS effort, you will hear that the audio has a fluttering sound. So, change the belt! It will cost around £12 for the part.
I have also had long standing problems with random white flashes on the screen during extended periods of playback. If pause is selected, the flashes continue to be random over the screen. This eliminates the possibility of the tape being the cause. Careful head cleaning only slightly improved things. Cleaning of the earthing spring on the top of the head would help for a time too. Eventually a cure was found by soldering a wire from the earthing spring to the metal screening just behind the head assembly. One other failing, now that the unit is getting old, is the fluorescent display is getting faint in horizontal stripes, rather as though every other heater wire is not working. Too expensive to fix that!
Panasonic plugged away at their bar-code scanner programming system long after they should have given it up, and this machine has one too. I never, ever used it. Fortunately the remote control can be programmed with keys. Annoyingly, you have to tell it the date of each recording, it can't just do "today".
Should you need it, the instruction manual can be downloaded here and I have now made the barcode sheets available here.
I now also have the FS200 model, which is essentially the same with with a Digital Timebase Corrector and also extra AV/S-video inputs at the front.
Sony MDS-JE530. MiniDisc Recorder. I would like to give this my unreserved recommendation as the finest value for money MiniDisc unit you can buy. But before I do, there are a few little things you need to know! Early ones, sold up until early 2000, have a bug in them. If you try to divide the last track near the end, as you might often want to do so as to remove something at the end of a track, the unit will go into rehearsal mode, run off the end of the track, and then get horribly confused. Hopeless. Sony will repair this, and since the fault is demonstrably there from manufacture, remember that it does not matter if your guarantee has run out since you have up to six years in which a manufacturer has to repair faults which were built in (at least you do in the UK). I bought mine from Richer Sounds, and they sent it off, I then waited a long time before we eventually gave up and they let me have a brand new machine.
The other "failing" is that switching input sources from the two digital and one analogue input, is a physical switch rather than on the remote as usual, so you may have to get off your arse and change this from time to time. Other models have a PS/2 keyboard socket on the front for easy naming of tracks. This doesn't, so you can either press lots of buttons to name your tracks, oh so slowly, or you can buy Sony's overpriced RMD11 remote control keyboard. Can someone invent a way to send the IR. codes from a gadget that plugs into a PC or PC keyboard please?
Despite all of the above, the Sony MDS-JE530 was possibly the finest
value for money MiniDisc unit you could buy in 2000/2001. It is
easy to use, very capable, equipped with almost every editing facility
you could think of any quite a few that you couldn't. It
looks nice and sounds even better. Just buy one. Or maybe
consider one of the newer models that is basically the same but has
the PS/2 keyboard socket, and other new features may include the
alter recording levels AFTER a recording is made, which the older
MDS-JE530 will not do. Newer models support long play and
recording times, so look
for this too.
Sharp MD-MT20 portable MiniDisc recorder. Now I'll be the first to admit that Sharp is not a brand name I normally think a great deal of. Much of what they have made in the past is barely better than unbranded equipment, so I certainly didn't buy this on the strength of the manufacturer, but rather what it could do and the price which good old Richer Sounds were selling it at. I needed this for copying MiniDisc tracks digitally from the Sony machine above, so an optical digital input was a priority. It is nowhere near as slim as some other units but for my purposes this was not so important. In use, it is a fine little machine. Its failing is above all, that there is no line-out socket. It relies instead on the headphone socket for output to a hifi. The resulting impedance mismatch, and the use of a headphone amplifier, results in excessive hiss. The microphone input is also a little hissy at high gain, but the voice activation function (missing on some cheaper Sharp MiniDisc recorders) works a treat, and has proven very useful for a little surveillance job recently. It would also be excellent for students who need to record lectures, and will record for up to 160 minutes of mono sound on one MiniDisc.
Editing functions are almost as good as the Sony unit above, very impressive for such a little unit. For some reason, copying an MD from the Sony to the Sharp using the supplied optical cable, does not take across the track names as I expected. Something of a nuisance, that. There is no digital output on the Sharp, but very few portable MD recorders do have this.
If you need a really compact MiniDisc recorder, this won't do it. But if that is less important, I can highly recommend this little unit. This was bought from Richer Sounds, and since it was supplied both with the correct UK mains adapter and a continental one hiding in the box, I strongly suspect they are getting them in on grey import. But I don't care, do you? Anyway the continental one fitted nicely into a mains outlet in the Onkyo receiver (later). Look out for Sharp's slimmer models, some use a purpose made Lithium Ion power cell (type AD-S31BT), and when it fails it will cost a great deal to replace. The above MD-MT20 uses easily replaced NiMH AA cells, and plays for a very long time on one charge. The supplied in-ear phones are remarkably deep and rich for their size, and very efficient too. You might like to try full size headphones too, and perhaps back off the deep bass setting, but you may find that some alternative headphones are less efficient and so don't give sufficient volume. With efficient headphones though, the volume level is more than ample, perhaps even to be used with caution. A simple in-line remote control allows adjustment of sound and track selection.
When attempting to edit recordings made on my Sony recorders, it can sometimes give a "UTOC ERROR" and refuse to edit, though it will play them OK. This type of error appears to be common with Sharp equipment, often indicating a fault, but in this case seems to be a compatibility issue. Sometimes making further edits like deleting tracks, on the Sony machine, can allow the Sharp to stop giving this error and go on to edit the disc properly. For more information and reviews of this unit, see this page.
** UPDATE ** August 2003: After a few days of acting up and not playing some discs, this unit has now quit completely. Cleaning the laser did not help, and having dismantled it and checked the mechanics, I have to conclude that there is no hope for it. So it is joining the heap of junk in my loft, after only about 3 years of light to moderate use. If ever I come across another Sharp MD player with a fault which not deck related, I may swap the decks around to revive it, since this is surprisingly easy to remove. More likely though it will never see the light of day again.
The replacement I bought was a Sony MZ-N910 net-MD recorder, in metallic blue, at £180 from www.be-direct.co.uk. This has Net-MD capability, which means high-speed downloading of files from a PC via the USB link. Just how fast depends upon which, if either, LP mode you use. I use either uncompressed for playback on my car stereo or older mains MDS-JE530 machine, or LP2 for playback in itself or the CHC-CL5MD. I've not tried LP4 since I like top quality.
The software supplied to do this is Sony SonicStage, which has a built-in anti-piracy system whereby you can't easily make lots of digital copies of the same recording. It allows for renaming, moving and chaptering of tracks on the MD player, which is excellent. It can copy tracks down to the unit and name them for you too. However, in use it is often baffling. I'm a software engineer, but it's all I can do to make this software do its job. I know the anti-piracy check-in, check-out method is probably necessary, but it makes the software very frustrating to use. It also secretly fills up a part of your hard disk with music files.
To the recorder itself. It comes with a nice little in-cable remote control, which you don't have to use but it is handy, and offers rear illumination too. Generally it is reasonably easy to use, though you may occasionally get lost in some of the setup menus. What it doesn't do, which the Sharp did, was have a voice-activated recording option, which was handy for lecture recording and surveillance. The other weakness relative to the Sharp is the sound. The supplied earphones are very average, and when I tried better headphones I found the sound a bit thin, and lacking in volume. The best sound configuration was "Jazz", and the user-adjustable graphic equalizer was useless because it dropped the volume control to an utterly feeble level.
I had decided the only solution was to build a small amplifier based on a TDA2822 chip, but then a lucky accident occurred. I broke my lightweight headphones in Gatwick Airport, in the duty free zone, just about to board a flight. So I bought a pair of Philips SBC HN050 rear-headband type headphones, with active noise cancellers, for £34 from the tax-free Dixons. Since these were sealed, I was unable to audition them and had to buy them on-spec. Well, what can I say? The headphones and this MD recorder are a perfect match. The headphones include an amplifier along with the active noise canceller circuit, and give the MD recorder an urgently needed lift in volume and "punch" in the sound. Now I was able to use the digital graphic equalizer in the MD recorder to set up a very pleasant sound, and to boot I don't hear much outside noise due to the noise-canceller. The headband phones don't suit me personally as well as regular headphones, but still I'm very pleased with the outcome. The battery in the MD recorder lasts well, and there's the option of clipping an AA cell to the outside of the unit for longer jobs. Similarly the AAA in the Philips headphones I'm now using seems to last for an age too.
Pioneer DV525 DVD player. What possessed me to buy such an expensive DVD player I don't know (it was expensive when it first came out). Then I spent even more money making it multi-region. OK, I bought it because I was having a hard time finding a DVD player with S-Video out connector, and one which could play CD-R and CD-RW disks recorded on the PC. It also had rave reviews. I now use an RGB connection directly to the TV to get the best possible picture quality, and within the limitations of DVD (occasional square clouds due to video compression), it does give the ultimate picture. I let my amp decode the audio via an optical cable, so I don't really know how it sounds, but the reviews say it is good.
So what is wrong with the Pioneer DV525 DVD player? Here goes: The display is terse and unhelpful, so finding your way around a CD is just far easier using a proper CD player. There is no CD Text display, even though there is no reason in the world that Pioneer could not have incorporated that in their firmware. There is no headphone socket. And worst of all, the unit is horribly noisy. It clatters and clonks all the time it is playing a DVD, even the eject mechanism sounds like it is mixing concrete.
I would still recommend the Pioneer DV525, but only if you are sure
you can live with the all the noise it makes.
I'm getting a lot of emails about this, from people wanting to know
how to make the Pioneer DV525 multi-region. Well I'm afraid this
not an easy machine to upgrade. You can either send it off to get
one (or in some cases two) chips changed, or one place in Yorkshire can
do it by plugging their own equipment into the socket in the right hand
side air vents. Whichever way you go, look at around £70-£80 for
the job (whereas a Toshiba conversion might cost half that). I bought a
chip for it, but it was beyond even my soldering skills, the pitch of
the pins is exceptionally fine. I paid a professional outfit to
the chip, and so saved myself no money at all! All such upgrades
kill the Macrovision which attempts to prevent recording of DVD films-
this never bothered me anyway since Macrovision only works sometimes
only on VHS which I don't use! Companies you may like to try are:
New addition: Hifistore 70 Stafford Street, Hanley, Stoke-on-Trent, Staffordshire, 01782 207332 who can upgrade for around £25 using the side connector.
Other companies exist, but may not do upgrades unless you buy the DVD player from them. People sometimes say "surely you just have to press some secret buttons to play any region...". Well let me tell you now, if it hasn't been modified for multi region, you will NOT be able to play DVD films from around the world. How can you tell if it has been modified? The modifications may vary, but here are the key presses for mine (and these seems the most popular type of conversion):
Remove any disc. Press SETUP, then arrow across to GENERAL. Press the down arrow, ensure that you have the setup Menu Mode set to Basic not Advanced (silly requirement, but necessary for some reason). Press DISPLAY and you will see the present region, which will be 2 for the UK. If you want to play a region 1 DVD next, press CONDITION/MEMORY key followed by the region you want, in this case 1. Press SETUP again to clear the menu. Now you can play a region 1 disc, but you will find region 2 will not work. You must reverse the process to get back to normal, this time setting 2 as the region you want. Of course, the above will only work if the unit has been converted already, and the above may vary with different brands of modification, but seems the most popular type.
The good thing about this kind of multi-region ability, fiddly to use though it is, is some DVD's are designed to confuse region-free DVD players. But this modification is not region-free, it is multiregion. The difference being, that when you have told it to be a region 1 machine, it is absolutely region 1 as far as any disc is concerned. Similarly when converting back to region 2. Some DVD region-free modifications try to set themselves up to be whatever the DVD asks for, and some cunning DVD's ask deliberately for the wrong region, just to catch out such machines. The above Pioneer modification will not be so fooled.
I must re-emphasise, if your machine has not been modified for multi-region capability, the above key presses will not have any effect and you will not be able to play films which are intended for different regions than your machine is built for.
Nothing lasts forever, and Pioneer CD and DVD players are known for spindle motor failure. Lately the player took to squealing loudly as it progressed through playing a CD. This was as the spindle motor was running quite slowly away from the centre of the CD. DVDs were not affected since the spindle runs much faster on DVD playback. A new motor VXX2649 is available at around £35 but I felt this was too much to invest in an old player, though if someone can supply one of these at a significantly lower cost, please let me know. So I have put the Pioneer DV525 upstairs for occasional use, and replaced it:
It's a DVD player which supports:
Added to the high specification it is a slim, classy looking player with good connectivity including both optical and co-axial digital outputs. So far a very good investment of £99.98 from my local Comet store. I've not made this unit multi-region yet, and may not bother unless I can borrow the required special remote control at little cost, if someone would like to help!
There is a built-in Dolby Digital decoder which I do not need, and confusingly I found it necessary to set "2-speaker" mode in order that my amp pick up a Dolby Digital signal properly. This is not well documented in the instructions. You will see above that the player is sat well above the amplifier below. The DVD player is so slim that it would have fouled the vents on the top of the amplifier and potentially caused a serious problem. I stuck some rubber feet on the base of the player to give the air some room to circulate.
Why buy a DVD player and not a recorder? Well I didn't feel that any of the DVD recorders available today make particularly capable players, so I've bought this as a player with the intention of following up with a recorder. Hence the JVC DR-M1 which follows. They make a very good pair because this Panasonic plays DVD-Ram and DVD-RW VR mode (still editable) discs which the JVC records. So I can assemble edit onto such discs and then copy onto finalised DVD-R when completed.
On my travels, I saw the Panasonic DVD-S47 which cosmetically looks almost identical, though has a few less features. But one thing I noticed was the clear plastic DVD tray was illuminated blue when opened, it looked very good. So I took a look inside the player to see if this might be an easy thing to add to the DVD-S75. A high resolution picture of the innards is here, but it was not obvious how to add the (presumably) LED to do this, maybe I'll come up with a solution one day.
See magazine published reviews here and here, and my own review at Ciao here. I've also scanned in the entire DVDS75EB instruction manual here, since it does not appear to be on the Panasonic web site.
JVC DR-M1 DVD-Recorder.
Some time ago I purchased a JVC DR-M1 DVD recorder. Reviews are on my ciao review. This can do some clever tricks like simultaneous play & record using DVD-Ram disks, as well as using normal DVD-R and DVD-RW. Alas, being JVC, you have to expect regular breakdowns. See my extras page on PSU repair.
This has now been superceded by a JVC DR-MH200 (includes hard disk)
and DR-MH300 (adds HDMI output and RGB input).
Samsung T240HD TV / computer monitor.
This is an interesting piece of kit. Is it an LCD TV with a PC monitor as an extra function? Or is it a PC monitor with a TV thrown in? Or is it really the very first product which does both properly? Well here's the answer: It's a high performance1920x1200 True Colour 24" widescreen PC monitor, with a TV thrown in. Why? Firstly, the performance from analogue input feed from SCART, is rather average, with some digitisation noise evident, and there is no S-Video input capability. Pictures from the DVB digital tuner are also fairly basic, but then DVB is pretty rough at the best of times. But above all, the sound quality from its internal speakers is nothing short of appalling, you simply can't listen to it. I don't even use the internal speakers for my PC audio because my little Logitech speakers sound so much better. So as a TV, it's not up to much. But as a computer monitor, well that's another story! Firstly however, make sure you connect with a DVI cable (you will have to buy one, make sure your video card has DVI output), not the analogue VGA cable supplied. I found with the VGA cable that all dark greys became black and I lost far too much detail when watching video material from the PC as I often have to do. With the DVI cable, this was all sorted out to perfection. Use a DVI-D type cable, which is Digital only, not the DVI-I type with integrated analogue because that would not fit the monitor. Even though it's a superb computer monitor, it still of course suffers from some typical LCD failings: High speed motion isn't displayed as well as a CRT monitor of course, and also the corners are a little darker than the rest of the image. Do run it in 1920x1200 resolution to get the very best from this panel. If you can't see that resolution, then consider the T260HD which is the same unit with a larger screen and same resolution, so bigger pixels. The T220HD is a lower resolution unit and I can't see why anyone would select that model. I bought the T240HD from Amazon at £275, so that's the price to aim for or beat as of November 2009.
Onkyo TX-DS575 Receiver. There is a new version of this, the TX-DS575x, which has a few more sockets which look useful. But this is the earlier edition. Excellent reviews abound again, Onkyo (affiliated to NAD in UK) seem to know their stuff. The unit is logically laid out, easy to use despite no on-screen menus, is equipped with S-video terminals unlike most cheaper units, and performs very well. Equipped as it is with Dolby Digital and DTS as well as the older Surround Sound decoder, it can't be far short of the THX logo which for some reason it does not quite manage to earn. There is a 90W RMS. per channel amp for each of the five channels, and lineout to feed an active sub woofer (I use a wonderful Paradigm PDR10, £150 from Richer Sounds). The Onkyo itself was purchased from the helpful Shasonic of Tottenham Court Road, London.
I can heartily recommend the Onkyo TX-DS575. However, like everything it is not perfect. The largest weakness by far is that there is a distinct hiss which becomes evident at low volumes. This is almost bad enough to be called bad. So audition one before buying.
It comes with a "learning" remote control, and with the later version this is illuminated too. I had some terrible problems getting this remote to work at first, twice or more I had to reset the thing and start learning all the codes again. It would decide not to learn codes from Philips equipment amongst others, and only a complete reset would clear the muddle from it. Even so, it is a capable remote, and includes Macro functions (albeit they are laid out and labeled most strangely). The joystick function is useful but fiddly to use, they should re-engineer the mechanics in there. The later version TX-DS575x comes with improved speaker connections for the rear speakers, and also an extra monitor output which I would really have appreciated. Also the remote is illuminated which I would have liked. However they took away the switched mains outputs, and I use them on my older version (they take those strange two-pin plugs with a molded plastic bit with a point at each end).
If I could have my time again, I would still buy the Onkyo. That has to be a good recommendation, for such a complicated piece of kit.
In June 2003, having just got through the 3 year guarantee, the
quit. It would switch on, and switch off a second later. I
have diagrams for this unit (at that time anyway), so had to send it to
Onkyo's UK service agent, who at that time were very helpful. Ron
there turned the repair around in less than a week and
it cost around £52 including return shipping. A resistor had
part of the power supply to the rear channel amplifiers. The more
failures, I believe, are in the output stages, in which case the
show the word "PROTECT". This also can be repaired economically,
though costs a little more than the fault I had. Considering an
new unit would still cost a good £300 or more, it seems worth having a
repaired. The new Onkyo repair agents are much less helpful, and
would now recommend avoiding them if possible. See my extras
page on repair of a common problem as these get older, the loss of
settings and programming when switched off. When I asked Onkyo
assistance with supplying the part, they point blank refused to help
If you have an Onkyo TX-DS575 or similar amplifier, you may like to see this Powerpoint file describing the learned codes for the above equipment, using the universal remote control supplied with the Onkyo. It is now also available as a web page for those who do not have Powerpoint on their PC, but it is less easy to use like this. If you have one of these units and have lost the manual, you can download it here.
UPDATE: September 2010: The TX-DS575 failed again with the same fault as in 2003. See my Extras page for more information on repairing various faults on these amplifiers.
In the mean time, I've demoted the TX-DS-575 to the "back room" and it's been replaced with a new Onkyo TX-NR708, more details to follow shortly.
Sony EVS9000E Hi8 video recorder. This is one item I would not buy if I could have my time again. It was very expensive, £1800 full price and I haggled to £1300, when it was new some 15 years ago. Don't get me wrong, it is the ultimate domestic Hi8 video recorder. It has staggering PCM sound, as well as analogue stereo. It can do almost anything, including hifi audio dub, making it probably the only domestic analogue video recorder in the world which is capable of a useful audio dub. It has a full frame Digital Timebase Corrector which means edits can look as clean and stable as the original, often even better! It has a real time code recording facility which can be a godsend for serious editing. There is a built in edit controller for controlling your camcorder via the LANC socket, and making off-line edits which the video recorder can assemble for you later. You can simultaneously view the on-tape and line-in images which (almost) removes the need for an extra monitor during video editing. As a domestic machine it has a good timer and remote control, far better than the Panasonic one above.
So, why am I complaining that I would not have bought the EVS9000 if I could have my time again? Because against a mid grey background, the image on recordings (not playback) can be seen to streak to the right, especially captions. There is a frequency response problem. Sony can't fix it, because they all do it, and the unit is within spec. In fact mine is probably much better than most now, since Sony got so much earache from me to improve it. The man in the street probably would never notice it, but at semi-pro prices, I was hoping perhaps for pro performance. It is a very fine machine, but I could find fault in a Rolls-Royce!
It is quite a rare beast and in many
ways is the most sophisticated domestic analogue video tape recorder
in the UK, since it is really a semi-professional deck with a domestic
added for home use. Ideal for with someone who needs a
professional grade Hi8
playback capability since it supports timecoding and has an exceptional
full-frame digital timebase
corrector and dropout compensator. Let me know if you would like
the instruction manual first, I have scanned this in.
My "extra" Hi8 deck is a Sony EVS1000E, it is simpler than the above machine and has no Digital Timebase Corrector. On January 1st 2006, the clock went back to year 1990. Sony had built in obsolescence in this one! A quick rummage on the Internet produced this excellent web page which allows you to select another year which matches any given year should a video recorder clock refuse to accept the present year. For 2006 I used 1995, and for 2007 I will use 1990 etc., though in years 2008 and 2012 it will be stuffed. I was pleased to note that the above EVS9000E does not suffer this problem, it must be somewhat newer (the calendar has no obvious limit though it must wrap around at some point way off in the future).
Sony KV-28FX60U television, with Eltax HT-2 centre channel speaker on top. This was one of the last generation of 100 Hz Wega flat screen CRT sets from Sony, and a good one offered just about the ultimate in tube picture quality.
Note the "secret" service menu I have displayed on it here, which I used to fine tweak the picture geometry.
CAUTION: Do not mess with the following unless you are familiar with aligning TV sets! I have warned you. If you mess with this and screw up your set completely, don't come crying to me! Before making any changes, be sure to record the original values so you can revert to the previous state. And if you go for RESET of any of the systems, you are likely to foul things up badly. If you tell the set that it has different hardware on it than it really does, you could get into an irretrievable situation. YOU HAVE BEEN WARNED!
To enter the service mode, there is the easy way or the hard way. The hard way is to switch off the mains switch. Then press channel up and down simultaneously on the top of the set. Then, whilst holding these, switch on the mains power. Keep the buttons held until the screen comes on. Then let go, TT will appear on the top of the screen. Then press MENU twice on the remote. Odds are you will let go of one of the channel buttons before the screen comes on. Here's the easy way:
Switch the set to standby. Press these keys in sequence on the remote control:
|i+ (beneath power button)
TELETEXT OFF (beneath mute button)
Now TT will appear, press MENU twice. The same procedure applies to the 28FX65 models etc, but the keys are laid out in slightly different positions.
My set had poor grey scale, it was red in the low lights. Also the picture geometry was poor, the verticals were bent. All this was adjustable to get a near studio quality set-up.
However I have seen a lot of these sets with an upwards bowing to horizontals at the bottom. You might just about be able to detect a very small hint of it in the screen shot above, although I seem particularly lucky that my set was almost perfect in this respect. It may be because mine was one of the later ones built, and all the worst ones I saw were from earlier manufacture, any comment from Sony most welcome. There seems to be no adjustment for this defect, neither with the remote control nor internally, according to the service manual. Also bear in mind that all sets suffer from "blooming" which means that the shape and size of the picture will depend a little on the picture content. You can see the lower right of the screen shot below curls inwards slightly since the picture there is darker than the top right.
I may provide more details on these adjustments later, but obviously can't reproduce chunks of the manual for fear of upsetting Sony. Do also see more detail on the same subject on this page and within here. Help on which geometry function does which is held here, which is the only section of the manual I have made available. Anther hint is to press the MUTE button while making adjustments, this removes the menu from the screen and allows you to see what you are doing with the picture underneath. Use a testcard or cross-hatch generator for setting up geometry and convergence (though the latter is much more than the novice would be recommended to fiddle with).
So, is this a good set? Worth the £1000 price tag? I have short persistence of vision, which means I see the flicker of a normal 50Hz set. So I decided from the outset to buy a 100 Hz flicker-free set. A 28" screen fitted in my front room, so larger was not an option. An integrated digital decoder was not on my shopping list because I feel that Sky Digital is better (though the picture on both can be quite dreadful). I didn't want surround sound since my Onkyo system does that for me. I did want a perfectly flat tube, and many sets such as Toshiba and Philips did not offer this at the time. So the choice was between a Panasonic and the Sony. I felt the Sony just had the edge in terms of picture quality, but it was a very close call. I think the Panasonic would have been a fine set also.
However my set suffered a purity problem in the bottom left of the screen and required a new tube to fix this. Furthermore the set would sometimes fail to come out of standby using the remote control, and I had to use the buttons on the top panel instead. As a result of these problems, I now have the very similar KV-28FX65 set to replace it. I've had a number of emails from owners of both KV-28FX60 and KV-28FX65 sets who have had the same purity problem with the bottom left corner, often seen as a purple patch on red pictures. This should be adjustable but I'm not aware of anyone having successfully had this done (using purity magnets at the back of the tube). If your set suffers from this, have it replaced before the guarantee runs out.
The KV-28FX65 was chosen over the FX75 models because I felt the convergence to be better on the (cheaper) FX65. I also chose a 28" set rather than 32" for the same reason; though I really wanted a 32" and cost was not really the issue, the 32" sets I saw all had convergence problems. Convergence is also adjustable through these menus but can be much harder to set up, not least because some of the adjustments are not available without dismantling the set.
Convergence, in case you don't know, is the ability of the set to land all the colours in the same place. A white teletext character in certain parts of the screen may have a coloured tinge to one it sides, if so this is a convergence error. More than a 1mm coloured tinge on a white dot anywhere on the screen is usually considered to be too far out.
Purity is the ability of a set to give
perfect colours (in fact, land the correct beams on the tube's coloured
phosphors). If a bright coloured screen, such as all red, seems
to have purple or orange patches, this is a purity problem. It
can also often be seen on a bright white screen as a coloured hue to
one part of the picture. The
problem may go away if you switch the set off for 5 minutes and switch
again - the set has then had a chance to de-magnetise itself
(degauss). Many sets only do this when switched off at the mains
switch, but the Sony sets mentioned here will degauss themselves after
being in standby. The degauss circuit produces the familiar twang
sound when you switch the set on. Purity problems tend to show up
worst on bright red images, where
purple or green patches may be seen.
Sony KV-28FX65 television. Having spent many hours looking at TV sets in fine detail lately (oh how sad!), I have to say that the KV-28FX65 gives probably the best picture of any widescreen TV you can buy today. That is any TV, any price, any manufacturer, any size. However, be sure that you don't get one with a colour purity in the bottom left of the screen, since this seems to be a common problem with this type of tube. Also, the KV-28FX65 and larger 32 and 36 screen models, suffer from a ringing on the picture. This looks like a ghost to the right of the image, and it can be seen on all pictures, even teletext and the TV's own menus. This is a fault with the set design, and I will let you know how it can be cured when I've spoken to Sony about it. The older FX60 models do not suffer from this. The FX65 sets do come on a rather zany stand, which personally I hate, and it takes a lot of effort to put it together properly. Don't buy the 36FX65 because the convergence will be hopeless.
If you find the set continuously switching between widescreen and smart modes when you ware watching a DVD, use the normal menu to go into "Set up", "AV Preset", and then switch AUTO FORMAT "Off" for the input socket which you are using for the DVD player.
You may find a testcard is helpful for setting or checking the above picture settings.
I am able to record some testcards onto a Video-CD for this purpose (which will play on most DVD players), though strictly speaking this is an infringement of copyright. But I'll consider making the odd one for people who need this, for just a fiver each to cover materials, time and postage, or I can do an NTSC version for USA readers at $10. Email me if you need this, but don't tell the BBC! If I get any bother doing this, I'll simply not do do any and everyone will have to struggle along as best they can. While they will play on most DVD players, a few Sony and Panasonic and older models can't play CD-R's, and a very few DVD players can't play Video-CD's. I can now also record onto DVD so can to make up a DVD testcard disc, but this offers no real advantages apart from audio with the test cards.
Above is the 28FX65, sat upon its very odd stand.
What's the difference between an 28FX60 and an 28FX65? I've been asked this a few times, so I will give you the details: The FX60 model has a more conventional stand, more powerful audio, speaker sockets, digital comb filter (improves colour at edges in scenes), but a limited teletext memory. The FX65 boast a really excellent teletext memory which results in less waiting for pages, usually no waiting at all. There is a cosmetic change to the remote control; the FX60 has a nice joystick function, but I guess people didn't get on with that and the FX65 has plain old buttons for moving around the menus. The FX65 has four video inputs whereas the FX60 has three, the S-Video is shared with one of the SCART sockets on the FX60. There is little to choose between them, and if you can buy the older FX60 model, it is still well worth considering.
Incidentally, these sets support a sort of suped-up European teletext system call NextView. If you feed the set with an appropriate signal, you may be able to call up a menu similar to this:
On top of the Sony TV is anEltax HT-2 centre channel speaker. A fine sounding unit at a budget price, it sounds as good on music as speech. I use it with the grille on, because unlike some speakers, the grille does not seem to adversely affect the sound quality. It is also not an unreasonable size, and is magnetically shielded. Needless to say, it's another purchase from Richer Sounds.
The Sanyo VTC-M40 is partly covered in my Beta (Betamax) page. Sanyo has always made good video recorders and this is no exception. This was the top of the range Beta Hifi stereo recorder, and they are quite sought after now. If the heads wear out there is a problem because there are almost certainly none left in the UK now. Slight head wear can give a problem with white flashes (dropouts) and this can be compensated for by a slight tweak to the D.O.C (Drop Out Compensator) control inside the unit (towards the back). Mechanically the reel idler and belts wear, but these are trivial to change and easily available. The rest of the machine is built like a battleship and probably will last forever. The picture quality is hard to match, and still will outperform anything with the dreaded VHS logo on it. Sound quality is usually excellent, but as with early VHS HiFi video recorders, playing tapes recorded on different machines may give less than perfect results, due to having only linear tracking control rather than the digital tracking fitted to the Philips machine above. The facilities on this video are very good, the timer is a joy to use, albeit not operable from the remote control. My only complaint with this video recorder would be that mechanically it is a bit noisy, as with many Sanyo Beta machines, so the HiFi sound may be thwarted somewhat by the noise of the mechanism itself. It you have a perfect example of one of these machines (like mine), you can name your price if it comes to selling it - a collector would part with real money for one of these, one having sold on Ebay for over £300. Incidentally, Macrovision anti-copy signals get defeated here too, because they only affect VHS machines. See my extras page for information on how to service a Sanyo Beta video recorder.
For the back room, a Sony CHC-CL5MD midi system comes in very handy. This unit includes a three CD autochanger which can play CD-R and CD-RW disks and supports CD-Text. It can then put such recordings onto MiniDisc complete with the track titles so no more struggling to put the names on, and do so at high speed. It's ideal for getting music files from the computer to MD, and I can then re-use the CD-RW disks. The MD recorder not only boasts the usual tricks such as a time machine for recording from the radio and not missing the start of a track, but also has more modern features such as MD-LP for long recordings, and the ability to change recording levels (also start/end fading) after a recording has been made. The tuner includes RDS, there's a auto-reverse tape deck included really for backward compatibility but has music search and can record from CD without cutting a track in half when swapping sides. There's a timer, and then a 50W RMS per channel amplifier which even has a cooling fan. Connectors include audio in, optical in, and PC remote control link so you can just drag and drop music files onto MD from your PC, using an expensive optional extra interface. A couple of rather average speakers finish off the package.
If I have to fault this unit, and it's hard, it is a pity the clock doesn't set from RDS, the tape deck lacks Dolby and high position tape recording (but why use tape when you've got MD anyway?), and the speaker cables were short and thin. I replaced the wires with some 79-strand quality speaker cable. I really have just one problem with this piece of equipment: I bought this brand new from Maplin for just £190, where's the profit for Sony?
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