Video and Audio Center Blog



Thursday, December 31, 2015

CHECK THE HDMI CABLES TO ENSURE A GREAT PICTURE



The end of the year is a great time to check on that favorite friend who has given you so much enjoyment over the last 12 months — your TV. But that also means checking that there hasn’t been any problems developed over the course of the year that has caused, or could cause problems or degrade the quality of the picture that you’ve been watching. And if you’ve gotten yourself a new TV — 4K or Curved or OLED or HDTV — it might seem a simple matter to just use the existing cables as they are to connect everything. But that might not be such a good idea because it’s the little things that can make the most impact.

So it’s time to take a good, hard look at the HDMI cables that are being used or you will be using. We all know  how great these cables are — they combine a picture and audio together so there’s no need for two separate cables — and they all look the same on the outside. They also all fit into their receptacles (ports) in the same manner; relying on friction to hold them in place because there’s no secure locking mechanism in place on them. So there’s no guarantee that the HDMI cable will stay in the device it’s been attached to. And since these cables fit into the back of the TV or Blu-ray player or cable box, etc. — that also means they can be easily pulled out inadvertently by the owner moving some equipment around or even just over time.

So lets look at what can be done to ensure that the HDMI cables are doing the best job they can.

HDMI CABLES AREN’T ALL THE SAME

HDMI first became a choice to use when HDTVs appeared. But since then there’s been 3D added to the mix and of course now 4K high-resolution. Using a current HDMI cable is necessary because it will be valid to use with all that is now going on and will be going on moving forward. Using old HDMI cables, even if they were originally given as free, can mean that the video signal traveling through isn’t as stable or intense as needed. Better to get new cables — high-speed cables are easily available and in various sizes from as minimal as 3 feet on up to 12 feet. The cables even offer some color styling as well, and in varying colors too.

ANGLING FOR A BETTER CONNECTION

The one thing that is guaranteed with a HDMI cable is that it will eventually be pulled out of the port it’s been put into should there be any tension brought against it. That’s because of the lack of a locking mechanism as noted above (and the effect of gravity bearing down on the cable). A simple and very effective solution is to use gravity to your advantage by changing the orientation of the HDMI cable. This can be done with an adapter that goes into the port that the HDMI cable normally would, with the HDMI cable going then into the adapter. But the adapter isn’t straightforward and that is its charm: it’s made on a right angle principle so that the HDMI cable that’s connected to it is pointed straight down. There’s that use of gravity. This also makes it far easier to remove or insert an HDMI cable and protects the port on the TV or device (for example, an A/V Receiver) from getting damaged from being overworked.


Sometimes the easiest solutions are the best and when it comes to watching on one of today’s new TVs, the HDMI cable is just a pittance of the cost but can affect the picture without one even knowing it. Short of having a professional installer, for example Just One Touch, coming in to set up everything for you (an excellent choice when deciding to build a home theater around your new purchase), making sure the HDMI cables are good is something that anyone can do.

Tuesday, December 15, 2015

UPGRADE YOUR AUDIO SYSTEM



When was the last time you watched a movie with the sound turned off? No matter how big or splendid the TV picture is — without sound there’s just no enjoying it. And because today’s BIG SCREEN TVs are now so thin and svelte, there’s just not the room for including big speakers that can provide big sound to accompany the big picture.

That’s why it’s way past time to upgrade your audio system. Besides the obvious enjoyment of having greater volume and surround sound effects, listening to music becomes an event, not a tiny sound coming from a portable speaker or a smartphone.

The basics needed for a home audio system are simple, but making choices as to which components will best serve your needs will take time and effort. As will placing them correctly in your living room, den or wherever that 4K TV or HDTV has been placed. That’s why many forego the route of the Do-It-Youselfer and have a professional installer like Just One Touch take over: they not only have the knowledge as to what will give you the best possible sound, but also as to how to place the audio system so that it performs at its best.

So here are the basics that will transform whatever room you’re watching in — as it makes your home theater experience as good as going to the movies. Just without having to pay those insane prices for a candy bar and soda.


The A/V Receiver

An Audio/Video Receiver (named as such due to receivers having added video capabilities some time back) provides the means for powering the speakers that the home theater needs. As the “hub” of all the components, the receiver decodes the audio formats, like Dolby Digital and DTS (as well as even newer audio technologies like Dolby Atmos and others) and amplifies the audio signal so that it can drive the various speakers that provide surround sound. There are many added benefits found in different AV Receivers, but providing for multiple speakers is always the main concern — be that a 5.1 system (meaning a front left, front right, center channel and pair of surrounds along with a powered subwoofer) or 7.1 or even greater.

Additionally, the receiver can be used as a “video switcher” — this works by having the various video components (such as a Blu-ray player, a cable box, etc.) sending their video signal into the receiver. Then a single output cable goes from the receiver into the TV or front projector. This also has the advantage of sending the multichannel audio into the receiver, provided that the cable being used between the video device and receiver is an HDMI cable.  
The Speakers

A set of speakers provide sound for the  home theater. A pair of left and right speakers are the basics, good for playing stereo from a CD or a vinyl turntable or even a digital file. But to enhance the sound, a center speaker (a.k.a. center channel) will highlight dialogue and voices. Then added to that will be a pair of surround speakers (left and right) to allow for the surround effects that make movies so exciting. A subwoofer in the corner (self-powered) joins in to add the strong bass that makes action movies so dynamic. More speakers can be added too, especially if the sound format calls for them, but the 5.1 audio system is the basic setup needed for a home theater to sound good. Not that there are not alternates that can be used — for example, a speaker bar sound system. Here you have a number of speakers contained in a single unit, with surround speakers and a subwoofer often part of the package as well (and in some cases working wirelessly too). 


The Hardware
Amplifiers and speakers and other components can’t be left on the floor — they all need to be properly positioned not just so that they can perform their tasks correctly, but so they are safe for those watching to be around. So that’s why speaker stands and TV cabinets and other furniture and special devices are needed. That’s also where a professional installer can excel: helping to place those elements of the home theater safely and ubiquitously.

A home theater needs a great audio system just as it needs a great TV. Careful planning and patience will serve you well as you work on upgrading your audio system.

Friday, October 23, 2015

THE VILLAGE AT WESTFIELD TOPANGA SUPERSTORE HOSTS THE BIGGEST GRAND OPENING OF THEM ALL!


The Grand Opening of the new all-digital, all-touch Superstore was a monumental occasion not just for those who attended, but for all who now have a location for the latest TVs, audio equipment, mobile, wearables, drones and electronics. That’s because the top consumer electronic companies making the most exciting products bring their wares to the store for all to see. And seeing is believing — especially when knowledgeable personnel are there to assist.

The Grand Opening was kicked off by Tom Campbell, Corporate Director and spokesperson, who led the introductions by introducing luminaries from the Consumer Electronics world — notables whose presence bespoke the importance of what the store is housing. There was Mike Fasulo, President and COO, Sony Electronics, and Tim Alessi, Director, New product development, LG Electronics and George Madrigal, Director of Sales and Marketing, Samsung Electronics and Head Monster CEO Noel Lee among others. Also present, and representing the “content” side of things was Mike Dunn, President, 20th Century Fox Home Entertainment.

This was followed by a presentation by the local Chamber of Commerce and a ribbon cutting ceremony with one VERY big pair of scissors!

Presiding over all this were the co-owners of Video & Audio Center, Joseph Akhtarzad and Mayer Akhtarzad. It was pointed out that it was the vision of these two that enabled this latest Superstore to not just come to fruition, but to be enabled in such a fashion that is so inviting to the consumer looking for the latest and best technologies for their homes and cars and pockets. This is not a store where you stand back against a wall — instead it’s designed so that the consumer can get up close and personal. And for those looking for help in having the best electronics for their home, Just One Touch, Video & Audio Center’s In-House Custom Installation Division was right there to help too.

To aid those visiting, interactive demo stations dot the store’s interior — calling attention to the first appearances of the world's first 105-inch panoramic 5K HDTV which comes with a stunning 21 x 9 aspect ratio, the worlds thinnest 4K 75-inch HDTV and new curved and flat OLED 4K with HDR (High Dynamic Range. Also front and center, and floating in a tub of water was the Monster 24K BackFloat — the quality of sound of this portable Bluetooth speaker was just as impressive as its total waterproof abilities. Also presented for the first time was the all-new Play 5:Sonos audio system to provide the finest in streaming sound.

Of course this doesn’t begin to catalog the impressive total of products that dotted the store — and amidst the trailers for the new James Bond movie, SPECTRE, blazing forth on 4K TVs with blinding brilliance and detail to Neato Robotics new Robot cleaning technology — there was so much to see and do that the only sane choice is to come back again another day. That is a great solution to anyone who wasn’t able to attend the Grand Opening as well — because The Village at Westfield Topanga, like all of the Superstores, is open every day. 
 

Friday, October 16, 2015

GETING EXCITED ABOUT THE UPCOMING VIDEO & AUDIO CENTER SUPERSTORE GRAND OPENING OCT 22ND


Everybody laments the past and praises the present at least when it comes to electronic devices. And theres no denying that TVs today are infinitely better than the old tube-models of the past. But where can you see the latest models be they 4K TVs, Curved TVs, Android TVs, OLED TVs when theyre at best placed in stores where its up to you to read what theyre all about on placards written by folks who have no idea what they are talking about?

Thats why a Grand Opening Event is so exciting because its a chance not just to see the latest and greatest electronics of so many kinds, but also stand amidst personnel who know what they are talking about who know the questions you are asking and can answer them for you with precision and detail and a depth of knowledge that is so rare to find today. And if the makers of the tech (TV and otherwise) are there to answer questions, well then you dont have to worry that youre not going to get the answers you need to make the choices you want to make.
So now that youre excited about all this, where do you go? To the Grand Opening for the latest Superstore The Village at Westfield Topanga, thats where. Its on Oct 22nd but you need to RSVP first, so go ahead and click

Why do this? Because its such a big event that youre sure to see what youve been looking for when it comes to your home theater and lifestyle. Events often have special pricing on the latest tech and this event is no exception. Events like this also have prizes and giveaways that are just cool to see, to have, to tell others you got just because you were there.

Theres also nothing wrong with admitting that being able to enter a lottery or contest at an event means the possibility of winning something. But unlike those venues where a pen or set of coasters is as good as it gets, at a Grand Opening like the one Video & Audio Center will be hosting Oct 22nd, theres the chance for winning a TV and not some old model that nobody would want, but a state-of-the-art HDTV that is worth buying in its own right. Only its free for the winner. And while its true that only one person can win, if the event offers this prize hourly rather than just once as is the case with this Grand Opening Event this gives you much better odds. But the real good thing about all this is that if you win, youre getting something that you can not only use but which will bring a quality result to your home theater (i.e., its worth having and definitely worth watching).

And okay, lets admit it when theres food and drink provided gratis (as in free), which is the case with this event, well thats just pleasant all around, right?

Last but not least, attending a Grand Opening can be just plain fun watching a worldwide press conference, seeing a Ribbon Cutting ceremony and hanging out while being surrounded by the latest and greatest TVs and electronic devices, drones and wearables all this giving you a chance to get up close and personal with them (try doing that on a smartphone or web browser!). Thats why it makes sense to RSVP for an event as HUGE as The Village at Westfield Topangas Oct 22nd event will be.

Friday, October 09, 2015

POWERING YOUR HOME THEATER



Having a home theater isnt about just aggregating a whole slew of electronics in one place. The total environment that is to be created should be pleasant to the eye and ear, as well as physically comfortable to those who will be seated in front of it. But the hidden reality that few think about is the electricity that the various components must consume and what this means to their workings and longevity. Understanding the issues involved, as well as how to combat/deal with them will help to make your home theater perform at its best. For those who want the safest and most effective means, DIY should be replaced by that of professional installation services (for example, Just One Touch) who will be able to conform all thats needed for a particular home theater.


Beware The Grid

The electric grid has two major issues, one which cant be addressed at the source and the other which can. The one that cant be addressed is power drop-outs, also known as brown-outs or minute outages. What this means is that the electric power suddenly cuts out for a very minor amount of time, for example a 1/4th or 1/2 second. This is long enough to disengage those electrical devices like TVs and other which maintain a standby or always on status; in some cases causing the electronic device to reset itself (i.e., reboot/restart). Typical devices where this happens are cable modems and computers. The other issue related to this is that the return of the electricity hammers at the device think of it as the surging of the tide going out and then coming back in with a great force. Such ongoing events (as these minute outages can happen daily or even multiple times in a day), the result can be the shortening of the life of the electronics being affected.

But since no one can control the electricity coming into ones home (other than those using solar panels or other alternatives instead of the grid), the only solution here is to have an uninterruptible power supply (UPS). This device is basically a super-charged surge protector that incorporates a battery supply. The electronic device plugs into the UPS and gets its power from the UPS, while the UPS itself gets its power from the outlet. So when an outage occurs, the UPS continues to supply power to the device as if nothing has happened. Acquiring a UPS requires knowing how much power it needs to put out, as well as for how long it can deliver power when an outage occurs, should a more serious time-frame be needed for example, having an outage occur when a front projectors bulb gets immediately turned off without the normal shut-down cycling will negatively impact the life expectancy of the bulb (and projector bulb are costly).  Again, for those wanting the best results, going to a professional installer might make the most sense overall.


Beware The Interference

The other issue with electrical power is one that can be addressed at the source this is the issue of interference. That is to say radio frequency waves (RF) which by their very nature impact on the video and audio that is being watched and listened to. Video and audio interference can also come from an HDMI cable attached to an audio receiver or a Blu-ray player. So for example, having a cheap HDMI cable can fall prey to interference and so should be avoided. There are many types of quality HDMI cables available, and in varying lengths (although using the shortest length is always the best) which provide superior shielding against interference, This can be especially true when the HDMI cable is attached to a high-resolution 4K TV, which needs to be shielded so that it can provide the highest quality video picture it is capable of.  And the drive towards quality and reduction of interference should also be done as regards any speaker cables being used also.

But it is the electrical grid itself that is filled with interference. To avoid this from the source (i.e., before any device gets plugged in), the solution is to have a power conditioner. These electronic devices filter the AC so that it conforms to the needed amount that electronic devices need to consume, while removing the garbage that has come along for the ride. As with UPS devices, power conditioners are available on the open market, but a person looking to use this might find the services of a professional installer the least off-putting way to go about it.


Controlling the electricity that ones home theater consumes might seem a thankless and unnecessary task, but doing so will not just enhance the life of the TV and audio receiver and Blu-ray player and speakers, but enhance the picture and sound they present. 


Friday, September 25, 2015

NEW WAYS TO WATCH TELEVISION



Watching television is more than just fun it can be a real experience in which the whole family can take part in. Of course there are favorites for the parents that the kids dont care about (and vice versa), but the fact that the TV can be the focal point of the living room or wherever it is placed cant be denied. Maybe thats why so much attention is directed towards the TV whether its placed on a cabinet by the owner or mounted on the wall by a professional installer like Just One Touch. Getting so much attention is especially true now with big screen, high resolution TVs so readily accessible and affordable for everyone. Not to mention that they can be curved and specially designed (i.e., organic LED) too.

But what makes the TV work is the content that appears on the display. And until recently the only way to get that content has been to be locked into a subscription deal where you had to accept lots of other shows you didnt care about or were forced to moderate what you could see by how much you were willing to spend every month. Thats where a home network comes in because it lets the TV stream content to it and then display it. This is why TVs are so smart today, because they let you watch television shows without all the hassles that used to be the default.  Heres some examples of what we mean. 


Smart Apps

Almost every major TV manufacturer has apps that can be accessed from a menu: the so-called smart app features that are actually stand-alone programs hiding inside the TV. Up to now all of the apps that dealt with TV channels were little more than just clip shows and bits and pieces of television shows think of them as recaps, previews and teasers of actual TV shows.  But now there are new apps that dont do that they provide the same experience as would be found in turning a knob (to speak retro) from one channel to the other. And they do it through the Internet, streaming the content through the home network and into the television. These apps are highly appealing to the viewer because they function exactly like that of a regular channel. Are you a sports fan? Then the MLB (Major League Baseball) app will let you watch baseball games live. How about being a movie fan? Then HBO NOW will let you watch (for a fee of course) everything that the premium channel offers on the TV both present and past. But here its coming through the Internet, free of any subscription commitment (other than its own). And there are plenty of other TV channels, for example ShowTime, on their way to the TV too.


Streaming Television Channels

For some, watching television means being able to flip through the channels in real-time and watch whatever is on, on whatever channel the TV is displaying. But its now possible to avoid having to use a TV antenna or a satellite receiver or a cable box to watch live television - by that we mean the programs that appear on the TV day after day, 24/7. A number of systems for doing this are becoming available  Apple is to make their own version available sometime at the end of this year or into early next but one that is now  out there comes from Sony and is called PlayStation Vue. It works through a PlayStation 3 or 4 game console. If youre in an area of the country that Sony makes available (such as Los Angeles or Philadelphia), then you can stream live television channels from both the broadcast side of things (i.e., ABC, NBC, CBS, etc.) or from the cable side of things (CNN, Cartoon Network, Fox News, etc.). Sony also provides DVR (digital video recording) capabilities as well as all of the features expected and provided through the TV: the console being a TV tuner for all practical purposes and allowing the programs to be watched on a high resolution, big screen TV. Among others, there is also the CBS All Access, which streams live programming from local channels as well as past seasons of current shows and thousands of classic series.

Watching television is about more than just the content, its about the pleasure of watching shows that grab and hold your attention. A big part of that is because the TV screen is so much bigger and higher in detail than any mobile device can ever be. Who says theres nothing good to watch everything is good to watch when you have a great TV to watch it on!


Friday, September 11, 2015

IMPROVE YOUR TV PICTURE


Getting a new TV is pretty exciting especially with all the choices there are today for 4K TVs and Curved TVs and HDTVs and the various operating systems they now are using, for example Android TV. But at the heart of things, no matter whether you get a moderate sized TV or a big screen TV, its all about the picture and how good it looks to you when you sit down to watch it.


There are two ways in which the TVs picture can be improved: the physical way which takes into account where and how its placed relative to the people watching, and the controls that the TV set itself has and which can be adjusted/fine tuned to suit the viewers preferences.

The physical way in which the TV is set up for watching is a topic for another time, but for those looking for the simplest and most productive means for this (including wall mounting of the TV, proper lighting, etc.), turning to a professional installer, for example Just One Touch, will not only be the easiest means to accomplish this but also the most efficient.

Now why should you bother in changing what the TV is displaying? Why not leave the picture as is? One reason is that there is always the chance that the TV has been set to its store display setting which can be an actual mode or just a setting that applies to this. This setting assumes the TV is on display in a store or a location where the lighting is fluorescent or overhead or with lots of glare and so drives up the contrast to compensate. Since excessive contrast can destroy detail, we dont want itor any of the factory settings that the TV has when its taken out of the box. The settings need to reflect the wishes of the owner.

So here we will concentrate on improving the TVs picture ourselves through judicious use of the controls that the TV itself provides (avoiding calibration devices which, again, are more useful when used by a professional, not to mention being costly). And theres no need to be alarmed that what you do might cause damage to the TV: check out the manual or on-display manual and you will find that theres a simple press or two to restore the TV to its factory default settings.

So set yourself up with the remote, sit down in front of the TV with the lighting of the room the way that it will normally be (i.e., some lighting or none, an open window reflecting light into the room or covered) and here we go.

THE BASICS
There are basic controls that, while simple and far from complex to execute, can make a huge difference in what the overall picture will look like. These consist of brightness and contrast, to give two examples that will definitely affect the picture. Setting a brightness level that doesnt cause eyestrain is a good first step, one where the image isnt being dwarfed by a nearby window, for example. Of course if you watch in low light or even a darkened room, then the level of brightness needed to be effective and efficient will be different.  Contrast also needs to be taken into account with care as noted above too much of it is deadly to the image. But the opposite is true also. All of this is true of the Sharpness and Motion features too theyre ones to use gingerly. Remember, youre the boss here


FIND THE MODE
TVs provide a variety of modes that affect the overall picture and have varied names: Cinema, Dynamic are among those found but a TV manufacturer might use its own name or add types of display altering modes that arent found on other TVs. In general, the Normal mode is a good place to start by looking at how rich (saturated) the colors appear when watching a TV show, and then looking more deeply into how the blacks look here too. There should also be a Black related mode setting that will affect the quality of the black this and other views are perceived and not technically measurable, so keeping a record of what you are changing and how (i.e., moving a measurement up 2 points or 10 or down 4) will help. All this doesnt really apply to playing games on the TV, where a gaming preset is most likely present to remove all digital processing that could cause slowdown onscreen.

Also try and use the same source material for your tests an example being to use a Blu-ray disc in a Blu-ray player of a TV show you are particularly found of or an action movie and so stay within the same boundaries of what is being seen. Since most TVs provide not only for saving changes you make (giving them a name or number so you can return to them at will), as well as letting you create your own, this means that you can differentiate between the best setting for watching TV shows versus watching movies (where black can play a huge difference in the overall quality as compared to a sitcom, etc.).
DIGITAL ENHANCEMENTS
Theres a wealth of digital features designed to enhance the picture some are turned on by default while others are not. Start by turning off all of these to get a baseline for how the picture looks, then add them back in one at a time while viewing how they are affecting the picture. Remember, if you dont like the results, you dont have to put up with it. Should the TV have built-in sensors that take ambient light into account, it might be wise to turn this off too so that the display wont change as you move through the various modes and enhancements. It can always be turned on afterwards and then checked to see how it now appears when compared to the settings that were in effect before.

Getting a new TV is exciting, but watching a great TV picture is even more so. Spend a few minutes with your new TV so that it reflects the best picture that you can enjoy, its a proven path to happiness!