DVDs or Satellite TV or Cable TV – HDTV Over the Air/OTA?
There is a wide variety of programming and sources to consider when designing your Home Theater System. You will want at least a good quality progressive scan with component video output DVD player for the heart of your HT system. You will also want a source for HDTV programming. Your high-definition TV reception can come in the form of an Over-The-Air Set-Top Box (OTA STB) or OTA Receiver which can either be a standalone set-top receiver such as the popular models from Samsung and LG or one of the hybrid satellite TV/OTA receivers available from DirecTV or Dishnet. I also recommend that you invest in a PVR or DVR – they are fantastic ways to “time-shift” and save programming. PVRs and DVRs come in HD models as well. The final source covered in this section is Digital Cable – the only cable delivery system I recommend with some reservations noted below.
A real GOOD quality DVD player for the essence of Home Cinema
DVD players have been available for years now yet some folks have yet to adopt the technology. You will need a good DVD player as a basis for your home theater.
VHS players were great in their day but that day has long passed. No VHS format – saving the esoteric D-VHS – can match the clarity of DVD technology. The simplicity of operation of DVD players far outweighs VHS decks as well. And the new generation of Blu-Ray players offer even greater resolution, picture clarity and accurate image realism. Many new Blu-ray players are now including internet applications such as Netflix streaming and Hulu as an added bonus to spectacular image reproduction. Blu-ray won the HD Disc Format War but some BD players have yet to mature – Panasonic players are the best to date.
What should you look for when purchasing your DVD player? You will at the very least want a model with progressive scan, component video out and digital audio out. You may also want an up-converting, HDMI equipped model for better SD to HD picture quality and easier connection with HDMI equipped display devices and audio/video receivers. Price-wise you can get a decent basic DVD player with the essential features (sans HDMI and up-conversion) nowadays for well under $100 basically at any electronics or department store. HDMI, up-conversion and the HD/Blu-Ray models are respectively higher priced as well.
A “Wide Receiver” – The HDTV Solution
Along with your DVD player a good over the air (OTA) HDTV receiver should be your second investment.
I would advise that you “kill two birds with one stone” by getting a Satellite TV unit that also receives HDTV OTA signals. Units such as the Dish Network 6000 receiver can be found relatively inexpensively on eBay. Even if you do not subscribe to DishNet’s fine programming the 6000 model receiver, if equipped with an 8VSB module, will receive OTA local HDTV and digital programming from your local broadcast stations as long as the receiver is connected to a satellite dish that is locked on a Dishnet signal. Therefore – Satellite TV should be your second choice when it comes to DVDs or Satellite TV or Cable TV.
High Definition Over The Air Receivers
Most areas of the U.S. are currently being served by broadcast stations that transmit high definition signals concurrently with their regular signal. If your high definition TV does not come equipped with a receiver (as many earlier models did not and were labeled as “HD Ready”) you will need a set-top receiver box in order to take advantage of the HD digital over the air (OTA) broadcast channels available for free in your area. If you do not have a satellite dish as suggested above, there are several manufacturers of Set Top Boxes (STBs) currently offering equipment with a variety of conveniences and features.
PVRs – Personal Video Recorders – “Can’t live without ’em”
Not exactly the greatest thing since sliced bread – but darn close – PVRs (or DVRs) are the ultimate in convenience for regular TV viewing. Featuring digital recording of programs to an internal hard drive and coupled with an intuitive, user friendly on-screen program guide PVRs mean no more VHS tapes or complicated program timer settings to deal with. Programs can be recorded simply by highlighting the desired program to record an pressing the remote control’s record button. Additionally the PVRs “pause” feature means you can pause a show, got to get a snack or answer the phone, and when you’re ready – resume viewing while not missing anything. So when you’re deciding between DVDs or Satellite TV or Cable TV – you may also want to add a PVR or DVR to digitally record your media.
Cable TV – If it’s not Digital it’s not snot!
Yes indeed – that’s the way I feel about cable TV. Among the choices for DVDs or Satellite TV or Cable TV – analog cable is absolutely the worst signal available for your home entertainment system. The signals from most analog systems are unbalanced, grainy and uneven from channel to channel. Unless you are right next door to or just around the corner from your cable provider you can expect to have poor signal quality. You may as well have a coathanger and aluminum foil hanging off the back of your set. Well – OK I exaggerate a bit – but unless you have no other viable option I would recommend that you avoid analog cable.
Digital cable on the other hand is much better and can rival the quality of satellite TV. However once again – many cable providers have to compress the signal so much to squeeze as many channels as possible into the available bandwidth that the picture quality – while not snowy – exhibits an unnaceptable amount of digital artifacts.
In conclusion when it comes to a choice between DVDs or Satellite TV or Cable TV for your Home Theater – the order of preference is clearly the same as the title of this page. Get a good quality, progressive scan, component video DVD player for movie viewing and a hybrid OTA HDTV/satellite TV receiver for regular viewing and you will be glad you did.