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Home Theater/external TV speakers


QUESTION: Hi Bobbert,

I have HD Direct TV and a 2012 Panasonic HD TV model TC-P65VT50.  The Direct TV remote is programmed to control the TV on/off and volume along with the Direct TV box.  I would like to add external speakers and an amplifier and have the Direct TV remote also control the volume of the external speakers and turn the amplifier on/off along with the TV and Direct TV box (without having to change the slider on the Direct TV remote (AV1, AV2, TV). The TV has VIERA LINK, which, if I understand correctly, is Panasonic's name for HDMI-CEC.  The TV is connected to the Direct TV box with a high speed HDMI cable.  The only audio out on the TV is optical.  The TV has one HDMI-ARC In connector.

I generally understand that if I get an amplifier with HDMI-CEC then it will turn on/off with the TV and that the TV's remote will control the volume on the amplifier (the external speakers#.  Please confirm this is correct and then....

Since the HDMI-CEC receiver links to the TV, and the TV is already linked to the Direct TV box, would all three turn on/off with the push of one button on the Direct TV remote, and would the Direct TV remote control the external speaker volume without having to change the input slider on the Direct TV remote #AV1, AV2, TV)?  If this would work, great.  If not, could you please explain why and offer any solutions that would work -- hopefully without having to use multiple remotes or having to change the control settings on a remote.

Meanwhile, any suggestions on things to look for on a 5.1 surround amplifier, speakers, and/or system.

Thanks so much for your help!

ANSWER: You are correct that VieraLink is Panasonic's branding for HDMI-CEC, however HDMI-CEC does not work as perfectly as described (unfortunately). In general, it can send remote codes between devices, assuming the devices detect one another and work properly (so your best bet would be another Panasonic component, but this seriously limits your options for a surround sound system). Regarding using the DirectTV remote in this manner - I'm going to guess that it likely wouldn't work as plug-n-play as you're hoping (there's an old saying in computer hardware: "plug and pray" - and that's still unfortunately the case for a lot of CE equipment).

My best advice would be to establish a budget and more fleshed out requirements for the surround system (e.g. how large is your room, what kinds of other features do you want, how complex can it be, how large can the speakers be, etc), and purchase an appropriate system that fits those requirements (and I can help with the hardware selection component of this process). Then, I would forego using the DirectTV remote (along with the other OEM remotes), and invest in a competent universal remote (I'd suggest the Logitech Harmony, as they're very easy to program, very easy to update, and very easy to use); this will dramatically simplify your system and "un-chain" you from a given hardware solution (like the DirecTV system). It will also make future expansion much easier.


---------- FOLLOW-UP ----------


Thanks so much for your response! I've since bought a Denon AVR-1913 receiver and a 5.1 set of Pioneer speakers SP-PK52FS.  These seem to work well in in my 14 X 20 FT living room, but I have a couple of follow-up questions below to help me along.

Basic routing is Direct TV Receiver to Denon via HS HDMI and Denon ARC to TV ARC via HS HDMI.  With this setup and using only the Direct TV remote, I can:
1. Control the volume of the Denon
2. Turn off all three components with one push of one button.
3. Turn on the Direct TV Receiver and the TV with one push of one button.
4. Turn on the Denon by moving the slider to AV1 and pushing the PWR button (then moving the slider back).
5. I still have to use the TV remote to make other adjustments like change the picture ratio or select a picture setting #standard, cinema, game, etc. And I still have to use the Denon remote to select the type of surround audio (movie, stereo, etc.)
6. The TV speakers are auto off with the Denon on and auto on with the Denon off.

If I understand the CEC process correctly, the Denon automatically turns off because it no longer detects the TV when it turns off.  If this is so, curious why it would not also turn on when it again detects than the TV is on.  Alas, it seems that, unless I want to continue moving the slider to AV1 to turn on the Denon, I'll be shopping for one of those Harmony remotes....:)

If I understand ARC correctly, it allows audio to flow back from the TV to the Denon so, for example, I can play Utube via the TV internet connection and have the audio play through the Denon/surround sound speakers.  Seems to work well!

Meanwhile, a couple of follow-up questions:

1. What is a reasonable operating temperature for the Denon AV Receiver and how do I measure it?  The reason I ask is:
a. I checked it sitting in the open with ambient at 72 deg F and got a reading of 96 with the probe about one sixteenth inch above the top of the Denon case and 86 with the probe about two inches above the case.
b. I checked it again inside my open-faced TV stand/credenza. The space allows about two inches on each side and about three inches on top and behind the Denon. The reading here was about 99 deg F one sixteenth above the Denon case and about 98 two inches above the Denon case.  At these readings, the top of the Denon feels just warm, certainly not so warm I couldn't keep my hand on it indefinitely.
c. One internet site indicated nothing above 85 deg F is acceptable, but didn't indicate where the probe should be for this reading.
d. Another site indicated if the case was just warm to the touch then that was OK.
e. Other sites discussed shortened life span of capacitors at higher temps, housing fans, and on, and on, and on.
So, what's the real deal?  Am I good to go, or should I be looking at options?

2. My sub woofer (Pioneer SW-8MK2) has these features:
Line in, left and right RCA plugs
High level in, separate speaker wire connections
Frequency knob 40 - 150 Hz
Volume knob
Standby/auto/on switch
Phase switch 0 - 180 .
The Denon has a separate, single RCA (LRF) sub woofer out and says to connect it to the Left RCA plug on the sub woofer,set the volume knob on the sub woofer to fifty percent and set the power switch to Auto.  So that's what I did. There was no reference in the Denon instructions to the frequency knob or the phase switch on the sub woofer, so I set the frequency knob to half way (55)and the phase switch to zero.
I used the Denon auto setup feature for the speakers and the sub woofer seems to be working OK, but I'm not sure if I need to make any other adjustments.  And, I thought I read somewhere that all the controls on the sub woofer are bypassed when connected with the single LRF cable, but I'm not at all sure about that.  So, what's the real deal....are they really bypassed, or do I need to adjust them and if so, what do I need to do and how do I go about it?  Also, is there any benefits to using the speaker wire setup instead the LRF cable setup and if so, what are they?

3. Speaking of those universal Harmony remotes, aside from having everything go on and off, etc., do they have separate buttons to do things like select audio setting (stereo, movie), select screen ratio, select picture quality (standard, cinema, etc), and so on?  I looked at a couple of them on Amazon but didn't see any details like that.

Thanks so much for your help.  I really appreciate it!

It's really good to hear about CEC working for people. I'm quite glad that everything plugged up and worked as it should for you!

Regarding why the Denon doesn't turn back on - that feature probably isn't implemented somewhere in the device's code; it's basically a quirk and I'm doubtful it can be "resolved." You may try contacting Denon and seeing if a firmware update might address the concern (or suggesting the feature get put on the map for future updates), but I'd honestly be "happy" with things working as they should as things are now. The lack of more advanced features is one of the limitations of CEC (even with everything working "right" you won't have all of the extra features you've mentioned).

You are correct about ARC - and that is how it should work (and it generally does work as advertised). You may need to check audio output options on the TV to ensure that it is enabled, but (again, "should" and "in theory") it should auto-detect and configure when connected to compatible devices.

Regarding operating temperature - I'd refer to the user manual for proper installation clearance (generally this is near the front of the manual, and specifies how close the receiver can sit to boundaries (like walls or cabinets)). Generally modern receivers will run warm to the touch, but should not run "hot" - at around 100* F I'm not really worried. It may shorten the life-cycle of the product, but we're talking many years down the road. As long as you've provided appropriate clearance and aren't running the unit in a room that is too hot for it (generally consumer devices suggest not operating them in ambient temperatures >95* F; this means your room's temperature, not the device itself). If the unit isn't going into "protect" mode or similar, I wouldn't be overly worried about this.

On the sub connections - the LFE (it stands for "Low Frequency Effects") connection from the Denon to the receiver will bypass the crossover control (that's the frequency control), but not the volume/gain or phase controls. The crossover control would be used with the high-level inputs - it allows you to set where the subwoofer "comes in" to the signal; setting it higher requires the subwoofer to handle a broader range of frequencies, and as it moves into higher frequencies (not that 150Hz is high frequency) it becomes easier to localize (generally frequencies below 80Hz are considered "omni-directional" or "non-localizable" - meaning your brain cannot figure out where they're coming from; this is what you want with a subwoofer, as it's meant to re-enforce five (or seven) individual channels, that are located in different places). With the LFE connection, the Denon handles setting that crossover point based on the automatic configuration.

The volume control simply adjusts how "hot" or "loud" the subwoofer is to run - it doesn't over-ride the volume control on the Denon (and is more or less a set-and-forget kind of thing); set it to a level that allows the subwoofer to be heard in the room, but not so high that the subwoofer overpowers the presentation. Of course this is further complicated by the Denon being able to adjust the output level to the subwoofer via the LFE output (which it should have done during the auto-configuration); my advice would be to follow the Denon manual in this respect, and as long as the subwoofer doesn't seem overpowering (bass is too boomy) or underpowering (bass is too thin), you should be set. It's more of a preference setting than anything.

Phase is more complex - basically what the switch lets you do is choose whether the subwoofer sees the signal from the Denon "straight" or "inverted" (180* is inverted); for the majority of set-ups, 0* is going to be appropriate, but you can try 180* and see what you think (just play some bassy music with the subwoofer engaged, and then try it again with the switch changed to 180*). Usually this is more important to adjust in setups with multiple subwoofers, but you may find some sonic improvements with the switch set to 180*.

Regarding using the high-level connections - some subwoofer makers suggest this as opposed to the LFE connection (Rel is very vocal about this, for example), others do not. On one level it's a personal preference choice (in principle it shouldn't make a sonic difference), but on another there's some pragmatic considerations (you need more speaker wire, for example). If everything is working to your satisfaction via the LFE connection, that's how I would leave things.

Regarding the Harmony remotes - they will provide all of your "basic" controls (transport controls, volume/channel tuning, etc) and also give you the option to add in custom buttons via the touch-screen (which would let you do things like adjust the TV's aspect ratio setting, or change surround modes on the Denon) - basically any feature that exists on the factory remotes, the Harmony remote can replicate, and it can replicate them from a common UI (in the Harmony "parlance" that would be "Activity"). For example you might have an "Activity" set-up to watch television via DirecTV, and the Harmony could:

- Control volume via the Denon
- Change channel via the DirecTV box
- Change aspect ratio via the TV
- Change surround mode via the Denon

There are other universal remotes out there with similar end-user functionality (Sony and Universal Remote (yes that's really the company's name) come to mind); but they are generally much less user-friendly to program (for example most of the nicer Universal Remote models generally require a professional installer to configure properly). This isn't to say that Harmony is as fool-proof as the advertisements make it out to be; expect to spend an hour or so getting everything set-up exactly as you want it, but once it's configured, it should replace all of your existing remotes quite easily.


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