Upgrading the home entertainment system
The day when I will finally move into my new flat is coming closer and closer (expect some pictures as soon as the people currently living there have moved out).
Besides thinking about outdated and yet necessary stuff like furniture, I’m also thinking about my home entertainment solution which currently mostly consists of a Windows MCE computer (terra) and my GameCube (to be replaced with a Wii for sure).
The first task was to create distance.
Distance between the video source and the projector. Currently, that’s handled simply by having the MCE connected to the projector via VGA (I’d prefer DVI, but the DVI output is taken by my 23″ cinema display I) and the GC, the PS2 and the XBox360 via composite to my receiver and the receiver via composite to the projector.
The distance between the projector and the receiver/MCE is currently about three meters tops, so no challenge there.
With a larger flat and a ceiling mounted projector, interesting problems arise distance-wise though: I’m going to need at least 20 meters of signal cable between receiver and projector – more than what VGA, DVI or even HDMI are specified for.
My solution in that department was the HDMI CAT-5 Extreme by Gefen. It’s a device which allows sending HDMI signals over two normal ethernet cables (shielded preferred) and reaching up to 60 meters of distance.
Additionally, CAT-5 cables are lighter, easier to bend and much easier to hide than HDMI or even DVI cables.
Now, terra only has a DVI and VGA out. This is a minor problem though as HDMI is basically DVI plus audio, so it’s very easy to convert a DVI signal into a HDMI one – it’s just a matter of connecting pins on one side with pins on the other side – no electronics needed there.
So with the HDMI CAT-5 Extreme and a DVI2HDMI adaptor, I can connect terra to the projector. All well, with one little problem: I can’t easily connect the GameCube or the other consoles any more: Connecting them directly to the projector is no option as it’s ceiling mounted.
Connecting them to my existing receiver isn’t a solution either as it doesn’t support HDMI, putting me into the existing distance problem yet again.
While I could probably use a very good component cable to transport the signal over (it’s after all an analog signal), it would mean I have three cables going from the receiver/MCE combo to the projector: Two for the HDMI extender and one big fat component cable.
Three cables to hide and a solution at the end of its life span anyways? Not with me! Not considering I’m moving into the flat of my dreams.
It looks like I’m going to need a new receiver.
After looking around a bit, it looks like the DENON AVR-4306 is the solution for me.
It can upconvert (and is said to do so in excellent quality) any analog signal to HDMI with a resolution of up to 1080i which is more than enough for my projector.
It’s also said to provide excellent sound quality and – for my geek heart’s delight – it’s completely remote-controllable over a telnet interface via its built-in ethernet port – even bidirectional: The – documented – protocol provides events on the line when operating conditions change by different events, like the user changing the volume on the device.
This way, I can have all sources connected to the receiver and the receiver itself connected to the projector over the CAT-5 Extreme. Problems solved and considering how many input sources and formats the denon supports, it’s even quite future-proof.
I’ve already ordered the HDMI extender and I’m certainly going to have a long, deep look into that Denon thing. I’m not ready to order just yet though: It’s not exactly cheap and while I’m quite certain to eventually buy it, the price may just fall down a little bit until November 15th when I’m (hopefully) moving into my new home.