Ceton InfiniTV 4 Multi-Tuner CableCard

Very recently I bought my wife a Hauppauge TV Tuner for mother’s day. I think we had talked about getting one before so we could downgrade our cable boxes from Verizon FIOS’ HD DVRs to their regular HD boxes, but admittedly when we got the tuner we didn’t even have cable.

That didn’t stop us from using it however and we installed it in a Windows 7 box using just a regular OTA antennae. And even though we didn’t end up recording too much with it (what’s their to record on regular TV anyway), we were blown away about how cool Windows Media Center is when it has a tuner to play with.

If you’re a home theater buff like myself, you will really marvel at how sleek, elegant and functional Windows Media Center is… Especially if it’s your first TV Tuner/Media solution.

Return of the Cable
So fast forward a couple months and cable has once again returned to our house along with its huge bill for renting their cable boxes. And if have cable and don’t think it’s a racket – YOU IZ CRAZY. I mean, I don’t have the numbers in front of me, but a Verizon FIOS HD DVR is probably something like $13/mo and a regular box has to be about $7 so every month I’m spending $20 extra to “rent” their equipment which I absolutely need to watch their programming! Again, it’s a racket.

And because of this I started looking for CableCard tuners. I heard about them a while ago through the AVS Forum but now doing some serious research, I was amazed to find that as much as these were lauded over, basically only 1 really exists in the ATI TV Wonder Digital Cable Tuner and you can’t find them anywhere except on eBay and then only if you’re lucky. I swear you can’t even buy them from ATI’s website! (And let’s not forget they usually sell for north of $200 too).

Enter the Ceton InfiniTV 4 Multi-Tuner CableCard
So if you haven’t heard, some company called Ceton has made a new card that looks like it’ll blow the ATI one out of the water. The Ceton InfiniTV 4 accepts one CableCard, allows you to view or record 4 channels at once, and view these programs all around your house! Do you realize how cool that is? So instead of me paying the $20 a month I am now, I can just do the Verizon FIOS CableCard rental of of a few bucks PLUS I can watch the programming on more TVs without having to pay any more to the man!

Ceton Infinity 4 Multi-Tuner CableCard

Now admittedly the card has a “high” price tag of $399 but I figure I’d make that up quick if I’m distributing the programming to 3 TVs like I’m going to. The only real problem now for me is that Ceton has delayed shipping the card (I think I heard because of a parts shortage) meaning that I’m going to have to hang in here with my high cable bill for a little while longer. But in any event I’m still way excited about it. Anything that helps me bring media into the house and reduce my monthly bill gets two thumbs up in my book.

My Precious Philips Prestigo 10 Remote Has Been Destroyed!

I knew it would happen eventually.

I knew at one point in my life, one of my kids would break, tear or otherwise destroy one of the possessions near and dear to my heart. And honestly I thought it was going to be one of my comic books, one of my 360 games, my Wii sensor bar… Something like that.

I even strategically built my home theater enclosure to minimize the risk that they would get this stuff putting my CD like media up at the top, the receiver below it (so they couldn’t change inputs while I played), and cable boxes below it.

But it appears it was all for naught because in one instant – They got hold of one of my wife’s hand weights, threw it, and completely broke my *sob* *sob* Phillips Prestigo 10 Remote!

“How do I… Get through one more night without you?”
If you happen to recall, I absolutely loved the Prestigo. It was what I had dreamed about for longer than I even knew. One remote to control everything… A beautiful color LCD screen… Big attractive buttons… And the price was just soooo good.

I put in the time too… I programmed all my devices including my cable box, projector, receiver, and blu-ray player. I had the macros set up so that I could push a button and turn everything off, or go quickly from watching TV to playing XBox. Now those days are far behind me and I’m left with a flickering, broken reminder of what my life used to be.

Picking Myself Up and Moving Forward
Fast forward a couple weeks later and I think I’ve finally started to get through the grieving process. THAT means that I’m ready to get a new remote. Only problem is, I don’t know which one to get. I COULD go with the replacement for my old hotness or I could kick it up and try something new. Problem is, I don’t really know what else is out there that’s not going to cost me a freakin’ arm and a leg. I mean… I’m not rich YET. (#);)

So anyone out there have any good suggestions?

My New Pioneer Receivers!

As I eluded to sometime ago, I’ve upped my home theater game in several different areas. The part that I did something about was my receiver.

I had been rocking the Pioneer VSX-D812-K and while it has been a “loyal friend and true” for quite sometime, not having HDMI inputs or decoding for HD audio was starting to grate on me a bit. Honestly though, I never really made up my mind to change up the receiver but while I was at Worst Buy, I happened upon a receiver that made me cock an eyebrow.

The Pioneer VSX-90TXV
So this receiver was sitting out on a table of “Manager’s Specials” and was listed at $323 I believe. Immediately, the look of it caught my eye as do most of the receivers in the Pioneer Elite lineup. And of course being me the first thing I do is turn it around so I can drool over the connections in the back. Certainly it puts my old receiver to shame but I still had enough restraint to do some research that night at home to check out what it decodes and what it can do. I won’t hit them all up here, but if you’re curious click the link to go to Pioneer’s VSX-90TXV stats.

Pioneer VSX-90TXV

Fast forward to the next day and I went back to Best Buy and basically fought off another customer to get the receiver. Needless to say, I was grinning from ear to ear thinking I got something that looked really attractive and was indeed really special. That is… UNTIL I hooked my stuff up to it including my 360 and projector… How about – I COULDN’T GET ANY SOUND OUT OF THE RECEIVER. What gives you may ask? Well after many many minutes of research on the big G and forums I found out that if this receiver doesn’t pull audio for HDMI connections, it just passes it through (to say your TV).

I found this out and was just ticked off. What’s the point of having a receiver with HDMI connections if it can’t parse the audio!? The manual says that if you want digital audio, you have to make ANOTHER connection using an optical cord or something… AND SO I needed to find a new receiver.

Enter the Pioneer VSX-1018AH-K!
Over on the AVS Forums, I found out that people who didn’t especially like the 90-TXV went over to the Pioneer VSX-1018AH-K. Sure it doesn’t look AS nice, but the features are really spectacular for its price point. (And I think I managed to snag it at $4-$500 w/ an employee discount). Again, hit the jump to check out all the VSX-1018AH-K specs but some highlights are HD Audio decoding, HDMI connections, and *drumroll* video upconversion!!! That last one is huge because I wasn’t feeling running tons of cables to my projector so being able to put everything through on ONE HDMI cord was pretty choice.

Pioneer VSX-1018-AH-K

Since hooking things up, I’ve been very happy with the receiver. Things look just great on it and sound even better. Unfortunately, I didn’t take in to account the fact that I live in a townhouse with slotted stairs… Yeah you guessed it, the sound just travels throughout the whole place COMPLETELY unabated. So.. If the wife is sleeping, I can’t crank it too much, but even when it’s on a little it sounds FAB U LOUS.

Introducing the Poor and Married Home Theater!

Not saying that I do it a lot, but when I find myself in a new place the first thing I have to do to feel at home is setup my home theater. So when I bought the new place, first on my list of priorities was to get my home theater stuff up and running!

But then it came to my attention (by way of some friendly wifely reminders) that apparently I was married and had a new kid on the way, so the home theater work became very hurried.

Still, I got SOMETHING done. (#):)

If I Could Start at the Beginning…
I bought my first home theater system from a box for about $300. It was a nice 5.1 system and thankfully the receiver that came with it wasn’t one of those cheap dvd/receiver combos. And over the years as better jobs have afforded me to do so, I’ve updated the system here in there a piece at a time. First it was the receiver that got the upgrade, and then it was the speakers. The last piece that was upgraded was changing my sub from an unpowered to a powered sub.

The Newest Upgrades
Well after moving into the house, I decided to give a big upgrade to two different components of my home theater system, one of which I had never upgraded before. The first one was the receiver. Even though my old one was just fine, it didn’t have HDMI inputs nor did it have support of HD Audio sources. The not having HDMI inputs anywhere has been KILLING me for a LONG long time. The second was, *drumroll* THE DISPLAY! And would you believe it?, I went with a projector! There were a lot of things that went into this decision and rest assured I’ll clue you in on them soon.

The Other Biggie
Not saying that it’s absolutely needed, but one of things that always intrigued me about so called “professional” home theaters was how they often had their audio components in a special place like a closet or something. And so, I went out to build myself my own home theater enclosure! And along the way for this part of the project, I learned a TON that will certainly serve me well in other like minded projects.

Coming Up
I purposefully have not provided much detail about anything here because as I wrote this post, I learned that a single post really couldn’t do any of the above subjects its due justice. So in the next couple of posts I’m hoping to really give some nice detail and pictures about all this stuff. To say it a different way, if you’re a fan of home theater and electronics, some good posts are coming your way! Stay tuned true believers!

Philips Prestigo 10 Home Theater Remote

I think my wife is an odd person when it comes to presents.

Personally, I like presents to be fun. If you’re gonna get me something, get me something that I’m not going to buy myself and that I’ll have fun using.

My wife on the other hand hates being given anything that she can’t use. Yep. She’s one of those people.

One of those people who likes “useful” gifts.

The Problem
So when mother’s day rolled around (what’s that, like two months ago now?) I was struggling to find a suitable present for her. Around the same time, I started to notice how much she was complaining about having to use 3 different remotes to turn on the TV. If you’ve been following this blog for a while you know that I’m a big home theater fan, so in my house for you to watch something on cable you need one remote to turn on the cable box, another for the TV, and another for the receiver. Depending on the situation you can use one remote and push a different input button to control a different device but that’s still a pain and you often can’t get all the devices under that one remote anyway. PLUS it’s a lock you can’t get all the functionality of those devices into that one remote anyhoo.

The Solution
Enter the Prestigo 10! I first saw this on woot.com and after seeing the price I knew that I had found my wife’s gift! What you have here is a very solid entry level home theater remote. Now stay with me – I know some of you are saying that you don’t have a home theater system, but if you have a couple components just think of this as one of the best universal remotes you can buy for the money.

What Makes This So Special
Oh where do I start!? I know, let’s look at my situation. Before the Prestigo, the wife had to use two or three different remotes to control the TV, Cable and Receiver. Now she uses one. And that one she uses – She’s not selecting the different inputs as she wants to use them. That’s to say when she presses the volume up, it ALWAYS controls the receiver. When she presses the channel up, it ALWAYS controls the cable box. And when she presses the input button, it ALWAYS controls the TV. How cool is that!?

And setup is unbelievably easy. For me, it’s always been a frustration in the past to set up universal remotes because you had to either get online or read the manual to get the device codes. With this remote, all the codes are already in the remote! You just have to select the type of device and the brand and you can start tryin’em out. PLUS, it will keep track of the codes as you go through them so you don’t waste time accidentally try the same code over and over again. Oh, and none of that dumb code search turning the TV ON and OFF nonsense where half the time you lose the code in the process.

Oh, and did I tell you the remote can learn any function from your previous one? So in my case, I made sure to grab all the On Demand features from my cable remote so I could make sure I had them on my Prestigo. And all the receiver functions (like surround mode and inputs) – I got those copied over as well. I also programmed some basic macros into the remote too. My wife’s goto is the ON/OFF which turns on/off all the devices. Mine is probably GAME ON or OFF mode which sets my TVs input to a specific one, and my receiver to a specific one so I can instantly be setup to start gaming!

Why I’m Bringing This Up Now
Well I meant to write about this for a while now since it’s made my tech life so much more enjoyable but as we all know that lately I’ve been struggling with blogging consistently. So better late than never I suppose and I just checked on Amazon, and it’s way way way on sale for about $50. So if you’re in the market or need a gift for your favourite tech lover, check out more of its features including a color LED screen, His and Hers favourite list, Kid lock… And finally, check out the description on woot and buy one under my Amazon Affiliate Link!

Home Theater in a Box

I’m a home theater enthusiast.

That’s to say that I love tinkering with my home theater setup, I love improving it when I can, and I love learning about the technology.

I bought my first home theater system in 1997. That’s just about 10 years ago. I can’t believe that. 10 years ago. Looking back at my first setup, I’m amazed at how smart or lucky I was to get a halfway decent system from a box.

Let me explain.

Home Theater Systems in a Box

Recently, people seem to be coming to me in droves asking me how to get started with home theater. And they always ask me what I think about this system or that system… And regardless of what system they’re referring to, the system always seems to come from a box. I don’t let that deter me and I always go ahead and check out the system. But more often than not, I come to the conclusion :

The system sucks!

Where Have the Receivers Gone?

Every home theater package that I see has at its center a DVD player. What the devil is that about?! MAYBE 10 years ago that’d be ok, but now we just have too many things that we can get great audio from! Cable, MP3 players, DVD players, video game systems are just a few examples.

And if you have a DVD player as the heart of your system, seriously – How many things can you hope to plug in at one time?! And even if you ARE able to plug multiple things in, a DVD player probably won’t be able to decode all the surround sound formats that are on DVDs.

Hello!? Why would you want to set yourself for disappointment by getting a system that’s not able to intelligently let you listen to the multi channel audio that’s in everything nowadays? I just don’t get it.

Check out the Connections

I am in no way in expert in home theater especially not at the moment, but I can still give you a great tip when buying home theater systems from a box. First, get a system with a receiver. And before you actually buy it, turn it around and look at the connections. Make sure there’s plenty, and make sure it has component. (Since currently you be hard pressed to find one with HDMI connections).

After that, just enjoy your $300 system or however much it cost. Now that you have some speakers and a receiver, you can update things in stages as you go forward all the while enjoying some fantastic sound!

Any of you looking to get a home theater or already have one? Or maybe a better question, anyone bought a home theater system from a box to be disappointed with it later?