Sound Advice: Receiver with HDMI switching convenient

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Question: I am using a home theater receiver without HDMI switching so I do all the switching through the TV and send the audio to the receiver. I have the Comcast box, TV and Blu-ray player connected to the receiver via optical cables through a mechanical optical switch. Since I use cable about 95 percent of the time, it is not that inconvenient.

I have a 5.1 speaker system using Polk speakers and have it properly set up using a sound level meter and test tones. I am happy with the sound, but would a new receiver do a better job of decoding as well as be more convenient to operate? Would I run into any problems using a 7.1 receiver with a 5.1 speaker system? Is there any loss of information?

BOB HOUSTON
New Castle, Pa.

Answer: A receiver with HDMI switching will be much more convenient to operate. You will only have one connection from each component to the receiver and one connection from the receiver to the TV, and you will be able to switch sources using your remote control instead of using the manual switch. The HDMI receiver will decode the high- definition audio formats from Blu-ray discs, which will provide a noticeable improvement in sound quality. There is no loss of information using a 7.1 receiver with a 5.1 speaker system. In fact, if you get a 7.1-channel multizone receiver, you can use the unused two channels to drive speakers in another room via Zone 2 operation.

Some good choices are the 5.1-channel Marantz NR1402 and 1403, for $319 and $399, respectively, as well as the $279 Onkyo TX-NR414 and any Pioneer models featuring their MCACC system.

Question: I read about the Sony DSC-RX100 in your newspaper column. I looked into it some more, like it and would like to buy one. The big stores I have gone to do not have it in stock, and they seem to focus on other brands. Where can I get it?

IMAR ANZANELLO
Minneapolis

Answer: Yours is not the first email such as this I have received regarding the DSC-RX100, and -- as you and other readers have discovered -- many big-box stores focus on more mass-market products, so some of the best and most unique products are not found there. It is understandable as a $650 compact camera definitely is not a mass-market item.

You can find the DSC-RX100 online from vendors such as amazon.com, bhphotovideo.com and sonystyle.com. Since you live in Minneapolis, you are lucky enough to have an excellent camera store in your backyard, namely National Camera Exchange.

They have obtained the Olympus OM-D EM-5 for some of my readers, and I am sure they can get you a DSC-100. Go to www.natcam.com to find a nearby location.

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Read product reviews by Don Lindich at soundadviceblog.com.


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