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(1) The 435-Z is right in the price range I was thinking about. Looks like the 635-Z is about $200 more. Do you think there are differences that justify the additional $200 for my purposes described above? As I noted earlier, I am more than willing to pay up if it is worthwhile (though the approx. $1700 for the pieces dakkon recommended above is more than I think is justified for a dork like me). As I can't figure out if it is worthwhile, thought I'd ask your thoughts.
(2) There also is a 630-Z that is the same price as the 435-Z. Is the 630 an earlier model? Again, between the two what are your thoughts on the better bet?
Just my opinion, but I don't think the extra $200 is worth it. Were it I, I'd go with the 435Z. The 630Z is, indeed, as earlier model. Doesn't have PLIIx, I don't believe. Again, the 435Z would be my choice.
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(3) It does not look like these models have any HDMI inputs or outputs. I like the idea of going with a splitter if my cable box and TV are compatible, but as I thought about it I realize I'm confused about how all this works if the receiver has no HDMI inputs or outputs. How would things get connected together (since I thought everything went through the receiver) and where would the HDMI splitter and HDMI cables come into play? I will also look into a cable card, but my cable box provides TIVO-like capabilities (rewind or pause live shows) that I assume are not available with a card. As She Who Must Be Obeyed is a real talker with bad timing on when she interrupts things, having pause and rewind for sports is a big plus for me!
I need to straighten something out immediately because there is a difference between an HDMI "SPLITTER," and an HDMI "SWITCH," and I wouldn't want you to end up with the wrong device. An HDMI "SPLITTER" enables the signal from one source to be sent to several displays.
An HDMI "SWITCH" enables the signals from several sources to be sent to one display.
If you decide to go in this direction, be sure you get an HDMI "SWITCH," not an HDMI "SPLITTER."
Using a switch, no video would go through the receiver. You'd run an HDMI cable from both your cable box and DVD player to the 2 inputs on the switch, and then a single HDMI cable from the switch to your TV. For audio, you would run a digital audio cable (either coaxial or optical) from both your cable box and DVD Player to your receiver.
The down side to this is when you switch from, say, watching TV to watching a video, you have to switch the audio source in the receiver, AND the video source in the switch. The switches have remotes, so it isn't all that complicated. If you use a universal remote with macro capability, as I do, this is no problem at all.
If you were able to run both the audio AND the video through the receiver (either by eschewing HDMI connections and using component video connections from your sources to the 435Z, or by using a much more expensive receiver with HDMI switching) you would only have to change one setting in the receiver which would switch BOTH the audio and the video at the same time.
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(4) kcarlile mentioned an H/K Bridge for the IPOD. Do you know if that is part of the receiver itself or something purchased separately and hooked into the receiver? If it is part of the receiver itself, would the models above have it? (I tried to search to answer this one myself, but struck out).
I'm STILL IPOD challenged!
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(5) The OPPO DVD player sounds like a good bet with an HDMI hookup. JohnK and dakkon both mentioned the Sony 400 disk DVD player. Any thoughts on how the picture quality of the Sony will compare to the OPPO on HDMI? If I listen to music it most likely will be through my IPOD (I've downloaded an awful lot of good music from ITunes, which is not on a CD), so the disk changer isn't a big plus for me--more interested in PQ. However, I have a Sony credit card that, with the "Sony Bucks" I have, would make the price of the OPPO and Sony pretty close. So, I would go with the additional flexibility of the Sony if the PQ will be virtually the same as the OPPO.
I don't think the picture from the Sony would be as good as the picture from the Oppo. The question is, would you notice the difference. Most of us average folks, who are not hip to macroblocking, and edge enhancement, and other video problems, wouldn't. However, being anal retentive, I get caught up in the old "even if I can't see it, I just might know it's there, and it would bother me anyway" trap.
Does the Sony have an HDMI or DVI video output? If not you could connect it to one of your TV's component inputs, thus freeing the HDMI input on your TV for your Hi Def cable box. This would eliminate the need for the HDMI switch. You would still have to switch two things, like you did with the switch; the audio source in the receiver, and the video source in your TV. But, though sacrificing a little picture quality with the Sony by connecting via a component hookup (which you may or may not notice), you'd save the cost of the HDMI switch. Decisions, decisions. It's all so confusing, isn't it?
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(6) Finally, on connecting the speakers themselves, are banana plugs or the like worthwhile, or should I just strip the wire and connect it directly to the speakers and receiver.
Mixed thoughts on this. The conventional wisdom is, neither connection is sonically superior to the other (assuming the connection is properly made), and unless you're going to be unplugging and replugging your speakers often, banana plugs are not necessary, and only put one more link in the chain where things could go wrong. That being said, I use banana plugs. No, I don't unplug my speakers often. But when I do, it sure is easier to do it with bananas. The binding posts on many receivers are very close together and screwing and unscrewing them (no cracks, Peter
) in those tight quarters can be a real pain in the fingers. Literally!
I used to be a very competent solderer, but like any art, unless you practice it often, you STINK at it. This is an apt description of my current soldering skills. So, I use these (or ones like them) on the receiver end of my speaker cables.
Dual Banana Plugs
Screws tighten the wire to the banana plug. NO SOLDERING! Whew!
And these on the speaker end of the cables, where possible.
Screw Type Banana Plugs
As you can see, they just screw apart and you insert about 1/2 inch of bare wire through the hole in the bottom half of the plug, fan out the wire evenly, bend in down over the top edge of the bottom half of the plug and screw the top half back on. Viola. NO SOLDERING! Whew!
My surrounds, which hang on the wall, don't have room for banana plugs, so I just use a bare wire connection for those.
But remember. These are NOT going to sound any better than bare wire connections, and are a heck of a lot more expensive.
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You guys have been really helpful. I appreciate it very much. There should be a special place in heaven--with kick-ass home theatre--for people like you willing to help we less learned.
You're very welcome. Probably all of us have been helped, by others, to understand this complicated hobby. I know I STILL get help here, and at other forums. We just enjoy helping each other avoid the mistakes we ourselves have made, and aid in the selection of equipment that will please and satisfy.