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Discussion Starter #1 (Edited)
Below I have a diagram of how I have everything set up (I left off the speakers because I just used the ones that came with the system, and set them up and arranged them per the instructions. Nothing fancy or exciting).

I do not believe I have optimized this system. When you see it you may say "why did you...?" and the answer will be "I have no idea, it felt right at the time." I'm REALLY inexperienced at this, other than having grown up in the computer industry when things were significantly less "plug and play." Some of my choices are based on the limitations of the jacks - how many HDMI ports, etc. This seemed the most streamlined. I'm probably missing something really obvious, though.

The one exception is that there is what appears to be a superfluous RCA cable between my cable box and my HTS. This is because without it, there was a huge audio sync problem when watching cable. I would have used a second optical but the hts only has one D-in port, and if I had to choose I preferred having the opt for the roku and apple tv. Now with this set up I have fairly good sound (pretty crazy decent on the apple and roku, even). My only issue is the common one of special effects vs. dialog (the constant battle of turning up and down the volume to accommodate one or the other). I have NO idea how to fix that; the panasonic HTS sound settings are very limited and pre-set, and are really rather useless. They might as well be labeled "tinny," "muffled," and "meh."

The main issue is that this is enormously complex to use on a regular basis. The number of remotes required is a bit much but I can live with it, but the number of settings that have to change when switching between the various devices makes it impossible for anyone but me to operate the system.

A universal remote seems impossible because of the whackiness of the panasonic blu ray home theater system; somehow in their wisdom they decided that it would be better for users to have to "cycle through" the various audio inputs rather than selecting "HDMI 1 HDMI 2 D-IN AUX" etc. Based on my one attempt with a logitec, it seems like the universal can't operate that feature without knowing the "starting point." And the panasonic does not allow you to customize any of the buttons on the remote. So frustrating!

There must be a way to simplify this system. I'm pretty sure people have more complicated systems than this.

Also, somehow I lost the "auto power" feature on the HTS. It used to just turn on and off with the TV, and then auto-detect that I was watching cable and switch the audio source automatically. Now I have to power on both separately, then use the TV remote to switch the video source and the HTS remote to switch the audio source. Every time I turn it on. I checked the setting on both systems (the tv has "aquos link," which is on, and the panasonic has "auto power," which is also on), and it used to work, but it magically stopped. Yes, magic. I'm sure it was dark magic!

I know ALL of this must be due to my lack of experience.

All of my problems seem to stem around this out-dated and poorly designed and limited panasonic home theater system. I suppose the best solution is to swap it out for a new one, but I dread dread dread that. To get a comparable system seems very expensive.

Does anyone know of any way I can optimize and simplify the system with the components I currently have?

I appreciate ANY help and advice. Thank you!

LINK TO IMAGE since I can't seem to make it appear here:

http://www.walagata.com/w/kimbob/hometheaterrouting.jpg
 

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Welcome to the Forum, Kay!

The good news is that it looks like you have everything hooked up right. The only thing there I’d question is, now that you have the RCA cable from the Motorola to the HTS for audio (this is not the first time I’ve encountered the audio drop-outs that caused you to install that cable), you don’t need the one between the TV and the HTS. The former is better anyway; with the audio going to the TV (via HDMI) and from the TV to the HTS, all Dolby Digital surround sound information is lost. You only get surround sound via the old Dolby Pro Logic system, which is inferior to Dolby Digital.


I know ALL of this must be due to my lack of experience.
No, not necessarily true! Home theater by its nature is complicated. But unfortunately – and shockingly - many of the problems you are dealing with are part-and-parcel with lower-end all-in-one systems like yours: The inability to use a universal remote because of the one-button “cycling,” limitations with inputs, etc. I know, seems counter-intuitive that a “simple” system is so difficult to operate and live with day to day, but this is something I’ve seen over and over. Actually more advanced systems, while being perhaps more complicated to set up, are ultimately easier to “live” with on a daily basis.

Much as you hate the aspect of upgrading, I’d suggest looking into getting a decent mid-line home theater audio/video receiver (AVR). And I would recommend something mid-line and not entry-level, because those have many of the same issues due to their limitations you’re dealing with now, so what would be the point?

A few examples of the simplification a good AVR would afford: All your source components would plug into it, via HDMI, and a single cable HDMI cable would go from it to the TV. So, no multiple settings to deal with when switching from one input source from another. Just hit the desired input on the AVR remote, and your source is up and running with both sound and video.

Another advantage with a mid-line receiver vs. entry level is that they have remotes that can be programmed button by button, as well as by code for the component. So in case one of your components isn’t “supported” by the remote, you can still program in the functions you need. Another function you get with a mid-line receiver is the ability for the remote to run “macros” - that is, multiple commands from a single push of a single button. So you can do something like a “system power-up” macro, that turns on the AVR, switches it to the input you use the most, turn on the TV, turn on the cable box, etc., all with one button on the remote. It’s pretty sweet.

The only downside of the AVR compared to what you have now is that they don’t come with speakers. However, you may be able to use the ones that came with your HTS.

Re the dialog vs. effects issue you’re having, there should at least be a setting in the HTS where you can independently adjust the level of the speakers? If not chalk it up to another deficiency of a low-end system. If that adjustment is available, I suggest turning up the center channel a few notches and see if that helps.

Regards,
Wayne
 

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Discussion Starter #3
Thank you so much! That is some really great info. I'm going to reread it and jot some notes down... I think you may be right and I was suspecting that my HTS was the problem, I was just hoping that it might be surmountable.

I have one big question: "you don’t need the one between the TV and the HTS."

I believe you but I can't envision how that would work for the roku or the apple. Since those are directly hooked up to the tv rather than the HTS, how would the audio get to the HTS - would that be via a pass-through from the HDMI connection to the cable? and if so, could I then experience the same lags/sync issues?

If I do break down and get a new system, that will involve getting both the receiver and a new blu-ray player... so it's an investment I'll have to research and plan. But based on my addiction to all things video (I'm the geekiest mom on the block) it looks like that may be my best bet.

Thanks again for the response and the advice :)
 

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The way you have it hooked up will work.

I do want to make some different hook up recommendations though.

The Panasonic box has two HDMI inputs, you could connect the cable box to the HDMI 1 and the ROKU to HDMI 2.
This will give you surround sound through the HDMI 1&2 inputs.
the Apple can connect to the Panasonic with an optical audio cable and to the TV with HDMI and you can get surround sound with it to.

Since the audio is going to the Panasonic through the HDMI I don't think you will have a lip synce problem.
The Apple will be using the optical and hopefully there will be no issue there either.
 

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Discussion Starter #5
That's a really good suggestion. I actually kind of had done something similar (but not quite as streamlined as that) but the process of selecting HDMI sources through the panasonic is so awkward (third level menus. Seriously! It takes going down THREE menu levels to get to choosing the HDMI source).

I'm thinking you're right, though. If I do it the way you suggest, everything is running through the panasonic. The sound would obviously be much better. I just hate the panasonic menus, so I went the lazier route and now I'm sorry I did it.

At this point I'm thinking I'm crazy not to buy a real AVR. I'm almost 50 years old. It's time to grow up and put on my big girl pants.

Is it ok if I come back here crying when I try to set it up myself? LOL
 

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I have one big question: "you don’t need the one between the TV and the HTS."

I believe you but I can't envision how that would work for the roku or the apple. Since those are directly hooked up to the tv rather than the HTS, how would the audio get to the HTS - would that be via a pass-through from the HDMI connection to the cable?
Yes you are correct about that – my goof, sorry. Chashint’s advice for connections is excellent (he obviously took the time to look up a manual for the Panasonic – I didn’t), but it’s not going to solve the day-to-day operation misery – pushing lots of buttons on multiple remotes to get a source up and running, etc. Three menu layers for HDMI? Hopefully that’s just for the initial set up, but if it’s something you have to do every time you select an HDMI source, that Panasonic has to go! I often wonder with so many things these days, "Did the people who desiged this thing ever actually use it themselves?"

At this point I'm thinking I'm crazy not to buy a real AVR. I'm almost 50 years old. It's time to grow up and put on my big girl pants.

Is it ok if I come back here crying when I try to set it up myself? LOL
Certainly! We love geeky moms, we get so few of them around here! You can easily get advice on what receiver or blu-ray to buy by opening a thread on the subject. Just be sure and spell out your requirements, such as “looking for a receiver with xx number of inputs, xx features, and a remote that’s button-by-button programmable and runs macros,” etc. and you’ll get some recommendations from the friendly and knowledgeable folks here.

Regards,
Wayne
 

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I hate to say it but upgrading the Panasonic could be your best option.
Yamaha, Denon, and Onkyo sell reasonably priced HTiBs (home theater in a box) with the option to replace speakers later. That said moving into a stand alone AVR (audio video receiver) and some sort of speaker package; Energy, Definitive Technology, Klipsch, or even... Bose. Would make for a setup you may never need to update. The one caveat is you'll also need to get a standalone blu-ray player. I like Panasonic and Sony because they have discreet power commands (plays better with universal remotes).
 

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Discussion Starter #8 (Edited)
Three menu layers for HDMI? Hopefully that’s just for the initial set up, but if it’s something you have to do every time you select an HDMI source, that Panasonic has to go! I often wonder with so many things these days, "Did the people who desiged this thing ever actually use it themselves?"
If, say, the roku is hooked up to the Panasonic rather than the tv, selecting roku as the source works this way, each and every time:

TV remote: "input" ... "panasonic"
Panasonic remote: "Home"... "HDMI/EXTERNAL"... "HDMI 1"

The remote is the craziest thing I've ever seen. Very few of the buttons are used regularly, and they've chosen to leave out the most logical buttons. Even for bluray/DVD operation it's ridiculous - accessing the menus is nonsensical and sometimes impossible. I have no idea what their priorities were, but sound/video sourcing and watching movies clearly didn't make the list.

Thanks for all the great advice from everyone - I've been perusing threads looking for opinions on equipment. It's like christmas shopping :)
 

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I am not a Bose basher but would prefer to see you go a different route.
Being new to home theater/audio is no big deal at all and being a female of any age has no bearing on anything.
You are very welcome to participate here and ask about anything /everything.

Like everyone else you need to think about how much you want to spend very early in the process because you can literally spend more than what a house costs if you let us run amuk.

When the Panasonic works to the best of its abilities what do you think of the sound and what did you pay for it?
 

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When the Panasonic works to the best of its abilities what do you think of the sound and what did you pay for it?
I honestly don't remember what I paid for it; I bought it more than a few years ago (shocked that it still works, actually) and I'm pretty sure I got it on a black friday sale.

The sound is significantly better through it than my tv, but that's not saying too much. The speakers aren't the best, obviously. When I first got it, I felt like queen of the world because I'd never had anything but the sound from my television. I suppose if I could find a way to not fight with the remotes for every change in source I wouldn't have found myself so frustrated and ready to upgrade. Of course, though, once you start seeing what's available, it's hard to stay down on the farm (now that you've seen 'paree').

Based on the room and my usage, it's highly unlikely I'd go out and buy a bazillion dollar system. I live in a town with very close neighbors, and getting great booming theater sound might not make me too popular in the neighborhood! For me the AVR would be as much about streamlining the system as being able to hook up awesome speakers to get the "perfect" sound. This probably makes me a philistine!

For years I amassed an enormous DVD collection, which of course got oudated by the advent of blu ray (and abused by teenagers), and these days they mostly collect dust while I watch streaming stuff, so I'm probably not watching anything that has the optimum sound output in the first place.

I did grow up in silicon valley with the computer industry, though, so I do have an attraction to having new toys. Knowing that there are cool toys out there that I don't have and really should is making my fingernails itch!

I think I'll spend a lot of time reading around here, looking at other people's experiences and fantasy shopping. Plus asking a lot of dorky questions. It will take me a while to pick the appropriate system. If I rush out I'll end up overspending for what I really need.

You are all extremely helpful... I'm glad I found this place.
 

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If you want to avoid getting a new receiver ( not my first choice) you can go with this inexpensive product ($25) to switch between your HDMI sources... this will simplify your remote control issues as the IR commands can be learned with your LOGITECH remote - it may have the codes for it as a switch as well....

http://www.amazon.com/Panlong-Intelligent-Selector-Switcher-Supports/dp/B00H2C5OR8/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1394607292&sr=8-1&keywords=hdmi+1+in+4+out+switch

Otherwise upgrade the surround receiver to a very modest one ($199) - use the same speakers until you can afford to upgrade those as well..this will solve most of your major issues at once...:T

http://www.amazon.com/Yamaha-RX-V373-5-1-Channel-AV-Receiver/dp/B007JF8FD8/ref=sr_1_5?s=aht&ie=UTF8&qid=1394607847&sr=1-5
 

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It's all good kay-rock.
If you live near a Fry's they have excellent pricing on some of the most popular entry level speakers.
Also if you are in a single family house you have to play your music/movie REALLY loud before it will cause a noise problem.
Apartments and condos can be problematic for subwoofers though.
 

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Whatever receiver you consider, be sure and check the manufacturer’s web site and study the manual to see if has the features you want, such as a fully programmable remote that runs macros, and lets you do basic functions like mute and change inputs and adjust volume levels without having to call up a separate menu page. The remote is a huge consideration for day-to-day, hassle-free "livability." You’d be surprised at just how “stupid” remotes can be, especially at the bottom end of a manufacturer’s offerings.

Regards,
Wayne
 

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Discussion Starter #15
I completely agree about the remote. Frankly, it's a remote issue that's sending me down this road to begin with. I probably would have sat happily on my dorky little system until it fried itself if not for the remote problems. And with a panasonic, that might have been a while. They're notoriously awful on their software development on ALL products (so many things developed completely backwards from what you'd expect, and some of the worst GUIs on the market across the board in their products), but their hardware reliability tends to be high. You can be stuck with a less than optimal system for a long time with a panasonic; it refuses to break down and force you to get something cooler. But I digress.

I'm starting to lust a little bit after the Onkyo TX-NR626. I'm seeing some people complain about reliability in some aspects of those, particularly HDMI board issues, but at 499 on amazon it seems to have a nearly unbeatable price-performance ratio, features-wise. The HDMI issues appear to be centered on overheating, so if I do go that route hopefully smart placement and a little computer fan might be a solution. Whenever I see another unit I like as well or better, I notice that the cost is suddenly 2000, LOL.

The remote seems decent but I need to do a bit more research on it. The app that comes with it seems to be well-liked. The review on the unit here in the reviews section seems solid.

I'm not married to it yet, though, and I'm still shopping. But I'll tell you, the more I read about what's out there, the more I feel contemptuous of my little combo blu ray player. I have such a beautiful 70" LCD tv and I've MALIGNED it by not having the proper sound to go with it. The shame is visceral. My head hangs.

I did rewire everything back through the panasonic as suggested by chashint earlier in this thread. All of my sync problems ended immediately and I'm getting far better sound, even through those sad little speakers. Thank you for that suggestion! I did, however, spit on my remote a few times and I'm pretty sure the names I called it today would be forbidden here. But that's me. I'm a ranter. It's how I roll.

OK back to dream shopping. I wonder if I can make any money selling a cat.
 

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Discussion Starter #16
Well, hey.

I had been telling my husband about my AV dreams. I mentioned the onkyo. I really hadn't finished researching, and really do enjoy doing lots and lots of dream shopping before making a purchase, but my husband rushed to amazon and ordered it without telling me, as a surprise (amazon orders go to my email, so the secret lasted all of two minutes before it popped in to my inbox). I think that's incredibly sweet. Looks like I'm going to be making that one work, and I'm certainly not going to cry. I don't think the remote has the macro capabilities I would have loved but it does have programmable buttons and I'll just have to continue to turn things on and off on my own, LOL. Can't complain, though. It's a gift!

I'll be back on friday afternoon with my torn out hair in my hands from trying to hook up the new system. Watch this space for entertaining meltdowns!
 

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LOL, yeah it's usually not very hard to get husbands interested in HiFi equipment.
The AVR should function a lot better than what you have and it might even sound better but probably close to what you already have.
You really do need to listen to some speakers before just plunging in.
Where are you located?
 

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Discussion Starter #20 (Edited)
I'm actually the electronic gadgets nerd in the family; in order for something to appeal to my husband it has to have wheels. He can't even operate the tv remote without a lot of puzzlement. But he can rebuild a classic european car or motorcycle with some pipe cleaner, duct tape, and a wrench. I'm the one who sets up extensive home computer networks and feels outdated and vaguely "dirty" if my phone or tablet or router is outdated.

He ordered the Onkyo TX-NR626. He doesn't really understand what it is or what it does (despite the fact that he's a mechanical engineer). He only ordered it because I had filed it in my amazon wish-list, which is where I hold things when I'm in the process of reviewing. He just heard me talking about it and wanted to do something nice. Now, lets qualify that by saying he really wants this new pair of $600 motorcycle boots. MAKE OF THAT WHAT YOU WILL! He's a crafty man!

OK BACK TO THE REALITY OF THE SITUATION:

I have two sets of cheap speakers, both of which came with all-in-one blu ray surround sound sets.

The ones I'm using now are these came with the Panasonic SC-BTT370. Here is the link to the specs: http://shop.panasonic.com/shop/model/SC-BTT370

I don't need them to do anything but at least let some sound out right now. If they are absolutely impossible, can someone help me with the bare minimum specs that will work? Craigslist will be my friend at that point.

This looks like it's going to be one of those snowballing expenses. Sigh.

Old housewife cries some more...
 
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