zen.org Communal Weblog

April 4, 2007

New subwoofer? We don't need no stinking new subwoofer

Filed under: — brendan @ 20:47 GMT

Over the weekend we got to watch a full movie with Patrick for the first time: Star Wars! In the past he hasn’t wanted to see them because at some point he came to the belief that all movies are scary. But someone from his class, I think, convinced him to want to see this.

And, finally, a movie sounded really good in our livingroom!

For a really long time now we’ve been using a Cambridge Soundworks DTT 3500 Digital 5.1 Surround Speaker System to make TV and movies sound better in our livingroom. It worked pretty well, overall, even making the sound from our MythTV PVR system go out through it.

When I had to replace our 8 year-old dead TV, I was hooking up everything and found the Cambridge Soundworks box wasn’t actually usable anymore. The new Samsung LE40R74BD television (absolutely gorgeous) had a single red/white pair of RCA plugs for audio out, and no way to feed sound via the optical or coax inputs needed for the surround sound system. Hmm.

So after a while I finally got a sound receiver to connect everything. The Sony STR-DG700 receiver can do everything. (Continuing a past habit with TVs, cars, and other things, we bought the floor demo model at a discount.) Well, it can do just about everything—the DVD input can only come in via digital coax, not optical. And, the Sony guy is ordering us the proper remote for it because they couldn’t find it anywhere.

I reused the Cambridge speakers for this receiver, since I felt they would work perfectly fine for what we need. The temptation for the expensive Bose speakers was there a little, and then there’s the uber-expensive Bowers & Wilkins speakers available up in Blackrock. But after the TV and then convincing myself to get the receiver, it’d sure be cool to not buy anything else.

The five little black Cambridge speakers did a fine job. The DVD player’s digital coax line went into the receiver and made the sounds of movies jump out at us. It was wonderful, even if there was a missing piece: the biggest part of the speaker set is the subwoofer which gives the happy thundering sounds and dramatic effect. But ours wasn’t working—the receiver has a Pre-Amp Out plug for the subwoofer, which a little reading helped me understand: the subwoofer’s supposed to have its own amp, its own way to take the sound and give it some oomf. Since I was no longer using the DTT3500’s black box of buttons and dials, there was no amp for the subwoofer anymore.

I asked around and looked at some sites and called some shops, but it seems like buying a single subwoofer isn’t a cheap exercise. They were hundreds of Euros, mostly. Not worth it to me for the single device. Natural thought progression tossed my brain back into the Bose-is-so-cool arena. But wait…

Maybe we can make the receiver give its output to the Cambridge box so it could do the work for the subwoofer? Yes!

I discovered that there is one optical output on the Sony receiver: MD/TAPE. I plugged an optical cable into that, and put the other end into the Cambridge box. Plugged its subwoofer into the subwoofer contacts, and played Star Wars.

Oh my. That’ll work for a while. 🙂

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