Going insane, and then relief

So I’m reviewing mid-priced ($AUS2,000 to $4,000) home theatre receivers at the moment. Most of them are equipped with HDMI switching. I’ve been using one of them for a couple of weeks, with a HDMI DVD player plugged in along with Sony’s new high definition personal video recorder. The display is an InFocus IN76 projector, a rather nice little unit.

It’s time to switch from the receiver I’ve been using to another one, from Brand A. (You’ll have to read the review in Sound and Image to find out the brand). I then spend a couple of hours trying to make it work. The HDMI doesn’t work at all in the audio and video departments. The analogue video is flaky as anything with ‘Video Convert’ switched on, and whenever I switch the on screen menu display mode from NTSC to PAL, the picture goes haywire with the projector thinking it’s still in NTSC format, and therefore losing lock.

So I whinge to Brand A and they agree to send a replacement, since the former one had obviously been carted all over the place from the wear and tear on the box. While I’m waiting, I wire up the next receiver in the queue, Brand B. Well, blow me down, but Brand B won’t do video at all! Neither analogue nor digital. Even the on screen display won’t work. And since the front panel display is totally uninformative during menu operations, I can’t even set up the audio side.

About this time doubt sets in. Brands A and B are highly reputable. They ought to work. Have I crapped something up in my system?

Still, I whinged to Brand B and they promised to send a new one out to replace the ‘broken’ one.

Meanwhile, the replacement from Brand A turns up, so I unwire Brand B, wire in Brand A (by this time I’m developing mighty muscles in my fingers from tightening speaker terminals). Blow me down again, it exhibits an identical set of problems to the first unit.

By now my confidence is totally shaken. The new Brand A unit is obviously new, with the foam wrapping clearly not having been touched since it left the factory. It’s almost unthinkable that this brand would screw up this badly. I hit the Web and the only forum references I could find to this model were that all was hunky dory, although there was an implication that others (who I couldn’t find) may have suffered from ‘glitches’.

So it was time to eliminate alternative sources of the problem. First, plug the DVD player via HDMI directly into the projector. The video worked fine. Okay, so I know the cable is working and the source is compatible with the display. So I decided to go for a total Brand A solution. I had to hand a Brand A source with HDMI output. I plugged this into the Brand A receiver. I also had to hand a Brand A projector with HDMI input. I plugged the receiver’s output into its input. Guess what? Still no HDMI picture or sound whatsoever. That exhausted possibilities for that day (or, rather, evening since by then it was about 11pm).

First thing the next morning the replacement Brand B receiver turned up. I looked at its carton from time to time over the next couple of hours, procrastinating, reluctant to find out for sure if I’d made a complete fool of myself in my complaints to Brands A and B. Then Brand C turned up as well. I was very tempted to go straight for that, but in the end decided to try the new Brand B receiver. That would be the real test. I was already starting to mentally compose apologetic emails to the suppliers.

Oh, what glorious relief! The new Brand B receiver worked perfectly. All video conversions worked as they should, HDMI video and audio worked as it should. I wasn’t insane. It was just an awful coincidence. Brand A is distributing a dreadful product of which it should be ashamed. Brand B had a spot of bad luck with having delivered a broken receiver. But with three bad receivers in a row, I had been starting to think that it was me or my setup that was the problem.

UPDATE (Tuesday, 15 August 2006, 12:14 pm): Guess what? Brand A is not entirely to blame. I switched to a SIM2 Grand Cinema C3X projector which had turned up for review (beautiful unit incidentally) and Brand A worked perfectly. There are some wobbles, clearly, with the InFocus IN76 projector. But Brand A is not entirely blame free either, because the other receivers worked fine with the InFocus.

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