Bye-bye 2016!

Happy New Year TAY!

I hope everyone has a wonderful (and safe) New Year’s celebration. I will likely be doing the old couple thing and staying home, but we bought a load of hors d’oeuvres for the family and will take in the sights via the TV. There is a celebration downtown with Sloan playing, but it is just too cold for us to hang around outside.

I played nothing last week, save for a single game of The Binding Of Isaac on PS4. I had a full week with my parent’s visiting for my son’s birthday and all the prep that went into that. We celebrated by gaming at Dave & Busters, dinner at Holy Chuck, and then we took in the spectacle that is Rogue One.

*Extremely minor spoiler for Rogue One in the next paragraph*

I enjoyed Rogue One quite a bit. It did feel a little derivative (I think we need to get beyond always needing to take out a shield generator) but it was a good setup to A New Hope. I got a little misty-eyed when Leia made an appearance, it is hard to think of the Star Wars universe moving on without Carrie Fisher.

The biggest news last week (besides maybe tearing something in my shoulder that rendered my arm almost immobile for several days and still isn’t a whole lot better) was the sweet Marantz AV receiver I scored on Bestbuy’s Boxing Day sale (that’s a holiday the day after Christmas for you yanks). Bestbuy started their Boxing Day Sale at 7pm online on December 24. Even though there was a countdown timer on the website telling me I could unlock the deals at exactly 7pm, my constant spamming of F5 in my browser allowed me in a full four minutes early. This allowed me to score one of these coveted “Door Crasher” receivers.

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I spent most of Thursday and a good chunk of Friday hooking it up, reprogramming my Harmony remote, and re-calibrating the whole AV system. I’m pretty much done now and the family gave it a spin Friday night with Creed on Blu-ray. The sound quality of the receiver is much like my old Pioneer, though I have more power to play with now. The big difference is in the video features and the future proofing.

Image courtesy of CRPro

My old Pioneer receiver didn’t support HDMI 1.4 which allows for the transfer of 3D signal. We love our 3D Blu-rays and, while my TV is a 3D TV, I couldn’t use the receiver to pass the 3D video signal. This meant I had to remove the HDMI cable from the receiver and plug it into the TV directly every time we watched a 3D movie. This also meant that I lost the HDMI hi-def sound formats since I had to use an optical cable for sound when playing 3D movies in this patched setup.

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With the new Marantz, I don’t have to rewire anything to watch 3D and I get all the yummy DTS-HD Master Audio I want. Also, playing 3D on my PC should be much less of a pain (though this is the last remaining setup I have to still do, so I haven’t confirmed if it is actually less painful).

What I lost was support for S-Video. For those not old enough to have enjoyed S-Video, it was the videophile solution for most 4th and 5th generation gaming consoles (in North America) and ended its reign when the PS2 started supporting component connections (and the Dreamcast was doing VGA). I have many consoles that were previously connected via S-Video but now I’m reduced to using composite for them. Not a huge deal, I’m emulating most of my SNES and Genesis games now and it will force me to look at emulating N64 and Saturn games, but all is not lost with my actual consoles. This receiver apparently supports composite upscaling (up to 4K), so I’ll be able to play with those options as well. I ran some tests with Burning Rangers on Saturn and Donkey Kong 64 on the N64 and the basic composite looks alright. Once I figure out how to adjust the scaler, maybe I’ll be happier overall. Still, it was a bit of a sad day to see such an important connection as S-Video become completely obsolete and unsupported with my equipment.

The future-proofing of the receiver comes in several forms, but most importantly is the ability to handle 4K signal at 60fps. This means I’ll be ready when I finally jump to a 4K television. The other awesome option is the support for Dolby Atmos. With games like Star Wars: Battlefront already supporting Atmos and Microsoft adding Atmos support to Windows 10 and the Xbox One, we are entering a new level of home audio. Much to my wife’s chagrin, I’ll have to start speccing out 4 speakers for the ceiling.

So, this weekend will hopefully see more movie watching on the new system and will have me setting up the old Pioneer receiver in the family room. This is exciting because the current receiver in the family room doesn’t have HDMI which makes surround sound on the Wii U impossible. I’ll be glad when I finally have everything up and running and can get back to my games. I’m really starting to feel the withdrawal.

So, what are you playing this weekend, amidst ushering in the New Year?