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Weekend Roundtable: Oldest Equipment in Your Home Theater

We home theater fans have a habit of constantly replacing our upgrading our electronic equipment with the latest and greatest new models, always in the hopes of eking out some small bit of performance improvement. On the other hand, some pieces of gear tend to hang around longer than others. For this week’s Roundtable, we take a look at the oldest equipment in our home theaters that we either haven’t gotten around to replacing, or don’t feel the need to.

M. Enois Duarte

That’s easy; I’m the oldest piece of gear in my home theater. (Hardy har har… *slaps knee*) Seriously, though, the one piece of equipment that has lasted me longest is a Mitsubishi VCR from the early ’90s. It replaced a bulky, top-loading model from Sony and still works like a charm.

In my 2-channel stereo setup, my Sony dual tape player from the mid-’90s hasn’t given me a problem yet. Recently, however (five or six years ago), I had to replace my record player, which I now hope to replace again with something a bit more durable. Also, the CD player that I bought in 1991 finally died, forcing me to upgrade to an SACD player instead. That’s pretty much it when it comes to my older hardware. Man, I’ve been into this A/V hobby for a really long time.

Adam Tyner (DVDTalk)

Since Blu-ray rolled around, every component in my home theater, top to bottom, has been replaced at least once. There’s one very notable exception, however. I bought an Axiom Epic 60/350 speaker setup back in 2004 or 2005, and at least to my ears, they’re perfect. Clean, clear, devastatingly powerful, and capable of immersing every square inch of my house in sound, these are my favorite speakers that I’ve ever owned. Heck, I prefer the way my home setup sounds to any commercial movie theater around here. If I were to be asked this same question five years from now, the smart money says my answer won’t change. I plan to hold onto these speakers for a long, long time.

Nate Boss

The oldest items in my current home theater setup are my speakers, both the Klipsch Synergy speakers and the Sub-10 subwoofer. These goodies have never done me wrong, and I’m not anxious to replace them. They’ve done a wonderful job over the past few years. That said, expansion may happen. I’ve considered splitting my gear into two rooms. I’d put new Synergy speakers (if a brand does me good, I stick with it!) in with my 2D DLP TV, and move my existing Synergy speakers into another room with my 3D television. I love my current setup. It has amazing flexibility without rewiring or moving anything, but my 3DTV doesn’t get too much use.

Technically, I’ve had a PS3 longer than anything else. That said, I’ve had to replace it once before, so the one I currently have isn’t as old as the speakers. The big black behemoth suits me just fine, though I may go to a Slim model in the near future. That isn’t really a pressing issue.

Tom Landy

Normally, I upgrade my equipment whenever the next big thing comes along (like a 3D TV), when it craps out on me (R.I.P. Panasonic BDT350), or when it becomes incompatible with my new equipment (I’ll miss you, Onkyo TX-SR605). Since I ended up having to get a new Blu-ray player and AV receiver last week, and my TV isn’t even two-years-old, my oldest equipment is my Nuance 5.1 speaker system. I’ve had these speakers for about fifteen years now. They’re massive and super heavy, but still work great. In fact, they even still look brand-new. That said, I sure hope that they live a little while longer. August has been an expensive month.

Sony SAWP780 Weekend Roundtable: Oldest Equipment in Your Home TheaterBrian Hoss

Having purged my main home theater of every analog-connected device except the Wii last year, the oldest piece of gear currently in my home theater is my subwoofer, a Sony SA-WP780, which I purchased in October of 2006. Combined with full-range speakers, this 200W sub delivers more bass than I would ever care to have short of building a movie theater, and it’s free of the annoying delayed standby click that I’ve noticed in several other similar models.

I own two other, larger, more powerful and more expensive subwoofers, but I have no intention of upgrading this one unless the Sony SA-WP780 breaks. Not long after purchasing it, I bought a solid wood table that fits the sub perfectly with just enough space to prevent it from directly shaking the table. Initially, it provided some nice space for a few books, but quickly became the go-to position for any component that needed a lot of breathing room (e. g. the Xbox 360).

Aaron Peck

I still have one of the fat PS3s. Its fan is getting progressively louder and I keep waiting until the day I get the dreaded Red Light of Death. Every time I go to someone’s house and see a nice Slim PS3, I get a little jealous. The newer model is so compact and so quiet. I’m waiting for one of two things to happen: either my fat PS3 conks out or Sony finally brings out a PS4. I’m hoping for the latter.

Josh Zyber

I still have a VCR connected in my system, but I haven’t turned it on in years other than to reset its front-panel clock. Has anyone else noticed that the clocks in Sony VCRs are terribly inaccurate? The VCR sits on top of my Motorola DVR, which is accurate, and the two displays almost never show the same time. Within a couple days of resetting, the VCR will lag a minute and then slip progressively further behind over time. I’ve had this issue with previous Sony units as well.

I’m not certain exactly which item was purchased first, but I believe that the oldest component in my home theater is the Pioneer HLD-X9 Laserdisc player that I imported from Japan in the late ’90s. If you’d asked me a few weeks ago, I would have told you that I hadn’t turned on that machine in ages either. However, it has received some active use recently for my David Lynch marathon. Some of the director’s more obscure TV work was never released on DVD, much less Blu-ray. Frighteningly, when I turned the player on, I found that I wasn’t getting any color in the picture. This seems to be related to the S-video connection. I plugged in a Composite video cable and the color came back. I haven’t yet determined whether this is a fault of the player’s output, my old S-video cable or something else. I’ll have to do some testing on that. In the meantime, the Composite is an acceptable workaround.

Do you have any old equipment lingering in your home theater, or is all of your gear shiny and new? Tell us in the Comments.

Incidentally, the banner image at the top of this post is just an old advertising photo for a Nakamichi Dragon cassette deck that I found via Google and thought was fun. None of us here actually own one, to my knowledge.

The Bonus View will take Monday off for the holiday. We’ll see you back here on Tuesday. Have a great long weekend, everyone!

26 comments

  1. Alex

    Oddly, I think the oldest piece of equipment in my setup is the TV stand. I’ve had that thing a pretty long time. It’s held nicely for MDF and plywood.

  2. Barsoom Bob

    The oldest piece of equipment in my set up isn’t really that old as much as it is pretty obsolete. I was an early adoptor for the HD display and while loving the items that were being broadcast in HD at the time I was totally bummed out when I went to play one of my DVDs on the new set. This was a year or so before there was HD-DVD or Blu-ray or even upconverting DVD players.

    Someone recommended the JVC D-VHS, which used standard video cassetes but could hold a 2 hour movie in 720p HD. Certain titles were released for this The Mummy, Terminator 2, Fast and Furious. All this, display and D-VHS were before HDMI and used component hook ups but the player did have an optical output for the sound. You actually had to rewind and there was no room to spare for any extras of any kind.

    This became instantly pretty obsolete as soon as the disc based HD content started rolling out. I keep it around because it had an undocumented ability to quasi upconvert the regular VHS tapes to something more than what they should look like. I do still have my untouched original trilogy set of VHS tapes, among other curiousities. LOL

  3. Drew

    With the exception of my Toshiba HD-XA2 HD DVD player, all of my equipment is shiny and new. In fact, only my PS3 and XBOX 360 are not from 2012.

    I have both a primary and secondary home theater. I use a projector in the dedicated HT room, and an HDTV in the great room that moonlights as a secondary HT. Both my projector and television are from 2012. Technically, the speakers in my secondary HT are not from 2012, but I did upgrade my HT speakers to Bowers and Wilkins earlier this year, and moved my Klipsch reference series models into the great room.

    I also upgraded my blu-ray players and receivers this year, along with getting a new video processor, new anamorphic lense, and putting the Darblet into use.

    My HD-XA2 will probably remain the oldest piece of equipment I have for a very long time. I would wager it will be the oldest piece of equipment that I have in use until it stops working, or I completely rid my collection of HD DVDs (Which I don’t see happening). I can’t believe that it is six years old-plus already.

    I no longer use a Laser Disc player, DVD player, or VCR. I haven’t used a DVD player or VCR since 2006 and 2003 respectively. I shut down my LD player in 2009.

  4. Drew

    My HD-XA 2 is so great — especially with the firmware updated to the most recent version — that it makes me wonder how much better current HD DVD players may have been than their blu-ray counterparts.

  5. William Henley

    Josh – I am sure you checked this, but check the pins in the SVideo cable. I was always having issues with loosing color, and 9 times out of 10, either a pin was bent or was pushed in just a hair where it wasn’t making a good connection. You can fix this with a pair of tweezers.

    My oldest piece of equipment is also a laserdisc player – although mine is older than Josh’s. I got it in 2006, but it was obviously used. I think its a late 80s model. There is no SVideo connection on it, only composite and RF. Sadly, my former roommate’s cat chewed up the cable, so now it only works on RF. It is currently getting repaired, although as it has been at my friend’s house for about 9 months now, I am starting to think it is never going to get repaired.

    My oldest piece of equipment that I bought new is my JVC SVHS ET VCR. I think I picked this up around 1996 or 1997 when I was still in high school. This is also getting repaired though – stupid me, it ate a tape, and instead of doing the good thing and actually taking the VCR appart, I pulled the tape out, because I didn’t want to mess with taking the deck out of the entertainment center, as it was wedged in there pretty darn good. When I pulled the tape, I bent the tape guides, so now it doesn’t work at all.

    I guess I should probably call my friend and see how the repairs are coming. I know they have had a tough year, but come on, they have had it for months now.

    • William Henley

      BTW, I do still have my HD-DVD player, and my Fat PS3. As the majority of my games are PSX and PS2 games, I am not looking forward to the day that my fat PS3 dies.

        • William Henley

          I thought they took away the PSX emulation from the 3rd generation PS3 and the PS2 emulation away from the current gen Slim PS3s.

          In any case, the first gen PS3 has hardware support for PS2 titles. I think that was changed to software emulation later, which caused some bugs with certain games. But I am just talking from memory.

          I know they sell PSX titles in PSN, but I always figured they were wrapped in an emulator.

          • Think of it this way. Every single PS1, PS2, and PS3 ever built with a disc drive can play disc copies of PS1 games. (There are region restrictions of course) There are plenty of emulation bugs, but they are shared across PS3 models. (I’m harping on this, because I worked with a guy who should have known better, and still this revelation escaped him.)

            As for PS2 emulation, even the launch PS3 with hardware emulation for PS2 titles that can decode 5.1 DD for the handful of games that have it, has emulation bugs. Hitman: Contracts comes to mind.

            I had a slim PS3 for a few days. I used the Bravia sync, and the let my receiver do the Dolby and DTS decoding, but it wasn’t entirely an improvement. It has an odd footprint, no power switch, and uses a comparatively rare power cable, and seemed to load Blu-Ray movies slower. Maybe the next revision will be better. Not to mention that my old PS3 is the only way that I can play that one SACD that I have.

          • William Henley

            Yeah, that SACD thing would be a show stopper to me too, even though I only have like 3 SACDs. In any case, if my PS3 ever craps out, I will probably get another fat one from Gamestop. Removing features from a game system seems kinda anti-consumer to me.

            On my very first PS3, I ran Linux, just to say I did. That feature is gone, but I cannot say that it is that much of a loss. Just seemed silly to run Linux on a television. I mean, what was I going to use it for – to play TuxRacer?

  6. balzac.nyc

    My JVC 565 vcr player recently expired, but it was well over 20 years old. Its motor had been replaced in its tenth or eleventh year.

    Just read your Oppo region hack piece and wondered how the external modification was holding up. How do you keep it clean?

    I’m most interested in your reply as want to buy an Oppo BDO-93, either modified or direct from Oppo and then acquire the hardware modification from eBay you suggested. The advantage of support from Oppo is appealing. I know little of the reliability of the merchants who offer region free players

    • Josh Zyber
      Author

      The OPPO region hack is working fine. I’ve been using it a lot lately for my David Lynch import marathon. If keeping it clean is a concern, it can be installed inside the player’s chassis without too much extra effort.

  7. EM

    I got my HDTV—my first—in 2008, and I think the only connected component older than that is a Sony multi-disc DVD player I bought in early 2005. Usually I watch DVDs in my Blu-ray player; the DVD player’s principal use is for audio CDs.

    Of course, this topic raises the question of what constitutes a home theater. I don’t have a dedicated room; my home theater is just an area in the living room. If I turn 180°, suddenly I’m facing the old cathode-ray SDTV that my HDTV replaced. I keep it for vintage video games. If that area can be said to be part of my home theater, then my Atari 2600 is likely the oldest component.

  8. I have ZERO use for VHS. It’s in the closet, should i need it. I can plug it in the front jacks on the receiver if need be.

    I cannot seem to give up my LaserDisc player. I still have my Pioneer D604, with a Sony E800 on the side to decode AC3. I tried to sell the bulk of my collection, but I waited so long, that the money I would get wasn’t worth it. Will probably end up hanging them on the wall as decoration eventually.

    I keep it mostly because of suppliments that never made it to DVD or Blu Ray (example: The Criterion “Close Encounters”). However, when I want to show off my sound system, I show the opening sequence of my DTS-LD of “Strange Days”. Still sounds AMAZING!

    • William Henley

      Most modern HDTVs will play PAL. This shouldn’t even be an issue, though, if the content is 1080p – only if you are playing back 1080i 25/50 or 576i/p content.

  9. balzac.nyc

    I expect to play region 2 dvds and blu-ray discs from the UK, primarily, in whatever format they sell em in. Perhaps some region 4. Sellers of modified players go to some lengths to announce whether or not converters are needed for a particular player, hence the question. I have a Sony XBR 6, circa 2008, and no home theater, if that helps. Neither the tv’s specs, nor such region 2 discs that I have provide the information you mention. I really am relying on the Oppo region hack article you published in deciding whether to buy a player from Oppo and the external modification or a modified player. I’d be appalled to find myself with another player that can’t play imported discs.

    • Josh Zyber
      Author

      There are two separate issues at play here. The first is the difference between the PAL and NTSC formats. North America and Japan use the NTSC format for standard definition home video. Most of the rest of the world uses PAL. OPPO players have the ability to convert PAL to NTSC out of the box. This shouldn’t be a problem. (Many other disc players sold in North America do not have this ability.)

      Separate from this is the issue of region coding. If a disc is locked to a foreign region, the player won’t read it regardless of what format it is. The OPPO hardware hack disables this region coding.

      With the OPPO player and the hardware hack, you should be able to play DVDs or Blu-rays from anywhere in the world on any TV.

  10. balzac.nyc

    Here’s why I’m concerned:
    Bought The Killing from the UK, region 2 dvds. Plays perfectly in my hacked LG 690. So got season 2, same manufacturer, but it returns a region code error. Both seasons’ boxes indicate that they are PAL, the only difference is that the first season has an aspect ratio described as 1.77:1 full height anamorphic, while season 2 reads 1.77:1 (16×9) anamorphic. Does that information tell you anything about why season 1 plays, but 2 won’t? It was this inability to play season 2 that set me searching for a modified Oppo and I found Josh’s article, which seems an ideal solution. Am just a bit apprehensive, since I don’t know why season 2 returns an error though season 1 still plays perfectly.

    • William Henley

      The aspect ratio shouldn’t matter. All PAL DVDs, to my knowledge, are encoded at 720×576.

      My question is, did you change your region code to 2, or disable the region code all together? I have had issues with players sometimes not playing certain discs when you set the region code to zero.

      I am not sure about your particular player or television. Some players will output the native resolution of the discs, some will convert. The cheapy Wal-mart player I had actually outputed PAL discs as PAL (as my old TV would actually say 576i or 576p when I poped in one of those discs). Both of my new(er) tvs that are flat screens also seem to support multiple framerates – easily doing 24, 25, 30,50, or 60fps.

      That being said, Sony products (DVD players, Blu-Ray players, PS3s) practically refuse to play DVDs or Blu-Rays in a PAL, even if the disc is region free. Strangely, you can throw video files on the PS3 or AVCHD discs at it, and it will play whatever framerate you want.

      That was a long explanation to your problem.

      So, as Josh stated, the Oppo will convert to NTSC, so you shouldn’t have to worry. Some players that allow you to play other region discs output the native framerate and resolution (which is what I prefer), and most (but not all) modern televisions will support whatever you throw at it.

      As for the problems you are having in with the DVDs, could be an issue just with that particular region hack for that player, or you could have a bad disc. Have you tried it in a PC using AnyDVD?

  11. Barsoom Bob

    Oh yeah, the Bat beacon is shining in the sky ………

    Cue the intro music ……..

    It’s the HD Advisor Rises

    Sorry Josh, I know it was probably hell to get those questions together each week and pump out another column, but. I loved that Friday afternoon read.

  12. balzac.nyc

    Thanks, Josh.
    Still baffled by why season 1 plays, but not 2. Both are labeled region 2. The hack is a simple one for the LG690, country code changed in settings under lock but not under network setting where a warning is posted about changes being permanent. Worked fine until I got more region 2 dvds. Other hacks using the remote don’t have any effect.

    • Josh Zyber
      Author

      Yes, all PAL DVDs are 720×576 pixels at 50 Hz frame rate, interlaced. NTSC DVDs are 720×480 pixels at 60 Hz, also interlaced.

      Some American HDTVs will accept and display a PAL signal, but others may lock that out. If your TV will display PAL, you should set the DVD/Blu-ray player to output PAL natively as PAL (usually a setting called “direct” or “native”). If your TV won’t display PAL, you should set the player to convert it to NTSC.

  13. Tossup between my Pioneer 704 laserdisc player – which takes a very long time now to spin down and flip sides of the disc or my JVC HRS7300 SVHS.

    Both are unplugged from power unless they need to be used but both still function.