More Home Theater Equipment Failure

It wasn’t all that long ago that I had a scare where it looked like my projector almost died on me. Fortunately, that turned out to just be a faulty lamp, which was easily (though not cheaply) replaced. However, isn’t it always the way that as soon as one thing fails on you, everything else in your system has to start flaking out too? Last week, my video processor – the heart of my home theater chain – crapped out on me out of the blue. This one’s dead for real, and it’s not so easy to fix.

I wrote in my last HD Advisor column why I even still have a dedicated video processor in today’s day and age, where high-quality processing chips are built into many Blu-ray players, A/V receivers, and video displays by default. As a Constant Image Height projection viewer, I need the comprehensive aspect ratio control that only a good VP offers.

I’ve owned a DVDO VP50Pro processor since it was released in 2007, and was a big fan of earlier products from the company (Anchor Bay Technologies) going back almost a decade. Sadly, I’ve grown disillusioned with the DVDO brand in recent years, for reasons I also spelled out in that Advisor piece. I’d been pondering a move to competitor Lumagen for a while now, as a tie-in with my eventual 3D upgrade plans. The VP50Pro cannot support 3D, and Anchor Bay has no plans to replace its flagship processor with a new model. The company has shifted its focus instead to very stripped-down, lower-end products that just don’t meet my needs. On the other hand, Lumagen has a comparable processor called the Radiance XS that supports 3D. Lumagen also has a much better reputation for customer service and keeping its products up to date with firmware upgrades when needed. In comparison, the VP50Pro hasn’t gotten a firmware update in two years, despite still having several significant unfixed bugs.

Even so, I’d delayed making a decision on this for the same reasons I’d delayed my 3D upgrade plans. I just wanted to make do with my current equipment for a while longer. Then, last week, I tried to turn on my system and discovered that the VP50Pro was non-functional for no apparent reason. The front panel display is stuck on a “Load New Firmware Now” message, as if I had tried to initiate a firmware update. (I didn’t.) When I did try to load the last available firmware file, it wouldn’t take. I tried every troubleshooting tip available to reset it, but the unit is officially dead.

This of course was a big problem for me. Every video source in my home theater is routed through the processor. It’s the central hub of my system. Without it, nothing else works.

I’m very fortunate that, when I upgraded from the older VP50 processor to the VP50Pro a few years ago, I never got around to selling off the old model. (I actually tried at one point, but couldn’t find a buyer at the price I was asking, and never bothered to try again.) I pulled that old VP50 out of the closet and hooked it up as a stopgap. It seems to be working fine. In fact, doing so just reminds me of how little difference there is between the two processors. The VP50Pro was hardly much of an upgrade at all over the VP50. I can easily do without the few features that the VP50 lacks.

Disconnecting and reconnecting all of my gear was kind of a hassle, as was programming the VP50 from scratch to work with all of my current equipment. Once I got it working, though, everything seems stable for now. Nonetheless, this has cemented my decision to move to Lumagen. I contacted that company and am expecting a Radiance XS soon.

A friend of mine recently purchased his own Radiance XS and showed it off to me (which played another big part in my decision). The Lumagen processor seems to have all the features I need, but that company’s user set-up menus are much more complex and difficult to program. I have to give Anchor Bay some credit for how intuitive its products are to use. Lumagen could learn a thing or two from that. Still, I’m willing to put up with a little inconvenience in that area if it means having a more stable product that the company will continue to actively support. I’ll post more on this subject after the Radiance arrives and I’ve had some direct experience using it.


    • Josh Zyber

      The reason I went with the XS over the Mini is that I need the full bevy of inputs and outputs to support all the equipment in my theater. The dual HDMI outputs will be necessary for my eventual 3D plans, since I have no intention of replacing my HDMI 1.3 receiver just to get 3D passthrough.

  1. Two pieces of equipment having issues in just a month? Seriously, have an electrician check the wiring, and make sure all your equipment is on a UPS or something. I kept loosing equipment until I switched from a surge protector to a UPS. Also had to move some equipment around to different outlets. I had outlets that worked perfectly fine for years suddenly decide that the load I was placing on them was too high, and started loosing equipment. Luckily, the things I lost were under warrenty.

    • Josh Zyber

      All of my equipment is connected to UPSes. In fact, the projector and video processor are on separate UPSes plugged into different outlets on opposite sides of the room.

      With that said, I do seem to have developed a ground loop problem from out of nowhere recently that’s been causing my subwoofer to hum.

      Getting an electrician in here is going to be difficult because I’m in an apartment, and the ground loop issue occurs at random times that I can’t seem to isolate or reproduce.

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