By Don Lindich
Week 38, 2016
Q. I have a Roku 4 streaming box, a Samsung 4K Blu-ray player and a Samsung JS8500 TV, all used with a Marantz 1606 receiver. Which device will give me the optimal audio and video for streaming, the Roku, the 4K Blu-ray player of the TV itself?
-R.W., Minneapolis, MN
A. It is hard to know without trying them individually. There are many variables and the advertising and specification sheets for the products do not go into much detail, other than to use adjectives that say how great they are. If any of them had a high-end processing solution like Darbee Visual Presence then it would be easier to determine which is likely to be the best performer. For example, the Roku 4 specifications say “advanced video processing capabilities” but it doesn’t really go into detail about what chips or processes it uses. The 4K Blu-ray player is very recent technology and may very well have the best video processing. You have an outstanding TV and you may get the best results by using it with its built-in streaming capabilities.
There is also the matter of your connection speed and bandwidth. Some may do a better job with what you have than the others will, but until you compare it you will not know for sure.
When you compare the picture quality from each device be sure that you use the same source material for each one, to keep the playing field level. You almost must make sure that the TV’s picture settings are the same when using the Roku and Blu-ray player inputs, as well as the TVs built-in streaming. Most TVs will allow you to adjust the picture settings for each input individually. That way you can fine-tune the picture for each component. For example, your Blu-ray player may need no adjustment, but your satellite set-top box might need a little bit more brightness or color saturation to look its best. Most TVs will benefit from having the contrast or picture setting turned down a bit, as well as the color temperature set to “warm,” but that is a subject for another column.
Everything you have in your system is top quality, so there’s a good chance you won’t see a difference between any of them. In that case you can just use the one that gives you the best interface and user experience.
You also asked about sound quality. I would not worry about it in this instance. Visual differences are relatively easy to determine, but audio is much different. Digital audio quality is going to be determined by the receiver and unless the volume levels are set exactly the same from device to device the one that is slightly louder will seem to sound better. I’d focus on the visual quality and user interface to decide which device you want to use for streaming.
Q. If I have an older TV, do I need a different antenna than a newer TV?
-W.T., San Jose, CA
A. The age of the TV does not matter, as long as it has a digital tuner. If you have an old CRT TV with an analog tuner, then you will need a converter box to tune the digital signal.