A Home Theater System Combining, New, DIY,
Vintage and Semi-Vintage Gear

I have the home theater system nearly complete, brought about by the sudden death of my 25-year old 27-inch Sony Console TV. The screen on that set went dark for the final time with a fffpt sound (it likely blew something in the high voltage section) but the picture tube had faded anyway.

I had been contemplating the new system for some time. To replace it I chose the 46-inch Sony Projection HDTV model KP46WT510 ($1350 at hhgregg) and I have been  spending the past several days building the sound system around it, using primarily bits and pieces (DIY speakers, ebay purchases, gifts from people on the Vintage asylum.

The other new purchase was a Toshiba SD-V392 combination Hi Fi VHS recorder and DVD/CDplayer ($122 at Best Buy). I chose that model as I suspected that the DVD/CD electronics was similar to that in the SD-3950 DVD/CD player and thought it would be easier to deal with one box rather than two.

The photo shows the equipment as currently configured.

In the left cabinet is still the old equipment that I used in conjunction with the Console Sony. The receiver here is my much loved mid-80s Technics SA-350 with built-in VHF TV Tuner. I have had that one since new. I have another almost identical unit--an ebay purchase--in my bedroom.

The older pieces of equipment in the left cabinet are the Mitsubishi DP-107 CD player and Emerson VCS-966H Hi Fi Video recorder. Both of these units have mecanical issues.

The CD player has a drawer that is sometimes difficult to coax open and at minimum needs a new belt. The Emerson sometimes has difficulty fast forwarding and rewinding tapes, especially if left for long periods without use. I had the idler wheel replaced once, and know how to repair it myself using a pencil eraser. THe problem is that the repair lasts for only a few months. I haven't discarded this unit because it has a number of features no longer normally found on VHS recorders starting with manual line-level controls and is a fine audio deck when it is working properly.

Below that in the left cabinet is a Sony TC WE305 dual cassette deck, a nearly new unit I purchased to replace an aging HItachi, also with belt problems. The Speakers in the cabinets are genuine DAK/BSR Thunder LIzards which are connected to the Technics,but I haven't used them much in recent years. I'm a bit concerned about their location relative to the TV screen and may eventually get rid of them.

The main receiver for the sound system is a vintage JVC VR-5541 40 watt receiver, from the so-called early 70s "blackface" line. On my living room system I have the smaller VR-5521 which I have owned since new. For home theater, I like this receiver a lot. FOr starters I have two auxilary inputs on it and provision for two tape decks.

The Subwoofer is located on the left, and is being driven at line level by the audio output of the TV.THe Subwoofer is the 100 watt RMS Jensen JS-1000A complete with 12-inch woofer built during the period Jensen was a subsidiary of Recoton, it is very similar to a subwoofer built under the AR label (which Recoton also owned at the time). I picked this up new in box a couple summers ago on ebay with the idea I would eventually use it for a home theater system.

In addition, for higher frequencies, there are two pairs DIY speakers. THe black Goldwood Project speakers are well documented on my speaker building page. The towers I built specifically for home theater, and they are connected to the vintage JVC receiver as well as the Toshiba VHS/CD/DVD unit.

There are 7 sets of video inputs on the Sony projection TV, but only one pair of audio outputs. I thought it would be interesting to let the TV drive the sub, so the sub could run even if the stereo receiver wasn't turned on. THe jacks on the audio output say L(Mono) and R   I had not seen that before.I Y'ed the Left channel output and sent that to the sub. The Left and Right outputs get sent to AUX 1 on the JVC. I'm not sure if I should also Y the right channel output and then merge both signals back to a mono signal or not but the Sub seems to be working fine as is. AUX 1 on the JVC then also sends sound from whatever is playing on the TV out to the towers. From the Toshiba SD-V392 I ran three wire composite video signal (aka Py Pb Pr for 480p progressive scan DVD) plus the digital audio signal to the TV from the CD/DVD side of the SD-V392 to Video input 6 which accepts the progressive scan video. In order to watch a DVD I simply set the TV on Video 6. I can turn off the TV speakers entirely via a menu on the TV if I want (though they really act as something like a center channel speaker) and still use the volume control on the TV remote to adjust the volume of the tower speakers connected to the JVC receiver.

There is more: the analog signal from VHS side of the the SD-V392 for audio goes to the AUX 2 input of the JVC. The VHS composite video signal goes to the Video 2 input on the TV. There are also S-video outputs on the Toshiba and S-video inputs on the TV, but I haven't dug into those--yet!

Still in the works are plans to upgrade the analog cable box to digital, and this box will also includes a 40-hour digital video recorder. As of yet I have not connected the wires to record VHS, awaiting the digital cable box swapout. This box will also give me true HDTV in 720p or 1080i formats and the Sony KP46WT510 will accept either format directly without upconverting 720p to 1080i. THe picture is so clear on our existing cable system I don't think the true HDTV will turn out to be much of an upgrade. I don't have any rear channel speakers, but the current system works well enough that I don't think they will be much missed.

Finally, everything pretty much fit into the existing cabinets. The TV was chosen in part to fit exactly in the space vacated by the old console. Doors on all the equipment can be closed. The depth of the projection TV works so the screen is just even with the two cabinets so depth is not a problem. Overall,the system does not overwhelm the room.

Aside from the cost of the old equipment,the cost of putting this all together has been well under $2,000--I think a very good price as flexible and complex home theater systems go.

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