Home > The Soapbox > David’s rant on AV Idiots

David’s rant on AV Idiots

December 31st, 2009

In a recent podcast, I mentioned a story by a listener David. Here is the entirety of his email:

Around this time last year, as a favor, my girlfriend and I babysat for her co-teacher’s infant. In the same spirit of the season we were planning on going over there again tonight. My girlfriend called to make sure we were still on for tonight. At some point during this call she was told something to the effect of, don’t let David touch the electronics.

Now I can understand how someone could be protective of their gear and the hours of careful calibrations that can go into them, but these people had no idea what they were doing when they set up their equipment.

When I was first in these people’s home, I admired their decent sized Sony LCD. I’m not a fan of Sony myself, but it was a fine TV. What I saw on the screen, on the other hand, was a bit disturbing. The picture was both letter and pillar boxed, yes, there was a black border all the way around. Upon closer inspection, I saw that they had an HD capable cable box and had NBC on, but were watching the standard def NBC channel. I quickly changed the channel to HD NBC, to find that the broadcast was still letter boxed.

Why oh why could this be? Checking out the back of the set I found that it had been connected with COMPOSITE cables. That, however, was not the most shocking thing I saw behind that television. There, connected to the display, hanging unconnected to any source was a Monster HDMI cable. I’m not going to rant about this monstrously over priced HDMI cable, but the fact that they had an HDMI cable hanging unused from the back of the TV.

I immediately connected it to the cable box and went to switch inputs on the TV, where I discovered it was in torch mode. I changed it to movie mode and thought, well this is better. They were still using TV speakers, despite the fact that there was a receiver in their entertainment center along with a pair of bookshelf speakers, but I left that alone for the night.

This particular model allowed for independent setting and names for each input. So if they really liked using composite, they could switch it right back and get their original settings. I simply gave them the option of something far better on a previously unnamed input.

I’m not exactly sure what happened after I left. Perhaps the man’s wife saw the new beautiful picture and loved it leaving the man feeling emasculated by that fact that someone else could so easily make such a dramatic improvement and is now throwing a hissy fit over it.

In any case, I will not be setting foot in their home again.

Great story David, thanks for sharing.

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  1. Rob
    December 31st, 2009 at 22:29 | #1

    Only people who don’t know what they’re doing say, “don’t touch”. Those of us with AV knowledge just see it as a great excuse to upgrade and recalibrate if someone fiddles 😀

  2. kompressorlogik
    January 1st, 2010 at 01:52 | #2

    Man…. I wonder what it feels like to need to cling so desperately to one’s ignorance.

  3. Dar_of_Emur
    January 1st, 2010 at 13:15 | #3

    I find the hardest ‘sale’ for the naive, is to get them out of torch mode. If you do it in front of their eyes, they immediately b!tch moan and gripe that they either; like the torch image, that the proper calibration is too dim, or that they “need” the torch image due to some window light.
    I find it much much easier to just do it when no one is around… sneak into the TV room, and do (at least) a quick reset of contrast and brightness to reasonable levels… never tell the owner, and hope they don’t even realize the change.
    I dont see any ethical issue with this, as we are doing the correct thing, we are saving them from eye strain and improving the longevity of their TV set.

  4. lesser evil
    January 4th, 2010 at 13:48 | #4

    David, You just need to ask yourself – do you want to be right or do you want to be happy.
    Even if you attempt to educate someone on AV – they are likely to resent it. On Christmas day, I attended a party and found the host playing music over their LCD monitor speakers with the little speaker icon bouncing around the monitor in screen saver mode. Regardless of the sound quality, I tried to explain that the fluorescent backlighting in the LCD monitor has a limited life – clearly; my bad.

  5. bbf
    January 4th, 2010 at 18:42 | #5

    If you have no permission to modify somebody elses gear. DON’T.
    It’s THEIR stuff. Especially after one was explicitly told “NOT TO TOUCH THE ELECTRONICS”.
    I agree it’s tough for a gEEk to leave things be, especially if things were all messed up, but unless you have permission from the owner, don’t do it.
    Educating “after the fact” never works.

    Honestly, David should go back and “unfix” the things he modified. It was totally his mistake to modify somebody elses settings without permission, even if it was set up completely wrong. It’s too late now to properly “educate” since the opportunity has long passed for civil discourse.

    Live and learn. Social engineering is *much* more difficult than technical engineering.

    One has to ease the owner into the topic. Like using a comment about how the picture is “in a picture frame” and go from there. It usually helps if the male owner’s wife is in the room since she’s probably wondering the same thing and if you have “Significant Other” support, you’ll have a much better chance to effect changes.

  6. Penthouse
    January 6th, 2010 at 14:32 | #6

    My take is this: During casual conversation I will let people know that I am an HT enthusiast. If they wish to solicit my opinion or help, they are more than welcome. If not, then that is fine, too. I don’t mess with other people’s stuff unless they ask me. I know I wouldn’t be too happy if someone messed with MY gear.

  7. cynan
    January 11th, 2010 at 23:33 | #7

    I’ve seen similar

    I was over at an older couple’s place who’d recently purchased a modest sized Pionner plasma. To get the most out of it, they immediatly contacted their cable company to get an HD box. Lo and behold, when I got there they had been enjoying their new “high def” experience for a few months. Except that it wasn’t high def at all. The HD box was hooked up to the coaxial antenna input, component and hdmi cables tucked neatly away nearby.

    Now, in their defence, they are an older couple and not the most technically savvy. I think it’s dispicable that the oaf who came and hooked up their cable box from the cable company left it the way it was. Is it really harder to plug in the component cable that came with the HD box instead? Well, actually, yes. It is. A component cable has 3 connecters per end instead of one AND then you have to hook up a separate audio cable… If cable installers are going to be so apathetic, then they should really be including HDMI cables with their HD boxes.

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