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The New Wisdom




Despite Jeremy’s poor experience with Comcast, I got Comcast Digital Classic this week. Classic, the lowest-tiered digital option, is only 70 cents more than basic cable. You only get a few worthless extra channels, but what I really wanted was On Demand. I’m not even sure I’d use it that much, but it’s less than a dollar extra, so why not?

Problem is, digital stuff always gives companies a chance to use compression to fit more channels in (see Sirius and XM). I didn’t notice any compression artifacts using the coaxial cable, but I picked up an S-video cable today in the hopes that the image quality would improve. It’s sharper, all right, but now I can see artifacts! Most of the time it’s not that easy to see, but at other times it can be pretty noticeable (like Sirius, some channels get more bandwidth than others). On the bright side, the color is a lot better than it ever was before.

There’s little incentive for companies like Comcast or Sirius to improve quality, though. Most people don’t notice artifacting, and even if they did, they’d probably rather have the variety rather than fewer channels and higher quality. It’s frustrating, though, when people say Sirius is “CD quality” when it’s clearly not (it sounds like the equivalent of 96 kbps MP3).

One more thing: Even though analog cable delivers stereo sound through coaxial, with a digital cable box (or any such device) you NEED to use the L/R audio out or digital out. Don’t deny yourself stereo!


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