Wednesday, February 13, 2008

I Can't Hear You!!!!

I had a call on my voice mail from a women who was very upset with me and CET. Of course she did not leave a call back number. Her complaint was that she experiences loss of audio on some of the programs she is watching on CET. Naturally she thinks that this is CET’s problem. Actually the problem is in her set. I bring this up because it relates to a topic we discussed in this column a few weeks back.

Many new TV sets have multiple audio channels. One of these channels is called the SAP (Special Audio Program) channel and can be used for Spanish language or Descriptive Video for the blind. Most people don’t know that they have this feature, since most do not need it. Normally this feature should be turned off. If it is left on or inadvertantly turned on, you can have a real problem. There are many times when there is no audio recorded on the SAP channel and the result is you will hear no audio at all. This is what is happening to the lady who called me.

Manufacturers are building more and more features into new electronic devices and as a result they are becoming next to impossible to easily operate. In the case of the SAP channel, the various set manufactures can’t even agree what to call that function. I examined several remote controls that I have for my TV and VCR to see how they handle turning SAP on and off.

One of the remotes for Panasonic® TV was unfortunatley very typical. There is no button on the remote that is marked SAP or even Audio. You have to press a button called “ACTION.” Presssing this button brings up an on-screen menu. One of the selections is SAP. Why a designer would think a consumer would look under “ACTION” to turn on the SAP channel is beyond me. Now I guess that I have to come to the defense of Panasonic® since I have another remote control for my VCR. That remote has a button clearly marked “SAP.” But why is this on one Panasonic® remote and not the other?

Another TV remote I found does not use the term SAP at all. Instead it has a setting for “foreign language.” This setting could easily be confused with the settings that allow you to have the on screen menus in English, Espanol or Francias.

If the manufactures would only adopt some standardization …you know “hot water on the left and cold on the right” or “righty tighty and lefty losey.” What a concept! But I ask too much.

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