These full-timers enjoy “RV TV” in a big way with a customized surround-sound system that features a 50-inch high-definition television.
By Lynn Lunde, F99356
My wife, Becky, and I have done a lot to our motorhome over the years, but high-definition television is the most fantastic add-on. We love it!
We travel full-time (12 years now) in a 34-foot 1987 Holiday Rambler Monitor. Four years ago we installed a high-definition (HD) TV system with 5.1 AC-3 surround sound, which means it has five channels of sound with a sub-woofer. As the folks at HDNet might say, “It’s like being there.”
The first few weeks after the system was installed, I was so excited about it that I would stop RVers coming into the campgrounds where we were staying and tell them they must visit our coach and see the high-definition picture. Everyone who took a look was so impressed. I remember one couple started laughing, and could not stop. They could not get over the size of the 50-inch plasma screen hanging down in the front of the motorhome between the driver’s and rider’s seats.
I could not write about this system right away; I wanted to see how it worked for a few years first. As I said before, it has been fantastic! Last year we traveled from Florida through the Midwest, to Denver, the Grand Canyon, Los Angeles, Dallas, and back to Florida. We found that you don’t need a $300,000-plus motorhome to enjoy HD TV; just modify your own coach.
This system includes an RCA DTC-100 receiver, which accepts the following: a) DirecTV digital (4:3 ratio “” four units wide by three units high) and high-definition (16:9 ratio) signals; b) over-the-air broadcast TV analog, digital (4:3), and high definition (16:9) signals; and c) cable TV signals when we are in a campground with cable TV hookups. The television is a Pioneer PDP-505HD 50-inch plasma model (only 3½ inches thick “” just perfect for our motorhome) that folds up to the ceiling when we are driving. We really had to study the specs of these TV monitors in order to purchase the correct HD display. Many stores tried to sell us the 42-inch plasma, but the 42-inch monitors had a horizontal resolution of only 480 lines, not a full HD resolution. Even the new high-end motor coaches offered only 42-inch plasma screens at the time. So, we decided to keep our 1987 motorhome and upgrade to high definition.
Naturally, we can receive satellite reception most everywhere we go. But what really makes it exciting is to arrive in a new campground and push the button on the receiver to see if we get any HD TV channels over the airwaves. In Los Angeles and Chicago we received 12 digital channels: seven HD channels in 16:9 ratio and five digital channels in standard 4:3 ratio. In Phoenix we received 10 digital channels (this does not include all the sub-channels). We even received digital channels outside Denver at 10,000 feet above sea level. Safety-wise, many cities are broadcasting a sub-channel that airs a 24-hour-a-day local weather radar, which comes in mighty handy when you’re traveling full-time.
The place where I purchased the 50-inch Pioneer plasma TV would not install it. So, I sat down with a machinist welder and a drawing that I furnished him. I also brought along a pair of 8-inch strap hinges. These were to be mounted (welded) atop the steel frame that I designed.
Each in-coach installation would be a tad different, depending on where the HD TV is to be placed. The location we chose worked out perfectly. Our coach’s original floor plan slept seven, the seventh being a single bed that pulled down from the ceiling between the driver’s and navigator’s seats. I lowered the single bed “sleeping area” 8½ inches and discarded the sleeping pad. This gave us plenty of room to locate all the surround-sound electronics, digital surround processor (DSP), main 5.1 AC-3 amplifier, DVD player, six-disc CD player, VCR, dual-cassette player, and, of course, the DirecTV receiver.
I attached metal bracing straps to both ends of the lowering mechanism, thereby preventing any further lowering of the sleeping area. From the bottom of this electronics platform, I attached a metal brace to the bottom of each cabinet on the left and right sides of the motorhome to reinforce the stability of this new platform (old sleeping area). The 50-inch HD TV plasma monitor weighs 92 pounds, and you definitely want it secured properly. I also installed a safety cable.
My wife made curtain-matching hinge cover-ups to blend with the windshield curtains. They wrap around the 8-inch hinges easily with a hook-and-loop tie-down and remain in place when we raise and lower the 50-inch monitor. When they need to be washed, they can be removed easily and quickly and later put back in place.
All the wiring for the four inputs and the 120-volt AC cords stay connected to the 50-inch monitor at all times, up or down. The wires and cords/cables run along the steel mounting frame and are secured with plastic tiebacks. Raising or lowering the monitor takes only 15 seconds. It is a manual operation, accomplished by my wife and me and a set of quick-connect chains.
Well, that’s our little story of how we made our motorhome lifestyle more enjoyable. Besides HD TV, we also take videos in the 16:9 ratio using a Sony DCR-PC1 digital video camcorder. The videos look great on the big 50-inch screen, as do the wide-screen DVDs. And, one more fantastic feature is the ability to connect our computer tower to the plasma monitor via an RGB switch; this enables us to toggle back and forth between the computer’s normal monitor and the big 50-inch plasma monitor. We have more than 75 slide shows stored in the computer, the result of taking many digital pictures between 3 and 5 megabytes each with a Sony Cyber Shot DSC-F707 camera over the past three years. Viewing them on the big 50-inch plasma monitor is the same as watching high-definition TV.