Posts

Dutch Star Entertainment Cabinet

From that to this:

If there was one area of our coach that was a constant source of frustration, it was our entertainment cabinet in the Newmar Dutch Star.

It was a mess. Once I added a few additional components, like a satellite receiver, Apple TV, a Logitech Harmony Hub and a couple of cooling fans, I had an equipment stack that was literally one piece of equipment heaped one on top of another stuffed into the cabinet.

Every time we hit a bump in the road, clang! Equipment jumped up and down.

Although the two cooling fans were relatively large, they could not keep up with the heat as the fans had no room to operate.

And why all of this trouble?

No shelves.

I’m not sure why Newmar made the cabinet so useless for audio visual equipment. The cable routing was inordinately complex, solely to allow the option of having two independent programming feeds to the two TV sets in the front of the coach. And yet, only one sound source for the AV receiver.

I finally got around to changing all of that this past weekend.

The first task was to empty the cabinet of all the equipment. That included the Winegard Satellite Antenna Controller, Sony Blu-Ray Player, Logitech Harmony Remote Hub, Bell Expressvu Satellite TV Receiver, two 1×4 HDMI splitters, an Apple TV, a Sony AV Receiver and two cooling fans.

What was left behind was a huge mess of cabling.

I simplified the wiring dramatically by opting for one HDMI source coming from the receiver and splitting that source to the two TV sets. Each TV set playing back the same content. All I needed to put back into the cabinet was one 1 input, 4 output HDMI splitter, not two.

There were 6 HDMI cables in the cabinet. All I needed were 2 — one to feed each TV set — and the other 4 were pushed back behind the wall. I can always pull them back if I ever need them (2 of them were to send output to the exterior TV set in the basement bay which we did not install on our coach).

The rest of the wiring was to feed the AV receiver. I replaced the Sony that came with the coach. In its place is a Pioneer slimline receiver. Not as powerful in terms of pure wattage but a better sounding unit with vastly better setup protocols for doing the on-screen programming to tune speakers and subwoofer.

I had replaced the stock subwoofer that came with the coach. It was stuck inside a kitchen cabinet and sounded awful. I picked up a small but mighty sub that fits nicely behind one of our recliners. Sounds awesome in the coach.

I had a friend build two nice shelves for the coach. I was able to place all of the equipment neatly in place with a vastly simplified cable plant.

The two cooling fans are now mounted on the outside of the cabinet grill. They pull the hot air out of the cabinet far more effectively than before. So much so that I will add a temperature probe as the fans no longer need to run continuously except, obviously, when heat conditions warrant the cooling.

All of the gear is velcro’d to the shelves so no more flying equipment when driving the coach.

And, everything is neat and tidy in the cabinet.  The Pioneer receiver and Apple TV are both wired via ethernet to the back entertainment cabinet in the bedroom which is where I have a router and a NAS installed.

Very pleased with how it all turned out.

Newmar Recall 2016-559

A brand new 2016 Dutch Star 4369 caught fire last September. And now we know why:

Fortunately we have had our coach in storage since October. Newmar had an erroneous postal code for our address and we only just received the notice in the mail last week roughly 6 weeks after the date of the recall notice.

Thank heavens we were not traveling south with the coach this year. Despite the number of “coulds” in the recall notice above, a coach did catch fire. If we were snowbirds, we would have been on the road extensively during the latter part of 2016. Our coach could have caught fire.

We have booked our service appointment for when we take the coach out of storage in April.

I am a wee bit concerned about the 4-hour drive to the dealer from the storage facility. We are going to check with Newmar and Freightliner to confirm if the coach is safe to drive that distance with this defect.

Up On The Roof

OnTheRoof

I finally made it, up on the roof, the very top of the Castaway, our 40-foot motorhome.

I wasn’t sure how to get up on the roof of my Newmar Dutch Star. I have two ladders, one 8-foot step ladder and a 7-foot multi-purpose ladder. After checking with the customer service team at Newmar, I used the 7-foot multi-purpose ladder to make the climb. They assured me that the side panels were more than strong enough to hold the weight. Fully extended at a safe angle, the ladder was almost two feet short of the top edge of the coach. Not ideal but I was able to hold on to the top edge of the coach and swing my legs over to the roof itself.

Success. A castaway has landed on the roof.

I needed to finish detailing the very top areas of the coach that were simply out of reach from the step ladder. Being on the roof made it so much easier to apply paint sealant to the top part of the front and rear caps as well as the top ridge of the sides of the coach.

I found a number of items on the roof: air conditioning units, vent covers for the Fan-Tastic Fans, drain-waste-vent outlets, a small solar panel, a cover for the solar prep wires, the satellite dish, the digital TV antenna, radio antennas and antennas for the Sirius XM radio.

I spent roughly 3 hours topside. Lorraine was kind enough to ferry up the supplies. Things like detailing spray, clay bars, paint sealant, microfibre cloths and fluids. Even though it was a cloudy day, there was enough heat and humidity to produce a lot of sweat. The constant moving along with the cleaning and waxing activities does constitute a pretty good workout.

Here is a short video about the experience up on the roof.

Weird AV Settings

WeirdAVSettings

Weird AV Settings.

That was the title of a post over at the iRV2 Newmar Forum. And it reads, in part:

I finally got to sit down tonight and figure out what in the world was going on with the AV setup in 2015 DSDP. I’m fairly AV savvy and was mostly stymied by not having (a) time, (b) extra cables from my big pile back home, and (c) the ability to take apart that insane amount of velcro holding all the boxes in the cabinet above the driver.

This is a picture of our AV Cabinet in the Castaway:

AVCabinet

Since that picture was taken, I have added two 120mm fans to pull heat out of the cabinet, one Harmony Hub universal remote base station, one IR blaster, and a Bell HD satellite receiver. I also need to add an Apple TV. But right now there is too much clutter and not enough space.

Installed in the coach was a cheap Sony STR-DH550 AV Receiver, a Sony BDP-1500 Blu-Ray player, a Winegard Trav’ler base station, two splitters and lots of cables.

Nothing about this setup makes much sense to me. What was bad? Well, a cheap subwoofer hidden inside the kitchen cabinet. The front grill literally a few millimetres from the cabinet sidewall. Incorrect settings for the surround sound receiver — all speakers were set to large and, with 3-inch drivers, they are certainly not large. No ability to see the receiver settings on the TV panels because of the way in which the cabling was interconnected. Lots of heat and no space for adding or changing components. Way, way too many remotes. The first thing I purchased for the AV cabinet was a Logitech Universal Remote.

I have to literally empty the cabinet and get myself a bit more room in there. The receiver barely fits in the space which will limit my choices in terms of a replacement unit. There is no shelving to create some distance between the components. And the default routing of the HDMI cables limits the functionality of the various components. One example is dropping the Audio Return Channel functionality with HDMI. The living room TV returns audio through a digital cable, not through HDMI. Unnecessary cable run. Another example is not being able to program the receiver using the receiver’s GUI on the TV screen. The only way to program the receiver is by using the receiver’s small LCD panel.

The only physical change that I have made to the setup thus far is to connect an external subwoofer. It is placed behind one of the recliners. I also changed the speaker setting to small and set up the crossover to allow the subwoofer to shoulder most of the work on the lower end of the frequency spectrum. It sounds so much better now.

I have a compact subwoofer on order as the one I am using is really too large for the space. I will be installing a Cambridge Audio Minx X201 powered subwoofer. It is very compact at roughly 8.5 inches wide x 8.5 inches high x 10 inches deep. I will need to make my first hole in my coach to route the subwoofer cable through the back of the kitchen cabinet to the new subwoofer. I suppose a coach really isn’t your own until you make that first opening. This small subwoofer should be fine for the size of the listening area.

Obviously, audio is not a strong suit of the Newmar Dutch Star. The components are functional as entry level components go but I will be replacing all of the audio components: receiver, blu-ray player, speakers. The listening space will sound significantly better with a better set of speakers.

This is a time consuming project though and one that I won’t start for a while. The external subwoofer along with a few setting changes make the system bearable in the short term.

Our First Ride

20160604_dutch_star_lrc_121

Lorraine took this shot as I was bringing our coach, the Castaway, up our driveway.

We live in the country. We have 7 acres. We have a long, twisty gravel road that runs about 1,000 feet. Our house is on a hill surrounded by a forest.

Getting the coach up to the house was the second most challenging part of the drive. The first most challenging part of the drive was leaving the dealership.

Of course, I decided that it would be a great idea to take my first drive with our new motorhome through the busiest highways in all of Canada: the 400 highway and the 401 highway in Toronto.

Outwardly, I believe I looked calm.

Inwardly I was terrified. For the first hour or so. Then I became captivated with the driving experience. This is one amazing coach. Wonderful feel on the road. The 450 hp Cummins diesel provides all the power necessary to climb hills. The three stage engine brake helps to slow the coach without excessive wheel braking.

Once we had cleared the Greater Toronto Area, I was able to set the cruise control and enjoy the driving experience.

I loved it.

Lorraine took a few videos to capture our first ride in our new motorhome.

Still so much to do before we head out on the road but this is a major milestone for us. We have the Castaway.