Archive for February, 2008

NuVo Technologies to Offer Three Free Training Sessions at Spring EHX

Tuesday, February 26th, 2008

Dealers can learn how to better configure and install NuVo whole-home audio systems from NuVo’s Director of Education, Steve Horton. (more…)


Tuesday, February 26th, 2008

Let’s see. Today’s news says

(1) Record Oil Prices.

(2) Drug Resistant Tuberculosis is Spreading.

(3) Extensive Power Outages in Florida.

(4) US Inflation Rate is Soaring.

(5) Record Decline in Home Prices.

But . . . Stock Market Rises for Third Consecutive Day.

Am I missing something here?


KEF Muon to be Showcased at Architectural Digest Home Design Show

Monday, February 25th, 2008

Award-Winning Loudspeaker Designed in Partnership with Ross Lovegrove to be Featured at Opening Night Party March 6th

Marlboro, N.J. – February 25, 2008 – Visitors to this year’s Architectural Digest Home Design Show, held at New York City’s Pier 94 March 6th-9th, will be treated to a special demonstration of the highly acclaimed and visually stunning Muon loudspeaker from KEF, the renowned British manufacturer of audiophile-quality music and home theater speakers. (more…)

Daily Blog – Piero Gabucci – February 26, 2008: CONFUSED WORLD

Monday, February 25th, 2008

About a year ago a friend asked me to help him set up his 78 year old mother’s new 32” LCD. I was more than happy to help, although since then I’ve set up his two sister’s systems too. As we unpacked the panel I was shocked by this woman’s questions: “Are you using an HDMI cable, are all the channels in 16 x 9?”

I went on to explain to her that since she didn’t have a sound system, (I watch mostly the news and documentaries she said) and that HDMI was preferred from her cablebox to the LCD, it wasn’t completely necessary as component would do the trick (that’s all I had with me!). Then she floored me again; “But I won’t get 1080p from component?” I said not to worry, your cable company isn’t sending you 1080p content, yet.

My God, we’ve arrived I thought – an elderly woman had all the right questions.

Another friend recently called and gloated that he had just purchased a state-of-the-art 60” plasma TV and wanted some information about HDMI, this is a common trend these days. After I made my suggestions I asked what audio gear he planned, he shocked me too: “Oh I’m not into that!” Here was a 35 year old who knew enough to buy the right display and get the best cables to take full advantage of video, yet he had no desire to watch in surround.

A dissertation to explain to him that he’s losing out on half the experience seemed futile at the moment, and I was late for a meeting anyway.

A third (and final friend for purposes of this discussion) asked me to set up his new receiver and 52” panel with his surround speakers. He invested in a Blu-ray player (Sony) as well so I thought it would be fun to do. I don’t have my Saturday’s to myself anyway.

After all was set up and we ran all the right cables, he was mortified that he couldn’t get his HDMI to give him lossless audio. I showed him that it had to be Linear PCM but I assured him that it was fine. He didn’t buy my argument – he wanted to see the familiar DTS or Dolby Digital across the face of his receiver (a Denon AVR 3806), not Multi Channel. I think to this day, several months later he’s still tinkering trying to find out why.

I found this to be an interesting cross-section of people that shows we’re all over the place with home A/V. It wasn’t a surprise that video is still far ahead in terms of what people want – sexy new flat panels. I was disappointed that 2 of the 3 had no interest in audio and the third probably read way too much for his own good.

I can’t wait for the digital switch next year, I’ll be the busiest “friend” around.

Daily Blog – John E. Johnson, Jr. – February 25, 2008: MICHAEL CLAYTON, ANOTHER WEAK ENDING.

Monday, February 25th, 2008

No Country for Old Men picked up the Oscar for Best Picture, in spite of my condemnation for that terrible ending. So be it. I guess the Academy was not impressed with my opinion.

We watched Michael Clayton last night, while the Academy Award Ceremony was being televised.

For crying out loud, another bad ending. This time it was satsifying, but just weakly done. No cleverness. Nothing like the “Gotcha” kind of endings we used to see in the old Columbo TV series (starring Peter Falk).

What is it with these storytellers? It’s like, “OK guys, I am tired. Let’s get this story over with.”

I have noticed the same thing lately in some novels. Great beginning (they have to do that because we browse books by looking at the first few pages), pretty good in the middle, then “Thud” at the end.

C’mon. Put a little more energy into the finale. Leave us with our hands clapping.

Daily Blog – John E. Johnson, Jr. – February 24, 2008: I DON’T LIKE LOUSY ENDINGS!

Sunday, February 24th, 2008

As I mentioned yesterday, I went to see No Country for Old Men at the Cineplex. I know it is up for Best Picture, but I want to officially complain about the ending. It’s lousy. As the credits started to roll, I used a few four-letter words, and people around me were also outraged.

One said, “That’s it?” Another said to his friend, “I am never coming to the movies with you again.”

It was if the director said, “Hey guys, we are out of film, so let’s call that last scene a wrap.”

This begs the question as to what the intent of the film maker is: Art or Entertainment.

Hey, it’s entertainment. Anyone home in Hollywood? We want to be entertained. That’s it. We want to buy our tickets, some popcorn, some soft drinks, sit down, and escape for a couple of hours. We want to go home feeling good, not pissed off. You can make us laugh, cry, scream, whatever. But, that has to stay in the theater. We don’t want to take it home with us, and we don’t want to feel cheated.

Cheated is what I felt at the end of Old Men. For 99.99% of the movie, I loved it. But, for the last 0.01%, well, now I hope the movie doesn’t win any awards tonight, and it’s been nominated for a bunch of them, including Best Picture. I don’t care how the book went, I want something better.

Daily Blog – John E. Johnson, Jr. – February 23, 2008: BLACK LEVELS? I WILL SHOW YOU BLACK LEVELS!

Saturday, February 23rd, 2008

I went to a movie theater today, for the first time in a long while. I usually wait until the movies come out on DVD. But, I just had to go see No Country for Old Men.

My home theater is better than the Cineplex by a long shot. I have told people this, and they agree when they come over to watch movies at my home.

What I have referred to in the past was image sharpness and sound quality. Image sharpness because the Cineplex projects the films using anamorphic lenses,  and some sharpness loss occurs with this process. My sound system is also better because I have my surround speakers in the rear where they belong, and the Cineplex has them all along the side to be able to give surround sound to a huge audience. I use amplifiers that have quite a bit of bias into Class A. The Cineplex does not do that.

But, today, I paid attention to the black level. I haven’t worried about that in previous theater visits because it was before black levels were such a big issue in flat panel TVs (like I said, I haven’t gone to the Cineplex in a LONG time). In those days, we were all so excited to even see flat panel displays, we didn’t criticise them for this detail (and they were pretty bad).

What I noticed was that the black level on the Cineplex screen was actually worse than any of the LCD or Plasma HDTVs that we have tested or have seen at TV stores in the last year. This is because (1) the illumination for a theatric presentation is in the thousands of watts.  It is very, very bright. (2) the black areas on film are not completely opaque to light. They are dark, but not totally so. If you hold a piece of film that has been completely exposed to light and developed, up to even a low wattage conventional incandescent bulb, you can easily see the bulb through the film.

This particular Cineplex is very new, having been constructed in the last two years. So, it’s not because of old optics or old screens, or anything like that.

My point? With the latest crop of flat panel HDTV displays, we are seeing black levels that are far better than we have ever had at the Cineplex. I don’t think that the director’s intent when making the movie, is that we see a very dark gray in the deep shadows of a dark scene. So, the home theater now has the potential to deliver a superior visual experience. This is especially so when I consider that I also noted that the Cineplex image was not quite as sharp in detail as current 1,920×1,080 HD displays when movies are being shown on them.

It was also not as good as my 720p DLP projector that has two bulbs to give me a calibrated image with about 1,800 lumens, let alone some of the other projectors we have reviewed that really are tuned to deliver spectacular black levels.

Perhaps this is one more reason producers are going forward with more 3D films, like Journey to the Center of the Earth that I saw being advertised in the lobby of the theater today, for release mid-2008. We can’t watch those at home . . .  yet.

Daily Blog – John E. Johnson, Jr. – February 22, 2008: THE NEWS IN HIGH DEFINITION IS STILL BAD.

Friday, February 22nd, 2008

At home, I recently switched out my older DirecTV TiVo PVR for the newer version that has MPEG-4 decoding with the additional satellites that transmit more HD channels.

Included in these are the local channels in the San Francisco Bay Area.

So, we began watching local programming in HD, which includes the evening news.

I noticed the usual things, such as the pancake makeup on the news anchors, and I thought I might be caught up in paying attention to all the additional detail that was being shown in the live shots on the scene of news making events.

But, no, it appears that finally, for me at least, HD is just not the jaw dropping visual stimulus it used to be. I actually was paying more attention to the content.

And, it was still just as bad as it was in standard definition (SD), NTSC, 4:3.

I didn’t care that I could see more scratches in the crumpled metal of automobile accidents. I didn’t care that I could read the numbers of the stock market report or the numbers of victims in suicide bombings more easily.

The news stinks just as bad in high definition.

Daily Blog – Ross Jones – February 21, 2008: A BAD CASE OF PROJECTOR ENVY.

Thursday, February 21st, 2008

I think I’m the only one around here that doesn’t have a front projector, and it’s leading to feelings of inadequacy and low self-esteem.  The reasons why I haven’t taken the FP plunge, I suspect, are the same as many others; lack of appropriate space, and cost.

The price of admission for front projectors continues to fall, with several 1080p projectors available for less than $3,000. That’s a huge drop from just a couple years ago, and inch-for-inch represents an extraordinary value. But still, three grand is more than most folks will spend on a new display, and that doesn’t include the cost of the screen.  Again, prices have come down, but a high quality screen can cost almost as much as the projector. Do-it-yourself options such as specialty paints and homemade screens are always an option, but you have to be really committed to undertake that kind of project.

The second reason I haven’t pulled the trigger on a front projector is that I don’t happen to have a spare, light-controlled room lying around the house. Of course, that’s my fault for continuing to have kids until they filled up all of our bedrooms. The only space that could possibly host a front projector is the family room. The list of undesirable features in that room is virtually endless: white cathedral ceilings, a sliding glass door on one side, open to the kitchen in the back, and a 12-foot tall opening to the dining room on the other side. Can you say “zero light control?” So that means a FP would only come into use at night, with my RPTV handling duties during daylight hours. And because the RPTV doesn’t hang on a wall, that raises an interesting question as to where exactly I could mount a screen. And where to mount a projector on a cathedral ceiling. And where to run the cables and power.

So the upshot is that I have perfectly legitimate reasons why a front projector isn’t a viable option. I’m guessing that many home theater enthusiasts who lust after a FP came to the same conclusion that I did (although maybe without as much overanalyzing). But I’ve decided to challenge my own reality. There must be a relatively painless and economical way to enjoy the wonders of a HD picture on a huge screen in my own home.

I’m going to investigate various options over the coming months, hoping to find one that won’t end up with me banished to the living room couch by my wife, one that can be duplicated in various less-than-ideal environments, and ideally, one that makes buying and setting up a front projector as simple (or close as possible) as bringing home a flat panel from a big box store.

Daily Blog – Brian Florian – February 20, 2008: HD DVD MAY BE OUT OF THE GAME, BUT BLU-RAY STILL HAS SOME WORK TO DO.

Wednesday, February 20th, 2008

Following Toshiba’s announcement yesterday, there’s been much talk about HD DVD “losing”.  I’d just like to point out the fact that this does not necessarily mean that Blu-ray (BD) has “won”.

Studios can pour out as many BD titles as they want, but the format is not going to be a success in the classic sense until mass market adoption.  Remember DVD-A and SACD?  No one really rose from that debacle because the mass market took no notice of either one.   The dissolution of HD DVD simply means that Sony will have only itself to blame if it does not get in gear and reach the level of operability and accessibility the mass market demands.

Case in point:  by now this should be old news to most, but in the event you had your head buried in the sand this past week, the Blu-Ray compatibility and playability issues have apparently escalated to the point of a class action suit being filed against poor Samsung:

Many would like to sweep this under the rug, citing how DVD overcame its early technical problems.  Notwithstanding the fact that, in my opinion, BD’s grace period for this sort of thing has long expired, with the exception of one very overpriced boutique brand DVD player, DVD’s early issues were nothing like the roulette game BD buyers/renters are going through.  No one back then rented a new release and held their breath when they put it in their player waiting to see if it would have a hissy fit.  Ok, maybe it’s not quite that bad, but you have to admit “Firmware Update” was not a household phrase for DVD like it has become for BD player owners (our Editor-in-Chief prefers using his media server to play BD movies because of all the hassles he’s gone through with stand-alone players).

I love expanding my movie collection in a 1080 line format, and as of right now BD is the only game in town.  As such I sincerely hope we are on the cusp of DVD’s replacement and not another fringe enthusiast-only format (LaserDisc anyone?).

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