Archive for March, 2008


Thursday, March 20th, 2008

Most folks agree that the home theater enthusiast is under threat from an ever-increasing variety of interactive communication, media, and multi-tasking applications vying for their attention. Fewer people (especially the younger generations) take the time to sit still and watch a film uninterrupted, let alone listen to music undisturbed.

The most basic instinct in life is to reproduce, to perpetuate the species. Therefore, as A/V fans, our prime directive is to make sure that we do not become extinct. But how do we accomplish this goal?

In the animal world, it’s a simple numbers game: reproduce like crazy, and hope that enough of your offspring survive to adulthood so they can likewise procreate. As enticing as that sounds, I suspect the answer requires a somewhat more delicate approach. Education is the key, and just like reading to your kids, the home is the best place to start. Those of us with kids need to not only set an example, but share the home theater experience with our children.

The set-up routine on receivers has become so fool-proof that I let my kids navigate through the menus (with close adult supervision, of course). Older equipment that might have ended up on a shelf in the garage now goes into my teenage son’s room (although my wife still draws the line at putting a subwoofer in there). If I end up watching every Pixar film 100 times, so be it. It’s a small sacrifice to make for the survival of the species.

Screen Research Announces Luc Guillaume as International Sales Director

Wednesday, March 19th, 2008

Nantes, France – March 19, 2008 – Screen Research, a world-class provider of innovative projector screen solutions for the custom home theater and professional markets, has signed Luc Guillaume as the company’s International Sales Director. (more…)


Wednesday, March 19th, 2008

I have asked a number of A/V companies how they are doing now that the US economy is floundering, and the ones that have significant European distribution networks for their products made in the USA invariably have said they are doing fine. One even said they had record sales.

The reason for this is the US Dollar vs. the Euro dollar and British Pound. Right now, the Euro is worth quite a bit more than the US dollar (USD), so that makes it inexpensive for European countries to import US goods, relative to what it used to be. So, US hi-fi products are doing well sales-wise, in Europe. Today (3/19/08), the Euro is valued at about 1.6 USD, and the British Pound is almost at 2 USD. That is a HUGE difference from what the exchange rates were last year.

Even though the economy in Europe is not exactly terrific either, US-made A/V products being sold there because of the value of the Euro and British Pound vs. the USD are taking up the slack. This is very interesting to me, because with the global economy being in some trouble, I would have thought that, at best, sales going down in the USA vs. sales in Europe going up would have evened out, and overall, sales for a US company might just be unchanged, when, in fact, some US companies are actually doing record sales because of Europe.

I guess what this says is that US companies who want to ensure less of an up and down sales chart should definitely consider having global distribution channels for their products, and I don’t just mean being able to ship from the US to Europe. It means having networks of centers overseas that can distribute the products directly from there.

Daily Blog – John E. Johnson, Jr. – March 18, 2008: REVENGE OF THE ZOMBIES?

Tuesday, March 18th, 2008

I wonder how Hollywood chooses which movies to release in high definition, besides the current ones at the Cineplex.

I would have thought by now that all of the Best Picture Academy Award movies would be available in HD. Nope.

A couple of years ago, I was scrolling through the programming guide on DirecTV and saw that an old Audie Murphy western was being shown in high def. I figured, OK, they are starting to put the catalog of ancient releases out in HD now. Great.

Then, nothing for a long time. Last year, the 1938 version of Robin Hood (Errol Flynn) was released along with Casablanca. Wonderful. We are making headway. Then, nothing but some John Wayne westerns and Elvis Presley classics. They are reasonably entertaining films, but not spectacular. I did record The Guns of Navarone in HD on my DirecTV DVR at 3 AM one night, but it has never been offered as a hard copy HD DVD or Blu-ray.

So, last night, I watched the HD premier of Revenge of the Zombies, a 1943 B movie with John Carradine. I figured it they took the trouble to encode this one in HD, it must be something special, even though I had never heard of it.

So, here is the plot: A mad doctor (Carradine) is turning dead bodies into Zombies, including his wife, to make an invincible army of Nazi’s. Bob Steele, a 1930’s western actor, shows up in a cowboy outfit, clicking his heels together and addressing Carradine as “Herr Doctor”.

I mean, this was some of the worst garbage I have ever seen. Ben Hur is not out in HD yet, but Revenge of the Zombies is.

I suspect that Hollywood is just testing the commercial waters with various types of movies to see which ones take off in sales. Robin Hood and Casablanca did not sell many copies. They want to find out if we will purchase HD versions of the old horror movies.

So, why not Frankenstein or Dracula or The Wolfman? Why encode and broadcast something that should have remained on the cutting room floor?

Daily Blog – John E. Johnson, Jr. – March 17, 2008: WHAT PRICE JUNK?

Monday, March 17th, 2008

I went into a consumer electronics supermarket yesterday to browse while my wife was in a clothing shop next door. I hadn’t been in one of those supermarkets in a few years because I get all of my equipment direct from manufacturers during the review process.

I was shocked to see how much of the stuff in that store was simply junk.

We have really gotten ourselves into a “Wait until the price comes down before I buy,” tragedy. DVD players for $99, “100 watt x 5″ receivers for $179.95, even some digital video cameras that look like they came out of cereal boxes as prizes.

What the hell are we doing to ourselves? Does anyone truly believe they will get quality when they purchase that kind of equipment? The manufacturers are not at fault here. We are, because we have insisted over the years that we are only interested in one thing: the price. So, quality has spiraled down to the point that just about everything out there is built with the lowest priced parts. Maybe the top two items on the shelf are good quality, and the rest  . . . well, you probably should purchase the extended warranty, but if you do that, you will have paid a total dollar amount that would have been the same if the product had been high quality to begin with and you didn’t need the extended warranty.

As for myself, I have never been a “got to have it right now” kind of person. I don’t mind waiting until I put away enough cash to buy what I really want: the good stuff. Problem is, the good stuff is getting harder and harder to find. It’s out there alright, but I have to look for it.

Sometimes I wonder if we are losing our self respect.

Daily Blog – John E. Johnson, Jr. – March 16, 2008: CONSUMER ELECTRONICS SALES HEADED FOR A FALL?

Sunday, March 16th, 2008

Someone reported an opinion that consumer electronics are headed for a big fall, namely plummeting sales. She was referring to computers and related products, not the A/V world. When it was pointed out that sales are OK right now, she said, well yeah, but disaster is on the way.

I don’t necessarily agree with this. Yes, the economy is trembling right now, but when I feel depressed about such news, I retreat into the world of the things that give me comfort. That includes such activities as browsing the Internet, listening to music, watching movies, and having at least one rich hot chocolate a day (cold chocolate milk in the summer). It is comforting to do this, and I plan to do more of these activities now, not less. I may buy a new A/V product sooner, not later.

During the Great Depression, people swarmed to the movies because it let their minds escape the realities of the economy. It made them feel good. It was comforting.

It will be interesting to see what kind of movies do the best at the box office as the economy struggles. I hope Hollywood has some “comforting” stories to tell.

Daily Blog – Jason Victor Serinus – March 15, 2008: PREPARING FOR A 24-BIT/176.4 kHz DIGITAL MASTER AUDIO DEMONSTRATION.

Saturday, March 15th, 2008

On March 29, Reference Recordings will hold the first-ever public demo of their new hi-rez, HRx data discs. These HRx DVD-Rs contain WAV files intended for playback on computer-based music servers. Each HRx is a digit-for-digit copy of an original Reference Recordings 24-bit/176.4kHz digital master. According to Reference Recordings’ legendary audio designer and engineer “Prof.” Keith O. Johnson, who co-developed the HDCD process and has received seven Grammy nominations for Best Engineered Album, the files allow consumers to hear for the first time all the information on the company’s universally praised master recordings.

It just so happens that I have more than a slight stake in this demo. Sponsored by the Bay Area Audiophile Society, it’s going to be held at our house in Oakland’s barrio. And it’s so popular that, within a few days after sign-up began, all seats at two back-to-back sessions have already been claimed by 32 BAAS members and significant others. At least nine folks are on the waiting list.

Not only will the demo be held at Casa Bellecci-Serinus, but it will also make use of my Nordost Valhalla cabling, Nordost Thor power distribution center, and most probably the VTL 450 W tubed monoblock prototypes and Eggleston Works the Nine speakers. Reference Recordings will supply the computer playback source, and the folks at Berkeley Audio Design Associates will bring their new Alpha DAC, which can decode HDCD. I’m not sure at this point if we’ll need to use my Theta Gen. VIII as a preamp. I’ll find out next Wednesday, when the RR folks come over to scope out my room and system and strategize how to run the demo.

While I can’t control the ghetto madness that goes on beyond our walls, I want to do all I can to make this demo a success. Hence, I’ve been spending a lot of time fine-tuning my system and room. Lord knows it has been enlightening.

One area I’ve examined is equipment supports. For quite some time I’ve used Ganymede ball bearing supports exclusively. Maybe four months ago, however, when I removed my very alive Talon Khorus X speakers and replaced them with the review pair of Eggleston Works the Nines, I discovered that the Ganymedes were no longer an ideal match for my rack. (When you’re dealing with finely tuned equipment with many variables, that’s how it goes sometimes). For a few months I used my old standby, brass cones. They were okay, as it went, but would never win any gold stars in the air department.

Happily, Allen Perkins of Immedia loaned me a few sets of Cerupucs about a month ago. These award-winning supports also incorporate a ball-bearing, but are far more rigid than the Ganymedes. Immediate result: more air and clarity, and far less worry about things shooting off the rack in the event of an earthquake.

While the Cerupucs can accept a speaker spike, and can thus be placed under speakers to provide further isolation from floor-borne vibration, I do not have enoughloaners to use under both speakers and equipment. Hence I’ve stuck with Ganymedes under my speakers. And that’s where the problems begin.

The great thing about ball-bearing isolation under speakers is that, in my experience, it prevents two-way transfer of muddying vibrations while noticeably increasing air and depth. One challenge involves balancing heavy speakers on very moveable supports without either dropping them on your foot or having them crash to the floor. The other challenge is getting their positioning just right.

Positioning is critical for many speakers. Toeing a speaker in just a fraction can make a big difference. In my case, even slightly increased toe-in in the Eggleston Works the Nine has had a profound impact on treble clarity and definition.

Toe the babies in a bit more, and a fine, silvery line appears on Karita Mattila’s voice. Violins take on extra dimension and clarity. While just comparing, for Muso in the UK, Hilary Hahn’s new recording of Sibelius’ Violin Concerto with Jascha Heifetz’s famed Living Stereo hybrid SACD reissue, that little bit of toe-in makes it easier to hear differences in size and tone.

Of course, not many of us have sufficient patience and composure to spend hours upon hours moving speakers about on sliders, let alone enough to get a speaker to follow the path of a ball-bearing support when the floor tilts ever so slightly in the wrong direction. Spend too much time on this, and begins to hear loony tunes in one’s head, unfortunately in a different key than what may be playing at the moment.

Thus, many of us turn to bass management and room correction devices. More and more of these are being reviewed and profiled, with some calling them an essential component for good sound. But the most sophisticated and transparent of those devices – the ones that correct for numerous room- and speaker-induced anomalies, and do not introduce a sonic signature of their own – are extremely expensive. Plus, they demand extra cabling.

Unless you’ve got the dough, pushing those speakers around ‘til you get it right is a good way to go. Using sliders makes things a whole lot easier. Once you’ve got them in the best position you can find, installing spikes or other supports that are hopefully more stable than my “‘til death do us part which could come quite soon if one of my speakers ever comes crashing down and either makes a hole in the floor or lands on my big toe” Ganymedes.

I may have to buy myself some Cerupucs.

Pass Labs Introduces SR1 Loudspeaker, Four-Way Floorstanding Listening System for Aud

Friday, March 14th, 2008

Uncompromising New Speaker Emphasizes Performance, Accuracy, Power

FORESTHILL, CA, Mar. 14, 2008 — Pass Laboratories, Inc., an audio innovator renowned for its unique high-performance products, introduces the SR1 Loudspeaker, a high-performance listening system using the highest quality drivers available. (more…)

Daily Blog – John E. Johnson, Jr. – March 14, 2008: OIL AND HI-FI DON’T MIX.

Friday, March 14th, 2008

The other day, I saw a report that nearly half the USA GNP (Gross National Product) is based on intellectual property. That means software, music, movies, novels, and related things. If you look at the other stuff, namely durable goods, like refrigerators, cars, furniture, etc., many or all of the parts in there come from other countries. Probably 90% of the clothes are made outside the USA. Even much of our food is grown in other countries. And certainly, these days, a lot of hi-fi equipment comes from Asia. All those products being shipped from overseas are costing more, because fuel prices are going through the roof.

The price of crude oil has just reached $110 a barrel. Gas is approaching $4 per gallon. OPEC is no friend of America, as they recently have refused to increase production, saying it is our economy that is the problem. Yeah, and our economy is a problem because oil is getting so expensive. Next time one of the OPEC nations is invaded (remember The Gulf War – Kuwait in the early 1990’s?), we will agree to come to their rescue under the following conditions: They pay the cost of the war materials plus $1 million in non taxable cash to the families of each American soldier killed in action, $0.5 million if disabled, $0.25 million if wounded to the extent of requiring hospitalization or blood transfusion in the field, and all the oil we want to purchase for the next 10 years, at a cost not to exceed $10 per barrel. The oil would be sold to the US government, who will sell it to the oil companies at the same price, providing that the price at the pump is reflected (back to less than $1 per gallon).

We also need to have more telecommuting, with at least 30% of company employees working at home, and the rest working at branch offices set up within five miles of where there are the largest numbers of employees of any particular company living. Factory workers would be given incentives to live within five miles of the factory. That would reduce our gasoline usage by at least 50%, not to mention cutting pollution.

I am spending twice as much on gasoline as I did a couple of years ago, and this makes it more difficult to purchase all that hi-fi intellectual property I mentioned above. I don’t like that one bit. However, I do plan to continue the pleasure of music and movies, even more so, and I will explain why in my next blog post.

Solid Signal named one of only a few retailers on DTV 2009 Web site

Thursday, March 13th, 2008

Contact Information:
Jane Higgins, KolbeCo Marketing Resources


Solid Signal named one of only a few retailers on DTV 2009 Web site
Approximately 38 million coupons to be issued during DTV 2009 campaign

March 13, 2008: NOVI, Mich. – Detroit-based electronics retailer Solid Signal has been identified as one of only three online retailers and one of only two telephone retailers certified by the federal government to distribute coupon-eligible converter boxes to consumers for the digital transition in 2009. (more…)

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