Archive for April, 2009

Wisdom Audio Expands Corporate Facility to Integrate In-House Dealer Trainings

Tuesday, April 14th, 2009

CARSON CITY, Nev., April 14, 2009 Wisdom Audio (www.wisdomaudio.com), the leader in planar magnetic technologies, is proud to announce that it has expanded its corporate headquarters here to address increased production and further its commitment to its business partners by integrating a new product evaluation sound room. This new sound room will also be utilized to train and educate domestic and international dealers on the award-winning Sage Series audio systems.

 

“Now, we have an in-house facility that will complement and expand upon the trainings we are currently conducting by our field sales team on-site at our dealers’ place of business,” explained Mark Glazier, Wisdom Audio president. “The new sound room is yet another tool that is part of Wisdom’s comprehensive effort and overall commitment to train, enable, and support our business partners. Our Sage systems are the most advanced architectural speakers available, and training dealers on their technology and installation is an essential component of our factory direct sales strategy.”

 

Now shipping, Wisdom’s complete Sage Series high-end architectural and freestanding speaker systems are at the forefront of Wisdom’s training and educational efforts. Wisdom Audio has recently brought to market more than 20 Sage Series models, encompassing in-wall, on-wall, and freestanding versions of most configurations ranging from 20 inches to 76 inches tall. As a result, the company needed to create an on-site facility in order to train and educate its dealers on each and every Sage Series configuration, including speakers, subwoofers, integrated Audyssey Laboratories™ room correction software, and dedicated electronics.

 

According to Glazier, the new sound room is capable of demonstrating all in-wall and on-wall architectural Sage Series models. Each architectural speaker is installed in modular “wall sections” that can be traded out within the room’s existing permanent walls for a real world experience that’s necessary to educate dealers on Sage’s industry leading performance. Any combination of speaker models is available for auditioning.

 

“Our new facility allows us to do a more complete training on all aspects of production, design, technology, performance, and installation,” added Glazier. “The new Sage Series has it all…from design to aesthetic appeal to, most importantly, industry category leading performance. We needed to create the most real world application as possible in order to emphasize to our dealers how incredibly unique Sage is, including its installation parameters.”

 

Sage Series speakers incorporate new generation proprietary thin film planar magnetic drivers which allow for its narrow and shallow physical characteristics, thus permitting the unprecedented possibility of the same driver complement and back box to be used for such varied applications, ranging from in-wall to on-wall to freestanding.

 

When installed by a professional installer using Audyssey MultEQ® Pro software, the Sage Series has the capability to deliver audiophile quality sound in an unprecedented variety of acoustical environments. Audyssey MultEQ® XT is the first technology to properly measure sound information throughout a listening area, and then analyzes this data to accurately represent the acoustical problems in the particular room. Based on these measurements, MultEQ® XT calculates an equalization solution that corrects for both time and frequency response problems in every listening position. MultEQ® Pro takes up to 32 measurements around the listening area and uses high resolution equalization filters for both satellites and subwoofers.

 

To ensure optimal in-room low frequency response, the bi-amplified Sage Series includes dedicated low frequency amplifiers for both the full range speakers and subwoofer. These amplifiers are the SA-3 (3 x 500W), SA-2 (2 x 500W) and SA-1 (2 x 500W).

 

High resolution Sage Series images are available for download at: www.wisdomaudio.com/news_image-library.php.

 

For more information, please visit www.wisdomaudio.com or call (775) 887-8850.

 

About Wisdom Audio

Wisdom Audio is the leader in designing and manufacturing high-performance planar-magnetic transducers with more than 90 man years experience. Wisdom Audio was founded in 1996 to create no-compromise planar loudspeaker systems for the most demanding and critical audiophiles. Wisdom Audio systems employ proprietary, custom-made planar magnetic and dynamic transducers optimized for high-performance, high-end architectural audio reproduction applications. Its hybrid-technology systems have earned praise from the specialized media, earning them the coveted “Golden Ear” award from The Absolute Sound while satisfying a growing base of customers and dealers worldwide.

 

Wisdom Audio’s multi-award winning Sage Series architectural products are handcrafted in limited quantities by specialized craftsmen at its headquarters in Carson City, Nevada.

 

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Next Generation Ships 100,000th Remote Control Extender Award-Winning Solution Achieves Sales Milestone through Flawless Performance, Universal Acceptance and Customer Satisfaction

Monday, April 13th, 2009


Next Generation Home Products LLC, an innovative provider of unique product solutions for the a/v markets, announced that the company has achieved a significant sales milestone. As of February 2009, Next Generation has shipped more than 100,000 of its award-winning Remote Control Extenders, an affordable product that turns the infrared signal from any remote control into long-range Radio Frequency (RF) signal. By simply installing the supplied battery transmitter, the remote will have more power, longer range and greater ease of use.  

All the user needs to do is install the RF battery transmitter in place of one of the AA or AAA batteries inside their existing remote control, then point the receiver or attach the bright eye emitter to the component they wish to control. Like magic, their existing conventional IR remote control is converted to a state of the art RF remote allowing the freedom to go from room-to-room and control components up to 100 feet away. No direct line-of-sight is needed. It even works through closet doors and closed entertainment cabinets.  

If more than one remote is to be controlled, additional battery transmitters can be added. Unlike other remote control extenders, nothing is attached to the front of the remote nor is the user limited to using their remote in only one room. The RF Remote Extender utilizes state-of-the-art patented technology, works with virtually all IR remote controls, and contains its own easy-to-replace battery which is readily available. 

Bob Dolatowski, President of Next Generation commented, “Our Remote Extender has been called the greatest thing to happen to the remote control since infrared. Since its introduction, it has been such a hit that many of our sales come from customer referral and word-of-mouth. I have the privilege of speaking personally with many consumers who have bought our RF Extender and they can’t believe how well the product works and what a great value it is.” 

The Next Generation RF Extender Kit comes supplied with an RF Receiver (i.e. flying saucer) that has a built-in charger, a battery transmitter (available in either 433 or 418 frequencies) that works with most AA and AAA batteries, a single-eye IR Emitter and two rechargeable batteries.  

Key Feature/Benefits

  • # 1 – Next Generation’s RF extender is patented and the best-selling product of its kind.
  • Smart and simple – converts the IR signal from the remote control into long-range RF radio signal by simply installing the supplied battery transmitter
  • Powerful – controls components from up to 100′ away
  • Easy to operate – no direct line of sight needed
  • Comes complete- the Remote Extender kit has everything you need to convert one remote/one component. Additional accessories are readily available.

About Next Generation Home Products LLC

Next Generation is an innovative provider of unique a/v product solutions for the residential and light commercial markets. Founded in 2002 and based in Port Richey, Florida, Next Generation designs its award-winning products and markets them throughout the world. 

Contact Information: 

Sales:  Bob Dolatowski, President

Phone: (727) 834-9400

E-mail: bob@nghp.net

Headquarters:

8604 Washington Street
Port Richey, FL, 34668
Tel: (866) 834-9400
Fax: (727) 846-1788

E-mail: Katie@nghp.net

Web site: http://www.nghp.net/

SI Website’s New Black Diamond™ II Projector Screen Video Covers All Angles

Monday, April 13th, 2009

Austin, Texas, April 13, 2009 – SI is proud to announce that its website, siscreens.com, now has a video dedicated to educating dealers and customers on the benefits of the new Black Diamond™ II projector screen.

 

“Since the launch of the original award-winning Black Diamond projector screen last year, our dealers and customers have been asking for more tools to learn about its performance, applications, and benefits, including testimonials from unbiased third party end-users,” explained Tim Freemyer, SI product development manager. “Now, with the recent launch of Black Diamond II, we have answered the call with the BDII on-line video.”

 

The all new Black Diamond II video provides viewers with current customer end-user BDII testimonials, multi-angle screen performance, and multiple commercial and consumer indoor and outdoor home theater, bar and restaurant, and outdoor venue applications.

 

Out in the field, Black Diamond II’s benefits have been realized. According to Todd Spelman of Spelman Data Services (Austin, Texas), he compared Black Diamond II with two competing samples side by side. “I turned the projector on and immediately noticed a huge difference between all three. And then I opened the blinds…the Black Diamond blew our minds. Black Diamond II is awesome.”

 

Concluded Freemyer, “The Black Diamond projector screen has been updated for an even greater viewing experience in 2009. The new gain offerings coupled with greater performance makes Black Diamond II the most appealing projector screen on the market today.”

 

See the Black Diamond II VIDEO www.siscreens.com.

 

Siscreens.com on-line product features and tutorials:

·        Multimedia Gallery available at: http://www.siscreens.com/gallery.html

 

For more information on Black Diamond II and all SI Screens, visit the web at www.siscreens.com or call 512-832-6939.

                                                                                               

About SI

SI is a technology based U.S. projector screen manufacturer focused on delivering “state-of-the-art” performance. Each motorized, fixed, and curved projector screen we produce meets exceedingly tight tolerances and must deliver all the stunning HD visuals we require.

 

Our mission is to develop the most advanced projector screens that effectively address evolving consumer demands for performance, value, and visual appeal-each strategically aligned with today’s demanding high definition HD projector screen trends.

 

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NAD Introduces Preamp/Power Amp Duo Offering Reference Level Performance for Less

Monday, April 13th, 2009

New C 165BEE Stereo Preamp and C 275BEE Power Amp Leverage Masters Series Refinements for Superb Low Noise/Low Distortion Audio

SHARON, MA, Apr. 13, 2009 — NAD Electronics, the highly regarded manufacturer of high-performance audio/video components, introduces the C 165BEE Stereo Preamplifier and C 275BEE Stereo Power Amplifier, complementary components that deliver reference level performance for far less money than has previously been possible.

The two components display attention to the minutest details, from their heavy gauge steel chassis and sophisticated power supplies to refinements straight from NAD’s acclaimed Masters Series components. Taken together, their improvements deliver the kind of high quality performance that must be heard to be fully appreciated.

The C 165BEE Stereo Preamplifier

The C 165BEE boasts a new design representing a lifetime of experience from Bjorn Erik Edvardsen, NAD’s renowned Director of Advanced Developments. New semiconductors and improved production techniques, such as the use of surface mount devices (SMDs), create performance capabilities far beyond comparably priced products. For example, an improved tone control circuit and revised PCB layout, combined with the high signal capacity of NAD’s Class A gain modules, reduce distortion and noise to unprecedented levels.

In addition: The Class A gain modules combine the short signal path advantage of IC-based OPAmps with the higher signal and current capacity of discrete transistors. SMDs are used to miniaturize the circuit, while an extruded aluminum heat sink keeps all parts at the optimal operating temperature for ultra-low distortion. NAD’s unique development endows the C 165BEE with lightning-fast transient response, and bass extension and definition uncommon at its price level. High frequencies are extended, silky smooth and grain-free.

The phono stage includes three position switches to select resistance and capacitance levels to precisely match most popular Moving Coil and Moving Magnet (MC/MM) phono cartridges. Other refinements lower noise and improve the overload margin. Improvements to the headphone amplifying circuit better drive studio-quality high-impedance headphones.

Unlike many high-end preamps that skimp on inputs, the C 165BEE is exceptionally versatile and ready to integrate with custom-installed control systems. Connections and controls include 6 line level inputs, a subwoofer output, an MC/MM phono input, a 12-V trigger output, IR inputs and outputs on the rear panel, discrete On/Off codes, a superbly designed tone control circuit ideal for touching up the tonal balance of less-than-perfect recordings, a Tone Defeat switch, and NAD’s SR 8 full-function remote which also controls other NAD components.

The C 275BEE Stereo Power Amplifier
The C 275BEE delivers 150 Watts to each of two channels at 4 and 8 ohms continuous power, and 250, 410 and 600W IHF dynamic power at 8, 4 and 2 Ohms, respectively. The power can be heightened to 400W to two channels by bridging the C 275BEE with a second C 275BEE into a ‘dual mono’ pair in which each channel and speaker is totally isolated from the effect of the other.

The C 275BEE also boasts many of the refinements found in NAD’s highly acclaimed NAD Masters Series M3 Amplifier, including an application in the output stage of Bjorn Erik Edvardsen’s innovative and patented Distortion Canceling Circuit, and his BEE Clamp in the power supply. An improved tone control circuit and revised PCB layout reduce distortion and noise to unprecedented levels. NAD’s ATO Logic circuit, which includes a 12V-trigger system and signal-sensing turn-ON option, makes it easy to integrate the
C 275BEE into automated control systems.

NAD’s PowerDrive™ technology allows the C 275BEE to deliver maximum performance under virtually any circumstance, and with any speakers. PowerDrive automatically senses a speaker’s impedance characteristics and adjusts its power settings for the specific load. It deals easily with difficult speaker loads, providing high dynamic power and low impedance drive capability in an affordable package.

The C 275BEE has the lowest levels of distortion and noise in its price class, making its performance comparable to far costlier products. Noise and distortion mask the fine details of recordings, replacing musical texture and dimension with non-musical artifacts — which is why NAD has spent 35 years perfecting its designs to achieve the lowest distortion and highest power at their price levels.

Both the C 165BEE and the C 275BEE are also environmentally responsible, manufactured according to stringent international standards, without the heavy metals identified as environmentally hazardous, and drawing less than 1 Watt in standby power.

The C 165BEE Stereo Preamplifier and C 275BEE Stereo Power Amplifier are available now for suggested prices of $899 (U.S. MSRP) and $1,199 (U.S. MSRP), respectively.

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Pantel Names Patrick McKeon Chief Financial Officer

Monday, April 13th, 2009

GARDEN GROVE, Calif., April 13, 2009 — Pantel (www.panteltv.com), the worldwide leader in outdoor weatherproof TV and monitor solutions, is proud to announce that it has named Patrick McKeon chief financial officer. In this new position, McKeon will be responsible for managing the company’s financial outlook and planning.

 

“As a young company, we have been growing very quickly due to our market leading and popular product mix,” explained Joe Pantel, Chief Executive Officer of Pantel Corp. “Now, we need someone with the experience to help manage and bring us to the next level. Pat’s education and background in different markets allows him to think outside the box. This will allow him to manage Pantel’s financials in a way that will produce results across the board, both in the short and long term. We are excited to have Pat join the Pantel team.”

 

McKeon spent a decade in the recording industry, working as vice president of Dr. Dream Records, the largest independent record company in Orange County, Calif. McKeon then began his career in corporate finance with Celtic Leasing Corp. in 1998, ultimately earning the title of senior account manager. McKeon then served as the CFO of real estate development company Sonojon, LLC. for four years. McKeon has earned BA degrees from Cal State University at Fullerton in both Accounting and Corporate Financial Management, as well as an MBA in Entrepreneurial Management from CSU Fullerton. He also has a Calif. real estate broker’s license and AA degrees in both construction technology and construction management.

 

“At a critical economic moment in our country’s history, and the world’s for that matter, it is inspiring to see a company such as Pantel continue to grow when most others are scaling back,” said McKeon. “Pantel’s personnel and diverse product lines have been the key to its past and current success. I look forward to helping Pantel grow well into the future.”

 

Pantel products, including outdoor weatherproof LCD HDTVs and digital signage monitors, indoor waterproof “mirror” LCD HDTVs, outdoor speakers, and accompanying accessories, are available in customizable packages that include mounting solutions and dust covers.

For more information, including finding a dealer near you, please visit www.panteltv.com, email info@panteltv.com, or call 888-726-8350.

 

About Pantel

Pantel Corp., based in Orange County, Calif., is a worldwide leader in the design and distribution of high-end, weatherproof and water-resistant LCD television solutions and accessories for nearly unlimited indoor and outdoor applications. Pantel’s product line consists of five screen sizes of outdoor weatherproof LCD HDTVs with integrated wireless distribution packages, four water/weatherproof “Mirror TV” screen sizes, wireless speakers, dust covers, consoles, and mounting solutions.

 

Pantel has created such products for use in both residential and commercial applications, such as in backyards, sports fields, restaurants, golf courses, amusement parks, and wherever entertainment, advertisement, and demonstrations would be hosted outdoors. Other such indoor residential and commercial applications include bathrooms/showers, spas, saunas, and wherever a customer wants video entertainment without fear of it being damaged by moisture.

 

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Centronics Expands Distribution of Cables To Go’s RapidRun™ A/V Line in Mid-Atlantic Region

Monday, April 13th, 2009

STEVENSVILLE, Md., April 13, 2009 — Centronics, Inc. (centronics.com), a leading distributor of audio, video, and accessory products for the residential, commercial, and security markets since 1959, is proud to announce it has reached an agreement with Moraine, Ohio-based Cables To Go™ to expand distribution of its RapidRun™ line of leading A/V cables and accessories in the Mid-Atlantic region.

 

“We are very happy with this new agreement as we have been distributing RapidRun cables for some time,” said Tony Pelura, Centronics general manager. “This new arrangement allows us to increase the line while offering an even more competitive price, and also allows us to keep more stock on the shelves. We can now get new products to our customers even faster and provide product training on the entire line. This is a great product line and we are excited to further enhance our partnership with Cables To Go.”

 

In addition to RapidRun, Centronics will also be expanding their offering to include Cable To Go’s VGA Matrix Switches, cables and USB products, all of which can be viewed at http://www.centronics.com/products/Rapid-Run-Cables.

 

“Centronics has been an industry leader for 50 years, and we are proud to further align ourselves with them in the Mid-Atlantic region,” said Brian Minchew, Cable To Go director of sales and business development. “RapidRun is a diverse and industry-leading line, and Centronics’ knowledge of the product, industry, region, and its terrific customer service made it a natural choice for us to want to extend our partnership with them.”

 

Visit www.centronics.com to see the complete line or call 800.638.0741 for more information.

 

About Cables To Go

Cables To Go is a division of Lastar, Inc, a leader in computer, datacomm and audio/video connectivity solutions since 
1984. The company delivers connectivity products renowned for quality, value and innovation and are backed by Cables 
To Go’s uncompromising commitment to customer service. For more information regarding Cables To Go, visit 
www.cablestogo.com.
 
About Centronics

For 50 years, Centronics has been a leader in the distribution of A/V, DBS, off-air, high definition, home theater speakers and accessories, and satellite and antenna products. As the industry has changed, Centronics has met those changes head on. What will never change is our commitment to provide quality products at reasonable prices. Centronics stocks products such as TV mounts by Video Mount Products, satellite distribution equipment by SPAUN, antennas and off-air accessories by Winegard and AntennaCraft, home theater equipment…from HD cables to speakers…by CWI, Speco Technologies, and Universal Remote Control.


At Centronics, our knowledgeable sales staff and customer service is second-to-none. Our technical expertise is the best in the business. And with thousands of parts in stock, our customers can be sure we have what they are looking for. With Centronics, every customer can feel confident that we are not just their distributor, but their A/V partner, as well.

 

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SOUNDCAST SYSTEMS ANNOUNCES THE RELEASE OF OUTCAST JR.

Thursday, April 9th, 2009

Chula Vista, CA… April 2009… Soundcast Systems, a leader in the development and production of high quality, reliable wireless audio products designed for consumer use and the custom home installation marketplace, is pleased to announce that its newest offering—the OutCast Jr. weather-resistant, wireless loudspeaker—is now shipping. Featuring a unique design that enables music enthusiasts to enjoy rich, multi-directional stereo sound anywhere within a range of up to 350 feet, OutCast Jr. lends itself to outdoor applications requiring greater mobility, such as tailgate parties, beach visits, and garden settings.

A smaller version of the highly acclaimed OutCast outdoor system launched by the company in January of 2008, the OutCast Jr’s primary function is to provide high quality audio in locations where traditional wired loudspeaker systems may simply not be feasible. The new OutCast Jr. is a great sounding, cost-effective alternative wherever hard mounted outdoor speaker systems are not practical or such systems would be otherwise too expensive and difficult to justify.

The new OutCast Jr. system consists of a 60W digital amplifier, a down firing 6.5-inch woofer, and four omnidirectional drivers for 360 degree stereo in an 18 pound package. The plug-and-play kit includes a rechargeable 12V NiMh battery, an external charging kit, a 120V or a 240V power cord (dependent upon region) and a 12V adapter cable for automotive applications.

The OutCast Jr. is sold without a transmitter. Users can then purchase either the company’s iCast transmitter, which supports Apple iPod- iPhone products and line-level inputs from other audio sources, or the Universal AudioCast Transmitter (UAT), which supports a USB connection to any PC or Mac as well as connections to any audio input device through a line level jack on the UAT. Transmitter kits include various cable combinations from 3.5mm minijacks through RCA connectors. Each transmitter can send signal to two OutCast or OutCast Jr’s or combinations thereof. The OutCast Jr. has a new feature that enables the user to designate it as a right or a left channel so that in a two OutCast Jr. application, a true stereo soundstage can be achieved.

Mal Hollombe, President of Soundcast Systems, commented on the new OutCast Jr. weather-resistant, wireless loudspeaker. “Our new OutCast Jr. is a compact, rich sounding wireless loudspeaker system that provides tremendous versatility for a wide range of consumer audio applications,” said Hollombe. “The OutCast Jr is the ideal music and sound reproduction system around the family pool, at parties, plus a wide range of similar settings. Featuring the ability to easily interface with MP3 players, iPods, personal computers, home theaters, audio systems, or televisions, this new wireless loudspeaker is the perfect choice for today’s on-the-go lifestyle.”

OutCast Jr. carries an MSRP of $499.99 without transmitter. Both the iCast and UAT transmitters are each priced at $99.99 MSRP. Soundcast Systems products are available at retail directly from the Soundcast Systems website (www.soundcastsystems.com) or through the Digital Delivery Group’s (DDG) nationwide network of stocking representatives and their custom installation oriented retail outlets (www.digitaldeliverygroup.org).

About Soundcast Systems

Soundcast Systems is a San Diego, CA-based company dedicated to the development and production of high quality, reliable wireless audio products designed for consumer use and the custom home installation marketplace. Wireless audio products, to date, have consistently been ineffective—primarily due to interference issues related to microwave ovens, cordless phones, and other devices using common unregulated frequencies. Soundcast Systems has developed a very robust and reliable transmission technology that delivers superior sound quality without the attendant problems of interference from other devices. Equally important, Soundcast Systems products do not interfere with devices in the operating band (routers, cordless phones, etc.). The Soundcast brand is dedicated to supplying quality, easy-to-use wireless audio products. For additional information about Soundcast Systems products, visit the company online at www.soundcastsystems.com.

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Liberty Wire & Cable Opens Major New Warehouse In Hawaii, Expanding Service, Lowering Costs

Wednesday, April 8th, 2009

New Honolulu Facility Brings Mainland Services, Faster Deliveries and Other Increased Efficiencies to Commercial and Residential Customers

COLORADO SPRINGS, CO, Apr. 8, 2009 — Liberty Wire & Cable, worldwide supplier of a broad range of wire and cable products for the audio/video trade, including custom installers and systems integrators, has opened a new warehouse facility in Honolulu, Hawaii, to service commercial and residential customers in and around the fiftieth state.

Located in Oahu, the Big Island of an archipelago comprising hundreds of islands spread over 1,500 square miles of central Pacific Ocean, Liberty’s new facility allows the company to more quickly fulfill orders from its vast catalog of 7,000-plus wire and cable products and more quickly deliver them to customers.

“The new warehouse lets us take advantage of our ability to containerize products to reduce both freight costs and shipping times, and provide both commercial and residential customers more immediate access to our products,” said Kirk Horlbeck, Liberty Senior Vice President of Marketing. “Assembling and storing inventory in Honolulu also allows us to provide Will-Call Service, Same-Day Service and Next-Day Service to customers at no charge in most areas in and around Oahu,” added Territory Manager Richard Herwig, speaking of the largest, most populous of the volcanic chain’s eight major islands. “The other islands will benefit from reduced shipping times of one to five days, depending on conditions.”

The Hawaiian warehouse is the latest of several facilities Liberty has added in the past couple years to meet growing customer demand, to position itself for further growth, and to empower customers with the Liberty Advantage — the tools to operate more efficiently and competitively in the A/V marketplace.

About Liberty Wire & Cable
Liberty, a division of Communications Supply Corp. (CSC), is headquartered in Colorado Springs, Colo., and is in its 17th year of operation. Its core goods, sold primarily for audio/video and security applications, consist of a complete line of wire and cable products along with connectors and connector systems, cable assemblies, interconnects, and a broad range of related accessories. Liberty principally serves the residential, commercial, broadcast, and rental and staging segments of the pro/AV industry. It also enjoys long-term relationships with a number of prominent OEMs. Liberty manufactures and markets the PanelCrafters line of custom and stock plates and panels. The company, which sells in 49 countries, has other facilities in Charlotte, N.C., and Phoenix, Ariz., and holds memberships in CEDIA, InfoComm International, and NSCA.
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HD Voodoo?

Tuesday, April 7th, 2009

 

More and more these days, movies and other media are being served to us for purchase or rental via online streaming or downloading.  This recently got some friends and me discussing the quality of such media sources.  Now, it seems you see the “1080p HD” label on just about EVERYTHING.  I wouldn’t be surprised if Detroit’s next car model is the “1080p”.  But what does “1080p HD” mean, really, and should it mean something else?

All “1080p” really means is that the resolution of the media is 1920×1080 pixels, and that it is progressive-scan, not interlaced, video.  Labeling something as 1080p does not in any way (unfortunately) indicate the quality of that video.  Although the FCC never set any guidelines on what qualifies as true high-definition video other than just resolution, I think that slapping the “HD” label on something should mean more than pixels.  One should be able to expect a stunning picture when you see the “HD” label.

In theory, one could take a 480p x 720 (that’s standard DVD resolution) video and scale it to a resolution of 1080p with no interpolation, and you’d get a 1080p resolution picture with absolutely zero change in apparent picture quality over the original, but substantially larger in file size. I highly suspect that a lot of the “1080p” content we see out there these days is what some might call “pseudo-HD”, and probably barely (if at all) better than a decent DVD picture of the same material.

For example, take the video streaming site, vudu.com, and Vudu’s ads for 1080p “instant” streaming.  Blu-ray discs can have a capacity of 50GB, with the movie alone taking up 30~40GB, and a bitrate anywhere from 15Mbps to 40Mbps.  How can a movie that large be available “instantly” with a standard broadband (e.g. 2Mbps speed) internet connection?  Answer: it can’t.

Warning: the following may seem like I’m picking on Vudu.  I’m not.  They offer a really cool, high-quality service.  I am picking on their marketing, and maybe a bit of their technological choices though

I think a lot of people forget that there’s more to HD picture quality than resolution. Bitrate is just as, if not more important than resolution. The only way these sites are streaming 1080p instantly is with a relatively low bitrate.  A low bitrate means high compression, and low picture quality, regardless of the resolution.

Think about how stunning a good Blu-ray movie is.  To me, it is surprising how much better some BD (Blu-ray disc) movies are than even a good off-the-air (OTA) HD broadcast. This is not because the resolution is different (1080i/60 from an antenna is easily and losslessly converted to 1080p/24 by most decent HDTV de-interlacers) but because the bitrate for a good BD flick is often twice that of most OTA HD broadcasts, and even more than twice the bitrate of most cable and satellite HD signals.

OTA 1080i HD signals max out at around 19Mbps, with most averaging around 12~15Mbps depending on how a given station allocates their bandwidth. Vudu however, based on their system requirements, caps its instant-HD bandwidth at just 2Mbps (the minimum bandwidth one must have to use their “watch instantly” feature). That’s less bandwidth (bitrate) than virtually all DVD’s have.

The trick of course, is new more modern codecs. DVD (and OTA HDTV broadcasts) still use the now outdated MPEG-2 codec, while everyone else (cable, streaming, and satellite) have switched to MPEG-4 or similarly modern codecs (H.264, etc.)  So 2Mbps gets you a lot more picture quality with H.264 than it does with an MPEG-2.  Okay, but most Blu-ray discs use either VC-1 or AVC (i.e. H.264) codecs.  Which brings us back to the question, how can you promise 1080p HD with 3Mbps bandwidth?  Even with buffering and the newer codecs, we’re still an order of magnitude away from the 30+ Mbps rates of many Blu-ray movies.

Don’t get me wrong – Vudu definitely has a great service. But I’m skeptical about their “HD 1080p” tag and its quality. (To be fair, it’s not just Vudu, Apple is touting HD streaming now too.)

Anyway, according to Vudu’s site, the minimum bitrate necessary to “watch instantly” is 2~3Mbp. This includes their 1080p HD content. It does NOT include however, their premium quality HD content, called “HDX”. HDX is just the tag they’re using for 1080p HD videos encoded with H.264 technology at a higher bitrate. HDX movies require 2 to 3 hours of buffering time before the box will let you watch the movie. They claim “near Blu-ray quality” and “virtually artifact free”. Those words sound like they’re hedging to me.  If we’re comparing to Blu-ray as a quality standard (which Vudu is doing), do the math: 2-3 hours of buffering before you can watch a HDX quality movie means that the file size is still only around 4~8GB.  That’s the size of a standard DVD movie.  Again the new codecs get you better picture quality for the same file size, but Blu-ray moves use these codecs and are 5 to 10 times larger in file size.  To call these “near Blu-ray quality” is really stretching the truth, in my opinion.

Regardless, HDX movies are pretty good, considering they are quasi-streamed.  You can order one from your work PC at 5 pm, and watch it by the time the kids are in bed and the dishes are done.  That’s really cool.  But is what you watch really comparable to a real Blu-ray disc experience?  I really don’t think so, especially on a large screen.

Vudu’s HDX format is “recommended for 40 inch and larger HD screens” which implies that their standard “HD” videos are NOT recommended for screens larger than 40″. Why? Given the low bitrate, this is probably because they are loaded with compression artifacts like macroblocking.  What I want to know then, is why do they waste bandwidth and file size making these videos 1080p resolution?  The same overall picture quality could most likely be had with lower resolution, the same or higher bitrate, and smaller overall file size.

Anyway, I guess my point is: buyer beware when you see “1080p HD” plastered everywhere.  Check the bitrate!  What are your experiences with streaming of so-called “HD” content?  What so you see as the future of streaming HD content to consumers vs. going to Blockbuster or Netflix and getting movies on a disc? Share your thoughts in the comments section below!

Kieran Coghlan

NAD Launches Top-of-the-Line CD Player With Audio Signal Upsampling and More

Monday, April 6th, 2009

New C 565BEE, Classic Series Flagship, Delivers Premium Features, Performance and Design at a Breakthrough Price

SHARON, MA, Apr. 6, 2009
— NAD Electronics, the highly regarded manufacturer of high-performance audio/video components, has introduced the C 565BEE CD Player, the flagship of NAD’s Classic Series components. The C 565BEE applies the latest in semiconductor design, refined cosmetics and quality construction to achieve breakthrough performance close to NAD’s top-of-the-line Masters Series M5 CD Player at a cost approximately half as much.

The C 565BEE boasts sample rate conversion up to 192kHz, Wolfson DACs in a dual differential configuration, Burr-Brown OP Amps, a heavy steel chassis, USB 2.0 and optical inputs, and a 12-volt trigger and RS232 port. It decodes MP3 and WMA-format music files via CD-R and draws less than 1 Watt in standby mode.

Chief among its features is a Sample Rate Conversion circuit that bumps the usual, and relatively low, 44.1kHz sampling frequency up to 96kHz and even 192kHz. The higher sampling rate allows NAD to take advantage of the latest state-of-the-art digital to analog converter (DAC) from Wolfson Microelectronics, which offers 24-bit resolution and a sampling rate up to 192kHz.

The C 565BEE also uses ultra-clean multiple regulated power supplies to feed its varied circuits and mechanical parts. Careful circuit layouts, short signal paths, and rigorous attention to detail further maximize performance. Because the Sample Rate Converter pushes the sampling frequency very high, NAD uses a better sounding digital filter that has a user-selectable roll off slope to allow fine tuning by ear.

NAD also uses the best quality FET audio OpAmps, selected for their wide bandwidth and low noise. They’re able to deliver ample current with a very low source impedance, making the C 565BEE less sensitive to cable capacitance.

A USB port on the front panel allows MP3 and WMA music files from a USB flash drive to be played back using the superior performance capability of the
C 565BEE.  Source inputs are easily selectable from either the front panel or the supplied IR remote. CD Text and Metadata from MP3 files are displayed on a two-line display on the front panel along with time, track, and other program data. A rotary knob on the front panel makes it faster and easier to browse large collections of music files. The C 565BEE is so intuitive to operate, users soon wonder how they lived without it.

The C 565BEE CD Player is available now for a suggested price of $799 (U.S. MSRP).

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