An annual source of delight for readers everywhere is the updating of my book Practical Home Theater: A Guide to Video and Audio Systems (2011 Edition) from Quiet River Press. The latest edition is the 10th. Look out for the one with the spiffy green cover (yellow is so last year). In this year's edition you'll find a brand-new chapter on 3DTV with my own admittedly skeptical take on the subject. I've also consolidated the DVR and audio-server chapters into a new chapter on DVRs, streamers, and servers. It makes a lot more organizational sense. For the ISBN-minded, the ISBN-13 number is 9781932732122, and ISBN-10 is 1932732128. To ensure you order the right edition, click the links above and below. They'll take you to my website and that will take you to Amazon. You're also welcome to shop other online booksellers by searching the title on AddAll. Or, if you're the old-fashioned kind, walk through the door of your local bookstore and special-order the book. Just be sure to give the correct ISBN. This year's edition will be the first to be distributed in Europe, Canada, and Australia as well as U.S. and U.K. retail channels. The price remains $19.95 in the U.S., same as the first edition in 2002, a nice value in these hard times. Please buy my book so I won't have to beg in the street.
The Consumer Electronics Association hosted a Line Show in midtown Manhattan for the second consecutive year. Our colleagues at TWICE covered the economic forecast while we did a walk-through. Anthem, long known for its pre-pros and multichannel amps, unveiled four receivers. They range from the MRX 300 ($1000) to the MRX 900 ($4000). All have Anthem's own room correction.
Mitsubishi's L75-A91 is the latest generation of its LaserVue rear-projection technology. The 75-inch set is up 10 inches over its predecessor, costs $1000 less at $6000, and exceeds Energy Star standards by 50 percent. Mitsubishi has been supporting 3D since 2007 in its DLP models and offers an adapter for use with 3D ready sets that will convert formats supported in HDMI 1.4a.
At the Vizio booth we got a look at the XVT3D654SV, a 65-inch LED-backlit LCD TV with passive 3D technology. Pros: High light output, the glasses can be manufactured for pennies. Cons: Less resolution than active-shutter 3D. The technology is baked into the panel so the set can be used only for passive 3D. Shipping and price not available. Also introduced: other new LED sets and wi-fi Blu-ray players.
Sonos has long been the noninvasive multi-zone audio technology of choice for many. Its latest move, not surprisingly, is an iPad controller that works much the same as its iPhone/iPod controller. The free app lets you slide between rooms playing different content or link all rooms with the same content.
This company demonstrated a filter that fits over a small screen, like the PSP shown, and shows 3D content without the need for glasses. You have to play with the viewing distance until the image snaps into focus. To be used with YouTube, games, etc.
Eton's Soulra is a fairly ordinary iPod docking speaker product with a twist: It's got a solar panel that can charge in about 10 hours, providing 4 to 5 hours of play time. It's water-proof, sand-proof, and $199.
This maker of toothbrush sanitizers now offers a model for personal electronics such as phones, iPods, headsets, earbuds, etc. They can get dirtier than the bottom of your shoe, we were told. The ultraviolet device takes three minutes to remove 99.9 percent of nasties such as salmonella, strep, flu, etc. Available in September for $100.
The MusicLite uses 2.4GHz wireless technology from Eleven Engineering in its combination Sylvania LED lightbulb and Artison powered speaker. Use your choice of iPod or USB dongle to send signals to the MusicLite. The system can address up to four zones. Shipping in September for a price yet undetermined.
Just when I was about to ship my four-year-old Sharp LC-32D4U to my parents, who are still using an analog TV, the 32-inch TV's speakers went silent. According to this guy, the problem is "a design flaw by Sharp in which the silicon grease they used to cool the audio IC tends to break down and melt after a couple years, shorting out the audio." I've spent this week reviewing a JVC sound bar, so at least I didn't have to do without my local 10 o'clock newscast--the TV's analog line output still worked well enough to feed a signal to the bar. But I wanted to fix the TV before it went off to its new home. My parents have been good to me. I didn't want to send them a less than fully functional TV.
It's that time of year again. My book Practical Home Theater: A Guide to Video and Audio Systems has been reborn in what has become an annual tradition. You can distinguish the new edition by its yellow cover or its ISBN number: 9781932732115. This edition is number nine and its cover date (printed on the spine) is 2010. As always, I've gone over it obsessively, rooting out stale information and freshening up as much as possible. On the video side, LED-backlit LCD HDTV and the conclusion of the DTV transition. On the audio side, this is the first edition to discuss the new height-enhanced surround modes, Audyssey DSX and Dolby Pro Logic IIz. It goes into detail about the latest version of HDMI, 1.4, and separates HDMI-cable fact from hype. And it delves into the exotic amplifier topologies that are finding their way into receivers, including the new Class D, Class G, and Class H. I remain committed to the annual update and have already stripped the book's giant text file so I can begin work on the next edition. It never ends. Finally, please note that the book is sold mainly online via Amazon and other booksellers in the U.S., U.K., and Europe. But you can special-order it from a brick-and-mortar bookstore.
After extensive testing, I have finally found the ultimate power cable. It's from Mothra Research Unlimited. Their motto: "At Mothra, you won't get snake oil; you'll get the entire snake." While the Mothra Power Cord may be a bit pricey at $8899.95 per meter (one meter shown), doesn't this description excite the two-channel purist in you?: "Designed and engineered for proper frequency handling from the wall tap to your equipment, the Mothra Power Cord uses 0.0001 mm palladium wire in a helium atmosphere to carry high frequencies, 0.001 mm platinum wire in a xenon atmosphere to carry the upper midranges, 0.01 mm gold wire in an argon atmosphere to carry the lower mids, and 0.1 mm silver wire in highly reactive sulphur hexafluoride to carry the low frequencies. This is then shielded with over 700 Kg of 99.9999% copper, packed into a special neodymium-bismuth damping material, encapsulated in our specially bioengineered case, and irradiated with high intensity gamma rays from Three Mile Island reactor #2." No system would be complete without Ghidorah or Rhodan interconnects, not to mention Mothra's speaker cable. Here's the price list. Mothra's corporate philosophy is simple: "Our goal is to wrap the listener in an intense, passionate and lifelike embrace of sound at a price comparable to the US Navy's Trident Missile Program. The enormous soundstage and precise, realistic imaging of our products will bring out the beast in you and secure our comfortable retirement."
My favorite LP-hunting story takes place in a Lower Manhattan store sometime in the 1980s. For several years I had been looking for The Compleat Dancing Master, a compilation of English Morris dance tunes charmingly mingled with spoken-word material. The only copy I'd ever seen was an unsealed one and I wanted a virgin sealed copy. So there I was in this record store, when a guy walked in and asked the manager if the very album I was seeking was in stock. The manager said yes and I went into a collector's frenzy. I had one advantage over the competing shopper--I knew what the jacket looked like, with its distinctive graphics against a hunter-green background. I began scanning the tops of the rows of LPs, looking for a slim stripe of hunter green. It took me less than a minute to find my prize, a sealed copy with a price sticker that read $2.49 (a lot less than online prices today). As I took it to the cashier, I made no attempt to lock eyes with my vanquished rival. Actually, I was half triumphant for my accomplishment and half embarrassed for my greed, if the truth be known. But I still remember that day whenever I see that hunter-green spine on my shelves. Perhaps we live in a better world now, a world where shoppers needn't compete for collectibles because downloads can reach vast numbers of people if the artist is lucky. But this item remains hard to find in any form--and downloads are never this much fun.
You've probably heard about Warner's Red2Blu program--Scott Wilkinson covered it in our News section. It enables consumers who bought HD DVDs to upgrade them to Blu-ray versions of the same titles for $4.95 plus shipping charges of $6.95-8.95. What you may not have heard is that the upgrade may result in a standard edition being replaced by a deluxe boxed set. Our colleague (and former convergence editor) Chris Chiarella writes: "If you swap out your Casablanca, you'll actually be upgrading to the crazy-cool Ultimate Collector's Edition. I believe that this fancy boxed set is the only BD version offered in the U.S., and while I was poking around the Warner Red2Blu microsite I clicked on Casablanca and the UCE appeared in my cart specifically, by name." So now you have more than one potential reason to pay the few bucks to go Blu. Sweet deal!
Two things you need to know about Christoph Niemann. His artwork has appeared in The New Yorker, Atlantic Monthly, The New York Times Magazine, and American Illustration. And he does not like cables. In this visual essay in the New York Times Opinion section, he explains why. Niemann is not so much Luddite as everyman: Is there anyone out there who cannot relate to the following statement?: "The true malice of headphones, however, is revealed when they are allowed to mingle with other cables."