Riddle Me This

In this blog a couple of months ago, I asked readers to vote on whether you wanted more audio reviews with fewer objective measurements or fewer reviews with more measurements, a choice I had to make in the face of budgetary constraints. Your input was very helpful, so now, I have another question for you...

Here it is: What specific products would you like to see reviewed by UAV? According to our Web-traffic metrics, the most popular product reviews are flat panels, A/V receivers, front projectors, and speakers, so that's what I've been concentrating on. But even within those categories, there are way too many products to review, so I must choose which ones get the cheese. My first goal is to provide reviews of the products that are of most interest to our readers, which is where you come in.

Which flat panels do you want to see reviewed? Are you more interested in high-end or budget models? What about preferred sizes? Of course, I'll continue to include as many products as I can from the big guys—Sony, Samsung, Pioneer, Panasonic, LG, Sharp (which has been much less forthcoming with review samples than just about any other company for some unknown reason), and so on—but I've also arranged to look at a NuVision at the higher end and a Westinghouse at the budget end, both of which you'll see on the site soon. I'm also awaiting one of Vizio's new models, which have represented the low-cost category with distinction in the past.

When it comes to AVRs, I've decided to review only those that can decode Dolby TrueHD and DTS-HD Master Audio. Kim Wilson is currently working on a couple of low-cost models—that is, well under $1000—with these capabilities, so look for those soon. At the other end of the spectrum are über-receivers. My minimum decoder requirement leaves out the Lexicon RV-5, a $4000 model that would otherwise merit a review, but I think the ability to decode the new audio formats is a must in today's A/V world, don't you? David Vaughn is working on the Yamaha RX-Z11, and he's waiting to get the Denon AVR-5308CI. Are there any others you'd like to see?

Front projectors have always been a staple of UAV, and they will remain so. Tom Norton's review of the JVC DLA-HD100 will soon be posted, and he just got the Planar PD8150, both of which list for less than $10k. I'm working on the Panasonic PT-AE2000 and Epson PowerLite Home Cinema 1080 UB, which are in the $3k range. Of course, we could also be looking at projectors that cost much more if you're interested.

Speakers are among the trickiest products to review—they require much more time to set up than most other products, and complete systems can be mega-expensive. I'm trying to get some less-pricey systems, such as the Magnepan MMG, which lists for less than $1k—look for Wes Phillips' review this week. Other candidates include the Klipsch RF-52, Quad L-ite, and Mirage Nanosat Prestige, each of which carries a system price in the $2k range. Also interesting is the Phase Technology DARTS system, which crosses the $10k barrier. Are there any speaker systems you've been curious about? What about subwoofers?

Of course, we will also review other types of products, particularly Blu-ray players as they become available. I'm also very interested in media-center PCs—in fact, I just got the Sony TP25, which offers a Blu-ray player, Internet TV, and HD DVR capabilities.

And we will certainly not forsake surround preamp/processors—David Vaughn recently reviewed the Onkyo Professional PR-SC885, and Gary Altunian is working on the Anthem D2. I have no multichannel power amps lined up, mostly because the ones I've been offered require more dedicated AC power than most reviewers have in their home theaters, but if you'd like to suggest one for consideration, I'm all ears.

I invite you to leave a comment after this blog or write to me at the e-mail address below with your suggestions and requests for reviews. With your help, I can deliver the information you and your fellow readers need to make the best possible purchase decisions.

If you have an audio/video question for me, please send it to scott.wilkinson@sourceinterlink.com.

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Fred's picture

Unfortunately, it looks like you're leaving my display interests out: (1) Displays - I'm interested in 70"+ (ideally ~80"), which doesn't include any flat panels, so I want rear projectors. I've been reading the flat panels because that's all you've reviewed. (2) AVRs - Decoding in a player seems equally good (if communicated losslessly), so this restriction seems pointless. (3) Speakers - why not something more different, like the Ohm Walsh? They also have the possibility of use with a phantom center. (4) Projectors - they are interesting, but I can't use one.

Ben's picture

I'd like to offer a comparison to a car magazine. It's cool to read about the Ferraris and Porsches, but for every Ferrari reviewed, there are at least 10 Miata, Nissan Z, or Honda Civic review because that's what people actually buy. I simply wouldn't buy a car magazine if it solely contained reviews of cars I cannot realistically expect to purchase. I would like to see more testing of "real world" equipment, i.e., stuff that the "Average Joe" is going to be able to buy. Reviews of $15,000 speakers is interesting, but completely irrelevant for me (and probably most people). Please add more reviews of products that are reasonable in cost. Additionally, it would be nice if these products were compared to their more-expensive bretheren, e.g., what am I giving up, in real-world terms, by only spending only $2,000 for a home theater speaker system instead of $5,000?

Bob S.'s picture

I also would like to see reviews of large rear projection TVs, preferably in the 70-inch range. My 9-year-old Pioneer 64-inch CRT-rear-projection first-generation HDTV probably is the next component I will replace, and I'm interested in something in the 70-inch range. I'd love to buy a plasma of that size, but there doesn't seem to be anything reasonably affordable.

Duncan's picture

I'd like: A tactile transducer roundup (Quake, Buttkicker, Crowson, D-Box). A room treatment faceoff (Real Traps, Auralex, etc). Construction products like QuietRock and Green Glue. The Pioneer SC-09TX receiver and the Denon prepro/amp.

Scott Wilkinson's picture

Lots of great comments already! Keep 'em coming! As for rear-projection TVs, that's a bit tricky. I agree completely that RPTV is the only way to get a 70+" screen at a reasonable price without going for a front projector, which requires a very dark room that many people don't want to deal with. However, all but two manufacturers have left the RPTV business, resulting in pretty slim pickings. Of course, we will do the Mitsubishi LaserVue when it becomes available in the fall. Otherwise, there are a few conventional models from Mits and Samsung and at least one LED-illuminated set from Samsung. I'll see what I can get.

Douglas Kelly's picture

I agree with most of the comments you've received so far. I like value components where I can obtain 80-90% of a higher end product for half the amount. For example, I recently upgraded my entire system. I bought a Mits 73734 but had a difficult time finding any reliable reviews (or learning about professional calibration). I am glad to hear that you will be review the LaserVue when it comes out. I also upgraded my A/V system by purchasing an Onkyo TX-SR875 to use as a pre/pro with an Emotive IPS-1 7 channel amp. I decided that the Reon chipset in the 875 was superior for upscaling both my DirectV HR20-700 and PS3 (80MB). However, neither of these items were dealt with sufficently in the various reviews I read. Also, subsequent to the reviews of the Onkyo, there have been a number of firmware upgrades that I only learned about by reviewing posts on the AVS Forum. Many of the upgrades dealt with flaws pointed out by the reviewers. I tend to buy products near the top end; then evaluate trade-offs.

Colin Robertson's picture

I have been pretty happy with the products you guys have chosen to review thus far. As long as you stick with A/V stuff (esp. in the higher-end of things), I'll be pretty happy. I have seen some other A/V rags (I'm not going to name names...) where they review cameras, video games, computers, etc... and none of them very well! If I want to read about those things, I'll go to those who really know about those things! I do wish I saw more multi-channel power amps; not really sure how you could not have enough power to run them... As far as suggestions of specific products? I always like reading about Vandersteen's speakers. I think it's about time we see a new review of a Vandersteen theater system, including the 2ce Signature II, and the new VCC-2 wall-mount center channel! I don't think anyone's reviewed that yet! Personally, I would love to know how that performs, both on and off the wall.

Scott Wilkinson's picture

Boy, do I know what you're talking about with respect to A/V mags covering other stuff like cameras, cell phones, etc.! Before I came to UAV, I was working at the magazine you're probably thinking of, which tried to do just that before it died. All of us on the editorial side were horrified, but that's what the company's owner wanted to do, so that's what we did. (Actually, I had nothing to do with it; I just kept on doing my video reviews!) Anyway, no need to worry here; we're dedicated to A/V, and that's all you'll find on this site as long as I have anything to say about it. Regarding power amps, the Outlaw 7900 works best with two dedicated 15-amp circuits, and the Lexicon ZX-7 needs one dedicated 20-amp circuit. None of the reviewers I approached to do these products had such AC power available. Any suggestions of other multichannel amps that don't need that kind of power?

F Teixeira's picture

I second Colin's Vandersteen request! I have a Vandersteen setup now, but I would love an unbiased review of the new VCC-2 center speaker. As far as displays are concerned, besides the new Mitsubishi laser-based projection displays, projection TVs are not that interesting (the market is shifting to flat panels). The larger 42"+ LCDs seem to be the future. I would also love to see more front-projector and projection screens reviewed. The quality / performance of these systems has greatly improved in the last few years... to the point that I am getting ready to dive in. Given blu-ray's higher resolution, affordable 1080p projectors, and lower-cost high-performance screens, the true in-home theater experience to more attainable than ever before.

Frank's picture

Since you are limited in your number of reviews, I'd like to see little/no overlap with Home Theater mag, except perhaps for Blu-Ray players. Don't know precisely where Shane will be taking that mag, but reading your review of the Sony left me wondering why something else couldn't have been reviewed instead. Personally, I'd also rather see Ultimate AV focus on the "ultimate", since the drive for more affordable, cheaper, whathaveyou seemed to me to be when Perfect Vision started to lose its way. Would hate to see a repeat of that. Realistically, I'd like to see you do whatever it takes to increase your budget and keep things lively around here. (While staying on topic... I don't feel gaming is on topic.) (I prefer a more technical, in-depth approach, rather than just fluff, so if you could write some more words in your reviews, and not be afraid to challenge your readers, that would be appreciated as well.)

Mar k Hoepfl's picture

The wonderful new Thiel 3.7 speakers!

Nick T's picture

I have always enjoyed reading about the Ultimate Gear, that's what you are known for and should remain your bread and butter. As for ides, I have two to offer up. In regards to the requests for more budget friendly gear you could try just a monthly budget (say $1,500-$2,500) segment for less expensive AVR's or speaker packages. The second is a tricky one perhaps, but in this age of internet direct offerings you could try more gear from these vendors. I recall seeing Aperion's products a couple times here and your publications review of some AV123 gear actually led directly to a purchase for me. With so many brands out there now (the aforementioned AV123 and Aperion, Emotiva, Epik Subwoofers, SVSound, Elemental Designs, etc) that are receiving so much traffic on av forums it would be great to see professional and unbiased reviews of these. They could also help with the budget oriented section as many have been hailed as over-achievers for their price points (AV123's new MFW-15 comes to mi

Cajun_Mike's picture

Please review the Triad InRoom LCR Gold and whichever surrounds fits your review room...and I'm sure they will send one or two subs too. The Platinum has been in your highest rated category for a few years and I'm curious to see how well the Gold fares for a lot less money.

Steve in Manitoba's picture

For a bit of a different perspective lets see reviews considered for equipment that is available to more geographical areas. Equipment that is available in only a few cities seems audience limiting. Your on the mark with not reviewing cameras etc. Add ipod's, HTPC's and the like to that list. I am surprised you are limiting AVR reviews to equipment that decodes True-HD and MA but have a review of the D2 in the wings that is unable to decode either. I have no use for reviews of equipment built for the rich and like the idea of not reviewing equipment already reviewed, or to be reviewed, by Home Theater. For me personally, I'd like to know if the JVC DLA-RS1x looses any performance as compared to its predecessor the DLA-RS1. I am looking forward to TJN's review of the DLA-HD100, though it's a little out of my price range. The $1000 to $2500 slot for AVR's, the $4k to $7K slot for a 7.1 speaker set-up and Blu-ray players with profile 2.0 are of particular interest to me as well at this po

Steve in Manitoba's picture

continued from above, int. FYI, the counter can't count and, although I'm sure I am not alone as Shane has complained about it before, the security answer picture function really needs an overhaul.

Scott's picture

I'd like to see speaker reviews that focus on home theater ensembles that cost in the $4,000 to 8,000 range. Speakers in that range are decidedly hi-fi, but well below the cost of more esoteric speakers. Seems like a good middle ground. For instance, an ensemble built around the B&W 805S bookshelves, the PSB Synchony Twos (rather than the pricier Ones), or the Monitor Audio Gold GS20s. Also, I really appreciate measurements that cover the minimum and nominal impedance of speakers. My Denon receiver (like many other brands) is rated only down to 6 ohms, yet many speakers go down to 4 ohms (or lower). One wonders if speakers claiming a nominal impedance of 6 ohms actually dip much lower than that, and how frequently they do so. Some discussion of whether a given set of speakers will be a good match for a typical AV receiver is always welcomed.

Bruce in CO's picture

Many good thoughts above. Budget systems don't particularly interest me, except when an exceptional value is to be had, but there's huge potential in the middle- to upper-middle price points. While the big names, such as Sony, Yamaha, Pioneer, etc. are the retailer's bread and butter, I prefer supporting the smaller, specialty manufacturers. Therefore, I like to see products from companies such as NAD, Adcom, Anthem, Arcam and Sonus Faber. It's great to hear that a review of the Magnepan MMGs is coming soon, but I hope that it's not a re-print of what's been on their web site for a number of years. It would also be nice to hear about products to stear away from. This may be tough to do with advertising dollars tough to come by.

Jeff from Texas via Connecticut's picture

I'm finally ready to make the HD move. Youve already reviewd the components I saved up to buy (Sony 52" XBR4 ; Denon 3808CI). I have 5 Thiel speakers- CS3.6 fronts, (driven by an Aragon 8008st), SCS 3, center and CS1.5 for rear driven by a B&K AVR 202. My question is I like B&K, but I don't see any new models with HDMI in or out, just more zones. What gives? Denon is sold in the "big box" stores (though not the 3808). So I wonder if the Denon AVR has the guts to drive those 4ohm-and-lower Thiels. If you say the power issue is no problem, I will happily buy the Denon. If not, what do you suggest in the price range of a B&K AVR 507? Not alota quality stereo stores down here in south Texas. Not like Connecticut and N.Y.! Thanks for your help! Jeff

David Vaughn's picture

Jeff, Denon uses quality amps in their products and the 3808 won't have any issues driving 4 ohm speakers. Just be sure to have plenty of space available around the amp for airflow because it will run a little hot with the 4 ohm load. Best Regards, David

Patrick Alford's picture

I guess I will play the novice here, but I enjoy reviews of the more budget conscious equipment out there. Receivers in the $1000-1500 price range and any new HDTV's you can get a hold of. I just purchase a Panasonic 4280xu that I think was good get for the price and of course would love to see it or it's big brother reviewed and would love to learn how to tweak it since the manual, I think, is a little thin. You have a great site, just keep serving up the reviews and tell Fred to pick it up.

Andrew's picture

A/V is definately tech oriented so I'd like comparisons between the different offerings. In speakers I love to see some reviews and comparisons with Electrostatics, Planars, and more traditional ones (and yes we'd all love $100k speakers, but I don't need a 4 page spread on something I'll never afford.) Pre/Pro's and receivers I would say a similiar thing, with all of the new audio codecs and HDTV processing, what do different decoders/video engines provide in each of the different products? And Front Projectors are always welcome, advancements on that front from the lamps, lenses, all the way to the screen. What are the trade offs/benefits in each area and with different brands? I also second the comparisons with products in different price classes, what am I giving up/gaining by buying a more/less expensive product. Keep up the good work!

Mahmood's picture

I agree with many of your points Scott. I would however also like to see UAV review 'computer centric' AV gear. By that i mean hardware/software that will enhance HTPC playback. Like many, i have a BD HTPC, but which software is the best? For example, there are 3 software packages at the moment that claim to play BD Discs, which is best? I think only UAV will be able to answer that one!! (I know that hardware can be a headache to get working properly with software) Soundcards as well is another area that is like a minefield (I think the whole HTPC thing is a minefield!!) so i would love for UAV to also look at the 'convergance' side of things. Still, keep up the good work!!

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