The Readers Have eSpoken
First, I'd like to thank all of you who responded to my query of last week. I got more than 30 replies that expressed a wide range of opinions on what products UAV should review—not only specific products, but types of products, price ranges, and other criteria. Here's a summary and a follow-up question...
I was especially interested to read about your preferences for reviews of high-end vs. affordable products. Of those who expressed themselves about this issue specifically, seven want us to concentrate on more affordable products, while five want to see more high-end gear. This is not a statistically significant sample, so no real conclusion can be drawn from it. But it does suggest that we could review high-end and affordable products in a similar ratio. I'll return to this point shortly.
One unequivocal request was to avoid covering things like iPod accessories and other consumer-electronics items of peripheral or no relevance to home theater. This is a no-brainer—UAV is all about home theater and nothing but home theater, and you can be sure we won't stray from that focus as long as I have anything to say about it.
Another clear trend was a desire to see reviews of products from online sources such as AV123, Aperion, Axiom, Outlaw, and Emotiva. Since UAV is an online publication, it makes a lot of sense to look at these products, so rest assured that we will. One respondent also asked for more coverage of products from specialty manufacturers such as Adcom, Anthem, Arcam, NAD, and Sonus Faber, which seems perfectly reasonable to me.
Several folks asked that we not review the same products as our sibling publication Home Theater, which is a trickier issue. For one thing, while we do share some of the same readership, I suspect that the overlap is relatively small. Among the distinctions between our two publications is that UAV tends to be a bit more high-end, and our readers are more of the enthusiast persuasion. As a result, when we do review the same product, the perspective is somewhat different, so readers of both get an even deeper insight into the product.
It's more likely that UAV and HT can steer clear of each other with audio products, but video products are another story. For example, there aren't that many Blu-ray players being introduced, and I'm sure that the readers of both publications want to know about them, so many will undoubtedly receive double coverage. And while there are plenty of TVs available, there aren't that many really good ones, and both sets of readers want to know about those as well.
As expected, I got strong support for both flat panels and front projectors, mostly in the under-$10k price range. Interestingly, I also heard from several readers who want to see more reviews of rear-projection TVs. They pointed out that rear-pros are the only way to get a 70-inch or larger screen without springing for a budget-busting flat panel or a front projector, which requires a degree of ambient-light control they just don't have.
I agree completely that RPTVs are the best big-screen bargain you can get, but they seem to be approaching extinction, with only two companies still making them. I will certainly review the Mitsubishi LaserVue set when it becomes available this Fall, and I'll try to fit in other rear-pros from Mits and Samsung when I can.
In terms of specific products, many folks wrote about speakers. The general consensus was for complete speaker systems in the $8k-and-less range. Two respondents asked for the Vandersteen 2ce L/R and VCC-1 center-channel. The company also markets a complete home-theater package with the 1C front L/R, VCC-1, VSM-1 surrounds, and V2W subwoofer, all for less than $3600; the 2ce costs almost $2000/pair. I'll certainly look into getting some of these speakers for review.
I got several requests for the Denon AVP-A1HDCI pre/pro, which seems like a natural for UAV, even with its $7000 price tag. Also mentioned was the companion POA-A1HDCI power amp, which adds another $7k to the bill. I've already spoken to Denon about the pre/pro, and they say it's hard to come by, but I'll keep trying to get both; I suspect they make a dynamite pair worthy of any "ultimate" home theater.
The requests for AVRs seemed to go in the opposite direction—most were for reviews of products in the $1000-$2500 range. Specifically mentioned were the Yamaha RX-V663 and 863 (the 663 is under review as we e-speak) and the Sony STR-DA5300ES, though I'm less inclined to do that one since we've already reviewed the STR-DA4300ES, which is the next model down from the 5300 and very similar in many ways.
My decision to limit our AVR and pre/pro reviews to those that can decode Dolby TrueHD and DTS-HD elicited lots of response. Most folks support the idea, though one fellow suggested we also review products that don't decode the new formats and criticize them for the omission. Another guy thinks the limitation is pointless if decoding in the player is equally good, but virtually no players (except the PS3) can decode DTS-HD at this point, rendering his position partly moot.
A number of respondents expressed an interest in media-center PCs. As I wrote last week, I just got the Sony Vaio TP25, so look for that review in the coming weeks. This is a relatively new area for me, but I look forward to learning about it and sharing what I learn with you.
Coming back to the high-end vs. affordable issue, I'd love to get more specific feedback. So here's a follow-up question for you: Which would you prefer, reviews of high-end or affordable products? Please post a comment here or write to me at the e-mail address below. Your responses will help me determine the best ratio of products in both categories to include on the site.
And please continue to send me your thoughts about products you'd like to see us review. Of course, I can't promise to implement each and every request, but I will do my very best to steer a course through the shoals of our industry to address as many as possible. I've said it before, and I'll say it again—my primary goal is to deliver the most useful information I can to help you select the best products for your own home theater, and with your assistance, I have a much better chance of doing just that.
If you have an audio/video question for me, please send it to firstname.lastname@example.org.