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 scott.wilkinson@sourceinterlink.com.

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COMMENTS
Paul's picture

I think it's tough since "affordable" is subjective. For instance, I'm in my late 20s and my disposable income is limited as I am planning to start a family and buy a larger house. I still want to have the nicest A/V setup I can afford though. For me I would be looking for a TV in the ~$5k range, a receiver in the ~$700-1k range, and a speaker package that comes in ~$2-3k. Those ranges could be high-end to some people and budget to others. I think it would be best to try and cover the gamut without going too far on the affordable side (unless there is a product that blows you away for an incredible value). One request I have is whether a review of Elemental Designs home audio gear could happen. They have some interesting products for good prices (especially powered subwoofers). It would be interesting to read a professional reviewers thought on them.

Jeff's picture

As a former reciver of the print version of U.A.V., I have been following the changes closely. I enjoy reading about the high end in A/V gear as it gives me something to strive for. The comparisan of more budget oriented gear to the high gives me a feel for where my dollars could be best spent. I hope ro see more about wireless speakers as they develope. The system that Thiel is working on seems very exciting

Henning's picture

It depends on what kind of components you're talking about. I have no interest in seeing reviews of high-end speakers that cost $30k/pair. But speakers reviews like the latest Paradigm one are much appreciated. Same thing goes for processors. I don't want to see a review of the new Mar k Levinson. But anything under $10k or so is fair game. ANY review of a high-end receiver is appropriate, just because they don't hit the stratospheric prices that some speakers or processors do. As well, we know that lower end models will perform similarly, but without some of the features and power. So of course I want to hear about the top-of-the-line models. And as for source components, I'd appreciate a limit of $4k or so myself, but others might like a different cap. So like I said, it depends on what you're reviewing. I don't see a need for reviewing cost-is-no-object components. But I do like to see reviews of high-end stuff so that I have something to shoot for, like Jeff said.

Douglas Kelly's picture

I guess I'm in the affordable camp. I like knowing what the top-of-the-line product has and does but it's the incremental dollars to obtain that performance versus a slightly lower model at half or two-thirds the cost that really interests me. I am currently in the market for a subwoofer and have looked at the AV123.com's MFW-15 at $599 to the HSU VTF-3 Turbo at $1,000 to KEF's M209 at $9,000. The question is how much more do I get for $9K? Also, I believe wireless/broadband video downloading will become more important over the next few years. My broadband is in my home office and I need to be able to transmit to my PS3 in the living room which is too far for my "G" wireless. Reviews of best wireless and networking solutions will become more important in the future and should also be considered.

David Graham-Costain's picture

I read UAV and HT and while I enjoy reading about the very high end stuff I`ll never be able to afford, I would prefer to see reviews of the best of low/mid priced AVs, BluRays and especially speaker systems. Ideally, I would love to have the Anthem AVM 50 and Anthem PVA 7 ( I Might manage a Mar antz SR8002), A Pioneer KURO 6010 (I MIGHT be able to get the 5010) and the Vandersteen Home Theater speaker system or maybe the Definitive Technology Mythos ST system because I might not need a sub which would be good as I have a small space but, I can`t afford them yet. I would know nothing about them if it weren`t for your reviews, so thank you.

Frank's picture

I'd prefer the higher end (not the stratosphere, mind you but I'd like to know what I can look forward to some day)... Already have a decent rig, so want to know what might make me happier someday. (Please avoid HTIB reviews, by the way, regardless.) Looking at others' input, I guess Henning comes closest, but not sure I'd want to put a cap on $4K for components... there will probably be a few decent ones coming out along the lines of the Denon 5910 (which I recall didn't get review by your magazines). Oh, but I would like to see some comparative reviews too... just to know, for example, how the various Blu-Ray players coming out any day now actually compare.

Paul Wozniak's picture

Please review the "cutting edge" and affordable products. I want to know where the industry is heading, as well as how it trickles down to what I can afford.

Scott's picture

I'd like to see reviews tending toward the higher end, though not the stratosphere. 5.1 speaker ensembles between $4000-8000; AVRs from $1500-4000, TVs in the $4-5000 range. One thing I'd be especially interested in is a comparison of high-end seperate amps (such as from Macintosh) to the amps in good receivers (say, in the $2000 range) from the likes of Denon, Yamaha, and Onkyo. There's a big price difference here, but is it really worth it? That's difficult for an individual buyer to determine, since few Hi Fi shops are set up to do side-by-side comparisons of those products. I'm currently a Denon 3808 user, but would be willing to make the jump to a separate amp (maybe still using my Denon as a preamp), if the expense would truly be worth it. I've heard wildly divergent opinions on this issue from very knowledgeable sources. A blind face-off of AVRs vs separates would be very interesting.

Max's picture

I'd have to say that the $10 Grand and under price range for audio, video ensembles and individual products would fit in my wheel house. It's been a long time since you reviewed Sherwood Newcastle - the new Sherwood Newcastle R-972 HDMI 1.3 Receiver would be a good review (when it is finally release that is). It's getting lost of forum chatter, looks to be quite a unit. Thanks!

Colin Robertson's picture

I think you have answered your own question; UAV's readers tend to read UAV for its higher end products while HT covers the more mainstream. I would only ask you don't regularly review products in the stratosphere. Also, I was one who mentioned the Vandersteen products, but I would like to see the VCC-2 (wall mount center channel) reviewed, not the VCC-1 (which has already been reviewed several times, and is frankly, the weakest speaker in Vandersteens' otherwise stellar line of speakers. Thanks for listening to our input!

Colin Robertson's picture

By the way, I really like the idea of reviews of products only sold online! It would be even better if they were compared to similarly priced retail components...

Israel's picture

Please tell me you are NOT going to make editorial decisions based on 30 self selected responses. While this excercise may be interesting, and a nice gesture, it has no validity. How many hundred's of thousands of people view this site? Thanks for asking. Please take all responses with a HUGE grain of salt.

Mike Wilson's picture

Define affordable. Over $1k gets you out of the mainstream? Over $5k gets you out of affordable for most? Am speaking per component. Barely into 6 figure income the 1k to 5k works for me. It is nice to see reviews from the exceptional, but cheap, Oppo anyone?, to the extreme high end occasionally, Krell? My 2cp and love what you do. : )

Steve Meletiou's picture

I have subscribed to HT and your previous print version since inception. It's useful to review the high-end to set the standard. I think this can be done without being ridiculous. For instance, a $30,000/pair speaker is a bit stratospheric and you can get a reference pair of speakers for much less. I stopped my Stereophile subscription because many reviews were on equipment more expensive than most people's cars. Even wealthy individuals won't necessarily spend that much and you'll lose many readers by focusing on that. Still, your website is not "budget"oriented so I wouldn't drop down to inexpensive equipment unless something blows you away. I'd like to see some emphasis on whole house a/v distribution systems as well as media servers. I think a lot of people are storing CD's on hard drive as well as DVD's and soon Blu-ray digitally. It's much easier to access and memory is cheap. Eventually, we may just be accessing the media directly via the internet

Oct avio's picture

I need more low price reviews, wen i wanted to buy a projector , i visited your web site but eberiting was too expensive for me, so i had to get reviews fron others web sites. I endup buyin a panasonic PTAX100U and is working grat for me. (exept the iris need it to be replase but panasinic take care of it) Any way im still reading your magazine and listenen to you on leo laporte podcast. Iam still need a surroun sound, hope you help us. Thaks

Cajun_Mike's picture

Hey Scott, a bit off topic, but I was wondering if you have a contact at Panasonic USA? Message forums all over the net are loaded with posts of people waiting for the profile 2.0 Panasonic DMP-BD30K 1080p Blu-Ray Disc Player. Some sources say it's the first week in May , one outlet is taking preorders, but no one truly knows when this thing is going to hit. Any chance you can make a call to one of your sources and get the lowdown. This is the BluRay player that many who have been sitting on the fence are waiting for. Thanks, Mike

Richard Jones's picture

Scott, Please review the more affordable products that are in Circuit City, Best Buy, etc,... I'm tired of reading about some executive's home theatre. If that idiot was spending more time with his family instead of wineing & dining BS, he might be a better husband & father.

Scott Wilkinson's picture

Re the Panasonic BD player, I think you mean the DMP-BD50, not the BD30, which is Profile 1.1. I'm attending a Panasonic product showcase next week at which we expect to learn more about when the BD50 will be available. I'll let you know as soon as I can.

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