John Higgins Posted: Dec 18, 2006 0 comments
  • $250
  • 12-bit/108-MHz video processing
  • DVD, (S)VCD, MP3, WMA, CD(RW), and Picture CD
  • 200 watts RMS total power
Very often, home-theater-in-a-box speakers are something to be hidden on the shelves or, at the very least, put by a work of art that takes the visual emphasis away from the silver plastic box. With the Philips MCD735/37 Micro Theater, that work of art will have some fierce competition. All of the speakers—four satellites, a center, and a subwoofer—have a wood finish that adds a warm feel to the unit and might blend into a room more easily than the usual silver found with most systems. Adding to the distinctive look is the two-module component setup. The system comes with a top-loading DVD player that is designed to sit on a separate power amp. Included is a stand meant to minimize vibration and overheating from the player and the amp. When a disc is playing, a blue light illuminates the disc. While it's elegant looking, the extra light could be a distraction while you're watching a movie, so you'll need to take system placement into consideration. Another reason placement is an important consideration is due to the top-loading DVD player. The player's clear lid stylishly swings up to allow access to the disc but requires space above the unit for the lid to open.
John Higgins Posted: Dec 18, 2006 0 comments
  • $300
  • Portable audio-player input
  • Five-disc DVD/CD player
Sony's entry-level home-theater-in-a-box, the DAV-DX255, manages to fit a couple of surprises into its relatively low price point of $300. For one, it can hold five discs at a time that are slot loading instead of carousel loading. It can also play SACs. Yes, you read that right. This $300 system can play that beloved Sony-backed audiophile format—Super Audio Compact Disc. We could talk about the pluses and minuses of using a $300 system to listen to SACDs, but, no matter what, SACDs will sound better than regular CDs. To complement its ability to read SACDs, the player will also recognize a myriad of other formats, including burned DVDs, MP3s, and VCDs.
John Higgins Posted: Dec 18, 2006 0 comments
  • $200
  • DVD, DVD+R/+RW, DVD-R/-RW, CD, CD-R/-RW, MP3, WMA, VCD, SVCD, and JPEG; HDMI with HD upconversion
  • Includes two front speakers, two surround speakers, one center-channel speaker, and one subwoofer
  • DVD/CD changer
RCA's RTD258 is full of surprises. There's a front-panel USB connection that you can use for most MP3 players, thumb drives, or digital cameras to play music or display pictures. There's also an included HDMI cable. What could this cable possibly be for, you might ask? Why, it's for the upconverting DVD player that has an HDMI output. If your television isn't as new as this system, you can connect the two with a component cable, although that is not included.
Posted: Dec 18, 2006 0 comments

Even though this format war is a pain in the butt, I have to admit that it's funner to come in to work than it's been in years. I'm getting a charge out of seeing the hardware and seeing my favorite movies come out in HD on a silver disc that I've probably not felt since my Laserdisc collection gave way to DVDs back in the late 90's. To the cynic the next-gen HD formats are an Enron-esque scheme to perpetuate royalty streams and to keep selling movie libraries over and over (and over) again. I acknowledge all that, and say, "hooray!"

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Mark Fleischmann Posted: Dec 18, 2006 0 comments
A music store dating from the age of the wax cylinder is threatened with closure in Cardiff, the capitol of Wales. Spillers was founded in 1894 and has survived the 78, the LP, the 45, and the CD (and still sells all but one of those formats). In fact, even in the new era of downloads, the beloved shop has been holding its own. What's threatening to engulf it is not technological, but economic, change. Efforts to attract investment to the city have succeeded a little too well, with two giant shopping developments opening up near Spillers. If the landlord follows through on his threat to raise the rent, owner Nick Todd--who left his secure bank job 31 years ago for a job at the shop--will have to close. Petitions are flying around. One has attracted signatures from half of the Welsh National Assembly (would that our own Congress were so hip) and another has garnered 2000 other signers. Says Todd: "If it all goes belly-up we've had a great time. I'd still rather own Spillers than Virgin." (Click here and scroll halfway down for Wes Phillips' tribute to Tower Records. I had no idea that the hundreds of $2 classical LPs I'd bought at the Tower Annex were stocked by "Analog George" Stanwick.)
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Thomas J. Norton Posted: Dec 17, 2006 1 comments

It’s hard to believe but I now live in a two Bose household. My first Bose was a car stereo that came as part of a package deal in the Mazda 3 that I bought nearly two years ago. I had to take it to get the whole shebang. It wasn’t really a bad deal. Dissing Bose may be a spectator sport among heavy-duty audiophiles, but apart from a little bass heaviness (not exactly rare in car stereos), it’s a more than respectable piece of work. It I had wanted to buy a car for the stereo, I would have gone with an Acura TL.

Thomas J. Norton Posted: Dec 17, 2006 0 comments

A casual glance at the Samsung HL-S5679 rear projection television might suggest that it is just another new 1080p set. Not that this is necessarily a bad thing, but the market is now flooded with them. Some are indifferent, some are good, and a very few are outstanding. But another television with a screen, lens, small imaging chip of some sort, and projection lamp isn't exactly news, particularly in our current, flat-panel-happy marketplace.

Posted: Dec 15, 2006 0 comments

In the years I've been covering consumer electronics I haven't seen anything like the introduction of Sony's PlayStation3 game console. The thing is a bonafide rock star. At the PS3's gala introduction in San Francisco gamers who had been camping out on the street for days actually cheered as an 18-wheeler with a full police escort rolled up carrying the game consoles, which went on sale at midnight and sold out Sony's initial US run of 150,000+ units within minutes.

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Mark Fleischmann Posted: Dec 15, 2006 0 comments
Can mediocre audio gear hinder your relationship with music? The guys in 3 Doors Down say yes. Not that they aren't doing well--their CDs sell in the multi-platinum range. But they agree with the audiophile community that lack of exposure to good audio equipment hurts listeners and musicians alike. Three members of 3 Doors Down were kind enough to take questions from Home Theater, including lead singer Brad Arnold, guitarist Matt Roberts, and guitarist Chris Henderson.
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Posted: Dec 14, 2006 0 comments

The Associated Press has reported that Sony is sticking with its target of having six million PlayStation3 game consoles shipped to retailers by March, the end of the fiscal year. Further, Sony claims it will also meet its goal of having two million PS3s shipped by the end of this calendar year.