Not content to rest on their laurels (laurels can be so uncomfortable at times), Atlantic Technology has upgraded their well-regarded System 4200 THX Select home theater speaker system by adding an "e" to the model number. Well, in all honesty, Atlantic Technology has done more than simply reprint brochures with the new nomenclature. (Although it is a great, money-saving idea...) The new improvements include permanently attached finishing panels on the front- and center-channel speakers and a couple of improvements to the system's subwoofer.
Cablevision's recent announcement of the pending sale of the VOOM satellite (along with other assets related to VOOM) to Echostar Communications Corp. (DISH Network) should cause a twinge of sadness in the hearts of all HDTV lovers. Whether you admired VOOM's pluck in attempting to go against the two established satellite services (DISH Network and DIRECTV) or thought that Cablevison Chairman Charles Dolan must have been smoking something beyond cigars when he came up with the idea for an HD-centric satellite service, the virtually certain discontinuation of VOOM (Echostar will most likely use the satellite to expand its own channel offerings) is no happy event. During its brief existence, VOOM brought more high-definition content into the homes of its approximately 26,000 subscribers than all other providers put together (cable, satellite, and over-the-air terrestrial broadcast). As many a pair of eyeballs with HDTVs sitting in front of them know, HD content is an addiction that continually demands to be satisfied. Where, oh where, will we now go to get our daily HD fix?
One of the most realistic World War II videogames ever created, Call of Duty: Finest Hour (Activision) presents an often frantic, unsettling true-to-life series of exploits on the frontlines at the peak of WWII. We are among half a dozen soldiers on Russian, British, and American campaigns that take us to Russia, North Africa, and Germany on both vehicle- and infantry-based missions. T-rated for its graphic imagery, the story unfolds movie-style with a musical score by The Incredibles’s Michael Giacchino; single player or up to 16 online. The PlayStation 2 and GameCube versions offer Dolby Pro-Logic II audio while GameCube and Xbox deliver progressive scan video, and Xbox alone packs Dolby Digital 5.1-channel sound.
When I got satellite TV installed at my house a few years ago, I had a regular VHF/UHF antenna put in at the same time so that I could receive high-definition TV broadcasts. Over-the-air was the only game in town for HD back then. Now, with the major cable companies embracing high-def, and with satellite-TV services offering more and more high-def channels, HDTV is easier to come by.
Perfect color and an amazing black level—in other words, everything you'd expect from a CRT.
It's hard to talk about CRTs these days. Sure, they still make up the majority of the display market, but they're just not sexy. It's like a Toyota Camry—it does everything it's supposed to do, and it does it well, but no one really lusts after it. That analogy is probably too harsh for the Toshiba 34HF84, which has more-accurate colors and a darker black level than any display I've reviewed in recent memory.
Polk's LSi Series in an out-of-sight, out -of-mind variety.
I've come to look at home theater's many worlds much like various animals of the same species—common bonds clearly exist, but, at the same time, differences abound. Home theater works the same way. You've got high end and entry level, hobbyist and mass market, retail and custom install, and so on. They're all similar but distinctly different—particularly custom-install components. Anyone familiar with custom A/V systems will tell you that, if you'll allow me a bad pun, they're a very different animal.
I have a confession to make: I never took umbrage with having to set the clock on a VCR. I set my own. I set my mother's. I was even known to sneak into my friends' homes and set theirs while they slept, taking joy in the knowledge that their VCR could finally live up to its true functionality potential once I had put the blinking 12:00 out of its misery.
Years ago, I crossed swords with the editor-in-chief of a magazine that covered tech only in passing. His deputy editor took me aside, and a reflective look came into his eyes as he explained why his distinguished boss hated my work: "There's a kind of hardheaded practicality to him, and the whizbang stuff you write just leaves him cold. High-end cars he understands, but not high-end audio, and he wants you to convince him that this stuff is really worth paying good money for." Ever since then, I've tried to recognize that hardheaded practicality when I run across it—especially in readers.
I've always been a sucker for simplicity. Whether it's the functional beauty of a Mies van der Rohe building or a diesel-engine Mercedes-Benz with a manual-shift transmission, the "less is more" concept has always made sense to me. Unnecessary complexity often does little more than dilute a design's original functionality. This way of thinking has also been used in high-end hi-fi design, with some designers on the tweakier fringe embracing concepts like ultra-simple single-ended tube amplifiers and single-driver loudspeakers. Simple designs like these often have a straightforward clarity to their sound; each time you introduce new elements in order to make something play louder, higher, or deeper, you risk losing some of that clarity in the process.