Rotel has been in the audio business for four decades, and they were among the first to recognize the importance of the developing home theater market. The last Rotel surround preamp-processor I reviewed was the RSP-1066, in January 2003, and it was a honey: good-sounding, full-featured, and priced at an affordable $1499.
This unassuming little projector surprised me. It's not as attractive as the Epson, it's not as compact as the BenQ, and its price is between them both. Without a doubt, though, this was our winner. Why? Well, in a word: black level. OK, so that's two words.
It's quite impressive what $1,300 will get you nowadays. In many ways, the Home 10+ looks the most like a home theater projector of those in our Face Off. The smooth, pearlescent case looks a lot like a Chiclet on steroids, and this was the only projector with a dedicated component video input, in addition to RGB.
Almost universally, our panel agreed that BenQ's PB6200 was extremely close in performance to our second-place contender. Price ultimately pushed this projector into third place: It's $300 more expensive than the runner-up. But I'm getting ahead of myself.
One of the reasons I sleep well each night, secure in my job at HT, is the fact that seemingly every unusual product that comes down the pike is deemed "convergence" and falls into my lap. The Crowson Technology Tactile Effects System (TES) 100 wasn't exactly what I thought it would be: I anticipated a little added shaking of the sofa at appropriate moments, and the TES 100 certainly delivered, but the Couch Kit's two magnetic transducers turned out to be actual loudspeakers that also happen to channel enough physical vibration to move whatever is pressed down upon them, ideally the two hind legs of a big piece of furniture. Two rubber feet help to isolate the front legs. The less-expensive Chair Kit comes with one transducer and three rubber feet.
While those on the left and right sides of the political fence are bound to debate the pros and cons of trickle-down economic theory for the rest of time, it's hard to deny the way in which many high-tech developments that began life in projects bearing stratospheric price tags eventually came to benefit the masses, in products we can use every day. Today, many of us can afford gadgets like GPS navigation systems and laser pointers, whereas a few years ago this type of technology was available only to the largest institutions and military powers. This access to technology has had a major effect on today's audio components; for example, most of the latest surround processors have far more computing power than the in-flight computer used for the Apollo 11 moon landing in 1969.
So a bunch of us reporter types were sitting around CES 2003, and we kept hearing that recordable DVD finally stood poised to replace the VCR, since the prices had come down to the $600 range. Marketing people are paid to make these unrealistic claims with a brave smile, but the journalistic consensus was that recordable DVD would indeed replace VHS. . .when the price was closer to $200. We also hoped that format-compatibility issues would largely be resolved by that time.
Home theater in 2004 is like America in the 1950s, with a middle class that has steadily been building momentum and now finds itself in the midst of a major breakout. The same philosophy of the good life at a better price that spawned a culture of suburbs and credit-card debt in the '50s is spawning an unprecedented emergence of high-end home theater components at mid-level prices in the '00s.
MB Quart's new Vera Series speakers have redefined cool. They're cool-sounding, for sure, but I also mean cool, as in low-temperature cool. Heat, you see, is the enemy of good sound. When you're rocking with Aerosmith's ballistic blues bash Honkin' on Bobo or crankin' Master and Commander, your speakers' voice-coil temperatures shoot up. In extreme cases, they can heat up to 300 degrees Fahrenheit. The excessive temperature does bad, bad things; it can raise the voice coils' resistance by as much as 25 percent. Distortion creeps up, dynamics flatten out, and transient response goes to hell. Worse yet, sustained overheating can lead to driver meltdown. Ouch!
If you're old enough to remember the extremely popular (and still produced!) Klipsch Heresy speaker, you'll probably be a bit surprised by the look and feel of some of the latest Klipsch loudspeaker introductions. On the other hand, if you're young enough that the first thing you think of when you hear the name "Klipsch" is one of their svelte ProMedia personal audio systems, then you'll probably just say, "Cool!" Either way, you can't fault the venerable 58-year-old company for focusing its engineering efforts on keeping up with the times.