Of the several good test DVDs available for optimizing the audio and video performance of a home theater system, the best known are <I>Digital Video Essentials</I> and the <I>Avia Guide to Home Theater</I>. Either will guide a consumer, step by step if necessary, to get the most from his or her equipment, particularly the video. In fact, most serious videophiles probably own both DVDs, along with a copy of DVE's predecessor, <I>Video Essentials</I>.
Now that everyone's jumping aboard the DVD and high-definition bandwagons, it's time to start thinking about the necessary cables for your system. At the top of your short list are component video cables, no doubt. AViC has what you need with their CV3002 RCA-to-RCA component video cable. The company says that upgrading to this cable will give you brighter colors and more-vivid detail from your DVD player or HDTV receiver. The color-coded connectors make installation trouble-free, and the 3.3-gigahertz bandwidth capacity supports all ATSC signals with room to spare. Two meters are available now for $130.
(215) 825-5310 www.aviccables.com
DVD: Dallas: The Complete First and Second Seasons—Warner Brothers
Extras: 2 Dallas' premiere in 1978 helped to usher in a new television genre: the prime-time soap opera. It had been tried before, but the amazing success of Dallas spawned an instant wave of imitators. Flamingo Road, Falcon Crest, and Dynasty all soon hit the airwaves in an attempt to cash in on the craze. The attentive viewer will notice something similar about these shows: All of the characters are filthy rich. Yes, it seems that America loves to watch shows about miserable wealthy people. They say that money can't buy happiness, but I bet you'll have some trouble convincing Aaron Spelling of that fact.
For the second time, the Motion Picture Association of America (<A HREF="http://www.mpaa.org">MPAA</A>) has sued chipmakers for selling chips to makers of DVD players capable of violating industry-wide copy-protection rules.
Thomas J. Norton evaluates the <A HREF="/accessories/704avia">Avia Pro multi-disc test suite</A>, remarking, "it wouldn't surprise me to see more than one enthusiast invest in the package—especially after seeing just how much it offers."
Considering how focused they are on designing ways of incorporating high-performance home theater gear into the smallest amount of space possible, you might think that the folks at Ginni Designs spent their formative years growing up in one of the tinier regions of Munchkin Land. (Although they deny it, I suspect that Ginni Designs has at least one elf - or perhaps a couple of interior-design-oriented descendants of the Seven Dwarfs - secreted away in the back offices helping design their magical cabinetry. It's a "Small Eye for the Home Theater Guy" kind of thing.)
Plasma, plasma, on the wall, who's the fairest speaker of them all? ("Fairest", of course, meaning "least visibly obnoxious while sitting next to one of those sleek, sexy, and usually silver-finish flat-panel TVs" with added elements of "gee, it'd be nice if it were easy to install - like maybe if the L, C, and R speakers were all one unit".) Boston Acoustics claims to have the answer with the new P400 slim theater speaker, a unique compound speaker unit that incorporates discrete left, center, and right front speakers in a single, thin chassis that's "designed to perfectly complement a 42-inch plasma or LCD television or monitor, a DLP rear-projection console, or a traditional screen."
Yes, Boston Acoustics knows all you plasma lovers out there hate speakers - or at least hate to look at speakers. (It's truly a love/hate relationship. You love to listen to good sound, but you hate to look at the speakers that are necessary to create it. My advice is that you should seek professional help about this, you know.)
Looking for a good test DVD for Definitive Technology's BP7002 system, I settled on the swashbuckling Master and Commander. The commander, Jack Aubrey, portrayed by Russell Crowe, set sail in 1805 in this adaptation of Patrick O'Brian's historically accurate novel, but the special effects and sound quality are definitely 21st century.