Is it the seductively cool blueness of the analog-style wattmeters on the amplifiers or the allure of the full-front impervious-to-wear glass panels? Maybe it's the classic, great sound quality. I'm not exactly sure what it is, but I've always had a soft spot in my heart for gear from American-born-and-bred McIntosh Laboratory, Inc. So it's no surprise that the unveiling of a trio of new home theater components from the Binghamton, NY-based company would cause the drool to start forming at the edges of my mouth.
Seeing as how we tend to focus on "home" theater gear - hence the name "Home Theater Magazine" - it's not likely that you've ever heard us mention a twenty-some-year-old company called JL Audio. Although JL Audio has certainly a bigwig of boom for quite a while, they've existed pretty much under our radar because their main focus has been on car audio. (Unfortunately, the powers that be who write our checks won't let us cover events such as the Funkmaster Flex 2004 Celebrity Car Tour of which JL Audio is an official sponsor.) But all that is about to change.
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.