EARS ON

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Mark Fleischmann Posted: Dec 20, 2005 3 comments
Let's face it, i-anything is pretty hot now that the iPod has become the fastest-growing product in consumer electronics. Sales of MP3 players shot up by 255 percent during the first eight months of 2005, and you can bet Apple's smallest and prettiest child was the driving force behind that dizzying growth. Enter Klipsch, one of the few good speaker brands you're likely to find in a national chain store. Now that the the company's iGroove is playing on my desk, I'd say Klipsch deserves its piece of the pie.
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Mark Fleischmann Posted: Jul 03, 2008 1 comments
The description in the headline above is Klipsch's, not mine. I usually refer to this kind of product as earbuds. But Klipsch is allergic to that term for arcane technical reasons explained in this FAQ. So headphones these wispy transducers are.
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Mark Fleischmann Posted: Apr 16, 2008 2 comments
Last Friday I had the privilege of watching Lang Lang perform a freshly commissioned piano concerto by Tan Dun (who composed the score for Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon) at Avery Fisher Hall in New York. The 25-year-old wunderkind brilliantly exploited the work's wide dynamic contrasts and powerful sonorities, often conjuring extraordinary tone color by hammering the lowest notes of the keyboard, and bewitching the audience with extravagant gestures. Lang Lang is to the piano what Leonard Bernstein was to conducting. Anyway, Sony slipped me a ticket to celebrate its three-year pact with what is arguably the world's greatest living pianist. "Sony is delighted to welcome Lang Lang as a 'brand ambassador' who can reach and connect with audiences around the world," said Sir Howard Stringer in a press release. Lang Lang describes himself as "a long-time Sony user." No doubt he'll boost Sony's popularity, not only in America but in classical-conscious Europe and his native China. It's great to see a major corporation hitching its wagon to a major pianist. Rumors of classical music's death have been greatly exaggerated.
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Mark Fleischmann Posted: Mar 02, 2007 15 comments
A promising new video display technology suffered a potentially fatal setback last week. SED stands for Surface-conduction Electron-emitter Display. Whether marketers would come up with a sexier name for the ultra-flat tube technology is something we won't find out in the near future because a federal judge has ruled that Nano-Proprietary, the licensor, can wiggle out of its agreement with Canon. The agreement dates from 1999. Subsequently Canon brought Toshiba into a joint venture that would have brought SED to market. That made sense--if you want to sell TVs, you work with a TV company. Meanwhile, with an eye on the burgeoning market for flat panels, N-P apparently became unhappy with the arrangement. So the company argued that by bringing in Toshiba, Canon had violated the licensing agreement. N-P refused to call off its legal pit bulls even after Toshiba sold its stake to Canon and cancelled plans to show an SED prototype at the Consumer Electronics Show two months ago. If N-P wins the appeals, Canon will have to negotiate a whole new licensing agreement with N-P, if it chooses, possibly in competition with Samsung. Fun facts:
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Mark Fleischmann Posted: Sep 25, 2006 0 comments
In the market battle between LCD and plasma displays, conventional wisdom holds that where they overlap, LCD will always cost more, and therefore plasma is the better value. But in July, the average street price of 40- to 44-inch LCDs fell below that of plasma for the first time, according to Pacific Media Associates. The market research firm's Flat Panel Display Tracking Service also found that LCD's market share went up four points, to 46 percent. Says VP Rosemary Abowd: "We've seen this repeatedly in the past. When the price of LCDs match or drop below the prices for plasma HDTVs of the same size, LCDs win. We expect that LCDs will account for the majority of unit sales in the 40- to 44-inch range soon." Plasma still has the advantage in black level and viewing angle, though it's more subject to the screen-door effect, and that big glass sandwich is heavier and thus a little harder to mount.
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Mark Fleischmann Posted: Jan 05, 2007 2 comments
What was the number one item on holiday wish lists in the just-concluded 2006 holiday shopping rush? LCD TVs were the big winner, according to the NPD Group, with $925 million in sales. The flat wonders beat digital cameras ($825 million) and notebook PCs ($810 million). Surprisingly, iPods and other digital media players were relatively distant fourth-place finishers at just $720 million. So it's official: Americans prefer big screens to small ones. NPD declined to comment on how plasmas and other displays figure into their calculations.
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Mark Fleischmann Posted: Jan 11, 2006 1 comments
Following are a few postcards from the now-concluded 2006 International Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas. This is not a weighty wrapup or even a best-of-show story, just a few things that caught our fancy.
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Mark Fleischmann Posted: Mar 30, 2007 4 comments
A California superior court ruling saved Kaleidescape from extinction yesterday. The decision is good news for what is arguably the best-designed home networking system for movies and music. But it is bad news for similar products, and those who might want to market or buy them, because it spares Kaleidescape only on a technicality, and does not necessarily set a precedent that would protect similar devices. The plaintiff was the DVD Copy Control Association, which argued that Kaleidescape illegally de-encrypted its Content Scramble System in copying DVDs (including potentially rented or borrowed ones) to the system's hard drive. Kaleidescape argued that the material remained secure on the hard drive and was distributed throughout the home via protected interfaces such as HDMI. Judge Leslie C. Nichols ruled against CCA, saying that the CSS spec was not legally part of the licensing agreement, which he characterized as "a product of a committee of lawyers." You can't make this stuff up. He also faulted CCA for failing to provide guidance when Kaleidescape solicited it: "I saw this as a case where no one sat down to talk." Kaleidescape feels "vindicated"; CCA may appeal. CCA's lawsuit against Molino Networks, whose $2000 system cost far less than Kaleidescape's, killed that company in 2004 by starving it of venture capital. The Motion Picture Association of America has "warned" about 80 chip makers about CSS and obtained three out-of-court settlements. Your right to store DVD content on a home network remains ambiguous at best. See EETimes and ArsTechnica coverage.
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Mark Fleischmann Posted: Jun 24, 2011 0 comments
The most dressed-up flat-panel TV in the universe has to be the Trithon REYN, displayed in the Leon Speakers booth at this week's CEA Line Shows in New York City.

Take a close look at the edge of the set. That's python skin.

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Mark Fleischmann Posted: Jun 28, 2006 0 comments
As a longtime gizmo critic, I was fascinated by a scathing commentary on my tribe by Mr. Media Coverage (I'm not sure who that is) of GameDaily.com. Working for advertiser-supported specialty media has its limitations. And while many of us do a great job within those limitations, others may recognize themselves in Mr. MC's "7 Reasons Why Questionable Facts Go Unchallenged." The two that caught my fancy are: "We sometimes want to believe the questionable facts." Just like little kids. Still worse: "The lies make better stories." OK, I'll cop to it. At least where this blog is concerned, I'll fix on any idea that makes a pretty paragraph. But I'll have to watch my step!
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Mark Fleischmann Posted: Jan 17, 2006 0 comments
Levi Strauss has redesigned its iconic jeans for the iPod. The Redwire DLX Jeans have a "docking cradle" to hold the music player—while concealing the telltale bump—plus a red ribbon to allow easy removal of the iPod, a joystick track-navigation control built into the watch pocket, a wire retractor to manage the earbud cable, a distinctive white leather patch, and bluffed back pockets with hidden stitching. Pricing and pictures were not available at presstime but the new product probably won't look much like this picture of my 550s with a nano stuck in the watch pocket.
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Mark Fleischmann Posted: Mar 08, 2006 3 comments
LG will bring out a player that handles both Blu-ray and HD DVD later this year, according to a leaked memo to dealers. That would be an interesting change in strategy from the company's former Blu-ray only policy. In fact, LG is dropping a previously announced Blu-ray player. It will also drop two LCoS models from its lineup, 71 and 62 inches, due to a chip shortage and what executives see as a waning microdisplay market. New 60- and 50-inch plasmas will be delayed and their current equivalents carried over. Finally, say hello to the world's largest LCD panel, a 100-inch prototype shown by LG.Philips at this week's CeBIT show in Hannover, Germany.
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Mark Fleischmann Posted: Feb 07, 2007 2 comments
A federal judge has ordered DirecTV to suspend TV ads claiming that its HDTV is of higher quality than that of cable. For years, videophiles have complained that DirecTV's signal--HD or otherwise--is overcompressed, pixellated, and full of video artifacts. But this is the first time the satellite operator has been rebuked in court. The triggering event was a lawsuit by Time Warner Cable in response to ads starring William Shatner and Jessica Simpson with the slogan: "For picture quality that beats cable, you've got to get DirecTV." Has Captain Kirk steered us wrong? How the mighty have fallen. TWC also objected to claims that its subscribers weren't able to receive certain NFL football games. While TWC (and Cablevision) don't carry the NFL Network, the eight specific games in question were aired by broadcast stations available on cable. In addition to the TWC suit, filed in December, DirecTV is also fighting a class-action suit filed in California three months earlier. That one alleges inferior HD picture quality on HBO HD, HDNet Movies, Bravo HD, Showtime HD and DirecTV HDTV pay-per-view. Attorney Philip K. Cohen claims DirecTV sends HD at a data rate of 6.6 megabits per second, versus the industry-standard 19.4mbps.
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Mark Fleischmann Posted: Jul 31, 2006 0 comments
Live music broadcasts go all the way back to the golden age of radio—to the very first broadcast, in fact, when the first broadcaster played his fiddle. And concert halls are again becoming studios. Live Nation, the world's largest operator of concert venues, has already wired 36 major venues and festival sites and plans to bring the number up to 120 by year-end. The result, for viewers, will be sizzling live music delivered to your TV, PC, cellphone, FM or satellite radio—any program provider willing to do business with Live Nation, a new company spun off from Clear Channel. The project is already pretty busy, having broadcast 250 shows from 50 artists in 2005. Given that LN stages 29,000 events per year, there's plenty of room for growth. What I'm hoping is that LN will discover how dull stadium performances can be, visually and sonically, and concentrate instead on bringing home music from the sweaty little clubs, where the real excitement is. Like, say, the House of Blues, which LN recently acquired. Oh, and please, record in 5.1. (PS: Readers have the right to know that I am a Live Nation stockholder.)
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Mark Fleischmann Posted: Nov 17, 2006 0 comments
"There are eight million stories in the naked city," says the voiceover from the 1958 film noir of that name, and there are also 3000 stories in the Made for iPod city. One of them is Logitech's AudioStation. It hasn't got a handle, so it isn't exactly a boombox, but it does have two speakers surrounding a central control unit. What makes it special are touch-sensitive controls and a jutting dock for the iPod's 30-pin receptacle.

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