EARS ON

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Mark Fleischmann Posted: Jun 22, 2010 0 comments
This maker of toothbrush sanitizers now offers a model for personal electronics such as phones, iPods, headsets, earbuds, etc. They can get dirtier than the bottom of your shoe, we were told. The ultraviolet device takes three minutes to remove 99.9 percent of nasties such as salmonella, strep, flu, etc. Available in September for $100.
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Mark Fleischmann Posted: Jun 22, 2010 2 comments
At the Vizio booth we got a look at the XVT3D654SV, a 65-inch LED-backlit LCD TV with passive 3D technology. Pros: High light output, the glasses can be manufactured for pennies. Cons: Less resolution than active-shutter 3D. The technology is baked into the panel so the set can be used only for passive 3D. Shipping and price not available. Also introduced: other new LED sets and wi-fi Blu-ray players.
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Mark Fleischmann Posted: Mar 09, 2007 0 comments
I'm looking for a lead. Let's see, famous people named George. OK, my pick is George Harrison. Asked what he called his then-unusual Beatle moptop, he replied in a magnificently deadpan manner: "I call it Arthur." In similar spirit, Chestnut Hill Sound calls its iPod-centric compact audio system George.
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Mark Fleischmann Posted: Mar 02, 2006 3 comments
Cinematic cognoscenti who want to catch the latest indie films without driving to an art house are in luck—at least if they're Comcast subscribers. The cable giant has inked an agreement with IFC Entertainment to offer IFC in Theaters. IFC is a division of Cablevision-owned Rainbow Media. The arrangement will bring four to five independent titles per month, including two with same-date VOD and theatrical release. The price is $5.99 each and all titles will be in standard definition (though Comcast's non-IFC VOD operation does offer other titles in high-def). Coming attractions include:
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Mark Fleischmann Posted: Jan 26, 2007 0 comments
Analog TVs are obsolete. Yet, shockingly, most major retailers still carry them. Some folks in Congress would like to see archaic displays labeled this way: "This TV has only an analog broadcast tuner and will require a converter box after Feb. 17, 2009, to receive over-the-air broadcasts." If that seems reasonable, then you're in agreement with Reps. Joe Barton (R-TX), Dennis Hastert (R-IL), and Fred Upton (R-MI), who are brewing up legislation to require the warning. I would add something along the lines of "Aren't you a little embarrassed even to be looking at this thing?" but hey, I'm not an elected official. According to TV Week: "Besides the warning, the legislation would require cable and satellite service providers include information in bills notifying customers about the upcoming digital transition, would require broadcasters to file regular reports detailing their consumer education efforts and would require the Federal Communications Commission to create a consumer outreach effort and also file regular updates about how many consumers had redeemed coupons for converter boxes."
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Mark Fleischmann Posted: Jan 27, 2006 3 comments
"Image Constraint Token." A piquant phrase, yes? Roll it around on your tongue a few times before I tell you what it is. OK, ready? It's the name of the flag that will down-res HDTV in the soon-to-debut Blu-ray and HD DVD formats under the rights management scheme known as AACS (Advanced Access Content System). The restriction will apply only to the player's component video outputs, because they're analog, and therefore give the studios security nightmares. If your HDTV has HDMI, you needn't worry. HDMI is digital, easier to protect, and will work at full resolution. But if you're an early HDTV adopter and component is the only HD input on your set—ouch. The Image Constraint Token will halve resolution from 1920 by 1080 pixels to 960 by 540. It is an option, not a requirement. Studios likely to use it reportedly include Disney, NBC Universal, Paramount, and Warner. Fox has argued against it and Sony hasn't taken a position. The logic behind the ICT is staggeringly faulty: Does anyone really believe that cutting resolution in half will stop pirates in their tracks?
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Mark Fleischmann Posted: Mar 31, 2006 0 comments
Why are component audio sales lagging portables? "More than 56 percent of potential audio buyers say they have never even heard what they'd consider a great sounding audio system," says a press release from the Consumer Electronics Association. For those of us who have both heard and felt soul-stirring sound, that is nothing short of horrific. "The good news for retailers is that many consumers are leaving the door of opportunity cracked open through their willingness to interact with a sales person and to receive a demonstration of better audio equipment," says Sean Wargo, CEA's director of industry analysis. CEA recently released a training DVD for dealers, "The Specialty Audio/Video Difference," showing how to conduct effective demos and supply good customer service. If you're a consumer, as opposed to a dealer, maybe it's time to walk into an a/v specialty store and say "play me something good!" It just might change your life. To find a store in your area with some real class, click here. (Today's poster boy is Tycho the Wonder Dog, courtesy of www.nomoon.org.)
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Mark Fleischmann Posted: Oct 25, 2006 1 comments
Eighty percent of home theater buffs value sound quality. Even more, 84 percent, value video quality. And when asked whether they value both, 83 percent say yes—proving that the traditional definition of home theater as the marriage of big-screen television and surround sound is still valid. Those are a few of the highlights of Home Theater Opportunities, a study from the Consumer Electronics Association's CEA Market Research. The study also finds that a third of existing home theater system owners plan to buy at least one component in the coming year, at an average cost of $1700, while home theater newbies plan to spend $1400. More than half of these planned purchases will be video displays; CEA defines an HT-worthy screen as 34 inches or more. Comments Sean Wargo, CEA's director of industry analysis: "The high interest in displays leads many to wonder if there is opportunity left for the other components of a home theater system, such as audio. But the survey results show, when it comes to home theaters, sound and video quality are almost equally important to the majority of consumers. As a result, investments in displays may just be the first round in a larger investment in the home entertainment system." Especially, I think, if display prices continue to drop, leaving more budgetary room for audio purchases. The full study sells for $499 but you can read the press release for nothing.
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Mark Fleischmann Posted: Aug 27, 2008 5 comments
Don't you just love this bright new Blu-ray world we're living in? To celebrate the great transition, the studios now have hip high-def copyright warnings. This one came from Warner's 10,000 BC. Notice the forceful graphics, the festive colors, the 4:3 aspect ratio. The rounded screen corners that remind me of a 1950s B&W Magnavox--the first TV I remember, delivery medium for countless episodes of Captain Kangaroo. Best of all, it stays onscreen a real long time, and is invulnerable to the track-skip and fast-forward keys, so you have plenty of time to meditate on 5 YEARS IN FEDERAL PRISON before your evening entertainment. That'll stop those bootleggers and analog-hole deviants from stealing our precious bodily fluids! Uh, I mean our intellectual property. Or perhaps the studios are just as tone-deaf as ever, wasting the time of law-abiding Blu-ray renters and purchasers to send a message to other people who are impervious to copyright warnings. For the record, I have no intention of ever bootlegging a Blu-ray disc. But all those moments spent watching dopey copyright warnings add up. Couldn't they be shortened to three seconds, or made skippable, to really celebrate a new age of great HD entertainment? I want my life back.
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Mark Fleischmann Posted: Mar 26, 2007 2 comments
When you record a program with your DVR, does it matter whether the hard drive lives in your set-top box or on your cable company's network? Yes it does matter, a federal district court has ruled, effectively killing Cablevision's Remote Storage DVR. Soon after Cablevision introduced the innovative device, it was sued by CNN, Fox, NBC, Paramount, and TBS, who claimed the RS-DVR was not merely recording programs, but rebroadcasting them--a violation of copyright law. Cablevision argued in vain that the device was not rebroadcasting because recording and playback were controlled by the consumer. The decision will affect not only Cablevision's three million New York-area subscribers, but also cable consumers nationwide, by preventing other cable operators from introducing their own network-based DVRs. Cable operators like network DVRs because they're less costly to operate than the conventional kind. Cablevision may appeal. If it drags out the fight long enough, and Congress passes the Fair Use Act, the RS-DVR may get a second chance. The proposed law protects devices "capable of substantial, commercially-significant non-infringing use."
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Mark Fleischmann Posted: Jun 06, 2007 59 comments
Recently I've begun configuring some review systems to eliminate the horizontal center speaker in favor of a matching left/center/right array. The specific weakness of horizontal centers lies in their dual woofers. They bring on an effect called lobing--that is, sum-and-cancellation effects that cause uneven response at the listening position. However, my preference for identically matched speakers across the front is causing consternation to some readers, especially concerning placement.
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Mark Fleischmann Posted: Mar 06, 2006 1 comments
Did you know that David Gilmour's third solo album is out on LP as well as CD? Amazon.co.uk is listing a vinyl version of On an Island for 15.99 British pounds—a little under 28 U.S. dollars—and it's even coming out today, same date as the CD release. The "voice and guitar of Pink Floyd," as he's billed on his upcoming tour, has been busy lately. Last year he reunited with three other former members of Pink Floyd in the G8 concert series, sold his house in London for 3.6 million pounds (6.3 million dollars), and gave the proceeds to an organization for the homeless, while putting finishing touches on the new album. Judging from the Dolby Digital 5.1 soundtrack of his three-year-old In Concert DVD, Gilmour is still in his prime. Hey Dave, got a couple of extra tickets for the sold-out April dates at Radio City Music Hall? Well, I had to try. More on Pink Floyd tomorrow.
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Mark Fleischmann Posted: Jan 30, 2006 2 comments
The Federal Communications Commission has a new member. Deborah Tate was quietly sworn in by chairperson Kevin Martin on January 3. A native of Tennessee, Tate is a lawyer with Republican credentials, but not necessarily a cookie-cutter political operative. Her varied public service background includes telecommunications, public utilities, senior mental health, and juvenile justice. That breadth of experience may prove valuable over the next few years as the FCC grapples with controversial issues involving obscenity, censorship, media concentration, digital rights management, and its traditional mission of regulating the broadcast spectrum.
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Mark Fleischmann Posted: Dec 28, 2006 0 comments
Delta Airlines is struggling for survival, negotiating in federal bankruptcy court, and fending off a hostile takeover by US Airways. But whether you go first-class or coach, flying Delta is about to get more entertaining. These bullet points are a verbatim quote from an email Delta frequent flyers received a few weeks ago:
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Mark Fleischmann Posted: Dec 07, 2012 0 comments
King Crimson's Larks' Tongues in Aspic: The Complete Recordings is a reissue on steroids. This is the only Crim album to have been singled out for a massive box set including 13 CDs, a DVD-Audio disc, and—in a first for indie label DGM—a Blu-ray disc. Like most other releases in the ongoing 40th Anniversary Series, this one features fresh high-res 5.1- and 2.0-channel mixes by Porcupine Tree's Steven Wilson—and you can also buy those mixes in a far less costly two-disc DVD-Audio and CD set. But the LP-size monster box of Larks is in a class by itself as it documents the intensely innovative 1972 lineup that featured avant garde percussionist Jamie Muir along with what became the surviving quartet of former Yes drummer Bill Bruford, bassist John Wetton, violinist David Cross, and guitarist Robert Fripp, the only founding member.

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