Eton's Soulra is a fairly ordinary iPod docking speaker product with a twist: It's got a solar panel that can charge in about 10 hours, providing 4 to 5 hours of play time. It's water-proof, sand-proof, and $199.
Mitsubishi's L75-A91 is the latest generation of its LaserVue rear-projection technology. The 75-inch set is up 10 inches over its predecessor, costs $1000 less at $6000, and exceeds Energy Star standards by 50 percent. Mitsubishi has been supporting 3D since 2007 in its DLP models and offers an adapter for use with 3D ready sets that will convert formats supported in HDMI 1.4a.
The MusicLite uses 2.4GHz wireless technology from Eleven Engineering in its combination Sylvania LED lightbulb and Artison powered speaker. Use your choice of iPod or USB dongle to send signals to the MusicLite. The system can address up to four zones. Shipping in September for a price yet undetermined.
Sonos has long been the noninvasive multi-zone audio technology of choice for many. Its latest move, not surprisingly, is an iPad controller that works much the same as its iPhone/iPod controller. The free app lets you slide between rooms playing different content or link all rooms with the same content.
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.
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.
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.
I have been lucky enough to spend nearly all of my career explaining audio and video technology to readers. I'm just as lucky to have made Sound & Vision and its predecessor Home Theater my roost since 2001. But in a previous phase of my career, I divided my time between specialist publications like this one and other kinds: music and pop culture magazines, men's and women's and travel magazines and newspapers and more. It was while writing a story for Details that I racked my brain for a way to assert the relevance of audio technology to a young, hip, music-loving audience (not unlike myself at the time). Finally I stumbled upon the key that unlocked it all: the phrase closer to music. I've been using that phrase and its cousin—your relationship with music—ever since.
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:
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."
"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?
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.)
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.
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.