[Note: After we posted this story, Warner Bros. contacted us to give comment. (As we note in the story, we had made numerous attempts to interview someone from the studio before the story went live.) Skip past the end of the article to read a response from Ned Price, VP Mastering, Warner Bros. Technical Perations.]
Most new A/V trends are slow out of the gate. It seemed like forever before high-definition TV got off the ground, and audio formats like DVD-Audio and Super Audio CD are still struggling for recognition. By contrast, radical advances in computer technology seem to take the world by storm at least once a year. First there was the Web, which bleary-eyed users accessed via sluggish dial-up modems.
The video-tech evolution has been swift and in-your-face. From the square little black-and-white picture tube, we went to "in living color," rear projection, and the flat-ering DLP, plasma, LCD, and OLED. And on these displays we've watched broadcast, cable, VHS, Laserdisc, DVD, Blu-ray, and HD DVD (and the occasional porno - okay, that's neither here nor there).
A lot has changed since a year ago, when I was last given the chance to offer some advice in these pages. Home theater systems in general - and DVD players in particular - have gotten a lot cheaper; new formats like DVD-Audio, Super Audio CD, and recordable DVD are becoming established; and convergence gear like hard-drive audio and video recorders is cheaper and more common.
Illustration by Chris Gould; room photo by Tony Cordoza
See if this doesn't sound familiar: You don't just love movies, you love the whole moviegoing experience. When the time comes to check out a film, you drive miles out of your way to go to the best theater around-one with stadium seating, digital surround sound, and that awesome THX trailer that comes on before the movie.
Our first look at Ultra 2 and the first certified system from Snell and Pioneer.
It may be time to start asking the question that's asked of all pastimes with hobbyist roots when their popularity surges: Is home theater a permanent cultural phenomenon or just another fad destined to burn out before its time? Recent evidence certainly shades the former. DVD-Video has been the catalyst for an unprecedented boom in the popularity of home theater and should probably be credited with completing home theater's undeniable transition from novelty act to mainstream entertainment that began with Dolby Surround and the first inexpensive multichannel speaker system. But is home theater a cultural phenomenon the way that the computer is a cultural phenomenon? Do a majority of Americans actively seek to make it a part of their lives day in and day out? Not yet—but home theater's high-water mark is still to come.
Now that cable operators are required to separate access and security from the tuner(s) in new set-top boxes, you have the opportunity to buy a digital video recorder that's potentially more stylish and capable than the one you might be leasing.
It's the week before Christmas. You've taken a good look at your extended family, gotten all of the naughty and nice stuff out of the way, and finally arrived at a list of who's deserving of a little holiday cheer. But you're drawing a big blank when it comes to little Susie, big brother Ned, and jolly Uncle Phil.