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REMOTELY POSSIBLE

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Darryl Wilkinson Posted: Oct 22, 2013 2 comments
Maybe I’m still suffering the aftereffects of installation overstimulation at CEDIA last month, but it seems that everywhere I turn someone’s talking up home automation. Yesterday, for example, Control4 issued a press release touting – and rightly so – the many benefits of integrating home security systems with home automation systems. While that’s definitely awesome, the more interesting buzz that I’ve noticed lately isn’t about Home Automation, where the cost of the hardware, installation, and programming is often discussed in terms of a percentage of the cost of the home it’s installed in. No, the chatter du jour is about home automation “for the rest of us” (to borrow a term from Apple that originally had nothing to do with price, nor does it now). Once again, there’s a push to bring home automation to the masses – or at least to the smaller masses who would be willing to spend a couple hundred bucks for it.

But what kind of home automation can you get for $200 or maybe, if you’re willing to splurge, $300?

Darryl Wilkinson Posted: Oct 08, 2013 0 comments
Shortly before CEDIA 2013 kicked off in Denver last month, I wrote a post about some of the things I was looking forward to seeing at this year’s EXPO. There certainly wasn’t anything earth-shattering or paradigm-shredding introduced within the confines of the Denver Convention Center. But that doesn’t mean there weren’t a few standout products and super-slick demos hidden amongst the hundreds of crowded EXPO booths. We covered a lot of them.
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Darryl Wilkinson Posted: Sep 12, 2013 0 comments
They could have done it. The folks in the Forum could have chosen, as Brutus did with his one-time friend, Julius, to dig the knife in deep after we’d already been stabbed 1.2, 1.3, even or 1.4 times. That’s why, when the HDMI Forum announced last week that they’d come up with Version 2.0 of the HDMI Specification, I prepared myself for the pain of deciphering new nomenclature and figuring out which HDMI cables were good for what features and which gear. And, despite the fact that I know better, I couldn’t help but feel that the IOGEAR Wireless 5x2 HDMI Matrix Switcher I’ve been playing with for the last month or two was already out of date.

Such is the heartache that always comes with the announcement of any new specification or technology...

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Darryl Wilkinson Posted: Aug 22, 2013 0 comments
When my kids were born, the obstetrician let me cut each one’s umbilical cord. Those cords were surprisingly tough to sever, even with a pair of super-sharp surgical scissors. Still, it’s no where near as easy as that was to cut through the clutter of cables we use to connect our AV gear together. (You didn’t see that segue coming, did you?) HDMI (High-Definition Multimedia Interface) simplified things quite a bit from the multiple-cable analog way of making connections; but, at the end of the day, an HDMI cable (regardless of its version number, speed rating, or whatever confusing denomination it happens to be a member of) is still a flippin’ cable. IOGEAR says its new $399 Wireless 5x2 HD Matrix (GWHDMS52) offers a way to get rid of one of those HDMI cables in your system – specifically one of those long suckers that are both costly and annoyingly difficult to run from component A to display B. To prove it, IOGEAR recently shipped a Wireless 5x2 HD Matrix for me to give a brief tryout. Considering the fact that I needed to rejigger the cable configuration running from the main system in my theater room to the 46” outdoor SunBriteTV still battling the elements on my back deck, I figured I had the perfect scenario to put the new wireless switcher to the test.

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Darryl Wilkinson Posted: Aug 05, 2013 0 comments
The promise of HDBaseT is clear and compelling. With one, standard, off-the-shelf – relatively inexpensive – Cat5e/6 LAN cable, you can send full HD (3D and 2K or 4K) uncompressed video and audio (up to 10.2 Gbps), 100 Mbps Ethernet communication, various protocol control signals (RS232, for example), and up to 100W of power from one AV device to another up to 100 m (328 ft) away. (The HDBaseT Alliance refers to this set of features as “5Play”.) That means if you’re hooking up an HDBaseT-enabled flat-panel TV mounted on the wall to an HDBaseT-enabled AVR in a cabinet located in the back of the room, there’s no long, bulky HDMI cable (or HDMI extender baluns) to deal with (or spend the money on). No need for a repeater cable or wireless device to pass IR or RS232 control commands. And no separate Cat5e/6 cable to connect your TV or BD player to the internet via your home LAN. In my opinion, though, the most exciting part is that many components with integrated HDBaseT technology, including most TVs, won’t need an AC cord to plug into an outlet in the wall. It’ll get all the power it needs over that one, humble Cat5e or Cat 6 cable thanks to the magic of HDBaseT’s “5Play” technology.

Awesome, right? Absolutely…just not yet...

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Darryl Wilkinson Posted: Jul 22, 2013 0 comments
I’ve been sampling a variety of soundbars lately, ranging in price from $300 to $3,900. Despite the generic term – “soundbar” or “surround bar” – it’s actually a very diverse and interesting category with all sorts of subcategories within the soundbar umbrella: active, passive, LCR-only, LCR plus discrete rears, and etc. It’s also a category that can arouse understandably strong emotions of disgust and disdain among purists and quite a few custom installers. For millions of people, however, simplicity usually trumps sound quality; and the soundbar tsunami continues to swell and is unlikely to crest anytime soon.

But the pencil-thin form factor of flat-panel TVs is at odds with the acoustic principles speaker engineers currently take advantage of. The result is a shotgun marriage of something that is skinny with a partner that is usually a bit bigger-boned. Both of the home-theater spouses, though, do share a common aspect. Each one performs best when viewed/listened to from a position directly in front of the it. And therein lies a problem: what do you do with the soundbar if you turn the flat-panel on its base or otherwise change the angle of the TV (if it’s mounted on a tilting, pivoting, or full-motion wall mount from, for example, companies such as OmniMount, Triple Play designs from Bell’O, or Sanus)? In a more extreme case, what’s to be done with the soundbar if the TV is mounted in a corner?

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Darryl Wilkinson Posted: Jul 11, 2013 0 comments
Thank goodness for WebEx and GoToMeeting. Online services such as those two have made it incredibly easy to attend seminars, meetings, and press conferences without really being there – both physically and mentally. I’m not saying that such was specifically the case earlier this year when I sat through a special online session Control4 set up for press people during which the company introduced, among other things, a little box they called the Wireless Music Bridge. Honestly, I was paying attention; it’s just that, at the time, I had trouble getting excited about what seemed to me to be not much more than another streaming music device destined to come up short in the inevitable comparison to SONOS, the master and commander of all things having to do with multi-room music streaming. Fortunately, I didn’t have to feign enthusiasm since my face remained hidden by the magic of the Internet.

A couple of weeks ago, however, Control4 did succeed in piquing my interest when a new Wireless Music Bridge arrived at my door. Since I thought it would be rude not to hook it up and try it out...

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Darryl Wilkinson Posted: Jun 29, 2013 0 comments
Portable Bluetooth speakers are a dime a dozen; and, based on the way they sound, that’s about all some of them are worth. Good portable Bluetooth speakers are much more difficult to find. Really good portable Bluetooth speakers that are also weather-resistant and include a long-lasting, built-in rechargeable battery – heck, while we’re at it, let’s include that they’re not ultra-techie-looking, too – are about as easy to come across as a Big Foot cavorting through the woods wearing a bikini.

Soundcast Systems, the people who make the outstanding OutCast and OutCast Jr., dynamic duo of weather-resistant, wireless, transportable speakers, have been hinting for months about a new portable Bluetooth speaker that they think is so much better than anything else on the market that it’s more than simply the equivalent of finding a Big Foot in a bikini, it’s more akin to stumbling across a bikini-clad Big Foot pole dancing in a forest clearing. (What Soundcast actually claims is that Melody is “What other Bluetooth speakers want to be when they grow up.” Okay, that’s cool. But I think my pole-dancing Big Foot mental image is a more memorable.)

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Darryl Wilkinson Posted: Jun 11, 2013 0 comments
CEDIA 2012 has receded into the poorly lit reaches of my cobweb-covered memory. But the one thing that most stood out in the cornucopia of all things custom-install still stands in sharp relief today: HouseLogix’s absolutely amazing VoicePod. Actually, it sits in sharp relief – right on the top of my desk thanks to HouseLogix’s CEO and Founder, Ted Rosenberger, who shipped a beta version of the VoicePod for me to play for the last few months.

So what exactly is a “VoicePod”?

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Darryl Wilkinson Posted: May 06, 2013 1 comments
Power cords. Three-prong adapters. Wall-wart power supplies and USB chargers with their thin, inevitably tangled cords. Running out of available outlets. These are all things I hate. Hell, even polarized plugs annoy the crap out of me. Let’s just say that when wireless power transmission – or power-harvesting devices – ever becomes a reality, I’m going to be a particularly happy individual. (If only Tesla were still alive…) In the meantime, the previously mentioned assortment vexing electrical necessities are things we all have no other choice than to deal with.

Fortunately there are plenty of devices out there that are specifically designed to lessen the pain of dealing with power cords and power supplies...

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Darryl Wilkinson Posted: Apr 19, 2013 4 comments
If the folks at SONTE have their way, the company’s new Kickstarter project is going to be curtains for the window treatment industry. Or, rather, it won’t be curtains…
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Darryl Wilkinson Posted: Apr 01, 2013 1 comments
Einstein disliked it, famously calling the phenomenon “spooky action at a distance”; but if a team of scientists at the Linear Research Particle Accelerator (LRPA) facility have their way, the bizarre effects of “quantum entanglement” could bring about loudspeakers that are both truly wireless and totally invisible.
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Darryl Wilkinson Posted: Mar 25, 2013 6 comments
At first glance, you’d think a documentary about a defunct recording studio would have a hard time maintaining the interest of anyone other than a recording engineer for its entire 108-minute runtime. When I tell you that this documentary spends a great deal of those 108 minutes reverently reminiscing about the analog mixing console at the studio, it’s likely you’ll start wondering what insane, “analog forever”, diehard audiophile thought this subject would ever appeal to more than a dozen or so people. Frankly, it’s the sort of film you’d expect to find in the mosh-pit discount bins of DVDs and Blu-rays in the aisles of Walmart.
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Darryl Wilkinson Posted: Mar 06, 2013 0 comments
At CES 2013, DISH’s CEO, Joe Clayton, used the occasion to once again display his insatiable infatuation with Australian marsupials…as well as promote some key features included in the soon-to-be-released “Hopper with Sling” whole-home DVR. Surprisingly, after less than 12 months, DISH felt it was time to futz with what was arguably (and I’m not the only one to have made the argument) the world’s best whole-home satellite DVR available until now—the original “Hopper”.
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Darryl Wilkinson Posted: Feb 11, 2013 0 comments
It’s not quite the stuff of a Philip K. Dick novel, but Freer Logic’s BodyWave technology promises to bring mind control to the masses.

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