A/V VETERAN

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Thomas J. Norton Posted: Feb 26, 2015 1 comments
I lived in the Los Angeles area on two occasions prior to the most recent 14.5 years, each time long enough for me to recognize the superiority of its best movie houses. When I moved from Los Angeles to Santa Fe in 1990 to work for Stereophile, I often vacationed back in LA just to see movies there. Santa Fe’s theaters at the time were depressing at best, and nearby Albuquerque wasn’t much better. In a week in LA I might see 7-8 movies (on one occasion I recall seeing 10!), enough to satisfy my appetite for at least a few months.

These trips continued, and even escalated to twice a year after I began supplementing my writing for Stereophile with major work on the Stereophile Guide to Home Theater...

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Thomas J. Norton Posted: Feb 17, 2015 3 comments
The communication advancements of the past few years have made it possible to do some types of work—such as evaluating AV gear and writing about it—from almost anywhere. So I’ve picked up stakes and moved from sunny Southern California to a far less crowded burgh along the Florida panhandle’s Gulf coast.

It wasn’t an easy decision, and a major move after 14 years in one place is worse than having major dental surgery (and far more costly!).

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Thomas J. Norton Posted: Jan 27, 2015 1 comments
The 2015 International CES is over, but the melody lingers on. The big news in video, of course, is that Ultra HD is coming to us like a great singer who is pushed out on stage knowing the tune but not the lyrics. The result might be a stirring vocalization of “Over the Rainbow,” but the only words the singer can think of are the lyrics to “Does Your Chewing Gum Loose Its Flavor on the Bedpost Overnight.”

In short, most (but not all) of the sets launched at the show still feature only one of the important features of Ultra HD: 4K resolution...

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Thomas J. Norton Posted: Dec 23, 2014 4 comments
(Mildly revised)

‘Twas the night before Christmas, when all through the house
Papa was puzzled, but he didn’t grouse.

The toys weren’t assembled, the hour was late And Ma was exhausted, her patience not great.
The children were nestled all snug in their beds While visions of video games danced in their heads.
And with Ma in her 'kerchief, and I in my cap We were far from enjoying a long winter's nap.

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Thomas J. Norton Posted: Dec 09, 2014 0 comments
Somewhere in the dim past I wrote a blog on whether or not you might want to work with a custom installer in designing and building setting up your home theater or media room. In a random search through my computer files (as messy as any physical file system on the planet!) on a different subject I came across it again. It appears to have been written for one of the newsletter in the now defunct Stereophile Guide to Home Theater/Ultimate AV. In the hope that it might be as pertinent now as it was then (given a significant update), here it is again...
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Thomas J. Norton Posted: Nov 25, 2014 3 comments
Movie time has been in short supply at chez TJN recently. My home theater system is packed up for a pending long distance move. I’m down to a modest two-channel setup (Onkyo AVR, Revel Concerta M20 bookshelf speakers, no sub, flat screen HDTV) in my much smaller family room. Potential buyers can now see the former home theater as the living/dining space it’s supposed to be.

The HDTV in this smaller system...

Thomas J. Norton Posted: Nov 12, 2014 0 comments
Last Thursday Sharp Electronics introduced its latest Ultra HDTVs, along with a Wireless High Resolution Audio Player, at the Video & Audio Center in Santa Monica, CA.

The new AQUOS 4K UD27 lineup, available now, consists of two LCD models: the 70-inch LC-70UD27U ($3,600) and the 60-inch LC-60UD27U ($3,200)...

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Thomas J. Norton Posted: Oct 22, 2014 0 comments
The annual Rocky Mountain Audio Fest was held in early October in the Marriott Hotel at the Denver Tech Center. For at least the past 10 years this has been the biggest of the many audio shows now jostling for position around the U.S. Depending on who you ask, the Newport Beach (CA) show, held in June, is nipping at its heels but isn’t quite there yet.

Manufacturers (not to mention the press) must be tearing what’s left of their hair out trying to support all these shows, which now include RMAF, Newport, (northern) California, Chicago, New York City, Washington D.C., and Toronto. Let me know if I’ve missed one! And this doesn’t even include the trade-only CES (and, for some, CEDIA EXPO). For small manufacturers this is a major expense, and many of them only attend one or two. If they support two, it’s most likely they’ll include RMAF and CES).

Unlike many present-day audiophiles I keep one foot in the audio/video world of home theater and surround sound and the other in the 2-channel world of high-end audio. I regret that multichannel, even for music alone, remains anathema to many audio fans. As for film sound, for many that’s clearly the spawn of the devil...

Tom Norton Posted: Oct 19, 2014 2 comments
Panasonic launched its new flagship 4K Ultra HD sets, the 65-inch TC-65AX900 and the 85-inch TC-85AX850, at a press event in Los Angeles last Thursday. The two models are similar in many ways, including their Ultra HD capabilities, THX certification, HDMI 2.0, HDCP 2.2connectivity, and H.265 (HEVC) decoding, which is planned for upcoming 4K source material, but not yet universally used in the limited consumer 4K material presently available) The TVs also incorporate Panasonic’s quad-core, Pro5 processor for their “Beyond Smart” feature set.
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Thomas J. Norton Posted: Sep 30, 2014 2 comments
The cartoon above is only one of many from cartoonist Charles Rodrigues (1926-2004), who contributed to this magazine in the 1970s and 1980s (the mag was then known as Stereo Review). A favorite audiophile parody of an equipment report from Stereo Review’s iconic reviewer Julian Hirsch states, “Of all the amplifiers I have reviewed, this was definitely one of them.” Nevertheless, we all enjoyed Rodrigues’ take on our then, as now, crazy business.

But the cartoon here also heralded a problem that has fallen on the high-end audio industry, a problem also shared, though to a lesser degree, by the home theater business: eye-watering prices.

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Thomas J. Norton Posted: Sep 16, 2014 1 comments
The big Blue Bear, the “mascot” for the Denver Convention Center, is sad. Another cycle of CEDIA Expos in Denver has ended; next year we head to Big D A double L AS (that spells Dallas, my, oh yes).

But this latest two-year run in in Denver ended with a bang. It was...

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Thomas J. Norton Posted: Aug 27, 2014 2 comments
Reviewers (who are almost universally inveterate collectors) tend to accumulate more software—videos, LPs, CDs, and soon music and video files, than your average bear. Digital files take up little space, but the others can soon grow to enormous proportions. Not only does this create a storage problem, it also makes it difficult to find that special disc we want to enjoy now. Of course, we all organize our collections in some rational form, don’t we? In a classic line from the (must see) movie High Fidelity, a record store owner is reorganizing his personal LP collection. A friend asks him how he’s doing it: alphabetical, by artist, by label, by genre? His answer: autobiographical.

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Thomas J. Norton Posted: Aug 13, 2014 5 comments
Pioneer's speaker guru Andrew Jones conducting one of the first Dolby Atmos demos in Los Angeles.

Things are moving fast on the Dolby Atmos front. Here's an in-depth look at Dolby Atmos—what it is and how it works—as well as my first impressions of recent demos conducted by Pioneer and Dolby Labs.

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Thomas J. Norton Posted: Jul 22, 2014 0 comments
A few months back I wrote about the hazards of assuming that any Ultra HD set you might buy today will be future proof. At the risk of repeating myself, some of the points I made there are worth going over again in a different, shorter form—not least of all because new readers are unlikely to devour a long, two month old blog!
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Thomas J. Norton Posted: Jul 08, 2014 2 comments
Planet of the Apes is perhaps the longest running science fiction film franchise in history (unless you consider James Bond sci-fi—and Star Trek originated as TV series that didn’t arrive as a theatrical film until 1979). The original Planet of the Apes movie, based on a novel by French author Pierre Boulle, produced by 20th Century Fox, and co-written by Rod Serling of Twilight Zone fame, was followed by four sequels. The budgets for these sequels were tight (miniscule by today’s standards) and the results progressively cheesier. But despite its special effects and makeup, state of the art for the time though primitive now, the original still holds up today. There were also two relatively unsuccessful TV series in the ‘70s, plus books, comic books, and other spin-offs.

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