A/V VETERAN

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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, connectivity, HDMI 2.0, HDCP 2.2, 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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Al Griffin Posted: Oct 02, 2014 Published: Sep 30, 2014 0 comments
Got a tech question for Sound & Vision? Email us at AskSandV@gmail.com

Q I’ve seen a couple of instances in Sound & Vision magazine of installations with a flat-panel TV for normal viewing and a projector and large screen for special viewings. If the screen comes down in front of the flat panel, how do you arrange room seating to accommodate both screen sizes? A 60-inch flat panel and a 100-inch projection screen for instance?—W. Ladd Romans, Jr. / via e-mail

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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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Thomas J. Norton Posted: Jun 24, 2014 9 comments
The center channel speaker doesn’t often get the respect it deserves. To keep it slim enough to fit on a shelf, many manufacturers simply offer two-way center designs, laid out in a horizontal woofer-tweeter-woofer arrangement. Every experienced speaker engineer knows that this is the worst way to design any speaker, but cost cutters, marketing departments, and consumers who don’t know better (or don’t care) demand them.
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Thomas J. Norton Posted: Jun 10, 2014 3 comments
Rummaging through my piles of lost papers the other day, I came across the following pearls of wisdom. Nothing on the paper indicated where it came from, or to whom it should be attributed. It has the ironic angle of the late Stereophile founder J. Gordon Holt, but may well have come from elsewhere. In any case, here it is for your delectation. I’ll add my own comments in a future blog entry, but leave this to speak for itself for now:
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Thomas J. Norton Posted: May 27, 2014 3 comments
Some months back I ran across a region-free Blu-ray of the Vienna Philharmonic orchestra’s 2014 New Year’s Concert (Sony Classical). I already owned the 2012 edition (it’s an annual event, as you might have guessed!), which I hadn’t yet watched. The price was right for this 2014 version, so I added it to my collection. That is, I added it to my shelf of as yet unseen Blu-ray discs (I suspect all serious collectors have such a shelf). It waited there patiently until I felt the need to pull out a few potentially good sounding concert Blu-rays. This one seemed like a good candidate, so I popped it into my Oppo player.
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Thomas J. Norton Posted: May 13, 2014 3 comments
Ultra HD has been around for a couple of years now, but prices have now dropped to the point that acquiring an Ultra HD set can be a serious consideration for folks in the market for a new TV, particularly early-adopters. TV makers hope that the next Big Thing in video will be Ultra HD, or as it is widely (and imprecisely) called, 4K. They also hope that Ultra HD has the legs that home 3D (now in its, “Hello, I must be going” phase) lacked.

Ultra HD can be much more than simply 4K resolution (more precisely, 3840 x 2160 in the consumer arena—4K in the pro world , including digital cinema projection, is 4096 x 2160). It also has the potential to offer a wider color gamut, an increased color bit depth, and less aggressive color subsampling. If that string of technobabble sounds intimidating, it simply means that in addition to more pixels, Ultra HD could provide a wider and richer color palette than does our current HD standard.

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Thomas J. Norton Posted: Apr 22, 2014 1 comments
Last week Meridian Audio held a reception in Los Angeles, one of many across the country for the U.S. launch of its new special edition, digital loudspeakers, the DSP 5200SE, DSP7200SE, and DSP8000SE (For others yet to be held, go to meridian.com.)

This year is the 25th anniversary of Meridian’s first digital loudspeaker, so it’s no surprise that all three of these designs are powered by their own internal amplifiers and accept only digital inputs. In most installations such inputs will come from Meridian’s own electronics, but other digital sources, such as a music server, may also be used to feed the speakers’ inputs.

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Thomas J. Norton Posted: Apr 08, 2014 0 comments
Late last month I visited the Harman research facility to compare three Revel floor-standing speakers: the Performa3 F208 ($5000/pair), the Performa3 F206 ($3500/pair), and the more upscale Ultima2 Studio2 ($15,000/pair). The venue was Harman's Multichannel Listening Lab, or MLL.

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