If you're an old hand at this home theater audio business, you know that both Dolby Digital and DTS first appeared in theaters, then on laserdiscs, and finally moved on to DVD. Because of the limited data space for audio on all of these delivery systems, the audio had to be heavily compressed—not in dynamic range (a common misconception) but to reduce the space it takes up on the film or disc. Both DTS and Dolby Digital use sophisticated encoding schemes to allow them to save space by discarding data that are not deemed audible. This "perceptual coding," together with other clever tricks, allow full-bodied, powerful sound to be squeezed into that itty-bitty living space.
We have a gaggle of national holidays, but only a few aren't moved around to fall on a Monday so we can all enjoy a three-day weekend. The fixed dates of Thanksgiving, Christmas, and New Years come to mind. No matter how much some might want to change them, New Years always falls on January 1, Thanksgiving wouldn't be Thanksgiving without Black Friday following it, and Christmas is a religious holiday (don't remind the wrong crowd of that) whose date was set in stone centuries before the U.S. of A. was the U.S. of A.
Each summer we hop in the car, line up in droves at the local multiplex, slap down our cash, settle into our seats, and hope for one of those once-in-a-lifetime experiences. This year promises to be more interesting than most, but isn't that always the case? In the real world, what we finally see on the screen often turns out to be less than we'd hoped for.
As you read this, winter has set in and indoor diversions, including home theater, have taken center stage. Is it really that time of year again? The time <I>Stereophile Guide to Home Theater</I> announces its annual Editors' Choice awards from among the dozens of products we've reviewed in the past year? The time we agonize over our choices? The time the editor makes his first-cut nominations and discusses them with the other writers, carefully factoring in their opinions?
CES doesn't officially open until Thursday, January 6, but for the horde of assembled press, it begins on January 5. While workers swarm over the Las Vegas Nevada convention center in what appears to be a hopeless attempt to have everything ready by Thursday's official opening, wall-to-wall press conferences are being held. Tolerated as a necessary chore by the scribes, the press conferences nevertheless serve a useful purpose for manufacturers, giving them a captive audience to do with as they will. This year the festivities were more efficiently organized than usual, the only shortcoming being the lack of sufficient pauses between events.
3D at home can be fun, but in my reviews of 3D displays from most major manufacturers (Sony, Samsung, LG, Toshiba, and Panasonic), I've come across a problem that has been little noted. This problem is not with the displays themselves, all of which do a good job with the 3D effect, apart from occasional ghosting or crosstalk (double images when one eye sees the image meant for the other eye).
The first thing you’ll need to bring 3D home is a 3DTV. While they’re outwardly similar to any HDTV and fully capable of 2D playback, 3DTVs can decode and display 3D from one of several standard 3D formats. In general, 3D sets also offer separate setup menus for 2D and 3D material, plus additional 3D controls that can help you get the best out of 3D sources.
Some of these sets, like LCD models from Sony, Samsung, and Toshiba, and some new Panasonic plasmas, include special processing that converts 2D sources into a semblance of 3D. Our limited experience with this feature so far suggests that it can be effective with some material, but it’s no substitute for the real thing.