When I think of home theater video projectors Hitachi isn't the first brand that comes to mind. Hitachi is probably better known for microwaves, compact music systems, and other mass-market consumer electronics. When Tom Norton offered me the HDPJ52 LCD projector for review I wasn't expecting very much. Simply put, every LCD projector I've reviewed in the past has been fatally flawed by poor color, inadequate black levels, and less than optimal resolution. Why should Hitachi do any better with LCD projectors than other manufacturers? What I neglected to consider is that Hitachi not only makes its own LCD panels and most other major components, they have been manufacturing business and presentation projectors for years. I packed my preconceptions into a large box and put it in the garage. With a newly open mind I unpacked the Hitachi HDPJ52. Welcome to the bright new world of 21st century LCD projectors.
Every time I go to a party and people find out I write about home theater, they ask me about flat-screen plasma TVs. No one asks me about DLP projectors. Perhaps folks don't realize that, for the same money they'd spend on a 40-inch plasma display, they could have a DLP projector capable of producing a 90-inch picture. If they compared the ease of installing a 10-pound projector on their ceiling with the drudgery of attaching a 150-pound plasma set to their wall, I think more folks would be excited by projectors.
A year ago, Texas Instruments' new HD2 chip for DLP projectors, with a native resolution of 1280x720, was little more than a promise. Today you can hardly walk into a home-theater dealer without being hit in the eye by a DLP projector based on the HD2. It's just too bad that most HD2-equipped projectors cost more than $12,000.
The most expensive and problematic component of any home theater system is the room. Changing speakers or electronics seems like child's play compared with trying to change the room in an attempt to tame its resonant frequency nodes (areas where certain frequencies are cancelled) and antinodes (areas of reinforcement). Correcting a room electronically is a far more practical solution to most rooms' problems.
One of the many reasons for home theaters' vexing complexity stems from the 5-inch discs that contain the vast majority of program material. Few players are made to handle the new, mutually incompatible formats of DVD-Audio and SACD along with DVD-Video and conventional CD. You can't expect an unsophisticated user to know what discs will and won't work in a particular player. The solution is simple: Short of a PB&J sandwich, a home-theater disc player should be able to handle anything loaded into its tray. A universal player is a necessary and fundamental building block of an ergonomically friendly home theater.
When you own a component, discovering it has been replaced by a newer version is always distressing. Suddenly, overnight, you've been saddled with obsolete gear. I've owned a Lexicon RT-10 universal DVD player since fall of 2004 when I bought my review sample. When Lexicon announced the RT-20, a month before the 2005 CEDIA show, I was bummed. The RT-10 had been on the market for slightly over a year when, WHAMMO, it was history. This is not typical Lexicon behavior. Usually they keep a product in their line for several years before they give it the old heave-ho.
Limelight audio premiered their line of furniture with built-in speakers. With full 360 degree dispersion due to an upward firing midrange/tweeter and downward firing woofer, these granite veneered cabinets have their own patent pending and a three-way light switch. They actually make sound and can produce filament shaking bass.
We all long for big, bodacious home theater systems. Unfortunately, many of us, especially urban dwellers, find ourselves shoehorning 100 pounds of gear into a 10-pound space. Some videophiles even resort to pitiful little satellite speakers the size of Ping-Pong balls.