The world of digital television is roiling with copyright paranoia. It seems that Hollywood barely wants you to watch their material in high-definition, much less record it. Nonetheless, two new VCRs capable of recording HDTV are on the market, courtesy of Mitsubishi and Panasonic.
Mitsubishi sells more high-definition televisions than anyone else, and with the WS-65909 Diamond Series rear-projector they've pulled out the stops. The WS-65909 has a 65-inch-diagonal, 16:9 screen and 7-inch CRTs. Its huge cabinet has a glossy burl wood finish of various shades of dark brown and black accents—this TV will dominate whatever room holds it. (The product is delivered in one piece, but can be separated into two pieces for delivery in the home.) It includes everything you might want, including an integrated DTV receiver, a digital cable receiver for unscrambled signals, and the company's NetCommand system for linking all your components so they can be controlled from the TV. In fact, in all my years of reviewing digital televisions, I've never encountered one with as many interesting and useful features.
We all know Outlaw as the company that builds and sells sophisticated pieces of audio/video equipment exclusively through the internet at prices that are hard to believe. And no device in a home-theater system is more sophisticated and complex as the preamp/processor. So it was with great interest that I agreed to look at the company's new entry in this market, the Model 990, a 7.1-channel processor that sells for the more than agreeable price of $1099.
Trust me. You have seen this Panasonic plasma before. At the airport, bowling alley, department store, maybe even at a car wash. This is a professional model plasma, sold typically to businesses for utilitarian use, like departure-gate displays at the airport. But these models also hold something of a mystique for people like you and me, and as a result they have developed a cult following. And after looking at this one for a few weeks, I can see why.
Pioneer and Panasonic are veterans in the world of plasma displays. I reviewed the first Pioneer high-definition plasma, the PDP-501MX, more than three years ago, in the June 1999 <I>Guide</I>. Plasma displays have made tremendous strides in the years since—picture quality and features have improved, and prices have dropped.
Panasonic's video division has staked its life on plasma televisions. So far it looks like a pretty good bet. Sure, the company sells flat panel LCD and rear projection LCD and DLP TVs. But newspapers, magazines and televisions are host to countless Panasonic ads for plasmas and nary a one for the other technologies. And have you seen Panasonic promotions for an "LCD Concierge" service like one offered for its plasmas? All of this is paying off. Panasonic sells one-third of all plasmas sold in the United States – more than any other company.
Five years ago, Panasonic produced the very first DTV receiver set-top box. All of the company's succeeding generations of these products have been among the best. The latest incarnation, the surprisingly small and inexpensive TU-DST52, is no exception.
I always look forward to reviewing a Panasonic plasma TV. While I've picked at problems with the company's CRT TVs over the years, I've never found anything but near-complete satisfaction with its plasmas. The company has its own plasma research facility in New Jersey, which I once visited, and its plasma products stand comfortably among the top rank of companies in this field.
Seldom in my life as an equipment reviewer has a product arrived that, out of the box, I've known I wanted to own. The Pioneer DV-AX10 is one of them—the first universal player that can handle CD, Super Audio CD, DVD-Audio, and DVD-Video, complete with progressive-scan video output. It's a wonder to behold and a joy to use.
For the last two years, only Pioneer has made products that bridge the gulf between DVD-Audio and Super Audio CD, the new, competing formats for high-resolution audio. The company's estimable DV-AX10, first offered more than a year ago, played both formats, plus DVD-Video discs—no other company offered a similar product. Back then, however, Sony and Philips, SACD's backers and licensers, sold only 2-channel versions of the hardware.