Approximately 500 million years ago, a phenomenon known as the Cambrian Explosion was in full swing here on planet Earth. After billions of years of relative stasis in which life consisted of little beyond bacteria, plankton, and algae, the fossil record of the Cambrian period shows a sudden explosion of diversity. In just 40 million tumultuous years—a geologic eye blink—most of the major groups of animals, or <I>phyla</I>, that exist today appeared for the first time.
If you haven't shopped at Costco in a while, you might not know that the giant membership-warehouse chain now accounts for a sizeable chunk of U.S. retail HDTV sales. Most stores prominently display an assortment of HD-capable TVs, ranging from 32-inch direct-view TVs to 70-inch rear-projectors. But pride of place belongs to the sexy (and highly profitable) flat-panel LCD and PDP (plasma) displays, which are mounted up high and carefully positioned to be visible to shoppers from most of the sales floor. (The new industry buzzword for plasma displays, which you'll find in the remainder of this report, is PDP, for plasma display panel.—Ed.)
A month or two ago, I was on my way home from work when my wife called and asked me to swing by Costco to pick up a pound of our favorite Newhall Blend coffee beans. "We're out," she informed me. "And this time, please don't forget to grind 'em before you leave the store!"
Price: $320 At A Glance: 2.1 channels with effective virtual surround • Wireless subwoofer • HDMI 1.4a connectors • Easy to set up and install
If Star Trek's Lt. Cmdr. Montgomery "Scotty" Scott was handed one of today's ultra-thin flat-panel HDTVs and warned, "You have eight minutes to get decent sound quality out this thing or the Enterprise is going to burn up in the atmosphere!," he might take one look at it and once again utter those immortal words: "I canna change the laws of physics!"
Price: $500 At A Glance: Designed for use with stand-mounted TVs • Clean, powerful, well-balanced sound • Improved dialog intelligibility compared to TV speakers • Transparent operation via your TV or set-top box remote
One of the great things about the audio business is that it's still possible for new companies to appear seemingly out of nowhere and—thanks to a rare combination of creativity, skill, and luck—manage to carve out a comfortable niche for themselves. The rise of Zvox Audio is a case in point.