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Darryl Wilkinson Posted: Jul 20, 2015 0 comments
Over the years, I’ve written a lot about outdoor audio and video. Today, most of the people I talk with know about outdoor speakers, especially the portable Bluetooth type—although it’s generally the small, water-resistant models that they think of. (They’d be so much better off with the Soundcast Melody. It’s $399, but I have yet to find a portable, outdoor speaker with Bluetooth that sounds and looks anywhere near as good. Two years after it was introduced, it’s still the best of the portable outdoor bunch.) A smaller number of people know about outdoor speakers that can be permanently installed under the eaves of your home, on a back patio, or around a pool. Some have even heard about outdoor speakers that look like flower pots, rocks, landscape lights, or, sometimes, lifesize dogs, slightly larger-than-life-size frogs, and even angry Tiki heads. But when I mention outdoor, weatherproof TVs—if they’re still talking to me—people either blankly look at me like I’ve just said something in broken Klingon or they say, “Really? They make those? That’s cool.”
Darryl Wilkinson Posted: Jun 16, 2015 1 comments

Performance
Features
Build Quality
Value
PRICE $549

AT A GLANCE
Plus
Stupidly simple setup/takedown
Machine-washable screen material
Front- or rear-projection configuration
Minus
Thin (though strong) aluminum poles

THE VERDICT
Affordable, easy to set up, and convenient to transport, this huge screen has an awesome picture and provides more fun than just about anything else you can do outdoors with your clothes on. What more could you want?

Not everyone is as keen on outdoor televisions as I am. In fact, most people with whom I’ve discussed the subject have walked away convinced that I was a blithering idiot—or, at least, more of a blithering idiot than I’d previously proven myself to be. On the other hand, the folks who’ve had the chance to watch a movie or a playoff game on one of the outdoor TVs I’ve tested over the years have invariably come away from the experience with a totally different (ahem) outlook. For those of us who have watched TV au naturel, there is nothing ridiculous, extravagant, or abnormal about it. It’s just one heck of a good time.

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Darryl Wilkinson Posted: Jun 02, 2015 0 comments
Get ready for the onslaught of Apple HomeKit support announcements. Lutron Electronics announced today that the company’s new 2nd generation Caseta Wireless Smart Bridge DIY home lighting automation hub now supports Apple’s HomeKit. The new Lutron Smart Bridge (L-BDG2-WH) is available now in Apple stores and from numerous other retailers
 and online stores as part of the Caseta Wireless Lighting Starter Kit for $229.95.

At the moment, the most significant advantage of the Caseta Wireless Smart Bridge’s support for Apple HomeKit is...

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Darryl Wilkinson Posted: May 04, 2015 0 comments
Sonos is one hell of a system. I’ve tested a lot of the wireless, multi-room, streaming audio systems over the years—including some of the latest “high performance” systems—and Sonos has remained my go-to system. It’s not because Sonos is the best sounding wireless streaming system, although it certainly does sound good. I use Sonos speakers in rooms where music is secondary (or tertiary) to the main activity, such as in the bathroom or kitchen. In these rooms, ease-of-use, convenient form-factor, and reliability trump ultimate sound quality—and Sonos is tops in each of those categories. But that doesn’t mean Sonos can’t be improved upon. And that’s where Flexson comes in.
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Darryl Wilkinson Posted: Apr 22, 2015 0 comments
On April 18th, Quirky Wink HUB owners got an up-close and a little too personal look at the perils of putting control of your smart home into even the most well-intentioned hands over the internet. According to Wink:
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Darryl Wilkinson Posted: Mar 17, 2015 0 comments
Remote controls suck. Even the best remote controls, such as the Harmony Ultimate Home, suffer from issues that are inextricable parts of what make a remote control a remote control. For instance, there are buttons to press. They’ll either be too small for some people, or the layout won’t be ideal for others. Then there’s the fact that it’s easy to misplace a remote control. Some wind up in between the cushions on the couch. Others—and this happens more often than you would think—have been known to mysteriously make their way inside the kitchen refrigerator. Those are just two of the many problems associated with remote controls for the average person. Now think about that remote control from the standpoint of someone who is up in years and is perhaps suffering from arthritis and/or poor eyesight. For the elderly, remote controls don’t just suck, they’re often impossible to use...
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Darryl Wilkinson Posted: Feb 18, 2015 0 comments
I can’t claim that I haven’t been guilty of the same practice in the past, but sometimes I get very, very tired of reading article after article in the tech press about the latest thingamabob that promises to revolutionize the way we do something—even to the point of changing our lives forever. Of course, as journalists and writers, we need readers; and, unfortunately in most cases, sensationalism gets the eyeballs we crave. Kickstarter and Indiegogo have been a boon for us. We get to report on lots of crazy ideas that’ll never make it to market but sound awesome. “New HDMI cable promises to cure cancer and is Dolby Atmos-ready!”

So I’m a bit jaded. As a result, it’s probably unfair to a company whose people have worked very diligently to come up with a new slant on a device category that’s been problematic from the early days of the consumer electronics industry, but I’m a bit underwhelmed by

Darryl Wilkinson Posted: Feb 06, 2015 0 comments

BeoLab 18 Speaker System
Performance
Build Quality
Value

BeoLab 19 Subwoofer
Performance
Features
Build Quality
Value
PRICE $25,625 as reviewed

AT A GLANCE
Plus
WiSA wireless multichannel audio technology
All processing and switching built into the TV
Motorized TV speakers and TV stand
Minus
No backlighting on remote control
Nothing else but the price

THE VERDICT
Although most of us can’t afford this system, those who can will be treated to an amazingly moving experience that no other system can provide—every time they turn it on.

Bang & Olufsen is unusual in the AV world. In fact, I could have stopped at “unusual.” I once heard a story about B&O that perfectly sums up what I’m talking about. It’s probably apocryphal, because the person I heard it from had heard it from someone else, but I’ll tell it anyway. Years ago, when B&O still made phones—corded, landline telephones—a guy from the U.S. asked one of the Danish engineers why the handsets had their unique shape, which made them almost impossible to cradle between your ear and shoulder so you could have a conversation and still use both hands. (Twenty-some years ago, that was the era’s version of “hands free.”)

The engineer’s answer was short and to the point: “Because we don’t talk on the phone that way here.” That sort of stubborn—some might say arrogant—confidence in the belief that their way is the right way is one of the core characteristics of Bang & Olufsen. When other AV companies are busy jumping on the latest technological bandwagon, B&O is off in the woods searching for truffles.

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Darryl Wilkinson Posted: Jan 28, 2015 1 comments
I’m not a terribly big fan of Nest, but I don’t hate them, either. I own a Nest Thermostat, and I like it—for the most part. What I don’t understand is the gushing amount of praise a lot of writers give it, both as a standalone thermostat and a major smart home device/controller. You get the feeling that if God needed a thermostat, the Nest would be the one He’d buy. Despite what you might read, the NEST thermostat has its flaws, two of which are its inability to detect occupancy in other areas of the home and its requirement for an always-on Internet connection when used with other smart home systems.

But I have to give the Nest folks a great deal of credit for doing a very honorable thing recently...

Darryl Wilkinson Posted: Jan 23, 2015 1 comments

Denon HEOS 7 Speaker
Performance
Features
Ergonomics
Value

Denon HEOS 5 Speaker
Performance
Features
Ergonomics
Value

Denon HEOS 3 Speaker
Performance
Features
Ergonomics
Value
PRICE $2,148 as reviewed

AT A GLANCE
Plus
Stellar audio performance
Simple, intuitive app
Minus
No desktop controller
Fewer streaming services than Sonos

THE VERDICT
It’s not the first wireless multiroom sound system, but it certainly ranks among the best.

When I asked the folks at Denon why they felt the need to develop a multiroom, streaming music system, this was the answer they gave: “Probably for similar reasons why we developed the LP turntable and didn’t continue to manufacture gramophones.” That wasn’t quite the answer I was looking for, but it was an interesting way of putting a tangible perspective on the past 100-plus years that Denon has been involved in the audio industry.

In this day and age, it’s the rare person who sits at home enjoying selections from his or her collection of bulky spinning cylinders; streaming songs is what’s popular now. In fact, our collective propensity for listening to audio from the Internet or music stored on NAS drives and computers has resulted in wireless speakers of various kinds becoming the product du jour of nearly every audio manufacturer on the planet. So the question I really should have asked was how Denon thought they could build a system that would rise above the flood of streaming music speakers and systems on the market—and, specifically, how in the world Denon thought they could compete head to head with the Goliath of streaming music systems, Sonos.

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