I remember a Toshiba press conference at which two new DVD players were introduced whose prices were only $50 apart. That's how tight things are in the mainstream marketplace, where niches are filled by price and by features far more often than they are by performance, or by what an individual might like to see brought to market "just because."
"The world's most advanced Home Theater Receiver" is Denon's claim for the AVR-5800, and, now that I've spent a few months with it, they'll get no arguments from me. It's the world's first 7.1-channel receiver with DTS-ES Discrete 6.1, DTS-ES Matrix 6.1, DTS Neo:6, THX surround EX, Dolby Digital 5.1, and Dolby Pro Logic. It's like one of those new cruise ships that more closely resembles a floating city. What Denon has managed to pack into its large, sleek, heavy black hull (at 62 lbs, it's the most massive I've seen) is remarkable in terms of both versatility and performance. Denon's marketing manager, David Birch-Jones, proclaims the AVR-5800 to be "Without question the finest A/V receiver ever created." But are "most advanced" and "finest" necessarily the same thing? We'll have to dig deeper to find out.
When a speaker company changes hands, particularly when it is sold by its founders, a new design team often comes on board. That can be a tricky affair. Like passing a baton in a relay race, if it's not handled smoothly, or if it's dropped, sometimes there's no catching up and the race is lost. That almost happened to giant Harman International when it bought Infinity from Arnie Nudell and Cary Christie. Both men ultimately left to pursue other ventures. It took years for Infinity to fully regain its footing, which it did with the rollout of the outstanding, high-tech Prelude system, reviewed by Joel Brinkley in the July/August 2000 issue of SGHT.
Because of manufacturing and publishing lead times, Christmas-season products are shown in June. That's when I had my first encounter with the Philips 55PP9701—at a line show, a press event at which a company shows its entire line of new products. There the 55PP9701 was, along with Philips' new light bulbs, shavers, blood-pressure monitors, and budget-priced A/V receivers.
K<I>eir Dullea, William Sylvester, Gary Lockwood, Daniel Richter, Daniel Rain as the voice of HAL. Directed by Stanley Kubrick. Aspect ratio: N/A widescreen. 5.1-channel Dolby Digital. Two layers. 139 minutes. 1968. MGM Home Entertainment 906309. Not rated. $29.95.</I>
Even before you listen, you can see that the Linn AV 51 has an attitude. It stares back at you with a smirk. It's not a defiant Robert DeNiro "You talkin' to <I>me</I>?" but more of a Jack Nicholson "Wait'll you get a load of this."
V<I>al Kilmer, Meg Ryan, Kyle MacLachlan, Kevin Dillon, Frank Whaley, Kathleen Quinlan. Directed by Oliver Stone. Aspect ratio: 2.35:1 (letterbox). Dolby Digital 5.1. 135 minutes. 1991. Live Entertainment 60451. Rated R. $29.95.</I>