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Thomas J. Norton Posted: Jun 16, 2015 4 comments
Last time around I wrote about my experience in viewing Dolby Vision projection, part of Dolby’s Digital Cinema initiative. It features a laser projector from Christie Digital designed specifically to offer higher dynamic range in a theatrical venue. The result was spectacular, but there was an additional reason for my trip back to California. The annual Orange county Hi-Fi show was held on the last weekend in May, and I spent three days there.

The OC show is more properly known as T.H.E. Show (The Home Entertainment Show) Newport Beach (though it was actually in Irvine). “Home Entertainment” is really too broad a term to describe its emphasis. It was, with only one or two exceptions, an exclusively two-channel audio show. There are a number of similar shows in the U.S. and Canada each year—far more than as little as three years ago. The reason for the growth of these shows is the shrinking number of dedicated audio dealers. Yes, the Best Buys, Targets, Costcos, and Walmarts of the world sell their share of audio-only gear. But with rare exceptions (most prominently the Magnolia shops located in or near a select number of Best Buys), the type of audio gear you’ll find in such stores rarely interests audiophiles.

In wide swaths of the country serious audio products simply cannot be auditioned anywhere...

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Thomas J. Norton Posted: Jun 02, 2015 0 comments
A couple of blogs back I addressed the subject of Dolby Cinema, a combination of technologies, both audio and video, being promoted by Dolby as a dramatic improvement in theatrical presentations. They’re right. It most certainly is.

But first a little background. I stated in that other blog that Dolby Vision (which promotes a wider color gamut and high dynamic range, or HDR) was primarily developed for flat screen sets, which can produce greater brightness (practically speaking, up to around 300 foot-lamberts in an affordable consumer display—though Dolby’s pro display can do much better at considerable cost). For commercial film presentations, Christie Digital has developed, in cooperation with Dolby, a new, laser-lit projector capable of 30 ft-L (in 2D and, of course, depending on screen size and gain).

If that doesn’t sound like a patch on 300 ft-L, keep in mind that most theatrical projectors are lucky to hit 15-16 ft-L (again in 2D, and far lower in 3D)...

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Thomas J. Norton Posted: May 19, 2015 2 comments
A bit of an eclectic mix this time around with two topics, the first somewhat controversial, the second a useful (I hope) tip.

Elsewhere on this site, and in our June Q&A column, we recommended using the same amplifier power for the front, surround and height speakers in an Atmos setup. I don’t entirely agree, though my personal experience with Atmos is limited so far to trade demos and theatrical presentations. Most Atmos-ready AVRs will, of course, have matched power—that’s just the nature of the beasts. But if you have a pre-pro and, say, 200Wpc amps driving the front speakers, do you really need 200Wpc on the other six (for 5.1.4 Atmos) “full range” surround and height channels?

One consideration here is the sensitivity of the surround and height speakers...

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Thomas J. Norton Posted: May 05, 2015 6 comments
The history of audio and video, both in the movie theater and at home, has been a back and forth tug of war for decades. Stereo, for example, started in the theater and was only adapted to the home much later (a couple of decades later if you count Disney’s Fantasia as the multichannel theatrical milestone. But a small bump in the road they called World War II delayed the widespread theatrical adoption of multichannel audio, and therefore the impetus for home stereo, for years).

Digital projection also appeared first in the movie theater, followed soon afterword by affordable digital displays for the home. But as each trickle down from theater to home enhanced the home experience and therefore threatened the viability of movie houses, theaters and studios moved to counteract the threat. That gave us today’s enhanced (or at least louder!) multichannel surround theater sound, vibrating seats, widescreen films, high resolution digital projection, and last but least, 3D.

The best movie theaters are now equipped with every trick in the AV book...

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Thomas J. Norton Posted: Apr 21, 2015 7 comments
Moving is never fun, and my move from southern California to northwest Florida was particularly challenging. The packing and unpacking were chores I don’t wish on anyone, though the actual transportation from point A to (a distant) point B was, thankfully, relatively uneventful. Some of you may be faced with a similar situation, as spring is invariably the busiest moving season. For the AV fan, with a likely collection of valued components and program software, it can be particularly traumatic.
Thomas J. Norton Posted: Apr 17, 2015 0 comments
2D Performance
3D Performance
PRICE $1,199

Bright, punchy picture
Excellent color
Compact size
Mediocre blacks
High vertical offset with limited lens shift

You wouldn’t expect the type of performance this BenQ delivers for the price, but it will impress even a fussy videophile and blow away the newbie.

Flat-screen 1080p HDTVs have been dropping in price. Nonetheless, short of a blowout sale, a really big-screen set—say, 70 inches diagonal or larger, even in plain old 1080p, will probably set you back a minimum of $1,500. Compared with prices even two years ago, that’s cheap, but for most buyers it’s still significant cash.

What if you discovered that for less money you could get a picture that’s three or more times the size (by area) of that 70-inch flat-screen set? How does $1,200 sound?

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Thomas J. Norton Posted: Apr 07, 2015 3 comments
Last week Samsung held a launch party for its new SUHD Ultra HDTVs (forgive the redundancy!) in New York City. They kindly flew me from my new digs in northwest Florida to attend. New York based S&&V Editor Rob Sabin was there also, along with most of the consumer electronics press.

Two of the new Samsung SUHD LCD sets are the first consumer sets to support the new high dynamic range (HDR) technology that, along with a wider color gamut, a deeper color bit depth, and (of course) 4K resolution (3840 x 2160 pixels) are all central to a complete picture of what Ultra HD is all about...

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Thomas J. Norton Posted: Mar 24, 2015 9 comments
A recent article in the trade publication CE Pro surveyed several industry experts on the material they recommended to check out your subwoofer. I’ve now lost the article in preparing for my cross-country move—almost complete except for the small detail about getting the household furniture and goods delivered! But I do have some ideas of my own which may or may not overlap with that now missing article. I’ll concentrate here on movie soundtracks, in which the benefits of a subwoofer will be most obvious even with the largest main L/R speakers most listeners are likely to be using.
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Thomas J. Norton Posted: Feb 26, 2015 1 comments
I lived in the Los Angeles area on two occasions prior to the most recent 14.5 years, each time long enough for me to recognize the superiority of its best movie houses. When I moved from Los Angeles to Santa Fe in 1990 to work for Stereophile, I often vacationed back in LA just to see movies there. Santa Fe’s theaters at the time were depressing at best, and nearby Albuquerque wasn’t much better. In a week in LA I might see 7-8 movies (on one occasion I recall seeing 10!), enough to satisfy my appetite for at least a few months.

These trips continued, and even escalated to twice a year after I began supplementing my writing for Stereophile with major work on the Stereophile Guide to Home Theater...

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Thomas J. Norton Posted: Feb 17, 2015 3 comments
The communication advancements of the past few years have made it possible to do some types of work—such as evaluating AV gear and writing about it—from almost anywhere. So I’ve picked up stakes and moved from sunny Southern California to a far less crowded burgh along the Florida panhandle’s Gulf coast.

It wasn’t an easy decision, and a major move after 14 years in one place is worse than having major dental surgery (and far more costly!).


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