Thomas J. Norton

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Thomas J. Norton Posted: Sep 13, 2014 0 comments
On Friday afternoon a CEDIA panel was convened to discus the subject of immersive audio. And we all thought that immersive sound meant 5.1- or 7.1-multichannel! But with Dolby Atmos there's a new kid in town. And Dolby Atmos isn't alone.

The panel was moderated by industry tech guru Michael Heiss, and consisted of Brett Crockett of Dolby, Andrew Jones of Pioneer and TAD, Dr. Floyd Toole, a consultant with Harman Kardon, and Wilfred Van Baelen, the founder of Auro...

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Thomas J. Norton Posted: Sep 13, 2014 0 comments
By now you've likely heard of Dolby Atmos-Enabled speakers, which include an additional driver or drivers firing out of the top at an angle to bounce Atmos' height information off your ceiling if installation of ceiling speakers is impractical--as it will be for most of us. In addition to dedicated Atmos-Enabled speakers, several add-on modules were seen at CEDIA, which are designed to sit on top of your main left and right front speakers and surrounds if you want to add Atmos but don't want to replace your entire speaker system.

The 44-DA from Atlantic technology is designed for this purpose. At $500/pair, it employs a concentric driver (a coaxial woofer-tweeter). While designed to be a perfect fit atop the company's THX-4400 L/R speakers, it can be used on any speaker with a flat top surface large enough to accommodate its approximately 8.4-inch width and 9.5-inch depth.

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Thomas J. Norton Posted: Sep 12, 2014 0 comments
For VERY high end home theaters, Digital Projection offers the Insight 4K projector. It has the professional 4K resolution of 4096 x 2160, and is available with either LED or laser illumination. In the latter form, it's specified for an output of 12,000 Lumens, a laser lifetime of 20,000 hours, and a color gamut beyond Rec. 709. Yours for $120,000.

With LED illumination the output drops to a still considerable 3000 Lumens, the claimed LED lifetime increases to 60,000 hours, and the price rises to $150,000. In LED form it's also claimed to be the first projector capable of the Rec.2020 color gamut. In a darkened room demonstration, however, the LED version had heavily oversaturated colors, suggesting not that there was anything wrong with the projector, but rather that the playback gamut didn't match the gamut of the source material--a guarantee of inaccurate color. The laser version was being demonstrated in the open area of the booth, and its color looked excellent.

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Thomas J. Norton Posted: Sep 12, 2014 0 comments
Wisdom Audio teamed up for its demo with Datasat (preamp-processor), Barco (projector) Seymour Screen Excellence, and HTE (Home Theater Environments), and likely others to whom I apologize for leaving out here due to my rapidly scribbled notes. The wide-ranging selection of program material was particularly noteworthy. 2K from Blu-ray, and no Atmos in sight, but it was excellent nonetheless (though the videophile in me whispers that the gamma was a bit too high, making for rather dark and contrasty images!). HTE deserves special mention for the most stylish room at the show, which should be evident from the picture above. But HTE is from Italy, so that's not surprising!
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Thomas J. Norton Posted: Sep 12, 2014 2 comments
I've only caught two Dolby Atmos demos so far, but the JBL Synthesis demo was by far the most impressive--and may be the most impressive at the show. I'll reserve judgment on that, but with 12 discrete height speakers(JBL SCS 8s), 16 surround speakers (also JBL SCS8s, just a few of them shown here--no way to get all of them into a group photo!), 8 subwoofers, JBL M2 front speakers, a Dolby pro Atmos processor, banks of JBL Synthesis amps, and a 17-foot wide screen (projector unspecified--I'll update this when I find out), this $200,000 system is ready for your lottery winnings.

The picture (only 2K no less, from a DPI NC 900C projector, about $50,000) was spectacular (though with blacks more typical of theatrical presentations rather than the superior blacks available from some even modest home theater models). And the sound was as good as any movie sound I've yet heard, either home or theatrical (the latter including even the best theaters in Los Angeles). It could go plenty loud, but with the exception of an extended racing car sequence it was never edgy or grating. If you're fortunate enough to be at the show while reading this, it's a don't miss demo.

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Thomas J. Norton Posted: Sep 12, 2014 0 comments
Audiophiles fondly remember the company Audio Alchemy, which produced a number of well-received, sensibly-priced D/A converters back in the 1990s. They may have been before their time. Today, such separate converters are all over the place, but now include USB connections for the increasingly popular digital downloads, particularly of the high resolution audio variety.

Peter Madnick, who currently heads up design for the extremely pricey electronics from Constellation, has re-acquired the rights to the Audio Alchemy name. While not being shown at a booth (at least not one I've yet seen) I ran into Peter as he was prowling the show floor with a sample of his first new Audio Alchemy product, the DDP-1. It's a D/A converter with optical, coaxial, USB (asynchronous), and analog inputs. With its volume control, it can also function as a 2-channel preamp and a headphone amplifier. While its $1895 ticket is a bit pricier than the Audio Alchemy products of the past, it should be highly competitive in today's D/A market when it ships in December.

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Thomas J. Norton Posted: Sep 12, 2014 0 comments
While the JBL Atmos demo remains the champ at the show (at least through the first two days) for shear impact, undistorted output level (in a good way), and immersion from 39 speakers, it's not likely to find its way into too many homes. The Atmos demo from GoldenEar, however, was a more conventional 5.4.4 setup with five conventional channels, 4 true ceiling speakers (no reflective Atmos here), and four subs. It was both impactful and at the same time subtle in a way that will please many audiophiles with at least some interest in home theater. Not that a lot of audiophiles wouldn't covet the JBL (I'll take the JBL for my big room when I win the lottery, and something like the GoldenEar for the smaller!), but the GoldenEar is more practical.

The GoldenEar system used an Oppo Blu-ray player, an Integra Atmos-ready pre-pro, three Pass Labs monoblock amps for the front channels, six other amp channels for the two surrounds and two ceiling speakers (I didn't catch the make for the latter, but it was far more modest and less pricey than the Pass amps). The speakers were the GoldenEar Ones left and right, a SuperCenter XL, GoldenEar Twos for the surrounds, and four Invisa HTR 7000s for the ceiling channels. The four subs were the powered subs built into the GoldenEar Ones and Twos. The levels chosen were loud enough, but sensible, and the experienced convinced me, at least in these fledgling days of Atmos (I remain open minded on this), that true ceiling speakers just might produce the best Atmos results.

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Thomas J. Norton Posted: Sep 12, 2014 0 comments
Elite Screens introduced its DarkStar ambient light rejecting screen. It claims a good balance between gain, contrast, and viewing angle. Available only in fixed frame form, its price was not specified, only that it would be a fraction of the cost of the current market leaders in such screens.
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Thomas J. Norton Posted: Sep 12, 2014 0 comments
B&O is widely known for making excellent, stylish, but very expensive products. While its BeoVision Avant 85-inch 4K/Ultra HD LCD set isn't exactly cheap at $25,000, it's not that far off from the prices its competitors charge for similarly-sized 4K sets (and cheaper than some). The set comes with a unique powered, rotating stand and remote. A B&O sibling 55-inch 4K set is also available, but its $8,000 price (the stand for this model is optional at $2,000) it's not as competitive.
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Thomas J. Norton Posted: Sep 12, 2014 0 comments
Splitting an HDMI source to feed both a video projector and a flat panel set is an increasingly popular option in custom home theater installs. But consumer-priced splitters that can do 4K are only just starting to appear. The HDS-12i from Transformative Engineering is one of the first. It can mix output resolutions and both up- and down-scale to 4K. A typical setup might involve a 2K projector and a 4K flat screen Ultra HD TV.

The device also provides full HDCP security and will recognize different EDIDs for each display. Output 2 also can be configured for pass-through, selectable scaling, or an AVR mode which bypasses 4K and 3D to route audio to an AVR or surround pre-pro that lacks the ability to handle these formats.

The HDS-12i's main limitation is that it's only HDMI 1.4a compliant, not 2,0, but that should be adequate for today's source material. It's firmware upgradeable (though not to 2.0--that's hardware) and sells for $299.

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