Thomas J. Norton

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Thomas J. Norton Posted: May 13, 2014 3 comments
Ultra HD has been around for a couple of years now, but prices have now dropped to the point that acquiring an Ultra HD set can be a serious consideration for folks in the market for a new TV, particularly early-adopters. TV makers hope that the next Big Thing in video will be Ultra HD, or as it is widely (and imprecisely) called, 4K. They also hope that Ultra HD has the legs that home 3D (now in its, “Hello, I must be going” phase) lacked.

Ultra HD can be much more than simply 4K resolution (more precisely, 3840 x 2160 in the consumer arena—4K in the pro world , including digital cinema projection, is 4096 x 2160). It also has the potential to offer a wider color gamut, an increased color bit depth, and less aggressive color subsampling. If that string of technobabble sounds intimidating, it simply means that in addition to more pixels, Ultra HD could provide a wider and richer color palette than does our current HD standard.

Thomas J. Norton Posted: Apr 28, 2014 4 comments

2D Performance
3D Performance
Features
Ergonomics
Value
PRICE $7,000

AT A GLANCE
Plus
Astonishing blacks
Crisp, clean detail
Exceptionally bright 3D
Minus
Poor dark-gray uniformity
Expensive for a 1080p set

THE VERDICT
It costs a bundle, has a relatively small screen, and isn’t perfect. But buyers will be rewarded with a picture that, in the ways most important to enthusiasts, is unequaled by any other type of consumer display.

At the 2014 CES, it became clear that, for most HDTV manufacturers, OLED was on the back burner. LCD Ultra HDTV, or 4K, was the big story. But at least one manufacturer, LG, remains aggressive on the OLED front. The company has announced four new models for 2014 and, at the same time, drastically cut the price (as of March 2014) on the 55-inch model 55EA9800, launched late last year and reviewed here.

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Thomas J. Norton Posted: Apr 22, 2014 1 comments
Last week Meridian Audio held a reception in Los Angeles, one of many across the country for the U.S. launch of its new special edition, digital loudspeakers, the DSP 5200SE, DSP7200SE, and DSP8000SE (For others yet to be held, go to meridian.com.)

This year is the 25th anniversary of Meridian’s first digital loudspeaker, so it’s no surprise that all three of these designs are powered by their own internal amplifiers and accept only digital inputs. In most installations such inputs will come from Meridian’s own electronics, but other digital sources, such as a music server, may also be used to feed the speakers’ inputs.

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Thomas J. Norton Posted: Apr 17, 2014 1 comments
Picture
Sound
Extras
In 1969, Americans first went to the moon. The challenges were daunting, including finding and training the men who would make those early, dangerous, pioneering probes into near-earth space—men who had, in the words of the Thomas Wolfe book on which this 1983 movie was based, “the right stuff.”

This is the compelling story of those first Mercury astronauts, who paved the way for that “One giant leap for mankind” moment. It’s also the story of uber test pilot Chuck Yeager—never an astronaut but the first man to break the sound barrier.

Thomas J. Norton Posted: Apr 17, 2014 0 comments

Performance
Setup
Value
PRICE $1,675

AT A GLANCE
Plus
Excellent picture quality
Competitive with Stewart’s upmarket designs
Minus
Varied sizes and configurations but no custom options

THE VERDICT
Stewart Filmscreen’s Cima lineup offers fewer options than the company’s long-respected but more expensive designs, but it makes Stewart’s pristine image quality now available to a wider range of buyers.

What can one say about a projection screen? Quite a lot, actually. A screen is much more than a bedsheet or the nearest white wall. While it can’t improve the quality of a projector, it can, if poorly designed, most certainly degrade it.

Screens can be solid or (mostly) acoustically transparent. They can be white or various shades of gray (the latter often incorporating special treatments designed to improve performance in a less than ideally darkened room). They’re available in a wide range of gains—1.0 for more or less neutral performance or higher values to enhance brightness from a less than torch-like projector and/or a super-large screen.

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Thomas J. Norton Posted: Apr 08, 2014 0 comments
Late last month I visited the Harman research facility to compare three Revel floor-standing speakers: the Performa3 F208 ($5000/pair), the Performa3 F206 ($3500/pair), and the more upscale Ultima2 Studio2 ($15,000/pair). The venue was Harman's Multichannel Listening Lab, or MLL.

Thomas J. Norton Posted: Apr 04, 2014 0 comments

Performance
Setup
Value
PRICE $2,773 (varies with size and configuration)

AT A GLANCE
Plus
Places center dialogue where it belongs
Good sound transparency
Minus
Light easily passes through it
Needs a bright projector to look its best

THE VERDICT
Acoustically transparent screens aren’t for everyone. None of them is totally transparent to sound, and all of them—this Seymour no less so than others—allow some light from the projector to pass through. But if your system demands such a screen, the Seymour is well worth a close look.

At the 2013 CEDIA Expo, many of the home theater demos used acoustically transparent screens. And a number of them—including those from Wisdom Audio, Datasat, and Digital Projection—used screens from Seymour-Screen Excellence.

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Thomas J. Norton Posted: Mar 31, 2014 0 comments
From a recent article in the Los Angeles Times:

“A South Korean Company aiming to transform the way Americans experience movies at the multiplex is bringing its ‘4-D’ technology to Los Angeles.”

What’s 4-D? The technology is actually called 4DX, and instead of just picture and sound it adds, as needed, moving and vibrating seats, wind, strobe lights, fog, rain, and scents, all of them supporting what’s happening on the screen.

Thomas J. Norton Posted: Mar 28, 2014 1 comments

2D Performance
3D Performance
Features
Ergonomics
Value
PRICE $15,000

AT A GLANCE
Plus
Smooth, clean detail
Excellent color
Rich, dark blacks
Minus
Occasional iris pumping
Pricey

THE VERDICT
With its compelling reproduction of smooth detail, fine color, and impressive brightness with 2D content, the VPL-VW600ES offers a tantalizing taste of 4K.

In case you haven’t noticed—or have just returned from an extended spring break in Antarctica—the newest thing in home video is Ultra HD, or 4K. 3D is so 2010. 4K is now.

But 4K home projectors are still a rarity, and so far, there haven’t been any true 4K consumer projectors even remotely approaching the price of a good 1080p model. Until now, that is. Sony’s new VPL-VW600ES comes in at an MSRP of $15,000, or just over half the price of the company’s VPL-VW1100ES, a recent update of the VPL-VW1000ES (Sony’s first consumer 4K model). That’s not exactly chicken feed, but it’s a move in the right direction.

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Thomas J. Norton Posted: Mar 21, 2014 0 comments
Some time back I was in the South Bay area of Los Angeles to pick up some gear at our California headquarters in El Segundo, some 30 miles from my home in the Valley (that’s the San Fernando Valley, the pre- and near post- WWII home to hundreds of western movie shoots and, more recently, to freeways, mega suburbia, and Valley Girls). Even Angelinos may not be aware that El Segundo got its name from being the site of the second Standard Oil refinery built on the West Coast. As far as I know there’s no town immortalizing El Primero or El Tercero.

But I digress.

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