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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 11, 2014 0 comments
LG launched a wide range of new TVs at a press event on the first full day of the show but the eye-catcher was a 105-inch curved, Ultra HD, LCD/LED set with a 21:9 aspect ratio. The company also showed a flat 98-inch 16:9 Ultra HD LCD/LED model. At $100,000 (OK, it’s actually $99,999.99) for the 105-incher and $40,000 for the 98-incher, they’re not exactly impulse purchases.

But both use IPS panels for better off-axis performance, have full array backlit local dimming, and incorporate 7.1-channel audio systems designed in cooperation with Harman Kardon.

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Thomas J. Norton Posted: Sep 11, 2014 0 comments
Bolstering its dedication to OLED, LG announced two new models, both with Ultra HD resolution and both curved, at 77-inches (available in November at $25,000) and 65-inches (October, at $9,999). The company will also be bringing out a wide selection of new LCD/LED Ultra HD models from 40 inches to 65 inches, with the price for the largest model topping out at $3,500.
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Thomas J. Norton Posted: Aug 27, 2014 2 comments
Reviewers (who are almost universally inveterate collectors) tend to accumulate more software—videos, LPs, CDs, and soon music and video files, than your average bear. Digital files take up little space, but the others can soon grow to enormous proportions. Not only does this create a storage problem, it also makes it difficult to find that special disc we want to enjoy now. Of course, we all organize our collections in some rational form, don’t we? In a classic line from the (must see) movie High Fidelity, a record store owner is reorganizing his personal LP collection. A friend asks him how he’s doing it: alphabetical, by artist, by label, by genre? His answer: autobiographical.

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Thomas J. Norton Posted: Aug 13, 2014 5 comments
Pioneer's speaker guru Andrew Jones conducting one of the first Dolby Atmos demos in Los Angeles.

Things are moving fast on the Dolby Atmos front. Here's an in-depth look at Dolby Atmos—what it is and how it works—as well as my first impressions of recent demos conducted by Pioneer and Dolby Labs.

Thomas J. Norton Posted: Aug 08, 2014 2 comments

2D Performance
3D Performance
Features
Ergonomics
Value
PRICE $4,000

AT A GLANCE
Plus
Excellent color
Top-class detail—in both 4K and Full HD
Great blacks and shadow detail
Minus
Typical LCD image fade when viewed off-center

THE VERDICT
A superbly performing—and exceptionally inexpensive—Ultra HDTV that looks great with today’s 1080p content.

Ultra HD is still meandering toward its Happy Place. Yes, it offers four times as many pixels as Full HD does at 1080p (“Full HD” being the industry’s new go-to term for “standard HD”). But source material at this native resolution is still hard to come by in any quantity. Most material viewed on an Ultra HD set, for the foreseeable future, will still be upconverted from Full HD, typically by the set, to “4K” (in quotes, because Ultra HD’s 3840 x 2160 resolution falls just short of true 4K resolution as defined in the cinema world). Can this provide a visible improvement over 1080p displayed on a 1080p set?

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Thomas J. Norton Posted: Aug 07, 2014 0 comments
Picture
Sound
Extras
In the final months of World War II, as Allied armies smashed across Europe and into Germany, an organization called the Monuments, Fine Arts, and Archives program (the MFAA) was assigned the task of recovering and preserving countless art treasures plundered by the Nazis. It included hundreds of art experts from 13 countries, working in small cadres.
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Thomas J. Norton Posted: Jul 22, 2014 0 comments
A few months back I wrote about the hazards of assuming that any Ultra HD set you might buy today will be future proof. At the risk of repeating myself, some of the points I made there are worth going over again in a different, shorter form—not least of all because new readers are unlikely to devour a long, two month old blog!
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Thomas J. Norton Posted: Jul 23, 2014 Published: Jul 22, 2014 1 comments

Monitor Audio Silver 10 Speaker System
Performance
Build Quality
Value
Monitor Audio W-12 Subwoofer
Performance
Build Quality
Value
PRICE $5,925 ($6,600 as shown in gloss black)

AT A GLANCE
Plus
Crisp, open sound
Superb imaging
First-rate fit and finish
Minus
Two-way center channel
Limited subwoofer output

THE VERDICT
The center speaker suffers the usual off-axis quirks of a two-way design, and the small sub came up short for the deepest movie bass, but Monitor’s Silver series is a triumph, a treat to hear, and well worth seeking out for a serious audition.

Monitor Audio offers an exceptionally wide range of speakers, from the decidedly expensive (but not nosebleed high-end) to the modestly priced. In 2010, I reviewed the company’s relatively affordable Silver RX system. That line has now been completely redesigned, losing its RX moniker and morphing into the Silver series. Like the RXs before them, the Silvers were designed at Monitor’s U.K. headquarters and are built in a company-owned plant in China. For this review, we’ve selected the largest of the floorstanders, the Silver 10, along with the Silver Centre, the Silver W-12 subwoofer, and, instead of the Silver FX dedicated surround speakers, a pair of Silver 2s to serve the surround channels.

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Thomas J. Norton Posted: Jul 18, 2014 0 comments
Picture
Sound
Extras
In the final months of World War II, as Allied armies smashed across Europe and into Germany, an organization called the Monuments, Fine Arts, and Archives program (the MFAA) was assigned the task of recovering and preserving countless art treasures plundered by the Nazis. It included hundreds of art experts from 13 countries, working in small cadres.

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