These days, you can't tell the players in television manufacturing without a scorecard. At every CES, including this year's, new names sprout like kudzu. Some are strange and unfamiliar. Others are old standards, but under new ownership. Many will be gone by next year.
If you're an old hand at this home theater audio business, you know that both Dolby Digital and DTS first appeared in theaters, then on laserdiscs, and finally moved on to DVD. Because of the limited data space for audio on all of these delivery systems, the audio had to be heavily compressed—not in dynamic range (a common misconception) but to reduce the space it takes up on the film or disc. Both DTS and Dolby Digital use sophisticated encoding schemes to allow them to save space by discarding data that are not deemed audible. This "perceptual coding," together with other clever tricks, allow full-bodied, powerful sound to be squeezed into that itty-bitty living space.
This is the week. Throngs of unsuspecting innocents are expected to descend on the Las Vegas Convention Center. (That's in Nevada, not Las Vegas, NM. Yes, there is such a place, but they don't hold conventions (there aren't enough rooms at the Motel 6).
Denon's flagship AV receivers have long been rated among the best, if not <I>the</I> best that money can buy. They've also been loaded with features, sometimes to the point where using them for anything but normal operations is a real challenge for the average user. The company's latest top-of-the-heap effort, the $6000 AVR-5805, is both of these things, and much more.
You could write a book about how loudspeakers work in real-world listening rooms. In fact, many experts have. And while they may differ on many of the details, I suspect they will all agree on one point: The room-loudspeaker interface remains most neglected link in the audio reproduction chain.
Going ape over that last minute gift for the home theater enthusiast? Or looking to drop a hint on a gift for yourself? Check out Universal's recent release, <I>King Kong: Peter Jackson's Production Diaries</I>. Boxed in a faux-antique file briefcase that someone was paid entirely too much money to design and that you'll probably ditch anyway because it won't fit on your bookshelf, this set contains a production memoir, four limited edition prints (my signed Certificate of Authenticity is number 32,786!), and, most important, two DVDs filled with behind the scenes production material on the making of the film.
While I'll be the first one to defend the importance of the independent dealer who can provide expert demonstrations and face-to-face advice, the reality is that these dealers are experiencing an increasingly diverse and difficult market. And in some parts of the country, they're hard if not impossible to find.