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Kris Deering

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Kris Deering Posted: Apr 26, 2013 8 comments

Performance
Features
Ergonomics
Value
Price: $1,299 At A Glance: Reference audio and video • HDMI and digital audio inputs • Built-in 192 kHz audio upsampling

They say that imitation is the ultimate form of flattery; I say if it isn’t broke, don’t fix it. In the last few years, we’ve seen a few high-end Blu-ray players use the popular Oppo Digtal Blu-ray player as the core of their design, with at least one manufacturer having even taken it as far as dropping a complete Oppo BDP-83SE chassis into a different cabinet with a new faceplate and charging $3,000 more for it (only to be exposed later).

With the Azur 752BD, Cambridge Audio utilizes only the core video components and transport, which adds its own analog audio section and execution.

Kris Deering Posted: Mar 20, 2013 4 comments
PT-7030 Surround Processor
Audio Performance
Video Performance
Features
Ergonomics
Value
 
PA 7-350 Amplifier
Performance
Features
Ergonomics
Value
Price: PT-7030, $1,799; PA 7-350, $2,799 At A Glance: Audiophile focus • Great dynamics • Lacks some bells and whistles

We’ve all heard the old saying, “less is more”, but that doesn’t always translate well to audio surround processors. While audiophile processors of yesteryear concentrated more on core components for the best possible sound quality and less on crazy surround modes and other digital processing, today’s market seems to demand these features.

Kris Deering Posted: Feb 28, 2013 2 comments

2D Performance
3D Performance
Features
Ergonomics
Value
Price: $5,000 At A Glance: Improved 3D performance • Quasi-4K performance at a lower price • Industry-leading contrast

JVC has been Home Theater’s standard bearer for reference quality, high-value displays these past few years, with one model or another finding its way into the reference systems of several members of our reviewing staff. There are projectors out there that outperform it in one way or another, but you’d be hard pressed to find any full line that performs as consistently well overall as JVC’s. This year’s lineup doesn’t introduce a lot of new features but does offer refinements to last year’s already strong line. For this review, I looked at the newest addition, the DLA-X55R. This is the only brand-new model, occupying a middle price point of $5,000 between the $3,500 entrylevel DLA-X35 and the more feature-laden DLA-X75R at $8,000. Notably, it brings JVC’s e-shift 4K technology to a new low price point.

Kris Deering Posted: Jan 24, 2013 23 comments

Performance
Features
Ergonomics
Value
Price: $1,199 At A Glance: Reference audio and video processing for other components • Asynchronous USB DAC • Bit-perfect video playback performance

Last year, I had the opportunity to review the Halo P 7 multichannel preamplifier from Parasound (Home Theater, June 2012). For that review, I mated the P 7 with Oppo’s then flagship Blu-ray player, the BDP-95, and it was a match made in heaven. I didn’t do a formal review of the BDP-95, but I made sure I conveyed how highly I thought of the reference Blu-ray player in the review and how its outstanding analog audio section was one of the best I’ve used. For this review, I got to try out Oppo’s successor to the BDP-95, the BDP-105, which builds on the BDP-95’s design and adds some features I honestly never thought I’d see in a Blu-ray player. In fact, I don’t even know if I would categorize the BDP-105 as a straight Bluray player, as it could easily be identified as a digital processor given its new connectivity and processing features for both audio and video. Whatever you want to call it, the BDP-105 shows once again that Oppo isn’t afraid of disrupting the industry and raising the already incredible bar set by its previous products.

Kris Deering Posted: Sep 27, 2012 12 comments

Performance
Features
Ergonomics
Value
Price: $150 At A Glance: Reference-quality Blu-ray playback • Full 3D support including 2D-to-3D conversion • Lots of streaming options

It will be interesting to see where the Blu-ray player market goes in the next few years. We reached a point of diminishing returns on the newer lines of players. The Bluray spec hasn’t changed since the adoption of 3D, so there’s nothing new to add, and just about every device out there has an insurmountable number of streaming features. But that could have been said about last year’s models. Prices continue to drop, along with the size of the players, yet there doesn’t seem to be anywhere to go if you want something truly different from a player going forward. Maybe this is where the rumored 4K Blu-ray will make its entrance and reinvigorate the market. Still, the quality of player you can now get for just over a hundred bucks is impressive, and Panasonic’s latest is about all you can ask for if you want reference-quality Blu-ray playback and cutting-edge streaming features.

Kris Deering Posted: Aug 22, 2012 14 comments
I’ll put this out right up front: I’m not a fan of image enhancements. They almost always hurt the image more than they ever help it, and nowadays there is an almost never-ending list of them in just about every display device. From 240 Hz smooth frame modes, to skin tone correctors and detail enhancers, we’re watching them pile up in our menus. Most are garbage and the first thing I turn off when I set up any display. So, on that note, imagine my skepticism when I got the Darbee Darblet in for review. It’s a new video processor that claims to increase depth perception, sharpness and realism with any display at any resolution, including 3D.

Kris Deering Posted: Aug 17, 2012 13 comments

2D Performance
3D Performance
Features
Ergonomics
Value
Price: $2,999 At A Glance: Sets the bar for 3D playback and performance • Extremely bright • Weak contrast performance and black levels • Bright, vivid image

It seems like only yesterday that DLP was the belle of the ball for front projector technologies. Oh, how things have changed these last few years. Now we see a polarized market made up of budget entry-level offerings or cost-no-object three-chip designs with little in the way of middle ground. I don’t know how much this has to do with Texas Instruments almost abandoning development of consumer-based chips (we haven’t seen any developments in DMD design for quite some time) or consumers’ leaning toward the higher contrast numbers of LCOS and SXRD designs. Or maybe it’s the price/performance that LCD has brought to the table. One thing is for sure, though: DLP is still a very capable technology that, when properly implemented, can throw a mesmerizing image. And now with 3D being a key feature in the market, maybe it’s time DLP’s popularity got a significant boost.

Kris Deering Posted: May 31, 2012 3 comments

Halo P 7 Multichannel Preamplifier
Performance
Features
Ergonomics
Value
 
A 51 Multichannel Amplifier
Performance
Features
Ergonomics
Value
 
JC 1 Single-Channel Amplifier
Performance
Features
Ergonomics
Value
Price: P 7: $2,000, A 51: $4,500, JC 1: $4,500 At A Glance: Analog-audio-only preamp supports up to seven channels • Flexible hookup options • Halo amps deliver staggering performance

One of the few lessons that was ingrained into me during my time in the Navy was, “Keep it simple.” I admit it wasn’t phrased quite so politically correctly, but the point is still the same. It’s a motto I apply to just about everything I do in my daily life, and when I received the Parasound Halo P 7 multichannel preamplifier ($2,000) for review, it appeared that Parasound sticks to the same philosophy. The strictly analog preamp shrugs off digitaldecoding duties to your source components, shunning any dirty digital processing while providing a high-end, multichannel, analog preamp stage to feed into your amps. With the right front-end source components, this makes for a spectacular two-channel and multichannel listening experience.

Kris Deering Posted: May 03, 2012 0 comments

Lumagen Radiance Series
Performance
Features
Ergonomics
Value


DVDO iScan Duo
Performance
Features
Ergonomics
Value
Price: Lumagen Radiance Series: $1,995-$4,995; DVDO iScan Duo $1,299 At A Glance: Lumagen: Fully supports 2D/3D processing • Delivers staggering customization and features set • DVDO: Great value with lots of connectivity

When I got started in this great hobby of ours, video processors were pretty much reserved for the higher-end theaters I only dreamed of. We didn’t have pristine 1080p24 sources to feed our displays; we had stuff like VHS and Laserdisc. Displays weren’t nearly as consistent, either. Projectors were mainly for the ultrarich and required brute strength to install. Beyond that, it took considerable work to get them looking right. Calibration was anything but easy. Expensive outboard video processors were also a necessity for these beasts to wring the most out of our then-limited video options.

Now we’re living the video dream. Some may scoff or say otherwise, but they probably haven’t been around as long as I have. These days, even low-end projectors outperform the majority of the reference designs back in the day. Sources are of a much higher quality, and new prerecorded formats are progressive by design and require very little, if any, tinkering. Sure, we have some DVDs lingering around that still need to be deinterlaced, but the proliferation of high-end video-processing chips into TVs, Blu-ray players, and even A/V receivers has made it easier than ever to get solid deinterlacing and scaling in a relatively cheap platform.

Kris Deering Posted: May 02, 2012 10 comments

2D Performance
3D Performance
Features
Ergonomics
Value
Price: $3,500 At A Glance: Class-leading black levels • Outstanding pixel sharpness • 3D performance lacking

Last May, I had the pleasure of reviewing the first 3D projector offered from JVC, the DLA-X3. At just under $4,500, it represented an amazing balance of value and performance. This year, JVC has made some radical changes to its projection line, including two new projectors with its e-Shift 4K upscaling feature. Replacing last year’s DLA-X3 is the DLA-X30, which adds lens memory to the package along with some new 3D options. But the biggest news is that JVC has lowered the price by almost 25 percent. So does last year’s amazing value become this year’s doorbuster? Let’s find out.

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