Rob Sabin

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Rob Sabin Posted: Jun 27, 2014 Published: Jun 28, 2014 13 comments
The Dolby Atmos surround-sound format for home theaters made its debut this week with product announcements from several manufacturers and live demos in New York City at the Consumer Electronics Association's CE Week trade show. The technology that Dolby first introduced to theaters in 2012 offers the potential for a far more immersive audio experience than the traditional 5.1- and 7.1-channel systems that are still mostly employed today, and having experienced Atmos in the cinema, I admit I was pretty pumped heading into the demos.

And I wasn't let down. Atmos in the home environment seems to work—surprisingly well, in fact. Caveats? Yeah, there are a few worth watching out for that I'll get to later. But overall, I'll go on record that this is probably the most discernable advance in home theater sound since the introduction of lossless digital audio in the Dolby TrueHD and DTS-HD Master Audio formats on Blu-ray. And it's one that leaves all the pre-existing height- and width-channel surround formats— including Dolby Pro Logic IIz and DTS Neo:X—in the dust. Finally, this may be one that will truly make it worth the trouble of adding those extra speakers. Maybe...

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Rob Sabin Posted: Jun 03, 2014 0 comments
As a longtime observer of the audio/video scene, I can state with confidence that things have changed more in the last five years than they did in the prior 25. I say that with full acknowledgement of the breakthroughs I’ve been lucky enough to report on during my career, including the introductions of the VCR, camcorders, Laserdiscs, Compact Discs, DVDs, high-definition television and its HD disc formats, surround sound in its various incarnations, flat panels, digital music downloads, and others.
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Rob Sabin Posted: May 28, 2014 1 comments
Bang & Olufsen, the Danish firm best known for the high performance and high-tech industrial design of its audio and video gear, has introduced a unique, motorized HDTV.

In what amounts to a wow-inducing visual treat, the show on the new BeoVision Avant starts well before you begin watching TV. Pressing the power button on the set’s one-piece, milled aluminum remote control causes the stand-mounted, 55-inch Avant to begin shifting.

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Rob Sabin Posted: Mar 26, 2014 0 comments
Why a Projector—in a Pitch-Black Room‐Is Still the Home Theater to Aspire To

I’ve gone on record, more than once, saying that you need not have a screen of a particular size, nor a minimum number of speakers, to have a home theater. Indeed, here’s a definition I developed a while back for an article in our sister publication, Geek...

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Rob Sabin Posted: Mar 12, 2014 4 comments
It’s been said that the sound associated with watching video is “half” of the experience. But is it really? Or is it actually more than half? Or less?

Answering this question was the goal of a clever study recently commissioned by DTS, with an eye toward promoting its new DTS Headphone:X technology. For those unfamiliar, Headphone:X has been at the heart of one of the more impressive CES show demos for the last two years running.

Rob Sabin Posted: Mar 07, 2014 0 comments

Performance
Build Quality
Value
PRICE $199

AT A GLANCE
Plus
Lowest price ever for a Sonos starter system
Attractive, décor-friendly design
Natural, unhyped sound quality
Minus
Needs near-wall placement or optional SUB to sound its best

THE VERDICT
The Play:1’s low price and natural sound quality make starting or expanding a Sonos system easier than ever.

At $199 each, the Play:1 represents the new low entry point for the Sonos multiroom wireless audio system. Connect it to your router, download the free controller app to your smartphone or tablet, and you’re ready to start building a wireless wholehouse music system fed by your personal music library or any of the dozens of streaming services now integrated with the system. If you’d rather put your Play:1 in a room distant from your router, you can buy the $49 Bridge adapter to make the one required wired network connection, and you’ll be free to add Sonos components wirelessly all over the house.

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Rob Sabin Posted: Jan 29, 2014 8 comments
Panasonic’s Departure from the Plasma Market is Heartbreaking, and Inevitable

There is both irony and tragedy in the fact that this year’s much-deserved prize for our Top Pick product for all of 2013 goes to TC-P65ZT60, whose short life and lineage will begin and end with the 2013 model year...

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Rob Sabin Posted: Jan 29, 2014 6 comments
Here’s a happy problem: Following the merge of Sound & Vision and Home Theater last year, selecting our 2013 Top Picks of the Year involved culling through more than 120 products that had been granted HT Top Pick or S&V Certified status—13 issues’ worth, plus dedicated online reviews. While it was still easy to pluck out the stuff that really rose to the top, the end result was more standouts than usual. You’ll find several recommendable entries equally sharing the various category honors this year. Of course, we’ve still identified a single, very special piece of gear as our ultimate Top Pick of 2013. Care to take a guess?
Rob Sabin Posted: Jan 14, 2014 0 comments

Performance
Build Quality
Value
PRICE $70

AT A GLANCE
Plus
Small, concealable form factor
Easy installation with good documentation
Excellent performance

Minus
May cost as much as a new router

THE VERDICT
There may be other options for improving your Wi-Fi, but the REC10 represents an exceptionally simple and effective path to robust video streaming on SmartTVs and tablets.

With Internet-connected smart TVs flying off the shelves during the holiday season and into Super Bowl Sunday, many consumers may find themselves trying to stream music and video to their new sets from Pandora, Netflix, Amazon VOD, et. al. But relatively few will have a wired ethernet connection near their televisions, and nothing can dumb down a smart TV faster than a weak Wi-Fi signal. Weak Wi-Fi can have immediate and noticeable effects on your audio and video quality. To compound the problem, you may not even know what’s causing them. An inability to connect promptly to your desired services may indicate that your router is too far away. But a laptop in the same room might have no trouble at all loading web pages, and a reasonable person might think the stuttering, buffering, or lack of resolution on your TV screen is a function of heavy Web traffic during peak periods, bad infrastructure at your Internet provider, or a technical failing of the playback device.

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Rob Sabin Posted: Jan 06, 2014 1 comments
In the aftermath of the late 2013 news that it was abandoning the plasma TV market, Panasonic came to the 2014 CES armed with a new line-up of advanced 4K-resolution, LED-backit HDTVs—though no OLED models were annonced.

According to Julie Bauer, president of the Panasonic Consumer Electronics Company, the new high end 4K HDTVs will fill the hole in image quality that many enthusiasts believe will be left by the disappearance of the firm’s plasmas.

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