For years, in-wall and in-ceiling speakers were the 98-pound weaklings of the speaker world. Lacking the muscle needed for realistic-sounding music playback - let alone action-movie soundtracks - they were ignored by anyone who took sound seriously.
But the once-ridiculed category has re-emerged, surprisingly pumped and ready to kick sand in the face of that conventional wisdom.
This past fall, astute subscribers to the Time Warner digital cable service in New York City began to notice something unusual-and no, it wasn't that their bills were going down. It was the appearance of Channel 1000 on the onscreen program guide, accompanied by the letters MOD. Was this a new retro fashion channel? Actually, the truth is more interesting.
Just a week before the May 9 release of their two-CD set Stadium Arcadium, the Red Hot Chili Peppers found that the whole album had been leaked to the Internet, letting fans download it free from file-sharing sites. These days, of course, leaks are hardly novel - but the reaction of the band's bass player, Flea, was.
In the beginning - well, at least 5 or 6 years ago - music stored on a PC generally either stayed there or was downloaded to a portable player. But as more and more audio and video content has become available online, people want to hear and see it on home entertainment rigs.
1. I'm happy with DVD. Why should I care about high-definition discs?
While both HD DVD and Blu-ray Disc offer a number of improvements over DVD, the most obvious one is picture quality. DVD was a huge leap in both convenience and performance over VHS, but its 480i resolution is well below the 720p, 1080i, and 1080p images both high-def disc formats can produce.
Until recently, in-wall speakers were the last choice for anyone who cared about sound quality. Now, thanks to improved technologies and the entrance of major speaker brands into the burgeoning "architectural audio" category, in-wall (and ceiling) speakers are legitimate alternatives in rooms where you either can't or don't want to use freestanding models.
With both iPod accessories and home project studio gear now more common than three-chord bar bands, it's seems like it's getting tougher to come up with a really new concept. That's why Belkin's inexpensive, colorful TuneStudio recording deck, which bridges those two worlds, really grabbed our attention.