One of the cool things about digital television is the potential for creativity on the subchannels. Case in point: The Tube. It's carried in many markets by DTV stations owned by Raycom, Sinclair, Tribune, and others; and by Comcast, Time Warner, and other cable systems. The independently owned channel delivers nonstop rock and pop music videos with minimal channel IDs and no commercials. Programming races back and forth in time, from the 1960s to the present, mixing raw live footage with conventional promo music videos. Some items in heavy rotation are surprising--I would never have gone out of my way to add Queen concerts to my DVD stash, but wow, Freddie rocks! My only complaint is that heavy audio compression results in harsh, grainy sound with virtually no dynamic range. Even so, it's a great place to surf during commercial breaks on other channels, and repays longer spells of attention with a wide and ever-changing array of music. Check the Wiki to see if The Tube is available in your area. The channel also has an official site, an unofficial site, and a myspace presence.
How would you feel about your video-on-demand service if you discovered the fast-forward function had been disabled? Viewers of the country's third-largest cable system will soon find out when they try in vain to skip ads on the VOD versions of ABC and ESPN.
The MI6 is Britain's equivalent of the CIA. The M16, on the other hand, is a floorstanding speaker from Epos that will sell for $1600/pair. An M8 center will be available for $600, an M SUB will complete the system, and of course you're at liberty to use any of the company's sterling monitors as surrounds.
Surround electronics were thin on the ground at HES but Krell did display the S-1000 pre-pro ($6500) and S-1500 multi-channel amp. The latter can operate with five, six, or seven channels and sells for $6000-7000 depending on configuration. Both shipping now. Krell also showed an iPod dock.
Would you like to base your surround system on a pair of slim towers, like the Silverline Preludes, at $1200/pair? Or would you prefer something smaller like the Minuet, at $600/pair? In either case, you can buy them one by one and please yourself. The Chinese silk dome tweeters kept cymbals from getting spitty and the 3.5-inch paper midwoofers mustered a surprisingly well-proportioned and tuneful string bass.
The soundmatters SLIMstage40 packs 170 watts from eight amplifiers into a 39-inch-long bar that sits below a video display. At $899, this speaker bar may be the simulated-surround solution for you. For more bass, check out the low-profile SUBstage200 ($399) or basketball-size SUBstage250Cube ($449).
I asked the folks at Usher if their Be-718 monitor, sold for $2500/pair, would be available in odd-numbered surround configurations like five or seven. "What a great idea!" they enthused archly. Much hard work went into tuning the beryllium-oxide tweeter from which the speaker gets its name. It will ship soon with complementary center and sub. And at 87-88dB sensitivity, the system should run well with a good receiver.
Sometimes the secret to a great speaker is in the stand. The folks at CT-based Proclaim Audioworks say their spherical speakers (not shown) boast their best time-domain response when you arrange them on this versatile stand so that the output of each driver hits "the tip of your nose" at the same time. Pricing is $25,999 for, uh, a speaker or two or five.