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Mark Fleischmann Posted: Sep 15, 2006 0 comments
A hot issue among surround buffs is HDMI and what it does or doesn't do. If you want your system to handle next-gen surround formats like DTS-HD Master Audio, you need HDMI version 1.3 connectivity in your receiver. According to Denon's Steve Baker, his company's receivers will support HDMI 1.3 "as soon as the chipsets become available." That is likely to happen in 2007 though it's hard to be any more specific than that. In the meantime, you'll have to be content with the fact that Denon's ASD-1R docking station ($129) comes in both iPod-white and iPod-black.
Mark Fleischmann Posted: Sep 14, 2006 0 comments
Speak of the devil.

In the Faustian struggle for the soul of the audio industry, Mephistopheles mans the sales floor, giving the public what it wants, namely on-wall speakers. The beckoning demon's proposition is irresistible. If you're hanging a flat-panel display, why not hang speakers there, too? All other things being equal, on-walls are at a sonic disadvantage when it comes to soundstage depth. But, as any competent demon knows, all things are rarely equal. So, let's restate the proposition: If on-walls are what you want, why not buy the best-sounding ones you can find? If they sound good in the space and look good on the wall, you might find yourself handing the demon your credit card.

Mark Fleischmann Posted: Sep 14, 2006 0 comments
Flat and fit.

How would you feel if you woke up one day in a perfect body? You'd pull back the blanket and look down on a perfectly flat tummy (something I haven't seen in years, although heaven knows I'm trying). Combination skin is a thing of the past—you seem to have been remade in some wonderful material. Eager to check yourself out in a mirror, you cross the room to find yourself resculpted in new and slimmer proportions. And, when you open your mouth, depending on your gender, you have either the purest soprano or the noblest baritone. In fact, you have both. I think this metaphor may be getting a bit perverse.

Mark Fleischmann Posted: Sep 14, 2006 0 comments
The STR-DA5200ES is one of two new models in Sony's higher-end ES receiver line. The 7 x 120 watt receiver has auto setup that that runs in just 30 seconds. With top-notch Faroudja DCDi video processing, it upconverts video sources to 1080p, offers scalable picture-in-picture for source monitoring, and offers on-the-fly color correction. The icon-based menu system hails from PSP. Available in October for $1500.
Mark Fleischmann Posted: Sep 14, 2006 0 comments
In a world where manufacturers all too often behave with a depraved indifference toward the muscles of the lower abdomen, Thiel has introduced a speaker that poses no hazard to the delicate. True, Jim Thiel dodged the all-important weight question, but judging from the way he picked it up and casually hefted it, the SCS4 should be just my kind of speaker. It has the same coaxial driver array as the SCS3, uses a challenging (Jim said) first-order crossover, and will ship before year-end for less than $1000. I will try this at home. The Thiel exhibit is using it as the center and surround speakers in a demo system with the floorstanding CS3.7--unveiled nine months ago at CES and previously unheard--serving as front left/right.
Mark Fleischmann Posted: Sep 11, 2006 0 comments
In the span of my career, trade show coverage by consumer publications has gone from verboten to voluminous. Are you excited about this week's CEDIA and our coverage of it? Please tell me—I'd like to know!
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Mark Fleischmann Posted: Sep 08, 2006 1 comments
If I needed further proof of your insanity, it's on the side of that box you just deposited on the pile in our bedroom.
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Mark Fleischmann Posted: Sep 07, 2006 0 comments
You know the folks at the Consumer Electronics Association are riled up when they send out a press release with a head like "Back to School with Baloney." The low-end luncheon meats in question are being packed into collegiate lunchboxes by the Recording Industry Antichrist of America (I have decided to make this a recurring reference) at CEA, the media-activist group Public Knowledge, and the Computer and Communications Industry Association issued this joint communiqué laced with italic outrage: "The RIAA back to school message is 'Beware of anything free.' Ironically, it applies most aptly to the free 'educational' DVDs that RIAA is peddling to students and to the bogus legal advice on RIAA's 'Campus Downloading' website.... The 'FAQ' posted by the RIAA in support of its campaign dismisses the copyright law's Fair Use doctrine as applying only to productive or scholarly works. It suggests, contrary to explicit Supreme Court precedent, that Fair Use has no application to the home recording of entire works." The statement points out inconsistencies in the RIAA's stance on copying for personal use: "The RIAA's freeDVD...says that it is OK to make a CD copy for yourself, but is criminal to do so for a friend.... Where in the AHRA [Audio Home Recording Act of 1992], or in any court decision, does it say that purely personal recordings are legal, burning or emailing a single song for a friend or family member is criminal?"
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Mark Fleischmann Posted: Sep 06, 2006 0 comments
David D. Holmes, inventor of what are now known as the SMPTE color bars, died recently at age 80. Holmes got his masters at MIT, worked on the first car transistor radio, and taught at the University of Nebraska before moving on in 1950 to RCA Labs in Princeton, New Jersey. In those days, RCA was not just a Franco-Chinese TV brand but a technology powerhouse. On arriving at RCA Labs, Holmes found "the people were using test signals from scanned slides which were dreadful, full of noise and other junk. Having nothing to do, I went back to my new lab and built an electronic test signal generator, now known as the Color Bar Generator. This was easy for me to do since I had designed and built a complete TV studio at U. of Nebraska and a lot of the stuff in the color bar generator was similar to parts of that. Well, my new device was a great hit; everybody wanted one so when my boss got back from vacation we were having six built in the model shop. They were big things, having fifty tubes and a bunch of adjustments in them." Sharing the 1953 patent with David Larky of RCA, Holmes remained at the lab for 25 years. His son John relates: "The picture above shows the spinnaker he had made for his sailboat. He set me afloat in a dinghy when I was about 12 to take that shot of the spinnaker flying in Chesapeake Bay." See for Hal Landen's color bar tutorial, obit of Holmes, and followup, with correspondence from both father and son.
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Mark Fleischmann Posted: Sep 05, 2006 0 comments
If you wonder what the telcos will be like years from now, when they're raking in the cash from video services, get a load of the way they behaved last month. As soon as the Federal Communications Commission removed some regulatory charges from consumer DSL bills, BellSouth and Verizon quickly tried to add them back and pocket the cash. The deleted charges had gone into the Universal Service Fund, which was originally designed to subsidize phone service in rural areas, and later extended to nurture Internet access in schools. BellSouth DSL customers had paid $2.97 per month into the USF, while Verizon DSL customers had paid $1.25-2.83 (depending on speed of service), until the FCC reclassified DSL and eliminated the fees to give consumers a break. Thereupon BellSouth swiftly imposed a "regulatory cost recovery fee" of $2.97, while Verizon added a "supplier surcharge" of $1.20-2.70. This breathtakingly opportunistic pickpocketing of consumers, greasily interlarded with corporate doublespeak, so enraged FCC chair Kevin Martin that he instantly threatened to send official letters demanding an explanation. He didn't have to send them—BellSouth quickly backed off and Verizon followed a few days later. They've got a lot on their regulatory wish lists, with BellSouth awaiting approval for its absorption into AT&T, and all the telcos eagerly awaiting the replacement of municipal franchise agreements for video service with more relaxed federal and state regulation. If this is what they act like when they're on their best behavior, just imagine what they'll be like at their worst.