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Darryl Wilkinson

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Darryl Wilkinson Posted: Nov 20, 2012 1 comments

Soundbar System
Performance
Build Quality
Value
 
ForceField 3 Subwoofer
Performance
Features
Build Quality
Value
Price: $2,000 At A Glance: 3D sonic-image optimization technology • Passive LCR design • Aerospace-grade extruded-aluminum cabinet

Women. They’re the problem. They’re the ones who have ruined home theater for all the manly men out there whose only vice was reclining in front of a set of towering speakers that dominated the room like a pair of long-faced Easter Island monoliths—speakers so masculine, they used testosterone instead of ferrofluid to cool the voice coils and were topped with skeleton-ugly horn tweeters so efficient Joshua could have used them to bring down the walls of Jericho the first day (before lunch!). For additional aural excitement, in a front corner of the room, openly begging for attention and not girlishly hiding behind a couch or doing double duty as a plant stand, would be a massive subwoofer with a magnet assembly so powerful that localized rooftop occurrences of the aurora borealis would happen from time to time. Techs from the local hospital would often bring patients to the house and use the subwoofer for testing when the lab’s MRI machine needed repair. But no more. The man cave has been emasculated and replaced by the female grotto, complete with bowls of potpourri and seating geometries that would make Euclid weep with grief. The coup de grâce, however, the fatal blow to any home theater’s manhood, is the now near-obligatory soundbar. Long and falsely phallic, it mocks the real men in the room as it preens itself under the flat-panel HDTV.

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Darryl Wilkinson Posted: Nov 13, 2012 0 comments
I recently had to send my favorite watch in for repair. I am especially fond of this watch because, in addition to looking expensive, it has both an analog dial and a digital display. Unlike with audio, about which one can argue whether digital or analog sounds better, the two timekeeping technologies combined in my watch are identical in terms of displaying the correct time. And, quite the opposite of so many digital AV devices nowadays, in the 12 years I’ve owned this watch, I’ve never once had to download new firmware or a new time-deciphering codec in order to keep the watch current.
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Darryl Wilkinson Posted: Oct 23, 2012 1 comments
Even if you’re an infrequent reader of Home Theater and HomeTheater.com, I’m betting that you have at least one DVD lying around at home that you’ve never watched, won’t ever watch, don’t want to watch again, didn’t care for when you watched it the first time, or still has you wondering how your spouse could have ever thought that particular movie would make a great gift. In fact, chances are that you have a great many more than just one under-appreciated, space-taking, dust-collecting DVD in your possession. (Avid Blu-ray movie buyers probably have lots of unwatched DVDs that are packed in the same case along with the Blu-ray Disc.) At an absolute bare minimum, you at least know someone who has a few DVDs that fit into one of the above categories.

Some of those DVDs might be war-related, but you don’t have to watch a movie, such as Black Hawk Down, Born on the Fourth of July, or Apocalypse Now, to know that war is hell—and that it can often have long-lasting effects on the lives of those military men and women who choose to serve.

There are lots of people who show their “support” for our troops by placing a bumper sticker on their car—and leave it at that. We in the home theater community can do better, thanks to the vision of an organization called DVDs4Vets.

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Darryl Wilkinson Posted: Oct 12, 2012 1 comments

Performance
Features
Ergonomics
Value
Price: $899 At A Glance: H-PAS bass enhancement technology • Multichannel DSP for two-, three-, or five-channel soundfield simulation • Switchable display for top or bottom orientation

Frank•en•bar [frang-kuhn-bahr]: noun 1) a soundbar with parts and pieces taken from traditional home theater systems—processor, switcher, amplifier, remote control, speaker drivers, etc.—which are bolted together into a single cabinet and shocked into life with one power cord. The typical Frankenbar has a dual purpose: a) to provide much-improved sound quality over that produced by the speakers built into modern televisions (such an easy task, by the way, that it could seemingly be accomplished by a couple of tin cans and a string); while at the same time b) significantly reducing the number of boxes in the system, as well as dramatically simplifying the installation process. 2) The ultimate example of an all-in-one integrated system, except for the fact that virtually every Frankenbar—or any soundbar, for that matter—usually requires a subwoofer in order to sound acceptable to the human ear. This mandatory subwoofer, by virtue of being a physical object that takes up floor space, is more often than not considered both an eyesore and may in some areas be legally acceptable grounds for divorce.

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Darryl Wilkinson Posted: Oct 12, 2012 0 comments

PSB Imagine T2 Speaker System
Performance
Build Quality
Value
 
PSB SubSeries 300 Subwoofer
Performance
Features
Build Quality
Value
Price: $6,650 At A Glance: Independent ported chambers for each woofer • Dual five-way gold-plated binding posts for biwiring or biamping • Five-way transitional design

Paul Barton is a nutcase. Oh, sure, he’s soft-spoken, ultra-smart, and intensely passionate about sound. (In the late 1960s, 11-year-old Barton started building speakers with his dad in their workshop because other speakers “didn’t sound natural.”) But that’s just a cover. I don’t know how else to explain the fact that Mr. Barton (the “P” and “B” of PSB Speakers—with his wife, Sue, providing the “S”) has spent so much of his life locked away in the anechoic chamber and testing/listening labs of Canada’s federally funded National Research Council (NRC) in Ottawa, Ontario. In fact, according to PSB, although folks from other speaker companies (such as Paradigm, Energy, Mirage, Snell, and Aperion, to name a few) have traipsed through the NRC’s Acoustics and Signal Processing Department’s doors, since the late 1970s, Barton “has spent far longer in the chamber and lab than any other speaker designer.” So rather than skiing, hunting, fishing, playing hockey, and/or drinking beer all day like real Canadians do, Barton chose to play in an anechoic chamber. As I said, he’s a nutcase.

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Darryl Wilkinson Posted: Oct 08, 2012 0 comments
We lost a pioneer of the modern loudspeaker industry with the passing of William (Bill) Hecht earlier this year on September 12th at age 89. I was only five years old (and I imagine many of you reading this weren’t even born yet) in 1967 when Bill Hecht patented his signature contribution to the audio world, the soft-dome tweeter, arguably the most widely used speaker driver worldwide for the last 30 years. I had the pleasure of meeting Mr. Hecht once during my career. In this age of Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn, and the endless onslaught of 24/7 self-promotion, Bill Hecht was a quiet, self-effacing man who seemed most comfortable behind the scenes. Indeed, throughout his career, Hecht and his company, United Speaker Systems, was known for making the speakers that made other speaker companies famous.

Darryl Wilkinson Posted: Oct 04, 2012 3 comments

Performance
Build Quality
Value
Price: $10,000 (23 shade system) At A Glance: Up to three-year battery life • Extremely quiet operation • Simple installation

Of all the “this is the coolest damn thing I’ve ever seen” things a home theater/wholehome automation system can do, the one that is consistently the most mesmerizing, most envied, coolest “coolest damn thing” is the control of motorized window treatments. (Although it sounds like something a doctor would prescribe for sick building syndrome, window treatments is the term people in the know use for what you and I would call curtains, blinds, and shades.) If you’ve never experienced motorized shades (or drapes or blinds)—and I mean experienced in the sense that you’ve seen them in action in someone’s home and not in a too-clean-to-be-believable picture-perfect designer’s showroom or a slickly edited online video—it’s difficult to grasp the enchanted feeling and quasi-mystical pleasure that even the least gadget-savvy person can get from being in a room in which some hidden electronic sorcery conjures the shades to obediently open and close (or stop anywhere in between) on command or makes the curtains part like the Red Sea as if Moses were holding a remote control in his hand instead of a staff. Even the reticent Wizard of Oz, himself, would rush out from his hiding place behind the curtain to watch it open and close by remote control if it were motorized.

Darryl Wilkinson Posted: Sep 20, 2012 0 comments
Performance
Features
Ergonomics
Value
Price: $3,499 At A Glance: Automatic speaker discovery and channel assignment • Uncompressed 24-bit wireless digital audio • No AVR needed

Not long ago, FedEx deposited a 7.1channel HTIB from Aperion Audio outside my door. It’s not really fair to call it a home theater in a box because the system actually comes in seven boxes and sells for $3,499. But since it includes source switching and amplification, it technically qualifies as an HTIB, albeit a rather unusual one. Aperion Audio prefers the term preconfigured home theater system. Normally, setting up this sort of home theater package would entail speaker wires crisscrossing the floor accompanied by the requisite grumbling, stripping of wires, and fumbling with speaker terminals. In this case, though, the Aperion speakers—a pair of towers, a center channel, a subwoofer, and two pair of satellite speakers—come out of their boxes, get placed in their appropriate spots in the room, have each one’s power cord plugged into the nearest AC outlet…and that’s it.

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Darryl Wilkinson Posted: Sep 17, 2012 1 comments

Performance
Build Quality
Value
Price: $950 At a Glance: Folded Motion tweeter • Custom five-way biwire/biamp binding posts • Aluminum cone drivers

For the first 20 years or so, MartinLogan was just a geeky, tweaky speaker company that made electrostatic speakers—that’s just as in Stephen Hawking is just a physicist—with a few very serious (and very hexagonal) subwoofers in the lineup to take over the job of reproducing the lowest bass frequencies that even the best electrostatic panels simply don’t have the wherewithal to generate on their own. During that time, admission to the MartinLogan electrostatic club was never cheap. That, as you can imagine, put the dynamic, open, and airy sound that is a signature aspect of an electrostatic speaker out of reach for lots of people.

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Darryl Wilkinson Posted: Sep 09, 2012 0 comments
StealthCoverArt is a subsidiary of invisible speaker manufacturer Stealth Acoustics. StealthCoverArt makes it possible to choose a frame that fits over your flat-panel TV and then pick from a large selection of Stealth’s artwork, provide your own photo to be printed, or commission an original painting to use as the image that fits inside the frame and hides the TV. When you’re ready to watch TV, the canvas rolls up inside the frame, revealing the flat-panel behind it. Stealth Acoustics’ Image Series includes two-way customizable on-wall loudspeakers with completely flat front radiating surfaces that can be covered by an “Image Wrap” laminated finishes designed to match the screen image used in the StealthCoverArt frame. Pricing varies depending on size, style, and choice of image.

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