Darryl Wilkinson

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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: $7,140 (updated 3/10/15)
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
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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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Darryl Wilkinson Posted: Sep 09, 2012 0 comments
Lutron used CEDIA 2011 to announce the company’s ground-breaking wireless, battery-powered, insulating honeycomb cellular shades that could be remotely controlled through handheld remotes or when integrated with Lutron RadioRA 2 lighting control systems. This year, Lutron announced additions to the wireless shade lineup, but these shades have wires – guide wires, that is. In most respects identical to the original wireless honeycomb shades, the new cable-guided shades have a thin cable running from top to bottom along the left and right sides of the shade. The cable prevents the shade from swaying, so it’s ideal for use on French doors or windows with heavy airflow. The cable guides also allow the shades to be used to cover skylights or angled windows. (Lutron says the shades will work in situations with angles as shallow as 30 degrees off horizontal.) The new shades will begin shipping in January of 2013. Pricing was not immediately available but was not expected to include a significant premium over the original shade configurations.
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Darryl Wilkinson Posted: Sep 09, 2012 3 comments
But only if you have the world’s largest bookshelf to put it on. Pro Audio Technology isn’t a common household name, partly because the company’s speakers – capable of “producing the bone-jarring explosions or visceral slam found in today’s high quality recordings” – are rather big, designed to usually be built-in or hidden behind acoustically transparent screens or wall panels, and are pretty darn expensive. This speaker was on display, no doubt, to generate plenty of “wow” buzz, which it did even though it was not hooked up. Inside Pro Audio Technology’s booth, however, several of the company’s new, smaller, less-expensive speakers were put together in a multi-channel system that was amazingly clean and articulate at regular, keep-my-hearing-intact listening levels. They did let the system out of its cage, though, for a brief moment at the end of the demonstration; and it simply took everyone’s breath away with it’s dynamic and powerful sonic output.
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Darryl Wilkinson Posted: Sep 09, 2012 0 comments
For folks who don’t want to put extra holes in their walls when adding a soundbar to a flat-panel TV, SnapAV offers a $79.95 universal bracket that attaches the soundbar directly to the HDTV. Depending on the height of the table stand that comes with your TV, you may be able to use the same bracket to mount your soundbar to the TV even if you don’t plan on wall mounting the TV. Fake fireplace is optional.

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