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Darryl Wilkinson Posted: Jan 05, 2010 1 comments
Despite what you’ll hear from the other journalistic types, the only real reason why anyone who pontificates about electronics makes the annual pilgrimage to Las Vegas for the Consumer Electronics Show is the free food and booze. And the free hats and t-shirts…and the pampering of the press…and the potential for (maybe) a free set of earphones or iPod case… Then, of course, there are all the attractive female booth greeters and canned-demonstration presenters who make you feel like you’re the first person they’ve talked to all week and that you’re someone very special…if you’d only sit through this incredibly fascinating presentation. I guess there are also some cool gadgets and gear to see here, too, but it really comes down to the free food. (Did I mention free booze, too?) Tonight, it’s the “Annual Pre-CES Sushi Feast 2010” sponsored by DTS. Can life get any better?
Darryl Wilkinson Posted: Nov 30, 2009 3 comments
Price: $6,995 At A Glance: THX Ultra2 certified • Fits in a standard 2-by-4 wall • Easy to install in existing construction • Separate amplifier with remote control

It’s What You Don’t See

A bottle of vodka can’t make a speaker sound any better than it actually does. But it can make me think I sound better (smarter, and of course funnier). It might even make suggestible friends agree if you pass the bottle around the room. However, it still can’t change a subwoofer’s performance. Vodka, after all, isn’t a room treatment product—although enough (empty) bottles spread throughout the room might be just the thing.

Darryl Wilkinson Posted: Nov 23, 2009 1 comments
So Many Rooms, So Few Wires

My home began as a tiny two-room house on a hilltop in the middle of nowhere back in the late 1800s. A century later, I’m sitting in a cubbyhole office in the original upstairs section. Old and new sections butt up against one another. Some of the home’s old elements have been remade to look new, while its new parts have a patina of old. Straight lines and level floors are few and far between. With two totally separate (in both location and age) upstairs areas, it almost qualifies as a human Habitrail. As they say in the real estate business, it has character.

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Darryl Wilkinson Posted: Sep 13, 2009 0 comments
Perhaps it would have been more appropriate to introduce this hip-swinging HDMI adapter at Las Vegas, but NextGen brought the company's twisting, rotating, 360-degree HDMI connector to the sparsely attended Hall B in the Convention Center. While there was plenty of room there, this connector will make it easier to hook up HDMI gear when space is tight. Pricing is TBD (which is "to be determined" not "two billion dollars"). If it's like the rest of NextGen's products, it'll be surprisingly inexpensive and will work exceedingly well.
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Darryl Wilkinson Posted: Sep 13, 2009 84 comments
Walking around CEDIA, you'll see tools you never knew existed designed to solve problems you never knew anyone ever had. Although I've always believed that (1) you should always use the right tool for the right job,(2) you can never have enough tools, and (3) battery/electric tools are always better than ones that require my own muscle power; there are some tools on display here that even I can't justify having at home. My wife will probably say I have a hole in my head when I say I need this tool, but I can't help wanting the awesome Hole Pro Adjustable Hole Cutter drill attachment. It's capable of cutting smooth holes in all kinds of materials (dry wall, plywood, even some metal). But wait - there's more! As the name implies, it's adjustable; so this one tool can be used to drill anything from a 1 7/8-inch hole to a 17-inch hole. And the clear plastic housing not only catches all the dust and debris as you're cutting - it also serves as a support housing that makes sure you drill the hole perpendicular to the plain of the surface you're cutting. A built-in depth gauge prevents you from drilling too far into your wall and into a water pipe or speaker wire. Models range from $119.95 to $164.95 depending on the maximum size hole the tool will cut. Check out the videos of the Hole Pro in action at the company's web site www.holepro.com.
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Darryl Wilkinson Posted: Sep 13, 2009 0 comments
Mark's already mentioned in a previous post American Recorder Technologies' speaker package that comes with a laser alignment tool, but you can buy the laser tool - plus a fancy sound pressure level meter - in a cool, aluminum carrying case from ART for $249. It's overkill for the one-time HTiB setup, but anyone who is into home theater enough to be reading our blogs about CEDIA will want one of these packages. If you're really serious about setting up home theaters - as in, you're an installer or would like to be - the Basic Home Theater Kit is just a start. Other professionally oriented kits include digital inclinometers, laser line generators (for visualizing dispersion patterns), and laser alignment glasses.
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Darryl Wilkinson Posted: Sep 13, 2009 0 comments
I really shouldn't make fun of this because there can be some serious math work involved in putting together a complicated whole-house A/V and automation system, but I couldn't help chuckle at the title of this CEDIA University course being offered for installers and designers. Maybe CEDIA should have picked a more impressive name for this course, something like "Beyond Fingers: Why a Calculator Should be in Your Toolbox" or "Mathematical Profitability: Making Cents out of Numbers".
Darryl Wilkinson Posted: Jul 20, 2009 0 comments
Tips and tricks for making your system tweakin’ awesome.

Unless you have really expensive tastes, it’s easy to see how spending several thousand dollars on your home theater system can make some very noticeable improvements. That kind of cash could buy a bigger TV, a larger projection screen, a brighter projector, a beefier amp, or a stouter subwoofer. Any of these would put some extra kick in an already kick-butt system. But maybe—like me—you don’t have piles of cash sitting around begging to be stuffed into a store’s cash register. Perhaps you just bought your first HTIB, recently added to your existing system, or (again, like me) you’re simply a classic cheapskate. Whichever it is, let’s say you’ve maxed out your A/V budget for the year. Now what?

Darryl Wilkinson Posted: Jan 26, 2009 0 comments
Price: $400 At A Glance: Access to news, sports, weather, and Amazon Top 10 lists • Many components are not available in the built-in database • Electronic Program Guide updates via home Wi-Fi network

High Wi-Fi (Not Wifey)

Acceptance Factor
From the waist down, Acoustic Research’s ARRU449 looks like the stereotypical universal remote control with a symmetrically arranged layout of small, backlit buttons. From the waist up, though, there’s a bright and colorful LCD screen that quickly catches your attention. Invisible to the eye is the remote’s other distinguishing feature: Wi-Fi connectivity. This allows the remote to access the Internet through your wireless network in order to download Electronic Program Guide (EPG) information along with news and weather highlights. In addition, the ARRU449 can periodically download software updates as they become available. Even though the ARRU449 can access the Internet, it doesn’t include a Web browser. That means you can’t go online directly. Instead, the remote uses something called click365 technology to download the EPG and other data—including news, weather, and sports stories—in the background.

Darryl Wilkinson Posted: Jan 26, 2009 0 comments
Price: $250 At A Glance: Exceptionally intuitive • Web-based setup procedure • Help function uses questions and answers to fix system problems • Programmable power-on, inter-key, inter-device delays

Pretty and Pretty Smart

I don’t know what they put in the water cooler at Logitech, but I want to start drinking it. The Harmony One is another in its long list of affordable universal remote controls. It looks great, is easy to program, and is sweetly simple to use. The Harmony One is as narrow as most single-device remotes, but it’s thinner and surprisingly light. It’s even easier to hold and use. At the business end is a bright 1.25-by-1.5-inch color touchscreen with enough resolution that you can easily recognize the tiny DVD logo on the DVD player icon. The backlit hard keys are distinctly grouped together by function (transport, numeric keypad, etc.). Although the individual keys are only slightly larger than those on an average remote, each has its own unique shape and is spaced far enough apart so that you can easily use the remote for basic operations without looking at it. The Harmony One includes a built-in motion sensor that’s supposed to wake the remote when you pick it up. It’s not super sensitive, though, so sometimes you’ll need to give the remote a quick shake to bring it to life. To recharge the battery, just place the remote in its horizontal charging cradle. My older Harmony 890 is sometimes finicky and refuses to make contact—and therefore doesn’t charge—when resting in its cradle. This one has a deeper well that ensures a solid connection between the contact points on the remote and the charging cradle. By the way, the rechargeable battery is removable and replaceable, much like a cordless phone’s battery. This makes it environmentally friendly, and it won’t force you to buy a new remote when the battery finally expires.

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