Darryl Wilkinson

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Darryl Wilkinson Posted: Jul 22, 2013 0 comments
I’ve been sampling a variety of soundbars lately, ranging in price from $300 to $3,900. Despite the generic term – “soundbar” or “surround bar” – it’s actually a very diverse and interesting category with all sorts of subcategories within the soundbar umbrella: active, passive, LCR-only, LCR plus discrete rears, and etc. It’s also a category that can arouse understandably strong emotions of disgust and disdain among purists and quite a few custom installers. For millions of people, however, simplicity usually trumps sound quality; and the soundbar tsunami continues to swell and is unlikely to crest anytime soon.

But the pencil-thin form factor of flat-panel TVs is at odds with the acoustic principles speaker engineers currently take advantage of. The result is a shotgun marriage of something that is skinny with a partner that is usually a bit bigger-boned. Both of the home-theater spouses, though, do share a common aspect. Each one performs best when viewed/listened to from a position directly in front of the it. And therein lies a problem: what do you do with the soundbar if you turn the flat-panel on its base or otherwise change the angle of the TV (if it’s mounted on a tilting, pivoting, or full-motion wall mount from, for example, companies such as OmniMount, Triple Play designs from Bell’O, or Sanus)? In a more extreme case, what’s to be done with the soundbar if the TV is mounted in a corner?

Darryl Wilkinson Posted: Jul 19, 2013 1 comments

W3 On-Wall Soundbar System
Performance
Build Quality
Value

Subseries 200 Subwoofer
Performance
Features
Build Quality
Value
Price: $3,046 At A Glance: Adjustable-angle feet for tabletop or shelf mounting • Passive radiators augment bass output • W1s can be used vertically or horizontally

What do you say about a product when there’s nothing special to talk about? Let’s take, for instance, the hypothetical case of a passive LCR soundbar, a pair of matching on-wall speakers for the surrounds, and a powered subwoofer. Pretty staid and traditional stuff, that. After all, it’s a passive LCR, so there’s no extraordinary amplification technology involving cutting-edge DSP crossover and frequency manipulation in order to extract better sound out of embarrassingly small drivers than ever was possible (or desirable) before. There’s no wireless subwoofer connection to delve into, no HDMI connectivity, no onscreen display—hell, there’s not even a destined-to-disappear teeny-tiny remote control to complain about. Perhaps most disappointing from a reviewer’s perspective is the lack of any unique mess-with-your-mind faux-surround processing to wallow in the minutia of—no hyper-temporal, quasi-spatial, time-dilating series of intermodal cross-connections that takes a beautifully designed discrete multichannel soundtrack, scrambles all the elements together as if they were eggs destined for the warmed-over breakfast buffet line at Country Kitchen, but then presents it in a way that makes the end result appear (in your head) to be a delectable plate of fried eggs, sunny side up and steaming hot next to a couple of strips of crispy bacon fresh from the frying pan.

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Darryl Wilkinson Posted: Jul 11, 2013 0 comments
Thank goodness for WebEx and GoToMeeting. Online services such as those two have made it incredibly easy to attend seminars, meetings, and press conferences without really being there – both physically and mentally. I’m not saying that such was specifically the case earlier this year when I sat through a special online session Control4 set up for press people during which the company introduced, among other things, a little box they called the Wireless Music Bridge. Honestly, I was paying attention; it’s just that, at the time, I had trouble getting excited about what seemed to me to be not much more than another streaming music device destined to come up short in the inevitable comparison to SONOS, the master and commander of all things having to do with multi-room music streaming. Fortunately, I didn’t have to feign enthusiasm since my face remained hidden by the magic of the Internet.

A couple of weeks ago, however, Control4 did succeed in piquing my interest when a new Wireless Music Bridge arrived at my door. Since I thought it would be rude not to hook it up and try it out...

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Darryl Wilkinson Posted: Jul 05, 2013 1 comments

HD Speaker System
Performance
Build Quality
Value

Metro Subwoofer
Performance
Features
Build Quality
Value
Price: $10,785 ($9,675 in standard finish) At A Glance: Folded-planar magnetic tweeters • Treble and bass trim switches • Biwire and biamp capable

Every company has its genesis story, be it the back of a napkin or something more grandiose. Apple, of course, is famous for starting out in Steve Jobs’s parents’ garage. Lutron’s backstory isn’t quite as well known, but its unassuming beginnings were in the bedroom founder Joel Spira and his wife intended to use as their first child’s nursery. (“Sorry, kid, you’ll have to sleep on the couch. Daddy’s got a solid-state dimmer to invent.”) Similar to Apple, Legacy Audio’s birthplace was in a garage; but this garage was far from Cupertino. Instead, it was located in the midst of the cornfield-filled upper Midwest where, according to Legacy, Bill Dudleston and “a stubborn Dutch craftsman,” Jacob Albright, built the company’s first speaker, the Legacy-1, in 1983. Thirty years later, though, what the heck does any of this have to do with Legacy Audio’s loudspeakers today? Really, who gives a flying flip about two dudes, a garage, cornfields, and some woodworking equipment? (Hmm…cornfields. Wasn’t there a movie about that? “If you build it, they will listen.”)

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Darryl Wilkinson Posted: Jun 29, 2013 0 comments
Portable Bluetooth speakers are a dime a dozen; and, based on the way they sound, that’s about all some of them are worth. Good portable Bluetooth speakers are much more difficult to find. Really good portable Bluetooth speakers that are also weather-resistant and include a long-lasting, built-in rechargeable battery – heck, while we’re at it, let’s include that they’re not ultra-techie-looking, too – are about as easy to come across as a Big Foot cavorting through the woods wearing a bikini.

Soundcast Systems, the people who make the outstanding OutCast and OutCast Jr., dynamic duo of weather-resistant, wireless, transportable speakers, have been hinting for months about a new portable Bluetooth speaker that they think is so much better than anything else on the market that it’s more than simply the equivalent of finding a Big Foot in a bikini, it’s more akin to stumbling across a bikini-clad Big Foot pole dancing in a forest clearing. (What Soundcast actually claims is that Melody is “What other Bluetooth speakers want to be when they grow up.” Okay, that’s cool. But I think my pole-dancing Big Foot mental image is a more memorable.)

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Darryl Wilkinson Posted: Jun 11, 2013 0 comments
CEDIA 2012 has receded into the poorly lit reaches of my cobweb-covered memory. But the one thing that most stood out in the cornucopia of all things custom-install still stands in sharp relief today: HouseLogix’s absolutely amazing VoicePod. Actually, it sits in sharp relief – right on the top of my desk thanks to HouseLogix’s CEO and Founder, Ted Rosenberger, who shipped a beta version of the VoicePod for me to play for the last few months.

So what exactly is a “VoicePod”?

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Darryl Wilkinson Posted: May 13, 2013 1 comments

Audio Performance
Video Performance
Features
Ergonomics
Value
Price: $2,100 At A Glance: Free iOS and Android remote control apps • Built-in Control4 home automation controller • Four Easy Automation multi-parameter programmable scenes

A chimera is a mythical animal consisting of parts from various other animals. In Greek mythology, for example, a Chimera (with a capital C) was an unpleasant, fire-breathing creature that had a serpent’s tail, a goat’s body, and a lion’s head. (Insert standard joke about previous spouse/significant other, mother-in-law, editors, etc.) Although it’s not an official definition in the A/V world, I consider a component that’s been soldered together using parts from different components to be a chimera, too. The active soundbar with its amalgamation of amps, speakers, processor, and etc. is a good example of such an electronic creature. The deviant TV/VCR/DVD Franken-combo, on the other hand, is an example of how things can go terribly wrong.

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Darryl Wilkinson Posted: May 06, 2013 1 comments
Power cords. Three-prong adapters. Wall-wart power supplies and USB chargers with their thin, inevitably tangled cords. Running out of available outlets. These are all things I hate. Hell, even polarized plugs annoy the crap out of me. Let’s just say that when wireless power transmission – or power-harvesting devices – ever becomes a reality, I’m going to be a particularly happy individual. (If only Tesla were still alive…) In the meantime, the previously mentioned assortment vexing electrical necessities are things we all have no other choice than to deal with.

Fortunately there are plenty of devices out there that are specifically designed to lessen the pain of dealing with power cords and power supplies...

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Darryl Wilkinson Posted: Apr 19, 2013 4 comments
If the folks at SONTE have their way, the company’s new Kickstarter project is going to be curtains for the window treatment industry. Or, rather, it won’t be curtains…
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Darryl Wilkinson Posted: Apr 01, 2013 1 comments
Einstein disliked it, famously calling the phenomenon “spooky action at a distance”; but if a team of scientists at the Linear Research Particle Accelerator (LRPA) facility have their way, the bizarre effects of “quantum entanglement” could bring about loudspeakers that are both truly wireless and totally invisible.

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