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Thomas J. Norton

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Thomas J. Norton Posted: Jun 24, 2014 7 comments
The center channel speaker doesn’t often get the respect it deserves. To keep it slim enough to fit on a shelf, many manufacturers simply offer two-way center designs, laid out in a horizontal woofer-tweeter-woofer arrangement. Every experienced speaker engineer knows that this is the worst way to design any speaker, but cost cutters, marketing departments, and consumers who don’t know better (or don’t care) demand them.
Filed under
Thomas J. Norton Posted: Jun 10, 2014 3 comments
Rummaging through my piles of lost papers the other day, I came across the following pearls of wisdom. Nothing on the paper indicated where it came from, or to whom it should be attributed. It has the ironic angle of the late Stereophile founder J. Gordon Holt, but may well have come from elsewhere. In any case, here it is for your delectation. I’ll add my own comments in a future blog entry, but leave this to speak for itself for now:
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Thomas J. Norton Posted: May 27, 2014 3 comments
Some months back I ran across a region-free Blu-ray of the Vienna Philharmonic orchestra’s 2014 New Year’s Concert (Sony Classical). I already owned the 2012 edition (it’s an annual event, as you might have guessed!), which I hadn’t yet watched. The price was right for this 2014 version, so I added it to my collection. That is, I added it to my shelf of as yet unseen Blu-ray discs (I suspect all serious collectors have such a shelf). It waited there patiently until I felt the need to pull out a few potentially good sounding concert Blu-rays. This one seemed like a good candidate, so I popped it into my Oppo player.
Thomas J. Norton Posted: May 23, 2014 1 comments
Picture
3D-ness
Sound
Extras
In 2009’s Cloudy With a Chance of Meatballs, ace boy inventor Flint Lockwood had clearly bitten off more than he could chew with his latest invention, a device that produced food from water vapor. Dubbed the Flint Lockwood Diatonic Super Mutating Dynamic Food Replicator (or FLDSMDFR—pronounced “fldsmdefer”), it inundated his island home of Swallow Falls with a tsunami of edibles. Now the town has been evacuated, and Flint, his dad, his pals, and the rest of his fellow townsfolk have been moved to San Franjose, California, where Flint takes a job as a fledgling inventor at Live Corp.
Thomas J. Norton Posted: May 15, 2014 0 comments

Performance
Features
Ergonomics
Value
PRICE $730

AT A GLANCE
Plus
Backlit local dimming for superior blacks
Good color
Remarkable value
Minus
Wobbly stand
Occasionally buzzy sound

THE VERDICT
It’s not without flaws, but the Vizio E550i-B2 offers more of what we like in a quality HDTV than we ever expected to see at such a low price.

You still can’t get a decent, major-brand 55-inch HDTV for under $500. You can, however, get one for under $800. The new 2014 E-Series may be Vizio’s budget line, but it’s not bare bones. It omits 3D (as do all of the company’s 2014 HDTVs, including the highest-end models), and there’s no picture-in-picture mode. But it offers the same bang for the buck that has, in the relatively few years since Vizio’s founding, rocketed the company to a U.S. market-share position that has left long-established HDTV makers gasping for breath trying to keep up.

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Thomas J. Norton Posted: May 13, 2014 3 comments
Ultra HD has been around for a couple of years now, but prices have now dropped to the point that acquiring an Ultra HD set can be a serious consideration for folks in the market for a new TV, particularly early-adopters. TV makers hope that the next Big Thing in video will be Ultra HD, or as it is widely (and imprecisely) called, 4K. They also hope that Ultra HD has the legs that home 3D (now in its, “Hello, I must be going” phase) lacked.

Ultra HD can be much more than simply 4K resolution (more precisely, 3840 x 2160 in the consumer arena—4K in the pro world , including digital cinema projection, is 4096 x 2160). It also has the potential to offer a wider color gamut, an increased color bit depth, and less aggressive color subsampling. If that string of technobabble sounds intimidating, it simply means that in addition to more pixels, Ultra HD could provide a wider and richer color palette than does our current HD standard.

Thomas J. Norton Posted: Apr 28, 2014 2 comments

2D Performance
3D Performance
Features
Ergonomics
Value
PRICE $7,000

AT A GLANCE
Plus
Astonishing blacks
Crisp, clean detail
Exceptionally bright 3D
Minus
Poor dark-gray uniformity
Expensive for a 1080p set

THE VERDICT
It costs a bundle, has a relatively small screen, and isn’t perfect. But buyers will be rewarded with a picture that, in the ways most important to enthusiasts, is unequaled by any other type of consumer display.

At the 2014 CES, it became clear that, for most HDTV manufacturers, OLED was on the back burner. LCD Ultra HDTV, or 4K, was the big story. But at least one manufacturer, LG, remains aggressive on the OLED front. The company has announced four new models for 2014 and, at the same time, drastically cut the price (as of March 2014) on the 55-inch model 55EA9800, launched late last year and reviewed here.

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Thomas J. Norton Posted: Apr 22, 2014 1 comments
Last week Meridian Audio held a reception in Los Angeles, one of many across the country for the U.S. launch of its new special edition, digital loudspeakers, the DSP 5200SE, DSP7200SE, and DSP8000SE (For others yet to be held, go to meridian.com.)

This year is the 25th anniversary of Meridian’s first digital loudspeaker, so it’s no surprise that all three of these designs are powered by their own internal amplifiers and accept only digital inputs. In most installations such inputs will come from Meridian’s own electronics, but other digital sources, such as a music server, may also be used to feed the speakers’ inputs.

Filed under
Thomas J. Norton Posted: Apr 17, 2014 1 comments
Picture
Sound
Extras
In 1969, Americans first went to the moon. The challenges were daunting, including finding and training the men who would make those early, dangerous, pioneering probes into near-earth space—men who had, in the words of the Thomas Wolfe book on which this 1983 movie was based, “the right stuff.”

This is the compelling story of those first Mercury astronauts, who paved the way for that “One giant leap for mankind” moment. It’s also the story of uber test pilot Chuck Yeager—never an astronaut but the first man to break the sound barrier.

Thomas J. Norton Posted: Apr 17, 2014 0 comments

Performance
Setup
Value
PRICE $1,675

AT A GLANCE
Plus
Excellent picture quality
Competitive with Stewart’s upmarket designs
Minus
Varied sizes and configurations but no custom options

THE VERDICT
Stewart Filmscreen’s Cima lineup offers fewer options than the company’s long-respected but more expensive designs, but it makes Stewart’s pristine image quality now available to a wider range of buyers.

What can one say about a projection screen? Quite a lot, actually. A screen is much more than a bedsheet or the nearest white wall. While it can’t improve the quality of a projector, it can, if poorly designed, most certainly degrade it.

Screens can be solid or (mostly) acoustically transparent. They can be white or various shades of gray (the latter often incorporating special treatments designed to improve performance in a less than ideally darkened room). They’re available in a wide range of gains—1.0 for more or less neutral performance or higher values to enhance brightness from a less than torch-like projector and/or a super-large screen.

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