In these still early days of HD DVD, it's a little creepy that three of the releases have been films about bad cops: <I>Assault on Precinct 13</I>, <I>Training Day</I> (see below) and now <I>16 Blocks</I>.
<I>Training Day</I> is about a bad cop. A very bad cop who has convinced himself that if he can do good in questionable ways and get a little action on the side for himself (not to mention for a few bad cop buddies), that’s the name of the game. When it comes to breaking in a rookie, however, he gets more than he bargained for.
Stephen Sommers, director of a fun ride in <I>The Mummy</I> and an unnecessary, overblown sequel in <I>The Mummy Returns</I>, brings us a whole bevy of uglies in <I>Van Helsing</I>. It's a monster mash, with Dracula getting together with his vampire brides, the Frankenstein monster, Mr. Hyde, wherewolves, and various other hangers on.
The Pioneer S-1EX, first seen and heard at CES, were in a much larger room at HE2006 and were singing a very happy tune. They were, for me, among the best-sounding speakers at the show, and while the expansive environment probably helped, the speakers may have had a bit to do with it as well. The only disappointment here was that Pioneer chose to do a 2-channel setup, leaving the matching center and surrounds looking a little left out in the back of the room. Look for a review of the full system later this summer in <I>UAV</I>
I've heard the $4495/pair Von Schweikert Audio VR-4jr on four different occasions now, in four different rooms at three different shows, and their sound has consistently ranged from very good to superb. The same was true here. They're on the right in the photo. To the left is the larger, VR-5SE, which will set you back $18,000/pair. The VR-5SE did sound better—tighter, crisper, and better defined. But not four times better. Von Schweikert does make a suitable center channel and surrounds, but for front projection I'd be inclined to try three VR-4jrs across the front, perhaps turning the sub module on its side if needed for the system to clear the screen (the top mid/tweeter module separates from the woofers in the Watt/Puppy style, but is not available separately).
The folks from, Classic Records did announce new LP releases, as described by FM below. But they also announced the release of six new, audio only, 24-bit/96kHz DVDs (they call them HDADs). Playable on most DVD machines, these classical recordings originate from the old Everest label and were originally recorded on 35mm magnetic film. The photo shows the LP of one of them, but the cover art on the HDADs (which will be available this summer) should be the same. The kicker here is that the original recordings were 3-channel (left, right, center) and the same three discrete channels will be recorded on the discs. (RCA has provided enthusiasts with a similar service in their SACD releases of classic 3-channel recordings.)
We've had a lot to say about various Sony video announcements and events at the show, but they unveiled a new 7.1-channel receiver as well. Its style is similar to that of other recent, but silver-toned Sony AV receiver designs. Features include 120W x 7 channels of amplification, HDMI switching and upconversion of composite, S-Video, and component sources to HDMI, and automated setup. ($800/August).
The McIntosh XRT2K speakers sounded as big as they look, driven by a pair of the company's MC2KW, 3-module, 2000W (into 8 ohms), modular monoblock amps. Each speaker has six 12" aluminum cone woofers, sixty-four titanium-cone midranges, and forty " titanium-cone tweeters. The speakers are $45,000 each (and a quarter ton of weight, or 590 lbs.). The amps will cost you $30,000 each (they're nearly as heavy as the speakers at 495 lbs.!).
Nola, the company formerly known as Alon/Acarion, introduced this LCR Reference center channel speaker at $2195. In the fashion of other Nola speakers, the midrange is open-backed. The mid and tweeter are arranged in a vertical array that should provide superior horizontal dispersion. The LCR Reference is also touted for left and right channel use.