A short stack of Jacksons: four hundred dollars, more or less. Used to be a lot of money. Today, it'll buy one piece of chrome for your Hog, a box of average Cubans, or a decadent dinner for two in New York City. On the other hand, you might use a similar sum to buy an impressively powerful and flexible A/V receiver, setting the foundations for a serious home theater.
Flat-panel TV is the 900-pound gorilla currently ruling the home theater roost. More and more people are deciding that, yeah, a steep price, grayish blacks, and the occasional digital video glitch really are worth it for a hang-on-the-wall TV that's big, bright, and bodacious - décor-wise.
Back in hi-fi's golden age, there used to be hot debates over "East Coast" vs. "West Coast" sound - no doubt a tame forerunner of the hip-hop wars of the '90s. East Coast speakers were thought to be smooth and mellow, with "concert-hall" sound best suited to classical music and jazz.
Artison is a new speaker company with more going for it than just a clever name. It also boasts an impeccable pedigree (creator Cary Christie was a founder of industry pillar Infinity), some classy, smart industrial design, and a well-considered answer to the puzzle of how to mate plasma TVs with serious home theater speakers.
Turning DVDs with Pioneer's DVR-810H is so simple my dog could do it (true, he is a German shepherd). That's because the deck is also a TiVo hard-disk recorder, and it restricts any DVD burning to dubbing what's already on the hard drive. In other words, it doesn't give you the flexibility of a standalone DVD recorder, but it's ridiculously easy to use.
High-tech wonders like the DVD and Dolby Digital get much of the credit, but the home theater revolution owes just as much to a more mundane development: compact, affordable subwoofer/ satellite speaker systems.
It's a Web, Web, Web, Web world out there, so it's no surprise Onkyo's latest A/V receiver, the TX-NR901, joins that company's family of Net-Tune products, which currently include another surround sound receiver and a compact desktop "client" stereo receiver.
A year or so ago, a new "universal" DVD player - one that could handle both DVD-Audio and Super Audio CD multichannel music recordings as well as conventional DVDs and CDs - priced at anything less than a thousand bucks might have been big news. Today, a growing number of universal players are finding their way onto dealers' shelves.
Many of the new speaker designs I've seen recently look more like a wing, an orb, or an obelisk than a speaker, so it was reassuring to unpack this latest system from Paradigm Reference, the high-end division of Paradigm. The Studio 40 v.3 front left/right speakers are solidly conventional, quadrilateral boxes.
Photos by Tony Cordoza The model numbers for Harman Kardon's latest line of A/V receivers recall those the company used for receivers it introduced some 20 years ago, and I'm betting that's no accident. Back then, HK scored a solid hit with a compact, simple, affordable stereo receiver called the 330C that was modestly powered but provided consistently good sound.