Whether you support it or not, few of us are completely comfortable with the fact that the government can read our e-mails and listen to our phone calls. On the other hand, without much thought, most of us freely give away our privacy to various companies. Now, that privacy debate is coming into our home theaters.
For the last few months I’ve thought a lot about the health of the audio/video industry. I worried that the success of smartphones and tablets was irreparably overwhelming traditional consumer-electronics technologies like audio/video. I tried to convince myself that smartphone mania would taper off and the mass market will rediscover big stereos and big TVs. I desperately wanted to evangelize for the profound pleasure that a kick-ass home theater can bring. But lately I’ve changed my mind. I have a new message for everyone glued to their phone: drop dead.
Is our most fervent technology infatuation about to reverse course?
Without question, smartphones are awesome, and they have dramatically changed our everyday lives. We measure our self-worth by the number of bars we have. When our phones are fully charged, we are happy. When they are discharged, we are in full panic mode. Kids today probably can’t fathom how anyone functioned before the advent of smartphones. They ask, “Dude, how did people post pictures of themselves on Facebook while water skiing?”
Their future seemed so very bright. The SACD format, with a bit rate four times that of CD, was designed to lead the CD to new heights. DVD-Audio, sibling of the wildly successful DVD-Video format, offered audiophile fantasy surround at 96 kilohertz/24 bit. Hard on the heels of Avatar, 3DTV promised to change TV viewing forever.
A screen of infinite beauty, of most excellent fancy. He hath shone on me a thousand times. And now, how abhorred he is. Where be your hues now? Your wider viewing angle? Your deeper blacks? Your brightness that was wont to set the room on a roar? Now get you to my lady’s chamber, and let her paint a screen an inch thick. Make her look at that.
Much to the dismay of audiophile old fogies, the audio scene has been overrun by punks and their celebrity endorsements. Everywhere you look (Dre, I’m looking at you) you see audio gear, headphones in particular, with a famous DJ or other artist name attached. Of course, even old fogies were young once, and now it’s another generation’s turn to discover how cool audio is.
The year is 1976, when sex was safe and racing was dangerous. The Formula One World Championship is up for grabs, and it’s a grudge match. British race driver James Hunt goes mano a mano with Austrian race driver Niki Lauda, both driving pedal to the metal, with absolutely no margin for error and loving every minute of it. As Hunt explains, “The closer you are to death, the more alive you feel.” Director Ron Howard accelerates out of his comfort zone, and you’re sitting beside him, on the ride of your life.
So far, this has been a pretty good year for moviegoers. The Hollywood dream machine has cranked out a steady stream of big-budget movies with colossal production values. If you enjoy getting your eyeballs fried by flying fireballs or your ears rocked by rampaging robots, the multiplex has been very, very good to you. But how will these screen gems look from your Lay-Z-Boy? After our reviews of the theatrical releases, I asked colleague Leslie Shapiro (our Grace Notes blogger) to join me in eagerly anticipating their Blu-ray releases.
Of course, you have a wall of discs. And what an impressive wall it is. LPs, CDs, DVDs, and Blu-rays. There is no better feeling than firing up the home theater and sipping on a martini as you casually peruse your massive collection, pondering which disc to deploy. Moreover, with Vudu to Go, you can take the wall with you anywhere you go.