A/V Veteran

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Thomas J. Norton  |  Jul 20, 2021  |  5 comments
We've fretted a lot (or at least some of us have) over the growth of streaming because it threatens the survival of packaged media—having your favorite films readily available on Blu-ray or UltraHD Blu-ray, at the highest possible consumer quality, sitting on your bookshelf where no tools from a streaming service with cancellation orders can barge in and carry them away (at least not yet!).
Thomas J. Norton  |  Jul 06, 2021  |  1 comments
Remember the scene in Oblivion where Jack cues up a record in his secret hideaway? I could expand here on the ratty condition of the record sleeves, but I'm referring instead to the clump of dust on the stylus—the "needle" for the analog-deprived. In the movie world, and in the absence of a proper stylus brush, he might use a finger swipe to clean it off (yikes!), but since he (and the movie's art director) has only recently experienced the vinyl enlightenment if at all, and in the absence of a proper stylus brush, he simply ignores it. The record plays nevertheless.

But this tome isn't about vinyl. It's about the sticky business of keeping our audio-video systems relatively tidy. Working on this should be at least an annual event for every A/V fan, and for the inveterate tweaker and/or reviewer it should happen even more often.

Begin with the equipment stand or rack...

Thomas J. Norton  |  Jun 15, 2021  |  1 comments
Heat is the enemy of electronics, including all of that audio gear crammed into your A/V cabinet. In the early days of electronic entertainment, vacuum tubes (or as our Brit friends call them, valves) were the thing—the only thing. As one of my teachers once explained, the key to vacuum tubes was the little man with a switch inside. But he must have been sweaty, as a tube device could serve well as a space heater.

Back in the day our electronic entertainment consisted of little more than a radio. The family gave no thought to what was inside until one of the tubes failed, prompting a visit to the local drug store with its tube tester and ready supply of replacements.

Then came hi-fi and an interesting thing happened. Because of the heat issue, relegated largely to the output stages of an amplifier, separates were born. The separate preamp driving an amp on a separate chassis was a popular way to go.

The divide, between separates and the integrated amplifier (or perhaps AVR), still exists today in both the 2-channel and home theater worlds. Long forgotten is its genesis, since with solid state electronics heat is no longer an issue.

Or is it?...

Thomas J. Norton  |  Jun 01, 2021  |  2 comments
Epson America recently filed a lawsuit against Vava (Sunvalleytek International Inc.), claiming erroneous ANSI Lumens claims for the latter's VA-LT002 4K UST (Ultra Short Throw) laser projector.

It's easy to get into the weeds on this subject (I pity the poor judge assigned to adjudicate the claim!). You'll usually see a projector's overall luminance specified in one of two ways: either simply in lumens or in ANSI Lumens. The latter spec must follow procedures established by the American National Standards Institute (ANSI). The former doesn't...

Thomas J. Norton  |  May 18, 2021  |  1 comments
In case you haven't noticed, prices in the consumer world are creeping up. It's not yet a tsunami, but the signs are there. This should be a concern for everyone, and audio- and videophiles won't be immune from it. Some of the rising costs are due to unexpected events, such as the hacking of an oil pipeline, which might settle back in time. Others are due to government monetary policies, for better or worse in the unsettled time of Covid-19. Inflation is always produced when too much money chases too few goods. And there's no money tree in the back room of the Capitol in Washington. We're borrowing from Peter to pay Paul, but Peter can't object; he's just a printing press. The typical payback is inflation, a hidden tax on everyone.

Economics is a boring, black art, but it could inevitably affect our own little A/V corner of the wider world...

Thomas J. Norton  |  May 04, 2021  |  4 comments
David Vaughn’s 2019 review of the SVS SB-3000 sealed subwoofer inspired me to request a pair of SB-3000s for a feature article on finding the best locations for dual subs. But because my listening space is open to much of house I had the urge to experiment with two larger, ported subs, so I pitted two SB-3000’s against a pair of PB-3000’s to see how they would hold-up against their big brothers.
Thomas J. Norton  |  Apr 20, 2021  |  0 comments
Ken Pohlmann got the jump on me in his blog this week, but the recent permanent (?) closing of the Cinerama Dome theater in Hollywood is a significant event. Perhaps I can add a slightly different perspective.

When I lived in LA from 2000 to 2015 the Arclight theater in Hollywood was one of my go-to haunts whenever I wanted to see a top-drawer movie release in a premier theater. The Cinerama Dome was the main attraction in this multiplex, but the other Arclight screens were also impressive...

Thomas J. Norton  |  Apr 06, 2021  |  3 comments
The big news story of last week wasn't out of Washington D.C., or about the current state of Covid, or who has just cancelled who or what, or even the new line of TVs ready to flood your local Costco, Sam's Club, Best Buy, or any number of other retailers. It involved a giant cargo ship, the Ever Given, getting stuck in the Suez canal with hundreds of other ships lined up behind it and unable to get through with their cargo. What's this have to do with home audio and video?
Thomas J. Norton  |  Mar 23, 2021  |  3 comments
Building your own speakers from scratch Is an activity I've written about before. But that first blog is now accessible only by delving deeply into our Wayback Time Machine, so a revisit to this intriguing audio subculture is worth a follow-up here. Read on to find out if you have what it takes to take on a DIY speaker project.
Thomas J. Norton  |  Mar 09, 2021  |  2 comments
The changes to how we watch media resulting from the closing of theaters due to the Covid-19 pandemic have been unprecedented. True, not all theaters are closed. Here in the wilds of Florida my local AMC has been open for some time. But its current slate of movies is hardly the stuff of dreams: Boogie, Chaos Walking, The Mauritanian (not The Mandalorian!), The Little Things, The Marksman, The Croods: A New Age, and Raya and the Last Dragon. The latter is the only one tempting me to break my year long hiatus from that theater's Dolby Vision and IMAX auditoriums, but not quite enough for me to do so even though I've now joined the few, the proud, and the vaccinated.

A whole spate of potential blockbusters have either been released to streaming or are being held over until the studios are confident that if they show them (in theaters) they will come.

Thomas J. Norton  |  Feb 23, 2021  |  3 comments
Anyone who has read any of my speaker reviews over the past few years knows that my current room has bass issues (the photo here is, sadly, NOT my room!!). Welcome me to the club; rooms without bass problems are few and far between. Only the obsessed worries about a peak at 30Hz, but erratic response higher in the bass, particularly in the 80 to 200Hz region, can have serious negative effects on the overall sound. To little response there can reduce a source's natural weight, particularly on large scale music or home theater effects. Too much and the bass sounds bloated.

Once you get above a certain frequency, usually between 200 and 500 Hz (known as the Schroeder frequency, after the physicist who first identified it and not the Peanuts character), the room's effect on the sound becomes less significant.

Thomas J. Norton  |  Feb 09, 2021  |  0 comments
When fishing around for a film to show on a movie night with friends, before Covid-19 rudely interrupted, I recommended The Court Jester. I had it on DVD, but I knew it looked good enough to satisfy non-critical viewers who likely also wouldn't be bothered by its 1950's mono sound. We passed on it that time around, but that old DVD has now taken its last spin. A spanking new Blu-ray of the film has just been released in a video transfer nothing short of stunning.

The movie was originally shot in VistaVision, a widescreen process used (mainly by Paramount) in the 1950's and 60's. It's long-since been dropped as a release format, but is sometimes employed for in-camera special effects created for non-VistaVision productions, particularly in the pre-CGI era. It was used, for example, in the creation of the effects for some of the early Star Wars and Star Trek films when CGI wasn't yet a thing.

Thomas J. Norton  |  Jan 26, 2021  |  2 comments
I recently bought a new car. It wasn't planned, though perhaps long overdue. Old Betsy...um Mazda...took it on herself to make a frontal run on a low curb at a high enough speed to rip into the oil pan and take out one of the engine mounts. No injuries to this or any other humans, nor any perceptible damage to the curb, but my insurance company decided that it was time to send my 15-year-old filly to pasture.

But, you ask, how does this apply to A/V gear. For starters, the latter tends to last a long time unless the winds blow, the ground shakes, a fire intrudes, or the crick rises.

Thomas J. Norton  |  Jan 12, 2021  |  8 comments
If you were under 10-years old in the early twenty-aughts you might never have experienced a TV series considered by many to be one of the best, if not the best, science fiction series ever produced for television. Yes, the re-imagined Battlestar Galactica came along shortly after. Stargate SG-1 and Stargate Atlantis ran seemingly forever. And I risk permanent expulsion from the club if I don't mention everything Star Trek. There are others shows that have their fans as well. What, no love here for Lost or Game of Thrones (if we can include them in this category—sci-fi is often a big tent, to the dismay of purists). I love both of these in their own ways, but neither of them ended well.

One that did end well is my candidate for the best ever. Over the recent holidays I revisited the first season of Farscape on Blu-ray.

Thomas J. Norton  |  Dec 29, 2020  |  2 comments
A video projector has long been the gold standard for achieving the true theater experience at home. It still is, but there are limitations to projectors that can compromise the big screen experience with today’s best source material.

The relatively limited brightness a projector offers becomes more significant as the size of the screen and the demands of the source material increase. Unlike in the past, where the desire for ever bigger screens could be satisfied (more or less) even by a less than wallet-choking projector, HDR demands far more peak brightness than standard dynamic range...Flat screen TVs in jumbo sizes have become increasingly common lately, at prices far less intimidating than before. A decent LCD/LED, 85-inch 4K set can be had for under $3500.

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