Don't Get Me Started: Transitions

What are the three most important AV products of the last 10 years?

As we complete another trip around the Sun (according to the Christian calendar, anyway), it seems oddly appropriate that Ultimate AV stands on the cusp of a major shift in its existence. As sad as I am at the paper magazine's passing, I am also quite excited about the new possibilities offered by exclusively Web-based publishing, such as the ability to provide readers with much more timely information, not to mention saving all those trees.

It seems doubly appropriate—and ironic—that this transition comes just before the tenth anniversary of the magazine, which began life as Stereophile Guide to Home Theater in February 1995. I've been contributing to the magazine in one way or another since its inception, so in my first column on the new Web site, I wanted to celebrate a proud history at this momentous juncture.

What better way to celebrate than to recognize the three most important AV products of the last 10 years? (Okay, maybe something involving a hot tub and chocolate sauce would be better, but this ain't no porn site, so let's stick to text, shall we?) Here are my picks:

Pioneer DVR-57H

Digital video recorders such as TiVo are among the most important consumer electronics products ever created. But they have one serious limitation: a finite amount of data storage. Even with today's capacious hard disks, you can easily run out of room as the disk fills with material you've yet to watch. Then there's the issue of more permanent and portable storage; what if you record something you want to keep forever or share with someone at a different location?

Pioneer was the first to address these problems with what I hope will become the progenitor of an entire product category. The DVR-57H combines a TiVo DVR with a DVD recorder, allowing you to digitally copy programs on the hard disk to a DVD-R or DVD-RW. Once shows are burned to DVD, they can be erased from the hard disk, providing more room for new material. I can't think of a better product for any TV watcher—that is, until we have such a device for HDTV.

Princeton AF3.0HD

With a screen measuring only 30 inches diagonally, it's way too small for all but the tiniest home theaters, and it's as deep as it is tall, which would never be acceptable in today's market. But the Princeton AF3.0HD is a seminal product nonetheless. Introduced in 1999 and winner of an SGHT Editors' Choice Award in 2000, the AF3.0HD is a CRT-based direct-view monitor that can display any common DTV signal at its native rate and aspect ratio. In addition, its image quality is second to none, with deep inky blacks, exquisite detail, and remarkably accurate color points and gray scale tracking thanks to video guru Joe Kane, who participated in its development. I'm proud to use this display as a reference for how good an HD image can look.

Logitech Harmony 676

I know, I know—it's not an AV product per se. But every AV system stands dark and silent without some way to control it, and I've found no better way to do just that (at least if you're on a budget) than the Logitech Harmony 676. When I first saw the Harmony universal remotes at the 2003 Home Entertainment Expo in San Francisco, I recognized that they were different from other such products on the market. For details, see my review of the Harmony 676, the latest and definitely the greatest model in the Harmony line. For now, suffice to say that I've been using universal remotes for many years, and I've always been frustrated with something or another about all of them—until now.

Of course, the products I've described here are only my faves; yours could well be different. In fact, I'm curious to know what you would select as the three most important AV products of the last 10 years. How does your list compare with mine, and how do you justify your choices?

This brings up another advantage of Web-based publishing: immediate interactivity. Oh sure, paper magazines have letters sections, but that's not much of a conversation thanks to long printing and postal delays. Here at, we hope to foster a lively reader community that can communicate in nearly real time. As we develop that aspect of our site, I encourage you to let us know what you think about anything you read here.

In the meantime, I'm going to hoist a glass to 10 great years as a print magazine and 10 more years (at least!) as a dynamic, vital Web site that you will want to visit again and again. Here's to transitions!