HE 2003—Day Three

Many folks here at the Westin–St. Francis expect Saturday to be the show's peak day. By 11am the halls were packed with music and movie fans. Home theater demos on several floors were rocking the building with attacking aircraft and exploding cars. "Guy stuff," sniffed one disdainful woman. All too true, but hey, it gets attention.

MartinLogan, Faroudja, and Parasound have teamed up to create a good-looking and superb sounding home theater demo in the large "Elizabethan A" suite on the 2nd floor. Putting the lie to the received wisdom that electrostatic speakers don't work well for home theater, MartinLogan is getting excellent results with its Script full-range up front left and right and Theater center channel backed by Parasound's esteemed Halo JC-1 monoblocks. Descent subwoofers handle the earthshaking duties, with a Halo A51 driving the surrounds.

The accompanying picture is impressive, delivered by Faroudja's new FDP-DILA2 projector on a 103" Stewart FireHawk screen. "Theater optimized" by video guru William Phelps, the 1000 ANSI lumens projector features a custom made lens said to "allow full use of its 1365 x 1024 pixels." Digital video input fever: Faroudja is pushing its NRS-DSC and NRS-DVI digital video processors that convert video sources to DVI, an interface standard that seems to be popping up on all kinds of home theater gear. An issue worthy of investigation, scuttlebutt has it that the hugely hyped DVI won't support wide bandwidth video transmission beyond a meter or two without a signal booster.

Two doors down in "Elizabethan C," Parasound has a big presence in another impressive HT system. A Sharp XVZ-10000 projector with Texas Instruments' new Mustang 2 16:9 chip casts a crisp image, while an Energy Veritas-based speaker system energizes the room, with model 2.0 pulling center channel and surround duties. Subwoofer is a 750W Velodyne SPL 1200; power conditioning is by Monster. The Sharp projector is capable of 720p and 1080i, runs very quiet with only 32dB fan noise, and has a lamp rated to last at least 2000 hours. The XVZ-10000 is capable of projecting images up to 300" diagonally, with 150" said to be optimal.

For images on a smaller scale, Sharp has introduced a new high-def 37" Aquos LCD television capable of 720p when used with a DTV decoder or other HDTV source. Contrast ratio is a very respectable 800:1, with resolution spec'd at 1366 x 758 pixels. Inputs include composite video, DVI, S-video, and HD component. The LC-37HV4U has a suggested retail price of $7499, including stand and detachable speakers.

Sony could be offering some serious competition with its KF-60WE610, a stunning rear-projection 60" unit due in September at a price of approximately $4000. Flat panels are getting a big push here. There are dozens of Sony plasma screens in all sizes in the company's large suite on the first floor, and not a CRT set anywhere.

Samsung is also a top contender in the flat panel race, and has chosen HE 2003 to launch two new DLP-based DTV monitors, the slim-bezel 46" HLN467W and the 56" HLN567W. The sets feature Texas Instruments' HD2 chips, DVI-HDCP compatibility, and are claimed to deliver excellent brightness and contrast "at a fraction of the cost of first-generation DLP sets." Both are 16:9 widescreen displays with 1280 x 720p resolution, improved by the inclusion of Faroudja's DCDI processing (directional correlational deinterlacing) and 3:2 pulldown circuitry. Suggested retail prices are $4499 for the HLN467W and $4999 for the HLN567W.

For those who prefer their home theater gear to vanish when not in use, Santa Clara, CA–based custom furniture maker Ginni Designs offers ingenious armoires that house televisions, front left/right/center speakers, subwoofer, and source and amplifications components. $3000 without speakers or components, the armoires are available in walnut, light and dark oak, light and dark maple, and knotty pine. "For the cabin crowd," joked company director Alan Gillengerten.