Wireless Audio, Dynamic Contrast, 3D PJs

Going Wireless
I have some very good wired speakers. How can I convert them to wireless in order to have more flexibility in placement? I do not want wires going throughout the room.

Norlon Davis

I generally do not recommend wireless audio because it is not as consistently reliable as a wired connection. Interference from other devices operating in a similar RF range, multipath reflections, and other bugaboos can degrade the performance, not to mention the wireless system itself, which encodes the audio in one way or another that might or might not affect the sound quality. All of this can be completely avoided by running wires.

If you really want to go wireless, a company called Amphony offers several systems that seem to fit your requirements quite well. These systems start with a 5.8GHz wireless transmitter that can accept a 2-channel audio signal from a receiver's line-level or speaker-level outputs. The audio is transmitted to one or two receivers—the Model 1500 receiver connects to an external 2-channel amp that you supply (or directly to the speakers if they are self-powered), while the Model 1520 receiver includes a 2-channel class-D amp with 20 watts per channel. The Model 1550 system includes two separate receivers with built-in class-D amps (50W each) that connect to passive speakers as shown in the diagram above. For the best possible sound quality, I'd go with the Model 1500 and supply your own amp(s) for the speakers you wish to be wireless.

In any event, you need an AC power outlet near the speakers to plug in the amp(s). I've never tried these systems, but from the descriptions on the company's website, they seem to be what you're looking for.

Dynamic Contrast—Feh!
A few months back, I purchased a Samsung UN46B8500 HDTV. What is the purpose of the Dynamic Contrast setting? Would you recommend that I keep it on when I play my Xbox 360 or PS3 on the TV?

Karl Lafaille

Dynamic Contrast automatically adjusts the overall backlight level according to the overall brightness—technically called the average picture level, or APL—of the image at any given moment. This is completely separate from LED local dimming, which the B8500 also has—in Samsung sets, this is called Smart LED.

I generally dislike global dynamic contrast because I find it to be distracting, so I leave it off. This is especially true with LED local-dimming sets such as yours, which automatically dim and brighten small regions of the backlight behind areas of darkness and brightness in the image, respectively. I recommend that you turn on Smart LED and turn off Dynamic Contrast.

Big-Time 3D
When can we expect one or more of the major projector manufacturers to offer 3D models? I have seen 3D on the 55-inch Samsung LCD TV—it was impressive, but small. What a fantastic experience 3D will be when it can be displayed with a front projector on a 100-inch screen.

Bryce Reynolds

I completely agree that 3D is best served on very large screens. But nearly all currently available 3D displays are flat panels, which present an image that is too small for 3D to be really effective—at least, the image is too small at the distance most people sit from their TV. And most people are unwilling to sit close enough to fill their field of view with the screen, which is one reason that 3D TV could fizzle. (Another reason is the high cost of the active-shutter glasses.)

Unfortunately, projector manufacturers are somewhat behind in this regard. Digital Projection offers the Titan 3D with active-shutter glasses, which Tom Norton has reviewed for the October 2010 issue of Home Theater, but it's $85,000. At CES, LG showed its CF3D SXRD 3D projector, which uses passive-polarized glasses (and thus requires a special screen) and will probably carry a price tag in the $10,000 to $15,000 range.

I saw an Optoma 720p 3D projector at CES, which used active-shutter glasses. The company has not yet announced any 1080p 3D projectors, but when it does, I'm sure they'll be far less expensive than the Digital Projection or LG models. In fact, Optoma has three 720p 3D models in the $700 to $800 range right now.

Sony showed a 3D projector at a recent press event, but no pricing or availability was announced. We should see lots of 3D projectors at CEDIA next month, so stay tuned for that.

If you have a home-theater question, please send it to scott.wilkinson@sorc.com.