Mark Fleischmann  |  Feb 15, 2006  |  3 comments
Do you want your HD video-on-demand and want it now? Meet MovieBeam. The system sends data through the PBS broadcast network to a special MovieBeam antenna and set-top box. Load up on bits, in either high- or standard-def, and then you have 24 hours to watch the movie. Disney has talked the rest of the studios (except Sony) into supporting the venture, four years in the making. You'll need an HDTV with HDMI input to receive movies in HD, and as an added bonus, the HDMI output upconverts SD to 720p. However, the box outputs component video only at 480p. Pricing per movie is $4.99 for new HD titles, $3.99 for new SD titles, $2.99 for old HD titles, and $1.99 for old SD titles. Box and activation fee cost a total of $230 after rebate. MovieBeam is now available in 29 cities.
Rebecca Day  |  Feb 14, 2006  |  First Published: Feb 15, 2006  |  0 comments
A complete system you won't want to hide in the basement.

My basement audio/video system is so last century. It's a mix-and-match collection of gear that's been retired as I've put together my real home theater system upstairs. The TV, a 30-inch analog CRT, circa 1988, doesn't even have a flat picture tube to its credit. The receiver maxes out at four-channel Dolby Pro Logic, and the speaker system is a mishmash of center and surround speakers (unmatched), with unshielded front speakers that deliver a killer image with stereo music but an unwelcome rainbow of colors when placed next to a video display. The DVD player is the only current-millennium piece in the stack, but not by much.

Jerry Kindela  |  Feb 14, 2006  |  First Published: Feb 15, 2006  |  0 comments
A combination that hits all the right notes (and sounds).

There's a compelling magic that has kept my butt on the sofa— it's the enthralling And Starring Pancho Villa as Himself. It was for no small reason that this HBO film earned an Emmy for sound editing. The width and depth of the soundscape, the detailed sound bits, the way the dialogue comes through, and the score's ability to underscore the power and poignancy of scene after scene are remarkable. Each of these turns a made-for-TV movie into a film that transcends the limitations of the home venue for which it was created. And the system I've been using—an Epos M Series 5.1 speaker setup powered by the Butler Audio TDB 5150 vacuum-tube power amplifier—reveals such wonderful nuances in Pancho Villa that I have been completely glued to the couch.

Geoffrey Morrison  |  Feb 14, 2006  |  9 comments
What is the most important thing you look for in a display? The least? Be specific, as in, don’t just say “picture quality.”
Mark Fleischmann  |  Feb 14, 2006  |  0 comments
The New York Philharmonic will soon offer newly recorded live material for downloading. A three-year deal with Deutsche Grammophon will bring four concerts per year to download services including iTunes (probably) and others (possibly). To see the significance of this, go to iTunes now and search New York Philharmonic. Nearly everything that comes up is an old CD title with Leonard Bernstein. Classical music has always had a modest slice of the market for recorded music, but it's tougher today, even for major orchestras, when they have to compete with their own recorded past. So they're off in search of new business models. The move into online distribution is a logical next step for the New York Philharmonic, already selling CDs under its own label. The Milwaukee Symphony Orchestra launched its own MSO Classics label last year to sell downloads through iTunes, Rhapsody, Napster, and other services. At least one orchestra, the San Francisco Symphony, is also releasing its own multichannel SACDs.
Mark Fleischmann  |  Feb 13, 2006  |  2 comments
The file format that turned music distribution into free-for-all has acquired a watermark. Actually, a method of embedding digital rights management into MP3 is nearly two years old. But this latest wrinkle is not a thou-shalt-not anti-copying flag. It's more a method of identifying who has been doing what with downloads. A combination of psychoacoustic manipulation and spread-spectrum modulation makes the watermark inaudible to human ears, but it can be picked up by a watermark detector, and can survive both encode/decode processes and analog transmission. According to the Fraunhofer Institute, developer of both MP3 and the new watermark, "watermarking can provide a useful mechanism to track illicit copies or to attach property rights information to the multimedia content." Don't say I didn't warn you.
Joel Brinkley  |  Feb 12, 2006  |  0 comments

Trust me. You have seen this Panasonic plasma before. At the airport, bowling alley, department store, maybe even at a car wash. This is a professional model plasma, sold typically to businesses for utilitarian use, like departure-gate displays at the airport. But these models also hold something of a mystique for people like you and me, and as a result they have developed a cult following. And after looking at this one for a few weeks, I can see why.

 |  Feb 12, 2006  |  0 comments

<B>Marantz Becomes Preferred Brand Of Juilliard</B>
Marantz has entered into a strategic marketing relationship with New York's prestigious Juilliard School, and will be recognized as "the preferred audio/video brand of The Juilliard School." Announced in December of 2005, the relationship coincides with Juilliard's yearlong 100th anniversary celebration, and will see Marantz serving as the performing arts conservatory's Official Audio/Visual Sponsor and donating its AV products for educational use and world premier performances at the school throughout the year.

Thomas J. Norton  |  Feb 12, 2006  |  4 comments

Last week the local ABC affiliate in Los Angeles, KABC, became the first station in California (or so they said) to broadcast their local news programs in high definition. That includes the midday, late afternoon, early evening, and late night editions. And while that might not raise hosannas for a station whose idea of news includes shameless plugs for what's coming up that evening on <I>Dance With the Stars</I>, when you've got endless hours of news time to fill, what do you expect&mdash;an in-depth analysis of what's happening at city hall?

Darryl Wilkinson  |  Feb 12, 2006  |  0 comments
Two new wall-mountable LCR systems from Paradigm are now shipping. The company says that, unlike earlier Cinema models that were designed for smaller rooms, the new models were developed for use in larger rooms.