The exhilaration surrounding established digital audio and video formats tends to plateau over time, until some pseudo-genius somewhere figures out a way to make the technology fit into our pockets, and then pulses quicken anew. The portable MP3 player has become the must-have gadget for the masses. Portable DVD has become even sexier, with larger screens and enhanced feature sets, but a new crop of slimmed-down audio- and video-to-go devices is poised to change everything...again.
Most human beings have 10 fingers and 10 toes. Therefore the number 10 is a big deal to us. We use a base-10 number system, bestow honors in top-10 lists, and think in multiples of 10. So it's inevitable that makers of surround receivers have fixated on the number 100, or 10 times 10. For some of them it's the minimum power-output number allowed on any spec sheet, whether the amplifiers measure anywhere near that level of performance or not. Anything beyond that is likely to be in multiples of five (the fingers of one hand): 105 watts, 110 watts, 125 watts, etc. The more you become aware of this compulsion to express everything as a function of our physical form, the more comic it gets—humans are so self-absorbed. Or am I just projecting?
If not for all the wires, Sony's wireless DAV-LF1 DVD Platinum Dream System would be absolutely dreamy. Even with today's technology, a home theater can't do wireless like a cell phone or a home network or laptop stoked with Wi-Fi. The best it can do is wireless surround speakers—that is, no wires between the surround speakers and the A/V receiver. But, as with the DAV-LF1, these speakers are routinely wired to each other and require a nearby electrical outlet for a wireless receiver. If this were the meat department, home of the semi-boneless ham, we'd call it semi-wireless.
The Radia Series speaker system is the latest development from what can be considered a seriously thick branch in the speaker-manufacturing tree. You may not be too familiar with the Bohlender-Graebener name; but, when it comes to hybrid planar magnetic driver technology, the name isn't uttered without a good deal of respect.
In case you didn't believe we were serious about dedicating more of our pages to the overriding reality of home theater—the necessity of individual components coming together to form a cohesive system—we offer exhibit B, our new Spotlight System review. Exhibit A, for those keeping score, is our Hook Me Up column: Sometimes it includes reviews, and sometimes it doesn't, but it always keeps an eye on system issues, especially connections. This new column contains all of the elements of a standard gear review, with the notable exception of being focused on a system, rather than individual components.
The audio portion of the <I>47th Annual Grammy Awards</I>, held on Sunday, February 13, 2005, at the Staples Center in Los Angeles, California, has been called the most complex of all the annual award shows, and with good reason: Virtually all music during the show was performed live. The only exceptions were the clips played as the nominees were announced and as the winners walked on and off the stage.
<IMG SRC="/images/archivesart/headshot150.tjn.jpg" WIDTH=150 HEIGHT=194 HSPACE=6 VSPACE=4 BORDER=0 ALIGN=RIGHT><I>The Oscars are coming! The Oscars are coming! Which films are worthy contenders? Which will make good DVDs?</I>
On February 7, 2005, Sony hosted a party to celebrate the grand opening of their new Design Center in Los Angeles, which joins several other such centers located around the world. With around 14,000 square feet of floor space, the Design Center is divided into several sections, including a large open work space with desks and movable dividers as well as several simulated living areas to see how new product designs fit into normal rooms.
Now this is what we call a deal. With JBL's new Cinema Vision system, you get a 7.1-channel loudspeaker package, a 50-inch plasma HD monitor, and an A/V system controller that includes a five-disc DVD-Audio/-Video changer, a surround receiver, and a digital amplifier. The 16:9 monitor works with the A/V controller to automatically display any video source in widescreen mode. The A/V controller has a rated power output of 100 watts times seven, and the JBL Digital Link maintains all-digital audio and video signal paths. Each speaker uses multiple 5.5-inch woofers, along with a 0.75-inch titanium-laminate dome tweeter. The Cinema Vision is available as a system only, for $15,000.
(516) 496-3400 www.jbl.com
DVD: The Grudge—Columbia TriStar
Since I didn't see this in the theater, I'm gonna have to assume that the audio on my disc wasn't screwed up and that the noise that's supposed to be terrifying the characters in the movie (and by association the viewer) as it signals the "Grudge" is approaching really does sound a lot like "creaaaaakkkkkkkkkk." Yep, kind of like a door hinge that needs to be oiled. It's just, not exactly terror inducing, at all—not even in Dolby Digital 5.1 surround. Overall, though, this film does compensate for weird plot twists and creaking noises with a decent-sounding DVD. Check out chapter 23 for a good dose of the nice horror movie soundtrack interlaced with the sound of splashing and the cries of that creepy little boy.