A/V VETERAN

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Thomas J. Norton  |  May 15, 2007  |  0 comments

Come next Tuesday, two anxiously awaited titles will hit the video stores&mdash;<I>Pirates of the Caribbean: The Curse of the Black Pearl</I> and <I>Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Man's Chest</I>.

Thomas J. Norton  |  May 02, 2017  |  1 comments
We all have our favorite reference discs—the ones we pull out to show off our system to friends. UHD has now given us a lot to choose from, whether your preference is for action spectaculars or more subtle, thoughtful fare. But there’s now a new king of the home theater hill.

In 2007 the multi-part BBC nature documentary Planet Earth first appeared on broadcast television, and later came out on DVD and Blu-ray. Directed and narrated by British naturalist David Attenborough, it was widely praised (though as I recall the commentary on the US broadcasts substituted actress Sigourney Weaver for Attenborough—a not entirely effective move).

But now we have its 2016 follow-up, Planet Earth II...

Thomas J. Norton  |  Oct 14, 2013  |  0 comments
CEDIA began its annual event in 1989. At that time it was launched in a modest venue full of table-top exhibits and educational seminars, with a strong emphasis on the latter. This was appropriate, as we all had a lot to learn about home theater.

I’ve been attending CEDIA since 1994, when then Stereophile publisher Larry Archibald decided it was time to begin a new publication dedicated to the burgeoning home theater business—the Stereophile Guide to Home Theater. But even in the first year or two I attended, accompanied by Archibald, the Guide’s founding editor, Lawrence B. Johnson, and the requisite marketing crew, you could cover all of the exhibits in a couple of hours.

Tom Norton  |  Oct 19, 2014  |  2 comments
Panasonic launched its new flagship 4K Ultra HD sets, the 65-inch TC-65AX900 and the 85-inch TC-85AX850, at a press event in Los Angeles last Thursday. The two models are similar in many ways, including their Ultra HD capabilities, THX certification, HDMI 2.0, HDCP 2.2connectivity, and H.265 (HEVC) decoding, which is planned for upcoming 4K source material, but not yet universally used in the limited consumer 4K material presently available) The TVs also incorporate Panasonic’s quad-core, Pro5 processor for their “Beyond Smart” feature set.
Thomas J. Norton  |  Apr 22, 2014  |  1 comments
Last week Meridian Audio held a reception in Los Angeles, one of many across the country for the U.S. launch of its new special edition, digital loudspeakers, the DSP 5200SE, DSP7200SE, and DSP8000SE (For others yet to be held, go to meridian.com.)

This year is the 25th anniversary of Meridian’s first digital loudspeaker, so it’s no surprise that all three of these designs are powered by their own internal amplifiers and accept only digital inputs. In most installations such inputs will come from Meridian’s own electronics, but other digital sources, such as a music server, may also be used to feed the speakers’ inputs.

Thomas J. Norton  |  Jan 10, 2017  |  0 comments
Pro-ject is a big name in turntables, particularly turntables that are relatively affordable (as high-end turntables go). The VT-E BT ($499), however, just might be more of a conversation piece than a statement product. The photo here isn't misleading; the record actually sits vertically, with a clamp in place...
Thomas J. Norton  |  Sep 12, 2017  |  0 comments
CEDIA 2017 was a great place to be if you have a penchant for video projection, especially short-throw projectors.
Thomas J. Norton  |  Mar 31, 2014  |  0 comments
From a recent article in the Los Angeles Times:

“A South Korean Company aiming to transform the way Americans experience movies at the multiplex is bringing its ‘4-D’ technology to Los Angeles.”

What’s 4-D? The technology is actually called 4DX, and instead of just picture and sound it adds, as needed, moving and vibrating seats, wind, strobe lights, fog, rain, and scents, all of them supporting what’s happening on the screen.

Thomas J. Norton  |  Jul 07, 2015  |  3 comments
If you asked me if my passion for things audio and video began with music or movies, I'd have a hard time answering. But one of the things that attract me to movies is their music. Movie scores (instrumental, not the string of pop tunes that often passes for a soundtrack) are certainly far down the list of the most popular music genres, but their importance to the success of a film can't be denied. Most film critics mention the score only if it's prominent enough to annoy them. But for me a great score can turn a middling movie into to good one. It can also (though less often) turn a good film into a great one.

The art of film scoring attracts a wide range of talents, but we recently lost one of the best. James Horner died late last month when the private plane he was piloting crashed in a California forest.

I first discovered Horner's work in 1982...

Thomas J. Norton  |  Apr 18, 2017  |  3 comments
In two-channel stereo playback, you invariably get the best results with the speakers set up properly—in the same plane and generally between 6- and 10-feet apart. The listening seat is normally at least as far back as the speakers are apart, or somewhat more. They’re set up to fire either straight ahead or toed in—sometimes just a little, sometimes more.

These flexible parameters allow for a wide variation in setups, depending on the speakers themselves, their radiation patterns, the room, the positions of the speakers and the listening seat in the room and, of course, the listener’s preferences. But for a solitary listener there is one fixed goal: the seating position should be dead center between the left and right speakers. This is often referred to as the “money seat,” (ostensibly in honor of the assumed founder of the audio feast). That seat invariably offers the best stereo perspective.

Thomas J. Norton  |  Oct 11, 2016  |  3 comments
I’m a huge fan of the movie Oblivion. But is it a Guilty Pleasure or a Hidden Treasure? It received a mixed critical reception when it hit theaters in 2013, and many sci-fi fans and film critics found it derivative.

But who is really surprised when a film borrows ideas and plot tropes from past films and literature...

Thomas J. Norton  |  Apr 04, 2017  |  0 comments
In olden times, folks dressed up when they went to the movies. They often did so twice a week since there were no screens in their houses (television or computer) to keep them home. Radio was ubiquitous, but its pictures were hard to see. Those movie visits were almost invariably double features—two for the price of one. Usually, of course, it was a pairing such as an “A” picture like The Fountainhead and a throw-away “B” movie like Ma and Pa Kettle on the Farm.

Ma and Pa Kettle are now on the farm’s back 40, and few B pictures are made today (though some might argue that superhero films are B pictures with A budgets). Today, a visit to the multiplex is a one-shot affair. If two movies are playing that you want to see on the same day, you have to plan carefully to fit them in (and, of course, pay double). You also have to decide which to see first. That’s not a trivial consideration. Recently I was unable combine, on the same day, two movies I wanted to see. But perhaps that was for the best. For those like me, with a wide taste in movies, would you want to view Life (an obvious Alien knock off) before or after Beauty and the Beast?!

But with our home theaters and the selection of discs available we can now create our own double features. They can be related in some way, as in the photo—sometimes they’re sequels, or perhaps they have a common theme, like sports. But it’s more fun to link them up in less obvious or even bizarre ways…

Thomas J. Norton  |  Jul 01, 2008  |  8 comments

A recent article on the <I>Electronic House</I> website offered three reasons to avoid jumping onto the Blu-ray bandwagon—at least for now. One of the arguments&#151;that Blu-ray quality is still inconsistent&#151;read as follows:

Thomas J. Norton  |  Oct 14, 2009  |  0 comments

YG Acoustics claims to make the best speakers in the world. While there are plenty of challengers for that throne, they certainly are some of the most expensive. The big
YG Acoustics Anat Reference II Professional loudspeakers ($107,000/pair) were as imposing physically as their price might you to believe in two rooms at the show. But they didn't quite do it for me in either room, considering their cost. I was much more impressed by the smaller Kipod Studios (shown in black in the photo) at a mere $38,000/pair, though the room they shared with their big brother was too big and too lively. Throw in three of the Kipod modules (the two-way that sits on top of the pyramidal subwoofer) for $8500 each and you have a full surround package for $63,500&#151;plus your choice of subwoofer, of course. The calling card of both YG speakers, apart from quality drivers and crossovers, is their solid aluminum cabinets, said to virtually eliminate unwanted resonances.

Thomas J. Norton  |  Oct 14, 2009  |  0 comments

At the opposite extreme are the Sony SS-AR1 speakers, shown in the middle of the photo (the larger speaker on the left is a JBL). The SS-AR1s are not yet available in the U.S., but likely to cost $20,000/pair if and when they are brought in. They sounded excellent in the Kimber Kable room, where Roy Kimber was playing his impressive IsoMike multichannel recordings (the only multichannel music to be heard at the show). The brochure on the speakers talks a lot about using the wood from maple trees grown in the cold northern Japanese island of Hokkaido, harvested in November when the grain is tightest. Combine that with the birch plywood from Finland and you get a "reverberation with a beautiful northern-European ambience." OK. In any event, the midrange and tweeter also appear to be of Scandinavian origin—likely made by the same Scan-speak that energizes the YG Acoustics speakers.

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