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Thomas J. Norton Posted: 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.

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Thomas J. Norton Posted: 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...

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Thomas J. Norton Posted: 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.

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Thomas J. Norton Posted: 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...

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Thomas J. Norton Posted: 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…

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Thomas J. Norton Posted: 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:

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Thomas J. Norton Posted: 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.

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Thomas J. Norton Posted: 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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Thomas J. Norton Posted: Oct 14, 2009 1 comments

If I had to give a prize for the best sound at the show, it would be a toss-up between the Wilson Sasha W/Ps tied to Ayre electronics, discussed earlier, and the PMC MB2XBDi speakers (shown here) driven by Bryston electronics. Apart from room bass mode issues that all manufacturers had to deal with, the PMCs were superb. They were far too big for the space, designed as they are for professional applications. But the top modules of the towers are available separately (known as the MB2i), offering a more domesticated appearance for $21,000/pair. I didn't catch the price of the add-on bottom subwoofer modules, but am reasonably certain that for home use a duet (or, for home theater, a quintet) of MB2is will be a better fit&#151;supplemented by a more conventional and inconspicuous subwoofer or two positioned where they minimize room interactions (co-locating the subwoofers with the main speakers almost never gives the best results).

So went RMAF 2009. The show also offered a wide selection of interesting and informative seminars, with presenters from the two major high-end, mainly two-channel audio print publications, <I>Stereophile</I> and <I>The Absolute Sound</I>, and others as well. If you missed the show this year, a 2010 edition is currently planned for next fall.

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Thomas J. Norton Posted: Oct 14, 2009 1 comments

If the Vivid Giyas make you think of the B&W Nautilus speakers, that's because the same cabinet designer was involved. The Giyas will set you back $58,000/pair, not including, of course, the Luxman electronics and source driving them here, and the Synergistic actively shielded cables (don't ask) tying it all together.

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Thomas J. Norton Posted: Oct 14, 2009 0 comments

Attention, Wilson Audio Alexandra and MAXX owners, your center channel speaker has arrived and your checkbook is about to take another hit. I didn’t catch the price of the new Polaris, due in 2010, and it wasn't on site. I found out about it only through a lonely printed handout sitting on a side table. The photo here is from the Wilson website. The speaker is far larger than the picture might suggests, and if it's designed to match those two…um…puppies, you can bet it will be a cost-no-object design. My guess is that you just might be able to bring home a <I>pair</I> of the new Sasha W/Ps for less.

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Thomas J. Norton Posted: Oct 14, 2009 0 comments

You may not have heard of Bamberg Audio, out of Fishers, Indiana, but you might in the future. The company's Series 5 TMW offers a lot of value in this intriguing and fine-sounding $8300 package. The top modules are available separately, making them more or less suitable for surround and center channel duties.

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Thomas J. Norton Posted: Oct 14, 2009 1 comments

The company may be more widely known for clever ads that play on its naim than for loudspeakers, but Naim Audio's new Ovator S-600 might just change all that. There's enough innovation here to fill a review-length discussion, but the main feature of the system is the BMR (Balanced Mode Radiator) midrange/tweeter. The latter covers the entire spectrum from 380Hz to above the audible range. The dispersion is claimed to be similar that of a conventional midrange and tweeter array, but with the superior coherence possible when all the mid/high frequencies are coming from the same location. A brief listen indicated more than a little promise. The BMR also seems to be ideally suited to a center channel design, though there appear to be no immediate plans to offer one. The S-600 is expected to sell for just north of $10,000. A somewhat smaller, less expensive sibling is also expected.

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Thomas J. Norton Posted: Oct 14, 2009 0 comments

The Hegel room was one of the first good-sounding rooms I heard, and remained one of the most affordable. Hegel? It's a Norwegian company that has been doing business almost everywhere in the world for about 20 years, but this is their first serious foray into the U.S. market. A tough time to start, but they come well equipped. The demo featured the H200 integrated amp ($4400), which at 200W per channel is one of the more powerful integrateds around, the CDP2A mk II CD player ($2650), and the new HD10A D/A converter ($1200) featuring USB and SPDIF digital inputs. The speakers that completed the system were the Dali Helicon 400s.

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Thomas J. Norton Posted: Oct 14, 2009 0 comments

The 2009 Rocky Mountain Audio Fest was held earlier this month in Denver, Colorado, as it has for several years now. While my main beat these days is home theater, both for <I>Ultimate AV</I> and, increasingly, for <I>Home Theater </I> magazine, once an audiophile always an audiophile, so I was anxious to find out what was happening in the world of hair-shirt Hi-Fi.

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