Steven Spielberg’s Jaws was the first summer blockbuster, a classic that not only cemented its director and stars in film’s pantheon, but transcended cinema altogether, taking a huge bite out of global pop culture. To this day, there are 40- and 50-somethings who quote this movie’s dialogue daily and still won’t go in the water. It’s the best monster movie ever made, and of course it’s legend that the unbearable suspense created by not seeing the beast for the first hour of the movie was due to the mechanical shark, Bruce, not working, forcing Spielberg and company to develop brilliant devices to have a shark movie without the shark.
1971’s Harold and Maude, a cult classic before there was such a thing, undoubtedly remains the weirdest rom-com of all times (classifying this movie as such has me laughing out loud as I type!). Harold (Bud Cort) is an odd young man who lives with his wealthy, high-society widow of a mother and gets his kicks (and much-needed attention) from elaborately acting out his own death. Over and over. While Harold’s mom’s ideas for straightening him out are to put him in the military or marry him off, another of Harold’s hobbies, attending strangers’ funerals, leads him to Maude (Ruth Gordon), a daring older woman and the freest spirit you’ve ever seen. She lives in a renovated boxcar, fights the system in her own inimitable ways, ruffles a lot of feathers, and steals a hell of a lot of cars. She’s a gas and is absolutely as obsessed with life as weird Harold is with death. They fall in love.
Chinatown is an impossibly perfect movie from the glory years of the 1970s, when great filmmakers were routinely working within the Hollywood system. Consider that Chinatown’s 1974 Oscar competition was Coppola’s The Godfather: Part II and The Conversation, and you get the idea. Robert Towne’s complex but tightly woven screenplay, set amid L.A.’s 1930s water wars, is a clinic on screenwriting. Every detail is of great consequence as the misdirection peels away and the baser, more painful truths are revealed, culminating in a haunting, unforgettable ending that starkly reveals the cynicism of the film’s title.
Price: $9,950 At A Glance: Breathtaking picture and sound with all 5-inch silver discs • State-of-the-art audio performance with USB audio • No 3D
The Last Great Silver Disc Player?
The era of 5-inch silver disc players began in the 1980s, and it isn’t over yet. But even quality-driven, Blu-ray- and CD-playing dinosaurs like me are compelled to admit that there are fewer days ahead for the disc player than there are behind it. The Ayre Acoustics DX-5 Universal A/V Engine ($9,950) builds a bridge between yesterday and tomorrow. The DX-5 is a universal disc player. It plays CD, SACD, DVD-Video/Audio, and Blu-ray Discs. But it’s also a cutting-edge digital-to-analog converter for digital audio files from a variety of sources, up to 24-bit/192-kilohertz. Its supertrick analog audio outputs are stereo only, so the only people who need apply are extreme videophiles and two-channel audiophiles who want a reference-quality universal Blu-ray player and state-of-the-art playback of digital audio files. The DX-5 is loaded with crucial and daring proprietary technology, and it’s the best-sounding, most versatile digital source component I’ve had in my system. The price tag? Who cares. Don’t you want to know more?
Price: $9,000 At A Glance: Room- and house-threatening LFE bass for movies • Surprising rhythm, pacing, and articulation for music • Relatively small footprint for a behemoth sub
Because You Can
So, I’m wheeling this ginormous 230-pound Paradigm subwoofer down and around the side of my house, to the double-door, daylight basement that serves as my home theater room. Being impatient, I’m doing this by myself and hoping like hell I don’t tip the thing over and watch it roll end over end down the slope in my backyard. About this time, it occurs to me to wonder, “Why am I even reviewing something this big?” The answer that came to mind is probably the same reason people will buy this $9,000 powder keg of bass. Because I can.
Of course, there’s more to it than that. At CES 2010, the best home theater demo I saw and heard was in the Anthem room, with Anthem’s electronics and sister brand Paradigm’s speakers and subwoofers. The bass was sensational, thunderous, and room shaking, and yet it was strikingly refined. That was the first time I saw the SUB 2, a 4,500-watt subwoofer (rated RMS, and never mind if you can actually get that out of your wall), with six 10-inch woofers arrayed in pairs, firing out of three sides of the cabinet. You read that right. I was every bit as awestruck as you probably are now. Why would Paradigm design and build such a thing? Because they can. In home theater and in life, it’s my firm belief that anything worth doing is worth overdoing. If that’s your philosophy too, read on, because the SUB 2 is a helluva ride.
Price: $7,995 At A Glance: State-of-the-art blacks and contrast • Reference-quality 2D and 3D performance • Painful setup and calibration to achieve best performance
The Agony and the Ecstasy
JVC’s projectors have been fixtures in HT’s Top Picks in recent years. This year, the anticipation of getting our hands on JVC’s newest projectors was even more acute. Not only has the line been completely redesigned for the first time in a couple of years, this is JVC’s first series of 3D projectors. The $7,995 DLA-X7 reviewed here is the middle child, between the $4,495 DLA-X3 (reviewed by Kris Deering on page 58) and the $11,995 flagship DLA-X9, which is essentially a DLA-X7 with hand-picked parts and 3D paraphernalia—two pair of active shutter glasses and a 3D sync transmitter—included. The DLA-X7 is THX approved for 2D and 3D. It carries over virtually all of the significant features from last year’s JVC models, while adding 3D capability. If you don’t believe I couldn’t wait to get my hands on this projector, check with JVC. Their corporate communications guru suffered an incessant onslaught of phone and voicemail messages through the holidays until the DLA-X7 was safely on my doorstep.
Not all high-definition videoor audiois created equal. There isn’t an upgrade of any kind that you can make in any part of your system that will allow it to take a lower-quality source and deliver the kind of performance you’ll get from Blu-ray Disc. Blu-ray features the highest bandwidth, best-in-class high-definition video currently available to consumers. And it serves it up with a chunky side order of lossless audio that’s miles beyond the lossy compressed audio we’ve had in theaters and at home for the past decade and a half. Buying a Blu-ray Disc player isn’t the minefield it was just a couple of years ago, but we’ve still got some tips and tricks that will help you get the best Blu for your buck.
Price: $3,997 At A Glance: Forward Focused Bipolar Array provides spectacular soundstage, imaging, and focus • Built-in powered subs bring the bass slam for movies and music • Big speakers, big sound, small footprint
Bipolar, Refocused and Refined
Living bipolar isn’t an unfortunate state of mind at Definitive Technology; it’s a chosen philosophy. And stretching further, it’s perhaps even a reason for being. Founded in 1990, Definitive is a stalwart brand and a staggering success story in the CE business. Definitive has made compelling entries in the speaker market in recent years with speakers as diverse as its flat, sexy Mythos XTR-50 on-walls and its ultraslim, floorstanding Mythos STS. But the bipolar Super Towers, which include built-in powered subwoofers, are still the flagship line. To this day, much of Definitive’s brand identity is those tall, sleek, and big-sounding black towers. The reason you’re reading this review is that the bipolar Super Tower series has now been completely redesigned and reborn.