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Sony’s Bravia XBRA1E OLED Ultra HD TV left last week’s CES confab with an Excellence in 4K Product Award from the Digital Entertainment Group (DEG), one of three awards presented.
The year 2017 in the world of audio/video gear proved mostly evolutionary, with a touch of the revolutionary thrown in. The former was seen clearly in the flat-panel television category, which wholly gave itself up to not just Ultra HD resolution this year but also to the idea of high dynamic range (HDR) and wide color gamut displays. We saw Dolby Vision finally make its way to a few UHD Blu-ray Discs, and critically, watched OLED mature into a commanding market presence. Meanwhile, we got more, and cheaper, options for 4K signal-friendly front projectors.
Picture Sound Extras When I first saw Stanley Kubrick’s Barry Lyndon, as a college student, I was bored and, beyond that, puzzled: such a static set piece from the maker of Dr. Strangelove, 2001, and A Clockwork Orange. I wasn’t alone: Box office was middlin’, critics were mixed. The film now strikes me as a masterpiece, although a demanding one, as many masterpieces are. Based on Thackeray’s mid-19th-century novel about the rise and fall of an Irish upstart seeking to connive his way into British high society, it’s a string of gorgeous pictures, as gorgeous as many paintings in a museum, and Kubrick modeled many shots on paintings by Hogarth, Gainsborough, and other artists of the era.
Picture Sound Extras Many filmmakers would surely crack under the challenges of finally bringing Wonder Woman to the big screen. But the remarkably gifted Patty Jenkins (writer/director of 2004’s Monster, her last feature) tackles the ambitious production—an action-heavy World War I– era period piece—with educated gusto, thoughtfully honoring and expanding upon the beloved heroine’s legacy. Of course, none of that matters without the right star, and Gal Gadot’s Princess Diana combines strength, brains, and innocence to give this movie an irresistible heart.
Augmented reality (AR) and virtual reality (VR) technologies are poised for record growth in 2018, according to new research from the Consumer Technology Association (CTA).
Demand Series D11 Speaker System Performance Build Quality Value SuperCube 6000 Subwoofer Performance Features Build Quality PRICE 3,196 AT A GLANCE Plus Appealing neutral voicing Laterally offset tweeter Active 8-inch sub integrated in center speaker Minus D11 top radiators complicate placement of Atmos add-ons THE VERDICT The Demand Series lives up to Definitive Technology’s pedigree with satisfying, well-balanced sound that offers loads of resolution. Nature abhors a vacuum, but wasting cabinet real estate is standard operating procedure among loudspeaker designers. With the notable exception of Atmos-enabled speakers and the occasional tweeter pod, the top panel of most speakers is a blank nothing. But does it have to be that way? Definitive Technology answered no, in effect, with its original Studio Monitor Series of bookshelf/stand-mount speakers (circa 2012) and does so again in this new update, the Demand Series.
Everyone knows Amazon’s Alexa is the star of an ever growing number of smart speakers, but did you know that the popular voice service is also finding its way into aftermarket car stereo?
In my October blog, I listed 11 must-have tools for your DIY toolkit, laying out the minimum tools you need to tackle some basic audio/video installations. Then I tackled how to wire and mount a flat-screen TV in “Mount a TV Like a Pro:” Part 1 and Part 2. Now it’s time to learn how to install some speakers!
Photo by Neil Zlozower To celebrate the 30th anniversary of 1987’s mega-multimillion-selling Whitesnake — the album that spawned such massive FM hits as “Here I Go Again” “Is This Love,” and Still of the Night” — Rhino has uncoiled an exhaustive 4-CD/1-DVD box set featuring a disc of demos titled 87 Evolutions, properly mastered live bootlegs, and four of-era videos remastered in surround sound on DVD. Singer/frontman David Coverdale discusses a critical change in his vocals, how Tina Turner came thisclose to singing “Is This Love,” and why those core Whitesnake songs retain such universal appeal.
Bryston today announced a new high-end lineup of active speaker systems that “leverages decades of research into the science of acoustics.”
Forty-five years ago this week, the King, donning his iconic white sequin-studded jump suit, made history in Honolulu when more than a billion viewers in 40 countries tuned into Aloha from Hawaii Via Satellite, a live broadcast seen by the largest audience in the history of television.
Find out how the new Fire TV stands up to 4K HDR streaming media players that are twice its size as well as double its price.
NuVision, a U.S.-based display company with manufacturing partners in China and Mexico that seeks to deliver a “compelling mix of quality, technology and value,” has announced plans to re-enter the U.S. TV market.
Left for dead at the side of the road, RadioShack is still twitching. Following its latest bankruptcy filing, it has emerged with a reorganization plan that would mix an online presence with 400 independently owned dealerships and 27 company-owned stores in Colorado, Texas, and New York. Eight new RadioShacks have recently opened, and another 18 are being considered. However, RadioShack probably will not return to the days when it lived in a $200 million HQ in Fort Worth, overseeing an empire of 7,000 stores nationwide.
Got a tech question for Sound & Vision? Email us at Q I’ve ripped most of my CD collection to my computer using iTunes. At this point, I’d like to maybe get a portable media storage unit and transfer my iTunes library to it so I can play music through my AV receiver and Amazon Echo speakers. Is that a good idea? All suggestions are appreciated, but I am looking for an inexpensive solution. —John McGlynn / Boca Raton, FL A There are a few ways to skin this cat. Here are some suggestions that won’t cost much money.
We reviewed 13 products in December but only eight made the cut. Among them are three exemplary projectors ranging in price from $2,200 to $6,000, a fabulous sounding set of compact speakers with built-in power, excellent planar-magnetic headphones from a classic audio brand, a unique hi-res digital recording system that disciples of vinyl will love, and a separates-based 5.1-channel system that gives you everything you need except a source for just over two grand. As we ring in the New Year, any of these products would be a fine addition to your 2018 AV lineup.
Performance Features Ergonomics Value PRICE $199 AT A GLANCE Plus Typical Sonos build and sound quality Alexa voice control Minus No Bluetooth No hi-res audio THE VERDICT Sonos was slow to deliver a voice-controlled smart speaker, but with integrated Alexa (and Google Assistant arriving soon) in what amounts to a redesigned Play:1, they've created a nearly irresistible, low-cost intro to their wireless ecosystem. The full impact of the home-based voice-actuated assistant, invented first by Amazon in the guise of Alexa, then followed by Google and now Apple with its Siri-driven HomePod, has yet to be felt. The category has loosely evolved into what we are now calling the "smart speaker," though it is not the speaker, but the microphone (or mic array) in conjunction with a network connection that imbues these devices with their extraordinary power. Sure, the speaker plays music, perhaps the simplest of its voice-controlled functions and (according to a recent study by NPR/Edison Research, the activity a smart speaker is still most frequently used for). But the opportunity presented by an artificially intelligent device that can respond to human language and trigger any number of events in our environment possesses extraordinary potential for transforming our lives. The fact that the most sophisticated of these voice interfaces to date, Amazon Alexa...
Performance Features Ergonomics Value PRICE $2,200 AT A GLANCE Plus Good resolution in HD and UHD Impressive HDR Low price Minus Contrast and black level could be better Manual HDR/SDR switching THE VERDICT The Epson 4000 offers an effective combination of HDR and SDR projection at a price that seemed impossible a year ago. Native 4K imaging—where the chips display all 8.3 million individual pixels (3840 x 2160) in each frame simultaneously—is still rare in an affordable consumer projector. Currently, the entry price is $5,000, for Sony’s new VPL-VW285ES. But last year, Epson introduced two 3LCD models that use pixel shifting to achieve an apparent resolution close to 4K. The less expensive of the two was the PowerLite Home Cinema 5040UB, still selling, as I write this, for around $2,700. (Its virtual twin, the Pro Cinema 6040UB, was reviewed in the October 2016 Sound & Vision.)
Electrocompaniet Tana SL-1 Wireless Speaker Recently introduced to North America, the Tana SL-1 from Norwegian high-end audio maker Electrocompaniet is built to deliver hi-res music over an existing Wi-Fi network. The two-way bass-reflex speaker is housed in a compact 10 x 7 x 7-inch aluminum cabinet along with a 150-watt Class A/B amplifier, 192-kHz/24-bit digital-to-analog converter (DAC), and 32-bit floating-point digital signal processor.
Got a tech question for Sound & Vision? Email us at Q I currently use a receiver for watching movies in 5.1 surround and for listening to stereo music. I’d like to expand my system with a dedicated stereo preamplifier and amplifier for music playback but have realized that I would need to switch the cables of my main left/right speakers from the receiver to the amplifier every time I changed over from movies to music. Is there some type of switchbox that would enable such a setup? If so, is there an audiophile-grade version that wouldn’t negatively affect the sound? One more question: Would I be able use my subwoofer with both configurations? —Raphaël Rainville / via e-mail