Thursday, December 11, 2008
Feeling inspired to get blogging again, I am working on a top 10 list of the greatest home theater demo scenes. I would like to solicit comments from all that read this blog on some potential candidates.
Demo scenes will be judged on audio and video quality, dramatic effect, and overall awesomeness.
I have some good ones so far, but would love some help to make the list truly great.
This is a really great, and short article on Plasma vs LCD. It is that time of year when great deals abound on the HDTV front. This should help you make up your mind on what you should get.
Monday, August 18, 2008
TV: JVC HD56FH96 56" HD-ILA. This TV is awesome. It is a true 1080p. Color, brightness and resolution aplomb. I just love it with Blu Ray. I just stole this baby at under $1000.
Native Resolution: 1920x1080 3 Chip LCD on Silicone.
Original MSRP: $3490. Price Paid: $920 including shipping from ubid.com.
Receiver: Onkyo TX-SR606. To this day the greatest Fathers Day present I have ever received. What makes it so great is that it has ALL the features that you NEED. Not to mention that Home Theater Magazine named it THE bang for your buck receiver currently out. It's the only receiver on the market with 4 HDMI inputs for under $500.
Original MSRP: $499. Price Paid: $435 from Circuit City.
Speakers: Miller and Kreisel S150-THX Fronts (3), SS150-THX Rears (2), S100B Side Channels (2), MX-70 Subwoofers (2). There is no question that this is the prized possesion in the setup. These babies ROKK. When I was in the Home Theater business I went to CES in Las Vegas in 2001. It is a nerds dream come true. Of all the speakers I heard the M&K were the most accurate and desireable. It is no wonder why Dolby Labs, DTS, Lucasfilm's Skywalker Ranch, and Sony Recording Studios use these exact speakers to master all of their audio tracks. They are that accurate. The one problem was that they're mother expensive. Well that was all solved one day when I was browsing craigslist and found two different people selling their respective systems. I don't think I ever was so excited to go and buy something in my life.
Original MSRP: (Total System) $7600. Price Paid: $885 from craigslist.org.
BluRay Player: Sharp BD-HP20. This baby was given to me by a friend. Image quality is AWESOME on blu-ray, not to mention uncompressed audio formats. If you haven't seen or heard it yet you must, must, must. The only problem so far with blu-ray from a performance standpoint is startup time. I'll usually sit for over a minute waiting for the disk to load. But a wait well worth it. If I was buying one I would get a PS3. Incredible video and audio, and an amazing startup time.
Original MSRP: $499. Price Paid: $0. Thanks Brook!!!
Game System: Nintendo Wii. The Wii is super fun. As an AV component it is miles and miles behind the Xbox and PS3. Don't get me wrong, the fam loves it's Wii. Unfortunately Dad puts a premium on AV and 480p and analog LR audio just doesn't cut it.
MSRP: $400 Price Paid: $400
Living Room System
TV: Hitachi 55HDS69 55" Plasma. So when I bought my new house we were cursed with the dreaded "TV Niche". You know the one all the new homebuilders make for you to put your AV gear. So we were forced to find a cabinet that would fit in the niche and a tv to fit in the cabinet. Fortunately we found a great cabinet and a really great TV that fits perfectly. As far as the TV goes, it is pretty sweet. I found it to be overly sharp on certain sporting events. Fortunately I have a calibration disk and it REALLY helped get everything back to where it should be. Though not a 1080p plasma, it really has a pretty picture...and it's HUGE.
Native Resolution: 1366x768
Original MSRP: $3999 Price Paid: $2300 at Best Buy
Receiver: Denon AVR-1601. Denon receivers are famous for their crystal clear amplifier section. This entry level receiver is no different. I bought this receiver 7 years ago and it is still going strong. Conservatively rated at 65 watts per channel it really can make a speaker sing. A great purchase. Although I think that it produces a better sound than my Onkyo, it lacks the up-to-date connectivity needed for my newer 1080p system downstairs. Currently Denon is getting the beat down from other companies in the video processing department, so if you are in the market for an entry level receiver, you may want to look elsewhere. If the premium is on audio, Denon is almost impossible to beat.
Original MSRP: $399 Price Paid: $340 from Ultimate Electronics
Speakers: Pyle PDIC81RD In Ceiling Speakers (4), Mitsubishi Center Channel, Def Tech Pro Sub 1000. Want to know how to make really mediocre speakers sound awesome? Add a bad ass subwoofer. Seriously, the Def Tech is a really great subwoofer. It has a 10" powered woofer and a 10" passive radiator which acts like another driven woofer in push/pull mode. I have 10' ceilings in my living room and halfway up it moves all that air with NO problem. Speaking of room acoustics, it really astounded me how good this system sounded because of the room. The 10' ceilings and the openness of the room really let the sound expand.
Original MSRP (Total System) $1300. Price Paid: $580 from ubid.com, RC Willey, and Best Buy.
Original MSRP: $199. Price Paid: $34 on ubid.com
Original MSRP: $2499. Price Paid: $1590 from Ultimate Electronics.
HTIB: Philips HTS3544/37. So a few months ago I blogged about the virtues of Home Theater in a Box sytems. I decided to follow my own advice and put one in the bedroom. Mama and I enjoy a late night movie cuddled up in the bed and we were missing some good audio to go along with solid video. The sound is very good, not great, but who would complain with a system that includes a 5.1 sound setup, ipod dock, usb port, upconverting DVD, a host of inputs and a bargain basement price. If you are looking to spruce up a bedroom system or a small living room setup look no further.
Original MSRP: $199. Price Paid: $199 from my local Walmart.
So there you have it. 3 Complete systems that retail for $21,083 combined that I paid a paltry $7683 for. You can do it too.
Monday, May 26, 2008
My apologies to my 2 readers of this blog for not writing anything in 6 months. Just lazy.
However there is a new wave of av receivers that are hitting the market and I have to chime in on them.
With the advent of blu-ray comes a new and exciting field of audio and video possibilities. On the audio front there is Dolby TrueHD and DTS-HD. These sound codecs are uncompressed audio tracks, unavailable on DVD or otherwise because there was not enough space on the discs for the video and audio to fit. Since blu-ray can have up to 50 gigs of space the discs allow for uncompressed master audio to be fit on the disc. However, if you have an older receiver you will not be able to enjoy the uncompressed master track. Many receivers on the shelves still do not offer dolby or dts' newest technology. Buyer beware. The bit by bit lossless technology is truly remarkable. Any foray to the electronics retailer should include you leaving with the new tech under your arm as you stroll away gleefully.
Now lets talk video.
Everyone knows about HDTV. Aside from resolution differences (720p, 1080p etc) there are also other factors to consider. Without going too, too deep let me stay on task and say that the kind of receiver you elect to purchase will determine the quality of video you end up seeing. I recently read an article in Home Theater Magazine, and they rated the video quality output by various mid to higher end receivers. The differences were pretty shocking. The testers input various types of video signals via digital (HDMI) and analog connections and then they judged how the receiver would process the final output signal. Only 2 receivers were able to pass all of the tests. (One was a $5000 Denon and the other a $1700 Onkyo) Only 6 receivers were tested but represented a good cross section of the market. Both receivers were equipped with a video chip from a company called silicon optix. The others, (mostly with the faroudja DCDI chip) failed at many of the tests. This to me was shocking since I have long considered faroudja one of the best video processing companies around. This does not mean however that the video quality was BAD. It just means that there was some aliasing, ghosting, shadowing and artifacting of the various output signals. Whereas those that passed these test output a signal virtually distortion free. This becomes a bigger deal on larger displays.
Let us not dismay. The new offerings on the AV Receiver front are a true upgrade to what we have been used to in the past 10 years. Not to mention affordable. Onkyo recently launched the TX-SR606, a $500 receiver with not only Dolby TruHD and DTShd, but 4 (4!!!) HDMI 1.3 inputs and a high current amplifier section. This would allow you hook up an Xbox360, PS3, HD-DVR, and whatever else you want all through HDMI (which carries up to 1080p video and lossless audio) and still run just one video lead to your monitor. The days of swapping input sources on your TV would be long gone. Even Grandma could run the thing.