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Darryl Wilkinson, Home Theater Magazine
Chris Martens, The Absolute Sound &
4 APRIL/MAY 2009
From Widgets to 3-D, new
sets on the horizon are
equipped to take TV viewing
to the next level.
By Al Griffin
Take a peek past 1080p into
the world of 4K ultra high-def.
By Rob Medich
Is it time for you to test the
streaming waters?
By Ken C. Pohlmann
Audio acionados will soon enjoy
a new dimension in sound: height.
But is the world really ready for 9.1?
By Brent Butterworth
Sending 1080p signals
wirelessly to your HDTV is
about to become a reality.
By Kevin James
New at-panel TVs are easier
on your electric bill and safer
to recycle.
By Will Greenwald
Bang & Olufsen goes totally
Bond with its sound system for
the Aston Martin DBS.
By John Sciacca
contents APRIL/MAY 2009
48 &
With picture performance that outpaces todays smaller at panels, Mitsubishi Home Theater TVs
offer a larger than life, intensely vivid viewing experience. In screen sizes ranging from 60 to 73,
Mitsubishi Home Theater TVs completely dene the large screen entertainment category. They are
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6 APRIL/MAY 2009
62 LG
47LG90 47-inch LCD HDTV
66 Sanyo
PLV-Z700 front projector
68 Paradigm
W5 on-wall speaker system
and SUB 25 subwoofer
72 Canton
GLE Series home theater
speaker system
74 Zvox
Z-Base 550 TV sound system
76 Sony
STR-DA5400ES A/V receiver
78 Marantz
SR6003 A/V receiver
80 Digeo
Moxi HD digital video recorder
82 Movies & TV
Two tokes over the line? Light up
your DVD player for Pineapple
Express and The Wackness.
ALSO Appaloosa, the classic
Breakfast at Tiffanys, and
Battlestar Galactica: Season
4.0 on DVD; Vicky Cristina
Barcelona and Body of Lies
on Blu-ray Disc; more
85 Games
No surrender with Killzone 2
86 Music
Often mighty Boss tunes:
Bruce Springsteen is Working
on a Dream
ALSO The Fray, Van Morrison,
Umphreys McGee, Robyn
Hitchcock & the Venus 3,
and vintage Bee Gees on CD;
Vivaldi and Steven Wilson in
surround; ELP on vinyl; more
8 Track One
Crystal ball, 2009 edition
By Mike Mettler
14 Feedback
Readers sound off
18 The Custom
Your installer can help
you save the planet
and some money, too
By John Sciacca
20 Ask Theo
Expert advice on designing
your home theater
By Theo Kalomirakis
22 Q&A
Your A/V and home theater
Qs answered
By Al Grifn
24 The Web Zone
A survey of this months Web-
exclusive tests and features
26 Gadget Gary
The authors rst trip to the
Consumer Electronics Show
By Gary DellAbate
26 The Producers Ear
The Art of Listening, revisited
By Rob Fraboni
28 New Products
The latest and coolest
home-entertainment gear
By Will Greenwald
34 S&Vs Best
Three pages lled with the
best products to buy now,
as chosen by S&Vs editors
92 Reality Bytes
Yet another bailout buys DTV
procrastinators more time
By Ken C. Pohlmann
on the cover (clockwise, from top):
LG PS80 47-inch plasma TV with NetCast
Entertainment Access, Samsung BD-
P4600 Blu-ray Disc player, Panasonic
DMP-B15 portable Blu-ray Disc player with
built-in LCD, and Focal XS 2.1 multimedia
sound system. Photo by Tony Cordoza.
Quantum of Solace, MGM; Quantum and
Goldnger, courtesy Everett Collection.
contents APRIL/MAY 2009
30 &
Make room for life
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. &
8 APRIL/MAY 2009
track one
full, unencumbered shot
of this issues cover for
those of you loyal readers
with subscription labels
that might be blocking
some of the equipment
below the LG LCD. Details
about the gear seen here
can be found on page 6.
Where do we go from here? The future
appears to be streaming on down the road
Crystal Ball,
2009 Edition
hats next? That, in essence, is the most asked question
I get besides the omnipresent What TV should I buy?
Usually, the gear we see unveiled at the annual Consumer
Electronics Show (CES), held every January in Las Vegas,
are pretty good beacons. Since we covered CES live as it happened
quite thoroughly on our Web site, I felt this issue should take a longer
view. So, starting on page 42, the 21-page Tech Trends 09 feature
section focuses on key developments in seven distinct areas that youll
see dominate the 2009 landscape
One thing the S&V gang agrees on: Well all be viewing even more
things on the Web. I think were going to see a lot more people watch-
ing a lot more TV on the Internet, says contributing technical editor
and ace product tester Brent Butterworth. This option has been avail-
able for a while through add-ons like the Vudu box or the Roku Netix
box, but many new TVs have Internet capability, and its simple enough
that people will want to hook it up. Meanwhile, you can always watch
on your laptop. Contributing technical editor and installation special-
ist Rob Sabin agrees: Think streaming video. Thanks to services from
Vudu, Amazon, Blockbuster, Netix, iTunes, and of course the ubiqui-
tous YouTube, we may just be kissing
neighborhood videostores bye-bye. The
day of watching what you want when you
want without having to get in your car
or boot up your cable-box DVR has truly
arrived. And dont forget that every one of
the Internet-enabled TVs we saw at CES
takes an Ethernet cable to offer some part-
ner-enabled content. Finally, as technical
editor and video guru Al Grifn notes, The
future of entertainment tech is irrevocably
bound up with streaming/downloaded
media. In the near-term future, I expect
to see much more activity on the stream-
ing-media front, including TVs that stream
movies directly from services like Netix,
Amazon Video on Demand, and Blockbuster
OnDemand. The four of us concur that the
way things are going, other source boxes
could become obsolete sooner than later.
Stay tuned.
TV Talker: Jillian Barberie-Reynolds
You have a lot of TVs at home, dont you?
Yeah. Im a technology junkie I have nine TVs, all throughout the
house. Im a little obsessed. I have a 50-inch Sony LCD, plus other
models from Sharp and Vizio. Im like a guy when it comes to my TVs
and my cars. [laughs] I call my guest house my Man Cave because it
also has a pool table and a bar; its really nice out there. Whenever my
husbands in the doghouse, I send him to the guest house, but then he
goes, Well, this doesnt suck. So its not really a penalty. [laughs]
What other gear do you have?
Energy speakers. Great subwoofer! Im a guys wet dream when I go
into the store. My husbands the kind of guy who reads the magazines
and does all the research, and I want the top of the line for everything.
Im just getting into Blu-ray Disc. My neighbor had it first, and I
wanted to scope it out. I was kinda skeptical, but I went over to watch
one of the Harry Potter movies, and wow! You could see every frickin
hair in the beards, it was unbelievable. I was instantly sold on it.
Everything is so vibrant, and I love having that feeling whenever I watch
Youre shot in high-definition every weekday on Good Day LA as
well as during the football season on Foxs NFL Sunday. Do you like
I love it! At first I thought it would be ugly and unflattering, but if you
take care of yourself and have good skin, you dont have anything to
worry about. I love high-def. It hasnt affected me. I think people look
better in high-def anyway. Before high-def, lighting was often bad, a lot
of things would look fake, and you had to wear tons of makeup; now
I can wear makeup that Id normally wear outside of the studio. Its
lighter, its prettier, its cooler. And it looks better.
You know, when I was 18, I worked in an A/V store in Canada, and .

. .
That was at Fairview
Hi Fi, right?
Oh, shut up! How the
hell did you know
that? It was in
Burlington [Ontario].
I sold a complete
Alpine system to
this guy who had a
Mazda Miata, and
he couldnt fit it all
in there. What can I
say? I was a good
For more with
Jillian, go to



O &
Control your TV.
Your music. Your lights. Your kids.
Okay, not the kids.
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working together.
Find out how easy life can
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& Check Out
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Read the Reviews.
Check the Specs.
Ogle Gorgeous
Get Expert Advice.
Share Your Feelings.
Have Fun.
Vice President/Editor-In-Chief Mike Mettler
Deputy Editor Michael Gaughn
Technical Editor Al Grifn
Senior Editor/Entertainment Editor Ken Richardson
Associate Editor Will Greenwald
Copy Editor Eric Grode
Senior Designer Maria Ramos
Editorial Director, Specialist Websites Gene Newman
Online Editor Stan Horaczek
Online Producer Adam Christie
Editorial Coordinator Jae Segarra
Contributing Photographer Tony Cordoza
Contributing Technical Editors Brent Butterworth, Daniel Kumin, Ian G. Masters,
Tom Nousaine, Ken C. Pohlmann, Michael Riggs, Rob Sabin, John Sciacca, Michael Trei
Contributors Billy Altman, Michael Antonoff, Rad Bennett, Jay Dar, Gary DellAbate,
Rob Fraboni, Brandon Graus, Sean Greer, Marc Horowitz, Kevin James, Theo Kalomirakis,
Ken Korman, Josef Krebs, Kat Mikel, Brett Milano, Andrew Nash, Mel Neuhaus,
Rob OConnor, Peter Pachal, Jeff Perlah, Parke Puterbaugh, Robert Ripps, Leslie Shapiro,
Sol Louis Siegel, Steve Simels, Andrew Thompson, Jaan Uhelszki, James K. Willcox
In Memorium Julian Hirsch William Livingstone
Senior VP/Group Editorial Director John Owens
Sound & Vision, 1633 Broadway, 43rd oor, New York, NY 10019
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Printed in the USA &
Yamahas Digital Sound Projector technology was a true home entertainment breakthrough in 2005. But
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no one has been able to duplicate our incredible audio technology. Others may have virtual or simulated
surround sound, only Yamaha can deliver the real deal: crystal clear true multi-channel surround sound from
a single front component.
2008 Yamaha Electronics Corporation, USA. All logos are properties of their respective companies.
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models even include video up-conversion and up-scaling, which allows
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With Yamaha, Its All About the Sound. True multi-channel surround sound
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Technically speaking, a masterpiece.
2008 Warner Bros. Entertainment Inc. All Rights Reserved.
BATMAN and all related character and elements are trademarks of and DC Comics. &
But what kind were they? Plus
Blu-ray, those digital copies,
DVD-A vs. SACD, and more.
Truly in 3-D
with Glasses


14 APRIL/MAY 2009
Lucy? Judy? No, its Shirley starlet Shirley
Tegge, who appeared in the prologue to
1952s Bwana Devil, which was the first 3-D
movie to be exhibited internationally.
3-D Faux Pas
In 3-D: Its Back! (January), author Kevin
James is in error when he writes that the card-
board eyeglasses of the 1950s were ana-
glyphic models, with one blue and one red
plastic lens. While a few 3-D shorts back then
did use that awkward technology, all feature
lms used a polarized system, with eyeglass
lenses that were both gray.
The movie was shown on two projectors, but
each had a polarized lter in front of the pro-
jection port. Similar lters in the glasses had
the effect of blocking the right polarized image
for the left eye and blocking the left polarized
image for the right eye. The biggest advantage
of this method? The true colors of the movie
came out with polarization, whereas the blue/
red method gave off ugly hues.
Every moviegoer was given a pair of the
cardboard polarized glasses. Theaters also
sold plastic frames containing hard plastic
lenses, similar to the polarized sunglasses
available today. They lasted through several
showings because of their durability, but few
moviegoers bought them; they cost three or
four times the price of a ticket in those days.
The rst polarized 3-D movie I saw was
Creature from the Black Lagoon, and its three-
dimensional effect was quite dramatic.
The 3-D glasses supplied for the release of
Bwana Devil, House of Wax, and those that
followed were manufactured by Polaroid, with
optically striped, polarized lenses. A similar
lter was hung in front of each projector.
You state that the 3-D lms of the 1950s were
viewed using anaglyphic glasses, with one blue
and one red lens. This is not true.
Of the 50 English-language 3-D features pro-
duced between November 1952 and December
1953, all were originally shown in the dual-
projector Polaroid format, utilizing gray-tinted
glasses similar to those in use today. (The
Polaroid system of 3-D projection dates back
to the late 1930s.) The only anaglyph releases
during the Golden Age of 3-D movies were
some novelty and burlesque shorts.
Anaglyph versions of some 3-D features
(such as Creature from the Black Lagoon,
It Came from Outer Space, and The Maze) were
created later, in the 1970s, for single-strip
theatrical reissues.
The blue/red myth has been repeated so
often that its now becoming fact. To read
some accurate information on 3-D history,
please visit our Web site ( and
click on Top 10 3-D Myths. For another arti-
cle of interest, go to centraltheater.blogspot
.com and search for Whos Trashing 3-D?
I would appreciate it if you would set the
record straight especially since the movers
and shakers in the current 3-D business tend
to denigrate what was done in the past.
Kevin James replies: I traced the history of 3-D
anaglyphs as far back as Sir Charles Wheatstone
in 1838, but as these three letter writers point
out, I tripped up in the 1950s. Anaglyphic glasses
were used during that decade but primarily for
comic strips, not movies. In the 50s, theaters
were indeed using Edwin Lands polarized lters
and a silver screen. (The company he founded,
Polaroid, was based on research he did at Har-
vard, with the idea of using polarized lters to
reduce glare from car headlights.) I regret perpet-
uating an often-repeated myth.
Blu-ray Blues, Part 2
Being a custom A/V integrator, I have dis-
covered a disturbing caveat to the wonderful
Blu-ray experience. Most Blu-ray Discs and,
I think, all discs with BD-Java (and, by exten-
sion, BD-Live) render the Resume function
on the player inoperable. If youre watching
a movie and you need to stop play, pressing
Stop once sends the player all the way back
to the very beginning. Disc read, download
everything! And if you press Pause, you
have a limited time to resume play before it will
time-out and go back to the beginning.
Blu-ray! Are you kidding us? Are your master-
minds not consumers as well? Dont you think
its incredibly aggravating that Resume doesnt
work? Well, it is! Feedback, anyone?
We, too, have noticed that Blu-ray Discs with
advanced BD-Java features fail to return to the
disc stop point after playback has been halted.
We, too, have been irritated by this state of
affairs. For an ofcial explanation of whats going
on, we turned to Don Eklund, Blu-ray guru at Sony
Pictures Entertainment (SPE). He responded:
The reason that the Resume feature doesnt
work in BD-Java is that the player gives control
to the Java program to navigate the content.
As such, the player cannot execute its own opera-
tions (like Resume) without causing problems in
running the Java program. Its possible to create
similar functions with the Java program itself,
but this would be up to the content author of
the disc. SPE typically provides a bookmarking
feature as part of our Java navigation program.
Although bookmarking isnt the same as
Resume (you need to rst run through the pre-
views, the FBI warning, and other stuff before you
arrive at the menu to enable the feature), you can
use it to go back to the exact spot in the movie
where you stopped watching. Hopefully, this will
provide you with some consolation.
In the February/March Feedback, Gene Phil-
lip wrote about a subject dear to my heart.
Its unfair for movie studios to insist on prop-
erty rights when some of us have spent a lot
of money every time theyve changed formats.
I am 72, and I rst saw The Treasure of
the Sierra Madre as a kid for 12. Later,
I spent $1.25 to see it again. As an adult, I paid &
Your Hall. Concert Hall.
The Essentia E6G.
Intelligent design and sophisticated soundin perfect harmony.
Experience music at home like never before.
Embrace a different mood for every roomfrom six sources to six listening
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With sound so real, youll think its live.
With NuVo its hard to tell the difference.

The Sound of LiVing. &
16 APRIL/MAY 2009
We welcome your letters. Send e-mail to or regular mail to
Editor, Sound & Vision, 1633 Broadway, 43rd oor,
New York, NY 10019. Please include your name,
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All letters are subject to editing at our discretion.
another $3.50. Then came the VCR: $1,700
for an early machine and $18 for the tape.
Next, laserdisc: $350 plus $25 to $75 for the
disc. Then, S-VHS: $500 to start and $17 for
the movie. Did I mention DVD? Why bother:
Here comes the high-denition Blu-ray Disc
format, and we all have to change not only our
players but also our TVs.
Treasure? I must have $4,000 wrapped
up in that movie alone. I think thats enough,
dont you?
I dont deny anyone making a buck, but all
of the format changes over the years have cost
consumers millions of dollars. Thats probably
how the consumer-electronics execs are able
to buy their own islands in the South Pacic.
Whats a Digital Copy?
In your Movies & TV reviews, you often men-
tion that a release includes a digital copy. Can
you please explain what this is?
Its a copy of the movie that can be transferred
for viewing on devices like your PC, Mac, laptop,
video iPod, PSP, and other media players. Some
releases include the digital copy on a disc with
other extras, as is the case with the DVD of Pine-
apple Express (see page 82). Other releases put
the copy on a separate disc, as does the Blu-ray
edition of Body of Lies (see page 85).
Villchur and Kloss
In his test report on the Boston Acoustics VS
Series home theater speaker system (Febru-
ary/March), Daniel Kumin wrote: Fifty-ve
years ago, a couple of engineering professors
(music fans both) from Cambridge, Massachu-
setts, founded the seminal speaker manufac-
turer Acoustic Research. This is incorrect:
Neither was an engineering professor.
At the time, Edgar Villchur was a writer,
teacher, and audio researcher from New York.
He developed the acoustic-suspension loud-
speaker in the mid-1950s after studying distor-
tion in speakers for many years. Villchur wrote a
patent on the design and tried (unsuccessfully)
to sell it to leading high-delity manufacturers.
During the spring of 1954, Villchur also
taught an evening class in audio in New York
Universitys Extended Education Division.
Henry Kloss was a student in this class and
heard about Villchurs design, and the two trav-
eled to upstate New York for Kloss to hear the
prototype acoustic-suspension woofer. After
this experience and insofar as Villchur had
been rebuffed in selling his patent the two
set out to build the rst commercial acoustic-
suspension loudspeaker, the AR-1. Villchur pro-
vided the patent and basic design, and Kloss
(who sold $24.95 Baruch-Lang kit speakers
out of a loft in Cambridge) hand-built the rst
AR-1s. Acoustic Research was incorporated in
Massachusetts on August 10, 1954. The AR-1
debuted that fall at the New York Audio Fair.
Over-the-Air HDTV Recording
I was pleased to see Al Grifns Q&A reply
(November 2008) on the lack of DVRs for over-
the-air HDTV. This is a signicant concern for
me, as I almost never watch live TV. Mr. Grif-
n lists only two standalone DVRs as being
currently available and they both require a
subscription fee.
Even for humble digital SDTV, there are pre-
cious few DVRs. In fact, theres a grand total
of one without a subscription fee: the Philips
For a quarter of a century, huge numbers
of VCRs were available. Magazine reviews
detailed their every feature. All VCRs were
standalone, subscription-free devices. Now,
as we move to a digital-only, high-denition
era, the modern replacement for a VCR is
almost nonexistent. I nd this astonishing.
At the Deli with DVD-A, SACD
Ive got an answer for Bob Fratella, who
lamented in his February/March letter that
DVD-Audio and SACD are fading.
There are no regular releases on DVD-A in
any niche whatsoever. But SACD, with more
than 5,500 total releases to date, is far from
dead (best reference: the Australian site The fates of DVD-A and SACD have
long since separated, despite some S&V read-
ers (and authors) continuing to view them as
Siamese twins.
Im as unhappy as anybody that American
pop music has turned its back on SACD. But
outside of America and pop, its a different
story altogether.
Bagels and sour cream belong together.
DVD-A and SACD do not.
Youre correct that, overseas, SACD isnt dead.
However, the worldwide recession seems to be
taking its toll, with fewer releases on the horizon.
Back in the U.S.A., Sony has completely aban-
doned the format it invented, and last big sup-
porter Telarc has trimmed its SACD schedule.
That said, the latter is still releasing some promi-
nent titles here; see page 87 for our review of its
new version of Vivaldis The Four Seasons.
As for DVD-A, youre also correct that its fate
has been less kind. However, readers should be
reminded that DVD-A surround mixes are com-
patible with standard DVD players. Note, too:
Progressive rock is one niche that has in fact
embraced the format; for our review of Steven
Wilsons Insurgentes, see page 87 again.
Got Classical?
In your Music reviews, I dont see any classi-
cal CDs or DVDs. Are there no good classical
recordings being released?
Undoubtedly, there are scores of good classical
recordings being released. In these tight-for-space
times, however, we simply dont have the room
to cover them regularly. (The same is true of jazz
recordings.) That said, when certain notable titles
are released on one of the high-rez music for-
mats, were eager to review them when possible.
See, for example, our January review of organist
Cameron Carpenters Revolutionary on SACD
(also available on our Web site) and, as noted
in the reply above, our Vivaldi review in this issue.
Addenda & Update
In Blu Rodeo, our February/March show-
down between four Blu-ray Disc players, we
neglected to provide dimensions, weights,
and Web links. They are:

LG BD300: 17 x 2
4 x 11 in; 6
2 lb;

Panasonic DMP-BD35: 17 x 2 x 9
4 in;
4 lb;

Samsung BD-P2550: 17 x 2
4 x 10
2 in;
4 lb;

Sony BDP-S350: 17 x 2
8 x 8
4 in; 6
4 lb;
In the same issue, surround versions of
two King Crimson albums were stated as being
due in March. These have been delayed.
Stay tuned to our Bitstream blog (bitstream for further updates.
feedback &
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18 APRIL/MAY 2009
Your installer can help
you save the planet
and some money, too
Makes Bein
Green Easy
dmit it. You used to watch The
Muppet Show. So you probably
remember Kermit the Frogs lament
that Its not easy bein green.
Turns out that Kermit was just born too soon,
because being green has never been easier.
Or more popular.
In fact, showing concern for the environment
has become the latest trend among electron-
ics manufacturers. Between recycling initia-
tives, reduced power consumption, and RoHS
(Restriction of Hazardous Substances) compli-
ance, bein green was a recurring theme at
this years Consumer Electronics Show. And
regardless of your motivation an unswerving
personal crusade to single-handedly save the
planet, the desire to be more like Ed Begley,
Jr., or just wanting to lower your monthly util-
ity bills there are several ways a custom
installer can help reduce your carbon footprint.
The rst way doesnt even require buying
anything new. By calibrating your existing TV,
youll not only enjoy a better picture but also
need less power to do so. Out of the box, most
sets are designed to stand out in brightly lit
showrooms, making them unnecessarily and
even painfully bright in your living room. Also,
since a calibrated set isnt driven as hard, it
should also last longer, meaning less waste.
A custom installer can also congure Day
and Night modes on your TV so it can run at
optimum brightness for the viewing environ-
ment. For a truly custom touch, a light sensor
can be installed as part of an automation
system that automatically switches between
the two modes.
Discovering the biggest way to be green
requires looking no further than The Simpsons
Movie. In a quick exchange between Lisa and
my dad isnt Bono Colin, we learn that turn-
ing off your lights could save enough energy to
power Pittsburgh! And if we just kept our ther-
mostats at 68 in the winter, wed be free from
our dependency on foreign oil in 17 years!
Those statements actually hold a lot of
truth, and even real, non-Simpsons-related
studies suggest that lighting accounts for
roughly 20% of all electricity produced in the
U.S., with heating and cooling systems sucking
even more energy. Beyond just the electricity
costs are the waste issues that come from
changing old bulbs and from belching tons of
carbon dioxide into the atmosphere. While a
simple trip down to the hardware store can
net you some dimmers and a programmable
thermostat you can install yourself, an installer
can increase the energy savings exponentially
by integrating these sub-systems into an
automation system. Tying your window shades
and ceiling fans in with systems by the likes of
Crestron, Lutron, and Control 4 will net even
bigger results. These systems can incorporate
features like scheduling, astro-
nomic time clocks, and a host
of other slick functions that will
make your home cooler in more
ways than one.
For instance, programming
lights to run at 85% of full power
is barely noticeable visually, but
will lower your energy consump-
tion by 15% and make your bulbs
last up to three times longer.
Lights dimmed 50% can last up to
20 times longer! You can make an
automated lighting-control system
even greener by having it auto-
matically turn lights on and off at
certain times or by using sensors to determine
if anyone is in the room. These applications
are perfect for outdoor or landscape lighting,
or for areas where lights are likely to be left
on, like in a childs room or a hallway. The auto-
mation system can also be programmed for
different levels at different times of the day.
For instance, bathroom lights could come on
at 85% during the day but only 30% between
midnight and 5 a.m.
Lutrons latest Illumination software incor-
porates additional features that curb energy
wasted on lighting unoccupied areas. Among
them are enhanced and night time vaca-
tion modes that greatly reduce lighting levels
while still making your home appear lived in,
and an automatic rollback feature that lowers
light levels after a set time period.
Smart thermostats that automatically lower
settings while youre sleeping or when you
leave the house are automation childs play,
but simple on and off settings arent enough.
While it doesnt make sense to heat or cool
your home if youll be away for a while, no one
wants to return to a freezing or baking
house either. Remote access to the automa-
tion system lets you enjoy the energy savings
and still come home to the perfect environ-
ment. Coupling the HVAC with automated ceil-
ing fans allows thermostats to be set several
degrees higher while still delivering the same
comfort level.
Automated shades also do wonders for
energy savings, both on the lighting and HVAC
sides. Allowing natural light in reduces the
use of electric lights. Blocking out the summer
sun lowers the heat, and using the winter rays
warms a space naturally. The advantage to
automation is that this all takes place without
any thought or action on your part, making
sure that youre always getting the benets.
Crestrons new Green Light software (shown
at left) goes the extra step by allowing home-
owners to monitor energy consumption and
cost in real time and by displaying historical
usage and savings. This lets you see the
immediate effects of cranking up the AC or
slightly dimming the lights. (A demo of this
software is available at
Like a healthy diet, a custom-installed auto-
mation system isnt necessarily cheap, but it
will add up to big benets over time and wont
taste bad! Plus, youll reap the feel-good divi-
dends of knowing that youre doing your part to
save the planet. S&V & &
20 APRIL/MAY 2009
ask Theo
This readers theater puts
many pros efforts to shame
A Top-Ranking
here are no two ways about it:
Reading books, looking at pictures
for inspiration, and sometimes even
going to school arent enough to
teach someone the secrets of a particular art
form. Without an innate understanding of what
works and what doesnt in other words,
without that little thing called talent not
much can happen. The theater in this months
column is the work of a motivated amateur
with seemingly no architectural background.
Amateur or not, the end result gives some
professionals a run for their money.
It makes a number of published the-
aters look, well . . . amateurish.
Im a TK Wannabe!
Dear S&V,
Being in my late 20s, I know I still have
a lot to learn. But I would love to be a
premier home theater designer. Theo
Kalomirakis is my role model. Every
time I see a new theater hes created,
I stand in awe. Well, I am no Theo,
but Ive tried to create a home theater
that takes you back in time to the
movie palaces of the 30s and 40s.
I created my room by closing in a
covered porch, making it into a sun-
room, and then adding a 16-foot-wide
by 25-foot-deep theater. The ceiling
height starts at 10 feet at the back of
the room; the oor then steps down
two times as you go toward the front,
with an 18-inch drop at each level.
The ceiling in the front is 13 feet high.
I installed a 14-foot-wide 2.40:1
SMX screen. Im using a Digital Pro-
jection Titan Reference 1080p projec-
tor with the Theater Scope Premier
package. I have RBH Signature T-2P
speakers in the front left/right posi-
tions, an RBH T-1 in the center, and
six RBH SI-760 models for the sur-
round speakers. The equipment currently is a
Denon AVR-3808CI receiver with Anthem amps.
Ive ordered a new Anthem AVM50V but am still
waiting for it. The seating distance from the
screen is 12 feet to the front row, 18 feet to the
second row, and 24 feet to the third row.
Since Theo is an idol of mine, I would love for
him to take a look at my theater and possibly
review it.
You arent pulling my leg, are you? Are you
sure you designed your theater without some-
one whispering in your ear whats right and
whats wrong? If you did, what can I tell you?
Your theater kicks butt!
Its not that your design is the most original
in the world, and its not that you took chances
and broke molds. Its simply that the choices
you made were right on the money. Thats
something that sometimes eludes the work of
even seasoned professionals.
Let me count the things that work in your
home theater:
1. Clean design
You could have gotten carried away with design
histrionics, but you didnt. You kept the design
simple and functional and avoided the risk
of making the room a pile of good intentions
gone bad.
2. Color restraint
Theres nothing more offensive than vulgar
use of color. Theres so much of that around
today that your subtle color palette comes as a
breath of fresh air.
3. No excess gilding
As a matter of fact, theres no gilding in your
theater. Touches of gold leaf in traditional-style
architecture can add a welcome accent that
enriches the design. But it has to be done in
moderation; otherwise, the space will look like
a cheesy 60s Vegas lounge. The lesson here
is, when in doubt, stay away from gold!
4. Ceiling design
Again, your ceiling might not have a particularly
original design, but it works. The
simple coffering adds texture to an
area that so many people forget is
as important as the rooms walls.
Another advantage of ceiling coffers
is that they add diffusion to a sur-
face that if left untreated will be too
5. Perfect sightlines
You realized that, even in a room with
a 13-foot ceiling, youd better have
a minimum of two steps between
platforms to accommodate a giant
screen. Your theater has three!
6. High-quality A/V system
There are people who lavish money
on the dcor and people who only
care about the technology. You cov-
ered both bases (even though most
people would have to rob a bank or
win the lottery to afford the A/V gear
in your theater).
Now, do you want to know the only
two things I would have done differ-
ently if this were my theater?
1. I would have chosen a darker
shade of leather for the seats. Since
home theater seats are big, their
scale can overwhelm the room. And
because there are usually so many
of them, the best way to keep them
from making the theater look like a &
Go Ahead
Ask Theo!
Send copies of your photos or
plans, or of images that inspire
you, to Sound & Vision, Attn:
Theo Kalomirakis, 1256 Broad-
way, New York, NY 11002. Or
send an electronic copy of your
submission to soundandvision and put Ask Theo
in the subject line.
NO PURCHASE NECESSARY TO ENTER. The Instant Cash Giveaway Sweepstakes is open to legal residents of the 50 United States (including Washington, DC) and
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3 winners of
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nt C


every m
furniture showroom is to avoid upholstering
them in light colors.
2. I wouldnt have continued the wainscot-
ing under the proscenium (which is a fancy
name for the stage
opening). The stage
is the focal point
of the room and
needs its own treat-
ment. You would
have been better off
with just a shallow,
carpeted stage plat-
form to make the
proscenium stand
out from the rest
of the room.
But thats nit-
picking. Youve
done a tremendous
job, Chris. If you
do decide to become a premier home theater
designer, I can tell you that youre already half-
way there. Come to think of it, Id better watch
my back! S&V &
22 APRIL/MAY 2009
Shedding rays of light on the
high-def format, plus great-
sounding downloads, more
Roomful of
Have a question about audio, video,
or home theater? Send an e-mail to: (put Q&A
in the subject line) or regular mail to:
Q&A, Sound & Vision, 1633 Broadway,
43rd oor, New York, NY 10019. Please
include your name, e-mail address, street
address, and phone number for verica-
tion; only your name, city, and state/
country will be printed in the magazine.
Sorry, but only questions chosen for publi-
cation can be answered, and all letters
are subject to editing at our discretion.
The Blu-ray Beat
Im deliberating whether to go the Blu-ray
route. I recently upgraded from a Sony
Bravia 32-inch TV to a 40-inch model. Both
are 1080p TVs with HDMI connections. Much
to my consternation, fellow enthusiasts have
noted that the 40-incher doesnt have the
image clarity my earlier TV did. I chalked this
up to having a larger screen ergo, less de-
nition. But now come new Sony Bravia TVs that
are advertised as having a Bravia Engine II
for greater clarity! Was there a problem with
earlier versions of the Bravia engine? Should I
have waited? These are questions I must have
answers to before I buy a Blu-ray player and
hopefully improve my TVs clarity.
I dont know of any problems with Sonys
earlier Bravia engine, but TV companies
always have something new and better on the
horizon. A more likely issue here is the upgrade
you made to a 40-inch screen size, which will
better reveal noise and other artifacts in stan-
dard-denition pictures. (This factor no doubt
contributed to the loss in clarity you and your
fellow enthusiasts noted on the new TV.)
As for Sonys Bravia Engine II, its a video
enhancement rst found in the companys
2008 TV line that adds advanced contrast
and detail enhancement, along with improved
noise-reduction processing over earlier ver-
sions. While the enhancements have some
value, I wouldnt fret over them too much,
since theyre mainly designed to boost picture
clarity with standard-def programs. With high-
def ones particularly 1080p movies on
Blu-ray Disc any contributions from the sets
video processing wont make as much of a dif-
ference. So, if your ultimate goal is to get the
best clarity from your current TV, hooking up to
Blu-ray the cleanest-looking, highest-resolu-
tion consumer video source available will
certainly help.
I just bought my rst Blu-ray Disc player,
a Samsung BD-P1500, and have ques-
tions. Do all BD players need to be hooked
up to the Internet for occasional rmware
updates? Also, do they all need to be manually
set to 24-fps output for movies in that format,
or do some of the more advanced models do
this automatically?
Blu-ray players dont need to be hooked
up to the Internet; they can play discs just
ne without a network connection. But you will
nd that some new releases, particularly ones
with BD-Live features, might need a player
rmware update in order to play properly. This
is where an Internet connection will come in
handy: You simply go to your players setup
menu and select System Update, and the new
rmware is automatically downloaded and
installed. If your BD player isnt connected to
a home network, youll need to either down-
load the rmware update from the companys
support site and burn it to a disc, or call the
companys support line to request that a disc
be sent through snail mail. As for 1080p/
24-fps playback, that feature needs to be
enabled in the BD players setup menu for
all models weve tested so far.
HDMI vs. Optical
Im using a good-quality HDMI cable to
connect my Blu-ray Disc player and A/V
receiver. Can an optical digital cable produce
better sound than an HDMI one with the
receiver in DTS mode or in any audio-
processing mode, for that matter?
Heres the short answer: No. An HDMI
hookup can actually provide a noticeable
improvement in audio performance compared
with a standard optical-digital connection
when you play Blu-ray movies. Thats because
your BD players optical jack is limited to send-
ing only a standard, compressed 5.1 Dolby
Digital/DTS bitstream or a downmixed stereo
PCM version of the soundtrack. An HDMI con-
nection, on the other hand, can deliver up
to 7.1 channels of lossless high-resolution
audio from the Dolby TrueHD and DTS-HD
Master Audio soundtracks contained on
Blu-ray Discs.
With an HDMI connection, you can extract
those lossless high-rez soundtracks either by
letting the player decode them or by using one
of the newer A/V receivers that include Dolby
TrueHD and DTS-HD Master Audio decoding.
When the player performs decoding (most
BD players support Dolby TrueHD, while a few
newer models can also handle DTS-HD MA),
the high-rez soundtrack information is passed
to the receiver over HDMI as uncompressed,
multichannel PCM. When the A/V receiver
does the decoding, the soundtrack data is sent
from the player as a digital bitstream over an
HDMI (v. 1.3) connection. Either way you go
about doing it, that HDMI jack can give you
better sound with Blu-ray Discs than an optical
one can.
Streaming Receivers
I read the review of the Denon AVR-989
A/V receiver in your January issue (avail-
able online), and it sounded like it hit the
sweet spot except for the one feature I truly
need: home-network media sharing. What are
some good A/V receivers that can stream a
movie from a PC over a network and send it to
a video display by way of HDMI? I dont plan to
buy a dedicated Media Center PC just yet, but
my current PC is very capable of delivering the
data over a hardwired gigabit network.
If youre willing to spend an additional
$500, you could step up to Denons AVR-
3808CI, which offers a network media-sharing
feature. But sharing on that model is limited
to audio les and JPEG photos, and you want to
watch movies. For PC-to-A/V-receiver video & &
24 APRIL/MAY 2009
streaming over a home network, you should
seek out a receiver thats DLNA (Digital
Living Network Alliance) compatible. Two
such models that claim to support video
streaming are Sonys STR-DA6400ES and
Pioneers SC-09TX. But neither of these is a
low-cost option (the STR-DA6400ES is $2,500,
while the SC-09TX sells for $7,000!), so you
might also want to look into buying that
dedicated Media Center PC.
High-rez Highway
Are there any online music services
that allow downloads at DVD-Audio- and
SACD-quality sampling rates? If so, how could
I feed these from my computer to my sound
The two main online sources for high-
resolution music downloads are Music-
Giants ( and HDtracks
( MusicGiants Super HD High
Denition downloads are transferred from
original SACD and DVD-Audio sources at either
88.2 kHz/24 bits (SACD) or 96 kHz/24 bits
(DVD-Audio) and are encoded in the Windows
Media Audio Lossless format. Both 5.1-channel
and stereo selections are available. HDtracks,
meanwhile, sells 88.2/24 and 96/24 stereo
downloads in the lossless FLAC format.
As for moving that high-rez music from a
computer to your sound system once its been
downloaded, there are several options. One
is to buy a high-performance soundcard for
your computer with 96/24 support. Another
is to buy a 96/24-compatible outboard DAC
(digital-to-analog converter) with a USB input.
(A few such models are available from high-
end audio companies like Benchmark and
In both cases, though, youll probably
be looking at long, unwieldy cable runs, so
you might want to consider a Wi-Fi solution.
Logitechs Transporter, for instance, is a
$2,000 Network Music Player with 96/24
FLAC support. Yet another option is to make
room in your A/V rack for a computer.
Windows Media Center PCs are designed to
integrate seamlessly with A/V systems, and
some, like the Niveus Media Rainier that I
reviewed for the July/August 2008 issue
(available on our Web site), provide a custom
software interface for browsing the Music-
Giants store. S&V

the web zone

1. Tivoli Audio NetWorks stereo radio with FM:
Built-in Wi-Fi, rich sound, and a wood finish help make
this model stand out from other Internet-ready tabletop
radios. Is it worth 750 bucks? Michael Antonoff reports.
2. Snell Acoustics Signature Series C7 speaker:
Each tower has a set of side-firing 8-inch woofers for
full-range sound. But just how full-range is it? Daniel
Kumin does some serious stereo listening to find out.

The real March Madness, when it comes to music,
is the South by Southwest Music Conference and
Festival in Austin, Texas, the industrys largest gather-
ing. Entertainment Editor Ken Richardson is there for
his 12th year. How will the recession affect SXSW?
Check out our Bitstream blog for Kens daily reports.
4/5. Interview-o-rama! Editor-In-Chief Mike Mettler
talks sights and sounds with several musicians and
actors. Postings throughout the month will include:

Guitarist Alex Lifeson and producer Richard Chycki

on the surround mix of Rushs Snakes & Arrows: Live
for Blu-ray Disc and their wish lists for what theyd
do with the bands studio catalog in 5.1.

The Bacon Brothers Kevin (4, left) and Michael

on their sonic goals while recording New Years Day.

Actress Illeana Douglas (5) on her Easy to Assemble

Web series and shooting in and out of high-def.

Comedian Richard Schimmel on his days as an

expert stereo salesman. & | 1.800.633.5255
Expertise Is The Difference.
OneCalls Spokane, WA, call center staff is highly trained, experienced
and non-commissioned. Were happy to answer your questions about
technology, compatibility, performance and more. OneCalls PriceShield
matches prices daily with other electronics retailers. And, if a price drops
within seven days of your purchase, well refund the difference!
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26 APRIL/MAY 2009
gadget gary
theproducers ear
Gary DellAbate is the executive producer of
The Howard Stern Show. Hes looking forward
to doing more Gadget Gary segments on WPIX
Morning News in New York City.
Rob Fraboni is a noted producer and engineer
who has worked with Bob Dylan, Eric Clapton,
Bonnie Raitt, the Beach Boys, and the Rolling
Stones, to name a few of his artistic partners.
or years, Ive heard about a magical
convention a convention where
people like me can go to see the lat-
est, coolest, most cutting-edge elec-
tronics that are slated to be coming soon.
We all know it, of course, as the Consumer
Electronics Show, or CES, and lucky for me the
Sound &Vision fairy tapped me with his wand
and sent me to the big event in Las Vegas this
past January.
The trip proved what I used to know
only secondhand: CES is a
tech-heads fantasy. (I
dont think the editors
want me to use the word
geek.) [No worries; thats
a badge of honor these daysEd.]
I saw some very cool stuff in the Main Hall
from big boys like Panasonic, Samsung, and
Sony. It was my rst time viewing Panasonics
150-inch plasma HDTV in person wow. Its
3-D home theater demo using 2008 Beijing
Olympics footage was amazing (although we
need to have more stylish 3-D glasses, guys).
And LG showed a watch phone, essentially
exactly like what Dick Tracy still uses. Yeah, I
was lovin it.
But much more of the gadget heaven I was
really looking for was over in the South Hall.
I saw some great stuff there, and a decent
amount of it will be reviewed in this column
throughout the year. Some items were at-out
fun (underwater goggles with a built-in auto-
focus video camera; wireless speakers in oor
lamps and ceiling fans), some not as fun but
still quite
functional (dishwasher-
safe keyboards and mice), some
thatll make my life easier (a small box that
plugs into my computer, uses an Ethernet con-
nection, and allows me to look at my hard drive
from anywhere in the world via a broadband
connection), and some that were just . . . inter-
esting (a device that looks like a toaster and
cleans your LPs for a mere $3,499).
Another cool thing about being at CES was
visiting booths of manufacturers of stuff I
already own to see what they have coming
down the pike. The folks at BlackBerry had
reps from Slingbox on hand, so within minutes,
I was watching TV via Slingbox on my Black-
Berry Bold. Over at TiVo, I observed a beta
version of a TiVo search engine thats one of
the most user-friendly Ive seen yet for any
DVR. And I saw a great new technology called
Powermat ($100, at left;,
which wirelessly powers all sorts of everyday
items. I loved the demo of the Kitchen
Aid mixer on a kitchen island,
fully working with no visible
sign of a plug.
My CES wrap-up: The show
was overwhelming, exciting, educational,
tiring, and amazing. Now that I know my way
around, CES will be even better next year!
Can I book it now, boss?
n last issues column, while pointing out
the trend of artists striving for analog
characteristics in contemporary record-
ings, I neglected to mention that this
trend is also driven by the tendency of new
technologies to diminish those very qualities.
Much in the same way, Ive been driven to
seek out a solution to the reduced propaga-
tion of feel in digital recordings. Which brings
us right back to where we started: The Art of
On the most basic level, we fall into one of
two groups: A) the Casual Listener or B) the
Serious Listener. Once youve identied which
one you are, its much simpler to proceed. (And
if youre feeling dissatised with your listening
experience, youve probably found yourself in
the wrong group.)
Group A types generally need a good, func-
tional, simple, and compact system, either
of a computer-connected satellite-speaker/
subwoofer combo or a personal MP3 player
with earphones or buds and/or associated
docking. Audio requirements are reduced
dynamically, so it comes down to whether your
experience is satisfying or frustrating, and
then perfecting it based on your needs.
Meanwhile, Group B types, like many of
us, are most likely going with a multi-speaker
home theater setup thats surround-capable,
or even a dedicated 2-channel audio system.
Rarely is this a casual arrangement. A Group B
system yearns for recordings with real dynam-
ics intact and the ability to exhibit their power
and exhilaration. (I would also place high-end
car audio systems in this category.)
Each group requires and thrives from a spe-
cic approach. The creators of the music itself
dont speak of it as such, only the listeners.
My advice is to be realistic about the group
youre in and pursue that, rather than work
both camps to try and experience it all.
I believe the ability to be a good listener
benets greatly from focus and concentration.
I believe hearing is the next logical step in the
process, but its much less nonchalant like
the difference between looking and watching, if
you will. Consider your favorite recordings. Do
they match the type of listening arrangement
you prefer (i.e., Group A or Group B)? Apply this
technique to your listening choices, and I know
youll have a more satisfying experience.
And soon, well provide you access to a way
for you to audition RealFeel, which makes get-
ting to the next stage in the listening process
even more interesting. As we all know, its time
for a change. Until next time, happy hearing! &
e O
Ends 3/28/09
e O
Ends 3/28/09
e O
Ends 3/28/09
Expertise Is The Difference.
OneCalls Spokane, WA, call center staff is highly trained, experienced
and non-commissioned. Were happy to answer your questions about
technology, compatibility, performance and more. OneCalls PriceShield
matches prices daily with other electronics retailers. And, if a price drops
within seven days of your purchase, well refund the difference! | 1.800.633.5255
Home Theater
Why leave your best
music indoors?

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28 APRIL/MAY 2009











Panasonic TC-50G10
50-inch plasma HDTV
Thanks to Panasonics neoPDP
technology, this 50-inch plasma
screen is more environmentally
friendly. Not only is it lead-free,
but according to Panasonic, its
neoPDP panel is more energy
efcient than conventional
plasma screens. It also has
a lifespan of 100,000 hours,
offering 30 years of 8 hours
of TV a day (or a full century of
television at 2 hours and
45 minutes daily).
includes Panasonics VieraCast
feature, a streaming video
system that lets users access
online content through the TVs
Ethernet port. Just plug it into
your home network and you can
watch Amazon Video on Demand,
YouTube videos, and even
business and weather reports
over the Internet.
JVC XV-BP1 Blu-ray Disc player
FIRST TIMES THE CHARM JVC is a little late to the Blu-ray party, but that doesnt mean it should be
counted out. Appropriately, the XV-BP1 JVCs initial entry into the Blu-ray arena is an entry-level
deck, delivering all the essential features (Bonus View and BD-Live support) without many costly
bells and whistles or the hefty price tags that can come with them.
HIGH-DEF HOME VIDEOS The XV-BP1 supports AVCHD video playback, letting you burn your own
HD home movies to a DVD and watch them on the player in high-def. Conveniently, JVC offers a line
of high-def-recording Everio camcorders that just happen to record AVCHD video. Its almost as if the
company designed the two products to work together . . .
$300 &
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razor sharp moving images, while the new Viera Image Viewer
feature and built-in PC input jack let you enjoy your digital photos
and computer content on these stunning wide-screen displays.
Full-Time !O8O TV Lines Hoving
Picture Resolution
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30 APRIL/MAY 2009
Pioneer VSX-1019AH A/V receiver
I CAME, I SAW, iPOD Previous Pioneer receivers have supported iPods, but
the 1019AH offers some new features to tantalize pod people. Not only does
it support both iPods and iPhones, but it can display album art on HDTVs in both
your primary and secondary zones while you listen. Pioneers Advanced Sound
Retriever processing works to restore data lost when compressing music.
HDMI HDMI HDMI An upgrade from past models, the 1019AH includes HDMI
1.3 repeaters, giving the receiver full Deep Color and x.v.Color support. It also
features a Faroudja 1080p upscaler for your non-HD content, and includes a
Lip Sync function to synchronize audio and video output.
Acoustic Research
XSight Touch remote control
FINGERTIP CONTROL A 2-inch color LCD touch-
screen and a touch-sensitive slider bar let users navi-
gate their preferences, activities, and other functions
with nary a button press. There are still plenty of keys,
grouped into handy sections for DVR and menu naviga-
tion, so you can count on your clicker actually clicking
when you want it to. When its not having its screen
rubbed or buttons poked, the remote rests comfort-
ably in a charging cradle that keeps its built-in
lithium-ion battery full of juice.
ONLINE OR OFFLINE If you want to
start channel surng as soon as you
take the remote out of the box, its
built-in code library can be used
to congure your home theater
without laying a nger on another
gadget. If you want more control
and exibility, you can plug the
remote into your computers
USB port and use a Web-
based interface to program
every device, activity, and
favorite channel to your
hearts content.
$2,000 ($249 for each
additional speaker adapter)
Radiient Technologies
THX Roomcaster Early Adapter Kit
CUT THE CORD This 7-piece kit includes everything you
need to make your home theater system wireless. The
source adapter can wirelessly send up to 96-kHz/
24-bit uncompressed sound from any audio
source to any speaker equipped with a speaker
adapter. The basic package, which includes 1
source adapter and 6 speaker adapters, supports
a 5.1-channel setup, but you can buy additional
speaker adapters for 7.1 systems.
TECH TRYOUTS Like its name implies, the Early Adapter
Kit is for early adopters of wireless technology. Its one of
the rst products to feature THX Roomcaster, a wireless
audio system that Radiient developed with THX. Radiient
hopes to see its THX Roomcaster modules installed into
speakers, receivers, and other audio equipment in the
future, but until then this humble set of dongles is the
most direct way to try it out. &








APRIL/MAY 2009 31
NOTE All prices and product information supplied
by the manufacturers. Dealer prices may vary.
Sharp Aquos BD LC52BD80U
52-inch LCD HDTV
GREEN HDTV First and foremost, the Sharp Aquos BD is an LCD
HDTV, boasting 120-Hz processing, 10-bit Deep Color support,
four HDMI connections, and even RS-232 support. Sharps Optical
Picture Control automatically adjusts screen brightness to t the
rooms lighting, and Brightness Preservation processing works
to maintain image quality even when the backlight is dimmed,
preserving energy. As a result, Sharp claims that the Aquos BD
screens exceed Energy Star requirements by at least 15%.
BLU PLAYER Tucked just behind the screen is a built-in Blu-ray
Disc player. This discreet, slot-loading player lets you watch Blu-
ray movies without hooking up a single additional device to the
screen. Just pop a disc into the slot behind the bezel and it auto-
matically turns on and starts playing. Out of the box, the player
will only support Prole 1.1 (Bonus View) features, but Sharp
plans to release a rmware upgrade later this year to let the
Ethernet-port-equipped player handle BD-Live content.
Samsung HT-BD8200
Blu-ray home theater soundbar
ONE PIECE, TWO GADGETS Have you ever wanted to shove
a Blu-ray Disc directly into one of your speakers? If so, then
youre probably deranged, but that doesnt make the wall-
mountable BD8200 any less of a good idea. It combines a
Blu-ray player with a soundbar to give your home theater
virtual surround sound and media playback while occupying
a fraction of the shelf space that ordinary speakers and a
standalone Blu-ray player would take up.
FULLY STOCKED Samsung packs the features into its media-
playing soundbar. Wi-Fi lets the system wirelessly access a
variety of online activities, including BD-Live features, Netix
video streaming, and Pandora music streaming, and Bluetooth
lets it connect to cellphones and other compatible devices
for even more media playback. The soundbar also features
an iPod dock, for simply dropping in your tunes and grooving
without any network setup.
$2,599 &
32 APRIL/MAY 2009
Boston Acoustics CPS 10
powered subwoofer
OLD SCHOOL Unlike the audacious aesthetics of some
higher-end speakers, Boston Acoustics keeps its Classic
Series speakers simple and sweet, with a blocky, solid
design that hails back to the early days of hi-. The CPS 10
is a much-needed subwoofer addition to the line, supporting
up to 250 watts of power and dwarng the capacity of its
little brother, the down-ring 100-watt CS Sub10.
SOLID SOUND The front-ring
CPS 10 boasts a
10-inch driver with
a frequency range
of 35 to 150 Hz. The
sub features Boston
Acoustics Deep
Channel Design,
which the company
claims produces more
bass for less power,
and BassTrac circuitry
to reduce distortion at
higher volumes.





Toshiba Regza 55SV670 LCD HDTV
THIS IS THE MATRIX This HDTV uses an LED matrix
for backlighting, instead of edge LED lighting or more
conventional cold cathode uorescent (CCFL) back-
lighting. Each LED in the matrix can be independently
dimmed, making blacks darker without affecting
brightness on other parts of the screen.
PIXEL POPPING Toshiba packs plenty of video-
tweaking features into its Regza HDTVs. Its PixelPure
5G video engine features 14-bit processing and a
variety of automatic adjustments for color, brightness,
sharpness, and noise. Resolution+ upconverting scales
480i, 480p, and 720p video sources to full high-def,
and ClearScan 240 combines 120-Hz video processing
with backlight scanning to produce a 240-Hz effect to
smooth out motion and reduce judder.
SIM2 C3X Lumis Host projector
TWO-PARTER SIM2s new high-end home theater projector is split
neatly into two parts. The projector itself contains the optics, the
3,000-lumen lamp, and three 1-inch DarkChip4 DLP chips within
its relatively light 24-pound body. The 5-pound Host deck holds
the bulk of the projectors electronics. The two-piece setup lets
users connect whatever they want to the display without futzing
with the projector they so carefully placed in just the right spot.
PROJECTOR CONNECTOR The Host offers a ton of connectivity,
including six HDMI 1.3 jacks, three sets of component-video inputs,
DVI and RGB hookups, and even an HD-SDI input for professional-
grade equipment. Besides conventional RS-232c support for high-
end control systems, the projector also features an Ethernet
jack for conguring, controlling, and monitoring the system over
TCP/IP. It can even send out status reports via e-mail.
$36,496 ($37,995 with extra-long-
throw lens) &

APRIL/MAY 2009 33
Anthem Master 50v
preamp/video processor
ROOM ROCKING This upgraded version of Anthems
Master 50 preamp/video processor comes loaded
with audiophile-friendly features, including the Anthem
Room Correction (ARC) system, which individually
adjusts each speakers frequency response to best t
a room. ARC takes multiple microphone samples from
different positions in a room to dene the best output for an entire
listening area and not just a single sweet spot. The preamp can support up
to 7.1 channels of 192-kHz PCM, and its dual-core audio DSP can decode both
Dolby TrueHD and DTS-HD Master Audio.
PLUGS-A-PLENTY The Master 50v includes all of the video processing features
of the Master 50, but with double the HDMI connectivity. It now has eight HDMI
1.3c inputs, plus a pair of parallel HDMI outputs, great for home theaters that
use a at-panel display for watching TV and a projector for watching movies.
Thiel Zet dB1 audio
distribution system
ZET ZONES Thiel describes the Zet as the rst
plug-and-play networked audio system, using IP-
assignable Thiel speakers and a Web interface to
simplify setup. The rst dB1 distribution boxes,
shipping in April, will be audio-only Ethernet-equipped
models that can use a home network to stream audio.
Thiel plans to expand connectivity later this year with
HDMI and wireless features on later versions. If youre
an early adopter, have no fear. Your original dB1 will
be factory-upgradable (for a fee).
LETS COMMUNICATE Two-way communication
between the networked speakers and the dB1 assists
with both setup and tweaking the system. Bass
integration, channel steering, and mixdown are all
automated, so if youre listening to a 5.1 track in a
stereo zone, it will automatically remix the music to
better t that conguration.
Totem Acoustic Wind
Design loudspeakers
difcult to nd in high-end
speakers. Your favorite speaker
usually comes in black and a
variety of wood stains, but thats
about it. Totem bucks the trend
with its newly upgraded Wind
Design series. In addition to the
standard black and semi-standard
white versions, you can get these
speakers with bright red or
blue lacquers.
new paint job, the Wind Design
speakers have gotten a few
design upgrades compared
with the previous Wind model.
An adjustable skid plate keeps
the speaker completely off the
oor, and a new crossover net-
work further tweaks its sound.
$11,500/pair for white or black,
$12,500/pair for red or blue &

Bravia KDL-55XBR8 55-inch LCD
HDTV I $7,000 I FEB/MAR 2009 I
Plasma has a reason to watch its back,
as this 55-inch Sony LCD is capable of
displaying deep blacks. And I dont just
mean that its blacks are good for an LCD,
clarifies reviewer Al Griffin. Theyre as
deep as Ive seen on any TV, period. Its
ability to flesh out above-black shadows is
impressive, and picture sharpness and col-
or accuracy are also striking. In a shot of
the Ryoanji temple rock garden in Kyoto,
Japan from Baraka, the texture of stones
lining the ground looked remarkably clear.
Visit for our
comprehensive list of recommended
products and reviews.
L65-A90 65-inch LaserVue
rear-projection HDTV I $6,999 I
FEB/MAR 2009 I
LaserVue technology gives the L65-A90
capabilities that have never before been
seen in a TV. Laservue delivers a highly
focused beam of pure light, with colors that
encompass an exceptionally broad spec-
trum. This set was able to show remarkably
fine shadow gradations in garden hedges
and James Bonds suit in From Russia
With Love, while the wide color palette in
evidence on the Speed Racer Blu-ray Disc
was ultra-vivid.
Elite Kuro PRO-111FD
50-inch plasma HDTV I
$5,000 I OCT 2008 I
LN55A950 55-inch LCD HDTV I
$4,999 I DEC 2008 I
Any traditional notions of what LCD can
and cant deliver are now void, declared
reviewer Michael Trei about the LN55A950.
Samsungs top-drawer 55-incher man-
ages to overcome most of LCDs noted
weaknesses by way of deep, rich blacks,
detailed shadows, and superb video
processing. A skyline sequence in Batman
Begins looked amazingly sharp, without a
hint of blurring or edge enhancement.
Deeper blacks, natural-looking
color, clean video processing,
and powerful noise reduction
add up to a Kuro thats even
better than its predecessor, the
PRO-110FD, our Product of
the Year in 2007. Still the best
all-around TV money can buy.
sound&visions best
34 APRIL/MAY 2009 &
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Saturday - $69 / Sunday - $99 / Both days - $139
SATURDAY 1:00-5:00PM
Digital Fundamentals: Learn about all the necessary digital photography
techniques and terms. Composition: study portrait, landscape, action,
low-light and macro shooting styles, etc
your computer can do for you. Printing and sharing options! Create
calendars and postcards. And so much more!
SUNDAY 9:00-5:00PM
Expanding the Fundamentals: Examine light and subject. Explore color
and movement plus advanced camera functions make exposure
Live Shooting: Take a tour through various shooting stations for different
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equipment. Listen to image critiques!
organizational techniques. Make your pictures pop with various software
and advanced editing functions.
Plus a Live Q&A! &

VS Series home theater
speaker system
I $4,000 as tested I
FEB/MAR 2009 I
Listened to alone in stereo, the
bookshelf VS240s in this series re-
vealed excellent transparency and an
exceedingly neutral and accurate tonal
balance, virtually free of the discrete
midrange or treble colorations that
would give lesser speakers a distinct
character. On the movie side of things,
the Boston layout delivered sound ef-
fects from a first-class DTS-HD Master
Audio soundtrack at first-run cinema
levels without a stumble.
RX-V3900 A/V receiver I
$1,900 I FEB/MAR 2009 I
During 2-channel listening sessions, the
RX-V3900 displayed dynamic prow-
ess and clean, transparent sound. It
revealerd no weakness in reproduc-
ing the very impressive Dolby TrueHD
soundrtack for the Iron Man Blu-ray
Disc, exhibiting headroom to spare on
high-impact scenes, even at movie-
palace volumes. On the video side, the
processing showed excellent resolution
and deinterlacing for both film- and vid-
eo-soruced material. And its onscreeen
display system is the best A/V receiver
interface weve seen yet.
Music storage and server system
I $11,600 I FEB/MAR 2009 I
A servers ultimate job is to make it as
easy as possible for you to find and
play your stored music, and thats
where Sooloos truly excels. The smartly
designed interface greatly simplifies
this, and the big Control:One touch-
panel makes browsing a treat by
displaying a host of information, includ-
ing the date you added something to
your Sooloos library and the option of
reading full album reviews. Sonically,
the system produced detailed and en-
gaging audio. And a photo, movie, and
online component is on the way.
sound&visions best
36 APRIL/MAY 2009
The DMP-BD35s video performance with Blu-ray Discs
and DVDs, thanks to its top-notch 1080p scaling is
beyond reproach, and its ability to decode Dolby TrueHD
and DTS-HD Master Audio soundtracks out of the box
gives it a strong foot up on the competition. Irresistible.
DMP-BD35 Blu-ray Disc player I $250
I FEB/MAR 2009 I &
Bundle 150 wireless multiroom
music system I $1,148 as tested I
The makers of an award-winning
multiroom music system have brought
forth a worthy sequel. Instead of rely-
ing on a CD player or a built-in hard
drive, Sonos taps into shared music on
your computer. Two ZonePlayers are
included, and any source connected
to a ZonePlayers line-level input can
be listened to on any other networked
Player a nice way to add a ton of ad-
ditional sources to your music system.
The Sonos Bundles true MVP: the cool,
intuitive, and highly functional CR100
controller. S&V
Visit for our comprehensive list of recommended products and reviews.

APRIL/MAY 2009 37
AVR-989 A/V receiver
I $1,199 I JAN 2009 I
One of the keys to this units beyond-
reproach audio performance is its pow-
erful Audyssey-licensed processing.
Dynamic EQ was able to retain musical
bass, male-vocal character and weight,
and surround spaciousness even at
very low master-volume settings. And
Dynamic Volume effectively leveled the
volume from source to source, channel
to channel, and thankfully from
program to commercial and back
again. On the video front, the Faroudja
processing delivered crisp, full-resolu-
tion, artifact-free images.
Horizon home theater speaker
system I $6,080 as tested I
JAN 2009 I
Not your typical speaker package, this
soundbar-based system provides a
stylish, exact match to your screen,
with custom finishes and a subwoofer
that takes up little room or none
at all, if you opt for an in-wall install.
Rich, natural sound with music and an
appropriately wide soundstage with
movies are among its hallmarks.
This systems built-in powered
subwoofer lets it deliver dynamic, full-
range performance from a compact,
strikingly good-looking package. Not
only that, but the STSs clean, coherent,
detailed sound will make easy friends of
all who hear it.
Mythos STS SuperTower home theater
speaker system I $4,616 as tested I
JAN 2009 I &
38 APRIL/MAY 2009
Tech Trends 09
From Widgets to 3-D,
new sets on the horizon
are equipped to take TV
viewing to the next level
ach year, people like me attend
the Consumer Electronics Show
hoping to see indications of a
forthcoming display technology
that will make current TV tech LCD
and plasma, mostly seem as outdated
as the tube TVs piling up in landlls
around the world (or not see Tech
Goes Green on page 56 for more on
that story). At the 2008 CES, Sony gave
attendees something to froth over when it
not only previewed but actually introduced
the rst OLED (Organic Light-Emitting
Diode) TV aimed at the consumer market.
This year, no similar products inspired
giddy daydreams of a tech-
fantastic future on the horizon. What we
did see were lots of new variations on the
at-panel LCD and plasma theme: thinner,
greener, and better-connected TVs; TVs
with picture-refresh rates
twice as fast as last years
models; TVs that require
you to wear funny-looking
glasses to watch the 3-D
images theyre capable of
Connected TV
What if I were to tell you
that the future of TV was
Yahoo Widgets? Would you
A) embrace that notion with
enthusiasm, or B) abandon
TV watching altogether? If
you answered A, plenty
of stuff should grab your
attention over the next year.
Internet portal Yahoos
Connected TV Initiative aims
Samsungs 1-inch-deep LCD TV with
LED edge lighting &

APRIL/MAY 2009 39
to bundle popular Web destinations for
display on network-connected TVs. These
take the form of onscreen Widgets
basically, a more sophisticated, Web-
driven version of picture-in-picture (see
the bottom of page 40). Using your
remote control, you select Widgets from
an onscreen menu to launch overlays
with sports scores, news headlines, Flickr
photo streams, YouTube videos, eBay auc-
tions, and more.
Companies intending to release
Widget-friendly sets in 2009 include
Samsung, LG, Sony, Toshiba, Panasonic,
and Vizio. Of course, each manufacturer
has its own name for the feature
Samsungs Internet@TV, for instance
as well as its own specic menu of
content that can be accessed. (See
Gently Down the Stream on page 43
for details.) More exciting than mere
Widgets, however, are new TVs that can
stream movies direct from online video
services. LGs forthcoming PS80 plasma
will let viewers screen any movies theyve
queued up for Instant Viewing in their
Netix account when the TV is connected
to a home network. Panasonics VieraCast
models, meanwhile, can access titles
from Amazon Video on Demand. And Vizio
anticipates big things for sets incorporat-
ing its Connected TV platform (estimated
ship date: late 2009). So far, the list of
content providers Vizio expects to con-
nect to include Netix, Amazon Video on
Demand, and Blockbuster onDemand.
Better, Faster, Greener
For many years, the performance of LCD
TVs trailed that of plasma sets. But the
recent addition of LED backlights and
local-dimming processing on high-end
LCD models has nally made them a
serious option for fussy videophiles.
You can expect to see many LED-backed
LCDs with local dimming arrive in stores
during 2009. Most notably, Toshiba will
ship its 46- and 55-inch SV670 series
sets in May the rst LED models
weve seen from that company. LG will
also roll out 42-, 47-, and 55-inch models
around the same time, while Vizio plans
to push its 55-inch VF551XVT into the
ring in June. Priced at a mere $1,999,
Vizios offering could very well mean an
end to the high prices that set makers
have previously charged for these pre-
mium models.
Although nothing concrete has been
announced yet, Samsung has hinted it
will release new LED-backlit models with
local dimming in late 2009. Around the
same time, Italian manufacturer Sim2
expects to roll out a high-end (and most
likely high-priced) 47-inch model (shown
above) with Dolby Vision, which is Dolbys
own take on LED-backlight technology.
With 16-bit processing and discrete
control over each lamp in the sets full
2,206-LED array, Sim2 and Dolby expect
this TV to be a statement piece. And talk
about statement! Check out the specied
contrast ratio for the Dolby Vision-enabled
LCD: Innite.
The LCDs with LED backlights that
Samsung did introduce at the 2009 CES
take a different approach in that they
forego a full LED array for edge lighting.
(Lamps positioned at the screens edge
combine with a reective back panel as
an illumination source.) The most apparent
benet to this edge-lit design is that it
enables Samsung to slim down the sets.
The screens of these forthcoming LCDs
are only 1 inch deep (see the photos on
page 38). And for its B6000-series mod-
els, the company also claims 40% lower
power consumption over standard mod-
els. Expect to see the edge-lit LED LCDs
in Samsungs LN-B6000, LN-B7000, and
LN-B8000 series arrive by early summer.
Last year, the buzzword for LCD TVs
was 120 Hz. This year, that number of
cycles has doubled to 240. Of course,
were talking about screen-refresh rates
here. By speeding up the rate at which
successive video frames are ashed
across the screen, LCD makers can
reduce the level of blur in fast-moving
images. Sonys KDL-52XBR7, which came
out in fall 2008, was the rst 240-Hz LCD
to hit the market. The company plans to
follow up this spring with a line of XBR9-
series 240-Hz sets in 40-, 46-, and 52-
inch screen sizes. Not to be left behind
in the LCD speed trials, LG, Samsung,
Toshiba, and Vizio will all ship 240-Hz
models in 2009.
It should be noted that not all 240-Hz
LCDs use the same technology to hit their
high screen-refresh rate. LG, Vizio, and
Toshiba use a scanning method where the
backlight is sequentially switched on and
off, while the Sony and Samsung models
interpolate additional frames from exist-
ing ones in the video source. Whether or


















Sim2s 47-inch LCD TV with Dolby Vision
LED backlighting &
40 APRIL/MAY 2009
Tech Trends 09
not a 240-Hz display offers
an improvement over current
120-Hz models is something
we plan to weigh in on once
a set arrives for testing.
LCD TV companies are
heavily trumpeting the
green benets of sets they
plan to release in 2009,
virtually all of which meet
Energy Star 3.0 specica-
tions. One part of the story
involves lower standby-mode
power consumption. Another
is the Eco settings that mak-
ers are now incorporating
into TVs. Such settings gener-
ally use sensors to read ambient
light in a room, automatically adjusting
backlight output to a suitable level.
Plasmas green status, on the other
hand, has traditionally been akin to that
of energy-slurping products like GMs
Hummer. But Panasonic means to change
that with its Neo PDP plasma models. The
company claims that these plasmas are
30% more efcient than previous models,
requiring around one-third less power to
deliver the same brightness. It plans to
release three separate plasma-TV lines
that incorporate Neo PDP, with the rst
models the 42-, 46-, and 50-inch G10
series sets arriving this spring.
3-D TV and Beyond
Movies shot in 3-D have been gaining a
strong foothold in the theatrical market
over the past few years, and some new
releases Coraline, for example can
actually be counted as accomplished
works of art. With the number of digital
cinemas equipped to display the format
multiplying, 3-D is starting to look less
like a fad and more like the mediums
future (although Im sure it will take some
coaxing before Woody Allen signs on to
direct a 3-D production). Compared with
movie theaters, 3-D presentation on the
home front is lagging well behind for
now, at least.
Big-gun TV makers Samsung, Sony,
LG, and Panasonic all had impressive
3-D demonstrations in their booths at
the 2009 CES. Of these, Panasonics
demo was the most put-together. The
companys 3D Full HD Plasma Home
Theater used a 103-inch
plasma TV displaying
full-1080p alternating
left/right-frame images,
which you view through
LCD shutter glasses con-
trolled by infrared signals.
The source of the 3-D
footage, which included
clips from Disneys ani-
mated Bolt and the recent
Beijing Olympics, was
a modied Blu-ray Disc
player. While I found that
the glasses were some-
what bulky and awkward,
the overall experience of viewing 3-D on
Panasonics huge plasma was highly
realistic and engaging.
Panasonic North Americas CEO, Yoshi
Yamada, stated at a press conference
that the company hopes to create an
industry-wide 3-D home-video standard
quickly enough to let consumers enjoy
Full HD 3-D movies on Blu-ray starting in
2010. To drive home the point, Panasonic
screened a prerecorded statement from
director James Cameron, a man with no
shortage of cred among early adopters of
home theater tech. Cameron, who is cur-
rently wrapping up a 3-D IMAX production
the sci- drama Avatar apparently
wants us all to enjoy 3-D TV in our homes,
and hes partnering up with Panasonic to
help make that happen.
While OLED was far from being a no-
show at this years CES prototype sets
with screen sizes ranging up to 31 inches
could be seen in the Samsung, Sony, and
LG booths it apparently isnt nearly as
ready for big-screen prime time as we
had been previously led to believe. Just
prior to the show, a Samsung executive
deated expectations when he told the
British magazine What Hi-Fi? Sound and
Vision that the company doesnt know
exactly when OLED will become a viable
consumer product. And with no new
OLED product announcements for 2009,
Sony neglected to follow through on the
momentum generated by the XEL-1 TV it
introduced at last years CES. What Sony
did demonstrate was that it can make
tiny OLED screens that bend (shown
above). Cool? Sure. Useful? Ill leave
that up to you to decide. S&V
Sonys bendable OLED screens
An example of
Yahoos onscreen
Widgets here
showing Flickr
photo streams &
Toshibas prototype cell processor-driven 56-inch 4K LCD TV

APRIL/MAY 2009 41
Tech Trends 09
special k
Take a peek past 1080p
into the world of 4K
ultra high-def and beyond
n a wintry scene on a certain Blu-
ray Disc Im watching, I can see
subtle shadings in the whites of
the snow-covered yards. All around,
contrast is crisp, and color is stunning
such as the perfect-hued skin tones
of the leading mans face. Not
to mention the brilliant shade
of azure in his matching scarf
and hat. (Has such a tint ever
appeared onscreen before?)
And clarity? Nine feet from
my 50-inch Pioneer plasma
HDTV, I can make out hints of
roughness on the face of the
lovely co-star and my TV
doesnt even do 1080p! But
this isnt some multi-hundred-
million-dollar epic. Its Zack
and Miri Make a Porno, fer
Chrissakes. And it stars Seth
Rogen! Still, could this scene
possibly look any better?
Well, high-def pictures could get
more than four times clearer roughly
7 million pixels better than the current
2-ish million. Thats the resolution of the
4K digital-cinema projection specication.
And if enough of you demand 4K, it could
be yours. The questions are: Do you really
want it? Do you really need it? And how
long might you have to wait to get it?
Pixel Mumbo Jumbo
But before you decide to go to 4K-Mart
for a high-def upgrade, you might want to
become an educated consumer.
If you have a TV and a source (such
as Blu-ray) that are both full-HD, youre
viewing the 1080p format meaning
that your picture resolution is 1,920
pixels wide by 1,080 pixels high for a total
of 2,073,600 pixels. At this rez, depend-
ing on your TV, a movie can look as good
as it did projected in the theater as
long as the screen isnt gargantuan and
you dont sit too close or too far away.
But what if you do have a jumbo TV?
Maybe youre cool enough to have a
dedicated screening room with a front
projector and a truly big screen. Watching
a movie at such a size, an astute viewer
could probably tell that the picture quality
isnt quite comparable to that of a new
lm print unspooling at a rst-rate cinema.
Thats because 35mm motion-picture-lm
resolution roughly translates to 4K. And
as I said, thats about 9 million pixels.
Now, if there were a home video for-
mat that could milk every grain from
35mm motion-picture prints, youd have
an essential clone of the movies master
print. Thats what a 4K digital telecine
transfer can do.
But how much more special
would those extra millions of
pixels make your life? For S&V
technical editor Al Grifn, a
demo of Meridians 10-million-
pixel Model 810 front projec-
tor at this years Consumer
Electronics Show was one of
the highlights for me, he says.
The picture quality was fan-
tastic on par with what Im
used to seeing at good movie
theaters. And keep in mind,
Grifn wasnt even watching
a native 4K source, but rather
an upscaled 1080p signal:
The Dark Knight on Blu-ray.
Why did Meridian create this refer-
ence-quality consumer projector at a time
when there isnt even any native 4K mate-
rial to show on it? Because we could,
says Meridian director of business devel-
opment Roland Morcom. To enhance
resolution is something weve learned
with our audio products. And resolution
enhancement improving the quality of
rendering is really very similar in the
video realm.
Flat-panel 4K displays actually made
their debut at last years CES, where Sony
previewed an 82-inch LCD screen (like
looking through a window, literally, said &
Meridians 10-million-pixel Model 810 video projector
42 APRIL/MAY 2009
Tech Trends 09
Al Grifn at the time), as did Samsung.
And Panasonic showed a 4K panel whose
resolution was often overlooked because
the TV measured 150 inches. Meanwhile,
at CES 2009, Toshiba unveiled its proto-
type cell processor-driven 56-inch 4K
LCD TV. But none of these TVs are yet
ready for prime time.
Im for 4K, Youre for 4K.
Are We All for 4K?
So, when might one of these mega-mega-
pixel at-panel TVs make it to your local
Best Buy? For that Toshiba cell-based
56-incher, the ofcial answer is sometime
in 2010, according to Scott Ramirez, the
companys vice president of marketing.
And Sonys prototype? Its just too early
to talk about 4K for consumers, says
spokesman Greg Belloni, and we have no
products or plans to talk about. (For the
record, though, Sony has helped spear-
head the professional market with its
SXRD 4K projectors, used in select digital
movie theaters.)
But even if 4K gear does inltrate the
consumer market, will there be any 4K
content to show on them? In one sense,
theres plenty of raw 4 out there already:
It isnt as if these resources dont exist
in the Hollywood community, says image-
quality expert Joe Kane, the video guru
behind the Digital Video Essentials calibra-
tion-disc series. A tremendous amount
of material is being done as a digital inter-
mediate, so theres a lot of stuff thats
4K meaning that studios are digitizing
new releases in high-rez and preserving
older fare the same way.
Whoa hold on a second, Joe.
Meridians Marcom needs to play devils
advocate here: Hollywood is still making
relatively little use of 4K because it costs
too much, so I doubt we would see 4K for
the consumer market for a long time if
ever. Look at D-Cinema [which is used in
commercial movie theaters]. It includes a
specication for 4K, but almost all of the
D-Cinema out there is 2K. And it looks
set to stay that way for some time, while
3-D and other features present Hollywood
with a stronger way to differentiate the
cinema from the home theater and create
a greater source of revenue. Toshibas
Scott Ramirez adds that he knows of no
plans for 4K software.
If Hollywood does ever turn on the
4K faucet, the bits and bytes could
conceivably ow from a medium that
youre quite familiar with: Blu-ray Disc.
Blu-ray has the capability for 4K, says
Richard Doherty, research director for
The Envisioneering Group. Most Blu-rays
going out the door right now are double
layer 50 gigs. At 4K, youd be able
to t a movie on a disc using the best
H.264 compression [a variant of the
MPEG-4 codec].
Marcom agrees with that assertion, in
theory. H.264, to the best of my knowl-
edge, makes it technically possible to put
video in this format onto a Blu-ray Disc at
4K resolution and even higher. But there
are no consumer players or even pro-
fessional players, for that matter that
have the hardware to provide a video
output for it. So, its all rather academic.
Still, DisplayPort [a digital display-inter-
face standard] could handle these reso-
lutions and provide us with the connec-
tion to a potential display.
What if the 4K Blu-ray thing never
happens? And what if Internet speeds
remain too slow to make downloading
ultra-high-def movies practical? No
prob. There are other 4K delivery sce-
narios. One of them combines the
movie-rental model with solid-state
memory. Says Joe Kane: People would
actually own, say, a Memory Stick,
walk into a store, and nd a panel to
plug it into. Then you would go do your
store shopping and say, Oh, I want that
movie, and send it to your Stick. At
tens of gigs a second, it wouldnt take
long to load the movie like, seconds.
These kinds of scenarios are being
offered to help reinvigorate brick-and-
mortar places.
Where No K
Has Gone Before
But is even 4K enough to get the job
done? Take Baraka, the epic look at
nature and civilization the disc Roger
Ebert called the reason to acquire a
Blu-ray player. It was shot in 65mm and
transferred to not 2K, not 4K, but
8K digital. So if you ever want to see
Baraka in the Full Monty, 4K just wont
cut it. Ditto for such 65mm luminaries as
Lawrence of Arabia, Ben-Hur, and 2001:
A Space Odyssey.
Ive seen one demonstration of 8K
already in Japan, notes Envisioneerings
Doherty. I think people have been bit-
ing their tongue over the last year about
8K. They think you have to get 4K going
before you can talk about 8K or 16K. But
the visual system is capable of it. When
you enjoy a good planetarium show, youre
essentially enjoying 8 or 16K over that
large dome. So weve all seen 4K and
better; we just havent seen it with home-
video resolution yet.
And you dont need to have a home
theater the size of Radio City Music Hall
to enjoy these ultra-deluxe resolutions.
Doherty says that 8K resolution can t
onto a 65-inch at-panel TV, and 16K on
an 88-incher.
Now surely you can cough up a few
Ks of your own to pay for something
like that, no? S&V &
Down the
Ken C.
Is it time for
you to test
the streaming

APRIL/MAY 2009 43
Tech Trends 09
kay. Lets begin by taking a
deep breath. Breathe in and
then out. Again. Good! Now, let
me explain that it might be time
for another paradigm shift. Remember the
rst time you drove a car? Or kissed your
sweetheart? Or chugged an entire spray
can of cheese? Yes, your life was never
the same afterward.
The latest paradigm shift is even
bigger, and involves technology. It rivals
the rst time you saw the Web, sent an
e-mail, or made a call on a cellphone.
This new shift involves the way movies,
music, and other programs are delivered
to you. Its called streaming. Lets con-
sider some of the essential questions
about streaming, and then try to answer
the most important question of them all:
Is it time for you to start to stream?
What the heck
is streaming?
Streaming is really nothing new. When you
turn on a radio or a TV or watch a pay-per-
view cable channel, you receive streams
of audio/video for playback. But recently,
the term has taken on a more specic
meaning. Streaming refers to A/V content
delivered by way of a telecommunications
network like the Internet. Its somewhat
different from downloading because with
streaming, you dont have to wait for the
entire le to download. You can start
watching (or listening) immediately as
long as the streaming bit rate is at least
marginally faster than the viewing (or lis-
tening) bit rate. The stream might be live
(such as a sporting event) or on-demand
(such as a movie). The latter is certainly
the most prevalent, which is why well
be focusing on video-on-demand (VOD)
Why should I care?
Are you kidding me? For starters, as the
music industry will sorrowfully tell you,
the Internet has rewritten all the business
models especially if youre in the busi-
ness of delivering and selling content. The
idea of going to a record store and buying
a disc is simply incomprehensible to many
younger consumers. They demand the
convenience of previewing, buying, and
receiving music wherever they happen to
be. The delivery system can be cellphone,
cable modem, DSL, ber-optic cable, or
however they happen to be connected
to the Great Jukebox in the Sky. Add to
that the consumer demand for greater
content exibility. Instead of a CD, many
music lovers prefer a le that can be eas-
ily moved and copied and then played on
many different devices. Bottom line: Like
it or not, music and video streaming are
almost certainly the future of the enter-
tainment industry.
Is this another
format war?
That, my friend, is the zillion-dollar ques-
tion. More specically, you can place
your bets on what impact streaming will
have on Blu-ray Discs. As high-tech as it
is, Blu-ray represents the old paradigm
of pressed discs, neatly arranged on a
bookshelf. To its great advantage, Blu-ray
offers the highest delity currently avail- &
44 APRIL/MAY 2009
Tech Trends 09
able. Its huge bandwidth is something
that streams can only dream about. But
with Blu-ray, you must have the physi-
cal thing in your hands, and that means
you must rst obtain it through rental or
purchase. Streams are enormously more
ubiquitous and, well, uid. You could
potentially be anywhere and, on a whim,
have access to thousands of programs.
Certainly, Internet downloading put
the whammy on the CD. In the same way,
streaming competes against Blu-ray. But
whether streams will annihilate discs, or
whether they will coexist, remains to be
seen. In either case, it might be a reason-
ably safe bet to assume that Blu-ray will
be the last disc format. By the time Blu-
ray is technologically obsolete, there will
be no demand for another format. (Unless
theres a 4K- resolution disc format see
Special K on page 41.) In fact, it will be
improvements in streaming that will even-
tually kill off Blu-ray.
That begs the question: Should you
skip Blu-ray altogether and instead go
cold turkey to streaming? Its certainly an
option. The streaming libraries are growing
every day, as are delivery options. The big-
gest factor in making that decision is your
tolerance for lower picture quality. As well
see, thats streamings Achilles heel.
So, what kind of
video can I see?
Lets start with the most fundamental
type of streaming, which needs only a
broadband connection and a computer.
YouTube, a subsidiary of Google, is famil-
iar to most people. Its essentially a le-
sharing site where anyone can upload
video clips and anyone can watch them.
The content ranges from the sacred
to the pornographic. Regarding the for-
mer, Pope Benedict XVI has his own
YouTube channel. I wont cite any of
the latter. Some clips have generated
millions of views and social commentary.
The thoroughly odd Bus Uncle (youtube
.com/watch?v=RSHziqJWYcM) has prob-
ably become the topic of more than a few
doctoral dissertations (profanity alert). &
Amazon.coms Video on Demand movie-streaming service

APRIL/MAY 2009 45
Most of YouTube is strictly
amateur, but the company
recently signed a deal with
CBS, Lionsgate, and MGM
to allow it to post full-length
movies and TV shows with
advertisements. This is
meant to counter a similar
site, Hulu, which features
programming from NBC
and Fox.
Speaking of which, Hulu
is pretty slick. Youll nd
free and complete movies
such as Men in Black and
Last Tango in Paris there,
as well as tons of old and
new cable and broadcast
TV episodes. For the latter,
though, dont overlook the
broadcast networks own
Web sites, which often post
new episodes right after they
air. Finally, be sure to check out, where youll nd
every episode of South Park from all 12
seasons, available for free streaming.
Of course, the highest-value targets
in videoland are recently released mov-
ies. One of the most visible sites here
is Netix. Already established as a
mail-order video-rental company, it has
expanded aggressively into streaming.
Last time I counted, Netix offered
12,000 movies and TV episodes for
streaming, 300 of which were in high-def.
The process is pretty simple: Go to the
site, add a movie to your Watch Instantly
queue, and then sit back and enjoy. While
you can watch streaming content directly
on your computer, youll probably need a
Netix-ready Internet device to see it on
your TV. (More on that later.)
Also note that with Netix, we move
from free streaming to paid stream-
ing: You must be a Netix subscriber to
stream movies. One subscription (from
$8.99 a month) covers both discs by mail
and streaming. About 9 million people
are already onboard.
There are many other streaming sites.
Blockbuster, still the dubious cham-
pion of bricks-and-mortar video rental,
has drunk the streaming Kool-Aid and
signed a deal with CinemaNow to pro-
vide access to online movies. Of course,
Apples iTunes Store single-handedly
changed the way music is bought and,
along with Apple TV, followed up with
movies for sale or rent. The Amazon
Video on Demand service offers more
than 40,000 movies (for download rent
or purchase) and TV shows (for pur-
chase). Finally, the Zune Marketplace
is carving out a niche, primarily in TV-
show video downloads. When Walmart
starts streaming movies, well know that
streaming has truly come of age.
How about
music streams?
Music streaming, in the form of Internet
radio stations, has been around for years
and can be incredibly satisfying. Best of
all, its mostly free for the taking. You
can hear lots of good music, discover
new artists, and socialize with other
music lovers. You dont need any equip-
ment beyond a broadband connection, a
computer, and speakers or headphones.
The stations operate through your Web
browser. (Youll probably need to install
Adobe Flash Player plug-in software, if
you havent already.) Advertiser-support-
ed streams are free, but you can opt for
paid subscriptions that omit advertising
and add more listening options.
Internet radio stations include
Pandora, Slacker,, Jango, Fine-
tune, Imeem, Deezer, MOG, Live365, and
MeeMix. and Slacker
.com are two of my favorites because
theyre particularly easy to use, dont
get bogged down with lots of socializing
(unless youre into that sort of thing),
and can be customized to play music
you want to hear.
For example, with Pandora, you create
a music station by entering an artist
name or song title, and the service
starts streaming music in that genre. You
cant play a particular song on demand,
but if you want, you can adapt the sta-
tion to your tastes by voting thumbs-up
or down. If your musical tastes are &
The ZvBox uses your homes cable wiring to send content to all of your TVs
46 APRIL/MAY 2009
Tech Trends 09
far-ranging, dont despair you can
have up to 100 stations at any one time.
And were not talking unsigned indie
bands these Internet radio stations
carry the hits.
Another version of Internet radio
accesses broadcast radio stations and
lets you listen to them through your PC.
Sites like Radio-Locator and RadioTower
let you nd thousands of these streams.
Some sites, such as Shoutcast, more
conveniently assemble many streams for
you. Shoutcast has a seemingly limitless
selection of radio stations from around
the world. Want to listen to Rossini play-
ing from a radio station in Venice? Or
Wagner, direct from the Fatherland? No
problem. Does this diverse wealth of free
music make Sirius XM Radio nervous?
You bet.
Oh, to anticipate one more question:
This isnt a Napster kind of deal, and you
wont be getting threatening letters from
copyright holders. Sites such as Pandora
respect copyright and pay the necessary
legal fees. As proof of legitimacy, con-
sider that even the big players are into it.
Check out, for example.
Finally, unlike illegal le-sharing sites,
these legit ones should be free of viruses
or other nefarious things.
How does it
look and sound?
Streaming is the new kid, which means
its still fairly primitive. Generally, the bit
rate of the online content and the band-
width into your home (always variable
because of trafc) arent adequate to
meet videophile standards. That means
that quality is limited, at least for now.
On the other hand, its not necessarily
terrible. Many for-pay video sites offer
content at 480p, and their streams might
run up to 1.2 Mbps. Movies look reason-
ably good on small screens, but less so
on bigger ones. Although standard-def
streams still dominate, occasionally youll
nd a 720p HD stream. But no streams
look as good as the picture on a Blu-
ray Disc. As with an MP3 player,
you trade quality for choice and conve-
Audio streams, however, because
they require such a small bandwidth,
can sound pretty good. Pandora, for
example, streams music at up to 128
kbps; although this is highly compressed,
the delitys not bad. (Streamed movies,
by the way, are mainly conned to stereo
Whats the future
of video streaming:
TVs or computers?
Thats another zillion-dollar question.
Every technology company on the planet
wants to know whether the computer or
the TV will become the next electronic
hearth. In fact, streams are owing into
both hearths. Because most computers
are already hooked up to the Internet
and most TVs arent, computers pres-
ently enjoy an advantage. With essen-
tially no fuss or muss, you can use your
computer to partake of all the streams
weve discussed.
The most interesting development in
streaming is its migration to non-com-
puter devices. For example, you can
download standard- and high-def mov-
ies to an Xbox 360 videogame console.
Various boxes can be used to link a com-
puter to your TV; newer TiVo DVRs, for
instance, support streaming from Netix
or Amazon. Rokus Netix Player is a
low-cost set-top box that lets you access
and watch Netix on your TV. Soon, all
Roku owners will receive a free and auto-
matic upgrade that will let them watch
Amazon Video on Demand. The Apple
TV box is essentially a direct link to the
iTunes catalog. PlayStation 3 has added
movie downloads, and the Blockbuster
MediaPoint box does the same. (Block-
buster reportedly will sell streaming
hardware in its stores.) The Vudu set-top
box is notable for its instant access to
HD movies, but only if your Internet con-
nection is fast enough to support it. The
ZvBox localcasts content across your
homes cable wiring to all your TVs.
Boxee is an example of software that
lets you access Internet programming on
your TV by way of your computer. Its still
pretty limited, but some day you might
decide to cancel your cable subscription
and use something like Boxee instead.
The list of streaming devices is, literally,
growing daily.
Finally, and perhaps most exciting,
is the new breed of traditional com-
ponents that are stream-savvy. For &
Samsungs BD-P2550 Blu-ray Disc player can stream content from Netflix HD and Pandora

APRIL/MAY 2009 47
example, many new TVs are Internet-
enabled, and some new Blu-ray players
can stream content. Lets discuss those
in more detail.
What do I need?
The best part about streaming is that
the admission price is relatively low
provided your house has the right
plumbing. You must have a broadband
connection. (Sorry, but thats a neces-
sity.) The connection can be DSL, cable
modem, or ber optic. Of course, the
faster, the better. You can use sites such
to check the speed of your connection.
Beyond that, if you happen to have
the right pieces already lying around, you
might be able to start streaming tonight,
at no extra cost. As noted, an Xbox 360
gets you in the game. And if youre shop-
ping around for a TV later this year, make
sure to check to see if it has any stream-
ing-friendly features, because Internet-
enabled TVs are going to be huge toward
the end of 09.
The key is knowing what access each
TV manufacturer provides. For example,
sets from Samsung will let you access
Flickr, Yahoo News, USA Today, YouTube,
and eBay. LG is hooking up with Netix
and YouTube. Sonys Web-enabled Bravia
TVs bring you CBS Interactive, Sports
Illustrated, and Yahoo. Panasonics
VieraCast streams Amazon Video on
Demand, YouTube, Picasa Web albums,
and Bloomberg. Vizio is a major player,
with access to Amazon, Blockbuster,
Netix, Hulu (in negotiations), Pandora,
and Rhapsody. While Web-centric media
PCs still havent caught on in the living
room, Web-centric TVs have. Its safe
to say that Internet connectivity is fast
becoming the selling feature that differ-
entiates one TV from another a testa-
ment to the growing power of streaming.
As noted, Blu-ray is also playing an
unexpected role in the emergence of
streaming, with a number of Blu-ray play-
ers able to stream. For example, the
Samsung BD-P2550 supports Netix HD
and Pandora, and the LG BD300 supports
Netix HD streaming. (The Samsung and
LG players were reviewed in the February/
March issue, available online.) Both play-
ers have high-speed Ethernet ports to
receive the content, but you have to log
onto Netix from your computer to put a
movie in your Instant queue.
This Blu-ray player segment is moving
fast. For example, LG introduced two Blu-
ray/Netix/YouTube/CinemaNow players
at CES the BD370 and the jam-packed
BD390, which also has built-in Wi-Fi (so
you can avoid that Ethernet cable) and
1 GB of memory so you can access BD-
Live features. Blu-ray might prove to be
the bridge to streaming, and also a qual-
ity standard to which it must aspire.
Should I jump in or wait?
As your technical adviser, I strongly advise
you to test the waters. You dont have to
go in too deep; just put in a toe. Right
now, this very minute, go to YouTube and
watch a few videos. For starters, youll
notice the poor quality bad on a PC
screen and abysmal when blown up on a
big-screen TV. The lesson is that band-
width is essential for good streaming. Now
try Hulu not too shabby, huh? Go to
Pandora and re up a music channel. Now
look at Netix. Check out the free trial
offer it truly is a way to test the waters
without getting wet. Like most streams,
these are all instantly available to your
computer. If you like what you see, check
out streaming to your TV with a Roku box
or something similar. In no time, youll
have movies, TV, and music delivered to
your home theater by way of the Internet.
Its like kissing your sweetheart. S&V
If youre shopping around
for a TV later this year, make
sure to check to see if it has
any streaming-friendly features,
because Internet-enabled TVs
are going to be huge toward
the end of 09. &

48 APRIL/MAY 2009
Tech Trends 09
acionados will
soon enjoy a
new dimension
in sound: height.
But is the world
really ready
for 9.1?
hen 7.1-channel surround
sound came out a few
years ago, no one knew if
people would buy it. And
no one knew if Hollywood would produce
7.1-channel soundtracks. But theres one
thing everyone knew: Someday, somebody
would come up with even more channels.
That day will come this spring, when
Onkyo introduces the rst of six receivers
featuring Dolbys new Pro Logic IIz tech-
nology. The z in Pro Logic IIz signies
the Z axis, otherwise known as height.
To a 7.1- or 5.1-channel system, Pro Logic
IIz adds two speakers, both positioned at
least 3 feet above the left and right front
speakers. Dolbys senior manager of part-
ner marketing, Craig Eggers, describes
it as a way to increase envelopment
and get more depth, more dimension,
more airiness.
Not everyone is excited about add-
ing more speakers to todays dauntingly
complex home theater systems. The
confusion this will generate further erodes
the credibility of the industry, says
Parasound president Richard Schram.
Its another example of a gratuitous fea-
ture that consumers wont understand.
To nd out if home theater speakers
really have nowhere to go but up, I trav-
eled to the Software Test Lab at Dolby
headquarters in San Francisco, where I
sat through an extensive demonstration
of the new technology. I got to try height
channels in practically every possible per-
mutation and with all types of software.
In the process, I answered most of my
questions and found a few interesting
Why High?
According to Dolby senior technical mar-
keting manager Christophe Chabanne,
Pro Logic II technology always had the
capacity to create more channels. The
problem was, no one knew which chan-
nels to add. Of the more than 20 pos-
sible speaker positions specied by the
Society of Motion Picture and Television
Engineers, Dolby found that only front
height speakers consistently impressed
test subjects. The wiring is easy that
way, too, Chabanne pointed out.
Most height-channel content in Pro
Logic IIz is ambience, such as what youd
hear echoing off the ceiling of a concert
hall. PLIIz extracts ambience by looking
for sounds that appear in all channels but
dont have a particular focus.
However, the height channels can carry
directional cues, too. If PLIIz sees some-
thing thats in all the channels but is a lit-
tle more in the left channel, that would go
up into the left height speaker, Chabanne
said. The most important thing is that
information thats primarily in one channel &



A typical 7.1-channel speaker setup with two front left/right
height channels added for Dolby Pro Logic IIz playback

APRIL/MAY 2009 49
wont appear in the height speakers. You
wont hear things like footsteps or dog
barks coming from them. You also wont
hear any reverb or frequency ltering.
Like other variants of Pro Logic II, Pro
Logic IIz simply steers sounds; it doesnt
alter them.
Its possible to encode material speci-
cally to take advantage of PLIIzs height
channels. Hollywood studios have reject-
ed the height-channel option, but accord-
ing to Chabanne, reception in the gaming
industry has been enthusiastic. None of
them have committed to it yet, he said,
but I wouldnt be surprised to see titles
appear soon.
For games, the Pro Logic IIz encod-
ing software is included on the disc and
loaded into the console when the disc
is inserted. Chabanne said PLIIz encod-
ing will work on practically any game
console, but is currently best suited for
PlayStation 3 and Xbox 360.
Whos Getting High?
At press time, only Onkyo had
announced specic plans to produce
A/V receivers incorporating Pro Logic
IIz. Onkyo product manager Brian
Sandifer said the receivers will come
in two types: 7.1 and 9.1. The 9.1
receivers will have nine ampliers, for
driving a full 7.1 system plus the two
height channels. The 7.1 receivers will
have seven amp channels, which can
be used for conventional 7.1 or for 5.1
with height channels added.
Peter Tribeman, president of both
speaker manufacturer Atlantic Technology
and electronics company Outlaw Audio,
likes the idea of repurposing surround
speakers for height channels. In my
opinion, the benets of conventional 7.1
are marginal, he said. Applying those
channels to height speakers in the front
has a profound effect. All of a sudden, it
goes from three front speakers to a total
re-creation of the stage.
Tribeman is enthusiastic enough about
the technology to have created an Atlantic
Technology speaker specically for height-
channel use. But Dolbys Eggers says
any standard surround speaker will work
ne for the height channels as long as its
sound matches that of the systems other
Only a few feet from Dolbys premiere
PLIIz demo at CES, DTS demod its
height-channel technology, tentatively
dubbed Neo:X. The system is still in
development, and DTS declined to pro-
vide details. As best I can gather, the
current plan calls for a 10.1 system: two
front height speakers and an additional
center rear surround speaker.
Dolby and DTS are arriving at a place
Yamaha has occupied since 1986, when
it released its rst receiver with height-
channel capability. (The company calls
them presence speakers.) Yamahas
Cinema DSP technology, which mimics
the sound of various venues in which the
companys engineers have conducted
acoustical measurements, offers one
benet that Pro Logic IIz lacks: dialogue
lift. By blending some of the center-
channel dialogue into the presence speak-
ers, we can actually lift the sonic image
of the dialogue up onto the screen, said
Phil Shea, Yamaha Electronics national
training manager. But Cinema DSP adds
considerably more sonic processing than
does Pro Logic IIz.
Surprisingly, Shea is happy about the
new competition. Im kind of excited
about Dolby and DTS getting into this,
he said, because itll create more
A New High in
Home Theater Sound?
For my demo, Dolbys Chabanne set me
up with a laptop computer running PLIIz-
decoding software. The software let me
select between 2.0, 5.1, 7.1, 5.1 with
height channels, and 7.1 with height
channels. A PlayStation 3 served as the
source device, and we listened through
JBL LSR6325P-1 studio monitors and a
JBL LSR4312SP subwoofer.
We started with a special PLIIz version
of the PS3 game Ghost Recon: Advanced
Warfare, a military shoot-em-up in which
I played a soldier being attacked by a
helicopter. I rst heard the copters sound
from behind, then it gradually moved
overhead. As I tilted my characters head
up, the copter appeared onscreen, right
where my ears told me it would be. I was
able to track its movements by ear, just
as if a real helicopter were circling. &
Senior technical marketing manager Christophe Chabanne (left) and senior
manager of partner marketing Craig Eggers in a Dolby demo room
Top Audio
Trends for 09
50 APRIL/MAY 2009
Tech Trends 09
That effect impressed me, but what I
heard next blew me away. Chabanne cued
up the opening of Ratatouille, in which a
rainstorm drenches the French country-
side. In Pro Logic IIz, it sounded like I was
standing in the middle of a real downpour.
In conventional 5.1 and 7.1, it sounded
like rain was coming from the sides of the
room an effect that seemed accept-
able before but now sounded hokey by
comparison. I heard a similar result when
Chabanne played a scene from The Lord
of the Rings: The Two Towers in which wind
blows around the characters.
I followed these discs with the classic
diva scene from The Fifth Element. As
the diva sang an aria from Donizettis
Lucia di Lammermoor to light accompani-
ment, the height channels didnt make a
signicant difference. But when the elec-
tronic music kicked in halfway through,
and the divas voice became more rever-
berant, the height channels started to add
more sense of being in an actual theater.
The difference was subtle but unmistak-
able. Other scenes delivered similar
results. When the action was big, so was
the sound. When the content was simple,
the height speakers were inaudible.
I found this difference much more
compelling than the switch from two to four
conventional surround speakers that is,
from 5.1 to 7.1. Likewise, the switch from
5.1 with height speakers to 7.1 with height
speakers was barely audible.
Running stereo music through Pro Logic
IIz is sometimes exciting, sometimes
futile. When I played
the Destinys Child
hit Say My Name,
the background
vocals sounded
much bigger and
more enveloping.
When I played a
choral recording
with pipe organ, the
sound seemed to
echo off an imagi-
nary ceiling 50 feet
above my head. But
when I played a sim-
ple country tune by
Carrie Underwood,
I heard no sound
from the height
speakers. The great
thing about this
mixed result, though, is that I never heard
anything objectionable: no steering arti-
facts, no phony-sounding effects, and no
sounds coming from above that shouldnt
have been there.
Is Height Here to Stay?
I never got excited about 7.1. I own the
gear for it, my sound room is wired for it,
but I use it only when I need to evaluate a
7.1 speaker system or listen to one of the
few Blu-ray Discs encoded in 7.1.
But Im eager to install Pro Logic IIz
when its available. Once youve heard
the effect of height channels, conven-
tional 5.1 or 7.1 sounds collapsed. Sure,
some people will turn off when presented
with more complex and expensive audio
systems. But any surround sound acio-
nado who hears a Pro Logic IIz demo will
instantly realize that the home theater
sound systems weve been listening to
are missing something. S&V
Home theater enthusiasts might be
too obsessed with Pro Logic IIz this
year to notice much else, but theres
a lot more going on in audio that mer-
its attention. Heres what we predict
will be the top audio trends for 2009.
TVs are getting even thinner, which
means their speakers are getting even
worse, which makes more room in the
market for audio add-ons. The next
generation of soundbars will be better,
simpler, and cheaper.
Internet Radio
Tabletop units are making it easy
and affordable to tune in tens of
thousands of free Internet radio
stations. Imagine: Youll never again
have to hear a commercial for
herbal Viagra.
High-Rez Audio
New technologies such as Blu-ray
Prole 3.0 and Reference Recordings
HRx DVD format will keep high-resolu-
tion audio alive but total disinterest
among major record labels will ensure
it remains comatose.
Music Servers
Following the lead of Kaleidescape and
Sooloos, more companies will offer
snazzy, graphics-intensive music serv-
ers. Even CD players will start showing
album titles and artwork, as seen in
PS Audios remarkable PerfectWave
More USB Outputs
Record players with USB outputs sold
surprisingly well last year. Now Alesis
has introduced a cassette deck with
USB output. Whats next, USB-
equipped 8-track players? &
THX Media Rooms-Integrated Smart Home Designs
Whole House Music Solutions-Audio/Video Distribution
Lighting Control Solutions-Home Networking
Structured Cable Systems&Voice Automation
Residential/Commercial Security Control
& Just Hooking Up Stuff After The Move &
52 APRIL/MAY 2009
Tech Trends 09
Sending 1080p
signals wirelessly to
your HDTV is about
to become a reality
ith the high-def disc war
now rmly in its rearview
mirror, the consumer
electronics industry is
girding for its next skirmish: the battle
to see which of the various new wireless
HDMI technologies will emerge as the
de facto standard.
When HDMI broke out from the pack of
new digital connections back in 2004, its
ability to carry both digital audio and video
signals on a single cable promised to
rid homes of cable clutter caused by the
various interconnects stretching between
source components, receivers, and video
displays. But with ultra-slim at-panel TVs
making an aesthetic statement as much
as a technological one, apparently even
a single cable is one too many. While
companies have been playing with various
wireless video technologies
for half a decade, this past
Consumer Electronics
Show was jam-packed with
announcements that prod-
ucts capable of wirelessly
transmitting a high-def sig-
nal will be available start-
ing this summer. Leading
the charge are four
technologies: Wireless
Home Digital Interface
(WHDI), WirelessHD
(WiHD), Ultra-Wideband (UWB), and
The rst wave of products will likely be
add-on transmitters and receivers that
can be plugged into source components
and TVs, although some TVs might have
embedded wireless chip sets later in the
year. While no outright winners came out
of CES, it appeared that the two newest
approaches, WHDI and WiHD, had gained
considerable momentum. (One clear sign
of the current uid state of wireless is
that several leading companies, including
LG, Samsung, and Sony, are members of
several of the promotional groups formed
around each of the four technologies.)
To be sure, all wireless technologies
face challenges, ranging from cost to
performance. To qualify as HDMI replace-
ments, these technologies have to closely
mimic the performance and reliability
of wired connections despite working
in a constantly changing environment.
That means providing the consistent
bandwidth and the transmission speeds
required by high-def video, plus built-in
error resiliency, low latency, and sup-
port for control protocols such as CEC
(Consumer Electronics Control). Also, all
have to include some form of Hollywood-
approved copy protection, and many will
have to conform to the interoperability
requirements of various organizations,
such as the Digital Living Network Alliance
(DLNA), the High-denition Audio-video
Network Alliance (HANA), and the Wi-Fi
and WiMedia Alliances.
Heres a look at what each of the four
wireless approaches promises to deliver.
Wireless Home Digital
Developed by the Israeli company
Amimom, WHDI is backed by a special-
interest group that currently includes
Hitachi, LG, Motorola, Samsung,
Sharp, and Sony. WHDI delivers uncom-
pressed video including 1080p/60
throughout the home using the unli-
censed 5-GHz band, with data rates as
high as 3 Gbps (1080p) by way of a
The GefenTV Wireless for
HDMI 5-GHz extenders &
Belkins FlyWire wireless HDMI transmitter (seen on the top shelf)

APRIL/MAY 2009 53
40-MHz channel or 1.5 Gbps (720p and
1080i) at 20 MHz. WHDI supports the
CEC protocol and High-bandwidth Digital
Content Protection (HDCP) v. 2.0 tech-
nology used in wired HDMI. Because 5
GHz moves easily through walls, WHDI is
regarded as a whole-house, rather than
in-room, wireless technology (like other 5-
GHz technologies, such as 802.11a and
802.11n Wi-Fi), with a range exceeding
100 feet. Spectrum-management technol-
ogy helps to avoid potential conicts with
other devices sharing that band.
While acknowledging that most source
material comes into the home in com-
pressed form, backers of WHDI say its
ability to send uncompressed video
most mimics wired connections. Thats
because compressed video is rarely
available at the output of most A/V, gear
due to copy protection (compressed
video is more susceptible to theft) and
to interoperability issues caused by the
use of different video codecs. Of course,
the counter argument is that since source
material is compressed, theres no rea-
son the compressed stream shouldnt be
carried all the way to the display.
WHDIs key supporters include Sharp,
which is using it in its ultra-slim TVs,
and Sony, which incorporates Amimoms
chips in its Bravia Link DMX-WL1 wire-
less system ($800), though its limited
to 1080i video. Non-TV offerings include
Belkins FlyWire ($1,500) and Gefens
GefenTV Wireless for HDMI 5-GHz extend-
er ($900). FlyWire, with support for
1080p/24 video, includes a transmitter,
receiver, remote control, and IR repeater.
Gefens system supports 1080p/30
video, 5.1-channel digital surround
sound, and 2-channel analog audio.
If CES had any wireless winner, our mon-
eys on SiBeams 60-GHz WiHD, which
got a boost when LG, Panasonic, and
Toshiba all promised add-on WiHD wire-
less capability for TVs this year. The tech-
nology is backed by a consortium that,
in addition to those three companies,
includes Broadcom, Intel, NEC, Samsung,
and Sony.
At the heart of WiHD is SiBeams
OmniLink60, which sends uncompressed
(or lossless) HD video by way of the unli-
censed 60-GHz band, at rates up to 4
Gbps over a 30-foot range. Current chip
sets support up to 1080p/60 video and
8-channel high-rez audio, but backers
say the technology has a theoretical data
rate as high as 25 Gbps, making it scal-
able for the higher resolutions and color
depths that will come with next-genera-
tion panel technology (such as 4K dis-
plays). Like WHDI, it includes support for
device control protocols (such as CEC),
but it uses another Hollywood-approved
copy-protection scheme called the Digital
Transmission Content Protection (DTCP)
protocol, originally developed for FireWire.
With its more limited range and its
inability to pass signals through walls,
WiHD is positioned as an in-room technol-
ogy. (Devices can be hidden out of sight
beyond a door, though.) While the 60-GHz
spectrum has plenty of bandwidth to
handle uncompressed high-def video,
its highly directional, so products have
typically required line-of-sight operation.
Another sticking point: 60-GHz waves
cant pass through water, a major com-
ponent of human bodies. That means
that communication between devices
can break down any time someone walks
between a transmitter and receiver.
But OmniLink60 uses real-time adap-
tive beam-steering technology to provide
nonline-of-sight operation. Employing
tiny arrays of antennas, the system
automatically surveys the room to nd
the best transmission path. If a direct
path isnt available, it will bounce signals
off walls, ceilings, oors, or even other
objects. And if a transmission path gets
blocked say, by someone whos walk-
ing into the room the system simply
switches to the next best available path
with no disruption of the video stream. It
can also automatically detect new devic-
es and add them to the in-room network.
Based on CES announcements, LG
will offer separate WiHD media boxes
for its 55-inch LHX and 47- and 55-inch
LH-85 LCD models, as will Panasonic in
its ultra-thin Z1 plasmas. Toshiba said it
would have a WiHD adapter for its Regza
LCD TVs later in the year, and Gefen will
support the technology in its GefenTV
Wireless for HDMI 60-GHz extender (price
to be announced).
Although its had a few false starts
(Philips, for example, announced a prod-
uct in 2007 that still hasnt seen the
light of day), UWB also made a positive
showing at CES, primarily in new wireless
systems from Monster Cable and Gefen.
UWB operates in the 3.1-GHz to 10.6-GHz
spectrum, and so far has been limited
to a maximum data rate of 480 Mbps at
distances of less than 10 feet, or 110 &
54 APRIL/MAY 2009
Tech Trends 09
Mbps at the end of its 30-foot range. As a
result, its best suited for in-room applica-
tions, although it doesnt require a direct
line of sight, allowing components to be
located in an adjacent room or closet.
A key selling point of UWB is that its
a proven technology (the FCC gave it the
okay back in 2002) with greater through-
put and less susceptibility to interference
or fading than Wi-Fi. UWB can handle
1080p video signals, but it requires com-
pression (such as Analog Devices JPEG
2000 or H.264) to do so. Its backers,
however, say technological enhancements
such as the use of multiple antennas
in transmitters and receivers (multiple-
input/multiple-output, or MIMO), which
can send simultaneous data streams to
pump up data rates, and smart (beam-
forming) antennas are helping push
performance into gigabit territory. A UWB
standard called WiMedia has been cre-
ated by the nonprot WiMedia Alliance to
help ensure interoperability between all
WiMedia-compliant devices in the home,
regardless of brand.
Several companies, including Tzero,
Radiospire, and Pulse-LINK, have devel-
oped UWB chip sets that are expanding
the boundaries of the technology, includ-
ing improvements in video quality, latency,
and error resiliency caused by uctuating
channel bandwidth. Tzeros rst chip set,
used in Gefens wireless UWB media
extender, employs JPEG2000 video
compression, but a newer version using
the H.264 codec is said to
deliver a maximum data rate
of 480 Mbps, with full sup-
port for 1080p/60 video and
7.1-channel digital audio at a
maximum range of about 60
feet. The chip sets also sup-
port CEC and include digital
copy protection. Pulse-LINK,
which gained attention by
partnering with Westinghouse for commer-
cial TVs with its CWave UWB technology,
has a reference design that allows CWave
to work both wirelessly and over coax
simultaneously from the same chip set.
At CES, Monster Cable garnered atten-
tion with its Wireless Digital Express
HD system ($999), which is based on a
Sigma Design UWB chip set. The hybrid
wireless/coax system uses an H.264-
compliant decoder and Sigmas UWB Over
Coax chip set to send up to 1080p video
wirelessly within a room, or up to 330 feet
using existing coaxial cable. The system
can upscale all content to 1080p and
comes with three IR emitters. Gefens cur-
rently available Wireless for HDMI UWB
Extender ($999) uses Tzeros UWB chip
set to support 1080p/30 HD video with
7.1-channel digital surround sound and
2-channel analog audio.
Working in the same 5-GHz band used
by WHDI, 802.11n a.k.a. Wi-Fi is
nothing if not ubiquitous, although its still
used more for computer-based wireless
broadband networks than for streaming
high-def video. Like UWB, 802.11n
employs compression to send high-def
video between sources, but its 100-foot-
plus range makes it suitable for A/V
distribution throughout the entire house.
Although draft n-compliant products
have been available for well over a year,
the 802.11n standard wont be nalized
until this June.
The 802.11n technology has a
maximum data rate of about 150 Mbps
(using MIMO, part of the 802.11n spec).
Proponents argue that next-generation
Wi-Fi is a proven technology capable
of inexpensive high-def video delivery
to all the rooms of a house. But critics
worry that Wi-Fis lower data rate, higher
latency, need to support legacy devices,
and greater susceptibility to bandwidth
uctuations and fading make it a poorer
choice than competing technologies
for sending HD video. A few TV manu-
facturers, including LG (the LG71) and
Samsung (FP-T5894W), have offered TVs
with separate Wi-Fi-enabled media mod-
ules, but so far the technology hasnt
taken hold.
s things stand, 2009 could be
the year that wireless HD tech-
nologies jump from promise to
reality, although consumers could well be
overwhelmed by the multitude of choices
and technologies. In the near term, its
likely that several technologies will coex-
ist in the market to be used for specic
Now if we could just do something
about those power cords. S&V
Monster Cables Wireless
Digital Express HD system &
Please visit for more information
Sweepstakes dates: March 15
, 2009 through May 31
, 2009
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RAID technology. By default the Quad ships in RAID5, continually providing
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Visit for more product information from Buffalo Technology &
56 APRIL/MAY 2009
Tech Trends 09
Goes Green
Will Greenwald
o matter your favorite color,
green should be one of the
rst you consider when buy-
ing electronics. All A/V gear
has the potential to be environmentally
unfriendly; depending on its power con-
sumption and its construction, your new
HDTV could be anything from a modest
electricity sipper to a toxic, power-
guzzling time bomb.
Fortunately, consumer electronics
companies are starting to make advance-
ments in green technology. The latest
tech is often safer for the environment,
consuming less energy than older equip-
ment and using fewer potentially toxic
Energy Efciency
Gadgets can be energy hogs, and the
bigger they are, the more power they
consume. According to the Energy
Information Administration, consumer
electronics account for 15% of all house-
hold electricity consumption, and TVs
alone account for 4%.
The Environmental Protection Agencys
Energy Star program is a voluntary set of
energy-efciency standards for appliance
and electronics manufacturers to adopt.
According to the EPA, making every TV,
DVD player, and home theater system
Energy Star-compliant would prevent
3 billion pounds of greenhouse gases
from being released. Thats the equivalent
of taking 300,000 cars off the road.
For most electronics, Energy Star
focuses on efciency when not in use. For
a home theater component to qualify for
Energy Star, it must consume 1 watt or
less when in standby mode.
Implemented in November 2008,
the Energy Star 3.0 standards require
TVs to limit how much electricity they
need when being used, in addition to the
1-watt-or-less rule in standby. This limit is
based on screen size. For instance, to be
eligible for Energy Star certication, a
32-inch HDTV has to consume 120 watts
or less, while a 60-inch HDTV can con-
sume up to 391 watts. As of January 19,
465 TVs almost all of them HDTVs
meet Energy Star 3.0 standards.
According to the EPA, Energy Star TVs use
about 30% less electricity than TVs that
dont meet the criteria.
The Energy Star standards dont dif-
ferentiate between LCD, plasma, or CRT
technology, though the three screen types
can vary in power consumption. Generally,
at-panel screens are more energy ef-
cient than CRTs, and LCDs tend to be
more efcient than plasmas. But this isnt
always the case, and the two most ef-
cient models recognized by Energy Star
are Panasonic plasma screens.
To meet and even exceed the optional
Energy Star standards, several companies
are developing at-panel technologies
that dont just look more impressive but
also consume less energy. The most com-
mon approach is to use LED backlighting
in LCD displays instead of cold cathode
uorescent lamps (CCFL). Not only is LED
backlighting generally more energy ef-
cient, but it doesnt contain the mercury
found in CCFLs.
Panasonic has developed new, more
energy-efcient LCD and plasma displays,
known as neoLCD and neoPDP. According
to the company, both types of panels can
be up to twice as efcient as ordinary
at-panel displays. At the 2009 Consumer
Electronics Show, Panasonic showed off a
New at-panel TVs are
easier on your electric bill
and safer to recycle &





APRIL/MAY 2009 57
37-inch LED-backlit neoLCD panel that it
claims consumes only 90 kilowatt hours
per year, an industry record.
Last November, the Electronics TakeBack
Coalition (ETBC) released a report card
(available at grading
17 manufacturers on their TV recycling
efforts. Unfortunately, more than half of
the companies failed because they dont
offer a program, and of the eight that
passed, only Sony received an above-
average score of B. The ETBC planned
to release a new report card in February
that would take into account any changes
since November, including environmen-
tal-policy announcements made at this
years CES.
According to Basel Action Network
(BAN), a nonprot organization focused
on waste management and ghting the
trade of toxic materials, only 12.5% of all
discarded electronics are recycled, and
80% of that recycled waste is exported
to developing countries for processing or
repurposing under lower standards than
in the United States.
Tube TVs and LCD screens that use
CCFL backlighting can contain toxic
chemicals like lead and mercury dan-
gerous materials to simply burn or dump
into a landll. Even newer electronics can
contain materials like PVC plastics and
brominated re retardants, which can pro-
duce toxic gases when incinerated.
Fortunately, many major electronics
manufacturers are making strides in
both policy and design. More and more
companies are offering recycling services
for their older products and are phasing
out the use of toxic materials in their new
products. Even retailers like Best Buy and
Walmart are offering programs for old
TVs and other equipment.
Newer HDTVs can be less hazardous
to the environment, thanks to advances
in display technology. Flat-panel screens
have made CRTs and their lead-lled
glass obsolete, and LED backlighting
lets LCDs stay bright without using
mercury-lled lamps. Many companies
are also starting to phase out the use
of PVCs, reducing the danger of toxic
chemicals getting into the waste stream.
Unfortunately, some plasma screens still
use leaded glass, and many LCDs still
use CCFLs, so care must still be taken in
their disposal.
Sony and LG are working with WMRA,
a subdivision of Waste Management, to
provide free electronics recycling to their
customers. At least 150 WM collection
centers across the country take Sony
electronics for no charge. While this isnt
a huge number, each state has at least
one center.
At CES 2009, Panasonic, Sharp, and
Toshiba announced that they would imple-
ment a nationwide electronics take-back
program with Electronic Manufacturers
Recycling Management (MRM). Anyone
who wants to get rid of an old Panasonic,
Sharp, or Toshiba product can take it to
an MRM center, where the components
will be recycled for free. MRM currently
has 280 centers across the country, with
at least one in each state.
Samsung has been working with four
recycling companies since last October,
and it offers almost 200 drop-off centers
across the country where you can dispose
of your old Samsung electronics for free.
Even if a company claims to recycle
electronics, it might not do it properly or
dispose of all hazardous materials in a
safe manner. Several groups are working
to ensure that recycling rms are safely
processing old equipment and not simply
shipping them overseas to be incinerated
or shredded with little or no precautions.
Greenpeace publishes the Greener
Electronics Guide (available for download
at, which evaluates how
green an electronics companys poli-
cies are. The latest guide was released
last November and ranked Toshiba and
Samsung comparatively high due to their
phasing out of toxic materials.
BAN has introduced the e-Stewards
program to make sure that recyclers are
dealing with waste responsibly. While the
program is currently an informal process
requiring a desk and paper audit, BAN
plans to develop it into a formal certica-
tion program with third-party accreditation
in 2010. One of the ETBCs criteria for its
report cards is a companys commitment
to using pledged e-Stewards for its recy-
cling programs. WMRA is one of many
recyclers pursuing e-Stewardship.
While ETBC, BAN, and Greenpeace
arent government entities like Energy
Star, their evaluations of electronics
manufacturers and retailers are some of
the best ways to determine if your new
gadgets are environmentally friendly.
If a company scores well according to
ETBCs or Greenpeaces standards, or
if it employs e-Stewards for recycling its
old technology, you can be condent that
your new equipment (and tossed-away
old gear) will be produced and disposed
of responsibly. S&V &
58 APRIL/MAY 2009
Tech Trends 09
Bang & Olufsen goes totally
Bond with its sound system
for the Aston Martin DBS
photos by
Michael Weschler
ne minute, Im standing in the lobby
of a Manhattan hotel a total nobody,
utterly ignored by the throngs rush-
ing about. The next minute, people
are stopping on the street to take pictures of
me, an instant celebrity, as I step into a storm
black Aston Martin DBS. Thus began my experi-
ence with the car companys latest pinnacle of
achievement, a vehicle suited and styled for the
likes of 007 himself.
Car audio isnt Sound & Visions primary
focus, but the invitation to audition Bang &
Olufsens BeoSound DBS sound system was
simply too good to pass up. Since this isnt a
vehicle youd hand over to the Geek Squad for
an aftermarket install, Aston Martin needed the
DBS to have a sensational system as standard
gear. B&O accepted the design challenge, craft-
ing the 1,000-watt, 13-speaker system from the
ground up, incorporating many technologies from
its home audio lineup. Since nothing replaces a
rsthand experience, I ew to New York City to
give the system a listen and enjoy the car for
an entire weekend.
For $276,260, you get a hand-built piece
of art that also happens to be a fully capable
racecar. The autos drop-dead sexy exterior is a
combination of aluminum, lightweight magnesium
alloy, and carbon-ber composites that imply it
can part the winds merely by suggestion. Upon
seeing the DBS for the rst time, I was reminded
of Jodie Fosters lines from Contact: No words to
describe it. Poetry! They shouldve sent a poet.
So beautiful.
Nothing as pedestrian as a key would sufce
to start this beauty. Rather, owners are issued
a stainless-steel-and-sapphire Emotion Control
Unit (ECU). When I placed the ECU in the dash-
board slot, it glowed a gentle red, assuring me
that something wonderful was about to happen.
Pressing it in awoke the 6.0-liter, V12 power
plant, eliciting an excited, throaty rumble from
the 510 waiting horses. The note of the 12-cylin-
der engine is such pure pleasure that DBS own-
ers should have the sense to leave the stereo off
whenever engaging the ignition.
Cruelly, the weather was totally uncooperative
on my weekend with the DBS. With temperatures
in the 20s, regular snow urries, and icy road
conditions, I had to constantly restrain both
myself and the mighty V12. With each touch of
the accelerator, the engine responded instantly,
the deep rumble asking, Now? Unfortunately,
the overwhelming power was too much for those
road conditions; the specially formulated Pirelli
P-Zero tires were unable to grab the traction
needed to rocket this car forward the way we
both wanted, nay, needed it to. Even at freeway
speeds, a stiff press on the accelerator caused &
the rear tires to break loose, simultaneously pitch-
ing the car sideways and plummeting my heart into
the empty recesses of my wallet.
ith no possibility of breaking any speed
records, I focused on the sound system,
which was, after all, what I had come
to do. Fortunately, this proved a reward in its own
right. Visually, the smoothly contoured, molded-
aluminum speaker grilles perfectly integrate with
the sleek, uid lines of the cars interior, proving
that the sound system is part of the vehicle rather
than an accessory. The 13 speakers are arranged
in 10 locations around the cabin, with the entire
system powered by B&Os patented ICEpower
amplication, whose ultra-compact and cool opera-
tion makes it a perfect t for the relatively conned
quarters of the DBSs cockpit.
Beyond the dash-mounted AM/FM radio and
6-disc CD changer, the system features full iPod
integration, with the 30-pin iPod connection cable
steathily concealed in a leather-lined compart-
ment. (Mini-jack and USB connections are also
provided for other sources.)
B&O engineers used extensive DSP modeling
to mate the systems sound with the cars internal
characteristics. They also called on the powerful
DSP engine to provide dynamic modeling that
automatically adapts that sound to changing condi-
tions. By recording noise inside the cabin, the sys-
tem constantly adjusts the performance of all the
speakers and optimizes the sound for noise and
speed conditions.
B&O is known for its ourishes CD doors that
open at the wave of your hand, TVs that swivel into
optimal viewing position and it has brought a
taste of this magic to the DBS. When you power up
the system, two speakers rise from the corners of
the dashboard, revealing tweeters featuring B&Os
Acoustic Lens technology. This bit of sly-tech
seems right at home in a car meant for Bond.
After ring up the sound system, my rst
impression was that the music was phenomenally
well balanced between the front and rear speak-
ers. With my head positioned for driving, I was
cocooned in a beautiful blanket of leather, carbon
ber, and aluminum, with glorious sound coming
equally from every direction. As I ried through
my iPods contents, everything sounded superb
regardless of the genre, instrument, or vocalist.
From the delicate strains of Diana Krall on piano to
the massive, brash horns of Big Bad Voodoo Daddy S










K &
60 APRIL/MAY 2009
Tech Trends 09
to wailing hip-hop and techno drumbeats,
nothing was lacking.
The cars heavily dampened interior
creates a listening environment geared
toward a loud, immersive, tactile experi-
ence. Best of all, vocals were clearly
understandable and properly located.
Unlike many car-audio systems,
where voices and instruments
emanate bizarrely from the door panels
or dash vents, the acoustic lenses per-
formed exactly as intended, anchoring the
soundstage across the windshield. While
my home system is impressive by most
standards (see My DIY Home Theater
Makeover, February/March, available
online), this delivered an excitement
and intimacy I rarely get at home. And
while this system plays extremely loud,
it retains clean, tight imaging and detail,
with no hint of fatiguing distortion. Bass
from the 8-inch subwoofer is massive,
inspired, and savage when necessary
but never loses the taut quickness that
delivers punch and low-end resolution.
More importantly, nothing rattles, strains,
or buzzes. Just like the ferocious V12
engine, no part of the system offers any
comment short of Do you want more?
Wearing a fabulous Brioni tuxedo and
tooling around Manhattan in a car that
cost more than my house, I couldnt help
but feel, er, sexy. Accordingly, I called up
Justin Timberlakes SexyBack on my
iPod and let the system rip. The speakers
reveled in it, rewarding me with a sonic
experience that resonated through the
semi-aniline leather sport seats like a
full-body massage.
As youd expect, the car features addi-
tional technologies. For instance, theres
Bluetooth integration for hands-free cell-
phone operation, steering-wheel control
of the sound system, a GPS navigation
system that unfolds theatrically from the
dashboard, and adjustable seating with
multiple memories and heaters.
Those well heeled enough to consider
buying the DBS should also spring for
Jaeger-LeCoultres AMVOX2 DBS trans-
ponder. For an extra $30,000, your wrist
will share in the technology of a chrono-
graph available solely to DBS owners.
Beyond keeping time, the transponder
lets you remotely lock and unlock the
vehicle by pressing its sapphire crystal.
ertainly, the DBS is not for every-
one. In fact, Aston Martin plans to
make only 130 of them available
to the U.S. annually. But the lucky few
who do get to drive one let alone own
it will experience a car and a sound
system that leave the soul both shak-
en and stirred! S&V
The prognosis is good for mobile-electronics
A/V advancements in 2009. Here are three
road-gear items worth taking along for the ride.
ALPINEs iXA-W404 digital-media receiver
couldnt be more user-friendly ($550, below; Designed for the iPod, this
double-DIN in-dash head units touchscreen
interface functions similarly to the iPhone
and iPod Touch. The 4.3-inch screen also
controls devices like thumb drives and MP3
players, but dont expect to slide in any
CDs; Alpine sent the disc drive the way of
the 8-track. Fortunately, you wont miss DVDs
since the unit plays back iPod and iPhone
video. Optional add-ons include satellite
radio, HD radio, Bluetooth, and navigation.
Designed to raise the bar set by the com-
panys high-end ampliers, AUDISONs new
Thesis speaker series, which includes the
2-way System TH K2 coro ($N/A, above right;, went through many rounds of
prototyping and research. Features include
a rare-earth neodymium magnet, copper-clad
aluminum-wire voice coil, low-prole triple-
wave rubber-butyl surround and X-pulp cone
with Polycrystal dust cap, and other really
fancy-sounding stuff. Together with the
Thesis cooling system, crossovers, and
other design elements, these speakers are
said to offer musical reproduction worthy of
the Thesis name.
In both politics and audio, great speakers
without sufcient power wont live up to their
potential. JL AUDIOs HD800/5 amplier
($1,099; provides plenty of
power in a compact package. This 5-channel
amp (which can also be congured as a
3-channeler) squeezes 500 watts x 1 plus
75 watts x 4 amp into a chassis that measures
less than a third the size of the classic JL
Audio 500/1 and 300/4 amps. Single Cycle
Control, the technology behind it all, compares
the audio signal to the real PWM waveform and
corrects it over 400,000 times per second.
Brook Howell
Technology in motion: ROAD GEAR 09 &
Contact Jeanne Brei at (702) 254-3832
or for more information.
Put your business on the map.
& &
Custom Installer &
62 APRIL/MAY 2009
test reports
CD TVs with LED backlights have gen-
erally commanded a premium price
over regular models, but the feature is
now starting to go mainstream. Case
in point: A 46-inch version of the LED-backlit
Samsung LN55A950 that we looked at last
December (review available online) now sells for
under $3,000. And it has since been joined by
the LG 47LG90 under review here, a 47-incher
that sells for even less than Samsungs model.
While our past tests of LED LCDs have turned
up some downsides limited viewing angle as
compared to regular LCD sets, for example
the good strongly outweighs the bad.
If youve been keeping track, youll know that
the key benet to LED backlights is that they
can deliver deep, realistic-looking shadows on
LCD TVs when combined with a feature called
local dimming. LED backlights on LCDs are com-
prised of an array of small lamps. These can
be independently switched to correspond to the
brightness level of specic zones, dimming
or shutting off entirely (when displaying black
areas in the picture, for example). By actively
modulating sections of the backlight in this way,
LED-backlit LCDs dramatically increase contrast
levels over standard LCDs, which use a cold
cathode uorescent lamp (CCFL) thats always
fully switched on.
Along with local dimming, the 47LG90 offers
Intelligent Sensor automatic picture optimiza-
tion and TruMotion processing to reduce motion
judder in film- based programs shown on its
47LG90 47-inch LCD HDTV &
& &
where you can buy products directly from our participating retailers.
& &
LG 47-inch LCD HDTV
64 APRIL/MAY 2009
test reports
120- Hz display. It can also show 1080p/24-
format signals from your Blu-ray Disc player with
a straight 5:5 pulldown to hit its 120-Hz frame
rate. But maybe this sets most notable feature
is its picture-adjustment menu, which provides
options that go far beyond those found on many
other TVs.
The LGs looks are pretty standard-issue for
a at-panel set. A gloss-black bezel surrounds a
nonreective matte screen, while the speakers
are hidden behind a blue-tinted acrylic panel that
runs along the bottom. A touch-sensitive control
strip occupies the screens right side (the con-
trols respond with a beep when you touch them),
while the left side holds an A/V convenience
input with HDMI and USB jacks tucked in toward
the back. The matching gloss-black base can be
swiveled up to 30 in either direction.
Back- panel connection highlights include
three HDMI and two component-video inputs,
an RGB PC jack, and an RS-232C port to con-
nect to an advanced home-control system. LGs
remote isnt backlit, but its big, rubbery buttons
are clearly labeled and the keypad has an
uncluttered layout. Pressing the
Input button calls up an onscreen
graphic depicting various jack types
that you scroll through to select. (You
can choose from a list of categories
to re- label these, and the options
include HD- DVD!) The Q.Menu button trig-
gers an onscreen status list that can be used
to quickly adjust the backlight level, picture
preset, and display (aspect-ratio) mode. The
display-mode options include Just Scan (shows
pictures with 0% overscan), 16:9, 4:3, two zoom
modes, and Set by Program, which automatically
switches modes for you. All selections are avail-
able when displaying high-def video.
The 47LG90 provides seven picture presets, all
of which can be customized independently for
each input. Two of these, Expert 1 and 2, also
provide a Color Management System menu to
alter tint and saturation levels for primary and
secondary colors. But the real kicker for TV
tweaks will be the Expert Modes 10-point color-
temperature-adjustment option, which has con-
trols to adjust red, green, and blue levels at 10
different brightness (IRE) steps.
Taking advantage of the LGs many picture
controls, I was able to get its color looking darn
near perfect more so than on other TVs with
less plentiful adjustment options. Other set-
tings I selected included High Gamma, Low
Black Level for HDMI inputs (High for component
video), and Medium noise reduction for watching
standard-def programs on cable TV.
One picture adjustment I had a painful time
tweaking was Sharpness. When I approached
a setting where the edge enhancement related
to this control started to disappear, the picture
would invariably soften. Ultimately, I had to use
a compromise setting where the edge enhance-
ment wasnt too blatant and the picture still
looked relatively crisp.
The LGs accurate color helped make the
few sunlit outdoor scenes from The Dark
Knight look incredibly realistic when I
watched them on Blu-ray. For instance,
in a shot where the Joker (Heath Led-
ger) flees a bank heist in a school
bus, I could see subtle differences
between the yellow hue of the bus
and that of passing taxicabs as they
crept along Gothams streets. And in
a later scene where Lucius Fox (Mor-
gan Freeman) hands Bruce Wayne
(Christian Bale) a sonar- equipped
cellphone outside a Hong Kong
ofce tower, the skin tones of both
Wayne and Fox looked natural,
and the bold green-and-red sign-
age behind them appeared well
balanced with the other colors.
As ant i ci pat ed, t he LG
47LG90s local- dimming fea-
ture helped deliver satisfying
black levels in The Dark Knights
nighttime scenes. Shadow detail was very good.
When I scrutinized a shot where Batman pre-
pares to abduct Lau (Chin Han) from his high-
rise office at night, I could easily make out
details in the Caped Crusaders black suit as
he crouched in the darkness.
But I also noted an occasional halo effect
in pictures where a bright white object appeared
against a black background, such as movie titles
and the Jupiter Mission scenes from 2001: A
Space Odyssey. This effect stems from the local
dimming. With high- contrast shots like those
found in 2001, the backlight processing some-
times falls short of crisply resolving stark black/
white transitions. (To put things in perspective,
I also saw this issue on a Sony XBR8 LCD that I
recently tested, though to a lesser degree. And
2001 notwithstanding, I rarely found myself dis-
tracted by it.)
While the LGs picture looked fairly crisp on
most programs I watched, the edge enhance-
ment issue I noted during setup also resulted in
the set lacking that last measure of sharpness
Ive come to expect from 1080p-rez TVs. And I
found that the TruMotion anti-judder processing
made the action in film- based programs look
unnatural at both its High and Low settings, with
LGs rst LED-backlit LCD isnt perfect, but
deep blacks, natural-looking color, and an
affordable price make it worth a look
Accurate color
Strong blacks and good shadow detail
Plentiful picture adjustments
Wide viewing angle for an LED-backlit LCD
Affordable compared with most competition
Aggressive edge enhancement limits
picture resolution
TruMotion processing makes lm-based
images look unnatural
Just-average standard-def upconversion
Price $2,800 ($3,900 list)










The LGs accurate color helped
make the few sunlit outdoor
scenes from The Dark Knight
look incredibly realistic. &

APRIL/MAY 2009 65
A/V catalog
Call for your free catalog today
or visit
35 years of helping people choose, use, and enjoy electronics
Over 600 products inside, over 8,000 at
Bill Crutchfeld puts the
focus back on sound, pg. 3
Four ways
to add great
sound to
your TV, pg. 28
fast shipping
On most orders
see page 81 for details.
1-800-555-8211 Winter/Spring 2009
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Putting the focus
back onsound
the High mode sometimes introducing a slight
picture break-up.
One area where the 47LG90 did have a clear
advantage over other LED- backlit LCDs Ive
checked out was its viewing angle. I could slide
over to one side of my couch (about 15 from the
center axis) and not see an appreciable drop-
off in picture contrast with the LG. The set dis-
played excellent screen uniformity with both test
patterns and regular programs. And its noise-
reduction processing proved effective in clean-
ing up noisy analog cable-TV pictures at its high,
medium, and low settings. But upconversion of
standard-def material was just average, with reg-
ular DVDs looking relatively soft.

With its 47LG90, LG brings a reasonably priced
offering to the still dauntingly expensive LED-
backlit LCD TV scene. Although I was disap-
pointed by this sets intrusive edge enhance-
ment, which limited its overall picture resolution,
its accurate color, wide-ranging picture adjust-
ments, and strong contrast even at of f-
center seats make it a compelling at-panel
TV option for those inclined to choose LCD over
plasma. S&V
120-Hz display
LED backlight with local dimming
TruMotion processing to reduce lm judder
Side-panel HDMI and USB 2.0 inputs
Swiveling table stand
Inputs: 4 HDMI 1.3; 2 component-,
2 composite-, and 1 S-video; RF Ant/Cable,
PC RGB, USB, RS-232C, and mini-jack IR
45 x 32
2 x 13
2 in, 67 lb (with stand)
Before Calibration After Calibration
BRIGHTNESS (100-IRE window): 40.1 ftL / 38.0 ftL
After making basic adjustments in the
47LG90s Expert picture preset with
the Warm color-temperature mode
selected, grayscale tracking measured
492 K of the 6,500-K standard from
20 to 100 IRE. Further adjustments made
to the red, green, and blue controls in the
sets White balance menu upped perfor-
mance to 85 K from 20 to 100 IRE,
making the LGs post-calibration grayscale
among the attest Ive measured on a TV.
This result can be attributed to the 10-point
White Balance option, an adjustment that
lets you tweak settings at 10 separate
brightness levels ranging from 10 to 100
IRE. Color decoder tests revealed only a
slight 2.5% green pull on the HDMI inputs,
and 5% for component-video. Compared
with the SMPTE HD specication, only the
TVs green color point measured off the
mark, showing slight oversaturation.
Overscan the amount of picture area
hidden behind the edges of the TVs screen
measured 0% for 1080i- and 720p-
format high-def signals when the Just Scan
display mode was selected. With the sharp-
ness control adjusted for minimal edge
enhancement, both 1080i and 720p test
patterns looked soft by way of the TVs
HDMI and component-video inputs. Screen
uniformity was excellent, with no tinting or
uneven brightness visible on gray, black,
and white full-eld patterns. Viewing angle
was only fair as compared with other LCD
TVs, though better than other LED-backlit
models, with picture contrast dipping
slightly at seats more than 15 from the
screens center axis. A.G.
6,500 K
20 30 40 50 60 70 80 90 100
Full lab results at
66 APRIL/MAY 2009
test reports
very November, Im tempted to change
the outgoing message on my answer-
ing machine to something like: Hi,
this is Brent. If you want to know what
TV to buy, just remember that name brands are
safest, plasma is better for dark rooms, and you
dont need 1080p unless the TV is 50 inches or
larger. If in the unlikely event youre not calling
for TV advice, please leave a message. For
once, Id be able to spend my December relaxing
with an eggnog and A Charlie Brown Christmas
rather than explaining the difference between
CCFL and LED backlighting.
To my disappointment, almost everyone who
calls me for advice is interested in flat-panel
TVs, not projectors. For projector buyers, my
advice would be different: You need 1080p.
Most people dont understand that greater
resolution only pays off if the video display is
large enough. Below a certain screen size (its
debated, but probably somewhere in the 50-inch
range), you cant see the difference between
1080p and 720p. Almost everyone who owns a
projector, though, is using a screen measuring
6 feet or larger and on such large screens,
1080p delivers a noticeably more detailed pic-
ture and a less-visible pixel structure.
Thats why I was so excited when Sanyo
announced the PLV-Z700, the rst 1080p pro-
jector to list for less than $2,000. Granted, at
$1,995, its only a few dollars below that thresh-
old, but real-world prices put the PLV-Z700 just a
few hundred dollars above 720p models the
street price is $1,799.
Of course, Sanyo had to give up some good-
ies to get the price so low, but its remarkable
how much the engineers left in. Most appealing
to me were the lens-shift controls. These let you
shift the image right, left, up, or down without
loss of resolution, so you can mount the projec-
tor off-center from the screen without sacricing
picture quality.
The lens-shift and zoom controls are manual,
which is ne because those adjustments dont
have to be perfect. But the focus is also manual.
Projectors that have remote-controlled focus let
you get up close to the screen so you can see
the ne details when youre focusing. Because
of the PLV-Z700s manual focus, I had to keep
going back and forth between the screen and
the projector when I was making adjustments
and while I did get the focus sharp enough
to see pixel outlines, Im not certain I ever got
it perfect.
The PLV-Z700 has all the inputs you would
need, including two HDMI jacks. The lamp cover
is on the back, so you dont have to take the pro-
jector down from a ceiling mount to change the
bulb. An anamorphic squeeze mode lets you use
the PLV-Z700 with a horizontal-stretch lens to
produce 2.35:1 ultrawidescreen images. (Unfor-
tunately, most such lenses cost more than this
projector does.) Sanyo even included a motor-
ized lens door that closes automatically when
the projectors not in use.
The backlit remote has a dedicated button for
each input, which makes programming a univer-
sal remote easier. But it lacks separate on and
off buttons, which makes programming a univer-
sal remote harder.
Except for my having to walk back and forth
between projector and screen to set the focus,
basic setup for the PLV-Z700 was a snap. I just
plopped it on a table, used the lens-shift and
zoom controls to get the picture centered and
sized, then fussed with the focus. Dedicated
buttons on the remote for brightness, contrast,
color, and other functions made basic calibra-
tion a nearly effortless 5-minute process.
But when it came time to calibrate the color-
imetry, I was disappointed to nd that the PLV-
Z700 has only global controls for red, green, and
blue level not the separate gain and bias con-
trols that most projectors have. Many of the pro-
jectors other adjustments hide in an advanced
menu that has to be activated separately from
the basic menu. The advanced menu includes a
few great features. One is luminance, hue, and
gamma controls for each color, which let me
adjust the color points to within a percent or two
of perfection. Not that they really needed adjust-
ment they were close enough to the standard
at the factory settings. Other useful stuff: three
iris settings and an iris-range control.
PLV-Z700 front projector
The rst sub- $2,000 1080p projector to hit
the market shows a bit of cost cutting, but
offers some surprising features and a good
picture for the money
Great price for a 1080p projector
Lens shift and anamorphic squeeze included
Good picture quality from high-def sources
Black levels dont impress
Not great with standard-def sources
No separate gain and bias controls for
grayscale calibration
Price $1,799 ($1,995 list)




APRIL/MAY 2009 67
The benet of 1080p was appar-
ent the instant the PLV-Z700 n-
ished its rst warm-up and began
displaying scenes from the Blu-ray
Disc version of the surfing docu-
mentary Step Into Liquid. Viewing
my 6-foot- wide 16:9 screen from
a mere 3 feet away, I couldnt see
the outlines of the pixels that made
up the image. The picture looked
smoother and more detailed than any
Ive seen from a projector listing for
less than $2,999. In many shots, drop-
lets of water in the waves were clearly
The colors looked realistic and mostly
accurate, even if they didnt jump off the
screen as they do with many more expen-
sive projectors. The tan skin tones of the
sun-cooked surfers seemed just right and as
a Southern Californian, Im quite familiar with
the appearance of this species. The deep blues
and greens of the ocean looked vivid and invit-
ing. When I switched to the Blu-ray version of
The Fifth Element, I was delighted to see the
movies exaggerated colors displayed cleanly,
with subtle details that might other wise be
masked by pumped-up color showing through.
The PLV-Z700 uses LCD panels, which
arent well known for delivering deep, dark
blacks. But even compared with most of the
$3,000 LCD projectors Ive seen recently,
the PLV- Z700s pi cture looks sli ghtl y
washed out. You can play around with the
iris and the lamp brightness setting to
deepen the blacks, but this budget pro-
jector never manages to match its more
elite brethren. Still, the dark parts of
the picture look pretty good, even in the
scenes from Step Into Liquid that fea-
ture brilliant whitecaps highlighting
a dark ocean. They just never look
I did notice a couple of niggling
little problems. The Sanyo projec-
tors picture uniformity was just
okay, exhibiting a tilt toward red at
the top and toward blue at the bottom. And
even after I calibrated its picture, dark grays and
blacks sometimes looked a little reddish. I cant
say that any of these aws ever distracted me
while I was watching regular DVDs and Blu-rays
Discs, though. Also, standard- denition mate-
rial upconverted by the projector looked soft
a problem you might be able to x by setting
your source components or your A/V receiver for
high-def output.
Theres no doubt that Sanyos PLV-Z700 is a
remarkable bargain. Id prefer it to any inex-
pensive 720p projector, even those that might
enjoy certain performance advantages. Given a
choice, though, Id rather spend an extra $1,000
and step up to a higher-end model that delivers
deeper blacks. If youre buying a projector, you
should insist on 1080p and the PLV-Z700
allows even budget-minded home theater enthu-
siasts to make that demand. S&V
1080p resolution
2x zoom lens
Accepts 1080p/24 input signals
Manual zoom, focus, and lens shift
Anamorphic mode for constant-height
Automatic lens door
Inputs: 2 HDMI, VGA, 2 component
video, S-video, composite video;
DIN connector for service
4 x 13
8 x 15
4 in, 16
2 lb
Full lab results at
Before Calibration After Calibration
BRIGHTNESS (100-IRE full eld): 19.8 ftL / 16.3 ftL
The PLV-Z700 delivered the most accurate color reproduction with its Creative Cinema picture pre-
set and Default color-temperature mode selected. Grayscale tracking before calibration averaged
395 K below the 6,500-K standard from 30 to 100 IRE. Thats pretty good for a factory-fresh pro-
jector, but darker areas in the image showed a mild reddish-brown cast. The projector has global
level adjustments for each color rather than separate red, green, and blue gain and bias controls
an arrangement that made it impossible to raise the color temperature for just the lower IRE
levels. Still, raising the overall color temperature a bit delivered a more pleasing picture.
Color decoder tests through the HDMI and component inputs revealed that red, green, and blue
were all within 5% of spec. As compared with the SMPTE HD specication for digital TV colors, the
sets green and blue primary color points were close to ideal at the factory settings; adjustment of
the Color Management controls brought most of the color points within 1% of SMPTE spec.
The PLV-Z700 offers three iris modes: Fixed (off), Mode 1, and Mode 2. Mode 2 delivers the
6,500 K
5,981 5,908
6,129 6,462
6, 236
6,147 6,439
30 40 50 60 70 80 90 100
deepest blacks, so thats the one I used. It also
offers three lamp levels; I used the lowest.
Even with these modes activated, though, I
couldnt get the projector to deliver true deep
black. With these settings, and with the iris set
to Fixed, the native contrast ratio measured
375:1. With full-eld 100 IRE and 0 IRE pat-
terns and the iris in Mode 2, the contrast ratio
of the calibrated projector measured 1,628:1.
Brightness uniformity was just okay. There
were also some color-uniformity errors at low
picture levels, but I only noticed the effect with
test patterns. On black and dark-gray elds,
the picture shifted to red toward the top and
blue toward the bottom. On brighter elds, this
effect was less noticeable, and I didnt notice it
at all with normal program material.
Its obvious that 480i upconversion is one
place where Sanyo cut corners to hit the price
point. When in Auto mode, the projectors trips
up on the HQV DVDs 2:3 pulldown (Film Detail)
test, but works ne with regular movies. And
the image from standard-def sources looks
soft. But using high-def video sources or the
video upconversion built into a good A/V
receiver will eliminate this problem. B.B.
68 APRIL/MAY 2009
test reports
ith the Signature W5, Paradigm
runs the same risk of ridicule
that Cadillac braved when it
launched the Escalade EXT.
The EXT is, in essence, an outrageously fancy
$70,000 pickup truck. The Signature W5 is an
outrageously fancy $3,000 on-wall speaker.
Both reect a desire to dress up a typically mun-
dane product and the nerve to charge two to
three times the products typical price. Purists
will surely consider both to be grandiose and
excessively expensive.
Thats certainly the case with the Escalade
EXT. I see plenty of them cruising the freeways
of Southern California, but didnt spot a single
one during a recent 1,500-mile jaunt through
Texas. As any Houston resident could tell you,
however, pickups and speakers aint the same
thang. Pickup acionados tend to shun luxury,
but most audio enthusiasts crave it.
The W5 isnt Paradigms sole super-upscale
audio product for 2009. The company has also
launched an audacious new subwoofer, the Sig-
nature SUB 25. A quick scan of the spec sheet
tells you the SUB 25 is far more than just a
woofer in a box. Paradigm rates the subs inter-
nal amp at 3,000 watts continuous output. Its
15-inch woofer can travel up to 3 inches. And
its price tag reads a shocking $3,999.
Getting back to the W5, theres no escaping
the existential question it poses: Does anyone
actually care enough about on-wall speakers to
spend $9,000 for a trio of them? Most on-wall
speakers ank at-panel TVs and these days,
all but the biggest of those TVs cost less than
a single W5. Many great on-wall speakers can
be had for around $1,000 each. How does Para-
digm justify the W5s extraordinary price?
The size might tip you off as to one reason
for the W5s cost. Most on-walls are small, slim
designs intended for modest media rooms; they
cant play loud or deep. The W5, though, could
hold its own in a 16-seat personal screening
room. Its four 7
2-inch woofers deliver a rated
bass extension of 44 Hz. The downside of this
prodigious dynamic capability is that the W5 is
comparatively huge. Its taller than the height
of most TVs itll be used with; my samples
extended 2
2 inches above and below my 57-
inch Samsung at-panel LCD. Youd need a TV
measuring 70 inches or larger or, better yet,
a wall-mounted front-projection screen to put
the W5 in its place, visually speaking.
Also, like other speakers in Paradigms elite
Signature line, the W5 uses many high- end
parts. The tweeter dome is made from beryl-
lium, a brittle, expensive metal that offers an
unmatched combination of lightness and stiff-
ness. Cobalt-impregnated aluminum forms the
cones of the 4
2-inch midrange driver and of
the midrange/woofers.
Paradigm intends the W5 speaker for use in
the front left, front right, and surround chan-
nels. A center speaker, the W5 C, is also avail-
able. Its identical to the W5 except that its
tweeter and midrange drivers are turned 90 so
theyll disperse sound evenly when the speaker
is mounted horizontally.
For those who want a more visually dis-
creet surround speaker, Paradigm offers the
ADP3 v.2. Its an on-wall dipolar design with
midrange and tweeter drivers that match the
W5s. Theres a midrange/tweeter array on each
side, plus an 8-inch woofer on the front. The
side-firing midrange/tweeter arrays deliver a
more diffuse ambient sound eld than a direct-
firing surround speaker does. Some home
theater buffs prefer this arrangement. Some
despise it. I happen to like it in 5.1-channel sys-
tems that have only two surround speakers, but
not so much in 7.1-channel ones.
The SUB 25 isnt necessarily the best choice
to use with the W5 and ADP3 v.2, even if it
does match their visual aesthetic. The W5s
front grille stands out only 6
2 inches from
the wall. But the SUB 25 sticks out at least 25
inches into the room. If I were building a sys-
tem with these speakers, Id try to nd a way to
mount the SUB 25 in the wall (which should be
fairly simple because its a front-ring model).
But honestly, Id probably take the easy way out
and use multiple smaller subs.
The SUB 25 sports the usual volume, phase,
and crossover controls on its back, as well as
RCA and XLR inputs. Theres also a USB input
that allows its internal equalizer to be set using
Signature W5 on-wall speaker system
and SUB 25 subwoofer &

APRIL/MAY 2009 69
a PC and Paradigms $299 PBK-1 subwoofer
calibration kit. The subs equalizer is a set-and-
forget affair; your dealer will probably do the cali-
bration for you so you dont have to buy the kit.
Knowing that the 15-amp AC electrical circuits
used in most homes deliver only 1,800 watts,
an electronics geek might scoff at the SUB 25
amps 3,000-watt continuous-power rating. And
when he sees the subs 7,500-watt peak power
rating, hell probably spit Diet Coke through his
nose even if the last time he had a Diet Coke
was over a week ago. Paradigm says the subs
Power Correction Factor helps overcome the lim-
its of 120-volt home electrical circuits by shap-
ing the AC line current for optimal efficiency.
Still, the companys promotional materials are
careful not to claim that the internal amp can
actually deliver its rated output from a standard
AC outlet.
Any speaker as expensive as the W5 is likely
to be installed by professionals and thats
almost a shame. Paradigms mounting mech-
anism is so simple to use that anyone with a
cordless screwdriver, a few toggle bolts, and the
courage to drill some holes in the wall can have
three W5s mounted in half an hour or less. The
mount allows the speaker to be angled toward
the primary listening chair. The W5 C comes with
a foot that ts into the mount; this allows the
speaker to sit atop a shelf or a piece of A/V fur-
niture. The ADP3 v.2 mounts just as easily.
The W5 does present one minor setup issue:
It doesnt sound all that great until its had 10 to
20 hours of use. Apparently the midrange driver
needs some loosening up to perform properly.
For the rst several hours of operation, voices
sounded recessed and unnatural, almost as
if singers and actors had their hands cupped
around their mouths. All speakers sound better
after they break in, but the need seems particu-
larly acute with this one.
The PBK-1 kit proved simple enough even for
a non- audio-savvy installer or homeowner to
use. Just load the software, connect the com-
puter to the subwoofer and the supplied mike,
and follow the simple onscreen instructions. The
software package I got ran ne with Windows XP
but didnt work with Vista; at press time, Para-
digm was working on a x.
Because t he W5 wi l l probabl y al ways be
mounted alongside a TV or projection screen,
I started my evaluation with DVDs and Blu-ray
Discs. And I began with a test I thought the W5
might unk: James Taylors Live at the Beacon
Theatre DVD. Since the discs release in 1998,
the tune Shower the People has been a favor-
ite demo track for home theater buffs who want
a break from explosions. I chose it because the
glockenspiel and brushed cymbals immediately
reveal the quality of a tweeter and I wanted
to see if using those expensive beryllium domes
really paid off.
It did, but to a far greater degree than I
expected. Shower the People practically burst
into my listening room. Every note of the tracks
delicate percussion sounded exceptionally clear
and natural. The tweeters excellent performance
created a superb sense of space, too. The mid-
range dazzled me no less; the voices of Taylor
and backup singer Arnold McCuller sounded as
clear as Ive ever heard them. I used this track a
few years ago for a presentation I made at about
15 high-end audio dealers across the country,
playing it through top- of-the-line freestanding
speaker rigs costing $30,000 to $200,000, and
I cant ever remember enjoying it more than I did
through the W5 system.
Live at the Beacon Theatre didnt give the SUB
25 a chance to show its stuff, so I switched
immediately to the opening scene of Star Wars:
Episode II Attack of the Clones, in which a
spaceship ies overhead, lands on a platform,
and explodes. Its the toughest deep-bass test
I know of, and the SUB 25 passed it with an
A-plus grade. It sounded totally effortless, with-
out a trace of audible distortion as the ship ew
over. During the explosion, I felt waves of bass
pounding against my chest. I doubt anything
A way-overdesigned on-wall speaker
meets a way-overdesigned subwoofer
and the result is high-powered performance
that makes them ideal for large media
rooms or dedicated home theaters
You cant get better-sounding on-wall
Incredibly muscular subwoofer
You cant get more expensive on-wall
speakers (well, one or two)
Incredibly deep subwoofer cabinet
Price $16,394 (as tested)
James Taylors Shower the
People practically burst into
my listening room. Every note
of the tracks delicate percus-
sion sounded exceptionally
clear and natural. &

Paradigm Signature W5 speaker system
test reports
short of some crazy-expensive, absurdly gigantic
subwoofer could exceed the SUB 25s output.
The sonic matching of the W5, the W5C, and
the ADP3 v.2 is impeccable. The W5C sounds
practically identical to the W5, and the ADP3
v.2 sounds as close to its brethren as a dipo-
lar, side-firing speaker probably can. When I
played the Blu- ray Disc of Wall

E, the robots
sounded consistent as they zipped among the
front speakers, and between the front speak-
ers and the surrounds. This coherent surround
sound eld helped suspend my disbelief and pull
me into the action and isnt that the reason
you buy fancy speakers in the rst place?
Most on-wall speakers dont get used much for
music, but if you do decide to use the W5 for
that purpose, youll like what you hear. In fact,
you might be blown away. The beryllium tweeter
amazed me again and again, delivering incred-
ible detail without ever sounding edgy or bright.
It helps the W5 produce a surprisingly deep and
broad stereo soundstage. Even super-spacious
recordings from Chesky Records sound good
through the W5, and thats a rare occurrence
with on-wall speakers.
The tweeter sometimes seems unable to keep
up with the other drivers when you crank up the
system; with certain recordings, it sounded a bit
harsh when pushed to its limits. Even with that
limitation, this speaker plays louder than any
other on-wall Ive tested. When I played Rollin
and Tumblin from Jeff Becks You Had It Com-
ing CD a track Im scared to play on some
speakers because it occasionally destroys woof-
ers the W5 sounded smooth and clean, even
though the meters on my AudioControl ampli-
fier were pegged. My only worry was that the
speakers might vibrate themselves loose from
the walls.
The SUB 25 offered far more than enough
output for all of the music I played. For such a
potent subwoofer, it delivered nice punch in the
upper bass, a task at which overmuscled subs
often fail. It probably wouldnt deliver enough
upper-bass denition for a fussy audiophile, but
fussy audiophiles usually prefer smaller subs,
anyway. (Or no sub at all.)

I cant recall any model Ive tested that matches
the performance of Paradigms new statement
subwoofer, the SUB 25. But my enthusiasm for it
is tempered by the knowledge that its form fac-
tor will make it too bulky to use in many rooms.
When it comes to the W5 (and the ADP3 v.2),
though, I have no reser vations whatsoever.
I cant remember exactly the sound of every
on-wall speaker Ive reviewed, but I also cant
remember ever being so impressed by one as
I was by the W5. Its one fantastic transducer,
easily a match for just about any LCR- type
speaker on the market. S&V
70 APRIL/MAY 2009
Full lab results at
When mounted against a wall, the Signature W5 and W5C deliver
fairly at response across most of the audio band. Both speakers
exhibit a dip at 400 Hz and a peak at 600 Hz, the result of reec-
tions from the wall behind them. Off-axis performance of both is
excellent. Response of the ADP3 v.2, measured in-room from ve
positions and then averaged, is the attest Ive measured from a
dipolar surround speaker. Peak bass output of the SUB 25 sub-
woofer is a frightening 115 dB at 40 Hz. Average output at 10%
distortion or lower between 20 and 80 Hz is 109.5 dB. And usable
bass extension is extraordinarily deep at 18 Hz. B.B.
Surround 75 Hz to 10 kHz 2.9 dB
Subwoofer 20 Hz to 150 Hz 2.1 dB
Main 57 Hz to 15 kHz 3.5 dB
Center 57 Hz to 9 kHz 2.4 dB
Signature W5/W5 C ($2,999 each)
(4) 7
2-inch woofers, 4
2-inch midrange,
1-inch tweeter; 37
8 in high (W5),
8 in wide (W5 C), 39 lb
Signature ADP3 v.2 ($3,398 a pair)
8-inch woofer, (2) 4
2-inch midranges,
(2) 1-inch tweeters; 14
8 in wide, 26 lb
SUB 25 ($3,999)
15-inch woofer, 3,000-watt amplier
(7,500 watts dynamic peak); 20 X 18
X 21
8 in high, 114 lb
20 100 1k 10k 20k
hertz (Hz)

Most on-wall
speakers dont get
used much for
music, but if you do
decide to use the
Paradigm W5 for
that purpose, youll
like what you hear.
In fact, you might
be blown away. &

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72 APRIL/MAY 2009
test reports



anton is Germanys largest and best-
selling speaker manufacturer. Id
recently checked out the companys
DSS 303 i Pod sound sy st em
(Whats Up, Dock?, September 2008, avail-
able on our Web site) and was impressed by that
wonderful bit of Euro-engineering. So it was with
great interest that I greeted Cantons new,
revamped GLE Series home theater speakers,
touted as a high value line that uses trickle-
down technology from the companys more
expensive products.
My review system comprised a pair of GLE
490 floor-standing towers, a GLE 455 center
speaker, a pair of GLE 420 surrounds, and an
AS 85 SC powered subwoofer. All of the satel-
lites share similar drivers a good thing, since
it helps ensure that the tonality will match all
around. The 1-inch soft-dome tweeter found in
all the speakers employs a fabric dome, but
this new-and-improved version also uses a ner
silk material, as well as revised driver geome-
try, magnet structure, and front plate. And the
satellites midrange/bass drivers use the same
aluminum cone material found in Cantons high-
end speakers. Finally, the speakers sport a very
gently curved front bafe thats said to improve
both frequency-response linearity and driver ef-
ciency in the crossover-frequency range.
The GLE speakers all feature at tracti ve
punched-metal grilles. And each cabinets back
panel is nished as nicely as the sides. These
are particularly handsome-looking speakers
with their aluminum cones clearly visible behind
the silvery metal grilles, theyll fit in with the
dcor of any contemporary listening room.
The GLE 490s which take me back to the
day when men were men, speakers were speak-
ers, and no one had ever heard of an iPod
are classic three-way bass-reex towers with a
tweeter, a 7-inch midrange driver, and two 8-inch
woofers. The GLE 420 compact speaker I used
for surrounds, meanwhile, sports one tweeter
and a single 6
4-inch midrange/bass driver.
Since the 420s port is located around back,
theres no built-in provision for wall mounting.
The GLE 455 center speaker uses a sealed
cabinet with a tweeter and two 6
4-inch mid-
range drivers. Unlike with some center speakers,
theres no way to adjust the cabinets vertical
tilt. The 455 can be used as a horizontal center
speaker (which is what I did) or ipped around
for use as a front-L/R or rear-channel speaker.
The AS 85 SC powered subwoofer is small by
contemporary standards, both in its size (less
than 20 inches high) and power (Canton claims
150 watts of music power). But it does sport
a front-ring 9-inch driver along with a front port.
The rear panel has controls to adjust volume,
crossover, and phase. Youll also nd jacks for
stereo/mono line input and stereo line output,
as well as speaker-level inputs and outputs. A
normal/narrow switch compensates for room
size by altering the crossovers response (see
Test Bench for details).
Unless I someday move my comfy chair, the
designated speaker locations in my listening
room are as rigidly dened as Newtonian phys-
ics. I placed the towers along my front narrow
wall, about 8 feet apart, and the center speaker
beneath my TV. I put the surrounds on my own
trusty stands behind my chair and along each
side wall. Finally, I placed the sub along my front
wall in the spot where experience has shown
that Ill get optimal bass response at my listen-
ing position.
I started my listening duties with stereo play-
back on the GLE 490 pair alone. On the purest
of music, such as Yo-Yo Mas performance of
Bachs Six Unaccompanied Cello Suites, the pair
proved to be extremely transparent. Although I
usually prefer dark sonic textures, I soon appre-
ciated these towers crisp sense of air. Some
speakers just sound too bright to me. The GLE
490s high end, by contrast, helps bring a terric
presence to recordings. Intimate bowing details
GLE Series home theater speaker system
An impressive, reasonably priced system
that combines outstanding build quality
with superbly accurate sound
Highly accurate sound
Top-notch construction
Tasteful Euro styling
Good value
Surrounds could use a little more heft
Subwoofers small size and low amplier
power limit output
Price $3,046 (as tested)

APRIL/MAY 2009 73
were clearly enunciated, but didnt sound unnat-
ural or forced. If anything, Yo-Yo Mas inherently
warm cello tones might have come off too dark
on overly warm-sounding speakers; here, they
were just right.
Moving on to something completely different,
I listened to Old Crow Medicine Shows Tennes-
see Pusher. This band has a unique bluegrass
sound thats not easily reproduced. Its percus-
sive string playing can sometimes come across
as raw, and a speaker should neither hide that
fact nor accentuate it. On songs such as High-
way Halo, the GLE 490 towers sounded as
Americana as apple pie, with just the right twang
on the guitar, a properly soulful harmonica, and
upfront lead vocals. I especially liked the sound
of the backup vocals on Hotel in Memphis.
Some speakers can make backup singers sound
pancake-at in a mix, but these added a sense
of 3-D to the stereo panorama, with the vocals
properly spaced behind the lead.
I next added the subwoofer and turned to heft-
ier music. Nickelbacks Dark Horse is kick-ass
rock & roll, and the sub responded appropriately
with bass that was tight, punchy, and modestly
powerful. On Burn It to the Ground, the skins
on the oor toms and kick drum sounded as stiff
as inch-thick plywood, the snare as persuasive
as a slam-dunk, and the hi-hat as hard as glass.
The aggressive, snarly bass guitar was spot-on,
and its punch didnt get lost in the crossover
region between the sub and the towers. All in all,
this is a terric system for stereo listening, par-
ticularly with the addition of the AS 85 SC sub.
Turning next to movies, I checked out 3:10 to
Yuma, a gritty Western remake that, while sat-
isfying, falls short of the classic pasta morality
plays. When watching this movie, youll notice
that the center channel has to deliver about
6 million gunshots along with dialogue and ambi-
ent effects. The GLE 455 handled it all very well,
with precise tonality and off-axis response that I
judged to be better than average. Russell Crowe
and Christian Bale apparently trying to out-
Eastwood each other deliver most of their
dialogue in whispers and growls. Again, the GLE
455 hit the mark, providing high intelligibility on
every syllable.
During the movies nale, the surround speak-
ers are tasked with delivering wind, breaking
glass, splintering wood, and gunshots galore.
The gunshots in particular sounded realistic
over the GLE 420s, triggering my head-ducking
instinct when the shooters were behind Crowe
and Bale. The surrounds sounded as clean as
the towers, although they could have used a
little more low- frequency punch. Obviously,
direct-radiating surrounds like these lack the
dispersion of dipoles, but I was still satised
with the resulting sound eld.
Although the AS 85 SC subwoofer impressed
me by providing sufcient heft in scenes with
a charging stagecoach, dynamite explosions,
and a collapsing tunnel, it was limited by its
size and its amplifier power. It hit the lowest
frequencies, but when I cranked things up dur-
ing action sequences with the Narrow setting
selected, soundtrack peaks produced an over-
stressed tupping sound and some port noise.
If you have a big room, or if you want enough
bass to risk structural damage to your homes
foundation, youll need a bigger sub. For normal
listening in a normal-size room, the AS 85 SC
will be adequate.

I am genetically inclined toward lugubrious-
sounding speakers. But even given that bias, I
can truthfully report that I greatly admired this
systems genuinely accurate, full - frequency
sound, which was characterized by rm bass,
a transparent midrange, and clear treble. Im
impressed that Canton managed to deliver
extremely good performance here at an afford-
able price. Who knows after enjoying these
Canton speakers in my listening room, the
experience might just transform me into a full-
frequency listener. S&V
GLE 490 ($1,399/pair)
1- in soft-dome tweeter, 7- in cone
midrange, two 8-in cone woofers;
4 in high, 42
4 lb
GLE 455 ($499)
1- in soft-dome tweeter, two 6
cone midrange/woofers; 18 in wide,
2 lb
GLE 420 ($549/pair)
1- in soft-dome tweeter, 6
4-inch cone
midrange/woofer; 11
2 in high, 10 lb
AS 85 SC ($599)
9-in woofer, 150-watt amplier;
10 x 17
4 x 14
2 in, 26
2 lb
Full lab results at
The GLE 490 has an essentially at bass-to-treble balance, displaying
only narrowband irregularities, including a 2.7-dB oor bounce cen-
tered at 247 Hz. The GLE 455 has a small 2.5-kHz dip that deepens
at 22 off-axis along with narrow peaking at 4.4 kHz, 6 kHz, and
14 kHz. The GLE 420 surround speaker also displays several narrow
peaks and a mild 2.5-dB elevation between 600 Hz and 2 kHz. The
AS 85 SC subwoofer has limited dynamic capability, with SPL falling
off at 17 dB per octave below 62 Hz. And its maximal clean SPL capa-
bility is limited by port grunting triggered at lower frequencies. Using
the subs Narrow room-compensation setting cuts output by roughly
5 dB below 55 Hz while at the same time increasing output by just
under 2 dB above 55 Hz. Tom Nousaine
Surround 79 Hz to 20 kHz 3.2 dB
Subwoofer 38 Hz to 123 Hz 2.7 dB
L/R 47 Hz to 19.1 kHz 2.7 dB
Center 89 Hz to 19 kHz 3.7 dB
20 100 1k 10k 20k
hertz (Hz)

test reports



74 APRIL/MAY 2009
writer once said, From economy
springs simplicity, and from simplic-
ity springs happiness. Conrmation
of this adage abounds. Consider
empty nesters, who often trade in expensive,
sprawling homes for cozier, easier-to-maintain
cottages. Consider Japans Lost Decade, in
which a stalled nancial system inspired a work-
aholic populace to abandon crazed materialism
and expand their starved emotional lives.
So who came up with this profound prov-
erb? Emerson? Nope. Thoreau? Nope. Actu-
ally, it was Butterworth that is, me. But any
acclaim should go to the object that inspired my
insight: Zvoxs Z-Base 550, an affordable home
theater sound system thats so simple it might
be impossible to mess up. This 3
box is meant to fit right under the base of a
at-panel TV, yet it incorporates all the speak-
ers and ampliers you need for home theater
sound. And the Z-Base works as if it were built
into your TV.
The magic lies in the Z-Bases minimalism.
It connects to the variable-level audio outputs
of a TV, so the TVs volume up/down buttons
will control the Z-Bases volume level. You plug
your source devices such as a DVD player or
a cable box into the TV, and the TV routes
the sound to one of the Z- Bases two stereo
analog-audio inputs.
The front of the unit has ve 2-inch drivers,
with three grouped side-by-side in the middle.
All three get a mono signal, a combination of
the left and right channels. The center driver
gets the full spectrum of midrange and treble,
while the drivers immediately anking it receive
a little less treble, in order to keep them from
interfering with the center driver.
The remaining 2-inch drivers are positioned
at the far left and right of the front bafe. The
far-left driver gets the full left- channel signal,
plus a phase-inverted and frequency-filtered
version of the right-channel signal. The far-right
driver gets the full right-channel signal plus an
inverted/ltered version of the left-channel sig-
nal. The resulting mix of these out-of-phase, l-
tered signals tricks your brain into thinking its
hearing sound from several feet to the left and
right of the Z-Base and even from the sides
of the room and behind your head.
Lots of manufacturers have used this cross-
talk cancellation technique over the years, per-
haps most notably Polk with its Stereo Dimen-
sional Array technology. Zvoxs name for it is
PhaseCue. The companys president, Tom Han-
naher, says PhaseCues secret sauce is the
amount of opposite-channel signal thats mixed
in, and the way in which its ltered.
A woofer on the bottom provides bass. Zvox
includes a tiny remote that controls power,
volume, mute, PhaseCue level, woofer level,
and treble. If your TV has variable audio out-
put, youll only need this remote for setup and
occasional tweaking. Theres also a subwoofer
output (a full-range mono signal) for those who
demand even more bass.
From a physical standpoint, installation of the
Z-Base couldnt be much simpler: Just stick it
under your TV. Zvox says the Z-Base will support
most 32- to 47-inch TVs, but you can go bigger
as long as the TV weighs less than 90 pounds.
Because the boxs front is nearly featureless, it
looks like part of the furniture.
Hookup is just as easy: Connect the included
pair of audio cables from the TVs variable-audio
output to either of the Z-Bases inputs. Accord-
ing to Hannaher, the second input is mainly
intended for use with an iPod or other digital
music player.
Theres no display on the front, just a single
blue LED. Its easy to adjust the volume, Phase-
Cue, woofer, and treble by ear, but nding out
what settings youre using is tougher. The blue
LED blinks when you hit a button on the remote.
But when you get to the bottom or the top of
the adjustment scale, the LED stops blinking.
There are nine adjustment steps for PhaseCue,
woofer, and treble. So you can run each adjust-
ment all the way down, then count the number
of times you hit the button on the remote.
The PhaseCue control adjusts the balance
between the center and the left and right driv-
ers. Turn it all the way down, and almost all
of the sound will come from the center speak-
ers. Turn it full up, and youll get an extreme,
unnatural-sounding surround effect. As you turn
the effect up, it can start to drown out the dia-
logue coming from the center speakers. With a
receiver, you can calibrate this balance so you
know its right. With the Z- Base, you have to
trust your ears.
Any system like the Z-Base has one major hurdle
to clear with potential buyers: It has to sound
better than the speakers built into a typical TV.
Z-Base 550 TV sound system
(5) 2-in midrange/tweeters, 5
2-in woofer
60 watts total power
(2) stereo audio inputs; subwoofer output
2 x 28 x 14
2 in, 19 lb
The Zvox Z-Base 500 is the best solution
to date for simple home theater sound
one that everyone in the family can easily
use and enjoy
Good dialogue reproduction
Convincing surround effect
Possibly the only home theater audio system
an average person could gure out
Hard-to-gauge adjustment levels
Sounds a little quiet with some Dolby Digital
5.1 soundtracks
Price $499

APRIL/MAY 2009 75
Its obvious on rst listen that the Z-Base does.
Compared with the speakers in the two TVs I
own, the Z-Base delivered clearer dialogue, far
deeper bass, and a much greater sense of envel-
The battle scenes in Tropic Thunder (Dream-
Works) convinced me of the Z-Bases worth. Explo-
sions and gunshots seemed to come from actual
left and right speakers sitting a couple of feet
to either side of the TV, and the sound engulfed
my listening chair. The effect was more convinc-
ing than Ive heard from two-speaker surround-
emulation technologies such as SRS and Dolby
Virtual Speaker. It also produced a wider sweet
spot. The effect sounded best when I was sit-
ting directly in front of the Z-Base, but it didnt
change dramatically when I moved a few feet
to the side.
The Z-Base delivered surprisingly smooth dia-
logue. From the reedy accent that real actor Jay
Baruchel used to play onscreen actor Kevin San-
dusky (in turn playing a soldier named Brooklyn) to
the guttural growl Robert Downey, Jr., adopted to
play Australian actor Kirk Lazarus (in turn play-
ing Sgt. Osiris), every voice in Tropic Thunder
sounded reasonably natural, without overt tonal
coloration. The vocal sound was a bit thin rela-
tive to what youd hear from a good conventional
center speaker, and with no dedicated tweeter
to convey the high frequencies, it lacked a sense
of breath. Still, it was a gigantic improvement
over any built-in TV speaker Ive heard.
The woofers output balances well with the
2-inch drivers. I wouldnt describe it as punchy
or powerful, but theres enough bass that I never
once felt the need to add a subwoofer. Unless
you crank the woofer level control all the way up,
it never booms or distorts.
Given a stereo or a Dolby Digital 2.0 mix, the
Z-Base 550 has enough output to cover a large
bedroom or a small living room. But with some
Dolby Digital 5.1- channel soundtracks, down-
mixed to stereo inside the DVD player to feed
the Z-Base, the volume was too low for my taste
even when I turned it all they way up. The pre-
amp circuitry could use about 6 dB more gain.
The Z- Base is as foolproof as a home theater
audio system can get, and it delivers satisfying
sound that wont leave you wishing youd instead
bought a home theater in a box. For the 90% of
people out there who cant (or dont want to)
gure out the 100-plus connections on a typi-
cal A/V receiver, the Z-Base is the ideal route to
simplicity and therefore happiness. S&V
Full lab results at
20 100 1k 10k 20k
hertz (Hz)
Main 60 Hz to 13.2 kHz 5.7 dB

The battle
scenes in Tropic
Thunder convinced
me of the Z-Base
550s worth. The
sound engulfed my
listening chair.

I measured the Z-Base 550 by

driving both channels with the
same signal, setting the
PhaseCue control to minimum,
and positioning the micro-
phone in front of the three
center drivers. I then close-
miked the woofer and port,
and spliced the measurements
together. Theres a large audi-
ble gap between the woofer
and the small drivers, from
about 180 Hz to 1 kHz, and a
sharp peak at 15 kHz. But
between 1 kHz and 13 kHz,
response is fairly even. Peak
bass output is 100.4 dB at 63
Hz; average output at 10%
distortion between 50 and 80
Hz is 97.4 dB; usable bass
extension is 50 Hz. B.B. &
76 APRIL/MAY 2009
test reports



ver the past few years, weve
witnessed a seemingly endless
procession of new audio and video
technologies. From HDMI connec-
tions to an ever- expanding array of Dolby and
DTS surround sound modes, its gotten to the
point where anyone on the hunt for a new A/V
receiver needs to shop with a lengthy checklist
of must- have features. But things appear to
have f inall y set tl ed down, wi th most new
receiver offerings letting you tick off all of those
essential feature boxes.
A good example of this new breed of fully
up-to-date receivers is Sonys STR-DA5400ES,
which sits one step under the companys ag-
ship STR-DA6400ES. Both models come with
similar feature sets and performance, the main
difference being that the 6400ES is DLNA-
compatible and can stream high-def video over
a home network. Otherwise, the 5400ES has
the key bases covered, with Faroudja DCDi video
processing, six HDMI 1.3 inputs, and dual HDMI
outputs for sending HDTV programs to two sep-
arate displays. (Picture resolution for second-
zone video maxes out at 1080i.) Audio formats
are fully covered, too, with onboard decoding for
Dolby Digital Plus, Dolby TrueHD, DTS-HD Mas-
ter Audio, and even DSD (SACD). While it lacks
the agship models networking prowess, the
5400ES can distribute high-def video to another
room over CAT-5e cable, and can even provide a
third zone with 2-channel analog audio.
At 7 x 120 watts, the Sony receivers rated
power is a bit less than what you can get with
some similarly priced competitors, although it
should be plenty unless you have a huge home
theater or hideously insensitive speakers.
Additionally, if your plans call for a simple 5.1-
channel setup as opposed to a 7.1-channel
one the 5400ES lets you reassign those two
extra amp channels either to power a second
zone or as duplicate front channels for speaker
With binding posts that accept either bare wire
or banana plugs for all seven channels, hook-
ing up my 7.1-channel speaker array to the Sony
was a snap. I also connected my Blu-ray Disc
player and cable box/DVR by way of HDMI, along
with a Sony Digital Media Port iPod dock, an XM
satellite-radio tuner module, and an Oppo DVD/
SACD player so I could investigate the Sonys
upscaling and DSD input features.
Sonys Xross Media Bar onscreen menu is
attractive, and once you get the hang of navi-
gating it, youll find it simple enough to step
through the receivers setup without cracking
open a manual. The supplied calibration micro-
phone is unusual in that it uses two elements
spaced a few inches apart to get a better han-
dle on speaker positioning and room reections.
Along with the normal level, phase, crossover,
and frequency-response calculations, the mike
allows the receiver to determine the angle
between your front speakers. It then uses this
information to calibrate some of the surround
modes to match the front-speaker placement.
Rather than use an established system like
Audyssey, Sony has its own automated setup
routine that can store measurements made
from three different mike positions. While some
receivers calculate room correction based on
readings from several points, Sonys setup
only lets you select one stored position at
a time. Whats good here, though, is that you
get the option to correct all speakers for a
at response, correct them to a target curve,
or match the center and surrounds using your
front left and right speakers as a reference. Per-
sonally, I rather like the way my PSB Synchrony
tower speakers perform, so I mostly stuck with
the Sonys Front Reference mode or left the
equalization off altogether.
The 5400ES i ncl udes pl ent y of features
designed to help you get the best possible
performance from a variety of sources. When
playing SACDs with my Oppo universal player,
Sonys HATS (High- quality digital Audio Trans-
mission System) was able to process digital
audio coming over the HDMI connection using
the receivers master clock. Sony claims that
this all but eliminates digital jitter, and when I
spun Miles Daviss Kind of Blue on SACD, there
was a small but clear uptick in clarity and low-
level resolution with the HATS circuit engaged.
Punchier music, such as the remix of the Bea-
tles Drive My Car and The Word on the Love
STR-DA5400ES A/V receiver
Sonys near-agship A/V receiver covers
all the bases with its host of performance-
enhancing audio features
Bang-up-to-date audio processing
Superb analog video processing
Enough inputs to accommodate even the
largest systems
No HD Radio
No network connections
No HDMI upconversion
Price $2,000

APRIL/MAY 2009 77
DVD-Audio disc, showed off the Sonys ability to
get a powerful grip on the speakers, with Giles
Martins 5.1 mix swirling around the room in a
convincing manner.
Moving on to cinematic material, the DTS-
HD Master Audio soundtrack on the Night at
the Museum Blu-ray will give any system a good
workout, especially when the Tyrannosaurus
rex chases Larry (Ben Stiller). Even amidst this
sonic mayhem, the 5400ES managed to cre-
ate a stable, enveloping sound eld, along with
impressive dimensionality and spaciousness
on the soundtracks orchestral score. The bass
was solid and well dened, if perhaps missing
that nal smidgen of grunt and punch Ive heard
with a few (admittedly much more expensive and
powerful) amps Ive used.
Analog video signals were processed by the
excellent Faroudja DCDi chip, with everything
from composite video arriving by way of a VCR
to 1080i-format signals on a component-video
connection upscaled to 1080p. This is one of
the best video processors around, so its no sur-
prise that pictures looked uniformly excellent
a notable improvement over my Samsung 1080p
LCD TVs built-in processing.
To make compressed digital-audio les like
MP3 tracks sound better, the 5400ES has
what Sony calls a Digital Legato Linear (DLL)
audio scaler. I found that this could reduce the
warbly, underwater-like effect you often hear
with highly compressed signals a few of XM
Radios talk channels, for example. With XMs
music channels, or the better-sounding MP3s
on my iPod, the enhancement was less pro-
nounced but still noticeable, with high-frequency
sounds such as cymbals losing some of that
papery quality you sometimes hear with MP3s.
With its many rows of similar-looking rectan-
gular buttons, Sonys programmable remote is
not the easiest to navigate, although the criti-
cal input- selection and volume controls are
easily accessed. Sony packs two nearly identical
remotes, with the second unit intended for use
in a second zone.
If you dont thumb through the receivers man-
ual, youre likely to miss a few well-hidden fea-
tures in its Xross Media Bar graphical user inter-
face (GUI), like the multiband speaker equalizer.
One problem I ran into is that operating audio-
only functions such as radio tuning can be con-
fusing unless you also turn on the video display.
But this became much easier once I assigned
all of my regular FM, AM, and XM stations to pre-
sets. While were discussing tuners, one feature
this Sony regrettably lacks is HD Radio, a ser-
vice Ive really grown to appreciate.
With its STR- DA5400ES, Sony has packed all
of the current must-have features into a ne-
sounding receiver with good video processing.
And although Sony tends to tread its own path
when it comes to ergonomics, I found that oper-
ating the receivers Xross Media Bar GUI soon
became second nature. I also appreciated both
its excellent handling of the SACD and DVD-
Audio formats and the ability of its DLL circuit
to pump a little more life into compressed, low-
rez source material. Now, if it only had HD Radio,
my checklist would be complete. S&V
7 x 120 watts
6 HDMI 1.3 inputs, 2 HDMI outputs
Dolby TrueHD, Dolby Digital Plus, DTS-HD
Master Audio, and DSD (SACD) decoding
Dual Faroudja DCDi video processors
Automated speaker setup and calibration
XM satellite radio-ready
Can send HD video over CAT-5e cable
(requires optional CAT-5e-to-component-
video adapter)
Compatible with 1080/24p video sources
Phono input, (3) IR ports (2 in, 1 out),
RS-232 serial control port, multichannel
analog audio input, (2) Sony Digital Media
Port inputs, (3) 12v triggers
4 x 6
4 x 16 in, 34
2 lb
The STR-DA5400ES did very well on power tests with 2
channels driven, easily besting its 120-watts-per-channel
spec. But with multiple channels stressed, the Sonys cur-
rent reserves managed a bit less than 50 watts per channel
Full lab results at
with all 7 channels loaded.
More signicantly, the Sony
clipped asymmetrically, atten-
ing its negative-going waveform
several dB before its northward
half. This occurrence tends to
make the onset of distortion
effects audible somewhat ear-
lier than is typical. With its soft-
ware setup switch at 4 ohms,
the 5400ES limited its stereo
output to about 140 watts (into
4 ohms). All of my results
reect the receivers 8-ohms
setting. Noise and distortion
results were impressive across
the board, including Dolby
Digital S/N that was smack on
the theoretical limit for our
dithered-silence measurement.
Daniel Kumin
Rated power
per channel,
8 ohms
120 watts
1 Channel 2 Channels 5 Channels 7 Channels
78 APRIL/MAY 2009
test reports



ometimes you take a shine to a
piece of gear not for any one big rea-
son but for a host of little ones,
some of them hard to define. The
Marantz SR6003 A/V receiver is one such item.
Its nicely made and very attractive, but not
drop- dead on either score. Compared with its
competitors higher-end offerings and even
with Marantzs own its a good value, but not
an astonishing one. Its a truly ne audio per-
former and a versatile video controller, but so
are a lot of other kilobuck-class receivers. And
then there are the indenables: the nished feel
of the front panel and controls, the classy look-
ing remote, the Goldilocks-approved overall size
(including an unusually shallow 16-inch depth
that lets it t where others wont), even a model
name that eschews the difcult-to-remember
multihyphenated alphanumerics of so many
other receivers.
Setup went perfectly smoothly. The receivers
implementation of Audysseys MultEQ XT auto-
calibration/room-correction routine proceeded
as usual, with the results Ive come to expect in
my room from previous tests: subtly tighter and
perceptually deeper-sounding bass, and a sort
of spatial aeration to the treble that came
without any brightening or harshening effects.
To keep things short and sweet, the SR6003s
sonic chops were beyond reproach. I was par-
ticularly impressed by the breadth, depth, and
power of its audio section, which delivered a
level of performance more akin to separate
components than to a receiver.
As a plain ol stereo amplier, the Marantz
proved exceedingly able. Driving my compact,
middling-sensitivity front speakers full-range,
it presented instruments and ambient crowd
noise from the classic CD Jazz at the Pawnshop
with the preternatural presence and almost
shocking clarity that have made this session
an audiophile favorite for nearly 3 decades now.
Cymbals sounded arrestingly lifelike and airy,
bass ample yet tight, and sax attacks bitey and
brassy. Piano tones carried just that touch of
close-miked, small-room boxiness you hear sit-
ting at a front table. And drum solos, like the
one on Barbados, had impressive dynamic
smack. (Impressive but nonetheless finite:
At live levels, staggering amounts of power
are required to do full justice to trap drums
recorded naked with no processing or compres-
sion applied during mixing.) In short, beyond
that last half- decibel or so of dynamic punch,
nothing here suggested I wasnt listening to my
usual preamp/power-amp combo.
I happened to watch this years NFC champi-
onship game an entertaining contest between
two rather mediocre teams (said the Patriots
fan, bitterly) with the SR6003 quarterbacking
my system, and was pleasantly surprised by the
broadcasts surround mix, one of the best Ive
heard from a live sports event. The receivers
surround palette adds the less universal Circle
Surround II (CSII) to the ubiquitous Dolby and
DTS avors. While Dolby PLIIx yielded the most
pleasingly balanced presentation of announc-
ers, eld, and crowd sounds in the complex sur-
round mix, CSIIs subtly intensied crowd noise
and greater ambience envelopment brought an
extra degree of spatial excitement.
The Dolby TrueHD- endowed Blu- ray Disc
set of David Gilmours Royal Albert Hall gig,
Remember That Night (Columbia), might be
the best-sounding rock show yet committed
to disc especially if you turn off the video
and forget that Gilmour and guys look better
suited to gas fire, pipe, and slippers than to
the stage of the Royal Albert. Heard through
the Marantz, its sound was full, spacious, and
crystal clear, with impressive bass and dynam-
ics even at some very serious master-volume
settings. Paunch and gray buzzcut aside, Gilm-
our still teases out some of the greatest guitar
timbres ever from his Strat and backline a
big part of what rock is all about for me.
The SR6003 accepts DSD bitstreams from
multichannel SACD discs, decoding them in
the receiver. My best SACD recordings, such as
Paavo Jrvi and the Cincinnati Symphony per-
forming Stravinskys Firebird Suite (Telarc), pro-
SR6003 A/V receiver
Superior sonics and ne power join
exible video features in a compact and
very handsome package
Outstanding audio power and performance
Excellent results from Audyssey auto setup,
calibration, and room EQ
Smooth-looking and attractively compact
Lacks full graphic interface
No information display with component-video
or HDMI sources
Analog-video processing merely average
Price $999

APRIL/MAY 2009 79
duced precisely the pristine sonics I expect from
this ne but sadly moribund audio format.
On the anal og- vi deo si de of things, the
SR6003s processing comes courtesy of i-Chips
Technology silicon. Processing is applied only
to incoming analog composite-, component-,
or S- video signals (video arriving on HDMI
passes through untouched), which can be
scal ed to 1080p and passed through the
HDMI output. The SR6003 also trans-
codes anal og formats: composi te- to
component- and S- video, and S- video
to component. The net results with stan-
dard-def DVD programs and test patterns
input by way of 480i component video
and viewed through the Marantzs 1080p
HDMI output looked quite good, but not
reference-grade. Pictures appeared just a
smidge softer and noisier than the same
signal coming directly from the players
HDMI output. (This is true to some
extent of most video processors in A/
V receivers; its a matter of degree.)
Signals traveling over HDMI, including
1080p ones from my Blu-ray player,
were entirely unaffected by their trip
through the SR6003.
The Marantzs onscreen setup is
billed as a graphical user inter-
face, but its really just a text-only
menu-tree affair albeit a handsome, sensibly
laid-out one. Since many of its competitors do
have full-color, icon-based GUIs, this is a bit of
a letdown. Another aggable item: None of the
SR6003s running onscreen displays, such
as volume, input, or surround-mode changes,
appear over i ts HDMI or component- vi deo
out put s at al l , unl ess your e vi ewi ng a
composite- or S-video source. Hello? What year
is this? Does anybody who buys a thousand-dol-
lar receiver still use a TV that doesnt at least
have a component-video input?
Okay, so I didnt love the onscreen graphics
engines limited utility. But I did like the Marantzs
remote, which is very attractive, fairly
readable, and thoughtfully, if rather
densely, laid out. (Nevertheless, I
propose we outlaw symmetrically
shaped remotes with identical volume
and channel up/down button pairs. In
the dark, I kept picking up the damned
thing upside down and pressing what I
thought was volume, to no avail. Yeah,
slow learner.)
Lastly, the SR6003s networking
capabilities are limited to a single front-
panel USB input that can accept a ash
drive for MP3/WMA file playback or a
self- powered hard drive. This worked
fine, and unlike some other receivers,
the Marantz can pause/resume mid-track,
and even do bidirectional, multispeed fast-
forward and reverse scanning, albeit chop-
pily. Unfortunately, like most other A/V
receivers, basic, thumb-driven list browsing
is the only le-selection mode, so deploying
a cheap drive as a poor mans music server
is not a very practical option here.
Marantzs origins in the dawn of high-end audio
still show, even through several changes of cor-
porate ownership across its half-century history.
The SR6003 is a great-sounding receiver, with
enough sonic chops to catch the ear of serious
listeners. And its merely average analog-video
processing will be entirely irrelevant to most
potential owners, who would likely use it in an
all-HDMI system. In any case, the SR6003s top-
ight audio and all-around attractive design eas-
ily earn it a closer look. S&V
7 x 100 watts (2 channels driven)
3 HDMI 1.3a inputs, 2 selectable outputs
Upconverts analog video for 1080p output
over HDMI
Dolby TrueHD, DTS-HD Master Audio, and
DSD (SACD) decoding
Audyssey MultEQ auto-setup/equalization
with supplied microphone
Menu-based graphical onscreen display
AM/FM tuner with 60 presets
XM/Sirius satellite-radio-ready
Assignable powered Zone 2 or front-biamp
3 optical and 2 coax digital-audio inputs,
1 optical output
7.1-channel pre-out and analog
multichannel inputs
12-component pre-programmed/
learning remote
IR in, 12-volt trigger, RS-232 serial port
8 x 6
8 x 15
8 in, 29 lb
Full lab results at
Power output from the Marantz SR6003 A/V receiver
was very impressive. It substantially beat its 100-watts-
per-channel ratings in single-channel, stereo, and even
5-channel tests (rare for any receiver), and it very nearly
managed 100 watts all around even with all 7 channels
driven. Frequency-response and distortion tests gave
uniformly excellent results as well. But noise and linear-
ity results consistently fell a bit short of theoretical
targets, factors that together suggest a moderate least-
signicant-bit error in the digital-to-analog conversion
system. Although this would restrict ultimate dynamic
range by a few dB, its almost sure to be undetectable in
real-world listening, and I noted no such artifacts in my
evaluations, including fade-to-noise audibility tests over
headphones. D.K.
Rated power
per channel,
8 ohms
100 watts
1 Channel 2 Channels 5 Channels 7 Channels
test reports
80 APRIL/MAY 2009
emember 1999? Thats the year the
digital video recorder (DVR) arrived
and forever changed the TV viewing
experience, allowing us to pause
and rewind live TV and putting an end to record-
ing setup complications.
Like Kleenex, Xerox, and iPod, the name TiVo
has become synonymous with DVRs. People
who dont even own a TiVo will say they Ti Vod
it when they record a TV program! But if Digeo
has anything to say about the situation, some
of you will soon start saying you Moxid it.
The company is backed by Paul Allen, who co-
founded another little tech company, Microsoft,
so you could say hes no stranger to big ideas.
The idea behind the Moxi is to create a DVR
for the new high- def world that offers a supe-
rior user interface, enough storage to hold tons
of programming, and no subscription fees. But
sometimes simple ideas can be the toughest
to pull off. Like many people, I rent a DVR from
my cable provider, so I was curious to see if the
Moxi would make me want to buy the whole cow
instead of just renting one. (The Moxi is avail-
able exclusively from
A brief Quick Start Guide walks you through
Moxis hook- up and registration process. (A
more detailed 98-page version can be down-
loaded from The system includes
a full complement of cables, including HDMI,
component-video, and Ethernet, which should
be enough to accommodate most installations.
An internal 500-GB hard drive stores about 75
hours of HD and 300 hours of SD programming,
and a mega-user can use the eSATA port to add
up to 2 more terabytes of storage.
But the Moxi doesnt include any kind of
tuner to receive digital and analog over-the-air
broadcasts or cable TV. Instead, it requires a
Multi-Stream CableCARD from your cable pro-
vider, which lets the system simultaneously
tune and record two HD programs. Moxi also
requires a high-speed Internet connection to pull
programming-guide data as well as other online
content and system updates.
Once my CableCARD had been installed and
properly provisioned a process that took
numerous post-installation phone calls to the
cable provider from both Digeo and myself I
activated the HD DVR. (Using a computer, you
create an account at, typing in an
ID generated by your box.) Additional options
for setting controls like picture resolution are
also available, with the system supporting both
1080p/24 and 1080p/30 video output.
Once the Moxi scanned my cable feed, I
ipped through the guide and noticed that many
normally available channels were missing. Digi-
tal cable systems like mine also carry analog
channels on the same connection, and receiving
them requires an analog tuner (available for a
$25 shipping and handling fee). Once the tuner
was installed, the analog channels integrated
seamlessly. A benet to the analog tuner is that
it lets your Moxi DVR record three channels at a
time two digital and one analog!
I encountered another bump because my
areas Time Warner cable system transmits
programs using Switched Digital Video (SDV)
technology. Basically, SDV saves bandwidth
by sending only the digital channels requested
by a subscriber at any given time. At present,
CableCARD lacks the two-way communications
capability needed to work with such systems,
so the Moxi HD box cant receive SDV channels.
This meant that out of 274 channels, I could
only receive 120. (And only 13 out of 48 HD
channels.) Something called a tuning adapter
or resolver is supposed to be able to x this
problem on HD DVRs, but for the moment its
only available for TiVo HD DVRs. (Digeo expects
a CableLabs-approved solution to be available
for the Moxi in mid 2009.)
I ran into my next head-scratcher after pro-
gramming the Moxi to record the latest episode
of The Unit. When I went to watch the show the
next day, I got an hourlong infomercial for Proac-
tiv acne medication instead. Not cool. It was then
that I noticed that the Moxis clock was losing
about 6 to 10 minutes an hour, making sched-
uled recording impossible. Turns out I had a
defective CableCARD; replacing it eliminated
the time-loss problem.
My cable DVR offers no online or home-net-
work media-streaming features, so I was excited
Moxi HD digital video
CableCARD issues aside, Moxis superior
interface and generous storage capacity
provide plenty of incentive to switch over
from your cable companys DVR
No subscription fees
High-rez guide offers lots of browsing
Online capabilities expand systems potential
Remote controls design needs work
You have to deal with CableCARD installation
No PIP function
Price $799

APRIL/MAY 2009 81
to learn about the Moxis capa-
bi l i ti es i n that depar tment.
SuperTicker and MoxiNet are
a nice way for couch potatoes
to keep up with news, sports,
finance, and weather happen-
ings. For music listening, it has
a Pandora- like service called
Finetune, and you can browse
photos using the Flickr photo-
shari ng ser vi ce. Streami ng
media over a home network
requires a computer running
Wi ndows Medi a Pl ayer 11.
Unfortunately, even after hours
of troubleshooting, including an
on-site visit from a Digeo tech,
I couldnt get the PC Link fea-
ture to work. Digeo acknowl -
edges that PC Link is not the
most robust network platform,
and says that an upgrade to full
DLNA compliance this spring
should eliminate the problem.
Moxis onscreen user i nter-
face really shines, with bright,
sharp, terric-looking high- def
graphics. But the layout is even
better than the look. By using
a branching design similar to
Sonys Xross Media Bar graph-
ical user interface (GUI), the
Moxi makes it easy to nd the programs youre
looking for. When browsing through the program
guide, the Moxi displays whats currently play-
ing, along with three applications. One lets you
plan your viewing and recording by quickly skip-
ping ahead in the program guide up to 14 days.
Another divides browsing into sections for Mov-
ies, News, Sports, Kids, Music, HDTV, and All
Channels. And the third, a Favorites mode, auto-
matically keeps track of your 15 most-watched
When you browse Moxis program guide, it dis-
plays information about the currently selected
show and also lists the next three shows air-
ing on that channel. You can plan your viewing
and recording by quickly skipping ahead in the
program guide up to 14 days. Another brows-
ing mode divides channels into Movies, News,
Sports, Kids, Music,and HDTV categories. And
a Favorites mode will automatically keep track
of your 15 most-watched channels.
There are three speeds for searching through
recorded programs: fast, rocket, and lightning.
The top speed can blister through a 2-hour TV
show in about a minute. Also, the remote con-
trols Skip button can be configured to move
things forward in 30-second or 3-, 5-, and 15-
minute jumps.
While it was instantly apparent that the Moxis
interface looked way better than the one on my
cable DVR, I also noticed that its upconversion
did a better job than my cable box with standard-
def programs.
My biggest complaint was with the remote
control. Digeo positioned the transport controls,
instead of the more heavily used navigation but-
tons, where your thumb naturally rests. Weeks
into my evaluation, I would routinely press Pause
when I meant to press Enter. Also, several but-
tons are oddly and confusingly labeled. Moxi
owners should denitely invest in a better hand-
set like one from Harmony or from Universal
Remote Control.
One more complaint: Moxi doesnt have pic-
ture-in-picture (PIP) for viewing
two channels at once some-
thing my Scientic Atlanta cable
DVR does offer. Sports fans will
denitely miss this feature.

Without question, the Moxi is a
great DVR one thats superior
to the unit provided by my cable
company. Its onscreen interface
is terric, and the system does
most everything its supposed
to. But if your cable system uses
SDV to distribute programs, the
Moxis reliance on CableCARD
could mean that you wont be
able to tune in all the channels
you pay for. And at $799, it isnt
cheap. I think Moxis biggest
hurdle will be selling directly to
users and relying on cable
companies to get the system up
and running with the notoriously
problematic CableCARD technol-
ogy. Im about as A/V-savvy as a
person gets, and I had a host of
issues and complications install-
ing my system. Granted, many
of these were brought about by
my particular cable provider, but
most other people would likely
have given up and sent the sys-
tem back. Still, for those who do
invest the time, the benets of Moxis HD DVR
will make it worthwhile. S&V
Multi-stream CableCARD can record two
HD programs at once
500-GB hard drive stores up to 75 hours of
HD and 300 hours of SD programs
Storage expandable to 2 terabytes
HD-resolution menus and channel guides
Can remotely schedule recordings via
the Web
Available exclusively from
Outputs: HDMI; component-, composite-,
and S-video; optical and coaxial digital and
analog stereo audio; LAN, eSATA, and USB
17 x 3 x 10
2 in, 15 lbs
Pineapple Express (Sony)
Movie FFFgf
Picture FFFgf
Sound FFFgf
Extras FFFgf
The Wackness (Sony)
Movie FFFgf
Picture FFFgf
Sound FFFgf
Extras FFfff
Being a distributor of pharma-
ceuticals isnt all its cracked
up to be: If youre not getting
shot at, youre just a lonely
guy whos hopeless with girls.
Then again, at least you can
be half of a buddy-movie team.
Another creation of the Judd Apatow factory,
Pineapple Express finds lovable loser Dale
(Seth Rogen) on the run with his clueless pot
dealer, Saul (James Franco), after Dale has
witnessed a murder. And in The Wackness,
pot dealer Luke (Josh Peck), having just gradu-
ated from high school, shares his stash and
the streets of New York City with his therapist,
Dr. Squires (Ben Kingsley).
Pineapple Express manages to be, all at once,
a great stoner comedy (with more quotable
quotes than Friday and Half-Baked combined),
an action movie, and a surprisingly tender buddy
flick. Director David Gordon Green pulls off quite
a balancing act to make it work. The films look
has a grainy, washed-out 70s vibe, captured
nicely by the DVD transfer. Contrast is a little
weak, but it fits the mood nothing too sharp
to harsh the mellow. That said, when it comes to
the soundtrack, this might be the most active
Dolby Digital 5.1 mix ever found on a movie with
so much weed. There are plenty of gunfights,
car chases, and other instances of general may-
hem to keep the subwoofer and the surround
channels from nodding off.
Whereas the Express romps along at a mad-
cap pace, The Wackness simmers as a melan-
choly character study. The acting is excellent
across the board, with Sir Ben stealing the show
as Lukes drug-addled mess of a shrink. Most of
the film is steeped in sepia-toned browns and
grays, with hardly any vibrant colors to be found.
The sun starts to come out when Luke takes a
trip to the beach with his love interest; afterward,
even the city sidewalks are brighter. The DVDs
Dolby Digital 5.1 mix is used mostly to support
the 1994-vintage hip-hop numbers, and if the
likes of The Notorious B.I.G. and A Tribe Called
Quest bring back memories for you, then this is
definitely a soundtrack to get lost in.
The two-disc Special Edition of Pineapple
Express (with both the theatrical cut and an
unrated extended version) has a wealth of extras
spread out over both DVDs, including behind-the-
scenes featurettes, alternate/deleted scenes,
mock public-service announcements, a bunch
of people hanging out on the couch of Sauls
Apartment, and a digital copy of the movie.
Green, Rogen, Apatow, and other cast/crew
members all have a good time during the com-
mentary, with Rogen the most eager participant.
Extras on the single-disc Wackness arent
nearly as generous. The commentary by Peck
and writer/director Jonathan Levine is mostly
just self-congratulatory, and Lukes fake public-
access show isnt worth the time.
Appaloosa (Warner)
Movie FFFFf
Picture FFFgf
Sound FFFgf
Extras FFFff
Unjustly ignored by theatrical
audiences last fall, Appaloosa is
a sturdy, soft-spoken, elemental
Western that recalls the genres heyday without
bogging down in self-serving references or hom-
age. Theres no question that this is Ed Harriss
baby: He stars and directs, co-authored the
screenplay, and even wrote a cowboy song for
the end credits. But as director, he knows to
leave room for his outstanding cast to shine,
especially Viggo Mortensen (as deputy/sidekick
White Dopes on Dope










movies &tv
82 APRIL/MAY 2009
Trees company: Seth Rogen (far left) and
James Franco ride the Pineapple Express.
Meanwhile, Ben Kingsley (below, left)
and Josh Peck walk the pushcart dispensary
in The Wackness. &
to Harriss marshal) and Jeremy Irons. Who
wouldve predicted that Irons would become an
all-time-great Western bad guy?
Cinematographer Dean Semler (Dances with
Wolves) shot Appaloosa anamorphically on
film, providing all the breathtaking sunsets and
desert landscapes we expect in a classic West-
ern. The power of Semlers work generally comes
through on DVD, though the disc occasionally
falls short on image detail. The Dolby Digital 5.1
soundtrack is solid but intentionally low-key.
Twelve minutes of polished deleted scenes
fare much better than the requisite, lackluster
documentary segments. In a commentary he
shares with producer/co-writer Robert Knott,
Harris focuses largely on logistics. Its not too
exciting, but it does reveal the true craftsman
behind this wonderful film. KEN KORMAN
Breakfast at Tiffanys
Movie FFFFg
Picture FFFff
Sound FFFff
Extras Fffff
As possibly Blake Edwardss
best film, as the movie that laid
the groundwork for most of his later work, and
as an undisputed classic, 1961s Breakfast at
Tiffanys deserves the kind of serious, inventive,
thought-provoking presentation that the Criterion
Collection usually gives its releases. Unfortu-
nately, this two-DVD set isnt from Criterion but
from Paramount, and it isnt aimed at the direc-
tors aficionados (or even movie buffs in general)
but at chick-flick fans. As such, its second disc
is filled with fluffy extras that celebrate the
movies style its fashion sense and pretty
much ignore its position as a genre-breaking
and -defining romantic comedy. (Many of the
featurettes are carryovers from the 2006 DVD
release.) The only nonsuperficial extra is a
thin-skinned, shortsighted, self-congratulatory
assault on Mickey Rooneys often and unfairly
maligned Yunioshi character. (By the same logic,
Peter Sellerss Inspector Clouseau should be
reviled as a scurrilous caricature of the French,
but I dont see anybody lining up to do that.)
For an entry in Paramounts Centennial Collec-
tion, this set has an inept and uninspired menu
design that harks back to the earliest days of
DVD. (For instance, producer Richard Shepherds
sadly inert commentary is buried in the audio-
setup menu.) And, pulling out none of the stops,
it incredibly uses the same chapter breaks as
the 1999 DVD release. The transfer is a big
step up from the one for that edition, but it still
doesnt do full justice to the films Technicolor
evocation of New York City in the early 1960s.
The Dolby Digital 5.1 sound is clear enough,
providing a suitable setting for Henry Mancinis
tasteful, ingenious score.
Breakfast at Tiffanys definitely deserves
better but Edwardss best films have always
deserved better than theyve gotten on DVD.
Maybe a new round of releases on Blu-ray Disc
will help remedy this egregious slight.
Magnicent Obsession
(The Criterion Collection)
Movie FFFff
Picture FFFff
Sound FFFff
Extras FFFgf
There are those who look at
Douglas Sirks sudsers of the
1950s and see masterpieces. I am not one of
them. And as it is, the directors Magnificent
Obsession (1954) is far less enjoyable than his
All That Heaven Allows (1955) or Written on
the Wind (1956). The best thing about all three
of those movies is Rock Hudson, quite believ-
able in Obsession as the spoiled brat who turns
saintly benefactor after causing Jane Wymans
blindness. What to say of Wyman? A respected
actress, certainly, but she and Hudson just never
strike sparks.
Criterions DVD transfer isnt as good as those
it made for Heaven and Wind. Colors are rich
but never particularly bold. Whats more, there
are two scenes where the Technicolor strips
are so out of alignment that it suddenly seems
like youre watching 3-D without glasses. This
DVD might indeed offer a restored transfer,
but apparently the source print had those mis-
alignments and the three original Technicolor
strips werent available. (Most likely, they dont
even exist anymore.) Such circumstances are
understandable, but nonetheless, the flawed
scenes are quite shocking to see. Meanwhile,
the Dolby Digital mono sound is adequate if not
overly impressive.
Extras on this two-disc set include a 1935 ver-
sion of the story directed by John M. Stahl and
starring Irene Dunne and Robert Taylor, a feature-
length documentary on Sirk, and tribute inter-
views with filmmakers Allison Anders and Kath-
ryn Bigelow. Best, however, is the insightful com-
mentary by film scholar Thomas Doherty.
Battlestar Galactica:
Season 4.0 (Universal)
Series FFFFg
Picture FFFFf
Sound FFFFf
Extras FFFFf
As Battlestar Galactica comes
to its literally Earth-shattering
conclusion this spring, theres no time like the
present to engage the Season 4.0 DVD set, which
covers the first half of this top-drawer dramas
final outing. In these pivotal 10 episodes, the
For more reviews, go to

APRIL/MAY 2009 83 &
seeds of many long-planted secrets, lies, motiva-
tions, and fears come to fruition.
Production values and attention to detail have
always been series hallmarks, and that contin-
ues on this four-disc set, from the smeared black-
and-red paint on the knuckles of the Earth-crazed
Starbuck (Katee Sackhoff) in Episode 5 to the
Dolby Digital 5.1-channel opera of attacking
Vipers in Episode 7. (Major oops, however: Uni-
versal shouldve lopped off the HD DVD promos
from the previously released, seasons-bridging
movie Razor on Disc 1.)
Extras are abundant and informative, many
of them culled from BSGs vibrant Web portal.
Executive producer Ronald D. Moores podcast
commentaries unravel the minutiae, while his
producing partner, David Eick, pushes boundar-
ies with his sometimes irreverent, sometimes
acute video blogs.
The most amusing new featurette is The
Music of Battlestar Galactica, where composer
Bear McCreary attempts to get the cast and crew
to acknowledge his contributions. Look for how
a tongue-in-cheek James Callis (who plays the
mostly reformed rogue Gaius Baltar) hijacks
his interview with McCreary to croon an impro-
vised theme song. Frakkin priceless.
The Films of Michael Powell
A Matter of Life and
Death FFFFf
Age of Consent FFFff
Picture FFFgf
Sound FFFff
Extras FFFff
The biggest news in this double-disc set is the
DVD debut of 1946s A Matter of Life and Death
(a.k.a. Stairway to Heaven), one of the most
elaborate and memorable of director Michael
Powells collaborations with Emeric Pressburger.
It opens with one of the great love scenes in
film history over the radio between an Ameri-
can dispatcher (Kim Hunter) and an apparently
doomed RAF pilot (David Niven). And it climaxes,
in an ultramodern and fantastically imagined
afterworld, with a great tribunal witnessed by
all the dead of modern wars, as if to reconcile
them (and us).
The DVD transfer ably manages the mono-
chrome and Technicolor contrasts of heaven
and Earth, respectively, and the magical segues
between them. Color flesh tones arent too real-
istic, but they really werent meant to be. Careful
attention is paid to the layers of the Dolby Digital
mono soundtrack.
Also making its DVD debut on this installment
of Sonys Collectors Choice series is Powells
final film, Age of Consent (1969), which finds
him returning to his early theme of mans con-
frontation with nature, and with his own nature.
James Mason is a burned-out artist hiding away
on a Great Barrier Reef island who discovers
fresh inspiration in a local girl (Helen Mirren in
her first starring role), who has problems of her
own. The attraction of some memorable nude
scenes aside, these two performances are com-
pelling, and the imagery gorgeous. The rest of
the movie may well inspire you to lunge for the
fast-forward button.
Restored here is the original Australian cut,
which was somewhat mucked about for its
U.S. release. Colors and contrasts come across
very nicely for a film of this vintage; the Barrier
Reef probably doesnt look this good today.
But on this disc, the Dolby Digital mono sound
is undistinguished.
Both movies have video tributes by Martin
Scor sese and informative (if somewhat fussy)
film-historian commentaries. Age of Consent
adds some affectionate making-of material,
including a lengthy recent interview with Mirren.
Vicky Cristina Barcelona
Movie FFFFg
Picture FFFFg
Sound FFFFf
Extras None
The guys still got it. Energized
by a new canvas Barcelona in the summer-
time Woody Allen delivers a movie that feels
as true and alive as anything hes done in years.
Customarily for an Allen story, an artist finds his
volatility and narcissism crashing and burning
when confronted by the demands of traditional
romantic love and everybody else settles for
security and drudgery over passion. Its not an
uplifting message, but this is a beautiful movie
Like the story, the Barcelona of Gaud and
Mir is about unexpected angles and splashes
of color. And like the cinematography, the picture
on this Blu-ray Disc is exceptional. Much of the
movie is bathed in a warm sunlight that accen-
tuates the citys charisma without sacrificing a
smidgen of image resolution or color accuracy.
And night scenes are invitingly shot, with plenty
of texture. Check out the shadow detail near the
edges of the frame in a short, low-contrast scene
where Javier Bardem and Rebecca Hall listen to
guitar on a softly lit patio.
The music tracks have great dynamics and
provide plenty of air around the instruments. Dia-
logue, too, is always vivid; when Bardem argues
in Spanish with Penlope Cruz, the clarity of the
Blu-ray Disc
84 APRIL/MAY 2009
movies &tv
Days of wine and neuroses: In Vicky from
Woody, Cristina (played by Scarlett Johans son,
right) goes to Barcelona and meets Mara
Elena (Penlope Cruz).




N &

APRIL/MAY 2009 85
sound helps ensure that you dont need subtitles
to know exactly whats going on. The sound mix
is only across the front (PCM 3.0), but I cant say
that I missed the surrounds or the subwoofer.
True to past Allen releases, there are no
extras. One of these days, he may well record
a commentary, but thats about as likely as a
snowstorm in Barcelona in July.
Body of Lies (Warner)
Movie FFFgf
Picture FFFFf
Sound FFFFf
Extras FFFgf
Unlike the moral murkiness of
CIA undercover operator Roger
Ferris (Leonardo DiCaprio) and the world he
inhabits, the visual world of Body of Lies on Blu-
ray Disc is bright, crisp, and clean. Even the foot-
age from the satellite that monitors Ferriss every
move has an unnerving clarity and detail, such
that all the unsavory elements of the Companys
activities are revealed.
Individual rocks in desert landscapes are vis-
ible, along with the stubble of newly shaved sec-
tion chief Russell Crowe and the lines around
DiCaprios squinting eyes. The special forces
head-to-foot outfits are a deep black, while the
wide range of pale tones the grays and blues
of the Langley offices, the yellows and browns of
Iraq and Jordan are set off by the occasional
shock of a brightly colored car.
Throughout the Dolby TrueHD 5.1 soundtrack,
the surround channels are used for atmospher-
ics (cocks crowing, horns honking, babies crying)
but also for the many action sequences. Boom-
ing explosions are accented by tinkling glass and
debris falling all around, and automatic weapons
fire away, their bullets ricocheting off the wall
behind you.
Theres a commentary by director Ridley Scott,
screenwriter William Monahan, and original nov-
elist David Ignatius, who is particularly insightful.
All of the visual extras are in high-def, and they
include nine featurettes that can be watched
individually, together (totaling 80 minutes), or
as branching-video Focus Points during the
movie. Like the discs additional interviews with
DiCaprio, Crowe, and Scott, the featurettes are
dryly presented, although the making-of footage
for the action scenes is fun. One long deleted
scene actually adds to the story and the films
romantic relationship. BD-Live features (not
announced at press time) are available, and a
digital copy of the movie is included on a sepa-
rate disc. JOSEF KREBS
Killzone 2 (Sony, PS3)
Graphics FFFFF
Sound FFFFg
Hyped as a Halo killer, the
original Killzone was far from
it, with its uneven enemy
A.I., glitchy graphics, and aggravating frame-
rate issues. To be fair, those problems were due
largely to the limitations of the PlayStation 2
hardware. But now, armed with the processing
power of its current-gen console, Sony has given
us something truly astounding to feed our PS3s,
other than the best Blu-ray movies.
For the uninitiated: Killzone 2 takes place a
couple of years after the thwarted assault on
Vekta (a colony planet of Earth) by the Helghast,
a ruthless race of interplanetary invaders with
glowing red eyes (who clearly take their fashion
cues from Nazi storm troopers). In this superb
sequel, you take the fight to their home turf,
the forbidding planet Helghan. From your arrival
which looks like a sci-fi version of the D-Day
landing at Normandy to the games epic
conclusion, youll engage in firefights against
Helghast soldiers who apparently enrolled in a
boost-your-I.Q. course between games.
This impressively detailed theater of war is
beautiful in its ugliness. Bombed-out buildings
are pocked with bullet holes and scarred with
scorch marks. Smoke and small bits of debris
swirl through rubble-filled streets as a howl-
ing wind batters the urban landscape. Youll be
amazed by the way the wind disperses explo-
sions and how banners respond dynamically to
Helghans violent conditions. Ominous clouds
pass overhead, and electrical storms ignite the
toxic skies, illuminating some of the most real-
istic water yet seen in a videogame. Color grad-
ing is used to achieve a vivid sense of depth and
dimension. Duck-and-cover tactics will serve you
well, but beware of sitting in the same spot for
too long: Its nerve-racking to watch the concrete
pillar youre hiding behind give way to gunfire,
leaving only a steel skeleton between you and
your adversary. Will we see a better-looking first-
person shooter in 2009? Hard to imagine.
Equally remarkable is the uncompressed PCM
7.1-channel sound. Incredible attention has been
paid to the differences between indoor and out-
door effects, with delays and reverbs changing
in length and depth according to your environ-
ment. (Test this by tossing a grenade inside, then
another outside.) Cleverly, a radio filter is applied
to dialogue when a speaking character runs out
of hearing range. This not only lends an added
sense of realism but ensures that important mis-
sion objectives arent missed (even if some of
the dialogue is, alas, a bit lame). Of course, your
subwoofer will get a helluva workout from all of
the thunder and explosions, as well as from the
shotgun and other weapons that pack an extra
punch. And to top it all off, an orchestral/synth
score responds seamlessly to the intensity of
the action on your screen, making you feel like
youre the driving force behind the music.
A cooperative mode is sorely missed, but
thats more than made up for by online play for
as many as 32 gamers not to mention those
awe-inspiring graphics and that highly immersive
surround sound. In short, Killzone 2 joins Resis-
tance 2 in a (finally!) growing stable of must-have
games that are exclusive to PS3. Somewhere,
Bill Gates shudders. DREW THOMPSON
E &
Bruce Springsteen: Working
on a Dream (Columbia)
Music FFFFf
Sound FFFFf
Extras FFfff
As billed, this is a pop album.
Which means its chock-full of the kind of tune-
ful, concise, 60s Brill Building, heart-on-sleeve
songs that Bruce Springsteen has always been
able to write rather effortlessly but that, usually,
he gives away to other artists because his own
albums have to be, like, you know, Statements.
Working on a Dream isnt quite Magic 2.0,
however, in that it lacks the Iraq War subtext
although there is something of a theme here,
namely, It may not be such a drag getting old,
but this mortality thing is giving me pause none-
theless. Exhibit A: This Life, an absolutely gor-
geous folk-rock love song with the tag lines This
life and then the next / With you, I have been
blessed. Exhibit B: the seraphically rueful The
Last Carnival, an elegy for recently departed
E Street Band keyboardist Danny Federici thats
as moving as anything in Springsteens catalog.
That said, there are a couple of terrific depar-
tures, as well as a couple of epics. Among the
latter, Outlaw Pete is a tongue-in-cheek (or is
it?) production number with swooping strings
and an anthemic chorus that sounds like Bruce
channeling Ennio/Sergio. And the quite astound-
ing Queen of the Supermarket is the niftiest bit
of rock & roll trompe loeil since the Police con-
vinced the world that Every Breath You Take is
a romantic love song instead of a creepy treatise
from a stalker; hearing Bruce drop the F-word in
the songs last chorus is pretty much worth the
price of admission all by itself. The departures?
Good Eye is a mutant-blues/field-holler num-
ber thats close to R. L. Burnside territory, and
(my personal favorite) Life Itself is a spooky,
midtempo psychedelic rocker with Revolver-era
backwards guitar and somebody doing a convinc-
ing impersonation of Roger McGuinns sheets-
of-sound 12-string solos from Eight Miles High.
Everything is burnished quite beautifully by Bren-
dan OBriens production.
If Working on a Dream falls short of Magics
highs, its a lot more consistently listenable. And
The Wrestler, the bonus track from the Mickey
Rourke movie, is beyond remarkable. Spring-
steen may have won an Oscar for Streets of Phil-
adelphia, but that song was the work of a pro
doing a job. This one gets to the existential nub
of its film in absolutely heartbreaking fashion.
The Limited Edition Deluxe Package has a
40-minute DVD with a documentary and a bonus
video, A Night with the Jersey Devil. Bedeviled
by the economy? Opt for the CD only. The doc
is interesting but only up to a point, and youd
never watch it more than once. STEVE SIMELS
The Fray: The Fray (Epic)
Music FFFFf
Sound FFFFf
It has to be difficult to follow
up a debut as strong as the
Frays How to Save a Life, so
its no surprise that this album has been 4 years
coming. Life in the spotlight has knocked some
of the wind out of these golden boys from Denver,
and their second disc is less sure-footed than
their first and the better for it. Gone are the
monochromatic feel-good songs, and in their
place is a layer of complexity, ambivalence, and
hurt. Whether this is due to the mysterious
and innumerable land mines of fame, or to diffi-
culties in navigating the angst of their late 20s,
or just to figuring out How to Keep the Girl (now
that theyve gotten her), the Fray chronicle their
unease moral, spiritual, romantic in much
more interesting ways than they did before. Just
listen to the fragile We Build, Then We Break
or the naked, painful Ungodly Hour. This is anx-
ious music for anxious times. JAAN UHELSZKI
Van Morrison: Astral Weeks:
Live at the Hollywood Bowl
(Listen to the Lion/EMI)
It was almost too good to hope for: Van Morri-
son performing Astral Weeks in concert, start
to finish. It turned out better than we couldve
dreamed of. Morrison was in top form on the
two nights last year when he reprised his deep-
est, most inscrutable work. Backed by a mini-
orchestra that includes flute, strings, and percus-
sion, he sings and improvises like a horn man,
extending passages on the spot, reveling in the
ensembles creative incandescence. The 40-year-
old Astral Weeks was then and is now not so
much discrete songs as a free-flowing piece of
Irish jazz-folk mysticism. Its all here in balanced,
natural live sound, accomplished with just one
rehearsal and delivered without overdubs. Enter
the slipstream and disappear into the realm of
transcendent artistry. PARKE PUTERBAUGH
Umphreys McGee: Mantis
(SCI Fidelity)
Music FFFFf
Sound FFFFf
With this album, Umphreys
McGee goes light on the jam
and heavy on the meticulously composed, per-
formed, and produced progressive rock. Heavy,
too (but never heavy-handed), are the lyrics that
meditate on prophecy, lies, and things worth
dying for. Mantis takes longer to digest than the
instantly captivating Anchor Drops (2004), and
it lacks the abandon of Live at the Murat (2007),

86 APRIL/MAY 2009

Having a
Tune-up! &
but ultimately these busy little tunes are thor-
oughly rewarding. Several tracks resemble suites
in the finest prog tradition; think Yes. But more
than with any of this Chicago bands previous
CDs, you can also think the Beatles meet King
Crimson, with a radio-ready single (Made to
Measure), light string-and-horn flourishes, and
sweet vocal harmonies complementing aggres-
sive, repeated riffs of metal (heavy indeed).
And holding everything together is plenty of con-
fident, inventive Umph. ANDREW NASH
Robyn Hitchcock & the
Venus 3: Goodnight Oslo
(Yep Roc)
Music FFFgf
Sound FFFFf
Robyn Hitchcock can hold an
audience with just his voice and an acoustic gui-
tar, but he sounds most in his element when an
electric guitar strums behind him and the vocal
harmonies stack up in glorious support. Good-
night Oslo, like Ol! Tarantula, has him backed
by the Venus 3 (including Peter Buck), who pro-
vide solid support whether it be a Creedence-
inspired swamp run (What You Is), a spaghetti-
Western face-off (Hurry for the Sky), or a pure
Byrds janglefest (Im Falling). The sprint of Sat-
urday Groovers and the cheeky love of Intricate
Thing work in some good humor, but Hitchcocks
most affecting songs cast an ominous spell. The
tense hum of Sixteen Years and the nostalgic
sorrow of the title track prove that after thirty
years of chasing the music in his head, Hitch-
cock still has certain ghosts hell spend his life
trying to better understand. ROB OCONNOR
Bee Gees: Odessa (Reprise)
Music FFFFf
Sound FFFFf
History forgets just how quirky
the Bee Gees were in their
first, most inspired period.
Re-enter 1969s Odessa, an orchestral concept
album like no other. It catches the quartet lineup
(the Gibbs plus drummer Colin Petersen) at the
peak of their romantic beauty. But something
always goes wonderfully off-kilter, whether its
an odd tilt in the lyrics (chorus of breakup song:
You said goodbye, I declared war on Spain), a
twist in the arrangement (the title tracks central
cello solo), or the diversity of it all. Even in the
wake of Sgt. Pepper, not many pop albums had
a square dance, a childrens song about Thomas
Edison, and three quasi-classical instrumentals.
This triple-CD reissue verges on the obsessive,
with a beautiful stereo remaster supplemented
by a mono mix and a full disc of demos/alter-
nates, neither of which offers enough variation
for repeated plays. But its worth the price to get
the restored red-velvet cover, an essential part of
Odessas lush experience. BRETT MILANO
The Von Bondies: Love,
Hate, and Then Theres You
(Majordomo/Shout! Factory)
Music FFFff
Sound FFFff
Its been 5 years between full-
length releases for Detroits Von Bondies, whose
major claim to fame for a while rested mostly on
2003s much-publicized physical dustup between
frontman Jason Stollsteimer and the bands early
supporter, White Striper Jack White. When even
the use of Cmon Cmon as TVs Rescue Me
theme did little to help the commercial fate of
04s Pawn Shoppe Heart, it seemed the once
promising Bondies were destined for the Rust
Belts rock scrap heap. Stollsteimer and drum-
mer Don Blum have kept plugging away, though,
and this third studio set, recorded over the last
few years with various producers, not surpris-
ingly sounds rather pieced together. Still, Stoll-
steimers edgy vocals and guitar and the shout-
out chorus hooks do help songs like the tense
Only to Haunt You and the angular 21st Birth-
day make strong impressions which, in their
My Chemical Romance/Queen-pointing ways,
sound more intent on driving toward arenas than
celebrating the garage they once called home.
Vivaldi: The Four Seasons
Performance FFFFf
Do we really need another
journey through The Four Sea-
sons? The quick answer is no. But this is a fine
new recording, both musically and technologi-
cally. Martin Pearlman leads the Boston Baroque
in a spirited performance on period instruments,
with well-chosen tempos that effectively capture
the shifting moods of summer lulls and winter
storms. Another plus is the brilliant playing of
young Canadian violinist Christina Day Martin-
son. And pairing the Seasons with two contem-
poraneous concertos by Francesco Geminiani
is another wise choice that provides more than
filler. Then theres Robert Friedrichs 5-channel
mix for this SACD, which supports the buoyancy
and delineates the clarity of the performances
without exaggeration or special effects. The
ungimmicky approach is perfectly suited to the
serious yet sensitive treatment that Pearlman,
Martinson, and the others have given these most
popular of concertos. ROBERT RIPPS
Steven Wilson:
Insurgentes (K-Scope)
Music FFFFg
DVD-Audio Mix FFFFF Extras FFFFg
The once and future king of surround has done it
again or, rather, anew. Insurgentes, Porcupine
Tree architect Steven Wilsons first proper solo
album, pulsates with the confidence of a master
creator at his peak in crafting the multichannel
mix for this CD+DVD-Audio release. No Twilight
Within the Courts of the Sun opens with jazzy
interplay between bassist Tony Levin and drum-
mer Gavin Harrison before furious guitar solos
from Wilson and Mike Outram swirl around you
in a veritable maelstrom. The albums climax
comes with Get All You Deserve, as fuzzy,
densely layered NIN-like guitars build in all chan-
nels la A Day in the Life. Extras are equally
stunning: 18 minutes of visually adventurous
excerpts from an upcoming long-form making-of
documentary, two album trailers, and five addi-
tional 5.1 tracks. In short, Insurgentes is utterly
immersive. Music in surround doesnt get any
better than this. MIKE METTLER
Emerson, Lake & Palmer:
Brain Salad Surgery
(Shout! Factory)
Music FFFFg
Sound FFFFf
This is the album I cued up on
my grandparents turntable back in the day to
show them how rock music could successfully
incorporate, interpret, and expand upon classical
themes. ELP gained two new fans then, and
this 180-gram reissue reminds me why. As Carl
Palmers synthesized drums propel Toccata,
his insistent cymbal and gong crashes never
distort. Greg Lakes subdued 12-string acoustic
guitar on Still . . . You Turn Me On rings true.
Keith Emerson puts on a tour de keyboards with
his effortlessly superhuman organ, Moog, and
computer-voice work on Karn Evil 9. And wel-
come back to the original 1973 die-cut cover,
faithful to H. R. Gigers classic design (6 years
before Alien). Lasting impression: Getting this
E LP is a no-Brainer. MIKE METTLER
For more reviews, go to

APRIL/MAY 2009 87
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How to reach advertisers
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contacts &
92 APRIL/MAY 2009
reality bytes
Yet another bailout buys DTV
procrastinators more time
Dear Mr.
irst, congratulations on your brilliant
presidential campaign, convincing
election results, and historic inaugu-
ration. I am impressed by your fresh
thinking and your eloquent call for change. I
was therefore surprised when your adminis-
tration recommended that the switchover to
digital TV be delayed beyond the February 17
deadline. That timidity seemed uncharacter-
istic of you and your progressive message.
Subsequently, as you know, the Senate
voted to delay the switchover until June 12 for
49 states. (Hawaii has already switched.) The
House rst voted against a delay and then,
less than two weeks before the switchover,
voted for a delay. In the midst of confusion,
Congress has managed to make
things even more confusing.
The DTV transition has
been poorly legislated, and
I predicted in the January
issue of S&V that the switch-
over wouldnt be pretty. The
transition has included an
aggressive public-awareness
campaign. Anyone who hasnt
seen these messages prob-
ably isnt watching much TV
anyway. Nevertheless, in
January, the Nielsen Com-
pany estimated that 5.7% of
households werent ready.
But that gure was down
19% from a month earlier,
suggesting that people were
taking action. Moreover, the
gure didnt include house-
holds that have a converter
box but havent installed
it, or those that requested
coupons but havent received
them. Whatever the num-
bers, its my opinion that a
delay is a bad idea.
Work on the ATSC DTV standard began in
1982. Four years ago, Congress auctioned
the analog TV spectrum and mandated a
switchover; the industry complied, and is now
ready. The delay will be disruptive to important
new technologies. Indeed, one of the major
selling points for DTV was the creation of
new services like an interoperable emergency
network. The government has spent $1.34 bil-
lion for costs such as coupons (debit cards,
actually) for purchasing converter boxes; your
stimulus bill contains an additional $650 mil-
lion. Whether people pay $50 for a box or $10
for a subsidized one, availability of boxes isnt
a reason for a delay. The Consumer Electron-
ics Association estimates that 12 million
converter boxes are available for sale. Also,
much has been said about the frail and elderly
being vulnerable, but the latest gures show
that households under 35 years old are more
than twice as likely to be unprepared as those
over 55.
The fact is that many people will be inconve-
nienced by the switchover, whenever it occurs.
We could wait a decade, and everyone still
wouldnt be ready. And to put this into
perspective, were not shutting off
electricity or water. Its just TV. If
we had switched over on February 17, it would
be a nonissue by June 12. In your inaugural
address, you said the way to move forward is
for us to suck it up and make sacrices. We
should have started by moving the nation into
its technological future, without additional
delay. Some 94% of households were ready for
change we can believe in. But we delayed.
In the end, my objection to the delay is
based on my perception of how my government
has been governing. Mr. President, in light of
dead-wrong foreign-policy decisions, hundreds
of billions of dollars for bailouts to failed banks
(while Wall Street executives get billions in
bonuses), tens of billions for automaker bail-
outs, and do-overs for toxic-mortgage holders,
my question is: Why does government insist on
rewarding people who make bad decisions?
And Im not just talking about bailing out
procrastinators by giving more time to those
who made the bad decision not to be pre-
pared. Im talking about members of Congress
who waited until the last minute to try to x
things. Congress has bungled this whole tran-
sition from the start. For example, it should
never have allowed two coupons per house-
hold. If it had created a safety net of one
box per household, we wouldnt have a $650
million shortfall. Now imposing
a delay seems like an attempt
at political expediency. When
the switchover occurs and we
inevitably read stories of people
who cant watch TV, politicians
can say they voted for a delay
and thus did their best to avoid
problems. We shouldnt have
allowed Congress to reward
itself with political cover for its
own ineptitude. It should have
taken responsibility for its bad
Senator John D. Rockefeller,
the author of the delay bill, said,
The shameful truth is that we
are not poised to do this transi-
tion right. Mr. President, the
larger shameful truth is that
Congress cant even do rela-
tively simple things right. Above
all, lets learn from this experi-
ence that the American people,
starting with those elected to
Congress, need to do a better
job from now on. S&V &
to learn how Sooloos
can put you back in
touch with all your
digital media. & & &