What I’m about to say borders on heresy. But before I risk being virtually burned at the digital stake, let me tell you that, although I am older than most of the writers in this industry, I am not old-fashioned. I don’t pine for the days of spending hours at the record store flipping through bins of vinyl albums, nor do I miss fiddling with my Nakamichi BX-300 (I couldn’t afford a Dragon...) in order to make cassette tapes of those albums for my car. I like - no, I love - most modern technology and crave more of it. (Bring on the domestic robots, I say! Just don’t make them with any of those scary-ass faces some Japanese researchers have designed. If they’re going to be our overlords, I want them to at least look good.)
At first glance, you’d think a documentary about a defunct recording studio would have a hard time maintaining the interest of anyone other than a recording engineer for its entire 108-minute runtime. When I tell you that this documentary spends a great deal of those 108 minutes reverently reminiscing about the analog mixing console at the studio, it’s likely you’ll start wondering what insane, “analog forever”, diehard audiophile thought this subject would ever appeal to more than a dozen or so people. Frankly, it’s the sort of film you’d expect to find in the mosh-pit discount bins of DVDs and Blu-rays in the aisles of Walmart.
Even if you’re an infrequent reader of Home Theater and HomeTheater.com, I’m betting that you have at least one DVD lying around at home that you’ve never watched, won’t ever watch, don’t want to watch again, didn’t care for when you watched it the first time, or still has you wondering how your spouse could have ever thought that particular movie would make a great gift. In fact, chances are that you have a great many more than just one under-appreciated, space-taking, dust-collecting DVD in your possession. (Avid Blu-ray movie buyers probably have lots of unwatched DVDs that are packed in the same case along with the Blu-ray Disc.) At an absolute bare minimum, you at least know someone who has a few DVDs that fit into one of the above categories.
Some of those DVDs might be war-related, but you don’t have to watch a movie, such as Black Hawk Down, Born on the Fourth of July, or Apocalypse Now, to know that war is hell—and that it can often have long-lasting effects on the lives of those military men and women who choose to serve.
There are lots of people who show their “support” for our troops by placing a bumper sticker on their car—and leave it at that. We in the home theater community can do better, thanks to the vision of an organization called DVDs4Vets.
At CES 2013, DISH’s CEO, Joe Clayton, used the occasion to once again display his insatiable infatuation with Australian marsupials…as well as promote some key features included in the soon-to-be-released “Hopper with Sling” whole-home DVR. Surprisingly, after less than 12 months, DISH felt it was time to futz with what was arguably (and I’m not the only one to have made the argument) the world’s best whole-home satellite DVR available until now—the original “Hopper”.
Power cords. Three-prong adapters. Wall-wart power supplies and USB chargers with their thin, inevitably tangled cords. Running out of available outlets. These are all things I hate. Hell, even polarized plugs annoy the crap out of me. Let’s just say that when wireless power transmission – or power-harvesting devices – ever becomes a reality, I’m going to be a particularly happy individual. (If only Tesla were still alive…) In the meantime, the previously mentioned assortment vexing electrical necessities are things we all have no other choice than to deal with.
Fortunately there are plenty of devices out there that are specifically designed to lessen the pain of dealing with power cords and power supplies...
I recently had to send my favorite watch in for repair. I am especially fond of this watch because, in addition to looking expensive, it has both an analog dial and a digital display. Unlike with audio, about which one can argue whether digital or analog sounds better, the two timekeeping technologies combined in my watch are identical in terms of displaying the correct time. And, quite the opposite of so many digital AV devices nowadays, in the 12 years I’ve owned this watch, I’ve never once had to download new firmware or a new time-deciphering codec in order to keep the watch current.
Einstein disliked it, famously calling the phenomenon “spooky action at a distance”; but if a team of scientists at the Linear Research Particle Accelerator (LRPA) facility have their way, the bizarre effects of “quantum entanglement” could bring about loudspeakers that are both truly wireless and totally invisible.
It didn’t start out being about knowing what time it is. Nor did it have anything to do with making a techno-fashion statement. It all stemmed from a random comment I heard on the radio about so-called “smart watches”. “I’d have no use,” the voice declared, “for a smart watch of any kind...unless maybe it displayed the caller ID from my smart phone so I could look at my wrist instead of pulling my phone out of my pocket to decide whether or not to take the call.” That thought sent a tweet to my cerebral cortex, which then forwarded on an email to one of my frontal lobes which then flashed an Instagram picture. “I’d like that, too,” I thought. “But,” my normally incoherent pattern of thought went on, “I’d really like it if I could use the watch to control my home theater – or, better yet, control the entire Control4/Lutron automation system in my house.” Of course, once you’re on this kind of a roll, it’s hard to stop anywhere near reality. “And I want it to have voice recognition for commands – like Siri, but without the sulking “unable to take requests” rebuffs – so I can just talk to my watch and make things happen!”
Imagine a world in which headphone cords and other obnoxious wires can stretch from here...to...there. Researchers at North Carolina State University have and we have the video to prove it. (And, to make it even more awesome, it involves liquid metal, too!)
We lost a pioneer of the modern loudspeaker industry with the passing of William (Bill) Hecht earlier this year on September 12th at age 89. I was only five years old (and I imagine many of you reading this weren’t even born yet) in 1967 when Bill Hecht patented his signature contribution to the audio world, the soft-dome tweeter, arguably the most widely used speaker driver worldwide for the last 30 years. I had the pleasure of meeting Mr. Hecht once during my career. In this age of Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn, and the endless onslaught of 24/7 self-promotion, Bill Hecht was a quiet, self-effacing man who seemed most comfortable behind the scenes. Indeed, throughout his career, Hecht and his company, United Speaker Systems, was known for making the speakers that made other speaker companies famous.