I think it's time we revived the old maxim that speakers are the most important part of an audio system. Yes, DVD players, A/V receivers, pre/pros, and power amps all play crucial roles, but speakers give you a bigger shot at personalizing your sound. Some speakers deliver exacting resolution, while others effortlessly unleash a wide range of dynamics or shake the foundation of your abode. Dynaudio speakers excel on every front and remain loyal to the sound embedded in your DVDs and CDs. So don't let the Dynaudio Focus speaker series' understated demeanor throw you off track; these speakers can get down and boogie.
As consumer electronics technologies continue to morph into ever more complex forms, convergence is key. Elan Home Systems was founded in 1989 in Lexington, Kentucky, and convergence is their raison d'tre. In the past, they have brought together wholehouse automation and touchpanel control of music, phones, lighting, intercoms, and TV functions. More recently, they acquired a high-end home theater electronics company, Sunfire. Four years ago, Elan jumped into the speaker business with a line of highly regarded in-walls. This brings us to Elan's new line of converging speakers, the aptly named TheaterPoint series.
I'm a big Samuel L. Jackson fan, but I didn't totally buy his performance in Black Snake Moan. Jackson plays a righteous old man who takes in a trashy nymphet (Christina Ricci) to set her straight. I was especially intrigued with the story because Jackson's character was loosely based on R.L. Burnside, who didn't just sing the blues, he lived them. Up to the point where Jackson picked up his guitar, he was perfectly fine. But when he started to sing, his performance didn't ring true. It comes down to authenticity. Acting is one thing; singing with a voice that sounds so rough it bleeds is something else. Come to think of it, I could say the same about great speakers. It's one thing to design a speaker that measures well, but that doesn't necessarily make for a great-sounding speaker.
This review brings together two brands that are special to me: Harman/Kardon and Paradigm. When I was a teenager, I bought a Harman receiver with the money I earned running deliveries for the local supermarket. You know how that is: Nothing ever gets close to the thrill of the first one. I wore out several LP copies of Sgt. Pepper and Led Zeppelin II over that 15-watt-per-channel receiver. Much, much later, in the late '90s, I reviewed a set of Paradigm Atoms. Those little speakers sounded surprisingly huge, and, even more importantly, they were a lot of fun. The Atoms lingered in my listening room long after I finished the review, and that's probably the best indication of what separates good speakers from great speakers. For this back-to-the-future review, I paired Harman's DPR 1005 Digital Path Receiver with Paradigm's newly revised Monitor Series v.4 speakers. Looks like a good combination, but let's see.
Selecting audio components is one of the more daunting tasks that any serious home theater enthusiast faces. On the surface, it seems evident that if you just go out and buy the best components you can afford, they’ll sound great with both movies and music. And that’s generally true: A better system will more accurately reproduce the waveforms you feed it, irrespective of whether they come from a movie or music. But it’s often not that simple. While assembling a home theater system that’s equally spectacular with movies and music may be a laudable goal, unless you have unlimited funds, you’ll probably have compromises to make. At that point, you might want to steer the system’s performance strengths one way or the other with the right mix of speakers and electronics. But how do you go about matching these up?
Scott Weber, Tom de Gorter, and Frank Morrone talk with HT about mixing ABC TV's Hit series, Lost.
ABC TV's Lost is a phenomenon recalling the best of The X-Files or Twin Peaks' mind-warping weirdness as it slips between edgy drama and scintillating sci-fi. The show's creators, J.J. Abrams (Alias) and Damon Lindelof (Crossing Jordan), set Lost on a mysterious tropical island in the Pacific Ocean, populated it with an ever-expanding cast of survivors, and pepper the episodes with flashback scenes that add depth and complexity to the show's epic story arc. The episodes are shot on location in Hawaii, but they're edited and mixed at Buena Vista Sound at Disney Studios in Burbank, California. To learn more about how Lost's incredible soundtrack shapes up every week, I spoke with the show's supervising sound editor Tom de Gorter and rerecording mixers Frank Morrone and Scott Weber. Lost is currently in its third season; seasons one and two are available on DVD from Buena Vista.
I could easily fill pages of this magazine with a complete list of Phil Ramone's credits and achievements, but I'll stick with this condensed rundown. He's won 12 Grammy Awards and one Emmy, and he's worked with a virtual who's who of music: Burt Bacharach, Tony Bennett, Ray Charles, Chicago, Gloria Estefan, Aretha Franklin, Billy Joel, Elton John, Quincy Jones, B.B. King, Madonna, Luciano Pavarotti, Paul Simon, Frank Sinatra, the Rolling Stones, Barbra Streisand, James Taylor—and those are just the highlights. Ramone is chairman emeritus of the board of trustees of the National Academy of Recording Arts and Sciences. He is also a trustee of the National Recording Preservation Board of the Library of Congress.
Even if the names Brian Holland, Lamont Dozier, and Eddie Holland don't ring any bells for you, you surely know their music. They wrote most of the Supremes' and the Four Tops' megahits, such as "Where Did Our Love Go?," "Come See About Me," "Baby Love," "You Keep Me Hangin' On," "Baby, I Need Your Loving," "How Sweet it Is (To Be Loved by You)," and "Reach Out, I'll Be There." The three men supplied a steady stream of top-ten singles for Marvin Gaye, Jackson 5, Martha & the Vandellas, and many others.
Even before I heard the JBL L100 Century I knew it was going to be great. It was 1970, when hi-fi speakers all had drab cloth grilles, the L100 sported a brilliant orange "waffle" pattern grille, and when every other speaker had grey or black woofers, the L100's was white. I'll never forget the first time I heard a pair, and the big JBLs lit up my Led Zeppelin and Jimi Hendrix LPs, it really was the ultimate "rock" speaker of the day. The L100 sold for $273 each, way too pricey for me.
Life before the first VCRs arrived in the late 1970s was pretty boring. TV watching was limited to whatever meager offerings were available at that moment from broadcast and cable TV stations. VCRs and time shifting changed all that.