I guess I shouldn't have counted him out, but, after Neil Young's last few efforts—Silver & Gold, Are You Passionate?, and Greendale—I was starting to feel like he was in a rut. The recordings had their high points, all right; but, when I'm in the mood for Neil, I'll spin Comes a Time or Sleeps With Angels. Although I've only spent a few weeks with Prairie Wind, I think it'll stand beside Young's earlier triumphs. It's that good.
Buy a new Corvette, and you won't have to study the car zines to figure out what brand of V-8 you'll need to install under the hood. Every Vette comes with a maxed-out Chevy engine, transmission, and chassis, so all of the parts work together in one finely tuned road machine. Assembling a home theater audio system from different brands' speakers and electronics might be a bit more complicated, but it's really not that big of a deal. Even so, the synergies that a single-brand home theater audio system can afford are obvious, and I really think this new, more holistic approach might turn out to be one of the most promising trends in consumer electronics. I had my first glimpse of that future when Now Hear This (NHT) unveiled their first integrated electronics and speaker system, the Xd, in 2005. For that project, NHT joined forces with DEQX, a leader in digital speaker-correction techniques, and PowerPhysics, a top developer of digital power amplifiers. More recently, Vinci Labs acquired NHT and immediately collaborated on development for the Controller surround processor and the Power5 and Power2 amplifiers.
The Onkyo TX-SV7M is said to be the first Dolby Surround A/V receiver sold in the U.S. and Canada, way back in the all-analog days of 1987. Dolby Surround was the consumer version of the theatrical Dolby Stereo format that was used in movie theaters in the 1980s. Dolby Surround soundtracks were matrix-encoded into stereo formats such as VHS tapes, Laserdiscs, etc. The TX-SV7M was a four-channel receiver, with front left, right, and two surround channel amplifiers (the surrounds were monophonic).
At its best, home theater is all about making movies feel so real you'd swear you're there. And not just the wham-bam flicks; some of my best experiences have come from straight-ahead dramas. That was absolutely the case with Breach, a chilling portrait of FBI agent Robert Hanssen, the man who sold countless security secrets to the Soviet Union for over 20 years. Actor Chris Cooper's portrayal of the psychopathic traitor totally mesmerized me, but I also credit Paradigm's fifth revision of their Monitor Series speakers for keeping my attention glued to the screen. Every detail of the sound—from the claustrophobic acoustics of Hanssen's office and the whirring noise of his computers' cooling fans, to the dense traffic snarl of Washington, D.C. streets—were all so effortlessly presented that I never thought about the speakers. That's the Zen of it all. When everything's just right, you don't realize the speakers are there.
Gabriel talks about his new dvd play, technology, and why ipod won't take over the music world.
Peter Gabriel's career got off the ground when he fronted one of Britain's top prog-rock bands, Genesis. He went solo in 1975. For this interview, we focused on his groundbreaking videos and his lifelong fascination with technology.
The Pioneer Kuro plasma display broke new ground upon its introduction in 2007 and was quickly hailed by critics and buyers as The Greatest Television Ever Made. Incredibly, as many Home Theater readers know, the Kuro line that debuted in 2007 was phased out by 2010—which proves that just because you make the best, doesn’t mean people will buy it.
Magnavox brought the first Laserdisc player, the VH-8000, to market in late 1978, but Pioneer was the company that put the format on the map. Its first player, the VP-1000, debuted in the U.S. in 1980, and later in Japan. I doubt Pioneer ever thought Laserdisc would threaten VHS and Betamax’s dominance in the mass market; Laserdisc was targeted to high-end buyers.
Neil Young was on NPR chatting about his new movie, Heart of Gold, when he uttered a line that stuck with me: "The art of singing is making a sound that comes from your heart." Thanks Neil, I'm co-opting the idea to describe what distinguishes great home theater systems—their sound touches your heart. Yeah, that's it. While components are getting better all the time, many lack that special something. There's nothing obviously out of whack, it's just that their sound doesn't connect on an emotional level. Sometimes the individual components are all top notch, but, if they're not well matched to each other, the sound suffers. When everything clicks, you know it. That was certainly the case when I hooked up Marantz's SR8500 A/V receiver with a set of PSB's VisionSound VS300 speakers and SubSeries 5i subwoofer. They're all charmers.
The Acoustical Manufacturing Company’s Quad ESL-57 was the world’s first production full-range electrostatic speaker. It debuted in 1957 when hi-fi speakers were big boxes and used moving-coil drivers, so the ESL-57’s flat-panel, downright minimalist design not only looked like a radical advance, its thin-film diaphragm’s low-distortion and lightning-fast transient response sounded truly revelatory to 1950s audiophile ears. The speaker’s introduction came not so many years after the transition from 78-RPM records to higher-fidelity LPs took place. The market was primed for a more transparent transducer technology, and Quad had the best-sounding speaker of the age.
RCA's CT-100 may not have been the first consumer color TV in the U.S., Westinghouse's set beat it by a few weeks, but that model didn't sell in significant numbers. Both sets were on the market less than 100 days after the Federal Communications Commission finalized its standards for broadcasting color television.