Thanks to plasma TVs, everyone is convinced that skinny and flat are where it's at when it comes to home theater—and those now-out-of-work robotic assembly lines that used to crank out CRTs by the boatload haven't been the only ones affected by the slender-is-better trend. You can't throw a crumbled-up extended-warranty brochure in an electronics store nowadays without hitting some sort of sleek, on-wall, "plasma-friendly" home theater speaker. Some manufacturers, fully embracing the slim trend, have created three-in-one (left front, center, and right front) single-cabinet on-wall speakers designed to be mounted above or below your flat-panel TV—or set on top of a rear-projection TV. Boston Acoustics, Definitive Technology, Atlantic Technology, and Mirage, for example, have all come up with their own variations of three channels coexisting in one narrow box.
Sometimes, as you wander the aisles and hallways of CES, a pattern or theme appears among the various demonstrations you see. In some cases, this is by design (if you were a real journalist and carefully planned out your day ahead of time). More often than not, however, it's from sheer dumb luck or an unavoidable preponderance of manufacturers chasing a particular, small segment of the market.
Two things are different about this year's Consumer Electronics Show (CES) in Las Vegas: the weather is nicer; and there's even more square footage - and plenty more people covering those square feet with their own feet - to walk through. But all grumbling and protestations aside, no matter what day of the Show it is, you can always find at least two cool things that make you glad you made the trip. Here are my first two.
Pioneer says they'll begin shipping one of the industry's first Blu-ray disc computer drives during the first quarter of 2006. The new Pioneer BDR-101A will be able to store up to 25 GB of data on a single-layer Blu-ray disc.
Taking the term "multi-function" to new extremes, LG Electronics has given its TV Refrigerator a fresh-not-frozen digitally converged makeover. The new side-by-side unit, the LSC26990TT, includes a built-in, cable-ready, 15-inch standard-definition LCD TV on the right-side door. There are also inputs for an external DVD player (sorry, you'll have to provide your own) and a built-in FM tuner. LG says the combination will provide "hours of cooking and kitchen entertainment."
Flat-panel TVs—both plasma and LCD—are wall candy. I've never heard anyone say, "I'm going to buy a plasma TV because the picture looks so much better than what you get from a (fill in your favorite display technology acronym here) projection TV." Nope. People buy flat-panel TVs for one or more of three reasons: they're thin; they're cool; and, boy, do they make your friends RGB with envy. Half a millennium ago, I'm sure that people who could afford it covered their walls with the finest tapestries for exactly the same reasons. Is it any wonder then that panel after panel goes into homes with teeny, tiny, embarrassingly little home-theater-in-a-grocery-bag speakers next to them—or simply with no speakers at all? I blame the salespeople (or lack thereof). I blame the imperialistic, aggressive TV manufacturers who would have us all on bended knee in subservience to the great, glowing flat-panel on the wall. (Talk about must-see TV. . .) And I blame AM talk radio for convincing people that the idea of really good audio cohabitating with nice video is just another wacko liberal concept that will undermine this country. (Yeah, I have issues.)
Once again, at the 48th Annual GRAMMY Awards, The Recording Academy will present an award for "Best Surround Sound Album". This year's nominees, for vocal or instrumental albums released October 1, 2004 through September 30, 2005, include:
If you ever wanted to take the latest episode of "Law & Order" with you to watch while traveling on a train/plane/bus/camel caravan, you now have reason to rejoice. (You'll also be ecstatic to know that it'll only cost you $1.99 per episode - although that doesn't include the cost of one of Apple's newest iPods.)
The era of scratched CD-Rs (and soon CD-RWs plus all flavors of DVD recordables) could be at hand. Scratch-Less Disc Industries has announced that their Scratch-Less optical discs are now available "at various retail outlets throughout the country and online at major Internet retailers."