Last fall, the editors of Home Theater beat a path to our industry's CEDIA Expo to see and be seen, as we do every year. This time around, we were surprised by the opportunity to witness the bona fide evolution of entertainment gear. We learned the names of three manufacturers (and so will you) whose creations—each multizone-friendly and high-end in its own fashion—bring next-generation features to the home theater and beyond. At press time, these products were still too new for a full hands-on review, so we'll share what we do know thus far.
Once more into the breach with Richard Hatch and Dirk Benedict.
Richard Hatch and Dirk Benedict helped make Sunday nights a lot more interesting in the autumn of 1978, starring as the best-in-fleet space pilots Captain and Apollo Lieutenant Starbuck in the science fiction series Battlestar Galactica. Upon the release of a lavish new DVD set of the TV show's first and only season, not coincidentally on the eve of the premiere of The SCI FI Channel's reinvented Galactica mini-series, the two gentlemen traveled back in time with Home Theater Magazine.
By the time you read this, Paramount's two-disc special collector's edition of Star Trek IV: The Voyage Home should be available. While it was never my favorite Star Trek film, the movie does offer some memorable funny-because-they're-true lines. One that I often quote occurs when time-traveling Scotty confronts a 20th-century computer. When he eventually realizes that he'll have to use a horribly outdated keyboard, he quips, "How quaint."
A home-theater-in-a-box means different things to different people. For some, it's the total DVD experience for dummies (or the slothful), in terms of both purchasing simplicity and ease of use. For others, it's a real bargain, compared with the cost of individual components plus the many necessary odds and ends. For Cambridge SoundWorks, it's about the speakers.
A bigger hard drive, a little time, and you're halfway there. I'm a lucky guy. My wife and I have had only one major squabble since the beginning of the year, and it was about sharing the space on our personal video recorder's rapidly filling hard drive. My problem: I've fallen behind in archiving and deleting my keeper episodes. Hers: She waits too long to watch her recorded Ally McBeal, Buffy, and Friends, and the PVR automatically purges them. Although many possible solutions exist (Ally was cancelled, thankfully), the simplest would be to add a larger hard drive. Compared with the purchase of a newer, higher-capacity PVR, this approach is quite economical, and it's a project that a home theater buff with some electronics/computer expertise can tackle.
Time marches on. DVD software has steadily improved in its half-decade history, so you'll see lots of recent releases on this year's best-of list. The never-ending tide of discs keeps our perspective (while subjective) in a constant state of flux. Time, DVD's evolution, and the chance to plumb the most elaborate discs' untold depths have yielded some modified rankings from last year's list. As for our criteria, the film itself must be good, or at least good enough—or even so bad that it's back to good. Given DVD's storage potential, few movie-only discs made the cut. Picture and sound quality are essential, as are quantity, value, and originality of extras. Our comments cut right to the chase; so, if you want further insight, why not rent or buy the discs we list below to find out for yourself what makes a great DVD?
This Samsung flat-panel multimedia monitor raises the bar on the high end.
Many of my coworkers in New York City tend to sum up flat-panel LCD monitors as "cool," a concise but shallow understatement. Flat panels are the envy of big-ass CRTs (and their owners) everywhere, a sexy combination of performance and space economy in an inspiring "Where's the rest of me?" form. They are also getting better and less expensive by the minute.
Budget receivers can make anyone a home theater meister.
I'm a simple man. As I travel this great land of ours, for both business and pleasure, most of my conversations with others sooner or later lead to two topics: movies and their inevitable offshoot, home theater. I rarely discuss the specifics of what I'm packing at Rancho Chiarella; rather, I listen to the wide-eyed yearnings of the hard-working Everyman who dreams of experiencing all that a respectable A/V system can deliver. For so many of the folks I've talked with, an affordable home theater receiver is the key to their wish fulfillment.