Home theater or digital cinema at home? Wolf Cinema’s DLP digital projectors blur the line. The biggest, baddest Wolfs (Wolves?) are three-chip DLP projectors with full 1080p resolution, constant screen height, and scalable light output configurations for a wide variety of screen sizes, materials and lighting conditions- including very large screens. They are custom install centric in that they run hot and require professional installation and ventilation. Wolf Cinema’s distributor seems open to getting us a review sample, so it looks like I might get to take this Ferrari for a drive!
This is one of the coolest things I’ve ever seen. Chord Electronics’ Chordette Gem is a really cool USB DAC. But as cool as that is, that’s not even what’s coolest about it. Have an iPod Touch or iPhone? Yeah, me too. I opened my iPhone's BlueTooth settings and saw the Chordette right away and paired it with a 4-digit code expertly supplied by Sumiko’s Norbert Schmied (granted, it was the 1-2-3-4 default, but my man was all over it). Right away I was playing tunes through the stereo speaker system connected to the Chordette over BlueTooth (and Light Sabers, Star Trek phasers, and other, um, iPhone app related sound effects, some of which may have been regarded as unsavory). We don’t need no stinking white cables! $799 and you’re living the dream!
Adam speakers are well known in the pro audio world, and better in Europe. But they are crossing the seas and making a splash in the home audio/video market. I auditioned the high-end Tensor line in a two-channel setup but the company is preparing for US launch a diverse line of home theater and in-wall/on-wall speakers. The sound I heard was preternaturally clean, dynamic and rhythmically right. They’re coming.
Leon speakers are all about audio- audio for your video. The company custom builds speakers around video displays of all kinds, there is nothing off the shelf about any Leon system. On display at CEDIA was this whopping 140” wide Stewart CineCurve screen (that’s almost 12 feet wide for those of you keeping score at home!) with accustom built Leon speaker system tracing the screen. I'm cheating calling it a soundbar, but I don't know what else to call it and I'm lazy. I don’t know how much the speakers cost, but if you can afford a CineCurve that size, and a projector to drive it, you don’t care!
Paradigm is rolling out its PBK-1 Perfect Bass Kit as an optional upgrade for its entire subwoofer line. For $299 you can use the included microphone and tailor your sub’s response. The microphone and supplied software are based on the ARC system Anthem uses in its surround processors (Anthem’s parent company is Paradigm) and measure several different in-room positions to calculate correction for a variety of listening positions. No sub should leave the dealer without it!
Audio Plus’s John Bevier totally brown-bagged me. He grinned unabashedly and led me to a darkened demo room. To see what? To hear what? Soon, I was watching a 2.35:1 image on a really big screen. Universal’s Wanted on Blu-ray, an absolute guilty pleasure, roared into its dynamically brutal train crash sequence. The sound was spacious, articulate, and punchy. You figured it out before I did, but the cute little Dome system pictured above, with speakers the size of grapefruits, is where all that sound was coming from. Walking among Focal’s impressive (and sometimes imposing) line of speakers had been a setup from the start. The Dome costs $2,500 for a 5.1 channel system, and in addition to the splashy colors, they can be mounted on stands, on wall, or plopped onto a piece of furniture. They can be swiveled any which way for optimal sound. This is a design solution that rocks!
Price: $4,500 At A Glance: Full interactivity and advanced audio • Reference-level picture and sound • HQV video processing • Slow disc access and load times
The Chosen One?
This isn’t the first player we’ve reviewed in the high-end price category. In some respects, we’ve walked away impressed by the high-end players we’ve reviewed, but none of the high-end designs we’ve looked at has earned their pay grade by making our Top Picks list. It’s possible that this tells us more about the less expensive players on the market than the more expensive ones. Blu-ray’s inherent quality, advances in video processing, and the proliferation of HDMI have resulted in sub-$500 players that will satisfy even the most finicky videophile with a front-projection system. In short, midrange and even entry-level players have gotten so good that, although we’ve been waiting to be floored by a high-end player, so far it hasn’t happened. Whether it’s lack of speed, audio or interactivity features, or performance, we’ve been waiting for a player that makes us stand up and shout, “Noooo!” when the UPS man comes to take the player back to the manufacturer. With regards to both its price and its performance aspirations, the $4,500 Denon DVD-A1UDCI is the most ambitious Blu-ray player we’ve yet reviewed. Is it the chosen one?
Price: $799 At A Glance: Superb user experience • Widgets! • Big storage with ability to scale higher • Works only with CableCARD • Not compatible with PPV or On-Demand • Can’t order pizza
Pimping Your HD Cable Ride
DISH Network and DIRECTV have poached a lot of cable customers using the allure of their premium HD DVRs. Bigger storage, more robust features, a slick user interface, no cable company to deal with—it’s an easy sell most of the time. But what if you can’t or won’t do the dish and still want an enlightened HD DVR experience from digital cable? Digeo’s answer is the Moxi HD DVR. At its core, the Moxi is a high-end HD DVR that has a 500-gigabyte hard drive with a 75-hour HD capacity and the ability to add a ton of additional storage. On paper, the Moxi would be a compelling device even if this was all there was to it. But its DVR functionality is only the beginning. The Moxi is also a media hub that aggregates content from your home network and the Internet without bringing a full-blown media PC into your living room. Yep. Those newfangled widgets are inside. Let’s take a look.
Price: $7,500 At A Glance: State-of-the-art blacks and contrast • Infinitely tweakable and natural colors • Softer than previous JVC projectors
What You Do for an Encore
JVC’s recent generation of D-ILA projectors have been standard-setters in blacks and contrast. They have exceeded the performance of most dynamic-iris designs while eliminating the artifacts involved with that approach. These projectors were good enough that several HT regulars outfitted their own theaters with these rigs, including yours truly. This explains why I had to pull rank on the lot of these guys and review this new model myself. Usually, the catch with this kind of success is figuring out how to follow it up. Apparently, JVC had no such trouble.
Is There a Future for High-End Displays?
I’ve had a running joke for the last couple of years, that the flat panel TV has ruined the entire industry. It never fails to provoke a reaction. But, people say, there are only two kinds of people in the world- those who want to have a flat screen and those who already have them! The flat panel has become a price-driven commodity. Who needs big screen specialty retailers when your HDTV is just another box you throw in the cart next to the 36-roll pack of TP when you’re at Costco? It’s a funny bit. Then I see Pioneer build the best single-piece HDTVs the world has yet seen, and fail. Not a funny bit. Makes me wonder. Is there a future for high-end displays?