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ART THAT YOU

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FOCAL'S PETITE AND
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The Authority in Entertainment Intelligence www.hometheatermag.com January 2010 Volume 17 No. 1
O
f all the outstanding products reviewed by
Sound & Vision in 2008, only one was
selected as Audio Product of the Year,
not merely Speaker of the Year but Audio
Product of the Year. And that product is the
Denitive Technology Mythos STS SuperTower
multichannel speaker system.
Wheres the Subwoofer?
Built right in!
Each STS features a built-in 300 Watt
SuperCubepowered subwoofer for soul-stirring
bass impact, earth-shaking dynamics along with
tight, detailed musicality. Youll enjoy double the
bass while saving oor space and enhancing the
beauty of your room.
prepare to be amazed. The Mythos
STS is one of the most exciting products
that I have come across in a long
timeunrivaled at its price point.
Roger Kanno, SoundStage.com
More Praise
The Mythos STS SuperTowers earned
SoundStage.coms 2008 Reviewers Choice Award
for Aesthetics and Sound. Home Theater magazine
called the STS system Crisp, Lush, Focused and
tagged it with a Top Pick award. The STS also
won two Innovations Design and Engineering
awards at CES 2009, one for High Performance
Audio and the other for Home Theater Speakers.
One industry award is an honor, ve is a sweep.
Yes, this system is that good.
dynamic, full-range performance
from a compact, strikingly good-looking
package Al Griffin, Sound & Vision
Now on Sale!
For a limited time, participating dealers are
offering the Mythos STS system at a special
price plus a free pair of oor-stands for the
Mythos Gems. Visit the web address below
or call 800.228.7148 for details and a list of
participating dealers.
Denitives Mythos STS System is
The Mythos STS's
built-in powered
subwoofers, advanced
technologies and
superior materials
bring you sonic
perfection.
www.DenitiveTech.com/STSpromo
Act now. Promotion ends January 31, 2010
Audio Product of the Year
one of the best
values going in
high-end speakers
Al Griffin, Sound & Vision
Sound & Vision, February/March 2009
US & CANADA 800.228.7148
OTHER 410. 363.7148
January 2010 Volume 17 No. 1
on the
web
LOG ON TO HomeTheaterMag.com and sign up to receive our
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everything thats hot in the world of home theater.
ON THE COVER Sonos Bundle 250 brings your music into every room
of the house. Additional gear from BG Radia, Focal, and Samsung.
Screen image courtesy of Everett Collection.
21 24 26
21
16
Multiroom Magic With Sonos
So many rooms, so few wires.
Home Theater Design Going Retro: A high-end
theater gets a retrofit makeover. Plus Part I of our
exclusive feature on DIY retrofits and more.
82
Curtain Call Baby, Buy, Buy, Buy!
by Michael J. Nelson
14
Ask Home Theater
Your how-to and technical home theater
questions answered. by Scott Wilkinson
FEATURES COLUMNS
16
Multiroom Magic With Sonos
picture simulated To join our community, go to livinginhd.com
12 70
FROM THE
PREVIEW
8
Prologue Breaking Your Music Free
by Shane Buettner
Samsung UN55B8500 LCD HDTV
Back to the LED future. P32
BG Radia BGX-4850 In-Wall Subwoofer System
Its what you dont see. P36
Canton Ergo 620 Speaker System
Brilliant at making things. P40
Panasonic VIERA TC-P58V10 Plasma HDTV
Plasma brings the juice. P46
Focal Dme Speaker System
From people who do it right. P50
Paradigm Millenia 20 Hybrid Speaker System
Thin is the new in. P54
Snell CR7 Speaker System
Heavy metal is good. P58
Boston Acoustics SoundWare XS Speaker System
Shapes mightier than size. P62
Yamaha RX-V1065 A/V Receiver
The brand that rolls its own. P66
10
12
Letters
Pioneer KURO: Should we get over it?
AV News
The selectable output control fight rages on.
DEPARTMENTS HIGH END P32-38
MIDRANGE P40-60
ENTRY LEVEL P62-69
70
70
76
78
Cinema Scope Transformers: Revenge of the
Fallen, Orphan, Brno, and more of the hottest
new titles on Blu-ray.
Top Picks
Not sure what to buy? Check out this exclusive
listing of our reviewers recommended gear.
Dealer Locator Before you run out to buy a prod-
uct weve reviewed, find a quality dealer near you.
VISIT THE HOW WE TEST link on our Website for a detailed explanation of
our testing regimen and a list of our reference gear. HomeTheaterMag.com
hometheatermag.com
on the
web
32
Make room for life
With Sanus Systems, youll always get smart design, high quality and
patented technology. Our new, innovative products are easy to install
and easy to use, giving you more time to enjoy cherished moments
with friends and family. Learn more at www.SANUS.com.
TV
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L
ooking at this months cover, its not dif cult to tell that were stretching out a little
and thinking outside the box of our traditional theater rooms. Its hardly a secret that
for the last several years, consumers have been moving away from physical media
and moving toward direct access to digital fles, especially where music is concerned.
Tis isnt surprising, since CDs have always been a mere storage medium for digital
bits. Now that home networking has gained more secure footing in our homes, another
transition is occurring.
For years, the markets reaction to seeing everyone and their brother walk around with an
iPod has been to build docks and devices that let people connect their portable music players
to various home audio systems. Another example is speaker systems and boomboxes that let
you drop your iPod onto them and instantly amplify your music. Look Ma, no headphones.
But really, why have we been confned like this? In spite of being the coolest consumer
device ever, the iPod is just a portable hard drive with a really slick user interface. For home
use, we dont need to carry around and dock our iPods to serve up our digital music
libraries. We need full access to our digital music libraries, and we need it everywhere!
Te Sonos system featured in this issue shows that the future is now. Sonos gear is
afordable, simple to install and set up, and incredibly versatile. It handles nearly all of the
essential DRM-free digital audio formats. More essentially, it shatters the myth that digital
audio fles arent for audiophiles. For many people, digital audio fles are synonymous with
highly compressed, poor-sounding MP3 downloads. Tis
doesnt have to be. In addition to AAC and MP3, the
Sonos plays back Apple and FLAC lossless compression
(compression with bit-for-bit reconstruction of the
original signal on playback), as well as AIFF and WAV
uncompressed fles. Also, just as your music isnt confned
to one location in the house, youre not confned to your
own library either. Sonos allows access to streaming
services like Rhapsody, Sirius, and Pandora. Drop a Sonos
brick in any room, and youre lit up. Tis is how its done!
In recent months, weve looked at a few varieties of
media servers and the game-changing Meridian Sooloos
media system. As we move into 2010, well keep our
fngers on the pulse of this transition and also keep tabs
on systems that take managing our video fles to this
same level of sophistication. Because of the amount of
bandwidth thats required for high-def video plus lossless
surround sound, Blu-ray will remain the quality choice
for movies, TV show boxed sets, music videos, and other
essential content. But that doesnt mean catching up on
TV shows and other video-based media by other means
isnt a great idea. Grab a seat. HT will keep you informed
and in the front row of the transition!
BY SHANE BUETTNER, EDITOR
Breaking Your Music Free
The Sonos system in
this issue shows that
the future is now. Its
affordable, simple to
install and set up, and
incredibly versatile. This
is how its done!

JANUARY 2010
Free your mind, and your media will follow
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The King Is Dead; Long Live the
King?
I enjoy my HT subscription and, as others
have recently proclaimed, I generally fnd your
more recent editions of much improved qual-
ity. However, I found TJNs October review of
the Mitsubishi WD-73837 DLP rear-projec-
tion HDTV confusing. Here are fve examples
(inter alia) that I found befuddling: 1. Te At a
Glance review summary comments rightly
pointed out that this Mitsubishi set provides a
superb value, yet it only rates 4 stars for
Value? 2. Toward the end of the review, TJN
indicates that there was a noise issue, yet that
reference relates to earlier in the review where
he, in a comparison with the more expensive
and considerably smaller Sony XBR9,
determined that both sets had displayed the
same artifacts and that such artifacts arose
from the source material: [Te Mitsubishi]
does not add signifcant noise of its own. 3.
TJN refers to the sets black levels variously as
superior (in the review summary), solid
(toward the end of the review), and respect-
able (in the conclusion). 4. Regarding the sets
performance with real-world material, You
will likely be as impressed as I was. Only a
handful of HDTVs can surpass [this sets black
level]. And none of those can simultaneously
match the [sets] peak white level. [Shadows
and black bars on a source] werent as nearly
invisible as they are on the very best displays
Ive seen. But they werent far of. Tis results
in a 3.5-star rating for Performance? What are
we to gather from these various inconsistent
references? Finally: 5. Continuing compari-
sons to the now-defunct Pioneer KURO sets
seem irrelevant. KURO is gone, and we must
get over it.
Tanks for letting me vent.
Lon Baugh
Tanks for writing. Lon, remember that our
component review ratings are specifc to a com-
ponents specifc product category and price
category. In other words, the Mitsubishis ratings
are based on the Midrange price range for
HDTVs. Tey arent directly comparable to
scores given to Entry Level or High
End priced HDTVs. With that
said, 4 is a superb value, even if 5
is better. Our legend on the From
the Test Bench page notes that 4
stars is excellent and 5 is
reference. And yes, only a
handful of sets perform better
in some respects, and a 3.5 out
of 5 Performance rating
indicates that pretty well,
IMO. Frankly, these minute
and sticky distinctions are
why I hate doing ratings, but
Im not beating that horse
again!
On the noise, Tom was saying that it was
present in the source material to a degree, but
more obvious on the Mitsubishi, suggesting that
the Mitsubishi exaggerates the artifact slightly,
i.e., its more visible on that set than on the Sony.
Weve spoken internally about comparisons to
the now mothballed Pioneer KUROs, and we
dont agree that its irrelevant. Tose sets are
gone now, but they very recently set the bar for
performance in modern digital displays of all
types. Its the job of the other display manufac-
turers to catch up and meet that standard, and
its our job to determine if and when they have.
We know it can be done since weve seen it with
our own eyeballs, and we cant pretend we
havent seen the mountaintop. Wed be doing
you and all our readers a disservice to forget
that manufacturers can do better.SCB
Living High-End on the Hog
I just wanted to say that I love Home Teater
magazine. I felt that you made a great point in
WE WELCOME QUESTIONS AND COMMENTS. E-mail them to htletters@sorc.com. Please note: Be sure to check the FAQ page on
our Website (HomeTheaterMag.com) to see if weve already answered any questions you might have. Questions about the features
and functions of a particular product are best directed to the manufacturer. Questions about what product you should buy are best
directed to a dealer who knows all the details of your system, your preferences, and your personal habits. All submissions are consid-
ered the exclusive property of Home Theater magazine and Source Interlink Media. Due to the volume of mail that we receive, we regret
that we cannot respond to every letter.
HOME THEATER
Octobers Prologue. I agree that it is important
to include equipment from all price ranges,
especially the high-end gear. High-end home
audio/theater is kind of like the luxury car
business. Mercedes created antilock brakes
and air bags. Tis former luxury tech is now
ofen standard even on sub-$15,000 cars now.
I like reading about a lot of this equipment that
I cant aford because as I save up for my
(afordable) dream system, it reminds me that
things are changing so fast. Rather than
compromise and take something in my price
range now that doesnt have all the features I
want, I can wait a few more months and buy
something that has so much more, does a
better job at doing the same tasks the current
equipment does, and possibly does it at a lower
price than current products are selling for.
Also, this knowledge can get you some reduced
prices on the current high-end gear when
something newer comes out. I plan on buying
an Integra DHC-9.9 surround processor on
clearance once its replacement comes out.
Tanks for being a constant resource for
shopping decisions and ideas.
Brian
Shane, you pompous ass,
I agree with Octobers Prologue 100 percent.
Its fun to read about ultra-expensive
equipment and even occasionally audition it at
your local specialty store (as long as there
arent pompous asses located there, which I
have experienced), to see what technology
might be trickling down to more inexpensive
stuf that one can aford and what the state of
the art is at present. And I was reading
Stereophile, Stereo Review, and Audio
magazines well before there were any home
theater publications. So $100,000 pairs of
speakers and $2,000 power cables (which in
most cases are a ridiculous waste of money
and all marketing) are no big shocker to me.
Tere doesnt seem to be a need for fear and
loathing except for the fact that we want it but
cant aford it, so we become a bit envious of
those who can. But more power to them. Fear
about this? Yeah, this should be the biggest
thing I have to worry about. Loathing? I dont
think so. Just in lack of overall perspective,
which is dangerous in all cases when people
dont see the big picture in lieu of their desire
for toys. In other words, I wouldnt have much
to worry about. But considering the above
prices and prices for other components such as
power amps, etc., good luck to the majority of
enthusiasts who may want something in the
A ratings of Stereophile recommended
components or anything of the like in Home
Teater. Also, who among us can aford such
stuf in this economy? Not many, Im guessing.
I think people are far more concerned about
their retirements. But its fun to dream. Keep
up the good work!
Scott Kiver
Merrimack, NH
10 JANUARY 2010 hometheatermag.com
www.mksoundsystem.com
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Selectable Output Control
Fight Continues
BY MARK FLEISCHMANN, AUDIO EDITOR
TOP STORY: OLD FIGHT HEATS UP AGAIN
FRONT PAGE
S
electable output control
(SOC) is an issue thats
had Hollywood and
HDTV makers
furiously lobbying the
federal government for years. Tis
old fght is now heating up again.
What is SOC? It would enable
program producersacting
through your local cable or
satellite providerto disable
analog interfaces in your HDTV.
One of those analog interfaces is
component video, which is the
only HD-capable input on many
early-generation HDTVs.
Why does Hollywood want
SOC? Te studios say it would
pave the way for delivering hot
movie titles through video-on-
CableCARD standard. Te CEA
pleaded with the Commission not
to give in to the Motion Picture
Association of America (MPAA)
and its member studios:
If the FCC granted the
MPAAs waiver request, 25 million
HDTVs would become incapable
of receiving and displaying
programming accessed via set-top
boxes for which a content owner
or distributor invokes SOC.
Reducing the total number of
HDTVs by 20 percent to account
for replaced or inactive units still
leaves more than 20 million
HDTVs that would no longer
function as they did when
originally purchased by U.S.
consumers. CEA concluded that,
such an outcome, would frustrate
the expectations of millions of
consumers.
CEAs call for continuing the
SOC ban has been taken up by
the consumer group Public
Knowledge and the Independent
Film & Television Alliance. Te
new FCC chair, Julius Genach-
owski, has yet to take a position.
As this long-running battle
continues, the consumers right to
use the hardware and sofware
theyve paid for hangs in the
balance.
A properly calibrated video
display uses 15 to 50 percent less
energy, says a study by THX.
Researchers looked at 15 LCD
and plasma models, comparing
the Vivid or Dynamic mode to
the calibrated Movie mode.
Calibration brought energy
savings of $40 to $50 per year,
assuming 4 hours of daily use at
$0.1136 per kilowatt hour.
Plasmas that were manufactured
THX Says TV Calibration Saves Energy
demand channels prior to their
release on disc. Without the
security that the digital HDMI
interface afords, the studios fear
their crown jewels will be
recorded through analog
interfaces.
SOC may take two forms. Te
studios may down-res (reduce the
resolution of) HD signals
delivered via component video.
Or they may simply shut down
signals going from set-top boxes
into analog TV jacks, which
also include non-HD
composite and S-video. In
either case, they can act on a
program-by-program basis.
Te battleground for the
fght over SOC is the Federal
Communications Commis-
sion (FCC). As summer
turned to fall last year, FCC
of ces were deluged with
visitorsfrom the studios,
cable companies, and
various trade associations.
One of the latter visitors was
the Consumer Electronics
Association (CEA). In an FCC
fling, CEA noted that the FCC
banned SOC in the 2003
agreement that created the
before 2008 achieved
the greatest energy
savings. Any set can
save energy with
calibration. Tis
includes those that
are certifed by the
federal governments
ENERGY STAR
programand even
those certifed by
THX.
INSTALLERS MOVE
INTO RETROFIT
Its no secret that home
systems integrators
are scrambling for business now
that new housing expansion has
slowed. The average installers
revenue is down 17 percent
since 2007. That has led them to
refocus on a previously sleepy
areathe retrotting of existing
homes. Such installations have
increased from less than half
of installations in 2006 to 62
percent in the rst half of 2009.
Noting this trend, manu-
facturers have responded
with retrot-friendly products
like NuVos Renovia. Renovia
uses HomePlug 1.0 powerline
networking and covers up to 12
zones with audio from its AM,
FM, and Sirius tuners. The Music
Port Server adds XM, Internet
radio, and other audio services
along with a 320-gigabyte hard
drive. Such products may bring
custom installation into urban
and inner-suburban areas where
it previously feared to tread.
When you hrow in solar
panels, energy monitoring and
control systems, the networking
of at-panel
HDTVs, and
it looks like
home systems
integrators may
have a busy
future ahead of
them.
12 JANUARY 2010 hometheatermag.com
ATSC,
the developer of the HDTV
standard, is moving toward
standardizing a method of tam-
ing the obnoxious blare of TV
ads. This is welcome news
although you can already do this
if your A/V receiver or TV has
Dolby Volume, THX Loudness
Plus, or Audyssey Dynamic
Volume...
Blu-ray Disc Pricing
is headed in our favorite direction
down. From July 2008 to July
2009, new-title pricing dropped 12
percent, and back catalog pricing
dropped by a third...
Blu-ray Drives
are in only 3.6 percent of PCs,
and by 2013, theyll be in only
16.3 percent, says iSuppli. The
amazing picture and sound have
little or no value when view-
ing the content on a smaller
desktop or laptop PC screen and
using poor speakers, says an
analyst...
Lenovo
is offering Dolby Headphone
technology in the IdeaPad S12
and S10-2 netbooks. That would
enable them to create a virtual
5.1-channel soundeld through
ordinary headphones...
Movies in DivX,
a compressed video format thats
mainly used in PCs, are being
offered for the rst time by
Lionsgate, Paramount, Sony, and
Warner. Pricing will be $10 to $15
from lmfresh.com...
YouTube
is in talks with the studios
about a move into paid movie
streaming. This might placate Wall
Street critics who say that the
Google-owned sites ad income
isnt commensurate with the vast
number of free online videos it
dishes out...
This Just In ...
IMAX and Audyssey are teaming up to bring the latters world-class MultEQ
audio calibration software into the formers stupefying large-screen ultra-def
theaters. We often see theatrical technologies migrating into the home, but
this is a rare example of a worthy home technology migrating into theaters.
Samsung
is the rst DTV manufacturer to
license the Liquid Media Guide
from Rovi, formerly known as
Macrovision and best known for
its analog anti-copy technology.
Rovi technology is also migrating
into TiVo...
Sherwood
has adopted a unilateral pricing
policy on two hot new AVRs
including the R-972. Forget
about steep discounts on the
Internet...
Internet Disconnection
is now backed by the British
government as a response to
illegal downloading. This reverses
an earlier stand, following heavy
lobbying by content owners...
TiVo Is Suing
AT&T and Verizon over DVR
patents covering some very
basic functions, like the ability to
pause and reverse live programs.
A similar suit against DISH
Network is pendingTiVo and
DIRECTV already have a working
relationship...
AT&Ts U-Verse
is nally offering TV/broadband/
wireless service at a $30 discount
to Midwestern customers. Verizon
has been doing the same for about
a year...
Time Warner
will offer TV programs on
the Internet to existing cable
subscribers. Participating in the
test are Syfy, TNT, AMC, and BBC
America...
Big Cable
may get bigger now that a U.S.
appeals court has thrown out
the FCCs 30-percent market cap.
Biggest expected beneciary:
Comcast...
Cablevision
is reconguring its New York
City cable service to eliminate
analog channels, opening up new
bandwidth for other services. It
will also encrypt all digital chan-
nels, including basic broadcast
channels. The latter move would
force basic subscribers with digital-
cable-ready tuners to rent or buy
a set-top box or CableCARD instead
of just plugging the cable into their
sets...
hometheatermag.com 13
Redbox Takes DVD
Rentals to the Streets
Redbox has signed up
Paramount, Sony, and
Lionsgate to ofer their movies
through the companys 15,000
DVD rental kiosks throughout
the country for just a buck per
night. Meanwhile, Fox and
Universal are cutting of Red-
box until it agrees to hold of
rentals until a month afer DVD
sell-through release dates.
IMAX AND AUDYSSEY
REVERSE TECH MIGRATION
Ambilight Ambivalence
A buddy of mine has an older Philips
plasma HDTV with Ambilight. Te
frst time I saw it, I thought it was the
greatest thing Id ever seen and decided
I had to have a set of my own with
Ambilight. However, the Philips sets
seem to get pretty mixed reviews on
Amazon. Te availability and selection
also seem to be a little scarce. Are the
Philips plasmas and LCDs really to be
avoided? And if so, is there an
alternative you suggest?
Doug Muldowney
For those who arent familiar with it,
Ambilight is a Philips-exclusive feature
that incorporates fuorescent or LED
lights behind the edges of the cabinet. I
really hate its light show settings that
cause the lights to change color and
intensity according to whats on the
screen. I fnd it very distracting.
However, you can set Ambilight to a
constant color and intensity, which lets it
act as a bias light to help alleviate eye
fatigue. Te proper color for a bias light
is technically known as D65 white, and
the correct intensity is 10 percent of the
TVs peak white level. You can get a bias
light called Ideal-Lume from Cinema-
Quest (cinemaquestinc.com) for $60 and
simply place it behind any direct-view or
fat panel TV.
Career Training
Im interested in learning home theater
installation as a career path. Can you
suggest a training program I should
look into?
Carmine Abbate
Te Custom Electronic Design &
Installation Association (CEDIA) ofers
a wide range of classes in all aspects of
the installation business. In fact, the
CEDIA University program ofers more
than 200 courses in fve diferent
colleges. For more details, go to cedia.
net/education.
THX has a good training program as
well. Home Teater 1 is a one-day intro,
Home Teater 2 is a two-day hands-on
lab that focuses mostly on audio, and
Video Calibration is a three-day
hands-on class. Ive taken the Home
Teater 1 and Video Calibration classes,
and they are excellent. But its pretty
intensiveget ready to drink from a fre
hose! Go to thx.com/training/index.
html for more info.
Te Imaging Science Foundation
(ISF) also ofers a video-calibration
training course. Check it out at
imagingscience.com/seminars.cfm.
Tese programs are all fairly
expensive. If you dont have the dough,
you should try to fnd an internship with
a local installer. You probably wont get
paid muchif anythingand youll
have to do much of the grunt work, but
youll learn the ropes in a practical
setting.
Lucy to the Rescue
Im looking for a DVD changer that
will play fve DVDs in succession with
no intervention from the user. I have an
elderly, disabled mother who is terrifed
of going to sleep at night. She watches
DVDs of I Love Lucy all night, but once
I go to sleep, she cant change the DVD
when its over. I put an old Toshiba
DVD changer in her room, but once
the frst disc fnishes, you have to press
Next Disc, then wait until it loads, and
then press Play. She cannot operate the
remote.
Awe-Inspiring Ambilight?
Is there a DVD changer that will
bypass the DVD menu and play fve
discs in succession by itself? I tried
a Samsung, which wont do this,
and Yamaha tells me its changer
wont either. If not, is there anyone
who can modify a DVD changer to
do this?
Dennis Senges
I know of no DVD changers that can
do this, and I know of no one who
can modify a changer in such a man-
ner, which would probably involve
changing the frmware. Even if you
found a changer that automatically went
from the end of one disc to playing the
next, it would probably call up the disc
menu rather than start the program
directly.
As for your mothers fear of sleep, I
suggest you try soothing music and/or
meditation CDs. At least CD changers
can play discs in sequence. Even better,
load an iPod with her favorite music.
Tat will last for many hours with no
pause in playback.
Now that Im thinking about iPods,
you could possibly rip the I Love
Lucy DVDs to a computer, re-encode
them in MP4, and load them onto
a video-capable iPod. Tat would
take some work on your part, but
you might be able to play them back
sequentially with no user intervention.
Ive never done this with ripped DVDs,
so Im not sure it will work, but it might
be worth a try.
Another solution might be to rip
the DVDs and put them on a network
media server. Reader Fred points
out that TiVo boxes can play all shows
in a folder one afer another, so if you
can somehow transfer the ripped fles
to a TiVo, that would solve the prob-
lem. Alternatively, you could simply
record I Love Lucy of the air with
a TiVoafer all, its broadcast virtu-
ally 24 hours a day all around the
world. Of course, in that case, youd
see commercials, which arent on the
DVDs.
BY Scott Wilkinson
WE WELCOME QUESTIONS AND COMMENTS. If theres one thing Ive learned in 20 years as a home theater journal-
ist, its that people have questionslots of questions. This is no big surprise, since using the average home theater is
far more complicated than TV watching used to be, and its been getting more and more frustrating ever since VCRs
started blinking 12:00. To address this ongoing need, Ill be answering readers how-to and technically oriented
questions in this column every month. Questions regarding the magazines content will continue to be addressed in
HT Letters and should still be sent to HTLetters@sorc.com. But if you have a how-to or technical home-theater
question, please send it to me at scott.wilkinson@sorc.com.
14 JANUARY 2010 hometheatermag.com
problems. Tey can have poor uniformity
and of-axis performance, not to mention
the expense of having to replace the lamp
every year or two (depending on usage).
However, in the last two years, most
manufacturers have gotten out of the RPTV
businessthe only ones lef are Samsung
and Mitsubishi. Since its a product category
thats becoming extinct, I dont generally
recommend them any more. On the other
hand, a 60- or 70-inch fat panel is much
more expensive than an RPTV of similar
size, so if you need to conserve your
resources (and who doesnt these days) it
might be fne.
As for a PC VGA input, the Samsung
HL61A650 RPTV (HT, December 2008)
has one, but the Mitsubishi WD-65835 does
not. On the fip side, the $1,800 Samsung
didnt perform as well as the $3,000
Mitsubishi. Tom Norton also just fnished a
review of the Mitsubishi WD-73837
($3,000), which appears in the October
2009 issue. Like the WD-65835, this one
does not have a VGA input, but both can
accept DVI from a computer. In fact, if your
computer has a DVI output, you can
connect it to any modern TV with a
DVI-to-HDMI adapter.
Sweet Spot
Russ Herschelmann used to write a
column in Ultimate AV called Home
Teater Architect, which was very
informative and valuable for those of us
who dabble in trying to construct decent
home theaters on do-it-yourself budgets.
Russ had an Excel spreadsheet that would
give you the room mode resonances if you
input the room dimensions. Do you still
have this spreadsheet in your archives?
Wilaim Shackelford
We sure do; you can download that
spreadsheet by going to ultimateavmag.
com/news/10388/index.html.
Seething Hatred
I absolutely hate the new LCD motion-
processing technology (120-Hz and
240-Hz frame interpolation) that is being
jammed down consumers throats. I think
it makes everything look like it was shot
on home video, even the most beautiful
Blu-ray picture. Soon, Ill have the
responsibility of buying a friend a new
HDTV. I want to avoid this image-ruining
process, but Im limited to what local
stores carry. Can this technology be
turned of on most makes and models? I
would rather have the image look a little
blurry, as flm always does, than have it
look like video.
Steve Hawco
Youre not alone in your hatred of this
technology, although I wouldnt say its being
jammed down your throat. Fortunately for
Crossover Query
My Onkyo TX-SR605 A/V receiver
is connected to Sony SS-F5000 front
and surround speakers, an SS-CN5000
center, and a Yamaha subwoofer. When
I let the receivers automatic calibration
do its thing, it sets the towers to full
range. Should I leave them set to full
range or manually set the crossover
frequency specifed for the speakers?
I get more bass when I leave them at
full range.
Jerry Gascey
In general, I recommend that you desig-
nate the main speakers in most systems as
small, even if theyre capable of reproducing
the full range of audio frequencies, and let
the sub handle the lows. Te best placement
for the subwoofer is usually diferent than
the best placement for the full-range
speakers. Tis confguration also removes
the strain of reproducing bass frequencies
from the main speakers and associated
amplifers.
Te SS-F5000 is specd from 45 hertz to
50 kilohertz, while the SS-CN5000 claims
85 Hz to 50 kHz, so these speakers cant
reproduce the low bass that many movie
soundtracks and music recordings need.
You hear more bass when you set the
speaker to full range because the receiver is
sending it frequencies down to and below 45
Hz. If you set the speaker to small, it will
prevent any frequencies below 80 Hz (or
whatever the crossover is set to) from getting
to the speaker. In either case, youre not
hearing the lowest sonic information from
the main speakers; thats what a proper
subwoofer is for.
I defnitely recommend that you
designate all fve main speakers as small
before you run the auto-calibration function
and let the receiver route all frequencies
below 80 Hz or so to the sub.
RPTV & PC
Im planning to buy a 60- or 70-inch
HDTV in a few months. Te room where
it will live isnt totally darkened like a
home theater. Besides watching TV and
DVDs, we also want to hook the HDTV
up to a PC. With this requirement, is LCD
the way to go?
HT editor Shane Buettner wrote a
few years ago that RPTVs ofer better
performance for less money with screens
bigger than 50 inches. Do you think this
is still true? Te slim form factor is attrac-
tive, but performance is more important
to me. I wonder if there are any RPTV
models on the market that provide a PC
connection.
Debbie Li
RPTVs still ofer the most bang for the buck
in larger screen sizes, and they can be plenty
bright, but they arent without their own
you, frame interpolation can be disabled in
every such set Ive looked at. Of course, this
makes objects in motion look blurrier than
they would if it was on, but you say youd
rather see that than the video-like image.
For people like you, I recommend getting
a plasma, which has excellent motion
sharpness without frame interpolation. In
addition, the picture looks much better than
LCD if youre sitting at an angle to the
screen. Yes, plasma consumes more power
than LCD, and the glass is generally more
refective than most LCDs. Tis could be
problematic in a well-lit room, but in my
view, it ofen produces a better overall
picture. Of the models weve seen so far, the
current Panasonic plasmas are excellent.
To Extend or Not to Extend
Im in the market for a new Samsung
61-inch rear-projection TV and surround
sound system. Do you recommend getting
an extended warranty? I know they will
try to push this once I agree to purchase.
Doug Eddy
Tey will no doubt try to push an extended
warranty on you, because this is a big proft
center for most retailers. Ive even heard
stories of salespeople who were told by their
bosses that their jobs depended on selling
extended warranties. Some have gone so far
as to tell their customers that story.
Tis is a form of insurance, and Im
generally a big believer in insurance, but I
normally recommend against buying an
extended warranty on consumer electronics
products. Most electronic failures happen in
the frst few weeks or months, which is well
within any manufacturers standard
one-year warranty. If the product doesnt
fail in that time frame, its unlikely to in the
period of the extended warranty.
On the other hand, a DLP rear-pro TV
has moving partsspecifcally, the color
wheel that flters the white light from the
lamp into its red, green, and blue compo-
nents. Moving parts have a higher failure
rate than solid-state electronics. Also, these
sets have a lamp that will most certainly die
in a few thousand hours, but I very much
doubt that any warranty will cover that
beyond a certain period; in fact, both
Mitsubishi and Samsung include the lamp
in their standard one-year warranty.
For another perspective on this issue, see
the comment posted by Paul Martinez in
the online edition of Ask Home Teater
from March 24, 2009. His experience makes
him very glad he opted for an extended
warranty on the RPTV he purchased from
Best Buy.
In any event, be sure to read the extended
warrantys fne print to see exactly what it
does and doesnt coverdont trust what
salespeople tell you about the coverage. Tey
might be telling the truth, or they might be
saying what you want to hear.
hometheatermag.com 15
When you have such an old house, you
need to approach home-improvement
projects with trepidation. Even a seemingly
insignifcant 20-minute project (like replacing
a 10-year-old light switch with an occupancy-
sensing switch) can snowball into a day-long
repair job that will inevitably include two
trips to the hardware store and end with the
original switch put back in place.
Ive ofen thought it would be nice to have
music in multiple rooms of the house; but, as
Ive alluded, my home is not custom install
friendly. I decided that a wireless multiroom
system would defnitely be the best bet.
Sonos, a company that focuses exclusively on
wireless multiroom audio, has a system thats
Multiroom Magic
with Sonos
So Many Rooms, So Few Wires
BY Darryl Wilkinson
M
y home began as a tiny two-room house on a hilltop in the middle of nowhere back in the
late 1800s. A century later, Im sitting in a cubbyhole of ce in the original upstairs sec-
tion. Old and new sections butt up against one another. Some of the homes old elements
have been remade to look new, while its new parts have a patina of old. Straight lines and
level foors are few and far between. With two totally separate (in both location and age) upstairs areas, it
almost qualifes as a human Habitrail. As they say in the real estate business, it has character.
16 JANUARY 2010 hometheatermag.com
1 Sonos Bundle 250
designed to do just thatand morein up to
32 independent zones without breaking the
bank or tearing down any walls. Afer I read
the endearing tag line, Wireless that works
like magic, I thought, what better time or
place could there be to check out Sonos latest
system incarnation? So I asked Sonos to send
out its Bundle 150 two-zone package ($999)
plus a ZoneBridge and let the fun begin.
This Thing Is All Meshed Up
Its hard to overstate the simplicity of the
Sonos system concept. Tere are three
basic Sonos bricks: two audio players (the
ZonePlayer 90 and ZonePlayer 120) and one
handheld wireless Sonos Controller 100. Te
Bundle 150 includes one of each.
Te ZonePlayer 90 ($349) is a small,
squat, cube-like component (under 3 inches
tall and less than 5.5 inches square) that
includes two Ethernet ports, an analog audio
output, an optical and a coaxial digital audio
out, and an auto-detecting analog audio
input. Te ZonePlayer 90 can be used as
a source component for an A/V system, a
tabletop radio, or even with a set of amplifed
speakers. For $150 more, the slightly larger
(3.5-by-7.3-by-8.2-inch) ZonePlayer 120
loses the analog and digital audio outputs,
but it adds a built-in 55-watt-per-channel
amp and a subwoofer output with a fxed
80-hertz crossover.
up the ZonePlayer 90 to the radio in the
kitchen. Next, I set up the ZonePlayer 120
with a pair of bookshelf speakers in the
bathroom. Afer I plugged in the Sonos
Controller 100 to charge, I went upstairs to
my of ce and installed the Sonos Desktop
Controller sofware on my laptop. And
now heres the really hard part. Once it was
installed, the Desktop Controller instructed
me to add the ZonePlayers to the system one
at a time by pressing each devices mute and
volume up buttons. In other words, I had
to get out of my chair, walk down the stairs,
press a button, and then walk back up the
stairs. (I thought this was supposed to be
easy!) Once the controller is fully charged,
you can add it to the system in basically the
same manner.
You Will Do What I Am Thinking
I thought the Sonos Controller 100 was
about as cool as cool could get when it frst
came out. In fact, I still think its pretty
cool. Or at least, thats how I felt until Sonos
overnighted me the companys frst review
sample of the Controller 100s replacement,
the new Controller 200. Wow! What an
awesome improvement. Te new model is
so well designed, it begs to be played with.
Its also less than two-thirds the size of the
original, so the Controller 200 is easy to
hold and operate with one hand. Gone are
the Controller 100s scroll wheel and low-
resolution (240-by-320) LCD screen. Te
Controller 200 is built around a higher-
resolution (640-by-480), higher-contrast
touchscreen. You can enter text directly via
the onscreen keyboard (when searching for
hometheatermag.com 17
Regardless of the extent of your Sonos
system, you need to have at least one
ZonePlayer directly connected to your
home networks routerthat is, hard wired
with an Ethernet cable. Te system uses this
connection to access the Internet and any
shared music fles that might be stored on
other computers or network attached storage
(NAS) devices that are part of your home
network. Beyond that, each ZonePlayer
wirelessly communicates with the others
via SonosNet 2.0, the companys encrypted,
MIMO peer-to-peer wireless mesh network
technology. In addition to being an audio
component, each ZonePlayer essentially
operates as a wireless repeater, using three
built-in antennas and radios to spread the
signal far and wide. As a result, the more
ZonePlayers there are in a system, the more
robust the network is. (And the better Sonos
bottom line is, no doubt.)
Teres also a fourth brick in the Sonos
construction set, the ZoneBridge ($99),
which doesnt do audio. Its a system
extenderthink of it as a ZonePlayer
without the Player. You can use it to make
the Sonos systems direct connection to your
router if it happens to be located in an area of
your home where you dont want or need to
set up a separate zone.
It would make for great copy if I ran into
some overwhelming problem when I set
up the Sonos Bundle 150. Afer two years
of living in this house, I certainly expected
it. But thats not how it went. Instead, it
happened just the way the Quick Setup
Instructions said it would. First, I connected
the ZoneBridge to my router. Ten I hooked
1 Sonos ZonePlayer 90 1 Sonos ZonePlayer 120
an artist name, for example), which makes
it infnitely superior to the previous scroll-
and-click method. To scroll through a song
or artist list, you just slide your fnger up
or down the screen. Anyone who has used
an iPhone or iPod touch will be instantly
familiar with the way the Controller 200
operates. Te only hard keys are the mute,
volume up and down, and zone buttons
across the bottom. Te rechargeable battery
is now user replaceable, and the charging
cradle is included rather than being an
option, as it was with the Controller 100.
Te icing on the cake is that, at $349, its $50
cheaper than the Controller 100. Once its
available, the Controller 200 will take the
place of the Controller 100 in the Bundle
150. Te new package will be called the
Bundle 250 ($999).
With the introduction of the Controller
200, Sonos also released its Sonos Sofware
3.0. Te most signifcant new feature of
the sofware update is Info View, which
provides access from the Controller 200
to music informationsuch as artist bios,
similar artists, and upcoming events (if
available)when you listen to Rhapsody
or Last.fm.
In October 2008, Sonos released a free
Sonos Controller for iPhone app that lets you
control any or all of the ZonePlayers in your
system directly from an iPhone or iPod touch
in the same way you can with the Controller
200. (An iPhone or iPod touch wont expand
the SonosNet mesh network.) A new version
of the app will add the Info View feature.
For current and future Sonos system owners
who own an iPhone or an iPod touch,
MULTIROOM MAGIC WITH SONOS
downloading the free app is almost like
getting a $349 rebate check from Sonos.
A Streaming Good Time
Once you get your controllers up and running,
you can do what you most likely bought
the system to dothat is, you can access
your digital music library and play music in
diferent zones in your home. About the only
audio fle formats the system doesnt support
are Apple FairPlay DRM-protected and WMA
lossless, so format conversion shouldnt be
an issue for most people. But you dont have
to listen to your own music. You can also use
the Sonos system to directly set up online
accounts for audio subscription services, such
as Rhapsody, Napster, and Sirius Internet
Radio. Pandora, which used to be available
only by subscription, is now free to Sonos
system owners, as is Last.fm and 25,000 radio
stations via Sonos Radio.
Te analog audio inputs on the back of
each ZonePlayer let you listen to a local
sourcemaybe that iPhone youre using
Once you get your
controllers up and
running, you can do
what you most likely
bought the system
to dothat is, access
your digital library
and play music in
different zones in
your home.
18 JANUARY 2010 hometheatermag.com
1 Sonos ZoneBridge 100
as a Sonos Controller, for
exampleright there in that
zone. But each ZonePlayer can
encode the incoming audio and
stream it to any other ZonePlayer
in the system. In my case, I
connected the Zone2 output of
my Onkyo A/V receiver to the
ZonePlayer 90s input and used
it to stream audio (compressed
or uncompressed) from
the AVRs XM tuner to the
ZonePlayer 120 located
in my of ce. (You dont
need to sign up for an
additional service.) As if that
werent cool enough, the
ZonePlayers audio inputs
are auto sensing, so listening
to a particular zones line-in
source only becomes an
option on your controllers
menu if that ZonePlayer
senses that a source is plugged in.
None of this would matter if the
sound quality sufered, but thats
not the case here. Of course, a lot
depends upon fle formats and the
encoding bitrate of your digital
collection, as well as your choice of
online music sources. But whatever
the signal quality, the Sonos
system will do it justice.
On a lark, I decided to hook
up the amp in the ZonePlayer
120 to a pair of BG Z-92
foorstanding loudspeakers
and use the subwoofer output
to drive BGs BGX-4850
THX Ultra2certifed in-wall
subwoofer. Yes, it was a bit of
overkill, but the ZonePlayer
120s little 55-watt amp
sounded amazingly good
at a moderate volume
on these very revealing
speakers. You shouldnt
expect it to rock the
foundations of your
househeaven help us if
it did that to this onebut
you certainly shouldnt be
shy about pairing up the
ZonePlayer 120 with a
good pair of bookshelf or
on-wall speakers.
My Network Has Fallen,
and It Cant Get Up
Its one thing to yak on and on about how
simple a system is to set up and use, but what
happens when the system setup isnt as easy
as 1-2-3? Inevitably, its going to happen,
whether its an incompatible router, issues with
Internet service via satellite (my unfortunate
case), or incomprehensible frewall settings.
Tats when its customer support time;
and, as many of us know, this is when most
consumer electronics companies
go horribly wrong.
For starters, Sonos massive
Website is fabulous, not only in
terms of raw content, but also
in its presentation. Information
is easy to fnd, and its written
in a manner thats easy to
comprehend with plenty of
explanatory diagrams and screen
shots. For example, although
iTunes will download artwork,
it doesnt automatically embed
the artwork into the music fles
metadata. If youre using iTunes as
your main media program, youll
need to use third-party sofware to
embed the images in order to view
cover art on the Sonos handheld or
Desktop Controller. A page on
the Sonos Website walks you
through the entire process. It
even provides the download
link for a suggested program
that will do the trick. I dont
particularly care for the small,
light-blue font that the Sonos
Web folks use for large blocks
of text, but its hard
to fault the site for
anything else.
However, a Website
is no substitute for a
real human being with real
expertise. In my dealings
with the Sonos
support staf, I found
them to be equally
impressive. Granted,
its possible they put
the only two good
people they have
on my case since
this was a review,
but I think thats
unlikely. While we
couldnt solve all
of my problems
satellite Internet is
unfortunately a
royal pain in the
ass, for example
Clay took care of
a couple of other
network issues and,
in the process, discovered
a looming-but-unrelated
problem with my main
computer. I dont think thats
a normal part of the customer
support program, but it shows that
the guys know more than just how
to read a customer support fow-chart
script. Interestingly enough, during
the course of our troubleshooting, Clay
told me that I had both of the systems
ZonePlayers and one of the controllers
sitting in the same room only a few feet away
5 Sonos Controller 200
MULTIROOM MAGIC WITH SONOS
from each other. (Fortunately, he didnt know
that I wasnt wearing pants while I was talking
to him on the phone. At least, I hope he didnt
know.)
So No? So Yes
Ive seen lots of gear over the years, and
Ive had the chance to look at it from many
diferent value/performance perspectives
(as a consumer, salesperson, etc.). I cer-
tainly havent seen it all; but looking back
over everything that Ive either plugged in,
pushed a button on, or otherwise eyeballed
or touched, I cant think of another product
thats so impressive or compelling when
it comes to form, function, and perform-
ance. Not only does the Sonos system do
what it says it willthat is, make multi-
room audio easyit does it with gear that
looks and sounds great, is a joy to use,
and works consistently and reliably. If
youre even remotely interested in multi-
room audio, Sonos is the system to start
with. Most likely, itll be the one you end
up with, too.
1 Sonos Controller
iPhone Screens
Other Air-Raising Options
Just before we went to press, Sonos
announced the ZonePlayer S5, a $399
amplifed ZonePlayer with built-in speakers.
Sonos is pitching the system as the ultimate
wireless music system for iPhone owners.
Like Sonoss other ZonePlayers, an iPhone
or iPod touch loaded with the (free) Sonos
Controller app is the ideal (and free, if you
already have one) remote control for the S5.
iPhone/iPod-less people, afer they overcome
their shame (and come up with $349), can use
one of the new Controller 200 remotes. Te
one-piece design means the only wire you
have to deal with is the power cord, which
makes the S5 the quickest and easiest of
Sonoss ZonePlayers to get up and running.
However, if youre starting a system with a
single S5, youll need to have either a hard-
wired Ethernet
connection
between it and your
broadband router
or a ZoneBridge
directly connected to
your router.
Casting About for
More Music
While its hard not to go gaga (thats a technical
term) over the Sonos system, there are other
wireless music systems available that are
worthy of consideration when it comes to
price, features, and confguration. Yamahas
new MusicCAST
2
system, for example, is a
tremendous improvement over the companys
clunky frst-generation MusicCAST product.
Te heart of the MusicCAST
2
system is the
MCX-RC100 Network Music Commander
($500), a Wi-Fi-based system remote that
includes a 3.5-inch color display (not a
touchscreen) and a touch-
pad. Capable of controlling
up to 32 zones of music,
the MCX-RC100 can also
control functions of Yamahas
Network Receivers, such as the
RX-V3900 and RX-Z7, as well
as Yamahas YMC-700 neoHD
Media Controller. In other
words, as opposed to being
a separate multiroom music
system, a MusicCAST
2
system can be an integral
extension of your main
(Yamaha) theater system.
Like Sonos, Yamaha ofers
two MusicCAST
2
Network Music Players,
the amplifed MCX-A300 ($400)
and the preamp-only MCX-P200
($400). Unlike Sonos, however,
the MCX-P200 includes IR outputs
for controlling other connected
equipment. And both Music-
CAST
2
Network Players have iPod/
Bluetooth compatibility via optional
accessories.
Swimming Up Streamium
Philipss three Streamium network music
players may take a tad longer to set up and
are a bit more computer-like in terms of
operation. Nevertheless, they do a good job
of streaming
music from
your PC/Mac
or connecting
to Internet
radio stations
even when
your computer
is of. Tey
look good, too,
especially the
NP2900 ($330, with built-in speakers) and the
NP2500 ($230, preamp only), each of which
features a 4-inch full-color display screen
that can show album art and photos. Te
more basic but less expensive NP1100 ($180)
includes a 3-inch black-and-white screen that
displays track and artist info.
Logitechno Music
If youre interested in squeezing the ultimate
audio performance out of a wireless music
system, you should give serious consider-
ation to Logitechs impressive $2,000
Transporter network music player. But
if high-end DACs and audiophile-grade
circuit paths are more than what you need
for listening to Internet radio stations in the
kitchen or bedroom, Logitech has a variety of
Squeezebox network music players, starting
with the all-in-one Squeezebox Radio.
Considering that for $200 it includes a built-
in speaker (mono), 2.4-inch color display,
ambient light sensor that adjusts display
brightness, and an alarm clock, its probably
the best value around in a network music
player. But the new preamp-only Squeezebox
Touch with a 4.3-inch color touchscreen plus
USB port and SD card slot for
playing music stored on external
memory cards looks hard to
resist at $300. Add another
$100 for the Squeezebox
Duet. Te Duet Receiver
doesnt have a display
screen, but the included
Squeezebox Controller does (a 2.4-inch color
display), plus a rechargeable lithium-ion
battery. Te Controller uses 802.11b/g to
communicate with the Receiverso you can
use it to control playback from any room in
the house.
A Cheap Ticket to the AirPort
If youre computer-savvy, Apples $99 AirPort
Express can provide one of the most afordable
ways to connect to an existing wireless network
and stream music from your Mac or PC to
an audio system or powered speakers. Te
small AirPort Express plugs directly into an
AC outlet, and the line-out port provides
both analog and optical digital outputs. While
its inexpensive, you do pay a price in lack of
features. Te AirPort Express, for example,
doesnt have a display or a remote, so
you need to use your
computer or an iPhone/
iPod touch for all control
functions. In addition,
the AirPort Express
cant access Internet
radio stations by itself.
Your computer has to
be on and connected to
the AirPort Express in
order to do that. For a
basic, one-zone system,
however, its defnitely a
great option.
20 JANUARY 2010 hometheatermag.com
1 Yamaha MusicCAST
2
System
1 Sonos Zone
Player S5 and Controller 200
1 Apple
AirPort
Express
5 Philips Streamium
NP2900
1 Logitech Squeeze-
box Duet Controller
MULTIROOM MAGIC WITH SONOS
BRINGING THEATER INSPIRATION INTO YOUR HOME
HIGH-END MAKEOVER pg.22
A retrot home theater with extreme
gear and added security.
GOING RETRO pg.24
Part I: You can teach an old
house new tech tricks.
RAISING THE BAR pg.26
Take your home theater gear to
new heights.
INSTALL
W
ho says you cant get quality work done in less than a week?
Talk to David Frangioni, CEO of Audio One Sound & Video in
North Miami Beach, Florida. Hell tell you that anything is
possible. He knows because hes installed a world-class home theater with
high-performance A/V gear in only three days.
This was a retrofit installation, and we were required to install all the
specified A/V gear with little or no additional construction, says Frangioni.
The client was technically savvy and a connoisseur of high-end
components, which included Mark Levinson amps, a Lexicon seven-
channel surround preamp, a Kaleidescape media player, a Runco projector
and processor, Genelec powered speakers, Velodyne subs, and topped off
by the best way to view films, a Stewart 2.35:1 CineCurve screen.
According to Frangioni, the biggest challenge was installing this caliber
of equipment within the confines of the existing space, where a smaller
THE GREAT REMAKE
Installers reworked this home-
owners existing home theater into
a luxurious and cutting-edge room,
complete with top-of-the-line gear,
like a Stewart CineCurve screen.
home theater was already installed. Prior to Audio Ones arrival, master
woodworker Jim Pratt had retrofitted the front of the room. This made it
possible to perfectly fit the new 2.35:1 screen, which replaced an existing
16:9 screen in the same place. Moreover, the current room height allowed
the Runco digital projector to be placed at the far end of the room, for a
more simplified installation.
Frangioni acoustically tuned the room using a Sencore SP495 and TEF
Room Analyzer. These tools, combined with the equalization built into the
Lexicon, Velodyne, and Genelec equipment, resulted in smooth bass
response with precise imaging for an audience of 12. Pat Bradley
calibrated the video, and Dan McCabe, Audio Ones installation manager,
kept the $500,000 project on track.
The home already had a security system, and Audio One did a major
upgrade during the new installation to make it more functional. Prior to the
upgrade, the homeowner could only see the feed from one camera at a
High-End Makeover
A RETROFIT HOME THEATER WITH EXTREME GEAR AND ADDED SECURITY.
BY Kim Wilson
PHOTOS Myro Rosky
D
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time. Audio One used the theaters PiP functionality to create a whole new
level of integration with the security system.
The property has a number of motion-activated cameras. When the
Crestron controller in is Security mode and motion activates one of the
cameras, the movie will automatically pause. The houses floor plan will
come up in the PiP screen and flash an icon in the part of the house that
has been triggered. Another window shows the camera view at that
position. In case of an emergency, the homeowner can quickly dial 911
from the Crestron with a single button press. The security mode can also
be bypassed. So if the homeowner is having a party for example, the
camera views wont interrupt the movie.
Quality installation doesnt have to be a slow process. When a pro-
fessional team with years of field experience handles your home theater
integration, you dont have to
put your life on hold for months
at a time. Of course, not all
installations go this fastmuch
depends on the specifications,
the space, and the equipment.
Still, a pro installer can certainly
make a retrofit like this one a
pleasurable, rather than an
agonizing, experience.
Audio One Sound & Video Inc., David Frangioni, (305) 945-1230,
david@audio-one.com, audio-one.com
Home Theater Design January 2010 / hometheaterdesignmag.com 23
KIM WILSON, HTD EDITOR
Home Theater Design is dedicated to helping you
navigate the specialty A/V waters, including working
with custom installers, retailers, designers, builders,
and more. We go beyond the dedicated theater, and
show you how to integrate the newest technology
into your entire home.
READERS, WE NEED YOUR HELP!
Are you a do-it-yourselfer or custom installer with a
great theater to share with our readers? Wed love to hear from you. Please send
your stories and photos to kim.wilson@sorc.com.
EYE SPY
The Crestron controller,
shown above, is the key
to this homes theater
control, as well as its high-
tech secutiry system. Audio
One integrated the security
system into the theaters
PiP feature, so the home-
owner can see suspicious
activity onscreen.
RETROFITTING
Going Retro
PART I: YOU CAN TEACH AN OLD HOUSE NEW TECHNOLOGICAL TRICKS.
Now what? Since there are no phone jacks handy, you can use your cell
phone to call your local home remodeler and a custom home A/V installer.
Oh, wait, youd rather not spend money remodeling a home you just spent a
lot of money on acquiring? Well, guess what? You dont have to hire profes-
sionals to remodel your home in order to bring it into the modern, digital
era of home entertainment and info enrichment. Doing it yourself is entirely
doable. And if youre clever, handy with a hammer (plus a few other basic
tools), and dont get queasy at the sight of drywall dust, you can integrate a
lot of todays high-tech gear and technology into your used home and make
it look and feel like it was there from the beginning. If youre really good, you
can make it look like the stuff isnt there at all.
Before I go any further, let me say unequivocally that theres no substitute
for a professional A/V installer. These guys are like orthopedic surgeonsthey
have the know-how and the tools to poke and prod inside your homes walls
and ceiling in ways that will leave minimal scarring. But if youre like me
and want to do it yourself, what follows is a series of tips, techniques, tools,
and products thatll make the task of retrofitting your 20th-century (or older)
home for the 21st century a little more achievable.
Wired, No New Wires, or Wireless?
With the current state of technology, you have three options for connecting
the various components located in multiple rooms of your home: wired, no
I
ve always lived in a used house. Exist-
ing home is the euphemism real estate
people like to use. Life is gooduntil you
realize that there are no phone jacks close to
the spots where your bed or desk should go.
And why are there no Ethernet jacks in the
house? And no wiring for TVs anywhere but
the living room? Needless to say, you cant
find in-wall speakers, volume controls, or
multiroom A/V distribution of any kind.
Maybe you should have guessed from the
horse and buggy parked in the garage when
your real estate agent showed the house
that the previous owners werent interested
in keeping up with the more technologically
advanced Joneses across the street.
1 Belkin FlyWire HDMI
BY Darryl Wilkinson
24 Home Theater Design January 2010 / hometheaterdesignmag.com
R
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new wires, and wireless. Oh, what joy there would be if everything were
wireless! Peace would reign on earth, and custom-installing a 12-zone system
would be much quicker. Unfortunately, the A/V world isnt close to being
a completely wireless one. Theres a variety of non-compatible wireless
formatsstandardized ones like ZigBee and Z-Wave, the IEEE 802.11 alphabet
soup, and others that are strictly proprietary. Wireless devices and media
streaming systems can be maddening to set up, difficult and inconvenient
to use, and darn near impossible to troubleshoot. (Uh, try unplugging
everything and rebooting. If that doesnt work, sprinkle some chicken blood
around.)
Wire Not
There are some excellent wireless systems and devices that can stealthily
modernize your home without resorting to voodooas long as you pick the
appropriate ones for the task and understand their limitations. For example,
if all you need is to get an audio signal from your A/V receiver in the front
of the room to the surround speakers in the back, youll have little trouble
finding a wireless (analog) audio transmitter for less than $50. Of the better
digital options, theres i2i Streams unamplified transceiver two-pack with
a 30-foot range ($119) or Amphonys 1520 ($129), which includes a wire-
less amplifier and claims a 50-foot line-of-sight range. SoundCasts SubCast
SCK541 ($169) is designed to wirelessly send the LFE or subwoofer out signal
from your AVR to your powered sub.
If multizone audio is more what you had in mind, two standouts immedi-
ately come to mind. The first is the Sonos multiroom music system (see page
16), which is designed to provide easy and reliable access to all of your digital
music, as well as Internet radio stations and local source components, in any
location where you install a wireless (or wired) ZonePlayer. The other is Con-
trol4s home entertainment/automation system. In addition to acting as one
uber-universal remote
control for your home
theater, you can easily
expand it to provide
wireless multiroom audio
and handle all kinds of
home automation tasks,
including lighting and
power management.
Its hard to distri-
bute video wirelessly
especially high-def
videoand keep the
quality pristine. And, of
course, there are copy-
protection (HDCP) issues
to deal with. Wireless
analog NTSC video transmitters have been around for ages, though. Fifty
bucks (and a sedative to calm your nerves while you navigate the frantic
X10 Website) will get you a wireless video transmitter and a receiver that
X10 says will give you DVD-quality image with no quality loss up to 100 feet
away. Actual results may vary. Belkin and Gefen have been touting wireless
HDMI systems primarily designed for transmitting HD video wirelessly within a
single roomsay from a surround processor to a projector or flat panel at the
other end of the room. Until recently, these have only been seen in prototype
form. Gefens Wireless HDMI Extender costs $999; Belkins Flywire is slated to
be $1,499 when its available. That kind of money will buy a lot of wire and
plenty of professional install time, so for the highest-quality and lowest-cost DIY
retrofitter, hard-wired connections for video are the best way to go.
Since virtually every house is wired for electricity and many have multiple
cable TV outlets, any technology that uses those existing wires is a welcome
thing. Technically, though, its not really wireless; its more like a no new
wires solution. Products that incorporate Powerline technology utilize the
AC wiring to distribute signals. There are a limited number of A/V-oriented
devices that use the electric wiring to replace the HDMI cable that would
normally connect your
AVR to your HDTV; but
most are designed to
help create or extend
a home LAN. Unfortu-
nately, none of these
solutions is perfect.
One problem is that
your outlets need to be
electrically connected
in order for powerline
devices to establish a
network connection
between them. Main-
taining consistent video
signal quality is another
challenge that has yet to be overcome.
The final result is that sometimes its just better and easier to use a good
old-fashioned hard-wired connection.
Come back next month for the second part of this two-part story. Well
give you step-by-step do-it-yourself instructions to run wire in your existing
home.
1 i2i Streams Unamplied Transceivers
Flatwire
Speaker Wire
1 Amphony 1500 Audio
Transmitter
1 Gefen Wireless HDMI Extender
Home Theater Design January 2010 / hometheaterdesignmag.com 25
MOUNTS AND LIFTS
Raising the Bar
TAKE YOUR HOME THEATER GEAR TO NEW HEIGHTS WITH INNOVATIVE MOUNTS AND LIFTS.
BY Debbie Stampi
B
efore the days of flat panels, storage for an average TV meant putting your bulky display in
a cabinet and shutting the doors. Now, with flatter screens and more streamlined gear, the
choices for placing your set are much less conventional. With the number of mount and lift
options that are available today, you can mount your flat panel or projector almost anywhere you
want. Once its in your favorite spot, you can then adjust it by simply picking up your remote or
pressing a button. Finding the perfect spot for your gear just got a lot easier.
HEAVY LIFTER G
Auton 1004-P Plasma Lift ($4,649)
In the ever-changing world of consumer electronics, its nice to find a company that has evolved right along with it. Auton has been manufacturing TV lifts for
more than 50 years, and it shows. Its 1004-P plasma lift is no weakling in the lift businessits designed to hold a massive 350 pounds. It also features details
like welded steel construction for secure placement of your HDTV. Even with the companys history, the 1004-P plasma lift makes a modern statement, with
clean lines and high-tech features. You can also purchase an optional radio or infrared remote for total control of the system.
auton.com
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MOVING PICTURES D
Sanus Systems VMDD26 VisionMount Full-Motion Wall Mount ($620)
An extra-large HDTV usually means youve got a big problem if
you want to mount it on the wall. Sanus Systems has a solution
that provides strength and support for even the heftiest flat pan-
els. The VMDD26 can fit a 42- to 63-inch flat panel that weighs
up to 175 pounds. It comes equipped with Sanus Systems
trademark Virtual Axis tilting system, which lets you adjust the
viewing angle with a touch of a button. With its full-motion
capabilities, you can tilt, swivel, pan, and extend your display up
to 25.75 inches from the wall. Finally, the VMDD26s hinged arms
and heavy-gauge steel construction let you know that your prized
flat panel is in safe hands.
sanus.com
ABOVE IT ALL J
Chief SL151 Automated SMART-LIFT Projector Mount ($2,499)
Without a sharp storage system, your living room can start looking
like the headquarters for the high school A/V club. While HDTVs
can be mounted against a wall, covered with a nice piece of art-
work, or closed up in an elegant console, projectors are another
story. Chiefs SL151 automated SMART-LIFT projector mount makes
it easy to maintain your home theaters style and simplicity. It can
be installed directly into a finished ceiling with minimal clearance,
and it holds up to 35 pounds. Best of all, you can raise and lower
the SL151 with a push of a button, which makes it easy to inte-
grate with your existing room design.
chiefmfg.com
TILT-A-WHIRL D
Peerless PA760 Universal Articulating Wall Arm Mount ($349)
Known for covering all angles of the mounting business, Peer-
less just unveiled a new mount thats designed to take care of
your flat panel needs in a budget-friendly package. The PA760
universal articulating wall mount can extend up to 16 inches and
swivels up to 45 degrees. It also comes with Peerless one-touch
tilt adjustment feature, so you can adjust your display up to 15
degrees without breaking a sweat. To top it off, the PA760 mount
also has a clean and sleek design with a High-Gloss Black finish,
so your guests can appreciate every angle.
peerlessmounts.com
Home Theater Design January 2010 / hometheaterdesignmag.com 27
MOUNTS AND LIFTS
28 Home Theater Design January 2010 / hometheaterdesignmag.com
SYNCHRONICITY G
Salamander Designs Synchro Furniture Mate ($660)
Flexibility has never been the name of the game when it comes to flat panel
installation. Salamander Designs is out to change that with its Synchro Furni-
ture Mate. With the Synchro Furniture Mate, you no longer need to perma-
nently mount your flat panel to a wall or set it on top of a cabinet. Instead, you
simply mount your flat panel to this freestanding customizable component.
Salamander Designs built the Synchro Furniture Mate with a fork-like base, so
you can place your plasma or LCD behind nearly any kind of media cabinet.
Although its a freestanding mount, it has the capacity to hold a flat panel dis-
plays that is up to 60 inches in size and 110 pounds in weight.
salamanderdesigns.com
GENIUS ON THE MOVE J
Activated Dcor intellaLIFT Model 1000-R Lift ($3,195)
When a company has worked on a design for more than a year, you
should probably give it a second look. Activated Dcor now provides its
newly created SMART-BOX with all of its mounts and lifts, including the
intellaLIFT Model 1000-R. This innovative technology is designed to stop
the lift from descending when there is an obstruction in its path. Consum-
ers can adjust the sensitivity settings based on their own unique setup and
control it with the included remote control. The intellaLIFT Model 1000-R
also provides support for 140 pounds, comes with a three-year warranty,
and rotates 360 degrees for ultimate flexibility.
activateddecor.com
SUPERMODEL SKINNY J
Premier Mounts WTFM3765 Mount ($230)
Its not easy to admire a sleek flat
panel on your wall when you have to
look at a large, cumbersome mount
behind it. Look no further than Premier
Mounts WTFM3765, a super-thin
mount that will hold a flat panel on the
wall with almost no space between.
Dubbed the worlds thinnest flat panel
mount for a reason, this mount places
your flat panel less than half an inch
from the wall. The WTFM3765 can hold
up to 100 pounds, and its expandable
back plate caters to flat panels that
are 37 to 65 inches. It also has spring-
loaded brackets with a built-in safety
release.
premiermounts.com
MAKE A MOVE J
Omnimount Power55 Motorized Flat Panel Mount ($600)
Poor off-axis viewing can frustrate even the most dedicated LCD
enthusiast. Omnimount now offers a motorized solution that
might ease those frustrations. Omnimounts Power55 motorized
flat panel mount lets you swivel and tilt your flat panel with
ease via remote control. You wont have to move back and forth
from your seat to the display to adjust it for the prime viewing
angle. Instead, the Power55 mount has a built-in motor that
tilts up to 15 degrees and pans up to 20 degrees to the left and
right. The Power55 can accommodate a 37-to 55-inch flat panel
that weighs up to 110 pounds.
omnimount.com
M
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ZVOX IncrediBase 575 Uses High-Performance Speakers, Dual Powered Subwoofers
and 133 Watt Amp To Deliver Stunning Sound, 35Hz Bass From A Single Cabinet
Prepare to change your mind about sound bars and all-in-one home theaters. Because youve never heard one like this. Nothing else even comes close.
The new ZVOX IncrediBase 575 uses dual 6.5" powered subwoofers, ve 3.25" high-performance speakers, a 133-watt amplier and our critically-
acclaimed PhaseCue

virtual surround system to create theater-quality sound in your home. Voices are strong and clear. Music is natural and realistic.
Movie sound effects literally surround you. Bass is accurate down to 35Hz with window-rattling output.
If you want truly stunning home theater sound, but you dont want a complex, multi-speaker system, this is it. Special price through 12/24/2009: $699.99.
Order direct from our factory or visit a dealer near you.
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FROM THE

Audio Precision System Two 2532 Dual Domain

Fluke 189 multimeter

Leader LT-446 HDTV test generator

Leader LV5700A waveform monitor

LG OS-9020A oscilloscope

LinearX loudspeaker measurement system

Minolta LS-100 luminance meter

Photo Research PR-650 SpectraScan colorimeter

Staco variable transformer 3PN2210B (22-amp)

TecLab TWS-1510 test benches


Samsung UN55B8500 LCD HDTV
Back to the LED future. P32
BG Radia BGX-4850 In-Wall Subwoofer
System Its what you dont see. P36
Canton Ergo 620 Speaker System
Brilliant at making things. P40
Panasonic VIERA TC-P58V10 Plasma HDTV
Plasma brings the juice. P46
Focal Dme Speaker System
From people who do it right. P50
Paradigm Millenia 20 Hybrid Speaker
System Thin is the new in. P54
Snell CR7 Speaker System
Heavy metal is good. P58
Boston Acoustics SoundWare XS 5.1 Speaker
System Shapes mightier than size. P62
Yamaha RX-V1065 A/V Receiver
The brand that rolls its own. P66
on the
web
VISIT THE HOW WE TEST
link on our Website for a detailed
explanation of our testing regimen
and a list of our reference gear.
HomeTheaterMag.com

Home Theaters test bench uses state-of-the-art


instruments, and our testing regimen is the most
rigorous in the industry. Our strict methodology
ensures that the gear we review can meet the highest
standards of performance, a must for a component to
earn recognition as a Top Pick or a RAVE Award winner.
OUR GEAR... HIGH END P32-38
MIDRANGE P40-60
ENTRY LEVEL P62-69
HTs product ratings are specic to the
product category and the price range of the
component under review. Each components
ratings are specic only to its price range:
Entry Level, Midrange, or High End. For
guidance, each products price range is
designated in the Preview, on this page,
and at the top of its review.
RATINGS
PERFORMANCE
FEATURES
ERGONOMICS
VALUE
BUILD QUALITY
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addressable zones or clusters
behind the screen, its possible to
selectively dim or darken diferent
parts of the screen to match the
light and dark areas of the picture
being displayed. Its still the LCD
panels job to produce the actual
image at the pixel level. However,
by selectively dimming the
individual LED zones, we can
help the LCDs overcome their
light-blocking limitations and
provide a contrast level that even
the best conventional LCD
displays cant ofer. Tis process is
called local dimming or, in
Samsungese, Smart LED.
Of the 13 Samsung sets that use
LEDs for backlighting, only
twothis one and its 46-inch
siblingemploy local dimming.
Te rest control all of their LED
backlights simultaneously.
Walk Around
While the UN55B8500 may not
be the slimmest set in Samsungs
stable, at 1.6 inches thin, it isnt far
S
amsung, it appears, is
going LED in a big way.
Tirteen of its LCD sets
in the 6, 7, and 8 Series
use LEDs for back-
lighting instead of CCFLs (cold
cathode fuorescent lights), which
until recently have been nearly
universal in fat-panel LCD
HDTVs.
While LED backlighting ofers
the potential for improved color
performance, more uniform
screen illumination, thinner sets,
and less power usage, its biggest
advantage is that LEDs can cycle
on and of almost instantaneously.
With the right implementation,
this capability opens the door to
dramatically improved black
levels.
Te technique is called local
dimming. Not all LED-backlit
sets are local dimmers, but two
of the new Samsungs are. At the
top of the pile is the 55-inch
UN55B8500.
Samsung was the frst company
to market LED local-dimming
designs. We had a look at the frst
generation (the LN-T5281F) back
in April 2008, and the second
generation (the LN55A950) in
November 2008 and again in a
four-set Face Of in February
2009. On each occasion, these sets
made a profound impression on
us, delivering black levels that we
never dreamed possible in an
LCD design. Te opportunity to
spend quality time with the third
generation, which incorporates all
of Samsungs refnements of the
technology into its current
fagship set, was a no-brainer.
Local Dimming
By themselves, LCDs produce no
light, which is why all LCD sets
require backlighting behind the
LCD panel. Te individual LCD
pixels in the panel simply act as
gates, which either pass or block
the backlights illumination as the
source image requires. But LCDs
ability to block light is limited.
Some of it always leaks through,
even when the image calls for
total black. Tats why LCDs
traditionally have mediocre black
levels and shadow detail.
However, by using LEDs as
backlights, a new wrinkle is
possible. Since LEDs can be
turned on or of and can be
arranged in individually
PRICE: $4,500 AT A GLANCE: Deep blacks

Excellent resolution

Full range of color adjustments

Local-dimming LED technology


Back to the LED Future
HIGH END
Samsung UN55B8500 LCD HDTV
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BY Thomas J. Norton
32 JANUARY 2010 hometheatermag.com
SAMSUNG UN55B8500 LCD HDTV
from it. And at 78 pounds with its
rotatable stand, you wont have
to corral a pair of NFL linebackers
to unpack it and set it up. Two
average couch potatoes will do.
Te Samsung has four select-
able picture modes, and theyre
separately adjustable for each
input. I did my testing in Movie
mode with appropriate settings
for the most accurate picture. It
also has hidden Day and Night
modes that a calibrator can adjust
in the service menu, lock (if
desired), and activate so they
appear as user menu selections.
(Tey are not ISF modes;
Samsung hasnt signed up for ISF
certifcation.)
Te set ofers the usual video
controls, including a 10-step
backlight adjustment. I never got
above a setting of 5, and I rarely
set it that high. I stayed mostly at
3 for night viewing in a darkened
room and 4 for daytime viewing.
Te Advanced and Picture
Options menus ofer additional
adjustments. Some are useful,
while others are best avoided. Te
latter include Dynamic Contrast,
Flesh Tone, and Digital NR (you
wont need noise reduction with a
good source).
Te Black Tone control, with
Dark, Darker, and Darkest set-
tings, appears to be one of these
avoid-it adjustments as well.
However, I found that in its least
aggressive setting (Dark), it subtly
improved the image on some
programming and didnt clip the
blacks.
A Blue Only control (available
only in the Movie and Standard
modes) turns of red and green.
Tis lets you set the color and tint
without resorting to color flters,
which can be inaccurate on LCD
sets.
Teres also a seven-step
Gamma adjustment, a Color
Space control (with a full set of
adjustments to fne-tune the color
gamut), and White Balance con-
trols (both high and low for all
three primary colors).
In my last Samsung review, I
dismissed that sets Edge
Enhancement control. But we live
and learn. On the UN55B8500,
this adjustment had a subtle yet
positive efect on the image, with
no visible white-line enhance-
ment or other artifacts (when the
Sharpness control is set correctly).
Two diferent remotes come
with the UN55B8500. A mini
remote, shaped like a fattened
egg, can turn the set on and of,
adjust the volume, and change
channels. Te larger remote is
fully functional (apart from being
menu driven rather than hav-
ing direct input selection) and
fully backlit.
I did have a few minor quib-
bles with the Samsungs generally
good onscreen menus. Te most
annoying thing was that some
of them timed out too fast, par-
ticularly those associated with
white balance and color space
calibration. Te remotes joystick
feature was also overly sensitive,
especially on a right click. Tis
tended to trigger the onscreen
cursor to move down rather than
to the right.
Im a movie and broadcast
HDTV kind of guy. Im not yet
into all the new bells and whistles
that let you pull movies, music,
and photos from either a USB
device plugged into one of the
sets USB inputs or from a home
network. But the Samsung lets
you do all of these things.
I also havent greatly explored
the bottomless pit of Internet TV.
But you can do this on the Sam-
sung as well. Youre limited to
the sites that Samsung has part-
nered with to bring you a variety
of Widgets such as YouTube,
streaming Blockbuster movies,
and Yahoo, with its Gallery,
Weather, News, Finance, and
photo-sharing features.
E-Motion Control
Te UN55B8500 is a 240-hertz
set; it operates at a constant
240-Hz refresh rate for all sources.
If the source is flm based and
transferred at 1080p/24, the
Samsung repeats each frame nine
times (10:10 pulldown) to bring
the source frame rate up to 240
Hz. If the set receives a flm-based
source other than 1080p/24that
is, one mastered with 3:2
pulldownit recognizes this,
converts it to 24 Hz (by eliminat-
ing the 3:2 pulldown), and again
repeats frames as needed by the
240-Hz refresh rate. If the source
isnt flm based, the set repeats
frames as needed for a 240-Hz
refresh.
Te UN55B8500 also ofers
frame interpolation, which it calls
Real 240Hz, to reduce motion lag.
When its switched on, the set
interpolates the added frames
instead of simply repeating them,
which cleans up motion blur
dramatically. Some viewers like
the result; others hate what it does
to the look of flm, which is
smoothed out so much that
movies end up looking like soap
operas. However, for some flms,
that might be appropriate!
Real 240Hz ofers four active
modes. Te most intriguing is
Custom, which has separate
controls for Judder Reduction (for
flm-based sources) and Blur
Reduction (for video-based
material). Despite the distinctive
names, each of these controls dials
in frame interpolation. But they
let you set diferent levels of
interpolation for each type of
source. When Custom is engaged,
the set distinguishes between a
flm and video source and auto-
matically dials in your chosen
setting, as appropriate. If you dont
Features
TYPE: LCD
SCREEN SIZE (DIAGONAL, INCHES): 55
NATIVE RESOLUTION: 1080p
HDTV TUNER: Yes
RATED HALF LIFE: Not specied
WALL MOUNT OR STAND INCLUDED?: Stand
DIMENSIONS (W X H X D, INCHES):
52.1 x 31.4 x 1.6 (without stand);
52.1 x 34 x 12.1 (with stand)
WEIGHT (POUNDS):
61.7 (without stand); 77.6 (with stand)
PRICE: $4,500
SAMSUNG UN55B8500 LCD HDTV
SAMSUNG UN55B8500 LCD HDTV
PERFORMANCE
FEATURES
ERGONOMICS
VALUE

The basic black frame on this


1.6-inch-thin display eschews
Samsungs traditional Touch of
Color design.

hometheatermag.com 33
like what interpolation does to
movies at any setting, you can set
Judder to 0 and Blur to perhaps 7
or 8. Te set will then switch on
frame interpolation for video
programming such as sports but
leave it of for flms.
A separate feature, LED
Motion Plus, cycles horizontal
blocks of the LED backlights on
and of, scrolling from top to
bottom once every frame (1/240
of a second). Tis shuts of the
backlighting while the
LCD is changing states
from on to of, or back,
so you dont see the lag
that occurs during this
transition. It also
signifcantly reduces
image brightness.
However, even
without these features,
I didnt fnd motion lag
to be a concern on this
set. I only switched to
LED Motion Plus or
Real 240Hz to check
them out; I lef them
of for all other testing
and viewing.
Performance Plus
Te Samsung sailed
through all of our HD
video processing tests
without a hiccup. Te
Video Test Bench chart
doesnt address
standard-defnition
upconversion (all of
the VTB tests are 1080i
to 1080p except for
Scaling, which is 480p
to 1080p), but the
Samsung earned a
passing grade on that
level as well. It only
exhibited a borderline
result on HD 3:2
pulldown, and it had
some dif culties on the
original letterboxed
DVD release of Titanican
extremely challenging test.
While many LCD sets ofer
matte-fnished screens, Samsungs
are refective. Like most LCD
displays, the UN55B8500s picture
degrades progressively as you sit
For a complete list of the picture
settings used in this review, go to
HomeTheaterMag.com.
A
ll of the measurements
here were taken in
the Movie mode,
adjusted for the
most accurate picture. Except as
noted, the Contrast was set to
82, the Brightness to 51, the
Backlight to 3 (out of 10),
Black Tone to Dark (its lowest
active setting), and the Gamma to
0. The Smart LED feature (local
dimming) was on.
The full-on/full-off contrast ratio
(above), which is sometimes referred
to as the peak contrast ratio, the
sequential contrast ratio, or the
dynamic range, is comparable to what
we have measured with other
local-dimming LCDs. A Backlight
setting of 3 was more than adequate
for viewing in a dimly lit room. When
I increased the Backlight to 4, it didnt
change the black reading, but it
increased the white level to 30.8
foot-lamberts, for a slightly punchier
picture and a full-on/full-off contrast
ratio of 30,810:1. I dont recommend
a Backlight setting above 4 under
most circumstances. A Backlight
setting of 10 in Movie mode produced
a peak white level of 63.5 ft-L, and a
setting of 10 in Dynamic mode
produced a peak white level of 100.0
ft-L. Either setting will be unpleasant
to watch in anything but a very bright
room.
The Color Tracking charts below
show how well a display adheres to
the D65 standard white point; the
tighter the overlap of the three
primary colors, the nearer the result is
to D65. Both charts show results
obtained in the Warm2 Color Tone
setting. The Before Calibration result
in this sample was fair. While not one
of the best weve ever obtained, the
After Calibration result was still good.
The deviations were largely below the
threshold of human visual perception.
The Auto setting of the
Color Space control placed
all of the color points at their
correct positions as required by
the HD standard color gamut
(Rec. 709). But the magnitudes
of the primary colors (the third
dimension on the two-dimen-
sional CIE chart) were a little on
the hot side. I corrected for this using
the Custom Color Space controls and
the appropriate test tools. As it turned
out, the visible differences between
the Auto and calibrated Custom Color
Space settings were nearly
imperceptible.TJN
further and further of
axis. But while you, the
fussy videophile, will
demand dibs on the mid-
dle seat, most viewers
wont be troubled as long
as they stay within 30
degrees or so of center.
Tis will cover any seat on
a typical couch thats
roughly 10 feet from the
set.
Before calibration, the
Samsungs black level was
impressive in a way that
sets local-dimming
designs apart. In a
darkened room, a fade to
black in the program source
plunged the room into complete
darkness, as if the set were of.
Actually, it wasor at
least the LEDs were.
Te calibration
increased the black
level a bit. I could
now clearly see the
screen in a black
fadeoutalthough it
was very dimand
the black bars on
widescreen scope
flms were visible
when I looked for
them. Tere was also
a slight variation in
the uniformity of the
blacks. Te images
were a little lighter on
the sides of the screen
than in the middle.
But these variations
were barely visible.
Tey only showed
when both the image
on the screen and the
room were very dark.
Ive reviewed
local-dimming sets
that go a bit darker
than the Samsung,
but the visual impact
of the Samsungs
black level was still
frst class. Plus, the
measured result was
about as low as our
test tools will read.
My favorite black-
level test scenes in
Spider-Man, Stargate:
Continuum, and King Kong (2005)
were convincingly dark, with
good shadow detail and little trace
of the hazy gray overlay that
af icts most ordinary LCDs. I
only noticed its shortcomings in a
direct side-by-side comparison
HIGH END
HT Labs
Measures
The Samsung remote
incorporates a sensor
that switches on the
backlighting when it
detects movement.
FULL-ON/FULL-OFF
CONTRAST RATIO: 25,160:1
0.001 25.16
BEFORE CALIBRATION AFTER CALIBRATION
SAMSUNG UN55B8500 LCD HDTV
Connections INPUTS: VIDEO:
HDMI 1.3 (4), component video (1, shared),
composite video (1, shared), antenna, PC (VGA)
AUDIO: Stereo analog (1), PC/DVI audio (1,
shared, mini-jack) OUTPUTS: AUDIO: Stereo
analog (mini-jack), optical digital ADDITIONAL:
EX-LINK (service), USB (2), LAN
Visit our Website
for a detailed
explanation of our
testing regimen,
plus a list of our
reference gear.
on the
web
Color-tracking charts were generated in Datacolor ColorFacts.
3:2 HD 2:2 HD MA HD VIDEO CLIPPING
LUMA
RESOLUTION
CHROMA
RESOLUTION
SCALING
PASS PASS PASS PASS PASS PASS EXCELLENT
34 JANUARY 2010 hometheatermag.com
For additional
details, plus a list of
the settings used
for this review, see
the online version.
on the
web
with a Pioneer Elite KURO
PRO-141FD on the most
challenging, low-contrast
scenes, such as the below-
decks sequence at the begin-
ning of Master and Com-
mander: Te Far Side of the
World. Te Samsung can
run neck and neck with the
discontinued and fast-disappear-
ing KUROs in terms of color,
resolution, and adjustability. It
can also easily beat them
in available brightness
and energy ef ciency.
But while the
Samsung approaches
the KUROs overall
black level and
shadow detail, and
does so in impressive
fashion, it still falls
shortas do all of the
other sets weve tested, to
be fair.
While the Samsungs
post-calibration color tracking
was good rather than exceptional,
that distinction did nothing to
compromise its subjective color
performance. When the program
material is right, the result could
be striking. Home Alone 2: Lost in
New York is a movie that doesnt
Conclusions
Te Samsung UN55B8500 doesnt
just ofer a wide range of useful
adjustments and other features. It
also provides a natural-looking
picture that impressed me and all
the others who had the chance
to see it. Yes, its a bit pricey, but
theres more to being a top-of-the-
get much love, largely because of
the cartoonish mayhem in act
three. But its flled with
brilliant color. Te interiors
in the Plaza Hotel, Duncans
Toy Chest, and the shots of
New Yorks Christmas
decorations were all
jaw-dropping. You wont be
disappointed with the Samsungs
color performance.
You wont fnd
yourself
shortchanged
on detail,
either. While
the transfer of
Home Alone 2
is a bit sof
here and
there, the
scenes that
countall of the
above and a lot
morewere crisp
and clean. You want
more? Check out the
buildup to the battle scenes
in Bravehearta nearly
fawless transfer. Tere isnt
a trace of sofness from the
Samsung in these scenes, even in
the longest long shots of the
English and Scottish armies.
pile set than Blue Light Special
status. Te UN55B8500 is a
superb HDTV.
Samsung Electronics America,
Inc. (800) SAMSUNG
samsung.com
Dealer Locator Code SAM
S
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SAMSUNG UN55B8500 LCD HDTV
A
bottle of vodka cant
make a speaker
sound any better
than it actually does.
But it can make me
think I sound better (smarter, and
of course funnier). It might even
make suggestible friends agree if
you pass the bottle around the
room. However, it still cant
change a subwoofers perfor-
mance. Vodka, afer all, isnt a
room treatment product
although enough (empty) bottles
spread throughout the room
might be just the thing.
I bring this up as a way of full
disclosure. Its become a tradition
that Igor Levitsky, BG Radias VP
of engineering and research, pre-
sents me with a bottle of Russian
vodka the one or two times a year
we have the chance to meet. (We
have something of a Russian con-
nection. I took Russian in college.
He took college in Russia.) So
when Igor came to my house to
set up and tweak BG Radias
BGX-4850 in-wall subwoofer
system ($6,995 as tested), he did
not disappoint. So now you know,
and I can state categorically that
neither the gifing nor the drink-
ing had any infuence on my
ultimate impression of the system.
Hopefully, this public airing will
make Igor feel like he has to
maintain the tradition.
When I frst heard that Igor
was working with Laurie Fincham
(THXs chief scientist and VP of
research and development) on a
project to develop the worlds frst
THX Ultra2certifed in-wall
subwoofer, I thought maybe hed
been swigging from one of those
vodka bottles that were meant for
me. Afer all, THX Ultra2 certif-
ication is for products that are
designed to be used in large home
theater rooms, typically around
3,000 cubic feet with a viewing
distance of approximately 12 feet.
Its tough enough to design a free-
standing subwoofer for that kind
of application. Coming up with
an in-wall version that doesnt
require signifcant modifcations
to the wallrequiring 8-foot-tall
back boxes or stud relocation, for
exampleseems like it would be
darn near impossible.
Or so you might think. It turns
out that, afer a longer period of
time than they originally antici-
pated, Messrs. Fincham and
Levitsky have come up with just
such a thing. Better than that,
theyve come up with an in-wall
subwoofer that can hold its own
against the best subwoofers of any
confguration on the market. And
theyve done it in a form factor
thats surprisingly simple and
amazingly easy to install, in either
new or existing construction.
Dead on Arrival
BG Radias BGX-4850 system
consists of four BGX-S12B sub-
woofer modules and a BGA-2104
subwoofer amplifer. Invariably,
anyone who looks for the frst
time at the naked BGX-S12B
modules before theyre hidden in
the wall will experience a defnite
What the? moment. Te
dark-gray modules look more like
high-ef ciency space heaters or
some extremely bogus ionic air
purifers than they do subwoofers.
Of course, unless youre an uber-
techie and decide to attach them
to the wall sans covering (which,
by the way, you could do, and
theyll work fabulously), your only
chance to marvel at their unique
design will be as you or your
installer attaches them to the
studs in the wall. Each module
measures 14.5 inches wide by
26.75 inches high and is only 3.5
inches deep (more on this a bit
later). Tis means they will easily
Its What You Dont See
HIGH END
BG Radia BGX-4850 In-Wall Subwoofer System
BY Darryl Wilkinson
resonances much higher than
the operational range of the
subwoofer, and its amazingly
efective. Even with the lowest
bass information, the drywall
around an installed module
vibrates no more than any other
spot of drywall in the room. Im-
pressive as that was, I was even
more amazed when I laid a mod-
ule on its back on the foor and
placed a flled wine glass on one
of the pods. (In order to protect
our new carpet, I used water in
the glass rather than winejust in
case BGs claims were slightly
BG RADIA BGX-4850 IN-WALL
SUBWOOFER SYSTEM
PERFORMANCE
VALUE
BUILD QUALITY
ft in any standard 2-by-4 studded
wall.
Youd expect to fnd a large
single driver or, as is the case with
some other in-wall subs, a pow-
ered driver paired with a passive
radiator. Instead, each BGX-S12B
module contains a dozen 4-inch
micro-precision woofersyes,
12 4-inch woofers, not four 12-
inch woofers. Each one is sealed
in its own individual chamber or
pod. Te pods are arranged in
balanced pairs that fre in phase
directly toward each other. Sound
exits through a narrow channel
that runs down the center of the
module between the opposing
drivers. BG claims that the 48
drivers included in the four
modules have a total combined
radiating area thats equal to two
18-inch drivers. (My math says its
actually about 20 percent more
area than two 18-inch drivers,
but Ill take BGs word for it.)
Te unique design is part of
a new technology from Fin-
cham and THX called THX
Balanced Bass-line. In addition
to generating a lot of bass, the
tightly coupled opposing dri-
vers inherently cancel vibra-
tion. Levitsky tells me that the
subs reduce vibration even fur-
ther by using small, specially
shaped woofer pods made out
of a glass-reinforced composite
material. Te design minimizes
internal standing waves and
shifs mechanical structural

Under the grille is a BGX-


S12B subwoofer module
with 12 4-inch woofers that
are designed to help reduce
vibration.
PRICE: $6,995 AT A GLANCE: THX Ultra2 certied

Fits in a standard 2-by-4 wall

Easy to install in
existing construction

Separate amplier with remote control


36 JANUARY 2010 hometheatermag.com
BG RADIA BGX-4850 IN-WALL SUBWOOFER SYSTEM
added a few more drivers, and
called it a day using only two?
First of all, in order to achieve
the volume levels that are required
for THX Ultra2 certifcation, the
system needs driver surface area.
(BG also makes the $4,995 BGX-
2450 that includes the same amp
and two of the sub modules. Tis
confguration is THX Select2 cer-
tifed and may be fne in a smaller
room and satisfying at lower
listening levels. ) However,
volume is only part of the story.
As Levitsky explained, if youre
a single, action-movie junkie with
no prospects of romantic involve-
ment any time soon, put your
subwoofers in one corner of the
room. Tis will generate the max-
imum amount of bass and the
most complaints from the neigh-
bors. Unfortunately, this setup will
typically be annoyingly inconsis-
tent in terms of output from seat-
ing position to seating position.
Equalization can help smooth out
the response curve, but only for
one specifc listening location in
the room.
Tanks to research done by
Floyd Toole and others, one
simple solution to the problem of
uneven bass throughout a room is
to use multiple subwoofers posi-
tioned on opposite walls (if pos-
sible). While two is good, four
(although more expensive) is even
betterthus the choice of four
modules for the BGX-4850. In
addition to being able to produce
the amount of output required
for a large room, properly install-
ing the modules on opposite walls
provides a smoother overall
frequency response and greatly
reduces variations in output from
seat to seat.
exaggerated.) With the sub play-
ing at near painful levels, the flled
glass barely budged.
Wall-Easy
Te 3.5-inch-deep BGX-4850
subwoofers easily ft in a standard
wall without any special modif-
cations, dog ears, or heavy-duty
clamps to hold the enclosure
tightly against the drywall. In fact,
the subs will be a breeze to install
for anyone whos ever held a dry-
wall saw and a cordless screw-
driver (not necessarily at the same
time). Even if you dont install the
system yourselfwhich is entirely
doableits still a bonus because
the less time it takes your installer
to install the sub enclosures, the
lower your labor bill will be.
Inappropriately named NCBs
(new construction brackets) are
required for retroft installations
as well as new construction. Two
grille options are available, and
your choice depends on whether
the install is a retroft or new con-
struction. For new construction,
the NCB and sub enclosure are
installed before the drywall. When
the wall goes up, the contractor
cuts a hole in the drywall around
the 7-inch-wide protective cover
on the front of the enclosures.
Afer the wall has been painted,
the cover is removed and replaced
with a narrow 7-by-28-inch grille.
In a retroft application, the NCB
is used as a template to cut the
hole in the drywall. Afer you
secure the NCB to the studs with
four screws, youll screw the
module into the NCB. Afer the
speaker wire is attached, a 15-by-
29.5-inch grille snaps into place.
Tis latter option isnt as stealthy
an install as the slender 7-inch
grille, to be sure. However, since
you dont need to make any other
modifcations to the wall, its a
decent trade-of.
Im sure by now, youre won-
dering, How do they manage to
ft 12or, for that matter, even
two4-inch woofers sideways in
a module thats 3.5 inches deep?
Tats such a good question, I
asked it myself. It turns out that
the 3.5-inch depth spec is the
installed depth. Te remaining
half-inch or so of the drivers
extends through the opening in
the drywall, and the grilles bow
outward slightly to provide a
smidgen of extra room.
All Amped Up
Te systems BGA-2104 power
amplifer/controller is a standard
rack-mount-sized component
that generates two channels of
1,100 watts each. Each amplifer
drives two modules connected in
parallel. Since all process-
ing and amplifcation hap-
pens in the BGA-2104, a
single run of speaker wire
is all youll need to connect
the subwoofer modules to
the amp. In terms of aes-
thetics, it has a basic LED
display panel on the front
with a large rotary encoder
knob next to it. While its
not ugly, the lackluster
look may make you rele-
gate it to one of the less
prominent shelves in your
rack. Te main menu fun-
ctions (including level,
mode, crossover, phase,
and input) are all access-
ible from the front panel
via the encoder knob.
Anyone who has ever worked
with a subwoofer will fnd it easy
to set up, but the amp is some-
what slow to respond afer it
receives a menu command. Te
included credit-card-style IR
remote control lets you turn the
sub on or ofthe system does
have auto signal sensing capabil-
ity with three sensitivity settings.
You can also change the volume
level and switch between user-
adjustable Music and Movie pre-
set modes. Tere are also power
and mode triggers. Its unusual for
a subwoofer this expensive to not
include some sort of automatic
room correction circuitry, but
according to BG, its not that
necessary thanks to the acoustic
benefts of the four separate sub
modules. (More on that in a
moment.)
Te most frustrating part of
the installation will probably be
connecting the speaker wires to
the outputs on the back of the
subwoofer amplifer using the
two included Neutrik SpeakOn
connectors. Levitsky says BG
likes to use these locking speaker
connectors because they provide
a highly reliable connection that
protects against electric shock and
shorting. Tats correct, but it still
doesnt make them any easier to
terminate. Fortunately for me,
Levitsky ofered to do the wiring.
However, I did have to let him
borrow a tiny screwdriver to do
the job.
The Why Four and the Where
Four
If the amp has only two channels,
whats up with having four
modules? Couldnt BG have just
made the modules a little taller,

With the grille off, the


unique BGX-S12B modules
resemble space heaters or
ionic air puriers.
hometheatermag.com 37

Darryl wires the BGX-4850. The sub ts easily into the wall.
HIGH END BG RADIA BGX-4850 IN-WALL SUBWOOFER SYSTEM
BG RADIA BGX-4850 IN-WALL
SUBWOOFER SYSTEM
HT Labs
Measures
BG RADIA BGX-4850 IN-WALL SUBWOOFER SYSTEM
T
his graph shows the
quasi-anechoic (employing
close-miking of the woofers)
frequency response of the BG
BX-4850 subwoofer (blue trace).
The BX-4850s close-miked
response in Movie mode,
normalized to the level at 80 hertz,
indicates that the lower 3-dB point
is at 26 Hz and the
6-dB point is at 20
Hz. The upper 3-dB
point is at 240 Hz
with the Crossover
control set to
THX.MJP
Te locations where I could
install in-wall subwoofers in my
theater werent ideal, but afer
we fnished dialing in the system,
the BGX-4850s performance
was about as ideal as you could
want. To prove the point about
the value of multiple sub loca-
tions, Levitsky captured the
response curves in the room with
one, two, and then all four
subwoofers in action. We didnt
need to see the graph because we
could hear the diferences. It was
especially interesting to see the
results on paper. Teres no doubt
of the beneft from having four
woofers.
But how do you know where
the best locations in your room
are? In theory, youd place one sub
in the center of each wall, or one
in each corner. Since the BGX-
4850 modules are acoustically
self-contained, you can easily
move the modules to diferent
places in your room and listen to
the system in order to fnd the
best spots. Unfortunately, you
cant do this if youre building a
new home and the modules need
to be installed before the drywall
goes up. Ten its best to rely on
theory and your custom A/V
designers judgment.
What a Blast
Earlier this year, my wife and I
were lucky enough to be at Cape
Canaveral for a launch of the
Space Shuttle. Even from our van-
tage point fve miles away, the
sound of the fury of the launch
was damn impressiveat one
point, it even elicited a stunned
Whoa! from most of the assem-
bled geeky types on the crowded
beach. Of course, having seen and
heard the real thing, and being
prompted from the hoopla sur-
roundng the 40th anniversary of
the frst moon landing, I decided I
needed to fnd out how well the
BGX-4850 could handle Holly-
woods version of a launch in
Apollo 13.
I have to admit that I always get
a lump in my throat when I watch
Apollo 13. Its partly because Im
old enough to barely remember it
happening and partly because it
was such a tremendous human
achievement. When I watched the
launch sequence, the lump in my
throat was joined by quivering in
the rest of my body as those 48
little woofers in the BGX-4850
fooded the room. Eager for more,
I dug out my three-disc set of act-
ual Saturn V launch footage taken
by NASA cameras, some of which
Connections
BGX-4850 SUBWOOFER ENCLOSURE
TYPE: Sealed WOOFER (SIZE IN
INCHES, TYPE): 4, long throw (48,
in four modules) RATED POWER
(WATTS): 2,200 RMS CONNECTIONS:
Line-level input (3), Neutrik SpeakOn
output (2) CROSSOVER BYPASS:
Switchable AVAILABLE FINISHES:
White (paintable), Black DIMENSIONS
(W X H X D, INCHES): 14.5 x 26.75 x
3.5 (ea.) WEIGHT (POUNDS): 30 (ea.)
PRICE: $6,995
were located right on the launch
pad. Visually, the real thing isnt as
spify as the theatrical version
(although I think its more awe-
inspiring); but hearing the actual
audio, including a bird or two in
the background before all hell
breaks loose, is almost frighten-
ing. Te BGX-4850 system was
superb in its reproduction of the
sonic fury. However, at one point,
while I had the volume up a bit
past the point of comfort, the
systems limiters kicked in. But I
only know this because I hap-
pened to be looking at the amps
display when it happened. Aud-
ibly, the limiter circuits action was
imperceptible.
Other than the time I crashed
an Apache helicopter in an Army
training simulator, I have very lit-
tle experience with real military
helicopters. I feel I have the exper-
ience, thoughand the em-
phasis is on the word feelafer
watching numerous helicopter-
happy scenes in Transformers. A
lesser sub would certainly be able
to pressurize the room with each
pass of the rotors. But the BGX-
4850 is cleaner and tighter, so you
get the sense of blades slicing
through the air rather than the
heavy slaps youd usually hear.
Normally, Id spend the rest of
the day marveling at the plot
twists and turns in Transformers,
but as it happens, sometimes I like
to listen to music. As with fying
helicopters, Im no expert on
playing the bass guitarmy kids
wont even let me hold our PS3
Rock Band bass guitar control-
lerbut I think Im on pretty
solid ground when I say that the
three bass players who make up
S.M.V., Stanley Clarke, Marcus
Miller, and Victor Wooten, are
pretty good. (Tat ought to
qualify as the understatement of
the year, if not the decade.) As I
listened to the long-awaited
Tunder disc, I quickly realized
that the BGX-4850 is as musical
and nuanced as it is powerful.
With nothing else in the record-
ing to overshadow the textures of
the two bass guitars in the hands
of Wooten and Miller jamming
on Classical Tump (Jam), for
example, I heard each hand slap,
as well as the way the sub com-
fortably and cleanly reproduced
the power of the initial release of
the guitar strings. Reviewers ofen
use the term efortless to describe
speakers, and the word applies
here, except that it doesnt go far
enough. Its not so much that the
subs performance gives a sense of
ease as much as a sense of is. Its
hard to think about the sub as be-
ing separate from the music. Its
just as apparent with music a little
more outrageous, such as Flight of
the Cosmic Hippo (which included
Wooten as part of Bla Fleck &
the Flecktones). Despite the exten-
sion and duration of some of the
low bass notes, the BGX-4850s
output always seemed natural.
Cuts from Big Bad Voodoo
Daddys Live recording jumped
with the same enthusiasm.
Conclusion
I shouldnt have praised the BGX-
4850 as much as I have, as it has
one seriously large drawback. Te
BGX-4850s $6,995 price tag
means that I cant aford it. A lot of
you probably cant aford it, either.
(If you can aford it, did I mention
that I hate you?) Its terribly sad
because theres no doubt in my
mind that the system is well worth
the money. Its not only the best
in-wall subwoofer Ive reviewed,
its one of the best subwoofers of
any confguration that Ive heard.
Knowing that the BGX-4850 is
out there will always make me
look at my current subwoofer and
muse on how amazing things
could be if we didnt have kids,
tuition, a mortgage, and all the
other things that suck the money
out of our bank account. Curses
on you, Levitsky and Fincham!
Youve ruined just about any
system Ill ever own. I think Ill
open that bottle of vodka now.
BG Radia (775) 884-1900
bgradia.com
Dealer Locator Code BGR
38 JANUARY 2010 hometheatermag.com
Visit our Website
for a detailed
explanation of our
testing regimen,
plus a list of our
reference gear.
on the
web
Shocking levels of openness and midrange subtlety
with terric dynamics.
Chris Martens, The Absolute Sound
Denitives ProCinema systems have always delivered
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Engineering small satellites with response that extends
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Incorporating Denitives SuperCube technology, the
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Sonically, these ProCinema systems are a true
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deliver
sound that almost dees belief
Scott Wasser, Digital TV & Sound
.
L
ast year I spent my vaca-
tion in Munich,
Stuttgart, and Nurem-
berg. Aferward I sent
e-mails and pictures to
friends, raving about Germanys
high-speed trains and pedestrian-
ized shopping districts. One
friend wrote back and said that I
made him sad because I spent all
that time in Munich without
visiting BMW, and in Stuttgart
without visiting Mercedes-Benz.
Lets face it, the Germans are
brilliant at making things: cities,
cars, trains, eyewear, clothing,
sausages, and beerall the little
things that enhance our quality of
life. Wouldnt you like your
loudspeakers to measure up to
that standard?
Like a waiter carrying a giant
beer stein or two, Canton is ready
to help. Te company has been
manufacturing loudspeakers since
1972. It supports several lines,
including the top-line Reference,
Vento, Karat, Chrono, GLE, CD,
Movie, Digital Movie, a custom
installation series, and others. Te
Ergo line falls somewhere in the
middle, hitting the sweet spot
between performance and value.
For this review, I followed my
own of-given but rarely followed
advice and used a matched set
of fve Ergo 620 monitors with
the Ergo AS 650.2 SC subwoofer.
Tis gave the speakers a con-
sistent platform from which to
produce an enveloping sound-
feld. Te Ergo line also includes
three foorstanding models, an
on-wall speaker, and a center, not
reviewed here.
Hard Specs, Soft Edges
Teres nothing cheap or, in the
most fundamental sense,
compromised about the Ergos.
With shiny metal drivers peeping
out behind the metal grilles of
their round-edged cabinets, they
are practically objets dart.
Te Ergo 620 is a 13.4-inch-tall,
two-way monitor with a 1-inch
aluminum-manganese dome
tweeter and a 7-inch aluminum-
cone woofer behind a metal grille.
Te enclosure is 0.75-inch MDF,
which thickens to 1 inch at the
baf e. Canton makes the tweeter
and its voice coil former as a
single piece. Tis is meant to
improve heat dissipation and
extend frequency response to 40
kilohertz. (If your cat or dog gives
you a dirty look and runs out of
the room, youll know why.) Tere
are no sharp edges anywhere on
the enclosure, which makes the
speakers a pleasure to handle. Te
side edges are especially sofened,
ofering a distinctive look, and the
front is slightly convex, with the
grille following the shape of the
baf e. Simply put, these are
beautiful speakers.
PRICE: $5,550 AT A GLANCE: Distinctive round-edged Cantons are easy to live with

Monitors
deliver superb all-around performance

Adjustable sub delivers deep bass without bloat


Brilliant at Making Things
MIDRANGE
Canton Ergo 620 Speaker System
BY Mark Fleischmann
inputs, it also has two sets of
line-level outputs. One is fltered
at 80 hertz, and one is fat. It also
includes a full set of speaker-level
ins and outs. In addition to the
usual volume and crossover
controls, it has a phase control
knob thats continuously variable
from 0 to 180 degrees, as opposed
to a two-position toggle. Perhaps
most helpful is the room-
compensation toggle, which has
three positions. According to the
manual, Changing the setting
from Normal to Wide gives the
subwoofer a deeper, lower cutof
frequency with a gently falling
frequency response curve at lower
frequencies, while Narrow
reduces the subwoofer
CANTON ERGO 620 SPEAKER SYSTEM
PERFORMANCE
VALUE
BUILD QUALITY
Te weakest part of a speaker
family, especially below the
top-of-the-line class, is ofen the
subwoofer. Canton was deter-
mined not to skimp on the Ergo
AS 650.2 SC sub. It has a 12-inch
aluminum-cone woofer with a
surround, suspension, and motor
assembly thats designed to ensure
high excursion (that is, a wide
range of cone movement). Te
200-watt ICEpower amp provides
both power output and start-and-
stop control. Te enclosure is 1
inch thick, 1.75 inches at the
baf e, and fnished in the same
beautiful cherry, wenge, or black
ash veneer as the other Ergos,
with the same sweet rolled-of
sides and curved baf e.
For connectivity, the speakers
have transparent-nut binding
posts, which are non-biwirable.
Several unusual options are
available in the sub. In addition to
stereo RCA-type line-level
40 JANUARY 2010 hometheatermag.com
CANTON ERGO 620 SPEAKER SYSTEM
material demonstrated. Tey
merely told the truth about the
limits of perceptual surround
coding.
From 1972 to 2001
Everybodys in Show-Biz by the
Kinks is a double concept album,
half studio, half live, with a title
track that lovingly name-checks
Hollywood heroes and got
signifcant FM airplay back in the
day. Te studio half was recorded
in classic early-1970s style with a
huge drum sound and a reticent
top end. My vinyl copy was
perfect for playing thunderingly
loud through the 10-inch woofers
of the KLH 17s I once used. Tats
great for fans of underrated
drummer Mick Avory, but the
remainder of the reverb-free mix
can seem spatially fat and lacklus-
ter, especially in terms of vocals.
Te Ergos accepted the challenge,
peeling of layers of voices and
instruments trapped in the
muddy midrange. Tey liberated
Ray Davies, the horn charts, Dave
Davies doubletracked slide
guitars, and the steel drums on
Supersonic Rocket Ship. And
the sub delivered the monster
drum sound Ive long known and
loved without adding a trace of
bloat to whats already inherent in
my room.
When I moved on to the live
half, the speakers made the most
of a more naturally proportioned
midrange. Aided by the Dolby
Pro Logic II Music mode, my
default for music listening, it
bandwidth with a gently rising
frequency response curve at low
frequencies. If you dont need the
subs output to be optimized for
maximum volume, you can opt
for deeper bass instead.
Associated gear included the
Rotel RSX-1065 A/V receiver,
Panasonic DMP-BD55 Blu-ray
player, Integra DPS-10.5 universal
player (for CDs), Rega Planar 25
turntable, Shure V97xE cartridge,
and NAD PP-1 phono preamp.
Five Channels of Perfection
Te best-sounding movie demo
was, admittedly, not a deathless
work of art. It was My Best Friends
Girl, a vehicle for Dane Cooks
brand of edgy, high-energy,
who-cares-if-you-like-me humor.
Tis humor works best when Alec
Baldwin enters the story to
establish a comedic balance of
terror. But the soundtrack is
worthy of the lossless DTS-HD
Master Audio codec that delivers
it. It includes loads of adapted-for-
surround rock classics like the
title song by the Cars, Youre No
Good by Linda Ronstadt, and
most impressivelyin the cli-
mactic scene where Cook works
really hard not to be liked
Johnny Cashs Te Man Comes
Around. Rhythm sections
emerged fully developed from the
sub, with deep, true tones and
satisfying dynamics. Te sound-
feld (fve channels of seamless,
coherent perfection that are unin-
terrupted by any timbre-matching
faws) revealed a myriad of details.
It revealed the exact character of
the rain in one scene, which the
mixer delivered with what sound-
ed like full frequency response in
the front, while the sur-
round channels are
deliberately rolled of.
Gandhi dates from
1982, which was a bleak

The Ergo 620 features soft,


curved edges.

Cantons sub has a


12-inch aluminum-cone
woofer and an elegant
nish.

period for discrete-channel


surround mixes. Te lossless
Dolby TrueHD codec reveals the
soundtracks age. Te fve iden-
tical Canton speakers highlighted
the mixs limited panning pattern
of surround efects. But the
Cantons also gave it a warm glow
that ofset the metallic sound of
the sitar, played by Ravi Shankar
himself. Teres certainly enough
detail, as in the opening scene
with a brief outdoor symphony of
birds and insects. But I had to
work hard to fnd just the right
balance between the low-level
speech of Ben Kingsleys hunger-
striking Gandhi and higher-level
crowd-action scenes. Te loud
stuf wasnt loud and abrasive, just
loud. But on the whole, I was
struck by the beauty of the sound-
track, and it whetted my appetite
for the music demos to follow.
Te token lossy selection was
the Quantum of Solace DVD, in
DTS 5.1, which a friend brought
over one night. In the constant
procession of review samples that
fgure in my listening life, some
are quite happy with lossy
surround, while others are
somewhat intolerant. At low to
moderate volumes, the Ergos
seemed to be reconciled to
lossiness. But when the action
kicked into high gear, the relative
crudity of the old-school codec
became more apparent and
fatiguing. Te speakers werent
compressing, as all the other
Features
SPEAKER: ERGO 620
TYPE: Two-way, monitor
TWEETER (SIZE IN INCHES, TYPE): 1, aluminum-manganese dome
WOOFER (SIZE IN INCHES, TYPE): 7, aluminum cone
NOMINAL IMPEDANCE (OHMS): 48
RECOMMENDED AMP POWER (WATTS): 70130
AVAILABLE FINISHES: Cherry, Wenge, Black Ash veneer
DIMENSIONS (W X H X D, INCHES): 8.1 x 13.4 x 10.8
WEIGHT (POUNDS): 16.54
PRICE: $750/each
hometheatermag.com 41
generally have a dedicated center
speaker to plug the hole in the
middle, while a stereo pair has to
deliver a phantom center image,
real soundstaging, and side-to-
side uniformity. Te Ergos got
their moment of truth with
Sharon Isbins Journey to the New
World, a richly varied trove of
Anglo-American music arranged
to showcase Isbins awe-inspiring
classical guitar technique, with
guest appearances by Joan Baez
and violinist Mark OConnor. Te
soundstage that remained when I
cut the center and surround
channels was so well defned that
I could have chalked its outline in
an 18-inch perimeter around the
speakers. Sound came from in
front of them, behind them,
between them, and slightly
outside themto the point where
the speakers disappeared, as
though no sound was coming
from them at all.
While my satisfaction with the
Canton Ergo 620 stems partly
from having confgured the
system the way I preferwith
fve matched speakers and a
subthats not the end
of the story. Tese
Satellite Sensitivity:
89 dB from 500 Hz to 2 kHz
T
his graph shows the
quasi-anechoic
(employing
close-miking of all
woofers) frequency response of the
Ergo 620 satellites
(purple trace) and
Ergo AS 650.2 SC
subwoofer. The
passive loudspeaker
was measured with its
grille at a distance of 1
meter with a 2.83-volt
input.
The Ergo 620s
listening-window
response (a ve-point
average of axial and +/15-degree
horizontal and vertical responses)
measures +0.79/3.20 decibels
from 200 hertz to 10 kilohertz. An
average of axial and +/15-degree
horizontal responses measures
+1.17/2.57 dB from 200 Hz to
10 kHz. The 3-dB point is
at 62 Hz, and the 6-dB point
is at 52 Hz. Impedance
reaches a minimum of 4.98
ohms at 247 Hz and a phase
angle of 39.26 degrees at
111 Hz.
The Ergo AS 650.2 SCs
close-miked response, normalized
to the level at 80
Hz, indicates that
the lower 3-dB
point is at 36 Hz
and the 6-dB
point is at 31 Hz.
The upper 3-dB
point is at 139 Hz
with the Crossover
control set to
maximum.MJP
speakers deliver well-rounded
performance thats worthy of an
investment in a high-end receiver.
Tey do the job confdently from
top to bottom: Te midrange feels
right, highs are well developed but
not exaggerated, and only a crazy
person with a large room wouldnt
be satisfed with the Ergo AS
650.2 SC subs authoritative
approach to bass reproduction.
Canton also gets the niceties right,
like the look and feel, the quality
of parts and workmanship, and
the sheer dedication it takes to
produce products of this
qualitya dedication that is
apparent in every detail. I loved
em.
* Audio editor Mark
Fleischmann is also the author
of the annually updated book
Practical Home Teater
(quietriverpress.com).
Canton (800) 811-9757
cantonusa.com
Dealer Locator Code CAN
MIDRANGE CANTON ERGO 620 SPEAKER SYSTEM
CANTON ERGO 620 SPEAKER
SYSTEM
HT Labs
Measures
CANTON ERGO 620 SPEAKER SYSTEM
mined a lot of ambience I hadnt
previously noticed. Tis didnt just
include the band onstage and the
laughing sing-along audience, but
the walls of the hall and the
placement of the proscenium.
Im not sure Id call Deodatos
Preludeanother happy memory
of the free-form FM daysan
audiophile classic. Although its
from the analog era, Creed
Taylors lavish production is
highly compressed and tends to
underplay some elements,
especially Billy Cobhams driving
drums and Ron Carters bass. But
the Ergos once again revealed
every thread in the instrumental
tapestry without losing sight of
the lushly orchestrated whole. Of
course, the highlight was their
version of Also Sprach Zarathus-
tra by Richard Strauss, or as it
was known in those days, the
theme from 2001: A Space
Odyssey. Brass and strings
suddenly leaped out of the
bubbling foundation of Deodatos
electric piano and various
percussion instruments.
Two-channel performance is
the moment of truth for many
speaker systems because surround
is forgiving in ways that stereo is
not. Among other things,
surround speaker systems
Visit our Website
for a detailed
explanation of our
testing regimen,
plus a list of our
reference gear.
on the
web
Connections ERGO AS
650.2 SC SUBWOOFER ENCLOSURE TYPE: Vented
WOOFER (SIZE IN INCHES, TYPE): 12, aluminum
cone RATED POWER (WATTS): 200 RMS, 350
peak CONNECTIONS: Line-level input, line-level
output (80 Hz or at), RCA, speaker-level input/
output CROSSOVER BYPASS: No AVAILABLE
FINISHES: Cherry, Wenge, Black Ash veneer
DIMENSIONS (W X H X D, INCHES): 14.2 x 18.9 x
19.7 WEIGHT (POUNDS): 51.8 PRICE: $1,800
42 JANUARY 2010 hometheatermag.com
BP7004
$849 ea.
BP7006
$649 ea.
BP7002
$1199 ea.
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Andrew Robinson, AudioVideo Revolution
designor NeoPDP (New
Plasma Display Panel)is said to
provide signifcant image
improvements, including deeper
blacks. Panasonic also claims that
it signifcantly reduces power
consumption.
Te TC-P58V10 ofers fve
preset Picture modes plus
Custom, each of which may be
individually tweaked by the user.
However, the settings you dial in
for each mode are universal; you
cannot use the same mode with
diferent settings for diferent
inputs.
Te active picture controls vary
with each mode. While all of the
modes ofer fve diferent fxed
color-temperature settings that
can be calibrated in a hidden
service menu, the Custom mode
is the only one with white-balance
controls in the user menu. Two
other settings are also exclusive to
the Custom mode: panel
brightness (three levels) and
gamma (four settings).
F
or many reasons, not the
least of which is the sheer
brightness that grabs
eyeballs on the showroom
foor, LCD HDTVs now
outsell plasmas by a signifcant
margin.
While some manufacturers
have abandoned plasmas, or
never went there to begin with,
and others include a few plasmas
in their otherwise LCD-domi-
nated lines, Panasonic remains
passionate about plasma. Te
company ofers LCD sets,
particularly in smaller sizes, but
when you think Panasonic, you
think plasma.
Panasonics diverse lineup of
sets is a confusing jumble on its
Website. Afer some research, it
was clear that at $2,700, the
TC-P58V10 is the highest-priced
set of its size in Panasonics
consumer line. At one time, you
had to pay Porsche prices (well,
relatively speaking) for a
fat-panel display of this size. But
those days are over. Even in
todays highly competitive market,
this set would be a remarkable
bargain if it delivers. Were here to
see if it does.
VIERA Tour
Teres nothing unique about the
TC-P58V10s appearance. While a
set of this size doesnt exactly
blend into the background, I
found it perfectly comfortable to
watch from 11 feet away in the
13-by-17-foot room I tested it in.
Te inputs and outputs are
clustered on side and rear jack
panels. Tey not only include the
usual suspects but also an SD card
slot for viewing your photos and
videos (but no USB port). Plus it
has a LAN terminal to connect to
your computer or home network
and make use of Panasonics
VIERA CAST Internet features.
You can also connect Panasonic
network cameras so you can
check the nursery or front door.
Te supplied power cord is a
special design that locks into
position. Weve seen this on
several recent Panasonic sets. Its a
smart precaution against the
minor crisis of a power cord
falling out afer youve mounted
the set on a wall.
All Panasonic VIERA plasma
sets employ the companys latest
plasma technology. Te new
PRICE: $2,700 AT A GLANCE: Best blacks yet from Panasonic

THX certied

Excellent value

Superb off-axis performance


Plasma Brings the Juice
MIDRANGE
Panasonic VIERA TC-P58V10 Plasma HDTV
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BY Thomas J. Norton
46 JANUARY 2010 hometheatermag.com
the Panasonic TC-P46G10 in the
July 2009 issue of Home Teater,
available online at HomeTeater-
Mag.com.
Te Panasonic ofers the usual
features to minimize the risk of
image burn-in, including an
image orbiter and adjustable side
bar brightness for 4:3 sources
(Of, Dark, Mid, Bright). Te set
was about average for a plasma in
its ability to avoid image retention
(temporary burn-in). As with all
plasmas, you should use reason-
able precautions. In particular,
you should avoid keeping still
images on the screen for an
extended time. If you stay in the
THX mode, with its relatively
modest but suf cient brightness
level, it should help you avoid
problemsunlike Vivid, which
invites trouble.
Te remote has a solid feel and
is well confgured. All its missing
is a direct selection of inputs and
adequate backlighting (only the
volume and channel controls are
backlit). It can also control other
components, but only through
Panasonics HDAVI Control
feature. HDAVI is Panasonics
variation on the HDMI CEC
standard, which can control
compatible components that are
connected together via HDMI.
Getting Down to Business
Te Panasonic passed most of our
video processing tests (see the
Video Test Bench chart). White
titles that scroll vertically over a
background image rippled a bit,
and the set failed an HD 2:2
pulldown test (for video-based
program material). Te latter is a
fairly common failure, and it
didnt translate into frequent
obvious artifacts on real-world
sources like fast-moving sports.
Te set did not respond as far
below black as we like to see, but it
did go far enough (and went well
above white) to earn a passing
grade for video clipping.
Te Video Test Bench chart
doesnt cover standard-defnition
upconversion from 480i to 1080p
(all of the test results in the chart
are 1080i to 1080p except for
Scaling, which is 480p to 1080p),
but the Panasonic had some dif-
fculties with SD sources. It failed
our most challenging 2:2 and 3:2
pulldown tests. Again, this didnt
produce excessive artifacts on
normal program material, but the
sets 480i-to-1080p upconversion
PANASONIC VIERA TC-P58V10 PLASMA HDTV
As are a number of other
Panasonic sets, the TC-P58V10 is
THX certifed. One of the picture
modes is THX, which ofers more
user control over the picture
settings than the THX modes
found on some competing sets.
However, like the other non-
Custom modes, it doesnt ofer
user menu color calibration
controls. Te THX mode also has
a fxed gamma and no panel
brightness adjustments apart
from the Contrast control.
Given these THX mode
limitations, I needed to make a
decision early on in the review
period. Te factory THX gray
scale didnt quite hit the mark.
Te fxed Warm 1 color temper-
ature setting was tolerable. But
at roughly 6800K, it was a little
too high, and none of the other
options were any better. I could
use the Custom mode and have
user-menu access to the cal-
ibration controls. Or I could use
the THX mode and enter the
hidden service menu to perform
the calibration. Either option
would produce a good gray scale,
with the Custom mode ofering
the fexibility of additional, useful
controls.
However, the THX modes
color gamut was nearly dead on to
the HD color standard, while the
Custom modes gamut was over-
saturated. Te set doesnt ofer
color management (there is an
On/Of color management con-
trol, but it does little or nothing as
far as I could see or measure), so
the choice was easy. I went the
THX route for the rest of the
review. Te lack of gamma or
panel brightness controls in THX
was no barrier. Te THX gamma
averaged about 2.25 (the recom-
mended range varies from 2.2 to
2.4 depending on your expert du
jour), and the sets brightness in
THX was comfortable for both
day and night viewing.
Tis is the frst Panasonic
HDTV Ive tested that treats a
1080p/24 source optimally. When
it sees a 1080p/60 source, it does
the standard 1080p/60 schtick.
But when you give it 1080p/24,
there are three options: 60 hertz
(with 3:2 pulldown added), 48 Hz
(this repeats each frame twice,
which doesnt compromise the
benefts of the sources 24-fps
frame rate but does produce
visible ficker), or 96 Hz. Te
latter, as a direct multiple of 24
fps, keeps the benefts of the flm
frame rate without ficker. Its the
best, no-compromise option.
Te sets VIERA CAST feature
can link you to specifc Internet
sites through a LAN connec-
tioneither directly to your cable
modem or similar Internet port
or through your home network.
As with other sets that ofer a
similar feature, you cannot freely
surf the Web. Instead, you are
limited to specifc sites that have
partnered with Panasonic. As of
this writing, those sites include
YouTube, Picasa, Bloomberg,
Weather, and Amazons Video-on-
Demand. If youre into this sort of
thing, it works fne. I admit that
YouTube, for example, can be a lot
of fun, even if it is quality chal-
lenged six ways from Friday. We
tested this feature in our review of
Features
TYPE: Plasma
SCREEN SIZE (DIAGONAL, INCHES): 58
NATIVE RESOLUTION: 1920 by 1080
HD TUNER(S): Yes
RATED HALF LIFE: Not specied
WALL MOUNT OR STAND INCLUDED: Stand
DIMENSIONS (W X H X D, INCHES):
56 x 34.7 x 3.7 (without stand);
56 x 36.8 x 15.3 (with stand)
WEIGHT (POUNDS): 110.3 (without stand);
114.7 (with stand)
PRICE: $2,700
PANASONIC VIERA TC-P58V10
PLASMA HDTV
PANASONIC VIERA TC-P58V10
PLASMA HDTV
PERFORMANCE
FEATURES
ERGONOMICS
VALUE

The Panasonic has a variety


of inputs and outputs, includ-
ing an SD card slot.
hometheatermag.com 47
did produce a slightly sof image.
While the set handled 480i
sources adequately, if you can
convert them to 1080p before
sending them to the set (as with
an upconverting DVD or Blu-ray
player), you might get better
results if the external device has
better video processing.
However, when all is said and
done, what we want from a good
HDTV is a great HD picture. In
all but one subjective area, the
Panasonic stands out as a solid
performer and an even more solid

bargain for those who want a


big-screen TV thats more than
just big.
Te single subjective shortcom-
ing is the sets full-
screen black level.
True, the Panasonic is
impressive in this area
compared with most
sets. Te TC-P58V10s
blacks are as deep as
those we measured on
the Panasonic Premiere
TH-65VX100U plasma
HDTV we reviewed in
the April 2009 issue.
Tat set is a monitor
(no speakers or HD
tuner) marketed by
Panasonics professional
divisioncurrently for
$7,500. Of the other
plasmas weve tested,
only the Pioneer
KUROs have produced
consistently deeper
blacks than either
of these Panasonics,
and most have been
far worse.
Its only by that
standard, and that of
the best LCD local-
dimming sets, that the
TC-P58V10 comes up
a little short. You will
clearly see the black
bars in the widest
widescreen movies
(movies shot at 2.35:1
or thereabouts). And
on ultra-challenging
material such as the
belowdecks scenes at the
beginning of Master and
Commander: Te Far Side of the
World, or the decoy raf sequence
in chapter 13 (A Small Surprise)
of the same flm, youll see a trace
of the faded, foggy look that
All the measurements were made in
the THX mode. The full-on/full-off
contrast ratio above was taken with
the Contrast setting on 92 and the
Brightness setting on 58.
T
his is the third best
full-screen black level
weve ever measured
on a plasma set. Its
exceeded only by the last
couple of generations of
Pioneer KUROs (as a group) and
the Panasonic Premiere TH-65VX100U
professional model mentioned in the
review. The latter was measured with
the 25 IRE+PLUGE pattern on Digital
Video Essentials: HD Basics, which
allows for a slightly lower setting of
the Brightness control than the Spears
& Munsil High Denition Benchmark
Blu-ray Edition used here. Using DVE
on the TC-P58V10 produced a black
level of 0.005 foot-lambertsthe
same result we obtained on the
TH-65VX100U. The latter sold for
$10,000 when we reviewed it back in
April 2009. Other recent Panasonic
consumer sets have had considerably
higher black levels, but theyre still
consistently better than the current
production plasma sets weve tested
recently from LG and Samsungthe
other two major set makers still in the
plasma hunt.
The color tracking (measured in the
Warm1 Color Temp setting) was fair at
best out of the box. In our experience,
even THX-certied sets need some
calibration love. The calibration
produced a better result, but I elected
to let it go a little blue across the
low-mid brightness region (but no
more than just a bit over 6700K) to
avoid excessive red shift in the
darkest grays. (The THX calibration
was done in the service menu,
starting from the Normal color
temperature setting. The THX mode is
called Cinema in the service
menu.) The Delta E after
calibration maxed out at 3.63
at 40 IRE and was under 2.2 at
all other points.
The color gamut is shown
by the white triangle in the
CIE chart, the Rec. 709 HD
standard by the (barely visible)
black triangle. In THX, as shown, the
color points are nearly perfect. This is
not true in the other picture modes
(not shown), which produced an
oversaturated gamut.TJN
characterizes virtually all
modern displays short of
the state of the art. Its
these types of scenes that
make you wish for better
blacks on practically every
set on the market
including the almost-there
black level on this
Panasonic.
Fortunately, such scenes
are relatively rare in most
flms, even rarer on
broadcast television shows
that arent called Te
X-Files or Fringe, and
nonexistent on sports.
Most dark movie scenes
consist of a mix of dark
areas with enough bright high-
lights to give the eye the sensation
of decent contrast. Whats most
important on such
scenes is good shadow
detail (related to abso-
lute black level but not
quite the same thing)
and a punchy, well-
saturated look that
makes even brighter
scenes realistically pop.
Its this type of perform-
ance that has kept
Panasonic plasmas high
in the running in our
last two multi-set Face
Ofs, even against sets
that can produce deeper
full-screen black levels.
On the other hand,
the Panasonics color
would be hard to im-
prove on in any respect.
Yes, weve measured
slightly better post-
calibration color track-
ing. But the deviations
here are well below the
levels that are visibly
distinguishable from
ideal. When you com-
bine this with a nearly
perfect color gamut in
THX mode, the result is
unlikely to disappoint
anyone. Greens and
feshtones are partic-
ularly impressive. We
see green foliage and
skintones nearly every
day. While we tolerate a
range of variations in our video
sources depending on the lighting
(and in the creative color choices
made in many flms), we can
easily see when they look wrong.
Tey arent wrong here. Other
colors are impressive as well, as
MIDRANGE
HT Labs
Measures
Panasonics remote
is nicely congured, and
its volume and channel
controls are backlit. But it
lacks direct input access.
FULL-ON/FULL-OFF
CONTRAST RATIO: 6,714:1
0.005 33.57
BEFORE CALIBRATION AFTER CALIBRATION
PANASONIC VIERA TC-P58V10
PLASMA HDTV
Connections INPUTS:
VIDEO: HDMI (4), component video (2), PC
(RGB), S-video (1, shared), composite video
(2, 1 shared) AUDIO: Stereo analog (4)
OUTPUTS: AUDIO: Stereo analog, TosLink
optical digital ADDITIONAL: LAN, SD card slot,
RS-232C, antenna
Visit our Website
for a detailed
explanation of our
testing regimen,
plus a list of our
reference gear.
on the
web
Color-tracking charts were generated in Datacolor ColorFacts.
3:2 HD 2:2 HD MA HD VIDEO CLIPPING
LUMA
RESOLUTION
CHROMA
RESOLUTION
SCALING
PASS FAIL PASS PASS PASS PASS GOOD
48 JANUARY 2010 hometheatermag.com
For additional
details, plus a list of
the settings used
for this review, see
the online version.
on the
web
long as you choose THX mode. In
other modes, the color gamut is
oversaturated. In particular,
the reds in those modes
jump of the screen at you.
Impressive, but distracting.
And wrong.
Comparisons and
Conclusions
At 58 inches (diagonal), the Pana-
sonic is just slightly larger than
the 55-inch Samsung UN55B8500
LCD HDTV also reviewed in this
issue (see page 32). And at $2,700,
the Panasonic is considerably
cheaper. Nevertheless, when I
viewed the two sets side by side
afer calibration, they looked
strikingly similar at frst. Both had
virtually identical color (afer
calibration). However, the Sam-
sung did win in small but import-
ant ways. Its blacks were generally
better on the most challenging
material. But on occasional shots,
such as a densely packed star feld
against the infnity of space, the
Panasonic clearly showed more
stars, although they were pre-
sented against a lighter black
background. Te Samsung was
also a little sharper, although it
would be hard to criticize either
set in this regard. On the Pana-
sonics side of the ledger, in
addition to size and value,
was its of-axis perfor-
mance. No LCD can equal a
plasma in this respect. You
can sit almost 180 degrees
of axis on a plasma set and
still experience an image
thats virtually unchanged in
quality from the on-axis position.
Ive mentioned the Pioneer
KUROs black level superiority
already, so Ill only add that on
those star felds, the Pioneer Elite
KURO PRO-141FD (the 60-inch
set used in the comparison, HT,
May 2009) shows as many stars as
the Panasonic. It also sets them
against an inky, nearly pure black
backgroundan efect that never
fails to make me gasp. In terms
of color and resolution, the
Panasonic and Pioneer ran an
even race. And its only fair to
emphasize here that the KUROs
are not only no longer in pro-
duction, they were designed to be
sold at far higher prices than the
Panasonic ($7,000 for the 60-inch
Elite KURO PRO-141FD).
So was this an unfair compari-
son with far pricier sets? Perhaps,
but those were the sets that I had
the Panasonic TC-P58V10 will
come as close as any current pro-
duction plasma to satisfying the
afordable dreams of nearly any
HDTV junkie. As for the Porsche,
youre on your own.
Panasonic (800) 211-PANA
panasonic.com
Dealer Locator Code PAN
PANASONIC VIERA TC-P58V10 PLASMA HDTV
on hand, ready for a side-by-side
comparison using identical pro-
gram material. More import-
antly, we all want a really big fat-
panel display that will produce
great color and the fnest details
against a completely black back-
ground for less than $3,000. But
then wed also like to fnd a new
Porsche for a pittance as well. Of
course, were not likely to realize
either dream any-time
soon, but until then,
S
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2629 Terminal Blvd. Suite B
Mountain View, CA 94043
OPPO Digital, Inc.
www.oppodigital.com (650) 961-1118
BDP-83 BLU-RAY DISC PLAYER
BONUS BLU-RAY DISCS:
Includes two highly acclaimed audio and video calibration discs:
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Spears & Munsil High Definition Benchmark Blu-ray Edition
W
henever the
depravity of the
human race
plunges me into
despair, I think
of Paris. Ten I feel better.
Tat I cannot speak to French
people in their own language is
one of my lasting regrets.
Whenever I try to speak even a
few words, I sound like I have a
ping-pong ball in my mouth. I
order meals in French restaurants
by pointing at things on the menu
and gazing up at the waiter with a
plea for mercy on my face.
Nonetheless, I am a Franco-
phile of sorts. I like the French. I
feel comfortable on French soil
because the people who live there
organize everything brilliantly.
Teir high-speed trains are the
worlds fastest. Baron Hauss-
manns redesign of the streets of
Paris became the template for the
19th-century reorganization of
other European cities. Of course,
the food and wine are superb.
I knew I was in good company
when I waltzed the Focal Dme
speaker systems large carton into
my listening room and began
unpacking the speakers from their
cartons and sof drawstring bags.
Te Dme satellite and subwoofer
are both French-manufactured
works of art. Tey also happen to
be excellent loudspeakers.
Grilled to Perfection
Te Dme satellite is available in
Gloss Black with black grilles,
Gloss White with white grilles, or
Gloss Imperial Red with black
grilles. Optional red, blue, or
yellow grilles are available for $15
each. Te sub is available in Gloss
Black, White, or Red. As a
down-fring design, it doesnt
have a grille.
At just above 4 pounds, the
Dme earns part of its price tag
with solidity. My review samples
extruded-aluminum enclosure
had a beautiful Gloss Black fnish
that extends to its 5.75-inch
pedestal. If you look very carefully
at the top of the grille, youll see a
stepped seam that runs down the
back of the speaker. Tat allows a
vertical angle adjustment, so the
speaker can fre either straight
ahead or at an upward angle. You
can wall-mount it with the sup-
plied bracket, or it can sit on a
table with a fat-panel TV, perhaps
with the center speaker on a shelf
below the set, fring up toward the
listening position. All fve sats are
identical, so with proper place-
ment, side-to-side panning should
not sufer from discontinuity.
Beneath the round bayonet-
mount grille are a 1-inch tweeter
and a 4-inch woofer. As I learned
in a white paper, Focal arrived at
this driver array afer it tested
several other confgurations.
Te tweeter, which the spec
sheet identifes as Al/Mg, is an
alloy of 82 percent aluminum for
high rigidity and 18 percent
PRICE: $2,599 AT A GLANCE: Unusual shapes and many choices of color

Better build quality than most sat/sub sets

Balanced performance
From People Who Do It Right
MIDRANGE
Focal Dme Speaker System
BY Mark Fleischmann
pull the rubber plate of the
bottom of the pedestal. Youll fnd
the terminals there, which take
the form of two holes where the
cable tips fasten down with hex
screws.
Youll fnd a supplied Allen
wrench in the pedestal. Te holes
are partly obstructed by an island
FOCAL DME SPEAKER SYSTEM
PERFORMANCE
VALUE
BUILD QUALITY

Focals Dme sub-


woofer has a unique
cylindrical shape and
rounded top that
make it stand in a
class of its own.

magnesium for resonance control.


Both provide for low mass. Focal
notes that it was dif cult to
manipulate the die for magne-
siums low melting point. It
required a patented process thats
based on what the manufacturer
learned from forming beryllium
for some of its other speakers.
Te woofer (Focal prefers the
term midbass) is made of
Polyglass, or paper with hollow
glass spheres glued to its surface.
Te coating applies a trace of the
inherent stifness of glass to
combat the ever so slight overly
damped characteristic of paper
alone. Because the speaker
sounded like it has more bass
response than small satellites
typically do, I used a sub
crossover of 100 hertz (versus the
120 Hz typical for more bass-
starved sats).
Te speaker seems to be
innocent of terminals until you
50 JANUARY 2010 hometheatermag.com
FOCAL DME SPEAKER SYSTEM
on a corrupt arms-dealing
super-bankand went long
stretches without taking notes.
Te Soloist is the true story of a
Los Angeles Times columnist who
befriends a gifed cellist whos
mentally ill and living on the
streets. Tis harrowing and
moving story depends heavily on
overlapping dialogue between the
unhinged musician and the
fast-talking journalist, played with
bravura by Jamie Foxx and Robert
Downey Jr., respectively. Again,
the Dmes aptitude for depicting
the human voice just about
stunned me. Beethoven is
virtually another character in the
drama, and the speakers aced the
snatches of music performed by
cellist Ben Hong and the Los
Angeles Philharmonic. Tey are
ofen mixed in a subjective
manner to demonstrate the
musicians tentative relationship
with the world outside his
troubled mind.
I Love You, Man has the
standard TV-like soundtrack
thats common to flm comedies,
with limited dynamics that were
hardly expanded at all to
accommodate the frequent use of
popular songs. Even here, the
male voices were extremely
realistic. While not chesty, the
Dmes did convey the chest
resonance of a male voice in a rare
and gratifying way. Tis just made
the conceptual story lineabout a
guy who feels the lack of male
friends as his wedding day
approacheseven more enjoyable
and involving.
Francophilia
Te temptation to start the music
demos with a French composer
proved to be irresistible. Debussy
is the focus of disc three of Sto-
kowski: Te Maverick Conduc-
tor, from the EMI Icons series.
Leopold Stokowski conducted
Prlude laprs-midi dun
Faune, Nocturnes, Clair de
lune from Suite bergamasque,
and Ibria with various orches-
tras in golden-age stereo record-
ings from 1957 to 1958. Tis was
best-case-scenario material, and
the Dmes didnt disappoint.
Strings, played with Stokowskis
preferred free bowing tech-
nique, were lush, vivid, and
sinuous. Te top end was neither
dumbed down nor exaggerated
it was open, airy, and in the best
that you can guide the two leads
around. While this will help pre-
vent the leads from short-circuit-
ing, it also leaves just a quarter-
inch of space in front of the cable
holes. Fortunately, it has space at
the sides for maneuvering.
It took some concentration to
ft the tips of 18-gauge cable into
the holes, but it wasnt too dif -
cult. Te only mishap came when
I removed the frst screwit few
into the air, and I never saw it
again. My bad. Being a male, I
never throw out a screw, and I
quickly found a replacement. Te
job got done in less than half an
hour. (Note that while the 18-
gauge cable made setup easier, it
may also have caused some signal
loss.)
With its cylindrical shape and
rounded top, you wouldnt
mistake the Dme subwoofer for
anyone elses sub. Te 100-watt
(RMS) BASH amplifer animates
an 8-inch down-fring woofer,
with a cone made of Polyfex, a
stifened plastic. Te spec sheet
lists the enclosure as bass-refex,
which threw me for a couple of
days, because I couldnt fnd the
port. Finally I fipped over the sub
and took a careful look at the
driver. Next to it was a slot-shaped
port Id previously missed. Focal is
full of surprises.
One thing I dont mention
ofen enough in sat/sub reviews is
that there are limits to the bass
output and/or extension you can
get out of any speaker, in this case
a smallish-for-a-subwoofer 8-inch
driver. I can easily live within
these limits, but if you want
slammin efects in action movies,
you may not be a compact sat/sub
kind of person. In a sat/sub set, a
more important task for the sub is
to gracefully cross over the
satellites. In this system, the
dovetailing is very good; it sounds
almost seamless.
Associated equipment included
a Rotel RSX-1550 A/V receiver,
Panasonic DMP-BD35 Blu-ray

The Dme satellite


speaker is beautifully
designed with a stepped
seam for vertical angle
adjustment.

player, Luxman PD-289 turntable,


Shure V97xE phono cartridge,
and Bellari VP530 tubed phono
preamp. All movies were Blu-ray
Discs with Dolby TrueHD
soundtracks.
Smoldering in the Rain
Once in a while, I can almost
immediately sense the outcome of
a listening session. Ten seconds
into Te International, I knew I
was in the presence of greatness.
Te opening frames show Clive
Owen smoldering directly into
the camera, with accompanying
all-channel rain and thunder.
Tese efects were natural enough
to be convincing on an instinc-
tive level. I felt the emotional
stimulation I always feel in the
presence of rushing rain and
rumbling thunder. Yet I could
also perceive the constructed
artifciality of the mix. It was sort
of like watching a painter adding
bold strokes to a canvas.
Voices werent just clear and
intelligible (usually the only two
descriptors I apply to dialogue),
they were startlingly present. Tis
wasnt a hyped or etched approach
with exaggerated high frequen-
ciesI didnt feel that the voices
were being distorted. Tey were
just being reproduced with an
extraordinarily high level of
resolution. Even sotto voce, the
dialogue was vivid and lifelike.
From the orchestral strings to the
occasional drum thud to the epic
shootout at New Yorks Guggen-
heim Museum, the Dmes
excelled at everything. I got
sucked into the plota stout-
hearted investigator takes
hometheatermag.com 51
SPEAKER: DME
TYPE: Two-way, satellite
TWEETER (SIZE IN INCHES, TYPE): 1, aluminum-magnesium inverted dome
WOOFER (SIZE IN INCHES, TYPE): 4, Polyglass cone
NOMINAL IMPEDANCE (OHMS): 8
RECOMMENDED AMP POWER (WATTS): 25100
AVAILABLE FINISHES: Gloss Black, Gloss White, Gloss Imperial Red with
black, white, red, yellow, or blue grilles
DIMENSIONS (W X H X D, INCHES): 5.69 x 6.75 x 5.63
WEIGHT (POUNDS): 4.2
PRICE: $2,599/5.1-channel set
Features
understated the drummers neat
brushwork). Other instruments
were in the middle ground.
Occasionally a solo instrument
trumpet, sax, or electric guitar
moved to the foreground, and it
would take on an exciting
in-the-room feel.
Te Chrono Show by Richard
Tompson is a conceptual live CD
with songs in strictly chronologi-
cal sequence from every stage of
the singer/songwriters 40-year
career. Tompson plays a Lowden
acoustic guitar with a combina-
tion of electronic pickup and
internal microphone, plus a little
echo, and tremolo that varies
depending on the song. Te CD
faithfully documents this carefully
honed sound. It conveys both the
power of the rhythm parts played
with a pick on the lower strings
and the delicacy of the fnger-
picking on the upper strings. Its a
guitar sound I know like the voice
of a loved one, and the Dmes
delivered a close approximation of
the live efect.
Te Focal Dme is one of the
best satellite/subwoofer sets Ive
ever heard. Ive heard only a few
Satellite Sensitivity:
84.5 dB from 500 Hz to 2 kHz
T
his graph shows the
quasi-anechoic
(employing
close-miking of all
woofers) frequency response of
the Dme satellite (purple
trace) and Dme
subwoofer (blue
trace). The passive
loudspeaker was
measured with its
grille at a distance of
1 meter with a
2.83-volt input.
The satellites
listening-window
response (a
ve-point average
of axial and +/15-degree
horizontal and vertical responses)
measures +1.04/2.43 decibels
from 200 hertz to 10 kilohertz. An
average of axial and +/15-degree
horizontal responses measures
+1.30/2.20 dB from 200 Hz
to 10 kHz. The 3-dB point is
at 131 Hz, and the 6-dB
point is at 111 Hz. Impedance
reaches a minimum of 4.01
ohms at 273 Hz and a phase
angle of 63.91 degrees at
158 Hz.
The subwoofers
close-miked response,
normalized to the
level at 80 Hz,
indicates that the
lower 3-dB point
is at 49 Hz and
the 6-dB point is
at 46 Hz. The
upper 3-dB point is
at 168 Hz with the
Crossover control set
to maximum.MJP
others as good and none better. In
every conceivable way, these
speakers sparkle. Te look is
distinctive and, given the number
of available color options,
versatile. Of course, satellites are
always easy to wall-mount,
although youd be proud to set
these speakers on a table that
holds a fat-panel TV. Te build
quality of the enclosure and
drivers is top-drawer. And the
sound is strong, with top-to-
bottom consistency thats rare in a
sat/sub set. Tese speakers make
the case for their category so
convincingly that you may just
decide that your system doesnt
need bigger ones afer all. Ive
already said this in various ways,
but Ill say it one more time: Tese
are great speakers.
* Audio editor Mark
Fleischmann is also the author
of the annually updated book
Practical Home Teater
(quietriverpress.com).
Focal (800) 663-9352
focal-fr.com; audioplusservices.com
Dealer Locator Code FOC
MIDRANGE FOCAL DME SPEAKER SYSTEM
FOCAL DME SPEAKER SYSTEM
HT Labs
Measures
FOCAL DME SPEAKER SYSTEM
sense, revealing. Te sensuous
fute in the opening bars of
Faune was fully audible, which
indicated excellent low-level reso-
lution. Te Dmes flled the room
with just 2.1 channels nearly as
well as they did with 5.1 channels
via the Dolby Pro Logic II Music
mode. As I ofen say, one of the
hallmarks of a great speaker is that
it can work well in stereo.
Billie Holidays All or Nothing at
All was the third of three double-
LP compilations released by Verve
in the late 1970s. Tough record-
ed monaurally, circa 1955 and
1956, the sessions were beautifully
produced by Norman Granz and
represented the fnal years of the
singers career. Holidays frail voice
had acquired a slight rasp by then,
but her phrasing and ability to
convey emotion were never better.
On these records, with the mono
signal routed to two channels, the
Dmes provided an expanded
approach to depth. What might
otherwise have been a single
point-source efect became three
distinct layers. Holiday was
usually alone up front, emphasiz-
ing both her psychological
isolation and her place at the head
of the band. Te piano and
rhythm section were always well
in back (my tubed preamp
Visit our Website
for a detailed
explanation of our
testing regimen,
plus a list of our
reference gear.
on the
web
Connections
DME ACTIVE SUBWOOFER ENCLOSURE TYPE:
Vented WOOFER (SIZE IN INCHES, TYPE): 8,
Polyex cone RATED POWER (WATTS): 100, RMS,
BASH CONNECTIONS: Line-level, mono, RCA
CROSSOVER BYPASS: No AVAILABLE FINISHES:
Gloss Black, White, Red DIMENSIONS (W X H X
D, INCHES): 10.88 x 15.75 x 10.88 WEIGHT
(POUNDS): 22.2 PRICE: $850
52 JANUARY 2010 hometheatermag.com
Please remove non-paper inserts
(e.g., CDs, batteries) before recycling
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Be a Hero
Recycle Your
Magazines!
I
f youve shopped for a
fat-screen television lately,
you know that thin is in.
Flat screens that used to be
3 to 5 inches thick can
hardly be called fat compared
with the new models that barely
exceed 1 inch in depth. And new
display designs promise even
thinner models in the future.
Its only logical that manufac-
turers would design thin-profle
speakers to go with these new
ultra-thin televisions. Enter the
Millenia 20 Hybrid, part of
Paradigms Reference Series
speaker line. Although in-wall
speakers are almost fush with the
wall, most on-wall speakers stand
out farther than ultra-thin plasma
or LCD HDTVs. Te Millenia 20
Hybrid speaker is a cross between
an in-wall and an on-wall speaker.
It has the inherent performance
advantages of a speaker with its
own enclosure and the aesthetics
to match the look and sleek
profle of an ultra-thin TV. When
installed, the Millenia 20 Hybrids
are partially in and partially out of
the wall, extending out about 1
inch, slightly more if you include
the curved grille. Te black frame
and grille with a high-gloss black
baf e neatly complement the look
of an ultra-thin HDTV.
An open-back in-wall speaker
can produce unpredictable results
because it relies on the volume of
air in the wall cavity in which it is
installed. When you add wall
vibrations and rattles, you have a
recipe for less than ideal sound
quality. Te Millenia 20 Hybrids
have sealed enclosures that simply
recess into the wall. Tese
enclosures ofer performance
advantages, particularly in the
bass.
I tested the Millenia 20 Hybrid
speakers with several music and
movie sources to fnd out how
well they perform. At frst glance,
you wonder if they have what it
takes to reproduce the highly
dynamic soundtracks found on
Blu-ray Discs and other digital
music sources, but the Millenia 20
Hybrids use the same drivers as
their in-room counterparts.
My review system included
three Millenia 20 Hybrid
speakers, which I used in an LCR
front confguration, along with
two Millenia ADP surround
speakers and an RVC-12SQ
vibration-canceling in-wall
subwoofer powered by an X-850
external Class D amplifer. I
installed the RVC-12SQ
subwoofer in an optional
back-box enclosure.
Paradigm Driver Technology
Because of its shallow profle, the
Millenia 20 Hybrid looks like it
would be outftted with ribbon or
planar magnetic drivers. However,
Paradigm uses conventional
dynamic drivers throughout.
Tese arent just of-the-shelf
driversthese components are
the same as those found in
Paradigms Reference Series
speakers. Tey were easy to spot
because (in the interest of full
disclosure) I own a pair of
Paradigm Reference Studio 100
foorstanding speakers.
Te list of high-tech materials
Paradigm uses in its speakers
reads like the periodic table of
elements, but Ill try to summarize
the main points without using any
formulas or equations. Te two
4.5-inch bass drivers at the top
PRICE: $5,281 AT A GLANCE: Great visual complement for ultra-thin at-panel TVs

Sealed enclo-
sures for controlled performance

Smooth bass from vibration-canceling in-wall subwoofer


Thin Is the New In
MIDRANGE
Paradigm Millenia 20 Hybrid Speaker System
BY Gary Altunian
PARADIGM MILLENIA 20 HYBRID
SPEAKER SYSTEM
PERFORMANCE
VALUE
BUILD QUALITY
and bottom (or far lef
and right) of the baf e
are mineral-flled
polypropylene cones
with a high stifness-
to-mass ratio.
Paradigm combines
these with dual-layer
voice coils and houses
them in die-cast
frames. Te drivers
high stifness and low
mass allow the
woofers to move in a
more piston-like
manner. Ideally, this
will produce tight,
well-defned bass.
Likewise, the two
4.5-inch midbass
drivers employ similar
cone materials with
strong neodymium
magnets, a gold-anod-
ized aluminum phase
plug, and specially
designed surrounds
and spiders. Te single
1-inch tweeter that
nests in the center of
the speaker is a satin-
anodized pure
aluminum dome
with a treated textile
suspension
(Paradigm calls it
S-PAL) and a
die-cast aluminum
chassis. Second-
order flters cross
over the drivers at
600 hertz and 2.2
kilohertz.
Te technology in
the Paradigm
speakers is born out
of extensive work at
Paradigms own
research and testing
facility. Tis is where
Paradigm designs,
54 JANUARY 2010 hometheatermag.com

The RVC-12SQ in-wall


subwoofer complements
the Millenia 20 Hybrids
clean look. Install it with
or without a back box.

PARADIGM MILLENIA 20 HYBRID SPEAKER SYSTEM


Perfect Bass Kit (PBK-1, $299). It
includes a microphone, mike
stand, and Windows sofware that
equalizes the subwoofer for the
listening room. You can use the
PBK-1 with one to four subwoof-
ers. Te PBK-1 outputs a series of
test tones, then it applies EQ to
achieve the targeted frequency-
response curve. Paradigm
recommends that you measure
fve listening positions in the
room. Te PBK-1 uses the
measurements to create a graph
that shows the before and afer
results. Te process takes about 15
minutes to complete.
Movie and Music Listening
My testing setup might be
considered a steep challenge
because I installed the Hybrids
fanking a 100-inch video
projection screen. A large screen
needs a large sound image to
accompany the picture. Te last
time I looked, there werent many
100-inch fat-screen televisions
available. Heres what I found.
Music is a signifcant part of
most movies, and here the
Millenia 20 Hybrids excel.
Defance (Blu-ray, Dolby TrueHD)
is the gloomy and desperate
World War II tale of two Jewish
brothers and the 1,000 or so Jews
who built a village in the Russian
forest to protect themselves from
the Nazis. Te story is heightened
by deeply moving music. Te
cello, guitar, and violin sounded
transparent and clean. Tey had
excellent presence and clarity that
brought the characters plight to
life. In particular, the cello created
a sense of sadness and despair
while it enhanced the lonely
feeling of being isolated in the
forest in the dead of a harsh
European winter.
On the other end of the flm
spectrum is State of Play (Blu-ray,
DTS-HD Master Audio). Tis
high-toned fick features
close-range gunfre and other
sound elements that would tax
any speakers. Te drivers in the
Millenia 20 Hybrids seemed to
cruise right through each
scene, especially the intense
gunfre scenes. Even when I
played them at theater
reference levels, there was no
hint of straining.
Universals Duplicity (Blu-ray,
DTS-HD Master Audio) is the
tests, and refnes its speakers. In
my experience with Paradigm, it
pays of handsomely.
Te Millenia 20 Hybrids clean
look is complemented by Para-
digms RVC-12SQ subwoofer. Te
optional back box installs in a
standard residential wall with
2-by-4 studs spaced 16 inches on
center. You can also install it
directly in the wall without the
back box. Te subwoofer uses two
4-by-14-inch side-fring drivers
wired in phase that face each
other to cancel vibrations. Te
woofers have a corrugated rubber
surround thats designed for long
excursion and reduced distortion.
A pair of Millenia ADP sur-
rounds completed my 5.1-channel
review system. Tis three-way,
fve-driver speaker uses a similar
set of drivers. Te 6-inch bass
driver with dual voice coils is
accompanied by two side-fring
4-inch mica-loaded polymer
(MLP) midbass drivers and two
1-inch S-PAL dome tweeters, all
with die-cast frames and housed
in an ABS thermoplastic enclo-
sure. Te Millenia ADP comes in
a Black or White fnish.
System Installation
I installed the three Millenia
20 Hybrid speakers in tem-
porary walls I built for testing
in-wall and on-wall speakers.
Its simple to install the
speakers in a residential wall.
You just cut a hole using the
supplied template, insert the
speaker, and tighten the four
screws on the front of the

The Millenia 20
Hybrids symmetri-
cal array of drivers
includes two woofers,
two midbass drivers,
and a tweeter.

The mineral-lled
polypropylene cone
woofers are nestled
in die-cast frames.

baf e. Te Millenia Hybrid 20


secures to the wall with a pre-
attached GRIP bracket on the top
and bottom of the back of the
speaker. Te most dif cult part of
the installation is running the
speaker wires through the walls.
Typically, a custom installer runs
the wire, but some homeowners
take on this task by themselves.
I placed the Millenia ADP
speakers on a shelf at the back of
the room.
I installed the RVC-12SQ
subwoofer in the optional
back-box enclosure. Its vibration-
canceling feature kept the
enclosure virtually free of
vibrations, even during heavy bass
passages. You can even calibrate
the subwoofer using the optional
hometheatermag.com 55
SPEAKER: MILLENIA 20 HYBRID MILLENIA ADP
TYPE: In-Wall/On-Wall Shelf/wall-mount
TWEETER (SIZE IN INCHES, TYPE): 1, aluminum dome 1, aluminum dome (2)
MIDBASS (SIZE IN INCHES, TYPE): 4.5, MLP (2) 4, MLP (2)
WOOFER (SIZE IN INCHES, TYPE): 4.5, polypropylene (2) 6, polypropylene
NOMINAL IMPEDANCE (OHMS): 8 8
RECOMMENDED AMP POWER (WATTS): 15150 15200
AVAILABLE FINISHES: Black Gloss Black, White
DIMENSIONS (W X H X D, INCHES): 6.9 x 25.8 x 4.6 11.9 x 8.25 x 6.9
WEIGHT (POUNDS): 13 13
PRICE: $529 $649
Features
Te entire system sounded well
balanced, with good front-to-back
timbre matching in Te Eagles
Farewell 1 Tour from Melbourne,
recorded in DTS 5.1. Te Eagles
are well known for their good
mixes, and this is one of their best
recordings. I could clearly
distinguish every instrument and
pick it out of the mix. Tis is a
concert that sounds best when
played loud.
Wrap Up
I started this review wondering
whether this was a fair test since
the Paradigm Millenia 20 Hybrids
are designed to be used with a
fat-panel television, not a
projection screen. But those
doubts quickly disappeared. If the
Millenia 20 Hybrids sound
impressive with a 100-inch screen,
it should be a cinch to use them
with a smaller fat-panel
television.
I would recommend fve or
seven of the Millenia 20 Hybrid
speakers for a complete home
theater system. Te Millenia ADP
surround speakers are driver-
matched with the Hybrids and
have a similar timbre. Still, Id
prefer a home theater system with
the sleek appearance of fve
Millenia 20 Hybrids rather than
the boxy look of the Millenia
ADP speakers for surrounds. Te
Hybrids are also less expensive.
I would also suggest two
RVC-12SQ subwoofers. One sub
certainly flled my 23-by-16-foot
listening room, but two subwoof-
ers placed strategically would be a
killer. Tey would provide more
even distribution of bass
throughout the room.
In summary, the Paradigm
Millenia 20 Hybrids, Millenia
ADP surround speakers, and
RVC-12SQ in-wall sub and amp
make a fne home theater system.
Te Hybrids sound great and are
a slick visual match for the latest
ultra-thin fat panels.
It isnt home theater without a
speaker system, and I would be
challenged to recommend a
better-looking, better-sounding,
and more afordable speaker
system to match an ultra-thin
HDTV.
Tin may be in for fat panels,
but thinner wallets are defnitely
not cool these days. Fortunately,
the Paradigm Millenia 20 Hybrid
speakers represent a real value at
$529 each. Te full system as
tested has a suggested retail price
of $5,281. Paradigm also ofers the
Millenia 10 Hybrid speakers,
which are designed for smaller
fat-panel televisions. Good
listening!
Paradigm (905) 564-1994
paradigm.com
Dealer Locator Code PDM
MIDRANGE PARADIGM MILLENIA 20 HYBRID SPEAKER SYSTEM
Connections
RVC-12SQ SUBWOOFER ENCLOSURE TYPE: Vented
backbox WOOFER (SIZE IN INCHES, TYPE): 4 x 14,
polypropylene (2) RATED POWER (WATTS): 850 RMS
(external X-850 amp) CONNECTIONS: Line level, RCA
CROSSOVER BYPASS: Yes AVAILABLE FINISHES: White,
paintable DIMENSIONS (W X H X D, INCHES): 13.75 x
17.75 x 3.5 WEIGHT (POUNDS): 14.3 PRICE: $699;
Enclosure: $399; X-850 Amplier: $999; PBK-1 Bass
Equalization Kit: $299
56 JANUARY 2010 hometheatermag.com
hard-to-follow story of two corpo-
rate spies who pull of the ultimate
con job. Sometimes you dont
want to think when you watch a
movieyou just want to be
entertained. But Duplicity forces
you to follow a twisted tale of
deception and trickery. Fortu-
nately, the dialogue sounded crisp
and intelligible through the
Paradigms.
Im not sure which had the
quickest transient response: the
speakers or me jumping of the
couch when a stalker plunges a
hunting knife through a wooden
door, narrowly missing the face of
his intended victim in Elsewhere
(Blu-ray, DTS-HD Master Audio).
Tere are some murder-mystery-
suspense movies that you
shouldnt watch when youre
home alone with a large screen
and a dynamic sound system.
Tis is a movie that will make you
finch and quickly check your
doors to make sure theyre tightly
locked.
On a much lighter note, I also
enjoyed the Millenia 20 Hybrids
with music sources. In Stings
famenco-style Saint Agnes and
the Burning Train, the guitar had
a keen, articulate sound quality
and excellent transients, mixed
with a beautifully wide sound-
stage. I havent mentioned the
RVC-12SQ subwoofer yet, but
when the deep, sometimes very
deep bass kicked in, it made its
presence known. Te subwoofers
vibration-canceling feature is very
efective. Tis subwoofer not only
eschewed cabinet rattles, it also
created smooth bass that was
evenly distributed throughout the
room. Tis was likely aided by the
PBK-1 bass equalization kit.
Vocalists are a demanding test
of a speaker system, and Mary
Blacks Columbus showed of
the Millenia 20 Hybrids high
resolution and defnition. Te
extraordinarily aggressive piano
that accompanies Blacks voice
showcased the speakers solid
midrange.

The three-way Millenia ADP


surround speaker is the perfect
size to set on a shelf or stand.

The optional X-850 amplier powers the


RVC-12SQ subwoofer with 850 watts.

DISCOVER THE NEW TRIBE IN-WALL/IN-CEILING. FOR MORE INFORMATION, VISIT www.totemacoustic.com
Soul moving.
I
n 1976, the United States of
America celebrated its
bicentennial, and Peter
Snell founded the
loudspeaker company that
bears his name.
Since then, Snell Acoustics has
celebrated several milestones. In
1990, it ofered the frst THX-
certifed speakers under then-
designer Kevin Voecks, who has
since moved on to Revel. Changes
in ownership came, including a
sale to Boston Acoustics. Both
brands joined D&M Holdings
along with Denon, Marantz,
McIntosh, and Escient. Since
2003, the chief designer for Snell
has been Joseph DAppolito, the
father of the DAppolito array.
Troughout its history, Snell
has remained steadfastly rooted in
Massachusetts. While other
brands have moved their
manufacturing ofshore, Snells
products are still designed and
assembled in Massachusetts. Tat
includes the cabinetry, although
there are some hip Scandinavian
drivers beneath the grilles. I had
ample opportunity to relish Snells
quality of construction during the
years when I used a pair of the
now long-gone J/IIIs, so I was
intrigued at the prospect of
sampling the brands home theater
wares for the frst time.
Five Tall Ones
Te CR7 is an LCR speaker, so
you can use it by itself as a vertical
or horizontal center with similar
timbre-matched Snell models, or
you can use it vertically for the
other channels. For this review, I
used a fully matched set of
fvemy favorite speaker
confguration and one I never get
tired of recommending to readers.
I placed all of them vertically to
maximize the soundfelds
consistency.
At 18 inches in height, the CR7
is fairly tall. But its footprint is just
5.75 by 7.5 inches, so its slim and
not intrusive. Teres no threaded
insert or keyhole mount on the
back, but the speaker comes with
a wall bracket that slots into a
back groove. Snell says its voiced
to work with either wall or stand
mounting; based on what Ive
heard, Id say its especially well
suited for wall mounting.
While the CR7 isnt a fancy-
looking speaker, its build quality
becomes apparent as soon as you
Heavy Metal Is Good
MIDRANGE
Snell CR7 Speaker System
BY Mark Fleischmann
I repeatedly removed one grille to
check various things. Unlike
many other metal grilles Ive
handled, it never deformed.
Beneath the grille is a classic
DAppolito array, with a pair of
4-inch copolymer woofers
fanking a silk-dome tweeter.
People ofen criticize woofer-
tweeter-woofer designs for their
cancellation efects when
SNELL CR7 SPEAKER SYSTEM
PERFORMANCE
VALUE
BUILD QUALITY
open the carton and lay hands on
it. Te enclosure is extruded
aluminum with a good hef. Snell
says this preserves internal
cabinet volume for better bass,
shaving 1.5 inches of each
dimension. Te speaker is rated
down to 80 hertz, minus 3
decibelssee HT Labs
Measures. Accordingly, I chose
an 80-Hz sub crossover. Te
extremely sturdy nickel-plated
binding posts look like pewter.
A curved aluminum grille fts
into slots on the baf e. Te ft is
smooth but very snug, presum-
ably to avoid buzzing and rattling.

Since the CR7 is an LCR


speaker, you can use it in
a matched set of ve to
maximize the soundelds
consistency.
PRICE: $5,250 AT A GLANCE: Ingenious wall mount

Extruded aluminum enclosures maximize


cabinet volume and extend bass

Sub has convenient top-mount volume control


58 JANUARY 2010 hometheatermag.com
SNELL CR7 SPEAKER SYSTEM
Te manufacturer says the
speaker can produce 101 dB of
continuous output from 12 feet
away when used with a 75-watt
[per channel] amplifer, which
coincidentally is an accurate
description of the Rotel. I believe
it. Te most pleasing moments
came in the scores frequent use of
brass to signal tension, accom-
pany action, or generate wonder.
An underground scene with ritual
pounding drums demonstrated
the subs ability to generate tight
and tuneful bass. Te rest of the
movies low-frequency efects
were deliberately crude. But this is
a faw thats embodied in the
source materialas this and
many other subs have demon-
strated to me over the years. Call
it the Matrix syndrome.
Fargo was a complete change of
pace, with its close-miked
dialogue and vast silences.
Gunshots in open air got a tight
reverb treatment. While the CR7s
soundstage wasnt huge or
vertically airy, it was dense, vivid,
and controlled. In the orchestral
score by Carter Burwellwho has
written a lot of my favorite flm
musica solo violin or oboe
sometimes detaches itself from
the orchestra. Celesta peeps
through in several scenes, but it
took me a while to recognize it.
Te speakers were dispassionate
and true to the source material;
they neither hyped nor dumbed
down the elements I found
attractive. As I moved restlessly
around the sofa, I found the front
soundstage commendably solid,
with no large timbral shifs or
drop-of in volume as I moved in
and out of the sweet spot. Tese
speakers do a fne job of covering
multiple horizontal positions in a
room.
Yes Man didnt default to its
Dolby TrueHD soundtrack,
unlike many TrueHD Blu-rays
Ive played lately. Jim Carrey
vigorously employs his vast gif
for physical comedy as a guy
whos given up saying no. Zooey
Deschanel is sweetly charismatic
as the love interestwhen she
and Carrey were onscreen
together, my eyes were drawn to
her. Ive begun classifying comedy
soundtrack mixes as A (with
some dynamics, but not abusively
wide) and B (mixed for televi-
sion). Tis one is an A-list comedy
mix, with ferocious indoor crowd
scenes and music that punches
placed horizontally. However, the
designer notes that proper
crossover selection provides even
coverage plus or minus 20 degrees
of axis, and that most listeners
will not likely be seated 45-plus
degrees of axis in a typical
compact home theater setup. As
with all Snell products, each
speaker is individually tested and
verifed to operate within half a
decibel of the master-speaker
spec. Tis means crossover
components are individually
matched to drivers in each
speaker.
Te Basis 150 sub has a 10-inch
front-facing doped-paper driver
and a front port. Te internal
switching amplifer is rated at 150
watts. Te back features two RCA
mono inputs, one labeled Int
Crossover (for use with the subs
crossover dial) and one labeled
Ext Crossover (for use with the
crossover setting in your receiver).
Tere are also speaker-level inputs
but no outputs. One nice touch is
the volume control, a 2-inch-wide
dial at the top of the enclosure,
with a fngertip-sized depression.
All subs should have such easily
accessible volume controls, but
few actually do.
Associated equipment for this
review included the Rotel
RSX-1550 A/V receiver,
Panasonic DMP-BD35

The CR7s a small footprint
wont overwhelm your space. It
houses dual 4-inch copolymer
woofers and a silk-dome tweeter.

Blu-ray player, Luxman PD-289


turntable, Shure V97xE cartridge,
and Bellari VP530 phono preamp.
Trial by Matrix
My ongoing meditation on the
Matrix boxed set continued with
Te Matrix: Reloaded. Beginning
with this was almost an act of
cruelty, plunging the Snells into
the deep end of the pool before I
even knew if they could swim.
Te Dolby TrueHD soundtrack
has overwhelming dynamic
swings. I ended up using about
two-thirds of the receivers
volume control range for dialogue
but barely more than half for the
delirious fying bullets and
smashing glass of the action
scenes. Let me emphasize that this
was no fault of the speakers. Id
have done the same with any
other speakers. Te only practical
way to solve the problem would
be to use one of the new
dynamic-range adjustment modes
(Dolby Volume, THX Loudness
Plus, or Audyssey Dynamic
Volume/EQ).
SPEAKER: CR7
TYPE: Two-way, LCR
TWEETER (SIZE IN INCHES, TYPE): 1, silk dome
WOOFER (SIZE IN INCHES, TYPE): 4, copolymer cone (2)
NOMINAL IMPEDANCE (OHMS): 4
RECOMMENDED AMP POWER (WATTS): 50150
AVAILABLE FINISHES: Black, custom
DIMENSIONS (W X H X D, INCHES): 5.75 x 18 x 7.5
WEIGHT (POUNDS): 16
PRICE: $800/each

Snells Basis 150 features


a front-facing doped-paper
driver and a front port.
The sub also has a volume
control on top, for easy
access.
Features
hometheatermag.com 59
MIDRANGE SNELL CR7 SPEAKER SYSTEM
SNELL CR7 SPEAKER SYSTEM
HT Labs
Measures
SNELL CR7 SPEAKER SYSTEM
Visit our Website
for a detailed
explanation of our
testing regimen,
plus a list of our
reference gear.
on the
web
Satellite Sensitivity:
87 dB from 500 Hz to 2 kHz
T
his graph shows the
quasi-anechoic
(employing
close-miking of all
woofers) frequency response of the
CR7 satellite (purple trace) and Basis
150 subwoofer (blue trace). The
passive loudspeaker was measured
with grille at a distance of 1 meter
with a 2.83-volt input.
The CR7s listening-window
response (a ve-point average of axial
and +/15-degree horizontal and
vertical responses) measures
+1.20/3.15 decibels from 200
hertz to 10 kilohertz. An average of
axial and +/15-degree horizontal
responses measures
+1.81/3.14 dB from 200 Hz
to 10 kHz. The 3-dB point is
at 85 Hz, and the 6-dB point
is at 68 Hz. Impedance
reaches a minimum of 3.98
ohms at 230 Hz and a phase
angle of 48.19 degrees at
96 Hz.
The Basis 150s close-miked
response, normalized to the level at
80 Hz, indicates that the lower
3-dB point is at 36 Hz and the
6-dB point is at 32 Hz. The upper
3-dB point is at 216 Hz using the
Ext Crossover input.MJP
through with welcome clarity and
exuberance. In this movie and the
preceding one, the Snells were
listenable at the necessary variety
of levels, and I found a master
volume setting that suf ced for
everything.
Tremolo and Vibraharp
Te CR7 rocked and rolled with
John Mayalls A Sense of Place CD,
a forgotten gem from 1990. Te
well-balanced drum sound, with
good integration between
speakers and sub, underpinned
the guitar team of Sonny
Landreth on slide and Coco
Montoya on lead. Tis became
apparent in track one, I Want to
Go, which segues from an
acoustic slide to a full frontal
electric assault. It was a good sign
that I was able to play it moder-
ately loud. Te Dolby Pro Logic II
Music mode was especially
efective during Sensitive Kind,
in which Montoyas tremolo-laced
guitar foated hauntingly through
the soundfeld. Mayalls occa-
sional piano playing sparkled, and
his harmonica (an instrument for
which I have a limited appetite)
was painless, a tribute to both the
mix and the speakers.
Leonard Bernstein Conducts
Haydn (to use the Amazon title,
since the packaging is a little
vague) is a boxed set that
chronicles the maestros traversals
of the London Symphonies, Paris
Symphonies, and masses from
1958 to 1975. Sony Classics
brand-new 12-disc set features the
New York Philharmonic on most
items and should not be confused
with DGs four-disc set of the
same name, from later in
Bernsteins career. Columbia
Connections
BASIS 150 SUBWOOFER ENCLOSURE TYPE:
Vented WOOFER (SIZE IN INCHES, TYPE): 10,
doped paper cone RATED POWER (WATTS):
150, RMS CONNECTIONS: Line-level in, RCA
mono, labeled internal or external crossover;
speaker-level in, binding posts CROSSOVER
BYPASS: LFE AVAILABLE FINISHES: Black,
Cherry, custom DIMENSIONS (W X H X D,
INCHES): 15.75 x 13.5 x 14.25 WEIGHT
(POUNDS): 50 PRICE: $1,250
close-miked these recordings for a
front-row feeling that dovetailed
with the Snells tight soundstage.
Best suited for listening at low to
moderate volumes, the sound was
amazingly consistent even as the
orchestra moved from the
Manhattan Center, to the famed
30th Street Studio, to the
acoustically hopeless Philhar-
monic Hall. However, the
speakers immediately adapted
from the front-of-the-hall feeling
to the gentler middle-of-the-hall
feeling of the fnal discthe only
one with the London Symphony
Orchestra, recorded in the
acoustically desirable Henry
Wood Hall. In this fnal recording,
the Teresienmesse, the
speakers summoned a gentler and
more euphonic sound, with
better-defned ambience and
more voluptuous texture. I could
play it somewhat louder.
Te Modern Jazz Quartet at the
Music Inn Vol. 1 shows the
musically omnivorous group at
work with clarinetist Jimmy
Giufre. I played this mono
recording, by Tom Dowd, in two
channels and marveled at the
amount of depth it supported
even without stereo or surround.
Milt Jacksons vibraharp undu-
lated at the front along with Percy
Heaths bass. Pianist John Lewis
and drummer Connie Kay hung
back at the rear, with the clarinet
somewhere in between. Te string
bass was powerful, and the sub
delivered it with pitches intact,
true to the intention of the perfor-
mance. My tubed phono preamp
can be a little nebulous at the top
end, and the Snells accurately
conveyed this. But together, they
conjured a sweet, ripe midrange
that combined with the musics
shimmering eclecticism for a
mesmerizing efect.
Te Snell CR7 and Basis 150
are not only built here but built
well. While the world is full of
well-made and sonically versa-
tile speakers, not many of them
have this small-footprint form
factor. If you want to wall-mount
a beautifully engineered set of
speakers and want better sound
than most shallow-depth on-walls
are capable of providing, the CR7s
may be just the companions your
fat-panel display has been crying
out for.
* Audio editor Mark
Fleischmann is also the author
of the annually updated book
Practical Home Teater
(quietriverpress.com).
Snell Acoustics
(978) 538-6262
snellacoustics.com
Dealer Locator Code SNE
60 JANUARY 2010 hometheatermag.com
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G
aze back into the
mists of time, and
youll fnd that the
earliest loudspeakers
were boxes with
nothing but right angles. Tis
shape lends itself to ef cient
manufacturing techniques and is
still used for most speakers. How-
ever, speaker designers have rebel-
led against the box for some time.
Now that they have injection-
molded plastic at their disposal,
they can make speakers in just
about any shape. Of course,
plastic speaker enclosures also
lend themselves to ef cient
manufacturing techniques, so
some of the most interestingly
shaped speakers are also among
the most afordable.
Tat brings us to the Boston
Acoustics SoundWare XS 5.1
speaker system. Te press release
refers to its shape as a polyhedron.
Afer I read the Wikipedia entry
on polyhedra, I was convinced
that my powers of geometrical
description wouldnt suit the
occasion. But while I am a poor
excuse for a geometer, I do have
just enough brain cells to count
things. By my count, the
SoundWare XS satellite has
10 sides divided by
rounded edges. Tat
would be four more sides
than a cube or a
rectangular solid.
Te satellites shape
gives it tremendous
versatility for placement or
mounting. If you let it rest on any
of the right-angled edges that
surround its grille, the speaker
fres straight ahead. If you tip it
back on a diferent edge, it can fre
at a forward and upward angle.
Tis would be ideal for place-
ment on a low table supporting a
pedestal-mounted fat-panel TV.
Of course, this sofball-sized
speaker is also small enough
to mount on the wall with the
supplied omnidirectional
brackets. Its shape makes it
especially suitable for mounting
in corners and at the wall-ceiling
boundary. Tis is a go-anywhere
speaker.
EG>8:/ S5 6I 6 <A6C8:/ CabineI geomeIry allows IronI or uward Iring

2.5inch wooIer and


.5inch IweeIer in lasIic enclosure

Sub has 8inch downIring wooIer and 1 waIIs


=RKZO] 7SQR^SO\ >RKX =SdO
ENTRY LEVEL
Boston Acoustics SoundWare XS 5.1 Speaker System
BY Vark |leischmann
To ft the SoundWare XSs
2.5-inch woofer and 0.5-inch
plastic-diaphragm tweeter onto a
3-by-3-inch baf e, Boston mounts
BOSTON ACOUSTICS SOUNDWARE XS 5.1
SPEAKER SYSTEM
PERFORMANCE
VALUE
BUILD QUALITY

I]Z -"^cX] Ydlc"


g^c\ hjW XdbeaZ"
bZcih i]Z hViZaa^iZh
l^i] gdjcYZY ZY\Zh
VcY V XaZVc YZh^\c#

Baby Bear
With its 2.5-inch woofer, the
SoundWare XS is the smallest
generation of the SoundWare
dynasty. Two larger members
of the product line include
the original SoundWare, with
a 4.5-inch woofer, and the
SoundWare XL, with a 6.5-
inch woofer.
62 ?6CJ6GN 2010 hometheatermag.com
BOSTON ACOUSTICS SOUNDWARE XS 5.1 SPEAKER SYSTEM
decent clarity and envelopment,
and coloration was usually below
the threshold of awareness. Tey
did well with Duplicitys Latin-
tinged score, although the crowd
noise sounded a little canned.
Te Dolby TrueHD Robin
Hood: Prince of Tieves sounded
a little thin. Te soundtracks
relative crudity stood in contrast
to the movies visual produc-
tion values. Pre-ballistic battle
efectswhizzing arrows,
whooshing catapults, roaring
fames, screaming peasantswent
by painlessly. I like the concept of
an action movie without guns or
cars. Dialogue was reasonably
clear, and the only real defciency
was the movies laissez-faire
attitude toward accents. Tats
probably how Kevin Costners
swashbuckling Robin ended up
taking a backseat to Alan Rick-
mans scenery-chewing Sherif
of Nottingham. Extra points to
Christian Slater for at least mak-
ing an attempt to fake it.
Animatrix is the fnal volume of
Te Ultimate Matrix Collection
boxed set. Tis series of animated
shorts, in Dolby TrueHD, is
dominated by prequel plots that
set up the action of the original
movie. Visuals vary from video-
game-like graphics to more
traditional forms of animation.
Since the Matrix series sound
scheme has always tended to favor
synthetic efects, this animated
installment didnt seem any more
artifcial than any of the live-
action movies. As in the previous
movies, dynamic range was
reasonable enough to keep the
most abrasive efects from
sounding grating.
Cellos, Basses, and Glitter
As my music demos got under-
way, I began to focus more on
bass. I dont always miss it when
viewing moviesin fact, getting
less than the full amount of bass
in an action movie soundtrack
can be a relief. But when Im
listening to music, scanty bass sets
of alarm bells, even in classical
chamber music.
For instance, in Te Piano
Trios, an eight-CD set of Haydn
trios by the Haydn Trio Eisen-
stadt, it became obvious that the
cello and the pianists lef hand
were both understated. I hiked the
sub volume from my customary
the drivers coaxiallywith the
tweeter in the center of the
woofer. With coaxial mounting,
the output of both drivers reaches
the ear simultaneously, even for
of-axis listeners. It can also cause
coloration, although this was
rarely noticeable in practice. Te
drivers sit behind a nondetachable
metal grille. Beneath the metal is
a porous plastic scrim. Its there
partly to protect the drivers from
moisture (although these are
indoor-only speakers) and partly
to camoufage them for aesthetic
reasons. Boston makes it a point
to design every part that goes into
its speakers.
An 8-inch down-fring
subwoofer is part of the Sound-
Ware XS 5.1 package. Although
its shape is less complex than that
of the satellites, the rectangular-
solid sub shares their pleasing
rounded edges. Controls are
sparseit just has the usual
volume and crossover dials, a
phase toggle, and a single RCA-
type line-level input. When I
placed the sub in its usual spot,
the narrow 1-inch feet sank into
the rug, and my curious fngers
could feel the drivers surround
touching the thickly padded rug.
So I placed the sub on a board. I
do this with a lot of subs, although
I rarely mention it.
Te SoundWare XS 5.1 system
was a little harder to set up than it
should have been, but its speaker
terminals are nice and sturdy.
Tey are neither binding posts
nor wire clips, but something in
betweena sort of spring-loaded
binding post, or a post-shaped
wire clip. Ive recently seen these
in a few other products. You can
push down on the gold-plated
cylindrical terminal to insert a
bare wire tip. One problem is that
the hole in the post is too small
for the 12-gauge cable I normally
use. Another problem is that the
terminals are deeply recessed into
the speaker. Tis is probably done
to keep the cables from jutting out
and spoiling a wall mount.
Te wedge-shaped recess
measures 0.375 inches at the top
and 0.125 inches at the bottom,
which is too cramped to admit

You can rest the versatile


SoundWare XS satellite on
different sides to achieve a
front-ring or upward-ring
placement.

my small (for a guy) fngertips.


Tis arrangement cant accommo-
date spade lugs, pin connectors,
or even bare wire of the thickness
I prefer to use for my reviews.
Also, the top of the post is closed,
which rules out banana plugs, my
usual frst choice. I purchased and
laid a new set of skinny 18-gauge
cable for this review and organ-
ized the receiver-end tips into
double banana-plug adapters. At
the speaker end, I shaped the
thread-like wire tips into hooks,
to navigate the wedge-shaped
recess. I just barely managed to
ft them into the spring-loaded
terminals tiny holes.
I mention all of this not out of
pique or obsessiveness but simply
because these maneuvers might
prove to be dif cult for an audio
newbie whos purchased a $500
speaker package. Also, as I wasnt
able to use any of my usual cables,
it afected my frame of reference
as I listened to the product.
Associated gear included a
Rotel RSX-1550 A/V receiver,
Panasonic DMP-BD35 Blu-ray
player, Luxman PD-289 turntable,
Shure V97xE cartridge, and
Bellari VP530 tubed phono
preamp.
Spies, Thieves, and Robots
Duplicity delivers its corporate
espionage scenario through two
top-quality assets: Clive Owen
and Julia Roberts. Teir interplay
is both comic and exciting. Te
DTS-HD Master Audio sound-
track became the subject of some
brief experimentation with place-
ment. I had the SoundWare
XS satellites perched on stands
intended for larger speakers,
and they were a few inches
lower than they ideally
should have been.
Terefore, I started
with them tilted up,
fring slightly over
my head. Tis
worked acceptably,
but I found myself
missing some of the
sofer dialogue. So I then
repositioned the speakers, fring
them straight ahead, which aimed
them at the base of my neck. Tis
worked better. I got the best result
when I sat on the fooryou
should mount these speakers at
ear level. Of-axis performance
was good enough to achieve
SPEAKER: SOUNDWARE XS 5.1 SATELLITE
TYPE: Two-way, satellite
TWEETER (SIZE IN INCHES, TYPE): 0.5, plastic dome
WOOFER (SIZE IN INCHES, TYPE): 2.5, treated paper cone
NOMINAL IMPEDANCE (OHMS): 8
RECOMMENDED AMP POWER (WATTS): 10100
AVAILABLE FINISHES: White, Black
DIMENSIONS (W X H X D, INCHES): 3.75 x 3.44 x 4.5
WEIGHT (POUNDS): 1
PRICE: $500/5.1-channel set
hometheatermag.com 63
Features
rhythm section forward in the
mix, guitar and fddle behind.
Tis ensured the title track a
number-fve spot on the U.K.
charts. It also exposed both the
SoundWares midrange coloration
and the midbass hole thats
inherent in miniature sat/sub sets.
Still, the treatment of Maddy
Priors toppy soprano wasnt
unpleasant, and you probably
wouldnt notice the slight dis-
continuity in the drums unless
youve heard the song through a
good set of full-range speakers.
Im typing this a couple of hours
afer the demo, and I still cant get
Hard Times of Old England
truly an anthem for our time
out of my head.
Te Boston Acoustics Sound-
Ware XS 5.1 is an ingeniously
designed satellite/subwoofer set. I
would defnitely redesign the
terminals to make life easier for
people who arent handy with
cables (not to mention those
who are). But the system
Satellite Sensitivity:
81.5 dB from 500 Hz to 2 kHz
T
his graph shows the
quasi-anechoic
(employing close-miking
of all woofers) frequency
response of the Soundware XS
satellite (purple trace) and
SoundWare XS subwoofer
(blue trace). The passive
loudspeaker was
measured with its
grille at a distance
of 1 meter with a
2.83-volt input.
The satellites
listening-window
response (a ve-point
average of axial and +/15-degree
horizontal and vertical responses)
measures +7.97/3.73 decibels
from 200 hertz to 10 kilohertz. An
average of axial and +/15-degree
horizontal responses
measures +8.34/3.49 dB
from 200 Hz to 10 kHz. The
3-dB point is at 182 Hz, and
the 6-dB point is at 170 Hz.
Impedance reaches a
minimum of 5.38 ohms at
544 Hz and a phase angle of
53.65 degrees at 288 Hz.
The subwoofers close-miked
response, normalized to the
level at 80 Hz, indicates
that the lower
3-dB point is at
53 Hz and the
6-dB point is at
46 Hz. The upper
3-dB point is at
166 Hz with the
Crossover control set to
maximum.MJP
has several winning features that
ofset that minor design faw.
Chief among them is the unique
shape, which is both aesthetically
gratifying and amazingly prag-
matic in terms of placement. Te
fact that Boston includes the
mounting hardware is a plus.
Afer all, when a product doesnt
include it, you may have to add
extra-cost mounting hardware to
the overall cost. Voicing is well
suited for entry-level receivers and
surprisingly adept with violins,
toppy sopranos, and screaming
peasants. At $500, these speakers
have few competitors as dis-
tinctive or as versatile.
* Audio editor Mark
Fleischmann is also the author
of the annually updated book
Practical Home Teater
(quietriverpress.com).
Boston Acoustics
(978) 538-5000
bostonacoustics.com
Dealer Locator Code BST
ENTRY LEVEL BOSTON ACOUSTICS SOUNDWARE XS 5.1 SPEAKER SYSTEM
BOSTON ACOUSTICS SOUNDWARE
XS 5.1 SPEAKER SYSTEM
HT Labs
Measures
BOSTON ACOUSTICS SOUNDWARE XS 5.1 SPEAKER SYSTEM
setting of 11:00 (4 decibels in the
Rotel A/V receiver) to 3:00. Sud-
denly the cello came to life, and
the piano had more weight. Te
string sound in general, including
the violin, was warmer and mel-
lower than Id expect from such a
small sat/sub set. Note that this
was with the center speaker 18
inches out from the wall and the
front lef/right speakers a couple
of feet out. Some sat/sub sets are
voiced to pierce through the murk
of on-wall placement. Tis can
make them shrill when placed
away from the wallsay, on a
table with a pedestal-supported
fat-panel TV. Tat wasnt a prob-
lem with these speakers.
My meditation on bass
continued in Michael Manrings
debut solo album Unusual
Weather, on a vintage piece of
almost noiseless Windham
Hill vinyl. Manring is a
bassist, and the albums
most communicative
moments come when the
saxophonist falls silent and he
plays alone or nearly alone. I
backed of the sub bass control to
1:00 to obtain the ideal weight for
the fretless electric bass.
Steeleye Spans All Around My
Hat, also on vinyl, has a surefre
formula for turning upbeat
folk-rock songs into irresistibly
catchy anthems: voices and
Visit our Website
for a detailed
explanation of our
testing regimen,
plus a list of our
reference gear.
on the
web
Connections
SOUNDWARE XS 5.1 SUBWOOFER
ENCLOSURE TYPE: Vented WOOFER (SIZE
IN INCHES, TYPE): 8, graphite injected
polymer cone RATED POWER (WATTS):
100, RMS; 260, peak CONNECTIONS:
Line-level in, mono, RCA CROSSOVER
BYPASS: No AVAILABLE FINISHES:
White, Black DIMENSIONS (W X H X D,
INCHES): 11.19 x 12.86 x 14.25 WEIGHT
(POUNDS): 20 PRICE: $500/5.1-channel
set
64 JANUARY 2010 hometheatermag.com
S
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the usual right-hand position.
Two smaller knobs include one
for source selection (labeled
Input) and one for listening
mode (Program). Tese are
augmented by four large round
Scene buttons, labeled BD/DVD,
TV, CD, and Radio. Tey give you
four diferent chances to avoid
using the Input and Program
knobs.
On the back panel are nine sets
of binding posts fed by seven amp
channels. In other words, you can
route the sixth and seventh
channels to one pair of speaker
terminals or the other. You can
use one pair of jacks for either
back-surrounds or to biamplify
the front lef and right channels.
You can use the second pair of
jacks for either height channels
or presence channels, as Yamaha
calls themor for second-zone
speakers. Only a single pair of
amp channels serves these two
pairs of jacks. Tis arrangement
lets you connect two pairs of
speakers for various uses and
switch among them without
rewiring.
Te Yamahas 7.2-channel
preout allows two subs to be fed
by the same signal. S-video jacks
are notably absent, but Yamaha
provides composite video for
legacy A/V sources. HDMI is
limited to four inputs and one
output, and there are two com-
ponent video inputs.
When you fre up the receiver
and press the On Screen button,
you get the same four options as
the Scene buttons, with both
graphic and text labels. Te look
is reminiscent of the recently
reviewed Yamaha neoHD
YMC-700 Media Controller (HT,
A
t frst glance, the
Yamaha RX-V1065
A/V receiver seems
to be missing several
of the latest and
greatest features. By that I mean it
doesnt have the licensed goodies
and their accompanying logos,
the little things that manufactur-
ers use to encourage the feeling
that things are getting better all
the time. However, when you look
closer at the specsor better yet,
page through the manualsome
of those features are in fact
present, in Yamaha-approved
form, under other names.
For instance, you wont fnd the
new height-enhanced Dolby Pro
Logic IIz or DSX listening modes.
But you will fnd presence
enhancement via Yamahas own
CINEMA DSP 3D mode. It
doesnt include any of the new
low-volume listening modes such
as Dolby Volume, THX Loudness
Plus, or Audyssey Dynamic
Volume/EQ. But it does have two
dynamic range controllers of
Yamahas devising. Do you want
marquee video processing? Tis
AVR ofers 1080p upconversion
but gets by without a fancy logo.
Next-generation listeners will
be alert to the absence of an
Ethernet input, which means
theres no Internet radio. But it
does provide for satellite radio
(Sirius, XM) and both kinds of
FM (the analog kind and digital
HD Radio). Te HD Radio
capability includes iTunes tagging
for previews and possible
purchases. Te lack of Ethernet
also means the RX-V1065 cant
pull music out of a networked PC.
However, you can use the
convenient front-panel USB input
to access a hard drive or thumb
drive you plug into it. If youre
addicted to music from a mobile
device, you can use this AVRs
docking input for either an iPod
dock or a Bluetooth receiver.
Yamaha hasnt neglected
ergonomics. Te RX-V1065 has
an updated look and feel, thanks
to its redesigned graphic user
interface, so you can putter
around with the settings in a sleek
environment. You can use
Yamahas scene controls to
combine input and soundfeld
settings. Yamahas proprietary
auto setup and room correction,
known as Yamaha Parametric
Acoustic Optimizer (YPAO),
makes life easier for newbies.
While this receiver doesnt brag
about how great it is, it does have
its own stories to tell. You just
have to listen carefully.
Use Three Knobs, or Make the
Scene
Te RX-V1065s front panel has
three knobs, which is one or two
more than average. Of course
there is a large volume knob in
PRICE: $1,000 AT A GLANCE: Moderate power and up-front sound

New GUI, Bluetooth, USB


input

Proprietary auto setup, room correction, height, low-volume modes


The Brand That Rolls Its Own
ENTRY LEVEL
Yamaha RX-V1065 A/V Receiver
BY Mark Fleischmann
YAMAHA RX-V1065 A/V RECEIVER
PERFORMANCE
FEATURES
ERGONOMICS
VALUE
66 JANUARY 2010 hometheatermag.com
YAMAHA RX-V1065 A/V RECEIVER
November 2009). When you
scroll down, you get eight more
second-tier choices: USB, dock,
Sirius, XM, tuner (including HD
Radio), phono, front-panel jacks
for a camcorder, and multichan-
nel audio inputs. If you scroll
down further, the receiver cycles
through its HDMI and other
inputs. Te main setup menu
comes last, which may be mildly
annoying if youre the kind of user
who accesses it ofen. However, a
separate remote button labeled
Option ofers limited access to the
surround modes. Te remote is
small but tidy, and its controls are
diferentiated by color, shape, and
background.
Associated gear included fve
Paradigm Reference Studio 20 v4
speakers, two Paradigm Cinema
70 v3 speakers for height,
Panasonic DMP-BD35 Blu-ray
player, Integra DPS-10.5 universal
player, Luxman PD-289 turntable,
Shure V97xE phono cartridge, and
(ignoring the receivers phono
input) Bellari VP530 tubed phono
preamp. All movies were Blu-ray
Discs.
Detailed and Crisp
State of Play stars Ben Af eck,
Russell Crowe, and Rachel
McAdams in a scenario that
mixes Washington intrigue of a
loosely topical sort with big-
league journalism. Te DTS-HD
Master Audio soundtrack got a
typical Yamaha treatment
detailed, crisp, and strongly
outlined, but not notably warm or
laid back. Vocals were intelligible
and discernibly fxed in space.
Te soundfeld flled impressively
with thunder. Some of the brash
and prolonged efects were fatigu-
ing enough to require volume
adjustment, but the short, sharp
shocks were easier to take. Te
receivers penchant for detail paid
message. I had the same problem
with Te Chronicles of Riddick, in
DTS-HD Master Audio. I con-
frmed with test tones that the
two presence speakers, placed
above the front lef and right
speakers, were operating. Yamaha
explained: When you play back
the Dolby Digital Plus, Dolby
TrueHD, DTS Express, DTS-HD
Master Audio, DTS-HD High
Resolution Audio sources, or
audio signals with sampling
frequency of higher than 96
kilohertz, the straight decode
mode is automatically selected.
(Tis means that none of the DSP
modes can be used.) Tis does not
include PCM or regular Dolby
Digital and DTS signals. All
Yamaha sound modes can be
used with these signal types. On a
practical level, this means that the
Yamaha modes will always work
with DVDs, but not invariably
with Blu-ray Discs in lossless
surround. Tis includes Dolby
AUDIO DECODING:
DOLBY: TrueHD, Digital 5.1, EX, Pro Logic IIx
DTS: DTS-HD Master Audio, DTS, ES, 96/24,
Neo:6
OTHER: Neural, pure direct, 7-channel stereo,
16 DSP modes
THX CERTIFICATION: No
NUMBER OF AMP CHANNELS: 7
RATED POWER (WATTS PER CHANNEL):
105 into 8 ohms, one channel driven
SPECIFIED FREQUENCY RESPONSE:
10 Hz to 100 kHz, +0/3dB
VIDEO PROCESSING: None
AUTO SETUP/ROOM EQ: YPAO
DIMENSIONS (W X H X D, INCHES):
17.13 x 6.75 x 14.38
WEIGHT (POUNDS): 24.5
PRICE: $1,000
Features
YAMAHA RX-V1065 A/V RECEIVER

The RX-V1065s front panel


includes more knobs and but-
tons than a typical AVR.
VIDEO TEST BENCH The Yamaha does not perform any
deinterlacing or upscaling on HDMI inputs. It simply passes
the input resolution through to the output. Therefore, the
Digital 3:2, 2:2, MA, and Scaling tests here are not applicable.
The Digital Video Clipping, Luma Resolution, and Chroma
Resolution tests were all done with a 1080p HDMI input
and a 1080p HDMI output. The receivers Digital passthrough
results on these tests were good, apart from a Borderline result
on the Luma Resolution test. The topmost vertical resolution burst
was slightly reduced in level but still had usable response. The
horizontal luma resolution passed cleanly.
It was a different story for the Analog tests
component in to HDMI out. The RX-V1065 will upconvert
480i and 480p to 1080p in this situation, but not 1080i to
1080p (thus the N/A result for the Analog HD tests). The
Video Clipping, Luma Resolution, and Chroma Resolution
tests were all performed with a 1080i input and a 1080i
output. The results here were poor, apart from a passing
grade on our 2:2 SD test. I do not recommend using cross-
conversion (component in to HDMI out) on this receiver except on
sources where video quality isnt important.TJN
Visit our Website
for a detailed
explanation of
these video tests.
on the
web
YAMAHA
RX-V1065
3:2 HD 2:2 HD MA HD 3:2 SD 2:2 SD MA SD
VIDEO
CLIPPING
LUMA
RESOLUTION
CHROMA
RESOLUTION
SCALING
DIGITAL N/A N/A N/A N/A N/A N/A PASS BORDERLINE PASS N/A
ANALOG N/A N/A N/A FAIL FAIL FAIL FAIL BORDERLINE FAIL FAIL
P
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o
t
o
s

b
y

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r
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o

S
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i
o
s
dividends in certain tense mo-
ments. For instance, when the
orchestral string players began
striking their instruments with
their bows.
Te DTS-HD Master Audio
soundtrack of Te Curious Case of
Benjamin Button ofers some
beautiful demonstrations for any-
one whos wondering why sur-
round, especially lossless sur-
round, is better for movies than
stereo. Te boats hooting and
hollering in the harbor of New
Orleans never failed to stir me. A
jazzy brothel ushered me into a
crowded subterranean world full
of local color. Popping freworks
and a World War II naval scene
ofered brief moments of high-
volume drama. Yet it was the
musical score, gently ruminating
in the background, that kept me
planted in one place for two and a
half hours. Without this receivers
low-level resolution, it might not
have been as communicative. I
didnt mind that Brad Pitt and
Cate Blanchett kept slipping into
and out of their Southern drawls.
Tey acted with their faces, elicit-
ing emotional responses that the
soundtrack cushioned like a
colorful velvet pillow.
Waynes Worlds Dolby TrueHD
soundtrack has ideal dynamic
range for a comedyits wide
enough to make the music pop
but not loud enough to be oppress-
ive. Te receiver showed decent
mid and upper bass response in
the rhythm sections, and dialogue
was spot on.
Id intended this movie to be
the guinea pig for my experiments
with CINEMA DSP 3D height
mode. However, when I pressed
the Movie button to access that
mode, I got a not available error
hometheatermag.com 67
sound, by switching to other DSP
modes, such as Spectacle. With
my ear to the speaker, this
produced varied
efects. But none of
them was audible
from my seating
position. In my prior
explorations of
heightwith Dolby
Pro Logic IIz and
Audyssey DSXthe
efects have ofen
been subtle. But they
havent been this
subtle. (Let me note
that when I manually
set up the receiver, I
used a meter to
balance all of the
channels, including
the height channels.)
I then moved on to
the dynamic range
control. Actually, the
receiver has two of
them. Under the
Function Setup
menu, and the Vol-
ume submenu, is
an Adaptive DRC
control with two
settings: Of and
Auto. Under Sound
Setup, the Yamaha
has a second mode
called Dynamic Range,
with three settings:
Min/Auto, STD, and
Max. Min mini-
mizes dynamic range.
According to the manual, Auto
adjusts Dolby TrueHD material
based on signal input informa-
tion. STD is the standard
dynamic range recommended
for home use. Max maximizes
dynamic range.
Both modes worked with
Master and Commander in Dolby
ENTRY LEVEL
Although Yamahas
remote is small, it has
a clean, well-organized
layout. Plus, its Option
button lets you access
the surround modes.
Five channels driven continuously into
8-ohm loads:
0.1% distortion at 50.4 watts
1% distortion at 59.7 watts
Seven channels driven continuously
into 8-ohm loads:
0.1% distortion at 30.2 watts
1% distortion at 35.2 watts
Analog frequency response in Pure
Direct mode:
+0.12 dB at 10 Hz
+0.03 dB at 20 Hz
+0.07 dB at 20 kHz
2.44 dB at 50 kHz
Analog frequency response
with stereo signal processing:
0.18 dB at 10 Hz
0.06 dB at 20 Hz
0.33 dB at 20 kHz
58.24 dB at 50 kHz
T
his graph shows that the
RX-V1065s left channel,
from the multichannel input
to speaker output with two
channels driving 8-ohm loads, reaches
0.1 percent distortion at 120.7 watts
and 1 percent distortion at 142.2
watts. Into 4 ohms, the amplier
reaches 0.1% distortion at 143.9
watts and 1 percent distortion at
180.7 watts.
Response from the multichannel
input to the speaker output measures
+0.12 decibels at 10 hertz, +0.03 dB
at 20 Hz, +0.03 dB at 20 kilohertz,
and 2.52 dB at 50 kHz. THD+N from
the Audio1 input to the speaker
output was less than 0.017 percent at
1 kHz when driving 2.83 volts into an
8-ohm load. Crosstalk at 1 kHz driving
2.83 volts into an 8-ohm load was
69.19 dB left to right and 69.43 dB
right to left. The signal-to-noise ratio
with 2.83 volts driving an 8-ohm load
from 10 Hz to 24 kHz with A
weighting was 106.59 dBrA.
From the Dolby Digital input
to the loudspeaker output, the
left channel measures 0.03 dB
at 20 Hz and 0.26 dB at 20
kHz. The center channel
measures 0.11 dB at 20 Hz
and 0.30 dB at 20 kHz, and the
left surround channel measures 0.11
dB at 20 Hz and 0.24 dB at 20 kHz.
From the Dolby Digital input to the
line-level output, the LFE channel is
+0.12 dB at 20 Hz when referenced to
the level at 40 Hz and reaches the
upper 3-dB down point at 94 Hz and
the upper 6-dB down point at 116
Hz.MJP
YAMAHA RX-V1065 A/V RECEIVER
HT Labs
Measures
YAMAHA RX-V1065 A/V RECEIVER
Connections INPUTS: VIDEO: HDMI 1.3a (4), component video (2),
composite video (5) AUDIO: Coaxial digital (2), optical digital (2), 7.1-channel analog (1),
stereo analog (5), phono (1) ADDITIONAL: iPod/Bluetooth dock, Sirius (1), XM Radio (1), USB
(1) remote (1) OUTPUTS: VIDEO: HDMI 1.3a (1), component video (1), composite video (2)
AUDIO: Stereo analog (3), 7.2-channel preamp (1), 0.25-inch headphone ADDITIONAL: 12-volt
trigger (4), remote (1)
Visit our Website
for a detailed
explanation of our
testing regimen,
plus a list of our
reference gear.
on the
web
TrueHD and DTS-HD support
sampling rates up to 192 kHz.
A/B-ing Presence and
Dynamic Range
To simplify my task, I hauled out
an old DVD: Master and Com-
mander: Te Far Side of the
World. I selected the Dolby Digital
soundtrack and skipped to one of
the movies rich assortment of
mayhem-at-sea episodes. Tis
time the Movie button struck gold
(of a sort), and the presence
speakers were activated. However,
in the Standard modethe one
designed to minimize DSP
sweeteningthe presence
speakers level was so sof that I
couldnt sense any diference from
the listening position. Even when
I put my ear to the speaker, it was
pretty faint. I could increase the
presence level, and change its
Digital. I started with the two-
setting Adaptive DRC, which
Yamaha says provides the great-
est beneft for low-
volume listening.
During the pre-battle
moments, when waves
and wind quietly
dominate the sound-
feld, the whooshing
of nature was louder
in the Auto setting
than the Of setting.
When cannonballs
started booming and
shattering wood, Auto
kept the efects fairly
loud, but not as loud
as in the Of mode. Id
call Adaptive DRC a
successit preserved
the movies drama
while it spared my
ears the heaviest
barrages.
Te three-setting
(non-Adaptive)
Dynamic Range
control has been
around for longer, and
Yamaha describes it as
a blanket setting. It
sets three diferent
ceilings for loud
efects. Te middling
STD setting was only
slightly louder than
MinAuto. Going from
either Min/Auto or
STD to Max produced,
in relative terms, much
more assaultive efects.
On the Bench
Murray Perahias masterful and
lovely CD of Bachs Partitas 1, 5
& 6 became the subject for fur-
ther experimentation with the
CINEMA DSP 3D mode, for
which I apologize to the pianist.
68 JANUARY 2010 hometheatermag.com
To bring the presence channels
into play, I had three basic
choices. If the source isnt stereo to
begin with, the seven-channel
Stereo mode downmixes it to two
channels and outputs it through
all of the speakers. Te seven-
channel Enhancer mode does the
same, although strictly speaking,
you should only use it with
compressed audio fles. Te third
option was to use one of Yamahas
DSP acoustics-simulation modes:
Hall in Munich, Hall in Vienna,
Chamber, Cellar Club, Te Roxy
Teatre, Te Bottom Line, or
Music Video. I didnt want to
impose any of these artifcial
sweeteners on Sony Classics
superbly naturalistic recording. So
I picked seven-channel Stereo
mode as the least invasive option.
As the Dolby Pro Logic IIz and
Audyssey DSX height modes have
done in the past, it dissolved the
proscenium that separates pianist
and audience and put me inside
the piano.
Afer I had listened to this for a
while, my brain surprised me and
revisualized me on the piano
bench instead. Tis was more
comfortable, and it worked as
long as I stayed in the sweet spot
and concentrated on the music.
When I moved out of the sweet
spot, the presence speakers
became more of a distraction than
a help. So I fell back on my old
favorites: Te Pure Direct mode
worked beautifully with a record-
ing of this quality. Te Dolby Pro
Logic II Music mode slightly
expanded the soundfeld but
remained true to the original feel
of the stereo mix, as it ofen does.
Jen Chapins Revisions: Songs of
Stevie Wonder reimagines the
master songwriters pop-funk
classics as quirky jazz tunes.
Although its not revelatory, the
voice/bass/sax ensemble and
staccato delivery opened a new
window into the songs. Cheskys
hybrid SACD, like the labels other
high-resolution forays, didnt use
the center channel at all. But the
quad soundfeld did conjure the
feeling of sitting in a small jazz
club, with smoke drifing through
the spotlights, an efect that the
multichannel analog feed from
the Integra player conjured
without any processing. Unvar-
nished SACD is still one of the
best ways to listen to music.
I played my ancient but
unscarred copy of Steely Dans
Pretzel Logic through the Bellari
phono preamp. Would this
dual-retro combination of analog
source material and tubed pre-
amp fare best in Pure mode? My
expectations were defeated when
Pure stereo and regular stereo
sounded pretty much the same.
But this could also be an advan-
tage because it removed the
digital-processing handicap from
rechanneled surround. I soon
slipped back into DPLII, which
flled the room, while it main-
tained a tight (not difuse) front
soundstage, adding minimal,
acceptable sweetening in the rear.
Te Bellaris smoothed-out top
end made higher-volume listen-
ing efortless and a bit intoxicat-
ing. I relaxed in a way that I hadnt
in any prior listening sessions.
Many tubed components are sort
of like a tone control with one
settingbut its a really great
setting if you fnd one you like.
Teyre rarely more accurate than
solid-state electronics, but Im
becoming increasingly attracted
to it as a way to complement A/V
receivers that are voiced in an
analytical, front-row manner.
Te Yamaha RX-V1065 is
notable for its originality, which is
something I dont ofen say about
an A/V receiver. If Yamaha wants
its proprietary listening modes to
have continued relevance, it will
have to extend them to signals
with higher sampling rates. But
the dynamic range controls (both
of them) do wonders for action
movies. And the improved GUI
makes the receiver a pleasure to
use once youve gotten to know it.
Te Yamaha dynasty continues to
produce some of the industrys
most thoughtfully designed and
intriguing receivers.
* Audio editor Mark
Fleischmann is also the author
of the annually updated book
Practical Home Teater
(quietriverpress.com).
Yamaha Electronics Corporation
(800) 4-YAMAHA
yamaha.com/yec
Dealer Locator Code YAM
YAMAHA RX-V1065 A/V RECEIVER
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North by Northwest is an undisputed classic, the
penultimate flm in Hitchcocks fnal string of master-
pieces starting with Rear Window (1954) and ending with
Psycho (1960). Te plot is nuts, the love angle is rushed, and the
crop-duster chase, one of flm historys iconic scenes, is preposterous
(wouldnt it have been easier for the villain to shoot our hero with a
gun?). Yet it all works, and its ceaselessly
breathtaking. We suspend our disbelief
without qualm or hesitation.
Like its recent reissues of Te Wizard of
Oz, Gone with the Wind, and the soon-to-
come A Star Is Born, Warner based this
50th anniversary edition of North by
Northwest on an 8K scan of the camera
negative. Each frame was digitally scanned
in 8,000 horizontal lines for maximum
resolution.
Warners restoration supervisors, Ned
Price and Jan Yarbrough, told me in a
phone interview that this project posed a
challenge that the others did notthe
camera negative was a wreck. It turned out
that the Eastman flm stock that nearly all
studios used in 1958 and 1959 was prone to
Reviews in High Denition
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fading. Of the three layers on
color flm (cyan, yellow, and
magenta), about 80 percent of the
yellow layer had vanished. One bit
of luck: For protection, studios
made and stored black-and-white
separation masters of the color
negativesthree rolls, one for
each of the three layers. Price and
Yarbrough digitally removed the
yellow layer from the camera
negative and replaced it with a
scan of the yellow sep master.
Tey aligned this scan with the
other two layers and thus avoided
overlap or hazy edges, thanks to
new sofware that let them
register colors pixel by pixel.
(Before this sofware, aligning the
two sources would have been
impossible.) Finally, they were
met with the usual issues of color
correction. In this case, it was
intensifed by the fact that no
really good print of the flm
existed.
Warner released an earlier
DVD of North by Northwest back
in 2000. It was made from a 2K
scan of an interpositive, which
had been struck from the camera
negative. Even then, it was faded,
so technicians had to digitally
pump in the missing colors
without todays pixel-by-pixel
sofware. It was a very good DVD
for its time, but it had a colorized
look; it didnt seem real, because it
wasnt.
By comparison, the new
Blu-ray looks ravishing. Details
are rich, with depth and
dimension. Black levels are silky
midnight black. You can
practically feel the fabric of
Martin Landaus black suit. In the
wooded night scenes, you can see
each tree and shadow. Still, its not
perfect. Teres still a hint of that
colorization; grays, browns, and
most feshtones are monochro-
matic. Price and Yarbrough say
that Hitchcock aimed for this
look, so that the rare splashes of
bright color would stand out.
Tey also note that Cary Grant
suntanned incessantly and applied
dark makeup to boot. Whatever
the reasons, the efect makes
North by Northwest somewhat less
than a demo disc of either Blu-ray
or 8K technology (hence the 4.5
stars, not fve).Te surround
sound is stunning. Te music
track is taken from the original
recording of the orchestras studio
sessionsmade in true stereo, on
magnetic tape. Te strings are
warm and vibrant, and the horns
blare with oomph. Te extra
features (in standard defnition)
are interesting, even illuminating.
Despite the slight shortcomings,
this is a must-buy.
Fred Kaplan (no relation to George)
Hitchcocks Zany Peak-Era Thriller
North by Northwest 50th Anniversary Edition
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BLU-RAY
STUDIO: Warner Brothers, 1959
ASPECT RATIO: 1.78:1
AUDIO FORMAT: Dolby TrueHD 5.1,
Dolby Digital 5.1
LENGTH: 136 mins.
DIRECTOR: Alfred Hitchcock
STARRING: Cary Grant, Eva Marie
Saint, James Mason
PICTURE
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hometheatermag.com
QUOTE: War is hell, Mr. Thornhill, even when its a cold one.
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70 JANUARY 2010 hometheatermag.com
hometheatermag.com 71
J
J. Abrams Star Trek honors its roots, breaks its characters free of
their familiar places in the time-space continuum, and blasts into
new territory at maximum warp. Te way Star Trek does this
might be a little too cute and convenient in narrative, but how
convincing could any fresh start be afer 10 movies and umpteen
TV series?! Tis reboot fashes enough inside knowledge to
satisfy ardent Trekkies (Trekkers my ass!), plus enough action, humor,
and sex appeal to stand on its own and capture a new generation of fans.
We meet all of our old friends in their 90210 years, but Kirk and Spock
are developed the most completely (and compellingly). Chris Pine and
Zachary Quinto exceed all expectations in redefning our icons in the
swagger of their youth. Karl Urban as McCoy and Simon Peggs Scotty
are priceless comic relief. As science fction, Star Trek is more about
action and spectacle than ideas, but thats easy to forgive when a movie
is such a gas!
Holy lens fare, Batman! Abrams (literally) fashy technique aside,
this is spectacular imagery. Te picture is so pristine and razor sharp
that I was surprised when IMDbs stats didnt indicate digital video.
Tere are only minor traces of grain, and the detail is sensational
throughout. Te black of space and interiors is infnite. Every nuance
near black is clearly revealed, and the image maintains superb high
contrast. Tis is a high-defnition showcase from beginning to end.
Te Dolby TrueHD sound is nearly as superlative as the picture. Its
extremely aggressive in all channels, and the layers of sound efects are
incredibly immersive. More impressive, there are new sounds here that
are convincing and unique. But this soundtrack reminds me of a lot of
rock recordings I hear. While its really loud throughout, the dynamic
range is compressed. Te diferential from
the sofest sounds to the loudest isnt that
great. So, excellent as this sound is, its not
as fawless as the image.
Te extras are incredible. Disc ones
audio commentary with Abrams and Treks
writers is a rarity in being both in-depth in
the right ways and fun to listen to. BD-Live
provides an RSS feed to NASA news thats
pretty cool. Disc two is loaded with some of
the very best making-of material youll ever
see. Its got gag reels, deleted scenes, and
outstanding interviews with the cast and
crew. Golden! Disc three includes a Digital
Copy and a game preview. Star Trek on
Blu-ray is everything it should bedemo-
quality picture and sound and crammed
with meaningful extras. Not just recom-
mended, essential! Shane Buettner
PICTURE
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BLU-RAY
STUDIO: Paramount, 2009
ASPECT RATIO: 2.40:1
AUDIO FORMAT: Dolby TrueHD 5.1
LENGTH: 126 mins.
DIRECTOR: J.J. Abrams
STARRING: Chris Pine, Zachary
Quinto, Leonard Nimoy
PICTURE
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T
ransformers: Revenge of the Fallen is hard to criticize. It has so
many issues, I dont know where to start. What deserves more
ink, leg humping as a recurring comic motif or Sams trip to
robot heaven? Revenge of the Fallen is bigger, dumber, and
crasser than its predecessor. It lacks the small character actor
charms that made the stretches between robot battles in Transformers
passable. Although they knew that little kids would fock to theaters to
see their favorite toys on the big screen, the flmmakers inexplicably
included as much toilet language as a Judd Apatow fick. Worse, unlike
Apatows movies, this one isnt funny. While the efects are more dazzl-
ing and immersive, the battle sequences are harder to follow and much
less exciting. All the moneys on the screen but not in the screenplay.
Reviewed here is the Wal-Mart-only Big Screen Edition that opens
up the flms 2.40:1 standard image to 1.78:1 during the sequences shot
on large format, high-resolution IMAX cameras. Te image quality
during the standard photography isnt perfect, but it is pure demo-ville
nonetheless, with richly saturated colors, striking detail, and stylishly
enhanced grain. But when the IMAX sequences open up the frame, the
image transforms. Te razor-sharp clarity and depth of the IMAX
sequences is beyond jaw dropping. Few images Ive seen on Blu-ray are
comparable to these scenes, and none Ive seen are better.
Te DTS-HD Master Audio track is a bone-crusher. Its not only
amazing for its quantity of pounding bass, aggressive surrounds, and
thrilling dynamics, its also amazing in the quality and layering of each
individual sound efect. Its an absolute tour de force of robot mayhem.
I cant help but wonder if theres a double dip coming. While the movie
has an audio commentary, theres no Bonus View PiP and no BD-Live.
Te 135-minute making-of feature on disc
two is in HD, and its terrifc, but this set
includes very little in the way of interactiv-
ity. Te original Transformers is a far super-
ior Blu-ray experience for interactivity.
Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen
would be an easy recommendation for
anyone who craves frst-rate home theater
demo material. But the superior image
quality of the Big Screen Edition is retailer
exclusive, and I think thats a deplorable
practice. While retailer-exclusive packaging
options for movies are kind of forgivable,
its hard to believe that any flmmakers
integrity would allow the version of his flm
thats most closely aligned with the pre-
mium theatrical experience to be limited to
one retailer, even if its as big a retailer as
Wal-Mart. Shane Buettner
WARP FACTOR
90210
A LOT LESS THAN
MEETS THE EYE
STAR TREK
TRANSFORMERS:
REVENGE OF THE FALLEN
hometheatermag.com
DreamWorks Paramount
BLU-RAY
STUDIO: DreamWorks, 2009
ASPECT RATIO: 2.40:1/1.78:1
AUDIO FORMAT:
DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1
LENGTH: 150 mins.
DIRECTOR: Michael Bay
STARRING: Optimus Prime, Bumble
Bee, Megatron
CINEMA SCOPE
T
hroughout the terrifc four-season run of Battlestar Galactica
on the Sci Fi Channel (now SyFy), we witnessed humanitys
fght for survival through the eyes of the humans. In Te Plan,
viewers revisit events of the frst two seasons from the per-
spective of the skin-jobs (Cylons made to look like humans)
and see why theyre hell-bent on genocide.
If youre unfamiliar with the series, this companion movie isnt for
you. Te frenetic pacing jumps from one situation to the next without a
lot of emphasis on back story. Most of the story concentrates on Cavil
(Dean Stockwell), the number-one skin-job, as he wreaks havoc on the
Galactica while another copy of the same Cylon model infltrates a
band of survivors on Caprica. While their DNA (or whatever makes
up the innards of a skin-job) is the same, they come to very diferent
conclusions about the choices their race has made.
Te TV series inconsistent video quality fnds its way here, but as I
explained in my review of the complete series, this was intentional.
Exterior daylight shots are sharp and detailed, with ample color satura-
tion. But interior shots on the Galactica exhibit variable lighting, heavy
grain, and elevated blacks. Te CGI is well integrated, especially the
menacing Cylon Centurions.
Te DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 soundtrack is impressive. Dynamics
are exceptional, and the frequency response demonstrates crisp highs
and rumbling bass, especially when the Cylons attack Caprica. Te
surround speakers provide suitable ambience, and the dialogue is
always intelligible.
Te supplements include an audio commentary from director/actor
Edward James Olmos and writer/executive producer Jane Espenson.
Tis provides valuable information about
the series central plot themes. Other
features include three short featurettes on
the director, the Cylons, and the planning
of action sequences (HD). Teres also a
20-minute featurette on the visual efects
used throughout the series (HD) and 14
minutes of deleted scenes (SD). BD-Live-
equipped players can access the Internet to
play the Battlestar Galactica trivia challenge
to test your knowledge and evaluate your
performance against other fans.
Its not exactly what I expected, but as a
fan, it answers a few of my questions.
Stockwell does an amazing job playing the
two diferent versions of Cavil, which
provides a new perspective on the moti-
vations of the Cylon race. Recommended
for fans. David Vaughn
BATTLESTAR GALACTICA: THE PLAN
FILLING IN
THE BLANKS
Universal
BLU-RAY
STUDIO: Universal, 2009
ASPECT RATIO: 1.78:1
AUDIO FORMAT:
DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1
LENGTH: 112 mins.
DIRECTOR: Edward James Olmos
STARRING: Edward James Olmos,
Dean Stockwell, Tricia Helfer,
Michael Trucco
PICTURE
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72 JANUARY 2010 hometheatermag.com
T
he day that Waterworld was released must have been an
exciting one... for the producers of Ishtar. I imagine they
bought a keg and had a pool party that day, as they were
fnally of the hook as the most infamously trouble-plagued,
budget-busting failure of all time. (As it happens, I kind of
liked Ishtar. Its not a hill Im willing to die defending, but it had some
laughs.)
Rather than a fancy title sequence or an exciting action montage,
Waterworld opens with a scene in which Kevin Costner drinks his own
urine. Welcome to Waterworld! Sadly, it turns out that that is the most
dignifed moment in the flm. Te premise, as you might guess, is that
the world is underwater. And despite there being an absolute surfeit of
water, everyone in the flm is encrusted with flth, caked with grime,
layered with soil, grease, sebum, bits of garbage, and small chunks of
rotted fsh. It really is one of the ugliest flms since Ernest Borgnine
starred as the title role in Te Sally Rand Story. Costner plays the
Mariner, a half-man/half-fsh creature who sails around on a rusty
trimaran, occasionally running afoul of the other loners who are afer
his small potted lime plant (really!). On a routine stop at an atoll, he
reluctantly comes to the aid of a mysterious little girl and her caretaker,
a sexy, if soil-covered Jeanne Tripplehorn.
Tis puts him at odds with the Deacon, the leader of the Smokers, a
band of survivors who live on the rusty hulk of the Exxon Valdez,
surviving on Spam and cigarettes (much like Amy Winehouse does
today). Tey chase him around the ocean on jet skis trying to capture
the little girl, who they believe can lead them to dry land, the better to
rub more dirt on their bodies.
Despite being the most expensive movie
of its day, Waterworld looks no better than
your average B-movie. Its incredibly
expensive to shoot on water, but what
moviegoer hasnt seen water? Te
performances range from the staggeringly
bland (check out the laugh-out-loud
moment when Costners boat is destroyed)
to the shamefully over the top (Dennis
Hopper). Tat said, this is a pretty good
presentation of the flm. It looks great, and
the sound is perfectly fne, if not standout.
Te disc lacks any extras (and it also doesnt
include the extended directors cut, which is
available on a two-disc DVD.)
Michael J Nelson
WATERWORLD
IF YOU LIKED THE POSTMAN, YOULL LOVE
WATERWORLD! BUT YOU DIDNT LIKE THE POSTMAN.
Universal
BLU-RAY
STUDIO: Universal, 1995
ASPECT RATIO: 1.85:1
AUDIO FORMAT:
DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1
LENGTH: 136 mins.
DIRECTOR: Kevin Reynolds
STARRING: Kevin Costner, Dennis
Hopper, Jeanne Tripplehorn
PICTURE
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W
im Wenders Wings of Desire is one of the strangest
flms ever made by a major director. Its more of a
cinematic poem than a story, beyond twee in
conception but deeply moving in delivery. For a work
thats clearly aimed at an art-house coterie, it was a
popular hit in its day.
Te flm is about two angels who foat above Berlin. Teyre invisible
to humans (except children, for brief fashes), but they listen to peoples
thoughts and comfort them in their dreams and reveries. Suddenly, one
of the angels decides to give up his wings and plunge to mortal life. Te
flm is a celebration of that life: favors, colors, fear, cold, love, isola-
tionthe gamut of physical sensation, which angels, for all their tran-
scendence of time and space, cannot conceive, much less experience.
(Tis is very much a Cold War flm, as the Berlin Wallthe ultimate
slab of human pain and divisivenessfgures in nearly every shot.)
Te soundtrack consists mainly of internal monologue, recited like
prose poems (Wenders read lots of Rilke while he was coming up with
the idea for the flm). Te music sounds like its from a heavenly but
secular choir. On paper, it may seem pretentious; but on the screen, its
haunting and gorgeous.
Bruno Ganz and Otto Sander as the angels exude an otherworldly
wisdom and anguish. Te show-stealer is Peter Falk who plays himself,
an actor whos in Berlin to star in a World War II thriller and turns out
to be well, I wont spoil that surprise.
If youve wondered what Blu-ray can do for a black-and-white flm,
this Criterion Collection disc has the answer. Each frame isnt quite the
museum masterpiece that Criterions BD of Ingmar Bergmans Te
Seventh Seal is, but theres a lusciousness
and dimension that only fastidious high def
can supply. Occasionally the flm switches
to color, especially afer Ganz falls to earth.
(Angels, it seems, can only see in black and
whitepurity without blood, rust, or feshi-
ness). Te efect is an overwhelming rush,
although the colors are natural, not oversat-
urated. Te surround sound is crisp, clear,
and enveloping.
Te extras include a featurette in which
Wenders and others explain how the flm
came to beand, for those unversed in
German history, its sociopolitical context.
Te audio commentary is a cut-down
pastiche of interviews with the director
and some of the cast. Some of them are
interesting, but it doesnt really comment
on the scenes at hand. Fred Kaplan
T
he theme of homicidal children has always been popular
among moviegoers. It has the morbid fascination of a bad car
accident that you cant turn your eyes away from. Te latest
flm of this genre is Orphan, and things start of with a bang.
Te opening birthing sequence is the strongest argument for
contraception Ive ever seen in the movies. If it doesnt make women
everywhere swear of childbirth forever, nothing will.
John and Kate Coleman (Peter Sarsgaard and Vera Farmiga) are a
loving married couple with two kids. Kate is a recovering alcoholic
whos battling clinical depression following a recent miscarriage.
Figuring that another child in the family will ease the painful memories,
they decide to adopt. At the local orphanage, Kate and John fnd a little
girl of by herself who sings and has a penchant for painting. Her name
is Esther, and she couldnt be sweeter. Naturally, she charms the pants
of them, and they take her home to join the family. When she moves
in, so do the ominous storm clouds. It isnt long until Esthers unnatu-
rally evil streak starts to show through.
I wont spoil the climactic revelation of Esthers secret past, but its
one youre not liable to see coming. Be warned: Tis flm is not for the
squeamish. When Esther savagely beats a nun to death with a hammer
while her little sister watches, you know youre not in Kansas anymore.
Newcomer Isabelle Fuhrman plays the demonic Esther, and I have to
say, shes a natural. It never ceases to amaze me how exceptionally good
some child actors can be on camera, and Fuhrman tackles every scene
shes in with the dexterity of a seasoned professional.
Te HD picture is solid, with only a couple of times when parts of the
foreground vibrate out of tandem with the background. Te nighttime
winter exteriors appear sof and blurry at
times. Te Dolby TrueHD 5.1 soundtrack is
an overall decent mix. Its at its most
efective in those surprise moments that are
designed to make you jump through the
back wall.
Extras are minimal. Teres a featurette
called Mamas Little Devils: Bad Seeds and
Evil Children, which explores the history
of naughty tikes in cinema. Teres also an
alternate ending and a few deleted scenes. A
Digital Copy for download is also included.
Fans of the horror genre wont want to
miss this one, though whether or not theyll
want to own it is another matter.
Corey Gunnestad
WINGS OF DESIRE ORPHAN
MOVE OVER,
DAMIEN
ANGELS ABOVE THE
HUMAN WALLS OF BERLIN
Warner Brothers Criterion Collection
BLU-RAY
STUDIO: Warner Brothers 2009
ASPECT RATIO: 1.85:1
AUDIO FORMAT: Dolby TrueHD 5.1,
Dolby Digital 5.1
LENGTH: 123 mins.
DIRECTOR: Jaume Collet-Serra
STARRING: Peter Sarsgaard, Vera
Farmiga, Isabelle Fuhrman
PICTURE
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BLU-RAY
STUDIO: Criterion Collection, 1987
ASPECT RATIO: 1.66:1
AUDIO FORMAT: DTS-HD Master
Audio 5.1, Dolby Digital 5.1
LENGTH: 122 mins.
DIRECTOR: Wim Wenders
STARRING: Bruno Ganz, Solveig
Dommartin, Peter Falk
PICTURE
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hometheatermag.com 73
M
ichael Manns Heat is a breathless and breathtaking crime
epic, a cops-and-robbers saga taken to the highest level.
Te taut and meticulous detail of the flms sophisti-
cated heists is extraordinary, but what makes Heat tran-
scendent are the compelling characters and the acting
power that makes them real. Te flms center is Robert De Niros Neil
McCauley, a master thief whose crew is the quarry of Al Pacinos Vincent
Hanna of the LAPD. Te relationships portrayed among these crimi-
nals and the men who hunt them are deep, intertwining, and multilay-
ered but rendered with great care and clarity. Te insightful way that
Mann reveals the emotional wreckage lef behind by these driven men
on both sides of the law is particularly resonant. Te visual crafsman-
ship, particularly in the action sequences, is superb. Im not sure theres
ever been an action sequence in any flm thats better than the legendary
bank escape and shootout on the streets of Los Angeles. Tat is Heats
major set piece. Its complicated in scope, and yet every detail is put on
the screen with such clarity that it looks simple. Heat is riveting cinema.
Catalog titles can be hit-or-miss, but this one is an absolute beauty.
Te image is clean and detailed, with some of the most impressive
blacks and shadow detail Ive ever seen. Te rich contrast and low-level
details revealed near black on a high-contrast display are a constant
revelation. Te Los Angeles nights are gorgeous, especially the striking
long-lens shots that compress the characters and the skyline onto the
same plane. At times, the image looks just a little sharpened, but there
are no distracting artifacts. Depth and immersion are outstanding.
Previous DVD editions were noisy and didnt even suggest the detail
and inky blacks on display here.
Te Dolby TrueHD sound is quite good,
but its not as big a knockout as the image.
Dialogue is crystal clear, and the spare but
intense score is terrifc. Tis movie features
a number of subtle sound cues that are
convincing and rendered with striking
clarity. Te big shootout sequence is
appropriately loud and cacophonous, like a
shooting gallery on roids.
Te extras are in standard def and appear
to be ported over from a previous DVD
release. Tere is a reference on the jacket to
new content changes supervised by direc-
tor Michael Mann, but nowhere is there a
clue as to what they are. I hadnt seen the
flm in years and didnt notice anything new
or missing.
Heat is more explosive than ever in
high-def, a triumph. Shane Buettner
B
eneath the city of New York lies a vast network of transit
tunnels that stretch for hundreds of miles. In Te Taking of
Pelham 123, the New York subway system practically
functions as its own character. A remake of the 1974 flm
starring Walter Matthau and Robert Shaw, this new version
stars Denzel Washington and John Travolta in the respective protago-
nist and antagonist roles. Director Tony Scott employs his trademark
hyperkinetic visual style, and it defnitely helps keep the action moving.
When a group of felons armed with automatic weapons seize control
of a subway train, the hostages are ransomed to the city for $10 million.
Travolta plays Ryder, the leader of the group, and he steps into the role
of gun-toting psychopath with his usual relish. Washington stars as
Walter Garber, a civil servant working at the Rail Control Center who
gets the lucky job of acting as intermediary between Ryder and the citys
police of cials. Ryders demands are simple: deliver $10 million in cash
in the next hour, or he will start killing the hostages. Let the good times
roll.
Te HD picture is marvelous, with clear and sharp detail all around,
and the DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 is a terrifcally enveloping mix. Te
fast-paced streets of New York above and below have never sounded
better. Sirens, car crashes, and squealing subway rails amplify the action
to frenetic levels.
Te extras include two separate feature-length audio commentaries
and a half-hour featurette called No Time to Lose: Te Making of
Pelham 123. A separate documentary called Te Tird Rail: New York
Underground explores the intricate workings of the New York subway
system. Tere are also trailers and a short featurette called From the
Top Down: Stylizing Character on the
importance of the hairstyles of the flms
actors. Are you kidding me?
Te interactive element is raised several
notches with a feature called cineChat,
which lets the viewer instant-message
onscreen with friends from anywhere in the
world who are also watching the flm. Tats
a feature I have to try someday. Movie IQ
provides instant real-time access to
exclusive online content through the
BD-Live feature while you watch the flm
too. Teres also a Digital Copy of the flm
for download.
Te Taking of Pelham 123 is an entertain-
ing yarn, but both Travolta and Washington
have made better thrillers than this. My
advice is to Netfix this one.
Corey Gunnestad
HEAT THE TAKING OF PELHAM 123
WHY DIDNT I
TAKE THE BUS?
LIVING AND
DYING IN L.A.
Sony Pictures Warner Brothers
BLU-RAY
STUDIO: Sony Pictures, 2009
ASPECT RATIO: 2.40:1
AUDIO FORMAT: DTS-HD Master
Audio 5.1, Dolby Digital 5.1
LENGTH: 106 mins.
DIRECTOR: Tony Scott
STARRING: Denzel Washington,
John Travolta, James Gandolni
PICTURE
SOUND
EXTRAS
INTERACTIVITY
BLU-RAY
STUDIO: Warner Brothers, 1995
ASPECT RATIO: 2.40:1
AUDIO FORMAT: Dolby TrueHD 5.1
LENGTH: 170 mins.
DIRECTOR: Michael Mann
STARRING: Al Pacino, Robert De
Niro, Val Kilmer
PICTURE
SOUND
EXTRAS
INTERACTIVITY
CINEMA SCOPE
74 JANUARY 2010 hometheatermag.com
S
acha Baron Cohen has to be the most fearless comedian on
the planet. To do what he does and get away with it takes
sheer bravery, talent, and a lot of luck. Baron Cohen created
three alter-egos for a TV show called Da Ali G Show. Besides
Ali G, the hip-hop social commentator, Baron Cohen also
became the Kazakh journalist Borat and the famboyantly gay Austrian
fashionista Brno.
Brno is the host of an ultra-hip Austrian TV show called Funkyzeit.
Afer he creates a stir at a Prada fashion show, Brno gets blacklisted
from the industry. He then resolves to go to Los Angeles and become a
celebrity. In his misadventures on the road to fame and fortune, Brno
fnds himself literally on the run from Hasidic Jews, Muslim terrorists,
drunken rednecks, gay bashers, and an angry dominatrix. Talk about
sufering for ones art.
Baron Cohens comedic brilliance lies in simply allowing the people
he targets to be themselves. In being so brazenly and deliberately ofen-
sive, he openly challenges their racial and sexual prejudices, most of the
time without them even realizing it. Te reactions he gets are genuine
and unscripted. If youve seen Borat, then you know what Im talking
about. And much like Borat, Brno is an equal-opportunity ofender.
Shot in documentary style on high-grade digital video, the HD
picture is superlative, with no grain or pixilated artifacts to speak of.
Fleshtones appear natural, and believe me, theres a lot of fesh in this
flm. Te DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 soundtrack performs equally
admirably, despite its rudimentary mix. Tis is primarily a dialogue-
driven mockumentary punctuated with dance music and subtle
background ambience.
Exclusive to this Blu-ray edition is a PiP
audio commentary with Baron Cohen and
director Larry Charles. It ofers illuminat-
ing insight into just how they managed to
get away with it all. Teres an hours worth
of deleted and extended scenes and an
interview with Brnos talent agent Lloyd
Robinson. Te BD-Live feature ofers
numerous means of exclusive online access:
My Scenes, My Chat, My Movie Commen-
tariesmy goodness, this disc is stocked.
Pocket Blu is an application that lets your
iPhone or iPod touch function as a remote
control and receiver for your Blu-ray player.
Teres also a Digital Copy for download.
Be advised, this flm is not for the prude
or fainthearted. Tere are laughs aplenty,
but theyre right on par with the shock
value. Corey Gunnestad
M
iramax is sitting on a backlog of contemporary classic
flms that consumers are eagerly awaiting on Blu-ray
flms like Pulp Fiction, Shakespeare in Love, Amlie,
and Good Will Hunting. So why does Miramax choose
to mock us with an HD version of one of its lowest-
budgeted flms?
In 1993, Kevin Smith sold his comic book collection, maxed out a
bunch of credit cards, amassed a group of friends, and shot a little
movie centered around a New Jersey convenience store. Te result was
the independent hit Clerks. Shot on 16mm black-and-white flm stock
for a budget of $25,000, the flm parlayed Smith into a successful
flmmaking career.
Dante works at the local Quick-Stop and has to cover on his day of.
Randall runs the video store next door, and the two spend much of the
flm commiserating about relationships, Star Wars, and the obnoxious
and dif cult customers they frequently have to deal with. Tis is a
simple premise that is executed brilliantly thanks to Smiths sharp,
profane, and howlingly funny dialogue.
Te picture has been rendered to its highest resolution, but the
limitations of the original source material still show. Te grain in the
black-and-white image is glaringly apparent. Even Smith muses aloud
about the logic of rendering Clerks for HD, a gesture which, as he puts
it, spits in the face of the medium. Producer Scott Mosier discusses
how the flms soundtrack had been remastered several times. Tis new
DTS-HD Master Audio mix is the best yet, but the aggressive rock
soundtrack still tends to overpower the dialogue.
Extras have been imported straight from the 10th Anniversary DVD.
Te original audio commentary with Smith
and the cast remains intact, along with a
short flm called Te Flying Car, MTV
spots, a music video, a trailer, audition
tapes, and an informative documentary
called Snowball Efect, which chronicles
the complete history of the Clerks project.
Te frst cut of the flm is also included, and
its taken from an S-VHS copy with the
original audio mix. New to this Blu-ray
edition is a documentary on the making
of Jay & Silent Bob Strike Back called Oh,
What a Lovely Tea Party, along with a
pop-up trivia track that runs concurrently
with the flm.
It goes without saying that this is the
best-looking Clerks weve seen yet. But if
the original source material is limited, the
results usually are too. Corey Gunnestad
BRNO CLERKS 15TH ANNIVERSARY EDITION
LOW BUDGET
GOES HIGH DEF
READY OR NOT,
HERE COMES BRNO
Miramax Universal
BLU-RAY
STUDIO: Miramax, 1994
ASPECT RATIO: 1.85:1
AUDIO FORMAT: DTS-HD Master
Audio 5.1
LENGTH: 92 mins.
DIRECTOR: Kevin Smith
STARRING: Brian OHalloran, Jeff
Anderson, Marilyn Ghigliotti
PICTURE
SOUND
EXTRAS
INTERACTIVITY
BLU-RAY
STUDIO: Universal, 2009
ASPECT RATIO: 1.85:1
AUDIO FORMAT:
DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1
LENGTH: 82 mins.
DIRECTOR: Larry Charles
STARRING: Sacha Baron Cohen,
Gustaf Hammarsten, Paula Abdul
PICTURE
SOUND
EXTRAS
INTERACTIVITY
hometheatermag.com 75
Sony BRAVIA VPL-VW85 SXRD Projector,
$8,000
Reviewed November 2009
Marantz VP-15S1 DLP Projector, $9,000
Shane Buettner reviewed this model for
www.UltimateAVmag.com
(Available through the end of 2009)
SOURCE COMPONENTS
ENTRY LEVEL
Panasonic DMP-BD60 Blu-ray Player, $200
Reviewed July 2009
Sony PlayStation 3 Game Console/
Blu-ray Player, $299
Reviewed May 2008
MIDRANGE
Samsung BD-P3600 Blu-ray Player, $300
Reviewed July 2009
LG BD390 Blu-ray Player, $350
Reviewed December 2009
Panasonic DMP-BD55 Blu-ray Player, $399
Reviewed December 2008
Replaced with DMP-BD80 Blu-ray Player,
$250*
OPPO BDP-83 Blu-ray Player, $499
Reviewed September 2009
Digeo Moxi HD DVR, $799
Reviewed June 2009
HIGH END
Meridian Sooloos Control 10 Media Server
and Twinstore Storage System, $8,250
Reviewed October 2009
SPEAKERS
ENTRY LEVEL
DCM Cinema2 Speaker System, $500
Reviewed November 2007
HSU Research HB-1 Speaker System,
$1,124 as reviewed
Reviewed March 2007
Replaced with HB-1 Mk 2 Speaker System,
$1,124*
PSB Alpha B1 Speaker System, $1,336
as reviewed
Reviewed February 2007
Mordaunt-Short Alumni Speaker System,
$1,470 as reviewed
Reviewed March 2008
JBL ES20 Speaker System, $1,746 as
reviewed
Reviewed September 2008
MIDRANGE
JBL Control NOW AW Speaker System,
$2,034 as reviewed
Reviewed February 2009
Paradigm Reference Studio 20 v.4 Speaker
System, $2,495 as reviewed
Reviewed March 2007
Replaced with Reference Studio 20 v.5
Speaker System, $2,495*
Focal Dme Speaker System, $2,599 as
reviewed
Reviewed January 2010
Atlantic Technology System 4400 Speaker
System, $3,350 as reviewed
Reviewed December 2009
Boston Acoustics VS 240 Speaker System,
$3,700 as reviewed
Reviewed January 2009
Acoustic Energy Radiance 1 Speaker
System, $4,200 as reviewed
Reviewed September 2009
ENTRY LEVEL
Sony BRAVIA KDL-40V5100 LCD HDTV,
$1,100
Reviewed September 2009
Panasonic VIERA TC-P42G10 Plasma HDTV,
$1,200
Reviewed September 2009
MIDRANGE
Panasonic TC-P46G10 Plasma HDTV, $1,500
Reviewed July 2009
Panasonic TH-50PZ85 Plasma HDTV, $2,200
Reviewed October 2008
Replaced with TC-P50G10 Plasma HDTV,
$1,600*
Toshiba REGZA 46SV670U LCD HDTV, $2,300
Reviewed November 2009
Panasonic VIERA TC-P58V10 Plasma HDTV,
$2,700
Reviewed January 2010
Samsung UN55B7000 LCD HDTV, $3,600
Reviewed August 2009
Sony BRAVIA KDL-46XBR8 LCD HDTV, $3,700
Reviewed January 2009
Pioneer KURO PDP-6020FD Plasma HDTV,
$3,999
Reviewed September 2008
HIGH END
Pioneer Elite KURO PRO-111FD Plasma
HDTV, $4,500
Reviewed November 2008
Samsung UN55B8500 LCD HDTV, $4,500
Reviewed January 2010
Sony BRAVIA KDL-55XBR8 LCD HDTV, $5,000
Reviewed February 2009
Pioneer Elite KURO PRO-141FD Plasma HD
Monitor, $7,000
Reviewed May 2009
Panasonic Premiere TH-65VX100U Plasma
HD Monitor, $7,500
Reviewed April 2009
PROJECTORS
ENTRY LEVEL
Sanyo PLV-Z3000 LCD Projector, $2,795
Reviewed June 2009
Epson PowerLite Home Cinema 6500 UB
LCD Projector, $2,999
Reviewed August 2009
Replaced with PowerLite Home Cinema
8500 UB LCD Projector, Price unavailable at
press time*
MIDRANGE
Mitsubishi HC7000 LCD Projector, $3,495
Reviewed March 2009
Panasonic PT-AE3000U LCD Projector,
$3,499
Reviewed March 2009
Replaced with PT-AE4000U LCD Projector,
$2,499*
Sony VPL-HW10 SXRD Projector, $3,499
Reviewed March 2009
Replaced with VPL-HW15 SXRD Projector,
$3,000*
JVC DLA-HD350 D-ILA Projector, $4,500
Reviewed June 2009
HIGH END
JVC DLA-HD750 D-ILA Projector, $7,500
Reviewed April 2009
Replaced with DLA-HD950 D-ILA Projector,
$8,000*
Planar PD8150 DLP Projector, $8,000
Reviewed July 2008
HOME THEATER

Sonus faber Toy/REL T1 Speaker System

Monitor Audio Platinum PL300 Speaker System


HDTVS
NOT SURE
WHAT
TO BUY?
Check out this
exclusive listing
of our reviewers
recommended gear.

JVC DLA-HD350 D-ILA Projector


* This replacement product has not yet been reviewed in HT. Although we suggest it is worth a close look, this is not a specic recommendation.

LG BD390 Blu-ray Player

Toshiba REGZA 46SV670U LCD HDTV


Denon DHT-FS3 Soundbar, $1,199
Reviewed April 2008
Polk SurroundBar 360 DVD Theater
Soundbar, $1,200
Reviewed January 2009
Phase Technology Teatro PC-3.0 Speaker
System, $2,400 as reviewed
Reviewed May 2009
HTIBS
ENTRY LEVEL
Sony BRAVIA DAV-HDX500 HTIB, $499
Reviewed at
www.HomeTheaterMag.com
Replaced with DAV-HDX587WC HTIB, $430*
Onkyo HT-SR800 HTIB, $599
Reviewed at
www.HomeTheaterMag.com
Replaced with HT-S5200 HTIB, $599*
MIDRANGE
Panasonic SC-BT100 HTIB, $1,000
Reviewed October 2008
Onkyo HT-S9100THX Integrated System,
$1,099
Reviewed April 2009
A/V RECEIVERS
ENTRY LEVEL
Pioneer VSX-1019AH A/V Receiver, $499
Reviewed October 2009
Onkyo TX-SR607 A/V Receiver, $599
Reviewed August 2009
MIDRANGE
Onkyo TX-NR807 A/V Receiver, $1,099
Reviewed December 2009
Denon AVR-4310CI A/V Receiver, $1,999
Reviewed November 2009
Rotel RSX-1550 A/V Receiver, $1,999
Reviewed June 2009
Marantz SR8002 A/V Receiver, $2,000
Reviewed May 2008
Denitive Technology Mythos STS
SuperTower Speaker System,
$4,355 as reviewed
Reviewed March 2009
Innity Classia C336 Speaker System,
$4,494 as reviewed
Reviewed April 2009
PSB G-Design Speaker System,
$4,696 as reviewed
Reviewed October 2007
PSB Imagine T Speaker System,
$4,749 as reviewed
Reviewed May 2009
Dynaudio Focus 110 Speaker System,
$4,750 as reviewed
Reviewed September 2007
Canton Ergo 620 Speaker System,
$5,550 as reviewed
Reviewed January 2010
Sonus faber Toy/REL T1 Speaker System,
$6,044 as reviewed
Reviewed May 2009
Usher Be-718 Speaker System,
$6,988 as reviewed
Reviewed May 2008
HIGH END
Atlantic Technology 8200e Speaker
System, $7,530 as reviewed
Reviewed July 2007
Thiel SCS4 Speaker System,
$8,350 as reviewed
Reviewed April 2008
PSB Synchrony One Speaker System,
$10,700 as reviewed
Reviewed December 2007
Paradigm Reference Signature S8 Speaker
System, $15,195 as reviewed
Reviewed January 2009
Pioneer S-2EX Speaker
System, $17,500 as reviewed
Reviewed February 2007
Monitor Audio Platinum PL300 Speaker
System, $25,650 as reviewed
Reviewed October 2009
Revel Ultima2 Salon2 Speaker System,
$45,993 as reviewed
Reviewed July 2009
IN-WALL/ON-WALL
Atlantic Technology IWCB-626 In-Wall
Speakers, $875/each
Reviewed September 2007
Sonance VP89 In-Wall Speakers,
$2,850/pair
Reviewed September 2008
Paradigm Millenia 20 Hybrid Speaker
System, $5,281 as reviewed
Reviewed January 2010
BG Radia BGX-4850 In-Wall Subwoofer
System, $6,995 as reviewed
Reviewed January 2010
Pioneer Elite EX Series S-IW691L In-Wall
Speaker System, $10,197 as reviewed
Reviewed June 2009
SOUNDBAR SPEAKERS
VIZIO VSB210WS High Denition Sound Bar
Speaker System, $350
Reviewed July 2009
ZVOX Z-Base 550 Single-Cabinet Surround
System, $400
Reviewed April 2009
ZVOX 425 Soundbar, $600
Reviewed July 2008
Denitive Technology Mythos SSA-50
Soundbar, $1,099
Reviewed August 2008
HIGH END
Rotel RSX-1560 A/V Receiver, $2,599
Reviewed August 2009
Integra DTR-9.9 A/V Receiver, $2,600
Reviewed April 2009
Replaced with DTR-80.1 A/V Receiver,
$2,800
Arcam AVR600 A/V Receiver, $4,999
Reviewed August 2009
Denon AVR-5308CI A/V Receiver, $5,500
Reviewed August 2008
Pioneer Elite SC-09TX A/V Receiver, $7,000
Reviewed November 2008
PROCESSORS
Integra DHC-9.9 Processor, $2,000
Reviewed July 2009
Replaced with DHC-80.1 Processor, $2,300
Marantz AV8003 Processor, $2,600
Reviewed October 2008
Anthem Statement D2 Processor, $7,499
Reviewed September 2008
Replaced with Statement D2v Processor with
ARC, $7,499,* review upcoming
Denon AVP-A1HDCI Processor, $7,500
Reviewed September 2009
AMPLIFIERS
Rotel RMB-1085 Amplier, $1,199
Reviewed October 2008
Replaced with RMB-1565 Amplier, $1,299*
NAD Masters Series M25 Amplier, $3,499
Reviewed January 2007
ADA PTM-8150 Amplier, $4,999
Reviewed February 2007
Anthem Statement P5 Amplier, $7,199
Reviewed December 2006
Denon POA-A1HDCI Amplier, $7,500
Reviewed September 2009

BG RADIA BGX-4850 In-wall
Subwoofer System
Onkyo HT-S9100THX Integrated System

Denon AVP-A1HDCI Processor

Rotel RMB-1085 Amplier


hometheatermag.com 77

Integra DTR-9.9 A/V Receiver

VIZIO VSB210WS High Denition


Sound Bar Speaker System
DEMO Where to Find the Best in Home Theater...
CALIFORNIA (northern)
CALIFORNIA (southern)
GNP AUDIO VIDEO
1254 E. Colorado Blvd., Pasadena, CA 91106
(626) 577-7767
www.gnpaudiovideo.com
Home Theater, Home Stereo and Custom Music Systems
since 1977. Best Stereo Shop by LA Magazine.
ARC, AUD, B&K, DWI, FUJ, LEX, MAR, MLN, MER, NEC, NIL,
NUV, TNY, PSB, ROT, THI, UNV, AND MORE
DAVID VINCENT DESIGN*#
Jim Zoyiopoulos, Owner
Home theater and music systems showroom.
Lighting control and whole home automation.
26384 Carmel Rancho Lane
Carmel, CA 93923
www.davidvincentdesign.com
info@davidvincentdesign.com
Lutron, Kaleidescape, Crestron, JVC, Sony, Denon,
Niveus, Triad, Speakercraft, Pioneer
FLORIDA
HOME THEATER INNOVATIONS/
BOBS TV.
Hwy. 441 Ocala/Villages area Over 15 years
experience Custom Designed Home Theater
Automation/ Home Audio
(352) 245-2183
www.bobstv.tv
STRAM ELECTRONICS
HOME THEATER GALLERY
Tampas most beautiful showroom - Established 1988.
Professional Quality Easy Living Automation Systems
with by appointment services. Tampas largest AMX
and Vantage Lighting Control dealers.
3300 S. Dale Mabry HWY., Tampa, FL 33629
(813) 831-8551
www.HomeTheaterGallery.com
AIN, AMX, ANY, ART, ADA, BDI, CAN, CHF, DEN, DVO, EXT,
FAR, FUJ, INF, JBL, LGE, MAR, MER, NIL, PAR, ROC, RUN,
SAM, SON, SAE, STW, TRI, UNV, VEL, WWR, XTH, ZEN
GEORGIA
VALENTINO HOME ENTERTAINMENT
Towne Center
7150 Jefferson Hwy., Suite 670
(225) 925-9669 & (225) 925-9660 FAX
www.vheonline.com
B&W, Classe, Rotel, McIntosh, Martin-Logan
CUSTOM HOME THEATER SYSTEMS
99 Pleasant Street, Suite #1
Brunswick, ME 04011 (207) 373-1147
AER, B&W, BOS, DEF, EAR, INF, LEO, LUT, MAR, MSU,
MNT, NAD, PIO, RBH, REV, ROT, SLD, SAM, SHA, SIM,
SNE, STW, SUN
LOUISIANA
MAINE
GEORGIA HOME THEATER*#
20 Years of Excellence Designing Home Automation
and Lighting Control for Atlantas Finest Homes.
Visit our beautiful design center.
2516 Cobb Pkwy., Smyrna, GA 30080
(770) 955-8909
www.GHTNet.com
B&W Speakers, Wilson & 15 Other Brands.
STEREO UNLIMITED
Dont analyze... be mesmerized! Well show you!
Est. 1981
1545 Locust St. , Walnut Creek, CA 94596
(925) 932-5835
www.stereounlimited.com
ALO, AMC, Audio Research, ARC, B&G, Draper, DWI, FIN,
FOS, Jolida, FUJ, JVC, MAG, Opera, PAN, SLD, SUM
INNOFACE SYSTEMS, INC.
www.innofacesystems.com
The DC Metro Areas source for quality Home Theater
Installations.
Crofton, MD 21114 (410) 721-4040
CHF, CRE, DAL, DEN, EPS, EXT, HIT, INF, KLI, NIL, PIO,
SHA, TOS, UNV, VEL
MARYLAND
ENSEMBLE MUSIC SYSTEMS &
NEW ENGLAND HOME THEATER
166 Daniel Webster Highway
Nashua, NH 03060
Tel: (603) 888-9777, Fax: (603) 888-9555
info@newenglandhometheater.net
http://www.newenglandhometheater.com
AER, ARC, ANT, ATL, AUQ, BDI, B&W, CAR, CLS, DEN, EPS,
LGE, MAC, MNT, NAD, PAR, PDM, PIO, PRC, PSB, ROT,
SEN, SIM, SLD, SPK, STW, SUN, THL, TOT, TRP, UNV
NEW HAMPSHIRE
NEW YORK
A/V EXPERIENCE
Providing over 25 years experience in personalized
music & theater systems for discriminating clientele.
Cedia-certified.
Long Island, New York (631) 205-1410 vc/fax
Klawson@audiovideoxperience.com
www.audiovideoexperience.com
ADC, APX, ATL, DEN, FUJ, INT, PIO, SAM, SEL, SHA, SPK,
SHB, SNY STS, WWR
IDS AUDIO/VIDEO & TECHNOLOGIES
Specialist in: Dedicated Theaters, Automation and
Music Everywhere. Cedia Certified. IDS Audio/Video &
Technologies Experience over 20 years of personalized
service and custom installation
243 Roslyn Road, Roslyn Heights, NY
(800) 570-6464, Fax: (516) 625-9590
www.idsaudiovideo.com
ACR, ATL, B&K, B&W, BDI, CAN, CHA, CLP, CIN, CRE,
DAL, DEN, DVO, DWI, ELA, FAR, FUJ, HNS, ITG, KLI, LOE,
LUT, MAR, MNT, MON, NAD, NEC, NIL, NHT, ONK, PNX,
PAN, PDM, PAR, PHA, PHL, PIO, POL, REP, ROT, RSD,
SLD, SAM, SAS, SHA, SEL, SON, SNY, SPE, STS, STW,
TER, TRI, TRB, UNV, XTH, YAM, ZEN
INTECH AV
270F Duffy Avenue, Hicksville, New York 11801
Tel: (800) 822-4993
www.intechav.com sales@intechav.com
Sony, Samsung, Mitsubishi, Toshiba, Crestron, Martin
Logan, Meridian, Niles ICS, Triad, Sim2
Since 1993, providing high end custom installation and
integration in the Tri-State New York area.
SIGHTS-N-SOUNDS
4032 Sunrise Hwy, Seaford, NY 11783
(516) 679-9700
Sights-N-Sounds
784 West Jericho Tpke., Huntington, NY 11743
(631) 673-2000
www.hometheater.biz info@hometheater.biz
ALLIED HOME TECHNOLOGIES
www.alliedhometech.com
2915 Berry Hill Drive, Nashville, TN 37204
(615) 385-3999
CT4, DEN, SAM, BOS, PLK, PIO, PAN, TOS, RUS, JBL, ONQ, BOS
TENNESSEE
INTELLIGENT ELECTRONICS
Raleigh, NC 27606
(919) 481-4224 www.intelligentelectronics.com
AIN, ATL, BDI, CAN, CRE, Definitive Technology, DEN,
JAM, JBL, JL Audio, LG, PAR, Russound, SAM, SEL, Sony,
Stewart Film screen, TOS, UNV, Vidikron, XTH
NORTH CAROLINA
ADVANCED HOME THEATER SYSTEMS *#
Winner, 2007 & 2008 Home of the Year Award! The
Source for Home Automation and Entertainment Solutions.
3209 Premier, Ste. 112, Plano, TX 75075
(972) 516-1849
www.advancedhometheater.com
AER, ATI, ATL, ACT, B&K, BOL, BOX, CYA, CLP, CRE, DAL,
DEN, DWI, EAR, EXT, FAR, HAR, HNS, ITL, JAM, JVC, KIM,
LUT, MNT, MON, NIL, PNX, PAN, PAR, PHL, PIO, PSA,
RCA, RGP, ROC, RUN, RSD, SAM, SHA, SNE, SNY, SPE,
STW, THI, TOS, TRB, VEL, XTH, ZEN
TEXAS
*
Indicates Certied Home THX Dealer
# Indicates CEDIA Dealer
HOME
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CONTACT:
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505-474-4156
Helene.Stoner@
msn.com
DEALER LOCATOR
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Instant Information for Our Readers...
www.hometheatermag.com
78 . . . . . Advanced Home Theater
System
Phone (800) 414-1849
www.advancedhometheater.com
78 . . . . .Audioengine
www.audioengineusa.com
44-45 . .BodySound
Phone (877) 943-4041
www.bodysoundtheater.com
9 . . . . . .CinemaShop.com
Phone (866) 243-1001
www.cinemashop.com
81 . . . . .Crutcheld
Phone (800) 555-8347
www.crutchfield.com
69 . . . . .CSA Audio Design
Phone (973) 744-0600
www.csaaudiodesign.com
8 . . . . . .CustomHT
Phone (800) 246-5006, ext.00
www.customHT.com
C23 . . .Denitive Technology
39,43, Phone (410) 363-7148
79 www.definitivetech.com
65 . . . . .Harbor Freight Tools
Phone (800) 657-8001
www.harborfreightusa.com/
hometheater
11 . . . . .MK Sound
Phone (866) 290-2673
www.mksoundsystem.com
49 . . . . .Oppo Digital, Inc.
Phone (650) 961-1118
www.oppodigital.com
5 . . . . . .Panasonic Consumer
www.panasonic.com
C3 . . . . .Anthem
Phone (905) 564-1994
www.anthemAV.com
C4 . . . . .Regza
www.regza.com
7 . . . . . .Sanus Systems
Phone (800) 359-5520
www.sanus.com
61 . . . . .SRS Labs
Phone (800) 243-2733
www.srslabs.com
35 . . . . .Tannoy
www.tannoy.com
57 . . . . .Totem Acoustic
Phone (514) 259-1062
www.totemacoustic.com
30 . . . . .ZVOX Audio
Phone (866) FOR-ZVOX
www.zvoxaudio.com
Home Theater (ISSN 1096-3065) January 2010, Vol. 17, No. 1. Copyright 2009 by Source Interlink Magazines, LLC. All rights reserved. Published monthly by Source Interlink Media,
LLC., 261 Madison Avenue, 5th Floor, New York, NY 10016. Periodicals postage paid at New York, NY and additional mailing offices. Canada Post Publications Mail Agreement No.
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Information listed in this index is done so as a courtesy. Publisher is not liable for incorrect information or excluded listings.
Advertisers should contact their sales representative to correct or update listing.
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HOME THEATER
Michael J. Nelson is the former host and head writer of Mystery
Science Theater 3000 and the proprietor of www.rifftrax.com,
which offers his commentaries on A-list films, including Star Wars: Episode I,
The Fellowship of the Ring, and The Matrix.
BY Michael J. Nelson m
y
eI, II
T
he purchase of even a seemingly trivial home theater
product is fraught with complications: Is this the right
length cord? Did I buy the right adapter? Why does the
guy at RadioShack smell vaguely of Hormel corned beef
hash? Te purchase of a new television, the centerpiece
of a home theater, is that much more complicated.
Understandably, people ofen view it with the same
amount of trepidation as they do their own public caning. (I know I was
nervous before mine, yet as it turns out, my caner was thorough, yet
gentle.) Fortunately, this magazine gives you everything you need to
help you choose the right TV. But theres still the matter of actually
buying your TV.
It used to be simple enough. Youd trudge down to your local big-
box store, spend about 10 minutes trying to fag down some help, and
begin throwing pennies at the managers of ce window. When that
failed, youd climb on top of the display TVs and eventually get the
attention of a clerk who was young enough to be born the same year
you bought the TV youre replacing. Youd give him the model number
youre looking for, hed walk you over to the water heater section, youd
start over, and afer a few more false starts in the ergonomic keyboard
and Celtic Vocal music sections, youd load the thing in your car and
be of.
But now there are many more choices. If youre willing to put up with
a few faws to save some serious money, you may want to look for a used
model. A good place to start is Craigslist.org. Sure, you have to wade
through a lot of dross, including some 500 badly misspelled listings for
24-inch CRT TVs, or phone calls like this: Hey, youre selling that
plasma TV? Nope. Hmm, I saw your ad on Craigslist. Tat wasnt
me. Tat was Ted. Tirty solid seconds of silence follow. Can I speak
with Ted? I dont know. Youll have to ask him. More silence. Ill go
get him. A very long silence follows. You begin to suspect that everyone
on the premises on the other end of the phone has died. More time
passes. You begin to suspect that you have died. Finally, a voice comes
on the line. Hang on, I gotta wipe the crankcase grease of my arms.
More waiting during which you hear what you can only imagine is the
sound of crankcase grease being wiped of of the arms of someone
named Ted. All righty, what can I do you for? Youre selling that
plasma TV? Yep. Great But I sold it. I got a minibike Im selling,
though. It doesnt work. Just want to tell you that up front.
Still, you can get lucky and save some money. You could also go the
eBay route, which at least has seller ratings to help you avoid a lot of
problems. Most sellers are savvy enough to include pictures, which
makes it easy to steer clear of those who feel no compunction about
posting a photo of their television being used opposite a sawhorse to
prop up the birch-bark canoe theyre currently building in their living
room. A fastidious seller takes care to light and frame his photos for the
most fattering presentation. Caution should be exercised with those
who snap wide pictures and fail to crop out their grandfather sitting in
his boxer shorts sipping from a tumbler of Ancient Age and sporting a
yellowed back brace. I also tend to avoid those who use 38-point
fashing purple cartoon fonts in their product descriptions. But I admit
thats just my own aesthetic prejudice. I fgure that buying their product
would only encourage more monstrous choices in the future, e.g., large
animated cat GIFs or the playing of a MIDI version of Wind Beneath
My Wings.
If you would rather avoid these annoyances, you can of course buy
new from hundreds of online retailers, but even here the choices are not
clear-cut. Major, trusted retailers tend to crowd around a certain price
point. If you want to knock that down a little, youll fnd yourself having
to troll around, well, less traveled sites. Sites with names like happy-
gooddealtheaterfun.com, whose staf photos look suspiciously like they
were pulled at random from the People at Work section of a budget-
priced stock photo collection. Suggestions of clean, well lit warehouses
stafed by friendly, competent, and knowledgeable folks cant quell your
suspicions that the reality involves gray goods of oaded at the docks in
the dark of night, along with crates of acai berries and Chinese herbal
Viagra. Tat the friendly operators standing by to take your call are in
reality one guy in a cramped apartment in Newark who mutes his
phone every so ofen and bangs on the wall in an attempt to stop his
neighbor from yelling so loudly during Judge Judy.
Of course, you can always shop the various gigantic warehouse stores
that ofen discount older models or overstocksso good deals can be
had. As a bonus, you can also score a barrel of Tums and a pallet-load of
surprisingly non-scratchy two-ply toilet paper while youre there.
I write all this as a way of steeling myself for the task at hand, for, yes,
Im living without a TV at home. Sure, I have plenty of them at work,
but people tend to look at you funny when you settle in with a martini
to watch a movie at the of ce. And, yes, I feel that mixture of excitement
and anxiety, but I take comfort in the fact that I have the ultimate trump
card: I can always not buy a TV.
Ah, who the hell am I trying to kid? Im going out to get it right now.
Ill let you know how it turns out.
82 JANUARY 2010 hometheatermag.com
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