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post #1 of 13 Old 12-23-14, 06:39 PM Thread Starter
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2014: A Year in Review

I intended to start today’s feature with a corny quote about the passage of time. It was to be a poetic statement of cold-hearted reality, laced with sentimentality, to make us pause and realize that Father Time has his finger on the fast-forward button. But as I collected my thoughts on the previous 12 months of Home Theater A/V tech news, I came to the realization that this past year may have rolled-out a bit more slowly – or elongated – than first realized. Truth be told, our world of Home Theater is in a vastly different place than it was this time last year. Newness has been injected and old standbys have fallen by the wayside. With that, let’s take a romp down memory lane with a Cliff’s Notes version of 2014’s Year in Review.




2.0 Arrives
2013 ended with a rapidly building buzz about Ultra HD and, to a lesser extent, HDMI 2.0. Let’s shelve the former for a few moments and concentrate on the industry’s preferred form of connectivity. You may recall that HDMI 2.0 was officially unveiled in early September 2013. Its predecessor (HDMI 1.4a/b) was able to support 4K resolutions, but only at 24 and 30 frames per second. This shortcoming forced UHD displays (and the two UHD multimedia players available) to use four different HDMI connections to achieve 4K 50/60 fps. Not good. Therefore, the High Definition Multimedia Forum released the 2.0 specification, which allows for a single connection solution with the power to deliver 12-bit color, 4K at 50/60 fps, and 32 channels of uncompressed audio. It also carries backwards compatibility, meaning our old HDMI cables remain relevant. The same can’t be said for equipment.

Most display manufacturers craftily lured UHD early adopters by making their televisions 2.0 upgradable through kits that could be purchased at a later date. Smart move. AV Receivers, however, weren’t given this luxury, which largely soured 2013’s late year receiver crop for savvy buyers looking for the best equipment to play nicely with future UHD tech. At the turn of the New Year, questions about the real availability of HDMI 2.0 chipsets had us speculating about HDMI 2.0’s role in 2014 AVR releases. Would all manufacturers offer HDMI 2.0 on 2014 models? Which manufacturer would be the first to bring 2.0 to market? We didn’t need to wait long for the first rumblings of 2.0’s arrival. Emotiva made a huge splash by announcing that its highly anticipated XMC-1 would ship with the spec, however a bizarre retraction by the company and manufacturing delays opened the doors for another player to take center stage. In March, Pioneer officially announced the release of their VSX-824, VSX-1024, VSX-44, VSX-1124, and VSX-80 receivers…fully compatible with HDMI 2.0.

Gauntlet thrown down. Game on.

Nearly all manufacturers eventually offered HDMI 2.0 compliance on their 2014 models, with all but the cheapest of models left out. With UHD rapidly evolving and invading our parlance, it’s surprising that the next generation of copyright protection, HDCP 2.2, didn’t receive more attention. Only a handful of receivers made in 2014 shipped with HDCP 2.2 onboard, so prepare for manufacturers to make this a big selling point in 2015.



LG wasn't the only company to release a 105" UHD television this year.

Pixels and Stuff
In the display universe, the year started with all eyes on 4K, curves, and OLED, each having major market impacts as they were pushed forward. Ultra HD dominated CES 2014, with Samsung, LG, Sony, and Vizio arriving with fancy television series. We were showered with a range of display styles including several attention grabbing made-to-order screens topping 100-inches. As the dust has settled from early year reveals, we’ve learned several things. First, plasma is dead. Gone. Kaput. It’s over and it’s not coming back. Second, electronics manufacturers (nearly all) are choosing to chase 4K over pursuing new display technologies. At this stage of the game every manufacturer has latched onto LCD tech for the “4K cash-grab.” Of course, we’ll see various iterations of LCD tech thrown our way and OLED is looming, but getting 4K displays to market seems to be paramount. Third, as evidenced by Value Electronics’ Shootout, 1080p displays are still stunning.

The coming year will prove to be a defining moment for 4K displays. At least two companies (LG and Samsung) will try to stir the market with LCD Quantum Dot technology. That’s my pick for the next big buzzword in the display world, eclipsing OLED. Speaking of OLED, LG is now the only manufacturer bringing consumer OLED televisions to store shelves. Samsung (which had an OLED display at CES 2014) is relegating their OLED energies to smaller displays for devices, stating that they aren’t pursuing consumer television OLED production in 2015. We’re all rooting for the new display tech to thrive, so hopefully LG can survive and deliver.

The Scramble for 4K Content
2013 ended with only two sources of 4K content: RedRay and Sony’s UHD Media Player. Manufacturers, however, didn’t waste anytime showing early adopters that 4K content was coming. Partnerships between manufacturers and various streaming services were announced early in the year, with Samsung making instant claims that it would be working with Amazon, M-Go and Netflix. Other manufacturers such as Sony and LG followed suit, staking claims with Netflix.

Netflix, Amazon, and M-Go have all officially begun streaming 4K content. We also witnessed DirectTV’s launch of the first 4K TV service (which, if you recall, requires a Samsung 4K Ready television). On December 18th, Comcast began offering a few limited 4K titles.

Keep your eyes peeled for a forthcoming 4K Blu-ray disc announcement. It should happen sometime during Spring of 2015. If you’re wondering, you'll likely need to buy a new Blu-ray player to play 4K discs. Sorry folks, welcome back to technology growing pains.



Transformers: Age of Extinction was the first Dolby Atmos Blu-ray release.


Oh Say Can You…Hear?
One of the more interesting Home Theater tech stories in 2014 was the arrival of Dolby Atmos on AVRs and Blu-ray. I’ll be the first to admit, I was excited and intrigued by its arrival in commercial cinemas, but I was surprised by its quick move to the home market. Despite carrying the capacity for a 32 speaker home setup (with added front, side, rear, and ceiling speakers), Atmos AVRs currently only add sounds coming from the ceiling using designs involving (up to) 12 speakers. It didn’t take long for the first Atmos Blu-ray (Transformers: Age of Extinction) to hit the market, and quite a few titles are now available.

Enthusiasts looking to deploy Atmos in their Home Theaters have been presented with two choices: Ceiling mounted speakers or upward facing speaker modules that reflect sound in a simulated arrangement. At least one of the early Atmos system reviews indicated that speaker modules produced middling results, which isn’t great news for enthusiasts looking for an easy path to Atmos speaker deployment. Nevertheless, Atmos has produced a tremendous amount of buzz in 2014 and is sure to remain in the forefront of sound technology during 2015.

Content Delivery
Year-end numbers for 2014 movie sales and rentals have yet to be revealed, but 2013’s numbers illustrated the continued demise of physical media. DVD and Blu-ray rentals were down across all fronts (as were Blu-ray sales) while digital media thrived with sales from digital purchases rising by almost 50-percent from the previous year. More than likely, 2014’s data will trend in similar directions. To quote Jessie Ventura’s character in Predator, streaming has dug itself in like an “Alabama tick.” It’s taking everyone’s best shot, and it’s not going anywhere in a convenience based consumer population. Even HBO, which had previously rejected any notion of creating its own streaming service, has admitted defeat by announcing it’s joining the fray in 2015. Meanwhile, current online services such as Netflix battled with ISPs over bandwidth, resulting in heated discussions about net neutrality and pay for performance (Netflix eventually agreed to the latter).

The world of streaming devices was also extraordinarily active. Roku unveiled a new HDMI dongle, Google continued to expand its Chromecast presence around the globe, and Amazon began selling Fire TV. The streaming market space should remain crowded for 2015, but eventually we’ll experience a thinning of the herd.



Quantum Dots will be all the rage in 2015.


That's a Wrap
We’ll have a solid grasp of 2015’s Home Theater offerings in just a few weeks. The Consumer Electronics Show always produces several shockers and we’ll be sure to report on the biggest news stories coming out of Las Vegas.

Home Theater Shack enjoyed another fantastic year. Our membership numbers have continued to climb and we’ve been able to maintain our core values and a second-to-none atmosphere on the forum. In addition, Home Theater Shack’s Facebook presence more than doubled in size over the last year. Our sponsors have remained an important part of our existence and we’ve enjoyed watching their successes during 2014. We will continue to work with them for some very exciting Giveaways during the coming year. Look for a new announcement following the Holidays and don’t forget to keep tabs on our current Axiom Audio Giveaway Contest!

Speaking on behalf of the entire Home Theater Shack staff, I’d like to extend all of you, our members, a very warm “Thank You” with wishes for a very happy, healthy, and Home Theater rich New Year. Happy Holidays!


Image Credits: Home Theater Shack, LG (Korea), Paramount Pictures, and TheGuardian.com
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post #2 of 13 Old 12-23-14, 11:49 PM
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Thanks Todd, that was fun. I'd like to say happy holidays to you and yours. Thanks for all you do!
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post #3 of 13 Old 12-24-14, 06:30 AM Thread Starter
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Re: 2014: A Year in Review

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Thanks Todd, that was fun. I'd like to say happy holidays to you and yours. Thanks for all you do!
Thanks very much. Happy Holidays, Willis!
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post #4 of 13 Old 12-28-14, 02:07 PM
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Re: 2014: A Year in Review

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Todd Anderson wrote: View Post

Speaking on behalf of the entire Home Theater Shack staff, I’d like to extend all of you, our members, a very warm “Thank You” with wishes for a very happy, healthy, and Home Theater rich New Year. Happy Holidays!
As an active member and sponsor of HTS I thank you for bring the interesting and accurate content to HTS. Todd, you are a great asset to HTS members and visitors as well as the CE industry overall with your very well thoughout editorials.

All our very best for 2015 and many years to come!

-Robert

Value Electronics, Authorized Factory Direct dealers for LG, Samsung, Sony, Panasonic, Pioneer, Elite, Denon, Marantz, Krell, OPPO, Sonance, Definitive Technology, Artison, Leon Speaker Systems & more

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Video: 2 theaters, Sony's VPL-VW5000ES, 2nd theater, JVC RS66
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post #5 of 13 Old 12-29-14, 07:33 AM
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Re: 2014: A Year in Review

Thank you Todd.

I am guessing that there is no place in the World from where you, your Team and all Shaksters could receive warmest wishes for a very Happy New Year 2015, other than from Australia (at this time of the year at least).

Sincerely
Zoran
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post #6 of 13 Old 12-29-14, 08:26 AM Thread Starter
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Re: 2014: A Year in Review

Quote:
Robert Zohn wrote: View Post
As an active member and sponsor of HTS I thank you for bring the interesting and accurate content to HTS. Todd, you are a great asset to HTS members and visitors as well as the CE industry overall with your very well thoughout editorials.

All our very best for 2015 and many years to come!

-Robert
Thanks for the kind words, Robert!
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post #7 of 13 Old 12-29-14, 08:27 AM Thread Starter
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Re: 2014: A Year in Review

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AU26 wrote: View Post
Thank you Todd.

I am guessing that there is no place in the World from where you, your Team and all Shaksters could receive warmest wishes for a very Happy New Year 2015, other than from Australia (at this time of the year at least).

Sincerely
Zoran
Zoran,

Keep sending the warmth! We need it here in the US!!

Happy New Year, Todd
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post #8 of 13 Old 12-29-14, 03:40 PM
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Re: 2014: A Year in Review

Thanks for all the great articles throughout 2014 Todd, and I look forward to more in 2015

Home Theater System Denon AVR4520CI, Emotiva XPA-5 Gen 2, Polk CSi A6 Center, Polk RTi A9 Front, Polk RTi A7 Front Wide, Polk RTi A1 Front Height, Polk FXi A6 Side, Polk RTi A3 Rear, SVS PB12-NSD x2 Front, SVS PC12-NSD x2 Rear, Panasonic PT-AE7000U, Visual Apex CineWhite 100" Screen, PS4, Dish Hopper, Darbee Darblet DVP 5000.My Home Theater Build http://www.hometheatershack.com/foru...ter-build.html
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post #9 of 13 Old 12-29-14, 05:56 PM
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Re: 2014: A Year in Review

If only there is a heat (30 something +C) streaming, instead of AV streaming technology available I would be one very rich man. Hope one day it will become reality.

One BIG Cheers.
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post #10 of 13 Old 12-29-14, 07:37 PM
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Re: 2014: A Year in Review

That was a great read!!

Thanks Todd
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