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Discussion Starter #321


Like most enthusiasts, I am forever on the hunt for cost effective, easy to implement, system improvements that can coax more performance from my home theater gear. The biggest roadblock is separating true game changers from snake oil prior to opening the wallet – after all, who wants to spend valuable coin on a product that simply exists within a system without any appreciable impact? If you’ve been in the home theater or two-channel game for a while, then you probably can jot down a laundry list of products that simply do not (and never will) live up to claims. That’s what makes the subject of today’s review a breath of fresh air.

IsoAcoustics Inc. is a Canadian manufacturer of slick-looking speaker stands that employ a patent pending technology that fine-tunes a speaker’s operating performance. Earlier this year I spoke with the company’s founder (Dave Morrison) at AXPONA in Chicago, as IsoAcoustics’ stands performed an ear-bending magic show in the company’s unassuming demo room. That demonstration left fellow staff writer Wayne Myers and me thoroughly impressed – so much so, that I called IsoAcoustics’ stands “Must Buy Gear” in my show report.

The company’s specialized line of stands was born from Dave Morrison’s lengthy tenure with the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation and his involvement with the design and construction of radio and television studios. It was there that he cut his teeth and gained experience in the field. Morrison now serves as IsoAcoustics' President and remains the driving force behind the company’s impressive stable of products.

IsoAcoustics has quite a few variations of stands to choose from, including the Aperta, a range of ISO-LR8 models, and customizable Modular Aluminum stands. These models vary in terms of size (height capability and width), build design, and cost. Interested buyers can use the company’s website calculator to determine the best stand for a specific application. They can then be purchased from a variety of online retailers (e.g., Sweetwater, Crutchfield). Also, some manufacturers (such as Dynaudio) are offering the stands as bundled options with speaker purchases, and at least one furniture manufacturer (ZAOR Studio Furniture) is integrating the stands into some of its furniture offerings. For the purposes of this review, IsoAcoustics direct shipped four Aperta Stands for speaker duty (left, right, and center channels) and two custom configured Modular Aluminum stands for large subwoofers. Street pricing for these products is roughly $199 for a pair of Aperta stands and $165 for a Modular Aluminum stand with a base of 24-in by 18-in.



Hollowed, oblong, corner feet allow for insertion of the stand's rods.


Aperta, a relatively new member of the IsoAcoustics family, sports a gorgeous artistically tailored aluminum frame design (available in black and silver). I can’t overstate how good the stands look – especially when paired with speakers. A single assembled stand has an overall size of 6.1-inches (w) by 7.5-in (d) by 3-in (front side adjustable height). In the hand it weighs next to nothing (1.4 lbs) and feels solid, and to the eye it conveys high quality craftsmanship. The stand has four essential parts: two rigid frames, two insert rods, two adjustable height insert rods (for tilting speaker orientation), and eight rubber isolating feet (made from a high-modulus co-polymer) that are internally hollowed in an oblong fashion and externally concave to improve stand grip. The isolation feet fit snuggly into the corners of the frames and the insert rods fit snuggly into the hollowed-out portions of the feet. Once assembled and placed on a solid surface, the system allows the top frame to gently move front-to-back while resisting movement side-to-side. The Modular Aluminum stands are built using the same basic pieces (minus the addition of adjustable height rods), but have more robust tubular sections for heavier weight duties.

The Magic Unveiled
On the most basic level, IsoAcoustics’ stands act as isolators, effectively decoupling a speaker from a surface and eliminating the transfer of energy from the speaker to outside objects. On a slightly more complex level, they allow a speaker to float independently with a focus on movement from front-to-back, following Newton’s Third Law of Reciprocating Motion (for every action there’s an equal and opposite reaction). As a speaker's cone moves forward, its enclosure wants to move backward, hence the importance of the stand’s ability to freely move forward-and-back. The end result is a speaker/cabinet system that is able to perform exactly as it is designed, without outside influences harming its perceived output.


A close-up of the oblong section of the stand's feet; arrows show direction of the rods movement.

The real key, here, is the perceived output of sound. At AXPONA, Morrison explained to me that speakers sitting directly on a surface (yes, even with feet or carpet spikes) suffer from secondary reflections that cause a soundstage to collapse. This is a result that is nearly unavoidable. As Wayne Myers can attest, we heard this in action in IsoAcoustics’ demo room. In fact, Wayne said it best when he characterized the soundstage produced by the non-stand demo speakers as sounding like “mashed potatoes.” It was clearly muddied and smeared as compared to the lively, sharpened, and significantly more open soundstage created by identical speakers on Aperta stands. It was that definitive, that exacting, and that noticeable.

It’s worth noting that the stands – because they have height – allow speakers to hover above a surface, thus reducing reflections. They also allow a speaker to be raised and tilted to dial-in speaker positioning to exacting levels.

Out of the Box
Aperta stands ship in sharp-looking store-ready packaging, featuring high-quality black boxes wrapped with detailed pictures and branding. The packaging’s interior is fitted with shaped plastic to hold the stands in place (two stands per box). Included are simple to follow instructions and other product information. Aperta stands are boxed pre-assembled, with the only available adjustment being the ability to raise the front-end of the stands by removing the top frame and twisting the screw portion of two of the insert rods (this is an intuitive process that only requires fingers, no tools).

The Modular Aluminum stand's packaging is a slightly different beast, largely because the stands are a cut-to-order product and shipped unassembled. Packaging is completely utilitarian, but more than acceptable to ensure safe delivery. IsoAcoustics includes instructions and a hex key to facilitate assembly. I found the assembly process to be a breeze and both stands were ready to rock about 30 minutes after unboxing.

System Integration
If you’re assuming the Aperta stands are for bookshelf speakers only, they’re not. They can work with smaller tower speakers, too. After discussing my home theater’s front-end speakers (Polk Audio RTiA5 towers and a CSiA6 center channel), IsoAcoustics asked for speaker measurements and shipped four Aperta stands (two designated for use with the 24-in by 14-in CSiA6 center). While the left and right channel stands were happy with my theater room’s rug floor surface, I opted to craft harder sitting surfaces using spiked feet securely attached to old Gramma Pad boards. Placing speakers on the stands was a relatively simple task – just align the stand with the base of the speaker and let the tacky concave surfaces of the isolation feet take hold like suction cups. The end result (especially noteworthy for the towers) is a solid and secure fit.



IsoAcoustics' Aperta stands.


The Modular Aluminum stands were slightly harder to integrate simply because of the sheer size and weight of the subs (24-in by 18-in base, 111 lbs). I removed the subs’ feet to provide a smooth surface for the stands’ isolation feet, and found lifting the subs onto the stands to be a rather taxing (back bending) task. Luckily, with dual subs, I was able to create a stand vs. non-stand A-B testing scenario, so lifting the subs into place was a one-time task.



The fully assembled Modular Aluminum stand for subwoofer duty.


Visually, the stands exuded a professional stylized look once integrated with a speaker. This was especially notable with the subwoofers, as the stands had been cut to the subs’ exact base dimensions. They looked like they were meant to be there, as if designed by the subs’ manufacturer.


Evaluation Notes
There are endless ways I could have attacked stand demo sessions. I ultimately chose to evaluate the stands in chunks, hoping to best identify their contributions to the sound produced by the front-end of my home theater system. I spent the majority of time testing three different scenarios:

  • Straight Two-Channel Stereo (no sub)
  • Center Channel Only
  • Subwoofers Integrated
Testing during the two-channel and center channel only conditions required removing and adding stands between listening sessions. Using markings and blocks, I was able to keep the speakers within a close approximation in regard to overall positioning. As I touched-on above, sub testing was accomplished using subwoofers in an A-B comparison.

Associated equipment for this review included: dual Power Sound Audio XS-30s (subs), Polk Audio RTi A5s (L/R), Polk Audio CSi A6 (C), Polk Audio RTi A3s (R), Polk Audio FXi A4s (S), Polk Audio 70-RTs (F/M presence), OPPO BDP-103, Yamaha RX-A3050, Emotiva XPA-5 (front channel amp), and Emotiva CMX-6/CMX-2 line conditioners. Testing was conducted in a room complete with acoustic treatments, corner bass traps, and a rear wall diffuser.

A Tale of Three Different Results
I’ll kickoff the results reveal by first discussing my straight two-channel audio evaluation. If you read my last product review, then you’ll know that Norah Jones’ Come Away With Me album is one of my favorite demo discs. The album’s fourth track, Feelin’ The Same Way, has imaging that is easy to place on an audio canvas, ranging vocals, punchy bass, and nice highs sprinkled throughout, making it a must-demo track for this review. Since this is the first track I’m highlighting, I’ll introduce you to the over-arching theme of my experience with the Aperta stands mated with my left and right channels: FOCUS. Hearing the difference is akin to a novice looking through a pair of binoculars. The novice fumbles with the controls to get an image that is pleasing and acceptable, only to have a more seasoned veteran tweak the settings just enough that fine details sharpen and true detail is revealed. Transfer that analogy to this demo track, and you’ll understand the difference.

The stands introduced a completely different soundstage. I know, it sounds impossibly crazy, but it’s true. The sonic image both sharpened and expanded, and the pinpoint placement of sound became much tighter and focused. For the track Feelin’ The Same Way, I noted that that tones in Jones’ mid-range vocals lost a hint of harshness, bass guitar notes tightened, and higher notes played by an acoustic guitar (left side of soundstage) sharpened. Fast-forward to her song Shoot the Moon, and the impact of the stands was immediately noticeable with the opening acoustic guitars, which sounded much sharper. I also noted that Jones’ vocals were more centered and tightened.



Image: Maverick Records.


Next, let’s move to Alanis Morissette’s Jagged Little Pill. The Canadian rock-star’s Pop track was a good demo choice because it begins by living in the middle of the soundstage (dripping with trebly, punchy, sounds), and then expands to the left and right while keeping Morissette’s vocals dead center. Again, tightness brought to the game by the Aperta stands was immediately noticeable in the song’s opening moments; Morissette simply sounded cleaner and – you guessed it – focused, especially in the higher frequencies of her lyrics. Composure was the predominant theme as the song continued, with the lower expansive frequencies sounding much better controlled.

To complete the female rock star trifecta, I jumped to Taylor Swift’s 1989 album, which has a snappy first track in Welcome to New York. The song expands and contracts in its presentation and has an audio lightness that hangs in the air – if you haven’t heard this one (fan or not) in a two-channel presentation, you should check it out. The Aperta stands played this song with a more composed image, especially noticeable in the song’s airy echoes and thumping bass. I hate to dip back into the “focus” pool again, but I must. The song, sans stands, has great imaging but its sharpness was smeared (noticeably so).

For two-channel audio, the Aperta stands hit on all cylinders, had noticeable sonic impact, and have reaffirmed my previous stamp of approval. My demo sessions were extremely pleasing and produced results similar to the speaker demo sessions heard in IsoAcoustics’ room at AXPONA.

Moving on, I evaluated the center channel with and without dual Aperta stands evenly placed on the left and right edges of the speaker’s cabinet. For this section of the review, I ran a series of listening tests isolating the center channel to listen for impacts on a single channel basis. To do this, I shelved music and pulled several different Blu-ray films including Birdman, Interstellar, and Gravity. In a near 180-degree twist from the instantly recognizable two-channel testing revelations, I found it difficult to hear a discernable difference between stand and non-stand testing. My notes indicate that I might have heard a slight focusing of the lower end during demo evaluations, but differences across the board were not significantly noticeable enough to report definitively. I was especially keen on looking for perceived changes in dialog presentation, and none were highlighted or noted.

To keep this short and sweet, the Aperta stands’ impact on center channel only performance was limited according to my ears. However, the noticeable differences I experienced during two-channel listening, paired with the stand’s decoupling and aiming abilities, still make the stands a worthy addition in the center position. In many ways, this is a leap of faith conclusion, anchored by the two-channel testing results.

Having given the Aperta stands a chance to operate in a straight two-channel set-up, I was eager to invite my two beastly friends back into the fray – Power Sound Audio’s XS-30 dual 15-inch subwoofers – along with the Modular Aluminum stands. Historically, I’ve gone through great pains to both place and equalize the XS-30s using Room EQ Wizard and a DSP-1124p; their bass output is extremely tight, deep, and controlled, thus leading me to wonder if IsoAcoustics' stands could lead to further performance improvements. For this section of the review, I moved the subs together, ran them straight from the Yamaha RX-A3050’s two sub-outs, and placed one on a Modular Aluminum stand and one directly on the floor (channel level matched and mirror frequency responses confirmed by Room EQ Wizard). I was able to switch between the subs using the AVR menu settings, and also took an opportunity to listen to the subs without left and right speakers engaged.

Cheryl Crow’s Leaving Las Vegas has a recognizable, repeating, bass guitar pattern, which made it perfect for initial sub evaluations. I was able to quickly identify an audible difference when switching between the two subwoofers; it wasn’t as robust as the two-channel experience, but present. The Modular Aluminum stand subwoofer exhibited a more defined upper end of the low frequency spectrum. It was subtle, but definitely apparent. I hesitate to say the upper-end of the non-stand sub was bloated, but the sub on the stand was more refined in its presentation, if not ever so slightly thinned out.

My second song selections, Gorillaz’s Tomorrow Comes Today and Sound Check, offered a much more aggressive foray into bass. The opening seconds of Tomorrow Comes Today has a raw bass line that I felt would be easy to compare. The tonal differences on this track were notably different, much more strikingly than Crow’s track. The sub sitting on the Modular Aluminum stand had a tighter upper end, enough so that a tonal difference was evident. It definitely exhibited what appeared to be a lighter sonic appeal, one that’s probably better described as streamlined.

My third song selection, Meat Beat Manifesto’s Now single, features devastatingly deep pulses of head rattling, heavy, air moving, bass. It’s the kind of bass that cracks foundations and shakes the pots and pans in the kitchen. I ran through this track several times, intently looking for a comparative difference between the two subwoofers, and couldn't find one. I simply was unable to hear a notable difference in the two presentations of Now’s mega bass extravaganza.

While not nearly as ear grabbing as the two-channel listening results, I was able to perceive some differences between the Modular Aluminum stand and non-stand subwoofers. My listening impressions largely relegated discernable differences to delicacies in the upper ranges of low frequency sound. The decoupling/isolation factors provided by the Modular Aluminum stands are significant, and the existence of mild improvements is certainly present; these stands make the cut and have solid value.

The Wrap
Listening to my current speaker configuration with all stands fully incorporated (subwoofers and three front channels) has been a delight. The cacophony of multi-channel movie activity makes hearing subtleties more difficult, however, the largely present impact of the stands on the left and right channels shines through during musical scores and the like. Of course, it goes without mentioning that IsoAcoustics' game changing impact on straight two-channel audio is simply fantastic. To put it bluntly, I was floored by IsoAcoustics’ product demonstration at AXPONA and remain equally impressed after having a chance to closely inspect the company’s products in the comfort of my own listening room. I called my results section "A Tale of Three Different Results" largely because the center channel testing didn't reveal a markedly noticeable improvement when the center channel was isolated. It's a curious result, for sure, but not discouraging, especially considering the challenges most horizontal center channels are known to have.




During a phone conversation with Dave Morrison, he mentioned the phrase “hear the difference,” and I can unequivocally state: “I did.” IsoAcoustics makes products that can actually impact your listening pleasure when added to an audio system, and I highly recommend checking-out what they have to offer. For more information about the Aperta and Modular Aluminum stands and links to demonstration videos, head over to the company’s informative website by following this link. Also, it's worth noting that the company should be releasing its next model (Aperta 200) within a month. The 200 series is designed to support speakers weighing up to 75 lbs and features a new lower height profile and enhanced sculpted aluminum construction.


Image Credits: IsoAcoustics Inc. and Todd Anderson
 

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Discussion Starter #322


Like most enthusiasts, I am forever on the hunt for cost effective, easy to implement, system improvements that can coax more performance from my home theater gear. The biggest roadblock is separating true game changers from snake oil prior to opening the wallet – after all, who wants to spend valuable coin on a product that simply exists within a system without any appreciable impact? If you’ve been in the home theater or two-channel game for a while, then you probably can jot down a laundry list of products that simply do not (and never will) live up to claims. That’s what makes the subject of today’s review a breath of fresh air.

 

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Todd, how much do you think the change in height with IsoAcoustics bases is strictly because of the change in height? I am wondering , because in my setup i would need them to be almost 4' square. :T
 

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Discussion Starter #325


The Holiday Season is upon us, which means it’s time to crank up the gift-giving machine. The good news for you is that HTS is here to help! Staff writers Mike Edwards (Home Theater Shack's Movie Guru) and Todd Anderson have compiled a Movie Gift Guide that will cover all of your bases. These films represent highlight releases launched on Blu-ray and DVD during the past year; films that will more than satisfy fans of just about any genre. For more information about these titles, simply click on the film’s name and you’ll be able to read Mike Edwards' full film review. Of course, if you think we’ve missed one of the better releases of 2015, please make your own suggestion in the comments section. We look forward to seeing what our members can dig-up! Happy Holidays, Merry Christmas, and Happy Watching!


Christmas Classic
National Lampoon's Christmas Vacation: 25th Anniversary Edition
Kicking off this Holiday Gift Guide is a film that has carried Christmas cheer for 25 solid years: National Lampoon’s Christmas Vacation. Featuring comedian Chevy Chase and a cast full of familiar faces, the Griswold family is now pristinely enshrined on Blu-ray disc with a 25th Anniversary Edition. This remastered version of the film features audio and video improvements that easily trump previous disc iterations, making it a must own for fans of the film.



Action/Thriller
John Wick
John Wick, staring Keanu Reeves, is our top rated action Blu-ray of the year. Filled with blood, guns, knives, mobsters, explosions, and awesome one liners, Wick is an absolute cinematic delight. The film’s video transfer is stunning, only one-upped by its Grade-A Dolby Atmos audio track. Aside, from Gravity (Diamond Luxe), John Wick is one of the best immersive Atmos Blu-rays to date.

Furious 7
The long running Fast and Furious franchise has raked in several billion dollars worth of revenue for Universal Studios. With some hits and misses over the years, the series has put forth quite a few solid efforts. Of course, the untimely death of star actor Paul Walker makes Furious 7 a landmark film for his fans. Furious 7’s Blu-ray treatment is excellent on both visual and auditory fronts, with a delicious video treatment that ever so slightly outshines its sound presentation.

Mad Max: Fury Road
Mad Max: Fury Road is probably the most polarizing film in our Gift Guide. The story is one you’ll either love or hate, but there’s no denying its cinematic presentation is unique. It's heavily stylized with an awesome post-apocalyptic vibe. Visually, the Blu-ray release is stellar with fine details abound. Its Dolby Atmos audio track is no slouch, either.

Mission: Impossible – Rogue Nation
Due to hit store shelves on December 15th, Mission: Impossible – Rogue Nation is on our upcoming review list. That being said, the film was a Box Office smash hit, raking-in $700 million worldwide. If its Blu-ray release is anything like the series’ last film (Ghost Protocol), then we’re in for a real treat. You might remember that it was Paramount’s first Dolby Cinema release (HDR and Atmos), and we’re expecting it to be encoded with Atmos audio on disc.




Animation
Spirited Away
Spirited Away is one of Mike Edwards’ more highly rated Blu-ray releases of 2015. As Mike said, “It is the epitome of hand drawn Japanese animation at its finest, rivaling even the greatest and most impeccable of digitally animated films today. The colors are nothing short of amazing, with vibrant primary colors, soft pastels and a huge incorporation of octopus inky black levels. Shadow detail is nothing short of amazing, and fine detail in the animation is just ….well…. perfect.” Toss in a top-notch story to match, and Spirited Away makes for a very compelling holiday gift.

Big Hero 6
Disney delivers, period, and Big Hero 6 is no exception. The film was a commercial success, oozing everything that makes Disney films so amazing. This one is a must buy for a young one in your life, and is also loaded with enough to keep adults entertained, too. Audio and video characteristics are top-notch, and a 2.40:1 presentation makes this one a videophile’s demo delight.

Star Wars Rebels: Season 1
On the heels of Star Wars: The Clone Wars, Disney brings Star Wars Rebels to the table. With all the feel of the Original Trilogy, Disney delivers a return-to-roots experience (which we’re all hoping to find with the upcoming feature film: Star Wars: Episode VII). Mike Edwards says the Rebels series was a blast to watch (audio and video experience is solid), making this a great alt-Star Wars gift.

Aladdin (Diamond Edition)
Finally, one of Disney’s all-time classics has landed on Blu-ray, and it’s spectacular. We all know the story, and Robin Williams' Genie character is a show-stopping career highlight for the much-missed actor. Video details are stunning from beginning to end, showcasing fantastic hand drawn animation, and a 7.1 DTS-HD MA audio track is equal to the task. This is a must-add to the collection release for kids and film collectors, alike.

Inside Out (3D/2D)
We can always count on Pixar for an outstanding film, and history repeats with the release of Inside Out. The storyline is a crowd pleaser, definitely outpacing such recent releases as Planes and Cars 2, and its 1.78:1 AVC transfer and 7.1 DTS-HD MA audio are nearly perfect. Add a ton of rewarding extras to the mix, and Inside Out makes a great Blu-ray gift.




Horror
Army of Darkness (Special Edition)
Our lone horror recommendation comes in the form of a 20-plus year old film, Army of Darkness. This is an incredibly unique horror classic, blending humor and goofy gore. Luckily, SCREAM Factory has etched this Director’s Cut release with an excellent video remaster that should have videophiles clapping their hands. This is a must buy for fans of horror films.




Action/Adventure
The Hobbit: Battle of the Five Armies
Peter Jackson’s last three Hobbit films weren’t as well received as the original trilogy, but that doesn’t stop The Hobbit: Battle of the Five Armies from making the cut. It is, after all, the series’ final climatic film and a bookend to a set of movies that has captured the imagination of moviegoers around the world. If you buy the Extended Cut, you’ll not only find alternative packaging, but also a plethora of extras.

Ant-man
Ant-man is another homerun for Marvel, having done extraordinarily well at the Box Office while receiving quite a bit of critical acclaim. The bottom line is that the story is just plain fun, and the Blu-ray disc’s audio and video presentations are practically perfect. While the included extras aren’t extravagant, they are more than adequate and should be of interest to fans of the film.

Avengers: Age of Ultron
Avengers: Age of Ultron is our second featured Marvel movie. While the storyline ultimately suffers a bit of “bridge syndrome” experienced by many middle movies in a trilogy, it’s still a fun ride and loaded with lots of great comic characters. Audio and visual qualities of the release are stellar; this disc is a must-buy for Marvel Comics fans.





Drama
Whiplash
Here’s a suggestion that’s a tad off the beaten path: Whiplash. Winner of both the Audience and Grand Jury Prizes at the 2014 Sundance Film Festival, Whiplash has received quite a bit of critical acclaim. The story is an adrenaline-pumping drama about a young jazz musician pushed to the brink of perfection (and sanity) by a hard-driving teacher. This might be one of the best dark-horse gift ideas for film fans and collectors.

Foxcatcher
Foxcatcher is another interesting film that fits into the drama category. Sporting high marks for audio and video quality, this Blu-ray release offers little in the form of eye-catching extras. The story, however, is an impressive psychological drama delivered by the director of the critically acclaimed film Moneyball. This is definitely one to keep high on your list. Home Theater Shack has yet to review this film.




Sci-Fi/Adventure
Interstellar
Interstellar is a tremendous Sci-Fi ride, blending science and action in the form of a (nearly) three hour cinematic tour-de-force. Directed by Christopher Nolan, Interstellar is an absolute masterpiece. The only knock on the film’s video transfer is the awkward switching between 2.39:1 and 1.78:1 aspect ratios (only of real concern to owners of fixed cinemascope screens); audio is superb despite a 5.1 DTS-HD MA track. This all goes without mentioning extras, which are copious and revealing.

Ex Machina
Ex Machina has the distinction of being the first DTS:X encoded Blu-ray release, ever (despite DTS:X decoding remaining unavailable). It also has the distinction of being my favorite Blu-ray release of the year. Mike Edwards came close to agreeing with my assessment, issuing the movie’s storyline as strong 4.5-stars. The video transfer is a tad soft and inconsistent, but solid nonetheless. Audio is phenomenal. The meat of the release (the film itself), is simply fantastic. Highly recommended.

13. Terminator Genisys
He’s Back! In a film that falls short of being a classic, Terminator Genisys has enough twists to remain highly entertaining. What makes this release even more fun is a killer Dolby Atmos mix that’s guaranteed to light your system – and ears – on fire. If you’re looking for a fun action romp, put this one on your short list.

Gravity (Diamond Luxe Edition)
The Diamond Luxe Edition of 2013’s blockbuster film Gravity is more than just a retread, it’s a revelation. One of the biggest disappointments with the film’s original Blu-ray release was a paltry 5.1 audio treatment. Well, someone at Warner Bros was paying attention and the decision to give Gravity a Dolby Atmos treatment deserves more than a round of applause. The audio impact of Atmos paired with Gravity is spine tingling and goose-bump inducing; it’s easily the best Dolby Atmos film I’ve experienced to date. This version of the film is a must buy, even if you’re only running a 7.1 speaker array.
 

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Not sure if I follow your question....
I have read that it is better to have the speakers higher of the ground vs on the ground, so I am wondering if what you heard was more because of the height change than the method. Does that make more sense?
 

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Discussion Starter #327
I have read that it is better to have the speakers higher of the ground vs on the ground, so I am wondering if what you heard was more because of the height change than the method. Does that make more sense?
Yes, it does. During my listening sessions I kept speaker height equal (stand vs non-stand), to control for that variable.
 

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Discussion Starter #328


Yesterday, SVS Sound launched a newly branded line of custom audio accessories, intended to provide customers a range of high quality moderately–priced interconnects and audio solutions. This accessory category is a logical next step for the burgeoning Ohio-based company, especially considering its renowned prowess in the subwoofer market, in addition to its highly acclaimed loudspeaker series.

“It’s nearly impossible to find high quality audio cables, interconnects and bass management solutions that don’t make you overpay for outlandish marketing claims or have you pay less for second rate quality,” said Gary Yacoubian, president, SVS. “SVS SoundPath audio accessories bridge the gap by combining engineering excellence and exceptional performance with welcoming prices.”

SVS SoundPath Audio Accessories are currently comprised of five different products, each of which definitely appear to offer customers middle-ground solutions that strike a great price and build quality medium.


Soundpath Speaker Cable Terminals
SVS’s terminal category has both spade terminals and banana plugs offered at $9.99/set (free shipping). Both are made with 24K gold plated brass bodies and machined precision. Rather than twisting speaker wire under a speaker terminal lug, the spade terminals allow customers to attach speaker wire to speakers with guaranteed full surface area contact and secure connections. The banana plugs are ideally used on the receiver/amplifier side of the audio chain, and feature internal teeth for grabbing stripped speaker wire. Both products have rubber grips and textured junctions to allow for easy handling and connection.



SoundPath One Speaker Cable
Speaker wire can be expensive, yet everyone knows the danger of introducing cheaper low-quality line. That makes Soundpath One, priced at $29.99/50ft and $54.99/100ft (free shipping), a very enticing product. Soundpath One is a 14-guage stranded copper wire cable that comes wrapped in electromagnetic shielded sheathing. This means it can easily handle long wire runs while maintaining signal integrity. SVS has color-coded polarity and marked 1-foot segments to make running wire a simple process.



SoundPath Ultra Speaker Cable
Stepping-up in design and performance categories, the SoundPath Ultra speaker cable has the look of a super high-end speaker connection. Like the SoundPath One, the Ultra offers 14-guage wire. However, Ultra adds a protective braided sleeve, dual layer dielectric shielding, and custom hand-terminated cable lengths. Buyers can opt to have the cables fitted with spade terminals or banana plugs (or a combination of the two). Pricing begins at $43.99 for a 4-foot section of cable and is offered in sections up to 50-feet. Free shipping is offered for this product.



SoundPath Interconnect Cable
With the same braided sleeve look possessed by the Ultra speaker cables, the SoundPath Interconnect is a high-quality RCA audio interconnect option. It’s constructed with pure copper conductors, 24K gold plated brass connectors, and a five-layer dielectric insulation system. These interconnects are available in seven different lengths (1M through 15M) starting at $24.99 (free shipping).



SVS SoundPath Subwoofer Isolation System
A previous offering ushered into the SoundPath Accessory family is the Subwoofer Isolation System. These are durometer elastomer feet that reduce the transmission of subwoofer energy through floors and walls, thus putting low frequency information into the air (where it can be felt). Users can expect these isolation feet to eliminate buzzes and rattles associated with floors, while reducing sound transmissions that can disturb people in rooms below (especially important for apartment dwellers). The SoundPath Subwoofer Isolation feet are sold in quantities of four ($49.99) and six (69.99) and come with free shipping.

For more information about any of these products, visit our great friends at SVS Sound by following this link.

Image Credits: SVS
 

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Discussion Starter #329
It’s been a busy month for the folks at Emotiva. With CES 2016 quickly approaching, the Tennessee based company has dropped several big product announcements including new amps, pre-amps, and speakers. Today, we’ll dive into Emotiva’s world and take a peek at the company’s CES-bound offerings.


XPA Gen 3 Amplifiers
The XPA Gen 3 amplifiers represent a significant move from Emotiva’s Gen 2 line, offering a highly configurable single chassis/power supply solution that gives the end user incredible flexibility. Each Gen 3 amp unit can manage up to seven channels of amplification, and can be ordered in two, three, four, five, six, and seven amp configurations. Because the system is modular, additional channels can be added (up to seven) after purchase. This means a Gen 3 unit can grow with system needs, possessing the power to drive everything from a single subwoofer to a seven channel surround sound system.

In addition to its highly appealing modular nature, Emotiva is using a new high performance switching power supply to deliver low noise performance. It automatically can adapt to line voltage between 100V and 250V, while lightening the overall system weight to make physical handling easier. Each channel uses differential inputs, short signal path Class A/B amplifier circuitry, and a Class H power topology.

Pricing for the new Gen Amps is as follows:
  • XPA-2: $999
  • XPA-3: $1,119
  • XPA-4: $1,399
  • XPA-5: $1,599
  • XPA-6: $1,799
  • XPA-7: $1,999
Emersa
Emersa is a line of AV components that is designed to be wallet friendly and easy on the eyes with small form factors. In the words of Emotiva, Emersa balances “lifestyle and sound.” Buyers can expect slim unit chassis, easy to read OLED displays, and user-friendly operating systems.




“Great audio performance should be experienced in the real world. It shouldn’t compromise on convenience or performance,” says Dan Laufman, President and Founder of Emotiva. “Emersa components have been engineered to balance performance with lifestyle, décor with function. It’s our most ambitious introduction yet, delivering a new level of immersive experience with home audio. CES 2016 will be the beginning of something big for Emotiva, our dealers, and most important, music and movie lovers everywhere.”

The line will debut with six offerings including two pre-amplifiers, an integrated amplifier, and three dedicated amplifiers.

The EPM-1 ($899), a 7.1 pre-amp processor, comes loaded with Dirac Live room correction, USB DAC, Blue-tooth connectivity, and a white OLED display. It also features the same operating system developed for Emotiva’s flagship XMC-1 processor. For slightly less, the EPA-1 ($599) is a two-channel pre-amp processor that can be used in either 2.0 or 2.1 modes with the crutch of an 80Hz high pass crossover and a balanced output for subwoofer duty.

The EPA-1 has three optional Digital Input modules. The DAC1 provides support for streaming audio via USP input. The DAC2 uses an AKM 32-bit D/A converter to provide audiophile-quality audio via USB, while the Universal Streaming module provides digital audio streaming via USV, WiFi, Blue-tooth and Ethernet.

The Emersa EPI-1 ($899) is a Class-D integrated stereo amplifier that combines 100 Watts per channel with all of features offered by the EPA-1 pre-amp. Emotiva is also releasing three Emersa amps that share the same slim-line form factor offered by the EPM-1 and EPA-1. The amps come in two-channel (EDA-2, $599), five-channel (EDA-5, $799) and seven-channel (EDA-7, $999) configurations and offer impressive powers specs ranging from 150 Watts/channel (EDA-2) to 125 Watts/channel (EDA-5 and EDA-7).

Airmotiv Speakers
In addition to the company’s new amp and pre-amp models, Emotiva has also announced four new speakers, two new subwoofers, and a soundbar offering. Each features high quality MDF cabinetry, black faceted baffles, and magnetically attached grills.




The new speakers include the ported T1 tower (dual 6.5-in woofers, one 5.25-in midrange, one ribbon tweeter, $349/each), B1 bookshelf (5.25-in woofer, ribbon tweeter, $299/pair), C1 center channel (dual 5.25 woofer, 3-inch midrange, and ribbon tweeter, $249/each), and E1 rear channel (4.5-in woofer, ribbon tweeter, $249/pair). The soundbar (SB1) is a two-way LCR featuring six 4-in tweeters and three folded ribbon tweeters). The subs (S10 and S12) are 10-in and 12-in, respectively, featuring both a long throw woofer and a passive radiator.

These speakers will be available for order through Emotiva’s website and official online dealers.

Image credits: Emotiva
 

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I had read about those new Airmotiv speakers. Now that they offer passive versions I'm rather intrigued. Price almost seems to good to be true though, so it will be interesting to see if that's what they really sell them for.
 

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Discussion Starter #331
Dust kicked-up by the Holidays has finally settled and a New Year has opened its arms. If you’re thoughts are anything like mine, then you can certainly relate to my unbridled excitement over the A/V tech possibilities that await us in 2016. The theme of my 2014 Year in Review was one of major change. That might sound rather generic, but enthusiasts truly experienced a flood of newness across the industry. We witnessed the final blows to plasma’s reign, OLED’s continued push toward sustainable market life, Quantum Dot fascination, the rise of 4K UHD and HDMI 2.0, and promises of future 4K content. We also tasted Dolby’s version of immersive sound. Heading into 2015, I was fairly convinced we’d experience a revisionary year where those changes were merely tweaked, fine-tuned, and made more readily available in new models. While that was largely true, we certainly had a few surprises along the way. With that, let’s take a trip down recently memory lane with a 2015 post-game wrap-up, Year in Review style.



An Unnoticed Discontinuation
When was the last time you watched a movie stored on a Betamax cassette? Coming from a family that foolishly chose Betamax over VHS, the very name “Betamax” brings back a flood of childhood memories. My older brother, who at the time was the tech geek of the family, convinced my parents to pay more for a Sony Betamax, shunning the obviously inferior VHS format. It was smooth sailing until content became nearly impossible to find. The largest Washington D.C. area rental chain (Erols) slowly phased-out support for Sony’s darling and forced us to join a much smaller Mom and Pop shop that, amazingly, had nearly every movie – new and old – on the format. It was a great find until the store was raided and shutdown for violating copyright laws. It turns out their plethora of Betamax titles were acquired by illegally copying movies from VHS releases.

That marked the end of our VHS holdout.

Before I digress further, let me explain the inspiration for kicking-off this Year in Review with a tech of time’s past. Late last year, Sony announced it will discontinue manufacturing of Betamax cassettes. If you’re scratching your head and wondering how or why demand for the format has survived this long, then join the club. So consider this warning served: As of March 2016 you’ll no longer be able to buy new Sony Betamax cassettes. Stock up.


Rebirth of the Receiver
Prior to 2015, the receiver market was largely stagnant. With both 4K video and immersive sound on the horizon, 2014’s crop of receivers was far from future proof and nearly impossible to recommend. While some 2014 receivers shipped with HDMI 2.0 compliance, all of them lacked HDCP 2.2 copyright compatibility (for 4K content) and many missed immersive sound coverage. During early 2015 we began to see AV receivers that offered HDMI 2.0, HDCP 2.2, and nine channels of amplification. By year’s end, there were numerous models offering those features in addition to immediate support of Dolby Atmos and future DTS:X decoding capability. Unfortunately, AVRs with full 11.1 Dolby Atmos support were largely flagship models, all requiring at least two channels of outboard amplification to run a full (four) array of presence channels.



Yamaha's RX-A3050 offers 11.2 Atmos compatability.


The good news is that owners of 2015 receivers should have most – if not all – of their bases covered for years to come. This year, I suspect we’ll see a trickle down of 11.1 performance to cheaper models paired with DTS:X shipping complete and ready to go.


Immersive Audio Drops Anchor
Immersive audio has turned into one of the biggest home theater advancements in recent memory. If you’ve been curious about testing the waters, then take my advice and jump in; object based audio offers an experience that’s simply invigorating. Dolby Atmos finished 2015 as the biggest player in the immersive audio world with a catalog of 22 Blu-ray movies, and we’re certain to see that number explode in the New Year. While many manufacturers shipped AV receivers with DTS:X upgradability, the codec remained vaporware until mid-December when Denon announced it would be the first to release a DTS:X firmware upgrade in early 2016. This rollout will slowly happen and is 100-percent manufacturer dependent, so check directly with your manufacturer for firmware update information.

If you’re not familiar with immersive audio, it’s a technology that allows sound mixers to utilize an array of front, side, rear and ceiling channel speakers to place sounds in a specified location of space using metadata encoded in the audio track. The latest crop of AV receivers can decode the metadata and apply it to the number of speakers you have deployed in your home theater room. While some movies feature voices and sounds that appear to come from directly overhead, I’ve noticed the effect’s primary impact to be one of stretching the front soundstage upward. In some cases the effect is subtle, but its impact is fantastic. There are quite a few standout Atmos demo discs, including John Wick and Gravity (Diamond Luxe).

One of the biggest stumbling blocks, aside from a cost investment, is the necessity of two to four presence channels. Quite a few manufacturers sell add-on speaker modules that sit on existing speakers and reflect sound off the ceiling, but they have severe limitations when it comes to mid and low frequency content (high frequency sounds are much easier to bounce). That means your best bet is to install full-range in-ceiling speakers or the new wall and ceiling modules offered by companies such as XTZ Sound and SVS. Before you install anything, make sure you read my THX/Atmos update article from last year. I personally used the guidelines for speaker placement contained in that article and have been more than pleased with the results.

There is a third player in the immersive sound realm: Auro Technologies. This company’s approach to sound differs from Dolby and DTS’s object-oriented attack, relying on sound layers and (at most) one overhead Voice of God channel. Unfortunately, Auro’s speaker array requirements do not match those needed for Dolby Atmos. I had an opportunity to demo Auro-3D at CEDIA and was absolutely floored by the experience. In fact, I believe that Auro’s demo session outperformed any of the Atmos material I’ve heard to date. That being said, the company is having a tough time cracking the US market. Auro-3D can be found on some higher-end gear, but is largely absent from nearly all standard brands. According to my discussions with Auro-3D, the company’s presence in Europe and Asia is extraordinarily healthy and it’s hoping to further penetrate the US market in 2016. Can they encroach on territory historically held by DTS and Dolby? Only time will tell.



John Wick is one of the top Atmos tracks released to date.


Pixel City
Our video universe has been completely turned on its head. Several years ago, 1080p technology appeared to be reaching full stride and the industry was looking to inject new selling points. It’s widely agreed that 3D was a rather large “swing and miss” in that regard. Yes, it’s still lingering, but it has been more than overshadowed by the arrival of another selling point: 4K UHD. The market value of 4K is rather large for manufacturers because it’s a glitzy selling point, but what most consumers fail to realize is that the millions of extra pixels offered by 4K have a negligible impact when considering standard screen sizes and normal seating distances. Folks, it’s a simple matter of the physical capabilities of the human eye. Of course, you can see a difference if you stand within a few feet of a 4K display, but that alone isn’t enough to drop several thousand dollars replacing older 1080p sets (yet). Last year we saw a drop in available 1080p models in larger (50-inch and up) screen sizes and are likely to see that trend continue in 2016. On the projector side, most manufacturers have 4K projectors in the pipeline, but they remained a rarity for most of 2015. Of the larger mid-priced manufacturers, Sony led the pack by releasing several 4K models; JVC continues to lean on its non-4K e-shift technology.

So, where does this leave us?

It turns out that two piggyback 4K techs, High Dynamic Range and Wide Color Gamut, are primed to be the stars of the show going forward. Both of these technologies began to bubble to the surface in 2015. They’re not available on all 4K UHD televisions and projectors, so make sure you do your homework before making a purchase.



LG and its OLED televisions are primed to lead the pack for years to come.


High Dynamic Range (otherwise known as HDR), refers to a newly available brightness range that allows for greater detail to be seen within the darkest and brightest of images. The effect is noticeable and quite striking. I had an opportunity to see HDR material on televisions at Value Electronics’ Television Shootout and projectors at CEDIA, and believe it will be a powerful selling point as content becomes available. There’s no industry wide HDR standard at the moment, so it remains unclear if there will be compatibility issues across manufacturers over the next several years. Hopefully the industry will settle on a single standard (such as Dolby Vision) sooner rather than later.

Wide Color Gamut refers to a move from the current HDTV color space (Rec. 709) to a larger color space known as Digital Cinema or P3. This larger color space is already used in commercial cinemas and has been confirmed as a specification on forthcoming UHD Blu-ray players. Paired with the move to P3 is the inclusion of 10-bit color encoding which essentially allows for much larger color palate gradations and smoother color transitions within an image. Goodbye banding!

I believe both HDR and Wide Color Gamut will be selling points attached to top-end televisions in 2016, and suggest that buyers consider HDR to be a "must have feature" going forward.


Blu-ray Upgrade
The biggest news in the Blu-ray world occurred when Panasonic showed an Ultra HD Blu-ray player prototype at CES 2015. As the year progressed the Ultra HD Blu-ray specification was finalized, as were new disc packaging and label guidelines. By the end of the year, Samsung also revealed a player of its own. The biggest surprise was the lack of Ultra HD Blu-ray equipment for gift-hungry holiday shoppers. As of now, we expect gear and content to begin trickling-out in the early stages of 2016.




OLED Dominates
2015 was a big year for OLED’s largest cheerleader (and only current manufacturer), LG Electronics. Despite some minor dark scene picture performance hiccups on early year models, LG appears to have a world-beater technology on its hands with performance characteristics that LCD televisions can’t touch. If OLED were Holly Holm, then LCD would most certainly be an exhausted Rhonda Rousey hitting the mat. This isn’t to say that LCD technology is bad or yesterday’s news…I left Robert Zohn’s Flatpanel Shootout event thoroughly impressed by Sony’s LCD entry and even remarked in my post-Shootout article that I felt the company’s model should have eked-out a victory. But, at the end of the day, LG’s OLED’s are drop-dead gorgeous and word from the inside indicates that they have corrected dark scene issues.

Panasonic has been largely invisible in the television scene since dropping plasma. But, they showed signs of a revival by announcing late year intentions to develop an OLED display. When? We don’t know. Perhaps we’ll hear from them as 2016 progresses. Hopefully they’ll be successful sooner than later and an OLED market competition will develop.

Aside from what we know, there is something of an unknown looming in the shadows. Last November a professor at Arizona State University unveiled the world’s first white laser, which might be able to produce up to 70-percent more color on a television screen. Of course, this is all early conjecture, but just goes to show that there might be something better at the end of the rainbow.


The Wrap
I know I speak for the rest of the Home Theater Shack staff, when I say "thank you" to all of our members and social media followers. We have so many fantastic members that add value to the community and everyone’s continued participation on the website is truly appreciated. Our social media presence continues to grow and seems to pick-up steam each and every week. If you’re not following us on Facebook or Twitter, please take a moment to do so!

On a personal note, it’s been be a pleasure creating site content for another year, and certainly appreciate everyone that takes the time to both read and comment on the topics I throw your way. I’m sure that sentiment is shared by our core of great product reviewers (Wayne Myers, Peter Loeser, Jim Wilson, and Dennis Young); we are certainly lucky to have them share their expertise and analysis with the community on a monthly basis.

Also, please take a moment to click on our sponsor links and checkout their amazing offerings. GIK Acoustics, SVS, and Power Sound Audio all released fantastic new products this year, and Oppo and miniDSP continue to be market leaders.

We have some exciting changes planned for HTS in 2016, some of which should be revealed soon!

Happy New Year!

Image Credits: Home Theater Shack, Yamaha, Lionsgate Films, LG Electronics, Sony Pictures Home Entertainment
 

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On a personal note, it’s been fun providing creating site content for another year, and certainly appreciate everyone that takes the time to both read and comment on the topics I throw your way. I’m sure that sentiment is shared by our core of great product reviewers (Wayne Myers, Peter Loeser, Jim Wilson, and Dennis Young); we are certainly lucky to have them share their expertise and analysis with the community on a monthly basis.
I did notice one small thing, the bold/underline piece above; should be either "providing" or "creating".

On a side note... I would like to personally thank you for the tremendous effort you have put forth in providing content for HTS. It's essentially a non-stop stream of high quality stuff. You probably write more than the rest of us combined. I tip my hat to you!
 

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Discussion Starter #333
Thanks Jim... the faucet is open! I think I hit something like 84,000 words for the year...maybe a tad more. LOL. Hurts just thinking about it.

I'm glad to know someone is enjoying it...really appreciate the pats on the back.

I went through this year in review document before posting it on the homepage and found a lot of little typos and fixed most of them (I think)...so the final edit is there. I did catch what you pointed out.

It is tough editing post writing.


By the way, I went back and re-read your XTZ Cinema review the other day... I hope you know what a killer review that is. So well written. Tremendous depth and insight. Some fancy vocabulary. :D Awesome stuff.

Happy New Year, my friend!
 

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Discussion Starter #334
LG's OLED Family Stands Tall at CES 2016

It’s beginning to look like LG Electronics’ choice to go “chips all in” with OLED displays was a great strategic move, and they’re actively reaping the benefits of their decision to stay with the technology. This past week, LG was literally “on fire” (to quote Value Electronics’ Robert Zohn) at the Consumer Electronics Show 2016, creating a Fire Marshal’s special at a press conference that ended-up being a standing room only affair. What’s more interesting is that LG leaves CES much as it arrived: the only manufacturer shipping OLED televisions in the United States.




LG unveiled two new series of OLED televisions with a grand total of eight new models at the Las Vegas event. The new EG (largest: 65-inch class) and G6 series (largest: 77-inch class) both feature a new Picture-On-Glass design that measures incredibly thin (the G6 series is a mere one-tenth of an inch thick); bezels are also minimalistic, giving these televisions a fresh and sophisticated appearance. Internally, they feature newly tweaked High Dynamic Range and color capabilities that LG believes will result in obtaining the industry’s new Ultra HD Premium status just released by the UHD Alliance. What’s more important, the televisions’ HDR capabilities are both compliant with the most widely used HDR formats (HDR10 and Dolby Vision). With 10-bit panel and 10-bit processing power, these televisions sport a wider color gamut giving them a color variation capability reaching a billion (close to fulfilling the larger DCI/P3 color specification). This means gradations and shadings have the potential to be seamless and smooth.

“Our 2016 OLED TV lineup features a long list of innovations, such as Picture-on- Glass design and HDR Pro, which are featured prominently in the G6 and E6 models,” said Brian Kwon, President and CEO at LG’s Home Entertainment Company. “By upping our OLED TV game every year, we are driving innovation in the TV space so that more consumers will see and hear about the benefits of owning an OLED TV. We think 2016 will be a game changing year for this category.”

Both series ship with soundbar speaker systems developed in conjunction with Harmon/Kardon. LG says this kind of design keeps the sound drivers pointing directly forward (many thin bezel televisions have drivers angled downward). For a weighty presentation, the soundbars are equipped with extra woofers for added bass performance.

All models will ship with the company's next gen webOS Smart TV Platform (webOS 3.0).

LG says the G6 (passive 3D) and EG (passive 3D) series will be available in early 2016, joining their current C6 (curved, passive 3D) and B6 (flat, no 3D) televisions. It will also continue to manufacture and sell its lone 1080p OLED model. Pricing for the new G6 and EG series are unknown at this time, with the exception of the G6 65-inch model, which hits the street with a $6,999 price tag.

You may recall that Panasonic announced its intentions re-enter the OLED market last fall. The company did show their new curved 65-inch CZ950 OLED television at CES, however there isn’t a planned ship date for United States customers at this time.

We’ll take a look at what CES 2016 had to offer in the LCD realm, next.

Image Credit: LG Electronics
 

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I say bring it on baby! OLED is going to make plasma look like something from the 80's. Can't wait.
 

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It already does... Only question/. How durable are the panels??
The biggest problem has proven to be manufacturing yield; small panels have been reliable to produce, but larger ones not so much. That's becoming a thing of the past though, so it's looking good now.

I was so fascinated by the potential of this technology that 9 years ago I bought shares in the company that holds every OLED patent; Universal Display. I've watched those go up and down massively over the past decade, but now it seems like the worst is behind them and it's full speed ahead. Every major TV manufacturer has either bought into the technology already or is in the discovery phase. Apples next iPhone will feature OLED, and at that point the floodgates will open up.
 

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Discussion Starter #338
Don't quote me on this... But I'm 99% sure that LG owns the patent to their screen tech, called WRGB... I believe it's different than the small screen OLED product. I'm fairly sure Panasonic will be using their panels.

Sony's OLED TV (3yrs ago?) had a problem with blue expiring faster than red or green. It's really tough to predict what will happen with LG's tvs.


The whole situation with issues with dark images (10-20% grey scale) is very real. I saw it with my own eyes. The LG contact I have was very protective/deflective about the problem... I'm shocked that they were skewered in the press over it.

But, apparently they have fixed most of the issues, if not all.

Cross your fingers, because these TVs are awesome
 

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Discussion Starter #339
Late last year GIK Acoustics added an exciting new product to its highly affordable catalog of bass traps, acoustic panels, and diffusors. The new Alpha Wood Series represents something entirely different from the company’s traditional offerings, delivering diffusion and absorption through incorporating a wood face designed using a mathematical sequence of slots for one-dimensional scattering of sound.




The first model in the series made publicly available was the 23.75-inch x 23.75-in x 4-in wood-framed 4A Alpha Panel. This panel is filled with rigid environmentally friendly fiberglass (100-percent recycled, formaldehyde and urea formaldehyde free), wrapped in fabric, and finished with a blonde veneer wood face (available in 9 standard GIK Acoustics fabric options). Due to its size, the panel is easy to mount using the included saw tooth hanger, making it possible for larger areas of a wall to be covered using multiple panels.




The spacing of the slots on the front of the A4 panel allows for spatial diffusion of sound waves with an even decay time, while allowing low frequency waves to pass through to the fiberglass absorption material for low frequency control. GIK says that the 4A Alpha Panel provides twice the low-end absorption as compared to similar foam-based products (NRC =1.05). It can be used on front, side, and rear walls to keep reverberation better mixed and your room lively.

Recently, GIK Acoustics announced two new additional wood slot-faced Alpha Panel products: the Corner CT Alpha Bass Trap and the 24-inch x 48-inch 2A Alpha Panel (pictured, top). These models ship with freestanding supports, which allow them to be placed directly on the floor; both will be available for sale direct from GIK Acoustics in the weeks ahead, but will be on display at the NAMM Show in Anaheim, CA from January 21-24 (Booth 7423). Attending Home Theater Shack members are encouraged to visit GIK Acoustics' booth!




In addition, Home Theater Shack and GIK Acoustics are currently running a Giveaway Contest featuring 4A Alpha Panels. HTS members and non-members are free to enter; two lucky entrants will be eligible to win one (1) box of four (4) GIK Acoustics 4A Alpha Panels in standard fabric (value of $380). For more information, click here.


Image Credits: GIK Acoustics
 

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Discussion Starter #340
The physical media side of the 4K equation has been simmering backburner material for nearly a year. Last January, Panasonic arrived at CES 2015 with the world’s first publicly revealed prototype Ultra HD Blu-ray player. Several months later the Blu-ray Disc Association announced a finalized Ultra HD Blu-ray player specification, and later in the year the Digital Entertainment Group revealed new logo and packaging standards. Unfortunately, the timeline to market in North America missed the 2015 holiday shopping season, and we now find ourselves entering a new year waiting for gear and content.




That will be changing soon.

Panasonic, Philips, and Samsung all have Ultra HD Blu-ray players in the works, and each manufacturer is close to a launch. Sony, one of the early supporters of standard Blu-ray technology, is noticeably absent from this list. The company currently offers a Blu-ray model with 4K upconversion, but it lacks the ability to play Ultra HD discs.

Samsung is the closest to bringing a player to market, with a projected March launch of its UBD-K8500 model. This particular player was originally revealed at IFA 2015 and supports the new UHD Blu-ray format in addition to offering support for high dynamic range and standard Blu-ray upconversion. It's currently available for pre-order from the company’s website ($399 MSRP).

Philips BDP-7051 Ultra HD player (pictured) is scheduled to begin shipping in May, according to Value Electronics’ Robert Zohn. It will carry a price tag of approximately $400, and, like Samsung’s model, offers support of high dynamic range. It can play both VP9 and HEVC 4K video codecs, which means it can handle most forms of UHD content. This particular player sports an incredibly small footprint with a minimalist design appeal, something that Samsung's player lacks.

Panasonic, which began shipping its DMR-UBZ1 Ultra HD player in Japan last November, will begin shipping the DMP-UB900 in North America sometime during 2016. The UB900 supports high dynamic range and carries THX certification. As of this time, the company has not released pricing information.




The availability of UHD physical disc content is also beginning to take shape. Last year, we learned that Sony initially plans to release The Amazing Spider-Man 2, Salt, Hancock, Chappie, Pineapple Express, and The Smurfs 2 in Ultra HD. Several days ago, Lionsgate announced its intention to re-release Sicario, Ender’s Game, The Expendables 3, and The Last Witch Hunter in late March 2016. Also, 20th Century Fox has been offering pre-orders on quite a few titles including Wild, The Maze Runner, and Hitman. Rest assured that hundreds of titles will eventually be made available in Ultra HD. Initial pricing should fall in the $20 to $40 range, MSRP.

Image Credits: Philips, Lionsgate
 
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