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Audio News for July 8, 2014

Curved HDTVs – Worth the Money? – There’s a lot of advertising and promotion by some manufactures of the new curved screen TVs. The corners are closer to you so it makes things look a bit more like 3D, since for several reasons 3D hasn’t exactly taken over the TV market. According to the makers, glare [what glare?] is reduced with curved screens and the color is enhanced. The prices, though, are much higher: a particular 55” UHD TV is $2,299 in a flat-screen version but $3,299 in curved, and 78” curved screens run $8000 to $9000. The cons say the curved screens are fine for theaters but not suitable for home theater. They exaggerate reflections and limit the viewing angles greatly. Sizes under 65” are a waste; they look awkward when hung on a wall, and they are so expensive that they don’t make sense for most viewers. And UHD (it’s NOT 4K!) isn’t ready yet for prime time.

Aspect Ratios in a Nutshell – Speaking of curved screens, or perhaps not, today’s most prominent fault in some video displays is not the awful colors of yesterday, but selection of the wrong aspect ratio – so that the people in 4:3 productions are stretched unnaturally across a 16:9 screen, or those originally shot in 16:9 are squished and distorted into thin versions of themselves in a 4:3 screen. These are the two standards for video today, and all sets and remotes have simple buttons to adjust them properly if your set doesn’t have an automatic feature that handles it. Cinema films today are usually either 1.85.1 or 2:39:1. Many European widescreen films were 1.66:1 ratio of width to height. Those widescreen films that are closest to the 16:9 video standard are usually slightly cropped to fit the entire screen. Those that are wider are displayed with a horizontal matte above and below so that the full width of the original film is displayed. In our reviews we refer to widescreen films as anamorphic/enhanced, because the limited horizontal space between the perforations on the film requires a special anamorphic decoding lens to spread out the horizontally-squashed image which was shot with the original anamorphic lens. A 16:9 ratio has continued with widescreen video cameras, although there is a new effort from a couple manufacturers to move to a 21:9 super-widescreen to match more closely to the widest-screen movies. Some TV channels broadcast old 4:3 videos stretched to the 16:9 ratio, using a setting also furnished on some TV sets, which stretches the image more at the sides and less in the center. There is no excuse for setting the wrong ratio in viewing any video.

Better Home Audio – When you set out to purchase gear for your audio system, always take along some of the kind of music you like to listen to. Not all speakers are suited to every sort of music. If you’re setting up a system for the first time, put some thought into the space where the equipment – especially the speakers – will be. Get some advice from someone in the know; you might even take some shots of the room and take them to the audio dealer. Be sure to have the correct wattage for your speakers. There are now some very efficient speakers and also some very low wattage tube and hybrid amps. And don’t believe wattage specs; believe your ears. Raise your speakers up off the floor, usually toe them in, and don’t go wild on fancy speaker and interconnect cables. Consider your seating arrangement and don’t be afraid to re-adjust your seating and speakers until it’s just right for you. Most people sit too far from their speakers.

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