Audio News for December 11, 2005

by | Dec 10, 2005 | Audio News | 0 comments

 Video Delivery Choices Expand – This year has been generally a good one for those whose living room TV set has become the center of their entertainment world at home. Big flat TVs are surpassing DVD players as the major must-have home electronics product this holiday season, partly because their prices have been continuing to drop. Some large displays using DLP technology (digital light projection) are now available for under $2000. A Philips executive says plasma is very much the solution for 50 inches and above while LCD has managed its way up to 42 inches at reasonable price points. More people are able to buy a larger-than-27-inch TV now and most are going for HDTV-capable displays. The once sci-fi-ish goal of hanging your  TV screen up on the wall is now a reality.

The new multimedia interface connection of HDMI has become a standard that cuts thru much of the confusion of first-time users in home theater, since it combines both video and audio connections in a single cable and at the same time eliminates D-A and A-D video conversions, resulting in an improved screen image. A Kagan Research study showed a final estimate of 2005 sales of HDTV sets at 9.1 million vs. only 5.6 million for 2004. It predicted a 38% decline in pricing of an average HDTV by 2010, driving the number of HD homes to nearly 97 million that year.

Set-top boxes to not only acquire video content from satellite or cable, but also to timeshift it, store it, and display it, have become increasingly popular – with about eight million homes using Tivo-type PVRs. Two of the semiconductor companies are moving to get involved in this area of home entertainment. The Hollywood studios are lining up behind the two proposed standards for hi-def video on DVD – Blu-ray and HD-DVD – and some have lined up equally behind both just in case. Yet a different approach is not to have physical optical discs at all but – as bandwidth and speed of broadband connections improve even further – to deliver TV programming over the Internet: IPTV. Phone companies are seeking to compete with the satellite and cable industry to deliver video to the home. And TiVo just announced that starting next year it will allow video programs recorded on their PVRs to be downloaded to users’ video iPods. [Right. Can’t wait to watch Lawrence of Arabia on my iPod screen…]

Surround Sound Choices Also Expand – Let’s face it, the majority of the public doesn’t want to and/or cannot afford to purchase and set up a top-level home theater surround system with its many different and expensive audio components.  Yet 50 million American homes now have some sort of home theater setup with surround sound, according to a recent survey. Home Theater In A Box – HTIBs – have made this possible for many.  The idea is to provide a complete system for everything except the video display in an aggregation that is simple to set up and also sets one back for something under $600 (though they can range up to $2000 or more).  At first mostly brands you never heard of offered HTIBs, but now some of the top (often Japanese) names stand behind systems of which some sound quite impressive for their low price.

A typical HTIB consists of all five speakers plus a powered small subwoofer, a DVD player, and a multichannel AV receiver. The DVD player usually doesn’t include SACD or DVD-A capability and some HTIBs omit the player entirely, but a couple include a universal disc player. Some even provide a DVD changer. In some systems the DVD player is part of the AV receiver, and several also include an FM tuner. The speakers are selected with sufficient efficiency to sound good with the lower wattage-per-channel of the AV receiver. Color-coding and straightforward instructions usually take the frustrations out of wiring up the system. For those households opposed to the challenges of wiring up side or rear surround speakers (and willing to spend a bit more) there are now wireless speakers as well as others that plug into the AC line to retrieve channels 4 and 5. And for those totally opposed to ANY surround speakers, Niro makes a fairly effective pseudo-surround system using only frontal speakers.  Yamaha also has a one-point-surround speaker, but that’s getting out the entry-level HTIB price range. 
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