Audio News for October 13, 2009

by | Oct 13, 2009 | Audio News | 0 comments

Home Theater vs. Media Room – According to a home installations manager, there are two main directions you can go in setting up a home entertainment system: an isolated home theater or just a media room. A dedicated room will of course provide the highest performance. The acoustics and video images can be fully optimized for the listening/viewing space, giving the best bang for the buck. Such a customized room calls for front projection, a super-sized screen, completely blocked windows or no windows at all, and a decor kept to dark colors or even black. The media room alternative requires less or no construction work but is probably limited to a large LCD or plasma flat screen rather than front projection. Niceties for both include a control system that allows access to all electronic devices in the house on a network, an Internet connection, and everything controlled by a universal remote or your iPhone. Most systems allow watching or listening to the same source thruout the house on all devices, but many now use a zoned approach in which each device does its own thing, so different members of the family can access their own choices. The more complicated the setup gets, the more some professional help is needed to fit it into your lifestyle and space.

Intelligent Switches Support New HDMI 1.4 – NXP Semiconductors has unveiled intelligent switches supporting the new HDMI 1.4 specs released in June. They support the Audio Return Channel feature, a new option which reduces the number of cables required to deliver audio upstream for processing and playback. The switches also include support for all mandatory 3D over HDMI features, and have built-in auto-adaptive equalizers that can handle up to four HDMI 1.4 inputs and maintain AV quality over cables up to 30m length. An NXP spokesman said “By the end of this year, nearly one billion HDMI-ready systems will have been shipped worldwide. With the Audio Return Channel, HDTV viewers will be able to enjoy top quality sound without cable clutter.”

Opinions on New Beatles Remastered CD Sets – seem to run the gamut from high praise to “don’t spend your money if you already have the CDs – or better yet, the LPs.”  Everyone agrees they sound much louder, probably as a result of increased compression – a situation that besets many pop music CDs being issued today. This site – – has charts on the compressed dynamic range of many pop CDs (but not the Beatles set yet). Even Rolling Stone had a recent article on this concern: “The Death of High Fidelity.” On the other hand, buyers doing comparisons tout an increased ability to hear subtle details in the mix which were buried before. The enhancements are not major enough to survive conversion to MP3 files for iPods etc., but everyone agrees they are an improvement over the first CD releases of the Beatles.  There is also the attraction of lavish booklets with photos and mini-documentaries on the Beatles.

‘Phile Survey Shows Only 34% Still Using CDs – A reader poll in Stereophile magazine showed only 34% of those participating still used CD players as their primary digital music source. 36% used a computer-based server, 10% had dedicated servers such as Sonos, 4% used iPods and 11% used a SACD or DVD-A disc player. The poll didn’t ask for figures on vinyl playback.

Plasmas Losing Ground – Plasma TV displays, while still considered the finest by videophiles, are rapidly losing ground to LDC-based (Liquid Crystal Display) models because the latter have plunged in price, innovated their way to near-parity with plasma in image quality, and plasmas usually are less efficient power-wise.  This year will show the first decline in plasma TV sales: an estimated 3.3 million sets, vs. nearly 30 million LCD sets. Both Pioneer and LG are giving up on the production of plasma sets.

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