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AV Rant #483: 3 is Illuminati

April 28th, 2016 No comments

This week, we thank Heath, Rohan, and Charles for supporting the podcast with their donations! And thanks to Tony K. for letting Accessories4Less know that he bought his Onkyo TX-NR646 from them because of AV Rant!

In the news, Emotiva announced their BasX Series of low cost, Class A/B products, ELAC’s Debut B4 is a $180/pair Satellite speaker, and Universal’s Ultra HD Blu-rays will include Dolby Vision.

Karl R. shared a How to Make a Stereo System article from BoingBoing that we think is misleading, John M. adjusted some settings on his Rythmik LV12R subwoofer to get it sounding better, Wesley has done about as much as he can with his volume jumping mystery, and Jonathan F. found a Study that says 48% of Vinyl buyers don’t listen to vinyl.

Mark J. wants a new Pre-Pro, so naturally, we point him towards an AV Receiver instead. We also tackle the best way to connect tri-ampable speakers with self-powered woofers. Adriano M. is looking for acoustic absorption material in Australia, and he was sadly screwed over by an electrician who refused to install a simple coax cable! Adriano also has some questions about HULU audio settings and getting 2-channel sources to play in surround sound.

Ted M. has a ton of questions about where we think Virtual Reality is headed, and he “went out and listened” to some speaker store demos that made him question our previous recommendations. Justin B. loves his new EMP Tek Impression Series speakers, but asks about their 6 ohm rating. He also gets advice on acoustic panel placement, soundproofing, subwoofer setup using Audyssey, and our suggestions for “pretty” speaker wire, which include: SVS SoundPath Ultra, RAM Electronics, and Sewell.

Josh A. has an Oppo BDP-105, a Marantz AV8801, two displays, and HDMI handshake issues. We run through many suggestions, but the ultimate fix might just be an HD Fury. Brian R. has some upgraditis, but in the interest of value and performance, we tell him to pump the brakes. Tony K. wants to know if he should wait for the GoldenEar SuperSub X. And Bill wants $100 travel headphones that reduce noise, so we suggest Monoprice Active Noise Cancelling models, the Shure SE215 in-ears, and the Sony MDR-7506 plus a list of other candidates.

Sean is another AV Rant Listener with dual display HDMI handshake issues. We also have some ideas why one of his HDMI inputs isn’t getting audio, why his TV antenna might be dropping channels, and how to mount his outdoor speakers. James L. wants JBL Studio speakers, but his best option is just to wait. David M., John M., and Joseph P. all have questions about Reference Volume and measurement settings. And we try to save Bret R.’s company some money by suggesting a cheaper Vizio than the one he was considering.

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AV Rant #482: Speakers and Absorption

April 21st, 2016 No comments

This week, we thank Filipe, Jefferson, Joseph, Greg, and Ted for their generous donations! Jefferson also mentioned AV Rant Podcast to SVS when he bought two more subwoofers from them!

We must apologize to our YouTube viewers. Unfortunately, our live recording was interrupted by a technical problem and we weren’t able to fix it for the live video stream. We did manage to finish the audio-only version, though, so we hope you will enjoy listening to the second half of this episode!

In the news, at this year’s NAB (National Association of Broadcasters) Conference, director Ang Lee showed 11 minutes of his upcoming 120 fps 4K 3D feature film, “Billy Lynn’s Long Halftime Walk”. Tyler F. sent us the announcement that Netflix has begun streaming HDR10 and Dolby Vision content, so look for those little badges next to certain show titles if your TV supports it. Panasonic’s DMP-UB900 Ultra HD Blu-ray player will cost $800 and is the first player to receive Ultra HD Premium certification. And Amazon now offers monthly subscriptions: $8.99/month for Prime Video only, or $10.99/month for full Prime.

John M. received a suggestion from Ray Coronado during our Hangout After Party last week to use rubber door stops as a way to angle a speaker on a shelf. And Jonathan F. bought a 43-inch Sharp LCD TV with Roku built-in that has lackluster picture quality, but his wife loves it anyway.

Tony K. asks if an Onkyo TX-NR646 from Accessories4Less is a good replacement for his TX-NR608 or if he should consider a more expensive model. Michael V. wants to know if it’s ok to use a fair amount of horizontal lens shift when mounting his Epson 5030 projector. And Jim W. greatly expanded his attic space and pieced together a very nice home theater. We go over a few tweaks and suggest where we’d spend any additional funds next.

Jefferson G. is now the proud owner of four SVS SB13-Ultra subwoofers! His options for placement are fixed, so we go through the potential processes for getting four subwoofers dialed in to produce uniform, linear bass across all of his seats. Brent S. asks about ‘C’ Weighting vs. ‘Z’ Weighting when taking measurements or using an SPL meter. And Greg B. has a narrow room with two rows of seats. We suggest HSU’s speakers, including their HIW-1 in-wall with either an Elite Screens Spectrum AcousticPro or Silver Ticket fixed frame woven acoustic screen hanging from the ceiling in front of them.

Nathan D. and Infinite Gary heard an interview with experts from SpectraCal that talks about the changing landscape and standards for HDR, and how that might lead to a new HDMI 2.1 spec. Nelson W. wonders if he has enough room for four overhead speakers. We think he does, and we suggest Ascend Acoustics HTM-200SE, Aperion Audio Intimus 4B, NHT SuperZero 2.1, EMPTek E3b, and SVS Prime Satellites (and soon-to-be-released Elevation) speakers all as great, affordable options. And Ian E. gets our input on his plans for DIY absorption panel placement.

Dave M. wonders if we know of any current review websites or magazines that get as technical as The Audio Critic used to. Reviewer David A. Rich used to critique circuit board design, but no one seems to be getting that detailed in reviews anymore. Tom and Rob don’t know of any such resources, so please send in your suggestions if you have any! Infinite Gary wants to know what screen sizes are necessary to truly benefit from 4K resolution. And our good friend Ted M., who created our outro music for us (thanks, Ted!), is back after an “AV sabbatical” with $2700 to spend on three new Front speakers. His goal is realism, so we suggest the Ascend Acoustics Sierra-2, and Aperion Audio Verus II Grand. We also suggest a couple of lesser-known on-wall options in the Sunfire Cinema Ribbon Trio and new Legacy Audio Pixel. And RBH Sound’s in-wall speakers would be a top choice for installation.

Chris T. wants some $50 earphones for work and exercise. The RBH Sound EP-SB and Jaybird X2 tend to be our top Bluetooth model recommendations, but they’re both well over this budget. So the wired Shure SE112 are likely the best sounding option. Ashley S. asks if the HyperX Cloud 2 Gaming Headphones can also be used for movies. They can, but if their version of virtual 7.1 headphone sound isn’t up to snuff, there’s an alternative in the form of Darin Fong’s Out of Your Head software. And Michael I. gets some clarification on exactly what we’re trying to achieve with acoustic treatments and where they are placed.

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AV Rant #481: Overly Plush

April 14th, 2016 No comments

This week, we thank Jason, Michael I., and Robbert L. for their donations! We also thank Justin B. and Scott B. for letting RBH and Accessories4Less know that they bought products from them because of AV Rant Podcast recommendations!

In the news, if you register on their forums, you can view the prototype for Ascend Acoustics’ new “Sierra Sat” mini monitor. NHT HiFi has updated their speaker lineup. They have replaced their “Classic” Series with the new NHT C-Series, and the “Absolute” Series has been replaced by the new Dolby-enabled NHT “Media” Series. There is a new $50 Roku Streaming Stick with a nifty new app. And FlatPanelsHD posted a comprehensive write-up of Samsung’s confusing 2016 TV model number lineup.

Kris I. sent us a link to an article in which Sound & Vision tested various “High Speed” HDMI cables and discovered that many of them seemingly cannot transmit more than 10.2 Gbps. Jonathan F. and Jared F. both wanted our comments on Dr. Floyd Toole’s Audioholics article. And Richard B. gets our recommendation for in-wall and outdoor rated speaker wire, as well as thoughts on banana plugs, Coax Seal tape, and shipping to Canada, including CablesOnSale.ca, which resells Monoprice branded products in Canada.

Jason has a budget of $1,000/pair for new speakers. If he sticks with bookshelf models, the choices are nearly limitless, but we suggest starting with internet-direct brands that pay shipping both ways, like SVS and Aperion Audio, then considering other popular online brands like Ascend Acoustics, NHT HiFi, and EMP Tek (including their RBH MC Series). Comparing those with widely available retail brands like Klipsch, KEF, GoldenEar, PSB, Paradigm, Martin Logan, and B&W should allow him to narrow down his likes and dislikes, and hopefully find some speakers that perfectly match his preferences!

Raj gets us to confirm that we think a Vizio D or E-Series TV is the best choice for under $500. Tyler H. has in-ceiling speakers with a High Frequency EQ control and wants to know where to set it. And Infinite Gary wants to know when we think OLED prices will fall, as well as what the heck went wrong with his MacBook Pro’s headphone output jack.

Will T. want to figure out dimensions for a seating riser, whether to go with a grey or a white projection screen, and how close he can put a rear-ported speaker to the wall, as well as how high his Surround speakers can be mounted. Scott B. asks about Dolby Surround Upmixing vs. DTS Neural:X upmixing. He also gets our suggestions for in-wall power cord extensions, which all cost about the same coming from PowerBridge, Monoprice, or Sanus. And he asks if there are TV wall mounts with vertical adjustment that can handle more weight than the OmniMount Play70. DynamicMounting.com fits the bill, but the price tag is high, so simply re-mounting a patching a wall might be the best route.

Michael R. gets more clarification on Audyssey microphone placement, Reference Volume, and speaker crossovers, including that pesky LPF for LFE setting. SteveTheGeek is itching for a 4K projector. And John M. wants to go infrasonic for under $2,000, which massive subs like the SVS Ultra or Rythmik FV15HP can do, but if he wants the very deepest extension, dual sealed sub like the HSU ULS-15 Mk.2 might be the better way to go.

Greg gets a ton of links to get him started on his home theater journey:

1) THX Surround Speaker Setup
2) THX Flat Panel Setup
3) Harman White Paper on Multiple Subwoofers
4) Dolby Atmos Speaker Setup
5) Audyssey Setup Tutorial Video
6) RealTraps Small Room Acoustics Video
7) GiK Acoustics (check their “videos” tab), and
8) Sound Proofing Company (read all their Solutions, Articles, and Soundproofing 101)

And we finish with Michael I. asking about acoustic panel placement, finding first reflection points, ceiling treatments, 2-inch vs. 4-inch thick panels, and Surround speaker placement as well as how to run wires to the back of his room without being a tripping hazard.

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AV Rant #480: iClever Bluetooth Headphones Review

April 11th, 2016 No comments

This week we thank @SteveTheGeek, Richard B., Tyler, Steve W., Richard C., and Ilango for their generous donations. We also give a huge thanks to Ash for making a “metal” version of our AV Rant logo!

Tom starts us off with a review of iClever IC-BTH04 Bluetooth earphones that include a nifty magnet system to keep them around your neck with a retail price of $50.

In the news, Yamaha Receivers got their DTS:X firmware update, and more Denon & Marantz Receivers can now decode Auro-3D (for a $200 upgrade fee). Sony launched a new Ultra HD streaming service called ULTRA that includes HDR titles for $30. Fandango is renaming M-Go and calling it FandangoNow. Joseph P. gave us the heads up about the California School of Seismology using SVS PB13-Ultra subwoofers to simulate earthquakes. And David F. and Efrain sent us links to some April Fools’ jokes in the forms of a Solid Gold Subwoofer driver, and KEF Hydro Blaster.

Kris I. had deliveries from both Accessories4Less and Aperion Audio go awry, but he’s pleased that both companies quickly made things right. And Lee V. heard us talking about LEDs being too bright, so he suggests using after-market car window tint for a cleaner look than tape.

Harvie W. asks if larger Tower speakers are worth it in a small room. Richard B. gets our recommendation for the Yamaha NS-AW592 Outdoor Speakers for his newly covered patio. And Carlos M. wants to know if dual HDMI outputs on a player will allow him to bypass a non-HDCP 2.2 AV Receiver. We also point to Monoprice’s new Blackbird 4K HDCP 2.2 HDMI switch. And we talk about the XTZ Sound Cinema S2, EMP Tek E3b, Ascend Acoustics HTM-200SE, and NHT SuperZero 2.1 as good candidates for on-ceiling speakers.

Bill S. gets our in-wall speaker recommendations, which include: KEF, Focal, and RBH Sound. Infinite Gary asks if we agree with Scott Wilkinson that Vizio’s new P-Series displays are better for very bright rooms than an LG OLED. And Michael R. asks about using the Keuwlsoft SPL Meter app for Android to confirm that he has everything set to Reference Volume.

Greg asks our opinion of PSB speakers. Sam P. wonders why Netflix looks better than DirecTV and gets us to recommend Vizio’s new P-Series to him. And Filipe wonders about some additional Center speaker options as well as the power handling rating listed in speaker specs.

Jason wonders if it’s worth picking up a pair of used Polk RTi6 speakers to expand his system to 7.1. Adriano M. gets more input on using curtains as acoustic absorption. And Karl R. takes us to task over saying Atmos might never catch on at home while fantasizing about owning the largest IMAX theater in the world.

Steve W. asks what he should do in order to add a Center speaker to his system. Ashley S. has questions about getting 5.1 audio out of a Mac Mini as well as why different Blu-ray releases of the same movie would have different aspect ratios. And Luis E. wants great sound on a “Costco budget”, which leads us to strongly recommend a Pioneer Andrew Jones 5.0 speaker package with an SVS subwoofer to handle his large room size.

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AV Rant #479: Flick the Tip

March 31st, 2016 No comments

electric_rdThis week, we thank Tyler and William for their donations, Kris I. for mentioning us to Aperion Audio and Accessories4Less when he bought products from them, and Jeremy P. for letting Herb know he heard about Cross-Spectrum Labs on AV Rant. Keep your ears peeled for Tom’s SVS Prime and Ultra speaker reviews next week or the week after.

In the news, Antoine on Twitter was first to give us the heads up about Vizio’s new 2016 P-Series with Dolby Vision and HDR10 (within 90 days). Also announced are new Vizio M-Series and E-Series displays. SVS has updated their SVS Customer Bill of Rights. And Amazon used GitHub to release an official project to build an Echo (Alexa) using a Raspberry Pi 2.

Jonathan F. mentioned And Vinyly, a company that will press your ashes into vinyl records after you die. Bill offers more ideas for Wesley’s Volume Mystery, although switching to 2-channel output seems to be providing a usable workaround. Mark says drop ceiling tiles stuck directly onto a drywall ceiling make excellent ceiling cable camouflage. And Karl R. found a test from the BBC asking: Can Sound Change the Taste of Chocolate?

Ian E. gets our input on Audyssey microphone placement, speaker toe in, and which parts of the Audyssey Suite to turn on and off. Bill S. wants an Atmos Receiver, but it’s his desire for whole house audio that makes us strongly suggest a Yamaha AV Receiver with MusicCast. And John W. asks about a spherical room, then gets our suggestions for a headphone amp, which include the Schiit Audio Magni 2 if you want to spend a little, the Audio Engine N22 if you want to spend a little more, or the Oppo HA-1 if you want to spend a lot. The Emotiva Stealth DC-1 is also a good choice with a price that falls in the middle.

Brock R. gets our input on how many Atmos ceiling speakers he should add and where he should put them. Scott B. gets the scoop on Tom’s current plans for written reviews. And Tom K. gets a definitive answer in the battle of waffles vs. pancakes vs. French toast.

Kris I. asks whether Audyssey is a benefit or a detriment for background music in a large, open space. Felipe has a failing B&K amplifier, and we recommend the Monoprice Monolith 7 or the Outlaw Audio Model 7700 as replacement options. Felipe also wants to replace his Center speaker, and our top recommendations to match his other PSB speakers are the Paradigm Monitor Center 3 v.7, RBH Sound MC-616C, or the pricey PSB Imagine C3. And for deaing with Felipe’s 9,000 cubic feet of air, we point him towards HSU Research, Power Sound Audio, and Rythmik Audio as the output per dollar value champs.

Abby Savage is using a self-powered Center speaker that seems to be picking up RF interference from her Xbox 360. We discuss options and explain a little bit about how ferrite cores work. Josh Z. wonders why the calibration test tones from a setup disc measure lower than 75dB on his SPL meter. And Adriano M. gets our input on using curtains as acoustic absorption.

Jeremy P. is starting Porter Edwards HiFi to sell “boutique” hand-made speakers and subwoofers, so we offer him some business advice. Nelson A. wants subwoofers that can go “subsonic”, so our top recommendation is to go large and sealed from Power Sound Audio. Infinite Gary gets our suggestion for an HDMI switch, and our thoughts on those new Vizio P-Series monitors vs. LG’s OLEDs. And Tim B. is most likely in need of a new Audyssey microphone, so we suggest some resources, and a potential low tech fix.

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