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Merry Christmas!

December 24th, 2008

Instead of getting you a Christmas podcast this year, we decided to get you this… ah… Christmas post to let you know how much we love you and wish you a Merry Christmas.

OK, ok… My PC decided to corrupt the raid drives and that takes about 1-2 hours to remedy… This completely obliterated the window Dina and I had for doing the podcast this week… so instead, we’ll do some…

Listener Questions
In any rate I thought I would answer some questions that came in to us via email. First, Jonathan from New York asked us the following:

Just read your Klipsch review, and it reminded me of a question: You disassemble the speakers. Aren’t a lot of speakers made so that is a fundamentally destructive act? How do the companies like your sending back reconstructed speakers? What do you think they do with them when they get them back? Why do they even want them back under those circumstances? (I guess they could sell them as refurbished, I suppose, but that means they have to waste a set of speakers on every review net of the refurbished price. Ouch. No wonder it’s tough to get speakers for review.)

Jonathan – it’s not as bad as you think. Those Klipsch speakers were the first set I’ve heard of in a long time that we couldn’t really disassemble. For the most part we’re able to remove drivers and examine crossovers without any damage to the speakers. As one audioholic I know once put it: “What, are you afraid removing the driver will let out all the magic gremlins that make the speaker sound good?” It’s no big deal and we’re careful to always keep the speaker in tip-top shape. As far as refurbished – that’s typically referring to a product that got returned due to a problem that required repairs. In our case the speakers go back and the manufacturer can either send them out for another review or sell them as b-stock. Either way it is WELL worth it for a manufacturer to run a speaker through our review process. Even with a so-so review they’ll likely sell far more than enough to make up for one set of speakers.

Our next question was from David of “the Internet” (and abbreviated to reduce reader fatigue):

Of all the things I’ve learned about AV in the past few years, none have continued to puzzle me more than electricity. There is so much conflicting information out there. I know that some level of surge protection is required, especially for people living in lightning prone areas; but what about line conditioning and voltage regulation? Is it really needed?

I just helped my parents upgrade… I was looking at the APC BE550R for surge protection and protection against sagging voltage… I do believe there are occasional sags in voltage, as I’ve noticed the lights briefly dimming from time to time. Forgive me if this has been covered before, I know you guys like to slam all those esoteric ’empty box’ power conditioners and that Audioholics often sings the praises of APC, but what is really necessary?

Hi David. In general electronics are very forgiving of voltage surges and sags… within reason. These days electronics are made to handle anywhere from just under 100V to over 130V – all without really encountering any difficulties. Where voltage regulation really helps is with projectors. If you run a projector in a place that constantly has voltage spikes and sags, then your bulb life will probably be reduced significantly. The other problem is that many projectors don’t “play well” with battery backup systems and regulators made for PCs. I can’t exactly explain why (I need to sic Gene on that) but I’ve heard several stories of backup systems failing with projectors (including some first-hand knowledge). In your case I think you’re fine without anything, but if you absolutely want something I’d spring for an APC H-series. I can’t think of anything better that that for the price. We don’t tout APC cause they give us any money (they don’t advertise or anything that I know of). It’s because they publicly embarrassed the industry in terms of what they offer for the money compared to the competition.

Our last question was from Mitch in Sarasota, Florida:

When is it appropriate to use a curved screen? Should you only use one with an anamorphic lens? Are projectors without the extra lens made for a flat surface? Will a curve screw up the picture?

I am going to build a 12ft wide screen and project on it from 17-21ft away with a Sony VPL 50. I realize that the brightness will not be ideal, but size is more important to me. I was satisfied with the brightness on my test screen. I’m just not sure if I should put a curve in it or not. I will not be using an anamorphic lens.

Yo, Mitch. It’s really all about light transmission. Curved screens bounce light back to the viewers, instead of letting is scatter. And a result you get more gain and often higher contrast should there be ambient light in the room (windows, doorways, etc.) The reason curved screens are particularly good with an anamorphic lens system is because it slightly reduces the chance of getting some distortion at the edges of the picture.

Stewart has curved offerings for screens as small as 103″ diagonal. If I were you and was going to build something anyway I’d probably try a slightly curved screen just for kicks. You are definitely sitting back far enough and your screen size is no slouch. Your main problem, in fact, is having enough light output for the screen size… In that case a curved screen is only going to help you.

Well that was it for question… Keep calling and emailing and we’ll pop out more after the new year.

World’s Worst Christmas Present, or World’s Worst Parents?
I did notice a funny YouTube video this week (LINK). Seems this kid was given an Xbox 360 for Christmas. Of course when he opened it there were clothes inside. He cries. End of video.

It turns out the kid had peeked early at his Christmas presents and so the parents taught him a lesson… he got the Xbox 360 a week later. What’s odd, however is the fact that this kid doesn’t really seem like a spoiled brat and the joke seems to go on at the kid’s expense for faaaaaaaar too long. I can’t place whether this is a good example of how consumerist we are, or the level to which bad parenting and inappropriate punishment can take. In a related story, an inner city boy was arrested for setting his entire family on fire this Christmas… just kidding.

Favorite Christmas Movie
Your question of the week is: What is your favorite Christmas movie? It can be a classic, or any movie with an embedded Christmas theme. Post a comment and let us know.

Merry Christmas!

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  1. jaysonbarnett
    December 25th, 2008 at 02:25 | #1

    my favoite christmas movie is christmas vacation. I know the movie is horrible, but I can always use a laugh during the holidays. I always watch it on christmas Eve (which is tonight) and i want to wish everyone at AVRANT a merry christmas and a happay new year. I love the show
    P.S. i need a speaker that can play music do you have any recommendations.

  2. Rob
    December 25th, 2008 at 04:29 | #2

    Regarding David’s question about power conditioning:

    I find it easiest to think of power conditioning as a hierarchy or a ladder/progression where each advancing type of power treatment builds upon the more basic types below it.

    To start, you need basic, good surge protection. This is the guard against a lightning strike or massive power spike – one that could literally fry your gear. The need for this is obvious and you don’t have to pay a lot or look hard to find it. All you really must look for is the UL Certification sticker. Many of the “power strips” out there are not UL Certified, so be careful of that. Your local hardware store has many UL Certified surge protectors though and for low prices.

    It’s also a darn good idea to get a surge protector that can also accomodate your telephone and cable lines. These are often seperate and can sometimes come into your home via different locations. Lightning may not strike your power lines or your cable/satellite, but if it hits the phone lines, it will still enter your home and fry any electronics that are connected to the phone line and also, quite possibly, any electronics that are connected in some way to those “front line” electronics. And so on down the line. So always try to route ANY wire: from the wall, to a surge protector and THEN to your electronics.

    After surge protection comes power filtering. Power filtering reduces or eliminate RFI and EMI in the power signal. Most of us do not really need power filtering. But it’s quite easy to tell if you do. It’s usually easiest to notice interference when it shows up on your TV screen. Maybe you have an electric can opener, a hair dryer, vacuum cleaner, dishwasher, dryer, air conditioner or other appliance with an electric motor that produces lots or RFI and/or EMI. In some neighborhoods, it doesn’t even have to be your own house; it could be your neighbor’s. Or perhaps you notice interference in an apartment building. In any case, if you pay close attention, you can usually track down the offending appliance. With good power filtering though, the interference is eliminated and you can watch TV without seeing any “snow” or “static lines” when those offending appliances are turned on.

    Power filtering can go one step further and have seperate “banks” of power filters within one device. The idea here is to eliminate “cross-talk”. It is even less likely that you will need this. Most modern electronics produce extremely little interference. But perhaps you are using a bedroom setup and you plug your hair dryer into the same circuit as your TV. Having seperate filter banks would reduce or eliminate the interference created by the hairdryer in this situation.

    After power filtering comes voltage regulation. It is extremely rare that you would ever actually need this. The power coming into your home almost certainly does not stay at a rock steady 115-120 Volts AC, but as Clint said, your electronics are designed to work properly with anything from just under 100 Volts to just over 130 Volts. It is very rare that the power coming into your home would deviate more than those extremes. Never-the-less, some electronics do benefit somewhat from having a more constant and stable incoming voltage. Clint mentioned one good example, which are displays that use lamps. Another example are high Wattage amplifiers, many of which can only reach their stated output on the condition that a rock steady 120 Volts is coming into their power section. It’s excedingly rare to ever use that amount of Wattage though.

    Finally, there is battery backup and uniterruptible power supply (UPS). Even though I place this at the top of the hierarchy, next to basic surge protection, I consider UPS to be the second most important aspect of power protection. When a brown out or black out occurs, power to your electronics is lost instantly. As a result, anything that uses a fan for cooling is suddenly unable to properly vent its heat. If you are in the middle of a videogame, your progress will be lost. If you are in the middle or recording a TV program on a Tivo or DVR, it is lost mid-program. And there is a risk of losing data on any hard drive that was actively spinning at the time.

    UPS prevents all of these annoyances. By powering your electronics with a battery the instant regular power is lost, you get enough time and warning to properly power down all of your electronics. Hot electronics can cool properly – many continue to run the fan for a minute or two after shut down. You have time to save your game. You can keep your Tivo running for as long as the batteries last. And you can properly shut down any device with a hard drive.

    Most UPS units also provide the ability to switch to battery power if the Voltage in the line sags below a preset level, like 90 or 95 Volts. In this way, a UPS acts like a voltage regulator to some extent as well – at least in the most severe sort of voltage irregularity.

    If you really want to go whole hog and have every type of power protection that I’ve mentioned, nothing is better than one of the S-Type or J-Type units from APC. But if the size and price of those units seems a bit much, definitely take a look at APC’s BackUPS units. The ES units in particular are affordable, relatively small and provide excellent protection for most systems.

    And as for my favorite Christmas movie? Without question, it is the classic 1951 “A Christmas Carol” starring Alastair Sim as Ebenezer Scrooge. No other version has the same magic – at least for me. And to be clear, it must be the black & white version and not the dreadful colorized version 😉

  3. December 29th, 2008 at 18:00 | #3

    Ditto what Rob said. I agree completely.

    Movie – The Ref. Sure, it ain’t for kids but I can’t stop laughing long enough to care.

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