Monthly Archives: February 2012

The show that took the industry by storm in 2011 is returning this September!  Exhibitor reservations begin today!

Toronto, Ontario – February 29, 2012 – In 2011, Audio Video Productions Inc. broke new ground with the creation of a new consumer electronics show called the Toronto Audio Video Entertainment Show (TAVES).  This year, TAVES promises to bring back everything that you loved about the first edition of the show, while refining various show aspects and introducing new features.  TAVES 2012 will take place between September 28 and 30 at the same venue as last year – the Le Meridien King Edward hotel, a prestigious heritage building located in downtown Toronto, Ontario which offers larger than average exhibit rooms with excellent sound acoustics.

Visitors and exhibitors spoke up and we listened!  The 2012 TAVES will offer more audio video seminars and demonstrations, while offering double the seating space.  A number of exciting new show features will also be announced in the coming months.  Given the great success of the event in 2011, TAVES 2012 expects to draw many new local and international exhibitors.  Toronto represents one of North America’s largest and healthiest consumer markets and if you desire to expand your business in Canada there is no better place to do it than at TAVES!

The first edition of TAVES was promoted on/covered by five TV networks, four radio stations, one of Canada’s largest daily newspapers and a great number of related magazines and websites.  TAVES recognizes the importance of media exposure and will continue to work closely with mass market and consumer electronics media to guarantee extensive coverage of TAVES 2012.  TAVES will focus a great amount of effort on attracting even more visitors to discover higher quality audio video brands and consumer electronics at this year’s event.

Exhibitor reservations begin today!  For the first 30 days TAVES will provide the opportunity for all 2011 exhibitors to book the same rooms that they occupied at last year’s show.  On April 1st, reservations will begin for all new exhibitors.  If your company did not exhibit at TAVES last year, please contact us today and we will be glad to place you on a pre-booking list.  Please note that all of the larger exhibit rooms sold out in less than 4 weeks last year.  The sooner you book your space at TAVES, the sooner we can begin to promote your company on the TAVES website and inside the CANADA HiFi magazine – so please contact us today and receive the best possible exposure for your company!

The 2012 TAVES will showcase the latest consumer electronics products and technologies from both mainstream and enthusiast brands.  Products on display will range from entry-level components to the high-end and everything in between.  A number of exhibitors will present the visitors with the opportunity to purchase accessories, music discs, vinyl albums and Blu-ray discs. 

For more information, please visit www.taveshow.com.

Atlantic Technology has just introduced a new down-firing version of one of its most popular subwoofers, the SB-900, to provide greater placement flexibility.

By placing the woofer and bass vent on the bottom of the speaker cabinet, the new SB-900DF can be squeezed into tight spots behind furniture with no concern of its output being muffled by the back of furniture as might be the case with the original SB-900 front-firing subwoofer. Atlantic Technology will offer both models going forward, each priced at $349 US.

While the new Atlantic Technology SB-900DF is relatively small, its deep, low distortion bass is fast and muscular. The 8-inch long-excursion woofer has an oversized surround and high-energy magnet. When combined with the tuned bass port and powerful 125-watt power amplifier, the system delivers high output levels and exceptional low-frequency extension down to 32 Hz, -3 dB, which is the lowest fundamental note in the musical spectrum.  Proprietary distortion-detection circuitry prevents the system from emitting objectionably-distorted sound no matter how hard it is pushed.

The SB-900DF also has a range of tuning controls that improve the system’s interaction with the room. These controls include an adjustable crossover that allows fine-tuning of the level and crossover frequency, and a phase switch. A built-in crossover bypass allows it to be used with external bass management systems. Auto-on sensing saves power and the need to manually turn it on and off.

The Atlantic Technology SB-900DF has a peak output of 102 dB SPL in a 2000 cubic foot room and a frequency response for 32 to 200 Hz, ±3 dB.  The black-finished cabinet measures 10-7/8 wide, 13-1/8 high, and 13-1/16 deep, and weighs 28 lbs.

For more info, please visit www.atlantictechnology.com

Naim Audio has introduced a new streaming network player, the NDS, at the Bristol Hi-Fi Show in the UK. The new NDS improves on Naim’s NDX.

The new Naim NDS features 24bit/192kHz streaming, Internet Radio, USB and digital iPod/iPhone/iPad playback, and control via either RF remote, front panel buttons, or Naim’s (free) n-Stream iOS control app.

The NDS must be used in conjunction with an external power supply, as there is no internal power supply. Naim’s XP5 XS, XPS, and 555PS power supply modules are all compatible.

The NDS uses three PCBs (Digital, Analog, and DSP) that are separated with further mechanical isolation achieved by independent compliant isolation of the Digital and Analog boards, similar to that used in the CD555. Each board is bolted to a large, heavy brass sub-chassis that is suspended above the case on steel springs, providing a mechanical resonance frequency below the audible range at 4Hz.

All data buffering is now done within the SHARC DSP chip itself rather than in the external RAM, reducing RF interference and optimizing the SHARC’s power draw, for improved sound quality. The NDS uses the same 16x oversampling filter as that in the Naim DAC. The chosen filter is a modified Butterworth filter to which additional poles are added to prevent too much phase shift occurring within the audio band. The filter runs as efficiently as possible, using only five lines of assembly code.

The NDS utilizes Burr-Brown PCM1704 precision laser-trimmed sign-magnitude ladder DACs (an older but highly coveted model), rather than the NDX’s PCM1791 delta-sigma chips. Shielding cans have been added to the streamer module, DSP power supply, and DAC chips, reducing RF noise. Rather than the high quality op-amp ICs as used in the NDX, the NDS’s current-to-voltage (I2V) and analog filter/output stages use through-hole discrete circuitry throughout. And finally, the NDS does not offer an optional DAB/FM module, in order to optimize layout.

Other Key Features:
• UPnP streaming up to 24bit/192kHz with gapless playback
• Internet Radio with vTuner 5* full service
• Three S/PDIF 24bit/192kHz digital inputs
• Apple Authenticated for digital iPod/iPhone playback/control
• Formats supported: WAV, FLAC, AIFF, AAC, WMA, Ogg Vorbis, and MP3
• Front panel USB port for USB stick playback
• Ethernet and Wireless connectivity
• No internal power supply – several choices for an easy upgrade path
• SHARC 40-bit DSP for jitter removal and oversampling
• Naim proprietary 16x oversampling and digital filtering
• Optical/galvanic isolation of all key elements
• Buffered digital output on 75? BNC connector
• Ground selector switch
• Relays powered from constant current source
• DSP control lines optically isolated
• Suspension isolation system for analog dual layer and digital 6 layer boards
• Burr-Brown PCM1704 sign-magnitude ladder DACs
• Isolation cans on critical areas
• Through-hole analog output stage with quiet rooms and I2V stage similar to CD555
• Dimmable OLED display
• British design and hand-built in the UK

The Naim NDS will have a MSRP of $10,995 U.S. ($1,495 U.S. for optional Burndy kit for use with 555PS).

Look for more details on this product at: www.naimaudio.com.

Audio Excellence, a prominent high-end audio video retailer, has moved from Bayview Ave. to a new location at 661 Chrislea Road, unit 1-3, Vaughn, Ontario.  The new location is already open and the Audio Excellence team would like to invite everyone to join them for an official grand re-opening celebration which will take place on March 9 and 10.  During these two days visitors will be offered the chance to meet various manufacturers and designers, score some great deals and participate in raffle draws (the proceeds will go to the Make-A-Wish Foundation and the Salvation Army).  Food and drinks will be provided.

Store events will include the following:

To view a larger version of this schedule and a small newsletter, please click here:

http://library.constantcontact.com/download/get/file/1101194885922-441/page+6.pdf

For more info please visit www.audioexcellence.ca or call (905) 881-7109.

German manufacturer Aiptek has just announced two pico projectors designed to be used with the iPhone. The MobileCinema i20 is one of the smallest pico projectors in the market. It simply plugs into the iPhone’s 30-pin port and offers nearly two hours of projection, displaying an image up to 50 inches in a dim environment.  The MobileCinema i20 has a resolution of 960×540. During projection, users can pinch, slide to the next page, etc, on their iPhone as they normally do.

The MobileCinema i50S is an iPhone 4/4S sleeve pico projector that looks like an iPhone case. The i50S offers better projection quality than the i20, providing richer colours in high contrast powered by DLP technology. The MobileCinema i50S features higher lumens than the i20, turning the iPhone into a powerful business machine. Thanks to its 50 lumens DLP optic light engine it produces an image that is bright enough to dazzle the eyes of the surrounding crowd, anywhere, anytime. The i50S also doubles as a charging station, offering almost a full iPhone recharge when connected.

The MobileCinema i20 will be available for purchase on the company’s website in March 2012 and the MobileCinema i50S will be available in April 2012.

For more info, please visit http://aiptek.eu/index.php/en/

NuForce has just officially announced their Air DAC Wireless System. This new set of products has been developed for personal audio streaming, allowing for wireless transmission of music files from a computer or Apple device.

The Air DAC wireless system is a combination wireless transmitter (NuForce iTX for Apple devices or uTX for computer USB) and a radio receiver (Air DAC), utilizing 2.4GHz wireless technology. Using the Air DAC wireless receiver with any compatible device connected to a matching uTX / iTX transmitter, a wireless audio network is created.

Since each transmitter can stream audio to up to four receivers the Air DAC wireless system can easily permit whole house audio connectivity. The Air DAC Receiver utilizes a DAC stage that is based on a new wireless technology known as SKAA, allowing for easy setup.

The Air DAC and associated TX transmitters are purported to provide CD-quality sound, virtually no latency, a 15-30 meter range, and a spread-spectrum technology that selects the best frequency for transmission.

There is no need for Wi-Fi routers or IP addresses, as the system is essentially plug-and-play.

The NuForce Air DAC products and bundle are currently available, unless otherwise stated, at the U.S. MSRP’s below:

- Air DAC receiver: $149
- uTX Transmitter: $59
- iTX Transmitter: $79 (available 3/15)
- Air DAC uWireless System (bundle): $179
- Air DAC iWireless System (bundle): $199 U.S. (available 3/15)

Look for more details on the Air DAC products at: www.nuforce.com.

JVC just recently announced their new NX-BX3 integrated iPod speaker dock and stand. What’s rather unique about this new iPod speaker dock is that it’s been designed to integrate into a living space as a useable bedside nightstand, side table, or even a TV stand. The glass top stand has the capability to support the weight of a flat-screen TV. And integrated within the solid wooden cabinet is a 30W x 2 amplifier and a pair of 8cm bass-reflex speakers.

The NX-BX3 utilizes SRS StudioSound HD technology and the built-in dock for iPod / iPhone allows for easy play and charging of an iDevice. A remote control is also included.

The JVC NX-BX3 will be available this month, February 2012 in Japan in both black and white finish. Pricing and North American availability is yet to be announced.

Specifications:
Built-in FM tuner (preset number of stations: 30 stations)
SRS TruVolume
Auto power save (after 29 minutes of no sound)
Playback frequency band: 50Hz – 25kHz
Subwoofer output terminal
Composite video output
Dimmer function can adjust the brightness of the display
Inputs: Digital (1 optical, 1 coaxial), 1 analog
Bass / treble adjustments
Wall mountable (without pedestal)
Dimensions (HxWxD): 400 x 500 x 300mm

Look for more details at: www.jvc.ca.

As a civil design engineer, many years of formal training and work experience have conditioned me to look past the flashy facades and to focus on the important parts of the building like the foundation and superstructure. Not surprisingly, I also use this sort of logic when it comes to influencing my choices in hi-fidelity audio components. When it comes to audio reproduction, I am always willing to sacrifice the ease of use and the aesthetics of a component for better sound. During my search for a new DAC and while researching the various USB capable models a few months back I came across the Musical Fidelity V-DAC. There are many reviews for the V-DAC and the general consensus is high value with less than pleasing aesthetics. This really should come as no surprise as the design of the V-DAC was described by Musical Fidelity as being analogous to that of a Formula 1 race car – a focus on what is under the hood with no excess or wastage anywhere. That sort of design philosophy is music to my ears and the V-DAC seemed like just what I was looking for so I contacted to Musical Fidelity to request a sample for a test drive. Musical Fidelity responded with what at the time seemed like bad news – sorry we are all sold out of the V-DAC. About one month later the good news was realized, Musical Fidelity had released the follow-up model, the V-DAC II and a sample was on the way! This was excellent news and I was eager to read up about the updated model and the new features.

The Musical Fidelity web page for the new V-DAC II noted in the design background that “When the original V-DAC was launched three years ago, it got excellent reviews. The technical reviews, in particular, were outstanding, and the V-DAC proved to be popular with music loving audiophiles. Most competent reviewers realized that the V-DAC was the technical equal of other DACs up to ten times the price. The only real criticism was about its appearance.” With that in mind Musical Fidelity set out to update the V-DAC by improving the appearance and finish of the chassis, updating the standard USB input to an asynchronous USB port and improving the technical performance. While I’m sure there are many that are pleased with the upgrades to the finish of the enclosure, I’m excited about the asynchronous USB port. I’ve had the opportunity to live with the V-DAC II for about five weeks now and I’ve put together this review to share my experiences.

Apparently when it comes to hi-fi products, looks do matter and Musical Fidelity has responded by replacing the flat black enclosure with a new shiny, brushed aluminum extruded chassis. The white flashy lettering has been replaced with a typical font that does not stand out. The silver V-DAC II measures 170 x 95 x 40 mm (about the size of a 3.5″ external hard drive) weighs about 350 grams, feels solid and appears to be well built. On the bottom there are two rubber feet that run the length of the enclosure. The audio output from the DAC is via one set of RCA outputs located at one end of the enclosure. The digital inputs are located at the opposite end and consist of a USB (type B) port, an RCA (coaxial) and a S/PDIF (optical) input. There is an input switch which will allow you to select the input mode between either USB or optical/coaxial. The switch itself is very small and located in between the USB and coaxial inputs. With both inputs in use some may find it a little difficult to get their finger in there to flip the switch. There are two LED indicators, a cool blue for power and a light green to indicate a digital signal lock. Power to the unit is provided by an external 12VDC (500 mA) wall wart power supply included with the DAC. There are no power controls on the DAC or the external power supply. The stock wall wart power supply can be upgraded with the Musical Fidelity V-PSU II ($249 US). All the connections and controls are labeled on the enclosure. The input selection switch is marked as selectable between USB and coaxial, but it actually selects between either the USB port or both the optical and coaxial inputs. Under the hood of the V-DAC II is a Burr-Brown SRC4392 stereo, asynchronous sample rate converter and a Burr-Brown DSD1796 stereo DAC (24-Bit 192 kHz). The quality CMOS chips confirm that the focus of this DAC design has been on the insides. The specifications indicate that the V-DAC II will upsample to 24-bit 192 kHz. The USB input will accept asynchronous data streams up to 24-bit 96 kHz. The maximum output signal is 2.2V. The noted specifications are excellent and further improved from the earlier model. Across 20 Hz to 20 kHz the response is noted as +0/-0.1 dB, THD (total harmonic distortion) is 0.004 % and the SNR (signal to noise ratio) is -117 dB.

Set up of the Musical Fidelity V-DAC II is very simple. The RCA outputs connect to the analogue input of your preamplifier / integrated amplifier / headphone amplifier. I connected to a NAD C162 preamplifier which drives a pair of OddWatt Audio KT88 monoblock amplifiers. Since there are no power controls on the DAC itself, I used the switched AC outlet on the preamp to control power to the V-DAC II. I tested both the coaxial and optical inputs with an Oppo BDP-83 Blu-ray player. I connected a laptop with Windows 7 to the USB and did not experience any software setup issues. I also tested the V-DAC II on a PC with Windows XP and again there were no software issues. Once the DAC was powered up and the USB input was selected, the Windows operating system automatically identified and installed the DAC as new computer hardware. All computer audio was now directed towards the DAC and playing music was as simple as launching the media playback software (foobar2000 in my case) and hitting play. I started with an album called Getz/Gilberto by Stan Getz and João Gilberto (Verve Records, 1963) available from HDtracks as a 24-bit 96 kHz digital download ($17.98US). While this is an older recording, the chart topping jazz album (featuring excellent saxophone, guitar and piano) is a great choice to break in any new piece of equipment. Using the USB input, the output level from the DAC can be controlled on the computer. Further listening included my only 24-bit 192 kHz album, Mozart in Vienna with Gottlieb Wallisch on piano (Linn Records, 2010, £18.00). Playback was flawless even though the USB input is limited to 96 kHz, I assume the data is down sampled on the software side. I enjoy big warm tube audio sound and I really enjoyed the neutral sound from the V-DAC II. I found it to be airy, crisp and rich with fine details. Some digital converters sound too hard and sharp to my ears and that kills the emotion of the recording. Using the DAC with a computer is an enormous and obvious sonic upgrade over the audio quality using the computer internals. Armed with CDs of The Beatles “Love” (EMI, 2006) and The All-Time Greatest Hits of Roy Orbison (MFSL, 1972, 2008) and using the Oppo BDP-83 I made direct comparisons between the on board DAC and the V-DAC II. Switching between the two really emphasized the extra air, space and detail that is present when listening through the upsampling V-DAC II. Overall I found that the V-DAC II had a neutral yet pleasant sound that was accurate and rich with details and emotion.

Having used the updated V-DAC II by Musical Fidelity for over a month now, there is no doubt in my mind that the success of the earlier model will be matched and exceeded. The improved model uses the latest digital technology, delivers excellent sonic performance and is wrapped up in a functional and trim package, all with a modest price tag. The V-DAC II can be used to fill many roles such as upgrading the aging digital end of your old CD player and to integrate your computer with your hi-fi system. With a retail price of $349 US and considering the multiples uses and the high level of performance that is delivered, there is excellent value for the money here. While you may develop your first impression based on the new appearance of the V-DAC II, it’s the performance and excellent value that will make the lasting impression.

Musical Fidelity
www.musicalfidelity.com
+44 (0)20 8900 2866
Distributed in North America by
Tempo Distribution LLC
www.tempohighfidelity.com
(617) 314-9227 

Musical Fidelity Upsampling Digital-Analog Converter V-DAC II

Price: $349 US

Much of the discussion about any flat panel television today is its ability to display true black, like the now historical CRT. There seems to be a race to the “bottom” between all technologies and a desire to move away from the milky-white black levels we’ve seen on most consumer flat panel displays since inception. After all, a good black level – and an accurate one – is the first priority in a series of steps to making a good picture. Without a good black level there is a loss of dynamic range between black and white, or what the marketing departments refer to most often – contrast ratio. Some technologies literally shut down sections of the panel to create dark black but the results can often appear uneven. Plasma technology attempts the use of filters to some degree, enough to keep perceived black level lower, but not enough to cut light output significantly. Panasonic’s flagship VT-series plasma design is considered by many to have the best black levels available today. It has been hailed by video calibrators to measure the lowest level of black among competitors. With its Infinite Black PRO 2 panel technology and the success of last year’s VT series, can the company’s latest offering live up to the same expectations among video enthusiasts and movie buffs? Let’s take a look at the Panasonic TC-P55VT30, the company’s latest 55 inch 3D plasma TV.

This year’s VT-series has an overhauled design and uses a new thinner panel. It sheds 1.4 inches in thickness from last year’s model measuring a mere 2.2 inches deep and is thin enough, with the right wall bracket, to barely protrude from the wall. Weighing in at 84 pounds, the panel feels heavy so it’s best to use two people to safely mount and dismount this unit from a pedestal or an on-wall mount. Thankfully there are handles under the panel that make this an easier chore. The front of the TV is clean of controls and the side buttons have moved from the left side to the right side of the TV and are much less bulky than the large raised buttons of past generations.

Realizing that good quality video switchers have rapidly penetrated the A/V receiver market for the connection of multiple sources, Panasonic has slimmed down the TV’s video input offerings. Miniplugs, HDMI, computer, and USB connections are what can be found, plus an ATSC tuner connector which I used for all of my over-the-air HD viewing with audio output via optical digital. Since all connectors are tiny, Panasonic includes a bag full of adaptors to make connections easier. The only connection that isn’t detachable is the power cord, which is hard-wired into the TV so upgrading to after-market power cords is not possible.

When connected to the Internet with an Ethernet cable or through Wi-Fi (a wireless LAN adapter is provided) the VIERA Connect feature turns the TV into an interactive entertainment device designed around games, news, social networking and other online applications. Access to all these features is activated with the Viera Cast button on the remote. There is not much information about this feature in the manual or online so it’s best to play around with it to fully understand it.

To explore VIERA Connect, I plugged an Ethernet cable into the TV. Using the TV’s standard remote control (no QWERTY keyboard here like the one provided with some of the new Samsung models), I did learn how to efficiently navigate the menus after a couple of faulty attempts, but in little time it was smooth surfing. I began by setting my location to get the most accurate weather forecast because I’m a bit of a weather nut. But since talking about the weather isn’t the best subject to socialize about, I decided to try a few other free applications. VIERA Connect allows you to connect to popular networking sites like Twitter, YouTube, Facebook, Skype, Picasa Web Albums, Cinemanow, Fox Sports and others. You’ll need a USB keyboard to fully take advantage of the offerings here but I found many free applications and games to use with the basic remote control. I spent a good deal of time playing chess against the TV (who would have thought?) as well as a variety of other cute games of varying difficulties. If games aren’t your cup of tea, there is also some video content that can be accessed through VIERA Connect. Since this is a 3D TV, I also played around with some of the 3D downloadable content. While much of it was paid material, there were some free demos available which I tried out. The detail of the 3D material was about as good as standard definition resolution, but with the addition of three dimensionality.

3D video quality is improved in this VT generation by reducing crosstalk between images (crosstalk is the term used to describe seeing double images when wearing the glasses) – Panasonic has created a crosstalk canceller to minimize the double images. Using the Accupel DVG-5000 3D pattern generator, I measured crosstalk to be approximately 3 percent per eye, which is fairly low. The less crosstalk there is, the better the 3D experience. Emission time and process of the phosphors have improved this year to minimize left eye to right eye frame interference. These improvements also reduce what we call image decay or afterglow, which presents itself as images staying on the screen for a fraction of a second too long and thus blurring fine detail. Each pixel on the screen is made up of three subpixels (red, green and blue) and the speed of their rise and decay time is very fast. This combined with Panasonic’s 600Hz subfield drive technology and the other technologies mentioned above improve the clarity of moving images.

Let’s get a little more technical as measurements are the important selling features of this television. The TC-P55VT30 uses the Infinite Black PRO 2 panel which is supposed to produce blacks deeper than the company’s ST and GT models. With both the ST and VT in my lab side by side, appearances are deceiving when the TV is turned off. It looks as if the ST has a darker panel; one would think that the ST series would have a deeper black when playing back images. But when the panels are turned on and are displaying a 0% black signal, it is clear that the VT30 model is not emitting as much light. The advantage is that movies shot in the dark will bring us closer to the dark reality intended by the filmmaker, and all dark images will be shown more accurately rather than in a haze of gray as competing TVs will show.

Using the Konica-Minolta SC-1000A spectroradiometer, one of the best reference measuring instruments available today, I was able to measure the ST/GT series televisions black level at about 0.008fL (0.03nt) repeatable, which is the black level of a CRT reference studio monitor. When using a white level window reference of 35fL, the sequential (on/off) contrast ratio is 4375:1. The TC-P55VT30 had no problem surpassing those numbers, with a black level measuring 0.0043fL, a difference of nearly 0.004fL. While this very small number may seem like an insignificant amount, it elevates the measured sequential contrast ratio to 8140:1. This is a significant improvement and those who will watch this TV in a dark room will benefit greatly. The black level can be further reduced (with just a hint of reduction in white) when the 24p mode is engaged and displayed at 96 Hz. This should eliminate 2-3 pulldown and show film images with less judder, but does so with a bit of flicker. The measured black level dropped to 0.0035fL, bringing the sequential contrast up to 10 000:1. These black measurements are lower than that of reference CRT monitor measurements and are blacker than black, or I should say our previous black reference with greater contrast ratios. These are great measurements with test patterns and equal to that of last year’s VT25, but how do they look with real video material?

There are six picture presets offered by this TV and only a few of them will realize the black level capability, so I recommend staying with Standard, Cinema, THX or Custom. This is the only series in Panasonic’s line-up that has four ISFccc DAY/NIGHT picture modes, two for 2D and two for 3D, and can be activated and controlled via RS-232 by a qualified ISF/THX video calibrator. These modes allow some more image adjustment flexibility and the ability to lock the settings in, preventing others from tampering with the image (great for curious kids, or the kid in us). The THX mode also works well for 3D viewing on this year’s model. And just to make sure you don’t miss out on any 3D viewing, the TV includes one pair of 3D glasses in the box.

August was Sylvester Stallone month for Warner Bros., so I indulged in a marathon of Blu-ray films of different ages. Cobra, Demolition Man, The Specialist, and Assassins were on my hit list, and I also checked out Copycat with Holly Hunter and Sigourney Weaver. Without a doubt, I enjoyed these movies in a darkened room. Copycat is a serial killer thriller, not a good one by any means, and with a Blu-ray video transfer I viewed as significantly flawed, the film still has deep black levels. Many scenes take place in Weaver’s dark apartment building to heighten the tension and the 55VT30 had no difficulties recreating the grim feeling. Cobra, Demolition Man, and Assassins were much more of a visual treat. The 55VT30 easily showed the differences between the ages of these films. The resolution was excellent when all intrusive edge enhancers are turned off. The rough film appearance of Cobra, grain and all, gave this softer film a smooth look without artificial sharpening highlighting the transparency of this television. Sandra Bullock and Stallone work together in Demolition Man, and minus the outrageous colours of Wesley Snipes’s bad hair and outfits, there appeared to be endless shades of gray in the dull future of Los Angeles. Skin tones looked natural but occasionally the redder faces had a subtle tint of magenta I just couldn’t eliminate with the colour or tint control. The effect was so subtle that I hardly even noticed as soon as I put on an engaging action film like Assassins. The head-butting chemistry between Stallone and Antonio Bandaras was thrilling throughout the full two hours. The video transfer is awesome showing great blacks, excellent whites that aren’t clipped, and a wide range of colours that I would describe as comfortable on the eyes without being overpowering. This plasma never failed in delivering the same top performance that it measured at.

The last film I watched was the terrible Stallone & Stone (yes, Sharon) film, The Specialist. Written so poorly, the movie was gut-wrenching to sit through. But the visuals in the beginning of the film caught my eye. When CIA bomb experts, Stallone and James Woods, are caught between ideologies on their last mission together, I noticed the foliage to be excessively green. At first I thought it could have been a pumped up video transfer, but with a cross reference check with a few other titles I noticed a similar trend. Putting the TV back on the test bench revealed that green and cyan were a little brighter than they should be, and all secondary colours (cyan, yellow, magenta) were also off their reference points. This explains why skin tones sometimes had an unfamiliar hue. My review sample had a March 2011 build date, but I’ve since calibrated more recent builds of this TV which had the colour points correct in brightness and reference. The odd colour of my review sample seemed to be an artefact of the earliest builds (note: I noticed the same effect during my review of the 50ST30 review, but new ST30 televisions measure colour correctly as well). Factory glitches are common in our digital world and many can be corrected with software updates. But it is good to know that Panasonic has corrected the colour of all its more recent builds.

The Motion Smoother feature is still dizzying to watch (not available in THX mode), so while it does reduce motion blurring, it still looks too much like a home video and destroys the feel of film. The dithering can be quite a nuisance especially when sitting at close distances. I especially noticed it in the Blu-ray of Copycat where colour information can be particularly low in some scenes. Plasma panels can have a difficult time reproducing low colour information resulting in minor posterization.

I watched some scenes from Avatar and IMAX Hubble for 3D viewing and was very impressed. Because Avatar rarely moves images out of the screen (negative space) for 3D effects and instead concentrates on image depth (positive space), I find it’s one of the few films I can enjoy in 3D without extreme eye fatigue. The depth of this film is amazing and takes us to places we’ve never been. I felt like I was walking through the jungle with my own avatar, and similarly felt engaged in the battles with the machines versus the natives. Hubble is also one of my favourite titles to return to as we are taken on a virtual space tour from the images captured by Hubble’s lenses into to the deepest and darkest places in the known universe. Panasonic’s 3D glasses are comfortable to wear and make it easy to watch a full length 3D feature. Since 3D viewing does cut back on light and changes the overall colour of the experience, Panasonic does offer the ISFccc calibration modes to be specifically calibrated and customized through the glasses. The result of calibrating one of these modes is a 3D image that’s far superior to what anyone else is currently experiencing, with colours looking more neutral and far less aggressive. Those interested in viewing the calibration data for this television and a further discussion on its gamma performance can view this information on the CANADA HiFi forum at www.canadahifi.com//forum (click on the Plasma Flat Panel Displays forum and then the TC-P55VT30 thread).

Panasonic has improved its flagship model by offering a thinner design, adjustable user 3D image quality picture modes, reference quality colours (on new panels in THX mode), and best of all, the best black levels in the industry – which have now surpassed reference CRT black. Over the air high def has never looked as good as it did on the 55VT30. The increased resolution over cable and satellite makes me want more channels to be added to the 36 or so I have now. Offered in both 55″ and 65″ sizes, this reference television is an absolute must to look at when considering a plasma TV as the centre of your video entertainment experience.

Mike Osadciw is a THX/ISF Professional Video Calibrator/Instructor with The Highest Fidelity
(905) 730-5996,
info@thehighestfidelity.com,
www.thehighestfidelity.com

Panasonic
www.panasonic.ca
1-800-561-5505
Panasonic VIERA TC-P55VT30 55-inch Plasma TV
Price: $2,999 CAD

Lector Audio has just introduced a new DAC product – their new Digicode S-192. The Digicode S-192 is an async multi-input 24/192 DAC with USB. Based on Lector’s R2R high-resolution DAC, the analog output circuits are designed around the miniwatt vacuum tube type. Digital signals of up to 24-bit/192kHz are accepted on all inputs. The Digicode S-192 is also equipped with word clock input and digital S/PDIF output for general purpose application.

Analog output is via both unbalanced RCA and true balanced XLR. The front panel input selector is via sequential single shot by push button with LED indicator. The power supply is an external unit with LED power indicator, minimizing possible interference with the operation of the DAC circuitry. The unit is available with either black or wood side panels.

Inputs (all digital with 24-bit / 192KHz resolution capability):
SPDIF RCA connector
BNC connector
AES-3 as XLR connector
Optical Toslink
Asyncronous USB with KS/WASAPI protocol

Clock input: Word Clock (W.C.)

Output:
SPDIF digitial BNC output
XLR unbalanced output as 2.5 volt 250 ohm, Real balanced output as 2.5 volt 250 ohm

Pricing is €4500, with North American pricing not yet available. For more information, see: www.lector-audio.com

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