Sony has announced the details on the next PS3 firmware update--version 2.30, coming mid-April--and the big news for home theater fans is that the PS3 is getting onboard DTS-HD High Resolution and DTS-HD Master Audio decoding for Blu-ray movies. Home theater fans have long lamented that the PS3 could not decode the new DTS soundtracks at their highest resolution, especially since movie studios like Fox have opted for DTS-HD Master Audio on many Blu-ray releases. Without getting too technical, DTS-HD Master Audio offers 7-channels of lossless audio at 96K sampling frequency and 24-bit depths--which means that the sound sent … Read more
When Onkyo released the budget TX-SR605 AV receiver last year, it rocked the industry with its low price and high-end features such as Dolby TrueHD and DTS-Master Audio decoding. Other manufacturers pretty much had to stay on the sidelines as TX-SR605s flew off the shelf, but it looks as if Sony is ready to fight back with its new line of budget AV receivers. The company's 2008 line of AV receivers includes four new affordably priced models--the STR-DG520, STR-DG720, STR-DG820 and STR-DG920--and they look pretty good from the spec sheet. Here are the details:
Key features of the Sony STR-DG520:5.1 channels, 100 watts of power Two HDMI inputs Supports 1080p pass-through at 60 and 24 frames per second Available in March for about $200
Step-up features on the STR-DG720:7.1 channels, 105 watts of power Three HDMI inputs… Read more
Sony has announced two new Blu-ray players scheduled to be released in the second half of the year: the entry-level BDP-S350 and the step-up BDP-S550. We haven't been the biggest fans of Sony's recent standalone Blu-ray players (the BDP-S300 was really slow and the same price as the PlayStation 3). Fresh off its victory over HD DVD, however, the company has announced two new Blu-ray players for 2008, both of which sport considerably more attractive feature sets and prices. Here are the details:
Key features of the Sony BDP-S350:Supports BonusView, which means it is Profile 1.1 … Read more
Anytime the format war between HD DVD and Blu-ray is discussed on the Internet, there's always a commenter that chimes in to say that digital downloads are going to beat them both. While we've seen some successful products using the digital distribution model, such as Vudu, we've always been skeptical about true high-def digital distribution taking off in the near future, mostly because high-bandwidth Internet access just isn't cheap enough.
Instead of waiting for cheap, super-fast internet connections, XStreamHD is looking to an older technology to provide the extra bandwidth--a satellite dish. The XStreamHD system consists … Read more
As an audio guy I'm super curious about HD DVD and Blu-ray's high-resolution audio formats, Dolby TrueHD and DTS HD-Master Audio. Yes, they've been around for awhile now, but listening to the super duper formats hasn't been easy. I haven't yet heard them at home, and show demos haven't been of much help in determining the sonic advantages of the lossless formats. The potential for much better than standard Dolby and DTS sound is there, but getting there, well, I'm still waiting.
We can't help but be a little skeptical, but according to a Samsung representative, the new Samsung BD-UP5000 Blu-ray/HD DVD combo player will have onboard decoding for all high-resolution audio formats following a firmware update, including DTS-HD Master Audio. This is great news for high-def disc fans, as the BD-UP5000 would be the first player we're aware of that has onboard decoding for DTS-HD Master Audio, DTS's losslessly compressed soundtrack format. The same representative also confirmed that both Dolby TrueHD and DTS-HD Master Audio soundtracks can be output over the analog 7.1 outputs, which will … Read more
When a trio of new HD DVD players popped up on Amazon.com last week, the question wasn't so much, "Are they real?" as "How are they different from the existing models?" Toshiba clarified the issue today by officially announcing the three new models in a press release that trumpeted a handful of new features that will appeal to enthusiasts. But some key questions about those step-up features remain unanswered.
First, the basics. All three of the new models boast new, slim cases that are only 59.5mm high (less than 2.5 inches). And unlike many Blu-ray players--including models that cost hundreds more--the new HD DVD players each include active Ethernet ports and upgradeable firmware, so they can take advantage of the growing number of HD DVD titles that make use of interactive online features. The new lineup breaks down as follows:HD-A3 ($300, October 2007): With its output resolution limited to 1080i, the primary appeal of the entry-level model is its affordable price tag. Except for the slimmer case, this looks to be nearly a clone of the current HD-A2, which is currently selling online for as little as $200.
HD-A30 ($400, September 2007): An extra $100 buys you 1080p output, HDMI CEC compatibility (which allows for control between other CEC-enabled AV products when connected via HDMI and using a single remote control), and 24-frame video support (1080p/24).
HD-A35 ($500, October 2007): In addition to the same features as the HD-A30, the top-end model in the fall 2007 lineup adds 5.1-channel analog audio outs, support for Deep Color video and HDMI passthrough audio.
Sounds great. Of course, there's a secret about those cutting-edge features that all those other blogs aren't telling you. … Read more
Whether it's because of too much caffeine or advancing age (both, most likely), it's become increasingly difficult for us to hold a steady shot these days with the usual point-and-shoot cameras. The same is true with our binoculars at the track, when we're watching yet another nag come in last and ruining the trifecta we so brilliantly calculated.
So we were initially happy to see what's billed as "the world's most powerful image-stabilizing binoculars," which has something called a "passive mechanical stabilizer" that's supposedly "designed to counteract the vibrations … Read more
For the past 12 to 18 months, astute readers may have noticed an increased bit of hedging in our reviews for AV receivers. Yes, even low-end receivers offer more features and flexibility than $1,500 models did just three or four years ago and yes, there are plenty of great-sounding receivers available out there at great prices. But smart shoppers looking for a no-compromise, future-proof AV receiver have been stymied, even if they've been willing to pay upwards of $2,000.
At least, that was the case--until today. Onkyo has become the first mainstream manufacturer to officially announce an array of home audio products that offer the two big features that have been MIA on home audio products to date: HDMI 1.3; and onboard decoding of Dolby Digital Plus, Dolby TrueHD, and DTS-HD Master Audio soundtracks found on HD DVD and Blu-ray discs. The news itself wasn't a surprise, as most of the details had been leaked on the Web earlier this month. And there is no doubt that other manufacturers will be announcing similarly equipped receivers in the next few weeks and months. But because specs, pricing, and availability have been confirmed, we can now say authoritatively that Onkyo looks to be offering some of the most exciting--and surprisingly affordable--A/V receivers seen in recent years.… Read more
One of the big surprises at CES 2007 was what we didn't see in the home-theater space. Despite expectations that a slew of next-gen A/V receivers would debut, Sherwood Newcastle was the only brand of note to announce a receiver offering HDMI 1.3 connectivity and built-in support for Blu-ray and HD DVD-friendly Dolby TrueHD and DTS-HD decoding. But now that CES is history and the 2007 product cycle is ramping up, details on new receivers are finally starting to leak out: Home Theater Blog posted details on five new Denon receivers that it says will debut in … Read more