On today's show, special guest Thomas Dolby drops in to talk with us about the state of the music industry and digital distribution, his new album, and the amazing sounding MMORPG that goes along with it. We're pretty overwhelmed by his brilliance. But we recover a bit for tech news, like Hulu's 1 million paid users (and imminent death), and whether the Droid Bionic can catch up to the Atrix 4G.Subscribe: iTunes (MP3) | iTunes (320x180) | iTunes (640x360) | RSS (MP3) | RSS (320x180) | RSS (640x360)… Read more
Dolby has filed a lawsuit against Research In Motion for patent infringement, the audio technology company announced today.
Dolby is suing the maker of the BlackBerry in the U.S. and Germany for using "highly efficient digital audio compression technologies which allow manufacturers and consumers to provide and enjoy high quality audio while using extremely limited amounts of transmission and/or storage space for such audio."
Dolby asserts that it owns patents covering the technology used in RIM's BlackBerry smartphones and new tablet, the PlayBook, and claims "all other major" smartphone makers have agreed to … Read more
Multichannel movie sound dates back to Disney's "Fantasia." When the film was first released in 1940, the number of speakers used was scaled to the size of the individual theater; 30 to 80 speakers were installed behind the screen and around the perimeter of the ceiling.
Home theater multichannel sound arrived many decades later, and quickly settled on a 5.1 channel system, which is just a scaled-down version of the current movie theater system. The home system uses three front speakers--left, center, right--and two surround speakers placed on the sides of the room. The subwoofer supplies … Read more
The video guys covering CES 2011 are still trying to pump up excitement about 3D TV, but the audio journalists have nothing to crow about. Yes, I've heard rumors about a new 11.1-channel audio format, but that has even less of a chance of getting any traction in the market than Dolby's rather lame Pro Logic IIz (7.1 height speaker surround format) did a few years ago.
I doubt there's a radical new speaker technology that gets us closer to the sound of live music or home theater bombast coming anytime soon. Portable music players … Read more
Think about it: when you're listening to music or movies most of the sound that reaches your ears doesn't directly come from the speakers. You're hearing a lot of sound reflecting off the floor, ceiling, walls, and other objects in the room. Speakers "play" the room. It's an analogous to way light illuminates a room, the source of the light may be the light fixture, but most of the light you see is reflecting off the surfaces of the room. With speakers we're trying to reduce reflections where we can to maximize the … Read more
I get a lot of questions from readers, and by far, this is the one that seems to be on everyone's mind: "I have an old receiver, and I was considering upgrading to a newer model with HDMI switching and Dolby TrueHD and DTS Master Audio processing. Would I notice a dramatic difference in sound quality from what I have now?"
It's a hard question to answer for a lot of reasons, starting with the fact that one man's "dramatic" is another man's "subtle" difference. I think the best new … Read more
NHT (Now Hear This) speakers have been audiophile favorites for going on 23 years. I loved the original SuperZero, SuperTwo, Model 3.3, and Evolution speaker systems; each was in its own way a classic design.
The new SuperZero 2.0 is an update, rather than a replica of, the original SuperZero. The new, shiny black laminated speaker is an understated jewel, but the SuperZero 2.0's price tag is $99 vs. $125 for the original model. NHT now sells speakers through dealers and factory-direct.
I recently heard the SuperZero 2.0, and the sound was vivid, with a … Read more
Judging by the Comments responding to my recent "Do receivers have too many features?" blog post, a lot of folks think today's receivers are overstuffed with gizmos. Now sure, if you crave a full complement of the latest doodads--streaming Rhapsody-Napster-Pandora-Flickr, USB inputs, iPhone certification, Audyssey MultEQ XT Auto Calibration, Wi-Fi, Windows Vista, DLNA, HD Radio, Internet Radio, multiroom-multizone connectivity, Ethernet and RS-232C ports, or Bluetooth Wireless Audio Transmission Capability--rush out and buy a home theater receiver. Enjoy reading the 120-page operating manual and exploring layer after layer of setup options. Good times!
But if the goal is to simply enjoy music and a movie every now and then, do yourself a favor and consider a stereo receiver, or if you don't care about radio, an integrated amplifier (an integrated amp is essentially a receiver without a radio). Another plus for stereo home theater converts, they'll never have to deal with convoluted speaker setup menus, or risk an out-of-balance sound mix. Stereo is nearly impossible to get wrong.
A lot of people think stereo receivers are old hat and they "have to" buy a surround receiver. Wrong! And as I pointed out in the blog post the other day, home theater receiver features aren't "free"; manufacturers pay very significant licensing fees and royalties to the companies that developed those features. To bring a receiver in on budget, engineers and product planners make cost-saving decisions to cut back on other aspects of the design. The audio circuitry is probably the first to take a hit.
With stereo receivers the engineering budget is directed to the audio side and Denon, Marantz, NAD, Onkyo, Sony and Yamaha all make stereo receivers. Apparently, there's still a market for stereo components, and now that more and more folks are getting into LPs, most new stereo receivers have turntable inputs. … Read more
I love high-end headphones. The best ones offer a level of detail and clarity that's hard to match with speakers.
Still, lot of folks never listen to headphones at home; for them headphones sound too small, too inside their heads, and they prefer the sound of speakers. Some of the better headphones, like the Sennheiser HD-800 and the Hifiman HE-5's produce sound that is somewhat less stuck inside the head, but even so they always sound like headphones. Now, with the Smyth Research Realiser A8 processor, headphones can sound like speakers. It's amazing!
Never heard of Smyth Research? Stephen Smyth of Smyth Research developed the algorithm that was later selected by Digital Theater Systems (DTS) for its cinema audio playback system that premiered with the Steven Spielberg's film, "Jurassic Park." Mr. Smyth seems to know his way around sound processing algorithms.
After spending some quality time listening through his Smyth Research Realiser A8, I can testify to its effectiveness. With the Realiser A8, room-filling sound was produced by headphones!
When I heard the Realiser A8 do surround for the first time, I whipped the headphones off in disbelief. Wow! The sound wasn't coming out of the surround speakers! The Realiser A8's spatial localization is 100-percent convincing. The system comes with a set of very-high-quality Stax SR-202 electrostatic headphones and a Stax headphone amplifier, but you can use any headphone with the Realiser A8.
I first listened to a demo of the Realiser A8 at a mastering studio and a few days later at home. In both cases the Realiser A8 processor worked very well. It stores data about the actual sound of the speakers in your room--or any room you take the processor to. Better yet, the Realiser A8 isn't limited to stereo reproduction, it can do full-blown five-, six-, or seven-channel surround. The extra cool aspect of that feature is that you can have the sound of your best stereo speakers reproduced in the front, center, and surround channels. The Realiser A8 seems ideal for two-channel audiophiles who previously avoided tackling home theater. With the Realiser A8, audiophiles can keep their two-channel system intact, and still have a satisfying home theater surround experience. It would also work for SACD and DVD-Audio high-resolution surround sound.
So the Realiser A8 produces vastly superior surround than Dolby Headphone, Beyerdynamic's 5.1-channel Headzone, or any prepackaged virtual surround headphone processor I've heard to date. There's a good reason for that: the Realiser A8 comes with a pair of tiny measurement microphones you place in your ears that document the unique characteristics of each listener's ears, head, and torso in a specific sound environment, like your room. Test tones are sequenced through the speakers for a couple of minutes, while the Realiser A8 performs the required calculations to reproduce the sound of the speakers in the room over headphones. … Read more