James Lindfi eld achieved his dream of a dedicated cinema room by converting his garage. Now he's keeping eyes on 4K and Dolby Atmos and kicking back with Days of Thunder on Blu-ray
Crestron has been at the vanguard of home automation for many years as installers have readily adopted its integrated AV, lighting, security and heating control systems. It’s premium, hard-wired stuff that has remained the preserve of customers with deep pockets, happy to fork out for a professional installer. Now Crestron is aiming for a wider market in the shape of Pyng, a more affordable, wireless-based control system consisting of a control hub that can operate up to 200 devices.
Wirelessly controlled components still require power and someone capable of installing them, plus the initial setup must be done by a pro. But once installed Pyng can be easily operated and, more importantly, reconfigured using iPhone and iPad apps (with an Android version in the works) so that the end user can create countless scenes for different activities, such as dining, chatting, watching TV, sleeping and going on holiday. On sale in the US since late last year, Pyng is now available in the UK, and it can be seen in action at Crestron’s showroom in the swanky Chelsea Design Centre. For a more in-depth look HCC, travelled to Crestron’s Customer Experience Centre at its headquarters in New Jersey.
The first of two French music streaming services, Paris-based Deezer is also one of the oldest, dating back to 2007. The service is offered (in what is a fairly familiar model) as a free-to-listen lower quality and premium pay streaming service that costs £10 per month, ditches the advertising and raises the quality to 320kbps MP3. There is a 30-day free trial running at the time of writing and promotional offers with other companies are available. Your subscription buys you access to a claimed 35 million tracks as well as support across a number of platforms (see boxout).
Functionality includes playlist creation and offline storage and there are also recommended new albums and artists plus playlists collated by Deezer. After installing the desktop app (in Beta form for Mac users), the first reaction likely to be elicited from most users is “where’s the rest of it?”. Once installed, Deezer is never more than an upturned rectangle of information, making it is the smallest of the desktop apps and the hardest to use. Certain things you almost take for granted on other apps like elapsed and remaining timings are absent unless you hover over the playback bar.
A YEAR IS a long time in consumer electronics. This is a good thing for Panasonic, which 12 months ago looked in danger of lagging behind its rivals. Plasma production had ceased and its own screen lineup had the sparkle of a putting green, consisting of exclusively fl at LED/LCD models, all but two of them Full HD. It seemed as if Panasonic was literally falling behind the curve.
Fast forward to 2015 and the Japanese brand is invigorated and refreshed when it comes to TVs, having embraced 4K and (more or less) kept abreast of other image-optimising developments. At the company's recent European Convention in Frankfurt the star of the show was a reference-grade 4K Studio Master processor which will feature in a raft of 'pro-grade' 4K screens, some of them even curved. Support acts included a slew of 4K-capable cameras and camcorders, multiroom audio, affordable Blu-ray players and a slick new TV operating system developed by browser guru Firefox.
Announcing the 4K Studio Master Processor, Yuki Kusumi, head of Panasonic Home Entertainment, said it had been developed as a result of Panasonic's 'know-how with professional-grade colour management and other visual technologies built up through our B2B pro-AV business.' He also claimed that Panasonic can now deliver to viewers what it believes to be 'the very definition of picture quality: accuracy to the director's intentions.' combining with using of the best auto darkening welding helmet. This laudable idiomatic claim, if true, would be as much due to the company attaining unprecedented standards of brightness, colour and contrast reproduction as it would be to the detail afforded by the 8 million or so pixels of a 4K screen. As CES 2015 proved, there are a number of contentious matters clouding the TV screen industry that are possibly just as likely to scare off TV buyers than entice them.
Meet another new loudspeaker from a world-famous company whose reputation leaves nothing to be desired. The CM5 S2 sits towards bottom of the range, and doesn’t get the top-mounted tweeter, which is becoming something of a B&W tradition.
The box is attractive, crisp and modern looking. Like most products in this test it is very well put together. Finishes include lacquered gloss black, satin white and rosenut. This two-way loudspeaker sports a 25mm aluminium dome tweeter, which is double-decoupled from the cabinet with a ring of synthetic gel to cushion it and remove extraneous vibration.
It is married to a Kevlar-coned mid/bass unit, a popular choice for B&W models and used seemingly since hi-fi was in its infancy! It has an anti-resonance plug fitted to its voice coil to reduce high-frequency break up. The crossover uses audiophile- grade Mundorf capacitors and works at a highish 4kHz, while the internal wiring is said to be upgraded from its predecessor. The heavily braced cabinet is satisfyingly free from resonance when tapped.
The lack of 4K content has been a key concern that’s checked the rise of Ultra HD TV. Is that about to change ?
4K on demand
Netflix launched its Ultra HD streaming service last April. It has been followed by Amazon Prime Instant Video. Provided you’ve got the necessary kit, what do you get for your money? Netflix, our favourite video subscription service, is, surprisingly, yet to offer any films in 4K.
Its 4K service consists of 80 hours of TV and video content, including five series of Breaking Bad. Amazon has around 90 hours of 4K content and features 26 films. YouTube offers some 4K content in the UK, too, but otherwise that’s your lot in the streaming world. Ultraflix, currently available in the US, is one to look out for, tipped as it is to bring its 600 hours of Ultra HD content to Samsung and Sony TVs very soon.
ESTABLISHED IN 2006, the CEDIA Awards for the organisation's EMEA region have grown to become a favourite date in our calendar. Each Summer, the finest home cinemas and multimedia rooms designed by custom installers fi ght it out to scoop a winner's badge. The range of categories covers everything from small scale sub-£10k movie dens to whole-house projects and gigantic screening rooms, while also celebrating lighting schemes, intelligent racking solutions and retailer showrooms. Some of them even have the bed frame included with some kinds of mattresses like best mattress for side sleepers or mattress for people with back pain
The entries are judged by a panel including HCC’s very own Steve May. Over the following pages we've highlighted some stunning entries (including some of the finalists that unluckily missed out on a trophy) that illustrate exactly what the professional install world is capable of. They include 4K/Dolby Atmos cinemas and quirky, themed theatres. Perhaps they'll give you inspiration for you own project...
2005: King KongAnother entry for Peter Jackson, this time for his epic King Kong remake that pushed CG imagery and motion-capture technology to the point where we all believed a giant gorilla could scale the Empire State Building. More importantly, it caused AV fans to go ape over HD DVD the following year when it was released exclusively in hi-def on the Blu-ray rival – and bundled with the Xbox 360 add-on HD DVD drive.
2006: Casino RoyaleBond reborn? You better believe it. With Casino Royale, out went Pierce Brosnan, invisible cars and lame jokes, and in came Daniel Craig, parkour stunts and brutal violence. And for many home theatre owners, Bond 21 was the first Blu-ray title they felt they had to own, rocking a sublime AVC encode that showed the format at its best
1995: Toy StoryThe world's fi rst feature-length computer-animated film, Pixar's Toy Story is also one of the funniest, smartest and most inventive 'toons yet put on the silver screen. The CG renders look a little basic in comparison with the mind-boggling work Pixar is doing these days, but at the time it was state-of-the-art stuff , dazzling us with visual trickery unlike anything that had been seen in animation before. And behind all the spectacle and razzle-dazzle was the captivating relationship between draw-string cowboy Woody (Tom Hanks) and astronaut action figure Buzz Lightyear (Tim Allen). Toy Story had an oddball home media birth. It arrived on VHS and Laserdisc in 1996, but got a VHS re-release with bonus content in 2000 before making its DVD debut. Those who waited for the latter were given a THX-certifi ed digital-to-digital transfer and rambunctious Dolby Digital 5.1 EX soundtrack to savour.
SoundbarsIn 2015, soundbars of all flavour are everywhere (and we still don't appear to have reached the limit of the market), but 13 years ago the concept launched, and it was a bit different. Pioneer's PDSP-1, dubbed a Digital Sound Projector, packed 254(!) micro drivers into its vertical-standing body, plus some clever DSP, to create a virtual surround sound effect from a single enclosure. It cost around £25,000 – and never really came to market – but the ball was rolling. Yamaha would be the next brand to pick it up, unleashing its YSP-1 sound projector in 2005, albeit with fewer drivers and fewer noughts on the price tag. Since then, the soundbar market has diversified to include everything from budget stereo models to premium, audiophile combis employing separate subwoofers. And we even have soundbases too. They all seek to offer quality sonics without clutter, so it's easy to see why they've taken hold.
NOT SO LONG ago Sonos was synonymous with multiroom audio but now it seems every major AV brand – including Samsung, LG, Sony and Panasonic – is jumping on the bandwagon. Canada-based Lenbrook (the company behind NAD and PSB) at least stands out from the rabble with its Bluesound range, which is a coalescence of multiroom, wireless streaming and hi-res audio. It’s not just hi-res support that marks Bluesound out, however. Its ecosystem is more versatile than many of its competitors in that it offers a range of products that can operate with or without your existing kit.
Bluesound brings hi-res compatibility to the whole-house audio scene. Adrian Justins auditions its debut hardware, from standalone speaker to disc-ripping streamer[/caption]
Yes, it has the standalone Pulse speaker (£600, on test here) and the Duo 2.1 system (not reviewed), but if you want to simply stream to an AV receiver or amp then the £400 Bluesound Node, with its stereo phono outputs, is the best option. Or maybe you have a spare pair of speakers in another room without an amp, or want Bluesound’s own combined streamer/amp, in which case the £600 Power Node, which offers 100W power (the amp stage sourced from NAD) and speaker terminals would suffice.