Home Theater & Speaker Week in Review 3/15/18
Samsung Reveals New TV Lineup for 2018
The biggest news this week for home theater was Samsung unveiling their new TV lineup for the rest of the year. The bulk of their new models are of the Samsung’s proprietary QLED type, or “quantum light emitting diode” for the acronym averse. What’s a QLED TV? Well. that’s a bit technical, but very briefly, they are LED TVs that use a “quantum dot filter” which employs “a film of tiny crystal semi-conductor particles that can be precisely controlled for their colour output” and enhances brightness, color gamut as well as improving off axis viewing. If you want to do a deep dive you can read a whole lot more on the topic at Tech Radar. In any event, the new models are the Q9, Q8, Q7 and Q6 and according to 4K.com, they will have improved black levels and Samsung’s own voice assistant integration, which they have dubbed Bixby. Most impressively, the TVs will act as a hub for Samsung’s SmartThings ecosystem which will allow your TV to control and interact with lights, thermostats, cameras and other smart devices.
In terms of picture quality, the top end Q8 and Q9 models will utilize full-array LED backlighting with full-array local dimming which will lead to better contrast, brightness control and black levels for HDR content. All of the models will support the latest HDR10+ format and the Q9 will feature HDR EliteMax which is a brand new format that Samsung has developed. We don’t have many details on that, but presumably it will be so HDR that you will never have to leave your house again.
Finally, the new models feature “ambient mode” where they can display a picture of whatever is behind your TV for the illusion of a see through panel and also display local time, weather and news as well as any calendar information that may be integrated with the SmartThings feature. You know, just in case pulling your phone out of your pocket is too much of a hassle.
Samsung is also set to release new premium UHD models, the NU8500, NU8000, NU7100, NU73000 which are more entry level sets. Although they are curved, they really don’t offer anything over last year’s MU series.
Amazon Fire TV Deals
If you’re an Amazon Prime member, which is becoming more of a no-brainer with each passing day, you can snag the Amazon Fire TV at some very attractive pricing. Just $24.99 for the Fire TV Stick, regularly $39.99, or $44.99 for the Fire TV 4K Ultra HD, which is normally $69.99. No word on how long this promotion will last, but these are some seriously great prices for a full featured streaming player with Alexa voice control. Think about it this way, if you grab the 4K version, the discount will pay for three months of your annual Prime membership right there.
Like just about everyone, it’s with a mix of both excitement and sorrow that we are awaiting the final season of Game of Thrones in 2019. But fear not GOT superfans, HBO isn’t going to just walk away from their most popular series of all time. According to the Hollywood Reporter, not only will the planned prequel series happen, but there may be three, four or five of them once the dust settles. Not only that, but they have also green lit the juice to flow more freely than the initial budgets for the original show. Francesca Orsi, HBO senior vp drama, said “$50 million [per season] would never fly for what we are trying to do. We are going big.” It sounds like they may need to rename the complementary streaming package that comes with subscriptions from HBO GO to HBO GOT, as with that many shows and that much budget, we have to wonder what resources will be left for any other original content. Sorry Westworld, you’re gonna have to use Roombas for Season 3.
McIntosh and IKEA Announce New Turntables
Lastly, a couple of new turntable options were announced recently; one from the perennial gold standard of high end amplification McIntosh and the other from, uh, IKEA. Let’s tackle the more obvious offering first, the McIntosh MT2, which features a belt driven CNC milled aluminum inner platter which is housed in a 1″ thick POM outer platter. It comes paired with a high voltage, high impedance moving coil cartridge. All settings, such as anti-skate and tone arm height will be dialed in for you at the factory so you can just plug and play. And adding a bit of bling to the design, the platter emits a mood setting “green glow” beneath it. They don’t publish prices on the McIntosh site because let’s face it, if you have to ask, etc. etc. However, over at Vinyl Factory they’ve sussed out that this work of audio art will only set you back a cool £4,999, so start saving those pennies.
And in the somewhat unexpected but probably strangely inevitable category, IKEA announced they would be adding a turntable to their recently launched FREKVENS line. Details are a bit scant as this one won’t be shipping until 2019, but it will join the complete party package of the new line which includes lights and other audio equipment. It will be interesting to see if IKEA’s dip into the audio world will yield quality, convenience or both. Regardless, we’re going to assume that some assembly will be required, and with nothing to aid us but an Allen wrench and vague wordless instructions.