Home Theater & Speaker Week in Review 4/20/18
Austrian Company to Offer High Definition Vinyl
Pitchfork has intriguing details on the creation of a high definition vinyl LP format, by Austrian company Rebeat Innovation. What does HD vinyl mean? The process involves converting the audio to a 3D topographic map that is then laser etched onto the “stamper”, which is the piece of equipment that presses the vinyl. The resulting HD-LP, yes we just made that up, not only is a more precise representation of the source audio, but the HD-LP can also hold 30% more playing time and will allow for 30% more amplitude, that is they will be able to play louder than a regular LP. All that sounds great, but the fly in the ointment is that the audio must be processed digitally in order to create the topographic map, so the audio lineage will lose the all analog quality that many audiophiles prize. We’ll hold out final judgement until we hear one, which should be in mid 2019, but it’s hard not to argue that introducing digital processing sort of misses the entire point of why many of us listen to records in the first place. We also have to wonder what the price tag will be for these albums, as it wouldn’t be too surprising for them to be in the of $40-$50 range or more. Color us interested with reservations about this new technology.
Amazon and Best Buy to Partner on New Smart TVs
In a somewhat surprising move, Amazon and Best Buy have announced that they will be jointly producing a new line of smart TVs to be offered exclusively at Best Buy stores beginning this summer. The sets will exclusively feature the Amazon Fire TV operating system and users of the new line will get a voice controlled remote with Alexa technology, or can also use an Echo device for controlling. As for the sets themselves, they’ll be built by Toshiba as well as Best Buy’s own Insignia brand. We’re thinking the Toshiba sets will be the more premium options, but that has not been confirmed. We do know that the first set offered will be the Fire TV Edition Toshiba smart TV. Clearly this is a huge lifeline for Best Buy, who have had their struggles in recent years like just about any other brick and mortar retailer you care to name. Getting access to the Amazon ecosystem with exclusive models will definitely give customers a reason to visit a Best Buy store. The advantage for Amazon might not be quite so obvious, but our guess is that increased market penetration by having a presence in a physical store is why they felt this partnership makes sense. It’s not exactly a case of “if you can’t beat em, join em”, as Amazon clearly is beating them, but they probably feel they can join them for a little while until their plan for complete world domination unfolds, which will probably be in late 2019 with the way things are going.
Sports Illustrated Expands Streaming Service, Westworld Returns
In assorted streaming news, Sports Illustrated TV will expand its $4.99/month subscription service as reported by Engadget. Initially the only way to watch was through Amazon Channels, but now you’ll be able to access the content through Roku, iOS, Android and the web. In contrast to ESPN+ and Bleacher Report Live, SI TV won’t offer streaming of live events, but instead will focus on sports documentaries and films as well as in studio analysis of current sports news. While that sounds cool and $4.99/month is certainly affordable, you’ll probably have to be a pretty dedicated sports fan to subscribe for such peripheral content, not to mention to find the time to watch it.
In the truly must see category, we will definitely make time to watch the season 2 premiere of Westworld this Sunday 4/22, when it debuts on HBO GO, HBO NOW and of course regular, old fashioned HBO. Westworld is without a doubt one of the best new shows to come around in a while and without giving too much away, there were quite a few loose ends left hanging at the conclusion of season 1. Not the least of which was the existence of the parallel Samuraiworld, which the season 2 preview confirms will indeed pop up again. This time around we’re making a point of not reading anything about it so we don’t come across any spoilers regarding the many twists and turns that the folks on Reddit did an incredible job of sussing out ahead of time last season. Such are the perils of watching TV in the year 2018, be careful what corners of the internet you visit or they just may have deduced plot details that probably haven’t even been revealed to cast members.
RIP OPPO Digital 2004-2018
And finally, we were very sad to learn via Home Theater Review that OPPO Digital has ceased production on their high end Blu-Ray players this month. The company also made high end headphones, but they were best known for their fantastic disc players that were also reasonably priced compared to the competition at the same level of quality. We ourselves used an OPPO BDP-93 for many years in our demo rooms and loved everything about it, from its flawless decoding to the support for audiophile formats like SACD. Unfortunately, in a space that is increasingly dominated by streaming, there just is not a wide market for a player that still focuses on quality disc playback. If you are looking to get a high end player, we would recommend grabbing an OPPO now, we could see them increasing in value once they are unavailable as they are fairly legendary in the audiophile and home theater communities. The silver lining is that OPPO has pledged to continue supporting the players out there and will offer firmware updates to address any critical issues along with enhancements for the latest 4K UHD players.