Sunday, July 30, 2006

home theater speaker: iGroove, My Book Clearly Speak To iPodders

July 28, 2006

The Klipsch family has been making loudspeakers for 60 years, but they're just getting the hang of all this iPod business.

The basic get-rich-quick iPod plan goes like this:

Design a docking station/speaker system; call it i-Whateveryouwant (the prefix, however, must be lowercase, just like the iPod); color it basic iPod white or black; and elevate the price to iPod territory, $250 to $350.

Late last year, Klipsch waded into the iPod market with the iGroove speaker system and got two parts of the formula right. It aced the lowercase-i part and hit the sweet spot in pricing, $280. But the silver iGroove, though a match for popular "lifestyle" home-theater speaker systems, clearly violated the iPod code.

Now Klipsch returns with the new iGroove HG in shiny Darth Vader black - it's HG, as in high gloss - with a new price ($250) that puts it distinctly below Apple's own iPod Hi-Fi ($349) and the Bose SoundDock ($299).

However it's dressed, named or priced, the iGroove gets the business that matters most - sound - dead right. That should have been expected from the company that popularized horn-loaded speakers. The horn (an alternative to the conventional tweeter, which reproduces high-frequency signals in a loudspeaker) works much like a megaphone. You know how wide, and how loud, a voice sounds through a megaphone? That's the Klipsch horn principle.

For the iGroove, Klipsch ( uses a hybrid design it calls MicroTractrix, horn-loaded tweeters that position a traditional 1-inch dome tweeter at the short end of a megaphone-shaped horn. Klipsch mounted one of these tweeters above a 2.5-inch midbass driver on each side of the iGroove. In the middle, the iPod dock sits like a throne for your favorite digital music player.

The iGroove, only 16 inches wide, is gently arced and tilted back slightly, which angles sound up, and outward, into a room. Combined with the horns, which broadens the soundstage, the iGroove plays much bigger than its size. It also plays surprisingly loud. A small port on the back side releases energy produced by the midbass drivers, allowing the iGroove to play lower notes louder and slightly deeper with less distortion.

Klipsch includes adapters for the iPod Nano and iPod Mini. A separate contraption called a J-Cup snaps into the iGroove dock, then becomes a dock itself for non-iPod music players or, with an extension cable, other devices like a DVD player, TV or computer. It worked perfectly, for example, as a home for the Pioneer Inno, which combines an XM Satellite Radio with an iPod-style music player.

The iGroove has two volume controls and an on/off button. Those functions and additional controls for play and forward/back are also accessible with a too-tiny remote control that didn't always obey my commands.

The iGroove and my black Nano made a very handsome couple, but I almost gagged at the thought that here sat almost $500 in electronic equipment. Shouldn't that buy something more substantial - like surround-sound for a home theater?

But it sounded extremely good, tapered obviously at both extremes of the sonic spectrum so that it might player louder, with less listener fatigue. It handled the driving jazz of guitarist John Scofield's "Works for Me," the unlikely Afro-Celtic fusion of Baka Beyond's "East to West," the authentically Celtic duo Pipeline's self-titled debut and anything else stocked on the Nano.

The iGroove is a serious, if diminutive, sound system that deserves some iPod action.

What's so wrong about silver, anyway?

Song Book

If you're paying 99 cents a pop tune, the digital music library sitting on your computer's hard drive soon becomes more valuable than the iPod it's feeding.

Your library needs a safe house like an external hard drive. Western Digital's My Book external hard drives not only store all of your music - they're available from 160 to 500 gigabytes - but do it with dignity. My Book, in fact, looks like one. If the Xbox 360 were a reader, this might be the type of volume on its shelf. Sure, it's a little mechanical- looking, but the 500-gigabyte Premium Edition ($349) holds 125,000 songs stored as MP3 files or 12,000 songs as uncompressed, CD-quality files.

It also could be used to store high-definition video (up to 60 hours), digital photos (up to 142,000) or anything else digital worth saving. Information:

Kevin Hunt, The Courant's consumer electronics columnist, wrote this for the Chicago Tribune. He can be reached at


Tuesday, July 25, 2006

home theater speaker: Apple Mac mini with Intel Core Duo Processor

Chris Chiarella, July, 2006

The fruit takes root in the living room.

A while back, we Home Theater drones were all on Macs, and life was good. Then, one day, the powers that be told us that the bulk of us were switching to PC, and that was that. I had a few annoying differences to work through, but I eventually forgot my first real computer. And then the Mac mini showed up for review in its pretty white cardboard box, and it reminded me of the experience of bumping into a friend from the old neighborhood: familiar, sure, but with a lot of catching up to do.

Although the Mac mini has been around for more than a year, the big recent news has been the switch from Apple's own internal processors to Intel CPUs, either the 1.5-gigahertz Core Solo or the 1.66-GHz Core Duo—new handles for Intel's multitasking marvel, the dual-core processor. These two preconfigured versions of the mini offer "good" and "better" specs. I reviewed the latter. Both share an identical form factor, which is breathtakingly compact and has a metal perimeter topped by a goes-with-everything white plastic roof adorned with the Apple logo. The front edge features a slot for the SuperDrive, which can do almost everything with optical media, including burning to dual-layer DVD. Not surprisingly, power comes by way of an external brick in the AC cord, which you won't have to see once you tuck it behind other gear.

The sparsely bundled Mac mini supports the Apple philosophy of "BYODKM," or "Bring your own display, keyboard, and mouse." Fortunately, Apple also loaned me their optional wireless keyboard and wireless optical mouse. I highly recommend both if you intend to make this a living-room computer, as I did for the past month. The mini also offers digital optical audio output—sort of—via a novel dual-use audio port. It mates with a standard analog stereo minijack or an optional third-party Belkin adapter (see sidebar), which passes the raw digital optical signal. The computer supports Dolby Digital passthrough but not DTS. There is also a small built-in mono speaker. The single dedicated video output is DVI, although Apple includes a VGA adapter. An adapter for both composite and S-video is available separately. The Mac mini is intrinsically a desktop computer, but its many hardware and software refinements also make it a definite candidate for the home theater.

After the initial setup—only a couple of minutes and some easy questions—future boots took only about 20 seconds. The mini automatically detected my 802.11g LAN and asked if I wanted to connect to this nonsecure network. It also integrates Bluetooth 2.0 for further wireless interoperability. I confirmed that there is indeed a fan inside. It's all but silent beneath typical room noise, a feat that most HTPCs can't seem to accomplish. I tend to leave computers powered on for long stretches, and I noticed that a tremendous amount of heat spews out of the mini's back vents.

From the factory, the Mac mini defaults to the screen-gorging Overscan mode. If you deselect this mode via the Preferences menus (then Display, then Options), the image size will reduce. Some TV remotes can help you center the resulting desktop, which is surrounded by black borders. The effective onboard calibration tools for the computer image include color-temperature tweaking to best match your specific display. For an ideal presentation, you should also try adjusting your display's video menus. I found that the picture looked best with my TV's noise reduction turned off—your mileage may vary.

The preloaded Front Row entertainment interface and OS X 10.4 Tiger operating system work together seamlessly to provide an exquisite user experience that gently transitions between more diverting and more serious tasks. Front Row plays selected videos in their own angled windows while you sort through titles, for example, and can then return to the Tiger desktop with a subtle dissolve and zoom. The appropriately tiny IR remote is reminiscent in size and styling of the iPod shuffle. It brings up the Front Row main menu, selects and plays video or music, and also navigates other applications like QuickTime Player and the DVD player. One touch starts or pauses a movie or song. You can also view and manipulate digital photos. After a few-second setup, the mini located the hundreds of JPEGs on my networked PC and could download them via Ethernet. It similarly acquired my much larger music collection, and the latest version of iTunes promptly digested it.

What's On?
DVDs play at a maximum resolution of 480p via the DVI output. They tend to take on an unpleasant digital look, though, with visible decompression that doesn't appear to be big-screen ready. What else, then, are you to watch? One glaring omission amid all of this happy minimalism is a TV tuner, and therefore any sort of integrated DVR functionality. Elgato offers the Plextor ConvertX PVR add-on as a software solution, but this approach thwarts the Mac mini's austere aesthetic. In my opinion, nothing should be visibly connected that's more conspicuous than the occasional visiting iPod. The Internet is a limitless repository of content, and Apple makes available a growing collection of clips—mostly movie trailers—in true high definition, all the way up to 1080p resolution. Note that you cannot permanently download QuickTime HD videos (you can only stream them) without the $30 QuickTime Pro upgrade. Although the mini's versatility as a high-definition source is extremely limited, its quality is outstanding, as on the squeaky-clean coming attractions for Disney/Pixar's Cars or the hypnotically realistic CG hairs on Fox's Ice Age: The Meltdown critters. The music visualizer's constantly changing graphics also look spectacular in HD.

The QuickTime player also supports MPEG-1, MPEG-4, and H.264 video formats, among others, and you can download additional media players with further video codecs from third parties. Of course, which videos you acquire in these formats, and where (and how) you acquire them, are your own business. Home movies and public-domain curiosities are all well and good, but, for tried-and-true Hollywood entertainment, video downloads via iTunes are an interesting alternative to cable/satellite video on demand. Most of Apple's current TV-series selections are comprehensive, presenting every episode for sale, updated weekly. The half-hour or full-hour installments can become pricey at $1.99 each, or in the vicinity of $30 or more for some Season Passes. If Mac minis in the living room catch on, perhaps iTunes will work out some less expensive rental deal. Video files downloaded at slower-than-real-time via a shared DSL line. By comparison, my primary PC can download a song in a few seconds or a music video in about a minute using the same Internet access.

On my 50-inch Samsung DLP, the old-school ink and paint of Disney's short Ferdinand the Bull shows so much compression, the background appears to be throbbing at times. More modern animation like South Park fares a little better, still with some artifacting in the textures. Meanwhile, a live-action show like The Office shows some mild blockiness on the edges of objects. All the downloads were certainly watchable, but the DVI/HDTV display was not flattering, due to the iTunes videos' one-fourth of NTSC resolution (320 by 240). I do wish there were more content options, legally and easily, perhaps even high-def shows that you could set to download overnight due to the large file size. That might just be the killer home theater application that the Mac mini is missing.

• The diminutive Mac mini rethought: DVI, digital audio output, Front Row interface
• Plays DVDs, CDs, and more, plus it displays digital photos, all via remote control
• Internet connectivity accesses a universe of audio/video content

Article Continues: Belkin Flip for Mac mini

Sunday, July 23, 2006

home theater speaker: Urban Outfitters opens in a suburban setting


Contact Gregory J. Gilligan at (804) 649-6379 or ggilligan
Dick Hayne opened a small shop in 1970 selling funky and eclectic clothes and household products. That shop on the University of Pennsylvania campus, called Free People, focused on items for the urban hipster. Hayne took that concept, changed the name to Urban Outfittersand built it into a growing chain. The retailer now operates more than 94 stores in the U.S., Canada, and Europe, including its latest store that opened recently in the Short Pump Town Center in Henrico County.

"Our stores offer a unique and eclectic mix of fashion merchandise in a lifestyle-sensitive store environment," spokesman Kevin Lyons said.

Urban Outfitters focuses on young women's and men's apparel, accessories and footwear. The brands include 7 for all Mankind, Lacoste, and Diesel.

Some of the chain's t-shirts poke fun at various social stereotypes or prejudices.

Urban Outfitters also sells items for the young person's apartment, such as housewares, some furniture, books and gifts.

"Unlike many retail chains, we are only interested in catering to 18- to 26-year-old males and females," Lyons said.

Urban Outfitters Inc. has since created two other brands: Anthropologie, which targets women ages 30 to 45; and Free People, for women in their late 20s.

New products
Circuit City will start carrying higher-end audio/video components and high-definition televisions.

The new brands, two of which are being carried for the first time by Circuit City, are part of the chain's effort to enhance its home entertainment section.

The brands are:

Boston Acoustics, which makes speakers and audio products. The chain will carry its home speakers, home-theater speaker packages and tabletop radios.

Denon Electronics, a maker of home entertainment components. Circuit City will sell its stereo receivers, DVD players and home theater systems.

Mitsubishi Digital Electronics America Inc., which makes high-definition televisions.

New Ukrop's planned
Ukrop's Super Markets Inc. plans to open three new stores in the next 12 months:

In Williamsburg, at the Williamsburg Marketcenter on Mooretown Road near state Route 199. It will open in October and be the chain's second location in Williamsburg.

In Roanoke, in the planned Ivy Market shopping center. The store, the chain's first in Roanoke, should open early next year. It was slated to open this year.

"It is taking longer," said Robert S. Ukrop, the chain's president and chief executive officer. "It's a complicated site."

In western Henrico County on Nuckols Road near the Twin Hickory development. That would open in summer 2007.

No bus trip
The bus trip that Nordstrom had planned from Charlottesville and Fredericksburg to the chain's store at Short Pump Town Center never happened.

The reason: lack of interest.

Only four people signed up for the trips, which were planned for July 15 and July 22, store manager Megan Becker said.

Customers told her they wanted to come on their own schedule and in their own car.

Contact staff writer Gregory J. Gilligan at or (804) 649-6379.

Tuesday, July 18, 2006

home theater speaker: Circuit City Grabs D&M Brands

By Joseph Palenchar -- TWICE, 7/17/2006

New York — D&M's Denon and Boston Acoustics brands are big winners in plans by Circuit City to expand its home entertainment areas.

The two brands will appear nationwide in Circuit City stores and on for the first time beginning in late September in conjunction with the rollout of the chain's revamped home entertainment format, which is planned for more than 500 of the chain's 630 stores. In all stores, D&M's brands will replace two Harman brands — Harman Kardon and Infinity — that have been long-time stalwarts in Circuit City's home audio lineup.

Paul Bente, president of Harman Consumer Group's speaker division, said the Harman-Circuit City parting was “very much mutual.” Harman Kardon has been in Circuit City since 1986, and Infinity has been in since the early 1990s. “Business changes,” he said.

For Boston Acoustics, the Circuit account will complement the brand's strength in the custom installation channel and boost visibility among consumers, said Boston senior sales and marketing VP Phil Cohn. By opening Circuit, Boston will also make up for lost ground when Tweeter stopped selling Boston's speakers, but not tabletop radios, about a year ago. Circuit will be Boston's largest account by store count and will carry the brand's home speakers, home theater speaker packages, custom-install speakers and tabletop radios. Tweeter stopped selling Boston's car audio products in April, but Circuit didn't announce plans to pick up the car line.

For Denon, Circuit's launch of a derivative series of components and systems not available to A/V specialty and custom install dealers “will create more exposure for the brand as a premium brand for people buying advanced flat-panel TVs,” said Denon president Steve Baker.

The distribution coup potentially could propel Denon into the top dollar-share position in audio components, consisting of receivers, amplifiers, and tuners. Denon consistently ranks No. 1 in dollar share in the specialty A/V channel, but among all distribution channels combined, Denon consistently trades places with Sony for the No. 2 and No. 3 spots behind top-ranked Yamaha, according to The NPD Group statistics.

Circuit will get Denon's derivative home theater series of components, consisting of five receivers from $299 to $1,099, three DVD players and changers from $169-$349, a stereo receiver and a carousel CD changer. Circuit will also get home theater in a box (HTiB) systems based on the derivative-series components.

The derivative-series components are also available to TV/appliance dealers and such chains as Fry's, Baker said. Denon's custom series, in contrast, is targeted to A/V specialty dealers, regional A/V chains including PRO Group members, and custom installers. A/V receivers in this series are priced from $329 to $7,000.

“Our intention is to support all of our dealers in the custom and specialty channel,” Baker added.

Interestingly enough, Denon and Boston Acoustics will continue to sell products through Circuit's rival Best Buy and through Best Buy's Magnolia Home Theater stores. Boston Acoustics sells its Recepter table radios through Best Buy stores and its speakers through Best Buy's Magnolia stores. Denon sells its derivative-series HTiBs through Best Buy and its installation-series components through Magnolia.

For its part, Circuit called the two brands “a perfect complement” to the chain's home entertainment expansion, described by senior executives as the largest store-remodeling effort in company history. The nationwide retrofits will feature plasma display walls, home theater vignettes and revamped audio demo rooms that are “fully integrated into the home theater experience” and allow for faster A-B comparisons of components. — Additional reporting by Alan Wolf

Monday, July 10, 2006

home theater speaker: Circuit City to Offer Denon and Boston Acoustics Products

Monday July 10, 8:45 am ET

RICHMOND, Va., July 10 /PRNewswire-FirstCall/ -- Circuit City Stores, Inc., a leading specialty retailer of consumer electronics, today announced plans to introduce audio and video component product lines from Denon Electronics and Boston Acoustics, Inc. at and Circuit City stores nationwide starting in late September 2006.

"As part of Circuit City's improved home entertainment offering, we are excited to add Denon and Boston Acoustics' premium brand products in our stores and on," said Randy Wick, senior vice president, general merchandise manager of consumer electronics at Circuit City Stores, Inc. "We are always evaluating our product assortment to ensure we offer top- of-the-line merchandise to our customers. The premium position that Denon and Boston Acoustics occupy in the industry will be a perfect complement to our innovative home entertainment expansion, which we plan to rollout in 500-plus stores by the end of this year."

Denon is one of the world's premier manufacturers of high-quality home entertainment components. Known for their reliability and performance, Denon's audio/video products are innovative, with the latest technologies and fine craftsmanship. Products planned to be offered at Circuit City include A/V receivers, stereo receivers, DVD players and home theater systems.

Boston Acoustics is a premier manufacturer of high-performance speakers and audio solutions, and is a renowned value leader in the audio industry. Boston Acoustics designs, manufactures, and markets audio systems for use in home music and audio-video systems and after-market and original equipment manufacturer (OEM) automotive systems. Products planned to be offered at Circuit City consist of home audio speakers, including in-wall and outdoor speakers, table radios and home theater speaker solutions.

"We are very enthusiastic about Circuit City's commitment to home entertainment merchandising with their store enhancements, as well as their renewed commitment to the component audio category. We are pleased to make our products available to their customers," said Bob Weissburg, president of sales and marketing at D&M Holdings, Inc., owner of the Denon and Boston Acoustics brands.

About Circuit City Stores, Inc.

Circuit City Stores, Inc. (NYSE: CC - News) is a leading specialty retailer of consumer electronics. The domestic segment operates through 630 Superstores and five other locations in 158 U.S. markets. The international segment operates through more than 950 retail stores and dealer outlets in Canada. Circuit City also operates Web sites at and at

About Denon Electronics

Denon is a world leader in the manufacture of the highest quality home theater, audio and software products. Denon is recognized internationally for innovative and groundbreaking products and has a long history of technical innovations, including the development and first commercialization of PCM digital audio. Denon Electronics is owned by D&M Holdings, Inc.

About Boston Acoustics

Founded in 1979, Boston Acoustics, Inc. designs, manufactures and markets high performance audio systems for use in home music and audio-video systems, after-market and OEM automotive systems, and customer built-in audio systems. Highly regarded for creating The Boston Sound(TM), the company is renowned for delivering superior, competitively priced products emphasizing performance, consistency and value. For further information, visit the company's Web site at

About D&M Holdings, Inc.

D&M Holdings, Inc. (Tokyo: 6735 - News) is based in Tokyo and owns the Denon, Marantz, McIntosh Laboratory, Boston Acoustics, Snell, D&M Professional, ReplayTV, Rio and Escient brands. Denon, Marantz, McIntosh and D&M Professional are global industry leaders in the specialist home theater, audio/video consumer electronics or professional audio markets, with a strong and long-standing heritage of manufacturing and marketing high-performance audio and video components. Boston Acoustics, with its signature Boston Sound(TM), is a leader in premium loudspeakers for home and audio markets. Snell is a super premium speaker brand. The ReplayTV, Rio and Escient brands represent award-winning technologies in digital home entertainment. Additional information is available at

(Logo: )

Tuesday, July 04, 2006

home theater speaker: How to Place Home Theater Speakers

You have your television and home theater receiver; you just bought your new speakers and subwoofer and are ready to test things out. It's time to break out the measuring tape because precision is vital to achieving the full potential of your home theate...

by M.Bulot

You have your television and home theater receiver; you just bought your new speakers and subwoofer and are ready to test things out. It's time to break out the measuring tape because precision is vital to achieving the full potential of your home theater system. For this article, we are going to focus on a 5.1 surround sound system. The term "5.1" refers to the number of speakers and subwoofers in the system respectively. So for a 5.1 surround sound system, there are five speakers (the center channel, the two front speakers, and the two rear speakers) and one subwoofer.
When placing your home theater speakers, try to use the same amount of speaker wire for each type of speaker. For example, use the same length of wire for each of the front speakers. This will allow the signal to reach each speaker in about the same instant. I say "about" because there are variations in the wire which could cause the signal to reach one speaker slightly (fractions of a fraction of a second) before the other. By making the two lengths equal, you ensure that this delay remains tiny and unnoticeable.

Center Channel
The center channel should always be placed either immediately above or immediately below the viewing screen. Make sure the speaker is pointed directly at the audience.

Front Speakers
The two front speakers should be the same distance from the audience as the center channel. Doing this will ensure that the sound will travel from each speaker to the audience in the same amount of time and reduce the chances of their being a noticeable delay between what takes place on screen to when you hear it. Each of the front speakers should also be positioned an equal distance from the TV on either side. This distance is dependant on your specific tastes; just make sure that the distances are both equal.

Rear Speakers
The rear speakers should be mounted on the walls on either side of the audience. Their purpose is to provide a sense of atmosphere, not provide the main sound for your home theater system. Therefore, they should not be pointed directly at the audience's ears or you risk over powering the center channel and the two front speakers. Again, distance is important. Try to have the rear speakers the same distance from the TV in order to use the same amount of speaker wire and if possible have them placed equidistance from the audience.

Bass tones by their nature are more difficult to localize than the midrange and high notes of the other five speakers. This will give you more freedom as to where to place the subwoofer. However, the location surrounding the subwoofer can greatly influence the bass tones you hear. Placing the subwoofer in a corner or under a table will create a deeper resonating tone as the sound waves reflect off of the surfaces. The placement of the subwoofer is up to you, depending on the type of bass you want. Experiment with different locations and find the one that best suits your taste.

Realizing the full potential of your home theater speakers is not a difficult task. By following these guidelines, you will be ready to enjoy your home theater the way it was meant to be heard.

About the Author

Jon Martin is the Webmaster of the Home Theater Accessories Resource. The Home Theater Accessories Resource is your guide to home theater accessories.

This article came from the Connecting Home Theater Components section of the site.

Copyright M.Bulot -

Monday, July 03, 2006

home theater speaker: Panasonic’s Blu-Ray Disc Player to Become Available in September.

Panasonic Uncovers Blu-Ray Plans in the U.S.

Category: Multimedia

by Anton Shilov

[ 06/25/2006 | 11:58 PM ]

Major consumer electronics (CE) maker Panasonic has announced plans to release its first Blu-ray disc player long with new audio receiver and home theater speaker system in September. While the company is behind Samsung and Sony with the Blu-ray player debut, it will still remain among the first companies to offer the new tech in the U.S.

“The debut of our first Blu-ray Disc High Definition Home Theater solution, combined with Panasonic’s Plasma TVs, allows us to offer consumers the most advanced and complete integrated home theater solution available,” said Reid Sullivan, Vice President of Panasonic Consumer Electronics Company's Entertainment Group.

Panasonic Blu-ray disc (BD) player (DMP-BD10) will be able to playback CDs, DVDs and Blu-ray discs, supporting, when necessary, up-conversion to 1080p resolution. In order to take advantage of the player, users will have to own a TV-set with HDMI input as well as appropriate HDMI-supporting speaker system. Panasonic did not unveil many details about the Blu-ray disc player.

Panasonic DMP-BD10 will cost $1299.95 in the U.S., which is about $300 more expensive compared to players from Samsung and Sony, but still $200 more affordable compared to the Blu-ray disc player from Pioneer.

The Osaka, Japan-based maker of consumer electronics will sell the DMP-BD10 separately, however, in conjunction to it, it would also make available matching receiver (SA-XR700) for $999 and speaker system (SB-TP1000) for $2999.95. Additionally, the firm said it would release a new 65” plasma display (TH-65PX600) with 1080p resolution in fall 2006. Panasonic is the first CE producer, which is to offer Blu-ray disc player along with the other products necessary for watching movies on BDs.