It has been a couple of months since my last post. I regret not writing sooner but I have been consumed with responsibilities at the university, studying like crazy for my oral exam and check ride (Private Pilot – Glider Certificate), and dealing with the successful outcome of my recent Kickstarter campaign. If you were not already aware, 375 backers pledged $16,271 to help bring A User Guide to Streaming, Downloads, and Personal Audio to life. I’ve been writing almost everyday and am confident that I can complete the project by the summer 2021 deadline. If you are interested in backing the project, I’m offering a 30% discount coupon (SDPA_NYS_2021) until March 1, 2021. Simply enter the code during check out.
A New Home Theater
As I suspect most reasonable people having been doing for the past 8 months, my wife and I have been spending more time than usual enjoying the latest offerings from Netflix, Hulu, and Disney+ in our home theater. The 65″ Panasonic 3D monitor I purchased for use at the studio six years ago works just fine, but I’ve been lusting after a larger, brighter, Dolby Vision capable, HDR, OLED television for a few months. But I needed a bona fide reason to spring for a top-of-the-line model. What to do?
During a recent visit, I learned that my oldest son and his wife had been shopping for a replacement for their failing 55″ flatscreen Sony TV. Perfect. I’ll give them our older—but still very functional Panasonic—television as a Christmas present (with free delivery and setup). I paid a visit to the Santa Monica Video and Audio Center in search of a new bigger, brighter smart television. I had participated in a couple of promotional events at the request of their spokesman Tom Campbell and knew the managers of the store. I checked out the latest Sony 85″ model and then the OLED TVs from LG. I remembered that the OLEDs had won the annual shootout at CE Week a few years ago in New York City. Robert Zohn sponsors the event every year and the competition is always fierce. A few years ago, I provided the 5.1 surround system during the event and showed off my high-resolution Blu-rays in between shoot out sessions.
The LG OLEDs look amazing. I do not claim to be an expert in all things video, but I was very impressed by what I saw and what I read online after to my initial visit to the Video and Audio Center. The decision came down to size, quality, and cost between the Sony 85″ or the LG OLED 77″. With the next iteration of the Waldrep home theater on the line, I took my wife—and border collie Charlie—to the store to help with the final choice. The 77″ LG OLED prevailed. The financial transaction was completed and delivery for the following Monday scheduled—although I was somewhat dismayed when the salesperson tried to get me to spring for some AudioQuest cables. I politely declined and didn’t bother to tell him the story about the D-Tronics Youtube promotional video debacle.
I managed to get the Panasonic in the back of our SUV, drive to my son’s apartment in the mid city, and unload it into his place. He was thrilled! He didn’t want the older Denon 3808ci AVR that I brought along. My son and his new wife get by with a small sound bar. However, the implementation of the older Denon wasn’t up to the task of integrating the new smart television with my B&W 801 Matrix III surround sound setup. It lacks the HDMI ARC (Audio Return Channel) so the multichannel audio from Netflix, Disney, Hulu, and Apple TV, which now originates in the LG smart television can’t be sent to the speakers I already own. I should have expected that upgrading one component—in this case the television/monitor—would require upgrading another component. Now I’m shopping for a capable AVR.
I’ve owned Meridian, Marantz, Yamaha, Onkyo, and Denon equipment through the years, I’ve found Denon to be a very reliable and capable brand. My Meridian Processor and DVD-Audio player were gifted to me by Bob Stuart, the co-owner of Meridian and now chief promoter of the idiotic MQA process. He was originally an enthusiastic supporter of my recordings and frequently lauded my efforts in his demonstrations. However, the Meridian equipment—over $35,000 worth—proved to be very unreliable and problematic. The gear remains in my studio but hasn’t been turned on in about a decade. Having overspent on the LG OLED television, I opted for a Denon AVR-750H purchased at the local Best Buy. It handles the ARC AND eARC, which means the digital audio from the television—including Dolby ATMOS encoded programming—can be send back to the receiver for distribution to my 5.1 surround speakers. The new and improved eARC allows higher bandwidths and thus more data to be sent to the receiver for processing and conversion—no more lossy, compressed audio formats.
The inclusion of Dolby Atmos and the ever-increasing catalog of available programming on Netflix, Disney+, and Apple TV were incentive enough to make me explore adding height channels to my home theater. I did a little research and opted for a couple of Monoprice ceiling speakers costing less than $100. I just couldn’t justify spending $1000 for a big brand name when the purpose of the additional audio channels is to deliver additional ambiance. Before I cut holes in my ceiling, I hung the speakers from a couple of beams in the ceiling to see if permanent installation would be warranted. With the speakers strategically hanging over my new couch, I searched for some Atmos content. I remember going to a local cineplex when Atmos first and watching Disney’s Pixar animated film Brave. The movie is available on Disney+. I sat down and hit the play button. The first thing to come up was the Disney logo with the castle, sky full of fireworks, and final particle-effect arcing above the castle. And guess what I heard from the ceiling speakers? The fireworks and final arc exploring and sizzling overhead! I went back to the beginning of the movie and urged my wife Mona to sit in the sweet spot and experience our new Atmos enhanced system. She wasn’t nearly as enthused as I had been but the speakers are still on the ceiling. Permanent installation will happen within days.
The new Waldrep home theater is hardly state-of-the-art but it is a major step up from the previous iteration. Our COVID-19 television viewing sessions are in full UHD (4K) and with Atmos immersive, surround sound. I’ll get back to regular posting now that the new year is here. I’m spending a lot of time in front of my computer and the new home theater researching and writing the new book. I added a MacMini server running Roon and Benchmark DAC to the new system—although Roon has proven to be difficult to launch. Tech support thus far has been sketchy. More news on that as I shake out the problems.