I'm not a big fan of small speakers or subwoofers.
They tend to sound, well, small, and most of them squash the life out of films and music.
Thing is, people like tiny speakers and subs, so lots of speaker companies make, and sell tons of iffy-sounding 5.1 systems.
But they're not all bad, I've cherry-picked three truly exceptional alternatives from Definitive Technology, Energy Speakers, and Mirage. My complete reviews are all on CNET, but I'll run down the highlights here.
The Definitive Technology ProCinema 600 System is a six-piece package with four 7-inch tall satellite speakers, one 10.5-inch wide center speaker, and a minisubwoofer. The injection-molded mineral-filled polymer cabinets have more of a high-end feel than your typical plastic or fiberboard cabinets. Can you say "rock solid?"
The subwoofer is a conventional, matte-finished medium-density-fiberboard box. It measures 13 by 10.3 by 13 inches. Its side-mounted volume control is a convenient design touch.
The satellites are two-way designs with a 1-inch aluminum-ceramic dome tweeter and a 3.25-inch midrange driver. Ah, but the midrange driver is acoustically coupled to a 3.25-inch pressure-driven planar low-frequency radiator on the top panel (so when the midrange driver moves in, the passive radiator moves out, and vice-versa).
The passive radiator effectively doubles the bass radiating area of the tiny midrange driver. The same technique is employed on the center channel speaker; it has a pair of 3.25-inch midrange drivers flanking a 1-inch tweeter--and there's a 3.25-inch radiator on each side of the speaker.
The subwoofer's 8-inch polymer cone woofer is acoustically coupled to a bottom-mounted 8-inch passive radiator. The combined radiating area of the driver and radiator is almost equivalent to a single 12-inch woofer. This little sub kicks butt!… Read more
If you like difficult puzzles, Callisto_5 may be right up your alley, but if they give you a headache or you're easily frustrated, this game will have you banging your head against a wall in no time.
The game's interface is bright and colorful, but it features annoying sound effects that thankfully you can turn off. Callisto_5 doesn't make a whole lot of sense at first glance, so we consulted the game's built-in hints and instructions, but these didn't make much sense either, even after reading them several times. We couldn't determine the object … Read more
Unique's 3D Salt Water Fish Tank is an attractive screen saver that transforms your computer into a burbling aquarium. Some aspects could be better, but it's soothing and not a bad simulation overall.
The screen saver's graphics aren't going to fool anyone into thinking that they're seeing real fish, but on the whole, they're pretty high quality, with smooth and realistic movement. We like that you can customize the look of the aquarium to some extent, such as setting the tank lighting for high noon, dusk, or night. You can also adjust the tint … Read more
MLM CRM is a basic program that allows participants in multilevel marketing businesses to keep track of their downline, customers, and sales. Although the program works, there's nothing particularly outstanding about it.
The program's interface is basic, and we found much of the text used throughout to be too small to read comfortably. Each of the program's features--contacts, distributors, invoices, etc.--opens a new window within the program, which can get cluttered and annoying. The program is really nothing more than a series of very basic databases, with the distributor feature allowing for hierarchical arrangements of downlines. … Read more
The egg chair is back, but with a 5.1 Dolby Digital surround sound system and an intimate media experience not intended for sharing. The chair can be connected to a television or computer and its unique foam insulation means no more complaining from your significant other. Go ahead, play Call of Duty all you want--he or she won't hear a … Read more
Some users are experiencing an issue after upgrading to iTunes 9 where purchased content from the iTunes Music Store contains static during playback in 5.1 surround sound. The issue does not appear to affect Apple's movie trailers or DVD playback in 5.1 surround sound, though all purchased TV shows and movies from the iTunes Music Store appear to suffer the problem.… Read more
Oppo's new BDP-83 player spins just about every type of "silver" disc under the sun: CD, SACD, DVD-Audio, DVD-Video and Blu-ray. Cool!
I brought a stack of SACDs and DVD-A discs to the CNET listening room to check out the BDP-83 with our Denon AVR-3808CI receiver and Aperion Intimus 4T Hybrid SD 5.1 speaker/subwoofer system. I'll cover the high-resolution audio performance of the Oppo here, read Matthew Moskovciak's full CNET review for the rest of the story.
"The Allman Brothers Band at Fillmore East," recorded on March 12 and 13, 1971, was a trip. Sure, the original mix was stereo, but I loved the way the SACD's 5.1 mix opened up and clarified the sound, especially the band's two drummers, Jai Johanny Johanson and Butch Trucks. The entire rhythm section's dynamics and pulse came alive on SACD, it's more in the background on CD.
On one hand the 5.1 mix is fairly subtle, but the sound's open quality and spaciousness was remarkable. The sense of being in the 2,000 seat concert hall was a thrill that you can't get with stereo. And no, you can't get there by playing stereo in Dolby Pro Logic II, a discrete 5.1 channel mix, if it's any good, will always sound better.
Led Zeppelin's "How the West Was Won" double DVD-A set was very different. How? The band's dynamic energy was even more present and the front three speakers soundstage depth and dimensionality were better than the Allman Brothers' disc. Too bad the bass was thicker and muddier, which was probably the way it sounded at the 1972 Zep shows. I didn't like the surround mix much, mostly because I couldn't understand why Jimmy Page's guitar was sometimes coming out of the surround speakers. Strange. But it's still the best sounding Zeppelin disc I own.… Read more
yWriter 5 is an unusual but interesting bit of freeware that takes a coder's approach to writing a novel. Simon Haynes, a bestselling novelist and programmer, developed it to help the aspiring author by automating many of the tasks common to fiction writing. It's basically a specialized word processor that breaks down the elements of a writing project into discrete pieces that can be refined individually and then strung together, much the way a coder approaches a large programming job. Chapters, scenes, characters, and plot elements can be defined, developed, edited, and automatically integrated into the project. You … Read more
It's interesting. Tens of millions of homes are equipped with multichannel home theater systems, but multichannel music is a dead issue. Stereo rules the roost, for going on 50 years.
Ten years ago it looked like stereo's days were numbered--the two new multichannel formats, SACD and DVD-Audio, were on track to be the next big things. Funny, it didn't work out that way. I cover the subject in detail in my "Whatever happened to 5.1-channel music?" article that appeared in the July issue of Stereophile magazine.
Obviously, 5.1-channel sound makes sense for movies and home theater, mostly because 5.1 was an outgrowth of theatrical film-sound technologies stretching all the way back to the 1950s.
Every attempt to bring surround music into the home without video has flopped, big time. Are you old enough to remember the rise and fall of quadraphonic in the 1970s? What was needed was a surround format that didn't require music lovers to invest in new playback gear. Surely such a format would prove the viability of music surround...wouldn't it?… Read more