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All the products we represent must first meet with our strict standards and approval for their inherent qualities, functionality and values. We are extremely selective, because we believe that the product's long-term stability and reliability are very critical.
We do not carry a wide range of products, because we could not do justice to either the product line or to our customers if we do not intimately know our products. The product selection process begins with a thorough examination of the manufacturer, its history, reputation in the market place, and the relationship that we can establish with them. Next, the products are evaluated for their functionality as stated by the manufacturer, and they are then tested against our "known standards". The quality and features that meet with and ultimately pass our strict standards will become part of our product line. You can be assured that all the products we represent will yield our customers exceptional quality and long-term value for the investment.
UNDERSTANDING PLASMA MONITORS:
The absolute best example of our product philosophy can be found in the area of plasma monitors. There are many versions and styles offered, but there are very few, in our experience, really worthy of the plasma title.
There are only a few actual manufacturers of the plasma glass in the world. There are many retail store brands, but few, in our opinion, follow the path of quality despite the manufacture's brand name! Most units are made in Japan, but there are some from Korea. The Korean products are, in our opinion and from our experience, appear to be the poorest examples of plasma quality, and that is because their technology lags. The Koreans have been fabricating their plasmas on machinery sold to them by the Japanese that the Japanese no longer use! Thus, the purchase of a Korean made plasma can be the purchase of antiquated technology by the time you have purchased it. The most critical part of the plasma monitor is its power supply, and the lesser known plasmas use generally sub-standard power supplies that will most certainly fail prematurely. This is the key ingredient to accurate picture quality. It's all a cost issue to get market share at minimum cost, and the unsuspecting buyer is the intended victim. Additionally, most manufacturers offer two (2) versions of plasmas. There is a commercial version with reduced resolution and reduced RFI shielding, and there is the residential version with a full FCC Class B RFI shielding certificate. The well known local discount and mail order houses generally sell the commercial versions, because they are cheaper. Cheap is cheap, and you will pay with reduced resolution and with increased interference in your homes! Additionally, most manufacturers do not offer any warranty on a commercial plasma used for residential applications! Worse yet, plasmas purchased on the internet through unauthorized sellers do not have a warranty. Be very careful from whom you purchase as you might subsequently discover you have purchased nothing!
UNDERSTANDING PLASMA RESOLUTION:
Plasma monitors are the newest and greatest in many eyes, but the main purpose for purchasing one is to gain the highest video resolution possible. In reality, there are very few "quality" plasmas. So, how do you know when you have found the best that gives the greatest resolution?
Most 42" plasmas can yield only 480 lines of horizontal resolution. It's a mathematical certainty, and no matter how much one tries to manipulate the resolution numbers and tries to convince you of their HD capability, even with the so-called "high definition" 42" models sold at higher pricing than the "standard resolution" 42" models, all you will ever get for resolution out of that size monitor is 480 horizontal lines! However, unlike other plasma vendors of the so-called "HD" 42" models NEC has recently introduced a 42" model that will project a 1,024 X 768 resolution in 16X9 format! Please do bear in mind, however, that 1,024 X 768 is a computer resolution that previously bore little application to High Definition! However, NEC has a pixel arrangement format in conjunction with a dramatic enhancement of black level that makes this new model stand out. Once again please fully understand that this model will not, however, project a full HD image due to the limited number of pixels. Remember that broadcasts in High Definition are in a 16:9 widescreen format only. So, while you will get very nice picture quality on this new 42" NEC plasma you will NOT, repeat NOT get a full HD resolution! Period! End of story!
High definition is a minimum of 720 lines of horizontal resolution. Since this new 42" has only 1,024 horizontal lines, you are losing 342 lines or more than 60% reduction of the available resolution! So, while the size of a 42" might initially be impressive, a buyer will be short-changed long-term by its purchase due to its inability to reproduce a full HD image. The mathematics to substantiate the above is as follows: for a minimum HD resolution of 1,280 X 720 lines the total number of pixels is 921,600. For a plasma with a resolution of 1,366 X 768 lines the total number of pixels is 1,049,088. A 42" plasma with 1,024 X 768 lines has 786,432 total pixels. Therefore, how does a manufacture display HD resolution of 921,600 pixels onto a 42" surface that has only 786,432 pixels, and what happens to the remainder of the pixels? Remember, 1,280 X 720 is a minimum HD resolution! The answer is that the pixels have to "overlay" or "be crammed" into the reduced surface area which produces a greatly reduced image without the detail and sharpnes one would get from a 50" NEC. 50" plasmas should, therefore, yield a minimum of 720 lines of horizontal resolution which most do. The best units such as our NEC,however, produces 768 lines. Vertical lines of resolution are equally important in the 50" monitor, and here again is where you have to be very careful. Not all 50" plasmas are created equally! Ideally the best quality 50" models should have 1366 (V) X 768 (H) pixels minimum. However, some presently offered have only 1280 (V) X 720 (H) pixels, and here again the buyer is being short changed resolution! It is less costly to build a plasma monitor of 1280 X 720 lines of resolution, and the cost to build decreases while the manufacturer's profit margin increases! Who suffers from this? The buyer does! Buyers should be very well informed and well educated prior to a plasma purchase, or the high definition plasma video experience will be less than hoped for! Would one purchase gasoline that had been watered down? It might be tempting in a high gas price market, but what would one gain long term? Don't be fooled. When considering a plasma choice deal with a professional who has a substantial background in this area and who can properly respond to your questions, help educate you, steer you in the right direction with every part of your system. We are one of those very few professionals in this business with a strong background who is properly equipped to assist and advise you. Please rely upon us to do so.
SCALERS-WHAT DO THEY REALLY DO:
indicates a change. For video application it
relates to the number of lines of resolution, and the more
lines available the greater the picture quality. So, a scaler will take
in a particular amount of lines from a video source and then increase
them to enhance picture quality.
industry in 1939 set the standard for video
transmission as 240 lines sent every 1/30th of a
a better quality picture, that line count must be increased, and it
must be so done in the shortest time period possible.
RECEIVERS-ARE THERE LIMITS:
Receivers can serve a good purpose in an audio system, but there are limits to what they can do for a high quality audio system. There is a great deal of electronic components within them, because the unit is designed to perform a variety of functions. Many of those internal components are, therefore, called upon to do a variety of tasks, and this reduces the efficiency at which they can function. Thus, high quality audio systems will not use receivers because of these compromises in the amplification process.
The most important component of any electronic source, as was indicated in the plasma section, is its power supply, and most receivers, in addition to an overload of components, suffer from very poor power supplies. So, when thinking of system design realize these limits, and make absolutely sure you consider all aspects of the system choice beyond its cost!
AMPLIFIERS ARE REQUIRED FOR HIGH QUALITY SYSTEMS:
Above it was stated that receivers share internal components, and that they are not the best choice for high performance systems. Receivers have built within them the pre-amp processor as well as the amplifier sections. Separate audio components are designed to do specific functions, and that is why they are referred to as "separates". Each component is designed to do a specific task, and, as a result, internal components are not shared, and sound quality is optimal. The pre-amp processor serves only to process the digital input signals, convert them to analog signals, and then to determine to which channel the signal should go.
The separate amplifier then accepts those signals from the processor and provides power and audible information for the loudspeakers. However, the amplifier does more than just increase volume levels, and it has a very tough job to do.
A loudspeaker is quite complex beyond what the average individual may know and understand, and its operation presents a formidable challenge for an amplifier. Within the loudspeaker driver, there is a coil of wire which is wound around a circular bobbin or "former" which is known as the voice coil. This is attached to the loudspeaker cone and that assembly is supported within a magnetic field and is suspended in place by a "spider". All this mechanism becomes a "motor" when energized.
The electrons which are emitted from an amplifier are "AC" electrons. The magnetic field from the loudspeaker's magnet presents "DC" electrons. The introduction of AC electrons through the voice coil into the magnetic field then causes the voice coil to move back and forth or in and out as the signal attempts to repel or attract the DC electrons. This movement translates into movement of the cone of the loudspeaker, and sound is then presented at different intensity levels and at different frequencies that our ears recognize.
As the voice coil moves within the magnetic field, it produces an "impedance" or "resistive load" which is constantly changing. This change presents a tremendous challenge to an amplifier, because as this resistive load is constantly changing, the amplifier must constantly produce a flow of electrons to meet the changes.
The power supply in the amplifier is what produces the electron flow, and that is why a good power supply is so critical to good sound quality. The asset of the amplifier which controls a loudspeaker is referred to "damping", and that is a function of its power supply. The higher the number of the amplifier's "damping" ability, the better amplifier's ability to handle the complex resistive load and to control the impedance swings in a loudspeaker.
Since receivers generally have very inadequate and poor power supplies, their "damping" ability is poor as is their overall sound quality in general. A good amplifier is, therefore, very critical to total system performance and sonic purity, and it should be the device of choice over a receiver for a quality system.
A good audio/video system can only be built with quality information from a very qualified company. This is a specialty of ours, and you can be assured that any system we design will have amplifiers properly chosen and properly sized for the system.
WHAT MAKES A SUB-WOOFER A SUB-WOOFER:
To really understand what a sub-woofer is one must first understand what the term really means especially since it is so frequently misused!
The design concept of a sub-woofer is to produce audio output in the very low frequency portion, primary octaves, of the audio spectrum which is truly "below" the level of hearing. So the term "sub-woofer" was derived from "sub-sonic" which means output below the level of hearing. One will actually "feel" the low frequency energy and not "hear" it. Unfortunately, the actual meaning of "sub-sonic" is not understood by many, and that's where the problems arise!
Low frequency waves are the most difficult to produce, because they are very long in duration, they take a tremendous amount of electrical energy to produce, and large drivers are necessary to move enough air for one to "feel" the energy. So, it becomes a very difficult task for a loudspeaker designer to produce enough low frequency output, to keep the driver and box size smaller than a refrigerator, to employ an amplifier that does not weigh 100 lbs., and to make the whole device cost effective!
Low frequency reproduction is all about moving air and moving lots of it so that the listener "feels" the low frequency. Naturally, the larger the "surface" of the driver, the easier it is to move the air and to "couple" with the listener's environment. Therefore, good quality sub-woofers are frequently equated with large drivers. However, the larger the driver generally the larger the amplifier power that is required to sufficiently move the driver's cone surface for the listener to "feel" its output.
To combat the above-stated conditions, loudspeaker designers attempt to balance all factors so that their sub-woofer can harmoniously fit physically into a living environment while complying with the "WAF-wife acceptance factor". Some designers use very large drivers in very large enclosures with smaller amplifiers, and some will use very small drivers in very small enclosures with very large amplifiers. It's a balancing act to get the biggest bang for the buck to produce low frequencies, and it's a vicious cycle.
A large driver usually takes more energy to move, but since its cone surface is large it does not have to move as much to produce energy, and, as such, it more easily couples with the surrounding environment. So, in theory its amplifier could be smaller. A smaller driver requires greater movement to produce the same amount of low frequency energy as a larger driver, and, therefore, it would require more amplifier power to do so.
All loudspeakers have voice coils which are motor mechanisms! These are coils of wire suspended and immersed in a DC magnet environment, and cone movement is created by fluctuating AC electrons flowing from the amplifier into the voice coil. As the AC electrons oppose the stable DC magnetic field, the voice coil moves in and out thereby moving the cone which moves air and which produces sound. Thus, there is considerable complexity in designing and creating a good sub-woofer to move enough air with the right size amplifier to produce sufficient bass with minimal distortion.
so called "sub-woofers" are actually only
woofers regardless of what the manufacturers say, because they cannot
produce "sub-sonic" energy. They may go down to about 30 Hz, and that
might sound like bass energy, but that is not audio output in the true
"sub-sonic" range. There are some full range box speakers that can go
down lower in response than these so called "sub-woofers".
In our experience we have found few brands of sub-woofers that we would honestly refer to as true sub-woofers worthy of the title. Producing clean low frequency is a toughjob, but we expect it to be done correctly.
Bag End is our mostfavorite sub-woofer, and it is the only sub we know of that is flat to an incredible eight hertz (8 HZ). It is by far the cleanest and lowest reaching low frequency reproducer we have ever auditioned, and we are not the only ones to say this. WideScreenReview Magazine has consistently rated this sub-woofer in the top of the top category.
Bag End is known for its exceptional line of pro sound loudspeakers, and three years ago packaged their incredible 18" model for home theater applications. The results have been absolutely fantastic.
The design concept uses a very efficient and specially designed 18" driver that is in a box much smaller than would normally be used for an 18" driver. This small box raises the resonant frequency so that the useful frequency range below the resonant frequency is not affected by large impedance swings caused by the voice coil movement which is characteristic of most sub-woofers. Bag End then employs its clever and patented ELF electronic crossover in conjunction with its Time Align technology to filter and clean the low frequency to enable the driver to go so low. Due to the driver's exceptional efficiency a built-in 400 watt amplifier is all that is required to power this driver to extraordinary true "sub-sonic" low frequency reproduction! This is a very well designed "true" sub-woofer. Its response is clean, detailed, and it is absolutely incredible what this sub-woofer can do.
Presently Bag End also offers a 12" version that is nearly identical in performance to the 18' version and which is only -3dB down at 8 hz! A 10" model is now in development.
One really needs to audition these units to appreciate the lowest octaves in the audio spectrum from the only sub-woofer we know that has the capability of producing true "sub-sonic" frequencies. George Lucas has six (6) of the 18" models in his mixing/viewing room! There is a reason.
The choice of a true sub-woofer should be made very carefully after extensive auditioning. Don't be fooled by those selling woofers as "sub-woofers". The sub is the item in a system that will most noticeably let you know of its inability to produce "sub-sonic' frequencies. Make the right choice.
The most misunderstood part of the audio system undoubtedly is the loudspeaker. There is more mystery, smoke, mirrors, and snake oil used in the sale of these items which adds to the confusion. So what is one to do so as not to make the dreadful mistake of buying the "wrong" loudspeaker and then arriving home to have the wife say those famous lines of "who sold that to you" or "you are not putting that in my living room"?
The first step one can do is to educate himself as to exactly what makes a loudspeaker a loudspeaker. Understanding the terminology is very critical, because many sales people themselves rarely know these parameters and will then use confusing terminology to play upon the buyer's lack of knowledge. So, find magazines that talk serious "turkey" such as Widescreen Review and Stereophile Guide to Home Theater that go to the heart of this matter and which will help give you a good feel for what it is you should know.
Next, make a list of terms you read about or hear mentioned with which you are not familiar but which will be very essential to a complete product understanding. The purpose of this exercise is not to make you a speaker expert but to make you sufficiently knowledgeable so that you can make a good product buying decision. Do not overlook anything by thinking it might not be important, because that one area you might have forgotten to cover can be the area that affects your long-term product enjoyment.
Become familiar with manufacturer's names, but do not make the fatal mistake of thinking that because you have heard a product name for years it is a good product. Many times "brand names" are only that from advertising and not from product quality. Don't be fooled. Make a list of the manufacturer's models offered, and then start becoming familiar with those models.
Make sure you know what it is you are sourcing and be very realistic as to what you want to purchase.
HIGH DEFINITION DVD PLAYERS:
There was considerable discussion concering the battle of high definition DVD standards.
SONY embarked upon their own avenue with the BluRay version which we did not embrace, but unfortunately at this point there is little choice.
BluRay has a few advantages but also has considerable disadvantages the most notable of which is that it is an outdated MPEG-2 video system. Thus, while it plays their disks and the picture is good, their MPEG-2 system does not share the advanced benefits of the MPEG-4 system Toshiba embraced.
DirecTV™has gone to great expense to update their broadcast system to the new MPEG-4 video playback system which offers incredible benefits of clarity, detail, and an almost 3 dimensional apperance.
The manufacturers of the Toshiba HD DVD format have gone to the same extremes, and
this was the format we had embraced,
In all, MPEG-4 is a huge advancement in video playback, and since
progression towards the refinement of video quality is what we strive
to provide, the MPEG-4 HD DVD format is our recommendation.