Thomas J. Norton

Thomas J. Norton  |  Feb 23, 2021  |  3 comments
Anyone who has read any of my speaker reviews over the past few years knows that my current room has bass issues (the photo here is, sadly, NOT my room!!). Welcome me to the club; rooms without bass problems are few and far between. Only the obsessed worries about a peak at 30Hz, but erratic response higher in the bass, particularly in the 80 to 200Hz region, can have serious negative effects on the overall sound. To little response there can reduce a source's natural weight, particularly on large scale music or home theater effects. Too much and the bass sounds bloated.

Once you get above a certain frequency, usually between 200 and 500 Hz (known as the Schroeder frequency, after the physicist who first identified it and not the Peanuts character), the room's effect on the sound becomes less significant.

Thomas J. Norton  |  Feb 17, 2021  |  0 comments

Performance
Features
Ergonomics
Value
PRICE $1,000

AT A GLANCE
Plus
Effective, 160- zone local-dimming
App-based color calibration
Affordable price
Minus
Image quality reduced at off-center seats
Some green push with HDR content

THE VERDICT
TCL's 6-Series UHD Roku TV brings the benefits of Mini-LED backlighting to a very affordable price point.

In late 2019, TCL flew me to the company's U.S. offices in California to spend an afternoon with its new flagship, the 75Q825 8-Series UHD Roku TV, a 75-inch 4K LCD model. Not all of the set's firmware was complete, but we took advantage of the opportunity to give our readers a sneak preview. The 75Q825's signature feature was TCL's use of mini-LEDs for backlighting, and at its then price of $3,000, it was something of an outlier for a brand associated with budget TVs.

Thomas J. Norton  |  Feb 09, 2021  |  0 comments
When fishing around for a film to show on a movie night with friends, before Covid-19 rudely interrupted, I recommended The Court Jester. I had it on DVD, but I knew it looked good enough to satisfy non-critical viewers who likely also wouldn't be bothered by its 1950's mono sound. We passed on it that time around, but that old DVD has now taken its last spin. A spanking new Blu-ray of the film has just been released in a video transfer nothing short of stunning.

The movie was originally shot in VistaVision, a widescreen process used (mainly by Paramount) in the 1950's and 60's. It's long-since been dropped as a release format, but is sometimes employed for in-camera special effects created for non-VistaVision productions, particularly in the pre-CGI era. It was used, for example, in the creation of the effects for some of the early Star Wars and Star Trek films when CGI wasn't yet a thing.

Thomas J. Norton  |  Jan 27, 2021  |  0 comments

Performance
Features
Ergonomics
Value
PRICE $4,999

AT A GLANCE
Plus
Exceptional performance
Exceptional build quality
Dimmable power indicator light
Minus
Pricey

THE VERDICT
It doesn’t come cheap, but NAD’s Masters M28 is a genuinely unique product designed to compete sonically with some of the highest-end amps on the market, regardless of how many channels they offer.

Whether you fall into the "all well-designed amps sound the same when used within their limits" camp or the "amp selection is critical" army of true believers, it's arguable that prior to the turn of the millennium amps designed for high-performance audio had fallen into a rut. They were so good that the advertising for them had to become increasingly creative. But a parade of skilled designers remained convinced that the new concepts they had come up with were superior, and audiophiles still lined up to buy them. The turf was always familiar: tubes remained tubes with their lovable quirkiness, and solid state was dominated by class-A/B designs as it had been since the transistor was invented.

Thomas J. Norton  |  Jan 26, 2021  |  3 comments
I recently bought a new car. It wasn't planned, though perhaps long overdue. Old Betsy...um Mazda...took it on herself to make a frontal run on a low curb at a high enough speed to rip into the oil pan and take out one of the engine mounts. No injuries to this or any other humans, nor any perceptible damage to the curb, but my insurance company decided that it was time to send my 15-year-old filly to pasture.

But, you ask, how does this apply to A/V gear. For starters, the latter tends to last a long time unless the winds blow, the ground shakes, a fire intrudes, or the crick rises.

Thomas J. Norton  |  Jan 20, 2021  |  0 comments

Speakers
Performance
Build Quality
Value

Subwoofer
Performance
Features
Build Quality
Value
PRICE (as tested): $4,010

AT A GLANCE
Plus
Affordable price
Detailed overall sound
Good envelopment with Atmos soundtracks
Minus
Towers have limited deep bass
Ordinary cosmetics

THE VERDICT
Monitor Audio's Bronze 6G system is a remarkable testament to how much speaker you can get today for a reasonable price.

Britain-based Monitor Audio offers a wide range of loudspeakers at prices spanning from the bargain basement up to the penthouse that are cleverly named for a variety of metals: Platinum, Gold, Silver, Bronze. The company must have run out of suitable metallic names when its Monitor series was introduced a few years ago— Steel or Aluminum (or Aluminium!) clearly wouldn't do. But while that budget-priced series represents the entry point to the Monitor Audio's offerings, our saga here covers the next step up: Bronze 6G, the sixth generation of the Bronze line.

Thomas J. Norton  |  Jan 12, 2021  |  8 comments
If you were under 10-years old in the early twenty-aughts you might never have experienced a TV series considered by many to be one of the best, if not the best, science fiction series ever produced for television. Yes, the re-imagined Battlestar Galactica came along shortly after. Stargate SG-1 and Stargate Atlantis ran seemingly forever. And I risk permanent expulsion from the club if I don't mention everything Star Trek. There are others shows that have their fans as well. What, no love here for Lost or Game of Thrones (if we can include them in this category—sci-fi is often a big tent, to the dismay of purists). I love both of these in their own ways, but neither of them ended well.

One that did end well is my candidate for the best ever. Over the recent holidays I revisited the first season of Farscape on Blu-ray.

Thomas J. Norton  |  Dec 29, 2020  |  2 comments
A video projector has long been the gold standard for achieving the true theater experience at home. It still is, but there are limitations to projectors that can compromise the big screen experience with today’s best source material.

The relatively limited brightness a projector offers becomes more significant as the size of the screen and the demands of the source material increase. Unlike in the past, where the desire for ever bigger screens could be satisfied (more or less) even by a less than wallet-choking projector, HDR demands far more peak brightness than standard dynamic range...Flat screen TVs in jumbo sizes have become increasingly common lately, at prices far less intimidating than before. A decent LCD/LED, 85-inch 4K set can be had for under $3500.

Thomas J. Norton  |  Dec 16, 2020  |  1 comments


Performance
Features
Ergonomics
Value
PRICE $1,900

AT A GLANCE
Plus
High peak brightness for HDR
Wide viewing angle for an LCD TV
Extended color
Minus
No Dolby Vision support
Some visible “blooming”

THE VERDICT
Samsung's 65-inch Q90T series model offers impressive overall performance at a far lower price than the company's previous flagship 4K TVs.

While most buyers might view two grand as a high price to pay for a new TV, longtime readers here will recall the days when that amount would barely get you a small, flat-panel HD set with few features—and certainly not 4K with HDR. But intense competition in the TV world has resulted in bigger and more sophisticated displays at lower prices. Samsung's Q90T series, including the 65-inch model reviewed here, is actually derived from the company's 2019 Q80R series.

Thomas J. Norton  |  Nov 17, 2020  |  4 comments
Anyone who has had more than a day’s exposure to home theater knows that the heart of any system is the A/V receiver or similar device(s). This doesn’t necessarily mean basic sound quality per se (more on that below). But it’s at the center of the system where everything comes together—the sources at its inputs and the speakers and room at its outputs. The A/V electronics can make or break any system with regard to its ultimate capabilities— its convenience in use, the number of channels it offers, its ergonomics, its features, and much more. It’s also the component that’s most likely to be overtaken by new developments, putting it behind the times even if it’s still functional. It might last a decade or more and still produce satisfying sound, but if things keep moving as fast they have in the recent past there could well be new features that eventually render it functionally obsolete. At least one manufacturer, NAD, builds its AVRs with removable modules for later upgrades, but even so there might be future developments beyond its reach. There’s no such thing as absolute future-proofing (if there were, the company offering it might well go out of business!).

But before you consider any of these things you’ll need to decide between a A/V receiver (AVR) or a preamp-processor (pre-pro)...

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