April 18, 2014

Blu-ray is the highest resolution storage media format for high definition audio and video content in history.

Blu-ray is the highest resolution storage media format for high definition audio and video content in history. It’s lossless audio content, bit-for-bit identical to the original master recording, combined with the live performance by the artists in 1080p HD outperforms all previous formats in terms of delivering a total, immersive sensory experience at home that is un-rivaled in history.  You won't find the Blu-ray HD Audio soundtracks available for downloading.  

They can't be legally copied or downloaded from the internet because this level of resolution is protected by HDMI with the HDCP protocol, an encrypted two-way handshake between the source and the Preamp or DAC that confirms an authentic, secured connection. That only happens if the disc is in the tray of a Blu-ray player or drive, not from a download, connected by HDMI v1.3 or higher. Once that connection is made, you get to hear the best fidelity in history at home with the full bandwidth and dynamic range of the actual live performance. 

Concerts on Blu-ray

February 09, 2014

Essense Electrostatic Speakers Wall-Mountable

How To Improve The WAF Of Your Man-Cave

Wall-Mountable Electrostatic Speakers by Essence™Essence Lifestyle Banner 3

WAF stands for “wife acceptance factor”, a feature most audiophiles and videophiles regardless of gender consider mandatory in their AV systems these days. Traditional big box speakers continue to be un-inspiring and soncially stale, with a low WAF score. The speakers have to please your significant other visually or it’s a no go. At this years CES, a new generation of Ultra HD 4K HDTVs is telling us its time to go big with speakers that match.

The next generation of flat panel HDTVs have higher resolution than ever before, 4 times higher than 1080p. This enables larger screens up to 110-200″ diagonal at home, enhancing the sensory experience and emotional impact of watching live sports, movies, and concerts on Blu-ray. The conventional speaker brands have not kept up with the progress of the HDTV’s and one trend to watch is the evolution of flat panel speakers, a challenge for conventional technology.using dynamic drivers in wood boxes. Lets just say this niche not a good fit for them.

Essence 1200 Sanus BracketEssence™ manufactures unconventional flat, transparent panel speakers that mount on brackets allowing extension from 4-20″ off the wall, creating a high performance audio video experience with the aesthetic appeal all genders are looking for today.

Electrostatic speakers have finally come of age and Essence™ is leading the way with its breakthrough manufacturing process that makes so much sense.  We actually print them now on giant high resolution ink-jet printers using inks that conduct electricity in layers to create the electrostatic field.

Essence™ Electrostatic speakers have one moving part, an ultra low-mass diaphragm made of mylar film, suspended between two perforated acrylic panels. Sound is created by the push/pull principle of like objects repelling (like two positive poles on a magnet) and opposite objects attracting in an electrostatic field. The first applications of this technology were developed in the 1950′s for speakers in tight places on submarines, soon after finding its way into use in high end audio systems. Since then, improvements in all the materials have made them more reliable, more efficient, and more beautiful. its fair to say they’ve come of age.Essence Lifestyle Banner 2

Amazingly, they are transparent, you can see right through them. Its like magic when a speaker with only one moving part made of transparent Mylar film can make a sound so pure and free of distortion.. No other speaker I know of delivers sound with such clarity and resolution, with a realistic and palpable stereo image. Its low mass design and simplicity reproduce music better than any existing conventional speaker can, its simple physics. Its time to step up to a better quality listening experience at the same time you up your game with one of the new, BIG, UltraHD 4K TVs.

This is the leading edge of speaker design right now. After a year inventing how to make them, we are now ready to sell them. Ask for Essence™ Electrostats at the best AV stores around the world, accept nothing less.

January 09, 2014

The Point of Diminishing Return

resolution chart

The Point of Diminishing Return

They say that products evolve until they reach a point of perfection, where further improvements are a waste of time.  This is called the “point of CIMG1966diminishing return”.  For home audio video enthusiasts, the last few years have been extraordinary.  Digital projection reached 1080p native video resolution with Blu-ray, also offering audiophiles an audio soundtrack that’s bit-for-bit identical to the original master recording. 

The sensory experience of watching a great movie or concert at home is so good now, I believe we’ve achieved the point of diminishing return.  When a 1080p native picture can be projected up to 110″ diagonal at a viewing distance of 12 feet and the audio content has the bandwidth and dynamic range of the original master recording, we dont need to be hounded by manufacturers trying to gimmick their way into our wallets like they did with 3D.

Most consumers don’t understand what the specs mean so they think the bigger number is better. If 1080p is great, then Ultra 4K must be greater, right? Would you be surprised if I told you no, it means bigger, not better. The chart above shows the various video resolutions, 4K is capable of projecting a much larger (4x) image than 1080p but if you watch 4K content on a 55” 4K HDTV, you won’t notice any difference. 

shortthrowprojector28_620x414Its only noticeable if you increase the size of the screen to over 120″,  from 150”- 200” diagonal, the same as the local Cineplex.  4K is the resolution of the movie theater and to be appreciated it needs a big wall and deep room for seating far enough away from the screen for the pixels to disappear.  Most of us don't have walls or rooms that big at home but they are going to tell you you need 4K anyway.  Dont believe it.

When the manufacturers brought out 3D a few years ago, interest was high. However, 3D had been around since the 1950’s and considered a sales gimmick by most knowledgeable videophiles.  To see 3D, you have to wear sunglasses indoors in an already darkened room. Worse yet, the glasses flicker because they shut one lens while the other is on, we never see the movie with both eyes at the same time.  If that sounds like it might be harmful to your vision, it is.  Headaches and nausea are common, yet the manufacturers did their best to sell it to everybody. 3D failed to become a reason to buy a new tv because it was a hype to sell movie theater tickets, not because it was worthwhile doing at home.

At CES, Sony showed a projector in a cabinet, using the wall as the screen. Priced at $30K with no screen, Sony is promoting what I blogged about  a few weeks ago, 1080p projectors sell for under $1000 and I used Screen Goo Paint on my flat wall, its better than vinyl, it doesn’t stretch or sag. Sometimes its up to us to use our common sense to solve problems, clearly the manufacturers are only in it for the money and will just keep throwing new features at us until we buy something new we don't need. This category has matured, reached the point where we’ve always dreamed of being for a reasonable price. How cool is that? 

 

Bob Rapoport

Award-winning sales and marketing consultant to manufacturers of high performance audio / video products for consumer and professional applications. Holder of 2 patents for analog surround decoding, 12 CES Innovations awards, recognized in the Who's Who of American Inventors, and recently the leading advocate for adoption of the Blu-ray audio standard; currently sales director for Essence Electrostatic LLC

November 14, 2013

Blu-ray player Set Up !

Feeling a bit uncertain as you stare at the back panel on your new Blu-ray player? Wondering what all those terms in the Settings menu really mean? Fear not. We're here to help. Here are five tips to help ensure that you've set up your Blu-ray player correctly for your system.

Tip #1: Use an HDMI Cable
An HDMI connection will provide the highest quality picture and sound you can get from your Blu-ray player, plus it allows you to transmit both high-definition video and high-resolution audio over one cable, for a clean, easy setup. If you are connecting the player directly to a TV, just run an HDMI cable from the player's HDMI output to one of the TV's HDMI inputs. If you're adding an A/V receiver (or perhaps a soundbar) to the mix, you'll need two HDMI cables: Run the first one from the Blu-ray player's HDMI output to the receiver's HDMI input (ideally the one that's already labeled BD/DVD), then run the second one from the receiver's HDMI output to your TV's HDMI input. Make note of exactly which HDMI input you used on the TV (they are usually numbered). After powering up all your devices, make sure that the receiver is set to the BD/DVD source and/or make sure that the TV is set to the correct input. Your TV remote should have a button labeled Input or Source that lets you scroll through all of the different inputs. If your TV is on and you're getting a blank screen or "No Signal" message, you are probably on the wrong input.

If your HDTV or receiver is older and does not have HDMI inputs, the next best option for video is the Blu-ray player's component video output. It's the set of three colored outputs labeled Y, Pb, and Pr (or maybe Y/Cb/Cr), and it requires a cable with three RCA plugs on each end). Make sure to match the correct color and letters between your player and TV/receiver (Y to Y, Pb to Pb, Pr to Pr). Please note that many new Blu-ray players only have HDMI video outputs; don't buy one of these players if your TV or receiver doesn't have HDMI inputs. As of January 1, 2011, Blu-ray manufacturers are no longer allowed to output an HD signal from the analog component video output (older Blu-ray players could output 720p/1080i high-definition through component video). If you own a Blu-ray player produced after this date, then it will only pass a maximum resolution of 480p from the Blu-ray player to the TV through component video. You can still watch high-def Blu-ray discs, but they will be downconverted to a lower resolution. The same is true if you use the basic yellow composite video output; it will only pass a standard-definition 480i signal from the player to your TV.

Tip #2: Choose the Correct Video Resolution and Frame Rate
Most new Blu-ray players are set by default to an "Auto" resolution setting for the HDMI output that automatically displays the image at the best resolution that your TV can accept. If it's a new TV, that resolution is probably 1080p. This Auto setting should be fine for most people; however, if for any reason you want or need to change the player's output resolution, you will find in the setup menu a sub-menu likely called TV Setup, where there will be an option to change the HDMI resolution. The options are usually 480p, 720p, 1080i, and 1080p. If you're wondering what resolution is being fed to your TV by the Blu-ray player (or any other source, for that matter), just hit the Info button on the TV remote. Somewhere on the screen, the TV will show you what resolution it is receiving.

Some higher-end Blu-ray players also include a Source Direct mode that allows you to output all video discs at their native resolution: DVDs will be output at 480i, and Blu-ray movies will usually be output at 1080p. This mode is desirable if you own an external scaler or a receiver/TV/projector that has a better internal scaler than the one in your Blu-ray player.

Within the same TV Setup menu, you should see an option called "24p output" (or something similar). This function might be turned off by default. Most films are shots at a frame rate of 24 frames per second; to watch them on a standard 60Hz TV requires a conversion process called 3:2 pulldown that repeats frames. This process adds a stuttering quality to motion called judder, and some people don't like judder. If the "24p output" setting is turned off, then the Blu-ray player will add the 3:2 process to your Blu-ray movies to output them at 60Hz. If you turn on the "24p output" setting, then the player will output Blu-ray films at 24 frames per second, the way they were originally filmed. Why would you do this? Well, many new HDTVs offer a refresh rate that's higher than 60Hz. These TVs can refresh at 96Hz, 120Hz, or 240Hz (all multiples of 24), and they can include a variety of modes to reduce judder. With this type of TV, it makes more sense to feed the 24fps movie from the Blu-ray player into the TV and let the TV handle the frame-rate increase.

Tip #3: Set the Proper Shape (Aspect Ratio) for Your TV
Also within the TV Setup menu, you'll find an option called TV Shape or TV Aspect Ratio. For an HDTV, you'll want to choose a 16:9 (rectangular) shape, not a 4:3 (squarish) shape. However, there are often multiple 16:9 choices within the setup menu, and your choice will depend on how you want to view square, 4:3 sources on your rectangular 16:9 TV. Most older TV shows and some older movies were shot in a 4:3 aspect ratio. When watching these shows on disc through your Blu-ray player, do you want to view them with sidebars that preserve the correct shape of the image in the center of the screen, or do you want to get rid of the sidebars by stretching the image to the screen's edges (which distorts the shape) or zooming in on the image (which cuts off information at the top and bottom)? For instance, in my Panasonic Blu-ray player, I can set the TV shape for just 16:9 (which automatically puts sidebars around 4:3-shaped content) or "16:9 Full" (which stretches the square content to fill the 16:9 screen). This is a matter of personal preference, and all of the persons in your household may not have the same preference. Your HDTV's remote will also have a button called Aspect Ratio or Picture Size that can make these same changes.

Tip #4: Choose the Correct Audio Format for Your System
There are a number of different ways to configure the audio output on your Blu-ray player, depending on the capabilities of both the player and the device to which you're connecting it. If you're connecting the player directly to a TV via HDMI, you should get audio without having to make any adjustments in the setup menu - granted, it will only be stereo audio, regardless of how the player is set up, because that's all the TV can output. If you're connecting the player to the TV via the stereo analog audio output (if there is one), then you might need to go into the Audio setup menu and turn off the HDMI audio in order to activate the other audio outputs.

If you're connecting the player to an A/V receiver through HDMI, again you should be able to get audio without making any adjustments. The HDMI Audio setup menu generally has two options: Bitsteam and PCM. Bitstream is usually the default, and it means that the player is simply passing the audio soundtrack in its native bitstream form over HDMI to your receiver. All of the decoding will happen in the receiver; so, if you use this setting, you want a receiver that at least has Dolby Digital and DTS decoding to get surround sound for DVD and Blu-ray movies. Ideally, the receiver should also have Dolby TrueHD and DTS-HD Master Audio decoding so that you can enjoy the highest quality uncompressed 7.1-channel audio offered on many Blu-ray discs.

If you own an HDMI receiver that does not have Dolby TrueHD and DTS-HD MA decoding, then you can set the HDMI Audio for PCM. This tells the player to use its own internal decoders to decode the selected soundtrack on the disc, be it Dolby Digital, DTS, Dolby TrueHD, etc. Most (but not all) new players have both Dolby TrueHD and DTS-HD MA decoders built in. So, set the player for PCM, and it will decode the audio and send it in the form of multichannel PCM to your receiver over the HDMI cable.

Finally, if you own an older receiver that does not have HDMI inputs, you have two audio options. One, you can send bitstream or PCM over the player's digital audio output to your receiver's digital audio input. Please note that you cannot send high-resolution audio in this manner. A Blu-ray player's optical/coaxial digital audio output does not support the transfer of high-resolution audio; basic Dolby Digital and DTS are the best you can get. If you want to enjoy high-resolution audio without HDMI, you need a Blu-ray player with multichannel analog audio outputs. If you have this type of player, you can set it up for PCM output to use the player's internal Dolby TrueHD and DTS-HD Master Audio decoders, configure the analog audio outputs, and pass the signal over analog cables to your receiver's multichannel analog inputs.

I want to address one other audio setting. One of Blu-ray's touted features is the ability to do picture-in-picture (called BonusView). Some Blu-ray discs might include, as a bonus feature, the ability to watch a making-of documentary that plays in PIP style over the movie. To hear the audio for this PIP content, you need to go into the Audio setup menu and turn on a feature called "Secondary Audio" (or something similar). Only activate this feature when you want to hear PIP audio; turn it off when you're done because it downconverts all high-resolution audio soundtracks to basic Dolby Digital or DTS in order to play the secondary track.

Tip #5: Connect the Player to Your Home Network
All new Blu-ray players must include an Internet connection. You don't have to connect your player to the Internet, but you should if you want to take advantage of everything the Blu-ray format has to offer. First of all, the network connection allows you to quickly and easily update your player's firmware. Manufacturers will often issue firmware updates to add functions and/or address any performance issues that have been reported. Some networked-connected players automatically inform you when a new firmware update is available; with others, you have to go into the setup menu and look for an option to check for a firmware update.

An Internet connection also allows you to access the interactive, Web-based bonus content that might be offered on some Blu-ray movie discs. This content is called BD-Live. Types of BD-Live content might include making-of featurettes, movie trailers, trivia, and games. Many Blu-ray players now offer a "smart" Web platform that allows you to access streaming video-on-demand from services like Netflix and YouTube, as well as music streaming, Web browsing, games, and more. Manufacturers also offer free iOS/Android control apps that let you control the Blu-ray player over your home network through a smartphone or tablet. You can even share content wirelessly between your tablet/phone and the player, as long as they are all connected to the same network.

Entry-level Blu-ray players may only offer a wired network connection via Ethernet, whereas mid- and top-shelf players often add built-in WiFi (802.11n) for a wireless connection. In some cases, a player is WiFi-ready, meaning it does not have built-in WiFi but it does support the addition of WiFi through a USB WiFi dongle. Choose whichever connection method works best for you. WiFi is often easier to set up, since you don't have to run an Ethernet cable to the player. However, if you plan to watch a lot of streaming video or your player is located a long distance from your WiFi router, a wired Ethernet connection may prove to offer more reliable performance, with less potential interference. If you would prefer to use wired Ethernet but don't want to run cable, consider an Ethernet-over-powerline solution that will extend your network over your home's electrical wiring.

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