Lately I have talked to some customers that are doing business with companies in the Twin Cities that are not licensed to do Audio/Video work. This is a bad idea for many reasons. First, it is not legal for them to do work in your home. Second, they most likely don't have the training, insurance or a bond that is required to be a licensed Technology Systems Contractor in Minnesota. So if something goes wrong, you may have no recourse to get your money back. It is very simple to check on the company you are considering. Just check here: https://secure.doli.state.mn.us/licensing/licensing.aspx
There appears to be a lot of confusion over the new so called "LED TVs" made by Samsung and others. First of all, these are NOT really LED TVs! They really are standard LCD (Liquid Crystal Display) TVs but they use LEDs (Light Emitting Diodes) to back light the LCD screen. Up until now, most LCD TVs use Cold Cathode Fluorescent Lamps (CCFLs) to back light the LCD screen. There are many potential problems with CCFLs with the biggest ones being Black Levels and Power Consumption. Since you can't really dim a CCFL, you never get very good black levels so dark scenes tend to lack detail. Manufacturers have learned some tricks to make this better over the years, but LCD is still lacking as compared to Plasma Displays. So LCD TVs that use LEDs use less power and have the POTENTIAL to have better black levels since LEDs can be dimmed or turned off very quickly. But as always, make sure you view any TV before you buy it to verify the picture quality. So why wouldn't you buy an LED backlit LCD TV? They are thinner, use less power and have better black levels.. Well they are much more expensive than a standard LCD TV so you have to decide if it is worth the extra money. Of course over time, as the volume goes up and competition increases, prices will come down on these models. Comments?
I was at the Consumer Electronics Show (CES) last week and the big buzz was 3D. Let me first say that we have come a long way from the old cardboard multi color glasses that have been around since the 1970s. Today, you still have to wear glasses, but they are electronic and stylish. Many manufacturers are now delivering (or about to deliver) both flat panel LCD and projection systems that support 3D. These new displays "talk to" the glasses wirelessly so that the right and left lens turn on and off in sync with the display. I wear glasses already, and all of the 3D glasses I tried fit nicely over my glasses. So you will need a Blu-ray player, a 3D movie (titles are limited at this time) and a TV that is capable of displaying 3D. Samsung has some flat panel display that will be shipping soon that will also convert 2D content to 3D! There have been some articles lately that indicate that some people are having bad reactions to 3D. Things like eye strain and headaches have been reported after long periods of 3D viewing. The demos I saw were incredible and 3D has been applied to gaming too!
ADI has ISF certified technicians that can come to your home and calibrate your TV to industry standards. But is it worth the time and money? The answer may depend on what you are used to seeing. TV manufacturers have purposely miss adjusted their displays for years so that they are too bright and the colors too "hot". Of course this is to catch your eye when you go to your favorite store to buy a new TV. But if you are used to seeing TVs this way, and have for years, then is this the new "standard"? Video Calibration will absolutely make your TV look more natural and realistic. But does that make it right? The reason I bring this up is that a small percentage of our customers (less than 2%) actually liked the picture better before we did the calibration! In those cases we have gladly refunded their money and set it back to factory defaults. So my point is that some customers have become used to seeing TVs with incorrect settings and they like it that way! Comments?
I have received two calls just this week where the so called big box retailers have fallen short. The first one was a customer that had bought a Home Theater at Circuit City and had their Firedog installation arm install it. Well, they had some issues and now that Circuit City is out of business, they didn't know what to do. If you have had any issues with a Firedog installation, just call us and we can take care of it!
The second one was a customer that bought some Control4 products from Best Buy and had the Geek Squad install the system. But they never finished the installation and it was only partially functional. Part of the problem was a poor design and the part of the problem was lack of knowledge on the installation & programming of the Control4 products. We were able to get the system working in very short order.
Now, don't get me wrong, I buy products from Best Buy frequently. But their installation services are over-priced and they under deliver on anything but the most basic installations. So contact us before you have that big retailer do anything but the most basic installation. You will save money and it will be done right the first time!
Control4 started shipping it's iPad application about the same time as the iPad became available. I had to buy one and give it a try. Well, I have to say that I am a big iPad fan! I think it is one of the coolest devices I have ever had. Now, if it weren't for the Control4 application I might not be so enthusiastic. With the Control4 application I can very easily control my theater, adjust the lights, adjust the thermostats, lock/unlock the front door, and view cameras at either of my houses! One of the problems of control software in general on the iPad/iPhone is the "wake up time". When the device goes in to standby mode, it takes too long to wake up, connect to the wireless network, and then launch the application. Control4 solves this with their "dedicated mode". With this turned on, the Control4 application stays alive and presents its own screen saver. So a tap of the screen wakes up the device and you are right back where you left it. Cool! They have the same feature for the iPhone, but this really drains the battery. But not with the iPad! The iPad battery still lasts a very long time in this dedicated mode.
Last month I wrote about the Control4 iPad application and how I can control my whole house with it. This includes Theater, Whole House Audio, Lighting, Thermostats, Front Door Lock, and see my Video Cameras. Well after a month I am still enjoying it. But I have come to the conclusion that the Control4 7" wireless touchscreen is still a better Home Theater remote than the iPad. This conclusion really comes down to one thing- hard buttons. The Control4 7" wireless touchscreen has some hard buttons for commonly used functions like Volume up/down, Channel up/down, and the cursor functions (up, down, right, left and enter). So when you are sitting in your darkened Theater and need to change the volume, you can do it without looking at the remote control. This is something you just can't do with a pure touchscreen. Another scenario where the hard buttons win is when you are paging through the DirecTV or Cable guide looking for something to watch. With hard buttons, you can watch the TV screen and feel the button as you page through the guide. With a pure touchscreen like the iPad, you are constantly looking from the TV screen to the iPad screen... But for searching through my MP3 library or controlling the Whole House Audio system, the iPad works very well. And of course it can do so much more than a touchscreen!
There is a lot of hype around 3D TV coming from the major TV manufacturers. But is it for real? The short answer is yes, but of course there are many things to consider here.
3D content is filmed using a special camera that has two lenses that are roughly the same distance apart as your eyes are. Then the two images are alternately displayed on a 3D TV to make up each frame. By wearing special glasses that are synced to the TV, the left eye only sees the left image and right eye only sees the right image. These are active glasses (so battery powered not those dumb red/green plastic things) that talk wirelessly to the TV or Blu-ray player.
You can find 3D content on Blu-ray Discs or on DirecTV Satellite. And of course your Blu-ray player has to be 3D capable in order to play a 3D movie. There isn’t a ton of content right now but more is coming shortly.
Currently, Panasonic and Samsung are leading the way with LCD/LED and Plasma 3D TVs available right now. There are many Projector models available also. Samsung is the only one that has TVs that will convert 2D content to 3D. So you can watch your favorite movie, TV show or sporting events in 3D! Although it is not as impressive as native 3D content, it is still a great effect.
3D Blu-ray Players:
As I said before, your Blu-rau player will have to be 3D capable. It will also have to be connected to your 3D TV via an HDMI cable. And 3D brings in a new version of HDMI (1.4) so that means that if your current receiver is doing HDMI switching, that probably won't work anymore since most receivers only support HDMI 1.3a..
Still confused about 3D TVs? ADI can make it all easy for you. We have a 63” 3D Plasma set up in our showroom. Call us today to setup an appointment for a demo!
I was sitting by the fire pit in my backyard using the iPad to control the music emanating from rock speakers in the woods. The Control4 application is very cool. But there was a fly that kept getting in to my Margarita! I guess he liked the sugar. After swatting him away many times, I came up with a great use for the iPad:
This app is free and there is no need to download it!
Last week at the Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas, things were looking up. Attendance was up, tablets were up, and 3D TV hype was up. 3D TV sales continue to struggle as consumers are confused with the technology, content is limited, and wearing glasses has some people waiting for glasses-les options. First of all, there are more movies coming out on Blu-ray but still a limited number. DirecTV has three 3D channels, but mostly there are running the same 3 or 4 shows over and over. The Toshiba booth had a VERY controlled demo of their new glasses-less technology and a long line to view it. If it was so cool, why would they do that? I must admit that I was not willing to stand in line to watch it. But the press has validated my assumptions. The Toshiba glasses-les TVs are not great and get worse as you go away from the dead center of the TV. So we are still stuck with glasses for now.
On the tablet front, there were over 80 new devices. There were Chinese companies showing direct rip-offs of the iPad, and most others showing tablets running the Android operating system. No one beat the iPad in my opinion..
I received my new iPhone on Verizon last week and I am enjoying it immensely! I had an old Blackberry and was waiting for Verizon to get the iPhone. So far it is working perfectly, no dropped calls like people on AT&T were seeing. And my favorite app is the Control4 application that allows me to control my whole home (Audio, Lighting, Thermostats, Cameras, etc.) from the iPhone.
Control4 is now shipping a new version of its iPad/iPhone/iTouch whole-house control application. There is also a version that runs on Windows machines. This new application is called MyHome and is updated with the new look of their 2.0 operating system. In my testing, it is also faster than the old version. It allows you to control your whole home (thermostats, lighting, shades, alarm, view cameras, TV/Theater control, and whole house music, iPod, etc.). The application is free and downloadable in the App Store, but using it with the control4 system requires a license.
I have seen ads on TV lately from Comcast and ADT showing their "new" Home Automation services. Verizon and others are also talking about doing it. They tout being able to view cameras in your home remotely, arm/disarm your security system and control lights. We have been doing these "new" services for well over 5 years. And you can use your iPhone/iPad or iPod to control everything. So the question is, do you trust these companies and their sub-contractors to this job? Please let me know what you think..
Control4 has recently released its PC/MAC application that allows you to control your home from your PC or MAC. This adds to the already shipping iPhone/iPod/iPad application that has been around for a year or so. I installed the app on a Windows 7 laptop and it really works great. Now while watching TV with my laptop on my lap (which is a common thing for me) I can control my whole house without picking up a remote control or touchscreen! Control4 is also talking about a Droid version coming soon.
I installed a new Samsung 59 inch 3D Plasma Smart TV in our showroom and this thing is sweet! The 2D picture quality is stunning, and the 3D picture is very nice but of course you do have to wear their glasses. It is Ethernet attached so you can browse the internet and it has apps built in like Facebook, Netflix, Hulu, Youtube, etc. I must say that browsing is slower than I would like, but that is an OK trade-off for the convenience of not having to pick up your PC. The remote that comes with it is very well done and look like a standard remote. But turn it over and there is a full keyboard!
After living with my new 59 inch Plasma Smart TV for a month, everything is good! 2D quality is outstanding. 3D quality is good, but the room needs to be pretty dark to get the best results. The Internet Browser works OK, but is a bit slow for my taste. But I signed up for Netflix and that is cool! I have a 10 Mbps cable modem and movies start pretty much instantly. The picture quality of the streaming movies are excellent, but the audio is only stereo.. I would much rather have at least Dolby with Dolby Digital preferred. I have this connected in to my Denon receiver and only get Stereo.. :-(