Archive for December, 2009

They Were Once Pioneers

December 7, 2009

Anyone with a basic knowledge of TVs and video displays knows that Pioneer Elite TVs, and even their standard Pioneer line, (all Kuro) were by far and away the very best in performance from any company, in any format or technology.

The king is dead...

I may sound biased, but this was an opinion shared by every legitimate critic and reviewer in this industry; every magazine and online resource touted it’s superiority. Yes, this unsurpassed quality came with a steep price tag, but well worth it, as nothing came close.  But these economic times are indeed tough; Pioneer will cease production of these wonderful TV’s to focus on their audio line. My analogy to that is if Mercedes decided one day to stop making cars to focus on front end loaders. Regular Pioneer audio is value-centric, and the Elite line of receivers and Blu Ray players is very good. But it was truly their video that shined. The Sony XBR series strives for that perfection, and is half the price; so at least we will still be able to offer what is now considered the best in video.  But for those with unlimited budgets, there is much to be said for the Elites.

Pioneer had decided to take the very high end approach with their Elite line by introducing a $7,000.00 receiver, unfortunately ill-timed for this economy. And many critics believe at that price point you would be better off with separate components (a pre-amplifier processor paired with a dedicated amplifier), for less money. In our market, this high end receiver just wasn’t feasible; and I suspect, from the numbers sold, few markets were able to support this approach.Now, Pioneer has released to the public their decision to eliminate the Premier line, which is their version of Elite for cars. While a letter from Pioneer has assured their dealers that for now, Elite is here to stay, there is growing concern.  I do hope for the best. But unlike Yamaha, which has pianos, motorcycles and musical instruments to keep them going, or Sony, with cameras, TVs, computers and accessories, Pioneer is an audio company. Period. So their survival will be an uphill battle, to say the least. No one really expected Kenwood to leave the home audio market, but they did.

This will be the first time in 15 years I will not be renewing my dealer agreement with Pioneer, because at the end of the day, we must serve our client’s best interests.  For now, we will take a wait and see approach (ever the optimist, I am). And although Sony ES (Sony’s version of Elite)is our go to line for audio, I will miss Pioneer’s presence in our showroom. For their innovation, their support of the high end home theater enthusiast, and performance, I raise my glass.

I

Sleeping Giant

December 5, 2009

In this day and age, home theater audio seems like an afterthought. We’ve got our iPods, and the clock radio sounds good enough, right? But once and a while, from somewhere out of left field, somebody reminds us just how critical the audio is to enjoying a good movie. And our discovery comes from a company previously  known and respected for their architectural speakers (you know, in-wall, in-ceiling built-in). The Episode Home Theater line, for the money, is such a speaker.

Movie lover's dream

The first thing you may notice, is the rather odd looking long vertical device on the far right, That my friends, is a planar, or ribbon tweeter. Not the conventional round dome style we’re used to seeing. The advantage to this design, and one I am especially fond of, is the ability to give crystal clear clarity to dialog. And at the same time, there isn’t the harshness, or “brightness” some would expect, rather a warmer richness that dramatically adds realism to the film’s soundtrack. And of course that means it must do music with equal aplomb. Here’s what Gary Altunian has to say about these speakers in Widescreen Review magazine:

Overall, I found the Episode loudspeaker system very easy and enjoyable to listen to for long periods of time, with no listening fatigue. The planar magnetic drivers offer outstanding clarity with
music and movie sources. The Episode system makes an ideal choice for loudspeakers concealed behind a screen, recessed in a wall, or in an entertainment cabinet. They won’t be found on the glossy cover of a magazine, but will likely find a home where sound quality is the most important factor.”
Now the rear surrounds are a unique switchable dipole/bipole design. While THX recommends the dipole settings for rears, I prefer bipolar. The difference is with dipole, it’s more diffuse, with a less directional sound. Bipole on the other hand is more directional, a personal preference (must be from being a Mirage dealer)

Bipolar is not just a condition

I’ve had the system in my own home (and, even though they are a tremendous bargain, in my showroom’s flagship theater) for several months, and I can attest to their value, their musicality, and very important to me, their ability to enhance the cinematic experience. There are countless speakers at twice the price that quite frankly can’t hold a candle to the Episodes. Being a Klipsch dealer for many, many years, I can tell you the Episodes keep up with (and in some ways, out perform) the Klipsch THX Ultra II system that was previously in the same showroom theater they now occupy. So, what’s the big deal? The Episodes are less than half the price! Don’t get me wrong; the  THX Ultra II’s are the very best thing Klipsch has done for high-end home theaters in decades. But in today’s economy, we all need to be a little wiser, and factor value in with any purchase. And the Episodes offer the very best home theater experience for thousands and thousands less. And while we represent many speaker lines at Audio Visionaries, I can’t extol their virtues adequately enough. With the Episodes, I can design a complete 7.1 home theater, with a 1080p HD Sony SXRD projector, a 100″ fixed mount screen, a Blu Ray video player or a PS3, a Sony ES surround receiver, and still be less money than the Klipsch speakers alone! So, you could pretty much say we got values. And a system that absolutely ROCKS.