Chow Yun Fatt Treasure Hunt - movie review



One of his less renowned movies, but I found it very entertaining, with a sweet story that was quite unique. You get the talents of Jacqueline Lim, and Gordon Lam and they have excellent chemistry, making this a wonderful disc.
"only" in DTS on DVD, it's nevertheless a keeper for me.

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I have no financial interest or other interests in any of the items / events I write about.

A Good Centre Speaker Matters


If one is serious about HT, and not just music, then the centre speaker forms a big part of the experience. Just switch off the left and right and see how little you lose.
I feel that using a phantom speaker, or compromising on the centre is not what a true HT fan should do if he/she wants the best cinema experience.

Having a equal or better center speaker rather than using the phantom mode is vital.

I recently posted about transition between speakers here:
I just watched "Gravity" on BR and it's a very good demo disc. Most people will use the bass scenes, but it's actually much more.
It's also a good test of the tonal matching of your front three speakers, and also the position.
When Sandra Bullock hallucinates that George Clooney is alive and comes into the spacecraft, you get a cacophony of sound, and he moves from right off screen to centre and round the sides. You also get a bunch of sound effects of switches, and you should be able to locate where the switches are with your eyes closed and hear that George's voice sounds consistently the same as he pans from one side to the other.

There should not be a different tone and the height of his voice should also remain the same.
Does your setup achieve this?

and it's worthwhile trying the scene out without a centre to see how well your HT system handles transitions from speaker to speaker. It's a sad thing to see great stereo speakers paired with a weedy centre.

Also phantom mode works if one is seated near the centre. Otherwise there is nothing to lock the dialogue to the screen.

Check it in the next movie you watch. Does the sound come from the TV or below? And try out the scene above..



If one is able to use identical speakers, like the KEF LS 50 for all three speakers that will be great, or three units of the B&W 800 such as what they do in the Abbey Road Studios.

Otherwise a simpler setup is a pair of B&W 805 and a HTM4, which is essentially the same speaker on it's side.

Bear in mind the issue of lobing, which happens more frequently in MTM speakers.
Speaker designers try to get round this by using 2 1/2 way speakers, or placing the tweeter in it's own housing, and or the KEF / Thiel solution of a coaxial speaker.

I have used the Polk Audio CS 150, which is a fabulous entry level centre, using a passive radiator on one side, then the KEF Reference 100 centre, a superb centre with great voicing, only lacking the ability to play loud.
I also used the Dynaudio C 120+, a big centre which was one of the first for Dynaudio, using an OEM box with it's own speaker cones. Then the MA series and they make very decent HT speakers. I then used the PSB Alpha series, and even though they weren't high end stuff, tonal matching made the experience very enjoyable.
When I reached the MA Gold LCR, this is one of the best for the money, and it's ability to reproduce the male voice made it one of the most realistic centres for the money.

But when I reached the B&W 800 series, even with a single woofer, the HTM4, was unbelievably accurate. Sure it can't play as loud as bigger cones, but you get almost a point source, and sometimes when I forget to turn on the stereo amp which powers my front pair, I lose very little.

To see if the centre does a good job, try listening to BBC radio for it's baritone voice. Then try Transformer I, the opening scene when there is a voice-over by Optimus. See if you believe that Peter Cullen's deep voice is really there or a weedy reproduction of it. Another good voice to try is of course Darth Vader's voice. Earl James' rich tone should come over nicely, or it's time to upgrade your centre!


A good article on centre speaker design:
http://www.audioholics.com/loudspeaker-design/center-channel-designs

To follow on, IMHO, I think it's worthwhile making a distinction when we use talk about avoiding centre speakers from a lower range.

Let's use Dynaudio and Monitor Audio as examples, although it can apply to many other brands.

If one uses say the Confidence series and perhaps the MA Platinum series, and combines that with a DM series centre or a Bronze series small centre, that will be quite different, and a big compromise. That's a no no.

However if we use a speaker, say the SCX with the Confidence series, that can be a possible compromise for those who are not into HT and occasionally dabbles with HT.

Spend a lot less, but get a significant amout of the better centre. Then Audyssey tries to make up the difference.

So is that a big compromise? That depends, on the design as well as the frequency range and of course the type of drivers, and how different they are compared to the front speakers.

Imagine using a C4 with a tiny centre?
Will the centre carry the sound?

Or the MA PL 300 with a tiny Bronze series centre.

I looked at the older Spendor S6e before, but they used a pathetic OEM box of a centre speaker as Spendor isn't known for HT. It was a token effort meant to appease the few Spendor owners who might dabble with HT.

But the SCX drivers are very good and the frequency response is nothing to laugh at.

In the same vein, the MA GOLD series 350 centre is a massive effort by a company who does HT well.

I think in these cases, you can get away with a compromise.

But before someone replies that compromises are no good, I AGREE. But for the cost conscious who have elected to put most of their monies into the front pair, and then want to add a centre, then it can be considered to get a good centre, with drivers that come from a good design albeit not entirely matching their fronts.

Not everyone can afford 3 B&W 800 for the front three. But owning three KEF LS 50 for the front three channels can give a better HT experience than mismatching speakers.

It all depends on where your priorities lie: music with the occasional HT, or a full on HT system. Then perhaps buying a lower series, but keeping all the drivers in the same range may be better and give a much better HT experience.

Finally speaker placement and room acoustics can be far more important than merely spending big bucks on expensive speakers stuffed into the corners of a tiny room with a misplaced centre speaker.. :)

So sometimes using a lower series centre is better than no centre..

Finally, even within the same series, size matters. For example the MA Gold 350 is a far better centre than the 150 in larger room, but in smaller rooms, and if you crossover at the right frequency to a good sub, it can be a decent compromise.

But bear in mind the lower GXC 150 is a MTM design, which can give issues with lobing, whereas the position of the tweeter is better in the bigger GXC 350.

Image

Image


And we are not talking about cross brand matching:
eg



With a Dynaudio...



But if we did audition different centres, some brands may actually sound the same. But it's harder to predict, hence we stick to the same brand.

DIY jobs can be very good, say an effort by bro synthesis is of the utmost QC, but other efforts may not be the same, quality drivers not withstanding.


Some important factors to consider when choosing between a centre or using the phantom mode:

- the quality of the front speakers

- height of the front speakers and their position

- sitting position of the listening and is he / she central or to the side

- room size

- quality of the rest of the setup

- using a TV or PJ

- and one factor not mentioned before:

Crossover

If the crossover is too high, the bass and hence the baritone voices will sound unnatural, as it seems to emanate from the sub instead.

So it's not a simple task of buying an expensive front pair and saying phantom works for me, or buying an expensive centre and hoping all is well.

As with most things in HT, calibration, position and settings all play their role.

YMMV.


PS: some old Yamaha amps actually catered for two centre speakers - a bad idea....

And one other thing about centre speaker position:


Many members place their centre speakers far from the edge of their console. This may be aesthetically pleasing but causes more problems.

The issue is diffraction of sound, and the edge interferes with the diffusion of sound.

So as far as possible, place it on the edge of the console / shelf.

And speaking of shelves, a solid and stable platform is best. Bookshelves, or flimsy shelves are not idea. Adding good support, eg Auralex MoPads is a good idea.

And if the speaker shares the space on the console with a CD / BR player, isolation from the vibrations of the speaker will be important.

And don't forget that rear ported centres need space to breath...

Food for thought...
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I have no financial interest or other interests in any of the items / events I write about.

X-Men: Days of Future Past Movie Review




These days, reboots have become de-rigueur in extending the longevity of a good movie franchise that has stalled or where the stars have gotten too old to play their roles.

However what if the there are desirable aspect of the previous episode that is worth retaining and yet you want a fresh perspective to drive the series forward in a new direction, that is not possible with the current storyline?

Enter time travel, the wonderful tool that allows one to reset the timeline, storyline and even resuscitate characters that have passed on or erase a story arc that the audience didn’t take too well.

So it begins somewhere in the future that the Mutants are in danger of being wiped out by a bunch of super robots called Sentinels, and you see Magneto and Prof X together, and the only way to prevent the extinction of the Mutants is to travel back and prevent the creation of these super Mutant destroyers. The only Mutant up for the task which is highly dangerous is of course our snarly Aussie, Hugh Jackman in the form of Wolverine.

So in the next two hours, you will see him travel back and meet the younger Magneto and Prof X, and also see some new faces, as well as get reacquainted with some old favorites.

The idea of putting many big stars, and superheroes together, whilst being able to give them time for character development is not easy. And don’t forget, this being a summer action blockbuster, that means you also need to sprinkle in plenty of booms and bangs in between the chit chat.

Sounds daunting? Well previous X Men efforts have not always gone well, and the second last outing was not the best, and even the two Wolverine standalone shows didn’t shine, although they also didn’t disappoint at the box office.

Joss Wheldon has shown with the Avengers that it is possible to have a big ensemble and still give time for character development and action. The key is a solid storyline, and focus, one at time, and if this goes well, the story won’t just be fillers between the action.

Bryan Singer has had a dip in form recently but he has come back on song and this movie certainly brings the shine back to the X Men franchise.

Wolverine plays a pivotal role, yet ironically, we don’t see a lot of Logan’s claws. Instead he does use more than his usual amount of acting chops and does a lot more than snarl and slash. Other standouts are James Mcavoy, as the younger Prof X, Jennifer Lawrence turning in yet another good outing as Raven and we also get some vignettes of exposure time for many others. Ellen Page doesn’t get enough show time to do much apart from sit down and electrify Wolverine’s head, and similarly Micheal Fassbender gets less air time than he deserves.

You get a good yarn, enough action to keep action fans happy, although it was not end to end stuff, and humor too, which kept the pace tight, and light whilst allowing for a few angst filled moments to slow the tempo down a little.

Chick factor was ok, and Fan Bing Bing will keep fans in China happy, and she worked hard to avoid just showing up to ensure that the show goes through in China.

BTW, one of the Mutants looked like a character from Tron, the chap with the black makeup around his eyes.

This will be a solid demo Blu Ray, as the surrounds were working well and there was copious chest thumping and ground shaking bass.  

The movie is recommended and I look forward to the disc too.

Story 4/5
Action 4/5

Watch it and buy it.
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I have no financial interest or other interests in any of the items / events I write about.

Gravity Blu Ray as a demo disc for voicing and speaker placement

 I just watched "Gravity" on BR and it's a very good demo disc. Most people will use the bass scenes, but it's actually much more.
It's also a good test of the tonal matching of your front three speakers, and also the position.
When Sandra Bullock hallucinates that George Clooney is alive and comes into the spacecraft, you get a cacophony of sound, and he moves from right off screen to centre and round the sides. You also get a bunch of sound effects of switches, and you should be able to locate where the switches are with your eyes closed and hear that George's voice sounds consistently the same as he pans from one side to the other.

There should not be a different tone and the height of his voice should also remain the same.

Does your setup achieve this?


______________________________________________________________
 I have no financial interest or other interests in any of the items / events I write about.

Getting Better Sound Quality Out Of Your Home Theatre System - moving to better stereo performance





Once we have achieved a certain nadir with our HT system, and begin the process of enjoying our sound system, we then move to a state of enjoyment, which can last for years, or unfortunately, for those with a bit of pruritis ani (aka itchy backside), this state of contentment could last merely months or weeks.

The HT system could still sound fabulous, but we then start to consider the stereo performance and ponder if we can do better.

There are many solutions to this.

Firstly, we could begin building a dedicated stereo system from scratch. Separate speakers, amps, sources and the whole shebang. This approach requires deep pockets and more importantly space, which could be a premium in a small apartment.


Secondly, we could integrate things into our surround setup. This can be done in a few ways. Sharing the same front speakers is one way, which minimizes costs, and space utilization, and but the speaker placement for HT versus stereo can vary and those pieces of acoustic treatment can also alter the sound negatively. Usually in stereo, one has the option of switching off the auto-Eq or go to “Pure Direct” or similar modes on the AV amp.

For a step up, one can swop out the current AV amp for a more musically inclined one, but this option can be the most expensive way to do this, as the cost of the better processor with better music capabilities can be significantly more. You may also have to factor in the cost of better power amps in order to take advantage of the better processor. In addition don’t forget cable costs, as one will need interconnects between the processor and power amp.

You can save some money by only upgrading the processor and the amps that power the front two or three channels, as these are the main stars in music performance.

The third option is to use a stereo setup in between the HT processor and the front pair of speakers. You save on the speakers, and only upgrade the front channels.

One can either get a stereo pre-amp with HT BYPASS and then hook up a suitably music power amp which then powers the front channels, or buy an integrated amplifier with the same HT BYPASS function.
So the magical feature to look for will be this HT BYPASS. What is it?

Well normally inputs on an amp are variable in nature, which means the volume on these inputs are controlled by the volume control of the amp. The sound that comes out can be too soft or too loud causing distortion and even destroy the speakers.

A HT BYPASS input on the other hand, has a fixed level input, and the volume control on the amp is disabled. How loud the speaker is driven will be controlled by the AV processor.

This also means that after you swop in the new amp, you will need to re-do the auto-EQ for the best level matching.

Just ten years ago, finding an amp with this HT BYPASS would have been harder than looking for hen’s teeth. But now, even mid-priced integrated stereo amp will have this function. It goes by a variety of names, some use a switch for a regular analogue input, others have dedicated “Power Amp” inputs, but the function remains the same.

Do remember that for certain models, the amp can go very loud if the source is still playing when you switch in or out of the HT BYPASS mode, and this can be damaging for the speakers so do beware.


Some stereo amp even allow for more than one speaker to be hooked up and you can then use another pair of speakers for stereo performance, allowing you to keep one setup for HT and another to be powered by the same amp for music. These amps usually have options for “speaker A” and “speaker B”.

You can then hook up a music stereo source such as a dedicated CD player instead of using that Blu Ray player for music, or a DAC to improve the sound.






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 I have no financial interest or other interests in any of the items / events I write about.

Getting That Immersive Surround Effect

 Just sharing a little on how to get a good surround feel..

Audyssey tends to run the surrounds a little 'hot', so they can be a little more prominent than desired.
Remember, the idea is to have an immersive effect, not one where the surrounds overwhelm and direct too much attention to themselves. After whatever auto-eq has been done, take a SPL meter and turn down the surrounds, and after that, use a sound track you are familiar with, with good surround, and see if it sounds natural.

If not, turn down the surrounds bit by bit and also adjust the bass accordingly. Everything should come together in synergy.




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I have no financial interest or other interests in any of the items / events I write about.

Lego the movie

Lego the movie is one more in the list of Lego related movies / films that cleverly use lego bricks to make characters. Transformers have nothing compared to this, the dialogue is far wittier and the transformations are merely a small part of this show, which is interestingly a character driven one with a good theme behind it.

Ordinary man can strive to do the extraordinary and be 'The One' as the bad guy tries to make everything conform and create the ultimate weapon.

Not merely a distraction for the kids, it will be interesting for adults and reasonable distraction for a day out at the movies and the kids will certainly want you to buy it for multiple repeated viewings.

There is a positive none too subtle family theme, but it's easily palatable and the wit keeps the adults interested, whilst the non stop flowing action will enthrall both adult and child.

A keeper or at least a rental.




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 I have no financial interest or other interests in any of the items / events I write about.

Monument men movie review

Monument men movie review

This was apparently based on a true story of Americans who went into nazi occupied Germany in a bid to get back as many of the precious artwork and other historical artifacts that Hitler's men were looting.

George Clooney and his friends certainly had fun making it, and there are many buddy banter moments.

However the pacing is a little irregular and you get moments of tension and emotion and yet some rather disjointed and slow scene. A tighter editing and less forced emotions would have served this plot better.

However all in all, it's a interesting enough plot and worth a rental at least

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