Avenger Age Of Ultron Movie review

Joss Wheldon has a tough job.

The first Avengers was a critical and commercial success and he managed to showcase an ensemble cast with a solid story, great action and bring a bunch of big ego chaps together with enough 'Facetime' in the two hours or so of run-time.

So does the director manage to do the same this time round?

I think if I had to use a single word to summarise Ultron, it would be "busy".

This movie hits the ground running, literally, as the movie opens with a big action sequence, but the tempo moderates a bit,  and you get some character development, which is not easy considering that not only do you get all the stars coming back for this outing, save for Loki, but the ensemble actually expands further.

Joss must be commended for even successfully holding our attention together for two hours with so many things going on at once.

Despite having almost too many superheroes appearing simultaneously, Joss is able to have small breakaway moments, and this gives each of them a face, and makes us able to identify with them, instead of just painting them with a big brush.

Even so, I still feel it's a bit too busy and you can easily make this into a two or three part movie. However I am glad he did not do so, nor try to milk an extra movie out of a basic plot unlike Peter Jackson's Hobbit effort.

Speaking of the plot, it's a little more convoluted than the usual fair, but it still misses the high you get from a complex almost schizophrenic effort like Ironman III. You still need some basic understanding of who's who's, although those who jump right in without the benefit of watching past Marvel efforts will still be able to roughly make out the various characters. It is still best to watch the other movies first, as it makes the inside jokes more fun.

So what's it about? Well, there's a Sceptre, a nasty robot who wants world annihilation, and the Avengers try to spot him. That's it, really.

So the beauty is how the story is fleshed out from this premise, and Joss Whelden joins the ranks of JJ Abhrams, *Shane Black and Bryan Singer as one of the best comic book story directors.

There are cute moments, tender moments (Black Widow / Hulk, Hawkeye's family) and nice gags. But Ultron doesn't feel as evil or as charismatic as Loki or even Hydra's boss.

There's plenty of booms and bangs, it reminds me of Expendables, with too many good things going on to really appreciate the surround effects and the volume is turned up a bit too much.

Put your brain aside, and enjoy the roller coaster ride, and come back for the next installation of Avengers / Captain America / Ironman, take your pick and fasten your seat-belts...


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

Re-run that Audyssey!

Just sharing a little something I learnt from a while back, which was reinforced recently:

With some setups now having so many speakers, those of us who are using the living room or a shared space for HT, there's a significant margin for error, and interactions between the Audyssey mike and many surfaces, room nodes, direct energy from the speakers, as well as reflected sound etc.

So if the first run of Audyssey sounds odd, do run another, in the same mike positions, or simply move the mike up or down a little. The back of the seat also plays a role in influencing the readings, eg a high back chair can block sound waves, and interfere with readings.

Cutting down ambient noise is also very important.
Just a re-run of Audyssey recently after moving my subs around a bit and the first run resulted in some weird readings from the centre, and ceiling speakers.
Lowered the mike a little, closed all my curtains, and chose a quieter time of the day, and viola, things are much better after the second re-calibration.

So spend some time, and also use a SPL meter to check even after running the latest XT 32 Audyssey or other autoeq systems.

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

The Bass Guru's Den: visiting the home of the best setup in town

With the permission of one of the top bass guru's in the country, I describe the incredible experience I had in his newly minted Atmos/Auro ready home theatre system.

First the system:

It's an all Martin Logan speaker system (Martin Logan Ethos +Motif X center and Motion 4s), with the same surrounds for side and rear surrounds, plus a smaller version of the same bookshelf speaker for the ceiling mounted Auro / Atmos installations.

The two subwoofers are Rythymik FV15HPs, located in the rear left, and the other right in front and the centre speaker is actually placed on top with some sorbothane footers. The EQ was aided by the DSPeaker-Anti-Mode 2.0 Dual Core

The Denon AVR X7200W is the brain, and the internal amps drive the surrounds and ceiling speakers, whilst an Emotiva XPA-5 drives the front three and rears.

Cabling is a mix of Belden and Monoprice.

The room itself a an enlarged one derived from knocking down the walls of two adjoining smaller rooms, giving it a roomier feel.

The owner also has a very sophisticated automation system that controls the lights, curtains, and has sensors for the temperature, luminosity, and other factors. Very cool.

 The ceiling speakers are mounted directly onto bare concrete ceiling with some special heavy duty screws.

The door leading into the room is heavy duty and treated, but the room itself isn't overly treated and resembles a more wife friendly setting, with some nice female touches.

So let's get down to the meat and potatoes.

We deliberately used quite a few non-Atmos discs, as the current crop of Atmos coded dsics aren't really that great.

Of the non-Atmos material, we used a disc compiled with the help of my buddy Ken:

- War Horse (outrageous bass from the cannons)
- Arriety (fabulous surrounds effects with depth, width and realism)
- Jack Reacher (gunshots in the quarry)
- Book of Eli (the two gunfight scenes give plenty of surround workout)
- Band of Brothers (the second chapter - assault on the 108mm guns)

We also used some Atmos material:

The usual demo suspects - Atmos trailers that you can download off the net.
Plus the Japanese version of the BBC Nature show (equipped with Atmos) - think of it as an extended "Leaf" Atmos trailer

So how does it all hang together?

In one simple sentence:

It was the best surround and bass experience I have ever had the pleasure of listening to.

Sure, I have had better bass at another bass guru's home (Jason), that was a tidal wave of sound and tactile sensation, and I have also been to another person's home (a basement setup with a floor area bigger than my entire home), in which the surround experience with 'basic' 7.1 was very impressive, but as a whole, the integration of bass, and surround soundscape was awesome.

What he had achieved was a sonic integration, which was seamless, between the eletrostatic front floorstanders, the ribbon equipped surround speakers  and the two subwoofers.

Now it's not hard to get ridiculous output from those FV15HP subs, which are one of the most value for money, SPL per dollar subs around. With the aid of the DSP, and the Servo function, you could almost believe there were two agile 12" sealed subs instead of two 15" ported subs, and yet the bass hit you in the face, made your hair move, and shook his sofa to no end. Wow.

But it blended in with his other speakers, so that firstly you won't be able to isolate his subs when the lights go out, and secondly, the sound floats out of the speakers, and isn't confined to the boxes.

One of the best surround demos came from the clip from "The Secret of Arriety", where the sound goes wider and taller in a ellipsoidal fashion, and you can follow the sound of pots and pans, clinking of glasses outward and into space.

When we played those war movies, the bullets would whizz pass and in the Atmos demos, the leaves fall around from above, and you can't tell where the speakers are.

Only in the BBC documentary, did one feel that the Top Rears were a little close to the sofa, and when we moved the sofa forward, the effect was once again sublime.

Even though the Martin Logan ribbon surround speakers aren't coaxial, the sound dispersion was highly impressive. Using the same surround speakers all round ensured that the spread of sound was uniform and the tone was equal.

 His sofa was also a part of the bass experience, and I feel that a large sofa with plenty of floor contact helps to transmit the bass to the listener. Who needs bass-shakers when you have such a finely tuned setup.

Another point of observation was that the guru turned up his Atmos surrounds by 4db, so you hear the effects more clearly. I think this is a logical step as the Audyssey mike is a conical / vertical one, and collects sound from the ceiling mounted speakers more, and then lowers their output db level as a result.

The bass guru is not done, he intends to add another FV15HP and more tweaks are on the way...

To infinity and beyond... :)

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

Lighting in your Home Theatre Den

I think this is one thing that is pretty important to plan when constructing a new place, or even when sprucing up an existing one.

Consider more than one lighting option, eg warm lights for intimate conditions, cool bright light when you need to see everything, task lighting for reading or looking at that remote and different intensities of light so that you can create different moods, and for various viewing options.

It's not actually too comfortable for our eyes to see a movie in total darkness, but obviously if the room is too bright, that won't work for projectors.

Some options:

For a large flatscreen TV, one can run an LED strip behind the TV, and these can be low-powered, using only power from a USB port from the TV itself (so it turns on and off with the TV).
Eg I got this off Amazon: http://www.amazon.com/gp/product/B007TG5ECW/ref=oh_aui_search_detailpage?ie=UTF8&psc=1 (thanks for the reco entz)

I also use a low powered LED strip in my cove so I can walk around, without knocking into things.

A cheaper options is to get a lower powered uplight, table lamp or floor lamp.

At the main seat, you can either have a lamp nearby, such as a floor lamp or a torch so you can see your remote, or just for reading during a listening session.


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

The First DTS X Amplifier : Codenamed "いなか物"

 Denon Introduces The First DTS X equipped AV Amplifier: AVR X 9001 X

  • AVR-X9001 X

    フラッグシッモデWi-Fi, Bluetooth, DOLBY ATMOS, Auro3D, DTS X 対応16.4ch AVサラウンドレシーバー
    AVR X 9001 X(K:ブラック)


1 April 2015
Denon International
With the imminent release of DTS X, Denon is quietly rushing to put the finish touches to their new flagship model, which builds upon the success of the recently introduced 2014-2015 Atmos equipped models, and incorporate all the latest sound formats in their new AV receiver.

Code named the "Inakamono" (いなか物), this model has every bell and whistle that one can desire.

Starting with the 3D sound decoding formats, this new model will have built in Atmos, Auro-3D as well as DTS-X built in, and there's no need for buyer to wait for a firmware upgrade. Unlike previous models, it has the capacity for three different configurations, with instant uploading of the different Audyssey settings, and separate subwoofer and speaker outputs (unlike the current 7200 & other earlier models, which require the use of the second subwoofer output for the "Voice of God" channel).

Some basic specifications gleaned:

- 8 purpose built DSPs, twice that of the current models with twice the amount of RAM, thus making sure this model is future proof for any new sound formats
- Atmos, Auro and DTS-X ready out of the box
- 150w, 13 channels, all channels driven, doubling to 300W into 4ohms and stable into 2 ohms
- 13 channels active simultaneously
- 16 pre-outs and 4 subwoofer outputs
- XLR outputs for all pre-outs and 2 XLR inputs
- 10 HDMI inputs
- Fanless design, with 5kg of pure aluminum cooling fins and a central wind tunnel
- all input sockets are platinum plated for durability and conductance
- All new Audyssey Diamond: able to equalise 4 subwoofers, and a maximum of 20 speakers at once, and equipped with memory for 6 sound formats with switching on the fly (under 1 minute loading time).
- Bluetooth, Airplay & Kinetic Audio (BAKA) ready: a new sound format KINETIC has better range and sound quality compared to the current Airplay or Bluetooth technology
- Digital Uniform Mono Block power supply: capable of driving speakers down to 2 ohms and reaching a current supply of 35A all channels driven
- Assisted Stimulated Stereo (ASS) - a new way of playing back compressed sound formats without loss of quality
-  Denon-Link HD 2: replacing the current HD LINK. A new link with 10 Gb/s jitter free connection. This has been codenamed "鳥脳".
- Massive 800 Va Toriodal transformer, which is lined with a special Australian Merino Wool and pulled over the central cooling tunnel, also known as the "目" or "eye" in Japanese. The wool decreased flux transmission and reduces distortion
- A special battery mode for brown outs and also for better sound quality – the amp has a patented Denon Brownout Special (BS)  Auxiliary Power Mode that allows functioning in the event of outages, but more importantly for the fanatical audiophile, the option of an external battery power option which decreases any distortion due to an onboard power supply
- Sake soaked wooded feet to isolate the amp from potential vibrations
- Hand gesture recognition remote access: borrowing the technology from Wii, the aim has a special motion sensor that gives the user the ability to use hand gestures to navigate through the menus or control the functions

This amp is slated for market release on April 31st.

Not just another Sydney trip - food and more

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