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The following article originally appeared in Wide Screen Review (WSR) magazine and is being republished courtesy of the author, Terry Paullin.

I subscribe to almost every publication targeted at the Home Theatre arena, both on-line and hardcopies. The objective, obviously, is to try to stay current with new developments and maybe spot a trend or two, before the next guy. As I peruse late November material I can't help but spot an annual and apparently immutable trend to offer Christmas gift ideas to Home Theaterites (yes, I'm licensed to make up new words whenever I feel like it).

Ever the contrarian, and aware that this issue won't land on your coffee table or appear magically next to the ... uh, "throne" until after Christmas, I am pleased to offer -


Here we go, low hanging fruit first ...

1. Any CD from Taylor Swift. Try mumbling the words to some cowboy poetry into a low fidelity tape recorder while in the shower. The result will likely be more melodic and sound different every time (depending on water temperature).

2. DVD's in general. Come on, man! You bought (or Santa just brought) that nice, new 1080 display. With reasonably good BD players under $200 there is no good reason to ever bring a shrink-wrapped DVD through your front door again. Buy the BD counterpart. In fact, many excellent, long since released movies are now available on BD for under $10. Go through your collection, replace your favorites with BDs, and sell the old lo-rez stuff back to one of the several on-line sites that buys them while you still can.

3. One "Gift Guide" I saw was advocating the present of a smart phone so one could "take their movies with them where ever they go". Really? Does anyone NOT KNOW that we H.T. Bunch take our movie watching seriously and therefore revel in the immersive environment of Big Sound, Big Picture? Even Angry Birds lose their twitter on a 3in. screen.

4. If you are simply trying to augment the $2 speakers that come with your $3,000 "LED" TV in the bedroom, you may, under special dispensation, keep your sound bar gift. If, on the other hand, you actually think you are going to thwart the laws of physics and create a holographic listening environment in the living room (like it alleges on the box), please lie to aunt Martha and tell her you had one already, return it and nicely suggest she wire it to her alarm clock, where it belongs, for a more pleasant awakening.

5. Wireless anything. Most such products will feel more like a curse than a present to the bequeathed. First of all, there is no such thing as "wireless". Anything with a transmitter or a receiver in it must have power to operate it. Unless you are talking about battery operation - even a worse idea - that means a power cord (a.k.a., a wire) which becomes the new routing problem. Even if that doesn't present too big a problem, you're not out of the woods yet. My wholesaler's warehouse is abundant with returned "wireless" audio and video products that were ambushed by garage door openers, microwave ovens and all manner of RFI (radio frequency interference) or signals that just simply wouldn't go the advertised distance. Speaker interconnectivity is nearly always the biggest obstacle the custom installer has to overcome. We are ALL praying for the day when safe, reliable wireless A/V will be a practical answer. We're still waitin'.

6. Ranted on this the issue before last, but worth another shot before the return window closes, are edge-lit LCD televisions. NO white field uniformity, therefore poor color fidelity and grey scale conformity. When the interior decorator is away, quickly return it for a quality display - albeit 1/4in. thicker.

7. If someone gave you a TV with "130% more colors", please return 30% of them. What that means is, the manufacture has elected to violate the ATSC/BD standard (rec. 709) and instead, make cartoons look real cool. The cinematographer put the right number of colors in the content, so make every attempt to receive them in a similar quantity.

8. A lot like #7 above, please eschew TV sets with too many primary colors. We all have rods and cones (eyesight) that was designed to operate with the colors of Red, Green and Blue. When mixed in the right proportion (read that calibrated), they yield "The Director's Art". When Spielberg or Scorsese alert us that they are rendering with a fourth primary, we may want to follow suit. Until then, I consider a fourth sub-pixel in the display just a video artifact.

9. If you receive an iPad or other tablet with s/w to control the Sun and the Moon and the Stars (and your equipment) in your home theatre, don't be too quick to toss what used to be. Indeed, keep them close at hand. I have tried nearly all of them. Buggy and incomplete software as well as awkward human interfaces have kept me from replacing my beloved Philips Prontos. I'll continue my quest.

10. O.K. In the most unlikely scenario imaginable, where Santa elects to just leave a big wad of cash under the tree with a single stipulation that it must be spent on H.T. gear (Go, Santa), I hope you didn't plunk it all down on a 4K projector. I have seen missives from other publications trumpeting "4K is here ... ". It isn't, in any practical way. No content, no standards and no way to undo the inevitable artifacts that will appear whenever 2 million pixels must be slammed into about 10 million holes - which will be the case with ah, let's see - everything you watch.

I've done a bit of research and thankfully, re-gifting is legal in most states and the Philippines.

Happy New Year.

Posted by Terry Paullin, January 16, 2012 7:38 AM

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About Terry Paullin

After 25+ years as a Silicon Valley Executive, most recently as President and C.O.O. of Crosscheck, Mr. Paullin decided to follow his passion to the emerging Home Theatre industry. In 1994 he formed Front Row Cinema to design, build and calibrate Home Theaters for private residences. Nearly 600 theaters later, he remains engaged in the Industry in the following ways.

Builds dedicated (single purpose) Home Theaters and "Theatre Environments" (rooms used for other purposes as well).

Teaches Imaging Science and other courses for the Imaging Science Foundation. Mr. Paullin has taught CEDIA accredited classes to the installation community at both AVAD and ADI.

Consults to Industry on the topic of Imaging Science (Pioneer, Optima, In-Focus and several others under non-disclosure). Mr. Paullin has served on the Board of two companies and the Advisory committee of two others.

Has written articles/product reviews for major industry publications, including Widescreen Review, The Perfect Vision, The Ultimate Guide to A/V, WIRED magazine and CEPro and has maintained a monthly column (One Installer's Opinion) in Widescreen Review for the past eight years.

Mr. Paullin has a B.S.E.E. degree from Long Beach State University and performs ISF monitor calibrations for private individuals.

Mr. Paullin also maintains 3 theaters in his home for testing, comparison, performance verification, and reference viewing.