Time for Some Updates- Feeling a Little Blu?

Sorry for the long gap here at PF. I have managed to keep up my flickr/pbase posts but pretty much overlooked blogging for some time.  Once you get out of the habit it is hard to get back into it- well not exactly hard, but just it gets overlooked in favour of the other 10,008 things that beg for my attention, especially those especially the last 8 of them (just to keep you guessing what they are!) Here I’ll talk about my current craze- A/V..

I have made some major strides in the audio/ home-theatre department, including, a few months back, a pair of headphones which surpass all my other pairs by a long shot, though at the price they should. It was a revelation and continues to be one; realising how alive and dynamic recorded music can be opened my ears to the sheer beauty of it- and yes, this includes all kinds of music, from Mozart to Eminem. The music comes to life like never before, seeming to hang in the air around you, with full bass (which for some may be over-powering, but for me, just the thing to get me going). One thing they have that I have never encountered before on headphones is their bass impact. Sudden scenes in movies have me literally jumping in my seat- just as they should. My only ‘complaint’- if you can call it that- is that they are sometimes too refined for their sources, though as (see below) I can now get my hands on Blu Ray disks more easily, this is less of a problem.

After a lot of umming and erring, I also went out just the other day and got my first receiver- the Denon AVC-2308-SP. No, I didn’t do any side by side comparisons, aside from those or features and price. The fact that it was less than half price and somewhere in the middle of Denon’s line made it a no-brainer. There are many models beyond this one, but it does everything I need and has great audio quality, especially with music. I also picked up a pair of speakers, the Denon SC-T55XG also on clearance, which really fill my room with sound, especially with the sub. Since then, I got the matching center (not an easy find, many said it would be impossible) and some other speakers for the rears. I am now an official Denon fan and that is purely related to the satisfaction I get from their products. which give me far more pleasure than grief. I am also an Apple and Sony fan for the same reasons.

Now that Tsutaya rents Blu Ray disks, I’ve been able to see them conveniently- not being one to buy any but my very favourite ones as after all it’s only those I’ll see again. The sharpness and colour in them is at times breath-taking, though I’d say that their main selling point- resolution at 1080p- is most of all a way of making use of the increasingly common large screens and not their only advantage. The more varied, natural colours compared to DVD- there are simply more of them- make scenes more extraordinary, the same way they impress me on my walks or in photos. Also, the new audio formats on Blu Ray offer the kind of smooth, seamless sound that we previously only got on CD’s, as they are lossless recreations of the studio originals. Voices and background music benefit a lot from this and we are finally free from the overly-compressed Dolby Digital of last generations standard, with soundtracks that breath. The beauty of the PS3 is that it decodes all of this- the only downside being the need for HDMI equipment to receive it (hence my choice of receiver). For all of this, the extra detail in the visuals is the most astonishing thing. Just last night I watched the Blade Runner Final Cut and saw details in the background which I had never seen before- paintings especially made for this epic could be seen in  their full glory and the bright neon lights of the future LA were all the more mesmerising. I still think the original cinema release is the best, with Harrison Ford’s film noir voice-over, but that’s another story.

I find that HD is just as good for older, grainier material as for the smooth, new stuff. In some cases it is even more suitable there, as we are pretty acclimatised to movies looking good but not perfect, a hang-over from the whole ‘cinema atmosphere’ thing. It’s also an enormous jump for films I’ve only ever seen on VHS to see them at last as originally intended- as I found with Full Metal Jacket. With newer releases, such as Happy Feet, you know you are there in the cutting edge of technology, with unbelievable detail in every respect. High prices and lack of content are holding Blu Ray back, but I hope it can succeed- as however convenient downloaded content may be, it can’t match the subtle qualities- qualities which I can see a lot of people overlooking.

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