Sunday, February 17, 2008

2.1 / 3.1 Home Theater System -- At last I chose...

Hello again everyone.

I have been fighting with myself trying to decide whether I should buy a 5.1 Surround Sound System with "wireless" rear speakers or a more compact 2.1 or 3.1 system for quite a few months. I had looked into a couple of them but really didn't got into any of them probably because I didn't know what "next-gen" disc format I was going to settle with. Well, now that I have a PS3 and Blu-Ray, I decided to once again visit this question.

Now, why wouldn't I buy a 5.1 system?

1) My Living Room is small.
2) I don't want cables everywhere on the room.
3) Speaker placement.

Why wouldn't I buy a 2.1 system?
1) No Real Surround options out there
2) Underpowered systems
3) Lacking input/output options

So I basically weighted all the pros and cons and still decided with a compact system. These were the options (click the names to go to product web page):

1. Sony DAV-X10:

An elegant 2.1 BRAVIA system that supports Dolby EX, Pro Logic, Pro Logic II, DTS, and most important of all it has inputs to support my other systems (i.e. DISH box, or PS3, etc.) You can check the specs on the page posted, and as you can see, it is a good option. In fact, this was the one that was winning the ballots ;-) BUT there wasn't any in P.R. and I had to order it.

Also, the price (in was in the range of $650.00 and that doesn't include extended warranties NOR shipping.

So next stop was:

2. Phillips Soundbar HTS8100

This one just screams... STYLE.
It looks good, and Phillips is known for their good "Ambisound" algorithm which simulates Surround Sound quite well... BUT it got eliminated quite quickly because it lacks Optical inputs and it was expensive as well (SEARS has it at $800.00!)

Next in line:

3. Samsung HT-X200

This option was up there with the Sony model in terms of input/outputs, sound quality and best of all, this one was quite cheaper than the Sony one. So of course it caught my attention. Went to SEARS and they had an old model on Clearance BUT they just had the floor model. I could had order it online but still I would have paid more than $400 with no extended plan :-(

So, I was again back to square one. Undecided, no system at home until ... I went to a local SAM's Club and saw:

4. (WINNER)Panasonic SC-PTX7

I had already read about this online and thought: "Maaaan... I don't want a "MP3 Jukebox" on my home!" But after listening to it and looking at the back of the receiver I noticed that it included everything I wanted. And best of all, the price with a 2 year extended warranty was just $350 (including taxes). The difference of this one, this is actually a 3.1 system (the front speakers also integrate the center module). And it does well with movies too, not just as a music jukebox, so I went with it.

I bought it without hesitation and took it home... then I forgot I didn't have an optical cable to connect my Playstation 3, so I went to my local Walmart, took a Phillips Cable, and went back home again. Opened the box, everything was in order (sorry I didn't took more pictures when I was opening the box) and started organizing everything in my Living Room.

I already had speaker stands that I used with my old cheapie HTIB that died so I set the new Pannies alongside the TV. Connected the PS3 to the Box and started to Rock out. First I put up a normal music CD on the drive. It sounded awesome right out of the box. I didn't even have to fiddle with the Bass settings, as it sounded A-OK. It does gives you options to equalize, add Bass Boost, even a pseudo surround sound effect but I didn't activate any of this.

Next, I tried ripping music from the CD in order to store some in the Jukebox. Ripping times are not quite as fast as in a PC but it was ok. Played the songs after ripping and they sounded good.

After this, I tried inserting a DVD full of MP3s and WMA files. The unit did found all of the MP3s I had and I could play them without problem. Still, I have to figure out how to "copy" from the DVD to the unit's HDD. But I guess I'll do this at a later time.

Finally, I turned on my PS3, put the Panny unit to "DIN" (Digital IN) and... nothing.
Not a sound!

Oooppsss I had forgotten to set the PS3 to output through the Digital port. Once I did this, aaaahhhh pure Bliss ;-).
Games sounded quite good.
Now I'm going to be hooked playing more Call of Duty 4 with more ooomph thanks to the richness of the Bass output from the subwoofer and the good sounding front/center speakers.

After testing COD and Ratchet and Clank, I put on the Black Sheep DVD (you can look at the review below) and enjoyed the movie with a 3.1 Sound Experience.

In conclusion, if you are looking for a cheap 2.1/3.1 system I definitely recommend this Panny unit or the Samsung HT-X200.

P.S. DO NOT look into the BOSE 3.2.1 or Cinemate systems. They are completely outdated (No optical input nor outputs, no HDMI, no upconverting to 1080p, etc.) They probably sound good but for the price, they are not really worth it (unless you are a rich guy that wipes his arse with $100 bills! ;-)).

Hope you enjoyed this.

Black Sheep Review

Since the preview copy of 30 Days of Night is not working :-( (thanks anyway Ben, hopefully you'll send me another pre-release copy of another movie in the future! But I'll buy this one in a couple of weeks. :-p) I took the time to review a little movie from New Zealand called:

Black Sheep

They say that every time people go to New Zealand for vacation they take pictures of sheep and the hometown people just say: "don't worry about taking pictures now, you'll see a lot more of them!" hehehe Well, it seems that in fact there are A LOT of sheep in NZ and good for us on this movie, they are BBBBBBBAAAAAAADDDDDDDD... lol sorry, I couldn't resist! :-p

"Plot:" A family (The Oldfields) have a farm land that have been theirs for generations. The dad dies in a farming accident leaving his two sons "in charge." The younger one, Henry, moves away with a stress induced phobia of sheep (due to a prank his older brother played AND because of his father's death) leaving older, brother Angus in charge of the farm. The bad thing... Angus doesn't like the traditional concepts of farming and starts doing genetic experiments on the sheep... that's when things start going wrong... An animal activist steals a zombie lamb fetus and drops it by accident. As in every "zombie" movie, the thing just starts to spread...

As you can see, the plot is just as simple as it can be as it just wants to be the vehicle to get where it wants to get and that is... SHOW US A LOT OF GORE! ;-) This movie is made in the tradition of Peter Jackson movies like Bad Taste and one of my faves, Dead Alive. It successfully mixes Comedy and Horror with a lot of gore. So even if you don't care about the plot, you'll be in for a treat. The WETA Worshop did a good shop with the practical effects and in fact, I think I will not look at sheep the same way! hahaha

The cool thing about this B-movie, it mixes the zombie culture WITH the werewolves culture. So ... you should know what happens if you get bitten!

And I know this is a "schlocky", B-Movie but bottom line... is it enjoyable?
If you like movies like Dead Alive, Slither, Return of the Living Dead, etc. then the answer is a resounding YES! You'll have fun and you'll be amazed at what the WETA guys did without CGI! ;-)

Video: As far as the DVD goes, the transfer was done quite well in it's natural Widescreen format. No obvious inconsistencies were noted.

Audio: They only gave us 2 audio tracks. The main one is a 5.1 Dolby Soundtrack and the commentary track. As I don't have a full 5.1 system at home I wont comment much on the sound. I have to say though that on my 3.1 system the reproduction was quite alright and I could listen to the separation of the action from left and right.

Extras: A couple of Deleted Scenes (with optional commentary), a "Making of" feature (like half an hour worth of entertaining material), an extra "clip" especially for the DVD release, a 2 minute Blooper Reel that it's NOT really entertaining and the Theatrical Trailer.

All in all, I give the movie and DVD package a solid 3.5 Stars out of 5.

Recommended to B-movie and horror fans.

Thursday, February 14, 2008

A Bunch of movies...

Yeah, I haven't been posted a lot lately here because of that "damned" PS3 and that "stupid-ass" game called Call of Duty 4 :rolleyes:


Anyway, got a bunch of movies that I have yet to finish looking at.
I mean I have seen all of them, but not these transfers and not upscaled.
Still have to go through seasons 1 and 2 of Wings, and a couple of flicks.

Coming soon, my first Blu-ray review for 30 Days of Night

Talk to you later guys.

Tuesday, February 5, 2008

This explains quite well...

What a Software Designer must do.
That's my current title at the company I'm at now...


The only difference, I DON'T CODE!!! :-(
Don't even ask me how to initialize a parameter in C.
Does that even exists anymore?!? :-p

On The Job

Addicted to CoD4...

Yes everyone.
I'm an addict.

Wow... I never thought I'd be addicted once again to a First Person Shooter. WTF!?!?! Yes, I have been playing a lot of Call of Duty 4 on my PS3. That doesn't mean that I'm good, lol, but I'm having a lot of fun. I haven't even played the single player campaign yet! hehehehe

That's it,
just wanted to let you know.

P.S. Saw my first Blu Ray movie and I have to say I'm impressed. But it was an "animated" movie (A Scanner Darkly) so I have yet to test it with a "live-action" one. I'll keep you posted.... if I have time... must play... now. ;-)