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Ray Dolby.jpgVery sad to hear about the death of Ray Dolby, Founder of Dolby Labs, and sound pioneer. Ray had been suffering from Alzheimer's disease for several years and was diagnosed with leukaemia this summer.

Born in Portland, Oregon, he grew up in the San Francisco area and began his career at the Ampex Corporation, helping to develop early videotape recording systems while he was still a student. He then went on to complete his PhD at Cambridge University in England and in 1965 founded Dolby Laboratories in London.

The company grew to be an industry leader in audio technology, cutting background hiss in tape recordings and later bringing out "surround sound" which has become the industry standard in both cinemas and home cinemas.Two 1977 blockbuster films, Close Encounters of the Third Kind and Star Wars,used Dolby Stereo technology and made high-end audio an essential part of the films' appeal.

Mr Dolby moved his company to San Francisco in 1976 and in 1989 was awarded an Oscar for his contributions to cinema. He shared the award with Dolby executive Ioan Allen.He also received a Grammy award in 1995 and Emmy awards in 1989 and 2005. 

When Dolby Laboratories went public in 2005, its shares surged 35 percent on the first day of trading. The founder, who held more than 50 patents, received $306 million and his 69.8 percent stake became worth $1.65 billion. As of yesterday his net worth was $2.85 billion, according to the Bloomberg Billionaires Index.

However Ray considered himself first and foremost to be a humble engineer, and would have loved to have been born in an earlier era:

"I've often thought that I would have made a great 19th century engineer, because I love machinery. I would have liked to have been in a position to make a better steam engine, or to invent the first internal combustion engine; to work on the first car," he said.

"All my life, I've loved everything that goes; I mean bicycles, motorcycles, cars, jeeps, boats, sail or power, airplanes, helicopters. I love all of these things, and I just regret that I was born in a time when most of those mechanical problems had already been solved and what remained were electronic problems."

Dr. Dolby's pioneering work continues to inspire technologies that fuel the imagination of the entertainment and communications industries and his legacy of innovation will be felt for decades to come. He is survived by his wife, Dagmar; sons Tom and David; and four grandchildren.

Remembering Ray Dolby from Dolby Laboratories on Vimeo.


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HANDS-ON REVIEW: Sony HMZ-T3W 3D headset

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DSCF4135.JPGThe latest industry buzz may be around "wearable tech", but that doesn't have to be just focussed around wrist-watches and connected spectacles. One of the most adventurous devices at Sony's IFA 2013 stand was the HMZ-T3W headset, giving the wearer a personal cinema experience directly in front of their eyes. We wen't hands-on for this first-look review.

The headset makes use of two 1280 x 720 OLED displays, housed in a frame that sits on your head. There's one display for each of your eyes, with the headset giving the impression of watching a 750-inch screen from 20 metres away. Displaying in either 2D or 3D, straps let you adjust the fit of the headset, while there's a pair of MDR-XB90 headphones packed in that create pseudo 7.1 surround sound.
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It's not the first time Sony have put together such a headset. We saw the company's first 3D headwear efforts way back at CES 2011, with revisions to the design following at pretty much every major tech show since. This year's effort is of particular interest however, as a new version rumoured to be designed to work with the PlayStation 4 is said to be in development, ready to give the Oculus Rift VR headset a run for its money. The HMZ-T3W may give an indication of what to expect from it.

So how well does it perform? For the most part it's very impressive. Though there's still a sweetspot to get the most from the 3D effect (meaning you may have to adjust the headset's placement on your noggin a bit, and tweak the two optical adjustment sliders on the underside of the kit), once you do the viewing experience is quite enjoyable, with a rich image offered. Compared to earlier iterations of the headset, the HMZ-T3W feels much lighter too, while sensible padding keeps it comfortable. It will still slip around a bit, but for the most part it's an improvement over its predecessors, both in terms of visual clarity and comfort.
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The headset's comfort levels are boosted massively by the inclusion of wirelessHD support. A wireless adapter that communicates with the headset can hook up to a HDMI source, PC, games console, tablet or a smartphone, allowing you the freedom to move around and still enjoy your viewing content. It'll hit the onboard battery life harder than using a standard wired connection, but being able to move about more freely will definitely be appreciated.
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Viewing a smartphone or PC while using the headset displays can be a little difficult, seeing as you need to be able to view either the smartphone screen or PC keyboard in order to navigate. Here a concession has been made, with the headset featuring a small gap if you look down, allowing you to view your physical device. It makes sense - it'd be almost impossible to navigate a smartphone without it - but does have the side effect of taking away from the otherwise immersive nature of having what feels like a cinema screen and surround sound speakers strapped your head.

At £1,300, this is very much going to be a luxury item, and one that's unlikely to shake up living room viewing habits too much. But for those that can afford it, there's the potential to bring a very unique experience home here, offering all the magic of the cinema without the annoying kids chatting at the back and the noisy popcorn munchers down front. For gamers, an undisturbed marathon session with this strapped on could be very appealing indeed, showing great promise for the rumoured PS4-specific version.

hmd-t3_basic-cw_wired_small.jpgThey say that going to the cinema is all about the enriching communal experience of watching films with others, but when I'm surrounded by chatty cretins munching down on Pringles and chugging a bucket sized coke I can't suppress my inner misanthrope. Which, despite its £1,300 price tag, is what makes Sony's new HMZ-T3W headset so appealing, offering a one-man, head mounted cinema experience for loner grumps like me.

The HMZ-T3W straps over your noggin and places two small 1280 x 720 resolution OLED screens in front of your eyes, making it feel like you're watching a 750-inch 3D screen from 20 metres away. Also offering virtual 7.1 channel surround sound through 16mm driver in-ear phones, the sound of the action should be ready to match even the best-equipped cinema sound system.
hmd-t3_basic-shade_wired_small.jpgThough earlier Sony headsets were a bit restrictive due to requiring you be tethered to a power supply, an onboard battery pack allows you to move around with a bit more freedom, offering 7 hours of playback when connected over a HDMI cable, and 3 hours of true wire-free mobility when using the WirelessHD streaming system onboard.

Setting their sights on monied gamers, the headset also offers near-zero latency, helping those looking to pull of pin-point headshots, while also allowing a little space in the headset's fit to glance down at a keyboard or gamepad.

Heading into stores in November, that £1,300 price tag is a little easier to stomach considering it's pretty much a complete replacement for for a standard home cinema and 3D TV set up. And that private cinema experience? That's got to be priceless, right?

samsung-uhd-tv.jpgSamsung are rolling out the big home cinema guns ahead of their IFA 2013 showcase, today annoucning the release of two ultra high definition display.

First up is a 98-inch UHD large format display (LFD) screen. The giant set hits near-4K quality resolutions four times as sharp as a standard full HD 1080p display. The company are planning a jaw-dropping line up of three of the screens side by side at the IFA conference to make what's essentially a 171-inch display.

Secondly, the Samsung have announced a more manageable 31.5-inch UHD monitor - the sharpest Samsung have ever made. Packing in 8.3 million pixels (a standard full HD screen sports just 2.07 million), it's aimed at the pros, coming complete with a range of calibration options including a 25 section split for colour balancing, supporting 99% of the Adobe RGB colour space.

No pricing announced yet, but expect each to cost a pretty penny as their aimed at commercial buyers.

REVIEW: Orbitsound airSOUND Base

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Orbitsound-sb60-1.JPGreview-line.JPGName: Orbitsound SB60 airSOUND Base

Type: Home cinema speaker system

Specs: Click here for full specs

Price: £299

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Orbitsound's march into your living room continues with the SB60 airSOUND Base system, a speaker box designed to accompany your flat screen TV. Neither surround sound system nor sound bar, can this intriguing speaker find its niche among home cinema enthusiasts? Read our full review to find out!

review-line.JPGOrbitsound have impressed us over the years with their ever-improving soundbar range, garnering glowing reviews in the Tech Digest test chambers. This latest unit, the Orbitsound SB60 airSOUND Base however is quite a departure for the company. Described as a "one-box TV sound solution", it has an integrated sub and resembles an oversized DVD player in design, intended to be sat beneath a TV screen rather than to the sides as you would have a surround sound system, or in front with a traditional soundbar.
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Featuring a wooden enclosure finished in gloss black, it's not an unattractive unit, with a detachable front-grille protecting its front-facing speakers that can be swapped out for an included silver front strip, should that suit your tastes better. It is however quite chunky. Measuring 60cm x 30cm x 8cm, the idea is that your flatscreen TV is perched on top of the SB60 airSOUND Base, with the speaker good to hold screens between 32 and 42-inches in size and, dependant on the model and stand design, some as large as 55-inches. Though you could reasonably house the speaker in an AV cabinet, the use of Orbitsound's patented Spatial Stereo directional speaker arrays makes that far from ideal, diminishing the speaker's stereo image if its sides are blocked. As such, those with wall mounted TVs as opposed to those on a stand may find it difficult to satisfyingly place the SB60 airSOUND Base.

The rear of the speaker doesn't have any HDMI In or HDMI Out ports, instead hooking up to your TV over digital optical or phono analogue connections. Alongside a volume dial, the rear also houses a power switch and a 3.5mm input for connecting an MP3 player or smartphone.
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The SB60 airSOUND Base comes complete with both analogue and optical cables for hooking up your TV and a small, black-gloss remote control. The remote is the same as can be found with recent Orbitsound speaker systems, including the M9, offering standby control, a source swapping button, volume controls and buttons to fine-tune treble and bass levels. It also features an "iMenu" button, a remnant of previous Orbitsound gear's iPhone docking remote controls, and a presentational slip considering it's unsupported with this latest model. Seeing as it's the same remote as last time, it unsurprisingly has the same pros and cons - good weight and size, let down by flimsy-feeling buttons.
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Fire up the SB60 airSOUND Base, and it quickly becomes clear why it is the size it is - raised slightly on rubber feet, the enclosure houses a sizeable 5-inch down-firing subwoofer that offers bass considerably more booming than what a weedy flatscreen TV is capable of. It's partnered with two 2-inch front speakers and two 2-inch side-firing speakers, independently sealed on the left and right of the box, together offering a room-filling 200W output.

It sounds great. The Spatial Stereo technology still works wonders and delivers stereo sound without a sweetspot to pretty much any space in a room. It comes into its own in fast moving action scenes, where you get a real sense of movement from the speaker, far more so than you'd ever get from a lone TV speaker array (if not quite as enveloping as a true surround system). There's warmth to the sound too, with the bass giving some decent bottom end to proceedings without ever overpowering the detail-delivering higher audio ranges.
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And yet, the SB60 airSOUND Base's subwoofer didn't quite live up to what we'd hoped for, given the punch of the dedicated sub seen featured with the Orbitsound M9. While it was well suited to music (the Love Forever Changes concert DVD sounded sublime through the SB60), it couldn't deliver the rumble we like to see accompany our blockbusters. The bass-heavy crash sequence of sci-fi flick Prometheus for instance didn't have the intensity we've grown accustomed to, and the same could be said of a run through of some bombastic Call of Duty Black Ops 2 missions. It's by no means bad - in fact, in many scenarios it's rather pleasant and detailed. However, if you're lining up a Michael Bay marathon, your explosive taste may be better served elsewhere, be that with a standard surround sound system, or even some of the beefier soundbars.

review-line.JPGVerdict

An unusual sound system then, the Orbitsound SB60 airSOUND Base is a viable alternative to a standard soundbar unit, offering neither dramatically better nor worse sound than rival accomplished home cinema speaker systems offer. It really then comes down to its size, and whether or not that suits your AV set up comfortably. Given that the size-defining subwoofer isn't the boldest we've heard, it's likely that a soundbar less physically deep than the SB60 airSOUND Base will be a better fit for most.

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4/5
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The slimmer TVs become, the more difficult it is to squeeze decent speakers inside them. The result is that while picture quality has improved in leaps and bounds, built-in TV sound quality has, if anything, probably got worse.

Onkyo reckons it has the (albeit not unique) solution with its range of two new Envision Cinema Soundbars and an innovative all-in-one TV-base speaker system.

The LS-B40 is a three-way Soundbar, the LS-B50 is a two-way Soundbar with wireless 40w subwoofer, and the LS-T10 TV speaker system is a multi-channel, multi-speaker array with powerful DSP to fill rooms with panoramic, immersive sound.

As well as boosting audio quality from TV, gaming consoles, and media players, these audio systems are, Onkyo claims, simple to set up. All require just a single digital cable to connect and are operated using a normal TV remote controller (they come with pre-programmed infra red codes for nine TV brands and learning ability for others).

They also double as home hi-fi systems with Bluetooth technology for wireless audio streaming via mobile and PC. USB ports are also included to play audio from flash-memory-based media players such as smartphones, tablets, and mass storage-class devices.

For expansive sound in the living room, bedroom, or kitchen, both the Soundbars pack eight drivers (six full-range drivers and two ring-radiator tweeters for the LS-B50, and two bass woofers, four mid-range drivers, and two tweeters for the LS-B40) into very compact dimensions. The LS-T10, meanwhile, features a total of six full-range drivers plus an integrated 21w subwoofer on its underside, and is designed to slip neatly underneath a television.

All three models feature an efficient six-channel digital amplifier with audio output controlled by Onkyo's AuraSphere DSP circuit. Onkyo claims clever algorithms for equalisation and sound pressure level management create a realistic 3D immersion field from either regular PCM stereo or Dolby Digital sources.

Three sound modes optimise the playback of different types of TV content, with News Mode cleaning up and projecting dialogue more intelligibly, Movie Mode shaped for greater realism and impact, and Music Mode equalised for a more balanced and engaging listen.

The LS-B50 adds a separate wireless 40w active subwoofer for deep-reaching bass impact from almost anywhere in the room, while the LS-B40 incorporates two bass woofers and a subwoofer pre-out. Supplied wall-mounting kits and IR flashers enable flexible placement.

PRICES

LS-T10 TV Speaker System - £349 (available end of September)
LS-B40 Soundbar system - £299 (available end of October)
LS-B50 Soundbar system with wireless 40w subwoofer - £449 (available end of September)

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philips-fidelio-soundbar-2013.jpgLaunching a little later than the originally stated May release date, Philips have today unleashed their interesting Fidelio Soundbar HTL9100 system.

The company's first soundbar under their premium Fidelio branding, the soundbar is a modular system, with individual speakers that make up the soundbar detaching or combining to offer both virtual and true 5.1 sound.

Each speaker, including a "deep and powerful" subwoofer, is wireless (using proprietary signalling tech to avoid interference from other wireless devices) and powered by internal 2-cell lithium polymer rechargeable batteries for up to 10 hours of listening, allowing you to dot them around a room for true multi-channel audio.

The device is also Bluetooth compatible, allowing you to send tunes from a Bluetooth device to the soundbar and speakers.

Hoping to attract home cinema enthusiasts "seeking the combination of style, convenience and the authentic home-cinema experience - via the unique choice of detachable speakers and surround sound on demand," the soundbar system will be available immediately, priced £699.

logitech-ultimate-hub-top.jpgOne smartphone app to rule them all - that's the idea behind Logitech's new Ultimate Hub AV control unit.

Taking its cues from the company's long line of universal remote controls (and a direct relation to the recent Harmony Ultimate and Harmony Smart Control remote controls), the compact unit lets you control some 225,000 pieces of AV kit from an Android or iPhone app, doing away with the need for multiple zappers.

Hooking to a wireless network over Wi-Fi b/g/n, the Hub receives commands from the smartphone apps, which can include up to 50 shortcuts for individual TV channels among other AV controls. IR blasters are also supported, plugging into ports in the back, while Bluetooth connectivity means even your PlayStation 3 will be controllable through the app. All in, the app can replicate the complete functionality of up to 8 separate remote controls.

Going on sale in Europe and the US from August, US pricing has been set at $99.99.

onkyo-av-4k-2013.jpgOnkyo have ticked pretty much every box with their latest line of home cinema AV receivers. From 4K support through to Wi-Fi and Bluetooth connectivity, the new Onkyo TX-NR929 and TX-NR828 receivers look feature-rich.

Each can take and accept pass through of 4K footage from UHD sources, making them future-proofed against the inevitable slew of 4K content set to hit in the coming years, while both can also upscale footage to 4K using Qdeo processing tech from Marvell for those lucky (and rich) enough to be able to get their hands on a 4K screen early.

The TX-NR929 is the higher-end model of the two, boasting 9.2 surround sound channels, nine HDMI inputs and two HDMI outputs. Set-up and calibrations is made breezy thanks to Audyssey's MultEQ XT32 room acoustic equalisation too.

The TX-NR828 on the other hand houses eight HDMI inputs and and two HDMI outputs, and uses the older Audyssey MultEQ tech that's been seen present in earlier Onkyo kit.

Both receivers also offer wireless loseless audio streaming from iPhone, iPad, Android, PC, Mac and NAS boxes, and include up-mixing options taking in Audyssey DSX and Dolby Pro Logic IIz. The top-end model also offers DTS Neo:X processing.

Available right now, the TX-NR929 will set you back £1,500, while the TX-NR828 will hit stores in June priced £1,000.

beolab-14-top.jpgHigh-end audio manufacturers Bang & Olufsen have launched their first dedicated 5.1 surround sound system, the BeoLab 14.

Consisting of a subwoofer and five satellites, they're primarily made from aluminium, giving the round speakers (sitting on the end of aluminium poles) a retro sci-fi aesthetic. Those poles can be adjusted in height, while the speaker units themselves can be detached for wall mounting or even hung upside down from the ceiling.

The system will be sold in two separate packages, one intended for owners of Bang & Olufsen televisions that comes with only four satellites and the sub (with the B&O TV's own built-in audio making up the centre channel) and a package intended for all other AV enthusiasts, with a standard 5.1 configuration. beolab-14-2.jpg"It's a balance between the fight between the designer and the sound engineer," said CEO Tue Mantoni at the system's launch in London.

"It's for someone who want's great sound, but does not want technology to take over their home. It's been a wish for the designer side of our team to create a product that is well designed, without any seams or join lines, and without comprising on audio quality. In terms of manufacture we start with a solid piece of aluminium and are able to avoid welding lines as a result."beolab-14-3.jpgIn terms of tech specs, the system makes use of a 280-watt subwoofer with a downward-facing 8-inch driver, housed in a cone-like casing, with five separate 140-watt amplifiers for the satellites. Low-end frequencies hit 26hz. Each satellite is houses 2.5-inch active treble and midrange drivers, with the whole unit measuring just 16-cm in diameter. As you'd expect from Bang & Olufsen, a selection of different coloured speaker grilles allow you to customise the look to suit your home preferences.

In typical Bang & Olufsen fashion, the systems don't come cheap. Starting at £2495 for the 4.1 system and rising to £2,795 for the full 5.1 set-up, they become available as of today from Bang & Olufsen dealerships. The optional stands themselves cost an additional £190 a pair, so start saving those pennies.

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All men at some point or other have experienced 'stage fright' - the fear of not being able to go for a wee in a urinal if other people are around. But what if above the urinals were women looking down on you and your chap as you are trying to do your business?

That's the premise behind LG's latest viral video, Stage Fright - So Real It's Scary 2. Only instead of real women looking directly at you which would be a little weird, it's actually two models who have been filmed in such a way as to appear live to the guys in the toilet. 

The idea is that the colours of LG's 21:9 ultra wide display are so realistic that you actually think there are sexy women on the other side ripping through adverts to take a peak at your manhood.

And the funny thing is that it works! While some of the guys experience stage fright, others are more brave and try to kiss the women or ask for their number. You can see the stunt for yourself in the video below: 


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lg-spotify-home-cinema.jpgLG are set to add Spotify music streaming to their connected home cinema systems.

Plenty of LG's web connected Blu-ray players and speaker systems from 2013 will be getting the new Spotfy app, set to launch in April. No word yet however on whether it will hit the company's Smart TV line up too.

The Spotify app joins BBC iPlayer, Netflix, LoveFilm and a host of other web services on the company's ever-growing smart platform.

Craig West, Head of Marketing, LG Consumer Electronics UK, said:

"LG's Smart platform provides unparalleled choice for consumers and the addition of Spotify demonstrates LG's continued commitment to growing the brand's Smart offering for consumers. We are confident that LG Smart media owners will enjoy these latest services, as well as the fantastic updates we have planned for the rest of the year."

"It's our mission to make all the world's music available instantly to everyone, everywhere, so we're delighted to partner with LG to make our music service available on their smart media devices", added Kate Opekar, Director, hardware business development at Spotify.

"Spotify wants to be at the heart of the home entertainment experience, so it's a natural fit to make our music service available on blu-ray players and home cinema systems."

The LG products set to get the Spotify update are the BH9430PW, BH7530TW, BH7430P, BH7130C, BH6730S, BH6430P, BH6230S, BP730, BP630 and the BP530R.

Those looking to use the Spotify app will need to be signed up for a premium account, which will set you back £9.99 a month and offer unlimited mobile and desktop streaming of Spotify's music catalogue, as well as the ability to download albums as offline playlists.

panasonic-plasma-cut.jpgPanasonic are rumoured to be slowing down their TV production, and considering pulling the plug on plasma TVs altogether.

According to Japanese newspaper Nikkei, Panasonic will gradually pull back TV production over the next three years, and could even stop plasma TV production altogether as soon as 2014.

A quick look at Panasonic's books however show that it's hardly a surprising move. The company has struggled in recent years, with the TV division failing to turn a profit for the past five quarters. It's thought that Panasonic will instead refocus its efforts on the automotive and enterprise divisions, as well as in-flight entertainment systems, an area where they are proving more successful.

There's been suggestion that Panasonic would be pulling plasma production to a halt for some time now, with rumours suggesting the company had stopped pumping money into its plasma research and development centres some time ago.

For home cinema enthusiasts however, this will still come as a great loss. Once Pioneer gave up their plasma production and the stunning Kuro line was discontinued, Panasonic plasmas were the next best thing. With Panasonic now looking to remove themselves from the market, and AV enthusiasts still insisting that Plasma TVs offer the best picture quality, it's not certain where they'll now turn to for their TV fixes.

lg-oled-uk-pre-order.jpgLG's stunning 55-inch OLED TV, as seen earlier this year at the CES tech circus in Las Vegas, is now up for pre-order for UK home cinema fans. The LG 55EM970V can be ordered from Harrods, ready to take home from July.

But it'll cost you. It's listed at a bank-breaking £9,999.99.

You are getting a hell of a lot of TV for the money though. A staggeringly thin set at just 4.5mm thick, it uses LG's WRGB technology (adding a white pixel to the usual red, green and blue array) to deliver top-notch picture quality, along with a wide viewing angle and superb 3D performance with LG's passive Cinema 3D tech.

As a Smart TV, the set is also fully web connected, allowing you to browse the internet, update social networks and check out video content services such as Netflix and LoveFilm.

"We are proud to be the first in the world to offer consumers a big screen OLED TV," said Brian Na, President of LG Electronics UK.

"LG's next generation display is a true game changer, which will forever alter the way we think about TVs. Since OLED TV was first unveiled, we've been working tirelessly to bring what we call 'the ultimate display' to market. I'm sure you'll agree that our 55-inch OLED TV has definitely been worth the wait."
 
Andrew Mackay, UK Commercial Director of Home Entertainment and Home Appliances added: "Following the LG launch and supply to the Korean market earlier in the year, the UK is proud to be the next market to launch LG OLED TV, as this innovative and premium model launches first in Europe to UK consumers."  

Orbitsound-m9-1.JPGreview-line.JPGName: Orbitsound M9

Type: Wireless Bluetooth soundbar

Specs: Click here for full specs

Price: Available from March 2013 at £299.99 direct from Orbitsound

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Orbitsound pop wireless Bluetooth streaming into the new M9 soundbar, just one of many new improvements made to the company's already-excellent soundbar range. But can the tweaks and new features of the M9 justify a price tag 50% more expensive than its predecessor? Read on to find out!

review-line.JPGOrbitsound blew us away last year with their diminutive T9 soundbar, which achieved a perfect score in our review. A compact speaker unit that was just as well suited to supporting a home cinema set up as it was blasting out your favourite tunes from its iPod dock, it was a real bargain at £199. Orbitsound has now followed it up with the new-and-improved M9 speaker, which irons out the few kinks that were present in the T9 whilst adding a few brand new features too.

Pairing both a soundbar and subwoofer together again, at first glance the M9 looks very similar to its T9 predecessor. Only marginally bigger at 300mm x 90mm x 100mm for the soundbar and 345mm x 140mm x 230 mm for the subwoofer, it's again an all-black finish (gloss on the soundbar, matte on the subwoofer), with a pop-off front metal grille exposing the soundbar's speakers if you prefer. Though pre-production units don't have it, the M9 will ship with an LED light behind the grille to help indicate power state and remote control inputs.

However, there's a significant and notable difference with the M9. The new model has ditched the T9's iPod dock in favour of a wireless Bluetooth connection. This means that any device with a Bluetooth connection can quickly be paired with the M9 and stream audio wirelessly to it. While the T9 was great for iPhones and iPods thanks to its dock, users of other smartphones or MP3 devices had to make do with the 3.5mm jack. Though that 3.5mm port is still present, Bluetooth support makes the M9 far more flexible overall, especially for tablet users.Orbitsound-m9-2.JPGOn top instead of the dock then is a new control panel, with buttons which let you switch audio sources (the active source is indicated by a light next to its name), activate Bluetooth pairing, control volume and put the soundbar into standby mode.

If Bluetooth streaming isn't an option for you, Orbitsound still squeeze in a number of other connections on the rear of the M9 soundbar, including optical, AUX and the aforementioned 3.5mm. That optical port will be useful for anyone looking to hook up a digital audio source such as a Blu-ray player, but we still miss the presence of a HDMI pass-through. You'll also find a power switch on the back.Orbitsound-m9-5.JPGLikewise, the subwoofer is now a 2.4GHz wireless unit too (aside from its power cable, of course), meaning it can be popped anywhere in a room. It's also now an active side-firing subwoofer unit compared to the T9's passive sub, giving it a bit more oomph than its predecessor and a more stable sound at higher volume levels. With the wireless support allowing the subwoofer to sit around 15 metres from the M9 soundbar, Orbitsound have sensibly put an independent volume knob on the back of the subwoofer, letting you tweak its output to be appropriate to its surroundings and distance from the soundbar. A "normal" setting is marked too however, which should be suitable for most scenarios, though we wish the dial had this off-centre point notched so that we could find it without having to get behind the subwoofer. There's also an independent power switch for the subwoofer on the back too.Orbitsound-m9-7.JPGEven the remote control is improved, feeling weightier than its predecessor, and offering track selection controls and play/pause control over connected Bluetooth devices. We still find the buttons themselves a little cheap, and would rather had a remote that matches the feel of the soundbar's new top-mounted control panel, but it's still better than what went before.

There are a handful of other improvements over the T9 too. The M9 now saves fine-tuned audio tweaks to treble and bass settings (carried out by the remote control) when the power is switched off, something the T9 annoyingly didn't. Also, if you've been blasting out tunes for a party at a ridiculous volume the night before, the M9 will now sensibly dial back the volume to a more gentle level the next time its switched on. It'll even go into a low-power standby mode automatically if it's left switched on for a time without outputting any sound.Orbitsound-m9-4.JPGSonically, the M9 continues to impress. Like its predecessor it is able to hit ridiculously high volumes regardless of its compact size. Packing in twin 2.5-inch mid-high drivers, two full range "spacial generators" (we'll talk about them in a second), a single 1-inch tweeter and a new digital amp capable of 200W output, it uses new programming to reduce distortion even at the highest volume levels. Also, despite being wireless, the use of high-gain antennas mean there's next to no delay, with the soundbar and subwoofer staying in sync between an inaudible 10ms delay. The sub's 6.5-inch driver also delivers meaty low levels, staying composed even at higher volumes.

The Orbitsound brand's key audio draw though is its patented Spatial Stereo technology, again present in the M9. As well as speakers housed in the soundbar facing forwards, there are two more "spatial generators" placed in the sides pointing left and right. Along with some clever audio processing, they give the effect of a stereo sound no mater where you are in relation to the soundbar. It's a system we've praised in the past, and it continues to impress here.Orbitsound-m9-3.JPGListening to a range of music, the Orbitsound M9 handles all genres magnificently. From the crashing drums of ...And You Will Know Us By The Trail of Dead's 'Worlds Apart' album to the shimmery electro of Crystal Castles and onto the subtle piano runs of Debussy, it's a warm, evenly balanced sound with detailed highs and comfortable, enveloping lows. If you prefer a little more bass or more treble, the hardware knob on the back of the subwoofer and fine-tuning tweaks offered by the remote will suit your needs well. It's also a great unit for beefing up TV and movie output. That subwoofer adds some real punch to explosive action scenes, while voices sit clearly at the front.

review-line.JPGVerdict

Orbitsound continue to impress with the M9 soundbar. Wireless technologies are implemented well, while numerous other small improvements over last year's T9 model, including saved audio preferences and an improved remote, along with the consistently superb Spatial Stereo technology, make it easy to recommend. Its significantly higher price tag of £299 (£100 more expensive than the T9 launched at), means that the outgoing T9 isn't made obsolete yet, and will likely now drop to bargain prices. However, the convenience and flexibility of a Bluetooth connection will certainly make the new M9 highly sought after, and it'd still be £299 well spent when compared to the competition.

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5/5
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sony-4k-protoype-55.jpgAlongside a raft of handycams, cameras and an impressive smartphone range, Sony have also showed off a few prototype gadgets at this year's CES. Most impressive was the "in development" 56-inch 4K OLED TV.

The first and largest 4K OLED TV in the world, Sony have used a new "Super Top Emission" technology to overcome the challenge of pushing light through larger OLED glass. It looked incredibly impressive according to experts in attendance, setting a new standard for OLED TVs (despite the fact that the technology is still yet to become available in western stores).

Sony also used the show to reveal new 55 and 65-inch versions of the 84-inch 4K LED Bravia screen that impressed us so much at IFA in Berlin last year.

Looking to lead the 4K field as the televisual revolution kicks into gear, Sony will also be showcasing a 4K consumer camcorder and the first line-up of 4K Blu-ray discs.

Click here for more news from CES 2013

lg-55em9700-oled-tv.jpgAfter a wait that's felt like an age, LG have finally unleashed a commercially available large screen OLED TV to consumers. Korean home cinema fans can now get their mitts on the 55-inch 55EM9700.

A lush WRGB panel (adding a white pixel to the usual red, green blue array for brighter images), the screen is an insanely thin 4mm thick, weighing just 10kg, with a wide viewing angle and deep blacks.

The screen looks very similar to the 55EM9600, which Tech Digest went eyes-on with back in May of last year. It never made it to market in the end, but our first impressions of that TV should give you a good idea of what to expect with the 55EM9700.

1,400 Korean stores will be stocking the OLED TV, with shipping due to start in February. UK, US and European home cinema fanatics can expect a localised release to follow shortly afterwards, but be warned; it don't come cheap. The 55EM9700 lands with a 1,100,000 Korean Won price tag. That's around £6,300 or over $10,000.

Set to wow that crowds on the CES 2013 show floor next week, we'll have more from LG's home cinema portfolio for 2013 next week.

logitech-harmony-touchscreen.jpgLogitech's Harmony range of universal AV remote controls are among the best available, but have been well overdue an update for some time now. The Logitech Harmony Touch answers that call with aplomb, adding a 2.4-inch colour touchscreen to its multi-device controlling smarts.

As well as regular hardware button controls for DVR/DVD playback and volume controls, the Harmony Touch lets users assign up to 50 favourite channel icons on the touchscreen, in an interface not dissimilar to Apple's iPhone iOS UI.

Tap, swipe and scrolling controls can also be used to control a wide range of other TV functions (with many geared towards triggering Smart TV functions), as well as offering backlit hardware keys.

"The Logitech Harmony Touch represents the next evolution for the universal remote," said Joerg Tewes, vice president of Logitech's digital home business group.

"Today, people prize convenience and want home-entertainment systems that are impressive and easy to use. With this in mind, Logitech designed a remote that makes it simple for people to customise their experience, and feel in control of their systems like never before."

Supporting 225,000 home entertainment devices and more than 5,000 brands, the Logitech Harmony Touch can control as many as 15 of your AV devices at once.

Out in October, it'll set you back £149.

Onkyo-airplay-adapter-top.jpgOnkyo have revealed their DS-A5 dock, which allows you to add Apple's AirPlay media streaming capabilities to old home cinema receivers and Hi-Fi kits.

The DS-A5 has an Ethernet port for cabled internet connectivity, as well as Wi-Fi options, letting you stream content from both mobile Apple devices and PCs or Macs with iTunes.

Stereo phono audio outputs, optical audio out and a composite video out socket also allow for standard definition video to be pumped to a big screen.

There's also a direct digital connector for iPhones (but not the iPhone 5), iPad and iPod touch (again, not this month's recent updated ones).

Onkyo-airplay-adapter-mid.jpgAn RI connection on the dock also allows compatible Onkyo kit to connect to iPhone's iPads and iPod Touch devices, letting you boot up your audio gear from standby by tapping the AirPlay icon on the iGadgets. A dedicated remote lets you control docked Apple devices too.

The dock can also be hooked up to non-Onkyo home cinema kit, but you loose the benefits of RI connectivity.

Available now, you can pick it up for £150.

PREVIEW: Sony 84-inch 4K Bravia KD-84X9005 TV

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Sony-4K-IFA-2012-1.JPGreview-line.JPGIFA has traditionally been an AV showcase for the major brands, but with a shift towards mobile over the past few years, the 2012 Berlin tech extravaganza had fewer stand-out home cinema moments this year. Sony's 84-inch 4K Bravia KD-84X9005 TV was one such stand-out screen.

review-line.JPGA gigantic display, the screen doesn't take massive chances in terms of industrial design. Stood on a two-legged, practical chrome stand and with a sizeable bezel and thickness, it doesn't have the initial wow factor that, say, the LG OLED display touts.

But get a 4K feed into the new flagship Bravia and the screen comes to life. Boasting a resolution of 3840x2160, it's four times as sharp as a full HD 1080p display, pushing 8 million pixels to the viewer's eyes. Sony manages this with their new 4K X-Reality Pro processing engine, which delivers jaw-dropping visuals. Colours are bold and movement is handled in a fluid, natural way that's easy on the eyes. But it's the added detail that really impresses. Fine detail is pulled out of every inch of the screen, giving far more depth to images, particularly in busy landscape and natural scenes. A field full of long grass shimmers with the breeze, and if you push your nose right up to the screen you can pick out individual blades with barely a pixel seam in sight. It's stunning.Sony-4K-IFA-2012-5.JPGThe KD-84X9005 also benefits from having a pair of dedicated external speakers bolted onto either side. Noting that flatscreen TVs have woeful audio capabilities, Sony have gone for a practical solution by basically sticking two soundbars to the left and right of the screen. Each houses 5 individual "Live Speakers" for 50W of pseudo-5.1 surround sound. Even amidst the noisy bustle of Sony's IFA stand, we got a strong appreciation for the width of the soundstage (it helps to have those speakers a few feet apart thanks to the screen's size), as well as the resonant bass frequencies that are so often seriously inadequate on flat-screen displays.

Perhaps most impressively (and most importantly, considering the relative lack of native 4K footage currently available to consumers) was the screen's upscaling capabilities. We saw the 4K screen displaying the same 1080p landscape footage side-by-side with a previous Sony flagship standard HD screen of similar size, and were blown away by how well the new screen picked out extra detail in the older footage. Upscaling is not always a pretty sight, but the KD-84X9005 managed pleasantly sharp images that drew added depth from the lower-resolution source material, without too much added noise. The 4K X-Reality Pro really shows its chops here, meaning that even with little native 4K footage, you'll be able enjoy an improved image with your current catalogue of Blu-ray titles.
Sony-4K-IFA-2012-9.JPGIf there was one area where we were less impressed, it was with 3D footage. Using a passive system, the screen managed better brightness, less flicker and richer colours thanks to the 4K source than other top-tier 3D panels we have viewed. However, the sense of depth from The Amazing Spider-Man trailer Sony used to demo the 3D effect was reserved to the point of being unnoticeable. But, as some commentators have noted, this may easily be down to the subdued nature of the 3D effect in the source material, rather than being a flaw of the screen.

All in, Sony's KD-84X9005 4K 84-inch TV was very impressive. Tentatively priced at 25,000 Euros (or £19,805) this is very much out of the average consumer's league, but it bodes well for the 4K revolution as a whole. Give it a year or two and prices will come down to affordable realms, and there will also finally be enough 4K footage to justify such a screen. On the back of our brief time with the KD-84X9005, Sony are already one step ahead of the competition in the 4K field.

Click here for more news straight from the IFA 2012 technology show

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