Best of the Best 2005: Entertainment

Kaleidescape’s Media server system is one of the first landmark products in this age of convergence, an era that is supposed to unite the functional qualities of personal computers with the entertainment options offered by digital consumer electronics. Kaleidescape’s system can store the contents of an entire DVD collection on a massive computer hard drive array, enabling you to access any movie, any time, without having to handle the disc ever again. (The DVD Copy Control Association—the DVD equipment governing body—filed a lawsuit against Kaleidescape that was pending when Robb Report went to press.)

The system is more than just a movie storage device, however. It represents an entirely new way of approaching disc-based entertainment. From the comfort of your couch you can sort through the hundreds, if not thousands, of DVD titles in your collection—even some high-definition video content—using a slick on-screen interface that presents cover art and detailed information about each title. Music storage will be available in the future. Choose a movie, and other title art will shuffle and dance around your selection to provide you with other viewing options from within that same genre. You can search through titles by any number of criteria, including actor, director, or subject matter.
 
Once you select a movie and the theater lights dim, the black masking panels for a front-projection screen will slowly converge, perfectly cropping the image. The movie starts instantly, with no unwanted previews or distracting menus. All of these functions can be performed automatically in accordance with information for each title that has been downloaded and stored within the system.  —Mike Wood

 

Kaleidescape, 650.625.6150, www.kaleidescape.com

The Magic Touch
The invention of the Web Tablet—a simplified computer that was designed primarily for Internet browsing—accidentally revolutionized the home automation industry. Enterprising manufacturers have learned how to use these devices to control audio, video, lighting, heating, air-conditioning, swimming pool temperature, and nearly everything else in the home. The most impressive device so far is the Crestron Isys i/O WiFi touchscreen, which controls home appliances and audio and video systems, and also offers wireless Internet access on its screen. The company’s excellent training program and in-house programming staff help to ensure that your touchscreen operates flawlessly from day one. 
—Brent Butterworth

Crestron, 800.237.2041, www.crestron.com

Big-Screen Powerhouse
Installing the Marantz VP10S1 video projector is one of the best ways to re-create your own version of the Hollywood Mann Chinese theater at home. The company has an impressive pedigree in video projectors, and it continues this tradition with the VP10S1. The projector’s most compelling feature is its use of separate DLP (digital light processing) chips for each of its three primary colors (red, green, and blue). This creates a picture that is brighter and has better color fidelity and clarity than pictures produced by single-chip projectors. No longer is there any reason to have a small screen.  —Mike Wood  
 
Marantz, 630.741.0300, us.marantz.com

Towering Achievements
It does not seem fair. For audiophiles, the name Krell is synonymous with extraordinary audio electronics, yet this year’s most exciting new speaker line also comes from Krell—a relative newcomer to the speaker business. The king of its Resolution line is the incredible Krell Resolution 1, a 58-inch tower speaker that depicts the delicacy of flutes, violins, and operatic sopranos as faithfully as it reproduces the room-shaking bass home theater enthusiasts demand. Both our in-house home theater expert and our resident audiophile consider it one of the finest speakers they have ever heard. The line includes a smaller tower speaker, a stand-mounted speaker, an excellent center speaker, an on-wall speaker, and a robust subwoofer.  —Brent Butterworth

Krell Industries, 203.799.9954, www.krellonline.com

Arcs of Triumph
Until the MartinLogan Voyage came along, in-wall speakers seemed as dull and unvarying as mayonnaise. The Voyage represents the boldest—and perhaps the  only—design statement ever made by an in-wall speaker. It does not blend into your walls as most in-walls do. Instead, it arcs stylishly, in the manner of a designer light fixture, and it employs a subtly shimmering gray grille cloth that cannot be painted as conventional in-wall grilles can. To our surprise, the speaker’s flashy appearance seems to complement any modern decor. With all of this style comes substance: The Voyage’s sturdy frame and unusual ribbon-type midrange and tweeter drivers make it one of today’s best-sounding in-wall speakers.  —Brent Butterworth

MartinLogan, 785.749.0133, www.martinlogan.com

Let There Be Light
From the time that color television was introduced in 1953 until the late 1990s, there were few truly noteworthy innovations to the technology. Since then, however, engineers seem to have been working overtime to pick up the slack, presenting amazing new technologies nearly every year. Sony Electronics, for example, recently announced yet another significant advance with LCD (liquid crystal display) televisions, one that utilizes LED (light emitting diode) technology for backlighting. Sony employs the LED system in its Qualia 005 46-inch LCD TV to provide a brighter picture with substantially improved contrast, detail, and color fidelity compared to LCD TVs that use the more typical fluorescent backlighting. The 005’s 1080p picture resolution also helps to create stunningly sharp images.  —Mike Wood

Sony Electronics, 858.942.4700, www.qualia.sony.us

Simple, Stylish Sound
Famed industrial designer Allen Boothroyd—one of the principals of Meridian Audio—has outdone himself with the Meridian G Series electronics. Not only do the new components appear far more stylish than Meridian’s past designs, they also are more technically sophisticated and easier to operate. Every product, from the simple G02 stereo preamplifier to the powerful G68 surround-sound processor, carries the same seven-button front panel. Because of Meridian’s attention to ergonomics, you can control dozens of functions with these seven buttons—or with Boothroyd’s smart new universal remote control. And thanks to Meridian cofounder Bob Stuart’s brilliant engineering, the G Series sounds as fantastic as it looks.  —Brent Butterworth

Meridian Audio, 404.344.7111, www.meridian.co.uk

Thin Is In
Early plasma TVs, though appealing for their slim cabinets, lacked high-quality images, which is one of the reasons we were surprised by the picture quality of the ViewSonic VPW5500, a 55-inch plasma TV from a company previously known for producing high-quality computer monitors. Its bright image, deep dark blacks, and crisp detail left us speechless. The TV’s picture looks great with nearly any source, though it especially shines when reproducing top-quality DVD and HDTV material.  —Mike Wood

ViewSonic, 800.688.6688, www.viewsonic.com

Shape Shifting
The shapes of movies are as varied as the cinematographers who film them, and almost all are different from standard or high-definition television screens. Stewart Filmscreen has devised a masking solution that enables the viewing of films without the black bars that have become ubiquitous. While masking systems have existed for some time, none has operated as precisely and as effortlessly as the Stewart Director’s Choice system. At the touch of a button, black masking panels perfectly crop any image, and when integrated with the data from DVD storage systems such as the Kaleidescape Media server or ReQuest’s Video ReQuest DVD changer controller, the curtains can automatically close precisely to the edges of the on-screen image. This system is a must for any high-end home theater.  —Mike Wood 

Stewart Filmscreen, 800.762.4999, www.stewartfilm.com

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