Demo Disc Writeup

 
Welcome to the Xtremeplace!

A demo disc is a show case of the wow factor, and this awe inspiring bit is what makes our jaws drop or make us stop in our steps when we walk past a demo going on in the shops. This disc aims to compile the best scenes to showcase the best of various aspects of High Definition.

A note first:

This is NOT a financial venture, everyone does this for fun and this disc should NEVER be sold. I cannot emphasise this more.


Introduction:

The world of Home Theatre (HT) is an exciting and immersive world, which can draw you in, help you share the emotions, the action, the tension and the humor, and the picture as well as the sound helps to put you right in the middle of it.

So before you even begin to watch this, take some time to read ALL the stickies, and vital threads and information in our forums on:

-       speaker placement
-       bass management
-       subwoofer calibration
-       room treatment
-       room equalization
-       types of decoding
-       picture calibration
-       viewing distance
-       how to buy and demo threads
-       etc etc

it is possible to replicate or surpass what we get in the cinema, if you spend some money, and plenty of effort. As  Ikea tells us: “you don’t have to be rich to be smart”.

After you get that dream sound system, you need to spend time putting the pieces together. The use of those automated room equalization features, plus some elbow grease, and muscle work, a tape measure, an SPL meter and time spent reading the manual will help give you the perfect setup that can put the Rex theatre to shame.

The components of a good soundtrack:

BASS -

Cinema and HT is not just about a big bad subwoofer with a head splitting bass track. Too often when you step into a store, the salesman simply cranks up the subwoofer to a level that makes you want to walk out or you lose a bit of your hearing in the process.

So even though a good bass sequenced is vital, bass is actually a lot more than explosions and gunfire. Bass can be used to accentuate a thrilling or suspenseful scene. It is often used to good effect in ghost horror scenes or even in drama to inject tension.

SPEECH –

Bass aids but is only a part of the sonic picture. Good dialogue, which is clear and well located is also important. A poorly recorded voice makes it hard to discern what the actor is saying (unless its Marlon Brando, then you are stuffed!). excessively low levels of dialogue also force you to turn up the volume only to suffer the issue of bass and surround effects which are too loud.

SURROUND EFFECTS

To me, this trumps bass for the whole cinematic effect and is even more vital to complete the whole sonic landscape.

The effective use of the surrounds, be it 5.1, 6.1 or 7.1 (note there is NO soundtrack encoded in 9.1 or 11.1, that’s all post-processing by a suitably equipped amp) will allow you to be truly immersed in the movie. Have you felt those bullets whizzing just past your ears?

How about the voice which buzzes all around you? That airplane that goes from the back to the front seamlessly? Or the sensation that you are actually in the same helmet as the actor?

Now that you have the basic components, then onto the Demo Disc!


I have no financial interest or other interests in any of the items / events I write about.

The Pacific - review

The Pacific - BR review DTS-MA 5.1

Saving Private Ryan (SPR) was one of the definite movies of the 90s and one of the best war movies of all time, and in 2001 the Band of Brothers followed the success of Saving Private Ryan with a wonderful mini-series about the brave men of East Company as their fought their way through Europe. Tom Hanks did not rest on his laurels, and in 2007, made The Pacific. By then, there were quite a few more war movies, not only in English, but also in other languages. Terms like "gritty", "raw realism" and "faded colors" were often used to describe these shows. So how can this one do when thrown in amongst the rest?

First let me tell you what impressed me first. The action was breath-taking and exhilarating, and you felt like you were in with the First Marines as they did battle in unpronounceable islands in the Pacific. The depiction of the dangers, the agony and perils mixed in with the fear felt genuine, and intense. Knowing that everyone will benchmark this show against his other two creations meant a pressure to excel. The Pacific succeeds in the depiction of battle and the sound effects are massive, impressive and devastating. 

What it falls on is that it tries too hard. This mini-series tries to offer drama, romance, sort of like We Were Once Soldiers, where the show alternates between battles and the home front. Here you can a couple of episodes of raw battle to begin with, then two episodes which could have come out of a soap opera, with plenty of skin, sex scenes and love making thrown in. You get more "Face time",closeups, and dramatic moments which seemed to have been forced in to space out the action and add humanity where it is not really needed or helpful to the plot. Somehow, I feel it detracts from the movie and these attempts at humanising the soldiers did not do well and seem contrived and artificial. The show is most entertaining when it sticks to the what it is about - war. Those battle scenes are some of the best filmed and acted.

No one will fault the action, and thank goodness the director stayed away from the faded colours popularized by SPR. It also eschewed the jerky hand cam style used to great annoyance in the Bourne series and many others subsequently. Instead the show is resplendent in color, detail and showcases the best of modern film cinematography, with details like the leather belts on the soldiers, the grime looking almost 3D and the dried blood all realistically and carefully portrayed. 

The show differs from SPR in following three individual soldiers from the First Marines, as they battle in the South Pacific, and how their lives, their attitudes and morals are altered in the course of this arena of war. 

Plot: 3/5
Chick Factor: well there was a lot of sex and skin, which in my opinion was unnecessary (you could edit out 2 hours from the show with no loss) 3/5
Action: 5/5 the surround effects, bass and soundstage were all reference and finally beats SPR and BOB

Should you own it / rent / forget it - well I have two sets, and the poignant emotions it brings out is reason enough, the demo quality action scenes will keep you coming back to re-watch those battle scenes for many more times.

PS: Eugene Sledge was played by the annoying little twerp from Jurassic Park 1.
Just a little bit of trivia....

This show is no BOB which is still the best IMO of the war shows, followed by SPR, but it is still well worth a watch.

Footnote:

I did not mind most of the little artistic licenses taken, but they did poorly in showing the heroics of John Basilone the Congressional Medal of Honor winner, who fought so heroically and single-handed in Iwo Jima. I quote Wiki:


Iwo Jima


John Basilone's headstone in Arlington National Cemetery
After his request to return to the fleet was approved, he was assigned to Charlie Company, 1st Battalion, 27th Marine Regiment, 5th Marine Division during the invasion of Iwo Jima. On February 19, 1945, he was serving as a machine gun section leader in action against Japanese forces on Red Beach II. During the battle, the Japanese concentrated their fire at the incoming Americans from heavily fortified blockhouses staged throughout the island. With his unit pinned down, Basilone made his way around the side of the Japanese positions until he was directly on top of the blockhouse. He then attacked with grenades and demolitions, single-handedly destroying the entire strongpoint and its defending garrison. He then fought his way toward Airfield Number 1 and aided an American tank that was trapped in an enemy mine field under intense mortar and artillery barrages. He guided the heavy vehicle over the hazardous terrain to safety, despite heavy weapons fire from the Japanese. As he moved along the edge of the airfield, he was killed by Japanese mortar shrapnel. His actions helped Marines penetrate the Japanese defense and get off the landing beach during the critical early stages of the invasion. For his valor during the battle of Iwo Jima, he was posthumously approved for the Marine Corps' second-highest decoration for bravery, the Navy Cross.[10]

Tron Legacy in 3D - movie review

When Tron was first released in the early 80s, it was not really a financial success, but the CGI and the concept proved to be cutting edge and ever since, it has had a cult following and since I had not had a chance to see it, why not begin afresh with the new iteration of it, and for a CGI filled show, why not go all the way and see it in 3D? The show was indeed a 3D fest: D = demolitions, delicious babes and of course Daft Punk!

Tron L will not be an Oscar winner, even for creative CGI use or for its 3D reproduction, and it certainly won't win for acting, but you get a nice experience of a sci-fi action movie, with some babes in tight spandex thrown in and its all accompanied by some nice punk-techno music with a nice beat. If all this sounds too low brow or if Gone With the Wind is your cup of tea, then skip this. Much has also been said of the excessive use of 3D and milking the audience for the extra dollars when it adds little to the experience. Well the 3D does work here, simply because it is a CGI show primarily, and the show actually starts with a caveat that "certain segments were filmed in 2D". This is clever as the real world is in 2D and appears flat was compare to the world of Tron in 3D.

The show borrows from real classics like Blade Runner in its outlook and of course it's predecessor, Tron. There is a low of low light which will test your display's ability to show contrast and dark areas. The story isn't too unfamiliar. The original Flynn is trapped inside the Tron world and his son comes to get him. Throw in a little love interest in the form of a shapely Cora, who bears a little resemble in look and concept to Trinity from Matrix, add spunk to her and give the movie lots of action scenes with plenty of explosions and make sure the music is loud and bombastic.

This won't threaten big hits like Star Trek, Star Wars or other definitive sci-fi movies who have deftly combined action, science fiction and even comedy plus a little romance to a wonderful mix, but it will entertain and with the action and cool soundtrack, you will consider taking home the Blu Ray disc when it comes out.

Plot: 3/5
Action: not bad, although the bass isn't the lowest, the surround field isn't too bad.
3D - The speakers in J8 were not the best, with rattling heard in the right side of the speaker array, but the 3D effect was well done enough although a notch lower than Up or Avatar.
Chick Factor: like Matrix, the director has found that shapely women in tight Spandex works...

I enjoyed it enough and will consider it as a rental at least and even consider owning this and the original Tron as a boxset when it is released.

The Return of Chen Zhen ...movie review

Donnie Yen is a great action stuntman, with moves which are breathtaking, and gravity defying, but he is no great actor and or director. His latest movie reeks of the typical Hong Kong mentality of milking a genre to its death, and speaks volume of the dearth of orginal material, a disease which has been plaguing HKG cinema for more than a decade.



Here is another - (third?) remake of this story, and apart from a change in attire, the fight scenes are similar to the previous productions, and in fact, there is a lack of really cool fight scenes in this show. Perhaps Donnie wants to showcase more of his acting chops, but he should stick to his forte, as the movie moves along rather slowly when there isn't any fighting.



The plot is even more tedious, adding a Eupopean dimension, a spy element, and a less than interesting love story element - Donnie is no Tony Leung I am afriad.



Plot: 2/5

Action: what good is an action kung fu flick without kungfu ? 2/5

Chick factor: some eye candy, but little real hotness 2.5/5



I reckon it is only worth a rental on a rather slow day...




I have no financial interest or other interests in any of the items / events I write about.

Stool Pigeon - movie review

Stool Pigeon – review




If you are a fan of the intense scenes, emotions conveyed in movies like Election, Beast Stalker, then this is the kind of movie for you.



There is a certain level of despair and inevitability, a dark side of emotions which is showcased in this show, which attracts a certain audience, but will alienate those looking for processed happy ending sort of shows. It is not a real actioner, nor a cop story, but a show which is almost documentary or matter of fact in the way it follows the lives of a depressed and stressed cop, a desperate wheelman, a robber and his woman, and how it all ends for them.



Not your usual plot: 4/5

Chick Factor: Kwai Lun-Mei is a new Taiwanese star and she looks good and acts well 3.5/5

Action: it comes in spurts and is rather violent, and there is none of the romantic gangster type roles popular in the 90s with Chow Yun Fatt or Ekin Cheng. 3/5



It is worth a watch, but like durians, there are sharp edges which will prick your emotions, and will polarise you into liking or hating it.


I have no financial interest or other interests in any of the items / events I write about.

Sand Pebbles - BR review

Sand Pebbles - BR review DTS-MA 5.1 Tier 1

For a movie made more than 30 years ago, I did not really have too many expectations, and it was on the merit of the fact that this was Steve McQueen's sole Oscar effort that made me give this a try.

Most who are above 30 will know him and perhaps this movie, it is set in the 1920s, during a rather tumultuous time in China. You get romance, action, and a geopolitical historical theme, all put together by a wonderful director in Robert Wise, and sterling performances by Steve and Candice, as well as the other members. A young David Attenborough (the man who in his later years is better known for his narrations of many wonderful BBC series such as Life or Earth) plus a whole host of actors make this a good movie even so many years after its production.

But it is the picture quality and even more surprisingly the audio quality which makes this a keeper. The sound engineers worked overtime on this Blu Ray version to make a disc which can almost compete with modern movies and certainly puts many other movies of its era to shame. Jerry Goldsmith's soundtrack is well spaced out, and the surround channels are kept active and certainly the LFE also gets a decent workout.

Recommended.

PQ: 3.5/5
AQ 4/5
Plot: 4/5
Chick Factor: 3.5/5

http://bluray.highdefdigest.com/1342/sandpebbles.html

Curtains + room treatment:

Curtains + room treatment:

After sorting out which of the main systems you wish to buy, you may also wish to consider various elements of room treatment.

Most new homes are nice shiny classy affairs, with designs which might even make the covers of some Home Improvement magazines. However most do not have much room treatment, and it is my personal yet strong opinion that you should consider this to be as important as a new pair of speakers.

In fact I would go as far as to say, the improvements that you hope to achieve with a spanking new pair of speakers will be negated or slighted by poor or no room treatment.

Now I will be first to say, that it is not easy as the idea of foam pads or other forms of soundproofing may not go down well with the missus. But a set of curtains are a start and most home needed them anyway.

Since not everyone has the luxury of a dedicated HT room, the inevitable location will be the living room and this place serves many other functions, and it is actually the ambient noise levels which will affect your experience.

Many demos in showrooms tend to crank their systems up to deafening levels to compensate for the noise around their showrooms, this may accentuate the bass, but tends to drown out details as our ears start to shut down, or our spouses leave the demo in disgust.

So may I suggest the opposite:

Quieten the listening environment, lower your noise floor and turn down the volume. Sounds counter-intuitive? Try it or come and listen, happy to show how it works.

Then add "black - out" curtains.

I use a guy called Joseph Hong in AMK (97946060 Homg Ming Store Ptd Ltd) - 64523830 (no financial interests in this store).

A metre of this material will be about 26$ including installation.

It cuts out light and higher frequencies - note it is Not a bass absorber.

The material is easily washable and comes in many colours. You can use it for your windows, or even to partition off a section of your hall for the HT listening, or to cut down ambient light if you are using a projector.

No sense getting a fancy and expensive PJ and have all kinds of light leaking in and spoiling the experience.

Try it and see for yourselves!

I have no financial interest or other interests in any of the items / events I write about.

Knight & Day, Killers Movie review

This is a twin review of two recent movies with a rather similar concept. It reminds me of the time, Eraser and Mission Impossible came out also together, and Thin Red Line and Saving Private Ryan too.
First the similarities:

Both shows have a similar premise: they are about a beautiful woman who falls for a man of her dreams, who is charming, handsome and utterly irresistible. little does she know what he does and that where the trouble begins. Then mayhem ensues, as the explosions, bullets and bombs go off. Now this being a romantic action comedy sort of genre, you know that they will survive the bullets, the trials and tribulations of the relationship (well at least for the duration of the movie) and live happily ever after in supreme love for one another.

Killers
This is fronted by two reasonably likable stars - Aston Kutcher and Katherine Heigl, and they seem to try, but Aston is so wooden, that he should be afraid of and deserves to be eaten alive by termites. Heigl is hot, but has only one kind of expression and she is only good for the dumb blond role, which she has milked to the extreme in the past few roles, almost like a younger Jennifer Anniston. Both have limited acting chops and they show it clearly. The addition of Tom Selleck does not add much and you don't really know why people are trying to kill Aston unless they also disagree with the quality of his acting.
Plot: 2/5
Action 2/5 - there are some explosions, but the whole connect of the show is so disjointed that you can't really appreciate the action.
Chick factor - well Heigl is still hot, but it gets a little tiring 3.5
I would consider this for rental only if all the releases were taken for the week.
Knight and Day
Tom Cruise does a secret agent role once more, and his female lead here is Cameron Diaz, who tries to add her own ditzy flavor to this alternate spin on the spy romantic couple movie. She does bring some charm, but being almost a decade older than when she did Something about Mary and also Mask, an older lady doing the whole dumb blond thing is harder to swallow. So Killers takes one point for this.
But the older couple of Tom and Cameron definitely have more chemistry and their experience helps pull this movie one up on the Killers. The action is still outrageous but in a way you can stomach and they still manage to make it look a little effortless.
The plot is equally thin, but a little more believable. 3/5
Action is fair 3/5
Chick factor is lacking though: 2/5

So Knight and Day take the tie breaker, but with not much to spare. But if I had to take one of the two shows home for the weekend, it would be the latter... and it would not be a great weekend...

The Other Guys - movie review

The Other Guys

Some movies give you plenty of fun, action, and tumbles and add to the whole buddy cop genre. This is not one of them. It was quite painful to watch, and now I know why Will Ferrell justifies his label as most overpaid actor in Hollywood right now.

The duo would love to take over from The Rock and Samuel Jackson as the leading cops in a delinquent police department bent on body counts and car crashes, but they look like a gay couple and the movie cannot decide if it is an action, comedy or a serious movie. Eva Mendes just adds to a boob count and you don't really get the plot either.

Plot: 1/5
Action: some action scenes, but fans will be in a coma or wondering what's happening and not be too impressed 2/5
Chick factor: Eve Mendes does add some hotness, but in the end, she is poorly used and came on just to collect her paycheck. 2/5

I would not even recommend this as a rental.

The Mission (1986) Blu Ray review

The Mission (1986) Blu Ray review

This movie starts off with a poignant scene where a Jesuit priest plunges to his death, and you can hear the rousing soundtrack from Ennio Morricone in the background. With such a start, it is hard to go wrong and the movie does not disappoint. it is a movie in which you will need to return for repeat viewing and as the first viewing can be quite painful given the ending. However when you appreciate the other scenes, and the awesome soundtrack, it grows more on you and moves you to no end.

The music here is distinctive and you will have no trouble recognising the oboe notes. Jeremy Irons gives the performance of his life and Robert De Niro does better here, than even Godfather. The supporting actors including some notable names like Liam Neeson and they all add to a performance which I feel deserved an Academy award.



Plot 4.8/5

There isn't too much action, and yet the few scenes are quite gripping. The vintage of the film shows itself here, whilst the soundtrack is pretty awesome, there is precious little sound effects and it is almost entirely limited to the front soundscape. 

As for the picture, it is pretty decent for a movie which has been around for more than 25 years. Its no demo disc, but the details are better than some others.

PQ: 3/5
AQ: 2.5/5

Should you buy it, well I would and I did once the disc was released. I remember almost standing up to clap and weep when the first notes of the oboe floated around the cinema.

Recommended for the plot and music.

Silence of the lambs - BR review

Silence of the lambs US release
This show is all about the plot great acting and a superb mood. It defined the whole Cannibal genre, and these days, people will still shudder when they see Anthony - its his whole facial expression, and in particular, his eyes and the benign look which strikes fear in your heart.

PQ is above average for a show which is almost 20 years old but there was no special remastering.
AQ is mainly frontal and does not envelop you like modern thrillers.
The action comes in spurts, but it relies less on shock tactics, and instead the whole mood is dark and yet it draws you in, in a way that cheap slasher movies cannot.
Chick factor: well Jody Foster looks good still but in 1991, she was hot. Plus the fact that she was a wonderful actress, you have the makings of a real diva. At the time, she campaigned actively for this role, even after winning for "The Accused".
Seeing an engaging and lovely Jody Foster sparring with the awesome Anthony Hopkins who really looks menacing was sufficient to make up for the prosiac PQ and AQ.
PQ 3/5
AQ 2/5
Plot 4.5/5

Worth a rental and you may end up keeping it.

Dragon Hunters - Blu Ray review - English DTS HD MA 5.1

Not often do you see an animation that does not come from Pixar do well and this one is not even American. The French it seems are perfectly capable of some rather good animation with equally good stories.

I had a chance to buy this over the weekend and I agree, its easy to dismiss this as a kiddie thing, but its pretty entertaining. Although the main plot is pretty standard, the characters are nicely fleshed out, the humor is good and when you add in the action sequences, plus the sound, its a keeper. An unlikely motley crew of dragon hunters, consisting of a pig-tailed behemoth of a man Lian Chu, his side-kick Gwizdo, and a furry dog-like mutt, plus the intrepid niece of the Lord who sent them forth. The ensuing adventures form the story as they overcome obstacles to face the World Gobbler.

Plot: 3/5

Chick factor - nil

Action: now this is where things get exciting. Literally....there is very exciting bass, filling in the moments of suspense and of course when the action begins, the bass is sub-sonic. You will need something which goes down to SVS sort of levels to enjoy this French hit. the bass is used not only to the explosions but also to widen the sound stage and the rear channels are constantly used, either to add ambience, or to give bite to the action, making the dragons come from all direction, the flying bats encircle you and basically create a cohesive soundfield. Very nice 4.5 / 5


See it, buy it.

Getting cornered

Most of us live in relatively small places. a few more have more generous spaces, but the majority live in apartments and space is a premium.

So here are some personal views on this which are meant for discussion and not directed at any particular setup.

No matter how small our apartments, we still like large speakers and find ways to place them in the smallest of spaces. Thats where the trouble begins.

I had helped a member not long ago, who had complained of boomy bass, and he was using a pair of floor-standers which were known for a prominent bass in his 4 room HDB apartment. And no matter what he did, it was still boomy.

The issue was simple, there was no space for his speakers and unless he converted his living room to a serious soundroom, possibly with the aid of experts like econav or joamonte, it was going to be bad. And those room treatment don't spell WAF.

Its one of the reasons why a simple pair of PC speakers can actually sound better than a much more expensive speaker.
I used a JVC sake speaker mini-compo in the same room and the member nearly fell off his chair. Sure there wasn't much bass, but the pinpoint sound from the tiny speakers drove him mad with envy.

So if you have one of these floor-standers, you may need a metre to the sides and the back, and 2-2.5 metres between them, which means that unless you have a room which is at least 4-5 m wide, there are going to be problems.

When members show their setups and its a beautiful living room with clean lines, top marks on aesthetics, But the speakers pushed all the way to the corners of the room, esp large floor-standers, then you know the speakers are usually not in the optimum position.
And you can expect the usual complaints of bass issues if the owner has a discerning ear.

So how did I resolve the member's bass issue?
Well first he got rid of the speakers, then bought a new setup based on speakers which were more room friendly. He was not willing to compromise the decor and so the priority was set.

The same will go with all members who will need to decide what matters most. Many of the most awesome setups I have heard are in dedicated sound rooms, which have been well treated for acoustics. They are not the same living rooms which appear in "Home Decor" magazines or the like. I like the sound in my room, but it looks like a bomb went off it in it.

So the choice will need to be met somehow and the sonic consequences to be faced.

Cheers.

My current gear - 10 / 2010

Home Theater --
KURO KRP 500A
Denon AVR 2809;Monitor Audio GS10,LCR; Mission 30i; PSB 10s dipoles; SVS PB 12+; Velodyne miniVee
Toshiba Xe1; Oppo Nuforce BDP 83; Belkin PF50 PureAV Power Console; QED XT tube 300/micro for rear; GW TD 1000 conditioner;

Audio --
Oppo  BDP 95; B&W amp;W 805s; Musical Fidelity A 5.5; Sangean DDR-3 DAB tuner; PS Audio Juicebar, Wiremold power brick, PS Audio Power Cables (amp), Oyaide 750 interconnects and power cable, XinDak Coaxial Cables, Jumper cables; Anticable speaker cables;

Pioneer 507 XG; Panasonic DMR - EX85

FAB DVD shop


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The Expendables

Take a few action stars who have seen better days, add a beautiful Latina,
throw in lots of explosions, and blend in some clever wise cracks, and you
have a nice warm fuzzy throw back to the 80s where men were men and bleed,
swore and kills loads of enemies whilst barely breaking a sweat....

Think Rambo, who could take on the entire Russian army, give him some
equally deadly pals, and let them create mayhem whilst saving the girl and
trading punches, jokes and bullets on a little Island in the Gulf and you
will want the lot to be back.

And get cameos from the man who perfected the art of saying "I'll be back" -
he gets his just dues in a line "he wants to be president" and you finally
see some stars who you may have longed to see together in a single movie for
the longest time.

This is no Oscar material, but Stallone brings out the best bits from these
daddy warriors, and give them the license to kill and to thrill and make the
audience laugh with them too. Testosterone overflows from everyone one of
these oldies, but the have me and I am sure many more longing for
"Expendables II".

Plot: 3/5
Action 4/5
Chick Factor: 3/5

I reckon its worth a rental or more.

L-O-V-E 愛到底 - movie review

L-O-V-E 愛到底

 

http://www.avistaz.com/wp-content/uploads/2009/05/love.jpg

 

The Asian / Chinese film industry has not been buzzing with too much excitement, and typically likes to produce copies of Hollywood hits, or re-use formulas which have worked in the past. But this show combines the talents of 4 new directors to make a series of 4 short stories, that is both funny and tugs at your heart strings.

 

The first of the 4, "San Sheng You Xing (三聲有幸)" is a story the lives of 3 people who have the same voice. And if the first 5 minutes does not get to you and make you reach for the tissue, you should check if your heart is still beating…

 

The way the story is worked in, and the person they chose for the grieving mother, is quite perfect, and I would not be surprised if this was a Golden Horse shoo-in.

 

Well recommended.

 

http://asianfanatics.net/forum/topic/590020-movie-l-o-v-elove-to-the-end-%26%2324859%3B%26%2321040%3B%26%2324213%3B/

 

"An elderly mother sits alone on the sofa, silently with her eyes closed. The phone rings suddenly, and she picks it up. To her surprise, it is her deceased son on the line. He wants her to take care of herself, and promises to call back on his death anniversary the next year."

 

Brilliant…

Cyborg She - a review

Cyborg She(My girlfriend is a robot)

 

If you could travel back in time to love, protect, and change all the wrongs for the one you love, would that be the perfect relationship? What if your protector was incredibly beautiful, always at your beck and call, never leaves your side, and totally loyal, loving, and to top it off, cooks up a mean meal? What’s the catch you say? How about the fact that she is a robot?

 

Kwak Jae-Young’s previous claim to fame was giving us the very popular love story – “My Sassy Girl”, which was another beautiful story, which takes you a few viewings to appreciate the nuances and the element of time travel in his work. It was also one of the first movies to put Korea and this writer on the world map.

 

Here, the story is actually a rather simple one at first glance. A man builds a robot, to go back in time to save himself from a calamity which leaves him crippled, and she not only does that, but serves, protects and saves his life more than once. Jiro, the man, then falls in love with the robot, and we live through the adventures of this unlikely duo.

 

However that would only cover the most superficial elements of this movie, and it bears comparison to many other movies with robots and time travel, whilst paying homage to them. How about the model of the robot? We are never told her name, but she is “Cyberdyne Model 103”, like the Terminator, and will never rest, stand guard erect at night, protecting her master, and is a hybrid of human tissue over a robotic innard. The robot also saves many along the way, usually because the maker (the future elderly Jiro), felt great compassion for the people involved.

 

But it is the dynamics of the relationship which makes this movie so special, and you should be warned, to get a box of tissue handy, because, whether you are a woman or a seemingly macho man, those tears glands will get a good workout. As will the stomach muscles as you laugh at both the slapstick antics, the subtle interactions of a man falling in love or getting used to a robotic, who is well played by a relatively unknown bikini model Ayase Haruka. She manages to look good (the easy part), act wooden (harder) and give a robot the full range of emotion, whilst reminding you she is made of steel and synthetic material but yet capable of the ultimate love – sacrifice for the one you care about (the hardest of all, to act and in life). She is a combination of innocence, beauty and toughness when the occasion calls for it, and yet, she can do all that without many of the facial expressions, we would call human. Eat that Arnie!

 

Now for the males amongst us, you may be wondering, or perhaps fantasising, about such a hot model for a girlfriend, but the show also exposes us to our own ego frailties, and reality, which we may not have considered. What if she is always around, 24/7, and isn’t the fun-loving hot chick or walks in an awkward way. Sure some of you may be quick to retort that a funny walk or range of movements is ok, but will you feel shy introducing her to friends, or get tired of having her around all day?

 

And the killer question, what if she cannot respond in the same way that you might envisage? There is a moment in the movie when Jiro expresses his frustration at not getting the same warm response that he gave to express his love, and blurts out his frustration, and demands that the robot leaves. Some of us may express disgust at a man not being able to treasure what good fortune he has, but it is a real possibility, and we always see people in life, who have affairs, or stray, even when they are married to a woman of their dreams.

 

The element of time travel is also well used here, and makes you ponder on what you would do to make things right, or will you want to go and live out someone’s life, and enrich their lives whilst showing them what true love is, by giving all of your life. It also allows the story to make us think of what we would do in the name of love for the ones who mattered.

 

Action fans and the men watching this won’t feel too left out too, as there are some action scenes, which are well put together, and fit nicely into the story, and actually help lead to the most emotional scene in the story. There will be a moment when true love is put to the test, and that leads to another scene, which without revealing too much, is one where love means spending the rest of your life, repairing and taking care of the other. Truly in sickness and in health.

 

The original dialogue is in Japanese, but it is also dubbed in Chinese, and you can also read the English subtitles, but the beauty of a movie about a robot, is that many of the things she is trying to express, does not require words, and works equally well even if the sound was muted.

 

Does it end well? Ah come forth the hopeless romantic, the curious, or even those waiting for a great show to make that move on the girl you have been spying….watch it to know the ending… 

 

So are you sold? Who should watch this? Well for starters please don’t watch this alone. This is the perfect movie for a guy to take his date out, get some tissue paper ready in his pocket, fish it out at the right moments when it gets really emo, and most certainly there will be moments when your lady friend will greatly appreciate a strong warm arm around their shoulders, or gently reaching out to hold their hands in the slightly scary moments, and again, when the show tugs ever so strongly at their hearts. But keep your other arm handy, because you will be reaching for those same tissue too, and that’s good, since you look sensitive and new age too. There are few better date movies around, and it may become one which both of you will enjoy time and again.

 

 

 

 

 

Robin Hood - Russell Crowe version

 

Robin Hood is a favourite story with almost a version every other year. From Errol Flynn to Kevin Costner, there are many iterations from the heroic to the slapstick. So will the paying viewer be interested in a slightly more mature (which is of course the polite way of saying over the hill) Robin, and a Marion which in a few years will need hormone replacement therapy?

 

The director has worked with Russell Crowe before, and for good or for worse, borrows heavily from his previous work, and many others. It will be a challenge to carve out a unique version of this frequently told story and Ridley Scott tries his hand at a twist which sees Richard the Lionheart dying early on and John his brother actually fighting French invaders, plus a turn of Robin playing the son of a Lord.

 

Well does it work? In a sense, the story works extra hard to distance itself from earlier versions of the story, and yet remain somewhat true to the often told tale. However we see scenes reminiscent of past movies that Ridley did, such as the Gladiator, in the color tones, the epic battle scenes (lets see if the arrows disappear in the DNR version of the DVD). Add plenty of horseplay and a beach scene which is a inverse play of Normandy and Saving Private Ryan, and you get the idea that they just put together a whole bunch of ideas and hoped that the the charisma of the two lead protagonists will carry the movie.

 

Well Cate Blanchett and Russell do have some charisma, but they look like a slightly geriatric version of the merry men, and its very hard to believe they have the young and energy to run shoot, and play heroes with swords.

 

Plot: thin but you may like the twist 3/5

 

Action: plenty of swords, slashing, bleeding, and action fans won’t be disappointed. 4/5

 

Chick factor: if you are into Cate in her 40s then this is your movie, but even when she did Ben Button, she was already in need of plenty of CGI to just look believable as a young lady. At least here she does not hide her age and she goes with the “old maid” thing well.

 

Should you rent/buy or forget it? Well I reckon its worth a rental, but not much more.

 

National Day Rally 2010: English text of Malay speech

National Day Rally 2010: English text of Malay speech
English text of Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong's National Day Rally 2010 in Malay. -AsiaOne

Sun, Aug 29, 2010
AsiaOne

This is the English text of Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong's National Day Rally 2010 in Malay.
Our economy has rebounded from the downturn last year. Businesses are thriving, companies are hiring more workers, and we can look forward to more overtime and higher bonuses.
The future looks bright, but we still have to work hard to continue prospering. The region offers many opportunities to Singapore companies and professionals. But we must also upgrade our domestic economy, to create better jobs for workers here. After all, most of our people will always be working here in Singapore.
Our strategy is to raise the productivity of our workers. Workers should upgrade their skills and acquire new ones. Low-skilled workers are under the most pressure. There are millions of workers in China and India. They are willing to accept very low wages - much less than us. If you want to earn more, you must train hard.
The Government will support workers with Continuing Education and Training (CET) programmes. WDA tells me that Malay workers have participated actively in CET programmes, especially during the downturn. Unfortunately, as jobs become plentiful, employers and workers pay less attention to CET. My advice is: Do not be complacent, sustain this effort. As the Malay proverb says: "Only by splitting the tree's bark, can one savour the sago within.''
I know that some Singaporeans worry about competition from foreign workers here. However, while the foreign workers do compete against our workers, they also expand the pie for all of us. With foreign workers, we can attract more investments here, and these projects will offer better jobs to Singaporeans.
Besides foreign workers, we also need immigrants who will become PRs and citizens, to top up our population. We are open to immigrants of all ethnic groups, so long as they can contribute to our economy and integrate well into our society.
It is not easy to attract Malay or pribumi talent from Southeast Asia, but we are getting some, and must keep on trying. However, let me reassure Singaporeans, especially the minority communities, that we will not allow immigration to upset the current mix of races among our population. The current mix is stable, and contributes to our racial and religious harmony.
We must work hard to integrate new arrivals into our society, so that over time they will become Singaporean in their outlook and identity. Both sides must make the effort. Singaporeans should welcome the new arrivals, and help them adapt to our culture and ethos. The new arrivals need to learn to get along with other people, especially those from different racial and religious groups. Here is a picture of Muslim immigrants from different bodies distributing food (bubur) to needy families during Ramadan. I am confident that over time the immigrants, and even more their children, will make this their home and nation.
Another priority for our future is education. The young have many different talents and interests - arts, music or sports, technical or academic subjects. We will upgrade our education system. We will create more pathways for students to follow, and more peaks for them to aim for. Every school will be a good school. Every school will have excellent facilities and ample resources. Every school will have dedicated, well-trained teachers. We will prepare our students to succeed in many fields in school, at work and in life.
Malay Singaporeans must take full advantage of this national programme. We have succeeded in reducing the dropout rates in schools to very low levels. Malay students are doing well at all levels. However, a segment of Malay students are still not performing to their full potential. I hope all students will make the effort to do well, and receive support from their families to study hard and improve their performance.
Besides education, our cultures and heritages are important for Singapore's future. I am glad that the Malay community is keeping its language and culture vibrant. I was told that the recent Malay Language Month was well supported by the community, including by students.
This year is the 10th anniversary of the Malay Language Elective Programme (MLEP) that has been running at two junior colleges. This picture shows MLEP students at Tampines JC performing dikir barat (Malay musical form) as part of their annual cultural production Manifestasi. The MLEP students also participated in a pantun (Malay poetry) recital at a radio station in Tanjung Pinang. They were at Bintan Island, Indonesia, for a Malay cultural immersion programme. I hope that with government support, you will take greater interest in your language and culture.
Our youth are achieving their dreams in many areas. Malay youths too are doing well, for example in IT, creative arts and sports. One Malay polytechnic student, Muhammad Ikhwan Zainal, was part of a team which developed an Xbox game. Among our athletes who won medals at the recent YOG were two Malay athletes - Nurul Shafinas Abdul Rahman in taekwondo and Abdul Dayyan Mohamed Jaffar in archery. Our football team that won the bronze medal was multiracial, and included several Malay players. I congratulate them all. Well done. Indeed, young Singaporeans today have the confidence to pursue their passions and make a difference to the world.
But with globalisation and the internet, our young are also exposed to negative influences and dangers. A small number are becoming self-radicalised through the Internet, and being led astray to support jihadist terrorism. We have seen a few cases recently. Fortunately, we spotted them before they did any harm to themselves or others.
I am glad that Malay/Muslim Singaporeans have acknowledged this problem squarely. You have taken a clear stand against extremism and terrorism. Hence you have maintained strong trust and confidence with the other communities in Singapore. However, terrorist groups remain active in the world, and in our region. Extremists are using English to spread their message. Therefore, the problem has not been eradicated. Hence, we need to maintain our guard.
Families and friends can help to spot warning signs in youth. Muslims can use the Asatizah Recognition Scheme (ARS) to verify the credentials of religious teachers. Some ustazs have suggested strengthening the ARS to make it more effective. I hope the community will consider how this can be done.
This is a sensitive issue, but I feel that I have to raise it. My concern is with a small minority of vulnerable people. This should not distract us from other major issues - economy and jobs, education and training, and competitiveness and excellence; but nevertheless the issues of extremism and terrorism need your continued attention.
Ladies and gentlemen, you have thrived under our system of meritocracy. You have become self-reliant, and proud of your achievements. You have contributed much towards our nation's progress. We have much work to do, to take Singapore another step up. I encourage the community, especially students and workers, to continue putting in effort to better your skills and lives. Then you can achieve the best for yourselves, the community and Singapore.
Thank you, and my best wishes for Muslims during the fasting month.



I have no financial interest or other interests in any of the items / events I write about.

From Paris With Love

From Paris With Love

 

Lets get it out of the way, this movie won’t win any Academy Awards, and it is the very definition of OTT – over the top. And it was a blast – literally and loads of fun.

 

John Travolta has given us plenty of hits and some misses over the years and I reckon he took the best bits of all his action movies and put it here. Its like some casting director told him to blend “Swordfish”, “Face Off”, “Broken Arrow”, “Pulp Fiction” and ham it up to the max, whilst pretending to be his own version of Bond and Bourne. This kicks Salt out of the ring easily.

 

Jonathan Rhys is there for the ride and his wooden acting makes a perfect counterfoil for the super OTT nature of Charlie Wax, the chrome dome that JT plays here. Wax is obnoxious, but he is right, he is fast to shoot, and he hits his target, leaving a trail of dead spies, terrorists and mimes in Paris (ok, I made the last one up…)

 

The pace is blistering, especially once Wax shines – ha ha. There are some efforts to inject drama and suspense, and even a possibly tear jerker moment – but forget the tissue, this movie is all about bad ass action, explosions and plenty of gun fights.

 

Plot – well its kind of like a JT best of, so it works for me 3/5

 

Action – well Lionsgate has come up with a superb DTS-MA 7.1 track for this and they really know how to show off Hi Def. bullets fly in from the rear, as the shots hit the walls, you can hear bits of plaster fall off and dialogue is never hard to follow. Kudos to them. 4/5

 

Chick Factor: well it is an action flick, so there are some obligatory femme fatales, but overall, it did not detract or add to it 3/5

 

So should you buy it? Well its not great for acting, but I liked it as much as “Hitman”, which means it’s a keeper.

B/W CM series opinion

Some threads:

http://www.xtremeplace.com/yabbse/index.php?topic=73292.0

 

Comments:

http://www.xtremeplace.com/yabbse/index.php?topic=73292.0

 

The CM series is not as popular as the 6 series due to a couple of reasons IMO:

 

- HT, the 6 series is more value for HT and the smoother tone of the CM series does not encourage B/W enthusiasts to get it

- cost - as we all are aware, when it is compared to others in its class, you can find alternatives which are less costly. Its the same reason why Marantz is so popular. It costs significantly less in Singapore compare to other brands which are priced at the same band in other markets.

 

As for the sonic tone, it falls into a "nice" and "safe" sound - so it is none fatiguing, warm and easy to listen to for background music. It lacks the hump in the bass range like the MA RS 6, so that may not endear it to buyers looking for the "thump thump" kind of bass, and it is not high or treble happy and won't appeal to those who for example prefer the JM Lab / MA sound.

 

So where does it leave it? Well, I would avoid Arcam or Marantz to partner it if you are keen. Something a little more exciting to bring the best out of it. The older and obsolete 7xx series was a better buy IMO. But now with the price of the new 8XX, there is a significant gap in price between the CM and the new 8xx series. If you are not adverse to 2nd hand buys, the older 805s will give you more in sound and bass than the CM 7.

MIO is a real PITA

I live in a valley and I have longed for good TV reception for the longest time. I have also been a Singtel customer ever since I have my cellphone. So getting broadband from them was a natural progression. Yet when I found out when MIO cable TV first came out, that my home was not covered, it was a real disappointment. Then recently I checked again and they now said my area was covered. So I happily rushed into the nearest Singtel Shop to get signed up. That’s when my ordeal began…

So I made an appointment for a 9am installation. The chap comes at about 10am, which is fine, since he has a window of 2 hours. But that morning, my internet had been cut and I was left in the wilderness… then he tried all ways of connecting, but I had suspected that when they cut my connection in anticipation of the installation, those chaps forgot about activating the new line! So true enough, the man tried all ways of trouble shooting, blaming the older filters, bad phone lines – which was crazy since I could still make calls clearly and he kept using my phone line!

Anyway, after 2 hours of all kinds of testing, he asked for help and a chap at the other end of the line (Sam) tells me what I already suspected. A major FUBAR and he tells me that my line is not up and won’t be until 5pm and tells me to wait til then and do the rest myself!

Of course I tell him nuts and insist his man comes back. So the man comes back or rather leaves my place for a while and then get this, he calls me to tell me that Mio TV is not enabled in my place and won’t be for a week or more! Of course this really gets me riled and it is hard for me to show my OPC (other person centredness) but I keep cool enough to ask the man to help me get a firm date.

Eventually, at 6pm, the installer (Zaki) gives me the all clear and apparently gets both internet and Mio TV working. Nuts man…

If Singtel only cares about selling and not the after sales service, they should get tarred and feathered!

Well at least the TV looks pretty clear now… first time in a long time…. My mum is happy, and at the end of the day, if it makes her smile, all is still well…

Amen.


PS:
First encounters with the MIO TV:


- PQ is in 1080i and you can't make pearls out of pig's ears.... so even HD 5 is ok but not great.

- you get 15 free movies - mostly oldies, but its like a DVD, you can fast forward, pause etc, thats convenient...

- sound quality is ok, but not fabulous, somehow its not as good as a DVD, its quite alright, but I simply use the speakers on my Kuro.

- nagivating the menus is not that hard, and when you go to the HDMI on your TV, the device comes on - nice

- you can get teletext on it - good for my dad

- right now I am using trunking, but I might give my Ruckus a try tomorrow and see...

- not a bad thing considering I am getting the 46$ / month Mio Home package with 6 mps and there is no dropped signal, better TV reception - the main thing



So apart from the messy installation, its going well :)

Percy Jackson & The Olympians: The Lightening Thief (DTS-HD MA) - disc review

Percy Jackson & The Olympians: The Lightening Thief (DTS-HD MA) – Tier 1

 

Imitation is one of the most sincere forms of flattery and here, movies like Clash of the Titans, Harry Potter and even High School Musical must be rather flattered for this adaption of a series of stories borrows from all of the above and more.

 

However, let me ask the obvious, why in Zeus’ name do we find Greek, yes, Greek gods in the middle of US of A??? The male and female leads, plus the obligatory sidekick all could be models for some teen magazine and I assume their roles is to distract from the many loopholes in a paper thin storyline, which relies on stars which all look like gods and goddesses, have nice blue eyes and megawatt smiles. Throw in a plot of thievery, conspiracy and add the old story of demi-gods which arose from the amorous ways of the gods, and you have this movie. It might keep your children entertained with plenty of good looking characters, and they might be willing to look past the failings in the plot but action aficionados will need to wait patiently between plenty of inane acting before the rather stingy doses of action kick in.

 

Plot- 2.5/5

 

As for the surround effects, this is a modern 2010 modern and yet, the surround integration is not as impressive as a good movie made this year should be. Sure the LFE is turned up in moments where there is some action, and of course the lightning bolts come with substantial heft in the bass, but there is not a lot of use of the surrounds to heighten the tension, and the LFE comes in a artificial manner which does not gel well into moments of dialogue. Speech is still made out quite easily, but it won’t go down as a match for Legion, Toy Story, or many of the other top hits on Blu Ray this year.

 

SQ – 3/5

 

PQ- here is one bit which helps to redeem the movie, and the colors are well rendered, and in particular the Camp Half-Blood scenes are well done, and very natural.

 

Should you buy, rent or avoid? I think if you have kids or need something for a slow weekend afternoon, you could consider renting this and I would suggest doing so before even thinking about buying it….

Despicable Me - a movie review

 

Pixar has ruled the roost when it comes to animation, and other companies have tried but few come close to challenging them for movies which have excellent graphics, but even more important, an excellent and touching story mixed with humour and excitement.

 

Despicable Me (DM) borrows heavily from several previous efforts in the reel world and animation, but what makes it stand out is how these fundamental elements blend well together in a story which manages to make you laugh, and also tug at your heart strings too.

 

The protagonist looks a little like a fatter Anton from the Ratatouille show, and he is a villain who deep inside has a sorry childhood and just wants to impress his mother, and he meets 3 of the most adorable kids who turn him from competing to outdo Vector, the new kid on the evil block to a man who has a past and a heart.

 

His efforts are assisted by an evil scientist, who acts as his surrogate father, and scores of the funniest assistants called Minions, who look like little bananas and watch out for the light stick scene – which had the entire cinema in stitches.

 

How can you not love the kids with their eyes which cry out to you, to read them a bedtime story and then not laugh at the slapstick antics of the Minions, who are totally and unquestionable devoted to the protagonist.

 

Add plenty of non-stop action, gadgets, and many recognisable caricatures of stereotypes, and you have a movie you will watch once, cry and then watch again, laugh and again to both cry, laugh and share the many scenes again with friends.

 

A good effort, and I am confident this one will challenge the domination of Pixar in the animation Oscars.

 

Plot: 4.5 /5

Action: 4/5

 

Highly recommended as a keeper with good surround use and plenty of bass.

 

 

Ip Man 2 - Movie review‏

The trouble with sequels are that they need to live up to the original movie at least, otherwise it is seen as an effort to capitalise on the success of the first movie and milk some money.




Unfortunately Hong Kong knows when it sees a money train and glady hops on for the sequel and many more adaptions of it. See the proliferation of vampire movies in the 80s and now we see at least 3 Ip Man movies.



So now we have seen Ip Man defeat the Japs and move onto Hong Kong where the challenge comes from corrupt "Guai Lo" cops and the obligatory White Man beefcake who belittles Kungfu challenges Ip Man.



Well no one is too unhappy with the simple, tried and test plot, but no one is going to give anyone in this show a Golden Horse either.



Lets hope Donny Yen sticks to his word and stops here.... I cannot imagine who else Ip Man will challenge to milk more from this franchise..



Plot: 2.5/5



Now what we really want are fight scenes and I must say, its still a little disappointing. Now we have the big match up between Samo Hung and Donnie Yen, but there is far too much wire work, and Samo is a littel past his best, so we don't see the athleticism we saw in his 80s movies with Jackie Chan.



Back then you would gasp at how a fatty like him could move so agilely and fast.



The supporting actors like Shawn Yue don't know Kung Fu and the boxing match with the great 'Twister' is a lot of pushing and shoving, and since kicking was kept to a minimum, we don't see Donnie Yen in full flight either.



So that leaves us with a less than full on experience, unlike Donnie's recent offerings.



However the audio is well done, and you feel the punches and it keeps your subwoofer happy although sometimes you feel the LFE is turned up only at the point of punches and does not lend itself to the ambience.



Action: 3.5/5



Chick factor is at a minimum and honestly it would have been inappropriate in such a movie anyway.



So should you rent, or buy it? Well I think it is worth a watch, especially if you have already watched the first one, but I would say try before you buy this one.





I have no financial interest or other interests in any of the items / events I write about.

Legion - movie review


There have been a few comic book based movies, which deal with the occult, and have a religious theme, Constantine comes to mind, but despite a promising idea, this movie is best remember for its references worthy sound than the plot.

So Michael who has appeared in his own movie with the same title (Michael starring John Travolta), now comes to Earth in a style akin to Terminator, in a bid to save mankind’s last hope from another apocalypse, and everything happens in a little diner in the middle of the Arizona desert.

Dennis Quaid, Paul Bettany and others try their best to save this movie from itself, but there is simply not enough meat in the story for these stalwarts to sink their teeth into. Paul Bettany buffs up for this role and he has had previous experience doing this in the Da Vinci Code, as a monk assasin.

Plot: 2/5

The plot may be wafer thin, but forget that and concentrate on the audio.

The action comes in spades, and the sound engineers in this movie were definitely paid more than the script writers. The surround effects, the LFE are awesome and you will be caught with your jaw agape, and will want to watch those action sequences over and over again.

Action: 5/5

This disc comes with a  DTS-HD 5.1 Master Audio soundtrack is perfect, yes, you heard me, perfect...

Chick factor: there is some eye candy, but the action is what you came for and it delivers despite a short run time of just over an hour and a half. 3/5

So will you forgive the plot and buy this for the action? I would suggest action aficionados get this to keep or at least rent it to experience one of the best surround and demo worthy discs of 2010.

Blu Ray Shootout test Audio

This shootout was done on 22nd January, in a domestic premise with the aid of a few hobbyists, some newbies and a classically trained piano female teacher who has no audiophile aspirations.

Aim:

We wish to find out:


A Can we discern lossless vs lossy;

B Can we discern LPCM vs bistream;

C Can we discern using DAC (analogue) vs HDMI?

D  Compare the difference in analogue performance between the players

Introduction




The enjoyment of hi fidelity music as well as home theatre can be a rather subjective affair, with some favoring one brand over another with such fervor that their enthusiasm borders on the zealous.



I have been pondering the question of whether it all matters, lossless (in the form of bitstream signals or LCPM) and lossy and where the decoding is done since I joined Hi Def. most of the replies on the net are opinion based, with statements like “the signal is digital, therefore there is no difference!”. But such statements were seldom backed with real world tests and comparisons. No A/B test themselves to prove their claim.





Oppo has been in the news and owners have been also feverish in their belief that it can do no wrong. Owners have also made claims as to the audio quality of CD playback and how it can rival players which cost much more.

And some of us are also sitting on the sidelines waiting for someone to tell them if lossy sound is really much worse than lossless.

We also have the usual Tru-HD versus DTS-MA debates and since not many discs exist which both tracks, this again has been poorly tested before.

This is where our review or shootout comes in. There are relatively few such sessions where people are willing to travel miles and bring their favorite player along, and try it out against other players. Some forums where threads on certain brands exist, seem to feel their player can do no wrong and yet refuse a head to head objective session with other players with opinions garnered from a wider audience.

We believe this is one of the first to gather a series of current generation Blu Ray players in a single session to be assessed with a well defined methodology.
 
Methods


Our associated test equipment was:



2 amps were used:



Denon AVT 4810 with Denon Link 4, and HDMI switching.



Marantz SR 12 Reference series AV amplifier, well reviewed for its musical qualities.

B/W 805, HTM4 based system, using QED XT 300 cables and anti-cables.

Audioquest Columbia interconnects

Monoprice HDMI cables.

IEGO and other power cables.

A Radioshack analogue SPL meter was used to ensure the same volume was maintained even after switching players. 80 db was used as a standard.
 
Test players:




Oppo BD 83 (standard)



Oppo BD 83 (SE)





Denon DVD-4010



CD players:



MZH 88D tube CDP



Marantz SACD 8003 (modified version)



Just some information on the 2 cd players:



The MHZS 88D tube CD player:



MHZS CD 88 uses two 12AX7s for signal processing, a 6Z4 and WY2 tube for rectification. Along with the CD 33, and the CD 66, the MHZS uses its own chip design, which allows for filtering, conversion and upsampling in one single chip. This greatly contributes to the unmistakable sound of this

CD player. The special low pass filter contributes to the pure and natural tonal quality that breathes new life into every CD. Selecting the upsampling frequencies on these players allows you to change the

characteristics of the digital filter resulting in different sound presentation each frequency (44.1 kHz, 88.1 kHz and 174.1 kHz) The fully balanced design with high-quality XLR-type connections takes maximum

advantage of the MHZS’s impressive audio capabilities.



Ultra-Quiet Power Supply



Like other MHZS products the CD-88 boasts an exceptionally quiet power supply. The oversize torodial core transformer contributes to the silent background, allowing musical details to emerge with

realistic nuances intact. Other features include a quality detachable IEC power cord and replaceable rear panel fuse. The gorgeous brushed aluminum front panel is available in black or silver and includes a well laid out complement of controls plus indicator lights, fluorescent display and unique blue light and window over the vacuum tubes.



http://www.lampizator.eu/LAMPIZATOR/REFERE...MHZS_CD66F.html





Solid Transport



The MHZS CD 88, like the CD 66 is a top loading unique with a SONY transport and Phillips controller of exceptional quality aimed at rotating your CD with minimal error correction. The reduced error correction allows for a more life-like presentation of details especially in the lower registers.



The Marantz SA 8003 was modified with:

Changed/Upgrade and Added Critical Capacitors and Diodes. A total of more than 50 components.
Installed dedicated customed wound transformer for the analog output stage.
Output RCA connectors changed to DHLabs Copper RCA. With Burson Audio Clock.

We used a single input on the Denon 4810 amp for the analogue tests, and HDMI cables for the digital test. We also used the Denon Link for the 4010.

The audience consisted of a couple of new listeners, a piano teacher (lady) and some members who have been involved in previous sessions and have been hobbyist for more than 10 years.


Results:


In Digital audio



The Denon Link :



This is taken off the Denon website as to what the link does:



http://www.denon.com/glossary/2009/02/denon-link-4th.html



We have succeeded in using DENON LINK (a digital interface) as a dedicated clock signal transmission line to transmit high-grade digital signals in high speed and with negligible influence from external noise. Previously, the purpose of DENON LINK was to transmit the digital audio signals themselves, but the purpose of DENON LINK 4th is to control the clock.



DENON LINK 4th uses the master clock in the A/V surround receiver as the reference for controlling the video circuitry and the disc drive in the player, and the digital video and audio signals from Blu-ray disc are transmitted to the A/V surround receiver via an HDMI cable. This is how our DENON LINK 4th works.



DENON LINK 4th is able to transmit digital audio signals with negligible jitter because it has audio devices share the same clock. In addition, DENON LINK 4th has achieved a world first by suppressing jitter to an absolute minimum even for the playback of Blu-ray discs that include video signals.



Jitter suppression brings exceptional results to three-dimensional playback in such areas as sound localization, sound spaces and sound images. The sound space of a concert hall, for instance, is reproduced so clearly that it feels as though the artists are performing in very close proximity to the listener.



So does it work?

It was quite obvious to the audience that the Link played a role and it was better with the Link than without.



For this segment, we played the start to the Blu Ray Disc Transformers, concentrating on the narrative voice right up to the appearance of the Transformers logo.

The narrator is Peter Cullen who has a clear, deep voice which has a rich tone. There is a music sequence too and we listened for the clarity of this and how clear the voice was in the midst of all the soundtrack.



The Link gave the Denon 4010 a clear advantage and it emerged top of the pile for audio via HDMI.

So for digital signals to the Denon amp, the order of merit was (from best to worst):

Denon 4010 with the Link

Denon 4010 without the Link

Oppo SE

Oppo Regular

Feeding a bitstream signal to the Denon amp, there was definitely a difference between the players, but between the 2 Oppos, the difference was not much. The power supply has been modified in the Oppo SE, but the improvements were clearly not in the HDMI section.

Even with revealing speakers, the differences are subtle.

Analogue Audio Test




This is where the test got interesting.



We used vocals to test this.



In addition we also used:

Rachmaninov: Piano Concerto No. 2; Paganini Rhapsody played by Lang Lang. this track is challenging and we wanted our piano expert to judge how well the system could suspend belief and make you feel that there was a real piano in front of the listener.



The Denon was set to Pure Direct, switching off all circuits and acting as a stereo amp. Both Oppo and Denon players were also set to pure direct.



The differences between the Oppo and the SE version were quite dramatic. Many people listen to a player in isolation and if you never compare the players, the difference would not be clear. But when you listen to the players and do a direct comparison, there is a big gulf. The regular version was clearly far behind the rest.

Using the standard Oppo as a base, you could get by with it, but in comparison to the rest, the presentation was mechanical, a little more stringent, splashy and the bass was less tight. The extension was also lacking and less defined. There was not the same emotion that the better models here could show.

The Denon 4010 was alright for stereo. But in using the Denon Link with HDMI, the Denon play a piano piece poorly, it sounded quite artificial and lacked the soundstage and involvement that the better players could do.

So now on to the SACD 8003, Oppo SE and the Chinese made tube CD player.



Between the SACD player and the Oppo SE, the Oppo offered slighty more detail. The difference is more subtle, the Marantz retains its basic sonic trait of warmth, but has loads of detail and is significantly better than the Oppo regular, but loses some detail to the SE, although it was not day and night. The Oppo SE has a coherent presentation without any emphasis on any part of the sonic spectrum.

How the MHZS tube CD player then?


It was unanimous that it was the best sound player that you could play for hours. It seemed a little less detailed actually than the Oppo SE, but the entire sonic presentation was great and less fatiguing whilst allowing yourself to immerse in the music, without sacrificing detail. In comparison, the Oppo SE was more jarring, and difficult to listen for long. The treble was more splashy, had less air and more stringent.



All the differences were clear to our new members as well as the pianist, without any prompting. She clearly preferred the MHZS, and a pretty even fight between the Oppo SE and Marantz, with the Marantz losing out just a tad.

The regular Oppo was clearly the least preferred of the lot.

We also tried the Oppo SE and Marantz SA 8003 on a Marantz SR 12, Reference series amp, and again with a more musical amp the difference was more subtle, and difficult to separate.

BITSTREAM VS LPCM VS LOSSY




Using the Oppo SE as a BR player, we alternated between LPCM, DTS-MA and Dolby Digital (lossy).

The conclusion? There was clearly a difference between decoding done by the player and the amp.

Apart from one reviewer, everyone else heard a difference and preferred the decoding to be done by the amplifier rather than the player. We repeated this a few times and the difference was not hard to hear.



So there IS a difference between LCPM and bitstream. We will discuss the reason later.

As for Lossless versus lossy, most also heard the difference, although I personally felt the difference was not a lot




I have no financial interest or other interests in any of the items / events I write about.

Oppo BDP 83 review - Nuforce Edition Blu Ray player (Region Free Modified Version)


Introduction

Oppo has been doing things little different, giving joy to many audiophiles And Videophile alike with their offerings. They have been a leader in bringing high quality technology to the masses at a price which has been surprisingly competitive.

The new Oppo BD 83 has set the home theatre world alight with a performance for video and in audio that has been well reviewed worldwide.

Differences

The key feature of the Oppo players has been giant slaying performance with a highly competitive price. However Oppo machines are not for everyone. Simply put, if all you desire is a machine which can play BR discs, and you don’t have a big projector setup, then many of the Sony, Philips and other brand offerings are much cheaper and give better value.



What the Oppo BDP 83 does, is that it is an all-in-one machine which can play music well, in all its various formats, even SACD, and has a very impressive ABT video chip which allows you to upscale those SD DVDs to almost as good as they can be, and at the end of the day, you still get a very responsive BR player.

However all this comes at a cost, and you will be looking at about USD 499 or just under 1k SING for a modified machine which plays all regions of BR and all codes of DVDs.

However, what if the standard BDP 83 isn’t good enough for your music system?

The MOD Squad:

The basic Oppo BDP 83 has some fine components, with a ABT video chip for upscaling, and a good analogue section.

There are a plethora of modifications out there, some done by small outfits, adding better clock chips, toroidal transformers etc and Oppo itself offers the SE version and of course Nuforce.

To understand what is in the Nuforce, you must first understand that it is based on the Oppo SE version, and Nuforce worked in tandem officially to use the Special Edition as a base to build upon.

The SE:

upgraded audio section:
  • a better power supply
    • The original BDP-83 has a single +14V rail that is shared by the analog audio section (+/-14V) and the BD loader (regulated to +12V). The SE now has a separate +12V rail for the BD loader, isolated from the dedicated +/-14V rail powering the analog audio section. The SE audio board also has additional linear regulators to further smooth out the power and to provide enough local reserve current for better bass, according to Oppo.
  • RS-232 support
  • upgraded DACs (ESS Technology ES9016 4 DACs per channel vs. Cirrus Logic CS4398 1 DAC per channel) and increased frequency response (up to 44kHz at +/-0.2dB)
  • dedicated stereo output uses another 8-channel Sabre32 Ultra (ES9016) DAC chip by stacking 4 DACs for each of the Left and Right channels to achieve even greater audio performance
This is a pretty serious upgrade and many have found the SE version to be worth the $500 or so outlay. We did a shootout, and we found a significant different between the standard 83 and the SE version, which had detail, clarity and yet remained smooth.

But for those looking for a little more, Nuforce has more tricks up their sleeve:

  • Replacing critical analog components with the high-grade equivalents NuForce uses in its high-end audio components
  • Superior high-speed power regulation on both DACs and all analog power rails.  Improved power supply regulation also applies to the 7.1 channels
  • High-performance parts and related circuits/component values replacing the stereo channels’ monolithic devices.
  • Bypass the Stereo and 7.1 channels’ output muting circuits.  The SE’s relays are better than the standard BDP-83’s muting transistors. Nevertheless, imposing as little as possible along critical signal paths is clearly preferable.


Features

The Oppo BDP 83 standard comes well specced, with a good DAC, Cirrus Logic CS4361, and the Mediatek System on a Chip (SOC) solution for audio and video, and a VRS chip from ABT for upscaling and processing. It also does DVD-A, SACD and can process lossless Tru-HD, DTS-MA or bitstream the signal. There are also 7.1 outputs, and dedicated stereo RCA jacks. Quality is good, all sockets are gold-plated and the player does have most of the heft of the BD 83, and the metal faceplate is a nice touch.

 The remote is backlit, the buttons are reaonsably responsive. At least the control pad on the front of the player offers you another option for disc menu navigation. The 2 usb ports are a nice benefit and enable you to play music or update the firmware, and this is very easy, as the player detects the presence of the USB drive if you place the update within a folder called “UPG”.

To ensure your system is properly calibrated, Oppo thoughtfully includes a couple of very useful Blu-ray discs. The first is the Spears & Muncil HD Benchmark Disc, which is perhaps the best disc available for calibrating your HD display. The second tool is the AIX Blu-Ray Sampler, which include not only HD Video of various performances, but HD Audio as well, to ensure proper musical performance.

Interface and usability

In the old days, the PS 3 was the fastest player around but the Oppo BD 83 and now the 80 have shown that you can make a fast player that is not a superlarge computer. The player comes to life within seconds but you cannot activate play without turning on the machine.

The menu is simple and easy to understand. There is a speaker adjustment area, and the option to go source direct if you are using this mainly as a digital BR transport, but this is not a substitute for a AV amp. Bass management is rudimentary.

But this review is about the Nuforce’s audio performance, so here goes….


Results

This review is a stereo one, when I decided to let my father have a really solid stereo system using a player that was simple and Also allowed him to play his movies, both DVD and BR all in a single device.

I had also wanted to get a good stereo amp for my B/W 805s for quite some time and this review also sheds light on the partnership of the 3.

Associated equipment:

Musical Fidelity A 5.5 stereo amplifier
Anti-cables
Oyaide 750 interconnects and power cable
Belkin Pure Audio PF 50 conditioner, PS Audio Juicebar; Xindak, Power Cables, Jumper cables


Sound

The 805s has been in my AV amp (Marant SR 12) based system for a few months, and has settled in nicely, it gives pretty impressive bass, and has a smooth warm nature, which partners most equipment well, but I would give it breathing space, and also avoid overly warm equipment.

I decided that a better amp which was capable of gripping the 805s, and giving them even more current than what my THX Ultra II capable SR 12 (120w per channel) could do, so it was time to scour around for stereo amps beyond the usual NAD, Rotel or even Marantz, and that meant much more money, so it took me a long time to find something that could match up, tighten the bass whilst getting more out of the 805s.

Brands like Krell, Musical Fidelity, Arcam, Classe and even more expensive stuff were considered, but I managed to find the MF A 5.5, which is a upgrade to the original MF A5. The blurb on the differences from MF:

“The A5.5 integrated amplifier has been designed to offer improved sonic performance and give extra facilities which were not generally available five years ago when the original A5 was designed.

As well as the USB connector, those extra facilities include a rear-panel socket for remote control, allowing external control systems to access the amp's control system using either modulated or unmodulated RC5 code.

New output devices ( 4 new SANKEN transistors per Channel delivering a 250 Watts at 8Ohm ) are also used for better linearity and current delivery, boosting detail, and the super-fast optical feedback protection circuitry gives a better sound, while at the same time increasing protection from short-circuit and overdrive conditions. It also allows greater peak current to be delivered.

A new configuration for the volume control also delivers better channel-matching at extremely low levels, and the amp has an improved cosmetic design, with a soft curve to the front-panel and restyled volume control.”

Essentially this was a 250 W/ 8 ohms with 400W/ 4 ohms times two stereo amp, with a HT bypass, remote, and a cute USB DAC.  I also found that many MF users partner their amps with the 8 series B/Ws.

Using it with my 805s allowed a clearer soundstage, tight bass and detail, but gave me the kind of sonic signature that I enjoyed with the SR12. You can easily fill the room with music with the amp ticking over at 9 o’clock on the volume dial. There was no stress and if you had the guts to turn it even louder, there was no strain, hardening and it just gave you more of the same.

I had used this with my Modified SA 8003 and it was pretty good, apart from the fact that the 8003 liked to be kept on for the best sound. From cold, it could be lifeless, and lacked bass, but once it was warmed up, you have depth, detail and plenty of mids too.

Now as I mentioned, I was looking for a one stop solution for my dad, which allowed him to enjoy good music plus play all his video discs as well, and I can imagine that this could also be what some of us are looking for.

For close to SING$ 2000, the Nuforce is not a player for everyone. But if you want to eke out every last ounce from your Oppo 83, then this will help and it does not shame itself with the above partnering equipment.

What the Oppo Nuforce brings to the MF amp and B/W 805s is more clarity, detail, and control. You still get the depth in the bass, but there is very little sibilance compared to before, and details are easily picked up. Yet even though the detail is there, you won’t find the sound fatiguing, which is the interesting aspect, as you can hear all kinds of detail in all the frequencies, and yet it is a ‘disc friendly’ system.

No longer do you need to restrict yourself to good recordings, or feed it only with those high-pitched lady voices which dominate many demo sessions, but even the average pop CD fares well and benefits from this setup. I would be exaggerating if I said MP3 recordings were awesome, but the beauty of the system was that even such compressed material was listenable. You can tell the difference of course, but with better recordings, SACDs etc, you simply get more.

You get a nice soundstage and actually instead of peppering you with many nice terms magazines like What Lo fi likes to do, essentially, it is a nice complete sound, and you stop thinking about the speakers, and just listen to the voice of the singers, which sound really live and right in front of you. The soundstage in my untreated living room which measures about 5 by 10 m, is wide, and with my speakers about 2.5m apart and about 3m from my listening position, slightly toed in, you get a nice listening experience.

All in all, money well spent.

Discussion

So who should buy this? This player is in a slight awkward position. There are scores of cheaper BR players around, some of which are less than a tenth the price of this baby. The difference for video performance for BR discs is not significantly better than the cheaper players if you have a small screen (read – less than 50”).  The money goes towards the sound so this one is for  the discerning audiophile who wants better video performance.

It caters to a certain market, the person who wants everything is one of them, he is not sure if SACD, DVD-A are what he wants, and wants a finger in each pie for not too much.  It is an expensive all in one solution for a beginner, but this player will not need to be upgraded for a while, even in the home of a discerning audiophile.

What about 3D and HDMI 1.4?

Right now, Oppo has no plans and no upgrade path for this player or other versions of the BDP 83. So you should get this based on what you want: a solid and musical player, which does everything pretty decently.



The Modification for Region Free Playback
I bought a player which came pre-mod with the hardware for Region Free playback. DVD playback does not need any extra action, but for BR region changes, you need to do this:

When the player is in standby, you press the blue button on the remote, until the unit beeps. Then you press either 1 (region A), 2 (region B), 3 (Region C). There are a series of bleeps to confirm the action depending on the option, and then you take the player out of standby.




Links to reviews:









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