Jarhead - movie review

JARHEAD:

 

The Gulf War seems to be a constant hunting ground for material to make movies. This was a movie done in between the older ones like Courage Under Fire, Black Hawk Down and more recent ones like Hurt Locker, and it was meant to shift the focus away from the bravado, to the people in the war, focussing more on the psyche, the angst and the personal mental trauma.

 

It comes with a stellar cast and director, so you would probably bank on it to succeed and win a few Oscars with the emotion driven, close-up look at a bunch of young men thrown into boot camp, then thrust into battle only to emerge empty handed, in mind, body and without a kill to their sorry names.

 

Yet the show rings as empty as the war itself, the actors almost sleepwalking through their roles, seemingly just turning up to take their paychecks and enjoy a break from their other movie making commitments. Perhaps they were trying too hard to empty themselves and in the process, took all their emotions and also left it in their trailers before emerging onto the set.

 

There is a gloom to the whole movie but you get a feel of needing to ponder about it. 3/5 for the plot

 

There is also little action and much less surround effects, despite the many opportunities to make use of the war driven movie. The colors are also as drained as the empty shells of the actors, although this could be a deliberate ploy by the filmmakers.

 

Forget any chick factor too.

 

I would say this could be a rental for a really really boring Sunday night, but you will need to be pretty desperate to want to watch this.

Buying that Home Theatre - how to demo and some suggestions

Buying your first Home Theatre – how to demo and some suggestions



I compiled my thoughts on helping new members get the best out of their new systems into this post.







This thread aims to give new members a simple way of setting into a shop and finding that system you are looking for.



First things:



1 – things you do at home:



Settle the BUDGET!



Now this is a sensitive issue and often we want start out wanting to get a cost effective “simple” system and allocate a budget which is small not because we wish to save or cannot afford it, but when we haul that system home, it can be quite a let down. So put aside the maximum amount you feel comfortable with. Then spend it!



Allocation of funds:



There many formulae, but most agree the cornerstone of a Home Theatre system is the subwoofer and centre speaker. And speakers are where you want to put more of the money.

AV amps are now like computers, with processing to make that home theatre experience so real you feel right in the middle of the action. That means you need an amp which can handle the signals and turn them into a proper surround experience. Right now, good Digital Sound Processing (DSP) chips, Audyssey are key.

But don’t forget good amplification, and power is key and there is no substitute for good amplification sections. That should be where the fundamentals of good music and sound lie.



This should be tempered with the fact that AV amps are quickly updated the next year, so buy one with enough features and inputs to last for your current needs and a little more.



We did a little demo and shootout recently and the summary as far as players are concerned is:

For Blu Ray, in source direct, the difference between players is not that great, and the players only differ significantly in the quality of their scaling and interlacing. So if you have a significant collection of SD DVDS, then it is worth investing in a good quality and more expensive player. If you like to source your discs from many places around the world, a REGION FREE player will useful. CODE FREE players for SD DVDS are quite commonplace.



As for projectors and TVs, this is also a fast moving area and I would buy something I would like to use for a few years, but not go too overboard.



Stands are essential if you are into bookshelfs.



The whole more speakers are better thing should be tempered to your real needs. If you only have a small room, it may not be that beneficial. As for the whole satellites vs proper bookshelves and floorstanders, it is a balance of aesthetics versus functional needs and the WIFE ACCEPTANCE FACTOR (WAF). Work it out first.



Remember to keep about 10% of your budget for cables, wiring and the like.





Whilst you are still at home:



Do a bit of reading, understand the terms, so that when you visit the shops, you know what to ask, and also not feel overwhelmed or cheated.



Also MEASURE properly your Home Theatre space.



That way you know what kind of speakers will fit, and how much room treatment will be needed. Speaking of room treatment, this is a key element which can influence the outcome of your system more than many think. Quite simply a bit of time and money spent here can make a budget system sound more expensive and realistic.



Get a sound:



You will have gone to the cinema or even had a sound system before. The key is to listen to something you like, and practise listening to it until you can remember the sound, and know how it sounds to you.



ON TO THE SHOP:



Armed with some facts, and now onto the shop.



Where should you go? Well the shops should have the following:



- Have the brand you are eyeing of course

- A wide selection

- A decent sound room

- Friendly staff

- Establishing a good rapport is essential and reward them, please avoid using up all the time in a shop them walking somewhere else $10 cheaper!

What are some of the shops we commonly mention? Well reading around helps and you will hear some shops mentioned more often than others.



Make friends with the owners, and give them their due reward.





THE DEMO!



Firstly, avoid weekends, or even call first to make an appointment.



If the shop does not allow demos, walk away.



Bring along a CD of your favourite music or a demo disc of something you are familiar with. Also be familiar with the sound of a male BBC presenter. That will be a good test of the centre speaker’s ability to reproduce human voices.



Then consider what matters to you, a balance of music and HT. A highly musical system is more costly and you will need to be realistic about what our budgets can achieve, so this will be a system for HT.









Some Discs To Consider:



These are the discs I would consider essential:



There are many demo quality discs, but you should choose a few which you are familiar with and hear them often, then use only the segments you are familiar with to use as there will be fatigue and confusion if you use too many discs.



To me, the surround effect is harder to achieve than just bass. What you need to discern, is the naturalness of the sound, the quality of voices in the centre speaker and how the sound flows from one speaker to the next. Can you imagine the person or car going from one speaker to the next.



Then how does the sound from the main speakers integrate with the subwoofer. Speaking about the subwoofer, to reproduce the kind of chest thumping bass needs money and a big sub. If neither of these are palatable to you, then be more modest in what you wish to achieve. Depth and slam are not mutually exclusive, but only the better ones can achieve that in volumes, so if you can only spend under 1k, the results may be less forceful, but that’s ok.



What discs do I use? Again, each has their own but here are my own favourites:



Masters and Commander –

This disc has one of the finest surround channel effects around. The way sound flows from one rear speaker to the next and how the creaks in the wooden ship, the stretching of the ropes and the sound of the waves, all add to a complete home theatre experience. I suggest you choose one of the quieter scenes instead of merely concentrating on the cannon shots. That will give you a better idea of the surround channels at work.



Take note of how you can find in the middle of the action, and does it sound real.



Hurt Locker –



This newer show has really good ambience and also there are moments you will feel right inside the helmet of the bomb tech. of course when the explosions go flying, the bass is incredible.



The dialogue in the show also allows the various speakers to be tested, and whether you believe there is someone right in front of you.



For clarity in a non-animation show - the opening scene from Shooter; for an animation: "9" which has excellant surrounds and brilliant colour rendition.





One of the tricks is to switch OFF the screen. Then you can fully concentrate on the sound and decide if the system sounds realistic.









AFTER THE BUYING FRENZY>>>>



INSTALLATION:





So you plonked down some hard cash for the HT system. The easiest way to get installation is from the vendor, or getting some knowledgeable friends to help. Not every shop does installation. If you did not get the speakers from the same shop, grab the amp or other items from another vendor who does installation, and negotiate a price.



When you do so, make sure you define what is installation. Does it mean driving to your home with the equipment, and dumping it in your leaving room, or hooking up, and calibration etc. many of these “installers” are merely labourers who will help a little, there is quite a bit of work after they leave and the dust settles.



What can you do?



If it is a big renovation, work with your interior designer. Lay the cables first, and Jaycar, or Monoprice online has most of your cabling needs covered unless you want something more exotic. IMO, for the rear speakers, just good old thick (18 AWG and better) will suffice. Even if you do not think you will get 7.1 or more, lay the cables first.



What if you cannot lay cables?







Well I go under… i.e. I simply hide everything under my carpets. A decent and thick carpet from IKEA will cost < $200 for a 2.4 by 1.7m piece and it also helps to tame reflections. But every now and then you will need to clean it or vacuum the carpet.



STANDS:



These are essential components for bookshelf speakers and will help the sound to no end. Ideally if your pockets allow it, the same brand ones look nice and fit the décor. But brands like Target, Atacama, or even Ikea has some that can do well.



See the thread on speaker placement for info on the arrangement.



If your décor does not allow large stands, especially for the rears, you can get specialised ones which are more dainty from the Queenie brand, and other nameless ones and sometimes IKEA also carries them. Alternatively, you can place the rear small speakers on large bookcases, such as the tall BILLY ones from IKEA. But make sure the bookcases are filled with heavy books or the shelves act to distort the sound.



WALL MOUNT:



When using satellites and small speakers, this is possible, but for the rears try and avoid mounting them right at the corners and also avoid sitting just next to the wall. Make sure the brackets are strong enough to bear the weight and extend your cables a little longer to allow flexibility in mounting.









RUNNING IN:



This is a more esoteric audiophile term which is like “seasoning of your new gear”. Running in allows the sound to be more stable and listenable but YMMV. Usually it takes a few days although brands like Dynaudio and Monitor Audio do mention that it can be months. But in the mean time, just sit back and enjoy the sound.





CALIBRATION and Auto-EQ



If you have a Audyssey or other auto-setup equipped amp, that would be the first thing you can try yourself first. Use the info in the thread on Audyssey as a basis, then check the settings, such the speaker distance. I notice that subwoofer distance tends to be a bit longer than measured when I use Audyssey, but it sounds fine and I leave it as what the system perceives it to be.



If that is already too hard, just stop here. If you feel the boldness to proceed further, then using a Sound Pressure Level (SPL) meter and the test tones or a frequency sweep disc will help you fine tune the sound.



Some members specialise in room treatment and calibration and you can pay them to help you set up, and buy room treatment stuff from them to improve the sound. A bare room is not ideal for HT, and you can look at various member’s equipment list to see what matches for the best sonic marriage.







Electricals and wiring:



For the best in sound, you may want to work with your electrician or one of the suggested ones in the forum to get a new distributor box and if your WAF allows, lay a new direct line to your HT room or area.



Consoles:



There are posts on this everywhere, but suffice to say, fitting the décor is probably the paramount consideration, then for the hi fi bits:



- Can it bear the weight? Even though some consoles state 100kg, they will flex in the middle if all the weight is concentrated in the middle with no support.

- Can you reach the cables behind?

- Is there enough ventilation? Amps don’t like heat much, so as a rule, keep 4 inches around the amp.



I tend to install all the cables in, even if I don’t use them first, for the TV and the amp and Label them so it is easier for me to see what they are leading to. Also I keep a copy of the layout which you can photocopy from the manual and keep it behind my amp. I also have a light which I can direct behind my amp to help me visualise where all the wires are going.



As for mounting TVs – there is a whole section in the display area, but essentially the centre of the screen sound be just below eye level when you are SEATED, not when you are standing up.



Check your viewing distance, and a simple rule is for HD viewing, you should sit about 2.5 to 3 times the diagonal length of the TV screen.



If you are using a projector, check the throw distance, and zoom function and the keystone feature on the projector.



And as mentioned, avoid sitting right up against the back wall. The sound will not be good and you can expect distortions. Just moving your chair a little in front or putting some bookshelves on the wall behind you makes a lot of difference.



Finally read up about acoustics, or ask someone to help, and how to use your furniture, carpets etc to help create the right balance of sound dampening and harmonics.





Using Different Vendors:



There will be times when you like something which is only available from a specific seller. Some shops are also smaller and do not keep stock of so many things.



Right here, I should declare that I do not have any financial interests in any of the companies I mention.



In NSW:

Eastwood is affordable, but there are a scattering of shops. For the best deals you may have to buy blind from overseas.



Singapore:



KEC is often mentioned here and they offer a large variety, but sometimes they are too busy and one or two of their staff are little indifferent to newbies. So spread the love and look for the other shops around too, Anson, Seng Heng, Alpha Audio etc in Adelphi and City Electronics in SLS offer alternatives.



But we may need to buy one item from a shop then go elsewhere. So how should we do this? You need to choose something first. Either the speakers or the amp, and I have personally hauled my amp to various shops to audition the speakers.



Its your money and you should feel welcome. But after you spend the time there, then buy it there.



Sometimes the equipment used is different from what we intend and there is a different sound, this is a real issue, and ultimately there is a compromise.





How about Home Auditions?



This is a extremely viable option. Our community has quite a few helpful people who welcome people into their homes. Some simple rules:



Be on time or let the owner know that you will be late or cannot make it far ahead of time. It is rude and unpleasant for the owner to chase up the person who feigns ignorance.



But bring the material you are familiar with as mentioned. And note the kind of environment it is used in, the room it is used in and how different or similar it is to your own.



Ask the owner how he did it, and most of them will answer happily.



Oh do bring a little something, that is just a little courtesy. Cheers.





A little extra note on this:



Too often we see members post a certain budget. Then when they try a series of products on the ground, they then realise either the system underwhelms so much that they are very dissappointed, or that they like something much better and obviously more costly.



So it is best to sit down and assess what the size of your wallet really is:



Often we see members buy something low cost, then spend ridiculous money on tweaks which could have been spent getting a better system in the first place.



So concentrate your funds properly. Then when you audition (for goodness sake, you DO NOT AUDIT), try out something around your budget, something a little less costly and something which is just above your budget.



DO NOT waste time auditioning something too costly, then ask if it is better unless you really wish to buy it. Why do it? I can always suggest something close to your budget, but it is painful to read comments that the intend system did not meet the needs, then the poster suggests a budget a little higher and then finds again the system does not meet the expectation, and finally a realistic budget emerges which the poster could have said in the first instance.



Speakers make the biggest impression, and a well setup system can be a real blast - literally. With modern technology, you can really feel part of the action in the movie.





The HT system as mentioned before, can withstand upgrades, and should be something you will be proud to come home to every night. So make it a good budget without killing yourself and shut out the poison from our forums



Good luck to all trying to avoid the poison of this forum....





Narrowing it down:





If after a few visits to the shops you are not thoroughly confused, then that is a good sign that you have narrowed it down to a few choices wisely instead of trying to commit to too many or having no focus.



Basically the choices lie in which appeals to you more. Depending on your diet of music and HT, then you play the piece of music or movie clip which you know well and decide which coupled with the AV amp of choice give you that nice smile or tingle in your spine.



The earlier caveat of having a realistic budget still applies, but eventually there will be a system which can appease the wallet whilst still making peace with your ears. That will be the one to buy.



As for whether satellites or bookshelf speakers are right, it is answered in the thread on satellites too, but suffice to say, that satellites are a compromise. They provide a small footprint and are a concession to aesthetics. So that is the key reason why you buy them, so no sense going back and forth asking or tearing your hair out on choosing between the two. The tiny centre speaker of the satellites will lose out to a proper sized one, and again if the satellites are forced to crossover at 120 Hz or so, there will be compromises. Deal with it and move on. A choice needs to be made.

Bottom of the barrel for High Definition

But there is still a bare minimum you need to pay to enjoy a decent Home Theatre experience.

 

NOTE: This post is a suggestion for HT, for good music, it will cost you more. Also if you are willing to go 2nd hand prices are better and help to stretch out the budget.

 

SOURCE:

 

A decent Blu Ray player is now within reach, and if you don’t mind a slow loading time, or half decent video scaling, then Philips, LG, Sony etc all offer players under 300 and in some cases <200.

 

AMP:

 

There are amps with internal decoding, HDMI switching etc which cost <$500. What you need:

- lossless decoding of TruHD and DTS-MA

- I suggest paying for an auto-setup and Audyssey is the current leader in technology, and paying for Multi EQ XT is worth it IMO

- at least 3 HDMI inputs

- 5 channels is ok, but 7 is nice but not needed

- pre-outs are nice

 

Budget 5-800

Denon, Onkyo, Yamaha, Pioneer, Marantz etc all have offerings in this range.

 

SPEAKERS:

 

This is where you should spend the most you can, especially on the subwoofer and centre. Get things from the same range for equal voicing, but you can scrimp on the rears and get something cheaper or re-cycle old stuff you have at home.

 

The cheap and small stuff will make you regret that purchase, so see how much you can stretch. There are other threads on satellites vs bookshelves, subwoofers etc and these threads will give you and idea on how much and what is out there.

 

IMO, I would set aside 5-800 for the front 3. Another 1k or so for the subwoofer and leave 2-400 on the rears.

Wharfedale, Mission, Morduant Short, Monitor Audio, Energy, even KEF  and possibly B/W etc etc will have something in that range.

 

This is the kind of money you set aside and these speakers will last a few upgrades or if you are satisfied, stay with you and last 10 years.

 

Then leave aside 100-200 for cables and the like.

 

That means a High Definition system will cost, after adding things up, around 3-4k for something you won’t take back to the shop or regret after 6 months.

 

If your budget falls short of this, don’t fret, it ok, what are your options:

- use a 2 channel system first

- as mentioned, get 2nd hand

- lower your expectations, listen and use DVDs instead

- HITBs are pretty ok and can provide some HT experience too and they can be had for <1k

- spend a lot of time in a friend’s home with a nice HT system J

 

 

If you don’t intend to upgrade for years, get the best stuff you can afford, so you don’t end up with something you regret and need to sell off in a couple of months.

 

 

Good luck!

 

Satellite Speakers

Sats (as they will be shortened to)



- are not value for money (VFM)

- they usually have lousy mids especially the cheaper examples

- will need a subwoofer to fill in, some crossover at 100 Hz but if they can reach 80Hz, thats more ideal as the bass unit will be less localisable

- they can be mounted on walls or stands - I suggest hanging them first before permanently fixing them, so you can figure out the ideal spot

- they can suck up quite a bit of power, many of them being inefficicent so a good amp with at least 70-100 real watts per channel is useful

- not all of them are light so make sure your mounts can take them

- they are better for HT than music



So with so many issues, why buy them??



I ask that of our bros often when they want the cutesy thing. Simple reason - WAF -- wife acceptance factor ---- "I need to blend in with my decor" / "my wife / partner doesn't want the speakers to dominate the room" / "my kids might destroy the speakers"



Well then, that is a choice, and I respect that, but don't ask why they sound worse than someone else's setup for the same money and where the mid went



It is harder but still possible to integrate the sound, a bit more effort and a realistic expectation is needed.



Doing the demo:



First, do some reading, then select a few systems which fit your budget, and style requirements, after all this is the satellites (read STYLE OVER SUBSTANCE) thread.



So getting your wife or partner involved is essential. Then pop over to some shops to listen and audition with your favorite pieces.



Take note of how the room is setup, is it close to your own home in dimensions, the amount of room treatment etc. Some places have comprehensive room treatment and that will make a cheaper system sound much better than certain other showrooms.



Some popular shops have sales staff which have become less helpful than they should be, and their setups are quite haphazard, so take your business and spread the love around.





TEG's B/W M series is well setup, and the staff are friendly if the price suits you.



Seng Heng has a decent MS based setup which shows off what a lower end system can do, but note he uses a more expensive sub in that demo.



GP Audio's KEF is well setup and Kelvin is a friend chap.



Precision Audio's Edward is er, famous... but actually catch him on a nice day WITHOUT the other senior guy who just takes up space and looks down on newbies and try out the Radius system, which IMO is decent and the large centre with the sub have got it right.



Also if your WAF allows, consider the smaller bookshelf speakers as mentioned earlier, as they can give you better sound per pound.





After trying out a few systems, ask permision from members here, who have similar setups, and ask them to let you hear the speakers in a domestic setting, which is the most realistic. Most members here are friendly, bar a few rude chaps or unpleasant characters, and they will welcome you into their homes.



A note of warning: if you tell someone you want to come, jolly well turn up or inform earlier. I have a list of banned chaps who have stood me up before and I have passed them on to my pals. You will never be invited again.



Finally sit down with your partner, draw a realistic floor plan and together with the informatino posted on the forum on speaker placement, calibration and setting up, go out and buy. After NEVER look again at prices, or you will continue to be poisoned by the stuff posted.



Small bookself speakers versus true satellites



When you consider a system based on aesthetics, there will be compromises, either in terms of paying much more for the same kind of sound, or that you don't get that kind of effect which a proper bookshelf or floorstander speaker can provide.

But there are some ways around this. The small form factor is sought after to fit the decor in the home due to WAF reasons or is chosen simply due to space constraints. But if using a small bookshelf speaker is a possibility, then do consider it. For example the Wharf 9.0 is an outgoing speaker which is small and not too ugly and coupled with a decent subwoofer will be pretty decent. Other brands with small bookshelf sized speakers include Mission, Monitor Audio, PSB, Morduant Short, Energy etc etc.



The key is to try and accept a proper sized centre and add a good subwoofer, which I have mentioned many times are the lynchpin of HT. No mini centre can reproduce a male BBC radio presenter's voice adequately. You don't need to stick to the same brand sub, for example, small footprint subs like the Earthquake Minime and the Velodyne SPL series or the Paradigm Cubes are small yet powerful subs which will created much of what is needed in a small room. These cost < 1.5k mostly.



Finally a word of advice to those in the planning stage:

if you only intend to buy in 6 months, then whatever prices and questions on models you ask now are purely speculative and the whole HT scene will change, unless you intend to buy now then store it. And be realistic with your budget, either stick to the 2-2.5k amount and understand that it is wholly inadequate and you will compromise on sound or increase the amount. Checking out things from a vast price range discourages others from responding since it seems you are not really serious or do not know what you want.



Cross-overs



In this modern age of auto-calibration, we leave much to the amp.



However since satellites cannot go low, and often stop being effectively at higher frequencies, we have to do some homework ourselves (actuall we should anyway, auto-whatever not withstanding).



Most small form satellites crossover - i.e. the frequency at which they need help from the subwoofer, at higher frequencies than the THX bog standard of 80Hz. Sometimes this is 100, 120 or even 200Hz. Individual speakers may also have their own crossover frequencies, eg the centre speaker may be larger and crossover at a lower frequency than the rest - 100 vs 120 for example.



If you have a modern AV amp, it may be able to take care of all this, and comes with built in individual crossover frequency settings. Even this may be insufficent if your satellite speaker is of the miniscule nature.



Then you need to make sure your subwoofer has a crossover frequency or high frequency rolloff dial. This is the frequency adjustment in which the sub hands over the sound to the tiny satellites. Turn it up to get a seamless marriage of sound between the sub and the sats.



You will need a SPL meter, and if you think it is too hard, pay for someone to do it for you.



NOTE: the higher the crossover freq, the more likely the location of the sub will be localised - i.e. you know where the bass is coming from, instead of being omni-directional.

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

Review of the Monitor Audio RS 6 with the Marantz SR 12

I like these brands and make no attempts to hide this fact. I had been searching for a new HT based setup, trying to keep an open mind, yet remembering my Bronze and Marantz system that gave a wonderful account of itself.




An ensuing saga comes to a temporary halt. My search for a HT based system came to a fortuitous point thanks to a incidental purchase from a brother in the forum. We had been communicating about his system and he came to point where he felt he wanted a musical system and was willing to flog off his MA RS system.



This aided my decision process about choosing my speakers and solved my own dilemma about selecting either the GS or RS series from Monitor Audio. I had been considering that for HT, plus the fact that I may not be able to discern the extra expense of paying for the GS setup and I actually believe the main components which underpin the HT experience are the subwoofer and the centre speaker. If these are competent, the left and rights plus the rears will fall into place. Obviously a decent amp which can drive the selected speaker system will help and the appropriate application of DSP and surround effects plus a good source playing a well mastered disc will complete the HT experience and room treatment will transform the home into a proper Lido.



But enough about how this set came into my possession. The system now consisted of

a Pioneer DV 545 and a Panasonic EX85 as the source (both will be weaker than a proper CD transport);

Marantz SR 12 S1 (7.1 channel THX Ultra II receiver) putting out 110 true watts per channel into 8ohms (more into 6 or 4);

Monitor Audio RS series HT plus a SVS PB 12plus.



The listening area is a 7by 10m room but with the speakers sited such that they are almost a metre from the rear walls and far from the side walls. No port plugs were used. They were toed in such that the speaker face points directly at the listening position. The hotspot was about 3m from each speaker in a 60degree angle.



Ancillary connections consisted of Audioquest interconnects, QED XT300 tube wires (chosen for their neutral sound with no silver in them)



For more information on the amp, it is an ancient amp by current standards with no auto-setup, HDMI and a full review can be found in issue 255 of Hi Fi Choice (thanks Patrick at KEC for lending the issue), http://www.areadvd.de/hardware/index/hardware.shtml a German magazine, plus Home Cinema Choice.



My impression of the SVS subwoofer is found in the SVS section: http://www.xtremeplace.com/yabbse/index.php?topic=43686.0



Suffice to say, it represents a wonderful package of extension, tightness and slam with the main issue being that WAF is miserable (it weighs and resembles a washing machine)



Reviews of the Panasonic DVD Hard disk recorder are also readily found online at Whxx Lo Fi and Home Cinema Choice.



Onto the speakers, a previous impression can be found within this thread: http://www.xtremeplace.com/yabbse/index.php?topic=43565.0

Many other mags including hi fi choice, Whxx Lo Fi etc carry reviews.



This initial review is with the stereo pair of floorstanders. Visually the RS6 has high showroom appeal, with real wood veneers and a certain elegance only bested by speakers in a different price range, such as the GS series. At the listening position the tweeters are just about at my ear level or slightly lower. There is a plinth for the floor-standers and the speakers can be bi-wired. Build quality for a set of made in China speakers is very good. You get a feeling of high value for money.



I began with stereo, and as the speakers had been in use previously there was no run-in period. Using a single run of the QED XT 300 tube, the initial impression was pretty impressive, with a serious wall of bass hitting you. The Monitor Audio RS series is about fun, in a roller coaster fashion, and it is hardly subtle. The speakers make their presence felt, and the soundstage is forward, with a definite emphasis in the mid-bass region. In a more confined space the bass can dominate an become unruly or muddy. Give them enough space to breath and they will reward you with a extension and slam that you may not miss a subwoofer even for movies. However there is a definite emphasis of bass around the 60Hz region, which may account for a slam element which helps them become popular with HT or dance music. This can be disconcerting to those desiring a flatter response curve. There is not much output to note under 40 Hz or so.



The treble has been noted in various quarters to be on the bright side of neutral, hence partnering this speaker is essential. Get it wrong and you will suffer a grating sound. A warmer amp will definitely help.



A point to note is that if you audition this speaker in the showroom, it is driven by tubes, or Primare amps and the room is pretty insulated, so the treble is pretty much tamed and in fact the speaker may sound a lot more subdued than it really is. If your room is very much ‘alive’ it may pay dividends to do some room treatment at crucial reflection points. Get some help from experienced brothers here.



Stereophile gave this speaker a resounding recommendation (perhaps too sterling) and some other magazines also gushed effusively about it. I like the sound, but it is definitely not the last word in sound quality. Neither is it the most neutral speaker in the world.



With my Panasonic, there was a hardness to it with the treble poorly held in rein and it would be quite fatiguing for music in the long term. For HT, this was very exciting and gave a ride by the seat of your pants kind of experience, despite enhancing the HT fun.



Swopping over to my warmer and I reckon better sounding Pioneer, I got more information retrieval without the hardness, and the ride whilst still exciting, became something I can listen to for hours, without my ears bleeding. Imaging was also more accurate and stable, with a deeper soundstage and individual instruments could be discern more easily.



The metal tweeter also seems to need some warming up, with a sweeter sound after using it for half an hour or more, although this could be ear conditioning.



I reckon a warmer or neutral source, perhaps along the lines of the SACD 7001 from Marantz, or a NAD CD player will help bring the best out of the system. I look forward to trying it with the new DV 7001 Marantz DVD player which get most of the innards of the well regards DV 9600.



So how should I describe the RS 6? If it was a person, she would be energetic, sporty, dynamic, colourful and exciting, with nary a dull moment. She would be beautiful and shapely, tall and slim with a vivacious personality to match her looks.She would also be capable of telling the truth, the whole truth and reveal most of the message, from the highs to the lows. She needs room to breathe, and does not like being hemmed in. give her her space and the songs she sings will be seared permanently into your memory. And at the end of it all, you will still feel she’s the one :)




Actually as I continued to listen and run-in, I found the MA tends to get sweeter in the treble.


Matching the source will be important, I reckon either the DV 7001, or a neutral to warm source will help. Each time you start listening, it takes a few minutes to half an hour to really sound right.

I ran through a well recorded pop CD (Emil Chau) and there was so much detail and the sound was much sweeter with my Pioneer that I will explore a new source soon.

The bass is prominent so I worry for bros running this in a confined space. It defintely needs to breathe with about 1m behind it. That why the entire frequency can be appreciated and the bass doesn't swamp the rest of the mesage.

I got my TV, hooked up the speakers and the HD DVD player and finally use the RS1 as rears.


Did a spot of calibration and we are off!



Many movies have room shuddering bass, and much gut busting blasts in their scenes, but how about listening to the rears in a quiet movie.



A good rear tends to surround you in a whole envelop of sound and I didn't get much better effects tonight than the o;d movie "Hunt for Red October"



The experience seems surreal, you feel like you are in the water, first in front of the sub, then hear it coming and finally end up behind the sub. The scenes were there is singing is another good workout for the surrounds and the RS 1 is more than up to the task.

There is good range and they will happily go loud for you.



In fact they are excellant as front channel speakers, and with a good sub, they are more than adequate, especially in a smaller room. Occasionally they prove too directional, since my room is rather small I think mounting them higher up is better. I might still for dipoles as my next upgrade..



Feeling in the mood for underwater programs, I also try out my U 571 and again the quieter scenes are marvellous for showing off the rear channels. As direct radiating speakers, the RS 1 needs some care in placement, so I recommend you try them in the proposed position before attaching them to the wall or shelf or rack permanently.





I find that biwiring is still a point of prolonged discussion, but a short set of Xindak Jumpers seems to do the trick well, and the whole lot of Xindak equipment was well worth it, albeit at HKG prices.



I had to use the RS 6 in a much smaller room than my hall when I shifted to my sound room, but with the help of blackout sound absorbing curtains, the bass is better tamed.

Now that the pairing of the MA and the Marantz has been running for a while, I can say that this is a good partnership, complementing each other well.




The same caveat applies for those thinking of using the RS 6 in a small space, and it is best used with the 'large' settings for speakers, letting the sub take over after 80Hz



My next tweak is to find a dedicated socket for the amp seperate from the other items to see if this improves the sound.



Even as I stare enviously at the new amps with the auto-setup, new HDMI versions (mine has zilch), the warm smooth sound of the SR 12 tells me its ok and I enjoy sitting in the hi fi room typing my essays ans reports.



Some additional notes, avoid listening front on to the RS, toe in and be a little higher than the tweeter for less treble energy.



Give the speakers space or have lots of room treatment. A decent set of cables, nothing too exotic or exhorbitant will help and avoid silver ones.

Use the spikes, especially on a wooden floor to tighten the bass.

A carpet does wonders too, and having a few posters about with padding also helps stray bass notes.

Friends have pm - ed me asking if this speaker is neutral, it isn't, with a nice meaty bass, and a rather shiny treble, which can give plenty of detail but can potentially jar with treble proud sources. My previous Dynaudios and KEF Reference series were kinder on the ears, giving a more neutral sound.




However the word is exciting, which is nicely tempered by the warmer sonic signature of the Marantz to give a detailed yet more smooth sound. Room setup, without the aid of modern auto-setup and eq takes a lot longer and after about 3-4 months, I am getting more satisfied with my system.



There is good steering in movies, with effects running seamlessly from the front to the back in panning effects, ambient moments are effortless created, but when sounds need to be pinpoint, you can easily locate the source. On the other hand, the pairing can create a good envelop of sound that allows you to forget its not the local cinema, but a small room of modest proportions. Actually the close distance between the front pair and the rear surrounds lends more to the the small jump from front to back, and there is no gap in the panning.




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

A Review of the Monitor Audio GS 10 (plus comparisons to the RS 6)

This is a long journey of sorts, it began with my new HT room, and the journey came to a temporary halt with the setup I had been using for the past few months. However after understanding my room dynamics more, and knowing I had a near field monitor situation, I wanted something else if possible. I knew my amp was capable of more, so it intrigued me to see if partnering it with a better speaker might be better, and when someone offered to buy my tube amp and some other bros got my RS series, I was in the game again.



The search was biased towards MA, since I already had two of their series, so the natural progression was to the Gold series, and it was quite value for money too, as Edward’s prices are possibly the cheapest for it in the world. (don’t ask me how much I paid)



As for Edward, it is impossible to continue this tale without mentioning a few words about him…. He has a winner of a product range on him with the Monitor Audio series, but he isn’t the most perky and sunny chap this side of town and you need to put up with that when you see him. Also his setup is based on his Cayin stuff, and sometimes the speakers are brand new, and he won’t tell you that. Why does that matter, well read on…



So I tried some Tannoys and they sounded fine, but they were not cheap for floor standers at close to 3k. I was tempted, but I was still drawn to the MAs. They had quite decent bass and a good even response. Worth considering.



The B/W were out of my league as the ones I was looking at was the 8 series. The 6 series was just too costly with their markup and the rather prosaic finish. If you examine the GS ones, the lacquer piano gloss is a marvel to behold that even their deliver man was in awe and took so much extra care with them. By the way, Ban Leong sends two people to send them over when you get them, and they help you to remove the plugs to insert banana plugs and allow you to give them the once over to look for damage or scratches before they leave. When you pay, you get service...



I also tried Dynaudios, which were a set I owned before, and they are perfectly neutral sounding and boy do they love power… they can devour current and watts with no tomorrow and if you have a high current high wattage amp sitting around, use it to feed them. In the showroom they were driven by a Roksan Caspian, 80w pc, and already they were lovely, but if you can give them more, they will reward you with scale and a soundstage that belies the size of the bookshelves. The Focus series as its names implies gives a more focussed sound, that is just more directional than the Audience SEs, which take their drivers from the Contour series. These are serious babies and I was really tempted to get them, given their even handed unburstable quality. The only chink in their armour is the rather soft and limp presentation if you do not crank them up. The large magnet drivers and woofers thrive on volume and will feel large spaces easily. Do give them room and power. The music is an image of stability and a broad even presentation. Well recommended.



So I went to try out the GS 10 in Precision Audio and it was quite shocking. I had a previous experience, having brought my own amp down to the shop, and auditioning them, there. It was alright but when I tried it with Edward’s setup, it was brash and bright, which left my ears bleeding almost. My friends who were with me also felt the same. There was plenty of bass and the soundstage was wide and fulsome but the top end was akin to nails on a blackboard. I was in trouble here, as my carefully dreamt up plans to buy the GS series seemed to be in doubt now.



This is where the power of the internet and some fortuitous generosity by a forummer proved so wonderful and helped Edward get his sale too. I had posted in echoloft and elsewhere for someone to allow me to try out his GS 10 as I wasn’t convinced that it was so bright from memory. Hence I wanted to hear it in a home environment. And within a few hours of my post, someone had responded and I was in touch with him. Here I would like acknowledge Melvin, you the man! He not only allowed me into his home, where he partnered it with a Arcam Solo all-in-one, he even agreed to let me try them out in my own home! Such is the generosity of this brother.



I will write more about the sound when I have had some sleep, but just one point, we were chatting through a series of songs, I was playing when suddenly it became quite and none of us were speaking. I realised that both of us were engrossed in the music, and wanted to pay attention to the wonderful partnership of a pair of run in GS 10s (at least 2 months he said) and my venerable SR 12 legacy amp. After running through most of the CD, he suddenly turned to me and declared:” you know, I am not selling this speakers…” I think he was thinking aloud about his impression of how the speakers matched the Marantz so well that I might offer to grab this pair off him. Lucky for him, it was the wrong color ;D



So it was done then, the next day, a quick cheque to Edward and a few hours later, the speakers are delivered to my home. Set up on Atacama stands which are half filled with silver sand on spikes and a wooden floor, they are being run in now.





So the real review....



Partnering equipment:



The Gold Series from Monitor Audio is something that is a sight to behold and write about..



Marantz SR 12 AV amp

QED XT tube 300

Pioneer DV 525 as a transport to the amp.

Atacama Stands, half filled with silver sand





I often espouse about how the sound should matter most, and that is still true but when you lay eyes on a pair of these in piano gloss, plus the corresponding centre, it is quite something else. It goes well with my Pioneer 507 plasma which is also in black gloss. The cabinet work surpasses the RS series and IMO is one of the best for sane money. You really feel like it is a fine piece of furniture and the picture shows a perfect reflection, quite delightful. The delivery folks have a real task too, as the centre weighs in at 12.5 kg and each GS 10 is about 8.5kg. you really feel like there is a lot of speaker. Benefits of Chinese mass production, I guess.



So the external appearance is one of a fine item of beauty, well made with the gold tweeter and build quality something you long to show off, how about the sound then?



Most of the initial impressions are based on the run-in pair I borrowed, and I will tell more of how the GS works in a HT setup too later on.



When you have good electronics, they beg for you to get good speakers to match and speakers are about 60-70% of the whole sonic signature of the system. There have been many good reviews of the GS and esp the GS 10 but one recurring note was that the treble was noted to be forward or bright. This was a real concern, especially after the rather dismal demo at Edward’s place. But if you partner them well and run them in, then the sound is just on the ‘shiny’ or enthusiastic side of neutral and in return they will reward you with an incisive sound with loads of detail and also perform well in the HT role which generally requires a more exciting sound. Marantz partners them well and you are rewarded with a sound I have become familiar with, but this new partnership offers just that much more of everything. The key is to audition with your amp / source and see how it sounds.



So how does it sound? Well I used the analogy of a vivacious energetic lady for the RS 6 and this is her sister, who inherits similar characteristics yet you will know she is different. She is the high class girl who caught your attention, always coffered up, refinement and class are her middle names.



This is a speaker that lets you know that you paid good money and will receive your just rewards. Think of a high class geisha, whom you hired. She is beautiful to look at, exquisitely made up and when she move, each movement is refined, well trained and you can definitely see the difference from the more prosaic stuff that costs less.



Similarly here, the GS 10 is not just a good looker, but when you play something delicate, it responds with the same gentle touch, and you heard details that you never quite noticed before. It may mean it is a little less forgiving of sources, but it like the good geisha, doesn’t embarrass the source either.



MP3 and Itunes is not considered hi fi no matter how you cut it, but interestingly, even though you are left with no doubts about the difference between compressed and lossless music, these revealing speakers still let the compressed songs make a decent tune. It was no pain using my Ipod with its dock connected via analogue inputs to my amp.



When you play larger scale music, it also responds and the soundstage is solid, clear and stable. The music is presented just slightly ahead of the speakers and details are located precisely in the sound landscape built in front of the listener. You can quite easily follow individual instruments in the orchestra.



But scale needs more than a single woofer and if Mahler or other big orchestral pieces is your kind of music, and you have a bigger room, then you will need the bigger brothers to the GS10.



I once comments that some hi end systems are often played with so called ‘audiophile’ discs, that include scatter isolated drums, simple vocals to show off the ‘hi end’ equipment but has no relevance to the owner who lives on a diet of pop and techno. The GS 10 is a rather flexible creature, able to show off your carefully mastered Gold recordings, Chesky stuff but equally adept at playing the trashy pop and demonstrating it has pace rhythm and plenty of mid bass to boot. In fact it will easily best some small floorstanders, but no one will mistake this for the GS 20.



Since I sit quite close to the system, having one cone only has its advantages as I have less risk of phase coherence problems. And with my diet of vocals, and instrumentals the GS 10 is able to keep me happy. In fact one of the ice features is how well it sounds at low volumes, not requiring you to listen at head-banging volumes to come alive.



It is a sensitive design, at 88 db, 8 ohms, and will slot nicely into mostly modestly powered homes. But give it more juice, a better amp and it will rewards you with more detail, bass and control. The dynamics are a close match for the Dynaudio 52 SE and it can play loudly too but where it differs is its ability to sound good just cruising along at softer settings.



Comparing to the RS 6, which is what I used before, the differences are essentially in scale and refinement. What you give up in scale due to the smaller speaker, you gain in refinement. I found that in my 3.5 by 3m room the phase coherence was difficult to achieve with the larger RS 6. The RS 6 is a very exciting speaker (literally) and will perform well in HT and music, especially with that bass hump, but when it comes to refinement, it loses out to the GS10.



Also the GS LCR is a far better speaker than the corresponding RS centre speaker, so if you intend to form a HT based system, then the GS setup makes a better system which you will not need to trade up for a long time.



The bass is integrated, and meaty, but I also should mention the treble is like the RS 6, her top end is tamer than the RS 6 but remains brighter than soft-domed competitors. A run-in period of at least two months is advised and if you grab one off the shops it will sound rough and unpolished, just like a new apprentice geisha. But give it a few months, and the rough edges are replaced with a smoother top end that gives detail without causing your ears to bleed. The Marantz SR 12 makes a good match, a slightly warm to neutral amp will be better than one which is already treble happy. I also use a copper based cable from QED to help smoothen things. Avoid silver. Adequate room treatment, with blackout curtains also helps absorb excess high frequency reflections.



The mid takes time to emerge since the GS 10 has a dual hump characteristic, and after running in, the mid starts to sing too and you will feel that it is quite an all rounder.



So should you get one? Well if you have a bright system, them maybe not, otherwise this will enhance a system that has a good amp, and bring life and excitement back to familiar recordings and get you cocooned in a aural cloud nine, sans boxes.


http://i183.photobucket.com/albums/x244/petetherock/DSC_2863.jpg

Look at the quality of the gloss and the reflection, a work of art and the benefits of switching manufacturing to China, allowing a high quality speaker to be made at a fraction of the price in UK. No issue with the finish and fit either.



The centre speaker is equally substantial too.

http://i183.photobucket.com/albums/x244/petetherock/DSC_2861.jpg











http://www.monitoraudio.co.uk/cms/uploads/userfiles/brochures/gs_brochure.pdf

Universal Soldier - Regeneration

 

Universal Soldier was a minor hit for JVCD back when the muscles from Brussels was the hottest action hero around, with his kicks and ballet like movements. He  has dwindled in popularity whilst Arnie has gone onto bigger things, but after the recent JCVD movie, Jean Claude shows he has serious acting chops and has kept in shape. This is the 5th iteration of the UniSol series, and despite the age of the main protagonists, the show is a real serious slugfest (literally) and proves JVCD can still throw a few punches and draw in the crowds.

 

Dolph Lungren is also in good shape and mixes it up with the younger crowd just as well, whilst Andrei Arlovski is a UFC fight champion and Mike Pyle is another pugilist, so there is plenty of action but what impresses is the solid bass, which rivals the best from Die Hard 4, and other recent productions.  The surround matches the scenes, and the lack of dialogues suits the tension of the movie, and reminds me of the first Terminator movie, where the actors let their kicks do the talking.

 

When the explosions go off, there is a real thump in the chest, and there are plenty of scenes which are demo worthy.

 

The plot isn’t much to shout about, but there is enough to keep even the casual fan interested, and for the UniSol fan, this is a fine final installment (maybe?) to the series.

 

Plot: 3/5

Action 4.5/5

 

Forget the chick factor here.

 

Should you buy it, well again it depends on whether you are a UniSol fan, and even if you are not, this is worth more than a rental. Welcome back JVCD.

 

Hurt Locker - movie review

I raved about the movie Gamer just yesterday, praising its solid sound effects, and awesome surround, but hold the presses! We have a new winner in the critically acclaims “Hurt Locker”, which is now the reference for me, rivalling some of the best bass from the Die Hard 4, and the kind of surround from Star Trek and Up.



Ok, everyone knows the tight editing and realistic portrayal of the Gulf War and the tension in the Iraq insurgency, and the wonderful job that Kathryn Bigelow has done and I agree with all the positive comments. Take the best of Generation Kill, add more tension, the better parts of Courage Under Fire, plus the kind of careless abandonment that we saw in Captain Spears from Band of Brothers and mix in the kind of fearlessness we witness in “Fearless” the old show with Jeff Bridges, and you get this. 4/5 for the plot.



A special mention about the main man in the show, Jeremy Renner, who has been a journeyman, who has been in TV, and movies over the past decade or two, and has only been able to come into his own in the recent few years. I first noticed him in SWAT where he played Gamble the SWAT turned bad guy. His devil-may care attitude there has carried over to this production, and he uses this anti-hero stance with scant regard for his own safety to good effect and he richly deserves his Oscar nomination.



Now about that surround and bass, since this show has many explosions and demolitions, you get a real treat here, and with the ambient sounds of an Iraqi street emanating from all the speakers, if you have a 9.2 state of the art system, this will give your system the kind of demo workout you dreamed about. 5/5



No chick factor here, and that’s fine.



Should you own it – yes, this is a keeper. Highly recommened.

Gamer – movie review

First, I will get the good stuff out of the way. For action, surround effects, it is almost a perfect 10. Maybe a few micro-points off the best just because of all the noise, but if you want a bass worked And surrounds enveloping you, you have to try this movie. It comes in glorious DTS-MA 7.1, and it lets you know that all your speakers are working fine. Someone hired a sound engineer to rival the best. You have to give this movie a spin.







If only the did the same for the plot…



On the surface, the screen writer seems to have taken snippets from Ghost in a Shell, Matrix, Rollerball, Running Man, Gladiator, Death Race, Condemned, and even borrowed the same actor to do similar lines from Assault on Precinct 13 (John Leguizamo) to re-enact his role, and borrowed bits from Surrogates to put together a plot that is so kaleidoscopic, and fast moving, those who are pre-disposed to epileptic fits should be warned. Heck Gerad Butler even looks like Russel Crowe in Gladiator right down to his habit of grabbing sand from the ground…It is also filmed in a very MTV / video game way, and there is so must flesh and boobs on display, you will have a long mammary (sic memory) of the show… this is not something you wish to nominate for the Oscars…



Yet if I read the director or screen writer correctly, there is some message, and mind control and domination of the masses comes through as the central theme. Yet, as the movie does not dwell on the sentimental long enough, these are pushed aside in the interests of the action, which comes faster and more furious as the movie unfolds.



You will either get disgusted by the plot, or admire it in a Clockwork Orange kind of way. 2.5/5 for the plot.



As for the chick factor, the amount of flesh on display, will knock the socks off that in the entire Matrix series, and clearly the director is into the “shock and awe” kind of tactics. 3/5



So it boils down to this, will you like the action enough to keep it, or will the lack of a solid storyline force you to return the disc.



By the way, Lionsgate is the tour-de-force when it comes to their Blu Ray releases, and you can never accuse them of messing up the sound. But somehow some of the poorest plot action movies of recent times, have had such superb sound engineerings, that it almost begs someone to re-edit or re-write the story. Think of Condemned, Marine, 12 rounds amongst many such movies with a stinker of a plot and some of the best bass and surround effects ever. You can never accuse them of a dull moment.



A footnote: avoid the UK copy. It has DTS-MA 5.1.





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

Law Abiding Citizen – movie review

Gerard Butler is a versatile man, capable of playing the lead in romantic comedies, action movies and also shows a darker more broody side to him in this thriller based on the vengeance a father wishes to seek on the perpetrators and also the law system which fails in his eyes to seek true justice.



Jamie Foxx comes along for the ride, as a up and coming DA and the 2 make this movie a little special with the chemistry of hatred and baiting helping to move the plot along, despite some rather obvious loopholes. There are enough action scenes and explosions to keep the action fan happy, yet some clever aspects of the plot to keep the intellectual yearning for a little more from the average thriller to string him along too.



3.5/5 for the plot and 3.5/5 for action.



There is no real chick factor at all in this show and this actually helps avoid deviating the story from the tight editing and the suspense we get. I reckon this movie is worth a rental least, and may deserve more than 1 viewing to appreciate the flavor in the plot, but once you know the conclusion, it will be hard to re-watch it.



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

Baywatch, The Mummy, Megan Leavey

Baywatch: The reboot sees the prerequisite babes, bods and beach, with The Rock taking the lead, and a very pumped up Zac Affron, who is pro...