The use of Rockwool for the Home Theatre

The use of Rockwool for the Home Theatre

Just a word of caution, and just sharing something that I learnt from watching someone else's renovation, and personally witnessing a ceiling which had been built up and then torn down. 

Firstly, most local contractors are NOT familiar with room treatment. They need guidance from an expert, or from yourself if you know what you are doing or have some experience in this. 

Second, the usage of Rockwool extends beyond simply stuffing it into the false ceiling, feature wall etc. The material used to construct these matter. Many contractors will use aluminum or metal structs, which are lightweight and easy to install. These will rattle tremendously and no amount of rockwool will help.

Thirdly make sure they have attention to detail. Again, if they leave small amounts of debris, rocks or other material behind, such as in conduits, false ceilings etc, these material will rattle and drive you mad. So make sure they clean up and remove all these stuff.

I have previously posted on the use of wood, and also the need for reinforcement in the construction of the false ceiling and also the feature wall. In order to be sure, test it. I brought my 12" 500Watt SVS subwoofer to do a "shake, rattle and roll" test of my structures of my new place whilst the ceiling and wall were being built and we found all the potential points of resonance, as well and any areas prone to rattling and corrected them. It also helped me to illustrate the point as to why I was so fastidious about the details in preventing rattling.

Once everything is up, it is very hard to prevent and remedy it, so do it once, do it good.


The Long Kiss Goodnight - movie review

Renny Harlin made Die Hard and he tried his hand at making a female actioner, with much of the elements of that show into this, with a female protagonist instead. Despite its relatively poorer success at the box office, this has always been a nice movie to re-watch on a quiet evening, with its snappy lines and cool action scenes. There are few women who can look good while blowing away the villians and Geena Davis is one of them. A statuesque 6-footer, she exudes grace whilst being to look convincing as the spy/assasin Sam who develops amnesia but accidentally re-discovers her true identity and has to defend herself against former associates who wish to silence her to prevent their diabolical plans from being exposed.

The action is pretty relentless, and sometimes the plot does not make a lot of sense, nevertheless, this was never meant to be Oscar material and it fulfils the basic needs of an action movie with well choreographed action scenes and good chemistry betwen Geena and Samuel Jackson, who goes onto to Die Hard 3 later on, exuding the same taciturn and wry humor.

For those looking to make full use of their surround channels and sub, this show does not disappoint and despite its age, does well as a HT demo piece. With the countless explosions, you get plenty of sbwoofer workout and enough in the surround channels although not up to best current demo videos offer.

Action : 4/5
Plot: 3.5/5

Chick Factor: Geena Davis has been a looker ever since she stepped onto the silver screen, and she is a versatile actress, playing gutsy female baseball pitchers (League of their own), to supporting roles (Big Fish) and her action roles (Cutthroat Island and this) were well executed if not that well recieved. 3/5

Should you buy/rent/avoid this?
I reckon its a keeper and should be a real treat when it finally gets a Blu Ray release.

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

Importing from overseas: tips, info and caveats

Buying from Overseas

Keywords for easy searching: import; importing ; parallel ; shipping ; GST ; authorised dealer ; agent ;


Firstly, the pro of a local dealer:
- service
- warranty
- technical expertise
- product less likely to run the risk of being damaged, and if it is DOA, an exchange is easily sorted out

The cons:
- the local dealer may charge a much higher price
- service may be only half decent


The pros of doing it yourself, or via a professional shipper:

- price = the difference in price can be quite significant (will list some examples later and others can chip in)
- better features
- not available locally

Cons:
- the risk of damage
- voltage issues (more on this later)
- claiming warranty or this may be non-exisitent
- the product may not work locally (tuner channels, NTSC TV sets only)
- complicated shipping
- non-existent shipping
- high tax / cost of shipping
- lousy shipping (more on the choices of shipping)

I think we all know the main reason is COST, and the key is how much we can save, and is it worthwhile?





Shipping choices:

In all cases, caveat emptor, and buy insurance if the item is very expensive.

Direct shipping:

For Discs, and books, this method is simple and Amazon offers an excellent track record. I highly recommend them. But they do not ship many electronics and other items.

Barnes and Noble have recently dropped the ball, so be careful. Deep Discount takes a long time and so does Amazon Canada.

Traditional:
DHL, FEDEX etc

Some companies in USA offer such services, as they have experience in shipping overseas. Others do not, and only ship to local addresses. This also applies to UK and many other nations, so check first.

Vpost:
This offers shipping to Singapore from US, UK, Japan and continental Europe

For simple items, single items, it is decent. But if you have many items and they can't arrive at the same time, the costs mount and Vpost does not have a very good track record on this with quite a few complaints.

Comgateway:

Good for Citibank users.

Voltage:

Many items from USA and other places come only in 110V.
Others use a universal voltage system, so check with the vendor. Some come switched to 110V so check before you plug in!!

Places like Japan have models for export which are 220-240v, but cost more.

Get it in writing that it will work with our 230-240v system. Some tube amps are even more fussy, and owners want it set correctly.

YMMV...

As for step down transformers:

You should get one which handles more power than you need. If the peak consumption of the device is 1000w, don't get one that only handles the RMS wattage.

Places like Home-fix, Sim Lim Tower / Square will sell you one.



The first item:

Televisions, TVs:

Pros:
USA offers one of the cheapest TVs in the world, and they can be almost half our cost.
You can try Australia, but there are very few shipping options, unless you have friends.

Some have new features and better remotes.

Cons:
Most TVs from USA are not universal voltage and run only on 110v. That goes for Japan and other sources.
You can check but get it in writing since it is hard to return or repair if the TV fries
Most are NTSC
The cost of shipping is prohibitive, unless you know a cheap source
TV panels can be very fragile.

Amplifiers and other hi fi electronics :

Again check for voltage and warranty issues. For amplifiers and Cd players, there is also the issue of hum and the use of the transformer. The weight of the amp may also incur a high shipping cost.

Speakers:

Now this is when it gets exciting.
No voltage issues except for subwoofers.

If you don't mind warranty risks, you can carry back, ship speakers and many other places offer significant discounts.

Places to shop:

USA offers many alternatives to buy, and many products are cheaper, or not available here.

You just need to go through the checklist highlighted in the first few posts and assess the risk for yourself.

Hong Kong is another haven, for speakers, HT gear.

China is the factory of the world and when you look for alternatives, there are plenty.

Be careful of knock offs, fakes etc. Many big name items are not cheaper there, especially if you take the shipping into account.

But for cables, tube amps that originate from China, it's a shopper's paradise.

Do note some of them only deal locally, and payment is not easy.

Taiwan offers speakers and other items, but do note the voltage issues.

Australia and UK offer the advantage of having no voltage issues, but the shipping choices are more limited.

But for UK, if you buy off Amazon UK, you get VAT back which is an important savings.


Tax and GST

Buyers should know anything above $400 is taxable. There are also laws on what can be brought in. Do read the relevant websites.

Goods that are imported into Singapore by parcel post through ordinary mail or speedpost (e.g. for goods that are purchased online) are subject to GST. It applies to all new articles, personal articles, souvenirs, gifts, food preparations and dutiable products. 
The amount of GST payable is computed based on the CIF value  (cost, insurance and freight) of the goods plus all duties payable. The postage charge paid for the goods can be taken as freight and insurance charges.
However, GST need not be paid for the goods (except for dutiable products) if the CIF value is not more than S$400. When the CIF value is more than S$400, the entire sum would be subject to GST.

Panasonic SA-XR57 review - 230v version

 I have a 230v Panasonic SA-XR 57 with a MA Bronze 2 set-up and a Pioneer DVR330s in a 10m by 5m by 2.2m living room.



Set-up:

Easy and fairly intuitive with fairly straight forward instructions and diagrams.
If you have some experience with setups before, its a cinch.
I found no disadvantage in not having a OSD but having to do most of my setup using the front panel was not nice.

Using a SPL meter, most of the setup was quickly done using the DVE disc.
There is no individual distance adjustments for the rear channels.

Connections are not-gold plated - which is expected for the price.
The DVD input is part of the 6-channel input, a simple cost -cutting measure but it helps keep the price down.

There are enough connections for a basic HT set-up.

The amp is very light (4.7kg) so you can swing it around and do the hook-ups first then position it.

Being a 230v version there is no need for a transformer. It uses a 2-pin removeable power plug.

Movies:

This is the highlight, with a high-speed DSP chip. Recognition of the various formats is almost instant and in particulat Prologic IIx is well implemented and adds ambience to movies in stereo or TV broadcasts which are recorded in Dolby Surround.

Directional play and movement is nice and has pinpoint precision. It gives away very little to higher end amps in terms of its processor. The mass market availability of such chips allows even a budget amp like the XR 57 to sound realistic and clean.

Music:

For those who are fond of a valve like presentation, stay away from this amp. The amp has an in your face sound, best suited to dance, or those who like a more edgier sound.
It becomes fatiguging after a while and even for movies, it is not so easy to live with. Partnering it well is essential. Avoid steely sounding speakers.

There is no direct function but the bi-amp function defintely adds vigor and pace to the music. It plays quite loudly and providing the load is not complex (stay above 6 ohms). I found no reason to turn up beyond -35db on the volume dial in my living room.

Radio:
It has RDS and the radio is fairly average. Again the presentation is very much in your face and rock or poorly recorded stations will be presented as they are. It did not pull in lesser strength stations which my DAB radio from Sangean could. There was no problem with channel seperation for those stations it could pull in.

Will I keep it - yes for movies and hooking up my IPOD it was fine.

For beginners and those on a budget it makes an appealing amp especially with its HDMI option.

A smooth sounding speaker system will make a good partner to it. An already harsh sounding speaker system will make your ears bleed.

As for those primarily interested in music or multi-channel music, this is not its forte and orchestral music with an emphasis on violins will be hard.

A comparision to my Marantz SR 18EX (140W pc THX reciever) revealed the difference in sonic signature. The DSP chip was a newer one and did better in directions but did not have the same air or presence and was inferior in sound to the Marantz in music (but bear in mind the vast difference in cost).

This amp makes sense for budget buyers who want HDMI, but do not need auto-setup and mainly use it for its fine HT capabilities.

Setting up the rear channels in roughly equidistance is important since there is no individual distance setting. Some use of a SPL meter is very useful, borrow one from friends.

After 3 months:

Been using this with a PSB Alpha setup for about 2 months now
The 0.75 inch tweeter is metallic and makes a poorer match for the Panny
Movies are v exciting, the steering is lovely still, v responsive and the equal of most amps for movie excitement under 2k.
Power wise it is sufficient, especially in stereo with tri-amping
If you use 6-8ohm speakers plus 87db and above sens, it will be more than sufficient. Isue it in a hall around 8 by 6 by 3m.

But the main short-coming is in stereo.
The PSB / Panny mixture is steely and will need warm cables and sources to temper it a bit more.
For rock and pop it remains fine, showing off a pacey mid and bass but will grate the ears with a fine violin solo.

The PSB centre is pretty good thogh, able ot lock in the dialogue on the screen v nicely and is size to be used as small but fills the room nicely.

The PSB towers are alright but do not give out much bass under 60Hz even with two cones.
They will need wall reinforcement.

IF the Panny was elling for about $500 SIN$ in SG, it will still be a decent buy, buy at the current prices, you have to look around and see if other amps can do better.

Main issues:
Fast DSP, best for movies
Steely highs, not for bright speakers
HDMI 1.2a

No Auto setup
Single HDMI, no upconversion of video.



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

My gear 5 / 2012

 PS64D8000FM Samsung plasma TV 

Denon AVR 4311 – XT 32, 11.2 capable with nine amps inbuilt, twin sub out
Rotel 1572: 2 channel power amp with 250W per channel
Oppo BR player BDP 95 as CD and HT source
Monitor Audio speakers: B&W 805s on Atacma SE 24 stands, HTMs centre, Radius 90HD for height and wide channels
PSB Image 10S Bipoles for rear back
 Monitor Audio RXFX in dipole mode for surrounds 
Rhythmic FV15HP
QED XT 300 for front and centre speakers
QED Micro speaker cable for the rest
Audioquest Cinnamon HDMI for Oppo to amp
Aiborg flat HDMI cable, LHS and monoprice HDMI cable - amp to TV and other sources
Audioquest subwoofer cables
Assorted Xindak, PS Audio and other power cables
MK wall power sockets
Auralex subdude platform and under centre speaker
Da lite screen
Glass optical cables
Denon MCD 38 mini system with Usher 520













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

Samsung D8000 64" plasma review

Links to reviews:
http://www.avforums.com/reviews/Samsung-D8000-%28PS-64D8000%29-3D-Plasma-TV-Review_213/Review.html

http://www.goodgearguide.com.au/article/404804/panasonic_vt30_vs_samsung_series_8_3d_plasma_tv_showdown/

http://www.hometheater.com/content/samsung-pn59d8000-3d-plasma-hdtv

http://www.hdtvtest.co.uk/news/samsung-ps51d8000-201107011257.htm

http://www.cnet.com.au/samsung-ps59d8000-339315438.htm

http://reviews.cnet.com/flat-panel-tvs/samsung-pn64d8000/4505-6482_7-34468624.html?tag=mncol;relProduct

http://www.techradar.com/news/television/hands-on-samsung-d8000-plasma-series-review-919912

http://www.digitaltrends.com/tv-reviews/samsung-pn51d8000-review/

http://www.reghardware.com/2011/11/08/review_samsung_ps64d8000_plasma_3d_tv/page2.html

Short notes:

- fully equipped with inputs
- you have to be subjected to "buzz lottery"
- current firmware for Asia - --1021.2
- worsened blacks with Cinema Smooth engaged
- decent PQ and colors
- toy like remote control
- runs hot, fanless

Buying from a major vendor - the pros and cons

Just sharing some thoughts on buying big ticket items. To many, putting a few thousand down takes careful deliberation, and the last thing you want is a lemon...
With the advent of the lemon law soon, we can expect some protection from errant vendors. However, it pays to do some homework on the various sellers.

Most new items will either work well - majority of cases or you can have a defective set, in which case you want to try and get a replacement. This should not be too hard technically. But herein lies the issues with the smaller vendors. They are more nimble, and can offer very competitive prices, and deliver the goods soon after their come onto the market or even before.

But in situations like that, when you need a replacement, this is when it pays to go to a big vendor. They offer a 7 day one to one return policy for defective panels, and this is vital when you get something that is defective.

So kudos to HN, BD and other big vendors, in giving a no questions asked return policy, even ahead of the lemon law. At most, they will ask you to contact the repair crew to verify that there is an issue with the TV, then they will work to get a new one into your hands.

Bravo and IMO, stick to the trusted vendors, who may charge a little more, and get the extended warranty, for those instances of trouble.

Extended Warranties:

Also do note that not all warranties are the same. Each of the vendors offer an extended warranty, which essentially covers the period after the warranty from the makers run out. In most TVs, it is three years from the makers, then another two from the sellers. You can also get AIG or an insurance company to provide such a service.

However it is important to check the finer details. Most will cover repair costs. But when the set is found to be beyond repair, then this is what differentiates the sheep from the lambs. Some will replace the spoilt set with a new one if it os beyond repair. Others only refund you a percentage of the cost, whereas others will give you a new set from the current range. So the costs are different and you should examine the fine print carefully.

Avengers - movie review


Avengers - movie review

I shall get to the conclusion first for this movie since it is becoming obvious to most who have come across the movie or even the trailer that The Avengers has got the ABCs of moving making right.

But The Avengers has done more than well at the box office due to a serious of factors which give it the ability, IMO to become as memorable as some of the top box office hits like Indiana Jones due to it's ability to include these few critical essentials.

One of the fun parts of recent movies has been the sustained revival of one actor, who went through early success, then dove into drugs and other vices, only to emerge like a phoenix from the ashes to propel himself back into the A-list and his attitude and swagger in this movie was one of the important reasons why Avengers has also risen above the typical summer blockbuster. Robert Downing Jr has the attitude.

And you know that a movie with half a dozen superheroes will have the obligatory Bangs, Booms and Boobs too. Here you have characters from four recent movies that have trounced almost everything else at the recent box office, so putting these characters into one movie will give anticipative fans plenty of the three Bs and more.

But the critical ingredient why I feel Avengers has risen high above the usual Micheal Bay-esque all action and little plot is in the Cast and the time spent on Characters, allowing for a wonderful mix of Chemistry between the various babes and beefcakes that populate this show. Now you can have many big action heroes in one show and it can all fail terrible if the director is unable to place a coherent story together without making it all too schizophrenic with so little time to devote to so many superheroes. But Joss Wheldon has applied the same magic he gave to Firefly and other shows and this show rocks.

Robert Downing behaves like the world revolves around him and there is no other person to play Ironman. His ego is suitably supersized to match his superhero status, and he has the ability to carry this movie. However I feel he has given himself the right balance of over the top mannerisms, and yet restrained himself sufficiently to give the rest adequate screen time to bond.

With that in mind, despite the relatively long running length of this show, it is always a challenge to showcase so many heroes without cramping their style, yet the director has been able to successfully throw even the uninitiated into the deep end of the movie and yet give screen time for most of the heroes such that you don't need a whole lesson in the Marvel comics world to get into the groove of the action and plot. It helps that only the Black Widow and Hawkeye are the relatively new players in the game, and you will still benefit from having followed the previous Marvel movies, but this dearth of new players allows the viewer to concentrate on the play of the plot, instead of having to sit through an introductory session where you have to know how the various heroes came to be.

As for the plot, it's quite simple: bad guys from other space led by the Nefarious trickster demi-god Loki seeks to invade and destroy Earth, and only the Avengers stand in their way. The only trick is that these Avengers need to understand the concept of teamwork and face the challenge of suppressing their urge to bash each other and instead concentrate on beating the daylights out of the aliens.

But in between the incredible action sequences is a lot of human play and plot. You will enjoy seeing Agent Coulsen, and for the guys, Agent Maria Hill, who IMO was way hotter than Scarlett J in her cat suit like outfit and her hair in a sheer bun.  Despite limited screen time, Cobie Smulders was a smoldering beauty, who increased the temperature in the room by 10 degrees each time she was on screen.  And how is it that EVERY female crew member in the SHIELD force looked like beauty contestants. Only in the movies, will you have supermodels, to match superheroes.

And you have moments of humor, the extra component that simply gives the movie more than muscle and explosions, and it's seamless fit into the movie gives it the extra zing that will make this movie worth many repeated viewings. When Hulk flicks Thor away playfully and nonchalantly, this sent the entire theater into stitches. Brilliant comic timing.  Ironman reciting Shakespeare whilst taking on a Norse god? Only in Avengers….

And you have the moments of fatality hitting the good guys, that scene didn't feel contrived and gave a moment of real emotion between the action sequences and again allowed this movie to rise up above the typical action fodder.

For the action aficionados, rest assured, this was no Oscar material character movie devoid of action and you will get your money's worth of huge action scenes, and you also get excellent surround effects. The sight of the Hulk going amok, doing his best "Hulk Smash!" thing was sublime destruction poetry in full song.

Plot: 5/5

Chick factor in this movie is way off the charts…. 6/5

Can half a dozen beefcakes and even more babes come together to make cinema magic?

I can't tell you in a more explicit way that you should run to the nearest good quality cinema and watch this. You will still want to own the DVD / BR disc. I can't wait for part II.

Get The Gringo - movie review

Another day with the Neural X, and DTS-X, and I took out a disc from the not too distant past: Get The Gringo A relatively simple plo...