Wreck-It Ralph - movie review

Wreck-It Ralph
Disney has gone from strength to strength, and this is their latest offering, which is about a 'bad guy' in a computer game at an arcade, who wants to turn and be one of the 'good guys'...

The story describes his journey and this animation has much more adult themes than the usual Disney offerings, although the violence is still kid friendly and no one dies, until Pixar's "Up". However the storyline is a little too complex for kids, who will sporadically drift off during the more dialogue heavy moments.

I had expected more of this after reading some reviews, it's not bad, but it's no classic, and the action and story are middling at best and I am not confident the kids will lap it up either.

Best to rent first and decide.

There are plenty of action scenes which should excellent on BR, but I do know if it's a keeper..





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

100 000 and counting... thank you

It happened so surreptiously, that I totally didn't notice it...

Thank you for reading my blog, we have past the 100k mark, and I hope the info here has been useful to everyone.

Remember, you can quote the info, but please avoid plegarising or simply doing a cut and paste from my entries.

Thank you and to more good years!


Audyssey and avoiding the "voice of God" phenomenon

The Voice of God Phenomenon...

This was first reported back in the initial report of Audyssey DSX:
http://www.soundandvisionmag.com/article/first-listen-audyssey-dsx

I have found that speaker placement and also the time delay and levels are key to creating a good surround effect, but yet, avoiding this.

There is no exact formula, that I can write on the proportion of delay and speaker level. You need to tweak the settings after Audyssey has done their calibration, then take out that trusty SPL meter, and adjust.

The aim, is to let the surrounds be just heard, not too prominently, and then avoid having them too close to your ears, or setting the time delay such that you don't have them feel like a pair of headphones placed right next to your ears.

Then the height is also key. The relative difference between the fronts, the sides and rear backs is important. To allow for a good transition of the sound from front to back and vice versa, the relative heights mustn't be too far. The Dolby suggested heights are a good start. And something that can spread sound will be better, that's why I prefer a dipole / bipole to a monopole for the sides. If you use a monopole direct radiating design, then you must allow enough distance for the sound to spread outwards.

Try that and experiment with speaker placement until you get the desired effect.

So for those of you who can only place speakers at a certain position, or are reluctant to change positions and can only use certain heights or types of speakers, then I guess you will have to compromise on the surround sound.



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

Expanding your sound system beyong 5 / 7 channels - Audyssey DSX, DTS Neo-X, Prologic IIz

As more get HT systems with more than the usual 5.1 channels, those with deeper pockets and a greater than average interest will venture into the realm of > 7.1 channels, one can look forward to the various options to expand the soundfield beyond what is the typical 5 or 7 channel system.

Bear in mind, as of now, 99% or more of discs are only encoded with a maximum of 7 channels and more than 60% are only 5.1 channels. So don't lose too much sleep if you don't have > 5 channels.


This is a discussion thread to talk about moving beyond 5 / 7 channels.

What you will need:

  • Enough amplification for all the channels you wish to playback.
  • Decoding for each format.
  • Discs / software encoded for playback of DTS-Neo X
  • You can't add Wide AND Heights from a single preout.

The current choices are:

Audyssey DSX

Dolby Prologic IIz

DTS Neo-X





 Audyssey DSX:

This is the oldest to get 11 channels, and allows any source with 5 channels of decoding to be matrixed into 11, and you use it concurrently with Dolby Prologic IIx Cinema typical.

Some links:
http://www.audyssey.com/audio-technology/audyssey-dsx

First listen:
http://www.soundandvisionmag.com/article/first-listen-audyssey-dsx



Audyssey DSX Highlights

  • More enveloping surround sound. 7.1, 9.1 and 11.1 surround sound produces amazingly detailed and immersive experiences. The Height and Wide channels make movies sound three-dimensional. With Audyssey DSX, explosions, storms and battle scenes come to life.
  • Scalable setup. DSX-enabled AVRs can deliver content to 7, 9 or 11 speakers, allowing you to build a surround sound system with the appropriate number of speakers for your space and budget.
  • A key component in your AVR. Audyssey DSX comes standard on many premium home theater receivers – be sure yours has it.

Audyssey’s Surround Sound Solution

Today, movies are mixed with five discreet channels and nearly every home and movie theater in the world uses the 5.1 standard: five speakers and one subwoofer (read blog). But after years of research, Audyssey scientists discovered that by adding more channels in the right places surround sound could be even better. Audyssey DSX not only creates new Wide and Height channels, but also provides Surround Envelopment Processing to enhance Front and Back channels. This technology processes the standard surround signals in the time and frequency domains to improve the perceived sense of envelopment and blending with the other speakers in the surround system.
By expanding 5.1 sound, Audyssey DSX technology delivers true 7.1, 9.1 and 11.1 surround sound. The result isn’t just the most immersive, realistic home theater sound on the market, but a new standard in surround sound.

Technical Details

Why use more speakers?

Research in human hearing shows that we can hear many more directions than what current systems provide. We use the direct sound to localize the direction of sources and the reflected sound to perceive the size of the soundstage.
Experiments have shown that human localization is better in front than to the sides or behind. This means that for front-weighted content such as movies and most music, good engineering dictates that we employ more channels in the front hemisphere than the back. Imaging is also better horizontally than vertically and so good engineering also dictates that channels must first be added in the same plane as our ears before going to higher elevations.
Perception is not the only factor. The physics of room acoustics for music have been well studied, and their correlation with subjective impression increasingly understood over the last 30 years. This research has shown that we have strong built-in preferences for the direction, frequency response, and time of arrival of reflected sound. Additional channels and surround sound processing are needed to properly render these components.

Audyssey DSX Configurations

7.1 SURROUND: A B  |  9.1 SURROUND: A B C  |  11.1 SURROUND: A

Wides Before Heights

One key finding from the research is that first side wall reflections play a great role in determining subjective impression. The most important direction of reflected sound was found to be ±60° relative to the front. Audyssey DSX provides a pair of Wide channels (LW and RW) at ±60° with appropriate frequency response and perceptual processing to match these requirements of human hearing. These Wide channels are much more critical in the presentation of a realistic soundstage than the Back Surround channels found in traditional 7.1 systems. Adding surround channels behind the listener has a very small impact compared to the increase in envelopment and soundstage width that the Wide channels provide.
The next most important acoustical and perceptual cues come from reflections above the front stage. Audyssey DSX provides a pair of Height channels (LH and RH) that should be ideally positioned at a 45° elevation angle.






DTS Neo X is the latest on the market to offer a 11 channel system, but for now, there are only a few movies and even then it's matrixed from 7.1 channels.


Some useful websites:

DTS Neo X
http://www.hometheatershack.com/forums/audio-processing/49379-dts-neo-x.html#axzz2HUg0t43m
http://www.dts.com/professionals/sound-technologies/audio-processing/dts-3d-audio.aspx
Quote
DTS Neo:X™ is the world’s most comprehensive upmixing solution offering up to 11.1 channels of immersive surround with near discrete Front-Height and Wide imaging. From ambient/non-directional effects like raindrops to overhead effects like a low-flying jet, DTS Neo:X lets listeners track all the audio action. Sound arcs overhead to the Front-Height speakers, sideways to the Wide speakers, and back to the Rear speakers, creating a semi-spherical soundstage.
 DTS Neo:X Benefits
  • The most comprehensive matrix upmixing solution on the market that creates a semi-spherical sound field.
  • Ability to place near discrete vertical cues (especially with optimized content) for maximum immersive effect.
  • Flexible options to cover various products and usage cases (AVR, HTiB, automotive, headphones, etc.).
Unparalleled Immersion in Music, Cinema & Games Cinema mode: This mode offers a clear and enhanced Center channel that makes center stage action stand out in movie soundtracks, with a firm position for dialogue. It also enables listeners to experience the full audio effect across a wider range of audience seating.
 
  • Music mode (enhanced immersion for music): In this mode, use of the Center channel is more controlled to prevent narrowing of the front of the musical soundstage.
  • Game mode: This mode delivers enhanced directionality and immersion for an extremely interactive gaming experience. It offers the greatest degree of channel-to-channel separation, delivering discrete sound localization cues from Front-Height or Wide channels.






Pro Logic IIz: is a 9 channel system that allows a 5 channel source to be matrixed into 9 channels - not 11, and gives you Heights but it does not allow you to select WIDE unlike Audyssey or DTS-Neo X


http://www.dolby.com/us/en/consumer/technology/home-theater/dolby-pro-logic-iiz.html

Dolby Pro Logic IIz delivers these enhanced effects through the addition of front height channels. These added channels create a soundstage so lifelike, you'll think the rain in a movie is actually falling on your roof. Special effects will hit with an intensity you've never experienced before. And you'll feel like you're front and center when watching concert videos. Take your listening to the next level with Dolby Pro Logic IIz.
 Dolby Pro Logic IIz Benefits  Introduces front height channels for more spacious surround sound
 Delivers a compelling and enveloping listening experience
 Adds depth and dimension for a lifelike soundstage
 Provides you with a wide range of choices for speaker positioning to optimize sound in almost any room
  Works with existing soundtracks by identifying and decoding spatial cues that occur naturally in a soundtrack

Listening reviews:

http://news.cnet.com/8301-17938_105-10230238-1.html


http://www.dolby.com/us/en/consumer/technology/home-theater/dolby-pro-logic-iiz-details.html

Dolby Pro Logic IIz Details



Dolby Pro Logic IIz Details

Elevating Surround Sound to New Heights

A Lifelike Soundstage

Dolby Pro Logic IIz 7.1Conventional 5.1- and 7.1-channel surround sound systems deliver a horizontal soundfield—sound is directed at you from only one vertical plane. Dolby® Pro Logic® IIz takes surround to the next level by adding front height channels—an additional pair of speakers positioned above the front left and right speaker. What that means for you is a surround sound experience with incredible depth and dimension.
Most surround sound solutions use digital signal processing (DSP) to artificially model listening environments. Expanding on proven Dolby Pro Logic IIx technology, Dolby Pro Logic IIz stands apart by identifying and decoding spatial cues that occur naturally in all content—stereo and 5.1 broadcast, music CDs, DVDs, 5.1- and 7.1-channel Blu-ray Discs, and video games. It then processes ambient sound and certain amorphous effects such as rain or wind and directs them to the front height speakers.
Movie and game producers can even mix specific height channels into a soundtrack, and Dolby Pro Logic IIz will faithfully reproduce the vertical placement of those sounds. That means you’ll hear lifelike sound that comes at you from varying heights, compelling you to follow the action with your eyes and ears—above, below, and all around you—precisely as the producers intended.
Add it all up and the result is an incredibly spacious vertical soundfield that immerses you in richly detailed Dolby surround sound.

Flexibility Is Built In

By expanding the soundfield vertically Dolby Pro Logic IIz lets you create a 7.1-channel playback system from your 5.1 surround system, or a 9.1 system from your 7.1-channel setup. Dolby Pro Logic IIz even makes speaker positioning and wiring simple. And if it’s not practical to add rear surround speakers in your environment, Dolby Pro Logic IIz still lets you enjoy incredibly realistic surround sound.
Dolby Pro Logic IIz 9.1How flexible is Dolby Pro Logic IIz? If you already have a 5.1-channel system and buy a new 7.1 audio/video receiver with Dolby Pro Logic IIz, you can put the two additional speakers above your left and right front speakers for 7.1 height, or at the back for a traditional 7.1 setup. Or you can stay with 5.1 channels and use the extra amplifier channels for stereo speakers in another room. With a 9.1-channel setup, you have even more choices, including state-of-the-art 9.1 playback with both surround and back speakers and two front height speakers.
With Dolby Pro Logic IIz you’ll have the flexibility to experience startlingly realistic surround sound no matter how challenging your listening environment may be.






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

Denon AVR 4520 review - HT and audio performance



Associated equipment:
PS64D8000FM Samsung plasma TV
Denon AVR 4520 – XT 32, 11.2 capable with nine amps inbuilt, twin sub out
Front channels - Musical Fidelity A 5.5 stereo amp in HT bypass driving the 804D  
Oppo BR player BDP 105 as CD and HT source
Apple TV (Gen 1) for music and photos
HTM4s centre, Radius 90HD for height and wide channels
Usher 520 for rear back
Monitor Audio RXFX in dipole mode for side surrounds
JL Audio F113 for low bass
Hsu MBM for mid bass (tuned to 50-120 Hz) - sited behind my main seat
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 AQ Forest HDMI cable - amp to TV and other sources
Audioquest Snake subwoofer cables
Wireworld Oasis 6 Interconnects
Assorted Xindak, PS Audio and other power cables
MK wall power sockets
Rhodium Right Angle Plug adapters for USA power cables

I had just finished renovations and building my home theatre room around the same time last year, and was sitting pretty on my system, but then my itch came back and I recently went on an upgrading spree, swopping out the subwoofer, AV amp, front three speakers and Blu Ray player…

So after some wallet depleting action, I was able to sit down this year end and enjoy some home theatre.. sadly until my guests move out next year, I can’t really have the home to myself to enjoy all the movies I have stored up…



First, I will go through a summary run-through of my system.

I decided that I wanted the smartest ‘brains’ for my HT system, as movie dominate my time, and music was secondary, but when I listen to music, I still want a solid experience.

So I went with the people who have one of the most in depth experience in HT, and with their kind of volume of manufacturing, D & M were at the top of their game. I avoided the Onkyo sound and their heat issues seem to be pervasive still, after some many generations. I also avoided the smaller ID companies, since the bigger companies could make tried and tested products and can often remedy any issues that crop up promptly.

I did consider higher end processors too, such as Anthem, but the cost didn’t seem worth it, and for the same money, I could get a Denon, Marantz, Yamaha, Onkyo or one of the big HT makers, and have enough money left over for some serious amps or even get a pre-power and have change for a year’s worth of software.

I did start with lesser subs, but for music and HT plus good looks and build the JL Audio subs are at the top of their game.

Specs:

Again, lots of info online already:


Having owned the AVR 2809 and 4311, I appreciate what Audyssey could provide, and I was looking forward to seeing what the new 4520 could offer.

What I liked :

·      3 pieces of 32 bit Sharc DSP processors which IMO did make a difference in HT and steering.
·      The 4 ohm capability. Even in full swing with all nine channels running, I never felt the amp needed more. Perhaps this was also because I had two subs to take care of the lower frequencies.
·      Audyssey XT 32 AND Sub EQ – some models did not have the latter, which is very useful if your room isn’t ideal
·      Improved GUI
·      Network switcher
·      Trouble free operation out of the box, no fuss, no updates needed
·      Ability to save configurations
·      Better quality remote
·      Free assign amps
·      Built-in Airplay
·      InstaPrevue
·      Well built speaker posts
·      Gold plated RCA inputs
·      2 12 volt triggers

What I disliked:

·      Loss of quick select buttons
·      Some selections are now buried in the setup
·      No second remote
·      Only one set of speakers being used displayed – can only display input or output at one time
·      Lighter – did they go cheap on the transformer
·      Not enough HDMI inputs for a flagship unit
·      No more Hi Def blue light
·      No paper manual – just a tiny get started plus a CD (actually all I need is a big diagram of the rear panel for hookup purposes)


Anyway, so how does it all hang together?


As mentioned earlier, I use the Denon mainly in HT, so that’s where I will be spending most time describing it.

Setup:

This is one of the easiest to setup, from the way the GUI brings you through the various steps, to the use of the microphone for the calibration, and one can almost forgo the manual in setting up this machine.

The Audyssey calibration was also very fast, and IMO it was faster than even the AVR 4311.

In my setup, I use the Musical Fidelity A 5.5 stereo amplifier to power up my left and right channels. This amp has a HT bypass mode, which comes in handy.

Although Denon says the Audyssey is the same in this amp as their 4311, IMO the cinematic experience with the new 4520 is in a different league.

Do note that the quick select keys have disappeared from the remote, a real annoyance, and some adjustment keys including the direct access to the channel levels have also gone.

So after all the pre-amble, how does it sound?

Firing up all 11 channels with the help of my Musical Fidelity stereo amp in HT bypass was nice. I had already done this before with it’s predecessor, the 4311, so the enveloping experience was a nice one, especially how it main the front soundscape into a nice wide and high seamless sonic picture.

But the steering has improved vastly IMO, over the older model, which was one of the first in the world with Audyssey XT 32. Even with 5.1 channel coded movies, there was a nice seamless ambience created, with the Denon having the ability to created a flight path for the bullets from rear to front, even with depth and height thrown in. Effects were distinct when they needed to be, and background when the sound engineer meant it that way.

When you partner it with a nice set of speakers, you can really retrieve details, and I was hearing things that I did not before. If you are a fan of the details, get something from Monitor Audio, B & W, or Thiel and throw it at this setup. I wound hasten to add that you will need better amps for the higher end speakers, which is one upgrade that will make your system sound better.

One nice feature is the Dialogue Enhancer, which is quite useful to help you follow the dialogue on the screen without having to turn up the volume to maddening levels.

Audyssey XT 32 and in particular the Sub HT EQ has done wonders for those who are not bass experts. I have a mid-bass unit from Hsu working to boost those chest thumping frequencies (50-120hz) and the JL Audio, which can go really deep and the Denon is able to unite them to give a wonderful bass response, which has slam, depth and is well integrated. In fact the two words which keep coming up are integration and seamless. And all this is done with great ease.

The key is that after Audyssey does it’s job in calibration, you then tweak the individual channel levels, and the bass response of the individual speakers.  You will still need a SPL meter, but the Denon has made the previously daunting task of setting up a solid and seamless surround home theatre experience, very sweet indeed.

The amp section is fair and if you have a small HT space, and have subwoofers to take away the stress of driving the bass units, then the internal power section of this amp will be more than sufficient.

With the DSP modes like Audyssey and Prologic IIX engaged you get a decent surround experience, which makes for fun listening. I also gave the new DTS-Neo X surround a spin with the suitable coded Expendables II Blu Ray. This new surround modes to be front heavy, but Audyssey tends to have a more surrounding ambience. You should listen to both with your system to determine if it’s what you want.


With a good movie in play, and the JL Audio F 113 partnering the Hsu MBM, there is enough bass energy to open my front door if it was not fastened down. Yet it’s tight, with solid slam and pace. Effects race from front to back and across with ease and it makes the speakers disappear and soon you are just focused on the enveloping soundscape.
 
In stereo or Pure mode, there is a decent attempt at making good music. But the soundscape tends to be flat and two-dimensional.

It can drive my B& W HTM4s along with the other speakers to a decent clip, but when you switch to the stereo amp alone, the sonic deficiencies are more glaring.

The bass is stronger, and the soundscape becomes more 3D, with solid separation of the instruments and details.

The general sonic signature of this amp is highly dependent on the partnering equipment and speakers, but it tends towards the neutral to slightly bright, rather than the dull and fuzzy. If you have really bright speakers, it may not be for you, but it tends to be less bright than corresponding Pioneer or Onyko amps. Accurate may be a better term, but it is in between the Marantz amps and the above other two in the relative brightness scale.

Using the internal DACs was also not as good as the internal DACs of the Oppo, which are one of the best in the market.

The Denon functions best as a HT processor, and a surround processor for music. When pressed into stereo music duties, it’s competent, but owners of such an amp may want to keep a separate system for music, or at least have a stereo amp with HT bypass in the system to give a stereo performance.

The more revealing your speakers the more glaring are the sonic deficiencies for music.

Now I am not saying it’s any worse than the other AV amps of the same range, but the reality is that a similarly priced stereo amp will run circles around it.

I also made extensive use of the Airplay function, which I found to be very impressive. The sound quality from it was as good if not better than from a direct HDMI input from my Gen 1 Apple TV playing the same lossless songs. And the playback function is simple to use. Kudos to Denon and Apple for this. The user interface for this Denon has improved a lot, but if they could bring back some of those functions which they took out, that will be even better. Not having quick select and individual channel levels on the remote makes no sense.

Switching back to HT again, and trying out the video section, you will find a very competent video chip for upscaling and the colors are quite good. I still prefer to go direct from my Oppo BDP 105 to the TV, but the differences are slight, and there is the added advantage of on-screen volume and overlay.

You also get many other tricks like vertical stretch, upscaling over all inputs, which makes this a very flexible video processor.

With 7 HDMI inputs, one HDMI output, legacy inputs and even a phono input, you won’t find this amp lacking in connectivity. The feature list is indeed very impressive. Build quality is decent, but it’s not reference level build. The sheet metal is thin, but the amp is well put together.

It also has two 12v triggers, which come in very handy for any external amps, which you will need to have the full 11 channel surround experience.

So where does all this put the amp?

Well, if you have the older 4311, there is no need to lose too much sleep over this one. Most of the home theatre functions are carried over, and unless you definitely need the network router, or the new surround modes, the older 4311 is still a capable workhorse.

If you are in the market for a mid to high level receiver, or a processor on the cheap with free internal amps throw in, then this amp should be on your shortlist.

Competing brands like Onkyo, Pioneer and Yamaha each have their own house sound, and special features, but you can’t go wrong with something which doesn’t cost much more than the lower 3313 or other AV amps, but brings a considerable number of additional features. If you need the finer tweaking points and will also be spending on the speakers, subwoofers and want a solid performing HT processor / amp to go with these better speakers, then you can’t go wrong with this amp.



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

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