The Suspension of Disbelief

August 25, 2008

The Suspension of DisbeliefThis is a subject I’ve touched on before, but given the current state of the economy (rather our collective perception of the economy) and more specifically high fuel prices eating into disposable income, its one that’s worth exploring further. The “suspension of disbelief”, at least with regard to consumer electronics, is really just another way of describing the feeling of getting lost in a movie or CD. Getting so totally lost that you’re able to completely forget where you are and become totally immersed in the moment.

It doesn’t take a rack full of expensive equipment to pull off this feat but it certainly doesn’t hurt. For those of us without unlimited means the trick is to strike the right balance between performance and cost, with the desired end-result being a system that has the ability to, you guessed it, suspend disbelief.

That last bit might have sounded a bit long winded but I wanted to be very specific about what I’m trying to describe here. In other words, when the lights are down, the sounds up and you’re focused on the screen, the style of the stand the televisions sitting on is about as important to the next two hours as last week’s losing lottery numbers.

What is important however is eliminating as many different things as possible (within reason) that get between you and immersion. This could be sibilance from a bad speaker/receiver combination, a particularly bad contrast ratio on a large screen television or front projector. It could even be something as simple as a room variable that just needs a bit of attention, think loud air vent, uncomfortable couch or sunlight hitting the screen.

This, er we need to name this type of theater, how about “Guerrilla Theater”? Whoops that’s already taken, how about down-n-dirty theaters? Yeah, that’ll work. D-N-D theaters are about the maximum bang for the buck but not necessarily the very latest bells and whistles unless they really add something to the desired effect. Again that “desired effect” would be taking you out of the world of bills, deadlines, taxes and broken alternators and plopping you right in the middle of international espionage, warring orcs and super heroes.

A few examples of D-N-D home theater equipment would be something along the lines of Onkyo’s TX-SR606 surround receiver, notable for the fact it’s one of the few receivers on the market for under $600 with True-HD and DTS-HD Master Audio support. Another would be the PS3 (for obvious reasons) and the Infocus IN81/82 front projectors and maybe something like a mid-line Samsung LCD on the flat panel end of things.

Regardless of how you define it, these entry to mid-level over-achievers have been with us for years. It’s always just been an issue of identifying them and pairing them up with other complimentary components and getting the most out of them in your particular application. I’d be interested to hear about some of the components in your systems that you’d consider a down-n-dirty, best bang for the buck bargain and any tips or tweaks you use to get the most out of them.



Posted by Bryan Greenway | | Filed Under Commentary


Comments

  • Ender

    I have to vote for a front projector, of any sort over a flat panel. In my case I use a pt-100u which probably gets no where near to its rated 2000 lumen rating, but is more than watchable in a room with terrible light control. Closing the blinds on a bright summers day produces a more than watchable picture. The truth of the matter is that at 10 feet 1080ps advantage over 720p is beyond visual acuity on a 42″ lcd. It may in fact be clearly visible at 92″, however the extraordinarily large screen is far more immersive than any flat panel in its respective price range. I’m certain that the current model replacement for this projector can be purchased for under well under 1500 from authorized sources.

    I think that onkyo reciever will be a great engine to any hometheater setup. A good powerful sub, and some quality speakers that aren’t mounted on the wall. It can be done for less than 5k. Or you could just buy that 60″ lcd and enjoy movies on cable.

    but that’s just my opinion.

  • Ender

    I have to vote for a front projector, of any sort over a flat panel. In my case I use a pt-100u which probably gets no where near to its rated 2000 lumen rating, but is more than watchable in a room with terrible light control. Closing the blinds on a bright summers day produces a more than watchable picture. The truth of the matter is that at 10 feet 1080ps advantage over 720p is beyond visual acuity on a 42″ lcd. It may in fact be clearly visible at 92″, however the extraordinarily large screen is far more immersive than any flat panel in its respective price range. I’m certain that the current model replacement for this projector can be purchased for under well under 1500 from authorized sources.

    I think that onkyo reciever will be a great engine to any hometheater setup. A good powerful sub, and some quality speakers that aren’t mounted on the wall. It can be done for less than 5k. Or you could just buy that 60″ lcd and enjoy movies on cable.

    but that’s just my opinion.

  • Kelsci

    If I am correct,during the great depression, people went to the movies for the same thing.

    My brother just hooked up a cable box to receive high-def. I watched the recent HARRY POTTER flick. I A-B’d the audio between his 5.1 setup and the two channel SRS-XT system that is in the Samsung 5054 with its two speakers. For some reason, the Samsungs audio has been panned, but I find nothing of the case. I actually enjoyed the two channel surround sound better out of this televison. I was completely immersed in a field of surround the whole time while the frontal sound kept its image. Picture quality on the 5054 was downright stunning. Even better was TRANSFORMERS and FANTASTIC 4, SILVER SURFER.
    I thought the dolby digital 5.1 surround was great on SILVER SURFER but I should note I heard that on CINEMAX HD. It also seemed to me that the non-high def HBO channel seemed to sound better in 5.1 with HARRY POTTER. I would say that SRS has made great strides with their processing from their early days.

  • Kelsci

    If I am correct,during the great depression, people went to the movies for the same thing.

    My brother just hooked up a cable box to receive high-def. I watched the recent HARRY POTTER flick. I A-B’d the audio between his 5.1 setup and the two channel SRS-XT system that is in the Samsung 5054 with its two speakers. For some reason, the Samsungs audio has been panned, but I find nothing of the case. I actually enjoyed the two channel surround sound better out of this televison. I was completely immersed in a field of surround the whole time while the frontal sound kept its image. Picture quality on the 5054 was downright stunning. Even better was TRANSFORMERS and FANTASTIC 4, SILVER SURFER.
    I thought the dolby digital 5.1 surround was great on SILVER SURFER but I should note I heard that on CINEMAX HD. It also seemed to me that the non-high def HBO channel seemed to sound better in 5.1 with HARRY POTTER. I would say that SRS has made great strides with their processing from their early days.

  • paulc

    Spot on… but it immediately draws me to the fact that HD LCDs makers seem to have disdained non reflective screen surfaces in favor of glossy ones. Like they are going for the same kind of torch mode dealers set up sets on retail displays… only I can NOT adjust it right. I’d have to brick up all my windows (well, I COULD install color darkroom type back-out curtains) AND not turn any of the lighting around my viewing position.

  • paulc

    Spot on… but it immediately draws me to the fact that HD LCDs makers seem to have disdained non reflective screen surfaces in favor of glossy ones. Like they are going for the same kind of torch mode dealers set up sets on retail displays… only I can NOT adjust it right. I’d have to brick up all my windows (well, I COULD install color darkroom type back-out curtains) AND not turn any of the lighting around my viewing position.

  • David Brooks

    I think the concept is right on, but for video it is critcally important to avoid visual artifacts that come from poor processing. Most flat panels today still exhibit block artifacts caused by low bit rates from digital delivery systems and/or anemic processors inside the panel.

    For my money, to achieve the immersion you describe, it is vital to have a true native-rate scaler/processor which matches the native rate of the display.

    Unfortunately this raises the cost but, being an essential visual medium, once you start to recognize artifacts they will ALWAYS be a distraction.

    Once you taste good wine, it is difficult to settle for swill.

    Look at DWIN (if you can get a TranScanner 3), Calibre UK (Vantage HD2), or the Anchor Bay VPL-50.

  • David Brooks

    I think the concept is right on, but for video it is critcally important to avoid visual artifacts that come from poor processing. Most flat panels today still exhibit block artifacts caused by low bit rates from digital delivery systems and/or anemic processors inside the panel.

    For my money, to achieve the immersion you describe, it is vital to have a true native-rate scaler/processor which matches the native rate of the display.

    Unfortunately this raises the cost but, being an essential visual medium, once you start to recognize artifacts they will ALWAYS be a distraction.

    Once you taste good wine, it is difficult to settle for swill.

    Look at DWIN (if you can get a TranScanner 3), Calibre UK (Vantage HD2), or the Anchor Bay VPL-50.

  • Bjarki Gudjonsson

    How about a nice set of KEF speakers? Won’t blow your wallet, but they deliver good value for money.

  • Bjarki Gudjonsson

    How about a nice set of KEF speakers? Won’t blow your wallet, but they deliver good value for money.