Xbox One Adds Bitstream Audio Support

March 30th, 2017 · 2160p, 4K Flat Panel, 4K LED LCD, Amazon, Blu-ray Discs, Blu-ray Players, Digital Media Receivers, Dolby Atmos, DTS:X, HDMI, HDR, height channels, LCD Flat Panel, LED LCD Flat Panels, News, object-based audio, rear surround channel, Sound Systems, Surround Sound, Surround Sound Systems, UHD (4K) Media Players, UHDTV, Ultra HD Blu-ray Players


Gaming and home theater fans will be happy to know that Microsoft this week added new bitstream audio features to Xbox One, including bitstream passthrough of advanced immersive audio formats Dolby Atmos and DTS:X from supporting Blu-ray Disc movies.

This update, which is scheduled to begin next week, will allow a connected supporting AV receiver to accept and natively decode the DTS:X audio bitstream data, adding more immersive surround sound, including height channels, to the surround sound experience.

In addition, bitstream passthrough for Blu-ray disc audio will let the Xbox One playback all bitstream audio formats through supported receivers, Microsoft said. In order to decode the signal the connected AV receiver will need to have built-in decoding support for the desired bitstream signal.

Read more about the Xbox One bitstream update after the jump:

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SpectraCal Develops `AutoCal’ For 2017 Samsung TVs

March 29th, 2017 · 2160p, 4K Flat Panel, 4K LED LCD, Connected TVs, HDR, LCD Flat Panel, LED LCD Flat Panels, News, Test Equipment, UHDTV


The often monotonous and time consuming process of calibrating a television is going to be a little easier for some 2017 televisions, thanks to new Calman AutoCal software coming from SpectraCal.

That’s because the developer of popular Calman PC software used by many professional calibrators, technicians and reviewers of professional and consumer television displays and monitors, has developed an AutoCal version of its software that will allow users to hook up a colorimeter and test pattern generator to their television and laptop in order to use the special tool. It will then quickly and automatically make readings and adjustments for gamma, white balance, luminace, grayscale and color management on select television sets.

In addition, the software will be able to make adjustments for 4K Ultra HDTVs in both standard dynamic range (Rec.709) and high dynamic range (HDR10) modes.

The software can be used by consumers but SpectraCal is positioning it more as a tool to help professional calibrators do their work faster and easier. On the surface Calman AutoCal looks simple enough for any untrained novice to do their own TV calibrations, and some educated TV enthusiasts will undoubtedly find this worthwhile, but the whole procedure will still require the purchase of the Calman software plus a compatible colorimeter or spectroradiometer, a compatible test-pattern generator and compatible cables, which can all add up to more than the cost of a professional calibration.

In addition, although the software gets very close to hitting all the color, white balance, gray scale and gamma points, most calibrations will need additional tweaking to get to levels that are spot on, making a professional calibration a desirable service.

Read more on SpectraCal’s new AutoCal program after the jump:

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Yamaha, Onkyo Add Entry, Mid-Range AVR Lines

March 28th, 2017 · 2160p, Audio, center channel, Dolby Atmos, DTS:X, front channels, HDMI, HDR, height channels, News, object-based audio, rear surround channel, Sound Systems, Streaming Services, sub woofer, Surround Sound, Surround Sound Systems, UHDTV, Ultra HD Blu-ray Players

                                                   The Yamaha RX-V683 AV receiver with MusicCast

Home theater audio manufacturers are beginning to release their 2017 lines, providing advanced features and high-quality sound at high-value price points.

This week Yamaha and Onkyo followed Denon’s recent S-Series AVR release by revealing new entry and step-up AVR models, a number of which include support for object-based audio format decoding along with Dolby TrueHD and DTS-HD Master Audio.

Yamaha presented its 2017 RX-V AV receiver series offering affordable options for adding some of the latest home theater surround sound formats along high quality music reproduction.

Read more about the new AV receiver offerings after the jump:

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Upon Further Analysis: Samsung Q9 QLED TV Is A 4K UHD Beacon

March 27th, 2017 · 2160p, 4K Flat Panel, 4K LED LCD, Connected TVs, electronic program guides, Full Array LED Backlit with Local Dimming, HDMI, HDR, LCD Flat Panel, LED LCD Flat Panels, Test Equipment, UHDTV


UPDATE! About two weeks ago we were given the chance to review a pre-production sample of Samsung’s QN65Q9F flagship 4K Ultra HD QLED TV, but our test sample had a few bugs that prevented us from giving it a final and accurate rating.

At our request, and in the desire to give a fair review of a set consumers are likely to find available for purchase, another review sample was put in our path, and after another analysis we can only say: Now that’s more like it!

This year, Samsung took another step forward in quantum dot technology through the introduction of its three-series 4K Ultra HD QLED TV tier, adding a new metal alloy in the quantum dot structure that contributes to widening viewing angles and boosts both peak brightness and color volume to new heights.

What we can now say after the second time around is the Samsung QN65Q9F presents an image that is brighter than any other TV we’ve tested, vibrant in colors even in the brightest ranges of the picture and 3D-like without the need for glasses. What’s more, the left-to-right viewing angles have been improved to present images that are rich in contrast and color detail from angles as wide as 30-degrees from dead center, surpassing what we’ve come to expect in the past from Samsung’s edge-lit VA LCD panels.

What you are going to have to get used to with this set is learning to watch television with a light or two on in the room, and sitting at least eight feet from the screen. This is because Samsung engineers designed this year’s QLED TVs using viewership studies that found a majority or consumers watch TV with a modest amount of ambient light on in the room, are seated 8-to-9 feet from the screen and rarely sit more than 30 degrees off center axis.

If you turn the lights completely off, you might be disappointed to see the picture lose some degree of contrast, and light bleeding through into letterbox bars when watching  either too close or slightly off center axis to the screen. (We were told Samsung is working on another firmware update to correct the light bleeding issue).

Meanwhile, Samsung’s QLED TVs are now available for order including: the 55-inch QN55Q7F ($2,498.99 UPP), the 65-inch QN65Q7F ($3,498.99); the 75-inch QN75Q7F ($5,997.99), the 55-inch QN55Q8C ($3,497.99), and the 65-inch QN65Q8C ($4,498.99). Coming in a few weeks are the flagship 65-inch QN65Q9F ($5,999.99), reviewed for you here, followed by its larger siblings the 75-inch QN75Q9F ($9,999.99) and the 88-inch QN88Q9F ($19,999.99).

According to Samsung, the Q9F series will have the best picture performance of the three QLED series due in part to the use of an edge-lit LED system positioned at the left and right sides of the screen.

The Q8C and Q7F series use LED edge lighting from the bottom of the screen, enabling a thinner form factor. This is expected to result in slightly lower levels of peak brightness for the step-down models, although color volume coverage is expected to be about the same across all three series, a Samsung representative told us.

Read our first-impressions of the Samsung Q9 4K Ultra HDTV after the jump:

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QLED: Quantum Dot By Yet Another Name

March 24th, 2017 · 2160p, Amazon, Connected TVs, Curved Screen, HDR, laser projectors, News, OLED, UHDTV

Balls of confusion: Marketing material on Samsung’s own web site still implies `QLED TV’ is a distinct new innovation.

Since CES 2017, one of the more confusing new wrinkles in the nomenclature of quantum dot TV technology has been the use of the term “QLED.”

At one time used in press reports out of Asia quoting Samsung executives applying the term to quantum dots with electroluminescent self-emissive lighting qualities still in development, QLED is now being suggested as a more general term to essentially replace “quantum dot” displays.

Chris Chinnock, principal of market research firm Insight Media, was brought by Samsung’s U.S. marketing and communications teams to a meeting with members of the TV reviewer press Thursday to say that Samsung wants to be clear that “QLED” stands for Quantum Dot Light Emitting Diode (QLED), as a reference to any device with a visual display screen enhanced by the use of quantum dots. That goes for other manufacturers’ quantum dot televisions too.

Chinnock went further to say QLED does not refer to a specific application of quantum dots with electroluminescent properties, as many believed before Samsung’s CES introduction. Further, he added, Samsung, which owns the trademark to the QLED term, now wants to share that term openly with any company that wants to use it for their quantum dot display products.

We asked a representative from Samsung for an official statement from the company on this open use of their QLED trademark, but had not received a response as this was posted.

Read more on the use of QLED terminology after the jump:

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Manufacturers Cue Up 2017 Ultra HD Blu-ray Players

March 21st, 2017 · 2160p, 3D Blu-ray player, 4K Flat Panel, 4K LED LCD, Amazon, Blu-ray Discs, Blu-ray Players, Dolby Atmos, DTS:X, DVR, electronic program guides, HDMI, HDR, LG Electronics, News, object-based audio, Streaming Services, UHDTV, Ultra HD Blu-ray Players

                                    The LG UDP970 Ultra HD Blu-ray player.

Televisions supporting 4K Ultra HD resolution with high dynamic range (HDR) and a wide color gamut are gaining critical momentum and manufacturers of Blu-ray Disc players are stepping up to sustain that activity by introducing players supporting the Ultra HD Blu-ray format.

Although many view disc-based formats a thing of the past, the intense bandwidth demands of new data-heavy advanced video and sound formats can hamper the playback of 4K UHD titles on streaming services, making disc players one of the best choices for enjoying uninterrupted and unvarying resolution levels at high bit rates and with the latest surround sound and HDR metadata information layers.

The first such players rolled out just one year ago, and in the months since resulted in the shipment of some 300,000 Ultra HD Blu-ray models, which the Blu-ray Disc Association has estimated to be three times the rate of standard Blu-ray players at comparable points in their respective market roll outs.

At the end of 2016, 110 titles were available and nearly 20 million software units had sold. The BDA forecasts some 250 Ultra HD Blu-ray titles will be released in 2017 from leading studios including Sony Pictures, Warner Bros, Twentieth Century Fox, Lionsgate and Universal.

Meanwhile, the first Ultra HD Blu-ray titles supporting both the mandatory HDR10 and the voluntary Dolby Vision HDR formats are slated to begin rolling out this year from studios including:  Universal, Warner Bros. and Lions Gate. Dolby said it is working with others as well. Additional companies have added Dolby Vision HDR support in televisions this year including: Sony, LeEco, Philips, TCL and Hisense, joining Vizio and LG, which started support for the format more than a year earlier.

Manufacturers with Ultra HD Blu-ray players on the market in the U.S. to date include: Oppo, Samsung, Philips, Panasonic and Microsoft’s Xbox One S gaming console with an Ultra HD Blu-ray drive.

In recent days, Sony joined the mix with its first player, model UBP-X800. Additional first- or second-generation models are on the way in coming weeks from: LG, Philips, Oppo, Samsung, and Sony.

Read more on the 2017 Ultra HD Blu-ray players coming to market after the jump:

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Color Volume Dominates 2017 4K Ultra HDTV Comparisons

March 20th, 2017 · 2160p, 4K Flat Panel, 4K LED LCD, Full Array LED Backlit with Local Dimming, HDR, LCD Flat Panel, LED LCD Flat Panels, LG Electronics, News, OLED, UHD 4K OLED, UHDTV

Color volume measurements showing 3D charts with volume L coordinates on two displays.

As 4K Ultra HD televisions supporting high dynamic range (HDR) and a wider color gamut have evolved over the last several years, an additional criteria for measuring a set’s performance – called color volume – has increasingly entered the TV performance lexicon.

Suddenly the discussion is centered on color accuracy and stability over the full range of brightness, and not just a television’s ability to produce 1,000 nits of peak luminance and cover a DCI-P3 2D color gamut. This is because color volume can be expressed in a three-dimensional space that adds a brightness dimension to a 2D color gamut chart. Previously, the familiar 2D color gamut measured the range of colors that a display can reproduce at a single brightness level, typically 75 or 80 percent of the peak luminance.

The International Committee for Display Metrology (ICDM) has named this new method of evaluating TV performance VCRC (volume-color reproduction capability).

Color volume is the way to quantify the color capability of a display by looking at color coordinates plus the actual brightness or luminance levels. Back in the days of CRT TVs and first-generation flat-panel TVs this wasn’t too much of an issue because all of them were virtually the same luminance levels. As display technologies have progressed, we can now see very different luminance and color capabilities as well as much higher levels of overall brightness.

“HDR really unleashed the whole notion of color volume,” said Patrick Griffis, VP office of the CTO for Dolby Labs. “After 50 years in the world of NTSC, we have just started looking at that little horseshoe [CIE 1931 color space] diagram and we forgot about how bright stuff was, because we all knew it was 100 nits. With HDR, suddenly, we’ve taken the lid off and are able to reproduce the full volume of colors at brightness levels we could never do before. I kind of think of it as unleashing the potential of what’s possible. I tell people that every time you open up your eyes you see HDR. It’s just that we’ve never been able to reproduce it before.”

Various workflows are now being perfected to let TV calibrators and product reviewers accurately measure this aspect.

Meanwhile, color volume measurement is being used this year by manufacturers to pitch the various benefits and limitations of premium 4K Ultra HDTVs, particularly in comparing the benefits between today’s two primary flat-panel TV technologies – LED back- or edge-lit LCD TVs and organic light-emitting diode (OLED) TVs.

Read more of our discussion on color volume after the jump:

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`Planet Earth II’ To Be Released On Ultra HD Blu-ray Disc March 28th

March 16th, 2017 · 2160p, Amazon, Blu-ray Discs, Blu-ray Players, Blu-ray Titles, DVD Players, Full HD 1080p, HDR, News, Surround Sound, UHDTV, Ultra HD Blu-ray Players


BBC Home Entertainment America said this week that it is distributing “Planet Earth II” on Ultra HD Blu-ray disc, making it “the first ever natural history television series” to be released in 4K resolution with HDR. The title will be available in various format packages in the United States and Canada on March 28, 2017.

Like the acclaimed first series of the natural history classic that helped to launch the Blu-ray Disc format a decade earlier, Planet Earth II is narrated by Sir David Attenborough

The 3-disc Ultra HD Blu-ray Edition will be available for a $59.99 suggested retail price, the 2-disc Ultra HD Blu-ray Standard Edition will be available for $39.99, The DVD edition will be priced at $29.96 and the standard Blu-ray version will run $34.95.

Read more about Planet Earth II on Ultra HD Blu-ray after the jump:

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