Audio-Technica AT-LP60-USB Turntable

To say that vinyl is making a comeback is not only an understatement, but a belated one at that. Since this blog is relatively new, you’ll have to excuse my tardiness.  I realize that for the audiophile among us, vinyl never actually went away.  For those of you who have either come back to it through nostalgia or for more aesthetic reasons the options have never been better.

I bought my first turntable at the age of 15.  After careful study of all of the choices available to me I chose a BIC 980.  If you’re not familiar with BIC, it’s not the same guys who make the lighters.  They were a loudspeaker distributor turned manufacturer that got into turntables for a brief period in the 1970’s.  The company still sells highend speakers today.

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Amazon Fire Tablet HD 8

I’m going to do something that I don’t normally do and that’s let you know about a sale item. The reason I’m doing this is twofold. First, it’s Friday afternoon and I’ve spent most of the day trying to get something up here for the weekend. Secondly, I’ve used this product myself for a year and a half and I strongly believe it’s a good product. The fact that it’s on sale, makes it a great time for you to learn about it.

When I purchased my tablet back in 2015, my expectations were pretty low. I wanted something that I could use for basic mobile/wifi functions, like browsing, Skype and playing music. I found out pretty quick that I set the bar too low. In the last year I’ve used this thing for all sorts of activities including gaming, video streaming, voice control and even as a controller for my Fire TV Stick.

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Portable Grand Piano

I was one of those kids who was always musically challenged. I love music, and I can remember the lyrics to about a million songs, but I can’t seem to translate that into moving my fingers along an instrument. It probably didn’t help that when I was 8 years old my mother decided I should learn to play the accordion. It seems we had a cousin who was a big thing on the Steel Pier, and I think she had visions of us wowing the Ed Sullivan show with our hardcore accordion beats.

Needless to say, my mother’s dream never came true. Not only did I never make it to the Ed Sullivan Show, or even the Steel Pier, I never again seriously picked up an instrument. Thanks, Mom. It was only in recent years that I got the itch to try to learn something again, and I’ve now bought and sold or given away those neglected acoustic guitars.

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VR Remote Controllers

There’s a growing number of applications for Virtual Reality Headsets. From Architecture and Engineering to Simulation and Training, the breadth of content is growing rapidly. While the business applications are choosing higher end solutions from dedicated VR companies such as HTC and Oculus, the majority of the consumer market is dominated by low-end devices used in conjunction with Smartphones.

As I pointed out in the last article, VR Goggle offerings from Samsung and Google lead the field in price, performance and functionality. Other makers are quickly jumping in to offer alternatives with even better price/performance and expanded functionality. The one aspect that many of these providers have ignored is an area that I find is key to the overall adoption of virtual reality, and that is human interface or controllers.

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Virtual Reality (VR) Headsets

Any discussion of home entertainment these days is incomplete without mentioning the growing presence of Virtual Reality in the living room.  Officially dubbed VR3, because of the failure of the both the 1980’s and 1990’s incarnations, the new VR is light years ahead of its predecessors both in content and acceptance.

In the 1980’s VR Pioneer Jaron Lanier and his partner founded VPL Research, focusing on commercializing virtual reality technologies.  With much media coverage and attendant funding, the company prospered for a few years, but then filed for bankruptcy in 1990.  The products they created were expensive, and without powerful hardware, the software applications were anemic.  The patents were bought by Sun Microsystems in 1999, and likely archived inside some scary robot hidden beneath Bill Joy’s office.

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LED TV Backlight Accent Strips

Since we’re already on the subject of lighting, I decided to look into something that has fascinated me for quite a while and that’s LED back-lighting. It’s one of those subtle things about a movie theater experience that we take for granted. When you find yourself looking for that missing ingredient to recreating the big screen cinema feeling in your home, it just might be the lighting.

What’s currently on the market ranges from the very simple lighting strips, to more advanced units that can fully interact with your content. Much of the latter is still in the development phase, and far more expensive, but what’s out there now gives you plenty of control over how you set the mood. Choices of colors and schema from remote control is pretty much the starting point for what you want to look for in LED Back-lighting.

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TP-Link Smart LED Light Bulb

One of the often overlooked aspects of home theater setups is lighting. I’ve gotten used to using the little lamp in the corner to produce the right amount of light so that I can see whatever I might be snacking on, or to find the controller on the coffee table. Otherwise, I like the room fairly dark. For anyone who’s spent time and money on getting the right gear, the full theater experience isn’t complete unless the lighting is just right.

In the past I’ve had media rooms with recessed lighting and full-on dimmer capabilities, but my space is quite a bit simpler now. Scattered lamps and an overly bright overhead light fulfill the lighting duties of the room. I admit that I’ve been lax in upgrading but I wanted to do the next iteration right, complete with connected devices and voice control.

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Nvidia Shield Streaming Media Player

Online Gaming is something I’ve done since I first got dial-up many years ago.  I started with a Zork derivative back in the early 80’s, and moved on to RP and Social Muds later in the decade. It would be years later when I actually worked in the field myself, that I picked up online gaming again in the form of Asheron’s Call.

For those who play the genre of MMO’s you’re aware of the many benefits and challenges of playing online games. The games today are light years ahead of their ancestors in both content and graphic quality, but the basic issue remains the same – is the game world as responsive as if it were running on my local computer. In gaming, there’s little tolerance for lag.

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IPS LED Backlit Monitor

No matter what sort of electronic media home entertainment you’re into, the most visible component in any setup is the monitor. You can spend a lot of time and money finding exactly the right Mini PC or other Media player, but it won’t amount to much if the output isn’t crisp, clear and bright under all sorts of viewing conditions. If you don’t put in the time to find the right display, you’ll regret it every time you turn it on.

I’ve purchased dozens of monitors over the years, starting with a “green screen” CRT nearly 40 years ago. I’m pretty sure I paid about two hundred and fifty dollars for my first monochrome screen which seems pretty outrageous by today’s standards.   I think I’d be willing to pay about five bucks for that sort of functionality now.

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Echo Dot Voice Controlled Smart Device

Voice enable devices is one of those things I had a hard time warming up to. It probably didn’t help me to see movies like “Her” or 2001:A Space Odyssey; “I’m sorry Dave, I’m afraid I can’t do that.” The whole technology just seemed creepily inadequate to serve any useful purpose in my daily life.

On the other hand we have benevolent (and useful) voice enabled computer tech in shows like Star Trek and Knight Rider. Back in the day, I would have bought a Trans Am if I could have gotten it with Kitt.  Sadly, the reality never came close to the science fiction hype.

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