Welcome to another meeting for audiophile Tweek-Masters. I'm writing this at leisure listening to my system while my compatriots are wearing their shoe leather and ears out perusing the thousands of exhibits at this year's Consumer Electronics Show (CES 2009). I know, it is almost every audiophile's dream to be able to attend this annual get-together for all things electronic, especially the two high end audio shows, but if you've attended one, you'd understand my reluctance to submit my body and ears to this four day orgy of sights and sounds. While it used to be fun years ago to attend, especially when it was located in Chicago hotels, the venue has gotten so huge and the new and wonderful so few and far between that it has become a true chore to try to find the truly impressive from the chaff.
So here I sit enjoying a little Beethoven played through my self-built home theater computer listening to 24-bit/96kHz transcriptions of my vinyl to hard disc played using the cMP and cPlay programs by Sound Forge .These programs have the advantage of working around Windows by shutting down most of XP and Vista's functions and loading the digits to the computer's RAM, thus cutting down tremendously on the normal noise and jitter with which a computer can color the S/PDIF signal.
While experimenting I've also found that using the motherboard's own SPDIF output to my pre-pro for decoding, rather than my Juli or M-Audio soundcards, there seems to be a slight improvement in low volume information. This leads to an improvement in ambiance recovery, which is the opposite of what normally should occur with a top-grade soundcard. Possibly the ability of the two programs to load the digits to RAM rather than reading them directly from the spinning hard drive actually removes the need for a soundcard. Try it and let me know what happens in your system.
Samsung BD-UP5000 Video Player
In the negative, it will not play back SACD or multi-channel DVD-Audio discs, but with even Sony abandoning SACD, the two audio standards may not be available much longer.
While I do watch movies, it was purchased to be able to review Blu-ray and HD-DVD audio discs and video recordings of musical performances. Unhappily, there are several problems with this. First, there still aren't many high definition classical performances out there, with Amazon.com showing 43, mostly opera recordings. Second, several of those available, including all of the discs from the Acoustic Reality Experience series, cannot be read by the unit even though my Home Theater computer with LG high definition drive has no problem with them. Unhappily, the computer will only pass two channel HD Audio and only in 16-bit/48kHz so that's a non-starter for listening to high definition discs. My Sony PS3 Playstation will also not play them so something is rotten in Denmark with the HD-Audio standard for Blu-ray.
Third, the Blu-ray standard allows for 24-bit/192kHz audio only discs using LPCM, Dolby HD or DTS-MA encoding of 7.1 files which the unit could not do when I got the unit. Happily, the latest software update has solved this, and now they can be transferred to your pre-pro for playback over the HDMI connection. While there aren't many of these discs out there yet, the several I reviewed from 2L as reviewed at this link are superb and well worth the price of admission. With the excellent reproduction of sound now available in 7.1 24-bit/192kHz surround which at least matches SACD in my system, hopefully other companies will get around to producing more discs of this quality.
DVD Suite 7 Ultra
suite consists of the following programs:
B. PowerDVD for watching
C. PowerProducer for authoring
D. MediaShow for slide show creation
E. Power2Go for Data backup and burning
F. PowerBackup for archiving
G. Instant Burn 5 for direct burning of off the air TV or stored video or audio
H. PowerDVD Copy to copy DVD's
I. LabelPrint2 for digital disc printing
Some of the functions of the above programs include:
2. Create and share normal and high definition videos either from off-the air programming or from digital video cameras.
3. Produce DVD or Blu-ray discs from the above.
4. Backup and burn computer data to DVD or Blu-ray discs.
5. Manage photo, video and audio files.
6. Check your computer to see what needs to be done to run Blu-ray discs.
7. Access their on-line web site to download add-ons and information to enhance the programming.
8. Playback of AVCHD files from video camera through the computer.
9. Save battery power on a notebook.
10. Edit, clean and stabilize jittery video.
11. Output your video creations to HDV or DV tape, or MPEG4 files, or to You-Tube.
12. If your computer is capable it will transmit Dolby TrueHD 5.1 and DTS Master Audio 2.0 to a pre-pro for processing.
So does the program live up to my expectations? In a word, Yes. This is the first all-in-one program for video and audio that has functioned as expected without problem. The help files and on-line discussion groups were excellent for answering the couple of questions that came up during my evaluation. The only minor quibble was with the inability to possibly transmit DTS Master Audio 5.1 files, as the program can only deal with 2.0 stereo. Hopefully an update will be coming down the road to help this situation. At this time it really isn't a problem as most video and audio cards with HDMI output, as discussed above, can only deliver stereo high definition files anyway.
Other than that minor inconvenience, the program is superb and for its $129.95 list price a real value. Over Christmas time they had a sale for $97.46 and hopefully will do it again down the road. For anybody involved in video the program is a real bargain.
Till Eulenspiegel; Don Juan