Friday, January 25, 2013

Celebrity Homes with Jaw Dropping Home Theaters for Sale

Image from sports.yahoo.com
Many people love to troll their favorite gossip sites for the latest celebrity news, including the latest in real estate buying and selling. As home theater enthusiasts, we could care less about Italian marble in the living room or Neo-classic architecture; we want to see where the rich and famous enjoy their movies! Lately, a few places have gone on the market with pricey home theaters as a selling point. Here is a look at a couple of them, (some even with pictures)!

 Barry Bonds’ 25 Million dollar Home – The famous MLB slugger has put his Beverly Hills mansion up for sale. The Beverly Hills mansion is 17,100 square feet and sits on 1.8 acres of property. More importantly, the light and airy open theater space looks as if it is inspired by Ceaser’s Palace in Las Vegas. Where are the slot machines and buffet?

Piney Point Mansion for 9.5 Million – At 23,500 square feet, this mansion in the pricey suburb of Houston, TX has it all. It has everything from granite and marble floors, suspended staircases, malachite inlays and even gold plated fixtures. The best part of this house has got to be the home theater. With blue velvet walls, real wood trim and a large sectional, this home theater space looks like something out of a fairy tale. While the sellers may not be national celebrities (Recently divorced Melanie and Doug Johnson of Channel 51 Fame), one of the potential buyers is. Rumor has it that Beyonce is interested in buying the house for her mother.

Image from CEPro
Ryan Seacrest from American Idol - Industry home theater audiophiles were lit up when these images of the famous presenter and radio DJ hit the internet last year.  They surfaced when he put this home up for sale for as part of an upgrade to Ellen DeGeneres's $49 million palace.  Don't worry, Forbes claim he earned $51M last year so he will survive.  His old home (sold for $11M and purchased for the same price in 2006 from Kevin Costner) showcases one of the very cleanest theater designs that have been seen in years.  Totally original and somewhat contemporary, this look struck a cord in the industry and will no doubt be emulated for years to come. Check out the images of the back room behind the home theater which is adorned with in-wall speakers and sub-woofers.

 Madonna’s Magnificent Mansion – The Material Girl herself has put her huge Beverly Hills mansion up for sale at a cool 22.5 million dollars. This 17,000 foot spread has nine bedrooms, two guest houses and a full-sized screening room. Unfortunately no pictures of the screening room exist, but with Madonna’s millions of dollars (and expensive tastes), it has to be more than this improvised home theater.

Christina Aguilera shows her style - in the recent listing for sale of the Beverly Hills Mediterranean  home well recognized from the Osbourne reality show.  The home was bought by the pop star for $11.5M in 2008 from Sharon and Ozzy and is now on the market for sale at $13.5M following the announcement of her divorce from her husband Jordan Bratman.  The home theater and entertainment room enjoys a look that is distinctly Christina.

Michael Jordan's Huge Florida home - This brand new mega-property represents a big move for the famous basketball player.  A Chicago (Highland Park) native for decades, the icon has now decided to move to Jupiter FL and into an exclusive community called the Bear Club - developed by Jack Nicklaus.  This neighborhood is home to many billionaires and his home sits on three acres and includes a tony home theater room that is massive and is specially designed to handle large amounts of cigar smoke.

Friday, January 18, 2013

CES 2013: 4K vs. Ultra HD – The Future of Home Video Debate Rages On

As we look back on the exquisite chaos that was the 2013 CES Expo in Las Vegas last week, TV makers gave us a glimpse of the future of home video: 4K and Ultra HD. If this argument seems familiar, it is. The same formats were unveiled at the CES Expo of 2012. Only this time, major manufacturers are starting to unveil market-ready products that promise to usher in a whole new level of home theater resolution, and just like Blu-ray vs. HD-DVD and VHS vs. Betamax, there are two major formats competing for your eyeballs – Ultra HD (also called 4K) and OLED screen technology.

What’s the Difference? – The fundamental difference between the two is that OLED is a type of display technology while 4K is a resolution format. Both offer video definition that puts current 1080p displays to shame, but they go about it in different ways. OLED screens are celebrated for their vivid colors. Blacks are true black and colors pop better than ever. OLED screens also offer wider viewing angles and fluid fast motion thanks to a faster response rate. OLED screens can also be curved, ushering a whole new dimension in screen design. TechHive explains more about OLED technology here. Ultra-HD on the other hand offers a screen resolution of 3840 x 2160 pixels, or 2160p. This roughly quadruples the number of pixels vs. a standard 1080i screen. 4K resolution is also close to true 35mm film resolution, and is the standard that movie studios use to digitally archive their film content. Movie theaters are already using a different form of 4K to screen select movies like The Amazing Spider-Man and Prometheus. TechHive also has a great article that further explains 4K technology.

What’s the Cost? – Right now, 4K and OLED television sets are available from major manufacturers like LG and Sony. These sets are large, ranging in size from 65 to 80 inches, and boast a price tag of 20 – 25,000 dollars! This makes them out of reach of all but the richest and most committed home theater aficionados. The good news is that the price is likely to come down to more reasonable levels as the technology becomes more mainstream. This has happened from the very first VCR’s all the way to the latest HD televisions.

Why Wait? Take My Money Now! – Three major factors (other than price) might make you want to take pause. The first is that most people have HD televisions that are only a few years old. Unlike the HD TV, which was the first major innovation since color television in the 1960’s, these new formats come right on the heels of high definition TV. The second major factor is the lack of content. While 4K Blu-ray discs and digital downloads are being developed, there are not many choices available. Also, while your new TV may support 4K resolution, your set-top box, game console and Blu-ray player do not. Finally, the third reason you may want to wait is the best. At the CES 2013 Expo, Panasonic unveiled a 4K OLED TV that combines the best of both worlds! So it may be better to wait and get two fantastic technologies in one package.

Friday, January 11, 2013

Cut the Cord! A Look at Wireless Gadgets for Home Theaters

If you’re like me, you have moved beyond the charm of speaker wires stapled to the wall or wound around furniture to wire your home theater. Such a method was fine for our first apartments but not for a sophisticated home theater. You could spend precious money or time pushing the wiring through your walls, but if you have neither the money nor skill to do this it can be quite a chore (as the numerous holes in my rec-room walls can attest to).  Lucky for us, numerous manufacturers have come out with wireless home theater gadgets that deliver high quality sound and picture without the pesky wires.

Wireless Speakers – These days, many televisions and home theater components have Bluetooth, WiFi or Airplay capability, and manufacturers are starting to utilize these capabilities. Most of the products in this category, like the Sony RDP-XA900IP are designed to work with small devices like smartphones. Others like the Aperion 5.1 and 7.1 Home theater Systems reviewed by PC Magazine are designed to communicate over a 5GHz band. This is less crowded than the 2.4GHz band that most WiFi and Bluetooth devices use. Right now this technology is available at the $3,000 range, but will likely come down in price as the technology becomes more widespread.

Wireless HD – Many new Blu-ray DVD players and game systems have WiFi connectivity that allows them to stream content and play it on your HD TV. If the unit and TV are connected with an HDMI cable, true HD content can be streamed to the TV. There are also stand-alone units that do the same thing, such as the Roku brand of wireless receivers. These devices also have the capability to stream content from your home computer with a Media app like Plex.

Wireless Projectors – A great alternative to a flat panel television is a projector and screen. This configuration is necessary for screens larger than 70 inches without spending a fortune. Wireless or Smart Projectors use technologies like Airplay and WiFi to stream content and project it on a screen. One of the best known models is the Epson PowerLite Home Cinema 3010e.  PC Mag reviewed this projector and said that it is one of the few true HD projectors to support WirelessHD.

Friday, January 4, 2013

The Future of Home Theater 3D Sound is “Virtual Sound Balls”

The next level of 3D sound could literally give you a ball. Scientists at the Korea Advanced Institute of Science and Technology (KAIST) are working on a new technology that controls the location of sound with an array of loudspeakers and a software controller. This new system creates virtual “sound ball” that calculates the virtual location, direction and intensity of a sound to make it feel like it is really happening in the room. They announced this technology in a recent press release.

What are 3D Sound effects? – 3D sound is a term that describes the feeling that sound from a movie or other media is happening in a particular direction. Sounds may seem to happen behind, above or to one side of your location. This effect is achieved with surround-sound speakers, headphones or a speaker array.

How Do These Sound Balls Work? – KAIST Professors Yang-Hann Kim and Jung-Woo Choi are the primary developers of this new system. They use an array of 24 – 50 small loudspeakers controlled by a complex software app to create a 3D space. Within this space, the array can create virtual points of sound (which they have dubbed sound balls). Each of these points can then emit sounds that the listener hears as coming from a particular location. No matter where the listener moves in the 3D Space the location of the sound balls remains constant, so the virtual location of the sound is always in the same place. This system allows for commercial movie theater quality surround sound without the need for expensive speakers or hardware.

When Can I Buy this Technology? -  Although the technology is still in the testing stage, Professor Jung-Woo Choi reports that it “is ready for an immediate translation into commercial products”. This means that we could see this technology on the market within the next 5 years. In the meantime, you can read more about this new discovery in this article from RedOrbit.