Entertainment on the Water

Riding the surface of the water on a wakeboard is more than a kick. As a hybrid of waterskiing, snowboarding, and surfing, it has no parallel. How can it get better than this? By adding speakers to your wakeboard tower, that’s how! You can have recreational entertainment right out there on the waves, accompanying you as you ride high on the crest of heaven.

What the…you ask? I am here to explain. Tower speakers are the latest in digital musical equipment that operates by means of devices called “cans” and a little wiring. For a couple hundred dollars or much more, you can listen to your favorite tunes while at play on the water. Who wouldn’t want that? Music goes with us anywhere and everywhere, my friend. And that includes wakeboarding.

Marine speakers are designed for water entertainment purposes. Buy a few clamps and you are ready to go. They are elegant stainless and black gadgets that are adjustable and rotatable. The system is airtight and secure, usually treated for UV inhibition and salt water corrosion. The makers know what they are doing for every special need. This kind of device has changed the face of sports including swimming, creating sonic pleasure wherever you enjoy your pastime. You can resonate the music to your desired sound. The acoustic technology is amazing and as good as any other type around.

For that special outdoorsman in the family, tower speakers would be a great, novel gift. I would definitely add some tunes from the sixties. You can’t go wrong with the Beach Boys. Surfin’ USA, Surfin’ Safari, and Wipe Out are classics. You can throw in Pipeline by the Chantays, Surf City by Jan and Dean, and anything by Dick Dale. There are some modern renditions but they pale by comparison, so we will let them slide. This will get your wakeboarder in just the right frame of mind. Hip Hop and Rap just don’t cut it.

By now, you might want to get into the wet picture and join in the coastal fun. There is nothing like a group experience to foment camaraderie. You get to be towed behind a motorboat which creates the “wake.” There are other ways as well designed for the sport using cable systems. It’s a newish game derived from a late 1980s fad and is now popularly done at resorts and beach towns around the world. New Zealand is one of the hot spots as is Queensland, Australia. But you will find aficionados in Florida, California, and Hawaii. Just ask the locals to teach you a few edging techniques and jumps. You will feel like a pro when you start executing high tricks, all to the accompaniment of Surf City. Going airborne the first time is a breathless experience! Make sure you get the right length and width of board, however, to make it all possible.

Bonus Info: the tricks have great names like fashion air, tantrum to blind, tootsie roll, tweety bird, batwing, blind judge, and Moby Dick. These alone should get you on board in no time.

The Movie Theater is Dead, Long Live the Home Theater

So you think you want a home theater. Great idea. Who wants to trudge over to the local cinema in the rain, buy expensive tickets, and take your chances on good visibility?  Besides, it’s tiresome to hear intrusive chatter and feel dirty feet propped on the back of your seat.

Some say the movie theater is dead.  (Well, they are certainly smaller!) It’s probably not entirely true for kids and teens, but adults seem to go less and less. If they do, it is a special occasion to be sure and there is nothing really like the real thing. But busy lives means little time for a couple of stolen hours in the dark on Sunday. However, most people still want to see the latest films not available yet on regular TV. They would love to do it at their convenience—hassle-free.

If you are thinking of converting a basement room or unused den into a home theater, you have hit the nail on the head for facility and flexibility. You can entertain friends, amuse guests, keep the kids occupied, and indulge whenever you like.  This is freedom! The question is what to install and at what price. The options are numerous. It is a sophisticated realm requiring forethought and a considerable budget to get superior results.

Designing a good space takes a professional consultant, and there are services that do just that. They will consider how many seats, the size of the screen, and the quality of the sound and visual equipment for everyday use. You can count on a custom job once you provide details of your specific needs and desires. You can, of course, do it yourself if you do a lot of legwork. Basically, you need a high definition system including a TV, speakers, receiver, surround sound, Blu-ray player, etc. Don’t forget Internet connectivity and to look at a variety of options to make sure your choices are adequate and within budget. It’s all about a top quality picture and mind-blowing sound.

Once in place, the movie world is your oyster. You can watch in the middle of the night or on a day off from work. Nothing is better than a relaxing two hours in a comfortable leather arm chair with a tasty bowl of flavored popcorn on your lap and a cold beer at your side! You can use the pause button and check your email at will, tend to personal matters, or stop for a nap.  No worries about parking in the far distance from the theater or settling for noisy gum-chewing spectators. Forget $5 for a soda and $8 for a candy bar. Your own home is the ultimate in cinematic pleasure.

What’s more, you can share it with others.  Why not have a baseball game day, a Super Bowl party, a children’s birthday bash, or a bachelor party. There is no end to uses for your home theater space. Keep the wet bar stocked, the refrigerator full, and keep the guests coming.

The Basics of Home Entertainment

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Scenario one: Your friends have arrived and you hand them a cold beer or glass of wine. You exchange greetings and make idle conversation before descending the stairs to your basement home theater. It’s show time! They enter a large windowless space filled with comfortable oversized leather armchairs that adjust to the perfect tilt. Foot rests match each one. Gasps of envy are in the air. A giant bowl of gourmet popcorn sits beside a tray of imported cheeses glazed with honey and festooned with nuts.

Scenarios two: You are a member of the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences and vote every year. You usually watch the nominated films at local showings. More and more time seems to be required and when you get DVDs in the mail, you relish the thought of a home theater to do your duty in style and on your own time.

Scenario three: The kids are dying to see the latest Disney film with their friends followed by a game or two of Fussball. Mom loves to bake cookies and they are already stacked on a big plate next to the cartons of Hawaiian punch.

Scenario four: You area an inveterate bachelor but don’t have a separate space for a home theater.  Your living room would make a good location for specialized equipment.  It’s a bit empty right now. A big comfy sofa in front of a giant screen will do the trick. (Remember that screen size depends on viewing distance.)

Whatever your scenario, a home theater is a great choice for those who take their TV and movie viewing seriously. You need some basics, and it is easy to escalate as you learn more about equipment options. Here is a starter checklist:

  • Surround sound and high quality audio
  • Blu-ray player
  • Set of speakers and subwoofer
  • Receiver
  • High definition/high resolution TV—720p or 1080p picture
  • Internet connection
  • Accessories like cables, power protection, universal remote
  • Room lighting

Consider for an average budget: an almost completely wireless system, especially good for condo or apartment: $12,567

QTY ITEM PRICE TOTAL
1 Sonos Bridge $50 $50
1 Sonos Playbar $699 $699
1 Sonos Playbar Wall Bracket $40 $40
1 Sonos Sub $699 $699
2 Sonos Play Three Wireless Amplified Speakers $299 $598
1 Chief Full Articulating TV Wall Mount $579 $579
1 Apple IPAD Mini $399 $399
1 Apple IPAD Mini Case $65 $65
1 Sony Wi-Fi(r) Blu-ray Disc(tm) player with 4k upscaling $399 $399
1 Sony 65″ 4k TV (Flagship Model – Highest Resolution) $7,995 $7,995
1 Sony 4k Media Server $699 $699
2 HDMI Cables $60 $120
1 Optical Cable $75 $75
1 Install Hardware $150 $150
$12,567

12,565.99

While this system is a good start and contains quality brands, you can upgrade to different models as your needs change and you learn about other choices. A larger dedicated space in your home or office might require different equipment. A more sophisticated surround sound system is often the first area to tackle.

R.I.P DVD 1995-2014

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Technology can be a blessing or maddening. It changes all too often for some of us who are just getting used to one device when another hits the shelves. Some people just can’t resist the latest smart phone, tablet, or flat screen TV in principle. They want to brag about it! If that sounds familiar, you better be flexible these days, particularly in the world of entertainment. If you are like most, you didn’t catch the latest movie or TV show when it first appeared and are now craving to see it. You used to buy DVDs or rent them at Blockbuster (who?). Well, they have gone the way of beta tapes, cassettes, and other obsolete gadgets whose names we can’t even remember.

You might not even recall the groundbreaking appearance of a new invention in 1995 thanks to Phillips, Panasonic, Sony, and Toshiba (was there a mole that leaked info to competitors?). Known as digital optical disc storage (DVD), it solved the problem of the fragile tape cassette. It was an extension of the CD with enhanced capability, although it did require a specific player that you didn’t yet have. We all ran out and bought them of course! They had better data lifespan and were even interactive. It was all about high quality at your fingertips. Then came the DVD-R and a new player to boot! And so it goes on.

It was thrilling. No more broken tapes or damaged playback as with VHS. They were smaller and easy to stow away on a shelf.  They were better than CDs. Players were more streamlined and you could use your computer if it was up to date (or you ran out and got a new one). It was a magical time! You were in charge. Then came Blu-ray and you had to toss everything (at least those obsessed with keeping up). One thing always supersedes another!  Sony gets the credit for this advancement in 2000 (although it was officially released closer to 2006) that boasted of even higher definition than the DVD.

Well sooner or later, there is something else on the horizon, something new to covet in fear of becoming obsolete. Now you can sign up for Netflix, use On Demand, or simply download what you want. There is Hulu and other services to view TV episodes as well.  You can pay for them on Amazon Prime. I must say it is getting easier all the time with online video. Data shows a rise in usage with these platforms with billions spent in the process. It’s a free-for-all out there!

Don’t incinerate those DVDs just yet my friends. You can still use them to burn stuff. They may even become collectors’ items if they stop making them! Kids still use them and people who can’t be bothered with learning the new resources available. However, most will want to opt for dish installation, subscription services, cable programming, and other assorted modalities to be in the know and up to speed.

The Magic of Surround Sound

Mohamed Habib, frequently seen on the Housewives of Beverly Hills (he was, in fact, married to one of them), has spent two million dollars on a lavish, beyond-comprehension home theater compound recently. It is as big as the average middle class home.  No words can describe the luxury–mostly to be used by his young adult daughters and their friends no doubt. It is all part of his palatial estate and indicates the popularity of the trend. Sophisticated systems are not uncommon in this area of Los Angeles, but his surpasses even the most opulent.

Surround sound is a feature of Mohamed’s special space (architecturally designed from scratch for concert hall acoustics) that also includes an enormous 3D TV with response time in the milliseconds (we are not telling if it is the diamond studded panel model by Yalos or the 152 inch Panasonic at 500K), state-of-the art symphonic quality speakers for maximum multi-channel surround sound, and more. This is just to make you drool. In actuality, however, many “average” Joes are getting home theater installations with an extraordinary capacity for high quality sound.

What exactly is surround sound? It is simply a stereophonic system with three or more speakers (many more are actually used today). It creates an amazing realistic effect as if sound were surrounding the listener from the perspective of 360 degrees. The speakers or channels go I front and behind. Most people are familiar with Dolby Digital, one of the reigning formats. Don’t worry about full- bandwidth, low frequency effects, and matrixes (for encoding separate sound signals from a stereo source) for now. The basic components include:

  • Home theater receiver (the brain of the system) and digital equalizers
  • Speakers and a subwoofer (don’t mix brands)
  • Power protection, cables, universal remote (don’t skimp on quality)
  • Internet and component connections
  • AV setup: speaker stands/brackets, etc.

The average person cannot afford the very same components, but they can enjoy the best that surround sound has to offer at various prince points from $10,000 to $100,000 or more.  Each system has its selling points and the one selected should not only suit one’s budget, but the optimal placement, purpose, and likely users. Whether a home theater and or sound system will be operated by adults or children makes a difference in making the right choice. Surround sound systems can be in a den, living room, basement rec area, or special designated space in the home or an adjunct structure. The level of quality will reflect price and brand models. It is best to consult the experts, listen to various options, and make your decision. Warning: starting with the best will surely color your view of lower-priced units.

Surround sound goes with the home theater territory but a true audiophile will appreciate the specific benefits of a quality system. Our eyes have gotten more sophisticated in line with music industry recording processes and what we hear at the cinema. Good sound is essential to great movie viewing wherever you are. But remember that it takes research and planning to do it well for a fair price.  You don’t want to mix connection types and get muddled sound. You need to know how much power for your speakers and your amp to suit room size. Placement is a consideration far too often overlooked. If you are still nonplussed, try Home Theater in a Box.

How To: Home Movie Projector

You are an inveterate bachelor and love to entertain the guys, particularly on those lazy, boring Sunday afternoons. You could use the rec room in your condo building, but you would have to share it with dozens of other tenants and their noisy guests. Besides, you don’t want to share the gourmet popcorn and imported beer.  So you decide to get a digital projector and turn your biggest wall in the living room into a permanent screen. Your DVD collection is just waiting for exposure. As for gaming, bring it on!

In the absence of a basement or spare room home theater, a great solution is to use existing living space to show videos and project programs larger than life. Even if you are a family man with a nice suburban spread, you can enjoy the benefits of your mini system for a modest outlay. All those great videos of kids’ birthday parties, Uncle Joe’s sixtieth birthday, and your trip to Hawaii will come to life with a few effortless steps. Operating the simpler projectors is so easy, a child can do it! They no doubt will use it for their favorite Disney films and cartoons. Whatever the purpose, hours of fun are in store.

Home movie projectors come in all shapes and sizes. Pick your price point and start looking at available models. Check out the features: what can’t you live without? Most people want 1080p resolution and full 3D capability. This is your special treat and you deserve it. Sony and Panasonic make good projectors. You can spend $600 to $13,000. If this is overwhelming, take a look at a few recommended options.

  • Epson PowerLite Home Cinema 2030: This full HD 3D unit sells for around $875 and is perfect for living room use.  In addition, it can access content from smart phones and streaming video from other services. With good image quality, it does not have the highest power or longest zoom lens, and high contrast ratio, but you can’t beat it for the price. For a more professional model, go for the Epson PowerLite Pro Cinema 6030UB at a pricey $3,500.
  • BenQW1500: At $1,500 it is a mid-range projector with superior image quality, a flexible zoom lens, wireless HDMI, and produces over 1700 lumens. A great all around choice.

Tips and tricks

There are a few buyers guides on line to help you sort through the maze of options if you want to look further. You need to be concerned about:

  • Brightness
  • Native aspect ratio (related to source material)
  • Lamp life
  • Image quality and resolution (pixels)
  • DEEP color and frame interpolation
  • Do you want 3D?
  • Where and how to mount the projector
  • Sound system with speakers

It is imperative to know what mode to use on your projector for best results with Blu-ray, DVDs, and HDTV signals. A little knowledge goes a long way in helping you enjoy your purchase to the maximum. It can get pretty complicated so never bet ashamed of using a consultant or a trustworthy online guide.