Recently, I had the chance to walk down memory lane about on the topic of how AudiophileReview.com came to be a good eight or so years ago. The first concept came when someone kindly presented me with the opportunity to purchase the AudiophileReview.com domain which nicely matched the trademarked HomeTheaterReview.com domain and I quickly made the investment. Talking conceptually with my then, long-time audiophile salesperson the question was posed: "even though HomeTheaterReview.com reviews tons of top performing audiophile products - do audiophiles hold a grudge against topics like home theater and video?" I'd say it's safe to say many do.
Audiophiles have historically fought technological change. Typical "analog only" audiophiles favor old technologies over new ones even when the new ones clearly get you closer to the master tape, deeper bass and so on.
The team at AudiophileReview.com are here to challenge these old paradigms; thus my opening statement... all audiophiles should incorporate an Ultra HDTV in their systems effective immediately.
I am not saying you need an object-based surround sound system with 13.2.26 channels, but what I am saying is that with top of the line UHD TVs costing less than $2,000 and UHD Blu-ray players from likes of Oppo Digital are pumping out outrageously gorgeous 4K video images as well as supporting legacy HD audio silver disc formats like DVD-Audio and SACD - there is so much to gain...
To be clear, I am not advocating that you have to sit down to as Eric Cartman from South Park said "movies about cowboys eating pudding" and or other artsy crap. What I am saying is that there are be it via a $100-$200 Roku or Apple TV pumping out Netflix, Amazon Studios or other 4K apps - there is more and more awesome content that is both HD audio AND video and you need in on it.
4K video is capable of drool-worthy content, and High Resolution audio is exponentially better than anything vinyl has any hope of reproducing when the original is from an original high-definition digital source (50 year old records ARE better than poor transfers onto digital). 4K video has about four times the resolution of 1080p. Billions and billions more colors too. Just remember to adjust the settings on any new UHD set to "home theater" or "cinema" versus "dynamic" or "burn-your-eyes-out-of-your-head-mode" which is often the default for most TVs today out of the box. Better yet, if you can justify investing another $300 to $500, hire a professional calibrator and have him or her really dial in your video to true SMPTE standards if you want to go for the Nth degree in video to match the performance of your sound system. You get a good performance tweak and your set will last significantly longer in terms of durability.
Some of the cooler content that I've been watching this way is on Netflix in 4K in the form of growing collection of very well done 4K documentaries. Personally, I am all-in on food porn be it on TV, books or beyond. I am all-in on the likes of Anthony Bourdain's Parts Unknown on CNN (1080p), the Hamptons-tastic Barefoot Contessa on Food Network (1080p) or even Andrew Zimmern's various shows (1080p) on The Travel Network. Amazingly, the audio and video content get better through the Roku or AppleTV in 4K. I am loving watching culinary documentary series such as Ugly Delicious, Chef's Table and Somebody Feed Phil (4K HDR) on Netflix. My six year old as well as my 67 year old mother-in-law are loving Abstract: The Art of Design also in 4K on Netflix which looks at different genres of design from automotive design for Chrysler-Fiat to a British interior designer to sneaker design by one of Nike's most lauded shoe designers who worked on a number of their most successful products. The topics are somewhat intellectual but are somewhat aspirational at the same time. For me, there's no way that I am getting on a plane to fly to Bangkok to eat at the best restaurant in Asia according to the Pellegrino list but I am sure glad my friend Phil did and he was kind enough to film it in 4K.
Let me continue to make my case using the example of HomeTheaterReview.com, audiophile writer, Ben Shyman. Ben is a 47-year old sales executive living in mighty Manhattan. He is a husband, a father of a two-year-old and a die-hard music lover specifically jazz and progressive rock. He's owned high-end surround systems in the past both in New York City and in San Francisco. In the coming months, as he's moving on up (like The Jeffersons) to a new, deluxe co-op in the sky somewhere on the Upper East Side, he is more of a 2.1 guy but he always packs UHD video. Ben keeps things simple with high end electronics from Pass Labs (class-A power), Audio Research (tube pre), Mark Levinson (music server-DAC), Bricasti (alt-DAC), Focal (Sopra 1 speakers), Roku and Apple Computer. He's got a modest but professionally calibrated OLED TV from LG rocking 4K and he's almost completely disc-less other than for his Oppo UHD Blu-ray player. He was smart enough to know when his long-standing Pioneer KURO TV had become obsolete. Smartly, he and his wife have a scheduled "movie night" every week. Beyond movie night, Ben and his wife watch excellent day-and-date TV shows like Homeland and Billions (1080p via the Showtime App) and others. He's got various, tasteful room acoustics in play and a system which helps improve the sound of everything from UHD video-powered soundtracks to HD 24-192 files to streaming MQA from Tidal. With say $2,500 worth of upgrades, Ben is living the modern audiophile life. He's got 4K video that matches the stunning sound of his system so that no matter what excellent content is out there, he's set. More audiophiles should design their systems around the standard of being ready to enjoy all of the best of HD content be it audio or video (or both in some UHD Blu-ray cases).
How do you incorporate video into your audiophile system? Should more AV companies add video to their audiophile demonstrations at shows or in dealer displays? Let us know in the comments below.