The latest audio-visual developments are all about high quality content as well as pleasing aesthetic designs that keep film buffs and audiophiles on their toes. Remember the hype surrounding 3DTVs? This time, it is 4K ultra-high definition (UHD) television that is getting all the attention, and it seems to be here to stay.
4K UHD video has four times the number of pixels as regular 1080p high definition (HD) for more vivid colour and a much clearer picture. The effect is particularly striking when watching native HDR content on large-screen TVs. Compared to 3DTVs, which sound more like a gimmick, 4K is actually the logical next step from the now-standard HD.
This is evident when 30 of the world’s leading electronics manufacturers, including LG, Panasonic, Samsung, Sharp and Sony, movie studios Twentieth Century Fox, Warner Bros. and Disney, as well as streaming giant Netflix — which is set to launch in Hong Kong this year— team up to form the UHD Alliance to develop industry standards and push the adoption of UHD among consumers.
There has been a proliferation of 4K TVs in the market with a price range that suits almost every budget. There is the Xiaomi range that retails for less than $10,000, as well as the higher end models by Sharp and Panasonic that cost upwards of $30,000, but the price has generally come down as manufacturers expand their product lines. Even LeTV, the Hong Kong broadcast rights holder for the English Premier League next season, has launched its own version to show football matches in 4K. If this has not tempted you to part with your (still) functioning HD TV, it is something to consider when the time comes to replace your old set.
While the industry is pushing for unified standards, different brands offer a variety of operating systems, apps and aesthetic designs. The curved screen, most famously championed by leading Korean brands LG and Samsung, is one of the most talked about design features that would stand out in a living room. Reviews have been mixed. When they were first introduced some critics bemoaned an awkward visual distortion. But new products like Sony’s BRAVIA S8500C have found a balance between immersion and comfort. Available in 55- and 65-inch sizes, it offers stunning pictures and pulls the audience right into the heart of the action. The slim and slightly contoured screen ensures images look natural regardless of where you sit in the room.
Connectivity is key to home entertainment today. Almost all new TVs now allow the user to access online content. For instance, the S8500C is an Android TV that gives users access to a plethora of shows and movies, games and apps available on Google Play. Plugging your smart phone or tablet into a TV is also a no-brainer with any of these state-of-the-art products, whether to enjoy videos or share photos.
If you’re an audiophile rather than a film buff, your home theatre investment will probably take on a different focus. As the music industry moves away from physical CDs to streaming, a lot of thought is being put into the equipment’s versatility, user interface and ability to “learn”.
While we can listen to anything on the Internet, die-hard music lovers probably do not want to rely on their computer or smartphone for their musical enjoyment. This is where high-end music playing systems that can integrate one’s own music collection, music services and other advanced features come into play.
Take the example of Bang & Olufsen’s BeoSound Moment. It has an intelligent feature that adapts the user’s listening pattern and intelligently suggests music. It also remembers music preferences and tries to make the listening experience both familiar and explorative. Over time, the device will gradually learn to play to your taste without being asked.
With the new technologies available today, listening to music has become an adventure. The increasing simplicity of the products, compared to older generation stereo systems, means people can now listen to a greater variety of music and explore more. Sound quality is also not compromised with online music suppliers such as Spotify, offering premium services that stream the best quality music to any device.
Building your own home theatre, whether for movies or music, has never been easier.