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Schiller plugs Apple's updated video, audio suites

Apple has a history of appealing to creative professionals and has reiterated its interest in these core customers with the release of two major suites.

On Thursday, Apple updated its high-end video production suite, Final Cut Studio, and its audio suite, Logic Studio.

Apple began bundling its professional apps together several years ago, differentiating them into audio and video suites. Doing so allows customers to work on several applications, while staying in one environment.

"We try to make things work together up and down the range of products," Phil Schiller, senior vice president of worldwide product marketing, told … Read more

Apple revamps Logic Studio audio suite

Apple released on Thursday the next major version of Logic Studio, the company's suite of professional audio applications.

I was given early access to the new version and have been using it for some time now. I can say the new features will not only improve your workflow, but will also improve the sound of your music.

Logic Studio consists of three main applications: Logic Pro 9, MainStage 2, and Soundtrack Pro 3. As part of the bundle you also get 80 Studio Effects plug-ins, 40 software instrument plug-ins, more than 1,700 sampled instruments, and over 20,000 … Read more

Plastic Logic e-reader to feature AT&T 3G connection

Last week, Plastic Logic hooked up with Barnes & Noble. Now it's got something going with AT&T to provide the 3G wireless connection for its upcoming e-reader, due out in early 2010.

Early Wednesday, the company announced the agreement, though details were scant. There was no mention of pricing, and it remains unclear whether you'll have to pay extra for AT&T's 3G service or whether it will be included with the device, like it is with Amazon's Kindle. (Amazon has a partnership with Sprint to supply the Kindle's wireless connection.) However, … Read more

Finally, Barnes & Noble returns to e-books

As it has for most of the past decade, Barnes & Noble is playing catchup to Amazon. Barnes, the nation's largest brick-and-mortar bookseller said Monday that it has launched its own digital-book store.

The Barnes & Noble eBookstore will enable customers to read the service's digital books on an array of different platforms, including the iPhone, the iPod Touch and BlackBerry smartphones, the company said in a statement.

In addition, Barnes & Noble will be the exclusive digital-book supplier for the upcoming Plastic Logic eReader, which hopes one day to be a competitor of Amazon's Kindle, by … Read more

Do you use all seven channels on your home theater receiver?

An industry insider recently admitted to me that only 30 percent of AV receiver buyers ever bother to hook up all seven channels to their receivers. That guesstimate seems a little high to me; the standard 5.1 channel setup: Left, center, right speakers upfront, and a pair of surround speakers to the sides of the main listening position can supply a truly immersive sound experience.

Seven-channel home theater adds two more speakers, placed behind the main listening position. That's tough to accomplish in rooms where the couch or chairs are up against the rear wall. There's no "rear" there, so some folks mount the rear speakers up high, or bounce the sound off the ceiling.

Still, the rear surrounds typically contribute little, so it's pretty hard to justify the added expense and hassle of running the extra wires for a marginal sonic improvement. The one exception might apply to very large rooms where the side and rear surround speakers are further apart from each other. The extra coverage may produce a more complete sense of surround envelopment. … Read more

Internet monitor

Keep It Up provides people with a way to monitor their Internet connections to ensure they are getting the best performance possible. While its simple functionality is great, the program has a limited appeal for computer users.

The program has a very simple interface that most people should find fairly intuitive. It primarily consists of a small screen with two bar-style meters monitoring Internet productivity. Beyond that, there are options for minimizing and bringing the box to the top, as well as a calendar option. Users unclear of what is happening can visit the Help file, but should be prepared … Read more

D7 Demos: Immersion and Plastic Logic

CARLSBAD, Calif.--In between the big name CEOs speaking at D: All Things Digital, Kara Swisher and Walt Mossberg also have a few tech companies on stage to show their wares.

A short while ago, electronic book maker Plastic Logic showed off the user interface of its touch-screen reader, which is due out early next year. The interface seemed simple, although the page turns on the prototype seemed interminable.

The company wouldn't reveal pricing, but did say that the device will have both Wi-Fi and 3G wireless, though it did not specify the carrier. As for color screens, they said they have it working in their labs, but it won't be a next year kind of thing.

Currently, the CTO of force feedback specialist Immersion is showing a couple new technologies, including a prototype touchscreen keyboard. When a user presses a key on the soft keyboard they not only see and hear which key they have pressed but can feel it as well.

"It is a very natural experience," said Immersion CTO Cristophe Ramstein. "Sounds are not as profound as touch to give you this feel."

The second demo was what the company is calling "hapticons," essentially adding feel to an electronic message. He sent a love note to Mossberg, with his screen pulsing to a beating heart.… Read more

Dolby Pro Logic IIz: Taking a second listen

Recently, Steve Guttenberg, our resident audio guru, took a listen to the first AV receiver to offer Dolby Pro Logic IIz. And he wasn't impressed.

Pro Logic IIz is the latest surround format from Dolby Labs. This one utilizes "height speakers" placed above the left and right front-channel speakers. The configuration Guttenberg tested utilized a 7.1 configuration (a standard 5.1 setup, plus 2 height speakers), but Pro Logic IIz is designed to support 9.1 as well (7.1 plus 2). That will presumably be supported in future

According to Dolby's Web site, the advantages of Pro Logic IIz are as follows:

With Dolby Pro Logic IIz, rain in a movie now seems to be actually falling on the listener's roof, concert videos bring a more intense sense of being at the performance, and orchestral works deliver more palpable depth, power, and connection.

In games, the added dimension increases the realism and immerses players more deeply than ever in the action.

Because it processes only nondirectional sounds for the height channels, Dolby Pro Logic IIz maintains the integrity of the source mix and the effects are always appropriate to the material. The added dimension complements the sound from the rear-surround speakers, adding spaciousness while honoring the original intent of the content creator.

Alas, Guttenberg could barely hear a difference when Dolby Pro Logic IIz was engaged: "The height speakers didn't make a discernible difference. I couldn't hear them at all, so I increased the height speaker volume by 3 decibels. Still no difference."

Needless to say, Dolby and Onkyo (the maker of the TX-SR607, which is the first IIz-compatible hardware) weren't too happy with that evaluation. So, we told them we'd give it a second chance, with more ears in the room.

For Round Two, Steve Guttenberg (again), Executive Editor David Carnoy, Senior Associate Editor Matthew Moskovciak, and I crowded into the CNET audio room.… Read more

'Height' speakers elevate surround sound

Atlantic Technology's new 1400 SR-z speaker was designed with Dolby's Pro Logic IIz "height" surround processor in mind

The new speaker's compact size and shallow profile allow it to be unobtrusively mounted high on the wall above the system's front left and right main speakers. The 1400 SR-z sells for $425/pair MSRP.

The company claims that the 1400 SR-z's "voicing" and timbre will match all of Atlantic Technology's speaker systems.

Each 1400 SR-z uses a pair of 3.5-inch full-range polymer-treated cone drivers. The wedge-shaped speaker disperses sound laterally … Read more

First listen: Dolby Pro Logic IIz 'height' surround falls flat

The Dolby Web site is bubbling with excitement about its new processing trick, "With Dolby Pro Logic IIz, rain in a movie now seems to be actually falling on the listener's roof, concert videos bring a more intense sense of being at the performance, and orchestral works deliver more palpable depth, power, and connection." The "z" in Pro Logic IIz signifies the Z axis, otherwise known as height.

Sounds interesting, but when I setup and listened to the first receiver (an Onkyo TX-SR607) with Pro Logic IIz, the height speakers didn't lift my spirits.

Pro Logic IIz can, depending on the receiver's capabilities, either augment a 5.1 or 7.1 channel speaker system with two height channels. In other words, in a 5.1 channel system with Pro Logic IIz you'll have five speakers in the front of the room--left, center, right, left height, and right height--plus a surround speaker to both sides of the main listening position.

The 7.1 system with Pro Logic IIz uses the same speaker array--plus two rear surround speakers.

Once you have a receiver equipped with Pro Logic IIz, and wall mount the height speakers three feet or higher over the main left/right speakers, you're all set. You won't have to buy specially encoded movies or music.

According to Dolby, "Pro Logic IIz identifies and decodes spatial cues that occur naturally in all content--stereo and 5.1 broadcast, music CDs, DVDs, 5.1 and 7.1 Blu-ray discs, and video games. Dolby Pro Logic IIz processes low-level, uncorrelated information--such as ambience and some amorphous effects like rain or wind--and directs it to the front height speakers."

Nice idea, did it actually work? … Read more