NEW: Bass Management.
My background is many decades of professional work in HDTV circuitry, algorithm, equipment, studio and TV network design. I was working professionally in radio and TV broadcast engineering when I was 14 years old, have been paid to push pixels around since the 1980s, and worked in Hollywood from 1995 - 2004.
I hope that my experience on the other side of the screen can help you sort through the baloney when picking out the right equipment and setting it up at home. More important than trying to rate equipment, which changes every week, I'm going to teach you how to pick it for yourself.
I'm going to start with the technical basics required to understand this and sort through salesman's baloney. If you get bored with these details, always feel free to skip ahead, and skip back if I've lost you.
To give you the sneak summary, most of the defects, artifacts, weird motion problems, and strange pixelations are in the source material, not in your HDTV. Larger screens make defects more apparent than on smaller screens.
If you want consistently spectacular pictures, you must buy an HD DVD or Blu-ray player. Conventional movie DVDs are also quite good, even when seen on HDTVs. Broadcast (antenna) TV is iffy. Cable and satellite signals use such low bit rates that the compression artifacts cause the problems people misconstrue as defects in their HDTVs.
We joined Netflix, which is the best way to get unlimited access to every DVD, HD DVD and Blu-ray for less than $19 a month. Not only is this the cheapest thing next to free, it's by far the best way to get access to the best HD source material on the planet.
I review things in absolute terms. Magazines and commercial websites rate products relative to what's out there in order to keep pushing product, even if they all stink. If something is sucky, most reviews will tell you that the least bad one is "incredible," and "extraordinary," and next year when better ones come out, tell you that the old stuff is now crappy. I tell it like it is in absolute terms, so when you go to read this 10 years from now, it will still be true.
When I speak of picture quality, I'm talking about the quality you want in a dark room with a bowl of popcorn in your lap and two hours set aside to do nothing but concentrate on being engrossed in an uninterrupted Hollywood movie. For this, I've never seen a plasma or LCD set with a good enough picture not to distract me with inaccurate colors and problems with dark scenes. I can't enjoy the film, because defects keep distracting me. On a good CRT (tube) HDTV, I just enjoy. Plasma and LCD technology still has a long way to go for acceptance for critical use in Hollywood.
If you already have a big tube TV set, a plasma or LCD will be bigger and might be brighter, but it won't be better.
Most people don't watch that carefully much of the time. Most people have a TV on while they're doing something else in the daytime. For most people, modern plasmas and LCDs are much better than CRTs because they are bigger, brighter and more vivid.
My wife loves the picture on the Vizio 60" plasma she got at Price Club (Costco) for watching TV while feeding her dogs, but I find it unwatchable for movies at night. (How did we pick it for her? It was exactly the right size and color to fit into an existing piece of furniture.) My wife loves it. Most people are like my wife; few people have my experience in knowing how a truly proper picture should look. To each their own; ignorance is bliss. As they say in economics, a luxury, once sampled, becomes a necessity.
Let me reiterate: I'm a tough grader. I don't watch TV, I'll only watch movies. Normal people will just love their big, bright new plasma and LCD HDTVs. For me, watching movie DVDs in the dark I'd take a serious look at DLP projectors and rear projection sets. I have a sneaking suspicion, and a couple of Hollywood sources confirm, that they may be the best after CRTs for color rendition and dark scenes.
I hope these pages help, and that I haven't gotten too technical. Let me know what you think.
This website site is how I support my growing family.
If you find this as helpful as a book you might have had to buy, please help me to continue helping everyone.
This page is free to read, but copyrighted. If you haven't helped me yet, and wish to make a print of this page, please help me with a gift of $5.00.
Thanks for reading!