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I’m bored of the same-old shopping guides. My lists are always based on my personal recommendations from my hands-on personal experience. So, here are the things I recommend to every audio-video enthusiast father in the known universe.
Sony X900/X90 Series TV
The best bang for the buck television is the Sony X900/X90 series. Its multi-zone full-array backlighting, exceptionally good upscaling engine, colour accuracy out of the box (in Custom Picture Mode), and cost are second to none. If you want the best-of-the-best, of course, the Sony A90J series of OLED TVs are the absolute best TV currently available in the U.S. and Canada (in my opinion).
As for the best TV technology, essentially any OLED trounces any other current display technology. Yes burn-in is a risk, but in the past 3-4 years, the risk has been minimal. You need to either deliberately abuse your OLED to get a permanent burn in. As far as colour accuracy and black level, nothing comes close to OLED, especially when it comes to the Sony A90J and Panasonic JZ2000 (sadly, not available in North America). This is also the reason many movie/video colourists such as Technicolor, Disney, and others use OLED as their reference displays.
If you can avoid it, I’d recommend not installing your TV above the fireplace. It’s too high and will actually create a literal pain in your neck. However, if you have no choice, always use MantelMount so you can pull down your TV (be it manually or automatically for the motorized version) to your sitting eye-level position. Your neck will thank you.
Panasonic UB820/UB9000 UHD 4K Blu-ray Players
At least once a week, someone will ask me what the best UHD 4K player is. The answer is always the same: the Panasonic UB820 if you’re on a budget or UB9000 if you also care about build and audio CD playback quality. The HDR Optimizer optimizes HDR tone mapping that is needed on most TVs and all projectors. The upscaling capability is also superior to any other brands currently available on the market. The new version of UB9000 (now with an updated DAC from ESS) is something truly to behold.
Stewart Filmscreen StudioTek 100/130 G4 Projection Screen
If you want the absolute best projection screen, I highly recommend the Stewart Filmscreen StudioTek 100 (1.0 gain, for absolute accuracy, as used by many mastering suites worldwide) or StudioTek 130 G4 (1.3 gain for more “pop” in HDR presentation while maintaining a “sparklies” free image).
M&K Sound Movie 5.1 Speaker System
Yeah, I hate home-theatre-in-a-box. However, I have one (and only) exception: the M&K Sound Movie 5.1 package is a speaker package that sacrifices virtually nothing when it comes to performance. It’s so good, I actually would recommend it if you’re spatially on a budget. As a footnote, if you don’t know, M&K speakers are the speakers of choice in sound mixing/mastering studios worldwide.
Looking for speaker feet? Vibration-reduction platforms for (in my case) a turntable? IsoAcoustics is the only answer. The difference between before and after using IsoAcoutics is so great that literally everyone I lent my IsoAcoustics feet to ended up buying them (from their dealers, of course, as I don’t sell any product.)
Torus Power Power Isolation
The same goes with power isolation. Torus Power is an absolute must for any system. They are not cheap but highly effective in reducing noise and other “garbage” from the electrical line. This is another item that once people listen to the unit I lend them, nearly all of them ended up buying it from their dealers.
Nvidia Shield Pro 2019 Android Streamer
Nvidia Shield Pro 2019 is the only Android streamer I highly recommend if you stream at all. If a streaming provider offers Atmos, it will stream the Atmos soundtrack without exception. It’s the only Android streaming box that does this. Add the beautifully executed AI Upscaling that can be applied to all non-4K signals and this unit is a must buy.
Roku Express 4K
If you just need something cheap and cheerful, Roku Express 4K is the answer. It comes with a free subscription to the ad-supported Roku Channel for free movies in addition to access to all of the most popular subscription-based streaming services. For pricing at around $45 ($40 for the HD version) you can’t beat the value of this unit. I personally use it as the source for my LED projector I usually use in my backyard. Very highly recommended.
Stewart Filmscreen Manual Masking
I can’t and don’t recommend motorized screen masking as the pricing is mind boggingly high. Unless you have a big budget, I can’t justify it. However, Stewart Filmscreen has an amazing solution. A set of manual masking is available for about US$500 with amazing build quality, fit, and finish. Watching a 16:9 presentation with the masking on the 21:9 screen is the way to go as it gives an appearance of better contrast and depth. It’s a must buy for anyone using a Stewart Filmscreen fixed screen.
So there you go… now that the research have been done for you, get out, buy them, and improve your AV life.