Audio/Video

Audiophile Sound Systems, Home Theater, Computer Audio - Purchasing and Upgrades.

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Design, Appliances, Knives, Entertaining.

Welcome to Connoisseur Corner - Luxe Consulting and Executive Services

Marty Feldmann, The Connoisseur, is the highly sought after consultant who assists businesses and individual clients with the acquisition of the finer things life has to offer. Whether you are planning a weekend getaway to wine country, selecting audio equipment to outfit your home, planning your dream vacation or purchasing your ultimate transportation, Marty is your personal connection to the good life…

Marty can be contacted at: 916.952.9529 Marty@ConnoisseurCorner.com

12/30/08

Recommended: Plasma Televisions

Hey, have you heard the joke about the…

Oh, nevermind… Let’s get down to business.

The topic du jour is that flat-panel wonder, the plasma television. You know the technology – tens of thousands of tiny cells filled with a mixture of gases, wedged between two plates of glass and charged by tiny electrodes to emit light.

Whew…

In a recent blog we talked about the differences between the two major players in the flat-panel TV battle. You may have decided on Plasma over LCD, but aren’t sure where to go from there. Luckily, the choice is pretty simple from here on out…

In the category of “no-holds-barred, best image possible regardless of price”, there is only one choice: Pioneer Elite Kuro. These televisions have the absolute best picture quality of any plasma on the market. Colors, black-level, video processing…you name it and they do it right. The Elite line has the benefit of a more tweakable image control set as compared to the non-Elite models. Make an appointment for an ISF trained technician to stop by and wait till you see the results..!

And for the category of “really good for the money, but I want to put the rest of my cash toward a weekend getaway at the coast”, let me introduce the Panasonic Viera line of plasma TVs. Check out their lower priced models in the 42”, 46” and 50” sizes. They should fit the bill for under 2K and look pretty nice doing it. The image and technology isn’t quite up to Kuro standards, but they come reasonably close and we are sure you will be pleased.

There you have it, one for the discerning videophile and one for the casual viewer. Both are Connoisseur Recommended..! Remember it’s a buyer’s market right now, so get out there, do some bartering and pick up that plasma..!

12/22/08

What’s An Oculus, Anyway?


A night vision scope..? Nope…

Is it a bone in your hand..? Nada…

How ‘bout a character from Star Wars..? Nah…

Would you believe a prehistoric sea-going creature..? Now we’re getting warm…

Newly founded American-based yacht builder Schöpfer Yachts has released their inaugural design and it’s a dandy..!

Can you say Captain Nemo?

The Oculus continues an apparent trend started by the newly commissioned mega-yacht “A” to look like something other than your run of the mill sea-going transportation. Schöpfer states that the vessel design was inspired by creatures from the sea and we would venture to say that it would be hard to miss in a crowded harbor.

At 250 feet of length, the Oculus is primed to meet all your ocean travel needs. With room for 12 guests, a top speed above 25 knots and 12’ interior ceilings, you are sure to travel in the lap of maritime luxury.

This is what we call cruising in style..!

12/17/08

Miami Nightlife- The Party Hotspots


One look at the weather across the country and I think it is time to head south for the winter – or spring, fall or possibly summer for that matter. Now…where to go?

Let’s talk specifically about that south-east party otherwise known as Miami.

Land of beautiful weather and beautiful people, Miami certainly has its share of exclusive clubs and nightlife. They’re all places to see and be seen, hang with the hipsters, rub elbows with the glitterati and generally party like there’s no tomorrow.

Without further adieu, here is our compilation of some of the best of the current Miami hotspots…

· At the newly opened Gansevoort South hotel, Plunge is a poolside nightclub/bar located on the 18th floor. Thursdays are the happening night here and it doesn’t hurt that the hotel houses the Wilhelmina modeling agency.

· Mokai, (pictured above) a nightclub located on 23rd street just off Collins Avenue, has a bit of a cozy house party vibe. Fridays and Saturdays are generally packed with the out-of-town crowd and the locals tend to hang here on Tuesdays.

· Opened in 2007, SET has been rocking ever since. A slate of out-of-town DJs supply the mix for the party crowd.

· If you prefer tunes a bit more on the cutting-edge tip, Heathrow Lounge (yes, it’s a Brit-reference) is the place to be.

· At the remodeled Delano Hotel, the hip hangout is the Florida Room. Designed by Lenny Kravitz, the club has an intimate old-school lounge feel.

· The incredible art-deco pool (and bar, of course) at The Raleigh serves as a great place to work off a hangover during the day, and is also home to nightly events such as fashion shows, fundraisers or outdoor movies.

· The most recently opened on our list is Cabana One, a rooftop club at the Mayfair Hotel in Coconut Grove. To date it has been a successful celebrity draw, but we’ll see if can maintain that level of heat.

All this and more awaits you in sunny Miami. Pack your serious party gear and head south…

12/15/08

The 2009 BMW Z4 Breaks Cover


BMW’s update to its diminutive 2-seat roadster, the Z4, has now appeared in official company photos. It’s still small, and it still has a disappearing top, but…

Ragtop no more…

The fabric convertible top is slowly retreating into history, only to be replaced by the ever more common folding hardtop, which is the case here. 20 seconds is all it takes to bring the sky into full view, or block out the rain, whatever the case may be.

Two engines will be offered initially, including the carryover 255 hp inline six cylinder, as well as the 300 horse twin-turbocharged version now proliferating throughout the BMW model range. Other options include a six-speed manual or seven speed dual clutch (DCT) transmission, hard drive based navigation system with 15 gigabytes available for mp3 storage, and a 16 speaker (2 subwoofers included) stereo system to wake the occupants in the car next to you.

Overall we like the top-down lines of the update. The impression is of a substantially longer, leaner car – it is almost 6 inches longer than the previous generation. However, viewing in person may yield a different story. The new Z4 is due to appear in public for the first time at the upcoming Detroit Auto Show.

For now, we give the remodel our stamp of approval. Order the turbo motor with the DCT transmission and sport package and “drive it like you stole it..!”

12/12/08

The Great Debate: Plasma or LCD?

There’s a chill in the air, its Holiday time…
Need to get ‘da gifts; a TV would be fine..!

‘Tis the season to buy electronics, and those new flat panel televisions are sure the hot item these days. But what to buy? The quantity of available information is overwhelming, and there are too many sets to choose from.

Ugh!

Today I am going to throw a quick primer at you – a few quick tips to help you narrow down that search. Let’s see if I can help you answer that pivotal question: Plasma or LCD?

I’m not going to get into a technology discussion today, but just a few pros and cons of each type of TV. Let’s start with LCD televisions…

Advantages for LCDs would be a brighter image and screens that are less prone to glare. This makes LCD a good choice for daytime viewing in rooms with copious windows. You also don’t have to worry about image burn-in with LCD technology. For the green-conscious out there, LCD sets tend to consume a bit less electricity than plasma, although the gap between the two is closing as technology progresses.

The three main disadvantages for the LCD TVs would be motion blur (for fast moving scenes such as sports), brighter blacks than plasma, and a dimming picture when viewing from off-angle.

What does plasma bring to the table? Items in the plus column would be far superior side angle viewing, better contrast and blacks, and no blurring of motion.

The drawbacks to plasma would be more glare on the screen, slightly higher power consumption, and concerns of image burn.

So what’s the right answer? Let me start by saying that technology has improved greatly in the last year or so, and either choice is a good one with some of the quality sets out there. However, if you are a sports junkie, go plasma. But if you have a bright room and glare is a concern, then LCD is the road to follow.

Keep your eyes open for our recommended picks in each category in the coming days. Until then, happy viewing..!

12/9/08

End of an Era at BMW’s M


The engines, they are a’changin’…

BMW’s M (motorsport) division, the folks responsible for high performance variants of their popular 3-series (M3) and 5-series (M5) among others, are preparing for a paradigm shift in their engine philosophy.

BMW’s highly sought-after M-cars have long been known for their high-revving, naturally aspirated engines. These powerplants lend a certain characteristic to all the M-cars, helping to create an invigorating and involving driving experience.

No more…

We’ll blame this on ever more difficult emissions standards, soaring production costs and a desire to be more fuel efficient.

The folks at BMW are about to introduce the first M vehicle powered by a twin-turbo V8, the X6 xDrive M. The new engine will supply 500 horsepower and 516 lb-ft of torque, and is predicted to move the X6 to 60 mph in less than 5-seconds – all this while using less fuel and having lower emissions. Future M models will be using this same or a variation of this engine.

While these technological advances are a good thing, we will miss the old-school days. For those purists among us, we recommend getting your hands on one of the current M5 or M6 cars which should be available for another year plus, or the new M3, which will be the last of the high rpm breed.

A Gourmet Gingerbread House?


You may have memories as a kid of making a gingerbread snaps, or gingerbread cookies. It’s something associated with the holiday season.

Gingerbread apparently originated in the town of Market Drayton in Shropshire in the late 1700s. Not only has it evolved into the crispy snaps or shaped cookies, but gingerbread is also famous for being fashioned into houses, courtesy of the witch’s house in Hansel and Gretel.

And now for the “over-the-top” portion of our regularly scheduled programming…

Apparently some bored pastry chefs have made the gourmet gingerbread house a popular item. Companies such as Sur La Table or Williams-Sonoma are now marketing kits or full blown completed houses to the hungry holiday public. Here are a few links to these holiday housing confections…

· Stonewall kitchen – a fully assembled or DIY house
· Williams-Sonoma – a gingerbread house or a full-on Manor
· Sur La Table – another house kit.
· A Bountiful Harvest – an enchanted mansion awaits..!

Get that appetite ready and place an order…!

12/8/08

Recommended: Blu-ray Player

It’s time for another installment in our series of holiday consumer electronics recommendations. Today we are going to the land of Blu-ray

Now you may be wondering what all the buzz about Blu-ray is, anyway. You already have a DVD player and quite frankly, it looks and sounds pretty nice. Well, do you remember back in the VHS days when DVD first came on the market? Do you recall the improvement in video and audio? I’m here to tell you that Blu-ray leaps over standard DVD in the same manner..!

Up to this point, there have been a few roadblocks in Blu-ray player development, namely the speed and performance of the players, as well as the price points. This holiday season we are finally seeing the technology mature and the prices drop, and we say that now is the time to take the leap.

Which all brings us to…

First, let’s talk money…With a suggested price of $299, the Panasonic can be had for less than $250 – that’s down in the sweet spot. As for performance, this player gets a thumbs up all the way around. It’s Profile 2.0 compliant (the latest standards) and decodes all the lossless audio formats, or if you prefer will pass the signal to your receiver or processor to let it handle the duties. The video looks superb from Blu-ray and standard DVD is handled remarkably well. Even the speed issues – power up, loading of discs, accessing menus – while not as good as the Sony PS3 game console, is still better than most stand alone players.

Keep in mind that there are a few players that can be had a bit cheaper, but you will compromise in performance. Also, if you are a gamer, then go straight to the PS3 and don’t look back. Overall, the Panasonic is definitely the smart buy.

Don’t be blue…get a Blu-ray..!

12/3/08

Godzilla Snags COTY Trophy


Motor Trend’s annual Car of the Year competition for 2009 is complete. The Golden Caliper trophy has been awarded…The winner is not a creature from the old black and white monster movies of days gone by, but rather a 4-wheel beast from Japanese automaker Nissan.

We wrote about the Nissan GT-R before its arrival to the States. Our initial positive impressions of this landmark sports car have now been confirmed, you might say. The Motor Trend judges look at three criteria: Superiority, Significance and Value...

The GT-R is a techno tour-de-force (superiority and significance). The engine, transmission, drivetrain, suspension and electronics all extend the boundaries of automotive engineering. The performance level created by this engineering is mind-bending. The GT-R will literally run with anything on the road, whether that road be straight or crooked, all the while carrying 4 people and 2 golf bags..!

And the clincher (see “value”) is the price. This screamer can be had for less than $80K..! Nothing available at or below that price can keep up. The $110K Corvette ZR1 will lose in the twisties, the $130K Porsche 911 Turbo will fall back on a straight. All this not to mention the $200-$500K cars out there from Lamborghini, Ferrari, McLaren et al. We think the engineers from the competition will be burning the candle at both ends over this one…

The Connoisseur agrees with Motor Trend’s selection here – kudos to them for selecting the GT-R from a highly qualified field of competitors. Now, go take this monster for a drive and prepare to be blown away..!

12/2/08

Recommended: Home Theater Receivers

With the holiday shopping season upon us, we see the purchasing of home entertainment electronics spike at this time of year. Sales abound, and good deals can be had if you do some research.

Throughout the coming weeks, we are going to post a series of our recommendations in consumer electronics. Let us do the work and save you the headache and confusion…

Uh, whatever…

Today we are going to start with that workhorse of the low to mid-priced home theater system, the A/V Receiver. Think of the audio-video receiver as the hub or “brain” of your home theater system. Your source items (cable, satellite, cd and dvd players, game consoles…) plug in to the receiver and then the receiver processes those signals and sends them to your speakers and video display.

Brain, huh..?

Let’s start with the entry-level range for the more budget conscious. Our pick here is the Onkyo TX-SR606, which at an MSRP of $599.00 has all the features we look for in a home theater “brain”. 7.1 channel processing, HDMI 1.3a connections, audio processing of the new lossless Blu-ray formats, zone 2 controls…all that and more are present in a nice sounding and user friendly package.

What about the really good brain..?

Rotel, a highly regarded manufacturer of audio/video electronics, has released a new receiver that hits the target for the discerning listener among us…the audiophile. The RSX-1560 boasts 7 channels of amplification, all the latest audio processing formats and multi-zone control capabilities. Excellent engineering has gone into this receiver, not to mention high quality parts and first-rate fit and finish. We guarantee you won’t be disappointed with the listening experience, whether it is the latest movie or a music CD. Well worth the $2599.00 asking price – just be sure to pair it with some quality speakers.

One important thing to remember here, and it applies to both units – pricing is negotiable..! A little work should get you the Onkyo for around $500, and the Rotel can be had for less as well. It is a definite buyers market out there! Also note that these recommendations are not the perfect solution for all home theaters. If you have any questions, leave us a comment…

Happy listening..!