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Samsung UHD TV to Get Amazon Streaming & Video Pack

Samsung has just struck a deal with Amazon and several other partners to expand its ultra high-definition (UHD) content offerings. The partnerships will give Samsung TVs access to new services including live 4K broadcasting, video-on-demand (VoD) and a long-awaited UHD video pack (at least in the UK and Europe).

4K TV, also known as Ultra-High Definition television, provides a whopping 3,840×2160 pixel resolution – four times regular Full HD. But as good as it looks, the vast majority of 4K TVs are more expensive than 1080p HDTVs, and there’s a real scarcity of native content that makes it hard to justify shelling out for one.

That conundrum means it’s in the interests of TV manufacturers to do everything they can to ensure their customers get more Ultra HD content to watch, and that’s exactly why Samsung is embracing Amazon. From October, Samsung’s UHD TVs will be able to stream content (both movies and TV shows) directly from Amazon’s on-demand video streaming service. Samsung says the service will be available “globally”, although we wouldn’t be surprised to see some countries excluded from the deal.

Amazon’s 4K Ultra HD VoD service, called Prime Instant Video, is scheduled to launch this October, and will compete with the likes of Netflix, which already offers 4K streaming, and DirecTV, which plans to stream 4K content on-demand later this year. For now it appears as though Amazon’s service will be exclusive to Samsung – although Amazon probably won’t be able to resist the temptation of selling its service to other brands once it’s up and running.

Besides Amazon, Samsung is also teaming up with content providers including Chili, Maxdome and Wuaki.tv., to provide even more 4K content. The company gave scant details of these partnerships so we can’t say for sure what countries these services will be offered too.

Finally, the Korean firm says it will show off its long-awaited “UHD video pack” at next month’s IFA show in Berlin. The video pack, which has been produced in association with Fox Home Entertainment and consists of no less than forty 4K movies including Life Of Pi and Star Trek: Into Darkness preloaded on a 500GB media player, was first teased at last January’s CES show in Las Vegas and subsequently released in the USA, but was delayed in the United Kingdom and Europe due to licensing issues. We assume that those problems have now been resolved, and that Samsung UHDTV owners on these shores can look forward to more native 4K content.

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LG is getting out of plasma TVs

On the B-side of LG’s announcement that it will start selling two 4K OLED TVs, is the bad news for plasma. Korean papers Yonhap News and The Korea Times report home entertainment division lead Ha Hyun-hwoi’s comments that the company will end production of plasma TVs soon. According to Ha, LG is conducting an internal study to decide when it will end plasma production — not a bad run after rumors said it would shut down in 2008 and 2009 — and will make an official announcement on the issue soon. LG is the last major brand making plasmas after Samsung announced its exit earlier this year, and Yonhap says that once LG shuts down, China’s Changhong Electric Co. (the same company once on the receiving end of $1 billion worth of stolen plasma tech from LG) will be the only major manufacturer left in the game. If you don’t love LCDs and you’re not ready to drop $3,500 on a 55-inch OLED, it may be time to grab one of the few remaining plasmas and ride that out for the next few years.

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High Resolution Audio – Which companies are backing High-Res Audio?

On the surface, things aren’t looking particularly rosy for lovers of high quality music formats.

For teenagers, YouTube has become the go-to method for listening to songs, while most other people, even die-hard music addicts, eschew spending big on physical formats in favour of cheap and convenient compressed digital alternatives like MP3 downloads and Spotify streaming. It’s enough to make an audiophile weep into his teetering stack of 180gm Pink Floyd re-issues.

But these trends don’t tell the whole story. Hi-Res Audio might just explode in the coming year, with manufacturers and musicians alike hopping aboard the audiophile express. Or, it might not. Read on to find out why Hi-Res Audio is so interesting, and why it might also remain a very niche concern.

So what is hi-res audio? Hi-def TV for my ears?

Good question – and one for which there are several possible answers. Unlike HDTV, there isn’t a set standard for what constitutes Hi-Res Audio, but generally it’s considered to be anything with a bit depth and sampling frequency above 16-bit/44.1kHz, which is standard CD quality. 24-bit/192kHz is considered the Holy Grail of Hi-Res Audio, but ‘lesser’ qualities like 24-bit/96kHz are still hi-res.

The more bits, the more accurately the signal is measured. The higher the sampling frequency, the more samples-per-second were taken when the original analogue sound was converted into digital.

Confusingly, Hi-Res Audio can come in a variety of file formats. There’s FLAC (Free Lossless Audio Codec), ALAC (Apple Lossless Audio Codec), WAV, AIFF and DSD. The first two are compressed formats, which might suggest they’re inferior to the others – but they’re also lossless, which means they’re compressed in such a way that no audio data is lost. So they take up less disk space than the others but sound exactly the same.

Note, however, that not every file in one of the above formats is hi-res. Plenty of people use FLAC or ALAC to rip CDs losslessly, for instance – in which case the file played back is CD quality, not hi-res.

Update 17/06/14: Record labels and consumer electronics groups have got together to lock down the definition of what, exactly, hi-res audio is. The Digital Entertainment Group, the Consumer Electronics Association and The Recording Academy have teamed up with Sony, Universal and Warner Music Group to come up with a standard definition for high resolution audio: “Lossless audio that is capable of reproducing the full range of sound from recordings that have been mastered from better than CD-quality music sources.”

Four different file formats have also been agreed: MQ-P; MQ-A; MQ-C; and MQ-D. “MQ” stands for “Master Quality”, meaning that the file is produced from a digital or analogue master recording. The file types are as follows:

  • MQ-P: from a PCM master source 48kHz/20-bit or higher (typically 96/24 or 192/24 content).
  • MQ-A: from an analogue master source.
  • MQ-C: from a CD master source (44.1kHz/16-bit).
  • MQ-D: from a DSD/DSF master source (typically 2.8MHz or 5.6MHz content).

Although the Master Quality file types and definition of hi-res audio are voluntary, the hope is that with major players backing them, they’ll come to be a de facto standard.

There have been attempts to popularise Hi-Res Audio in the past, most notably with the DVD-Audio and SACD disc formats, both of which entered the market in 2000 to what might be generously described as “limited success”. That didn’t work out – so why is now any different?

Firstly, there’s a concerted push from a loose partnership consisting of the Consumer Electronics Association (the organisation behind CES Las Vegas), Sony Electronics, and the three major music publishers (Sony, Warner and Universal). The CEA’s job is to market the idea (much like it has done in recent years with HDTV, 3D TV and 4K), Sony’s is to build compatible hardware and the record companies’ is to make hi-res music more readily available.

And we’ve recently seen the very first hi-res compatible smartphones released in the forms of the LG G2 and Samsung Galaxy Note 3 (both capable of playing FLAC and WAV at 24-bit/192kHz quality), and there’ll be more launched next year.

Rock legend Neil Young is also releasing his Pono portable music player – and an accompanying library of studio master quality albums – in “early 2014”. Details on Pono are fairly scant, but it will be 24-bit/192kHz compatible and albums released for the first time in hi-res through the store will include the likes of Bob Dylan’s Highway 61 Revisited.

Making hi-res available for listening via smartphone or portable device (such as the Sony NWZ-F886 detailed below) is extremely important, as most non-audiophiles don’t sit at home listening to music through incredibly expensive hi-fi equipment – they listen through their phones when they’re out and about. You want to capture the younger market? You need to put hi-res on portable devices.

Storage is also cheaper than ever, meaning it’s somewhat less of a headache accommodating the huge files required for Hi-Res Audio. 24-bit/96kHz files weigh in at 34.56MB per minute, compared to 1.44MB per minute for 192kbps MP3s. That’s 24 times the space.

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Cut the cable/satellite cord with the NEW limited edition TiVo Roamio OTA DVR

For the past eight years, a CableCARD and a TiVo DVR have gone hand in hand. No more! Within the next few weeks, the limited edition TiVo Roamio OTA DVR will be available from select Best Buy stores for an initial price of $49 (plus $15/month service with a one-year commitment). That’s $150 cheaper than the existing base model TiVo Roamio, and still boasts the four tuners, 500GB of storage, integrated WiFi and almost the same software and accessories (TiVo Stream, though it doesn’t support TiVo Mini). The main missing features, for a fourth of the price, are a CableCARD slot and whole-home capabilities. This means you’ll need an antenna and (ideally) to live somewhere with decent over-the-air reception. It’s an especially interesting offering for those looking to cut the cable/satellite cord, while keeping access to new shows from the big networks. TiVo might not be kidding about this being a limited edition either: The company is clear in pledging its allegiance to its cable TV customers while at the same time attempting to appeal to those not interested in paying more than 20 bucks for a monthly TV subscription. So, depending on the reception from customers and partners, we could see TiVo axing the Roamio OTA if things don’t work out.

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Smaller, lighter, mightier still – GoPro HERO3 HD Camera – Take UltraHD Videos on the Go

Capture and share your life’s most meaningful experiences with the HERO3+ Black Edition. 20% smaller and lighter than its best-selling predecessor, it delivers improved image quality and powerful new features geared for versatility and convenience. SuperView™ is a new video mode that captures the world’s most immersive wide angle perspective, while Auto Low Light mode intelligently adjusts frame rate for stunning low-light performance. Combined with 30% longer battery life, 4x faster Wi-Fi, a sharper lens and compatibility with all GoPro mounts and accessories, the HERO3+ Black Edition is the most advanced GoPro yet.

The HERO3+ Black Edition is 20% smaller and lighter than previous models and is compatible with all GoPro mounts and accessories—making it the most mountable, wearable and versatile GoPro ever.

Stunning video quality has made GoPro the world’s best-selling camera company, and the HERO3+ Black Edition continues this tradition. High-resolution, high-frame rate 1440p48, 1080p60, 960p100 and 720p120 video modes result in professional quality footage and allow for liquid-smooth slow motion playback. 4Kp15 and 2.7Kp30 enable ultra high-resolution, cinema quality capture.

The HERO3+ Black Edition captures gorgeous 12MP stills at up to 30 frames per second—perfect for fast-action sequences. Time Lapse mode enables automatic photo capture at 0.5, 1, 2, 5, 10, 30 or 60 second intervals. Continuous Photo shoots full-resolution stills at a steady 3, 5 or 10 frames per second when holding down the shutter button.

GoPro is proud to introduce SuperView, a video mode that captures the world’s most immersive wide angle perspective. It allows you to capture more of yourself and your surroundings in the shot—resulting in captivating, ultra engaging footage.

Want your camera to automatically adjust for low-light situations? Auto Low Light mode intelligently changes frame rates based on lighting conditions for enhanced low-light performance.

Enjoy crisper, clearer footage with reduced distortion. The HERO3+ Black Edition boasts a 33% increase in image sharpness thanks to its sharper lens and 2x reduction in imaging artifacts.

Sound quality is as important as image quality. The HERO3+ Black Edition features upgraded audio performance, capturing even the most subtle of sounds—whether you’re recording voices, music or the roar of your engine on a spirited drive. Advanced wind-noise reduction technology keeps the audio clearer during high-speed activities.

Featuring a 30% increase in battery life, you can go longer and capture more with the HERO3+ Black Edition.

The GoPro App makes it easy to control your camera, and lets you do more with your GoPro content than ever before. Get full remote control of all camera functions. See what your camera sees with live preview for easy shot-framing. View photos and play back videos, then share your favorites via email, text, Instagram™, Facebook® and more.

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LG to launch curved 21:9 and 4K monitors

LG will tick off at least one “world first” at IFA 2014 in Berlin next month, the company having confirmed it will launch the world’s first 21:9 aspect ratio monitor, alongside a new 4K screen and a gaming monitor designed to handle “fast-paced action”.

The new monitors, which are likely to launch alongside the  G3 Prime and G3 Stylus smartphones, show that curved displays and 4K resolution screens look likely to be key trends at Europe’s biggest tech show next month.

The LG 34UC97 is the curved IPS screen 21:9 display in question, a 34in monitor with a 3440 x 1440 resolution and a high-speed Thunderbolt 2 connection, it’s said to be aimed at digital photographers and film-makers. It also boasts a 178-degree viewing angle.

It will launch at IFA alongside the LG 31MU97 Digital Cinema 4K Monitor and the 24GM77 Gaming Monitor. The former squeezes 4096 x 2160 pixels in to a 31in screen, while the screen for gamers aims to major on smooth motion thanks to a 144Hz refresh rate. LG’s Dynamic Action Sync (DAS) mode also claims to cut input lag.

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Cablesson HDElity HDMI Extender Over Single Cat.X with HDBaseT (Bi-Directional IR and 3D Ready)

Cablesson HDElity HDMI Extender Over Single Cat.X with HDBaseT (Bi-Directional IR), and Auto EDID Learning boosts up your video/audio transmission distance up to 50m (165ft) in HDTV 1080i format, 40m (130ft) in HDTV 1080p format, and 20m (65ft) in HDTV 1080p with 36-bit colour depth. Cablesson HDElity HDMI Extender Over Single Cat.X with HDBaseT (Bi-Directional IR) also supports the most advanced 3D video format and therefore guarantees the highest 3D video compatibility on the market. With only one cost effective Cat.5/5e/6 cable, users can readily extend HDTV sources from DVD players, Blu-ray Disc player, PS3, PC, and any other kinds of sources compliant with TMDS to distant display monitors including HDMI or DVI enabled TV sets or LCD PC monitors. With the advanced design for the latest HDMI technology, deep color video, DTS-HD Master Audio or Dolby TrueHD audio, and HDCP supports and compatibility are all further insured. This flexibility makes HDCP compliant DVD players or PS3 transmit utmost high quality video and audio with a greater distance at the minimal cost, when integrating several components apart. In addition, Cablesson HDElity HDMI Extender Over Single Cat.X with HDBaseT (Bi-Directional IR) is also equipped with bi-directional IR pass-through path.

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Ivuna Micro (Type D) HDMI to HDMI Cable (1.4version) Gold Plated For Connecting HD Devices using the new Micro HDMI connector for, Amazon Kindle Fire HD – 2012 model ONLY, Microsoft Surface tablet, Cameras, Mobile Phone and Other Tablets

Ivuna Advanced High Speed Micro HDMI Cable with Ethernet are premium quality cables that allow you to connect your Smart Phones, PC Peripherals or other devices with a Micro HDMI port to your HDTV or any display device that is HDMI equipped. Micro HDMI to HDMI cable delivers both high-definition video and digital audio from digital devices to your home theatre. It offers an ideal way to connect digital devices with Micro HDMI (HDMI Type-D) ports to HDTVs or Projectors with full-size HDMI (HDMI Type-A) ports. Supports 3D, Ethernet and Audio Return Channel and supports 1080p, 1080i, 720p, 480p, and 480i Resolutions HDCP Compliant. Full metal jacket connector provides strength, durability and prevents interference as compared to other cables. The Micro HDMI to HDMI cable features gold-plated connectors that resist corrosion for signal purity. High-Bandwidth Digital Content Protection, a copy protection scheme to eliminate the possibility of intercepting digital data midstream between the source to the display.

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Cablesson HDelity HDMI AUDIO EXTRACTOR (ARC)

This HDelity HDMI Audio Extractor (ARC) allows you to extract analog audio LPCM2 and digital audio SPDIF from the HDMI signal while still sending the original audio video signal to your HD devices. When using a display without speakers you can still extract the Analog Audio to external speakers or Digital Audio to an AV Amplifier.

Many uses of the HDelity HDMI Audio Extractor (ARC) are to send Digital or Analog Audio to a widescreen while simultaneously sending it to an amp with a Stereo audio output. In this example make sure you have set the audio in the source device, like a DVD player, to stereo. The HDelity HDMI Audio Extractor (ARC) supports a HDMI Repeater and Equalizer between HD source and the display. The HDelity HDMI Audio Extractor (ARC) supports HDMI 1.3a, 1.3c (CTS), HDCP 2.0 and DVI 1.0 compliant HDMI 1.4a, 3D formats. Audio supports PCM 2-channel IIS/DSD, S/PDIF and HDMI outputs, Video support is 36 bit Deep Colour up to 1080p-60 (225 Mhz).

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