Color calibration for Panasonic plasma HDTVs, good sounding, affordable home theater using tiny speakers

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Sound Advice
By Don Lindich

Week 13, 2010

Q. We recently purchased a 58-inch Panasonic VT25 series 3D plasma TV. The installer strongly recommended we get it color balanced by a professional service person for $200. Do you think it is worth it?

-Anand Kumar, Pleasonton, CA

A. I think calibration can be worthwhile for picky owners of high-end HDTVs, but most people don’t need it. Professional calibration adjusts the picture so color, brightness and contrast is as accurate as possible. Many big-box stores are pushing $200 calibrations on $499 TVs. I’m getting an increasing amount of email about this lately and think spending 40% of the set’s cost to adjust the picture is silly. Most TVs will produce a pleasing, reasonably accurate picture by setting the picture mode to “Custom,” “Movie” or “Standard” and color temperature to “Warm.” The $29.99 Digital Video Essentials Blu-ray can be used to tweak your TV, as well.

Though you have what many consider to be the best TV on the market I do not think calibration is worth it. Last year’s high-end G25, GT25, and VT25 series Panasonics have a THX picture mode that produces near-perfection right out of the box, with no tweaking. I bought my parents a G25 plasma for Christmas and the picture quality and THX mode were big reasons why.

Anyone TV shopping should know Panasonic’s new-for-2011 ST30 series 3D plasmas have the same high-end plasma panels and technology, but without the THX mode. The 42-inch lists for $1,099, which represents a tremendous value as long as the lack of THX mode does not negatively impact picture quality. I have an ST30 on the way and will report my findings soon.

System of the week: Need tiny speakers? This week’s system significantly beats the Bose cube speaker systems in both sound quality and price.

The speakers come from Chase Home Theater of Erie, Pennsylvania, a start-up speaker company run by audiophiles. The Chase WAF-3 gets its name from “Wife Acceptance Factor.” WAF is a term used in the audio/video hobby to describe how your wife will feel about your equipment’s price, size, and appearance.

The made-in-the-USA WAF-3 is a single driver speaker like a Bose cube, but with a slightly bigger box holding a 3-inch driver. The simply styled WAF-3 is nicely finished in black satin and currently sells for $60 each.

Understandably, the WAF-3 does not have the deep bass or extended treble of a big two-way speaker. The sound the WAF-3s do make is pleasingly rich, detailed, balanced and sweet and when I reminded myself of the size and price the performance was quite remarkable. They integrate nicely with other brands of speakers for surround and center channels, too. See them at Get five to make a surround sound set, $300 total. Add the excellent Dayton 10-inch powered subwoofer for $150 to complete your system.

Drive the WAF-3 speakers with the $249 Pioneer VSX-521 Home Theater Receiver. The VSX-521 and its MCACC setup and room calibration system will bring out the best in your WAF-3 speakers. MCACC uses test tones and a microphone to automatically balance the speakers and subwoofer while analyzing and optimizing the sound for your room acoustics.

Connect your satellite/cable box, Blu-ray player and TV. You now have great surround sound for under $700, in a small, spouse-pleasing package.

Questions?  Email Don

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