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Music Hardware

THX Caught With Pants Down Over Lexicon Blu-ray Player 397

Posted by timothy
from the high-end-but-not-high-road dept.
SchlimpyChicken writes "Lexicon and THX apparently attempted to pull a fast one on the consumer electronics industry, but got caught this week when a couple websites exposed the fact that the high-end electronics company put a nearly-unmodified $500 Oppo Blu-ray player into a new Lexicon chassis and was selling it for $3500. AV Rant broke the story first on its home theater podcast with some pics of the two players' internals. Audioholics.com then posted a full suite of pics and tested the players with an Audio Precision analyzer. Both showed identical analogue audio performance and both failed a couple of basic THX specifications. Audioholics also posted commentary from THX on the matter and noted that both companies appear to be in a mad scramble to hide the fact that the player was ever deemed THX certified."
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THX Caught With Pants Down Over Lexicon Blu-ray Player

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  • by Entropy98 (1340659) on Saturday January 16, 2010 @05:47AM (#30788868) Homepage

    Expensive isn't always better. Ever heard of Denon's $500 ‘Audiophile’ Ethernet Cable [wired.com]

    • by larien (5608) on Saturday January 16, 2010 @05:50AM (#30788880) Homepage Journal
      "designed for the audio enthusiast" - i.e. the only people who will pay $500 for a cable they could buy for I think in that way, it's perfectly designed.
      • Re: (Score:3, Funny)

        by BikeHelmet (1437881)

        "designed for the audio enthusiast"

        Those people are fools! I only buy Monster cables.

    • Re: (Score:2, Informative)

      actually, there IS something to that cable. very very minor but its there.

      I believe that cable is NOT for ethernet even though it uses rj45. I THINK its used for i2s in audio and that is VERY timing dependant (clock and data on diff wires).

      now here's where most people don't know something and think they do: ethernet cable these days is NOT equal length wires! yet i2s for spdif break-out NEEDS each wire exactly the same length (timing matters, again). and so you cannot really use ethernet cable. look it

      • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

        by imsabbel (611519)

        Sorry, still no point.

        Signal speed in copper is about 15-20cm per second.
        Even if they were running those things at a GHz (how many hundreds of audio channels do they transport), being correct to the cm would be quite ok.

        And even bog-standard cables are easily in side that tolerance.

        • Re: (Score:2, Interesting)

          btw, I am NOT defending the price on this! just the fact that there IS something to the denon cable that most people are not seeing and don't even know about (the ethernet thing with diff length pairs inside).

          it should be priced MUCH lower, of course. but still, the fact is that i2s does require exact length wires on all the links between the spdif receiver chip and the dac chip (which is what i2s is all about, really; its not even an external interconnect but intended entirely for use INSIDE cd players,

        • by Toonol (1057698)
          Signal speed in copper is about 15-20cm per second.

          What? Signal speed in copper is over 100,000 KILOMETERS per second. Am I completely misunderstanding what you're trying to say?
      • by Gordonjcp (186804)

        ethernet cable these days is NOT equal length wires! yet i2s for spdif break-out NEEDS each wire exactly the same length (timing matters, again)

        But the different twist rate of the pairs in Plain Ordinary CAT5 don't make any difference. You're talking about a difference of a few millimetres over a whole 305m roll of CAT5 - in a sane length of patch cable that would make a difference in the order of a few femtoseconds.

      • So this thing is like typical Monster cable. Better than the vanilla product, but way overpriced.
      • by msgmonkey (599753) on Saturday January 16, 2010 @08:48AM (#30789682)

        As someone who has actually interfaced I2S sigma-delta DAC's to DSP's I can tell you are either confused or have your facts wrong.

        The clocking setup is typically a master clock running at 256X, 384X or 512X audio frequency running into the DAC, it is the stabilty of this clock that determines the accuracy of the analogue output.

        The I2S bus has three lines, CLK (data clock) which runs at 32X frequency (for 16bit audio), DATA (the actual bits) and LR which indicated if the data is on the left or right side. Jitter on the data line has no bearing on the quality of the output as long the data is present on the clock transition as it is latched and presented synchronously to the analogue section of the DAC.

        Although I2S was not designed for cable comunications you could easily get away with using it for short distances since even at 24bits and 96Khz the clock rate is only 4.608MHz with a cycle time of 217ns. Assuming a latch window of 25% of cycle time of gives us 51ns, any device producing that much jitter would have to be pretty badly designed.

        So to cut a long story short, yes for I2S using ethernet cable is more.

  • No shock (Score:5, Informative)

    by darkitecture (627408) on Saturday January 16, 2010 @05:51AM (#30788886)
    The audio industry being less than honest?

    Say it ain't so!
    • Re:No shock (Score:5, Insightful)

      by Sycraft-fu (314770) on Saturday January 16, 2010 @06:57AM (#30789166)

      I've never understood why you'd want to buy a "high end" Blu-ray player anyhow. Reason is I can see only two setups:

      1) You own a low end TV and receiver, or maybe no receiver at all. You've got no digital inputs. Thus your Blu-ray player's DACs have to handle the conversion. However, their quality matters little. Why? Well you've got a low end setup. You clearly are not concerned with quality. As such a cheap player will do fine. Improvements to its DACs and supporting analogue circuitry won't be noticeable to you.

      2) You own a high end TV/receiver and care a great deal about quality. In the case you hook the Blu-ray player up using HDMI. Reason is HDMI gives you the best signal. However in this case, the player isn't doing anything other than nabbing the data and passing it along. The analogue conversion happens in other units. So again, the quality isn't important. Your receiver's high quality DACs will handle the audio, the Blu-ray player will just send them data.

      I just can't see the case where you'd need good analogue outputs for Blu-ray.

      I can see potentially buying something like the Oppo player, if it had a good warranty and build quality. Makes sense to maybe pay more to have your gear last, but I can't see paying more for one just because it supposedly had better circuitry. Even if it does, you aren't going to make use of it. You'd be a fool to buy a high end HDTV and then not use the digital input, as the TV processes everything digitally internally.

      • Re:No shock (Score:5, Insightful)

        by Shawn Parr (712602) <parr@[ ]wnparr.com ['sha' in gap]> on Saturday January 16, 2010 @09:57AM (#30789976) Homepage Journal

        This overlooks one group of people who actually exist in large numbers but are often overlooked:

        3. You have a nice HDTV and HDMI digital for that. But you also have a very nice audio system, but one that you put together before the HDMI specification was well established and thus it does not have HDMI. But your Receiver/PrePro/Amplifiers are very good, and you don't want to just replace them just to get ones with HDMI built in. But luckily they can take 5.1 or 7.1 analog inputs from a player with good quality outputs.

        This is exactly why I like the Oppo BluRay player. At the time for a minimal cost increase over other BR players I was able to use both a digital connection to my TV, and use the latest audio upgrades on BR along with my older, but very good, audio system. That being said I would never pay the $2000 plus for the 'high end' BR players. The Oppo is excellent, and I don't even have the special edition model with upgraded audio components. I'm sure it's fabulous, but the regular one I have is really really good.

        Why replace perfectly good equipment just to get a new connector, when you can still use it and get great performance out of it? I occasionally get the itch to replace those components, but when I research new ones I just don't see enough upgrade for what it would cost to justify it at this point.

  • oh..heh (Score:2, Insightful)

    by Anonymous Coward

    "THX certified" is that about as useful as "Designed for Windows"? or maybe "Windows Vista Certified"...hahaha

  • Credibility. (Score:5, Insightful)

    by headkase (533448) on Saturday January 16, 2010 @06:04AM (#30788938)
    Years to build, seconds to destroy. So, who comes out on top over THX now?
    • Re:Credibility. (Score:5, Interesting)

      by Trepidity (597) <.delirium-slashdot. .at. .hackish.org.> on Saturday January 16, 2010 @06:26AM (#30789018)

      Sadly it's been a years-long downwards slide with THX. They used to certify only high-end theatres, then added high-end home theatre setups, then the standards for commercial theatres slowly started slipping until basically everyone who wasn't showing films in a tin can got certified, then they started certifying middle-of-the-road home theatre setups, then individual pieces of home-theatre hardware, and recently even some decent but not exactly world-class Logitech computer speakers.

      • Re:Credibility. (Score:5, Informative)

        by Sycraft-fu (314770) on Saturday January 16, 2010 @06:38AM (#30789072)

        Ya. While over all I like the idea of certification grades, THX did a bad job of it. Part of it was that they don't do enough to differentiate the certification types. They all feature THX in big letters and then something small that tells you what the actual certification is. Ok, well that matters a lot. A high end Ultra 2 certification on speakers pretty much means they can handle theatre reference levels of sound. They can truly give you a home theater. Their lower end stuff? Not so much.

        Also when it came to computer speakers they started compromising too much. It wasn't a matter of backing off on some specs that really didn't matter too much, they changed it so much to accommodate the lower end nature of computer speakers as to make it more or less meaningless.

        Personally, I don't buy THX gear. It is a waste of money in my book. All the gear I seem to like the best doesn't bother getting THX certified. They don't need a label saying "This is good for home theater." You take a listen to it and you say "This is good for home theater," no badge needed.

        In some cases, they impose restrictions that aren't acceptable to manufacturers either. Speakers are a good example. The high end THX spec (don't know about the lower ones) requires speakers to be sealed with a natural rolloff at 80Hz. Ok, well maybe I don't want that. In fact, I for sure don't want that for music. I want more full range speakers, and I'd like them ported as that increases low end efficiency. Ok, well they can't be THX then, no matter how good they are.

        Really, if you are looking for good home theatre, you'll do much better buying high quality gear you like, and making sure to get a receiver that has a good calibration solution like Audyssey MultEQ. Having your setup properly dialed in to correct levels and delays and such is way more important than if the speaker is precisely what THX likes.

        • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

          by TubeSteak (669689)

          In some cases, they impose restrictions that aren't acceptable to manufacturers either. Speakers are a good example. The high end THX spec (don't know about the lower ones) requires speakers to be sealed with a natural rolloff at 80Hz. Ok, well maybe I don't want that. In fact, I for sure don't want that for music. I want more full range speakers, and I'd like them ported as that increases low end efficiency. Ok, well they can't be THX then, no matter how good they are.

          Buy a (sub)woofer.
          With a woofer, you won't notice the 80Hz rolloff.
          If you're porting a mid-range in order to bump up the low end, you're doing it wrong.

          • While THX has no convenient spec for download on their homepage, I have gleaned the following from various forums (errors of the posters possible ;-)
            -80 Hz is the crossover frequency between subwoofer and full range speakers
            -The subwoofer is fed the signal over a low pass filter with 24db/oct at 80 Hz
            -The full range speakers are fed the signal over a high pass filter with 12db/oct at 80 Hz. Together with the natural roll off that amounts to a high pass filter with 24db/oct.

            My semi-educated opinion (electric

      • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

        by DarkOx (621550)

        True but your typical $500 - $1000 receiver from the later 2000's probably can produce output that is every bit as clean and generally good as a $2500 from the mid 90's or prior.

        Better DACs that use more bits and hardware that internally uses higher sampling rates has become cheap. The noise floor is lower on modern equipment too as chip manufacturing even analog chips like opamps has improved greatly; much lower distortion. DSPs have gotten cheap as well; in even modest setup these days the internals are

  • More newsworthy... (Score:3, Insightful)

    by Anonymous Coward on Saturday January 16, 2010 @06:06AM (#30788948)

    is the fact that anyone takes THX seriously anymore.

    The moment they started "certifying" those horrid Logitech surround setups should have made their irrelevance clear.

  • by Tanuki64 (989726) on Saturday January 16, 2010 @06:22AM (#30789010)
    ...because I always buy cheapest. Mostly people who deem themselves audiophile and cannot understand that I am not. For me a cheap player was always enough. Now I also have the satisfaction that I am not cheated. At least I get what I pay for. :-)
    • by FlyingGuy (989135)

      I was involved in a quite heated ./ discussion about this and the conclusion was as follows:

      Spend on the source ( cd player / turntable / receiver ) and the reproduction units aka speakers.

      As for a lot of hi-end equipment there are still a few worth paying the price for like McIntosh but most of what you get these days is just what this is all about, selling the brand, screw whats inside, sell the brand..

  • by Anonymous Coward on Saturday January 16, 2010 @06:26AM (#30789022)

    When I was working for a Bang & Olufsen dealer I we had the case of a broken TV we had to pick up from a client and fix it. The TV in question was a rebadged panasonic with a nice B & O frame. We repaired the tv in the workshop and tested it. After that we put it back in its B&O frame and returned it to the customer only to find it wasn't working. Why? One of us had managed to accidently press the original panasonic powerbutton while putting it back in the B&O frame. Try explaining that to a customer.

    • by TheGratefulNet (143330) on Saturday January 16, 2010 @07:03AM (#30789206)

      want a worse example? lets continue with panasonic but lets enter LEICA into it!

      rebadging was never quite the same as when 'red dot' leica did it. they took semi-crappy pany digicams, slapped a leica logo on it, LIED TO THE PUBLIC about the lineage of the camera (saying it was qa'd in germany which is an out and out LIE) and then sold the cams at several times the pany price.

      LEICA used to be a real high end camera company. they lost face when they pulled this stunt. there are leica lenses in the $3k range that are 'real leicas' but a $500 digicam that is rebadged is not a real leica even though the brand lies thru their teeth about it (when dpreview.com was pressed, they dodged the issue. probably due to lost advertising income if they fessed up that the fz50 and vlux1 are the same friggin cameras. touch that 'third rail' and you lose advertising revenue and review samples. yup, we know the game, guys...

  • THX? (Score:5, Funny)

    by JustOK (667959) on Saturday January 16, 2010 @06:36AM (#30789062) Journal

    Wow. I'm sticking with THC.

  • by lucm (889690) on Saturday January 16, 2010 @06:38AM (#30789076)

    Imagine a company that would take a few hundred bucks worth of regular PC parts, add a slightly modified free open-source OS, package the thing in a white shiny box and sell it for a few thousand bucks... What a scam it would be!

    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      I like your post but there is a minor error. OS X is not open source. It's derived from NeXT which is a closed-source OS from the 1980s that was ported to the PowerPC platform, and is still closed source today.

      Wow. I can't believe I just defended Apple. That's like defending Chrysler's practice of taking a Dodge Stratus, rebadging it a chrysler sebring, and then adding 10,000 to the pricetag. Honda/Acura and Toyota/Lexus do the same deal.

      • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

        by Neil Hodges (960909)

        I like your post but there is a minor error. OS X is not open source. It's derived from NeXT which is a closed-source OS from the 1980s that was ported to the PowerPC platform, and is still closed source today.

        You may want to read this [wikipedia.org]:

        Darwin is an open source POSIX-compliant computer operating system released by Apple Inc. in 2000. It is composed of code developed by Apple, as well as code derived from NeXTSTEP, BSD, and other free software projects.

        Darwin forms the core set of components upon which Mac OS X, Apple TV, and iPhone OS are based. It is compatible with the Single UNIX Specification version 3 (SUSv3) and POSIX UNIX applications and utilities.

        Darwin's heritage began with NeXT's NeXTSTEP operating system (later known as OPENSTEP), first released in 1989. After Apple bought NeXT in 1997, it announced it would base its next operating system on OPENSTEP. This was developed into Rhapsody in 1997 and the Rhapsody-based Mac OS X Server 1.0 in 1999. In 2000, Rhapsody was forked into Darwin and released as open-source software under the Apple Public Source License (APSL), and components from Darwin are present in Mac OS X today.

        Darwin version 10.2 corresponds to Mac OS X 10.6.2.

    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      A Mac would be considerable to a high end PC and they're about the same price. A mac will be better than something bought in Wal-Mart because the Wal-Mart PC will have shit parts and will be subsidised by all the crap installed on it.

      Yes you can clean it out and even re-install a clean copy of windows to ensure it works to its best but then you're paying with your time rather than money.

      Tight-wads love stories like this to justify buying the cheapest shit out there but in general you'll find middle of
  • by Greger47 (516305) on Saturday January 16, 2010 @06:47AM (#30789120)

    The blog got it all wrong! Lexicon if very honest about taking the Oppo player and improving upon it, and boy they did!

    It's common knowledge that the audiophile listener derives his pleasure not from the quality of sound reproduction but from the price tag of his equipment.

    So an audiophile is getting 7x the pleasure from listening to the Lexicon compared to the Oppo. Beat that if you can!

    /greger

    • by Toonol (1057698)
      There's a lot of customers out there secretly wishing they could FORGET that they have an inexpensive BluRay player, so they could return to their preening. I think of it like a double-blind test; if nobody had busted into the thing, no audiophile would ever have noticed the cheap hardware just by listening.
  • by jamesl (106902) on Saturday January 16, 2010 @07:14AM (#30789244)

    I'll bet they forgot to use the Monster Cables.

  • by dangitman (862676) on Saturday January 16, 2010 @07:44AM (#30789366)

    One of the sites linked to by this story, in turn linked to a glowing review of this Blu-Ray player by another site that praised its superiority [hometheaterreview.com] over the very Oppo unit it is "based" on.

    With my interest piqued, I browsed a little more on this site, and found a review for an HD projector that sounded weirdly similar [hometheaterreview.com] in that it appears to be a JVC projector that has been repackaged and rebadged at a higher price, and got a similarly glowing review. Without any real technical scrutiny, of course. I wonder how many more products are out there of a similarly repackaged and fraudulent nature.

    • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

      There are a ton. In particular, JVC's DLA-RS2 projector got rebadged by a ton of companies (Audioholics also exposed the Meridian MF10 as a rebadged JVC [audioholics.com]), all of whom insisted that they made "dramatic" improvements to the picture quality. The problem is - reference is reference, and black is black. The system can only get so black, and a $350 calibration can bring the JVC DLA-RS2 to near-perfection. Happens all over the industry. Lexicon actually has a history of doing this, but this time they got caught i
  • by DrXym (126579) on Saturday January 16, 2010 @09:16AM (#30789802)
    Audiophiles are stupid. As long as something comes in a chunky heavy box with knobs, meters and valves they'll pay a substantial markup even if the innards are nothing special. Onkyo and Pioneer have both sold Blu Ray players which are almost the same as $100 Magnavox models sold in Walmart with a huge markup.

    The really, really stupid audiophiles don't stop at $3500 though. Go and have a laugh at the Goldmund [goldmund.com] players [goldmund.com]. How does anyone ever manage to play a blu ray without a "magnetic damper". I expect if you cracked them open they'd be built around the same SOCs powering devices costing 1/20th the price.

  • "High end" computers (Score:3, Interesting)

    by Animats (122034) on Saturday January 16, 2010 @02:10PM (#30791790) Homepage

    It's amusing that we don't have "high end" computers for multimedia use. Features might include:

    • No firmware runs in System Management Mode, stealing cycles from the main CPU.
    • No paging.
    • Operating system is tested and certified for interrupt response under 1us, 100% of the time. (Hard real-time operating systems like QNX can do this. Linux and Windows still have excessive interrupt lockout times; I think Linux is now below 1ms if you don't have any crappy drivers installed, but 1us is a long way off.)
    • Support for "sporadic scheduling", where the OS guarantees, say, 20% of the CPU every 1ms to a task that requests it. This allows playing multimedia with no breaks while doing something else. If you try to open too many multimedia windows, the scheduling request is rejected, because you're out of capacity.
    • Disk access prioritization, so that CPU priority affects disk access priority. (QNX has this).
    • All solid state disks.

    These are the kind of specs you see in hard real time systems that have to run both time-critical and non-time-critical code. "Multimedia PCs" ought to have specs like that, but they don't. So you still get pausing and stuttering if something else interferes with playback.

    A typical test in the real time world is to hook up a square wave generator to an input pin and a digital oscilloscope to an output pin. You then run a program which is waiting for interrupts triggered by the input pin, and when the user process triggered by the interrupt gets control, it turns on the output pin. You load up the CPU with other, lower-priority tasks. You watch the results on a storage 'scope, timing the time from input to output. You expect all the spikes to be below the promised time threshold. If there are any outliers, users get annoyed, file bug reports, and it gets fixed. This is how you get rid of "jitter" at the OS level.

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