Plasma displays can be exciting. The "shock and awe" created when they first appeared continues in homes across America as they persist in gaining popularity. However, the biggest disappointment with almost every flat panel display is the included sub-standard speakers. It's almost as if the manufacturers put so much time into developing the best displays possible, all they can do is toss in some lackluster speakers as an afterthought.
• Read reviews of the top Plasma HDTVs on the market today from Panasonic, Samsung and others.
• Read about Vizio and many other Vizio HDTV reviews here.
To personalize a flat panel TV with good looks and exceptional performance, Thiel Loudspeakers has engineered a wall mounted stereo speaker set called ViewPoint. These aluminum speakers, when paired with the Thiel SS2 SmartSub and Thiel PX02 Passive Subwoofer Crossover, are sincerely light years ahead of any speaker that comes with a flat screen. To begin with, Thiel custom-builds each pair of speakers to match the display. Therefore, to begin our test, we supplied Thiel with the make and model of our display so they could build a pair of ViewPoint speakers to complement the plasma. The display we planned to test in conjunction with the speakers is the new V, Inc. Vizio P42HD. The Vizio P42HD plasma display is a high definition value-oriented television that could benefit from the Thiel system.
V, Inc. Vizio P42HD Unique Features - V, Inc. is a relative newcomer to the consumer electronics industry. Within months of launching new products, V, Inc. was recognized as a company dedicated to bringing practical and innovative equipment to market at affordable prices. This refreshing business model continues with their affordable P42HD. The Vizio P42HD offers 1024 x 768 native resolution, high contrast ratio and support for a multitude of HD formats at a price well below the competition.
Despite what the price point might suggest, this 42-inch 16:9 aspect ratio Vizio HDTV is solidly built with plenty of inputs. It has an attractive silver finish and six chrome front panel control buttons. The unit comes on a tabletop pedestal that will fit the needs of most consumers, but types that are more adventurous will appreciate the ability to remove the stand for wall or ceiling mounting. Like most plasma screens, connections are positioned facing down on the back panel. This is convenient when mounting the unit to a wall, but not ergonomic when installing wiring. V, Inc. has made the process of connecting the display to sources easier by clearly marking the two rows of inputs with a diagram on the rear panel.
Champion of the digital cause, V, Inc. was one of the first manufacturers to include Digital Video Interface (DVI) technology in even their most basic DVD players. With DVI, there is no conversion of digital signals to analog for the sake of compatibility. The P42HD continues this campaign with a DVI input with HDCP-compliant support to allow the transmission of uncompressed, copyprotected, pure, unadulterated digital content to your TV.
One of the most sought-after features of plasma displays is their ability to present an almost surreal color palette. Colors so rich and fluid, you feel yourself being drawn closer by the intensity. The Vizio is considered a high brightness display. It has brightness levels (1000 cd/m2) that are vivid and brilliant even in well-lit environments. The same can be said for the improved white and black levels that are often the Achilles' heel on many flat screens.
Thiel ViewPoint Speakers Unique Features - Immediately upon opening the ViewPoint packaging, Editor Clint Walker and I knew we were in for a real treat. The ViewPoint's cabinet was built-to-order completely out of aluminum, which complements our V, Inc. television nicely. Thiel trims the cabinets to the proper length and paints them and the corresponding aluminum clip-in grille to match the
customer's display. Since our Vizio has a brushed silver finish, the ViewPoints were left in their natural aluminum state and they looked outstanding. I didn't see a single shortcoming in the construction of the ViewPoint speakers. The exterior was smooth with the clean lines only broken up by the most heavy-duty five-way binding posts I have ever seen.
Seeing beyond the novelty of having cabinets made from aluminum, the innovative design characteristics of the ViewPoints became clear. Each cabinet contains a one-inch tweeter and 6.5-inch woofer with low resonant aluminum diaphragms. The rear mounted coaxial/coplanner drivers are placed in the center of each of the three-sided cabinets. These triangular cabinets produce a 90-degree radiation pattern to enable the sound to cover the room more completely than a directional speaker does. Low resonance is achieved not only from the vibration-free solid aluminum enclosure, but also by eliminating parallel walls in the cabinet design to eradicate competing sound waves inside, and by angling the woofer to the wall surface to diminish the wall reflection cancellation outside.
Thiel 552 SmartSub and PX02 Passive Subwoofer Crossover Unique Features - The SS2 SmartSub is a stand-alone subwoofer that employs two forward firing, long-throw, 10-inch drivers housed in beautiful cabinetry available in over a dozen attractive finishes. The exterior of the cabinet features a furniture-quality surface nice enough to put on display in the middle of the room. The front mounted grille is tough and durable without concealing the handsome appearance of the drivers peering out. The grille is secured to the cabinet by removable hardware. The rear panel of the SS2 not only has controls for the sub, but it also has grab handles and a digital LED readout for making numerous adjustments. The 108-pound sub has a 1000-watt Class D amplifier with thermal overload protection to combat long and hard use.
Typical subwoofers have several sonic problems. Examples of common problems are distortion, poor sonic integration with the main speakers and room interaction issues. The SmartSub SS2 powered subwoofer from Thiel in conjunction with the PX02 Passive Crossover were designed as a solution for these bass management woes.
Dirty and strained low frequencies from distortion are reduced by using a superior short coil/long gap motor system. Additionally, the SmartSub's drivers have specially designed suspensions and very high excursion capabilities that lessen distortion. Combine that with dedicated electronic circuitry that corrects compression distortion from overheated voice coils and overall distortion levels are severely diminished. To combate poor sonic integration with the main speakers, Thiel takes into account the low frequency characteristics of the main speakers and offers a solution to using a Low Frequency Effects (LFE) channel. The answer is the Thiel PX02 Passive Subwoofer Crossover.
When linking a subwoofer to a loudspeaker configuration with a LFE connection, bass delivered to the main speaker channels is not reproduced by the subwoofer. Therefore, much of the low frequencies aren't being sent to the drivers best able to reproduce the signal – the sub. However, when redirecting the bass through a two-channel passive crossover such as the PX02, the subwoofers can reproduce the low frequency element of the left and right channels in a two-channel multimedia system. The benefit of redirecting lows to the sub become apparent when either the main speakers don't reproduce very low bass or they distort at higher volume levels. The PX02 Passive Subwoofer Crossover can be used with two subwoofers to provide stereo bass reproduction. One limitation is that this crossover does not redirect bass energy away from the main speakers and so the main speakers will not play any louder than otherwise. Another limitation is that the bass extension and level of the sub are not adjustable. While the passive crossovers provide correct balance and greatest extension and depth, they do not permit the bass level to be artificially increased. The PX02 has an aluminum chassis that matches the ViewPoint speaker cabinets, and because it's passive, not active, they are reasonably priced to fit most budget constraints.
Installation/Setup/Ease of Use - The Vizio P42HD comes ready to set on a table right out of the box. For wall mounting the unit, as we preferred, the base needed to be removed. The base easily unscrews, and four included standoff screws are inserted into the rear of the display so that the TV will fit evenly against a wall mount. The Thiel ViewPoint speakers, custom designed to fit the sides of the display, have a completely flat back panel. To mount the stereo speakers to the wall after the plasma is in place, two mounting holes are located both above and below the driver so they can be anchored securely against the wall. When the display and speakers are installed, they appear to be one complete unit, as if they were built in the same cabinet at the factory. The sides of the speakers sit flush against the TV and the drivers are angled slightly outward.
A component interconnect was hooked up from a Rotel DVD player to the inputs at the bottom of the Vizio. The Thiel ViewPoint stereo speakers are equipped with burly binding posts that accept several different types of speaker cable terminations. Thiel didn't have to go the extra mile by including such a terrific binding post, but they carry on the quality craftsmanship seen throughout the entire design. The binding posts fit nicely behind the screen so all wiring and connections are unseen from the front.
The ViewPoint speakers can be connected to the LFE input on the SS2 subwoofer for a quick, less expensive installation. However, if a fixed frequency level doesn't appeal to you or if your system doesn't have a multichannel processor with a sub output, we strongly recommend using a crossover like the PX02. Without a crossover, the powered subwoofer may provide very high quality Low Frequency
Effects (LFE), but bass played by the main speakers can be lost on the subwoofer.
The PX02 does a great job at balancing the sub, but adjustments still need to be made. Performance characteristics of subwoofers vary greatly depending on where you place it. However, Thiel has engineered the SS2 to overcome these shortcomings by including adjustments to match the distance of the sub in meters
to the surrounding walls. By holding down one of the two buttons on the rear panel of the cabinet and reading the numeric display, we changed the settings to reflect our rear wall distance and side wall distance. Once everything was hooked up, we could set it and forget it. The passive crossover optimized the ensemble for peak efficiency.
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The Thiel Viewpoints, SmartSub SS2 and PX02 Passive Subwoofer Crossover pay tribute to the terrific performance of a quality flat screen. The construction is unmatched, and the sound quality superb. If outstanding stereo performance and uncompromised design matter, this triple threat from Thiel fits the bill.