Thursday, February 25, 2010

Thinking Aloud: Uncertain Future for OLED Displays

Sony-XEL-1Recently Sony announced that it would cease the sales of its XEL-1 model in Japan once inventory runs out, which probably soon since they do not produce many of it per year. Sony was first to the OLED Display market with its 11” XEL-1 model with the price tag of $2500. OLED has enjoyed more widespread used in handheld devices such as mobile phones, but going from 3.3” to 11” was proven troublesome even for Sony, the leader in the technology. Last year Sony said it would release a bigger model. The fate of that plan is unknown currently.

OLED technology is supposed to be the saviour in high fidelity display. Delay after delay of the larger display models from LG, Samsung, Sony, Panasonic and other CE companies and the falling prices of LCD displays and the full steam campaign of 3D Displays may make it more daunting for any companies to champion OLED TVs of reasonable size and price to the market in the next two to three years. I am afraid OLED may be put back into company’s R&D vault to be revisited another day.

OLED stands for organic light emitting diode. It is organic because the layers that make up OLED contain carbon instead of the typical semiconductor materials of ordinary light emitting diode. OLED display has several advantages over typical LCD because OLED display pixels directly emit lights unlike LCD that requires backlight. Since the pixels of OLED display are directly lit, colours will be displayed correctly when viewing angle changes. White will be white even when you shift your view. Colour changes or shifts with LCD as you move your viewing angle because of its used of backlight and that has been major annoyance for high fidelity.

Another advantage of being directly lit is that when displaying black OLED pixels are actually off while LCD will try to block out the light, but the backlight still leak anyway, making true black impossible on LCD. True black will give OLED several order of magnitude of contrast ratio. Even this will not make a different in the typical living room but in a light controlled home theatre, the extra contrast will be very noticeable. Therefore, until OLED takes over in who knows when? If you are looking for high fidelity display, you will need to go for Plasma display for now. However, I do hope that some companies will bring out a 24”-30” OLED Displays for desktop use, as I feel all the current flat screen displays on the market are inadequate.

Wednesday, February 24, 2010

Album review: Mike Oldfield's Music of the Spheres (2008)

Mike-Oldfield-Music-of-The-Spheres‘Music of the Spheres’ is a classical album by the British composer Mike Oldfield. It has been over twenty five years since his first album the infamous ‘Tubular Bells’. This album is simply beautiful. From the very first track, it will take you on the spiritual journey beyond our known universe, discover your deepest inner emotions and by heavenly joy, move you to tears. It is rejuvenating and liberating for the soul.

Recorded with full orchestration in Abbey Road Studios with Mike Oldfield on the guitar, ‘Music of the Spheres’ also features the talents of angelic soprano Hayley Westenra and piano virtuoso Lang Lang. The dynamic range of the record is very good, the orchestration translate very well in this record. Producing great imaging and staging in your living room. Audiophiles must have album.

The limited edition features a second CD of live recording of the ‘Music of the Spheres’ concert at the Guggenheim Museum in Bilbao. This recording is great too but the studios recording is rather exceptional already that this second CD does not offer anything different. A DVD record of the concert would have been better choice for limited edition. However, this does not tarnish the great album that is highly recommended to everyone.

Music of the Spheres (Limited Edition)
by Mike Oldfield
4 out of 5 star
Released:November 24, 2008

Track listing
01."Harbinger" 4:08
02."Animus" 3:09
05."The Tempest"5:48
06."Harbinger (reprise)"1:30
07."On My Heart" (featuring Hayley Westenra)2:27
08."Aurora" 3:42
09."Prophecy" 2:54
10."On My Heart (reprise)" (featuring Hayley Westenra)1:16
11."Harmonia Mundi" 3:46
12."The Other Side" 1:28
13."Empyrean" 1:37
14."Musica Universalis" 6:24

Thursday, February 18, 2010

Album review: Ke$ha’s debut studio album ‘Animal’ (2010)

Ke$ha-AnimalKe$ha’s electropop ‘Tik Tok’ reached the number one position on the ARIA charts with three times platinum certification. Its lyric is obnoxious, but the electro beat is rather catchy that can get the song stuck in your head, unpleasant to say the least. Animal’s opening tracks including the hit ‘Tik Tok’ offer similar experience.

Listening midway through the album everything started to sound ‘Blah Blah Blah’. The induced headache was like being ‘Hungover’ after a ‘Party At A Rich Dude’s House. Only after ‘Backstabber’ did I find a track that don’t make my ears ‘Blind’.

‘D.I.N.O.S.A.U.R.’ sounds Jurassic; seriously, this is the most annoying track of the entire album. The album title track ‘Animal’ is rather nice if turned into a pure dance track. Actually, this goes for most of the tracks on this album.

This album has poor dynamic range, though it managed to avoid clipping. Many distortion effects were unnecessarily used on Ke$ha’s voice, on the plus side the samples used are of good quality. If you like ‘Tik Tok’ you will like this album though be warned it all can became too much, if you loathe it, this will make you despise it.

by Ke$ha
2 out of 5 star
Released:January 5, 2010

Track listing
01."Your Love Is My Drug" 3:06
02."Tik Tok" 3:19
03."Take It Off"3:35
04."Kiss n Tell" 3:27
06."Blah Blah Blah" (featuring 3OH!3)2:52
07."Hungover" 3:52
08."Party at a Rich Dude's House" 2:55
09."Backstabber" 3:06
10."Blind" 3:17
11."D.I.N.O.S.A.U.R" 2:55
12."Dancing with Tears in My Eyes" 3:29
13."Boots & Boys" 2:56
14."Animal" 3:57

Wednesday, February 17, 2010

Album review: Rihanna’s Rated R (2009)

Rihanna-Rated RRated R is Rihanna’s fourth studio album. It features R&B mixed with hip-hop, rock and dubstep. The elements of rock and dubstep would’ve been out of place if it weren’t for Rihanna’s thick and rich contralto voice to gel everything together. The tone of the album is dark and grim. The lyrics are bold and explicit with profanity featuring prominently throughout.

Thematically, Rated R is consistent and it gets the hard break-up and perseverance theme across in ways that are confrontational and dramatic. Rihanna delivered these recordings with passion and intensity that makes the record feels autobiographical.

Overall, this album shows Rihanna maturity as a person and an artist. It is a personal statement against the difficulties in her life laid bare. She made these songs worked. Other artists would have difficulty covering these songs. Rihanna’s Rated R is morbid and at the same time spectacular. The dynamic range of this album is poor but clipping is minimal.

Rated R
by Rihanna
3 out of 5 star
Released:November 20, 2009
Label:Def Jam

Track listing
01."Mad House" 1:34
02."Wait Your Turn" 3:46
03."Hard" (featuring Young Jeezy)4:10
04."Stupid in Love" 4:01
05."Rockstar 101" (featuring Slash)3:58
06."Russian Roulette" 3:47
07."Fire Bomb" 4:17
08."Rude Boy" 3:42
09."Photographs" (featuring
10."G4L" 3:59
11."Te Amo" 3:28
12."Cold Case Love" 6:09
13."The Last Song" 4:16

Album review: BoA Deluxe (2009)

'BoABoA's first venture into the lucrative American market and worldwide after her success in her native South Korea, Japan and South-East Asia. This is actually her twelfth studio album.

BoA: Deluxe includes the single version of Energetic and two new songs ‘Control’ and ‘Crazy About’ over the original released. This self-titled album features upbeat songs that mixed elements of electropop and dance. Heavy used of vocoder to mask her accented English managed to work well overall.

The album lacks the varieties to highlight BoA’s talents and versatility. All the tracks even the two new ones are of dance varieties. The standout tracks of this album are ‘Energetic’, ‘Did Ya’, ‘Eat You Up’, ‘Obsessed’ and ‘Hypnotic Dancefloor’. Overall, not a bad attempt and for what it is, a dance music album, just that it is nothing special and does not standout from the crowd.

The two new tracks are non-standout but welcome since the original released only had eleven tracks. The lack of DVD for music video or ‘the making’ style doco is disappointing for a deluxe edition. The dynamic range is poor but clipping is minimal, typical of this genre.

BoA Deluxe
by BoA
2.5 out of 5 star
Released:September 22, 2009
Label:SM Entertainment USA

Track listing
01."Energetic" (radio edit)3:25
02."Control" 3:00
03."Crazy About"3:35
04."I Did It For Love" (featuring Sean Garnett)3:01
05."Did Ya"2:59
06."Look Who's Talking" 3:08
07."Eat You Up" 3:11
08."Obsessed" 3:46
10."Scream" 3:16
11."Girls On Top" 3:37
12."Dress Off" 3:41
13."Hypnotic Dancefloor" 3:43
14."Energetic" 3:41

Monday, February 15, 2010

Album review: Hayley Westenra’s Self-Titled Album (2001)

Hayley Westenra self-titled albumHayley Westenra self-titled first studio album features rendition of classic songs like ‘Memory’, ‘Somewhere’, ‘Pie Jesu’ and ‘I Dreamed a Dream’.

The album opens with ‘Walking In The Air’ from the 1982 animated film The Snowman. Hayley’s angelic voice creates the sensation of floating in the air high above the clouds. Her take on this song is magical. Bach’s Ave Maria follows, serene for a moment of meditation and prayer.

The eight track features ‘Bright Eyes’ another animated film theme song, this time from 1978 Watership Down. Like ‘Walking In The Air’, the track is full of dramatisation and emotion that creates highly enjoyable listening experience.

The album concludes with two added bonus tracks New Zealand’s National Anthem and a live version of 'Amazing Grace'. This album has acceptable to good dynamic range.

Hayley Westenra
by Hayley Westenra
4 out of 5 star
Released:April 26, 2001
Label:Universal New Zealand

Track listing
01."Walking In The Air" 3:15
02."Ave Maria (Bach)" 2:27
04."All I Ask Of You"3:18
06."The Mists Of Islay"2:28
07."Ave Maria (Schubert)"3:21
08."Bright Eyes" 4:05
09."Pie Jesu" 2:41
10."Wishing You Were Somehow Here Again"3:08
11."I Dreamed A Dream" 3:44
12."Love Changes Everything" 3:31
13."God Defend New Zealand" 3:31
14."Amazing Grace (Live)" 4:18