Premium headphones

The future is bright for our eyes and ears, as the BBC improves the quality of its 3D broadcasts and premium headphones are tuned for sound.

After a few years of on/off trials, the BBC in July announced it will wind up its 3D TV broadcasting. The news may have passed by the majority of people who don’t own or use a 3D-capable television. But whether or not you thought you were riding the crest of a three-dimensional televisual wave, the outcome may be good news for image quality for everyone. Also see: The future of TV.

In the past few months PC Advisor has been covering more flat-panel TVs, and it’s become apparent to this viewer’s eyes that in the move from bulky CRT to slimline LCD image quality has deteriorated, and in several ways. I’m not just referring to the reduced colour gamut found on LCD TVs. It’s more about the motion. See Digital Home Advisor.

Motion resolution is near-universally rubbish on many large TVs, especially those costing under £1,000, making even gentle camera pans and moving people and objects appear unnatural to the eye. There’s a jitteriness that ranges from annoying to plain unwatchably wobbly.

As with the home-cinema surround-sound boom of the late 1990s, whereby the increased number of Dolby Digital audio channels helped to distract the audience from how much poorer the sound was from any single channel, the rush to make television sets able to display stereoscopic 3D could hide how bad was the basic 2D image. It’s the usual story: quantity of features is more marketable than quality of any one feature.

Playing with 3D is such a palaver, and the results so unrelaxing to many viewers’ eyes, that I’m quietly hoping this will mean manufacturers will stop trying to ram this imperfect gimmick into every set, and focus instead on getting the essential core moving-picture quality believable again. Click here for some good and not-so-good examples of modern TVs.

Headphone calls

Beyond, or some would say before, vision comes the sound. Headphones are one way to communicate sound to the ear, and they’re now the biggest growth sector in all consumer electronics, according to researchers. Whereas most IT hardware has dwindled by around 20 percent in the past year (the exception being almost 100 percent growth in tablet PCs), headphones have shown a healthy 13 percent upswing. In the UK, headphones sales totalled around £64m in 2005. By 2012, that had rocketed to £227m. See all audio reviews.

A lot of that total must be made of premium-priced headphones. Spending £200-plus on a pair of headphones is not unusual, made easier by the boutique pricing on certain designer brands. Problem is, many of these ‘phones are tuned for colour, design and fashion. Not for sound. We’ve rounded-up a collection of headphones made by companies with a pedigree in sound engineering.