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High-End Home Theater blends Aesthetics of Fine-Art, Fine-Architecture, and Fine-Entertainment
by Dr. Oneida Cramer

Among the features in an O?Neil Ford-designed home (1956-57) ? part of Preservation Dallas?s 2002 Mid-Century Modern Homes tour ? is a 21st-century, state-of-the-art home theater. Finding such a cutting edge entertainment system in the context of an historic home, a recipient of the 25-year Preservation Award from Dallas AIA in 2001 and a home so well preserved with much of its original materials, character and design, came as a surprise at first, but proved to offer a view on the aesthetics that link fine art, fine architecture and fine entertainment.

What appeared to be a comfortable sitting/reading room, detailed, yet simple, with wood/brick walls, and a palatial window view so complemented the art and the components of the home theater that I overlooked the system when passing through the room the first time. On returning, however, I found the homeowner demonstrating its features. With the curtains drawn, the lights dimmed, and the flush ceiling mounted screen pulled down and animated by a ceiling hung CRT projector, the room took on film graciously. The large, perhaps, 10-foot diagonal screen and sharp picture were breath taking. Only later, during an interview with Audio Concepts owner, Mark Asworth, who designed and installed the system, was I to learn that the audio components were just as state-of the art. Indeed, this home theater system demonstrates the capability of high-resolution video to merge with audiophile audio into a top-notch entertainment center that can fit anywhere in the home because it virtually recedes into the seams of the architecture. For example, if you build the screen into molding over a wide passageway, the screen can pull down into a semi-door while watching the video.

Almost 20 years ago, Asworth founded Audio Concepts based on the ethics of selling only what he would purchase.

?We?re always driven by things like would we like to have it in our house as a factor or we wouldn?t want to sell it,? said Asworth. While studying engineering in college, Asworth worked part time in a hi-fi store and decided, upon graduation, to research the best market place lacking what he thought would be a good hi-fi store. Dallas was that place. So, Asworth packed up from Houston to set up near LBJ, where he stayed about four years before moving to the southwest corner of Preston Forest. Today, after a 16-year stint on the south side of the shopping complex, Audio Concepts just moved to larger facilities across the parking lot, still in the southwest corner of Preston-Forest, where business has always been steady, and is now strong.

Audio has always been the primary focus of Audio Concepts because video was never a high performance item until recently.

?When video became a quality source the past few years, we did jump into it,? Asworth said. ?But we do video if there is a certain quality level. That?s why you don?t see walls of TV?s in here. All we do are the plasma TV?s, and we do a lot of the CRT (cathode ray tube) projector systems (Runco), which do offer a big performance. The CRT is probably the oldest type of quality video source. There are a lot of newer ones out now, like the DLP (digital light processing), which is a digital type projector, and the plasma screens. And neither of those are as good a picture quality as the CRT projector?the best source for watching movies.?

Why?because plasma screens and DLP depend upon the fixed resolution of their digital displays, in other words?the number of pixels in the screen. Like TV, CRT uses an analog display. But unlike TV, CRT has the capacity to handle far more information than what is currently supplied by input sources whether high definition digital or analog.

?It?s really funny that the majority of new digital things are not as good as the original analog,? Asworth said. ?If you compare a top flight CD player with a top-flight turntable, the turntable still sounds better?far and away. It?s like comparing the DLP or plasma and the CRT in that the CD player has got a fixed amount of resolution. The LP has got tremendously more information imbedded on the record. We still sell many turntables a month. They?re a great source of music. The source is the most important; so a good turntable is important for good sound from records.

?Music is important because even in the home theater, if you have a spectacular system, but the audio doesn?t keep up, it?s not going to be very satisfying,? Asworth said. ?Our best selling system is called Linn, a Scottish manufacturer around for about 30 years doing amazing audio systems. What is quite fascinating is that Linn?their root was making the world?s best turntable 25 years ago. The Linn LP12 turntable is a classic product that built their company. And now, they?re at the forefront of home theater, and they still make that same turntable.? Fact is Linn makes only the audio systems for home theater, not the video display devices.

?Their system is one of the best systems for audio?for listening to your music?and for watching your movies,? Asworth said. ?It?s probably the first one that we came across a couple of years ago that does both music and movies well.

?Typically, a Linn home theater system runs about $15,000 for a complete source and speaker package?that?s everything but the video display device, which would be the television, be it a projector or plasma TV. We do sell systems that are up to $50,000 too, and it?s amazing how close you get to that with this Linn system. It?s a great value. Our analogy is this?it?s like you?re buying an entry level Mercedes or BMW?a really quality product at the lower end of the price scale.? The entry Runco CRT sells for $18,000 plus $2,000 for the motorized screen, installed.

Sum it up to $35,000 for a complete state-of-the-art home theater/audio system that seems more like a work of art to fit into the fabric of the home.

-by Dr. Oneida Cramer
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