Thursday, September 29, 2011

Buying "American": The Sigmac NE15AB LED TV.

The NE15AB and some of its specs.
For years, I've been using a little 13" CRT TV in my home studio, but have been feeling the need to upgrade because my cable company has recently gone digital and many of the stations offered even on the basic tier cannot be watched on an analog set.  Advancements in technology thus dictated to me the need to bring my TV, and thus my studio, into the twenty-first century.

The upgrade quest began with a quick scan of the sales flyers in my local newspaper.   This turned up an offering from a company called "Sigmac" and its Model NE15AB 15”television.  It's a 15" LED TV priced at an astounding $69 + Tax at Fry's Electronics!

 Without question, the price point got my attention and had me wondering what I could get for such a miniscule cost.  Even more interesting, according to numerous web sources, the TV is “Made in the U.S.A.”.  Yup, amazingly enough, there are STILL TV’s being made here in America and this alone had me convinced I needed to see this set up close and personal.  So off to Fry’s I went with a piqued curiosity, cash in pocket and the desire to support American jobs.

On initial inspection, the Sigmac NE15AB looks similar to other small LED TV’s in the entry level class. It’s compact, lightweight and can be stowed in tight spaces with ease wherever a TV is desired.  It’s not a bad looking piece either!  The unit is shod in shiny plastic and has a clean, efficient look about it.  On the back there are plenty of connections for anything you’d like to plug in including VGA, S-Video, Composite Video, HDMI and USB.  I thought this level of connectivity options impressive for a budget machine.

At this angle, you aint seeing much!
From there, reality set in and it became apparent why this unit is amazingly inexpensive.

A look at the screen is your first clue that this is NOT one of the top tier TV’s on the market.  While the picture was acceptable, it had to be viewed dead-on and level for it to look good.  Any deviation of one’s viewing angle to the left, right up or down resulted in color distortion and fading.  I can only assume that the screen employed in the Sigmac is older technology that was originally purposed for laptops manufactured in the recent past.  For this reason, this TV should NEVER be considered for anything other than desktop use or in applications where close proximity to the screen is not the norm.  Under these conditions, the NE15AB performed well.  The brightness and color were fine out of the box, and watching sports produced no ghosting or blurring during moments of fast action. 

In keeping with its low-end price tag, the Sigmax has a top resolution of 720p.  On a screen this small, that’s just fine since the differences between 720 and 1080 at close distances are negligible.  HD Television programming in 1080 looked fine on the little Sigmax with good color, a sharp picture and no discernable distortions.

The screen did have one annoying trait however, that did detract from its viewing pleasure.  The screen is HIGHLY reflective and will pick up every light source facing it.  Careful consideration must be made as to where to place the unit to avoid this. 
Then there’s the sound…just one listen will tell you the best that can be said about the Sigmax's audio is that it’s there.  While the speaker in the unit produces decent volume levels, the audio is of such poor quality, I suspect that anyone who buys this unit will immediately plug external speakers into the headphone jack for at least passable fidelity.  Think Mickey’ D’s Drive Through and you’ll get the picture!  Don’t get me wrong, you CAN get by with what’s built into the TV, but you’d have to be an incredibly cheap person to tolerate it over buying some inexpensive external speakers! 
That cable plug on the back is a pain!
As I mentioned earlier, the Sigmac NE15AB is a budget unit that offers many connectivity options.  All are easily accessible on the rear of the unit with ONE glaring exception: The cable television plug.  It’s jammed into a corner and extremely difficult to attach a screw-on 75ohm cable for anyone with average sized or larger fingers.  It CAN be done, but perhaps the better option is to use 75ohm cables with push-on plugs.  Once again, the Sigmac shows its true colors as a budget unit with this design flaw.

Picking up the TV reveals the Sigmac to be an extremely light unit that’s rather flimsy feeling.  The plastic of the TV’s body gives when even the lightest pressure is applied which suggests to me that moving this TV from place to place may not be the best idea if you want it to last.  If it’s portability and long term durability you’re looking for, you’re going to have to spend more than what Sigmac is asking.
The buttons on the side are nothing special, when pressed they operate well and with a tactile snap, but they look and feel chintzy.  You’ll find the typical stuff along the right side of the TV like volume, menu, channel and source. 

The options for TV operation are fairly standard.  You’ll find menus for setting channels, source programming, picture adjustment and so on.  They’re fairly intuitive, though there’s room for improvement.  Once unboxed and plugged in, I had the TV do an auto scan for the channels available through my cable provider.  This proved to be an exercise in patience.  The Sigmac chugged away for close to ten minutes before finding all of them which is excessive in my opinion.  Once locked however, the channels came in clear and looked fine.

Overall, I’d say that this TV is far from what one would call a “stellar performer”.  Its bargain basement construction and shortcomings reflect the price this TV is fetching.  However, the Sigmac NE15AB is not a unit that should be dismissed outright.  Despite what I outlined above, this unit IS a deal for the person looking for a basic HDTV and for someone not needing all the “frills” of a higher end unit.  It does what it’s supposed to better than you’d expect for such an inexpensive item.

In addition, there’s the “Built in the U.S.A.” factor to consider.  I’m always on the lookout for a purchase that will help the American worker, and was surprised to see this incredibly inexpensive TV was a domestic product.  I’m not fooling myself  though, since I’m sure the TV was merely ASSEMBLED here in America with incredibly cheap components manufactured in China.  That’s not the important thing here.  What IS important is that somewhere an American company is building TV’s for Sigmac at a price point one would not think possible to cover the costs of U.S. labor.  THAT is a major accomplishment and a trend that I hope continues.

So what’s the bottom line?  The Sigmac  
NE15AB  isn’t  bad, but it’s not great either.  It’s a flawed product that’s hampered by its crude technology and usage limitations.  If you have a darkish nook, the need for a close-proximity HDTV, you don’t want to spend a lot of cash and you want to put your money in a product that is American (To some extent), then this is an interesting option to consider.  If you’re looking for more refinement, then get ready to pony up at least twice the cash for a TV from one of the major manufacturers.

Saturday, March 19, 2011

Rebecca Black's song "Friday"...Maybe NOT the Worst Song Ever?

"Friday, Friday, sing stupid crap on Friday"!
The hottest buzz online is over some little pop tart named Rebecca Black and her tune "Friday". Most of the stories online said it was the worst song ever!  Really?  The WORST…EV-UR!?  Naturally, I had to see for myself, so I fired up youtube and subjected myself to her horrible video.

 My gosh, it's bad.  The kind of bad that one usually associates with food poisoning and herpes combined.  Yes, it REALLY is a horrid song and video, but the WORST?  I got to thinking about some of the garbage that's been foisted on the public over the years, and believe I have come up with ten songs that could possibly, maybe, ALMOST be as bad as Rebecca Black's "Friday"…if not WORSE!!!!! 

See for yourself.  (By the way, I am not liable for any injuries that may result from listening to this music!)

1) William Shatner - "Mr. Tambourine Man"
Uh…you just have to hear it to believe it!  Shatner does for music what red hot fire pokers do for your ass!!  I'm confident in saying that if this is the kind of stuff Captain Kirk were known for throughout the galaxy, he would have been spaced after performing 30 seconds of this song!

2) Gwen Stefani - "Hollaback Girl"

Truly one of the most annoying songs in history!  This proves that the brains behind the great music of "No Doubt" doubtless came from the other members of the band!  This is an audio abortion!  In the video, Gwen is  a 35 year old woman trying to pull off a high school look!  This is NOT 90210 Gwen, leave that crap for Tori Spelling!  EPIC FAIL!!

3) William Hung - "Hotel California"
I should probably be shot for including this bastardization of an Eagles classic, but damn folks, we ARE talking about some seriously EVIL music here! There's no denying it, William Hung is the devil's retarded stepchild when it comes to awful tunes.  Watch if you dare….

4) Justin Bieber - "Baby"
Justin Bieber is a no-talent hack.  Ok, he's a rich, no-talent hack.  I don't think that anyone will argue that he has zero musical talent, that this song is a study in inane lyrics and that Ludacris is now officially a bitch for singing in this song.  Nor will you argue it's proof positive that ice picks to the ears are a viable option to Bieber's "music"…

5) Wing - "Back In Black"

I must admit, I would never have heard of Wing had she not been featured in an episode of "South Park".  As I watched the cartoon, I thought she was merely another creation of Matt Stone and Trey Parker for the show.  To my amazement, Wing actually is a product of…well…maybe a black ops genetic experiment gone mad!  She's REAL!!!  Curse you Parker and Stone for spreading her fame!!! 

6) Tiny Tim - "Tiptoe Through The Tulips"
I had to go back a few decades for this one.  In case you've never heard of Tiny Tim, he was a man that looked like a zombie child molester (A molester of child zombies y'all.  Let me clarify that), who played a ukelele, and sang in a high-pitched falsetto voice that suggested his testicles were lost in a farm accident.  If you combined the DNA of Morticia Addams and Stevie Nicks, you'd have THIS! 

7) Eddie Murphy - "Party All the Time"

In the 80's, Eddie Murphy was one of the biggest comedy talents on the planet and Rick James was at the top of his game in the music biz.  Put them together and you have…DOG CRAP ON A STICK!!!  If Rebecca Black's lyrics in "Friday" annoyed the hell outta you, then prepare for an audio onslaught to your intelligence with this classic!  In the words of Rick James, "Cocane is a POWERFUL DRUG!!!"  I wonder what Eddie was on though…

8) Emily Osment - "Lovesick"
A sampling of the lyrics says it all! 

We're so mono
Together we can be stereo
St-st-st- stereo, LOVE
You look so low, low
Together we could get high, high-five

Boom boom, super sonic, Boom super sonic, Boom
You make my heart go ( You make my heart go)
Boom boom, super sonic, boom super sonic, boom
You make my heart go ( Super sonic boom, super sonic boom)

Ok, the video is slickly done.  It's pretty and shiny and everything looks colorful, but Emily Osment…well you can't polish a turd folks, no matter how much you try.  Her voice is so flat and overdone with electronic effects, you have to wonder if she's a cyborg with an Eveready D-Cell up her ass.  Oh…and she looks like her brother…but with a rack.  BLEH!

9) Lady Gaga - "Paparazzi"
AKA: "Madonna 2.0".  Everything she does has been done before!  Yet another pop diva that relies on formulaic music, hackneyed lyrics and more than ANYTHING else, shock value.  When your music sucks, you show up on stage wearing a meat dress.  Truth be told, I could have picked any song of hers for this blurb, but this was the first one that came up on youtube so I didn't bother looking any further.  Lucky me.  Not only does she sound like Madonna, she does overblown videos like Michael Jackson.  And could someone tell me WTF is going on in the vid?!?!?

10) Paska - "Oh Shit!"
What do you say about a recording artist whose Wikipedia entry starts with:

"'Women Are from Venus, Men from Anus' is the debut album and come back album by Paska. It was released in 2005. The album title is a parody of the popular psychology book Men Are from Mars, Women Are from Venus.

The album was planned to be released on April 13, 2005, but was delayed because of internet piratism. The band wanted to be sure that digital pirate copies of the album had spread widely before official release. Vocalist Ari Peltonen has stated that there might not be anyone who wants to listen to the record, but one may still want to own a copy."

Uh…Ok…Can ANYONE record an album?  Listen to this song and it'll make you a believer just seconds before your brain explodes!  By the way, "Paska" is Finnish for "Shit."  Go figure...

So there you have it.  Rebecca Black's song is the audio equivalent of licking a dead man's butt crack, but as you can see, there's other stuff out there just as bad!  So let's back off the kid a bit, cut her some slack and just go Partyin’, partyin’ (Yeah), Partyin’, partyin’ (Yeah), Fun, fun, fun, fun...
Lookin’ forward to the weekend!