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A new PBS special tests your stereo sound.

Sounds Good


TV audio is still stuck in the tiny tinny speaker age. Or maybe I should say the TV audience is still stuck back there.

After all, most TV broadcasts have been in stereo for some years now. But even if you buy a TV set equipped for stereo reception, you're limited by those two tiny tinny speakers separated by the width of the screen.

So you can spend extra bucks for stereo TV and not really be able to tell the difference.

Unless, that is, you're savvy enough to hook the TV audio output to your stereo amp input and listen to the TV audio through your big speakers. Then you can crank it up and enjoy.

Enjoy what? you may ask.

Good question. Except for videos on MTV and VH1, there's not a lot of TV to which stereo really adds a new dimension. Except for the commercials. Some of the snazzier spots will make you perk up and pay attention through the sheer force of the increased volume. (In this brief discussion we're leaving aside big-screen movies that make it to TV. Those guys win Oscars for their audio. They're in a class by themselves.)

So, you've made the investment: You've got a stereo TV and an amp and speakers, and all the wires are hooked up. What do you watch?

To really test the limits of your system and see how much mind-blowing stereo you can take, check out a PBS-TV concert broadcast coming up this month. It's got the most spectacular audio track of anything I've watched so far this year.

You'll note I've been holding back on the title of the show. That's because it's an audience-chaser for anybody under the age of 65. But it shouldn't be. Where else do you get to see - and hear - a 30-piece jazz orchestra playing some of the greatest arrangements of some of the greatest pop charts of the last century?

OK, OK. It's called "Big Band Sounds of World War II."

But don't let that scare you off, because what you'll revel in is an unbeatable jazz orchestra led by Eric Felton. Down Beat magazine gives his albums four stars, and he deserves every one of them.

The scene is a USO canteen draped in red-white-and-blue bunting. Servicemen and their dates are swingin' to the sounds of everything from "When The Lights Go On Again" to "Saturday Night Is the Loneliest Night of the Week," not to mention arrangements of "Two O'clock Jump" and "Song of India" that are better than the originals.

"Big Band Sounds" is hot.

So tune in and crank up the stereo speakers. You'll discover how really fantastic TV audio can be — when it's done right.

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