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Whither Plasma?

Tom Butts, Editor-in-Chief

What’s up with plasma TV these days? Or maybe more accurate, what’s down with plasma?

As major consumer electronics manufacturers continue to bleed red ink over TV set sales, the market shakeup in display technologies continues unabated. For years, consumers have had two main choices when it came to HDTV: LCD or plasma. By now, we’re all familiar with the main differences between the two: While LCDs are more generally expensive than plasma, energy consumption is higher with the latter (although the difference has narrowed in recent years); and most videophiles agree that plasmas have a superior picture due to their contrast ratio and viewing angles. And concerns over the risk of “burn-in” seem to have faded as well.

And yet, plasma seems on its way out. Panasonic, which has traditionally been the leader in plasma TV set sales, has sent some mixed messages recently. Although the company introduced new plasma TV sets at January’s International CES, the company had to fight off rumors that it had ceased plasma TV development when it announced that its newest plasma TV, the ZT60, uses “the last plasma panel” from its research and development arm. A company executive said that such rumors were “incorrect” and that “there is still room for further improvement” with plasma. And there are still other players in the game as well, with the world’s largest seller of TV sets, Samsung, unveiling a new line of plasma TVs recently.

So while the reports of plasma TV’s demise are still greatly exaggerated, when it comes to advancing TV displays for consumers, OLED can’t come soon enough.

We’re introducing a new columnist in this issue. Jay Yeary, an audio engineer with a prominent cable network, has joined our lineup of industry experts. Jay replaces Dave Moulton, who retired earlier this year after 15 years as the writer of our monthly “Inside Audio” feature. Jay brings a wealth of experience to the implementation of audio into the modern broadcast plant and we look forward to sharing his insight with you. Welcome aboard, Jay!