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The official blog of Abt Electronics & Appliances

Archive for February, 2008

A Kitchen For The Serious Cook

Friday, February 29th, 2008

Do you like eating? I thought so. Me too. What about cooking? Me, not so much. In fact, me not at all. I like when other people do that for me. But if you’re the type who really likes to cook and wants the very best for your culinary creations, our Thermador custom-designed kitchen can provide you with a modern showplace for your home while transforming you into a veritable Iron Chef—or at least an aluminum one—in no time.

A company called nuHaus, based in Highland Park, IL, designed and built this luxurious kitchen in the atrium area of our store at a cost of $250,000, not including the appliances. Kitchen displays such as this one and others at Abt are an exciting and effective way to show our customers what they can accomplish in their own homes, whether they want to replicate the entire design or just certain parts of it.

In the center of it all is a hand-painted island with a granite top, featuring a Dornbracht platinum-finish faucet, a Blanco double-bowl sink, and a 9-program Thermador stainless-steel dishwasher. Behind the island is a Thermador 48″ Pro Grand dual-fuel range, which offers 4 Star Burners (two of which have Thermador’s ExtraLow feature), an electric griddle, and a gas grill. Above the range is a 48″ professional custom hood insert.

For those times when you’re expecting lots of guests, there’s also Thermador’s 30″ professional series double convection oven, 36″ all-induction cooktop with silver mirrored finish and five induction zones, and 30″ stainless-steel built-in convection microwave.

Hidden behind a custom panel is Thermador’s 30″ Freedom Collection stainless-steel fresh food column. Facing this on the opposite wall is the Freedom Collection 30″ freezer column with a custom panel and electronic control board. Next to the freezer stands the Freedom Collection 24″ wine preservation column with special lighting and a tempered glass door. For an added touch, there is a Thermador stainless-steel warming drawer unit, as well as a built-in Thermador Savor fully automatic coffee machine with steam wand, height-adjustable dispenser, and LCD display.

When you add all the appliances to this custom kitchen design, the cost might make your knees turn to jello. But what’s a little more than a quarter of a million dollars when you’re really hungry?   —by Graham W.

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New Blu-ray Players and More From Sony

Tuesday, February 26th, 2008

Sony has the show all to itself today in Las Vegas after sharing the spotlight with other major electronics manufacturers at last month’s Consumer Electronics Show. The company is presenting its Open House Las Vegas at the Paris Hotel & Casino to showcase its latest products, including two new Blu-ray models with advanced interactive features.

The BDP-S350 and BDP-S550 Blu-ray players both support BonusView, which is a picture-in-picture feature that some of the latest Blu-ray discs contain. The BSP-S550 is BD-Live capable, meaning it can access Internet-based interactive content features, while the BDP-S350 is BD-Live ready with an Ethernet port to access firmware updates. The BDP-S550 also has an Ethernet port, but unlike the BDP-S350, it features 1GB of onboard storage.

Sony BDP-S550

The new models sport a slimmer design than most Blu-ray players currently on the market, with reduced depth and height. Both offer 1080/60p and 24p True Cinema output, 7.1 channel Dolby TrueHD, and Dolby Digital Plus, as well as DTS-HD High Resolution Audio and Master Audio bit-stream output. The BDP-S550 adds onboard decoding for DTS-HD High Resolution Audio and DTS-HD Master Audio, and will be available this fall for about $500. The BDP-S350 is due out this summer for about $400.

Other new Sony products announced today include the S-AIR wireless music distribution system, several new A/V receivers and home theater in a box systems, a USB turntable, several low-priced headphones, and the NWZ-A820 Walkman in 8GB ($270) and 16GB ($320) models featuring Bluetooth audio and a 2.4-inch QVGA LCD. These Walkman models should be shipping by the end of March. —by Graham W.

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Jölane’s Café & Wine Bar Officially Opens

Friday, February 22nd, 2008

As many of you know, Abt serves free, fresh-baked cookies on the weekends, but sometimes that’s not quite enough to sustain customers who are working up a huge appetite with some heavy power shopping. If you’ve found yourself in such a situation, we now have the perfect solution for you.

Jölane’s Café & Wine Bar officially opened this week at Abt’s Design Center, a new building located on our property just a block south of our main building. The design center houses individual showrooms featuring companies such as Kohler and Exotic Marble, who are there to help customers complete their remodeling projects or new homes. Jölane’s complements the upscale nature of the Design Center, featuring an extensive variety of food and drink choices as well as a children’s menu.

Jölane’s was named in honor of Jölane “Jewel” Abt. She and husband David Abt started the family business back in 1936 as a small electronics store in the Logan Square section of Chicago. Jölane was born near the city of Vienna, Austria, and she and her family emigrated to America when she was 6 years old. It is this connection to Vienna that led to Jölane’s Café & Wine Bar being designed to match a true Viennese coffee house, as well as the café featuring a variety of exceptional, Vienna-based Julius Meinl coffees and espresso. The Julius Meinl company also helped train the staff and provided advice on the menu selections.

For you wine and spirits aficionados, the choices include reserve wines, desert wines, sparkling wines, cordials, cognac, tequila, and much more. You can also choose from a variety of specialty drinks and imported beers. Food choices include crepes and croissants for breakfast, a variety of sandwiches and salads for lunch, and Viennese pasta and traditional Austrian goulash for dinner. There is seating for about 100 people inside and another 80 on the patio.

You do not need to be an Abt customer to enjoy the food and drinks at Jölane’s. If you do make a purchase at Abt, we currently are giving out cards good for a free latté, and you can also pick up a copy of the extensive menu in our main store. The phone number at Jölane’s is 847-375-6986, and a new website should be up and running soon. We will let you know when that officially comes on-line. —by Graham W. 

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HD DVD: We Hardly Knew Ye

Tuesday, February 19th, 2008

The format war between HD DVD and Blu-ray officially ended today, with HD DVD mortally wounded by Toshiba’s announcement that it would cease its development and manufacturing of HD DVD players and recorders. With most of the major film studios and companies such as Netflix either already solidly in the Blu-ray camp or having announced their support for Blu-ray over the past few weeks, HD DVD’s days were clearly numbered.

Both HD DVD and Blu-ray were able to bring out the exceptional qualities of HDTVs, displaying superb images augmented by cutting-edge audio formats such as DTS-HD and Dolby TrueHD. Unfortunately, the format war confused consumers, many of whom decided to wait to see which side would win the battle before making a purchase, slowing sales of both formats. At Abt, we believe Toshiba’s announcement should alleviate this confusion and allow Blu-ray sales to take off.

It’s not often that you see a format suffer such a quick demise, especially one that was as viable and relatively well-received as HD DVD. But it’s hard to survive when your allies start defecting to the other side. Abt had anticipated this development, and we will continue to sell the one model we still carry (the Toshiba HDA3) until our existing inventory runs out. Toshiba remains a solid partner for Abt, and the company has told us there are no immediate plans to offer a Blu-ray machine.        –by Graham W.

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Take Off With The Abt Flight Simulator

Thursday, February 14th, 2008

Ever feel like just taking off and getting away from it all? How would you like to experience adventures in the sky from the safety of the ground? Well, the new Abt Flight Simulator can help you do just that—and best of all, it’s free. Located in our Custom Audio Showroom and powered by Microsoft Flight Simulator X, this amazing device can take you on several different airborne adventures, including Cargo Run, Jet Truck Drag Race, On Approach, Oshkosh Airshow, Red Bull Time Trials, Scenic Hawaii, and Swiss Outing.

The flight simulator’s software was developed by Microsoft with the help of engineers from Boeing and Cessna. The software runs on an Alienware computer (see photo below) that’s connected to the internet. It receives live weather updates every 15 minutes, which are then integrated into the simulations to match the current weather conditions.

Kids and adults alike have been enjoying this unique experience, especially on weekends when hundreds of people test out the simulator. “We have it set on a kid-friendly, no-crash mode so the planes will just bounce off the ground rather than crashing,” says Abt Custom Audio sales rep Abe Abrahamian. “But we can also set the simulator to a mode used by professional flight schools. We’ve even had United Airlines pilots come in who’ve tried it out and told us that the flight dynamics feel real minus the motion of a commercial simulator.”

So the next time someone tells you to “take off,” just head on over to Abt and soar into the wild blue yonder with the Abt Flight Simulator. —by Graham W.

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Projector Takes High-Def to New Levels

Thursday, February 14th, 2008

It seems that just about everyone these days wants that big-screen, high-def experience as part of their home entertainment systems. But for those of you looking for something even bigger than a 60- or 70-inch TV with even better resolution than the 1920 x 1080p high-definition standard, we have just the thing—Sony’s SXRD Large Venue and High-Resolution Applications Projector.

The SXRD, which many movie theaters now use, employs 4K technology to produce more than four times the pixels of standard HD projection. This makes it the first projector on the market to achieve 8.8 million pixel resolution (4096 x 2160 pixels), for truly astounding picture quality. The SXRD also is able to shoot those amazing images onto screens up to 40 feet wide.

Speaking of screens, to fully enjoy such a magnificent picture, you will need a high-quality surface to display it on, such as this 207-inch Grayhawk LS screen from Stewart Filmscreen Corporation (see above). Just so you know, the SXRD projector with optional lenses will set you back a cool $125,000, while the Grayhawk screen tacks on approximately $13,000 to the total. Now, just check your house to make sure you have a really big room, and you’ll be all set. —by Graham W.



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Want to be Greener?

Friday, February 8th, 2008

Abt’s new recycling center is now officially open, representing the latest effort in our ongoing quest to not only make our store’s operation more environmentally friendly, but to help our customers and overall community take an active role in creating a cleaner environment. A recent tour gave visitors a first-hand look at the center in operation (see photos below).

Abt Recycling Center-1

Located behind the southwest side of our main building, the center accepts plastics, cardboard, Styrofoam, and old appliances from anyone who wishes to do their part to help the environment. Among the recycling machines is one that flattens and bales about 1.5 million pounds of corrugated cardboard boxes a year, which are then shipped to a Wisconsin mill. Another machine compresses two full trailer loads of Styrofoam each day, amounting to nearly 120,000 pounds of material a year that gets picked up by an outside firm to sell or reuse.

Abt Recycling Center-2

According to store president Mike Abt, “This keeps 150 loads of Styrofoam and 200 loads of cardboard from going to the landfill every year. Our business has grown, but the frequency of our garbage collection has gone down. Instead of daily collections, we now have reduced that to only three a week.”

Other ways we are working to conserve natural resources include generating our own power from natural gas with two on-site generators, recycling 20,000 wood pallets a week, and using a biodiesel mixture for our large delivery trucks during the summer months.

One new project in the works involves the installation of solar panels and a solar windmill on the roof above our store’s atrium to generate energy and also serve as an educational display. To see more of what Abt is doing to help the environment, click here.  –by Graham W.




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Sony’s XEL-1 Offers New Technology

Thursday, February 7th, 2008

Organic light emitting diodes (OLEDs) might sound like something that would be part of a Star Wars super weapons system, but they’re actually harmless and produce exceptional images when employed in TV displays. The world’s first OLED TV available to consumers is the Sony XEL-1, which boasts a super-slim 3-millimeter panel and is now on display and for sale in the Sony Store at Abt. We are one of only seven retailers in the country to carry this ground-breaking TV.

Although the XEL-1’s screen is only 11 inches, the picture quality is amazing, with a contrast ratio of 1,000,000:1, exceptional brightness and color reproduction, and a rapid response time. OLED technology also delivers incredible dark-scene detail with its ability to completely turn off pixels when reproducing black.

Abt's Sony XEL-1

The extremely energy-efficient XEL-1 also carries the latest connectivity options—including two HDMI inputs—as well as a digital tuner and a Memory Stick media slot for viewing high-resolution photos. A few sticking points for consumers may be the relatively high price ($2500) and shorter lifespan (30,000 hours, as compared with a typical 50,000 hours for an LCD TV).

Sony had a 25-inch OLED prototype on display at the Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas last month, so big-screen OLED models should be coming out in the near future, when the technology becomes easier to produce at a larger scale. —by Graham W.

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Bigger Bang From iPod Touch, iPhone

Tuesday, February 5th, 2008

Some people really liked the iPhone and the iPod Touch when they first came out, but felt they both came up a bit short in terms of capacity and decided to wait until more powerful versions were released. Well, that day has arrived.

Apple just came out with new versions of the iPhone and the iPod Touch today, with the iPhone now available in a 16GB model for $499 to go along with the current 8GB for $399. The iPod Touch now comes in a new 32GB version for $499 to go along with the current 16GB model for $399 and an 8GB model for $299. Greg Joswiak, Apple’s vice president of Worldwide iPod and iPhone Product Marketing, explained Apple’s reasoning for releasing the new models: “For some users, there’s never enough memory. Now people can enjoy even more of their music, photos and videos on the most revolutionary mobile phone and best Wi-Fi mobile device in the world.”

32GB iPod Touch

The iPod Touch is being touted as the first mainstream Wi-Fi mobile platform of the 21st century, and this increase in capacity only helps to strengthen that position. The Touch has Safari as its mobile web browser and five new mobile applications introduced at last month’s Macworld conference—Mail, Maps, Stocks, Weather, and Notes. Also included are a customizable home screen and the ability to watch iTunes Movie Rentals.

At the Macworld conference, Apple CEO Steve Jobs referred to the Touch as “not only the best iPod, but the best Wi-Fi mobile device in the world.” It’s kind of hard to argue with that, but feel free to click on Comments below and give it a shot.      —by Graham W.

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Make This Valentine’s Day Unique

Tuesday, February 5th, 2008

What special day, which is coming soon, does the color pink remind you of? Abe Lincoln’s Birthday? George Washington’s? What about that one around the middle of February that guys had better not forget if they want to live to see March?

With Valentine’s Day just a little more than a week away, we’re here to help by cluing you in to some great new products that fit right into the Valentine color scheme and don’t involve the usual candy and flowers. Apple recently unveiled a new pink version of its 8GB iPod nano for the portable music and video lover in your life, while Sony has released a limited-edition VAIO CR Series notebook in Sangria red, “the color of passion,” according to Sony. It features a 14.1-inch widescreen LCD, 200GB hard drive, and a built-in Webcam. As an added touch, it also comes with a matching Sangria red mouse and carrying case, along with a Dooney & Burke multi-colored hearts keychain.

Sony red VAIO

Sony also has its 32″ Bravia S-Series LCD Flat Panel HDTVs available in both pink and red models. For those who like to go wireless, we carry the red AT&T Aliph Jawbone Bluetooth Headset, and check out the red heart-shaped Le Creuset 2 Qt Casserole and KitchenAid Artisan Series Empire Red Stand Mixer for the romantic cook in your life.

Finally, if you really want to score some points, you can’t go wrong with the Rado Sintra Super Jubile women’s watch, featuring a pink ceramic bracelet set with 76 diamonds, a case set with 40 diamonds, and four diamond hour markers. By the way, those points are going to cost you $5800.

Hope this helps you with your Valentine’s Day shopping. Remember—the doghouse is a bad place to be in the middle of February. –by Graham W.

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