HDTV: Bet you can't stop after just one taste of Voom


SatelliteGuys Pro
Oct 8, 2003
New York
HDTV: Bet you can't stop after just one taste of Voom
Stephen Williams

September 12, 2004

As it is with jalapeño- flavored potato chips washed down by small sips of very cold India Pale Ale, high-definition television-watching satisfies some primal urge.

Which makes Voom, like Utz or Lay's, rather addictive.

Voom, from Cablevision, is the crème de la crème of high-definition programming for the home. With signals shuttled to Earth via satellite and funneled to a monitor through an 18-inch rooftop dish, Voom trumps the HD offerings of just about any other cable or satellite service provider, feeding more than 35 channels of high-def content, plus more than 80 channels of standard definition shows.

The Voom service has some flaws - more on this below - and it's not cheap. But the wow factor is huge.

Its arrival is timely as well. While the heralded ubiquity of high-definition television still isn't upon us, the industry is closing in on the sales of 10 million HD monitors. But except for fragments of content - prime-time shows over the air from the major networks, some sports, a smattering of true HD programming from cable and satellite providers - viewing "high def" for most consumers remains something of a challenge.

In just one evening, I tuned to bits of a sensational Lucinda Williams concert in HD, a live tennis match from the U.S. Open on Bravo HD, grooved on Paul Newman's juicy performance in the film noir-ish "Harper," and watched the remnants of Hurricane Frances drift over my borough on Voom's own high-def, 24-hour news-weather-sports channel that originates from Cablevision studios on Long Island.

Currently, subscribers pony up an installation charge of $199, including equipment, and pay a monthly equipment rental fee of $9.50. Added to that is the programming subscription fee: $89.90 for the top-of-the-line VaVaVoom package. The less expensive station bundle is $49.90.

Hardware is basic. The dish, which is pointed toward the southwestern sky, includes a second antenna, to receive off-the-air (or terrestrial) local high-definition TV channels (since I had a good off-the-air antenna on the roof, I don't use the Voom version). Voom recently admitted to problems with reception quality for its digital antenna.

The dish is wired to the thin, silver Voom receiver, a Motorola DSR-550, which outputs to the set by component, S-video and/or DVI cables.

The box itself has no readouts; a single, green LED indicates proper operation, a red light means no reception. Voom is planning to offer a receiver with a built-in hard-disc recorder later this year.

For cinemaphiles, Voom is like Christmas morning every day. There are channels dedicated to epic films, Westerns, monster movies and classic cinema. Most of the films were shot in 35mm and transfer well to high-definition, says Nora Ryan, Voom's general manager of HD programming. One welcome change in broadcast quality is Voom's decision to start showing movies in their original aspect ratio - in other words, to add blank bars to the sides of the rectangular HD screen when necessary and to not "stretch" and distort the view. "The early argument was that people with widescreen sets don't want to see bars," Ryan said, "but we have finally come down on the right side of the format issue."

Voom has a potpourri of original, homemade programming, and much of it, while not compelling television, is valid just to show off the incredible visual quality of HD. Rave is Voom's proprietary music channel for concerts and videos in HD (even though some of the concerts may not have been shot in HD, they are converted to that format). There's also Gallery, a virtual video art museum; Ultra HD, dedicated to showing off fashion, style and food trends; extreme sports for spectators on Rush; MOOV HD, which features abstract and avant-garde music videos; and HDNews. In May, ESPN HD and TNT HD were added, and in June, Equator, an exclusive travel channel, came on board.

Negotiating the content is straightforward and painless. The brushed silver remote (included) sports a big fat "Voom" button that calls up a simplified on-screen guide. Viewers can browse by category (movies, sports, news, etc.) or scroll a complete channel list.

Voom debuted at the end of 2003, and since then has been tweaked and manipulated. My system needed frequent rebooting early on when it would freeze, but a software update has apparently cured that gremlin. And as with most satellite systems, horrific weather can scuttle the picture, but this happens less often with Voom than with my DirecTV system.

Beyond the technology, other challenges exist for Voom. As of Aug. 31, 28,700 subscribers had the service, and since Voom's launch, three out of 10 customers have dropped out. Voom also has admitted to installation issues and resistance by some customers to pay their bills.

At any rate, Voom, while not perfect, fills a need no other provider does (yet). Eventually others will catch up as HD becomes the dominant format. But with expansion plans on the drawing board, Voom, for now, is the it network.



SatelliteGuys Pro
Aug 3, 2004
rjones - you better start shopping for a radio. :D

alton987 - I couldn't agree with you more. :yes


SatelliteGuys Pro
Jun 7, 2004
Goose Creek, SC
DobyMax said:
rjones - you better start shopping for a radio. :D

alton987 - I couldn't agree with you more. :yes

You gotta love naysayers. What I find puzzling is the need to come back to the Voom forum after one has cancelled to try and muster up momentum to have everyone else cancel. I have had DTV, Dishnetwork and Comcast. I cancelled them for lack of HD, poor PQ, etc., etc. I never went to their forums to trash their service. They didn't work for me but Voom does.


XXI Century Explorer
Staff member
Lifetime Supporter
Feb 16, 2004
r.jones1116 said:
You gotta love naysayers. What I find puzzling is the need to come back to the Voom forum after one has cancelled to try and muster up momentum to have everyone else cancel.
I guess, this forum is even more addictive than VOOM! :yes

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