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Steve Withers

Steve withers is our resident home cinema specialist, there's nothing he doesn't know about setting up a perfect AV system and he's a fully-qualified (ISF, THX and HAA) audio and video calibrator

Steve Withers, home cinema specialist

What’s your experience?

I’m a freelance journalist who contributes to Tech Radar, Trusted Reviews, Expert Reviews, AVForums, Pocket-lint, Home Cinema Choice, and Wired. I’m also a professional audio and video calibrator who is certified with THX, the Imaging Science Foundation (ISF), and the Home Acoustics Alliance (HAA). As a result, I’m always geeking out on the newest AV tech, and keeping abreast of the latest industry standards.

How many years have you been reviewing?

After an ill-advised stint as an investment banker, I decided it was time to give up the filthy lucre and embrace my passion for audio and video. I’ve now been testing kit and writing reviews for over 12 years.

What is your specialist area?

My true love is home cinema, so nothing makes me happier than a projector, an AV processor and a bank of amplifiers. The bigger the screen and the larger the number of speakers, the happier I am.

Why do you enjoy doing this?

I was ten in 1977, and as I sat in my local flea pit, clutching a bag of pick-n-mix, and watching that star destroyer fly over my head at the beginning of Star Wars I was overcome with a feeling of awe and wonder. It set me off on a journey of discovery, but back then I could never have imagined what technological wonders the AV world had in store. It’s been a long, strange trip, with the last 40 years being spent trying to recapture that feeling in my own home cinema, and while I might never fully succeed, I’ll never stop trying.

What’s the ultimate for you?

That’s easy – a dedicated home cinema. One with tiered seating, a big ’Scope screen, a 4K projector, and an immersive audio AV processor/amplifier combo driving more speakers and subwoofers than the local multiplex.

Describe yourself: nerd-geek-sceptic-enthusiast?

I’d definitely describe myself as an AV enthusiast, and I’ve been one ever since I wired a VCR up to my stereo in the late eighties. Since then I’ve become obsessed with AV and home cinema, so I’m fortunate to do this for a living. The Chinese have a saying: A person who does what they love never works a day in their life.

Describe the scene when you’re watching a film?

Lights out, huge 'Scope screen filling my field of view, sound turned up to 11, and a big bag of popcorn.

Do you watch the film or the kit?

Depends. If it’s for pleasure then I’m definitely watching the film and allowing it to transport me somewhere else. If I’m reviewing then I’ll be watching my usual demo scenes, busy peeping at pixels and listening out for fine sonic details.

Why do you watch films?

I could be pretentious and say I love cinema as an art form, but anyone familiar with my Blu-ray collection knows my tastes are eclectic. Ultimately I just love to be entertained, and forget my troubles for a couple of hours by being immersed in another world. If that world happens to have robots, monsters and spaceships, then all the better!

What’s your go-to film for testing?

There are so many. For pure picture quality films like Bladerunner 2049 and 1917 deliver gorgeous 4K images. They sound great too, although if I’m looking to give a system a serious workout then I’d probably go for Midway, Jurassic Park or Godzilla vs Kong. For combining picture and sound with epic filmmaking you can’t beat Apocalypse Now, and in honour of that spellbound ten-year-old, I still enjoy watching Star Wars.


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