Q I recently bought a Marantz 7702mkII preamp-processor and am wondering about the best options for streaming high-res FLAC and other lossless files from my computer. The Marantz wants me to use my Windows Media Player library when setting up a media server connection. However, it’s my understanding that WMP can’t play FLAC files without additional transcoding, and even then it can’t handle files with 24bit/192kHz resolution. Do you have any recommendations for getting the best-quality playback from my high-res audio downloads? —Trey M. Turner
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AT A GLANCE Plus
High-quality upconversion of Blu-rays and DVDs
Effective detail enhancement and noise reduction
Doesn’t support YouTube 4K video streaming
No Vudu app
No Dolby Vision disc
Pricey next to competition
Panasonic’s first Ultra HD Blu-ray player’s excellent performance and solid build quality make it an easy choice for enthusiasts.
Looking back at format launches over the past two decades, it becomes clear that most first-gen players were clunkers, and pricey ones at that. Dig deep through the Sound & Vision archives (on the web, or in your personal print library—you have one of those, right?), and you’ll unearth reviews of the first Blu-ray player, Samsung’s BDP-1000. Priced at $1,000, this ungainly machine took about one minute to load a disc, did quirky stuff (like first converting progressive-scan signals to an interlaced format before outputting them as 1080p), and delivered pictures that looked soft in comparison with those delivered by the HD-DVD format Blu-ray was aggressively warring with at the time.
AT A GLANCE Plus
Excellent 4K HDR picture and sound quality
Optical audio output for full Dolby Digital Plus surround sound
Agnostic voice search finds movies/TV shows on most streaming channels
Playback control for music and slideshows is awkward
Doesn’t play Dolby Atmos from Vudu
Roku has once again upped the streaming game by including HDR and more in its highly recommendable Ultra 4K media player.
Continuing to up their game, Roku has introduced new products that add HDR (high dynamic range) to 4K streaming while maintaining their anyone-can-use-it simple menu structure. A slew of new models range from the Express player to a new top-of-the-line player, the Ultra. While both the Premiere+ and the Ultra support 4K and HDR (the standard 4K Premiere lacks HDR), the Ultra has a few more features for those who insist on the best picture and sound, and more. It’s proof of how far the streaming player has come from the low-quality picture of its first generation.
Sonos president Patrick Spence (left) is taking over the role of CEO from founder John MacFarlane.
John MacFarlane, founder of wireless speaker pioneer Sonos, announced that he is stepping down as CEO and turning the reigns over to Patrick Spence, who joined the company as chief commercial officer in 2012 and was named president last summer.
You probably have at least a passing awareness of James May. He was one of the trio who hosted Top Gear (recently reincarnated as The Grand Tour) and is a bona fide cool car guy. But he has also hosted a variety of interesting, verging on odd, television shows. Perhaps the oddest show, and my favorite, is The Reassembler in which Mr. May, well, reassembles things.