AV RECEIVER REVIEWS

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Mark Fleischmann Posted: Mar 17, 2006 0 comments
Clap to calibrate, and don't forget the PC.

During the first hour that the JVC RX-D702B surround receiver sat on my rack, it began to wirelessly suck MP3s out of my PC. Then it sensed the clapping of my hands and automatically set its channel levels. Unpredictable moves are typical of JVC, one of the most underrated companies in consumer electronics.

Rebecca Day Posted: Feb 14, 2006 Published: Feb 15, 2006 0 comments
A complete system you won't want to hide in the basement.

My basement audio/video system is so last century. It's a mix-and-match collection of gear that's been retired as I've put together my real home theater system upstairs. The TV, a 30-inch analog CRT, circa 1988, doesn't even have a flat picture tube to its credit. The receiver maxes out at four-channel Dolby Pro Logic, and the speaker system is a mishmash of center and surround speakers (unmatched), with unshielded front speakers that deliver a killer image with stereo music but an unwelcome rainbow of colors when placed next to a video display. The DVD player is the only current-millennium piece in the stack, but not by much.

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Mark Fleischmann Posted: Jan 23, 2006 0 comments
Chairman of the boards.

A receiver that doesn't handle the latest video and surround formats is a doorstop. A similarly outmoded high-end receiver is a very expensive doorstop. And that's a problem for anyone who bought one during the 20th century. Most DVDs have Dolby Digital and/or DTS soundtracks—those are must-haves. Stereo material usually sounds much better to me in Dolby Pro Logic II than in DPLI or stereo. And, for the largest rooms, Surround EX and DTS ES have added the back channels some people deem necessary. HDMI is on its way in, component video is on its way out, XM and HD radio are knocking at AM/FM's door, and, in a few years, surround receivers will be called on to do things that we can barely begin to imagine today.

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Lawrence E. Ullman Posted: Jan 15, 2006 0 comments

Remarkable. That's the word that best describes the THX Select2 approved Pioneer Elite VSX-74TXVi AV receiver ($1500). This gloss-black beauty is remarkably sophisticated, remarkably flexible, and remarkably easy to setup, thanks to an amazing auto calibration function called Advanced MCACC. The feature set is remarkably deep and includes HDMI switching/processing, a built-in XM satellite radio tuner, a dedicated iPod input with fully integrated controls, and a full suite of THX functions. Even the unit's designation is remarkably long, so I'm going to refer to the VSX-74TXVi as the "74" for the duration of this review.

Mark Fleischmann Posted: Jan 10, 2006 Published: Jan 11, 2006 0 comments
Gear from the Net that demands respect.

Outlaw Audio and Aperion Audio both pursue the decidedly nonmainstream business model of selling quality surround gear directly to consumers over the Internet. Back when I worked for an Internet startup—don't fall asleep now, or I'll poke you with a stick—my now dead-as-a-doornail company caught a lot of flak for facilitating Internet sales of audio equipment. Isn't it unwise to buy something you haven't heard?

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Thomas J. Norton Posted: Jan 01, 2006 0 comments

Denon's flagship AV receivers have long been rated among the best, if not <I>the</I> best that money can buy. They've also been loaded with features, sometimes to the point where using them for anything but normal operations is a real challenge for the average user. The company's latest top-of-the-heap effort, the $6000 AVR-5805, is both of these things, and much more.

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Chris Lewis Posted: Nov 22, 2005 0 comments
It will do everything but cook you dinner.

Unless you've been in a cave for the last decade, you already know that audio is rapidly steamrolling toward multichannel forms. Evidence is abundant on both the software and hardware fronts. These days, you'll be hard-pressed to find a modern movie in stereo on any medium outside of television. Music probably has years to go before its stereo form becomes esoteric, but the writing may be on the wall. As for hardware, try finding any electronics that don't support some multichannel form or another—if not several—anywhere but the smallest specialty shelves. Whether stereophiles like it or not, multichannel is as embedded in audio's future as digital coding itself.

Chris Lewis Posted: Nov 17, 2005 0 comments
A new page—or is it the first page—in the annals of Japanese-Danish collaboration.

It's a true testament to the international character of home theater, circa 2005, that so many of our Spotlight Systems include equipment from different countries—which usually provides a convenient opening angle in the process. Some of these worldly connections have been easier to make than others, and I already thought I was stretching things in our August 2005 issue by trying to come up with a compelling storyline for England and Japan. This time, I'm officially stumped. If you can come up with an introduction-worthy link between Japan and Denmark, then consider yourself truly educated in world affairs. I certainly like to imagine a band of Vikings and a band of Samurai trading blows on the battlefield, but, somehow, I don't think that ever happened. It's possible that these two countries squared off on a soccer field at some point, but I'd be the last person to know about that. Maybe this is finally a sign that I should stay more focused on what we're all really here for anyway—what these countries do when they get together in the listening room. Point taken.

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Lawrence E. Ullman Posted: Oct 23, 2005 0 comments

Sony's new, $2000 STR-DA7100ES AV receiver carries forward the shiny silver hewn-from-solid-block look of previous ES-series receivers, such as the <A href="http://www.ultimateavmag.com/avreceivers/1204sony/">STR-DA9000ES</A> ($4500) recently reviewed by TJN. Although the front panel looks like solid aluminum, it is actually a 2mm-thick formed sheet. Most of the controls are hidden behind a drop-down panel, leaving a clean front panel with just volume and input-selector knobs, half a dozen little buttons, and the display. The various knobs and controls have great tactile appeal, operating with a solid, positive feel and silky smooth action.

Chris Lewis Posted: Aug 30, 2005 Published: Aug 31, 2005 0 comments
The international systems tour rolls on.

You may recall that I've usually tried to dip into the historical well when introducing the many international audio systems that we've reviewed lately. This at least spares you from yet another opening paragraph of worn-out exaggerations about paradigm shifts and in-your-face phrases like "in your face." I'm somewhat stumped here, though. The Japanese and English seem to have avoided pairing up, or squaring off (directly, at least), in any high-profile military conflicts. There have really been no economic or cultural wars between them. I can't even find a case where they've faced off in a major sporting event. But one place they have gotten together often is in the listening room—and I suppose that is what we're here for, after all.

Adrienne Maxwell Posted: Jul 20, 2005 0 comments
Thinking outside the box.

Who says you have to sacrifice performance to create a small, affordable speaker system? Not Atlantic Technology. With the new $899–$999 System 920, they set out to prove that we can and should expect more than we're currently getting from most tiny sub/sat and HTIB speakers. I put their claim to the test for this Spotlight review by mating the speakers with Onkyo's brand-new $300 TX-SR503 A/V receiver. Add an inexpensive universal disc player to this combo, and you've got a complete home theater system for about $1,400.

Steve Guttenberg Posted: Jul 20, 2005 0 comments
Big ambitions.

Boston Acoustics has been perfecting the art of speaker design for 26 years, so I guess they're ready to try something new. For 2005, the company set their sights on the fiercely competitive A/V-receiver market and released a classically handsome, custom-installer-savvy contender, the AVR7120. To keep it all in the family, I checked out the receiver with a contingent of Boston VR Series speakers.

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Michael Fremer Posted: Jul 11, 2005 0 comments

"Name a product the 'Ultimate' anything and you've opened yourself up to a world of potential hurt and ridicule. The name's a boast and it's bound to instigate a challenge. That's what I thought as I unpacked Bob Carver's latest brag, months before this publication was renamed <I>Ultimate AV</I>, and I'm not changing my lead because of that."

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Lawrence E. Ullman Posted: Jun 26, 2005 1 comments

Americans tend to prefer quantity over quality. Given the opportunity, we build McMansions. We drive Hummers. We wash down our Whoppers with Big Gulps. And we always buy the biggest AV receiver we can, because you can't be too rich, too thin, or have too many watts. More is <I>better</I>.

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Chris Lewis Posted: Jun 16, 2005 0 comments
The $500 receiver thicket gets thicker.

It's odd that when you're really good at one thing, people tend to forget that you might be good at other things, too. Take Babe Ruth. Everyone remembers the bat, but not everyone remembers that he was strong in the field, as well. The guy even pitched in the majors, winning 23 games one year. Let's see Barry Bonds do that, with or without steroids. Sony's situation is somewhat similar. Play quick association with the word Sony, and you'll most likely get the word "video," if not "televisions" specifically. Their video reputation is well deserved, but people sometimes forget that Sony has some solid audio products as well—products that are bigger than Walkmans and headphones.

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