AV RECEIVER REVIEWS

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Michael Berk Posted: Sep 26, 2011 0 comments

Lots of news on the soundbar front this week, so if you're looking to cram a surround experience into a tiny space you're in luck.

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Mark Fleischmann Posted: Sep 23, 2011 0 comments
Performance
Features
Ergonomics
Value
Price: $500 At A Glance: iPhone/iPod dock and USB cable included • iDevice remote control app • Mixing studio listening modes

There are two hard-wired options for integrating content from an iPod or iPhone into a receiver-based home theater system. The A/V receiver might have a Made for iPod–compatible USB jack, allowing you to plug the device right into the front or back panel. Or the iPod can fit into an accessory dock. But wouldn’t it be great to have both options?

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Ken C. Pohlmann Posted: Sep 21, 2011 0 comments

For many years, the mantra in hi-fi design was "bigger is better." Your system didn't measure up unless you had a lofty stack of electronics and your speakers were tall enough to be called towers. Today, the reverse is true. It's a post-iPod world, where smaller is cooler. The iPod also advanced the notion that electronics don't have to be complicated; convenience is the new norm.

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Daniel Kumin Posted: Sep 20, 2011 0 comments

Once, all you needed to enter the receiver business was audio-engineering chops, competence in packaging efficiency, and a sharp pencil over the bottom line. That was then before the digital audio/video revolution and the birth of the A/V receiver as we know it. Today, you need at least as much smartsin the computer, DSP, and software/firmware fieldsas you do in plain ol’ audio, a fact that has thinned,and continues to thin, the herd of receiver makers noticeably.

Brent Butterworth Posted: Sep 20, 2011 0 comments

The speaker world is anything but conservative. Think of the different types you can buy: good ol' cones 'n' domes, electrostatics, planar magnetics, ribbons, horns, pulsating spheres, and more, mounted in all sorts of enclosures or in no enclosures at all.

The world of custom home theater is less daring. Installers want speaker systems that sound great, play loud as hell for hours on end, place reasonable demands on amplifiers, and install easily. This is why you rarely see anything but cone 'n' dome speakers used in custom home theaters.

Of the companies catering to the custom market, BG Radia is one of the few that does things differently.

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Mark Fleischmann Posted: Sep 16, 2011 1 comments
Audio Performance
Video Performance
Features
Ergonomics
Value
Price: $650 At A Glance: AirPlay and direct iDevice link • Expansive Audyssey suite • Browser control, network audio features

In A/V receivers, there are two prevailing philosophies when it comes to certain must-have features—room correction and dynamic volume modes being good examples. Some manufacturers prefer to develop their own in-house versions. This gives them the ultimate control over what they sell to consumers, sometimes offering greater versatility or an unusual spin. Others are content to license features from other companies. The advantage of resisting the “not invented here” philosophy is that technology licensors such as Audyssey devote all of their attention to making their stuff work and are constantly improving it.

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Mark Fleischmann Posted: Sep 01, 2011 14 comments

Performance
Features
Ergonomics
Value
Price: $1,100 At A Glance: Unique construction • YPAO auto setup and room correction • Bluetooth compatible with optional adapter

It must have been a dream. Suddenly, I found myself living in a world where young people were rediscovering vinyl, jazzing up their iPods with audiophile earbuds, and even experimenting with tube amps. LP sections in record stores came back from the dead, steadily enlarging and proliferating. The once ridiculously overpriced CD suddenly became a bargain in wallet-box anthologies and affordable reissues. High-performance, high-value speakers became available over the Internet. I never wanted to wake up—until I realized I hadn’t really been asleep in the first place. All of this stuff is actually happening. We’re living in a new golden age of audiophilia, vibrant with lovingly excavated ideas and manic energy. An increasing number of people care about good sound again.

Mark Fleischmann Posted: Aug 29, 2011 0 comments
Performance
Features
Ergonomics
Value
Price: $799 At A Glance: A/V receiver with integrated Blu-ray player • Energy-efficient digital amplifier • Good build quality • No video inputs

My review sample of the Harman Kardon BDS 5 Blu-ray receiver arrived shortly after the death of Dr. Sidney Harman. Let’s take a moment to celebrate the life of one of the audio industry’s founding fathers. Harman and partner Bernard Kardon pioneered the A/V receiver category in 1954 with the Festival D1000, the first audio product to combine the functions of a mono power amp, preamp, and radio tuner. The stereo version, the Festival TA230, arrived shortly afterward. By the time Harman retired in 2008, A/V receivers were wearing his name. Harman International eventually became an audio empire, not only continuing the Harman Kardon brand, but also encompassing JBL, Infinity, Lexicon, Revel, Mark Levinson, and others. Harman was a renaissance man: an activist, philanthropist, professor, and public servant, the quintessential tough businessman with a heart of gold.

Michael Berk Posted: Aug 10, 2011 0 comments

There's a lot of action on the AVR front this week, with new models and upgrades from major manufacturers.

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Mark Fleischmann Posted: Aug 10, 2011 2 comments

Performance
Features
Ergonomics
Value
Price: $550 At A Glance: iControlAV2 app for iPod/iPhone/iPad • AirPlay, Bluetooth, DLNA • Internet radio, browser control

I’d like to begin this review with drugs, guns, and money.

I have a recurring dream about sitting on the New York City subway late at night with two shady-looking guys who have a gym bag sitting between them. They get off the train without the bag. Panic-stricken, they try to get back on, but the doors close in their faces. Alone on the train, I open the bag to find packets of white powder, gleaming gunmetal, and wads and wads and wads of good old American green. I get to my stop and carry the bag home. Donning latex gloves, I carefully remove the drugs and flush them down the toilet. The guns I leave on the doorstep of the local police precinct while wearing a Donald Trump mask to evade detection by security cameras. With the cash, I proceed to live the good life, buying iPods for every member of my family, touring the capitals of Europe, writing the Great American Novel, and pinching goddesses from Charlie Sheen.

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David Vaughn Posted: Aug 10, 2011 0 comments

Performance
Features
Ergonomics
Value
Price: $599 At A Glance: THX Select2 Plus certified • Audyssey and THX loudness modes • iDevice Onkyo Remote app

With gas approaching $5 a gallon in some parts of the country, most consumers are cutting back on discretionary spending in order to make ends meet. If you have to drive an SUV (like I do), then a trip to the local gas station could set you back $100 to fill the tank. In times like these, your quest to find the greatest bang for your buck might even extend all the way to your equipment rack. If you’re in the market for a new AVR, you won’t have to look far thanks to Onkyo. What if I told you you could have seven channels of amplification, first-rate video processing, and many of the features found on the flagship products for less than $600? If I’ve piqued your interest, then keep on reading, because the TX-NR609 is one of the best values that’s come down the pike in a long time.

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Mark Fleischmann Posted: Jul 28, 2011 5 comments

Performance
Features
Ergonomics
Value
Price: $999 At A Glance: Homegrown room correction and listening modes • Rated 60 watts into 8 ohms with five channels driven • 3D ready via software upgrade

An Anthem A/V receiver? AVRs were Anathema to anthem, I mean anathema to Anthem, until recently. This company’s heart has always been in surround separates—bleeding-edge surround processors, muscle amps that live on steak and steroids. The quintessential Anthem product—to digress from the main subject for a moment—would be the P5 five-channel amplifier, basically five 325-watt monoblocks in a single gut-busting enclosure.

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Mark Fleischmann Posted: Jul 25, 2011 0 comments
Price: $2,499 At A Glance: Rated 90 watts x7 with all channels driven • Dolby Volume reconciles dialogue and effects • First 3D-compatible Arcam A/V receiver

Daddy, Am I High End?

What exactly is a high-end A/V receiver? Is it the most expensive and feature-rich model in a manufacturer’s line? Is it a model with power specs above a certain level? Is it a model that sells above a certain price point? Is it any model from a manufacturer with a high-end pedigree? There are some who insist the phrase “high-end A/V receiver” is a contradiction in terms. Before we split any more hairs, let’s all favor that kind of person with a dirty look. Under certain circumstances, it might be OK to throw a martini in his smug little face.

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Daniel Kumin Posted: Jun 05, 2011 0 comments

Difficult though this may be to believe, not everyone in 2011 America can afford to earmark $1,500 for an A/V receiver — or even $500. Still more shockingly, not every person who can would even choose to. Well, then, how about $400? Onkyo apparently sees this figure as being a bit more like it.

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Mark Fleischmann Posted: Apr 11, 2011 0 comments
Price: $600 At A Glance: Slim A/V receiver with energy-saving Class D amplification • Variety of streaming content via VuNow and PlayOn • Dolby Volume low-volume listening mode

Internet in a Boxx

As networked media features steadily infiltrate HDTVs, Blu-ray players, set-top boxes, and other audio/video products, streaming may be upstaging 3D as the must-have technology. The question is how to get streaming into your system. Do you want your choice of HDTV to hinge on streaming features—as opposed to, say, picture quality? While that may be the ideal solution for some, others will seek ways of smuggling streaming into their racks via smaller purchases such as Blu-ray players, set-top boxes—or A/V receivers, like the Sherwood R-904N NetBoxx. At $650, it delivers a huge array of networked media features for a nice price.

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