AV RECEIVER REVIEWS

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Mark Fleischmann Posted: Oct 19, 2009 0 comments
Price: $800 At A Glance: Rethinks AVR operation for a more media-rich environment • Simplified interface compared to conventional receiver • Class D amplification

Not Just Another AVR

Is the conventional A/V receiver obsolete? The short answer is no. The long answer is the rest of this review.

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Mark Fleischmann Posted: Oct 05, 2009 0 comments
Price: $1,999 At A Glance: First receiver with Audyssey DSX width and height channels • Anchor Bay video processing • Napster, Rhapsody, and numerous other streaming features

Should You Go Wide?

Surround sound is fully half of the home theater equation. Like any technology, it presents certain complexities, and mastering at least a few of them will reward the patient listener. However, surround almost makes a fetish of complexity. It turns a lot of people off, which inhibits its household penetration. It also puts a technology critic like me on the spot when I take keyboard in hand to tell you about the Denon AVR-4310CI A/V receiver, with Audyssey’s DSX, which introduces a new complexity: width channels.

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Mark Fleischmann Posted: Sep 21, 2009 0 comments
Price: $500 At A Glance: Advanced feature set at budget price • Menu’s context-sensitive help offers timely advice • As listenable as budget receivers ever get

The Cure for Feature Envy

The Pioneer VSX-1019AH has an exceptionally rich feature set at an affordable price. Its spec sheet is an epic document. But the feature that may matter most to a newbie would be the one that explains all the other features. I can sum it up in three self-explanatory words: context-sensitive help.

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Mark Fleischmann Posted: Jun 29, 2009 0 comments
Price: $599 At A Glance: First receiver with Dolby Pro Logic IIz height-enhanced surround • Faroudja DCDi video processing • Audyssey 2EQ auto setup and room EQ

We’re Gonna Get High

The Onkyo TX-SR607 is the first A/V receiver to feature Dolby Pro Logic IIz, which adds front height channels to the existing 5.1- and 7.1-channel configurations. Now gird yourself for deep background and fierce opinion mongering.

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Mark Fleischmann Posted: Jun 29, 2009 0 comments
Price: $440 At A Glance: Lossless surround at a new low price point • Optional accessories provide Bluetooth and iPod compatibility • Decent performance for the price

Low-Rent Audiophile Model

In A/V receivers, as in so many other things, new technologies start in mid- to high-priced models and work their way down. Once they have fully penetrated all or most of a manufacturer’s line, consumers who are on a budget have the same access to, say, lossless surround that more upscale buyers do. Then we at Home Theater uncork bottle after bottle of champagne in wild celebration, peel grapes for one another, run up and down the hallway, and don’t get much done for a few days.

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Mark Fleischmann Posted: Jun 22, 2009 1 comments
Price: $2,599 At A Glance: High-end implementation of Class D amplification • Among first Rotels with HDMI 1.3, lossless surround decoding • Faroudja video processing but no auto setup

It’s Not Easy Being Green

Energy will likely be the defining challenge of our lifetimes. We use a lot of it but need to use less, so the ways in which we use it must become more responsible, creative, and resourceful. Will home theater continue to add to the quality of life in an energy-scarce future by bringing us closer to music and movies? Or will we write it off as just another accessory of sprawl, soon to be ruthlessly un-supersized? Is it possible to enjoy big pictures that are accompanied by big sound, while using less energy? This is the stage onto which the Rotel RSX-1560 A/V receiver walks, before an audience that is holding its breath.

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Mark Fleischmann Posted: Jun 15, 2009 0 comments

Performance
Features
Ergonomics
Value
Price: $4,995 At A Glance: Beefy Class G amps deliver gushes of warm, dynamic sound • Dolby Volume enhances quality of low-level movie listening • Utilitarian front panel and basic remote

From Our Audiophile Wing

When you hear the phrase high-end home theater, what’s the first thing you think of? If you’re into home design, your mind might summon up a lavishly appointed screening room with a curtained screen, seating, and a popcorn machine. For you, it’s the wine bottle that’s high end, not necessarily the wine.

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Mark Fleischmann Posted: May 04, 2009 0 comments
Price: $1,999 At A Glance: Rotel enters the HDMI 1.3 age with two new receivers • Rated power at 75 watts times five • Snazzy aesthetics, minimalist user interface

Family Matters

Longtime readers will recognize the Rotel RSX-1065 as my reference A/V receiver. It’s been around so long that it’s no longer listed on Rotel’s Website. Mine has been in service since 2001, when I reviewed it, setting a record for longevity and giving every loudspeaker review I’ve written since then a firm foundation. When I tell speaker makers what I use for amplification, they breathe a sigh of relief and change the subject. Even the arrival of the seven-channel version, the RSX-1067, left me unfazed. The five-channel version has served me for nearly eight years.

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Mark Fleischmann Posted: Apr 20, 2009 0 comments
Price: $1,900 At A Glance: Dizzying array of music networking features • Superb video processing from Anchor Bay • Eight-point auto setup and room EQ

Of Tea Leaves and Logos

An A/V receiver isn’t just a product. It’s a series of diplomatic handshakes. Sure, manufacturers develop some of the technologies that go into their products, but they also license a lot of the technologies from other outfits—which enhances their products with the fruits of many different R&D labs. The Yamaha RX-V3900 is a beefy powerhouse on paper, rated at 140 watts times seven, but if you check out Yamaha’s Website, you’ll more likely notice the sheer profusion of logos. I counted no fewer than 24 different ones. You can read them like tea leaves.

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Michael Fremer Posted: Apr 13, 2009 0 comments
Price: $2,200 At A Glance: Ultra-sophisticated setup and calibration system • Punchy-sounding ICEPower amplification • Versatile LAN-based Home Media Gallery with iPod connectivity

Too Much Functionality?

One step down from Pioneer’s flagship $7,000 SC-09TX A/V receiver, the SC-07 offers an equally dizzying feature set and plenty of ICEpower. It’s all packed into a far more compact, shelf-friendly package, and it sells at a steeply lower $2,200 price point. If you lusted after the SC-09TX (HT, November 2008) but were put off by the price, consider what the SC-07 offers for so much less.

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Michael Fremer Posted: Mar 05, 2009 0 comments
Price: $2,000 At A Glance: Superior sound quality and ergonomics • HDMI connectivity • Auto calibration and speaker equalization • Three-zone operation

Sony Adds Major Value

Like the old canine joke punch-line, “Because he can,” electronics designers seem to be adding greater functionality and features to their A/V receivers more because they can rather than because consumers need them, want them, or are likely to use them.

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Thomas J. Norton Posted: Mar 02, 2009 0 comments
Price: $2,600 At A Glance: Outstanding audio and video performance • All the latest Audyssey and THX Ultra2 Plus features • Uniquely flexible video calibration controls

Covering All the Bases

If you sometimes get nostalgic for the days of two-channel audio, you’re not alone. Life was simple then. You plugged in your CD player here, your turntable over there, hooked up the preamp to the power amp (unless you were a hair-shirt audiophile with an all-in-one, integrated amp), and you were done. Then you would select the source, adjust the volume, sit back, and listen.

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Thomas J. Norton Posted: Feb 23, 2009 0 comments

If you sometimes get nostalgic for the days of 2-channel audio, you're not alone. Life was simple then. You plugged your CD player in here, your turntable in there, hooked up the preamp to the power amp (unless you were a hair-shirt audiophile with an all-in-one integrated amp) and you were done. Select the source, adjust the volume, sit back, and listen.

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Mark Fleischmann Posted: Feb 09, 2009 0 comments
Price: $800 At A Glance: New rounded front panel is borrowed from higher-end gear • Audyssey MultEQ auto setup and room EQ • Audio circuits on separate circuit board

The Middle Kid Syndrome

As the third child in a series of four, I know what it’s like to be in between. My older siblings arrived a decade before I did and towered over me with their adult-like achievements. They had summer jobs, bought Volkswagen Beetles, headed off to college, and—most fatefully, I now recognize—turned me on to rock ’n’ roll. I was the pampered baby for a few years until my younger sibling arrived and, predictably, absorbed more of my mother’s time. This made me terribly jealous.

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Mark Fleischmann Posted: Feb 02, 2009 0 comments
Price: $1,099 At A Glance: Onkyo’s first THX Ultra2 Plus–certified AVR • New THX and Audyssey algorithms • Five HDMI 1.3 inputs • Faroudja DCDi video

With Two Secret Sauces

When I compare the Onkyo TX-SR806 receiver with last year’s Onkyo crop, I see incremental but significant improvements. The most notable ones are licensed technologies from THX and Audyssey (more on them soon). But when I compare this product with the earliest A/V receivers (and in the process, look back on myself as I was then), I actually get dizzy.

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