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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.

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.

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.

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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.

Chris Lewis Posted: Jun 16, 2005 0 comments
Klipsch and Yamaha show that not every Spotlight System requires a second mortgage.

So far, we may have given you the false impression that the pages of this new column were going to be dedicated almost exclusively to the rarified air of the high end. After all, there has only been one installment so far that rang in under five figures, and last month's MiCon Audio system seriously blew the curve with a price tag roughly equivalent to that of a decent house in some parts of the country. Little did you know it was all part of an ingenious plan to build momentum for the column with flashy, big-ticket systems before settling in to the meat and potatoes of the A/V world—i.e., the systems the rest of us can afford. This month's Klipsch/ Yamaha combo is just such a system. Sure, it's not something you'll be able to buy with the change you find in your sofa, but it is certainly more attainable to a broader range of people than the MiCon Audios of the world are.

Steve Guttenberg Posted: Apr 17, 2005 0 comments
Synergistic sounds.

This review brings together two brands that are special to me: Harman/Kardon and Paradigm. When I was a teenager, I bought a Harman receiver with the money I earned running deliveries for the local supermarket. You know how that is: Nothing ever gets close to the thrill of the first one. I wore out several LP copies of Sgt. Pepper and Led Zeppelin II over that 15-watt-per-channel receiver. Much, much later, in the late '90s, I reviewed a set of Paradigm Atoms. Those little speakers sounded surprisingly huge, and, even more importantly, they were a lot of fun. The Atoms lingered in my listening room long after I finished the review, and that's probably the best indication of what separates good speakers from great speakers. For this back-to-the-future review, I paired Harman's DPR 1005 Digital Path Receiver with Paradigm's newly revised Monitor Series v.4 speakers. Looks like a good combination, but let's see.

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Michael Fremer Posted: Apr 10, 2005 Published: Apr 11, 2005 0 comments

That last cell phone you bought&mdash;the one with the nearly telephone book-sized instruction manual&mdash;did you take the time to read through the tome completely, learning every function and programming feature before using it to actually make phone calls? Products are becoming so over-engineered and laden with features and functions, most of us merely skim the surface of the ones we buy, often remaining content with just getting the thing to actually function as intended.

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Scott Wilkinson Posted: Apr 03, 2005 0 comments

When Michael Fremer reviewed the <A href="http://ultimateavmag.com/avreceivers/55/">Pioneer VSX-49TX</A>, he concluded that it was "one of the best, if not <I>the</I> best, A/V receiver on the market today." Of course, technology marches ever onward, and Pioneer hasn't rested on its laurels. Their subsequent flagship receiver, the VSX-59TXi, builds on the qualities of its predecessor, offering even more features for the same $4500 price tag.

Chris Lewis Posted: Mar 18, 2005 0 comments
It's a speaker system away from an HTIB, with more bang for the buck.

Back in the days before HTIBs, there was another kind of home-theater-in-a-box—better known as an A/V receiver. In this era of consolidation, we probably don't entirely grasp the impact that A/V receivers had when they debuted some 25 years ago. A preamplifier, processor, and amplifier all in one box (literally), with a radio tuner thrown in for good measure, was impressive stuff back in the early '80s. Receivers were the Swiss Army knives of home audio, and they, along with surround sound itself, are probably as responsible as anything for the audio explosion amongst the masses that we now know as home theater.

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Michael Fremer Posted: Feb 27, 2005 0 comments

When Apple introduced the iPod, many industry observers scratched their heads, wondering why Sony hadn't been the first to deliver such a product. After all, Sony had invented the Walkman&mdash;the first speakerless, portable personal audio cassette player, and Sony has a strong presence in the computer market. Perhaps heads get buried in the sand when you're promoting a new high-resolution audio format and the world is heading in the other direction. It's human and corporate nature.

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Mark Fleischmann Posted: Feb 15, 2005 0 comments
Close your eyes and count to 80.

Most human beings have 10 fingers and 10 toes. Therefore the number 10 is a big deal to us. We use a base-10 number system, bestow honors in top-10 lists, and think in multiples of 10. So it's inevitable that makers of surround receivers have fixated on the number 100, or 10 times 10. For some of them it's the minimum power-output number allowed on any spec sheet, whether the amplifiers measure anywhere near that level of performance or not. Anything beyond that is likely to be in multiples of five (the fingers of one hand): 105 watts, 110 watts, 125 watts, etc. The more you become aware of this compulsion to express everything as a function of our physical form, the more comic it gets—humans are so self-absorbed. Or am I just projecting?

Chris Lewis Posted: Feb 15, 2005 0 comments
Good sound made easy by Lexicon and Canton.

In case you didn't believe we were serious about dedicating more of our pages to the overriding reality of home theater—the necessity of individual components coming together to form a cohesive system—we offer exhibit B, our new Spotlight System review. Exhibit A, for those keeping score, is our Hook Me Up column: Sometimes it includes reviews, and sometimes it doesn't, but it always keeps an eye on system issues, especially connections. This new column contains all of the elements of a standard gear review, with the notable exception of being focused on a system, rather than individual components.

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Lawrence E. Ullman Posted: Feb 13, 2005 Published: Feb 14, 2005 0 comments

For a company that recently celebrated its 50th anniversary, Harman Kardon looks maahvelous. Consider the sleek industrial design of the company's new AVR-series receivers. With minimalist gloss-black front panels and distinctive, ring-shaped, blue-illuminated volume controls, these components look both strikingly modern and a tad retro&mdash;an appropriate synthesis coming from the company that introduced the world's first receiver back in 1954.


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