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AV RECEIVER REVIEWS

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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?

Filed under
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.

Filed under
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.

Filed under
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.

Filed under
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.

Filed under
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.

Filed under
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.

Filed under
Mark Fleischmann Posted: Mar 11, 2011 2 comments

Performance
Features
Ergonomics
Value
Price: $1,400 At A Glance: THX Select2 Plus certified for medium-size rooms • Audyssey MultEQ, DSX, Dynamic EQ, Dynamic Volume • Loaded with networked audio features

Like My Tattoo?

Once, tattoos were restricted to dock workers and people in dubious professions. Now they’re mainstream: You practically can’t be a musician, actor, or accountant without one. Why? Scientists are baffled. Maybe the bodyart lobby put something in the drinking water. In any case, the Integra DTR-50.2 is as tattooed as any rock star. I counted 11 logos on the front panel, and that’s only the tip of the iceberg. Just as many people add more tattoos on, um, intimate parts of the body, this AVR’s Webpage boasts a total of 27. True, some of them are small change: Do we really need logos for USB and Zone 3? But this AVR’s cornucopia is fairly bursting with meaningful logos from THX, Audyssey, and—my new favorite—Slacker.

Filed under
Fred Manteghian Posted: Feb 23, 2011 3 comments

Performance
Features
Ergonomics
Value
Price: $2,000 At A Glance: Light on bells and whistles, heavy on high-end sound • Anthem Room Correction worth the additional effort • High value from a true high-end brand

Anthem Lite and Right

When I hear “Anthem,” I also usually hear “ka-ching!” Anthem’s Statement D2v surround processor sells for a cool $8,500, which is enough cash to keep a Colorado hippie blazing in medical marijuana for years. The MRX 700 is the company’s welcome foray into the world of down-to-earth-priced AVRs, punctuated by the inclusion of the same Anthem Room Correction (ARC) system the company uses in its costlier separates. Anthem’s proprietary room correction alone might be enough to swing some consumers’ decision. Those who’ve used ARC with Anthem’s separates (including some people employed by this fine publication) hold it in high regard. An AVR at the MRX 700’s $2,000 price point is going to be up against a lot of stiff competition. Will Anthem pull it off, or is its first attempt at a killer AVR for the masses about to go up in smoke?

Filed under
Mark Fleischmann Posted: Jan 20, 2011 1 comments
Price: $749 At A Glance: Top model in regular line • THX Select2 Plus certification, proprietary auto setup • Marvell video processing, DPLIIz height enhancement

Not Elite but Neat

Like Sony, Pioneer maintains two separate A/V receiver lines. Pioneer Elite emphasizes build quality and power while providing all the latest features. The line simply known as Pioneer emphasizes value while providing nearly as many of the latest features as Elite. They both succeed handsomely. Over the summer, Pioneer updated both lines. Having already dived into the bottomless pool of joy that is the Elite SC-37 [HT, December 2010], top model among the new Elites, I was ready to slide the regular Pioneer line’s top model into my rack’s guest AVR berth.

Filed under
Mark Fleischmann Posted: Dec 27, 2010 8 comments

Performance
Features
Ergonomics
Value
Price: $1,600 At A Glance: Top-line model with porthole front panel • Step-up Audyssey MultEQ XT auto setup • DLNA, Bluetooth, Pandora, vTuner, Rhapsody, Napster

Porthole Chic

It’s not unusual for a Marantz A/V receiver to have a curved front panel, inspired by the company’s high-end two-channel gear. But this one has an unusual twist found in no other AVR models (so far). Between the usual volume and source-select knobs is a porthole display. It’s not large enough to support much information—but if you flip down the large door below it, another display appears.

Filed under
Mark Fleischmann Posted: Dec 20, 2010 4 comments

Performance
Features
Ergonomics
Value
Price: $1,500 At A Glance: Vibration-killing fifth foot and other refinements • HQV Vida video processing, DLNA certification • Proprietary YPAO auto setup and room correction

On the Right Foot

Surround aficionados often look at the front and back panels of an A/V receiver under consideration. But how often do we flip over the AVR and look at its bottom? If you do that with the Yamaha Aventage RX-A2000, you’ll see a total of five feet. The fifth foot, Yamaha’s press release explains, is there “to improve structural rigidity, reduce vibration, and improve sound.” Some Aventage models also include double-bottom construction and other improved parts. With all these changes, Yamaha is confident enough to add an extra year to the warranty, now three years for Aventage AVRs.

Filed under
Mark Fleischmann Posted: Dec 15, 2010 0 comments
Price: $899 At A Glance: 3D and HDMI 1.4a • Audyssey MultEQ, Dynamic EQ, Dynamic Volume • DPLIIz height enhancement with seven channels • Built-in digital HD Radio tuner

Installer’s Pet

It’s not every day that I get to review a product from a 100-year-old brand name. But Denon is indeed celebrating its centenary in 2010.

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