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AV RECEIVER REVIEWS

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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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Mark Fleischmann Posted: Dec 06, 2010 0 comments
Price: $1,500 At A Glance: Middle AVR in Sony’s higher-end ES line • Numerous custom-install and remote options • DLNA, SHOUTcast, Rhapsody network features

Sony Goes It Alone

Sony recently announced that it would begin selling its ES products only through A/V specialty retailers, from Best Buy’s Magnolia down to smaller independent retailers. No longer will you find these products online, not even through Sony’s own sonystyle.com. This will give Sony more control over pricing. More important to the consumer is the fact that Sony is reorienting its better AVRs to retailers who can give convincing demos and cater to the needs of custom installation and higher-end home theater.

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Mark Fleischmann Posted: Dec 06, 2010 4 comments
Price: $2,200 At A Glance: THX Ultra2 Plus certification including Volume Plus • Energy-efficient ICEpower amplification • Cornucopia of listening modes

Listening a la Modes

Must...write...lead.... Knew I shouldn’t have left...this...for...last.... Overwhelmed with features.... All those listening modes (gasp).... Running out of space.... Help me.... Help me....

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Fred Manteghian Posted: Nov 29, 2010 3 comments
Price: $2,699 At A Glance: Gobs of clean power • Super ergonomics and my favorite onscreen display • Super-detailed audio

A Bigger Boat

So the red-felt-topped pool table with the Bud Light (get it?) lamp suspended above it in your man cave doesn’t illicit “oohs” and “aahs” from visitors like it once did? Maybe it’s time to re-create that 1980s Crazy Eddie’s look by installing a showroom’s worth of speakers and driving them with the Onkyo TX-NR5008 AVR.

Mark Fleischmann Posted: Oct 25, 2010 0 comments
Price: $1,799 At A Glance: A/V receiver with integrated Blu-ray drive • Audyssey MultEQ, Dynamic EQ, Dynamic Volume • USB port for direct iPod connection

Looking for the Right Fit

Let’s say you hit the mall looking for a leather jacket. You find a store with an especially nice selection and immerse yourself in the joy of leather. At first, you just walk around enjoying the sights. But then you refine your search: by color, style, material, lining, presence or absence of shoulder padding, the mechanical integrity of the zipper, and the little things, like whether there’s a fastened interior pocket the right size for your iPhone. Finally you hit the target, finding the jacket line that meets all of your specifications. You begin pawing through jackets, at first enjoying the little thrill of handling something you actually may buy. You paw through some more, getting nervous. Finally, you reach the end of the rack, and you’re frantic. You turn around, find a salesperson standing there, and ask: “Is this jacket available in a small?” The salesperson smirks and answers: “Sorry, sir, we only have that in large or extra-large.”

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Darryl Wilkinson Posted: Aug 15, 2010 0 comments
Price: $1,799 At A Glance: Second- and third-zone A-BUS keypad outputs with video • Extra channels to biamp front speakers • Audio Split mode • Optional iPod dock

Simpler Sounds Better

I’m not sure I qualify as an Anglophile, but I do like most things British—except for spotted dick. Even after you know that it’s just steamed suet pudding, it still doesn’t sound any better. So I expected that I’d feel a continually growing affinity for the new Azur 650R AVR from Cambridge Audio (that’s the “other” Cambridge for you Massachusetters). Since it began in 1968, the company has made a well-respected, high-fidelity name for itself. It even built the world’s first two-box CD player. After a tough time in the mid-’80s, Cambridge Audio was acquired by Audio Partnership, which currently owns a number of other venerable U.K. brands. As I hear them tell it, this economy of scale is a good thing for Cambridge Audio—and something that most higher-end companies don’t normally enjoy—because such a spread of brands lets the parent company employ an unusually high percentage of engineers on their staff (almost 40 percent). They happily tell the fact as if it guarantees them success and good cheer. Or at least good gear. I certainly expected it to be that way. I was initially impressed by the specs and build quality, so it surprised me when I didn’t keep that warm and fuzzy-logic feeling after I first set up the Azur 650R. In fact, I began to think that maybe Audio Partnership had hired too many engineers.

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Mark Fleischmann Posted: Aug 09, 2010 0 comments
toppick.jpgPrice: $599 At A Glance: First THX-certified 3D-capable AVR • HDMI 1.4a includes all current 3D formats • Width or height processing via Audyssey DSX

THX and 3D

Many tributaries feed the mighty Mississippi. South of the Twin Cities, the Minnesota River gushes in. In Wisconsin, it is joined by the St. Croix River, the Black River, the La Crosse River, the Root River, and the Wisconsin River. Then come the Rock, Iowa, Skunk, Des Moines, Illinois, Missouri, Ohio, Tennessee, Platte, Arkansas, Yazoo, and Atchafalaya rivers—all gliding in until the increasingly vast Mississippi ends its epic American journey at the Gulf of Mexico. I’m typing out all of this for two reasons. Contemplating the American landscape is an awe-inspiring pleasure—and pleasure is what I’m all about.

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Mark Fleischmann Posted: Jul 26, 2010 0 comments
Price: $2,700 At A Glance: Numerous networked music options including Rhapsody • Anchor Bay VRS video processing • HDMI 1.3 connectivity excludes 3D

Features, Performance, or Both?

In Akira Kurosawa’s classic film Rashomon, a violent crime is followed by several markedly variable versions of the same story as told from the viewpoints of four different characters: the criminal, two victims, and finally a relatively neutral observer. In the same manner, readers may finish this review with wildly divergent ideas of what’s important and whether the Yamaha RX-Z7 is right for them.

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Mark Fleischmann Posted: Jul 26, 2010 0 comments

Performance
Features
Ergonomics
Value
Price: $3,499 At A Glance: Less powerful version of AVR600 • Omits network/IP functionality and some legacy inputs • HDMI 1.3 connectivity excludes 3D

Paring Down to Essentials

In this economically tough climate, we all have to trim expenses to the essentials. Just this week, I instructed my manservant to take my suits to the dry cleaner only if they’ve been worn for more than three hours. My nightly meals at five-star restaurants will be cut back to six nights a week at 4.5-star restaurants. During the summer, I’ll raise the thermostat in my 25-room summer house from 70 to 71 degrees (unless I’m actually there). The pilot of my personal jet will have to cut back the monthly Caspian Sea caviar run to every other month. And no more caviar for the pool boy.

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Mark Fleischmann Posted: May 10, 2010 0 comments
Price: $1,800 At A Glance: First A/V receiver to include Trinnov Optimizer • HQV Reon-VX video processor • Big beefy chassis

Say Hi to Trinnov

The Sherwood Newcastle R-972 A/V receiver is the first to include a new player in auto setup and room correction technology. Say hello to the Trinnov Optimizer. Nearly two years after it was first announced, the R-972 has arrived. After endless behind-the-scenes tweaking, this product will surely trigger debate and discussion among surround enthusiasts.

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Mark Fleischmann Posted: May 03, 2010 0 comments
Price: $1,299 At A Glance: An A/V receiver for the audiophile on a budget • Faroudja DCDi video processing • Essential features only, no fad features

Ready for Takeoff

Paring life down to the essentials is a fine art. You should aim to reduce the quantity of stuff in your life and increase the quality of what remains. This may take some work. You may need to sit down with the entire contents of your sock drawer and discard all the ones with rather large holes. But then you experience the joy of buying (and wearing) beautiful new socks. And the daily need to find two good ones that match will become less onerous.

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Mark Fleischmann Posted: Feb 22, 2010 0 comments
Price: $1,250 At A Glance: Bluetooth adapter is supplied, not merely optional • Connect compatible iPod models without a dock • Audyssey MultEQ, Dynamic Volume/EQ

Restraint and Simplicity

Marantz was founded in 1952 by Saul B. Marantz, who designed and built his first products at his home in Kew Gardens, New York. By the time I envied a college friend for owning a beautiful 1975-vintage Marantz stereo receiver, the company was owned by Superscope. The brand’s North American operations passed into the hands of Philips before it finally merged with Denon to form D&M Holdings in 2002.

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