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AV RECEIVER REVIEWS

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Mark Fleischmann Posted: Dec 17, 2007 0 comments
What your money buys in budget, moderate, and high-end surround receivers.

At the heart of a typical home theater system is the surround receiver. True, the video display might be the emotional heart of your system—but only if you're willing to settle for tinny sound. You might also go bleeding-edge and ditch the surround receiver for high-end separates, namely a preamp/processor and multichannel amp. In that case, I salute you. But I aim today's homily at the average Joe or Jack or Jill who wants the best surround sound available from a one-box receiver.

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David Vaughn Posted: Nov 05, 2007 0 comments

Evolution is the continual process of change. For electronics manufacturers, evolution is often defined as updating equipment just enough from year to year to make consumers willing to upgrade to the latest and greatest. One could argue that until the advent of HDMI a couple years ago, the evolution of the AVR (Audio/Video Receiver) hadn't featured a compelling reason to upgrade in a while.

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Darryl Wilkinson Posted: Oct 29, 2007 0 comments
Kickin' butt and takin' soundfield names

For as long as I can remember (although the time scale is questionable nowadays), Yamaha has been a strong player in the AV receiver game. While Yamaha is not really a "high-end" company mentioned in the same breath with the likes of, say, Krell, Classe, or Lexicon, it certainly pioneered the behemoth, all-in-one-piece- hernia-inducing monster AV receiver starting with the $4,499 RX-Z9 several years ago (Yamaha's latest, biggest, and baddest, the 11.2-channel RX-Z11, will appear in November for $5,499).

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Mark Fleischmann Posted: Oct 22, 2007 0 comments
High-end audio goes green.

There is a link in the public mind between scale and quality, a notion that, if you want something better, you also want something bigger. After all, top-of-the-line surround receivers are expected to have more powerful amplifiers and more features. Bigger speakers come with a tacit implication of better bass response. And who doesn't dream of buying a bigger plasma or LCD?

Jerry Kindela Posted: Nov 15, 2007 Published: Oct 15, 2007 0 comments
Price-sensitive yet refined, sophisticated sound.

Paul Barton doesn't merely talk about Canada's National Research Council; he preaches about the facility, acting as the Billy Graham for Canadian scientific research. And well he should. The NRC was founded to provide scientific, practical, and developmental support to Canadian companies wishing to compete in a global economy. Barton began using the NRC's facilities and its scientific minds in 1974, just two short years after he launched a modest little speaker company called PSB. Within a year, PSB released the Avante, the first speaker the company designed with the NRC's help. Since then, Barton has continued to design well-received and well-reviewed speakers, each delivered with assistance from the NRC facilities.

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Kim Wilson Posted: Oct 15, 2007 0 comments
Even lower priced Pioneer Elite models appear rich and substantial. Pioneer's Elite models are to Pioneer as Lexus is to Toyota. According to Pioneer, the driving force behind Elite A/V receivers is uncompromising sound quality, impeccable design, and the most sophisticated digital processing.
Mark Fleischmann Posted: Sep 23, 2007 0 comments
Little big man.

Why do people who spend for- tunes on their cars look askance at high-end audio equipment? They wouldn't be seen dead backing a budget SUV out of their driveways. But, when they choose the gear that mediates their relationship with music and movies, they condemn themselves to poverty. Audio systems are shadows to them. They're all the same, so why pay more? These sad people drive their $70,000 cars to Circuit City and pay three figures for a mediocre HTIB. I once wrote about portable audio for an outdoorsy men's magazine. When I suggested that high-end headphones are as valid as high-end hiking gear, the editor gave me a perplexed and somewhat dirty look.

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Darryl Wilkinson Posted: Sep 13, 2007 0 comments
As far as I'm concerned, this is the standard that all other receiver makers should aspire to.

Sony recently announced a trio of new AV receivers in the ES line. The ES stands for "Elevated Standard", a designation that is supposed to indicate performance and features that are a cut above the standard Sony line. Although the marketing and the reality haven't always jibed, Sony appears to be giving renewed attention and vigor to the gear that wears the ES badge.

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Mark Fleischmann Posted: Oct 08, 2007 Published: Sep 08, 2007 0 comments
Getting Sirius—and XM.

Having hefted more than a few surround receivers into the spare berth on my equipment rack, I've earned the right to be blasé. This feeling usually turns to annoyance when I have to figure out which button on the remote control will get me into the setup menu. But all of these predictable emotions vanish when I hit my universal disc machine's play button and music starts coming out of five speakers (and a sub) in the Dolby Pro Logic II music mode. As someone who was weaned on stereo, surround still seems like something of a miracle. By the time I get around to playing a movie, I feel like a kid again.

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Thomas J. Norton Posted: Sep 02, 2007 0 comments

In many respects, AV receivers haven't changed much in recent years. There have been no major breakthroughs in amplifier design. 7.1-channels aren't that new. Multichannel analog inputs have been a fixture for some time. Dolby Digital and DTS have been with us since the Jurassic Age&mdash;or at least since <I>Jurassic Park</I>. And FM and AM sections are about as exciting as <I>Halloween 14</I>.

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Darryl Wilkinson Posted: Aug 06, 2007 0 comments
For years, Onkyo has been known for decent, dependable gear – nothing super fancy, mind you, just good, respectable, hardworking stuff. That's not to say Onkyo's AV receivers are plain-Jane, stripped-down jobs, however. The company's newest introduction, the $599 TX-SR605, is a perfect illustration of how the opposite is true. Sure, it sports a faceplate that, after you get past the various logos and (thankfully removable) stickers splashed across it, is not much different – and often less exciting – than that which you'll find on any of a hundred other receivers. But, as the logos and marketing stickers attest, behind the average-looking façade lies a feature and performance package that should put the TX-SR605 on the short list of anyone who's currently in the market for a mid-priced AV receiver.
Mark Fleischmann Posted: Sep 03, 2007 Published: Aug 03, 2007 0 comments
We could be heroes.

What would your life be like if you'd married the first person you ever dated? If you want a great home theater system, sometimes it pays to dig deeper. OK, American Acoustic Development (AAD) stands in the shadow of larger and more prestigious brands, so this may be the first time AAD's M Series speakers have come to your attention. And you're not likely to find the Rotel RSX-1057 receiver in the big chain stores that fill cavernous spaces with little worth hearing. But these two brands have more to offer than many of their market-leading, deep-pocketed rivals.

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Fred Manteghian Posted: Jul 29, 2007 0 comments

Ah, technology. Too bad automobiles can't keep up with home theater electronics, or we'd all be driving around in Hummers that get 200 miles to the gallon, emit pure oxygen and absorb all that heat coming off Al Gore. Sony's new receiver is the latest example of more for less. The STR-DA5200ES is feature packed, though perhaps not to the gills. And since we've segued from cars to fish, you should know now that, for the price, this receiver is better than a fair catch.

Mark Fleischmann Posted: Jul 23, 2007 0 comments
The inverted bottle meets the custom virtuoso.

At some point in the evolution of home theater, someone noticed that the phrase includes the word home. At that point, weird and wonderful things began to happen. Speakers morphed into smaller, more rounded, and occasionally more imaginative shapes. The surround receivers that fed them maintained their black-box identities but moved discreetly into closets. Back panels began to sprout extra jacks, the better to interact with touchscreen interfaces, second zones, and other niceties that have become staples of the connected home.

Gary Altunian Posted: Jul 02, 2007 Published: Jun 02, 2007 0 comments
American design meets German engineering.

Even a quick glance at the home theater section of your local consumer electronics retailer reveals an overabundance of A/V receivers. They're a staple component in home theater. After you sift through all the ubiquitous brands, you'll come across Sunfire. The company is the creation of the venerable Bob Carver, also founder of Phase Linear and Carver Corporation. In a previous audio life, I sold many Phase Linear 400 and 700 power amplifiers, which were among the most popular and affordable high-powered stereo amps during the 1970s. Bob Carver has consistently reinvented himself and refined his product offerings, and one of his latest creations is the Sunfire Theater Grand TGR-3 A/V receiver from the company's XT Series. It's a component that borrows many features from Sunfire's high-end processors and amplifiers. And its straightforward operation, proprietary features, and impressive sound quality might earn it a place among the best high-end receivers. The TGR-3 is a great example of meticulous American design, albeit of Chinese construction.

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