OTHER SOURCE COMPONENT REVIEWS

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Barb Gonzalez Posted: Jun 13, 2014 0 comments

Performance
Features
Ergonomics
Value
PRICE $150

AT A GLANCE
Plus
Adds Google TV apps to a Sony Bravia TV
Compact dongle form factor
Integrates cable/satellite programming with streaming apps
Integrates some apps typically not available on Google TV

Minus
Google TV remote was sometimes unresponsive
Only works with specific 2013 (or newer) Bravia TVs

THE VERDICT
A solid Google TV add-on for owners of compatible Bravia TVs.

When the Sony Bravia Smart Stick was first announced, it was thought to be competition for Google’s Chromecast. But this complete Google TV-on-a-dongle is not for everyone. It is an add-on option for recent Bravia TV owners who want more than the streaming apps available on the Bravia TV platform. The Bravia stick integrates seamlessly with the TV, combining the app menu from the Bravia TV with the Google TV home screen for quick access.
Kris Deering Posted: Jun 12, 2014 3 comments

Performance
Features
Ergonomics
Value
PRICE $2,995

AT A GLANCE
Plus
Handpicked parts and proprietary audiophile touches
Nearly plug and play
Supports all high-resolution formats
Reference level audio and video quality
Minus
Needs a tablet for easiest interface
Still only as good as what you plug it into

THE VERDICT
A no brainer if you seek audiophile performance from a media server without a lot of homework and trial and error. Customer support is exceptional and takes the IT guesswork out of the equation.

We have recently come to an enormous crossroad in entertainment. Physical media as a whole is withering on the vine and everything is moving to either streaming playback or file downloads. While I’m all about the convenience that this offers I hate the idea (and reality) of the compromise this situation can create in the quality of the content. We’ve already seen the music industry destroy the quality of music recordings to appease the iPod generation, and regardless of the convenience provided by Netflix and a host of other video streaming services, they cannot match the quality of Blu-ray video playback. So what do you do if you want to enjoy instantaneous access to your media but don’t want to compromise the quality of the material? Baetis Audio may have a few answers for you.
John Sciacca Posted: Jun 03, 2014 0 comments

Performance
Features
Ergonomics
Value
PRICE $220

AT A GLANCE
Plus
Terrific interface
Fast and simple setup
Stream shows to anywhere via Internet
Minus
No direct HDMI output
Must add your own hard drive
Long buffer time for channel surfing
No “resume play” function for recordings

THE VERDICT
Tablo offers cord cutters an affordable option to enjoy DVR features and view TV from anywhere in the world.

Cord cutting is a trend that continues to gain momentum. And why not? With low-cost/free services like Netflix and YouTube accounting for more than 50 percent of Web traffic in the U.S., it’s obvious that people are happy to get their content from any place that doesn’t require a monthly pound of flesh. Even TV networks have started accepting the streaming mentality by offering shows online, typically a day (or more) after they have aired live but still giving viewers an alternative to the traditional cable or satellite pay-to-view option.

Barb Gonzalez Posted: May 27, 2014 0 comments

Performance
Features
Ergonomics
Value
PRICE $499

AT A GLANCE
Plus
Integrates with cable or satellite set-top box with advanced One Guide
Improved Kinect camera for voice and gesture control
Blu-ray player works with voice and gesture control
Minus
Requires Xbox Gold membership to stream from some services
Some streaming services available on Xbox 360 not yet on Xbox One
Can stop playback to say “hi” to a new user that has stepped into the room

THE VERDICT
For gamers who want a streaming all-in-one entertainment device, this is the console to buy.

The Xbox One was released in November 2013, exactly eight years after the release of Microsoft's last game console, the Xbox 360. In those eight years, the Xbox 360 was updated and upgraded, including the addition of the Kinect camera for voice and gesture control. In the past couple of years, a number of streaming services were also added, making the Xbox 360 a viable whole-family entertainment device. Now, the Xbox One has “improved” on the 360’s features. The Kinect has been upgraded. TV integration and a Blu-ray player have been added. The result: the Xbox One may be poised to fulfill Microsoft’s hope to make it the only component you’ll need to add to your home theater.

Al Griffin Posted: May 27, 2014 7 comments

Performance
Features
Ergonomics
Value
PRICE $499

AT A GLANCE
Plus
Involving gameplay and graphics
Powerful Smart TV features
Wide range of remote control options
Minus
Features may be overkill for some
No DVR control

THE VERDICT
Microsoft’s next-gen console is a home entertainment powerhouse. Games, movies, music—it’s got it all.

Microsoft wants to take over the living room. OK, maybe that premise isn’t exactly new. About 10 years ago, tech pundits used the same words when discussing the Windows Media Center PC, an all-in-one solution that combined computing and home entertainment in a big, ungainly box. You don’t hear much about Microsoft’s Media Center PC ambitions anymore. What you do hear about is the Xbox One, the latest version of the company’s successful game console. And yes, Microsoft still wants to take over the living room, except now they plan to do so through the Xbox One.

Mark Fleischmann Posted: Apr 25, 2014 2 comments

Performance
Features
Ergonomics
Value
PRICE $999

AT A GLANCE
Plus
500-GB hard drive
DSD capable
Serious fun to use
Minus
No live streaming from network devices
Lightweight amp

THE VERDICT
This handsome DSD-capable audio player with built-in storage takes the pesky computer out of computer audio—and it’s way more fun to use.

Sony made waves when they announced their intention to market three high-resolution audio (HRA) products built around the company’s DSD file format. True, there was a nascent HRA movement before Sony made the move, with loads of network audio players and USB DACs flooding the market. But somehow the Sony announcement provided the extra momentum that finally made HRA seem not just promising but inevitable. That the Consumer Electronics Association has also launched an HRA initiative is icing on the cake.

Al Griffin Posted: Feb 14, 2014 0 comments

Performance
Features
Ergonomics
Value
PRICE $249

AT A GLANCE
Plus
Impressive sound quality for Bluetooth
Audiophile-friendly look
Pain-free setup
Minus
Pricey

THE VERDICT
It might not be high-rez or high end, but Mass Fidelity’s Bluetooth receiver is a great option for casual listening.

Bluetooth gets a bad rap in the hi-fi world, and for good reason: In contrast to other wireless audio technologies that let you stream uncompressed CD-quality audio from a PC or portable device, Bluetooth subjects the signal to lossy compression. If you’re an audiophile with a reputation to uphold, the story pretty much ends there.

Michael Antonoff Posted: Nov 04, 2013 0 comments
Performance
Features
Ergonomics
Value
Price $100

At A Glance
Plus: Watch broadcast TV while commuting • Steady reception in motion • Works without Wi-Fi or a mobile data plan
Minus: Limited channels • Reception spotty in buildings and locking in stations can be frustrating

The Verdict
Lets you watch TV while on the on the go but programming options are limited and reception is not a sure shot.

Though the picture quality of over-the-air TV can surpass cable, you’re likely to get no reception at all in a moving vehicle. That’s because broadcast DTV was conceived for stationary screens—not today’s legion of mobile devices.

Darryl Wilkinson Posted: Aug 30, 2012 6 comments

Performance
Features
Ergonomics
Value
Price: $10/month DVR fee (Joey or second Hopper $7/month) At A Glance: 2 TB of storage • Records up to six prime-time HD channels simultaneously • Remote control locator

I have a great deal of empathy for the cable, satellite, Internet, and cell-phone service providers. After all, this is a tough economy, and competition for subscribers is fierce. At the same time, technology keeps evolving, with startups lurking on the fringes, waiting for a chance to be the next big thing. I mean, really, my heart bleeds for the grossly underpaid civic-minded people running these companies. All they’re trying to do is feed their families and put gas in their cars by offering the ultimate in customer service and satisfaction for ridiculously low subscription prices. You know, at the negligible rates they charge, I’m surprised they’re able to make any profits at all.

Rob Sabin Posted: Jun 06, 2012 0 comments
Performance
Features
Ergonomics
Value
Price: $400 At A Glance: Effective, free alternative to cable or satellite • Vudu streaming • Runs hot!

In this day of dozens of HDTV channels delivered via hardwired cable or satellite transmission, it’s hard to remember that watching TV wasn’t always quite so easy. Way back when, every television had an antenna connected to it. If you were distant from the transmission tower, you might have had a big mast antenna on your roof, as did your next-door neighbor, and his next-door neighbor, and so on, until the suburban skyline came to be defined by these skeletal sculptures reaching into the bright dawn of a soaring postwar America. If you lived a little closer to the tower, you probably just used the telescopic rabbit ears poking up from the back or top of every set, and the ritual of changing channels (to another of the seven or eight available) involved walking across the room, manually clicking the TV’s rotary tuning knob, and then reorienting the antenna arms to minimize the distortion. Even then, it didn’t always work. Depending on conditions, it wasn’t uncommon to get snowy artifacts from a weak signal, or ghosting caused by multipath reception as the signal bounced off nearby buildings or other large objects.

Shane Buettner Posted: May 24, 2011 0 comments

Performance
Features
Ergonomics
Value
Price: $9,950 At A Glance: Breathtaking picture and sound with all 5-inch silver discs • State-of-the-art audio performance with USB audio • No 3D

The Last Great Silver Disc Player?

The era of 5-inch silver disc players began in the 1980s, and it isn’t over yet. But even quality-driven, Blu-ray- and CD-playing dinosaurs like me are compelled to admit that there are fewer days ahead for the disc player than there are behind it. The Ayre Acoustics DX-5 Universal A/V Engine ($9,950) builds a bridge between yesterday and tomorrow. The DX-5 is a universal disc player. It plays CD, SACD, DVD-Video/Audio, and Blu-ray Discs. But it’s also a cutting-edge digital-to-analog converter for digital audio files from a variety of sources, up to 24-bit/192-kilohertz. Its supertrick analog audio outputs are stereo only, so the only people who need apply are extreme videophiles and two-channel audiophiles who want a reference-quality universal Blu-ray player and state-of-the-art playback of digital audio files. The DX-5 is loaded with crucial and daring proprietary technology, and it’s the best-sounding, most versatile digital source component I’ve had in my system. The price tag? Who cares. Don’t you want to know more?

David Vaughn Posted: Sep 08, 2010 0 comments
Price: $299 At A Glance: New user interface • Multiple streaming services from Netflix, Amazon, and Blockbuster • Enhanced Internet-driven search capabilities

Has TiVo Reinvented TV Again?

What started as Jim Barton and Mike Ramsay’s idea in 1997 became a reality in 1999 when TiVo burst on the scene and changed the way people watch TV. While time-shifting programs had been around for years via VCR, you couldn’t pause live TV, watch one program while recording another, or view a comprehensive program guide at the push of a button. The cable and satellite companies took their sweet time entering the DVR market, and TiVo’s only other competitor—ReplayTV—was absorbed by DIRECTV. TiVo became so popular, its brand name became a verb.

Shane Buettner Posted: May 11, 2009 0 comments
Price: $799 At A Glance: Superb user experience • Widgets! • Big storage with ability to scale higher • Works only with CableCARD • Not compatible with PPV or On-Demand • Can’t order pizza

Pimping Your HD Cable Ride

DISH Network and DIRECTV have poached a lot of cable customers using the allure of their premium HD DVRs. Bigger storage, more robust features, a slick user interface, no cable company to deal with—it’s an easy sell most of the time. But what if you can’t or won’t do the dish and still want an enlightened HD DVR experience from digital cable? Digeo’s answer is the Moxi HD DVR. At its core, the Moxi is a high-end HD DVR that has a 500-gigabyte hard drive with a 75-hour HD capacity and the ability to add a ton of additional storage. On paper, the Moxi would be a compelling device even if this was all there was to it. But its DVR functionality is only the beginning. The Moxi is also a media hub that aggregates content from your home network and the Internet without bringing a full-blown media PC into your living room. Yep. Those newfangled widgets are inside. Let’s take a look.

Thomas J. Norton Posted: Jan 28, 2008 0 comments
A cease fire or a bridge too far?

Months ago, when Samsung announced its BD-UP5000 dual format player, there appeared to be no end in sight to an ugly format war that threatened the future of high definition on a disc.

David Vaughn Posted: Dec 24, 2007 0 comments
There are all types of fanatics in the world; religious fanatics, sports fanatics, Windows fanatics, Apple fanatics, the list goes on and on. But one type of fanatic that I never really understood is the TiVo fanatic. You've probably have met someone who's asked, "Do you have TiVo yet?" or stated that the "TiVo has completely changed my life!"

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