SURROUND PROCESSOR REVIEWS

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Mark Fleischmann Posted: Mar 22, 2007 Published: Feb 22, 2007 0 comments
Multinational speakers meet American amps.

On the battlefield of speaker design, I am the triage nurse. I walk into speaker demo rooms at trade shows, my badge sometimes inadvertently turned inward, listen for a moment, and quietly mutter to myself, "This one's a keeper," or, "He's dead, Jim." Or occasionally just, "Hmmm," because good speakers may sound iffy under bad conditions, and I respect the potential buried within an ambiguous first take. But, if my instincts tell me to pursue a review, I whip out a business card and start making arrangements on the spot.

Steve Guttenberg Posted: Jan 26, 2007 0 comments
They want to take you higher.

The component that put NAD on the map in the mid 1970s—the 3020 integrated stereo amplifier—didn't look like a giant killer. Finished in an indeterminate shade of grayish-brown and devoid of gee-whiz features, the 3020 nevertheless became one of the best-selling audiophile amplifiers of all time—and not just because it sounded better than anything going for two or three times its humble MSRP. The 3020 had that special something that made it, well, lovable. Over the decades, the engineers squeezed a bit of the 3020's magic into every NAD product, but they've pulled out all the stops with the new Masters Series components. They had to, as the ultimate NADs are competing with the likes of Anthem, Arcam, B&K, and Rotel. They're playing with the big boys now.

Steve Guttenberg Posted: Dec 31, 2006 0 comments
Close to the edge.

I'm constantly amazed by the steadily improving sound of real-world-priced components, but it's fun to see how far mind-bogglingly fantastic high-end electronics have come. Yes, I have to admit that there's a certain amount of poseur gear that sports nosebleed pricing but doesn't really deliver sound that's much better than everyday good stuff. Have no such worries here, though. Anthem's Statement D2 surround processor and P5 amplifier are the real deal. Even by high-end standards, their capabilities are inspired.

Steve Guttenberg Posted: Dec 04, 2006 Published: Nov 04, 2006 0 comments
Grander than ever.

While Sunfire's Bob Carver isn't quite the household name that Apple's Steve Jobs is, he absolutely qualifies as a bona fide audio legend. Carver's greatest hits range from his early high-power amplifier, the 350-watt-per-channel Phase Linear 700, to Sonic Holography, Bob's virtual-surround generator. Carver also did much to inspire the new breed of super-potent, ultracompact subwoofers with his much-copied Sunfire True. His knack for audio innovation pumped my expectations for a couple of his latest creations, Sunfire's Theater Grand TGP-5 pre/pro and the TGA-5400, a 400-watt-per-channel amplifier.

Steve Guttenberg Posted: Jul 14, 2006 0 comments
Classy Classés.

Even before you hear Classé's new Delta series of electronics, you'll probably want to do what I did—feel them up. This is not just because their curved aluminum-and-steel chassis are exquisite works of industrial art—your fingertips wield extraordinary control over the SSP-300 surround processor. The matching CA-5100 five-channel power amplifier will supply the muscle to make your home theater roar.

Mark Fleischmann Posted: Apr 09, 2006 1 comments
Trendy yet rebellious.

The audio industry seems about to leap off a cliff. Permit me to suggest that this may be a rash decision. True, component audio sales have diminished, but that's no excuse for the industry to abandon its principles and give up on sound quality. What consumers are rebelling against is not good sound but bad design. They've had enough of big, dumb, room-hogging speakers. "It doesn't suit the room, but it sounds good" doesn't cut it anymore. "It looks as good as it sounds" is the winning combination.

Chris Lewis Posted: Dec 12, 2005 0 comments
This time, it's all English.

After the parade of international system mates that we've had in every other installment of this column recently, we finally settle into a system whose parts share their nation of origin. Don't be too quick to assume that it is the United States or Japan I speak of—this month's system hails entirely from merry old England. This isn't terribly surprising, but it does give me an opportunity to say a few things to our friends across the pond that I've been meaning to say for a while, such as: Sorry about that whole revolution thing (although I don't really mean that sincerely), and thanks for the Rolling Stones, Lord Stanley (who gave us the Stanley Cup), and Elizabeth Hurley—in no particular order, of course.

Darryl Wilkinson Posted: Oct 22, 2005 0 comments
Feed your hungry eyes and ears on an attractively entertaining meal of lean on-wall speakers and tender, choice electronics.

Whether by nature or nurture, I'm a speaker guy. I'm more captivated by speakers than any of the associated electronics in a home theater system. As a result of this singular infatuation, I've always believed, as a general rule of thumb, that you should allocate at least half of the total cost of the audio portion of your system to the speakers. I don't know why the math seems to work out that way, but, in my mind, it just does. So what am I to make of a system in which the Primare electronics cost twice as much as the Sequence/REL speaker package?

Chris Lewis Posted: Aug 30, 2005 Published: Aug 31, 2005 0 comments
Performance and value never go out of style.

My curiosity was naturally piqued a few years ago when I heard that Parasound was going upscale with their look. This was a company that had become virtually synonymous with performance plus value, facilitated somewhat by forgoing aesthetic flair, and I wondered where the decision to go uptown with the finish in the Halo line would lead. The first good sign was the Halos' higher price tags. It costs a lot more to make boxes look that good, and this told me that they weren't taking resources away from performance to do so. What ultimately satisfied my curiosity, though, was how good the Halo models sounded. Yet, there are still those who want Parasound performance, have less to spend, and don't mind—or maybe even appreciate—Parasound's rugged, utilitarian old style. The New Classic line is exactly what they're looking for.

Chris Lewis Posted: May 01, 2005 Published: May 17, 2005 0 comments
Turn on, tune in, strap down. I was standing in an area of last year's Home Entertainment Show in New York that had no demonstration rooms anywhere nearby. It started with a boom and a rumble, like the gathering of a distant but powerful storm. It wasn't enough to shake me yet, but it was enough to grab my attention. Then came another boom, another rumble, and enough curiosity that I felt compelled to find a tactful way out of my conversation and make my way toward this growing intensity. Not only could I feel the floor moving under my feet as I got closer, but I even started to believe I was seeing Sheetrock flakes on the floor, steadily gathering into a distinct trail. Soon enough, the rattling of the walls, the low-frequency energy waves hammering my senses, and the shaken but excited looks of people coming the other way told me I had arrived. MiCon Audio, the door announced. Curious, I thought—or tried to think, before another sortie ripped out from inside—and a belief that the door might literally be blown off its hinges began to monopolize my thoughts. Finally, the door opened, and the answer to all of the riddles awaited me inside—but, for that, you'll have to read on.
Chris Lewis Posted: Mar 18, 2005 0 comments
The Canadians and the Brits are at it again.

If you know your history, then you already know that the Canadians and the English can do some good things when they get together. While we were taking care of our business down at Utah and Omaha, the Canadians and the Brits were giving the Germans a pretty good working-over of their own up the beach at Normandy. They even teamed up rather effectively against us during the American Revolution and War of 1812, managing to hang on to Canada despite our various efforts to take it and, in the process, preserving one of England's last real toeholds in the New World.

Chris Lewis Posted: Sep 18, 2004 Published: Sep 01, 2004 0 comments
High-end home theater for the rest of us.

Home theater in 2004 is like America in the 1950s, with a middle class that has steadily been building momentum and now finds itself in the midst of a major breakout. The same philosophy of the good life at a better price that spawned a culture of suburbs and credit-card debt in the '50s is spawning an unprecedented emergence of high-end home theater components at mid-level prices in the '00s.

Chris Lewis Posted: Mar 01, 2004 0 comments
Another contender emerges among entry-level separates.

In case you hadn't noticed, the bell has rung, and the blows are flying in the $3,000-to-$5,000 range for electronics systems (i.e., preamplification, processing, and amplification). It's easy to characterize this as a melee between receivers and separates, which is a key component of what we're seeing at this price level. Receivers are sounding better and getting more expensive; separates are getting more user-friendly, offering more features, and dropping in price.

Chris Lewis Posted: Jul 14, 2003 Published: Jul 15, 2003 0 comments
Lexicon's next generation arrives with a bang.

You can't please everybody, especially in the home theater world. Lexicon came close in 2000 with the release of the MC-12, an end-all pre/pro that carried on the company's tradition of performance but also addressed the few issues that people had with earlier Lexicon controllers like the MC-12's direct predecessor, the MC-1. Almost everyone, myself included, loved the MC-1's sound, tweakability, and just about everything else. As with any high-profile piece, though, people did raise questions about the MC-1—some legitimate, some not. The MC-12 directly addressed the important issues, like the lack of analog bypass and a six-channel input. (Remember that, when the MC-1 debuted, SACD and DVD-Audio were still just a twinkle in the audiophile's eye.) Even many of the peripheral issues, such as aesthetics, got some attention on the MC-12. The only remaining issue was price, as the MC-12 cost a few thousand dollars more than the MC-1. True, but Lexicon didn't replace the MC-1 with the MC-12; they simply provided the MC-12 as another option.

Chris Lewis Posted: May 12, 2003 Published: May 13, 2003 0 comments
Parasound's 7.5-channel surround controller has finally landed.

While it may always get second billing in the parade of human emotions, don't forget about anticipation's potent influence. This is the force that has been linked to Parasound's Halo C1 pre/pro ever since its trade-show debut a few years back, and it has only gained momentum with each successive instance of display without delivery. While some critics speculated that Lucas-like patterns of prolonged hype were at work, most people figured that Parasound simply wanted the C1 to be right before they finally let it go. Once you dig into it, you'll see why that took some time.

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