EARS ON

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Mark Fleischmann Posted: May 06, 2016 11 comments
Audio products bring us joy. They also get in the way. (That goes double for hard-copy software. And triple for LPs, much as we love them.) In fact, though the magazine's reviews discuss fidelity, features, and even ergonomics, they rarely discuss how a product might bulk large in your home. Reviewers simply assume that readers will consider the product category, look at the picture, maybe check the dimensions, and reach their own conclusions. But intrusion is a major way in which products relate, or fail to relate, to us.

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Mark Fleischmann Posted: Apr 01, 2016 1 comments
I have been a fan of Keith Emerson (1944-2016) since a childhood friend introduced me to Elegy by The Nice. I was intrigued by the long stretches of piano and Hammond organ improvisation overlaid onto recognizable songs—among other things. What just zipped by? Was that a Tchaikovsky symphony movement? My heirs may someday be startled to find three LP copies (and one CD) of this album. Not long afterward, I spent my lawn-mowing money on the untitled debut album of Emerson Lake & Palmer. After more plays than I can even estimate, and on some pretty dodgy turntables, it's developed some sibilance problems, as I noticed on a recent memorial spin, but the DVD-Audio/CD edition with Steven Wilson's surround and stereo remasters has picked up the torch.

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Mark Fleischmann Posted: Mar 04, 2016 2 comments
Concertgoers will enjoy a new experience on Beyoncé's next tour. Starting in April 2016, the Formation World Tour will be the first to feature THX Live! certification. Yes, THX is now certifying concert sound.

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Mark Fleischmann Posted: Feb 05, 2016 13 comments
It is now blindingly obvious that music has burst free of its chains. Even the traditionalist audio categories I cover have ways to make music fly through the air. Let me run through some approaches to wireless connectivity—some well established, others new and novel. When we get to the finish line, I'd love to hear about what you use and what you would like to try.
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Mark Fleischmann Posted: Jan 11, 2016 0 comments
Audio highlights and trends from CES 2016 worth writing home about.
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Mark Fleischmann Posted: Jan 01, 2016 6 comments
Has concertgoing become a lost art? Observing behavior at concerts, I can't help wondering if some of my fellow audience members have lost the ability to listen in the moment. And the music suffers for it.

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Mark Fleischmann Posted: Dec 04, 2015 8 comments
Anyone who follows my work will see references to multiple audio systems, including my reference system and my desktop system. But I actually use a good half-dozen audio systems—in a one-bedroom apartment. Why? I'm tempted to say because I can. But it would be closer to the truth to say I must.

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Mark Fleischmann Posted: Nov 06, 2015 4 comments
It's been 30 years since I bought my first Compact Disc player and first CDs. With the CD format in a death spiral, the LP recovering nicely, high-resolution downloads on the rise, and streaming capturing a new generation of listeners, defending the CD at this moment in history may seem like pure contrarianism. That alone is reason enough to reevaluate the CD—even if it seemingly contradicts things I myself have written in the recent past. But let's make it clear that if I am about to find a few kind words to say about the dear old shiny disc, it doesn't mean I don't love my vinyl and FLACs any less. It's just that my music library has room for more than one format. I still buy CDs, but I collect LPs and high-res audio too.

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Mark Fleischmann Posted: Oct 02, 2015 10 comments
Over the past couple of years, I've raised the bar for new entries to my music library. I've been steadily giving up lossy audio. In other words, file formats like MP3 and iTunes-approved AAC are no longer welcome. It is time for my library to move to the next step. So long, lossy. Quoth the raven, nevermore.

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Mark Fleischmann Posted: Sep 04, 2015 9 comments
What's in a name? At times, not a whole lot of sense. The consumer electronics industry has a genius for giving dopey names to things: unintentionally misleading names, deliberately misleading names, duplicative names, redundant names, outright laughable names. Here are just a few:

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Mark Fleischmann Posted: Aug 07, 2015 24 comments
Most receivers have seven amp channels. I've just reviewed several of them in a row: the Onkyo TX-NR545, Pioneer VSX-1130, and Sony STR-DN1060. Our October issue will collect them in a roundup, with a review of the Denon AVR-X1200W following in November. All list for $600 and include Dolby Atmos height-enriched surround in a 5.1.2-channel configuration. That is a couple of height channels short of the 5.1.4 configuration Dolby Labs recommends for Atmos in the home. And that in turn prompts an uncomfortable question: Is the seven-channel receiver obsolete?

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Mark Fleischmann Posted: Jul 10, 2015 8 comments
What if streaming isn't such a good idea after all?
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Mark Fleischmann Posted: Jun 05, 2015 15 comments
I have been lucky enough to spend nearly all of my career explaining audio and video technology to readers. I'm just as lucky to have made Sound & Vision and its predecessor Home Theater my roost since 2001. But in a previous phase of my career, I divided my time between specialist publications like this one and other kinds: music and pop culture magazines, men's and women's and travel magazines and newspapers and more. It was while writing a story for Details that I racked my brain for a way to assert the relevance of audio technology to a young, hip, music-loving audience (not unlike myself at the time). Finally I stumbled upon the key that unlocked it all: the phrase closer to music. I've been using that phrase and its cousin—your relationship with music—ever since.

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Mark Fleischmann Posted: May 01, 2015 5 comments
I recently spent a few weeks exhaustively reviewing five headphone DAC-amps. They included the Schiit Fulla ($79), AudioQuest DragonFly v1.2 ($149), Oppo HA-2 ($299), Celsus Companion One ($595), and Sony PHA-3 ($1,000). Of course anyone who buys one of these products will find that the listening experience depends heavily on the headphones used with it, and there's no predicting which headphones an individual buyer may use, so I chose a varied selection: the Oppo PM-2 ($699), Sennheiser HD600 ($400), and Sony MDR-V6 ($110). Then I had to choose the demo music. That was fun—anyone who says a job like mine isn't fun should find another job—but it took some care and forethought. Just as associated gear affects perception of an audio product, so too does the music.

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Mark Fleischmann Posted: Apr 10, 2015 6 comments
Freak that I am, I still pay for most of the music I listen to. Not that I didn't have a fling with Napster and its successors—but I've removed torrenting software from my PCs and no longer seek out illegal downloads. Nowadays, if I want to check out new-to-me music without investing, I try the public library, YouTube, borrow from a friend, or—being a journalist has its privileges—ask for a review sample of the disc or download. But I also explore the vast realm of classical music via $2 LPs and pay full price for CDs and LPs by greying artists I've supported for decades. The one thing I refuse to do now is settle for a lousy stolen MP3. I'm done with that. If you're not, here are a few things to think about. Please don't get the impression that I'm acting all high and mighty about illegal downloading. What I'm arguing is that it's in your best interest to give it up. Here's why.

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