Only the latest version of the HDMI interface, 1.3, will carry DTS-HD Master Audio, though 1.2 and 1.1 will do for DTS-HD High Resolution Audio, not to mention Dolby TrueHD and Dolby Digital Plus. Sherwood receiver model R-872 ($999) is the lowest-priced one with the full monty. Also fully qualified to be your man is the R-972 ($1499).
There weren't many surround receivers on the floor of the Las Vegas Convention Center, but Sherwood was a hardy exception, showing a half-dozen new ones shipping between April and May. The top-line model is the R-977 with a rated 145 watts times seven into six ohms. It features Anchor Bay video processing, internet radio with vTuner, DLNA, direct USB connection of iOS devices, and a phono input. Perhaps more interesting is what's missing: Sherwood is no longer the lone receiver brand supporting innovative Trinnov room correction, a prominent feature of the old (and more costly) R-972. Instead it is relying on the proprietary SNAP room correction that it has also used previously. Price is $1000. At the opposite end of the line is the 5.1-channel RD-5405, selling for a mere $170.
Abandonment by Warner and Fox has left HD DVD with shrinking support among the motion picture studios. If HD DVD survives at all, it will have to do so with little or eventually no major-studio support. So maybe this is the time to ask a potentially controversial question: Does HD DVD have a future as a niche format--or possibly even an outlaw format? The following suggestions range from possible to distasteful to downright illegal. But since the future of a promising young format is at stake, let's think, um, creatively.
Somewhere over the rainbow there's an iPod color we haven't seen before. It's orange. And it's one of four new Apple iPod shuffle color options. The others are already familiar to second-generation nano enthusiasts. They include pink, lime, sky blue, and "silver." Cue Jerry Seinfeld voice: Have you ever noticed that manufacturers say silver when they really mean aluminum or grey? What's up with that? If I can't melt it down and make jewelry out of it, it's not really silver, is it? Noticeably absent is the red used for special-edition nanos. And if you've been holding out for yellow or, ah, "gold," keep dreaming. Capacity remains one gigabyte, price is still $79, and earbuds have been upgraded to the new and supposedly better-sounding ones. Me, I've still got a first-generation nano that's in good health, thank you. But if you're a completist, don't let that stop you from grabbing that new orange shuffle. Mind if I borrow it for a day or two?
Cynical Steve Jobs is marketing one of the worst-sounding audio products ever. As an audiophile, I can view this only with alarm and outrage. No, I'm not talking about the iPod, you foolish thing. I enjoy my nano as much as the next person. I'm talking about the earbuds that come with the iPod. They don't even come close to taking advantage of the sound quality that the deliriously popular music player is capable of delivering.
What size would you like your iPod-compatible speakers to be? Do you want Baby Bear, Mama Bear, or Papa Bear? Sierra Sound's iN STUDIO 5.0 fits into the middle category, as a monitor-sized pair of speakers with an iPod dock atop the left one. The review sample came in festive high-gloss Ferrari red, pleasing me no end, though you can have basic black or boring old traditional iPod white if you prefer.
As you'd expect, I'll start with a cheap joke: Each of these Silbatone Acoustics SGW-24 speakers can double as a studio apartment. Even if you have a roommate. But believe it or not, this massive horned loudspeaker has a plausible reason to exist in the home theater realm: It's an attempt to recreate Western Electric theater speakers from the early days of the talkies. Western Electric, in case you didn't know, was the manufacturing arm of the Bell System (later AT&T) for more than a century. Oh, and it was my father's employer for several decades, though he worked on the phone side of the business, not the cinema side. More on the SGW-24 here. Believe it or not, it had dynamic power, the focus associated with horns, and even a certain delicacy. But I would say that, being a Bell Baby.
AT A GLANCE Plus
Versatile with movies and music
Superb build quality
Needs sub reinforcement
Like David in a world of Goliaths, Silverline Audio’s Minuet Supreme Plus is the kind of small speaker that makes listening to music an addictive pleasure.
Every January, I find myself walking down a hotel corridor lined with audio exhibitors. Sounds like the dream sequence from an audiophile movie, doesn’t it? I’m talking, of course, about the Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas. Pretty much every year, I pay a visit to Silverline Audio, and pretty much every year, the reward is sweet, involving sound. This year, that sound was coming from Silverline’s Minuet Supreme Plus. Remarkably, it was powered by one of those tiny Class T amps you can buy on Amazon for $30. Having reviewed the original Minuet in 2008—and having loved it—I was eager to hear what its successor would sound like in my system with a better amp.
Would you like to base your surround system on a pair of slim towers, like the Silverline Preludes, at $1200/pair? Or would you prefer something smaller like the Minuet, at $600/pair? In either case, you can buy them one by one and please yourself. The Chinese silk dome tweeters kept cymbals from getting spitty and the 3.5-inch paper midwoofers mustered a surprisingly well-proportioned and tuneful string bass.