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Steve Guttenberg

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Steve Guttenberg Posted: Jan 17, 2014 0 comments

Performance
Features
Ergonomics
Value
PRICE $300

AT A GLANCE
Plus
Three-channel soundbar
Impressive soundstage width
Excellent price/performance ratio
Minus
May block your TV’s remote sensor
No supplied subwoofer

THE VERDICT
Vizio’s affordable S5430w-C2 sounds great with movies and music, and adding your own sub cranks it up a notch.

The sonics of soundbars have improved steadily over the years. It wasn’t that long ago that even the priciest flagship models were marginal performers, but Vizio’s affordably priced S5430w-C2 can provide a surprisingly satisfying home theater experience. That says a lot about Vizio’s commitment to push the limits of the category without straying too far from the entry-level price point. The all-plastic construction may be the most obvious price concession here, but since you’ll rarely touch the soundbar in use, I’d consider that a cost-effective design choice. Its understated appearance is easy on the eyes.

Filed under
Steve Guttenberg Posted: Jan 14, 2014 0 comments

Performance
Build Quality
Comfort
Value
PRICE $1,000

AT A GLANCE
Plus
Four balanced armature drivers
Customizable frequency response
User-replaceable cables
Minus
Not as good at isolating outside noise as custom in-ears

THE VERDICT
The SE846 combines state-of-the-art engineering with great musicality.

You guys know Shure; it’s best known as a microphone manufacturer, but millions of vinyl lovers have had long-term affairs with Shure’s phono cartridges. The company jumped into the earphone market in 1997 and focused on pro users—musicians and sound engineers—but audiophiles quickly got the word. Microphones, cartridges, and earphones have one thing in common: They’re all “transducers.” Microphones convert sound into electrical signals; cartridges convert groove wiggles into electrical signals; earphones convert electrical signals back into sound. The all-new SE846 reference-grade earphone was in development for four years.

Filed under
Steve Guttenberg Posted: Dec 24, 2013 0 comments

Performance
Build Quality
Comfort
Value
PRICE $1,000

AT A GLANCE
Plus
Best-in-class sound
Minus
Bass sounds more full than accurate

THE VERDICT
One of the best-sounding in-ear headphones to come along in a long time. The IE 800 is a game changer.

I’ve heard most of the world’s best in-ear headphones, and frankly, those custom-molded models fitted to my ear canal from the likes of JH Audio, Ultimate Ears, and Westone regularly trump the universal-fit models. So before I popped on the Sennheiser IE 800, a universal-fit earphone, I wondered if the sound would justify its $1,000 MSRP. I shouldn’t have worried; the IE 800 is a game changer.

Steve Guttenberg Posted: Dec 04, 2013 0 comments

Performance
Build Quality
Value
PRICE $3,345

AT A GLANCE
Plus
Big sound with undistorted, low bass
Separate, built-in amplifiers for the woofer and tweeter
Controls for fine-tuning bass and treble
Rock-solid MDF cabinetry
Minus
Requires interconnects and power to each speaker

THE VERDICT
A remarkably dynamic system with solid bass, airy highs, and wide imaging—with no amplifiers needed.

At first I wasn’t sure about the prospects for reviewing Emotiva Pro’s new Stealth speakers, if only because they’re bona-fide studio monitors. But after conferring with Dan Laufman, the designer and CEO, I was eager to try them. Turns out the Stealths are easily domesticated, and since they’re internally biamplified—there’s one amp for the tweeter and another for the woofer—I didn’t need to use a receiver, power amp, or surround processor for this review.

Filed under
Steve Guttenberg Posted: Oct 24, 2013 0 comments

Performance
Features
Ergonomics
Value
PRICE $179

AT A GLANCE
Plus
Clean styling
Neutral and highly accurate sound
Looks more expensive than it is
Minus
Could have more headband padding

THE VERDICT
Onkyo’s debut outing in the headphone market is near perfect.

We are living in a golden age for headphones. New models and even types of headphones are announced, and a month or two later, there’s another deluge. The waves of entry-level, midrange, and high-end models never let up. But even in the midst of headphone mania, Onkyo’s ES-HF300 distinguishes itself on a number of counts. I’m happy to see that rather than take the shiny plastic design route, the ES-HF300 sports brushed, black anodized aluminum construction, and it looks thoroughly modern and yet classic.

Filed under
Steve Guttenberg Posted: Oct 21, 2013 2 comments

Performance
Features
Ergonomics
Value
PRICE $399

AT A GLANCE
Plus
Euro design
Real lambskin ear pads
Oodles of detail and resolution
Minus
Not vegan friendly

THE VERDICT
A beautifully balanced headphone that’s beautiful to look at.

Bang & Olufsen isn’t just another high-end audio company. Far from it. The Danish firm started making TVs in 1952, and their 1970s turntables were the best looking of the era. I’m not alone in admiring the industrial design; the Museum of Modern Art in NYC has 18 B&O products in its permanent collection. B&O is no Johnny come lately to headphones, either; they’ve been making outstanding ones as far back as the late 1970s!

Filed under
Steve Guttenberg Posted: Aug 11, 2013 Published: Aug 09, 2013 0 comments
Performance
Build Quality
Ergonomics
Value
Price: $449 At a Glance: Stellar build quality • Folds up into a compact bundle

AKG credits producer, recording artist, and DJ Tiësto (Tijs Michiel Verwest) with the sound tuning of the headphones that bear his name, and that’s cool, but I wouldn’t blame you for thinking that’s not necessarily a good thing. I haven’t been swayed by any celebrity ’phones, but I try to approach every review with an open mind, and by first judging their look and feel, the K267 Tiësto doesn’t give off any overt DJ vibes. As soon as I started listening, I relaxed. It didn’t sound like a DJ headphone; there’s no pumped-up bass or zippy highs. The K267 Tiësto sounds, above all, balanced, which puts this new AKG in the top ranks of audiophile headphones in its price class.

Filed under
Steve Guttenberg Posted: Jun 18, 2013 2 comments

Performance
Features
Comfort
Value
Price: $299 At a Glance: Sinfully comfy • Artfully balanced frequency response • Lavish build quality boasts aluminum trim and real leather

It wasn’t that long ago that Philips wasn’t the first name that would come to mind for audiophile headphones. Things picked up early last year when the company totally revamped its headphone lineup, and the Fidelio Series turned a lot of heads. Philips was in the big leagues and fully competitive with the majors.

Filed under
Steve Guttenberg Posted: May 30, 2013 1 comments
Grammy Award-winning producer Don Was has had a long and storied career producing records for some of rock ’n’ roll’s most famous acts from the early 1980s to the present. Today, he also holds the title of president of the respected jazz record label Blue Note Records. Home Theater’s Steve Guttenberg recently sat down with Was to get his take on the role of a record producer and what it was like to work with so many great artists.
Filed under
Steve Guttenberg Posted: May 17, 2013 1 comments
Performance
Features
Ergonomics
Value
Price: $200 At a Glance: Excellent isolation from the world outside • Bass so solid, you won’t miss your subwoofer • Modular construction

I’ve reviewed more than a hundred headphones, but the Sol Republic Master Tracks is the first to require some “assembly.” No worries; Slip the headband through the ear cups’ slots, plug in the cable, and you’re done. The whole operation takes about a minute.

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