Steve Guttenberg

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Steve Guttenberg Posted: Oct 22, 2007 0 comments
A bigger bang.

In the spirit of full disclosure, I admit up front that I have a thing for big speakers. Not because they can play louder, reproduce much wider dynamics, and make more bass than smaller speakers—it's that the big ones are just more fun to listen to. Yes, a lot of them come with big price tags, and Klipsch's full-size Reference RF-83 Home Theater definitely sounds pricey. Its formidable transparency and resolution are a big part of that; you hear subtleties that other speakers gloss over. When I turn up the volume, the sound's character doesn't change, and there's no sense of increasing distortion or strain; the sound simply grows louder. No small speaker I've used, and certainly no in-wall speaker I've heard (no matter how advanced or expensive), has matched the big References' ease under pressure. The six-piece Klipsch Reference RF-83 system sells for $6,394, a slam-dunk bargain, at least by high-end standards. Stereophile magazine reviews interconnect cables with a price tag higher than that.

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Steve Guttenberg Posted: Sep 03, 2007 Published: Aug 03, 2007 0 comments
Melodious metal.

Monitor Audio has the metal thing down. I remember thinking that after my first encounter with a pair of Monitor Studio speakers in the mid-1980s. In those days, metal drivers had a reputation for adding an annoying metallic zing to the sound, but the Monitors were as sweet as could be. Over the years, Monitor continued to hone the technology; even now, when there are a lot of great-sounding speakers with metal drivers, to my ear, nobody does it better. Monitor's current product range includes a healthy selection of custom-install models and the heavy-metal contenders, which run from the entry-level Bronze, the Silver, the Gold, and up to the flagship Platinum speaker lines.

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Steve Guttenberg Posted: Jul 30, 2007 0 comments
Supersize me.

When it comes to TVs and speakers, bigger is most definitely better. Smaller models can be perfectly acceptable, and, in small rooms, they're a necessity. But, if you have the space, you can't beat a large screen matched with a set of heavyweight speakers and subwoofers. The appeals of big-screen video and high-end audio are not so different; both deliver incredible scale, clarity, lifelike depth, and a more emotional experience. The only downside to a big system is that, once you get used to living with it, there's no going back; a 30-inch TV and pint-sized speakers won't get your mojo working ever again.

Steve Guttenberg Posted: Aug 06, 2007 Published: Jul 06, 2007 0 comments
Take it to the limit.

I've come to appreciate that, when it comes to evaluating speakers, first impressions count—big time. Immediate gut reactions typically run from, "I like them," to, "Yuck, turn them off." The latter tend to instantly put the kibosh on any prospective speaker purchase, but initial positive responses usually get revised as you hear different kinds of music and movies—something along the lines of, "Wow, the bass is amazing," or, "The imaging is spectacular." My first brush with Boston Acoustics' new Reference E Series E70 speakers took place at D&M Holdings' facility in Mahwah, New Jersey. (D&M is the parent company of Boston Acoustics, Denon, and Marantz, along with McIntosh, ReplayTV, Snell Acoustics, and a few other brands.) I saw and heard a lot of cool products that day, but I was instantly smitten with the E Series' transparent sound and sleek good looks. The E Series lineup includes the flagship E100 tower speakers ($2,500 each); two L/C/Rs, the E70 ($800 each) and E50 ($500 each); and two monitors, the E60 ($600 each) and E40 ($400 each).

Steve Guttenberg Posted: Jun 12, 2007 Published: May 12, 2007 0 comments
Expect the unexpected.

What a long, strange trip it's been. I've reviewed hundreds of speakers—big towers, tiny satellites, high-end flagships, and a long run of budget models—but Sunfire's new XT Series Cinema Ribbon speaker is something different. I couldn't get over how this little thing, standing just 8.25 inches tall, can play bloody loud and project the sort of huge and still highly focused imaging I've only heard from exotic, big-bucks speakers. On well-recorded concert DVDs, like Pixies: Live at the Paradise in Boston, the Cinema Ribbons let me hear around each musician. It was as if the band had materialized, fully formed, in front of me. If I had any doubts about the pint-sized speakers' ability to handle gobs of power, rocking out with the Led Zeppelin two-disc DVD set convinced me. John Bonham's hand drumming on "Moby Dick" had the sort of tactile, palpable presence you hear in real life. With the volume cranked, I felt—and I mean felt—each whack on the floor toms. The Cinema Ribbons (with the assistance of Sunfire's True Subwoofer EQ) sounded like a set of tower speakers.

Steve Guttenberg Posted: May 20, 2007 Published: Apr 20, 2007 0 comments
Hearing is believing.

Buy a new Corvette, and you won't have to study the car zines to figure out what brand of V-8 you'll need to install under the hood. Every Vette comes with a maxed-out Chevy engine, transmission, and chassis, so all of the parts work together in one finely tuned road machine. Assembling a home theater audio system from different brands' speakers and electronics might be a bit more complicated, but it's really not that big of a deal. Even so, the synergies that a single-brand home theater audio system can afford are obvious, and I really think this new, more holistic approach might turn out to be one of the most promising trends in consumer electronics. I had my first glimpse of that future when Now Hear This (NHT) unveiled their first integrated electronics and speaker system, the Xd, in 2005. For that project, NHT joined forces with DEQX, a leader in digital speaker-correction techniques, and PowerPhysics, a top developer of digital power amplifiers. More recently, Vinci Labs acquired NHT and immediately collaborated on development for the Controller surround processor and the Power5 and Power2 amplifiers.

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Steve Guttenberg Posted: Apr 16, 2007 0 comments
HT Talks To the Doors’ one and only recording engineer, Bruce Botnick, about remixing and remastering Perception.
Steve Guttenberg Posted: Apr 16, 2007 0 comments
Wide Open
The Doors’
Perception breaks on through. The Doors’ self-titled first album was in an altogether darker, more theatrical, sinful, and sexual musical realm than anything heard in 1967. It was one hell of a debut, and, 40 years on, it still sounds incredibly unique. The band functioned with a collective spirit, and its four members—Jim Morrison, vocals; Ray Manzarek, keyboards; Robbie Krieger, guitar; and John Densmore, drums—shared songwriting and arranging credits on most of the tunes.
Steve Guttenberg Posted: Apr 13, 2007 0 comments
We’ve all made mix “tapes” of our favorite tunes, and now the Beatles’ producer, Sir George Martin, has made his—Love was conceived for the Cirque du Soleil Las Vegas stage show. Or perhaps Love was inspired by the infamous Danger Mouse/Jay-Z mashup, The Grey Album, but, whatever the reason, I’m thrilled with Love, it’s all you need, after all.
Steve Guttenberg Posted: Apr 23, 2007 Published: Mar 23, 2007 0 comments
Together again for the first time.

As I unboxed this month's Spotlight System, I flashed on the innovative histories of Marantz and Snell Acoustics. Saul B. Marantz was a bona fide American audio pioneer in the 1950s and 1960s. His company's electronics not only sounded amazing, they were drop-dead gorgeous. Maybe that's why Marantz's early designs regularly sell on eBay for more than their original prices. Peter Snell was one of the brightest speaker designers to emerge in the mid-1970s. Back in the day, I owned a pair of his first speakers, the Type A, and had many conversations with Peter about music. In those simpler times, Saul Marantz and Peter Snell could launch their companies armed with not much more than a driving passion to produce great audio gear—and the inspired engineering to make the dream real. Best of all, both companies still adhere to their founders' perfectionistic traditions.

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