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Steve Guttenberg

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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: Nov 13, 2006 0 comments
Video: 2
Audio: 4
Extras: 3
James Brown, a.k.a. the Godfather of Soul, is a force of nature. If you’ve never seen his live show back in the day or think that Prince and OutKast are hot stuff, do yourself a big favor and spin the James Brown Live at Montreux 1981 DVD. If the fierce grooves don’t get your mojo working, the sheer spectacle of a sweat-soaked Brown and his 14-piece funk band will. You get a healthy dose of his greatest tunes—“It’s a Man’s Man’s Man’s World,” “I Got the Feelin’,” “Papa’s Got a Brand New Bag,” and “Sex Machine”—packed within the disc’s all-too-short 71-minute running time. The jazz/funk workouts never let up, and, while Brown’s vocal prowess may not match the primal rhythm-and-blues sound he had in the 1960s, in 1981, he was still untouchable.
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: Oct 24, 2006 Published: Oct 25, 2006 0 comments
The little system that could.

Some guys fantasize about winning the Mega Millions Lottery and driving into the sunset in a $1.25-million Bugatti Veyron 16.4 supercar. Or maybe a giddy winner would fork over heaps of cash for an ultimate home theater. The market for ultrahigh-end exotica is surging, but, while I'm waiting for my big payday, I thought I'd come back down to earth and have some fun with one of Onkyo's most reasonably priced audio/video receivers, the TX-SR504 ($300), partnered with Canton's sleek Movie CD 201 speaker system ($1,999). Budgetary constraints be damned, the little system still had to sound great in my home theater and deliver the goods in a cozy bedroom, office, or den.

Steve Guttenberg Posted: Sep 14, 2006 0 comments
The sweet sounds of success.

Neil Young was on NPR chatting about his new movie, Heart of Gold, when he uttered a line that stuck with me: "The art of singing is making a sound that comes from your heart." Thanks Neil, I'm co-opting the idea to describe what distinguishes great home theater systems—their sound touches your heart. Yeah, that's it. While components are getting better all the time, many lack that special something. There's nothing obviously out of whack, it's just that their sound doesn't connect on an emotional level. Sometimes the individual components are all top notch, but, if they're not well matched to each other, the sound suffers. When everything clicks, you know it. That was certainly the case when I hooked up Marantz's SR8500 A/V receiver with a set of PSB's VisionSound VS300 speakers and SubSeries 5i subwoofer. They're all charmers.

Steve Guttenberg Posted: Aug 17, 2006 0 comments
The audiophile and the ecstasy.

Bowers & Wilkins offers an impressive range of speakers in nearly every size and price category, but they're best known for models that demonstrate the company's continuing pursuit of the state of the art. Just last year, the diamond-tweeter-equipped Nautilus 800 Series speakers made a big splash in audiophile magazines all over the world. Those one-plus ultra models all come with breathtaking MSRPs, but you'll find traces of the 800 Series' inspired engineering throughout B&W's new, considerably more affordable XT Series designs. The XT4 tower's gleaming extruded-aluminum cabinetry is fresh, but the déjà-vu curves, yellow Kevlar midrange driver, and bulging topside tweeter pod leave no doubt—it's a B&W.

Steve Guttenberg Posted: Aug 16, 2006 0 comments
It's not just cables anymore.

It was in the late 1970s when Noel Lee, a laser-fusion design engineer, started a little company, Monster Cable, which soon spawned, well, the entire high-end audio-cable industry. Over the decades, Monster maintained their dominance in the cable market as it branched into power conditioners and M•Design home theater furniture. Now, with Monster Music, they're jumping into the record business with a line of High Definition Surround SuperDiscs. Noel Lee's passion for multichannel music—and frustration with the stillborn SACD/DVD-Audio formats—pushed him to extract the best sound from Dolby- and DTS-encoded music. Monster Music claims that the SuperDiscs are the first music releases certified by THX for sound quality.

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.

Steve Guttenberg Posted: Apr 09, 2006 0 comments
Great balls of fire.

Anthony Gallo Acoustics' speakers had me thinking about the old Humpty Dumpty nursery rhyme. If you'll recall, after Humpty took a nasty fall and was smashed to pieces, all of the king's horses and men could never make him whole again. Following my cracked-up analogy, two- and three-way speakers break up the sound, sending it through woofers, midranges, and tweeters (and still sound great), but they can't ever really make the sound perfectly whole again. That's why full-range, single-driver speakers are the Holy Grail for some audiophiles. Enter Anthony Gallo Acoustics' latest set of balls, the new A'Diva Ti satellites, which get awfully close to that ideal. Heck, the wee A'Diva Ti is almost full range. Its 3-inch titanium/paper driver covers all frequencies from about 90 hertz to 22 kilohertz!

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