Mark Fleischmann

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Mark Fleischmann Posted: Oct 24, 2014 1 comments

Performance
Features
Ergonomics
Value
PRICE $699 ($899 as reviewed)

AT A GLANCE
Plus
Warm, tubey sound
Headphone impedance switch
New York born and bred
Minus
No DAC
Too polite for some headphones

THE VERDICT
Woo Audio’s WA6 is a Class A headphone amp whose glowing tubes are voiced to warm up any headphones.

The glow of vacuum tubes has fascinated me all my life. When I was a kid, my parents bought a Magnavox console TV with a built-in phonograph and AM/FM radio, the early-1960s equivalent of a home theater system with all the trimmings. It stood on 18-inch legs, and I loved to crawl under it, lying on my back to stare up into the orange glow of the tubes. My first few audio systems were solid state, but a cadre of die-hard audiophiliacs never really gave up on tubes. Now they’ve also wiggled back into my life and onto my desk, where the Woo Audio WA6 headphone amplifier sits, with three glowing obelisks keeping the retro audio flame alive.

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Mark Fleischmann Posted: Oct 22, 2014 Published: Oct 21, 2014 0 comments
The Consumer Electronics Association (CEA) is getting more specific about its standards for Ultra High-Definition TVs and projectors. Building on its initial 2012 specs, it requires UHD TVs to have: resolution of 3840 x 2160 pixels; aspect ratio of 16:9 or more; upscaling of HD to UHD; one or more HDMI inputs supporting 3840 x 2160 pixels at 24, 30, and 60 frames per second; one or more such inputs with HDCP 2.2 (or equivalent) copyright protection; support for the ITU-R BT. 709 color space or wider colorimetry standards; and a minimum color bit depth of 8 bits.
Mark Fleischmann Posted: Oct 17, 2014 4 comments

Imagine XB Speaker System
Performance
Build Quality
Value
SubSeries 125 Subwoofer
Performance
Features
Build Quality
Value
PRICE $1,846

AT A GLANCE
Plus
Clarity and evenness
Compact, tuneful sub
Affordable price
Minus
Dynamic limits of small sub

THE VERDICT
PSB’s Imagine X series refreshes a popular speaker line with reliably excellent sound.

A small but growing number of my younger readers care more about headphones than loudspeakers—but might eventually want to own both. That’s why I’m about to use headphones as the starting point in a speaker review.

There are names that evoke loudspeakers: Bowers & Wilkins, GoldenEar, KEF, Klipsch, MartinLogan, Paradigm, Wilson, Definitive Technology. Then there are names that evoke headphones: AKG, Audeze, Beyer, Grado, Koss, Sennheiser, Stax. However, though several speaker manufacturers have dabbled in headphones, it’s hard to think of many brands known equally well in both categories.

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Mark Fleischmann Posted: Oct 10, 2014 0 comments
Sony’s PlayStation TV is a set-top box that partners with the new PlayStation 4 console to play games on a secondary TV. But it’s not just a gaming hub—it also bids to be a media hub by accessing movies and TV shows through the PlayStation Store. It plays PS3 titles through the PlayStation Now service, which made its debut on July 31, as well as older PS2 and PS1 titles. Price is $99 for the PlayStation TV itself or $139 for the box with controller, 8-GB memory card, and digital download code for a game based on The Lego Movie.
Mark Fleischmann Posted: Oct 10, 2014 2 comments

Excite X14 Speaker System
Performance
Build Qaulity
Value

Sub 250 II Subwoofer
Performance
Features
Build Quality
Value
PRICE $5,100

AT A GLANCE
Plus
Generous soundfield
Surprisingly strong bass
Gorgeous veneers
Minus
Expensive for small speakers

THE VERDICT
Dynaudio’s X14, part of the revised Excite line, earns its high-end price tag with sweet build quality and high performance, including a bottom end that is amazingly substantial for a small speaker.

The high end exists in the eye of the beholder. To some folks, a pair of mini-monitors selling for $1,500—or a 5.1-channel system at $5,100—may seem steeply priced. In fact, if you want lower-priced alternatives, you’ll find plenty among our Top Picks. But there always will be another kind of consumer who is fussy about what he or she brings into the living room. Vinyl-wrapped boxes won’t cut it; they want furniture-grade wood veneer. In the same discriminating spirit, the Danish manufacturer Dynaudio is equally fussy about materials, including drivers that the company designs and makes itself. In the recently overhauled Excite line, the result is a speaker that exceeds already high expectations in both appearance and sound. The X14 monitor and X24 center are my favorite kind of small speaker: the kind that sounds bigger than it looks.

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Mark Fleischmann Posted: Oct 08, 2014 6 comments

Audio Performance
Video Performance
Features
Ergonomics
Value
PRICE $600

AT A GLANCE
Plus
Outstanding sonics for the price
HDMI 2.0 interface
Roku Ready via MHL
Minus
HDCP 2.2 DRM not included
Bluetooth, Wi-Fi cost extra

THE VERDICT
The Pioneer VSX-1124 delivers sterling sound, though with a slightly reduced feature set, at a highly competitive price point.

The phrase “believe in miracles” is a powerful one in pop music. It turns up in songs by the Bee Gees, Jefferson Starship, Pearl Jam, Slade, and others. It appears prominently in the Hot Chocolate hit “You Sexy Thing,” covered by everyone from David Bowie to Barry White. Perhaps the most poignant use of the phrase is in “I Believe in Miracles” by the Ramones: “I used to be on an endless run/Believe in miracles ’cause I’m one.” One of the ongoing miracles in my life, besides the fact that I’m still walking around, is the audio/video receiver.

Let me remind you that the AV receiver—especially at the $600 price point—is one of the great miracles of consumer electronics...

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Mark Fleischmann Posted: Oct 03, 2014 4 comments
Should there be a Soundbar Bill of Rights? Consumer rights are trivial compared to the majesty of the U.S. Constitution's Bill of Rights—for example, the right to freedom of speech (Fourth Article) or the right to a speedy and public trial (Ninth Article). Even so, the question is provocative enough for one little blog.

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Mark Fleischmann Posted: Oct 01, 2014 1 comments
High-resolution audio is getting a big industry push, but until now the category has labored without a definition. The Digital Entertainment Group, the Consumer Electronics Association, and The Recording Academy have teamed up to offer one. They define what they call Master Quality Recording in four ways: MQ-P audio comes from a PCM source with minimum 48/20 resolution, but “typically” is 96/24 or 192/24 in today’s download services. MQ-A is from an analog source, and high-quality analog can still be deemed high-res. MQ-C grandfathers in CD-quality 44.1/16 audio. And MQ-D refers to DSD sources. Taken together, these categories define high-res audio somewhat broadly. Even so, they may give the informed consumer a better idea of what he’s buying (for those of us who still buy music).
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Mark Fleischmann Posted: Oct 01, 2014 0 comments
The proposed merger between AT&T and DirecTV would create the nation’s second largest pay-TV company. With the telco bringing 5.7 million U-verse subscribers to the table, and the satellite operator a considerably greater 20.3 million, the merged entity would have 26 million video subscribers, ranking just below the proposed merger of Comcast and Time Warner Cable with 30 million subscribers.
Mark Fleischmann Posted: Sep 29, 2014 1 comments

Performance
Features
Ergonomics
Value
PRICE $1,000

AT A GLANCE
Plus
Serious drivers and power
AirPlay, Bluetooth, DLNA
Cool retro styling
Minus
Some connectors inconveniently located
Bright tonal balance, though adjustable

THE VERDICT
JBL’s Authentics L16 is a powerful-sounding triple-threat wireless speaker system—oh, and it’s got a phono input.

If you’re the type who likes to order the biggest hero (hoagie, grinder, po’ boy, or submarine depending on where you live) sandwich you can find with everything on it, JBL’s Authentics L16 may be just the wireless speaker for you. At more than 2 feet wide, it’s a big mama jama. And its wireless connectivity is all-embracing. In addition to a direct device-to-device Bluetooth connection, the L16 supports both Apple AirPlay and DLNA via Wi-Fi, for streaming from just about any smartphone, tablet, or computer. It’s also got the retro angle covered, with cubed sculpted-foam grille cosmetics.

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