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Mark Fleischmann

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Mark Fleischmann Posted: Nov 05, 2012 2 comments
Audio Performance
Video Performance
Features
Ergonomics
Value
Price: $1,000 At A Glance: Hybrid switching/vacuum tube amplifier • Glass fiber speaker cones • Tilting drivers in towers for front-height channels

The vacuum tube has an honored place in the audio timeline. It preceded stereo, the LP, and of course everything digital. When tubes gave way to the solid-state transistor, consumer electronics began its steady march toward lighter weight, lower cost, reduced heat dissipation, and greater energy efficiency. Entire new product categories were born—such as the portable transistor radio, the distant forebear of today’s smartphones and iPods. Solid-state technology further democratized audio in the 1970s as Japan exported mass-market stereo receivers to music lovers on a budget. By the time home theater and surround sound got underway, tubes had long since been left behind by the mainstream. One by one, all the tubes winked out. Or did they?

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Mark Fleischmann Posted: Nov 02, 2012 4 comments
This just may be the first in a series of blogs on music that finds its way into demos I'm constantly staging for loudspeaker and a/v receiver reviews. Hence the subtitle: Demos. Music is the reason I became an audio critic in the first place. In fact, I was a published music critic long before I became a technology critic, starting in 1979, writing for Spin and Trouser Press and editing the Trouser Press Collectors' Magazine. Tech criticism turned out to be a better way of earning a living but I still see it as an outgrowth of my identity as a music (and movie) critic. As I note in my book: "We master technology so that art can take precedence over technology."

Mark Fleischmann Posted: Oct 19, 2012 0 comments

DX-1 HCP Speaker
Performance
Build Quality
Value
 
DX-1 subwoofer
Performance
Features
Build Quality
Value
Price: $799 At A Glance: Sweet but detailed mids • High-gloss finish • Great sats, OK sub

One of your best friends calls up to announce that she is about to wed someone rich and powerful. He owns a shipyard that manufactures exceptionally luxurious yachts. You’re happy for her, but you worry, too. Would living with such a strong personality, a guy with all that money and all that power, be good for her? Would it make her stronger or weaker? A few years later you run into her, and after a few hours of conversation, you conclude that she’s in great shape internally as well as externally. There’s a serenity beneath the tan. Her husband is affectionate and faithful, a child is on the way, and she’s never been happier.

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Mark Fleischmann Posted: Oct 05, 2012 2 comments
As I wandered around the floor at the recent CEDIA Expo in Indianapolis, a theme emerged. By some remarkable coincidence, three different loudspeaker manufacturers were showing special models to celebrate multiple-decade anniversaries. The brands—Paradigm, KEF, and Wharfedale—continue to be formidable ones. They have been making some of the world's best speakers for a long time, and these anniversary products are worth celebrating. They all include monitors, which are right up my alley: My reference system is based on monitors. Unfortunately, most of these models (except KEF) will be made only in limited quantities. Moreover, they are sold only per pair, so if you want to use them in a 5.1 or other odd-numbered surround configuration, an extra speaker is going to languish in a closet. Therefore I won't be able to get them in for review. However, I'd like to celebrate them here and note their passage through the history of audio.

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Mark Fleischmann Posted: Oct 05, 2012 42 comments

Audio Performance
Video Performance
Features
Ergonomics
Value
Price: $2,500 At A Glance: 32-bit asynchronous USB DAC • D3 Class D amplification • All the Apple trimmings

Like a parent who charts a child’s growth with colored pencil marks on the wall, I’ve been observing the growth of audio/video receivers since the beginning of the product category. The wall is covered with ascending marks: Here’s the first A/V receiver, with composite video switching and no surround processing. Here’s the first Dolby Surround model, the first Dolby Pro Logic model, the first Dolby Digital model—and the first with DTS, THX, lossless surround, room correction, satellite radio, HDMI, network audio, Apple everything.

Mark Fleischmann Posted: Sep 14, 2012 0 comments

MilleniaOne Speakers
Performance
Build Quality
Value
 
MilleniaSub subwoofer
Performance
Features
Build Quality
Value
Price: $2,648 At A Glance: Die-cast aluminum satellites • Flat-form-factor subwoofer • Remarkable transparency

Not often do I begin a review with an apology to readers. But I owe you one.

It’s taken me an unconscionably long time to get around to reviewing the Paradigm MilleniaOne satellite speaker system and MilleniaSub. The products made their retail debuts in November 2010. Since then they’ve languished on my to-do list despite the fact that Paradigm is one of my favorite speaker manufacturers. In fact, I never fail to cite my reference speakers, the Paradigm Reference Studio 20 v.4, in every A/V receiver review. Now that I’ve gotten an earful of the MilleniaOne and MilleniaSub, I’m kicking myself. I should have recommended these stellar satellites and innovative subwoofer to you a whole lot sooner, whether you’re in the market for a sat/sub set or not. This is the kind of high-performance sat/sub set that might make believers out of people who weren’t even interested in the product category to begin with.

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Mark Fleischmann Posted: Sep 07, 2012 0 comments
What is it that the Canton Digital Movie soundbar has that no others do? To find out you will have to look closely at the back panel (not pictured, ha). It has a phono input. You read that right, a phono input. That's a set of values we applaud. It also has two optical, two coaxial, and two analog inputs (including phono) as well as two analog outs. On the front are two coaxial tweeter/mid-woofer arrays flanking four more mid-woofers, all aluminum. Look for it in mid-November for $1500.
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Mark Fleischmann Posted: Sep 07, 2012 9 comments

Audio Performance
Video Performance
Features
Ergonomics
Value
Price: $1,800 At A Glance: Proprietary HDAM topology • 4K video processing • Audyssey, the works

Marantz has come a long way since Saul Marantz started building audio products in his Kew Gardens, New York, basement. The latest twist in the story is the reinvention of D&M Holdings—that’s D for Denon and M for Marantz—into D+M Group. In addition to trading its ampersand for a plus sign, the company has radically expanded its product lines to include more new products and even new product categories. While Denon has gotten a lot of attention for the latter, including four jam-packed headphone lines, Marantz is also experimenting with new kinds of fun. Its first self-contained iDevice docking system is the Consolette, with a retractable dock, AirPlay, DLNA, Internet radio, two-way internal speakers, and cosmetic echoes of the Saul Marantz–designed preamp that got the party started. But Marantz has not neglected its longtime status as a maker of great home theater products. An overhaul of its audio/video receiver line’s upper end has brought three new models. The top model soon found its way into the guest-receiver berth on my rack.

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Mark Fleischmann Posted: Sep 07, 2012 0 comments
See that USB port on the back of the Marantz SA-11S3 disc player? The advent of computer-worthy USB ports on audio products is a development whose importance can't be overstated. True, there are a lot of great outboard DACs on the market, with more to come—but what if you don't want that extra box and power cable in your rack? One option is to build the DAC into another product such as the Pioneer SC-68 surround receiver, or this Marantz SACD/CD player. Incidentally, it does not do Blu-ray or DVD. The Burr-Brown DAC has resolution of 192/24. Build quality is typically superb, with copper substituting for aluminum in the back panel and some internal parts. Price is $4000.
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Mark Fleischmann Posted: Sep 07, 2012 0 comments
One-upping Paradigm's 30th anniversary models and KEF's 50th anniversary models, Wharfedale celebrates its 80th anniversary with the Denton monitor. Audio history buffs will recognize the model name which goes back decades and decades. If that mahogany finish looks good to you (and it looked great to us) act fast because only 2000 pairs will be made. The one-inch soft dome tweeter and six-inch Kevlar woofer were made especially for this model in IAG's Shenzhen factory, which is capable of making every part, however tiny, that goes into its products. Also shown were two UPC subs including a dual 10-inch powered by 500 watts and a dual 8-inch powered by 350 watts. They come with remote control for volume, crossover, and phase and you can turn off the front panel display if it annoys you. We wish all subs were so eager to please. And we wish all speakers were so drop-dead gorgeous.

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