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Mark Fleischmann Posted: Jan 09, 2014 0 comments
The 6.5-inch woofer in Focal's Aria 906 monitor is made of a hollow flax fiber sandwiched in a layer of transparent plastic-like glass tissue. The combination is light and tough and we've never seen the like before. The tall stand-mount also includes a one-inch aluminum-magnesium tweeter. The monitor began shipping in October 2013 for $1499/pair and can be accompanied by a matching center; a sub will follow in May 2014. Three towers are also available. In an adjoining room Focal showed its first soundbar, the Dimension, which will get separate coverage. The products are made in France so you know they'll be delicious.
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Mark Fleischmann Posted: Jan 08, 2014 0 comments
GoldenEar Technology's SuperCinema 3D Array XL, for TVs of 70 inches and up, is an upsized version of the existing SuperCinema 3D Array soundbar. The three-channel bar features a trio of the company's signature folded ribbon tweeters which provide wide dispersion and in general a beautifully listenable top end. The 2.5-way center-channel driver array is derived from the SuperSat 60. Price $1499. Also shown was the new flagship tower Triton One. (Another contributor will fill you in on that.)
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Mark Fleischmann Posted: Jan 08, 2014 0 comments
The Thiel TM3 monitor is the brainchild of new designer Mark Mason, who is rising to the task of filling the enormous shoes of the late founder Jim Thiel. Among other things, he prizes a good mix of on- and off-axis response and wants his speakers to be easier to drive. The 6.5-inch fiberglass woofer and one-inch aluminum tweeter nestle in an enclosure made of twelve 1/16th-inch layers, mostly of plywood, with one metal layer. The product is made in Lexington, Kentucky and will sell for $2999/pair when it ships in summer 2014. There will also be two new centers priced at $3999 and $1999 as well as two new subs priced at $2499 for a 15-inch and $1999 for a 12-inch. Oh, and three new towers as well, which will be covered separately.
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Mark Fleischmann Posted: Jan 07, 2014 0 comments
Having marketed soundbars for a couple of years in Europe, Maxell is bringing them to the United States. The top model is the SSB-4W ($299, shipping now), a console-type bar with SRS surround tech, HDMI times three, two bottom-firing woofers, and four smaller drivers across the front. Stop the servers: It has a fiberboard enclosure, as opposed to plastic. Could this be the ultimate killer budget bar? The USB port is also a charger.
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Mark Fleischmann Posted: Jan 07, 2014 0 comments
Two Sony events two days in a row told two radically different stories about what you might want in an amplifier. In Monday's press-day event, news of the STR-DN1050 surround receiver arrived in a single run-on sentence that also referred to several other products. Wish we knew more; ship date and price were unavailable. But Sony has been on a roll with its receivers and we hope to get this one in for review ASAP. Afterward we jumped onto the stage and disrupted someone's video shot just long enough to grab a pic. In a special event Tuesday, reporters were treated to the extraordinary story of how amplifier genius Nelson Pass resurrected the VFET, a nearly forgotten 40-year-old Sony technology, and built a couple dozen pairs of them into a 250-watt mono-block design which he promptly turned over to Sony as an apparent gesture of audiophile love and respect, probably mixed with a healthy practicality. Again, marketing details were scanty, but that does not diminish the story's cool factor. As a kicker, we were also told that our long-awaited sample of the HAP-S1 high-resolution DAC-amp will soon arrive. It's been an eventful couple of days!
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Mark Fleischmann Posted: Jan 07, 2014 0 comments
The audio industry, so given to soul searching and navel gazing, does have a reason to exist and here's how Audioengine's Dave Evans describes it: "Because you love music." Really, isn't it as simple as that? If it's not it should be. The maker of the giant-killer A2 compact powered speakers, great for the desktop and our TV speaker of choice, recently introduced the USB-driven A2+, which we've just reviewed. New for CES was the D2 USB thumb DAC, selling for $189 and shipping since late last year. We'll got our acquisitive eye on that too.
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Mark Fleischmann Posted: Jan 07, 2014 3 comments
Dynaudio has rethought its Excite line, of which the smallest member is the X14 ($1500/pair). Just about every part has been overhauled, including the one-inch silk dome tweeter, said to have 65 percent more usable surface area than a typical same-sized driver; and a 5.25-inch proprietary woofer made of magnesium silicate polymer. Yes, there's a matching horizontal center, the X24 ($1000). There's not an Excite sub as such but Dynaudio suggests the 10-inch Sub 250. All shipping end of January.
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Mark Fleischmann Posted: Jan 06, 2014 0 comments
My brain was still pondering whether I'd like to text my fridge about the availability of beer when LG showed a handful of audio-for-video products. Of the most interest was the LAB540W SoundPlate. As you can see, it's less than 40mm thick and designed to serve as both base and sound reinforcement for 32- to 55-inch TVs. It includes 320 watts spread over 4.1 channels, Smart TV functionality, built-in Blu-ray player, and speaks both Wi-Fi and Bluetooth. Also shown were two soundbars, NB5540 and NB3740, the first of which is similarly equipped in channels and power. And there were the NP8740 and NP8540 multi-room speaker systems, which operate by 2.4GHz mesh networking and speak both Wi-Fi and Bluetooth. Shipping and pricing was not mentioned at the event or on the web press release. One more interesting tidbit: Harman Kardon helped tune up the audio on LG's 4K 2014 TV line.
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Mark Fleischmann Posted: Jan 03, 2014 4 comments
For some, tower speakers are an article of faith. Many audiophiles wouldn't consider going without them—either folded into a 5.1+ system or as a standalone two-channel system. For some of those listeners, owning a pair of towers is the right decision, and I wouldn't be foolhardy enough to try talking them out of it. But for others, floorstanding speakers are just one option among many, and not necessarily the best one. In some primary systems, smaller-scale monitors or satellites would be more appropriate; for some secondary systems, soundbars or standalone audio products make more sense. As I discussed in a previous blog, choice of speaker size depends on both needs and personalities.

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Mark Fleischmann Posted: Dec 20, 2013 4 comments

Audio Performance
Video Performance
PRICE $599

Streamlined interface
New binding posts
No Bluetooth

Denon has successfully rethought the budget receiver, a real achievement, and produced an all-around good performer at a reasonable price.

The Denon AVR-E400 reminded me that I’m a guy who gets excited about speaker terminals. Make of that what you will.

The receiver had been out of its box for only a few seconds before I noticed something different on the back panel. There I found speaker terminals of a type I’d never seen before on a receiver. Press in on Denon’s new spring-loaded binding posts, and a hole opens at the side to accept the cable tip or banana plug. This is a different arrangement than the collared binding posts on most receivers—which accept cable tips through a hole on the collar, or banana plugs through a second hole in the center of the plastic nut, before you tighten the nut to secure the cable. The new posts are an upsized version of those used on some satellite speakers. The practical result is that the terminals grip the cables so tightly that it’s nearly impossible for them to fall out without your permission.


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