Mark Fleischmann

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Mark Fleischmann Posted: Jul 02, 2014 0 comments

Performance
Features
Ergonomics
Value
PRICE $499

AT A GLANCE
Plus
Well-balanced sound
Space-saving footprint
XLR and RCA outputs
Minus
No data rate conversion
Incomplete sampling indicators

THE VERDICT
NAD’s D 1050 is a well-rounded DAC and headphone amp with outputs to feed a stereo preamp or receiver.

NAD’s D 1050 USB DAC, to use its official name, is one of a trio of products introduced at the same time. Like the D 7050 Direct Digital Network Amplifier ($999) and D 3020 Hybrid Digital Amplifier ($499), it includes a headphone amp and USB DAC. Unlike those two products, it doesn’t directly drive a pair of speakers—only your humble cans and the analog inputs of an audio system. However, its shape and design are similar to that of the other two products, building their digital-to-analog and preamp guts into a smaller package.

Mark Fleischmann Posted: Jun 26, 2014 2 comments

Performance
Features
Ergonomics
Value
PRICE $2,500

AT A GLANCE
Plus
Native DSD decoding Superb sound Elegant styling
Minus
Jaw-droppingly expensive Bulky form factor

THE VERDICT
If you’re willing to pay big bucks for a portable music player, Astell & Kern’s AK240 delivers state-of-the-art sound with the big plus of unfaked DSD decoding.

Yes, this portable music player costs $2,500. That would buy you 10 Apple iPod classics. Let the gush of hate mail begin.

Look, if it’s a choice between buying this product or, say, paying the rent, or fixing your car, or otherwise keeping the wolf from the door, I’d advise you to attend to the essentials. I know what it’s like to live within limits. But if you have golden ears and cash to burn, then be aware that the Astell & Kern AK240 bids to become the prince of performance among portable music devices.

Mark Fleischmann Posted: Jun 20, 2014 3 comments

Performance
Build Quality
Value
PRICE $249/pair

AT A GLANCE
Plus
Inviting, carefully tailored sonics
USB computer input
Easy setup
Minus
Controls in back
Unprotected drivers

THE VERDICT
Our audio editor’s favorite budget desktop (and TV) speakers have gotten more convenient thanks to the addition of a PC-friendly USB input, making them an even better value.

We may love good sound, but we can’t completely banish bad sound from our lives. We can’t listen to vinyl and high-rez audio all the time. We’ve all got some lousy MP3 files in our music libraries, love streaming services, and endure blaring SUV ads on TV. What’s the best way to make this substandard content palatable? Audioengine has offered compelling answers for years with its powered speakers, the chunky Audioengine 5 and smaller Audioengine 2. Now they’re available in variations that can accept USB input from a computer, including the Audioengine 2+ reviewed here.
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Mark Fleischmann Posted: Jun 19, 2014 0 comments
Consumer desire for home automation is rising, with 48 percent of those surveyed by the NPD Group “extremely” or “somewhat interested” in buying home automation products. The use of smartphones and tablets to control systems is driving the interest. And it’s not just the wealthy who are interested. A whopping 37 percent of automation-happy homeowners have incomes of less than $75,000.
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Mark Fleischmann Posted: Jun 12, 2014 1 comments
Disney Movies Anywhere is the studio’s foray into cloud-based content distribution. Buy a Disney movie title on iTunes, and you can enjoy it on multiple platforms—for starters, iOS devices, Apple TV, and major Web browsers, with others to follow. The digital rights management scheme is Disney’s own long-rumored KeyChest, a notable departure from the UltraViolet cloud DRM supported by other major studios. DMA is launching with 400 titles to start, including Frozen. Those who activate DMA and connect it to an iTunes account get a free digital copy of The Incredibles. If you’ve bought a Disney title on Blu-ray or DVD over the past six years, your disc may include a code for cloud access on the DMA platform.
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Mark Fleischmann Posted: Jun 06, 2014 11 comments
The AV receiver is such a feature-rich beast that it's hard to believe designers would ever dispense with a single feature. As the category has grown, features have just piled up, and generally manufacturers prefer adding them to subtracting them. But slowly, stealthily, a few features are vanishing from the spec sheet and the back panel. It had to happen eventually. Every feature costs money for parts or licensing. Either prices have to go up, sound quality has to suffer, or some old features must go gentle into that good night. That last alternative seems like the least of all possible evils.

Mark Fleischmann Posted: May 29, 2014 0 comments

Performance
Features
Ergonomics
Value
PRICE $599

AT A GLANCE
Plus
AirPlay and Bluetooth
Excellent build quality and sound
Carrying handle
Minus
None!

THE VERDICT
The Minx Air 200 is a well built and great sounding compact system that supports wireless streaming from many mobile devices.

So long, Apple 30-pin docking connector. You were a prodigiously creative little jack while you lasted. You gave birth to whole new categories of iPod/iPhone accessory docks and docking systems. You even muscled your way into A/V receivers, initially with add-on docks, then with iOS-capable USB jacks, your Apple-ness embedded into the receiver’s silicon brain. But now you’re on the run. Apple’s skinny Lightning connector has made you instantly obsolete, and you’ll linger only as long as the legacy devices you serve. In fact, even Lightning, your designated successor, is practically DOA thanks to another transformative change.

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Mark Fleischmann Posted: May 20, 2014 0 comments

Audio Performance
Video Performance
Features
Ergonomics
Value
PRICE $650

AT A GLANCE
Plus
Modest but clean power
Slim form factor
Apple AirPlay
Minus
Not for demanding speakers
Bluetooth costs extra

THE VERDICT
This sensible little AVR has enough good-sounding power to run an efficient set of speakers or passive soundbar.

When is less more? Is there ever a time when you’d rather have less power? Let me rephrase that: Is there ever a time when you’d like to have less power running smaller and/or more efficient speakers? The answer in this instance may be yes.

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Mark Fleischmann Posted: May 02, 2014 0 comments
Bis is a Swedish music label with a large catalogue of Super Audio CDs. Among them are two releases that have become my go-to choices for major works in the orchestral repertory: Beethoven's nine symphonies and Bach's six Brandenburg Concertos. Both are DSD recordings, less than a decade old, with surround and stereo soundtracks. They'll cost you more than most CD box sets of the same works. But the chance to hear these vibrant performances in high-res DSD via SACD is well worth the price. Think of surround as icing on the cake.
Mark Fleischmann Posted: Apr 25, 2014 2 comments

Performance
Features
Ergonomics
Value
PRICE $999

AT A GLANCE
Plus
500-GB hard drive
DSD capable
Serious fun to use
Minus
No live streaming from network devices
Lightweight amp

THE VERDICT
This handsome DSD-capable audio player with built-in storage takes the pesky computer out of computer audio—and it’s way more fun to use.

Sony made waves when they announced their intention to market three high-resolution audio (HRA) products built around the company’s DSD file format. True, there was a nascent HRA movement before Sony made the move, with loads of network audio players and USB DACs flooding the market. But somehow the Sony announcement provided the extra momentum that finally made HRA seem not just promising but inevitable. That the Consumer Electronics Association has also launched an HRA initiative is icing on the cake.

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