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Mark Fleischmann

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Mark Fleischmann Posted: Feb 12, 2014 1 comments
Netflix is interested in expanding its reach to the world of cable television—and is doing so on two fronts.
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Mark Fleischmann Posted: Feb 07, 2014 0 comments
High-resolution audio (HRA) can enter your life in more than one way, as I discovered when reviewing two HRA products practically end to end. Both devices are DAC-amps that play HRA audio files. The main difference between them is that Cambridge Audio's Minx Xi streams music in real time from PCs and other devices, whereas Sony's HAP-S1 server-amp plays music from its own internal hard drive. The Cambridge is more of a network player, while the Sony is more of a music server (as I define these terms). These two products offer profoundly different ways of enjoying HRA.

Mark Fleischmann Posted: Feb 06, 2014 5 comments
Audio Performance
Features
Ergonomics
Value
PRICE $199

AT A GLANCE
Plus
Inexpensive
Compact
192-kHz capable
Minus
Potential dynamic limits
Runs warm

THE VERDICT
Though not ideal for more demanding headphones with challenging music, this is a highly affordable way to improve computer audio.

Bits are helpless prisoners trapped on the hard drive of your computer. If you plug your headphones (or desktop audio system) into the computer’s analog output, you can faintly hear their cries for help, but not the true timbre of their colorful voices. It takes a USB DAC (digital-to-analog convertor) to truly liberate them. And the good news is that USB DACs—especially those suitable for headphones—have gotten so small and unintrusive that you hardly notice their presence. A product like Cambridge Audio’s DacMagic XS is no bigger than a USB thumb drive. But the difference it can make to your computer audio listening life is very big indeed.

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Mark Fleischmann Posted: Feb 04, 2014 0 comments
One of the most promising new stars in audio-for-video technology has unexpectedly left the stage. AudioXperts, founded by Harman International veteran Eli Harary, specialized in luxury-level TV consoles and bamboo-sheathed Bluetooth speakers. Its first products were just about to hit the street when the lead investor pulled the plug. Delays in bringing products to market were blamed. We’re mentioning this because some of the products may eventually be sold through other channels. One of those 4TV smoked-glass soundbar consoles might be just the thing to spruce up your flat-panel TV—not to mention that it’s now a collector’s item. Harary has made arrangements to service products already purchased.
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Mark Fleischmann Posted: Feb 04, 2014 0 comments
Why does the Kindle Fire HDX have that blue tint around the edges of the touchscreen? Amazon says it’s actually to improve overall color: “Most LCD displays use white LEDs, and then apply filters to extract the desired color. The result is oftentimes a compromise to tone and color accuracy, or—if attempting to address these compromises—an increase in battery consumption and, thus, device weight. We’ve taken a different approach. To achieve perfect color accuracy on the Kindle Fire HDX 7-inch at the lowest possible battery consumption and weight, we used blue, not white, LEDs. Blue LEDs allow for a much more accurate and rich representation of color and result in an up to 20 percent improvement in power efficiency.” Amazon was selling the device for $229 at press time.
Filed under
Mark Fleischmann Posted: Feb 04, 2014 10 comments

Audio Performance
Video Performance
Features
Ergonomics
Value
PRICE $6,000

AT A GLANCE
Plus
Rail-switching amplifiers
Muscular dynamics
Smooth, not sizzly
Minus
Extra-cost wireless
Vertigo-inducing price

THE VERDICT
This British audiophile receiver is steeply priced but worth every ha’penny, and its rail-switching amplifier is among the best there is.

The Arcam AVR600 blew my socks off when I reviewed it in 2009. I’ll discuss how it sounded later&mdashbut for the moment, I want to tell you how it made me feel:: pleased, then surprised, then amazed, grateful, stimulated, intrigued, and determined to play as much of my music library as time would permit before the review sample was pried out of my covetous hands. Only the price kept me from adopting it as my new reference receiver. But just because I have to live within fiscal limits doesn’t mean you should. I want you to have as much fun as you can afford.

Mark Fleischmann Posted: Jan 30, 2014 0 comments

Speaker System
Performance
Build Quality
Value
Subwoofer
Performance
Features
Ergonomics
Value
PRICE $3,996

AT A GLANCE
Plus
Sweet dedicated midrange
Solidly musical bass
Multilayer lacquer finish
Minus
Sub is merely average

THE VERDICT
The Pinnacle Black Diamonds are stellar performers with a winning personality, delivering consistently pleasing sound.

Even in our industrial twilight, the USA still has a cornucopia of great loudspeaker brands, and Pinnacle Speakers is one of them. Since the company’s founding in 1976, it has always been a family-owned business—and if there’s one kind of outfit you don’t want to mess with, it’s a family outfit. I haven’t reviewed a Pinnacle product in eight years, but just when I thought I was out, they pull me back in.

A limousine screeched to a halt outside my building, and two bulky guys in Men’s Wearhouse suits got out. They didn’t leave me much choice: I was blindfolded and driven around for hours and hours until I had no idea where I was. At one point, I thought I smelled Secaucus, New Jersey. Another time, the blindfold slipped, and out of the corner of my eye I saw Satriale’s Pork Store.

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Mark Fleischmann Posted: Jan 23, 2014 1 comments
The Benchmark AHB2 is the first power amplifier to use energy-efficient technology developed by THX. The two-channel amp is rated at 100 watts per channel into 8 ohms, 170 watts into 4 ohms, or 340 watts into 8 ohms with vanishing low total harmonic distortion of less than 0.00013 percent at 1 kilohertz. “Benchmark is a great partner to roll out THX’s patented all-analog amplifier technology,” says Laurie Fincham, THX senior VP and audio éminence grise. It uses low-profile components to achieve high-power amplification and, if THX’s hopes are fulfilled, may be used in audio/video receivers, TVs, powered speakers, car systems, and handheld devices.
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Mark Fleischmann Posted: Jan 10, 2014 0 comments
Meridian's Prime, which it bills as a headphone amp, is also a USB DAC, and who could win a digital arm-wrestling contest with Bob Stuart? The dual skinned, resonance killing, screwless enclosure is a miniaturized echo of a G Series component. There are three Analogue Spatial Processing listening modes: one with no enhancement, one for a more speaker-like "out of head" feel, and more of the same with bass boost. A quick listen suggested that ASP has great potential; we'll audition it with more (and more familiar) software ASAP. Price is $2000 with a conventional power supply. Add $1250 for the separate Prime Power Supply.
Filed under
Mark Fleischmann Posted: Jan 10, 2014 0 comments
Here's just a smattering of the audio/video products honored in the 2014 CES Innovations Awards, chosen because they might not otherwise appear in this year's CES coverage (mine, at any rate). Clockwise from top left: The Pioneer Elite SC-79 receiver ($3000) serves up nine channels of D3, the company's version of Class D amplification, and every D3 model we've heard so far has lived up to the promise of energy efficiency combined with great sound. This is Pioneer's top-of-the-line model; we've got a review of the less expensive SC-71 in the pipeline. Jamo's Torsten is the brand's first soundbar. The Sharp SD-WH1000U Blu-ray player uses WiSA wireless technology to wirelessly deliver uncompressed 24/96 PCM and 1080p, effectively freeing high-res audio and video from their wired chains. Would'nt it be great if surround receivers could do the same? Bang & Olufsen's BeoLab 18 tower speaker has a tweeter on top firing into a diffuser and four mid-woofers in an extraordinary looking column enclosure; more here. To see more honorees (and we've omitted quite a few good ones!) see the CES website.

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