Mark Fleischmann

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Mark Fleischmann Posted: Jul 29, 2014 40 comments

Audio Performance
Video Performance
Features
Ergonomics
Value
PRICE $1,999

AT A GLANCE
Plus
Advanced build quality
Subtle room correction
Crisp, dynamic sound
Minus
No wireless anything
A tad analytical

THE VERDICT
The top model among Anthem’s second-generation receivers omits needless features and splurges on performance.

“From Canada with love,” says weatherman Mr. G of WPIX New York every time a sinister polar vortex is about to sweep down from the frozen north. That cool Canadian breeze can be a trial in winter. In summer, however, it’s a breath of fresh air—and that’s also a good description of AV receivers from Ontario-based Anthem. They’re built like tanks, obsessively performance-oriented, and shorn of (what some might deem) frivolous features.

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Mark Fleischmann Posted: Jul 25, 2014 Published: Jul 24, 2014 0 comments
Audio Performance
Video Performance
Features
Ergonomics
Value
Price $300

At A Glance
Plus
Five amp channels
Virtual Cinema Front
Darkish tonal balance
Minus
Bargain-basement speaker terminals
No wireless or network audio features

The Verdict
The Yamaha RX-V377 is an accessibly priced entry-level receiver with most of the essential features and mercifully dark-toned voicing.

If you think surround sound is just for the well-to-do, think again. The Top Picks page on this site is loaded with compact 5.1-channel speaker systems, starting at $520 for a setup based on the Pioneer SP-BS522 monitors, designed by loudspeaker guru Andrew Jones. Cheap Blu-ray players abound, these days. All you’d need to do is add another $300 for something like the Yamaha RX-V377 receiver, reviewed here, and your starter system weighs in at under a grand (and those are list prices).

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Mark Fleischmann Posted: Jul 21, 2014 0 comments
Several major labels have sued Pandora for streaming pre-1972 music without paying for it. Why would Pandora even attempt such a thing? Well, federal copyright law extends only that far back. However, copyrights can still be protected at the state level, so Vivendi, Sony, Warner, and ABKCO are suing in New York state courts. They point out that their music enables Pandora to rake in subscription fees and ad revenues, yet “it refuses to obtain required licenses or pay for its commercial and profitable exploitation of plaintiffs’ valuable property.” Pandora retorts that “the time, effort, and cost of securing such licenses could be significant,” while removing the pre-1972 music “could harm our ability to attract and retain users.”
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Mark Fleischmann Posted: Jul 16, 2014 0 comments
Does the world need another optical disc format in this download-oriented era? Sony and Panasonic think so, though they’re positioning the Archival Disc for professional use in the movie industry and in cloud-based data centers. The format holds 300 gigabytes on a double-sided disc with three layers per side. It is said to be resistant to dust, shock, and extreme temperatures compared with hard disks, the data-storage workhorses of today. Initial pro-level hardware is predicted to arrive in summer 2015. No plans have been announced to turn the Archival Disc into a consumer-level format.
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Mark Fleischmann Posted: Jul 03, 2014 6 comments
We now have an official definition of what is high-resolution audio. That's the good news. The bad news is that we don't have a clear enough definition of what is not high-resolution audio.

Mark Fleischmann Posted: Jul 02, 2014 0 comments

Performance
Features
Ergonomics
Value
PRICE $699

AT A GLANCE
Plus
HDMI input for high-res music on Blu-ray
Adjustable ’phone impedance and sampling rate
Sounds good with different ’phones
Minus
None to speak of...

THE VERDICT
Essence’s HDACC bridges the gap between Blu-ray music content and legacy audio systems with an extremely adjustable and great-sounding DAC.

The most unusual product in this roundup is the HDACC HD Audio Center from Essence Electrostatic, a company that also markets flat-diaphragm loudspeakers. Like the NAD, it qualifies as a headphone amp, DAC, and stereo preamp with TosLink, coax, and analog inputs. But its greater claim to fame is a pair of HDMI jacks, input and output, on the back panel.

Mark Fleischmann Posted: Jul 02, 2014 0 comments
Headphones aren’t just about mobile audio. They’re also a cost-effective way to get good sound into your ears even when you’re not on the go. If you have $400 to spend on a set of speakers, your options are of limited fidelity, but the same money will buy you the Sennheiser HD600, one of the most popular high-end headphone models of all time. Try getting a comparably great-sounding set of surround speakers for that price.
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: Jul 02, 2014 0 comments

Performance
Features
Ergonomics
Value
PRICE $189

AT A GLANCE
Plus
Compact
Inexpensive
Lively sound
Minus
Converts 192-kHz files to 96 kHz

THE VERDICT
The Audioengine D3 is a fine- sounding entry-level headphone amp as well as the best USB-stick DAC I’ve heard so far.

If you find the whole concept of a headphone amp scary, Audioengine’s D3 might be comforting. It takes the form of a USB stick with a USB plug at one end and a 1/8-inch minijack at the other. Mediating discreetly between your computer and headphones, it gets far better sound out of your computer than you’d get from the computer’s potentially messy analog output.

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.

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