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Mark Fleischmann

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Mark Fleischmann Posted: Nov 01, 2013 11 comments
A home theater system, as I never tire of saying, is the union of big-screen television and surround sound. Conceptually speaking, the big-TV part is not a heavy lift. But some people interested in getting into home theater may have trouble visualizing what a surround sound system might look like. And it's hard to blame them. Surround systems come in many configurations, each appealing to a different tribe of listeners. How can you, as an aspiring home theater buff, decide which surround tribe you belong to? Here are some common configurations matched to the listeners to whom they would appeal.

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Mark Fleischmann Posted: Oct 04, 2013 2 comments
Bar, what is it good for? Absolutely nothin', say most audiophiles. But an increasing number of consumers begs to differ, and the audio industry caters to them with an increasing selection of soundbars. At the recent CEDIA Expo, nearly every manufacturer that makes audio-for-video products was showing a soundbar or three, and no doubt I'll be reviewing some of them over the next year. With such a proliferation of soundbars, some of them may actually be pretty good, within their inherent limits, and worth considering in a bedroom system or something other than a primary home theater system.

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Mark Fleischmann Posted: Oct 02, 2013 4 comments

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

AT A GLANCE
Plus
Nine amp channels
Audyssey MultEQ XT32
Excellent sound quality
Minus
No direct USB input for PC/Mac playback

THE VERDICT
Reference-worthy A/V receiver that offers great bang for the buck.

When I review speakers, I have dozens of major and minor brands to choose from. When I review audio/video receivers, the same names come up time and again. There just aren’t that many of them. You might think reviewing the same AVR brands repeatedly would leave me jaded. But it doesn’t. Every one of those heavy black boxes is a new quest. Every manufacturer has to prove itself all over again—and prove it to me, someone with a frame of reference that goes back decades. My method is pretty simple. I act as a surrogate for the consumer: I am you. I pull the product out of the box, lift it onto my rack, punch through the interface, turn it up loud, and consider both what I hear and how I feel about it.

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Mark Fleischmann Posted: Sep 27, 2013 0 comments
Satellite/subwoofer sets and stand-mount speakers were conspicuous in their near-absence from this year's CEDIA but Monitor Audio showed three different (and differently shaped) sats. From left to right: The newest member of the family is Monitor's flagship sat, the Apex 10 ($1000/pair). Though the pic doesn't show it off well, the woofer has a dimpled surface that enables it to be both thin and strong, increasing clarity and reducing distortion. The MASS (Monitor Audio Satellite System), introduced at CES, is a 5.0-channel system selling for $699. Its fabric-wrapped polymer enclosure has a distinctive shape designed to inhibit bass-bloating standing waves. The Radius ($500/pair), an existing line, has been upgraded with a one-inch tweeter and four-inch woofer. Monitor's proprietary driver material is C-CAM, a ceramic-coated aluminum-magnesium blend. In all cases complementary centers and subs are available. Oh, and the speakers plug into their stands, with binding posts for cable at the bases of the stands.
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Mark Fleischmann Posted: Sep 27, 2013 0 comments
If your 4K or 3D video needs to travel long distances, the Integra DTR-60.5 receiver has a big plus that's rare in receivers. A back-panel HTBaseT jack lets you use cheap Cat 5e or Cat6 ethernet cable to bridge distances up to 325 feet. And if you hate fumbling with wi-fi adapters, this receiver has it built in. Integra wants audiophiles who are investing in high-res downloads to know that it supports DSD, FLAC, WAV, and ALAC with no downconversion. Room correction is the highest-quality version of Audyssey, MultEQ XT32. The receiver also has both THX Select2 and ISF certification for high-quality audio and video. Rated power is 135 watts times two and presumably a lower number into multichannel loads. Price $2300, shipping now.
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Mark Fleischmann Posted: Sep 27, 2013 0 comments
Yamaha's YSP-1400 BL soundbar ($450) has eight little drivers behind that metal grille. They are designed to attain 5.1-channel status by beaming sound all over the place and bouncing it off walls. Take a look at those fat cylindrical feet. Those are the subwoofer drivers. There's Bluetooth, of course, and control apps for iOS and Android. A second new Yamaha soundbar is the YAS-152BL ($350) which is said to produce virtual 7.1-channel surround and also has built-in subs, this time firing out of the bottom surface. This bar's apps can be used to fine-tune the sound in addition to the usual volume and other adjustments. Both products have Dolby Digital and DTS decoding and (no surprise at these price points) no HDMI or lossless surround decoding. Both shipping next month.
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Mark Fleischmann Posted: Sep 26, 2013 0 comments
With three sides wrapped in fabric, the SoloCinema Studio bears the unmistakable DNA of Definitive Technology, and comes out of the company's new design center. This 5.1-channel soundbar has HDMI connectivity (three in, one out) along with non-lossless Dolby Digital and DTS surround and Bluetooth wireless connectivity (including both aptX and AAC for higher transmission quality). SRS TruSurround HD4 mingles with proprietary processing for zippier surround. Driver complement includes a trio of one-inch aluminum dome tweeters, six polymer-composite woofers, and an eight-inch driver in the external sub. With 200 watts behind it, that sub is no slouch, and the bar gets another 120 watts total. The system ships in October for $1199, eight hundred bucks less than the existing SoloCinema XTR soundbar.
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Mark Fleischmann Posted: Sep 26, 2013 0 comments
Three new surround receivers from Anthem include the MRX 310, MRX 510 (shown), and MRX 710. The 310 has five channels while the 510 and 710 are seven-channel products. Power is 60, 75, and 90 watts times five (and kudos to Anthem for not merely quoting two-channel figures and calling it a day). Anthem has all the control angles covered including AMX, Bitwise, Control 4, Crestron, and Savant. The ARC 1M room correction has been improved, approaching the quality of that in Anthem's pre-pros, with more options and better filtering. The receivers boast the Dolby Volume low-volume listening mode to make movie sessions more painless. And 4K is supported for both pass-through and upscaling. Pricing is $1200, $1600, and $2000. The two upper models will ship this fall while the bottom model will ship in early 2014.
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Mark Fleischmann Posted: Sep 26, 2013 0 comments
GoldenEar Technology's SuperCinema 3D Array XL soundbar (top) features three of the company's signature folded ribbon tweeters, and really, that is so cool, we could just stop right there. But there are also eight 4.5-inch woofers in an enclosure with a depth of just 2.7 inches. GoldenEar's 3D Array processing cancels out crosstalk between the left and right channels, spreading the soundstage beyond the bar. Designed to go with TVs of 70 inches and up, the bar will sell for $1499 when it ships in spring 2014.
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Mark Fleischmann Posted: Sep 26, 2013 0 comments
While NAD's usual practice is to add features to existing surround receiver models, the T 758 ($1199) is the successor to the T 757. It boasts 120 watts of continuous power per channel, we assume into two channels. Modular construction, a neat feature of NAD receivers, allows for future upgrades, whatever technology comes our way. One thing this receiver does not have is an ethernet jack or any network audio features. For those step up to the even brawnier T 777 ($2999) and T 787 ($3999). Note that these list prices are lower than historical ones because NAD is aggressively courting a smaller but more committed dealer base. As a result, receiver sales have doubled, and just may triple. Clearly a lot of home theater buffs are willing to pay for great surround sound even at the expense of frilly features.

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