Michael Trei

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Michael Trei Posted: Dec 10, 2014 0 comments

Performance
Features
Ergonomics
Value
PRICE $350

AT A GLANCE
Plus
Clear, transparent sound
Well-thought-out feature set
Minus
Minimal display information
Credit-card membrane remote

THE VERDICT
Pioneer delivers a soundbase that puts good sound ahead of bells and whistles or sheer volume.

Over the last few years, Pioneer’s chief speaker designer Andrew Jones has become kind of a rock star in budget audio circles. Unlike some other companies that simply get a design committee to slap something together for their low-cost gear, Pioneer with Jones at the helm spends months tweaking and refining even the most modest speakers. At the other end of the scale, Jones also designs state-of-the-art speakers for Pioneer’s high-end TAD division, including the $80,000 Reference One, so the man clearly knows his way around a woofer cone.

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Michael Trei Posted: Dec 10, 2014 0 comments

Performance
Features
Ergonomics
Value
PRICE $500

AT A GLANCE
Plus
Detailed, focused sound with tuneful bass
Excellent connectivity and feature set
Nice display
Minus
Can’t disable surround mode
Credit card remote

THE VERDICT
The SoundBase.670 proved itself a great all-rounder that’s at its best for movies and regular TV watching.

ZVOX created the TV soundbase category over a decade ago, but they’ve not been sitting on their heels for the last ten years. While other companies have only just jumped on the bandwagon with a soundbase of their own, ZVOX has continued to expand its offerings and up its game on sound quality and now has eight different soundbase models available.

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Michael Trei Posted: Dec 10, 2014 0 comments
It’s tough to be an audiophile these days. In the ongoing push by those pesky spouses and decorators to make our audio systems increasingly basic, simple, and invisible, some of us have felt the tug to hang our HDTVs on the wall and step down from a full-blown 5.1 surround sound home theater rig to a nice, slender soundbar. More often than not, that means having a subwoofer, typically supplied with the soundbar, just to fill in the bass, which inevitably goes missing during that slimming process. But, depending on how well the sub is integrated and its position in the room, that can often lead to other issues, including localization of deep male voices at the sub and possibly a gap in upper-bass frequency response that becomes most noticeable when playing music.
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Michael Trei Posted: Dec 10, 2014 0 comments
Performance
Features
Ergonomics
Value
PRICE $250

AT A GLANCE
Plus
Plays very loud
Lots of hookup options
Good remote
Minus
Sounds congested when pushed hard
Cryptic display
Minimal stereo separation

THE VERDICT
Vizio’s Sound Stand plays remarkably loud for such a small and affordable soundbase, but its sound lacks the finesse of even the company’s own budget soundbars.

With just a pair of 2.75-inch full-range drivers supplemented by a single 5.25-inch “subwoofer,” the Vizio Sound Stand has the most basic driver complement of the three soundbases under review. No amplifier power rating is specified, although, as you’ll read, it’s clear that the Sound Stand has been carefully tweaked to deliver the maximum possible volume.

Michael Trei Posted: Mar 10, 2006 0 comments
Flexibility and value from a Scottish benchmark.

Imagine what it would be like if shopping for a new car involved the same number of decisions we must make when buying a home theater system. First, we would pick an engine, then we'd need a chassis to mount it in, and, to top it off, we would hire a coach builder to design a body to our specifications. This is, in fact, the way people bought luxury cars prior to World War II, before the car companies came to recognize that advancing technology required them to think of the design as an integrated whole rather than as a hodgepodge grouping of discrete components.

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Michael Trei Posted: Jan 18, 2005 Published: Jan 19, 2005 0 comments
Can more really give you more?

I've always been a sucker for simplicity. Whether it's the functional beauty of a Mies van der Rohe building or a diesel-engine Mercedes-Benz with a manual-shift transmission, the "less is more" concept has always made sense to me. Unnecessary complexity often does little more than dilute a design's original functionality. This way of thinking has also been used in high-end hi-fi design, with some designers on the tweakier fringe embracing concepts like ultra-simple single-ended tube amplifiers and single-driver loudspeakers. Simple designs like these often have a straightforward clarity to their sound; each time you introduce new elements in order to make something play louder, higher, or deeper, you risk losing some of that clarity in the process.

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Michael Trei Posted: Sep 18, 2004 Published: Sep 01, 2004 0 comments
Trickle-down economics, audio style.

While those on the left and right sides of the political fence are bound to debate the pros and cons of trickle-down economic theory for the rest of time, it's hard to deny the way in which many high-tech developments that began life in projects bearing stratospheric price tags eventually came to benefit the masses, in products we can use every day. Today, many of us can afford gadgets like GPS navigation systems and laser pointers, whereas a few years ago this type of technology was available only to the largest institutions and military powers. This access to technology has had a major effect on today's audio components; for example, most of the latest surround processors have far more computing power than the in-flight computer used for the Apollo 11 moon landing in 1969.

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Michael Trei Posted: Jan 01, 2004 0 comments
The loudspeaker system for anyone who's ever considered installing a Murphy bed.

If Magnepan has a company motto, it might be something along the lines of, "If it ain't broke, don't fix it." For more than 30 years, this Minnesota company has been busy making its Magneplanar loudspeakers for those audiophiles who care more about great sound than they do about owning the latest candidate for loudspeaker of the month. Magnepan rarely introduces a new model; when they do, it's generally just another evolutionary step in their continual refinement of the planar magnetic approach that they use in all of their products. This conservatism breeds long-term customer loyalty, and Magnepan invariably trumps other high-end manufacturers in the areas of customer satisfaction and repeat business.

Michael Trei Posted: Mar 05, 2003 Published: Mar 06, 2003 0 comments
Yah mo b there.

Having lived in Denmark for a couple of years as a kid, I guess I've learned a little about the Danish mindset. Many Danes display a self-effacing modesty, to the extent that Carlsberg will only say that theirs is "probably the best beer in the world." Yet, in their typically understated way, this little country (with a population about equal to that of Missouri) has made deeper inroads into the lives of Americans than most people think. Just don't blame them the next time you step on one of your kid's Lego blocks.

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Michael Trei Posted: Sep 04, 2001 Published: Sep 05, 2001 0 comments
With the Image Series speaker system, PSB proves that you can cut corners without compromising performance.

Quick, which do you think would be more difficult to do: design a cutting-edge, no-compromises speaker or design a speaker that gives the best possible performance for a very affordable price? While coming up with a mind-blowing design without any cost boundaries is undoubtedly a daunting challenge, I would argue that producing a loudspeaker that can deliver killer results for a very affordable price is much harder. Making great budget speakers involves the art of compromise, knowing where you can save money without sacrificing the sonic results you're after.

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