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Michael Trei Posted: Oct 05, 2016 2 comments

Performance
Features
Ergonomics
Value
PRICE $1,500

AT A GLANCE
Plus
Full surround, including Dolby Atmos, from just four boxes
Rich, punchy sound
Minus
Limited connectivity
Pricey for a soundbar

THE VERDICT
A soundbar with Dolby Atmos may seem like an oxymoron, but Samsung has done a masterful job of pulling it off. The HW-K950 delivers a hefty slice of the performance you can get from a carefully tuned component system, but without most of the complexity or a room full of speakers.

Sometimes it seems like the people who develop new surround formats are completely out of touch with what real consumers actually want in their homes. Over the years, we have seen a seemingly endless parade of multichannel surround formats, such as Dolby Digital Surround EX, Dolby Pro Logic IIz, DTS-HD Master Audio, Audyssey DSX, and now Dolby Atmos—all guaranteed to strain your domestically acceptable loudspeaker limit. It’s no wonder that so many folks have decided to just pull out of this arms race and go instead with a simple soundbar. The good news: It appears that someone at Samsung is paying attention. The company’s latest top-of-the-range soundbar-based system tries to let you have it all, combining the compactness and simplicity of a soundbar with the tangible spatial effects that only really happen when you have discrete rear speakers and the vertical expansiveness of Dolby Atmos.

Michael Trei Posted: Aug 18, 2016 2 comments

Performance
Features
Ergonomics
Value
PRICE $1,199

AT A GLANCE
Plus
True surround sound without the wiring hassles
Quick and easy setup
Hi-res wireless audio transmission
Minus
No Dolby TrueHD or DTS-HD Master Audio decoding
Remote is difficult to use
Lots of wall-wart power supplies to plug in

THE VERDICT
By eliminating the hassle of running speaker cables for a 5.1-channel system, the CineHome HD delivers a true, fuss-free surround experience that no single-point soundbar can match. While its feature set is pretty basic, that simplicity will likely be a plus for its targeted customers.

Here at Sound & Vision, we like to think of ourselves as hard-core home theater enthusiasts, so it’s difficult for us to fathom why average people don’t want to jump through hoops to set up a complete 5.1-channel surround system. Sure, you’d need to find space for an A/V receiver and a pile of speakers—plus you’d have to hook up a bunch of wires and thumb through a stack of onscreen menus to get everything properly configured and adjusted—but that’s all part of the fun, right?

Michael Trei Posted: May 09, 2016 0 comments

Performance
Build Quality
Value
PRICE $749 pr

AT A GLANCE
Plus
Easy, comfortable sound
Bluetooth with aptX, AAC
Simple to set up and use
Superb finish
Minus
No USB or Wi-Fi
A bit too large for desktop use

THE VERDICT
The easy-to-live-with HD6 looks great and can deliver high-quality, true stereo sound with a minimum of fuss and clutter.

In the decade since they launched their first powered speaker, Audioengine has become embedded in my mind as the no-brainer recommendation whenever friends ask about getting better sound on their desktop. Dozens of both audiophile and non-audiophile friends have bought A5 and A2 amplified speakers at my suggestion—and so far, nobody has been disappointed. They’re affordable, easy to buy, and easy to set up, and they look great.

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Michael Trei Posted: Mar 28, 2016 3 comments

Performance
Features
Ergonomics
Value
PRICE $599

AT A GLANCE
Plus
Good-quality manual belt-drive turntable
Built-in hi-res analog-to-digital converter
Built-in phono preamp
Simple user setup
Minus
Additional software needed to play recorded files
Manual metadata collection for recorded files

THE VERDICT
With analog and hi-res digital outputs, and a built-in phono preamp, the Sony PS-HX500 has what you need to bring your vinyl collection into the 21st century digital world.

Detractors love to say that the current resurgence of vinyl is nothing but a bunch of bearded hipsters with Crosley Cruisers, trying to look cool in their mid-century bachelor pads. There is, however, one surefire way to tell the difference between a fad and a real movement, and that’s when the big boys stop snickering from the sidelines and decide to start playing along.

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Michael Trei Posted: Feb 25, 2016 0 comments

T50 Speaker System
Performance
Build Quality
Value
PSW108 Subwoofer
Performance
Features
Ergonomics
Value
PRICE $690 as reviewed

AT A GLANCE
Plus
Big sound, small price
Efficient and easy to drive
Proper surround sound at a soundbar price
Minus
Black vinyl is the only finish

THE VERDICT
Polk’s T50 system is all about value with a capital V— delivering a real 5.1 experience including a powered subwoofer and floorstanding tower speakers at a soundbar price.

“What this country needs is a really good five-cent cigar.”—Thomas R. Marshall

American vice presidents aren’t usually remembered for much, but Woodrow Wilson’s VP Thomas R. Marshall will always be remembered for saying that America needed good cheap cigars. If you figure in a hundred years of inflation, Marshall’s five-cent cigar would still be well under a buck today, so clearly he was a man who wanted real value for the money. With that in mind, I reckon that if Marshall were alive today, he would be a huge fan of the Polk T Series speaker system.

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Michael Trei Posted: Oct 22, 2015 5 comments

Motion 60XT Speaker System
Performance
Build Quality
Value

Dynamo 1500X Subwoofer
Performance
Features
Build Quality
Value
PRICE $6,695 as reviewed

AT A GLANCE
Plus
Powerful, punchy sound
Excellent sonic match among speakers
Fine upper-octave detail
Minus
Clunky interface for Perfect Bass Kit
Marketing not withstanding, they can’t image like ML’s dipole speakers

THE VERDICT
While they don’t have much in common with MartinLogan’s electrostatic offerings, the Motion XT speakers let you keep a foot in both the music and home theater camps with little compromise.

Coming up with a good slogan for your company can be tricky. You want something that tells people what you do, but you don’t want it to tie your hands as the company evolves. For years, Burger King ran commercials using the catchphrase “Have It Your Way,” but they had to drop it when they wanted to reduce the bottlenecks being caused at restaurant counters by custom orders. Now they’re back to being the “Home of the Whopper.” Of course, you could simply ignore the historical inaccuracy of your catchphrase, as the H.J. Heinz Company has done; after all, they probably have 5,700 varieties today, not just 57.

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Michael Trei Posted: Apr 24, 2015 8 comments

Audio Performance
Video Performance
Features
Ergonomics
Value
PRICE $1,700

AT A GLANCE
Plus
Rich, powerful sound with gobs of detail
Dolby Atmos capable
UHD-ready with 4K scaling and HDMI 2.0
Minus
No HDCP 2.2 DRM to handle future UHD content
Basic remote isn’t backlit

THE VERDICT
Yamaha’s one-step-down AVR delivers top-notch performance and features at a somewhat less than flagship price.

Choosing the perfect A/V receiver for your home theater can be as tough as it was for Goldilocks to find the perfect bowl of porridge. Of course, we all want lots of features and plenty of power, but not if that means wasting money on bells and whistles we’ll never use or power we don’t really need. I find that in a single brand’s receiver lineup, it’s often the model just below the flagship that represents the best balance between price and performance. At that level, you still get just about every feature and most of the power available from the top model but with a substantial cost savings to sweeten the deal. Yamaha’s Aventage RX-A2040 appears to fall right into that type of sweet spot. At $1,700, it’s $500 less than the RX-A3040 flagship, but it still comes with most of that model’s features and can deliver more than 93 percent of its claimed two-channel power spec.

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Michael Trei Posted: Jan 09, 2015 0 comments
Dan D'Agostino returns to the monster power amp business.
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Michael Trei Posted: Jan 08, 2015 0 comments
Once again Magnepan shows us that you don't have to be a one-percenter to afford exotic flat panel loudspeakers.
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Michael Trei Posted: Jan 06, 2015 0 comments
Klipsch's Reference Series speakers get their most comprehensive updates yet, with a new name, Reference Premiere, and WiSA wireless technology.

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