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Daniel Kumin Posted: Jul 10, 2015 0 comments

PS Audio Sprout
Performance
Features
Value

Teac AI-301DA
Performance
Features
Value
PRICE PS Audio: $799/TEAC: $549

AT A GLANCE: PS Audio
Plus
Phono input
Line input and output
Warm, engaging sound
Minus
No remote control
No direct DSD decoding

AT A GLANCE: Teac
Plus
Six source inputs
Dedicated sub output
Remote control
Dynamic and transparent
Minus
No stereo line out

THE VERDICT
These compact, versatile, and affordable combos will drive good bookshelf speakers or headphones to audiophile heights, each with its own sense of style.

It’s certainly a thing. It may be a trend. Or possibly even a wave—a new-wave, high-res groundswell sweeping over the nation’s small but growing (we hope!) cadre of youthful audio fans.

I’m talking about ultra-compact integrated-amplifier/digital-to-analog converters: “ampDACs,” I’m calling them. The newly evolved species combines a two-channel integrated amplifier (usually of modest power), a headphone output (usually), and high-resolution audio digital-to-analog conversion, all engineered to meet audiophile expectations of quality, and all packaged into a single, paperback-sized unit conceived for versatility. (Most models, including the two under review here, add today’s ubiquitous Bluetooth wireless capability.)

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Daniel Kumin Posted: Jun 29, 2015 1 comments
Do amplifiers really sound different? These do…
Daniel Kumin Posted: Jun 23, 2015 22 comments

Audio Performance
Video Performance
Features
Ergonomics
Value
PRICE $2,499

AT A GLANCE
Plus
Dirac Live speaker/room EQ
Highly flexible setup and automation options
Division I sound quality
Async-USB DAC input for streaming playback
Minus
Only one Dirac curve-set at a time can be loaded
Requires personal computer for setup; no onboard auto calibration

THE VERDICT
A noteworthy addition to the high-end preamp/processor ranks, with Dirac Live a fascinating, must-hear plus.

Talar du svenska? Emotiva does. Enough Swedish, at any rate, for the Tennessee tenderer of direct-to-consumer A/V gear to bake Swedish firm Dirac’s speaker/room-correction DSP into its new preamp/processor, the long-awaited XMC-1.

If you’ll forgive a Miller analogy, Dirac is to Uppsala University as Audyssey is to USC: Dirac, too, evolved out of original academic electroacoustics research—although USC’s weather is better, and I’m pretty sure the Trojans could take the Swedes on the gridiron.

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Daniel Kumin Posted: Jun 08, 2015 2 comments
It’s a self-administered “quiz” on file-format and audio quality, with six music segments presented, each with three clickable, on-screen “Play” buttons…
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Daniel Kumin Posted: Apr 22, 2015 3 comments
How high is high-resolution? How stereo is stereo? How many bits are really dancing around inside your DAC?
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Daniel Kumin Posted: Mar 30, 2015 4 comments
A new screen reinforces an old truth...
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Daniel Kumin Posted: Mar 12, 2015 3 comments
Remember radio? You turned it on, tuned it in, and got music, for free. (Well, free-ish; of course there were ads.)
Daniel Kumin Posted: Mar 06, 2015 3 comments
Audio Performance
Video Performance
Features
Ergonomics
Value
PRICE $5,000

AT A GLANCE
Plus
State-of-the-art wireless (WiSA) audio performance
Includes full WiHD Wireless-HDMI link
Substantial, very high- quality design
High-res audio compatible—wirelessly
Minus
File-streaming feature not fully baked
No mixed wired/wireless multichannel output
No video processing on HDMI inputs
Limited system control features

THE VERDICT
The SD-WH1000U is beautifully built and an outstanding A/V performer wired or wireless, but it’s not quite up to service as a full-system hub controller.

Trundle down to your local big-box store, and you will find quite literally dozens of Blu-ray Disc players on offer, starting well under $50. Big ones, little ones, skinny ones, flat ones, cheap ones, and cheaper ones.

None of these will be Sharp’s new SD-WH1000U, a Blu-ray player with a difference. Two differences, in fact: First, it has a jaw-slackening price tag of $5,000; second, Sharp’s design is wireless-centric, being the first WiSA-compatible player to appear, and one of the very first WiSA sources of any description.

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Daniel Kumin Posted: Jan 29, 2015 3 comments

Performance
Build Quality
Value
PRICE $5,693

AT A GLANCE
Plus
Awesome potential for clean loudness
Impressive tonal fidelity and finesse
No subwoofer required
Atmos!
Minus
Requires generous spacing and AC power
Connectivity is a bit complex

THE VERDICT
A one-stop, state-of-the-surround loudspeaker solution, especially apt for any who prefer not to accommodate a subwoofer—with the bonus of being Dolby Atmos enabled.

Definitive Technology’s BP-8060ST has remained a highlight of the Baltimore-area maker’s lineup for several years—a dog’s age in the new-and-improved, series-II world of high-end loudspeakers. The longevity suggests that Definitive considers this slim “power tower” a fully evolved design, and indeed it’s hard to argue the point.

Daniel Kumin Posted: Dec 24, 2014 Published: Dec 23, 2014 7 comments

Prime Satellite 5.1 Speaker System
Performance
Build Quality
Value

SB-1000 Subwoofer
Performance
Features
Ergonomics
Value
PRICE $1,000

AT A GLANCE
Plus
Honest, accurate, full-range sound
Painless sub/sat blending
Cheap!
Minus
Won’t match ultimate volume level of larger, more costly systems

THE VERDICT
If your criterion is un-hyped reproduction, SVS’s Prime Satellite 5.1 system is as good as it gets for $1,000.

Good-sounding small speakers no longer impress me. After all, these days, pretty much anybody with a laptop and an Internet connection can design a small two-way that’s reasonably neutral. The tools are all online (many of them share/freeware), fine-performing drivers ranging from cheap ’n’ cheerful to exotic ’n’ expensive are readily available with complete Thiele-Small parameters, and MDF and veneer are plentiful down at Lowe’s. You don’t even need to know Ohm’s law; fluency in Windows or OSX and some basic woodworking skills are probably more useful.

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