Photos by Tony Cordoza For half a century, British speaker maker B&W has been very successful following a strategy of incrementally improving its designs year after year. Building on solid foundations is hard to argue with.
High-tech wonders like the DVD and Dolby Digital get much of the credit, but the home theater revolution owes just as much to a more mundane development: compact, affordable subwoofer/ satellite speaker systems.
Sony's new flagship receiver is a brute. It's got as many or more features, channels, HDMI jacks, and control options as any competitor I can think of, along with a snazzy new rotation of onscreen menus. The STR-DA5800ES is also the latest to join the 4K brigade, being able to pass-through, and upscale to, the possible-future Ultra HD video format. More on this in a year. Or two.
Pioneer's latest A/V receiver produced uniformly excellent bench results: linearity and S/N were close to perfect on both PCM and Dolby Digital signals, while distortion and frequency response were nearly as good (the latter, in particular, on 96/24 PCM).
As a lazy musician (redundant, yes) with a bad back, it have nurtured an enduring fantasy, that of discovering a 3-inch-cube loudspeaker that weighs less than a kilogram but delivers the output of a 15-inch JBL D-130.