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Chris Lewis

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Chris Lewis Posted: Aug 30, 2005 Published: Aug 31, 2005 0 comments
The international systems tour rolls on.

You may recall that I've usually tried to dip into the historical well when introducing the many international audio systems that we've reviewed lately. This at least spares you from yet another opening paragraph of worn-out exaggerations about paradigm shifts and in-your-face phrases like "in your face." I'm somewhat stumped here, though. The Japanese and English seem to have avoided pairing up, or squaring off (directly, at least), in any high-profile military conflicts. There have really been no economic or cultural wars between them. I can't even find a case where they've faced off in a major sporting event. But one place they have gotten together often is in the listening room—and I suppose that is what we're here for, after all.

Chris Lewis Posted: Jul 20, 2005 0 comments
The high end of high-end universals.

There are essentially two types of high-resolution audio: that which comes out of a high-end player and that which doesn't. Now, before I go on extolling the virtues of high-end players—and when I say high-end, I'm not talking about price alone—I should point out how impressed I am even by what inexpensive players can do with SACD and DVD-Audio. I've heard these formats sound good coming out of sub-$500 players, and that, to me, is one of the most telling indications that these formats are indeed living up to their promise of significantly higher-quality digital sound. But, as with CD, vinyl, or any other format that preceded SACD and DVD-Audio, they sound that much better through a top-shelf player. You can't say you've truly experienced a format until you've experienced it from a high-end system, and a true high-end system starts with a high-end player.

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Chris Lewis Posted: Jun 16, 2005 0 comments
The $500 receiver thicket gets thicker.

It's odd that when you're really good at one thing, people tend to forget that you might be good at other things, too. Take Babe Ruth. Everyone remembers the bat, but not everyone remembers that he was strong in the field, as well. The guy even pitched in the majors, winning 23 games one year. Let's see Barry Bonds do that, with or without steroids. Sony's situation is somewhat similar. Play quick association with the word Sony, and you'll most likely get the word "video," if not "televisions" specifically. Their video reputation is well deserved, but people sometimes forget that Sony has some solid audio products as well—products that are bigger than Walkmans and headphones.

Chris Lewis Posted: Jun 16, 2005 0 comments
Klipsch and Yamaha show that not every Spotlight System requires a second mortgage.

So far, we may have given you the false impression that the pages of this new column were going to be dedicated almost exclusively to the rarified air of the high end. After all, there has only been one installment so far that rang in under five figures, and last month's MiCon Audio system seriously blew the curve with a price tag roughly equivalent to that of a decent house in some parts of the country. Little did you know it was all part of an ingenious plan to build momentum for the column with flashy, big-ticket systems before settling in to the meat and potatoes of the A/V world—i.e., the systems the rest of us can afford. This month's Klipsch/ Yamaha combo is just such a system. Sure, it's not something you'll be able to buy with the change you find in your sofa, but it is certainly more attainable to a broader range of people than the MiCon Audios of the world are.

Chris Lewis Posted: May 01, 2005 Published: May 17, 2005 0 comments
Turn on, tune in, strap down. I was standing in an area of last year's Home Entertainment Show in New York that had no demonstration rooms anywhere nearby. It started with a boom and a rumble, like the gathering of a distant but powerful storm. It wasn't enough to shake me yet, but it was enough to grab my attention. Then came another boom, another rumble, and enough curiosity that I felt compelled to find a tactful way out of my conversation and make my way toward this growing intensity. Not only could I feel the floor moving under my feet as I got closer, but I even started to believe I was seeing Sheetrock flakes on the floor, steadily gathering into a distinct trail. Soon enough, the rattling of the walls, the low-frequency energy waves hammering my senses, and the shaken but excited looks of people coming the other way told me I had arrived. MiCon Audio, the door announced. Curious, I thought—or tried to think, before another sortie ripped out from inside—and a belief that the door might literally be blown off its hinges began to monopolize my thoughts. Finally, the door opened, and the answer to all of the riddles awaited me inside—but, for that, you'll have to read on.
Chris Lewis Posted: Mar 18, 2005 0 comments
It's a speaker system away from an HTIB, with more bang for the buck.

Back in the days before HTIBs, there was another kind of home-theater-in-a-box—better known as an A/V receiver. In this era of consolidation, we probably don't entirely grasp the impact that A/V receivers had when they debuted some 25 years ago. A preamplifier, processor, and amplifier all in one box (literally), with a radio tuner thrown in for good measure, was impressive stuff back in the early '80s. Receivers were the Swiss Army knives of home audio, and they, along with surround sound itself, are probably as responsible as anything for the audio explosion amongst the masses that we now know as home theater.

Chris Lewis Posted: Mar 18, 2005 0 comments
The Canadians and the Brits are at it again.

If you know your history, then you already know that the Canadians and the English can do some good things when they get together. While we were taking care of our business down at Utah and Omaha, the Canadians and the Brits were giving the Germans a pretty good working-over of their own up the beach at Normandy. They even teamed up rather effectively against us during the American Revolution and War of 1812, managing to hang on to Canada despite our various efforts to take it and, in the process, preserving one of England's last real toeholds in the New World.

Chris Lewis Posted: Feb 15, 2005 0 comments
Good sound made easy by Lexicon and Canton.

In case you didn't believe we were serious about dedicating more of our pages to the overriding reality of home theater—the necessity of individual components coming together to form a cohesive system—we offer exhibit B, our new Spotlight System review. Exhibit A, for those keeping score, is our Hook Me Up column: Sometimes it includes reviews, and sometimes it doesn't, but it always keeps an eye on system issues, especially connections. This new column contains all of the elements of a standard gear review, with the notable exception of being focused on a system, rather than individual components.

Chris Lewis Posted: Jan 18, 2005 Published: Jan 19, 2005 0 comments
Polk's LSi Series in an out-of-sight, out -of-mind variety.

I've come to look at home theater's many worlds much like various animals of the same species—common bonds clearly exist, but, at the same time, differences abound. Home theater works the same way. You've got high end and entry level, hobbyist and mass market, retail and custom install, and so on. They're all similar but distinctly different—particularly custom-install components. Anyone familiar with custom A/V systems will tell you that, if you'll allow me a bad pun, they're a very different animal.

Chris Lewis Posted: Dec 15, 2004 0 comments
Post-time for B&W, Dynaudio, Phase Tech, and PSB.

The odds of finding a horse for $3,000 that will win the Kentucky Derby are about as good as they are of me hitting the Pick 6 at Santa Anita Race Track—in other words, it ain't gonna happen (although, in the case of the latter, it won't be for lack of trying). Even Seattle Slew, one of the great bargains in horse-racing history, carried an initial price tag of $17,500.

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