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Mark Fleischmann Posted: Mar 20, 2017 0 comments
Back in the days before Blu-ray, companies like ClearPlay and TV Guardian offered parents a way to filter their children’s DVD viewing to screen out material deemed offensive. Some may call it censorship; others, a necessary tool for parents.
Mark Fleischmann Posted: Mar 15, 2017 1 comments

Audio Performance
Features
Ergonomics
Value
PRICE $899

AT A GLANCE
Plus
USB inputs for PC and iOS
Premium Wolfson DAC
Bluetooth aptX
Minus
No DSD decoding
No Wi-Fi, AirPlay, or Ethernet
No streaming services

THE VERDICT
The Rotel A12 accepts direct wired input from PCs and iOS devices and gets the best out of both digital and analog sources with its great-sounding DAC and amp.

Connecting a computer to an audio system with a USB cable seems a perfectly logical idea. It’s simple, it’s direct, and it enables the computer to feed bits to the system and rely on the system’s digital-to-analog conversion. Yet this desirable feature is tantalizingly rare. AVRs and streaming amps tend to rely on wired and wireless network connections rather than on a USB port and asynchronous digital-to-analog converter (DAC) that can take over the clocking functions of the digital bit transfer and reduce the effects of jitter.

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Mark Fleischmann Posted: Mar 06, 2017 0 comments
Sony Projectors got firmware updates to add HDR contrast to the picture menu, add an HDR indicator to the information menu, and automatically select the BT2020 color gamut. Affected models include the VPL-VW5000, VPL-VW665, and VPL-VW365; the VPL-VW675 already has these features...

Dish Network’s NBA Team Pass lets you follow your favorite team for $119 per season. The NBA League Pass, which covers the whole league, is still available for $199...

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Mark Fleischmann Posted: Mar 03, 2017 0 comments
At some point in my relationship with Facebook, Mr. Al Gorithm figured out that I like live music. Once he pegged me as a concertgoer, Mr. Gorithm began stuffing my timeline with ads for concerts. This hasn't bothered me at all. In fact, I often click through to the venue's website and buy a ticket or two. Mr. Gorithm seems aware of that as well because the ads have proliferated, especially those from Lincoln Center and Carnegie Hall. This has had an impact on my listening life, and by extension my listening work. Click, buy, go, listen, reflect.

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Mark Fleischmann Posted: Feb 15, 2017 6 comments
Forty-one percent of cable and satellite subscribers are planning to trim or sever their pay-TV subscriptions, according to a survey of 1,000 customers by FocusVision and Zanthus.
Mark Fleischmann Posted: Feb 14, 2017 0 comments

Performance
Features
Ergonomics
Value
PRICE $1,000

AT A GLANCE
Plus
Small-footprint amp and speakers
Streaming app
Hi-res capable
Minus
No analog line input
No S/PDIF input
No sub output

THE VERDICT
The Sony CAS-1 is a sleek and simple desktop system, optimized for input from computers and mobile devices, with sweetly addictive near-field imaging.

It’s been 21 years since the MP3 audio file format made its debut, 17 years since Napster revolutionized the distribution of digital music, 15 years since the iPod brought that music to a pocketable device, and 13 years since Apple made downloads legit with the iTunes music store. Computerized audio is now enjoying a vigorous middle age—old enough to support lots of audio products and system configurations, young enough for some of those products to be innovative. Outfitting your desktop with an audio system can cost as little as $13.99 for a pair of AmazonBasics powered speakers or as much as several thousand dollars for the highest-end speakers and integrated amps recommended by our sister site AudioStream.com.

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Mark Fleischmann Posted: Feb 09, 2017 0 comments
No, your TV antenna can’t pick up DTS:X just yet. But the height-enhanced surround codec did get a leg up when PBS used it in a test transmission with HDR-enriched Ultra HD video.
Mark Fleischmann Posted: Feb 08, 2017 0 comments

Performance
Features
Ergonomics
Value
PRICE $399

AT A GLANCE
Plus
Balanced and unbalanced output
Drives moderately demanding headphones
Hi-res capable, including DSD
Minus
No album art
No fancy DAC chip
No user-accessible internal RAM

THE VERDICT
The HiFiMan SuperMini combines the sonics of a gentle top end and luscious mids with light weight, long battery life, and enough power to drive slightly less efficient headphones.

HiFiMan was founded in New York by Dr. Fang Bian. The company now operates from China but does not outsource either manufacturing or design. Headphones come from a factory in Dongguan. Music players come from another factory in Kunshan. R&D runs in Shanghai, software is developed in Shenzhen, and headquarters are in Tianjin. Unlike so many storied audio brands that have cut loose from their original motivation, 11-year-old HiFiMan continues to reflect the vision of Dr. Fang.

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Mark Fleischmann Posted: Feb 04, 2017 2 comments
2016 was a brutal year for rock fans and especially for progressive-rock fans. We didn't lose just Prince and Bowie. We lost Keith Emerson's keyboards, and in the final month of the year, the extraordinary voice, not to mention the bass and guitar, of Greg Lake. The year before we lost Chris Squire's Rickenbacker bass. If you recall my ELP in 5.1 review and Keith Emerson tribute, you might be a little tired of hearing about the keyboard-based power trio that was one of my boyhood heroes. But I can't let Greg Lake's death at age 69 pass unremarked.

Mark Fleischmann Posted: Feb 02, 2017 0 comments

Dôme Flax 5.1 Speaker System
Performance
Build Quality
Value

Sub Air Subwoofer
Performance
Features
Ergonomics
Value
PRICE $1,999

AT A GLANCE
Plus
Flax cone woofer
Aluminum-magnesium inverted-dome tweeter
Wall-hugging sub
Minus
Limited bass from sats

THE VERDICT
Unique driver materials, overall quality of construction, and adroit voicing make the Focal Dôme Flax 5.1 one of the best-sounding compact sat/sub systems I’ve heard.

As the home theater milieu increasingly divides into Atmos and non-Atmos camps, the satellite/subwoofer category seems destined to remain part of the old guard, usually sold in a set of five little speakers and a sub or two. Is it possible for a satellite speaker to retain its merciful compactness if it’s also to include an Atmos-enabled upfiring driver? I’d love to review such a product, but right now it’s a figment of my imagination and hopes. Focal, the prodigious French speaker manufacturer, does now offer a 5.1.2-channel Atmos-capable sat/sub system that takes a different approach (see below), but you’ll be happy to know that plain ol’ 5.1 is still alive and supported by this and other fine speaker makers. Even now it remains the bedrock configuration of surround sound.

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