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Mark Fleischmann Posted: Dec 02, 2016 1 comments
If you have a limited amount of money to spend on audio gear, should you spend it on hi-fi or head-fi? In recent years head-fi has been gaining ground as sales of traditional audio components flatlined and sales of headphones and associate gear skyrocketed. Companies with long track records in hi-fi (and mass market audio) have conjured new headphone lines out of thin air. Companies with long track records in head-fi are making hay.

Mark Fleischmann Posted: Nov 23, 2016 0 comments

Performance
Features
Ergonomics
Value
PRICE $700

AT A GLANCE
Plus
Built-in noise cancellation for supplied earbuds
Selectable DSD rolloff filter
Up to 70 hours per charge
Minus
No MQA
Challenging headphones will need more power

THE VERDICT
The Sony Walkman NW-ZX100HN delivers beautifully balanced and transparent sound in a not-too-bulky form factor with excellent ergonomics and the unique plus of built-in noise cancellation, but only for its proprietary earbuds.

With the iPod classic gone, smartphones in almost universal use, and streams elbowing out downloads, is the dedicated music player obsolete? Or could it possibly be a retro survivor that mocks its replacement, the way the resurging turntable mocks the CD player? With emerging specialists like Astell & Kern, FiiO, and Questyle being joined in the market by old-school manufacturers like Onkyo and Sony, there seems to be growing interest in building high-quality players that do a better job of delivering highresolution audio than a phone does.

Mark Fleischmann Posted: Nov 09, 2016 0 comments

Performance
Build Quality
Value
PRICE $499 pr

AT A GLANCE
Plus
Flexibility of stand or speaker-top use
Strongly defined height effects
Horn-loaded tweeter
Minus
Potential timbre-matching issues
Footprint too large for some speakers
Requires flat or nearly flat speaker top

THE VERDICT
If you like your Dolby Atmos and DTS:X height effects well defined, the Klipsch RP-140SA and its horn-loaded tweeter do the ceiling bounce with vivid results.

Progress is great, except when it’s not. By now, you’ve probably read a lot about Dolby Atmos and DTS:X, the nextgeneration object-oriented surround standards, and pondered what they mean for your system. But maybe the news that height-enriched surround sound has finally come of age is bittersweet to you. What if you love your existing speakers and don’t want to let go of them? Which matters more: upgrading to the latest and greatest or holding onto the tried and true? You might prefer to stick with your existing 5.1- to 7.1-channel system and tell progress to take a hike.

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Mark Fleischmann Posted: Nov 04, 2016 3 comments
Soundbars are not for everyone. But they are for an increasing number of people, with unit sales having risen from 1.3 million in 2010 to 12.9 million in 2016. I review soundbars and soundbases as well as satellite/subwoofer sets and orthodox speakers, so I know what it's like to live with one. I must admit it wouldn't be my first choice for a primary audio system. But the following scenarios don't apply to me...

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Mark Fleischmann Posted: Oct 20, 2016 0 comments

Audio Performance
Features
Ergonomics
Value
PRICE $799

AT A GLANCE
Plus
Crisp, clear top end
FireConnect wireless capability
Attractive, simplified remote
Minus
Atmos limited to 5.1.2
Single-position room correction

THE VERDICT
The Onkyo TX-RZ610 is an excellent-sounding receiver with sensible ergonomics and unusual FireConnect wireless capability in addition to the usual Wi-Fi, AirPlay, and Bluetooth.

Onkyo has long been an industry leader when it comes to packing the latest and greatest features into their under-$1,000 A/V receivers. The Onkyo story has been just as interesting behind the scenes. A few years ago, Gibson Brands—yes, the guitar people—acquired a majority stake in Onkyo USA, while also investing directly in Onkyo Corp. (Onkyo Corp. also invested in Gibson, Onkyo reminded me; each CEO now sits on the other’s board.) More recently, in the spring of 2015, Onkyo Corp. acquired Pioneer’s Home A/V division. Together, Gibson, who is in essence partnered with Onkyo, and Onkyo, under the aegis of its corporate parent, now market three prominent AVR brands, including Onkyo, Integra (aimed at the custom installation market), and Pioneer (it’s actually four brands if you count separately Pioneer’s offshoot premium Elite brand). In the small world of AVR manufacturers, that makes this American/Japanese duo something of an empire.

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Mark Fleischmann Posted: Oct 18, 2016 0 comments
You may not recognize the name of DLNA, the Digital Living Network Alliance. But you’re probably familiar with its implementation of plug-and-play technology, which enables AV receivers to access music from a connected computer. The standard continues to evolve.
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Mark Fleischmann Posted: Oct 13, 2016 0 comments
You’re kicking back with your smart TV. Suddenly the screen locks up. Even more surreal, your TV claims to represent a law enforcement agency and accuses you of crimes you haven’t committed...
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Mark Fleischmann Posted: Oct 07, 2016 3 comments
To buy or not to buy? That is the question. Whether 'tis nobler to pay an Ebay seller several hundred bucks for an ancient Luxman L-80 or take arms against a sea of regrets—that is what has been troubling me for years as I've ogled this stereo integrated amp from 1975. I don't need it; yet I want it. I'm suffering from non-buyer's remorse.

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Mark Fleischmann Posted: Oct 04, 2016 0 comments
MQA Is Coming to NAD’s BluOS operating system, which covers a variety of wireless-savvy audio components. MQA can stream hi-res audio at CDquality data rates.

Lionsgate Is Adopting Dolby Vision HDR, making it the second movie studio to do so after Warner, as well as Dolby Atmos surround, making it number six following HBO, Paramount, Sony, Universal, and Warner. Dolby Vision boasts 35 streaming titles, but no Blu-ray yet...

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Mark Fleischmann Posted: Sep 20, 2016 2 comments

Audio Performance
Features
Ergonomics
Value
PRICE $2,800

AT A GLANCE
Plus
CI focus, including eight-port Ethernet hub
9.1 channels for 5.1.4/7.1.2 surround
Redesigned setup mic
Minus
No Bluetooth, AirPlay, Wi-Fi, or DLNA

THE VERDICT
The Sony STR-ZA5000ES combines a hard-kicking amp with custom-install-friendly features.

In Arthur Conan Doyle’s short story “Silver Blaze,” from The Memoirs of Sherlock Holmes, the great detective has this conversation with a police inspector, who speaks first:

“Is there any point to which you would wish to draw my attention?”

“To the curious incident of the dog in the night-time.”

“The dog did nothing in the night-time.”

“That was the curious incident,” remarked Sherlock Holmes.

Just as the dog that didn’t bark enabled Holmes to identify a killer, the features that the Sony STR-ZA5000ES doesn’t have are clues to its identity. This $2,800 receiver doesn’t have Bluetooth, AirPlay, Wi-Fi, or any other wireless connectivity or network audio option—not even DLNA to work with its Ethernet jacks.

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