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Mark Fleischmann Posted: Sep 04, 2015 9 comments
What's in a name? At times, not a whole lot of sense. The consumer electronics industry has a genius for giving dopey names to things: unintentionally misleading names, deliberately misleading names, duplicative names, redundant names, outright laughable names. Here are just a few:

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Mark Fleischmann Posted: Sep 03, 2015 10 comments

Audio Performance
Video Performance
Features
Ergonomics
Value
PRICE $600

AT A GLANCE
Plus
Wi-Fi, AirPlay, Bluetooth
MHL on front and rear
Google Cast, Spotify Connect
Minus
Confusing A.F.D., HD-D.C.S. terminology

THE VERDICT
If you can do without Dolby Atmos in this seven-channel AVR, Sony’s well-thought-out wireless functionality and sweet, golden sound are an unbeatable combination.

Let me say this up front: The Sony STR-DN1060 doesn’t do Dolby Atmos. Whether this is a serious omission in a seven-channel receiver today is debatable—but I’d say not. Most of the first-generation Atmos receivers have shortcomings of their own. For one thing, they lack the forthcoming DTS:X, the other flavor of object-oriented, height-enabled surround sound. More critically, seven-channel models can offer only Atmos 5.1.2, with two height channels in front or directly above the listener but none in back. That is at best a limited version of the Atmos experience because it doesn’t create the full dome-shaped soundfield of 5.1.4.

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Mark Fleischmann Posted: Sep 01, 2015 0 comments
HDMI 2.0a is almost upon us. But why? Didn’t A/V manufacturers just assimilate HDMI 2.0?

The answer is that HDMI 2.0a will further improve picture quality, firming up 2.0’s Ultra HD support with complementary HDR (high dynamic range) technology. Does that mean 2.0a will transmit video in a new way?

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Mark Fleischmann Posted: Aug 28, 2015 3 comments
The average cable subscriber is staggering under constant rate hikes. But don’t expect any help from the Federal Communications Commission. It has just issued a ruling saying cable operators are presumed to face “effective competition.” That will make it harder for local governments to petition for regulation of skyrocketing cable rates.
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Mark Fleischmann Posted: Aug 27, 2015 5 comments

Audio Performance
Video Performance
Features
Ergonomics
Value
PRICE $599

AT A GLANCE
Plus
Dolby Atmos
Wi-Fi, AirPlay, Bluetooth
HDR support
Minus
No Ultra HD scaling

THE VERDICT
The Onkyo TX-NR545 is a wireless-triple-threat receiver with an intrinsically good-sounding amp.

Most A/V receivers have seven audio channels for reasons that date back to 1999 and are all but forgotten. The original rationale for adding two channels to surround sound’s basic 5.1 footprint was to accommodate back-surround speakers for THX Surround EX (later renamed Dolby Digital EX) and DTS-ES. While I mean no disrespect to the many readers who enjoy the back surrounds in their 7.1 systems, I’ve been against back surrounds from the beginning. My argument in one sentence is: Three channels in front, four in back—what’s wrong with this picture? I’ve always considered 5.1 the bedrock standard of surround sound, and I still do, even today.

Mark Fleischmann Posted: Aug 25, 2015 0 comments

Mini A Speaker System
Performance
Build Quality
Value

Model A Subwoofer
Performance
Features
Build Quality
Value
PRICE $4,785

AT A GLANCE
Plus
Coordinated on- and off-axis response
Custom drivers
Strong dual-10-inch sub
Minus
Center not fully timbre-matched
Not much to look at
Sub crossover limited to two settings

THE VERDICT
The Bryston Mini A offers refined performance and—though it’s not obvious to the naked eye—serious build quality at a moderate price.

So many audio products start as marketing necessities. But how many start as personal quests? When Bryston’s James Tanner wanted to design a one-off “ultimate loudspeaker” for his own reference system, the resulting Mini T floorstanding tower impressed his colleagues so much that it squirreled its way into the upper-echelon marketing channels usually reserved for Bryston’s formidable preamps and amps (which, incidentally, include surround-friendly three-, five-, and eight-channel models).

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Mark Fleischmann Posted: Aug 20, 2015 0 comments

Performance
Features
Ergonomics
Value
PRICE $1,500 (updated 10/14/15)

AT A GLANCE
Plus
HDMI, lossless surround decoding
UHD-capable video passthrough
Minus
High-end pricing
No HDCP 2.2 DRM for UHD

THE VERDICT
If you close your eyes, the Arcam Solo Bar and Solo Sub sound more like a decent component system than a soundbar.

Soundbars take three forms. The main distinction among them is what serves as the heart of your system. With a passive soundbar, the A/V receiver—with all its features, joys, and woes—is the clearinghouse, and all signal sources go through it. With a less expensive active soundbar, the TV often replaces the receiver, and all signals go through the TV into the bar. But the Arcam Solo Bar is the type of active soundbar that replaces both the receiver and the TV as the heart of your system.

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Mark Fleischmann Posted: Aug 13, 2015 0 comments
If you thought President Francis Underwood was scary in Netflix 4K streaming, you may be perturbed to learn that the third season of House of Cards was actually shot in 6K. When Kevin Spacey directed his laser-like gaze at the camera to address the audience, he was burning a hole in a 6K lens. Even the visual effects—often executed in 2K even for 4K productions—were pure 6K, which has nine times the resolution of standard HD. That doesn’t mean you’ll be seeing the show in 6K anytime soon, with TVs and program pipelines still grappling with the 4K transition. But the 6K House of Cards lurks in an archive, waiting to unnerve future generations.
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Mark Fleischmann Posted: Aug 13, 2015 1 comments

Audio Performance
Video Performance
Features
Ergonomics
Value
PRICE $600

AT A GLANCE
Plus
Dolby Atmos 5.2.2
Wi-Fi, AirPlay, Bluetooth on board
HDCP 2.2 rights management
Minus
Tight, crowded remote control

THE VERDICT
With Atmos added and both Wi-Fi and Bluetooth newly baked in, this receiver is a better value than its immediate $600 predecessor.

Less than a year has passed since I called the Pioneer VSX-1124 both “a top-performing receiver at a competitive price point” and, just in case that seemed too dispassionate, “a miracle.” So much has happened since then. For starters, Dolby Atmos happened, adding object-oriented surround with dedicated height channels to the basic surround footprint. Yet it’s almost a shock to see Atmos in a $600 receiver, the new VSX-1130. If you’re still on the fence about Atmos, Pioneer hasn’t stopped there. Bluetooth, formerly a $99 accessory, is now baked in.

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Mark Fleischmann Posted: Aug 07, 2015 0 comments
Ultra HD content on a thumb drive? Sure, why not? Mance Media is the first company to sell it—and that makes it the first to sell UHD in a hard-copy format. The Website lists more than a dozen movies priced at $24.99 as well as TV shows. For details, visit buy4kuhd.com. UHD will also be available on forthcoming variations of Blu-ray and is already available via streaming and satellite.

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