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Mark Fleischmann Posted: Mar 24, 2015 1 comments
A promising new encoding method from Meridian, maker of world-beating active loudspeakers and other digital audio hardware, has been adopted by Tidal and 7digital, two major forces in music streaming. Tidal is the Norwegian company whose lossless 16-bit streaming has gotten audiophiles interested in streaming. 7digital operates music download and streaming services for itself and other parties and was the first company to offer DRM-free MP3 downloads in 2008.
Mark Fleischmann Posted: Mar 18, 2015 0 comments

Performance
Features
Ergonomics
Value
PRICE $699

AT A GLANCE
Plus
PC-worthy USB DAC
iOS-worthy rear USB input
Coaxial, optical inputs
Minus
No headphone amp

THE VERDICT
About the size of a thick paperback, the Arcam irDAC is a USB DAC that will make your audio files—from lossless to lossy—sound great.

The USB DAC is the missing piece in many of today’s audio systems. Most AV receivers have iOS-friendly USB inputs, but few have the PC-friendly kind. If you want to connect a computer’s USB output to your system, you probably need something like the Arcam irDAC to mediate between computer and system.

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Mark Fleischmann Posted: Mar 12, 2015 0 comments
The good news is that DirecTV is becoming the first pay-TV operator to offer Ultra HD programming. The bad news is that so far, the effort is limited to Samsung TVs, and programming to live events and 30 movies from Paramount and K2 Communications. You’ll also need a Genie HD DVR with broadband connection. The recently launched Ariane 5 satellite is the key to DirecTV’s UHD operation, along with a new slice of satellite spectrum. The satellite also provides additional local HD programming. DirecTV will soon have company, with Comcast preparing a UHD launch.
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Mark Fleischmann Posted: Mar 10, 2015 4 comments
“I’m terrified of my new TV,” said legal eagle Michael Price in his blog for the New York University School of Law’s Brennan Center for Justice. His Samsung Smart TV came with a camera and microphone for gesture and voice control—and a 46-page privacy policy.
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Mark Fleischmann Posted: Mar 05, 2015 5 comments
One persistent criticism of audiophilia is that it can be expensive. Why this criticism is leveled at, say, Pono—but not at fine wine, high-end apparel, or fancy cars—is one of life's mysteries. I'd say the best signal sources, speakers, amps, headphones, and other products are worth the investment if you know what you're doing. But paying more for the good stuff isn't the only way to be an audiophile. You can get pretty good sound from, say, one of the $600 receivers on our Top Picks list. And, whatever you may have on your rack, there are other ways of improving your system for little or nothing. Longtime readers will find most of the following tips blindingly obvious. But they are intended for younger readers just getting their systems started.

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Mark Fleischmann Posted: Feb 12, 2015 5 comments

Audio Performance
Video Performance
Features
Ergonomics
Value
PRICE $3,000

AT A GLANCE
Plus
Dolby Atmos-capable
New Dolby Surround upmixer
D3 amplification
Minus
Confusing back-panel nomenclature
No HDCP 2.2 digital rights management

THE VERDICT
This Class D receiver is just the kind of nine-channel powerhouse needed for Dolby Atmos 5.2.4—and the built-in USB DAC is a cool bonus.

You probably know by now that Dolby Atmos is the next generation of surround sound in both theaters and home theaters. This object-oriented technology lets movie mixers place any sound, almost anywhere they want, in an immersive dome-like soundfield, with height effects that transcend the flat horizontal plane of 5.1- or 7.1-channel surround. With the first generation of Atmos gear now arriving, the technology has been covered in print evaluations of Denon and Definitive Technology products (by ace reviewer Daniel Kumin), on the Web (by editor-in-chief Rob Sabin, video editor Tom Norton, and columnists Ken Pohlmann and John Sciacca), and in my own Test Report in this issue on the Pioneer Elite SP-EBS73-LR Atmos-enabled speaker system.

Mark Fleischmann Posted: Feb 12, 2015 0 comments

Performance
Build Quality
Value
PRICE $2,500

AT A GLANCE
Plus
Dolby Atmos–enabled monitors
Laser-like focus from coaxial driver array
Minus
Just-average subwoofer performance

THE VERDICT
Andrew Jones’ excellent Atmos-enabled speakers are equally at home in a 5.1-channel footprint as they are transforming surround sound as we know it.

Dolby Atmos bids to change the landscape of surround sound at home. One thing it has already changed is my mind.

I am that 5.1 guy. I’ve spent much of my tech-writing career promoting the standard 5.1-channel speaker configuration and defending it against all comers. This has pitted me against two-channel loyalists who mistakenly believe there is no such thing as a surround audiophile. But I’ve also opposed what I deem to be useless additions to 5.1.

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Mark Fleischmann Posted: Feb 06, 2015 145 comments
First there was mono. Then there was stereo. And then things got complicated. Surround sound has been a restless medium ever since it first snuck into movie theaters and home theaters. Encoding methods and formats have proliferated but standards have been elusive. Where multiplexes are concerned, that doesn't affect the consumer much. Most moviegoers are content to leave the technical details to the theater owners (except our readers, of course). But at home, where consumers are investing their own money in the home theater experience, many would like to have a fixed idea of what surround sound is at heart, something as close as possible to a stable minimum standard. And until now that standard has been 5.1. But in the dawning age of Dolby Atmos, is 5.1 obsolete?

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Mark Fleischmann Posted: Feb 03, 2015 5 comments
Until now, strong tablet sales and weak TV sales have suggested a massive shift from TVs to tablets. But a slowdown in tablet sales may bring the two categories into a different balance.
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Mark Fleischmann Posted: Jan 22, 2015 0 comments
No, you can’t get Ultra HD via antenna yet, but the technology has just gotten its first successful test broadcast in Baltimore. The test used Technicolor’s ATSC 3.0 test platform to send UHDTV through an experimental transmission system from Sinclair Broadcast Group, owner of more than a hundred U.S. TV stations. The platform is based on open standards including SHVC video compression, MPEG-H audio, and MPEG-MMT signal transport. It is designed for phones and tablets as well as traditional antenna-TV reception.

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