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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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Mark Fleischmann Posted: Aug 07, 2015 24 comments
Most receivers have seven amp channels. I've just reviewed several of them in a row: the Onkyo TX-NR545, Pioneer VSX-1130, and Sony STR-DN1060. Our October issue will collect them in a roundup, with a review of the Denon AVR-X1200W following in November. All list for $600 and include Dolby Atmos height-enriched surround in a 5.1.2-channel configuration. That is a couple of height channels short of the 5.1.4 configuration Dolby Labs recommends for Atmos in the home. And that in turn prompts an uncomfortable question: Is the seven-channel receiver obsolete?

Mark Fleischmann Posted: Jul 29, 2015 3 comments

B652-AIR Speaker System
Performance
Build Quality
Value

SUB-1000 Subwoofer
Performance
Features
Build Quality
Value
PRICE $299 as reviewed

AT A GLANCE
Plus
Super affordable
Pleated-diaphragm tweeter
Cinema-friendly voicing
Excellent finish quality
Minus
Lively cabinets
Wire-clip speaker terminals

THE VERDICT
If you want a home theater system and you want it now, these speakers will suit a draconian budget. Let a thousand starter systems bloom.

Late last year, a Florida man walked into Starbucks and ordered a Grande Latte with 99 extra shots of espresso and 17 pumps of vanilla syrup, mocha, and matcha powder. His tab was $83.75—more than a pair of Dayton Audio B652-AIR speakers. He was a big spender, of course, but if you ordered, say, a White Chocolate Mocha every day for two weeks at $4.65 per cup, you’d still spend more than the price per pair of these speakers.

Mark Fleischmann Posted: Jul 17, 2015 2 comments
It is remarkable that people who pay attention to what they feed themselves—fussing about calories, cholesterol, and gluten—can be so cavalier about what they feed their headphones.

True, you can get used to anything, including the flea-sized amplifier in your smartphone and the messy output of your computer’s soundcard. But for those who are willing to step up to a new normal, products that combine a USB digital-to-analog converter with a headphone amp can make good headphones sound better—and allow better headphones to fulfill their destiny, which is to bring listeners to a higher plane of audio existence.

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Mark Fleischmann Posted: Jul 10, 2015 12 comments
What if streaming isn't such a good idea after all?
Mark Fleischmann Posted: Jul 03, 2015 1 comments

Performance
Features
Ergonomics
Value
PRICE $1,200

AT A GLANCE
Plus
Deluxe build quality and beautiful design
Plays DSD and files up to 192/24
128 GB plus microSD slot
Minus
Heavy
Pricey

THE VERDICT
Sony’s top-of-the-line Walkman music player is comfortingly overbuilt, loaded with bells and whistles. And it sounds fantastic.

The new top-of-the-line Sony Walkman is not the smallest or lightest dedicated music player out there. But is smaller always better? The smallest music player in my possession is the sixth-generation iPod nano. The tiny touchscreen device has about the footprint of a postage stamp, but that doesn’t make it easier to use. There’s not much room for a fingertip to move. For the seventh and final generation, Apple moved to a larger form factor, similar to early nanos except with the touchscreen replacing the clickwheel. Likewise, Sony went for an old-school nano-like form factor in its Walkman NWZ-A17. But that was a relatively lightweight device in more ways than one. For the top-drawer Walkman NW-ZX2, reviewed here, Sony decided on more substantial build quality—and more of it.

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Mark Fleischmann Posted: Jun 26, 2015 2 comments
If the advent of Dolby Atmos in home surround gear has pricked up your ears, you may be interested to hear that object-oriented surround will also be part of the forthcoming ATSC 3.0 broadcast TV standard. That doesn’t mean Atmos itself is hitting the airwaves. Instead, other surround encoding systems will be tested this summer from Dolby, DTS, and a consortium of other companies.
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Mark Fleischmann Posted: Jun 18, 2015 7 comments

Performance
Build Quality
Value
PRICE $4,000 as reviewed

AT A GLANCE
Plus
Built-in triamplification
Wireless link to sources
Musically versatile sound
Minus
16-bit transmission ceiling

THE VERDICT
The Dynaudio Xeo 6 active wireless speakers are a great-sounding way to unclutter a two-channel music system.

In the history of civil unrest, there has never been anything quite like the audio rebellion. People are using half-inch-thick A/V receiver manuals as tinder and then throwing their receivers onto the flames. Doghouse-sized stereo amps and preamps are being spray-painted in the dead of night with slogans like “Where’s the wireless?” Wrist-thick speaker cables lay coiled on curbs, next to garbage cans, where passing dogs do what comes naturally. Just the other day, I turned on the TV and saw a guy in a Dynaudio T-shirt giving a speech to an angry mob. “Burn your cables!” he shouted. “Sell your amp! Ditch everything that currently clogs up your system!”

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Mark Fleischmann Posted: Jun 16, 2015 0 comments
Dolby Atmos Comes to Tablets via Lenovo’s Tab 2 A10 ($199) and Tab 2 A8 ($129), with 10- and 8-inch screens and Android OS. The surround effects work with any headphones...
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Mark Fleischmann Posted: Jun 05, 2015 0 comments

Performance
Features
Ergonomics
Value
PRICE $738

AT A GLANCE
Plus
It’s like having three top-drawer speakers
Balanced performance
Passive design allows benefits of an AVR
Minus
Passive design requires an AVR

THE VERDICT
Phase Technology’s Teatro TSB3.0 soundbar dispenses with the fancy stuff and provides the performance you’d expect from three well-engineered and great-sounding speakers.

This might seem a radical concept, but what if a soundbar were just a speaker, or two or three? What if it had no internal amplifiers, just some really good drivers, a thoughtfully engineered crossover, and sets of speaker terminals, like any other quality loudspeaker?

Is this kind of soundbar a good idea? That depends on what kind of system you want—or, more specifically, whether you want a standalone audio/video receiver in your system. For some people, the AVR is like the guy you’d cross the street to avoid, someone who confuses and bedevils you. For others, the AVR is the key to a cornucopia of features, the cornerstone of a system that unlocks all your desires.

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