Mark Fleischmann

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Mark Fleischmann Posted: Dec 03, 2012 4 comments

Audio Performance
Features
Ergonomics
Value
Price: $99 (reduced from original price of $249; version 1.2: $149)
At a Glance: Size of USB thumb drive • Up to 24/96 resolution • Minijack analog out

The AudioQuest DragonFly USB digital-to-analog converter ($249) and the B&W Society of Sound music download service ($59/year) arrived in my listening room at about the same time. They were made for each other: B&W’s 24-bit FLAC files gave the DAC a better chance to strut its stuff than any CD-quality or lossy audio file at my disposal. And the USB DAC enabled the high-resolution files to do an end run around the awful soundcard in my PC.

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Mark Fleischmann Posted: Nov 28, 2012 3 comments

Audio Performance
Video Performance
Features
Ergonomics
Value
Price: $500 At A Glance: Wi-Fi • AirPlay • Bluetooth • DLNA • Windows 7 Play To • Proprietary room correction

Sony may not be the first brand you think of in connection with audio/video receivers. The company has always offered competently designed models, some of which provide good performance and value for the money, yet somehow it hasn’t basked in the limelight enjoyed by the market-leading brands. That may be about to change with the STR-DN1030. Sony needed a way to attract attention and has found one: This receiver is a wireless triple threat with Apple AirPlay, Bluetooth, and Wi-Fi connectivity. And all of that is dongle free. To enable the wireless features, you needn’t spend more for accessories or plug anything into anything.

Mark Fleischmann Posted: Nov 15, 2012 7 comments

SP-BS22-LR Speakers
Performance
Build Quality
Value
 
SW-8MK2 Subwoofer
Performance
Features
Build Quality
Value
Price: $500 At A Glance: Affordable designer speakers • Second gen with improved parts • Clearer, meatier sound

Looking for a great sounding set of home theater speakers but on a tight budget? Read on and find out why Pioneer's newest speakers might be just what the doctor ordered and learn how gifted designer Andrew Jones met the challenge of building a high-performance speaker ensemble that can be had for only $500. Even he can't believe it.

Mark Fleischmann Posted: Nov 05, 2012 2 comments
Audio Performance
Video Performance
Features
Ergonomics
Value
Price: $1,000 At A Glance: Hybrid switching/vacuum tube amplifier • Glass fiber speaker cones • Tilting drivers in towers for front-height channels

The vacuum tube has an honored place in the audio timeline. It preceded stereo, the LP, and of course everything digital. When tubes gave way to the solid-state transistor, consumer electronics began its steady march toward lighter weight, lower cost, reduced heat dissipation, and greater energy efficiency. Entire new product categories were born—such as the portable transistor radio, the distant forebear of today’s smartphones and iPods. Solid-state technology further democratized audio in the 1970s as Japan exported mass-market stereo receivers to music lovers on a budget. By the time home theater and surround sound got underway, tubes had long since been left behind by the mainstream. One by one, all the tubes winked out. Or did they?

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Mark Fleischmann Posted: Nov 02, 2012 4 comments
This just may be the first in a series of blogs on music that finds its way into demos I'm constantly staging for loudspeaker and a/v receiver reviews. Hence the subtitle: Demos. Music is the reason I became an audio critic in the first place. In fact, I was a published music critic long before I became a technology critic, starting in 1979, writing for Spin and Trouser Press and editing the Trouser Press Collectors' Magazine. Tech criticism turned out to be a better way of earning a living but I still see it as an outgrowth of my identity as a music (and movie) critic. As I note in my book: "We master technology so that art can take precedence over technology."

Mark Fleischmann Posted: Oct 19, 2012 0 comments

DX-1 HCP Speaker
Performance
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Value
 
DX-1 subwoofer
Performance
Features
Build Quality
Value
Price: $799 At A Glance: Sweet but detailed mids • High-gloss finish • Great sats, OK sub

One of your best friends calls up to announce that she is about to wed someone rich and powerful. He owns a shipyard that manufactures exceptionally luxurious yachts. You’re happy for her, but you worry, too. Would living with such a strong personality, a guy with all that money and all that power, be good for her? Would it make her stronger or weaker? A few years later you run into her, and after a few hours of conversation, you conclude that she’s in great shape internally as well as externally. There’s a serenity beneath the tan. Her husband is affectionate and faithful, a child is on the way, and she’s never been happier.

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Mark Fleischmann Posted: Oct 05, 2012 42 comments

Audio Performance
Video Performance
Features
Ergonomics
Value
Price: $2,500 At A Glance: 32-bit asynchronous USB DAC • D3 Class D amplification • All the Apple trimmings

Like a parent who charts a child’s growth with colored pencil marks on the wall, I’ve been observing the growth of audio/video receivers since the beginning of the product category. The wall is covered with ascending marks: Here’s the first A/V receiver, with composite video switching and no surround processing. Here’s the first Dolby Surround model, the first Dolby Pro Logic model, the first Dolby Digital model—and the first with DTS, THX, lossless surround, room correction, satellite radio, HDMI, network audio, Apple everything.

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Mark Fleischmann Posted: Oct 05, 2012 2 comments
As I wandered around the floor at the recent CEDIA Expo in Indianapolis, a theme emerged. By some remarkable coincidence, three different loudspeaker manufacturers were showing special models to celebrate multiple-decade anniversaries. The brands—Paradigm, KEF, and Wharfedale—continue to be formidable ones. They have been making some of the world's best speakers for a long time, and these anniversary products are worth celebrating. They all include monitors, which are right up my alley: My reference system is based on monitors. Unfortunately, most of these models (except KEF) will be made only in limited quantities. Moreover, they are sold only per pair, so if you want to use them in a 5.1 or other odd-numbered surround configuration, an extra speaker is going to languish in a closet. Therefore I won't be able to get them in for review. However, I'd like to celebrate them here and note their passage through the history of audio.

Mark Fleischmann Posted: Sep 14, 2012 0 comments

MilleniaOne Speakers
Performance
Build Quality
Value
 
MilleniaSub subwoofer
Performance
Features
Build Quality
Value
Price: $2,648 At A Glance: Die-cast aluminum satellites • Flat-form-factor subwoofer • Remarkable transparency

Not often do I begin a review with an apology to readers. But I owe you one.

It’s taken me an unconscionably long time to get around to reviewing the Paradigm MilleniaOne satellite speaker system and MilleniaSub. The products made their retail debuts in November 2010. Since then they’ve languished on my to-do list despite the fact that Paradigm is one of my favorite speaker manufacturers. In fact, I never fail to cite my reference speakers, the Paradigm Reference Studio 20 v.4, in every A/V receiver review. Now that I’ve gotten an earful of the MilleniaOne and MilleniaSub, I’m kicking myself. I should have recommended these stellar satellites and innovative subwoofer to you a whole lot sooner, whether you’re in the market for a sat/sub set or not. This is the kind of high-performance sat/sub set that might make believers out of people who weren’t even interested in the product category to begin with.

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Mark Fleischmann Posted: Sep 07, 2012 2 comments
Extruded aluminum enclosures and Imagine Series lineage are only part of what make the Imagine W1 and W3 on-wall speakers special. In addition to being voiced like the great-sounding Imagine Mini, they're also coordinated the way designer Paul Barton says surround speaker systems should be: with the center having twice the output of the left and right combined. So the W3 center ($1200/each) has a sensitivity rating of 89dB, versus the 86dB of the W1 ($600/each), and the 3dB difference enables the center to play twice as loud with the same power. Of course, in practice, you'll level them to have the same output, but your amp will have more headroom for the center at dynamically challenging moments. Elsewhere in the Imagine line, the Imagine Mini Center ($700/each) is now available to match the Imagine Mini satellite. All of the above are shipping October. PSB also announced CustomSound in-wall and in-ceiling speakers of which the most interesting is the C-SUR, whose angled baffle contains enough drivers to run both side- and back-surround channels. Shipping end of December. Also shown was the second-gen VISO 1 AP compact audio system, which eliminates the original VISO 1's dock in favor of AirPlay for $600. It ships first quarter of 2013. The original VISO 1 remains available.

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