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Mark Fleischmann Posted: May 03, 2016 0 comments

Performance
Features
Ergonomics
Value
PRICE $1,500

AT A GLANCE
Plus
384/32 and DSD256
Eight-stage power supply
Doubles as stereo preamp
Minus
Black, boxy styling
Tricky sampling-rate LEDs

THE VERDICT
The Moon by Simaudio Neo 230HAD is a state-of-the-art headphone amplifier/DAC that has a healthy, and sometimes transformative, effect on whatever headphones you plug into it.

Like the rest of us, headphones have dreams and aspirations. They know they have to start out small with whatever phone, computer, or AVR comes to hand. But they dream of something better—of an amp and DAC tailored just for their needs. In short, they long for their dream home. If you’ve invested in a good pair of headphones, wouldn’t it be cruel to make your cans sleep on a sofabed in a basement when they deserve more headroom, more purity, the freedom to be the best they can be? The Moon by Simaudio Neo 230HAD just might be the dream home they’re hoping for.

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Mark Fleischmann Posted: May 02, 2016 2 comments
Attention, cord cutters: Broadband isn’t the only alternative to cable and satellite operators.
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Mark Fleischmann Posted: Apr 26, 2016 0 comments

Performance
Build Quality
Ergonomics
Value
PRICE $699

AT A GLANCE
Plus
Planar diaphragms
Smooth, sweet, high-res sound
Long and short cables supplied
Minus
Not as airy as some competitive ’phones

THE VERDICT
Planar headphones don’t come cheap, but the Oppo PM-2 is a relatively affordable specimen that sounds beautiful with a variety of content and signal sources.

Planar magnetic headphones have potential advantages over conventional dynamic headphones. Their flat diaphragms have magnets evenly spread across them, driving the entire surface, as opposed to a single coil driving the center of a diaphragm. The result can be greater resolution and phase coherence. But that potential performance edge comes at a price. So headphone fans rejoiced when Oppo—which won positive reviews for its $1,099 PM-1—introduced the PM-2, with some of the same features, at a more affordable price of $699, followed by the even more affordable PM-3 ($399). I’ve been spending much of the past year or so listening to the PM-2.

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Mark Fleischmann Posted: Apr 26, 2016 4 comments
Seventy-nine percent of U.S. consumers still subscribe to pay TV, but that number is dwindling as cord-trimmers, cord-cutters, and cord-nevers cut into the base. That’s the news from PricewaterhouseCoopers in its report “Videoquake 3.0: The Evolution of TV’s Revolution.”
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Mark Fleischmann Posted: Apr 21, 2016 2 comments
Your PC isn’t the only connected device to be targeted by malware malefactors.
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Mark Fleischmann Posted: Apr 20, 2016 1 comments

Audio Performance
Features
Ergonomics
Value
PRICE $1,600

AT A GLANCE
Plus
Dolby Atmos and DTS:X
Aventage step-up build quality
Multiroom MusicCast
Minus
So-so room correction

THE VERDICT
The Yamaha RX-A2050 gives Dolby Atmos and DTS:X the step-up Aventage advantage with nine amplifier channels supporting 5.1.4, and it adds the sweetener of way-cool multiroom MusicCast.

Is nine the new seven? I’m talking about amp channels. Not long ago, nine-channel receivers were rare and supported relatively exotic surround modes that few people used. But Dolby Atmos bids to change the status quo by adding two to four height channels. A seven-channel receiver can support two height channels. A nine-channel receiver can support four height channels, which opens up possibilities for elevated panning in the top of the surround bubble, front to back and diagonally as well as side to side. In addition to that distinction between 5.1.2 and 5.1.4, there are other variations, such as two front-heights with two back-surrounds (7.1.2).

Mark Fleischmann Posted: Apr 18, 2016 0 comments

Performance
Features
Ergonomics
Value
PRICE $499

AT A GLANCE
Plus
A&K’s most affordable player
Same Wolfson DAC as in classic models
Flatter form factor
Minus
DSD converted to PCM
Less than intuitive GUI

THE VERDICT
The Astell & Kern AK Jr is the least expensive music player from the company that has defined the state of the art in pocketable audio.

Visit the Apple Website and scan the banner across the top: Mac, iPad, iPhone, Watch, TV, Music, Support. Where’s the iPod? You’ll have to hit Music and scroll down a bit for the link to the iPod page. There you’ll find the surviving touch, nano, and shuffle players, but no high-capacity hard-drive-based models or even the iconic click wheel. Apple (and to be fair, Apple isn’t alone) recognizes that most people now use phones for onthe-go listening.

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Mark Fleischmann Posted: Apr 14, 2016 0 comments
The good news is that Comcast’s new streaming service, Stream TV, does not count its video streams toward the subscriber’s data cap. The bad news...
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Mark Fleischmann Posted: Apr 01, 2016 1 comments
I have been a fan of Keith Emerson (1944-2016) since a childhood friend introduced me to Elegy by The Nice. I was intrigued by the long stretches of piano and Hammond organ improvisation overlaid onto recognizable songs—among other things. What just zipped by? Was that a Tchaikovsky symphony movement? My heirs may someday be startled to find three LP copies (and one CD) of this album. Not long afterward, I spent my lawn-mowing money on the untitled debut album of Emerson Lake & Palmer. After more plays than I can even estimate, and on some pretty dodgy turntables, it's developed some sibilance problems, as I noticed on a recent memorial spin, but the DVD-Audio/CD edition with Steven Wilson's surround and stereo remasters has picked up the torch.

Mark Fleischmann Posted: Mar 24, 2016 6 comments

Diamond 220 Speaker System
Performance
Build Quality
Value

WH-D10 Subwoofer
Performance
Features
Build Quality
Value
PRICE $1,546 as reviewed

AT A GLANCE
Plus
Superb sound for price
Bottom port cuts unwanted noise
Dressy cosmetics
Minus
Odd binding-post layout

THE VERDICT
The Wharfedale Diamond 220 speaker system looks and sounds far better than its modest price tag would suggest.

When a venerable audio brand leaves its founders behind, sometimes it loses its way. But sometimes it gets a whole new lease on life. That’s what happened when the International Audio Group (IAG, originally of Taiwan, now of mainland China) acquired a handful of British brands, including Wharfedale, Mission, and Quad. When I visited IAG’s design and manufacturing facility in Shenzhen a dozen years ago, I was surprised at how self-reliant it was. The resident speaker designer could have a custom part made and tested in 24 hours, rather than having to outsource it and wait for months, as Wharfedale’s British forebears had to do. Thus, he has the luxury of endless tweaking. Even so, Wharfedale hasn’t had a commanding presence in the U.S. market commensurate with the brand’s engineering resources and expertise. Will the new Diamond 200 series change that?

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