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Mark Fleischmann

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Mark Fleischmann Posted: Aug 10, 2012 2 comments

Performance
Build Quality
Value
Price: $6,800 At A Glance: Three-way with coaxial midrange/tweeter • Sub with dual side-firing drivers • Laser-like focus and well rounded

Kent, in the south of England, was best known for hop farming when Raymond Cooke left Wharfedale and founded KEF in 1961. The company was named after the industrial site on which it was founded: Kent Engineering & Foundry. KEF’s numerous distinguished alumni include Laurie Fincham, who now develops next-generation audio technologies for THX, and Andrew Jones, who designs world-beating loudspeakers at a variety of price points for Pioneer and TAD. KEF has earned a reputation for making both great speaker systems and great speaker drivers, some of which were instrumental in the legendary BBC-designed LS3/5A, which KEF and other manufacturers have marketed in various forms. Roving through a New York cocktail party celebrating KEF’s 50th anniversary last year, hobnobbing with the audio elite, I found that the drive units inspired as much nostalgia as the speakers in which they were used. (To read about KEF’s history in more detail—and in a handsome coffee-table book, no less—see KEF: 50 Years of Innovation in Sound by Ken Kessler and Dr. Andrew Watson.)

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Mark Fleischmann Posted: Jul 18, 2012 0 comments
Readers may already have noticed that my speaker and receiver reviews have begun name-checking a new reference signal source. It is a Micro Seiki BL-51 turntable. And it's a jewel. There isn't a single component in my rack that I don't respect and depend on. But the Micro Seiki I love-love-love. Let me tell you how and why I acquired it.

Mark Fleischmann Posted: Jul 17, 2012 3 comments
Audio is not supposed to be fun. That’s why outdoor speakers are a terrible idea. Music is meant to be enjoyed in an acoustically perfect room by a single person sitting in the sweet spot. While you listen, it might be permissible to reverently handle a gatefold album jacket or dutifully edit metadata to make it absolutely perfect. But it is not permissible to swim, soak up the sun, watch the kids play with the dog, pour daiquiris from a pitcher, or hobnob with neighbors. Above all, it is never socially acceptable to barbecue while listening to music. If you are a morally upright audiophile, you may safely assume the rest of this story will be in the same vein. Go now. Retreat to your music library while I discipline the riffraff.
Mark Fleischmann Posted: Jul 12, 2012 3 comments

Performance
Build Quality
Value
Price: $1,098 At A Glance: Dual orbs in front, single orbs behind • Full-range drivers in steel enclosures • Rod or pedestal stand

Spherical loudspeakers are perhaps too easily dismissed: “Oh look, it’s round. Cute gimmick. Next…” That box speakers are easy to build certainly doesn’t guarantee sound quality. In fact, designers of quality speakers are constantly rebelling against the limitations of rectangular enclosures. To curb cabinet resonance, designers build bracing into the box and stuff the interior with damping material. They curve the sides to stop standing waves from developing between parallel walls. But rather than tweak boxes, some do away with them altogether. So if you think the spherical steel shells of Orb Audio’s People’s Choice satellite speakers are mere gimmicks, think again.

Mark Fleischmann Posted: Jun 26, 2012 7 comments
Performance
Features
Ergonomics
Value
Price: $600 At a Glance: 2.1 independently amped channels • Bluetooth and dock connectivity • Tweaked by Paul Barton

The NAD VISO 1 was an immediate hit in my household from the moment it was uncrated. Between my roommate and myself, it received Bluetooth input from an iPad 2, iPhone 4, and iPod touch 2G. The dock played host to two iPod nano 6Gs and two nano 2Gs in addition to the nano 5G actually used for formal demos. Though not portable in the strictest sense—it won’t slip easily into a briefcase or carry-on—the system was still movable, and eager hands shifted it from living room to bedroom to kitchen. It was pressed into service to provide music for ballet exercises, cooking, reading, and bedtime listening.

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Mark Fleischmann Posted: Jun 08, 2012 6 comments
Audio Performance
Video Performance
Features
Ergonomics
Value
Price: $2,599 At A Glance: ICEpower Class-D amplification • Bluetooth- and iOS-compatible USB • No room correction or low-volume mode

How would you like your audio/video receiver if it had a coal chute and chimney atop the chassis? Would you enjoy shoveling coal into the chute as the chimney belched black smoke and particulates into your home?

Or would you find this entire arrangement so unhealthy, so 19th century, as to be unbearable? Most people probably would prefer to avoid burning coal when sitting down for movie night or putting on some music. And of course, there are no A/V receivers that run directly on coal. But don’t fool yourself. Coal is the single-largest feedstock for electricity generation—not only in developing economies like China, but in the United States as well—far outpacing natural gas, nuclear energy, and other sources.

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Mark Fleischmann Posted: May 25, 2012 4 comments

Audio Performance
Video Performance
Features
Ergonomics
Value
Price: $1,200 At A Glance: AirPlay and Bluetooth connectivity • Porthole design • Marantz audiophile tradition continues

Few brands offer as many entry points into audiophilia as Marantz. The vintage angle alone is priceless. Cruise eBay and Audiogon for everything from pricey restorations of vintage tube components to affordable, classic stereo receivers from the 1970s. The present-day Marantz, an honored member of the D&M Holdings family, is the brand to look to for answers to questions like, “Does anyone still make a decent-sounding, standalone CD player?” In some future lifetime, I may explore the potential of such bleeding-edge Reference Series components as the SC-7S2 stereo preamp ($6,500) or the TT-15S1 turntable ($1,500) with the acrylic chassis and platter. But Marantz’s lines of A/V receivers and surround separates have plenty of meat on the bone for both high-end and real-world home theater buffs. In fact, many of Marantz’s multichannel products are adorned with the same distinctive porthole display as the highest-performing members of the brand’s two-channel lines. Putting a round display on a product doesn’t necessarily guarantee quality, but the migration of this cosmetic signature does suggest that Marantz holds surround audiophiles and stereophiles in equally high regard.

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Mark Fleischmann Posted: May 01, 2012 12 comments
Audio Performance
Video Performance
Features
Ergonomics
Value
Price: $1,100 At A Glance: Discrete amplifier circuitry, 125-watt channels • CI customintegrator features • Full Apple and Audyssey suites

Denon has long been among the most nimble of the major manufacturers of audio/video receivers. If a feature of any significance raises its head above the parapet, Denon nails it faster than just about anyone—and often spreads it among many models. You might quibble over the value of, say, the company’s quick and near-universal inclusion of multiple height-channel surround enhancements. But as one of Denon’s CI-series models, the AVR-3312CI also has a substantial array of features designed to make life easier for custom integrators and their clients. It sure doesn’t hurt that the receiver is Apple-hip.

Mark Fleischmann Posted: Apr 26, 2012 2 comments

Performance
Build Quality
Value
Price: $900 each At A Glance: Comprehensive bass optimization in a small cabinet • Compelling midrange • Speckle gloss finish

As a surround-oriented magazine, we rarely review speakers in stereo. But when Atlantic Technology offered a pair of its AT-2 H-PAS speaker, we couldn’t resist a listen. This loudspeaker uses an intricately constructed stand-mount enclosure to deliver bass comparable to that of an equivalent conventional floorstander. Does anyone want it?

Mark Fleischmann Posted: Apr 13, 2012 5 comments

Performance
Build Quality
Value
Price: $1,745 At A Glance: Sealed design controls bass • Satin-finish MDF enclosures • Factory-direct sales enhance value

Are you one of those people who can’t resist a supermarket circular? Do you trawl the Internet looking for coupon codes that can be pasted into online purchases? Loudspeaker pricing doesn’t often indulge us with the same feeling of satisfaction that we get from buying a jumbo jar of marinara sauce or a cashmere scarf at an extremely low price. But while researching this review last December, I couldn’t help noting that Emotiva’s factory-direct speakers offered some wiggle room to the timely shopper. The XRC-5.2 LCR speaker normally sold for $299/each—not a bad price to begin with—but was momentarily going for an introductory price of $239/each.

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