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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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Mark Fleischmann Posted: Mar 04, 2016 2 comments
Concertgoers will enjoy a new experience on Beyoncé's next tour. Starting in April 2016, the Formation World Tour will be the first to feature THX Live! certification. Yes, THX is now certifying concert sound.

Mark Fleischmann Posted: Mar 03, 2016 5 comments

Performance
Features
Ergonomics
Value
PRICE $699

AT A GLANCE
Plus
AirPlay, Bluetooth, analog input
Redesign reduces cabinet resonance
Unique cosmetics
Minus
No iPhone/iPod dock

THE VERDICT
Bowers & Wilkins revises, revoices, and updates its popular high-end Zeppelin speaker to eliminate the iPhone/iPod dock, focusing instead on wireless connectivity—and it sounds better than ever.

The debut of the iPod was so cataclysmic that it nearly hurled the planet out of orbit. “1,000 songs in your pocket” was a revolution on par with “perfect sound forever.” And now it seems just as archaic. In fact, Apple no longer offers the iPod classic, and Bowers & Wilkins has quietly eliminated the iPhone/iPod dock from its formidable Zeppelin one-piece audio system. If you want to plug a wired device into the new Zeppelin Wireless, it’ll have to go into the analog minijack in back—the servants’ entrance, as it were.

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Mark Fleischmann Posted: Mar 01, 2016 1 comments
Binge On is the name of T-Mobile’s new streaming service for mobile devices, which delivers major channels and platforms with no data caps or overage fees.
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Mark Fleischmann Posted: Feb 24, 2016 3 comments
Ultra HDTVs and associated technologies are the next chapter in video history. But they also use an average of 30 percent more energy than regular HDTVs. According to a report from the National Resources Defense Council, this may add $1 billion to U.S. consumers’ energy bills.
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Mark Fleischmann Posted: Feb 05, 2016 15 comments
It is now blindingly obvious that music has burst free of its chains. Even the traditionalist audio categories I cover have ways to make music fly through the air. Let me run through some approaches to wireless connectivity—some well established, others new and novel. When we get to the finish line, I'd love to hear about what you use and what you would like to try.
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Mark Fleischmann Posted: Feb 04, 2016 5 comments

Performance
Build Quality
Comfort
Value
PRICE $250

AT A GLANCE
Plus
Musically coherent sound
Comfortable velour earpads
Moving parts don’t creak
Minus
Not especially rugged
Limited low bass
No carry case

THE VERDICT
The affordable Sennheiser HD 598 is styled differently from its famous and more costly sibling, the HD 600, but is just as beautifully voiced and just as insanely comfortable.

The motley crew that lives in my headphone drawer was getting long in the tooth when I decided to add a widely acknowledged classic to the collection. The new acquisition was the Sennheiser HD 600, now more than 20 years and umpteen generations old, and he’s become my go-to guy when I want to spend an evening kicking back with headphones that guarantee total physical and listening comfort. Lately I’ve had a chance to try the HD 600’s little brother, the HD 598. At $250, it lists for $150 less than the HD 600, though as of mid-November it was widely available at major online e-tailers (Amazon, Best Buy, B&H) for $150 to $175.

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Mark Fleischmann Posted: Feb 03, 2016 15 comments

Audio Performance
Video Performance
Features
Ergonomics
Value
PRICE $2,199

AT A GLANCE
Plus
Nine amp channels
Atmos-ready, upgradable for DTS:X, Auro-3D
Audyssey MultEQ XT32 room correction
Minus
USB jack not PC compatible

THE VERDICT
The Marantz SR7010 has nine amp channels, Dolby Atmos decoding, DTS:X upgradability, and even Auro-3D upgradability, making it as future-proof as a receiver can currently be.

The Marantz SR7010 is the fifth Dolby Atmos receiver I’ve reviewed. However, to be frank, it’s only the second one that matters to me. Most of the Atmos receivers occupying my rack’s guest berth have been seven-channel models limited to 5.1.2-channel Atmos, with just a single pair of height channels in the front. Only the nine-channel Pioneer Elite SC-89 and this Marantz have provided what I deem the minimum acceptable Atmos experience utilizing 5.1.4 channels, with height channels in both front and back.

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Mark Fleischmann Posted: Jan 28, 2016 0 comments
What better people to fill a channel with stirring Ultra HD visuals than the folks who landed men on the moon?
Mark Fleischmann Posted: Jan 28, 2016 1 comments
Performance
Features
Ergonomics
Value
PRICE $3,499

AT A GLANCE
Plus
Compatible with DSD and 32-bit PCM
Streams to and from other devices
Extraordinary build quality
Minus
Breathtakingly high priced
32-bit capability is irrelevant to non-professionals

THE VERDICT
Astell & Kern’s AK380 offers copious network audio features and the unique plus of native 32-bit playback—but is it worth the high price to consumers?

Shock lead of the year: Astell & Kern’s AK380 music player retails for $3,499. That’s an awful lot to pay for a pocketful of music. But it seems unjust to start a review of such a product by carping over its price before evaluating its merits. After all, not many people muster moral outrage over the price tags on Porsches, Patek Philippe watches, or 99-point offerings in Wine Spectator. Why should high-end audio units—including the Pono, a comparative bargain at $400— be the only perfectionist products to face puritan scorn? No, as a consumer, I wouldn’t pay $3,499 for a music player. But as a critic, I’m willing to consider cost-noobject items on their own terms.

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