Mark Fleischmann

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Mark Fleischmann Posted: Oct 17, 2014 4 comments

Imagine XB Speaker System
Performance
Build Quality
Value
SubSeries 125 Subwoofer
Performance
Features
Build Quality
Value
PRICE $1,846

AT A GLANCE
Plus
Clarity and evenness
Compact, tuneful sub
Affordable price
Minus
Dynamic limits of small sub

THE VERDICT
PSB’s Imagine X series refreshes a popular speaker line with reliably excellent sound.

A small but growing number of my younger readers care more about headphones than loudspeakers—but might eventually want to own both. That’s why I’m about to use headphones as the starting point in a speaker review.

There are names that evoke loudspeakers: Bowers & Wilkins, GoldenEar, KEF, Klipsch, MartinLogan, Paradigm, Wilson, Definitive Technology. Then there are names that evoke headphones: AKG, Audeze, Beyer, Grado, Koss, Sennheiser, Stax. However, though several speaker manufacturers have dabbled in headphones, it’s hard to think of many brands known equally well in both categories.

Mark Fleischmann Posted: Oct 10, 2014 2 comments

Excite X14 Speaker System
Performance
Build Qaulity
Value

Sub 250 II Subwoofer
Performance
Features
Build Quality
Value
PRICE $5,100

AT A GLANCE
Plus
Generous soundfield
Surprisingly strong bass
Gorgeous veneers
Minus
Expensive for small speakers

THE VERDICT
Dynaudio’s X14, part of the revised Excite line, earns its high-end price tag with sweet build quality and high performance, including a bottom end that is amazingly substantial for a small speaker.

The high end exists in the eye of the beholder. To some folks, a pair of mini-monitors selling for $1,500—or a 5.1-channel system at $5,100—may seem steeply priced. In fact, if you want lower-priced alternatives, you’ll find plenty among our Top Picks. But there always will be another kind of consumer who is fussy about what he or she brings into the living room. Vinyl-wrapped boxes won’t cut it; they want furniture-grade wood veneer. In the same discriminating spirit, the Danish manufacturer Dynaudio is equally fussy about materials, including drivers that the company designs and makes itself. In the recently overhauled Excite line, the result is a speaker that exceeds already high expectations in both appearance and sound. The X14 monitor and X24 center are my favorite kind of small speaker: the kind that sounds bigger than it looks.

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Mark Fleischmann Posted: Oct 10, 2014 0 comments
Sony’s PlayStation TV is a set-top box that partners with the new PlayStation 4 console to play games on a secondary TV. But it’s not just a gaming hub—it also bids to be a media hub by accessing movies and TV shows through the PlayStation Store. It plays PS3 titles through the PlayStation Now service, which made its debut on July 31, as well as older PS2 and PS1 titles. Price is $99 for the PlayStation TV itself or $139 for the box with controller, 8-GB memory card, and digital download code for a game based on The Lego Movie.
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Mark Fleischmann Posted: Oct 08, 2014 8 comments

Audio Performance
Video Performance
Features
Ergonomics
Value
PRICE $600

AT A GLANCE
Plus
Outstanding sonics for the price
HDMI 2.0 interface
Roku Ready via MHL
Minus
HDCP 2.2 DRM not included
Bluetooth, Wi-Fi cost extra

THE VERDICT
The Pioneer VSX-1124 delivers sterling sound, though with a slightly reduced feature set, at a highly competitive price point.

The phrase “believe in miracles” is a powerful one in pop music. It turns up in songs by the Bee Gees, Jefferson Starship, Pearl Jam, Slade, and others. It appears prominently in the Hot Chocolate hit “You Sexy Thing,” covered by everyone from David Bowie to Barry White. Perhaps the most poignant use of the phrase is in “I Believe in Miracles” by the Ramones: “I used to be on an endless run/Believe in miracles ’cause I’m one.” One of the ongoing miracles in my life, besides the fact that I’m still walking around, is the audio/video receiver.

Let me remind you that the AV receiver—especially at the $600 price point—is one of the great miracles of consumer electronics...

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Mark Fleischmann Posted: Oct 03, 2014 4 comments
Should there be a Soundbar Bill of Rights? Consumer rights are trivial compared to the majesty of the U.S. Constitution's Bill of Rights—for example, the right to freedom of speech (Fourth Article) or the right to a speedy and public trial (Ninth Article). Even so, the question is provocative enough for one little blog.

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Mark Fleischmann Posted: Oct 01, 2014 1 comments
High-resolution audio is getting a big industry push, but until now the category has labored without a definition. The Digital Entertainment Group, the Consumer Electronics Association, and The Recording Academy have teamed up to offer one. They define what they call Master Quality Recording in four ways: MQ-P audio comes from a PCM source with minimum 48/20 resolution, but “typically” is 96/24 or 192/24 in today’s download services. MQ-A is from an analog source, and high-quality analog can still be deemed high-res. MQ-C grandfathers in CD-quality 44.1/16 audio. And MQ-D refers to DSD sources. Taken together, these categories define high-res audio somewhat broadly. Even so, they may give the informed consumer a better idea of what he’s buying (for those of us who still buy music).
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Mark Fleischmann Posted: Oct 01, 2014 0 comments
The proposed merger between AT&T and DirecTV would create the nation’s second largest pay-TV company. With the telco bringing 5.7 million U-verse subscribers to the table, and the satellite operator a considerably greater 20.3 million, the merged entity would have 26 million video subscribers, ranking just below the proposed merger of Comcast and Time Warner Cable with 30 million subscribers.
Mark Fleischmann Posted: Sep 29, 2014 1 comments

Performance
Features
Ergonomics
Value
PRICE $1,000

AT A GLANCE
Plus
Serious drivers and power
AirPlay, Bluetooth, DLNA
Cool retro styling
Minus
Some connectors inconveniently located
Bright tonal balance, though adjustable

THE VERDICT
JBL’s Authentics L16 is a powerful-sounding triple-threat wireless speaker system—oh, and it’s got a phono input.

If you’re the type who likes to order the biggest hero (hoagie, grinder, po’ boy, or submarine depending on where you live) sandwich you can find with everything on it, JBL’s Authentics L16 may be just the wireless speaker for you. At more than 2 feet wide, it’s a big mama jama. And its wireless connectivity is all-embracing. In addition to a direct device-to-device Bluetooth connection, the L16 supports both Apple AirPlay and DLNA via Wi-Fi, for streaming from just about any smartphone, tablet, or computer. It’s also got the retro angle covered, with cubed sculpted-foam grille cosmetics.

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Mark Fleischmann Posted: Sep 25, 2014 1 comments
Consider the humble headphone jack. Whether it welcomes a big quarter-inch plug or a mini-plug, it is the nearly universal analog interface for headphones great and small. Apple is trying to change that with an addition to its Made for iPhone spec. Apple-friendly headphones will use the company’s new Lightning connector to receive 48-kilohertz digital stereo input, or 48-kHz mono for headphones with integrated mikes. Lightning headphones dubbed Standard will include a DAC, while those dubbed Advanced will add DSP and features such as active noise cancellation.
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Mark Fleischmann Posted: Sep 19, 2014 4 comments

Audio Performance
Video Performance
Features
Ergonomics
Value
PRICE $650

AT A GLANCE
Plus
Wi-Fi, AirPlay, Bluetooth
HDMI 2.0
Cool cardboard mike stand included
Minus
Slow DLNA media access
No MHL for phone streaming

THE VERDICT
The Denon AVR-S900W offers high value at a crowded price point, with superb performance, a competitive feature set, and a supplied stand for the room-correction mike.

You can’t set up room correction without a microphone, and you can’t use the mike without bringing it to ear-level elevation. But few A/V receiver makers include a mike stand. Along with Anthem, Denon is now one of the happy exceptions. No, the stand packed with the AVR-S900W isn’t a metal photography tripod with all the mechanical trimmings. But it is an effective platform for the mike used to set up Audyssey room correction. Constructed entirely of black card stock, it consists of a four-finned base, two plain column pieces, and a third column piece with sawtooth holes for height adjustment. Piece it all together, top it off with the customary Hershey’s Kiss–shaped mike, and you have something that looks like a rocket. Run Audyssey’s auto setup and room correction program—in this case, the MultEQ version, which measures from six seating positions—and your home theater system is ready for liftoff.

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