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Mark Fleischmann Posted: Sep 23, 2015 0 comments
Once a soundbar is mounted on the wall below the TV, a lot of folks are tempted to use it for music. An NPD Group survey found that 55 percent of soundbar owners use it for such things as podcasts and radio (though probably not vinyl). That makes sense, since more than 80 percent of bars have Bluetooth capability to communicate with mobile devices. Among 18-to-34-year-olds, 66 percent use the bar for music. As soundbars wax, other product categories wane. Forty-five percent of soundbar owners retired a home theater in a box system and 35 percent retired an A/V receiver.
Mark Fleischmann Posted: Sep 17, 2015 0 comments

RP-150M Speaker System
Performance
Build Quality
Value
R-110SW Subwoofer
Performance
Features
Build Quality
Value
PRICE $2,399 as reviewed

AT A GLANCE
Plus
Titanium-dome tweeters in 90x90 Tractrix horns
Tractrix-shaped rear ports
Wireless sub option
Minus
Sacrifices some warmth for analytic detail
Sub subdued

THE VERDICT
Klipsch’s Reference Premiere achieves high resolution at a low price, though it can be too revealing for some content.

Klipsch is built on concepts so fundamental that they have transcended changes in audio fashion and even ownership. Chief among them is the concept of horn-loading, promulgated by the legendary Paul W. Klipsch (1904–2002) and marketed by him, his family, and their successors. It enables reasonably priced speakers to play louder, and to many listeners sound clearer, with less power. Klipsch speakers also look like no one else’s, thanks to the tangerine/copper color of the woofers, another of the brand’s 20th-century traditions.

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Mark Fleischmann Posted: Sep 15, 2015 0 comments
Pay-TV bundles bulging with never-watched channels have been the bane of consumer groups. They’ve long supported the concept of à la carte cable, which would let subscribers buy just the channels they want. Verizon’s FiOS Custom TV package isn’t exactly à la carte—but it does put the typical pay-TV bundle on a drastic diet. And that “skinny” package, as some call it, is making some networks very unhappy.
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Mark Fleischmann Posted: Sep 04, 2015 9 comments
What's in a name? At times, not a whole lot of sense. The consumer electronics industry has a genius for giving dopey names to things: unintentionally misleading names, deliberately misleading names, duplicative names, redundant names, outright laughable names. Here are just a few:

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Mark Fleischmann Posted: Sep 03, 2015 10 comments

Audio Performance
Video Performance
Features
Ergonomics
Value
PRICE $600

AT A GLANCE
Plus
Wi-Fi, AirPlay, Bluetooth
MHL on front and rear
Google Cast, Spotify Connect
Minus
Confusing A.F.D., HD-D.C.S. terminology

THE VERDICT
If you can do without Dolby Atmos in this seven-channel AVR, Sony’s well-thought-out wireless functionality and sweet, golden sound are an unbeatable combination.

Let me say this up front: The Sony STR-DN1060 doesn’t do Dolby Atmos. Whether this is a serious omission in a seven-channel receiver today is debatable—but I’d say not. Most of the first-generation Atmos receivers have shortcomings of their own. For one thing, they lack the forthcoming DTS:X, the other flavor of object-oriented, height-enabled surround sound. More critically, seven-channel models can offer only Atmos 5.1.2, with two height channels in front or directly above the listener but none in back. That is at best a limited version of the Atmos experience because it doesn’t create the full dome-shaped soundfield of 5.1.4.

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Mark Fleischmann Posted: Sep 01, 2015 0 comments
HDMI 2.0a is almost upon us. But why? Didn’t A/V manufacturers just assimilate HDMI 2.0?

The answer is that HDMI 2.0a will further improve picture quality, firming up 2.0’s Ultra HD support with complementary HDR (high dynamic range) technology. Does that mean 2.0a will transmit video in a new way?

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Mark Fleischmann Posted: Aug 28, 2015 3 comments
The average cable subscriber is staggering under constant rate hikes. But don’t expect any help from the Federal Communications Commission. It has just issued a ruling saying cable operators are presumed to face “effective competition.” That will make it harder for local governments to petition for regulation of skyrocketing cable rates.
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Mark Fleischmann Posted: Aug 27, 2015 6 comments

Audio Performance
Video Performance
Features
Ergonomics
Value
PRICE $599

AT A GLANCE
Plus
Dolby Atmos
Wi-Fi, AirPlay, Bluetooth
HDR support
Minus
No Ultra HD scaling

THE VERDICT
The Onkyo TX-NR545 is a wireless-triple-threat receiver with an intrinsically good-sounding amp.

Most A/V receivers have seven audio channels for reasons that date back to 1999 and are all but forgotten. The original rationale for adding two channels to surround sound’s basic 5.1 footprint was to accommodate back-surround speakers for THX Surround EX (later renamed Dolby Digital EX) and DTS-ES. While I mean no disrespect to the many readers who enjoy the back surrounds in their 7.1 systems, I’ve been against back surrounds from the beginning. My argument in one sentence is: Three channels in front, four in back—what’s wrong with this picture? I’ve always considered 5.1 the bedrock standard of surround sound, and I still do, even today.

Mark Fleischmann Posted: Aug 25, 2015 0 comments

Mini A Speaker System
Performance
Build Quality
Value

Model A Subwoofer
Performance
Features
Build Quality
Value
PRICE $4,785

AT A GLANCE
Plus
Coordinated on- and off-axis response
Custom drivers
Strong dual-10-inch sub
Minus
Center not fully timbre-matched
Not much to look at
Sub crossover limited to two settings

THE VERDICT
The Bryston Mini A offers refined performance and—though it’s not obvious to the naked eye—serious build quality at a moderate price.

So many audio products start as marketing necessities. But how many start as personal quests? When Bryston’s James Tanner wanted to design a one-off “ultimate loudspeaker” for his own reference system, the resulting Mini T floorstanding tower impressed his colleagues so much that it squirreled its way into the upper-echelon marketing channels usually reserved for Bryston’s formidable preamps and amps (which, incidentally, include surround-friendly three-, five-, and eight-channel models).

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Mark Fleischmann Posted: Aug 20, 2015 0 comments

Performance
Features
Ergonomics
Value
PRICE $1,500 (updated 10/14/15)

AT A GLANCE
Plus
HDMI, lossless surround decoding
UHD-capable video passthrough
Minus
High-end pricing
No HDCP 2.2 DRM for UHD

THE VERDICT
If you close your eyes, the Arcam Solo Bar and Solo Sub sound more like a decent component system than a soundbar.

Soundbars take three forms. The main distinction among them is what serves as the heart of your system. With a passive soundbar, the A/V receiver—with all its features, joys, and woes—is the clearinghouse, and all signal sources go through it. With a less expensive active soundbar, the TV often replaces the receiver, and all signals go through the TV into the bar. But the Arcam Solo Bar is the type of active soundbar that replaces both the receiver and the TV as the heart of your system.

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