Michael Fremer

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Michael Fremer Posted: Apr 04, 2011 9 comments

Performance
Features
Ergonomics
Value
Price: $2,700 At A Glance: Receiver priced, separates performance and power • Next-gen Internet connectivity and versatility • Sophisticated sonics, simplified setup

Everybody’s Been Burned

Are you weighed down by a boat anchor of an expensive, powerful, but obsolete A/V receiver that doesn’t have HDMI inputs or processing for the latest lossless audio formats? You’re not alone. Everybody’s been burned by fast-moving technological change. You could unload your boat anchor for a few hundred dollars on eBay or AudiogoN and start over. But should you? Consider that today’s cost-conscious race-to-the-bottom A/V receivers and even some separates seem to be getting cheaper but worse sounding, not better. But if Marantz’s AV7005 surround processor and MM7055 amplifier are as good as the hype suggests, this could be the way to go. And in case of future obsolescence, at least now you’re into separates, which makes upgrades a less pricey proposition.

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Michael Fremer Posted: Nov 29, 2010 1 comments
Price: $58,390 At A Glance: Huge dynamics • Enormous, transparent soundstage • Foundation shaking, boom-free, tuneful bass • Exquisite musical delicacy

Painting Pictures With Sound

To produce room-filling sound, a speaker has to move a lot of air—even in a relatively small room. Moving a lot of air, particularly in a big room, necessitates a large woofer placed in an even larger box. Refrigerator-sized speakers were commonplace in audiophiles’ living rooms back in the 1950s. When stereo arrived and required two large expanses of wood-framed grille cloth, significant others objected. Downsizing began, aided in part by Edgar Villchur’s invention of the sealed-box acoustic-suspension woofer.

Michael Fremer Posted: Oct 20, 2010 2 comments
Price: $4,998 At A Glance: Superior surround processor sonics • Excellent ergonomics • Cool-running ICEpower amp lacks definition

The Ladder to the High End

You’ve got to have sympathy for sound- and build-quality-oriented A/V electronics manufacturers like Rotel. You can go online, and for four hundred bucks and change buy a “630-watt” 7.1-channel AVR from a big-name manufacturer with all the latest lossless audio decoding from Dolby and DTS, video processing, 1080p HDMI switching, upconversion, and more. Since many people these days don’t care about good sound and because they’ve never actually heard it, they think, “Everything sounds the same.” And they think they should get it all for a pittance.

Michael Fremer Posted: Aug 30, 2010 0 comments
toppick.jpgPrice: $600 At A Glance: Dual powered subs go low • Single-box analog domain “virtual surround” • Ultra-clear vocal presentation

A Base With Good Bass

Despite the predictable claims that manufacturers make—and the breathless, indefensible hyperbolic shrieks made by computer geeks posing as audio reviewers—no one-box-solution soundbar can really replace a discrete 5.1-channel surround sound system. ZVOX founder and former Cambridge SoundWorks marketing executive Tom Hannaher knows that, and the ZVOX Website says it. Bravo.

Michael Fremer Posted: Apr 12, 2010 0 comments

Cinema 11a Surround Processor
Performance
Features
Ergonomics
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Model 7.125 Amplifier
Performance
Features
Ergonomics
Value
Price: $8,000 At A Glance: Minimal video-switching capabilities • Maximum sound quality • Amplifier made in America

Core Audiophile Values

During the last decade or so, specialty audio manufacturers have seen the marriage of home theater and high-performance audio become contentious at best and life threatening at worst. These days, companies have fewer financial resources and longer R&D lead times. Relatively small audiophile-oriented companies that sought the A/V path have been overwhelmed. Sometimes, fast-moving, shelf-life-shortening developments­—such as the adaptation of new audio and video formats—have burned these companies outright.

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Michael Fremer Posted: Jan 04, 2010 0 comments

Performance
Value
Build Quality
Price: $10,095 At A Glance: Bodacious, well-controlled bass • Clean, effervescent high frequencies • Room-filling, three-dimensional spaciousness even in two-channel mode

German Brew, U.S. Bottle

Many home theater enthusiasts may be unfamiliar with the name, but among audiophiles during the 1990s, veteran German audio designer Joachim Gerhard achieved near-legend status throughout the world for his extensive and remarkably varied line of high-performance loudspeakers marketed under the Audio Physic brand.

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Michael Fremer Posted: Sep 08, 2009 0 comments

Performance
Features
Ergonomics
Value
Price: $8,600 At A Glance: Instant touchpanel music access • Housewide and worldwide access • Elegant, intuitive interface • Unlimited storage capacity • Automatic backup and MP3 creation

Sooloos Sticks a Fork in the CD

The custom installer’s eyes lit up almost as brightly as the Sooloos Control 10’s LCD touchpanel screen as he scrolled through the 700 CDs and high-resolution digital files that had so far loaded onto the system’s hard drive.

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Michael Fremer Posted: Apr 13, 2009 0 comments
Price: $2,200 At A Glance: Ultra-sophisticated setup and calibration system • Punchy-sounding ICEPower amplification • Versatile LAN-based Home Media Gallery with iPod connectivity

Too Much Functionality?

One step down from Pioneer’s flagship $7,000 SC-09TX A/V receiver, the SC-07 offers an equally dizzying feature set and plenty of ICEpower. It’s all packed into a far more compact, shelf-friendly package, and it sells at a steeply lower $2,200 price point. If you lusted after the SC-09TX (HT, November 2008) but were put off by the price, consider what the SC-07 offers for so much less.

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Michael Fremer Posted: Apr 06, 2009 1 comments
Price: $6,044 At A Glance: Elegant, understated styling • Sweet yet detailed sound • Excellent dialogue intelligibility • Coherent three-dimensional picture • High SPLs without strain

Leather-Clad Pleasure Toy

What’s in a name? If a 1960s-era General Motors marketing consultant had suggested a car brand-named Toyota, he’d have been laughed out of the room and probably lost his job. “Are you crazy, man? No one’s gonna buy a car with toy in the name!” No one at GM is laughing at Toyota today. The car brand was named for its founder, Kiichiro Toyoda, so the company had a reason to toy around with the designation.

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Michael Fremer Posted: Mar 05, 2009 0 comments
Price: $2,000 At A Glance: Superior sound quality and ergonomics • HDMI connectivity • Auto calibration and speaker equalization • Three-zone operation

Sony Adds Major Value

Like the old canine joke punch-line, “Because he can,” electronics designers seem to be adding greater functionality and features to their A/V receivers more because they can rather than because consumers need them, want them, or are likely to use them.

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