Al Griffin

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Al Griffin Posted: Apr 09, 2014 Published: Apr 10, 2014 1 comments
Q I used Windows Media Player to rip and archive my collection of roughly 2,000 CDs in WMA Lossless format. I chose that format because I believed it would capture a bit-perfect copy of my CD as well as retain important metadata like album and song titles.

Here's my dilemma: I am learning the hard way that WMA-L does not enjoy widespread support. I recently returned a NAD network player because, while it did play the lossless WAV files in my collection, it down-rezzed WMA-L ones to 192 kbps. Now here’s my question: Is there a way to convert my files to a different format while preserving the lossless audio quality and metadata, or have I made a terrible mistake in wasting countless hours ripping so many CDs to a useless format? —Carlos Lobo / Hawthorn Woods, IL

Al Griffin Posted: Apr 04, 2014 0 comments

2D Performance
3D Performance
Features
Ergonomics
Value
PRICE $2,899

AT A GLANCE
Plus
Excellent contrast and black level for LCD
Capable of powerful brightness
Good overall 2D and 3D performance
Minus
Wireless transmitter needs to be in same space as projector

THE VERDICT
Powerful light output and contrast combined with impressive 3D make the 5030UBe a great projector option at an affordable price.

When Sound & Vision reviewed the Epson 5030UBe’s predecessor, the 5020UBe, in 2013, we were impressed by its exceptional brightness and its ability to convey satisfying blacks. Clearly, LCD projection has come a long way in a short time. Home theater projectors like the 5020UBe tend to get reviewed in a cluster with models from companies like JVC and Sony, and while the Epson ultimately didn’t match its LCOS competition when it came to contrast (JVC) or color accuracy (Sony), overall it held up extremely well—especially considering that the Epson cost several hundred dollars less and offers significantly greater brightness than either of those options.

Al Griffin Posted: Apr 03, 2014 0 comments

Performance
Build Quality
Value
PRICE $399

AT A GLANCE
Plus
Spacious bipolar sound
Ample bass for a desktop speaker
Stylish look
Minus
Slightly edgy midrange at high volume levels

THE VERDICT
Def Tech’s desktop speaker succeeds in bringing dynamic hi-fi sound to the home office.

Most early examples of desktop computer speakers were funny-looking, bad-sounding, cheaply constructed things. There were exceptions (models from Audioengine come to mind), but these tended to be rare. Although things have improved somewhat since then, any new desktop speaker trying to earn some respect still has its work cut out for it.

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Al Griffin Posted: Apr 03, 2014 7 comments
Got a tech question for Sound & Vision? Email us at AskSandV@gmail.com

Q I just bought an Oppo BDP-103 universal player and am connecting it to a Marantz AV7005 pre/pro. How do I make sure the signal gets through when playing SACDs? Use the analog RCA outputs, or can HDMI handle it? —Mike Groft / via e-mail

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Al Griffin Posted: Mar 27, 2014 3 comments
Got a tech question for Sound & Vision? Email us at AskSandV@gmail.com

Q If I download 24-bit high-res music from an online source such as HDtracks.com, can I then burn it to a blank DVD and play it on the DVD-Audio player in my home theater system? It sucks that you can no longer buy DVD-Audio discs, but I was hoping to get DVD-Audio-like performance using this method. —Rick Cooper

Al Griffin Posted: Mar 21, 2014 2 comments

Performance
Features
Ergonomics
Value
PRICE $599

AT A GLANCE
Plus
Slick, speedy interface
3-TB hard disk for seemingly limitless recording
TiVo iOS app streams content in or away from home
Minus
Primitive Amazon Instant Video app

THE VERDICT
TiVo’s next-generation DVR makes TV watching a truly connected experience.

Last summer, after a nearly nine-year relationship, I showed my cable company–supplied DVR the door. Our life together had become increasingly untenable. My main gripe was that its limited-capacity hard drive put me in the constant position of having to delete old recordings to make room for new ones. It also had no connection options to link to a wired or wireless home network. These days, any component that can’t link to the Internet and communicate with computers, phones, and tablets is as good as junk. (We’ll give turntables a pass—for now.) Furthermore, my old DVR whirred and wheezed like the geezer it was, often emitting its loudest groans during music-listening sessions where I had no choice but to pull the plug.

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Al Griffin Posted: Mar 20, 2014 4 comments
Got a tech question for Sound & Vision? Email us at AskSandV@gmail.com

Q I would like to get my feet wet with high-res audio, but don’t want to make a huge hardware investment. I’ve found some 192/24 tracks I’d like to buy from HDTracks.com. What would be the next step after I download these in ALAC format to my MacBook Air? Can I play them via my Mac’s optical output to the optical input on my preamp-processor (Emotiva UMC-1)? Can I stream them to said pre-pro via Apple TV or Airplay? Since the UMC-1 doesn’t have a USB input, do I need to buy a Dragonfly DAC or something like that? How about a USB headphone amp?  I obviously want a hardware setup that preserves the highest resolution. —Steve Burbidge / Minneapolis, MN

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Al Griffin Posted: Mar 17, 2014 6 comments
The effects of dynamic volume control are illustrated in this diagram from Audyssey.

Got a tech question for Sound & Vision? Email us at AskSandV@gmail.com

Q When watching a movie, I often have to turn the volume up to hear the dialogue but then find that the action scenes are too loud and have to turn it down again. My speakers are all from the same product line, so I know they are meant to play well together. I also use the automatic room correction on my Pioneer VSX-914-K AV receiver to adjust levels and distances for the speakers. Is the volume issue due to the way movies are mixed these days? —Ricky Meadows / via e-mail Ricky Meadows / via e-mail

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Al Griffin Posted: Mar 13, 2014 4 comments
Q I'm looking for a way to play two-channel music via iTunes AirPlay streaming through my Pioneer SC-57 receiver while watching muted sports on my plasma TV, which doesn’t have ARC. All my HDMI sources currently go into the receiver, with a single HDMI output to the TV. Is there a way to set up a second zone on the SC-57? Some other simple solution that I'm missing? —Jason Karley / via email
Al Griffin Posted: Mar 10, 2014 0 comments

2D Performance
3D Performance
Features
Ergonomics
Value
PRICE $1,400

AT A GLANCE
Plus
Great contrast and screen uniformity
Good looks
Decent set of streaming options
Minus
Slightly inaccurate color
Unimpressive 3D performance

THE VERDICT
Vizio’s 60-incher combines very good value with above-average picture quality.

With the CES in the rearview mirror, it’s time to look ahead to the new TVs that 2014 will bring. Hold on: Was there something we missed as 2013 wound down? Sound & Vision lavished loads of attention on OLED, 4K, and other high-priced TV options in 2013, but what about the budget category? Anything happen there worth looking at?

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