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Daniel Kumin Posted: Feb 22, 2017 1 comments

Performance
Features
Ergonomics
Value
PRICE $699

AT A GLANCE
Plus
Good power in compact form
Outstanding app-enabled subwoofer auto-setup
Onboard 192/24 USB DAC
Minus
No line outputs for external amp
Small display

THE VERDICT
Elac’s Element EA101EQ-G amp/DAC nails the sweet spot of price, performance, and worthwhile features with surprisingly audiophile sound and the added value of auto-EQ and app-enabled subwoofer crossover/blending.

It’s an amplifier. It’s a USB DAC. It’s a room/subwoofer equalizer. It’s a headphone amp. It’s an app-enabled Bluetooth receiver. It’s all of these, and it’s only $699—and it’s from the revived German brand Elac, whose latest Andrew Jones–designed loudspeakers have won acclaim in these pages and elsewhere. Ultimately, Elac’s Element EA101EQ-G may be best characterized as what the stereo receiver is morphing into for the 21st century.

Daniel Kumin Posted: Feb 01, 2017 0 comments

Audio Performance
Features
Ergonomics
Value
PRICE $2,999

AT A GLANCE
Plus
Pristine audio plus 4K passthrough video
Clean, simple, eminently usable design
Excellent proprietary auto-setup/EQ system
DTS Play-Fi streaming/multiroom wireless capability
Minus
Lacks Bluetooth, USB playback
No legacy video connections or scaling

THE VERDICT
The AVM 60 has everything you want in an A/V preamp/processor—and less. The stuff that Anthem has left off their more affordable pre/pro model contributes to simplicity and usability, and most buyers will end up thanking them in the long run.

For much of the home theater epoch, system builders who (for whatever reasons) have favored a separates-based system— built around an A/V preamplifier/processor and a suitable amplifier or amps—and have preferred such a system over the more usual A/V receiver approach have had, in essence, two choices. They could select one of a few very expensive, esoteric, high-end American or European designs, with the knowledge that they would probably lag a generation or two behind in HDMI version and latest-greatest surround and video processing. Or they could select a latest-model Japanese offering—recently, this has meant, effect-ively, Integra/Onkyo, Marantz, or Yamaha—and get more up-tothe-minute tech and more digestible pricing, at a certain cost in audiophile street-cred and (perhaps, depending on your belief system) sonic refinement.

Daniel Kumin Posted: Jan 26, 2017 5 comments

Audio Performance
Features
Ergonomics
Value
PRICE $2,199

AT A GLANCE
Plus
Impressively dynamic, generous nine-channel power
Dolby Atmos, DTS:X on board
THX Select2 certified
Minus
Meh remote
Ocassionally unintuitive ergonomics
Some features still await firmware update
Premium pricing

THE VERDICT
This Onkyo has faultless amplification and solid usability, though you’ll pay extra for it.

Onkyo must not have gotten the memo about Class D–powered audio gear being smaller, svelter, lighter. The company’s new topmodel-but-one TX-RZ1100 is an imposing object 8 inches tall, and while the receiver’s 43-pound weight poses no challenge to the seemingly 100-pounders of yesteryear, it’s not exactly nothing, either.

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Daniel Kumin Posted: Jan 17, 2017 3 comments
FM sinks slowly below the horizon, first — appropriately enough (it gets dark early there) — in Norway.
Daniel Kumin Posted: Dec 22, 2016 1 comments
From time to time, in these pages—err, screens—and elsewhere, you’ll see references to amplifier “class”: Class A, Class D, and so on. What’s it mean?
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Daniel Kumin Posted: Dec 20, 2016 0 comments

Performance
Build Quality
Value
PRICE $1,177

AT A GLANCE
Plus
Neutral balance with fine imaging
Very good center-channel performance, integration
Superb value
Minus
Towers may require substantial tilt-back

THE VERDICT
Emotiva’s new passive loudspeakers combine serious audio design and refinement with sufficient construction and finish quality to establish unprecedented value.

There’s been plenty of ink spilled, print and digital, in Sound & Vision and elsewhere, about Tennessee’s direct-to-consumer brand Emotiva and the disruptive pricing the company has brought to various audio categories. To date, this has been mostly focused on electronics, where power amps, preamps, pre/pros, and DACs have been offered up for surprisingly small sums that seem to belie their inherent engineering and build quality. Corner company founder Dan Laufman about how he does it, and he’ll enthusiastically share his prior life as an OEM for other audio brands (many of which you know well) and how he’s learned a few tricks about where and how to stretch raw material costs in the most meaningful ways.

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Daniel Kumin Posted: Nov 07, 2016 7 comments
Friends don't let friends buy curved.
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Daniel Kumin Posted: Oct 13, 2016 1 comments
Audio Performance
Features
Ergonomics
Value
PRICE $6,000

AT A GLANCE
Plus
Outstanding seven-channel power from uncommon amp topology
Dirac Live auto setup and room correction
Winning remote handset
Minus
Lacks wireless
connectivity
Premium pricing

THE VERDICT
Reference-grade seven-channel power, an unusual (and unusually effective) auto-EQ system, and refreshing simplicity and straightforward ergonomics in a pricey, albeit very attractive and well-executed package.

Arcam’s new flagship A/V receiver, the AVR850, is about the most expensive receiver you can buy today: $6,000 here in the Land of the Free(-ish) (not counting a slightly more expensive, similarly spec’d model sourced by Arcam for AudioControl). That’s a lot of simoleons for a box that, on the surface anyway, doesn’t do quite as much stuff as the big-brand models, doesn’t have as much claimed-on-paper power or as many colored lights or flashing displays, and which exudes a substantially simpler design aesthetic. So what do you get for your extra couple of kilo-clams?

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Daniel Kumin Posted: Oct 03, 2016 1 comments
Movie night with my personal digital assistant.
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Daniel Kumin Posted: Sep 29, 2016 6 comments

Audio Performance
Features
Ergonomics
Value
PRICE $1,499

AT A GLANCE
Plus
Very solid amplifier performance
DTS:X, Dolby Atmos on board with seven-channel power and nine-channel processing
Good streaming-audio client performance and ergonomics
Minus
Ho-hum remote
Firmware/feature upgrade process is clumsy

THE VERDICT
Denon’s latest-generation upper-echelon AVR does all of the most current modes, sources, and processings very competently indeed, with ample audio power and fully up-to-date video abilities.

Full disclosure: Denon holds a special place in my hi-fi heart, because the brand’s former parent company, Nippon Columbia, brought me to Japan for my first time, on a sort of mini–press junket cooked up by the firm’s U.S. marketing guru. When I say mini, I mean it: It was just myself; Ken, the marketing guy; colleague Ken Pohlmann; and the late consumer electronics editor Bill Wolfe, whom I already knew well through long associations at titles like Video, Car Stereo Review, and (Plain Ol’) Stereo Review (S&V’s precursor).

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