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Voice-activated speakers are hitting the market hot and heavy with everyone vying to be the only system you’ll invest in. Amazon is hoping you’ll pick Alexa, and Cortana is hoping to get some traction in the market. Once you’re a Google family, odds are you’ll stay there. To that end, JBL just released a new line of Google Assistant voice-activated speakers, and the LINK 20 is the perfect balance of features, sound quality, and portability. Yup &mdash; that’s right &mdash; a voice-assistant that’s not only portable, it’s waterproof too so it can go anywhere.
Audio Performance Features Ergonomics Value PRICE $200 AT A GLANCE Plus Multiple streaming options via Wi-Fi and Bluetooth Chromecast built-in Remote control Minus Lackluster sound quality THE VERDICT The Mondo+ is a versatile internet radio that offers easy access to a multitude of streaming sources, but we expected better sound quality for the price. My first thought was &ldquo;clock radio&rdquo; as I lifted the Mondo+ out of its box. It&rsquo;s tough to gauge the heft of a product from a picture, so I guess I was expecting something a bit more substantial. Even so, the plastic-encased Mondo+ is nice and compact&mdash;about the size of a loaf of bread&mdash;and attractive with a smooth gray finish and large color display that serves as a gateway to wireless streaming options and system settings, including&mdash;you guessed it&mdash;an alarm clock.
Audio Performance Features Ergonomics Value PRICE $799 AT A GLANCE Plus 110 watts x 2 PC-USB and phono inputs Bass, treble, balance controls Minus No HDMI or other video switching Ethernet but no Wi-Fi or Bluetooth THE VERDICT Although not an AVR, Outlaw&rsquo;s second-generation stereo receiver has an intelligently chosen feature set, bodacious industrial design, and lots of clean power for music lovers on a budget. One might argue that no single product category has brought vastly improved sound to so many, so fast, as the now-retro stereo receiver. Models poured in during the (mostly) Japanese mass-market audio explosion of the 1970s, when Classic Rock was just rock. My first receiver was a 15-watt-per-channel Pioneer SX-434, but it just as easily could have been a Marantz, Sansui, Kenwood, Luxman, or any of several other storied brands. Today, top-line stereo receivers from the &rsquo;70s&mdash;their shiny silver faceplates bristling with knobs, buttons, and toggles&mdash;command eyebrow-raising prices on eBay and are lovingly restored by vintage hi-fi buffs.
&ldquo;Turn off your mind, relax, and float downstream.&rdquo; John Lennon was referencing a theme from the Tibetan Book of the Dead by way of Timothy Leary&rsquo;s book The Psychedelic Experience, but there really was no other way to start &ldquo;Tomorrow Never Knows,&rdquo; the pivotal track that ends Side 2 of The Beatles&rsquo; groundbreaking August 1966 album release, Revolver. And &ldquo;Tomorrow&rdquo;&mdash;originally identified on the recording sheet for &ldquo;Job No. 3009&rdquo; in Abbey Road Studio Three as &ldquo;Mark I&rdquo; when sessions commenced on April 6, 1966&mdash;is rife with studio innovations and flourishes only The Beatles and their revolutionary team of Abbey Road engineers could inaugurate as the methodology so many future artists would embrace: Inventing Artificial Double Tracking, a.k.a. ADT, to simulate the natural double-tracking of instruments and vocals (thank you, Ken Townsend).
“Jeff has incredible studio I.Q. Ask anyone who makes music: he’s one of the great record producers, period.” So says Tom Petty, and? if anyone should know, it’s him, having worked with Jeff Lynne as a producer on sonic blockbusters like his own Full Moon Fever and the Traveling Wilburys’ Volume? 1.
Performance Features Ergonomics Value Price: $400 At A Glance: Effective, free alternative to cable or satellite &bull; Vudu streaming &bull; Runs hot! In this day of dozens of HDTV channels delivered via hardwired cable or satellite transmission, it&rsquo;s hard to remember that watching TV wasn&rsquo;t always quite so easy. Way back when, every television had an antenna connected to it. If you were distant from the transmission tower, you might have had a big mast antenna on your roof, as did your next-door neighbor, and his next-door neighbor, and so on, until the suburban skyline came to be defined by these skeletal sculptures reaching into the bright dawn of a soaring postwar America. If you lived a little closer to the tower, you probably just used the telescopic rabbit ears poking up from the back or top of every set, and the ritual of changing channels (to another of the seven or eight available) involved walking across the room, manually clicking the TV&rsquo;s rotary tuning knob, and then reorienting the antenna arms to minimize the distortion. Even then, it didn&rsquo;t always work. Depending on conditions, it wasn&rsquo;t uncommon to get snowy artifacts from a weak signal, or ghosting caused by multipath reception as the signal bounced off nearby buildings or other large objects.
Editor’s Note: Brett Milano originally submitted this for one of his “This Week in Music” columns, but the CD’s release date was bumped . . . and bumped . . . and bumped. We only just learned that the set finally appeared on December 16. Accordingly, we can’t let Brett’s write-up go to waste. So, just in time to be the soundtrack for your New Year’s Eve party . .
Love radio? Tired of Internet radio's algorithmic bent, and long for the days when a flesh and blood DJ put a lifetime of obsession into picking that next track? Slacker Radio just might be what you're looking for.
Most of the music-buying public may disagree, but Coldplay is a tough band to get passionate about, pro or con.
British manufacturer Monitor Audio has a deserved reputation for well-designed, high-performing speaker systems, and the latest offerings in the company's line of iOS device docks, the i-deck 100 and 200, follow in those footsteps. And now they can be yours.