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Rotel RAP-1580 Surround Amplified Processor Review
Mark Fleischmann | Oct 26, 2017
Audio Performance Features Ergonomics Value PRICE $3,800 AT A GLANCE Plus Muscular Class A/B amp PC-USB and phono inputs Dolby Atmos and DTS:X 7.1.4 decoding Minus No auto setup Limited access to seven-channel amp for Atmos/DTS:X THE VERDICT Rotel returns to analog amplification for their latest top-of-the-line home theater machine—and the results are golden. Is the Rotel RAP-1580 the surround receiver that dares not speak its name? In keeping with the two-channel distinction between stereo receivers and integrated amplifiers, Rotel calls it a surround amplified processor because it doesn’t include an AM/FM tuner. But to my mind, the defining trait of a surround receiver is that it combines a surround preamp/processor and a multichannel amp in one box. So I prefer to call this an audiophile receiver. You say tomato... [Editor’s Note: I’d call it a surround amplifier, and I don’t think it’s the last of this type we’ll be seeing...but, whatever.—RS]
Pioneer VSX-832 A/V Receiver Review
Daniel Kumin | Oct 24, 2017
Audio Performance Features Ergonomics Value PRICE$479 AT A GLANCE Plus Satisfying power for both two-channel and multi-channel modes 3.1.2-channel Dolby Atmos/DTS:X setup option with phantom surrounds Surprisingly responsive home-network streaming Basic auto-setup/EQ on board Minus Five-channel power requires choice between height or rear channels No analog multiroom capability No audio outputs other than HDMI THE VERDICT Good five-channel power, 4K/HDR readiness, excellent streaming responsiveness, and phantom-rear-channel Atmos give this affordable AVR its distinct attractions. Everybody knows what to expect from a flagship or cruiser-class A/V receiver: top-bracket power of 120 watts per channel or more, with nine, 11, or even 13 channels ready for latest-generation surround technologies like Dolby Atmos and DTS:X, as well as hightech auto-setup routines and DSP on board. And then there are the deluxe extras, such as extensive multiroom capabilities, 4K/HDR passthrough and 4K scaling, and plenty of internet- and computer-audio streaming options. But what can you expect from the other end of a brand’s AVR fleet? Not so much, right?
Sony STR-DN1080 A/V Receiver Review
Daniel Kumin | Jul 20, 2017
Audio Performance Features Ergonomics Value PRICE $600 AT A GLANCE Plus Fine amplifier sonics and power Excellent, quick-responding home-network streaming plays most formats, including HRA and DSD Speaker Relocation & Phantom Surround feature Minus Scales only 1080p/24 video to 4K THE VERDICT Excellent audio performance and a unique feature set counterbalance a somewhat quirky and (in a few cases) slow user interface. It’s been several years since I’ve had a Sony AV receiver in my rack, so when the STR-DN1080 arrived on my porch, I was eager to see what the foundational brand’s 7.1-channel Dolby Atmos/DTS:X model had to offer. Sony has been synonymous with consumer electronics for so long that today—in the more specialized corners of the field, such as home theater—it’s easy to overlook the company that was such an early player in the game. But Sony still has an enviable market position, as well as design and engineering firepower aplenty to compete in any sphere they choose.
Legacy Audio Powerbloc2 and Powerbloc4 Amplifiers Review
Daniel Kumin | Jun 08, 2017
Audio Performance Features Ergonomics Value PRICE $1,800, $2,950 AT A GLANCE Plus High power in compact, Class D package Dynamic, uncolored sound Runs relatively cool Minus Channel configurations not ideal for typical surround layouts THE VERDICT All the power most will ever need, with the sound quality you want in a slim, cool-running package. Power amplifiers are God’s gift to the long-suffering audio reviewer, his (or her) compensation for all those A/V receivers, smart-streamers, net-connected speakers, and assorted other CPU-centric components that gray and thin our hair. No arcane MAC or IP addresses for the power amp; no obfuscatory wireless setup routines, stubbornly mute computer connections for auto-EQ procedures, or HDMI ports that refuse to shake hands with other HDMI ports. Whatever its provenance, the power amp demands little more than audio inputs, speaker outputs, and a power cord and calls it good.
Yamaha MusicCast WXA-50 Amplifier and WX-010 Speaker Review
Mark Fleischmann | May 31, 2017
MusicCast WX-010 Speaker Performance Build Quality Value MusicCast WXA-50 Amplifier Audio Performance Features Ergonomics Value PRICE $500 (amp); $200 (speaker) AT A GLANCE Plus Streams to MusicCast devices Wi-Fi, AirPlay, Bluetooth 55 watts per channel, Class D Minus No headphone jack on amp No analog input on speaker Loaded PC may freeze app THE VERDICT The Yamaha WXA-50 has a clean and lively sound, a space-saving form factor, and the ability to stream to devices using the company’s MusicCast system—including the reasonable-sounding WX-010 wireless speaker. If you are the intended audience for the Yamaha MusicCast WXA-50 amplifier, you find A/V receivers too big, black, and boxy. You are happy with two-channel sound but turned off by doghouse-sized stereo amps sitting on the floor. Soundbars may give you Bluetooth, but that isn’t enough. You’re willing to accept the architecture of a conventional home audio system—amp, speakers, sources—but on a more modest scale. And because you live in more than one room, you want a system with multiroom smarts. That’s the WXA-50 stereo integrated amp and MusicCast multiroom system in a nutshell. To make things interesting for this review, we threw in a couple of Yamaha’s latest WX-010 wireless speakers in additional zones.
Marantz SR7011 A/V Receiver Review
Mark Fleischmann | Apr 28, 2017
Audio Performance Features Ergonomics Value PRICE $2,199 AT A GLANCE Plus Nine amp channels HEOS multiroom compatibility Audyssey, ISF, Control4, Crestron Minus No PC-friendly USB jack THE VERDICT The Marantz SR7011 is a state-of-the-art receiver with excellent room correction, fine overall sound, and the potential for HEOS multiroom extension. The D+M Group was formed in 2002 with the merger of Denon and Marantz, each a powerhouse in A/V receivers and other audio categories. Through several changes of ownership, the two brands have remained distinct, with different cosmetic looks, slightly different feature sets, and slightly different voicings; each team has its own sound-tuning engineers and expert listeners. But as a reader once pointed out, popping the lid on comparably priced models from the two brands may reveal a close kinship in circuit layouts, suggesting certain economies of scale. And the new top-of-the-line AVR from Marantz further mimics its sister brand by adopting HEOS multiroom connectivity, a feature previously associated with Denon. Our review sample of the receiver arrived with Denon’s HEOS 7 and HEOS 1 speakers, and we put them through their paces together.
ATI AT527NC and AT524NC Amplifiers Review
David Vaughn | Mar 21, 2017
AT527NC Amplifier Performance Features Ergonomics Value AT524NC Amplifier Performance Features Ergonomics Value PRICE $3,695, $2,595 AT A GLANCE Plus Very powerful Natural and balanced Made in the U.S.A. Minus LEDs are too bright THE VERDICT The days of looking down on Class D amps are over. Two and a half years ago, I reviewed my first ATI amplifier, and to say I was impressed would be an understatement. The ATI Signature AT6005 five-channel amp set a new benchmark for its designer, Morris Kessler—to the point where he put his John Hancock on the faceplate. Last year, S&V editor-at-large Bob Ankosko sat down with Kessler to talk about his design philosophy over the years, and the subject of Class D amps was broached. Kessler mentioned that his current designs were all Class A/B, but he was following the developments of Class D very closely—though the initial efforts in this area didn’t meet his high standards because frequency response varied greatly as the impedance of the speaker changed. He hinted at the time that he may have finally found a Class D solution that he could deem acceptable, which turned out to be the latest Hypex Ncore modules.
Rotel A12 Integrated Amplifier Review
Mark Fleischmann | Mar 15, 2017
Audio Performance Features Ergonomics Value PRICE $899 AT A GLANCE Plus USB inputs for PC and iOS Premium Wolfson DAC Bluetooth aptX Minus No DSD decoding No Wi-Fi, AirPlay, or Ethernet No streaming services THE VERDICT The Rotel A12 accepts direct wired input from PCs and iOS devices and gets the best out of both digital and analog sources with its great-sounding DAC and amp. Connecting a computer to an audio system with a USB cable seems a perfectly logical idea. It’s simple, it’s direct, and it enables the computer to feed bits to the system and rely on the system’s digital-to-analog conversion. Yet this desirable feature is tantalizingly rare. AVRs and streaming amps tend to rely on wired and wireless network connections rather than on a USB port and asynchronous digital-to-analog converter (DAC) that can take over the clocking functions of the digital bit transfer and reduce the effects of jitter.
Elac Element EA101EQ-G Integrated Amplifier/DAC Review
Daniel Kumin | Feb 22, 2017
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.
Anthem AVM 60 A/V Processor Review
Daniel Kumin | Feb 01, 2017
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.