Home Theater Systems Reviews

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Chris Lewis  |  Mar 18, 2005  |  0 comments
The Canadians and the Brits are at it again.

If you know your history, then you already know that the Canadians and the English can do some good things when they get together. While we were taking care of our business down at Utah and Omaha, the Canadians and the Brits were giving the Germans a pretty good working-over of their own up the beach at Normandy. They even teamed up rather effectively against us during the American Revolution and War of 1812, managing to hang on to Canada despite our various efforts to take it and, in the process, preserving one of England's last real toeholds in the New World.

Darryl Wilkinson  |  Sep 20, 2012  |  0 comments
Price: $3,499 At A Glance: Automatic speaker discovery and channel assignment • Uncompressed 24-bit wireless digital audio • No AVR needed

Not long ago, FedEx deposited a 7.1channel HTIB from Aperion Audio outside my door. It’s not really fair to call it a home theater in a box because the system actually comes in seven boxes and sells for $3,499. But since it includes source switching and amplification, it technically qualifies as an HTIB, albeit a rather unusual one. Aperion Audio prefers the term preconfigured home theater system. Normally, setting up this sort of home theater package would entail speaker wires crisscrossing the floor accompanied by the requisite grumbling, stripping of wires, and fumbling with speaker terminals. In this case, though, the Aperion speakers—a pair of towers, a center channel, a subwoofer, and two pair of satellite speakers—come out of their boxes, get placed in their appropriate spots in the room, have each one’s power cord plugged into the nearest AC outlet…and that’s it.

Roger Maycock  |  Nov 22, 2005  |  0 comments
Sophisticated sound and connectivity in a surprisingly compact form factor.

For years, I've had a distinct interest in bookshelf audio systems. Perhaps it's my fascination with the miniaturization of electronic gadgets in general, but these systems' compactness has always intrigued me. Unfortunately, my interest generally waned the moment I began listening. Until recently, the phrase, "Good things come in small packages," usually didn't hold much water in terms of audio playback quality. Well, times have changed. Enter Arcam's new Solo music system and the companion Alto loudspeakers.

Mark Fleischmann  |  Jul 27, 2009  |  0 comments
Price: $2,200 At A Glance: 5.1-channel decoding in a single soundbar • Decoding for Dolby Digital and DTS, not lossless • Strong bass even when subwoofer output is not used

5.1 Channels in One

Why shouldn’t respectability and innovation be on speaking terms? In loudspeakers, that’s not as easy as it sounds. Much of the recent audio innovation in home theater has come in products that are designed to complement flat-panel TVs. These products are morphing before our eyes—into soundbars, on-walls, and ever-smaller satellites. They are also moving beyond the standard five-speakers-and-sub configuration in their deployment of surround’s 5.1-channel array. This makes for a striking contrast when you look at the high-end speakers that grace audiophile short lists. These include a staid group of medium-density fiber-board boxes whose fundamentals, in many cases, haven’t changed in decades. Traditional speakers can sound great, but that’s not often enough to make people buy them.

Chris Chiarella  |  Nov 22, 2005  |  0 comments
Who says two slim boxes can't fill a home theater?

CES 2005. Tired. Wet from the Las Vegas snowstorm. Hungover from the technology discussion the night before. Stuck in a hotel suite for a demo: yet another home theater audio system with no surround-channel speakers? Can't be any good. Wait, there's only one speaker and a subwoofer? Must be a joke. And it's $599? An overpriced joke, I snarl internally.

Chris Chiarella  |  Mar 05, 2003  |  First Published: Mar 06, 2003  |  0 comments
A home-theater-in-a-box means different things to different people. For some, it's the total DVD experience for dummies (or the slothful), in terms of both purchasing simplicity and ease of use. For others, it's a real bargain, compared with the cost of individual components plus the many necessary odds and ends. For Cambridge SoundWorks, it's about the speakers.
Mark Fleischmann  |  Sep 10, 2007  |  First Published: Aug 10, 2007  |  0 comments
CD and radio in a box—iPod out back.

More than half a century of audio evolution has produced this modest box. Its grandparents are the high-end radios of the 1950s. Its parents are of the CD generation, a 1980s format increasingly viewed as archaic by the latest generation of listeners. And it accommodates the iPod, although it keeps the latest audio revolution literally at arm's length, in a separate docking device that plugs into the back of the system. The retrofit brings an already successful product family closer to being up to date.

Chris Chiarella  |  Jul 24, 2006  |  0 comments
One speaker, a subwoofer, a source component . . . and you.

Virtual surround is nothing new: Some people don't have the space, the know-how, or perhaps the ideal room layout for a pair of surround speakers for true 5.1-channel audio. Wireless surrounds are an option for some. But even those need a place to live, and they still require power cables. All manner of technologies have addressed the virtual-surround challenge, but not until I tried the two-piece Binaura Sound Environment B102A (in our November 2005 issue) did I believe that such simplified gear could produce truly respectable audio. Cambridge SoundWorks of Newton, Massachusetts, is the first third-party manufacturer to license Binaura's patented technology for their own products. They have integrated it into a complete home theater system—three boxes instead of two—with the addition of a progressive-scan DVD player/receiver. Said receiver provides Dolby Digital 5.1, Dolby Pro Logic II, and DTS decoding, and this signal then goes to the subwoofer, where all of the amplification and Binaura processing take place.

John Sciacca  |  Mar 13, 2015  |  1 comments

W Studio Soundbar System
W9 Wireless Speaker
W7 Wireless Speaker
W Amp Amplifier
PRICE $3,295 as reviewed

Stellar audio quality
Sleek-looking components

Android app is pretty basic
iOS app very limited
Doesn’t currently support true high-res listening

The speakers sound amazing and the W Studio soundbar is a home run even without its multiroom capabilities, but the limited Play-Fi app for streaming leaves Def Tech’s W system lagging behind the best multiroom systems.

For a while, audio manufacturers seemed resigned to give it the ol’ “lie back and think of England” routine when it came to accepting Sonos as the dominant force in the wireless audio world. Sure, they might not have liked it, but they weren’t offering any compelling alternatives of their own. And while there had been some challengers in the past, most fell well short of the Sonos benchmark and quickly faded.

This tide has changed lately, however, and the war for wireless audio is heating up. Multiple systems are now offering their spin on wireless music distribution and hoping to take a bite out of the Wi-Fi audio pie. And unlike past attempts, several of these new solutions are not only good, they’re great. Darryl Wilkinson recently reviewed two top rivals for Sonos’ throne, Bluesound (S&V, June 2014) and Denon’s HEOS (S&V, January 2015). Now, well-regarded speaker manufacturer Definitive Technology is throwing its hat into the ring by embracing Play-Fi in its new Wireless Collection.

Mark Fleischmann  |  Aug 15, 2012  |  1 comments
Audio Performance
Video Performance
Price: $600 At A Glance: Denon entry-level AVR • Boston Acoustics sat/sub set • Acceptable performance

Eliminating nonessentials sounds easier than it is. A year ago, I went through my clothes and filled six shopping bags with shirts and pants I knew I’d never wear again. Just a month ago, I repeated the exercise and darn if I didn’t fill another bag. If I’d exerted myself, I could have filled two. So I felt a certain respect as I cracked open the Denon DHT-1513BA carton and moved its contents to my rack and speaker stands—because I knew this system’s designers had made some tough decisions. They’re more hardheaded than a guy who decides to let his HD DVD promotional T-shirt survive another year.

Darryl Wilkinson  |  May 03, 2007  |  0 comments
An HTIB you can grow to love.

Denon has a long and venerable history in the audio/video industry, including much of the pioneering work in the field of digital audio. Fitting of that tradition, Denon was, for many years, a brand reserved solely for the audiophile (later followed by the videophile) who frequented the high-end shops. This was a no-nonsense era for Denon, and its designers and engineers eschewed flashy features and other niceties, such as easy-to-use menus.

Kevin Hunt  |  Mar 06, 2002  |  First Published: Mar 07, 2002  |  0 comments
With the DHT-700DV, Denon takes one small step into the HTIB arena.

Denon threw away convention in the 1990s when they partnered their electronics with Mission loudspeakers to produce a series of two-channel mini-systems. Other than maybe David Crosby and Melissa Etheridge, was there a more-stunning collaboration in the decade?

Mark Fleischmann  |  Feb 21, 2006  |  1 comments
2.1 speakers, an iPod, and thou.

As soon as I added a subwoofer to my stereo desktop system, the illicit charms of 2.1-channel audio began to woo me like the moon pulling on the tide. So, I was primed and ready when Denon's S-301 HTIB system arrived with its two speakers, sub, and controller.

Michael Fremer  |  May 18, 2012  |  18 comments
Do you dream in surround sound? Since you’re reading this magazine, the answer is probably yes. Psychiatrists say dreaming is good for you. Thumb through any issue of Home Theater and you’re more likely than not to encounter components, systems, and lavish, dedicated rooms equipped with the latest 4K projectors and high-powered, surround-sound systems that most of us can only dream about.
Mark Fleischmann  |  Dec 19, 2017  |  4 comments
PRICE $2,143 as reviewed

Emotiva’s BasX surround processor, five-channel amp, and speakers offer an affordable and high-performing starter system that puts you into audio separates without breaking the bank.

Surround separates are generally regarded as a step up from receivers. If you want the biggest and best, and have to ask their prices, you probably can’t afford them. But ask me the prices of Emotiva’s new BasX surround preamp/processor and multichannel amplifier, along with a set of compact speakers from the same series. The answers are $599, $499, and $1,045, totaling $2,143 for a 5.1-channel system of electronics and speakers. That would buy a midpriced receiver and a decent (but probably smaller) satellite/subwoofer set.