EARS ON

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Mark Fleischmann Posted: Jun 06, 2011 0 comments
While we await the news from today's Apple event, I'd like to toss out an observation connected to a yet-to-be-published review. This may be the first such piece in a continuing series. Or not. You never know.

What struck me about the Pioneer VSX-1021-K ($549) is the way it accommodates both push and pull of iTunes content via AirPlay. You can push content from computers or portable iDevices into the receiver. The receiver will even turn itself on and select the appropriate input. But it can also pull content from other router-connected devices using DLNA.

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Mark Fleischmann Posted: Jun 13, 2011 0 comments
This is the second installment of In Progress, an occasional series on noteworthy things about products under review.

Are you plagued by doubts about the iThing compatibility of a prospective surround receiver purchase? If you're actually inspecting a carton in one of those old-fashioned brick-and-mortar stores, Sony has the solution. Its STR-DN1020 ($500) lists every iDevice with which it's compatible right on the top of the carton! Complete with little graphic representations, no less. Since our 600-pixels-wide image may not be entirely legible, we'll list them below.

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Mark Fleischmann Posted: Mar 07, 2006 0 comments
For a band that steadfastly denies its existence, Pink Floyd sure manages to keep the product coming. I've been spending time with Nick Mason's 2004 book Inside Out: A Personal History of Pink Floyd, now updated to include a postscript about last year's miraculous reunion gig. Although he acknowledges having had a good editor, Mason really knows how to tell a story and does so with enormous wit and candor. Pink Floyd's rise from London's psychedelic underground to international megastardom would be great material for any writer—I couldn't put it down and ended up killing a whole weekend. A three-CD audio book read by the author is also available albeit hard to find. The 1994 concert video Pulse will be reissued in September as a double DVD extravaganza. The reunion is already available on the five-disc Live 8 DVD set. David Gilmour's 2002 In Concert DVD is extraordinarily beautiful. His third solo album On an Island came out yesterday and he's touring this year to support it. Roger Waters now has a whole opera, a Ira, to his credit. He has two albums in the works and is also touring this year.
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Mark Fleischmann Posted: Oct 31, 2007 1 comments
Recent ruminations over the contents of my rack have given short shrift to a major player. A disc player, in fact--the Integra DPS-10.5. It has long served as the main signal source in my reference system. Occasionally I make a note to that effect in reviews but I've never really done justice to the Integra. Let's remedy that now.
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Mark Fleischmann Posted: May 14, 2008 0 comments
There are a lot of internet radio stations but not many internet radios. Even as smart a player as Tivoli Audio had to pull back on introducing one, after Tom DeVesto and crew discovered how difficult it is to design a compact internet radio that operates with the same plug-and-plug simplicity as the company's other products. Well, the Tivoli NetWorks is finally here. It's the same shape as the PAL radio but comes in a wooden enclosure (walnut, cherry, or wenge) like the Model One and some other Tivolis. It accesses both internet radio stations and the contents of a PC's hard drive via either wi-fi or ethernet connections. The only control is a round button at the top. Pressing and holding it turns the unit on or off; pressing it quickly mutes the radio; rotating it adjusts volume. Hardest thing you'll need to do is input the password for a secured wi-fi connection. The unit is shipped with five of Tom's favorite stations already selected as presets though you can change them. It is available with or without digital FM tuner. At $600 for the tunerless model, NetWorks is not cheap, but the development must have cost a fortune. See video and press release.
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Mark Fleischmann Posted: Sep 06, 2006 0 comments
David D. Holmes, inventor of what are now known as the SMPTE color bars, died recently at age 80. Holmes got his masters at MIT, worked on the first car transistor radio, and taught at the University of Nebraska before moving on in 1950 to RCA Labs in Princeton, New Jersey. In those days, RCA was not just a Franco-Chinese TV brand but a technology powerhouse. On arriving at RCA Labs, Holmes found "the people were using test signals from scanned slides which were dreadful, full of noise and other junk. Having nothing to do, I went back to my new lab and built an electronic test signal generator, now known as the Color Bar Generator. This was easy for me to do since I had designed and built a complete TV studio at U. of Nebraska and a lot of the stuff in the color bar generator was similar to parts of that. Well, my new device was a great hit; everybody wanted one so when my boss got back from vacation we were having six built in the model shop. They were big things, having fifty tubes and a bunch of adjustments in them." Sharing the 1953 patent with David Larky of RCA, Holmes remained at the lab for 25 years. His son John relates: "The picture above shows the spinnaker he had made for his sailboat. He set me afloat in a dinghy when I was about 12 to take that shot of the spinnaker flying in Chesapeake Bay." See VideoUniversity.com for Hal Landen's color bar tutorial, obit of Holmes, and followup, with correspondence from both father and son.
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Mark Fleischmann Posted: Aug 02, 2006 0 comments
In response to anecdotal evidence of iPod longevity problems, an Apple spokesperson recently insisted the popular music player is designed to last "four years." No...wait...stop the presses! She actually meant to say "for years"! Well, that's much clearer, isn't it? In other iPod-related news, the French Constitutional Council has struck down parts of an already loophole-ridden law that would have kinda sorta required all music downloads to operate on all devices. The council's job is to examine laws passed by both houses of the French paraliament and assess their constitutionality, like a preemptive Supreme Court. According to the council, parts of the law interfere with property protections under France's 1789 Declaration of Human Rights. Stop the presses again: DRM is a human right. Interesting. However, the law was already so toothless as to be useless, so I consider this a non-story.
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Mark Fleischmann Posted: Apr 05, 2006 1 comments
Complaints about scratched iPod nanos are giving way to solutions from Apple and other parties. First there are those three Apple-branded iPod cases in Italian leather. Tug a little ribbon and your iPod slides out gracefully. Cases are available for the 60GB, 30GB, and nano. The $99 pricetag may raise an eyebrow among the hoi i-polloi but clearly Apple is lunging for the carriage trade here. Meanwhile NYC retailer J&R is selling iPod nanos that have been put through a custom hardening procedure described this way: "Each custom colored iPod goes through a thorough process of cleaning, painting, protection and curing before it is ready for use. The protection comprises of the unique X2 scratch resistant liquid plastic coating. It's applied right after the painting process and cured with ultraviolet light, to achieve superior scratch resistance and clarity. The final product has a finish that won't fade or crack!" The price for a treated 2GB nano is $265 or $66 more than list.
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Mark Fleischmann Posted: Sep 28, 2006 0 comments
Nearly lost amid the details of Apple's latest iPod launch a couple of weeks ago was something that will matter to fans of Pink Floyd's Dark Side of the Moon and what old folks refer to as "side two" of the Beatles' Abbey Road. These classic-rock chestnuts consist of songs that flow together. But when you rip the CDs, iTunes separates the songs into separate tracks, and the iPod plays them with gaps. The gaps are brief but they interrupt the flow, destroy the mood. The solution? What Apple calls Gapless Playback is supported by iTunes 7 along with second-generation iPod nanos (shown, in new colors) and fifth-generation iPods. It will work with MP3 files as well as the AAC and Apple Lossless file formats. Use of the crossfade feature may interfere with Gapless Playback—see Apple's tutorial for details. Gapless Playback will also be a boon to classical music listeners. When the scherzo of Beethoven's Fifth gives way to the tumultuous final movement, there will be no jarring stop. The iPod has just gotten a little smarter.
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Mark Fleischmann Posted: Oct 27, 2006 0 comments
A friend who is moving to a new apartment asked me to take delivery on his second-generation iPod nano. The (PRODUCT)RED Special Edition, no less. What was I going to say, no?
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Mark Fleischmann Posted: Oct 16, 2006 0 comments
What makes the iPod nano (PRODUCT) RED Special Edition so special? Besides the odd use of caps and parentheses? Well, it's red, and though we've seen that before, it's nice to see it again. That brings the nano color roster up to six along with "silver" (formerly white), black, lime, sky blue, and pink. The price is $199, the capacity 4GB (if you want 8GB, you'll have to settle for black). And all second-generation nanos have battery life of 24 hours, an improvement that should please even the most jaded observer. But the headline-grabber is that for every iPn(P)RSE purchased, Apple will donate $10 to the Global Fund, sending much needed medication to AIDS victims in Africa. Guilty conscience? You can also support the Join Red campaign by purchasing a Motorola cell phone, American Express red card, Gap T-shirt, or Emporio Armani watch. Holiday shoppers: Don't forget to load up on iPod accessories.
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Mark Fleischmann Posted: Oct 04, 2006 0 comments
Have you ever thrown your iPod into the washing machine...on purpose? That's what the folks at ArsTechnica—a website worthy of daily visits—did with the new second-generation nano, following gushes of interest in similar tests inflicted upon the first-gen nano. And guess what? The nano continued to be playable. "Despite many requests to drop the nano into the toilet, boiling water, and cups of beer, I decided to quit with the washing machine," said tester Jacqui Cheng. Before that, it survived being sat upon. It also did well with scratch testing in a bag full of coins, keys, cellphone, camera, and other knickknacks, which left only minor blemishes on the new aluminum finish and none on the screen. Only with the sidewalk-drop test did the unit acquire a serious problem—one impact on concrete was all it took to render the screen useless. Note from our lawyers: Don't try any of these stunts, and if you do, we're not liable.
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Mark Fleischmann Posted: Jun 12, 2006 2 comments
Red! Red! Red! Apple no longer sees the world in black & white. Aside from the newly reddened click wheel, the new iPod U2 Special Edition is business as usual. It is based on the 30GB iPod, fifth generation, and is the first iPod not to be offered in white. Clearly U2 will remain part of the iPod marketing program for some time to come and Bono can feed even more starving millions. Battery life is still 14 hours and the price is $329. In other news, 73 percent of college students surveyed by research firm Student Monitor said the iPod is "in," up from 59 percent last year, and surpassing beer at a mere 71 percent. Yes, the iPod is more popular than beer. Meanwhile, Apple has not only countersued Creative Labs but filed a second countersuit for good measure. Both companies allege patent infringements. And three more nations have taken up the aborted French proposal to make iTunes downloads interoperable with non-Apple devices: Norway, Sweden, and via the British Phonographic Institute, the United Kingdom. Apple is also feeling the heat from an anti-DRM group, Defective by Design.
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Mark Fleischmann Posted: Mar 20, 2006 1 comments
Pope Benedict XVI is now an iPod owner. According to the Catholic News Service, employees of Vatican Radio honored the pontiff's first visit to their premises by giving him a nano inscribed on the back, "To His Holiness, Benedict XVI." The pope accepted the gift saying, "computer technology is the future." The iPod—in white, appropriately enough—is loaded with Vatican Radio programming, including a documentary on the life of St. Thomas a Becket, and music, including the works of Beethoven, Chopin, Mozart, Stravinsky, and Tchaikovsky. The iPod will allow the pope to enjoy Vatican Radio's daily podcasts, which are offered in eight languages.
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Mark Fleischmann Posted: Feb 06, 2015 79 comments
First there was mono. Then there was stereo. And then things got complicated. Surround sound has been a restless medium ever since it first snuck into movie theaters and home theaters. Encoding methods and formats have proliferated but standards have been elusive. Where multiplexes are concerned, that doesn't affect the consumer much. Most moviegoers are content to leave the technical details to the theater owners (except our readers, of course). But at home, where consumers are investing their own money in the home theater experience, many would like to have a fixed idea of what surround sound is at heart, something as close as possible to a stable minimum standard. And until now that standard has been 5.1. But in the dawning age of Dolby Atmos, is 5.1 obsolete?

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