Streaming Device Reviews

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Barb Gonzalez  |  Dec 01, 2022  |  0 comments

Performance
Features
Ergonomics
Value
PRICE $29.99

AT A GLANCE
Plus
Quick and easy setup
Excellent picture quality when upscaled on a 4K TV
Connects to TV USB for power
Voice control, private listening, and hidden control with mobile app
Minus
It only supports up to 1080p high-definition resolution
Is not Dolby or DTS enabled, requires pass-through
It cannot be hidden behind the TV
No volume buttons, microphone, or TV control on remote

THE VERDICT
With its Roku OS simplicity and surprisingly good performance for an HD streamer, it’s an excellent choice for anyone looking for a budget device to go with a second TV.

Considering its low price, it wouldn't be fair to compare the entry-level Roku Express with higher-end 4K models. This 1080p streamer isn't trying to be the best in the market, but it does an excellent job for what it is—a value-priced HD player. When the Roku Express goes on sale, it's an easy choice as a gift or to go with that legacy TV in the second room.

Howard Kneller  |  Nov 30, 2022  |  0 comments

Performance
Features
Ergonomics
Value
PRICE $999

AT A GLANCE
Plus
Stellar performance
Full feature package
Small physical footprint
Killer price
Minus
Small, monochrome display
Modest power rating

THE VERDICT
A small, but technology and feature-rich all-in-one component that delivers large and impressive sound at a fraction of its expected price.

Like many, I've embraced music streaming, but refuse to give up my CDs and LPs. As a result, my stereo system contains multiple components and a thicket of wires. For people who won't tolerate such complexity, Panasonic's Technics has thankfully introduced the SA-C600 streaming CD receiver ($999). This impressively small component features an integrated amplifier, a streamer, a CD player, a phono stage, an FM tuner, and a headphone output.

Mark Henninger  |  Nov 23, 2022  |  0 comments

Performance
Features
Ergonomics
Value
PRICE $629.96

AT A GLANCE
Plus
High fidelity sound
Components sold separately
Easy setup

Built-in Roku 4K streaming
Cordless private listening mode
Minus
No Dolby Atmos support
Weak bass without the subwoofer

THE VERDICT
The top-of-the-line soundbar system from Roku is full of cool features and gives you a surround-sound listening experience that is better than competing systems of similar cost. But it lacks support for 3D immersive sound like Dolby Atmos or DTS:X, and the Streambar Pro on its own is not nearly as impressive sounding as when it's part of a complete 5.1 system.

Soundbars have evolved from simple standalone add-on speakers for TVs into fully self-contained home entertainment systems able to deliver cinematic, immersive listening experiences. The catch is today's soundbar systems can get quite costly, often exceeding the price of the TV they might be connected to. With Roku's Streambar Pro, the cost of entry is only $179.99 for the soundbar itself, and you can expand the system from there. Granted, tricking it out with a subwoofer and four add-on wireless is almost four times the cost, but what you get is a very nice surround-sound solution that's easy to install, easy to use, and outperforms many similarly priced soundbars.

Barb Gonzalez  |  Nov 03, 2022  |  0 comments

Performance
Features
Ergonomics
Value
PRICE $129 (64GB) / $149 (128GB)

AT A GLANCE
Plus
Lower price than any recent Apple TVs
Excellent sound and picture quality
Now supports HDR10+
Agnostic "Watch Next" suggestions
Supports Dolby Atmos for movies and music
Minus
Scrub fast-forward and rewind can be squirrelly
Limited Siri Commands
Netflix integration remains minimal

THE VERDICT
The Apple TV 4K 3rd generation is a must-have for anyone with an iPhone or other Apple device. It still has great sound and picture quality, but the processor is faster and it supports HDR 10+. If you are invested in the Apple ecosystem, the Apple TV 4K should be the streamer you use. Also, if you have a Samsung TV that supports HDR10+, you might want to think about getting the new model.

The latest Apple TV 4K is the company's most compelling and feature-rich streaming box yet. It performs better and has more features than its predecessors while costing less...

Daniel Kumin  |  Nov 02, 2022  |  0 comments

Performance
Features
Ergonomics
Value
PRICE $900/pair

AT A GLANCE
Plus
Impressive low-end extension and dynamics
Good array of inputs including HDMI/eARC for TV sound
Subwoofer output lends expandability
Minus
The active speaker must be the right channel
Low-end balance may prove a bit strong for near-wall placement in some rooms
No systemic EQ
No file format data display

THE VERDICT
Outstanding sound quality in a compact, wireless-streaming speaker pair.

I haven't yet decided what to call the new genus of streaming-on-board powered stereo speakers. Streakers? Speamers? Whatever you call them, active DSP speakers, with amps, digital converters and crossovers, and of course, streaming capabilities built right in, are officially now a thing.

Mark Henninger  |  Sep 22, 2022  |  0 comments
Roon is an impressive software music playback system that runs as a core (i.e. server) on a dedicated PC in your home, which you can access from various playback devices. It allows you to merge streaming through Tidal or Qobuz with local music files to provide a seamless listening experience. However, until now Roon only worked in the home.
Howard Kneller  |  Jul 13, 2022  |  0 comments

Performance
Features
Ergonomics
Value
PRICE $2,499

AT A GLANCE
Plus
Spacious, rich sound
Gorgeous aesthetics
Tank-like build quality
Feature-packed
Minus
Small display
Limited wired connectivity options
Lacks room correction

THE VERDICT
The Marantz Model 40n is a thoroughly modern music streaming machine that sounds great and delivers a robust set of features without losing sight of the brand’s storied past.

I attended a launch event for the Marantz Model 40n a few months ago and marveled at just how far the iconic brand has come since founder Saul Marantz took his first steps as an audio pioneer way back in 1945. In true hobbyist fashion, he modified his car radio so he could listen to it at home and, once it was up and running there, continued tinkering with it to improve its performance.

Howard Kneller  |  Apr 27, 2022  |  0 comments

Performance
Features
Ergonomics
Value
PRICE $2,548 (as tested)

AT A GLANCE
Plus
Stellar performance
Powerful internal amplifier
Modular design accommodates updates and additional features
Minus
Modestly built chassis
Small front-panel display
Uninspired remote control

THE VERDICT
The C 399 delivers great performance, impressive features and flexibility, and high value in a modest, yet handsome package.

While waiting on the arrival of NAD's C 399 integrated amplifier for review, I checked it out on the company's website. What I saw there was a minimally adorned exemplar of the black-box design school, with steel chassis panels of ordinary fabrication and a small display showing mostly monochrome text. Yawn. Well, a funny thing happened when the C 399 finally arrived, and I unboxed it. I took a shine to its no-frills, understatedly handsome looks. Sure, there are more striking-looking components out there with more robust build quality, but they'll cost you.

Kris Deering  |  Dec 29, 2021  |  5 comments

Performance
Features
Ergonomics
Value
PRICE $10,995 (as tested)

AT A GLANCE
Plus
Compact form factor—fits in standard-width rack space with Strato C player
Significantly boosts movie download speed
Minus
Pricey
Kaleidescape Store immersive audio support still spotty

THE VERDICT
Kaleidescape new compact Terra Movie Server delivers an improved user experience and greater flexibility over the company’s standard Strato system.

Kaleidescape sure has been busy since I reviewed its Strato S 4K Ultra HD Movie Player late last year (October/ November 2020 issue). The company added three new servers to its Terra lineup: the compact 6TB ($5,995), 12TB ($7,995), 18TB ($9,995) options, and a 72TB monster ($23,995) for those who want massive storage without having to string multiple Terra units together. For this review, I was sent the 12TB Terra, along with a Strato C 4K Movie Player (recently reduced in price to $2,995) to test it with. I'll focus first on the 12TB Terra and then give an update on my overall Kaleidescape experience after living with a system for over a year (I purchased my Strato S review unit).

Al Griffin  |  Dec 08, 2021  |  4 comments

Performance
Features
Ergonomics
Value
PRICE $599

AT A GLANCE
Plus
Powerful, easy to use control app
Multiple input and output connections
Roon Ready and AirPlay 2-compatible
Affordable price
Minus
Hardware remote not included

THE VERDICT
Bluesound’s feature-packed DAC brings the world of high-res audio, including multiroom streaming, to existing systems at an affordable price.

Streaming DACs provide a quick and easy way to upgrade an existing hi-fi rig and make it compatible with all the advanced services available to a 21st century music enthusiast. Even someone owning a circa-1972 receiver could suddenly find themselves streaming 24-bit/192kHz high-res tracks from Qobuz, as well as "tuning in" an insane assortment of internet radio stations from around the globe. And while streaming DACs can be pricey—the Simaudio Moon 280D we recently reviewed, for example, lists for $3,000—there are also affordable options like Bluesound's $599 Node.

Howard Kneller  |  Jul 07, 2021  |  0 comments

Performance
Features
Ergonomics
Value
PRICE $3,000

AT A GLANCE
Plus
Outstanding performance and build quality
Wireless multiroom streaming-capable
Roon Ready and AirPlay 2-compatible
Minus
Lacks front panel display
No HDMI input

THE VERDICT
Simaudio's Moon 280D is a bit light on features when compared with its wireless network music streamer/DAC competition, but it offers exceptional build quality and audiophile-grade sound.

Simaudio, an audio manufacturer located in Quebec, Canada is well-known for both the build quality of its products and the whopping ten-year warranty it offers. Many of the company's wares are decidedly high-end—the 230-pound Moon 888 monoblock amplifier ($118,888 per pair), which is rated to output a massive 888 watts at 8 ohms and double that down to 1,776 watts at 4 ohms, for example.

Howard Kneller  |  Mar 17, 2021  |  1 comments

Performance
Features
Ergonomics
Value
PRICE $3,835

AT A GLANCE
Plus
Great sound quality
Multiple HDMI inputs (w/ARC)
Effective Space Optimisation room correction
Built-in phono stage
Minus
Dealer setup recommended
Small speaker terminals

THE VERDICT
Linn's all-in-one wireless streamer/amplifier/DAC offers impressive sound, sleek looks, and plentiful connectivity options.

According to the corporate lore of Scottish audio manufacturer Linn, in 1973 a newly married engineer named Ivor Tiefenbrun went shopping at his wife's direction to buy home furnishings. To his wife's chagrin, the story goes, he instead returned with a stereo system. After setting it up, Ivor was disappointed with the sound, but soon discovered that moving the turntable from his listening room into an adjoining room improved the system's performance since the speakers' output no longer interacted with the turntable and distorted the audio signal.

Daniel Kumin  |  Nov 04, 2020  |  1 comments

Performance
Features
Ergonomics
Value
PRICE $4,999

AT A GLANCE
Plus
Reference-quality power and D-to-A conversion
Excellent on-board phono section
Onboard Dirac Live room correction
Minus
Coarse “app” volume control steps
No USB type-B port for computer connection
Occasionally wonky AirPlay 2 streaming

THE VERDICT
The M33 combines state-of-the- art sound, power, and broad functionality in an elegantly conceived package.

Boy, has NAD come a long way. Back in 1978, the Canadian/ American/Euro multinational's first product was an unassuming but great-sounding little 20-watt integrated amplifier in a plain gray sheetmetal box, with controls that had all the sophisticated feel of a Kenner Easy-Bake Oven.

David Vaughn  |  Mar 04, 2020  |  2 comments

Performance
Features
Ergonomics
Value
PRICE $400 + service fees (varies by plan)

AT A GLANCE
Plus
Supports 4K/HDR, Dolby Vision and Dolby Atmos
Voice-activated search
Terrific program guide
Minus
High up-front cost
No Disney+ or Apple TV+ support
TiVo+ Network is a work in progress

THE VERDICT
TiVo's next-gen DVR is a timely update that adds support for Dolby Vision HDR and Dolby Atmos sound, along with a more sophisticated voice search feature.

When TiVo burst on the scene in 1999, it changed the way millions of people watched TV. Gone were the days of manually setting up a recording on your VCR and then having to wait for a program to finish. Now, by using TiVo's DVR, you could not just record but pause Live TV in order to answer a phone call or take a bathroom break.

Al Griffin  |  Aug 07, 2019  |  0 comments

Speakers
Performance
Build Quality
Value
Integrated Amplifier
Performance
Features
Ergonomics
Value
PRICE $400 (as tested)

AT A GLANCE
Plus
Great value
Tidal, Spotify, and TuneIn streaming
Digital and analog inputs accommodate multiple sources
Minus
Subwoofer output
Treble-forward sound with some music
Coarse volume steps
No USB-DAC input

THE VERDICT
OSD Audio’s compact, component-based system is a great value and offers a high-er-performance alternative to many all-in-one wireless speakers.

OSD Audio is a company that seems to make everything— everything audio-related, that is. When I stopped by the company's booth at the CEDIA trade show in 2018, CEO Dave Chai took me on a guided tour of the vast array of in-wall and in-ceiling speakers, outdoor speakers, subwoofers, amplifiers, accessories, and cables on display, thoroughly impressing me with his ability to speak about each product in detail. While much of OSD Audio's catalog is aimed at custom installation pros, two new consumer-oriented categories for the company are bookshelf speakers and integrated amplifiers with wireless streaming capability.

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