Daniel Kumin

Daniel Kumin  |  Apr 20, 2022  |  1 comments

Performance
Features
Build Quality
Value
PRICE $1,700

AT A GLANCE
Plus
Reference-level extension and output
Exceptionally flat, controlled response through crossover octaves
THX Ultra Certified
Minus
No auto-EQ/correction or remote control
Very big and heavy
No pass-through outputs

THE VERDICT
Monolith by Monoprice's 13THX is huge, heavy, and lacks the convenience of app-controlled on-board automated EQ and curve-selection. But if you have more-than-generous space and budget, it's all the subwoofer you or anyone else will ever need.

Got bass? I do. Boy, do I ever: Monolith by Monoprice's newest THX Ultra Certified 13-inch behemoth. You might think that a "13-inch" sub would be just a bit bigger than a typical 12-inch job, maybe 15 or 16 inches wide, and perhaps as heavy as 70 or 80 pounds. Think again.

Daniel Kumin  |  Feb 23, 2022  |  4 comments

Performance
Features
Ergonomics
Value
PRICE $1,099

AT A GLANCE
Plus
Onboard Dirac Live room/speaker correction
Nine amp channels for a full Atmos/DTS:X experience
Multiple HDMI 2.1 connections with 8K/60Hz and 4K/120Hz support
Minus
Small remote control a bit cramped
Somewhat light-duty casing and speaker outputs

THE VERDICT
This affordable Onkyo AVR renders powerful Dolby Atmos and DTS:X sound via its nine built-in amp channels, and it brings the considerable benefits of Dirac Live room EQ as well.

The arrival of yet another A/V receiver doesn't usually engender much excitement here at S&V's currently sub-arctic regional headquarters in New England. But Onkyo's new TX-NR7100 is not "just another" receiver. First, the TX-NR7100 features a true nine-channel-power layout, which makes possible a full 5.1.4 Dolby Atmos system without supplemental amplification within hollerin' distance of the magical ten-Benjamins line. Just as notably, it's among the first affordably priced AVRs to incorporate Dirac Live, the eponymous Swedish tech firm's widely praised room/speaker-correction software system, at no extra cost.

Daniel Kumin  |  Jan 12, 2022  |  0 comments

Performance
Build Quality
Value
PRICE $1,410 (as tested)

AT A GLANCE
Plus
Very accurate, natural tonal balance
Impressive bass extension
Remarkable center-channel off-axis consistency and timbral match with towers
Minus
Towers are sensitive to placement
Some non-linearities at loudest playback levels
Generic looks (grilles-on)

THE VERDICT
With its impressive accuracy and peerless price, this Monolith by Monoprice Encore System is the new speaker value champ.

The story of how Monoprice parlayed its success as a humble purveyor of computer peripherals into its current status as a direct-to- consumer A/V gear powerhouse will have to wait for another day, mostly because I don't know it. But I do know this much: the torrent of ultra-high-value speakers and electronics, desktop audio, and even pro audio designs that have bubbled up from the Monoprice spring over the past few years is all but unprecedented in my decades in the audio/video world.

Daniel Kumin  |  Dec 22, 2021  |  2 comments

Performance
Build Quality
Ergonomics
Value
PRICE $1,999

AT A GLANCE
Plus
Accurate response and tonal balance
Spacious imaging with impressive off-axis performance
Unique looks and fine finish
Minus
Peak level may fall short for very large rooms
Ergonomics of physical controls and indicators

THE VERDICT
The Q Active 200 is a lifestyle-friendly system with serious chops, delivering impressive accuracy and range from a compact wireless design.

If there were any doubts that we are well into the Age of Stream, the recent proliferation of "just add music" audio systems should lay them to rest. Whether toaster-sized Bluetooth portables or full floor-standing systems, wireless all-in-one speakers conceived around high-quality streaming are definitely a thing, and one of the latest examples comes from Q Acoustics.

Daniel Kumin  |  Nov 24, 2021  |  2 comments

Performance
Features
Ergonomics
Value
PRICE $2,200

AT A GLANCE
Plus
Tremendous surround configurability
Solid multichannel power and sound quality
Powerful Scene memory system
Minus
Complex setup
Limited remote control direct-access to inputs, surround modes
YPAO auto-EQ less accurate than other solutions

THE VERDICT
Yamaha’s high-end AVR offers everything but the kitchen sink, plus solid audio quality and the company’s unique DSP-surround.

The first A/V receiver I ever reviewed had four channels and five inputs. That was back in nineteen eighty sev...well, never you mind when it was. My point is, AVRs have changed a bit.

Daniel Kumin  |  Sep 15, 2021  |  0 comments
Performance
Features
Ergonomics
Value
PRICE $2,099

AT A GLANCE
Plus
Generous power
First-class sound
High-quality fit and finish
Minus
Network connection doesn't support audio
Lacks Wi-Fi, AirPlay wireless streaming

THE VERDICT
Rotel's MKII version of its RA-1572 integrated amp delivers impressive power and transparent sound with digital and analog sources but lacks the comprehensive streaming features found on similar designs from other manufacturers.

True story. My very first hi-fi system featured a Rotel integrated amplifier—if memory serves, a model RA-20 of some 20 watts per channel. I bought it brand new for around $60 from K&L Sound in Watertown, Massachusetts, with money saved from my after-school job building shelves, sweeping floors, and punching holes in sheet- metal panels that would become the very first ARP synthesizers. (The late Alan R. Pearlman was my next-door neighbor and a lovely, kind, brilliant guy.)

Daniel Kumin  |  Jun 30, 2021  |  2 comments

Performance
Features
Build Quality
Value
PRICE $800

AT A GLANCE
Plus
Highly compact form factor
Notable extension and output for size
Excellent control app
Minus
No auto-EQ/correction

THE VERDICT
The first micro model from sub specialist SVS features the company's well-regarded control app, and it delivers all the bass most people will need while not taking up much space.

Once upon a time, there were three bears, with three subwoofers. You probably can guess how this story ends.

Designing a subwoofer is simple: big box, big driver, powerful amplifier. You wind up with something the size of a small refrigerator, but it does the job. Designing a good miniature subwoofer is a bigger engineering challenge, but the recipe is also fairly well known: small box, very powerful amplifier, small drivers with lots and lots of excursion, or throw.

Daniel Kumin  |  May 12, 2021  |  0 comments

Performance
Build Quality
Ergonomics
Value
PRICE $2,500 (pair)

AT A GLANCE
Plus
Serious all-in-one streaming solution
Remarkable tonal and dynamic range
Excellent ergonomics and app
Roon Ready Certified
Minus
High volume level slightly reduces resolution

THE VERDICT
KEF's wireless speaker package is an ergonomic marvel that delivers true audiophile performance—especially when paired with the company's complementary KC62 subwoofer.

We live now in wireless world, and the major loudspeaker makers have been quick to embrace it with serious-performance, near-full-range designs. But each seems to have a different idea of what a "wireless speaker" should entail. Some simply connect to an existing component stack via a supplied small wireless transmitter. Others incorporate the whole smart-speaker thang, with full multiroom audio system and Alexa-Google-Siri voice control integration.

Daniel Kumin  |  Apr 07, 2021  |  0 comments
Performance
Features
Ergonomics
Value
PRICE $999

AT A GLANCE
Plus
Solid headphone-surround
Impressive Dolby Atmos, DTS:X effects
Long battery life
Minus
Substantial vocal tonality shifts
Uneven bass presentation

THE VERDICT
JVC’s Exofield XP-EXT1 delivers an impressive rendering of effects in immersive soundtracks, but it comes up short as an all- around wireless home theater headphones solution.

True surround sound from headphones has been an audio holy grail for decades, but with the ever-increasing power and value of digital signal processing, we're now getting closer to drinking from that particular chalice. JVC's latest effort is the XP-EXT1 Personal Home Theater System, a set of wireless over-the-ear cans with a slim processor/transmitter that uses the company's Exofield DSP processing to digitally rejigger surround-encoded soundtracks, including Dolby Atmos and DTS:X, for your in-head listening pleasure.

Daniel Kumin  |  Mar 31, 2021  |  0 comments

Performance
Features
Ergonomics
Value
PRICE $700/pair

AT A GLANCE
Plus
Superbly accurate tonal balance
Remarkable bass extension
Highly adaptable onboard EQ options
Onboard auto room correction
Minus
Finite output may not suit far-field listening
No auto on/off
No built-in sub integration option

THE VERDICT
IK Multimedia’s powered monitor is a great desktop audio option, and it also delivers sufficient output for far-field listening in small-size rooms.

With few of us straying far from home these days, or from our computer with its constant stream of information, entertainment, hope, and fear, desktop audio is having a moment.

For this reason, many are discovering a need for some- thing better than the crappy 2.1-channel "computer speaker" systems we bought back in the early 'aughts. What we need is an ultra-compact active monitor—like IK Multimedia's iLoud MTM.

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