Daniel Kumin

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.

Daniel Kumin  |  Sep 28, 2022  |  1 comments

Performance
Build Quality
Ergonomics
Value
PRICE $1,400 (system)

AT A GLANCE
Plus
Highly accurate tonal balance
Superb imaging
Sub output for instant upgrade
All-in-one solution with HDMI ARC for TV sound
Minus
Limited output in large rooms
No physical controls

THE VERDICT
The little KEF LSX II is a remarkably capable and versatile speaker that will amaze you with big, audiophile-caliber sound.

KEF's little LSX II exudes quiet sophistication, which begs a question: Is it a lifestyle speaker or an audiophile speaker? It's both, actually—and why not? The cantaloupe-sized wireless speaker is the British audio titan's latest self-powered "just add music" solution and it packs a punch, drawing on extensive signal processing to optimize performance, with the goal of delivering near full-range reproduction to a very high standard. The system also boasts a proprietary app that integrates setup, control, and streaming from virtually every important service—including Tidal, Spotify, Qobuz, and Amazon Music—or your own file- or disc-based music collection.

Daniel Kumin  |  Aug 25, 2022  |  4 comments

Performance
Features
Ergonomics
Value
PRICE $1,499

AT A GLANCE
Plus
Dirac Live and Pioneer MCACC room/speaker correction
9 powered channels for driving a 5.1.4 Dolby Atmos or DTS:X system
HDMI 2.1, 8K-ready with variable refresh on all inputs
Minus
Small, unlit remote
Cheesy speaker-out terminals
Can’t store Dirac and MCACC “runs” simultaneously

THE VERDICT
The Pioneer VSX-LX505 provides a lot of bang for your buck, including nine channels for powering a full Dolby Atmos or DTS:X setup and two excellent auto-EQ options.

Pioneer's VSX-LX505 Elite A/V receiver represents a new generation of reasonably priced AVRs that boast up-to-date technology and enough channels to rock a full 5.1.4 Dolby Atmos or DTS:X surround setup with four height speakers without having to rely on an outboard amplifier to power "extra" channels. And that's not its only marquee feature: The LX505 is Roon Tested to ensure compatibility with the music-management/streaming software, supports HDMI 2.1/4K passthrough on its main HDMI inputs and outputs, and is certified to work with Sonos systems. It also supports 8K video and incorporates Dirac Live room/speaker-correction EQ technology along with Pioneer's proprietary MCACC (Multi-Channel Acoustic Calibration) system.

Daniel Kumin  |  Jun 30, 2022  |  0 comments

Performance
Features
Ergonomics
Value
PRICE $5,995

AT A GLANCE
Plus
Fault-free sound quality
Flexible, with bridged-mode, balanced options
As much as 740 watts on tap in bridged mode
High quality fit and finish, quiet Scandinavian looks
Minus
Expensive

THE VERDICT
Eight channels of unimpeachable Class D power in a fairly compact and very flexible package.

Let's face it, amplifiers are a necessary evil. Unless you're listening to a crystal radio through a flesh-colored earphone, you're not going to hear much of anything without at least one amplifier between the music and your ears.

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.)

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