Daniel Kumin

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.

Daniel Kumin  |  Feb 24, 2021  |  3 comments

Performance
Build Quality
Value
PRICE $1,499

AT A GLANCE
Plus
Incredible extension from incredibly small design
Highly flexible controls and features
Wireless option
Elegant finish
Minus
Limited peak output
Pricey

THE VERDICT
KEF’s KC62 delivers impressively deep bass in an elegant, ultra-compact package, though its output is best suited for smaller rooms or listening at more moderate levels.

Mankind has sought to get more and deeper bass from smaller and smaller designs ever since the first Neolithic audiophile blew through a conch shell and thought, "Damn, I wish this went lower, louder!"

Daniel Kumin  |  Dec 23, 2020  |  0 comments

Performance
Build Quality
Value
PRICE $700/pair

AT A GLANCE
Plus
Good bass extension
Excellent midrange balance and accuracy
Pluggable port yields flexible placement and performance
Impressive fit and finish
Minus
Slightly bright sound with some recordings

THE VERDICT
This anniversary edition Bowers & Wilkins compact bookshelf combines good looks with intelligently balanced sound.

There are quite literally hundreds of small, two-way loudspeakers you can buy priced from under $100 to well north of $10,000 per pair. To this throng British stalwart Bowers & Wilkins now adds the 607 S2 Anniversary Edition (the anniversary commemorated is the company's launch of its first 600 Series designs 25 years ago). Whether or not the world desperately needs another small two-way may be up for debate, but B&W's authority to add one is not: the ranks of fine small speakers marching forth from the south coast of the UK over the past half-century has been illustrious.

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.

Daniel Kumin  |  Jun 03, 2020  |  3 comments

Performance
Build Quality
Value
PRICE $5,056 (as tested)

AT A GLANCE
Plus
Highly accurate sound
Impressive stereo image breadth
Solid center-channel reproduction
Well-controlled and moderately extended low end
Minus
Towers are sensitive to placement

THE VERDICT
A handsome system that sounds very good with just about everything, and with enough bass extension to satisfy most needs.

Tall, slim speakers are certainly in fashion, and it's hard to imagine many slimmer than Definitive Technology's new Demand Series D15 towers. Despite housing three 5.25-inch drivers (two carbon fiber woofers and a polypropylene midrange), a 1-inch aluminum dome tweeter, and not one but two 8-inch side-firing passive radiators, the D15 measures just 6.5 inches wide and thus indeed requires its bolt-on aluminum bottom plinth to achieve stability.

Daniel Kumin  |  Mar 25, 2020  |  0 comments

Performance
Features
Ergonomics
Value
PRICE $1,195

AT A GLANCE
Plus
Generous power from a super-slim chassis
Bypass input for surround system integration
Flexible, analog-domain subwoofer filtering
Full-size, backlighted remote control
Minus
Digital conversion limited to 24/96 via USB
No built-in Bluetooth or other wireless features

THE VERDICT
An affordable integrated amplifier-DAC with substantial power, high-quality conversion, flexible inputs and outputs, and full-function remote. Bravo.

I like simple. Simple is good. Simple works. Simple makes my job easier and helps me sleep at night.

Parasound, a Bay Area maker with a half-century of success walking the parapet between high end audiophilia and value-engineering design, apparently concurs. The company's new NewClassic 200 Integrated is, as you might well guess, an integrated amplifier, with a high-quality onboard digital-to-analog converter section. The 200 Integrated was in fact derived by the simple expedient of sliding a class-D stereo power amp sourced from Danish class-D amp-module stalwart Pascal Audio into its otherwise-identical preamp stablemate. This slim, two-channel module delivers a claimed 110 watts per channel into either 4-ohm or 8-ohm loads with typical class-D efficiency, pulling only a modest 50 watts from the wall.

Daniel Kumin  |  Jan 22, 2020  |  1 comments
Performance
Features
Ergonomics
Value
PRICE $499

AT A GLANCE
Plus
Fine amplifier power and sonics
Subwoofer output
Full-sized, full-function remote control
Bluetooth streaming
Minus
No USB type-B input for computer connection
No onboard Wi-Fi
Limited ergonomics

THE VERDICT
Cambridge Audio's stereo receiver may be simple, but it features an excellent amplifier, solid DAC performance, and a useful FM tuner.

They still make stereo receivers? Who knew! But seriously, folks—I'm here all week. Stale humor aside, there will always be a sure market for high-quality audio playback, with access to terrestrial-broadcast radio, AKA good old FM, and a basic feature set for hooking up outboard components. And Cambridge Audio's AXR100 is one of a small but growing cadre of current-day stereo receivers aiming to satisfy it.

Daniel Kumin  |  Dec 04, 2019  |  1 comments

Speakers
Performance
Build Quality
Value

Subwoofer
Performance
Features
Build Quality
Value
PRICE $2,546 (as tested)

AT A GLANCE
Plus
Balanced sound with effortless treble
Solid bass extension
Impressive performance from compact subwoofer
Minus
Center speaker can sound slightly chesty when listening off-axis

THE VERDICT
DALI joins the pantheon of excellent compact, affordable 5.1 speaker packages with this system based around the overachieving Oberon 1.

Over the past 25 years, the Danish Audiophile Loudspeaker Industries company has grown from a small and relatively obscure maker (in the U.S. market, at least) to a much more major player in the world's crowded loudspeaker arena. The Danes' latest move toward the broader marketplace is the Oberon series, an affordable range consisting of two towers, two bookshelf/standmount models, one on-wall, and one center- channel—all two-way, vented- enclosure designs.

Daniel Kumin  |  Oct 08, 2019  |  13 comments

Performance
Features
Ergonomics
Value
PRICE $299

AT A GLANCE
Plus
Outstanding sound from compact solution
Ample dynamics for a broad range of headphones
Minus
96kHz maximum PCM sampling rate
Requires extra-cost adapter for use with Apple Lightning devices

THE VERDICT
AudioQuest's Headphone amp/DAC-on-a-stick offers sonics to rival standard-size components.

Listeners tend to consider an external digital-to-analog converter as either completely unnecessary or absolutely essential. If you believe bits is bits, you're probably perfectly happy with the converter inside your smartphone, tablet, or computer. If you don't, you likely have auditioned many a converter component with a seriously gimlet ear. Both tribes, however, can agree that the headphone amps in most smartphones, tablets, laptops, and desktops leave a lot to be desired when it comes to peak output, dynamics, and inherent sonic quality.

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