Daniel Kumin

Daniel Kumin  |  Jan 17, 2024  |  3 comments

Performance
Features
Ergonomics
Value
PRICE $4300 (UD-701N), $3800 (AP-701B)

AT A GLANCE
Plus
Faultless sound quality
Superb headphone amp
Outstanding build, finish quality
Minus
Less-than elegant app, interface
Expensive

THE VERDICT
Jewel-like stereo separates deliver definitive stereo audio performance.

Daniel Kumin  |  Oct 12, 2023  |  7 comments

Performance
Build Quality
Ergonomics
Value
PRICE $7,000/pair

AT A GLANCE
Plus
Reference-grade sound quality, dynamics
Virtually full-range extension
Simple-as-possible app for setup, control
Subwoofer output

Minus
No easy path to multichannel integration
No music-data or volume display
No phono input

THE VERDICT
The ultimate streaming standalone system.

KEF's LS60 is not just a speaker; it's an acoustic revolution packed into a sleek tower of sound. From its state-of-the-art technology to its jaw-dropping design, prepare to meet the future of high-end audio.

Daniel Kumin  |  Aug 23, 2023  |  4 comments

Performance
Features
Ergonomics
Value
PRICE $2,800

AT A GLANCE
Plus
Impressive amplifier power, dynamics, and quality
Simple, straightforward ergonomics
THX-Select certified
Full-bandwidth Dirac Live included
Minus
No global user-preset feature
Limited on-board streaming

THE VERDICT
A powerful, fine-performing 11-channel amplifier section anchors a flagship AVR that delivers the goods and is mostly free of excess baggage.

It’s been a few years since I’ve had a big Onkyo AV receiver under the operating lights. And the brand’s new flagship model, the TX-RZ70, certainly qualifies: nearly 8 inches tall and some 19 inches deep, and tipping the beam at almost 50 pounds, the TX-RZ70 is no lightweight. As a line-topping design it incorporates all the lead features you’d expect: 11 channels of on-board power, Atmos, DTS:X, and Auro-3D object-oriented surround decoding, 8K HDMI 2.1 all around, and THX Reference certification, plus Dirac Live room-correction EQ with Dirac’s Bass Control.

Daniel Kumin  |  Jun 16, 2023  |  2 comments

Performance
Features
Ergonomics
Value
PRICE $1,699

AT A GLANCE
Plus
Audyssey XT32 room correction, with extra-cost Dirac Live option
9 powered channels enable a full Atmos/DTS:X layout
4 discrete subwoofer outputs to integrate and EQ multiple subs
Handy global-preset feature
Minus
HEOS app required for streaming music services
Non-backlit remote

THE VERDICT
All the important features, enough channels for Atmos/X, and enough watts for a large majority of systems, all with top-shelf sonics, and all for a reasonable price.

For at least two decades now, designers have been managing to deliver more and more features, power, and audio/video finesse, for fewer and fewer dollars—or at least, no more—with every passing model year. Denon’s latest lineup ably illustrates the trend and the one in the spotlight here, the $1700 AVR-X3800H, is going to hit a lot of budget sweet-spots.

Daniel Kumin  |  May 03, 2023  |  2 comments

Performance
Build Quality
Ergonomics
Value
PRICE $4500

AT A GLANCE
Plus
Outstanding sound quality, dynamic abilities
Deep bass extension
Subwoofer output
Minus
No music-data or volume display
On the large side for stand-mount use

THE VERDICT
Big, powerful, flexible, dynamic, and all-around-excellent streaming loudspeakers.

How do you know when an audio trend is more than just a bandwagon? When America’s oldest hi-fi brand climbs on board. (Yes, I know that JBL and Klipsch were both founded in 1946. But JBL’s earliest incarnation goes back to the 1930’s.)

Daniel Kumin  |  Mar 15, 2023  |  1 comments

Performance
Features
Ergonomics
Value
PRICE $1,972

AT A GLANCE
Plus
Superb sonic quality, savory bass, audiophile-grade imaging
Dirac Live room correction
Streaming (and multiroom expandability)
NAD’s BluOS ecosystem and Bluesound iOS/Android apps
Front-panel meters are retro-licious
Minus
Full-bandwidth Dirac requires paid upgrade
Only one analog line input
No pass-thru for multichannel

THE VERDICT
A “simple” stereo integrated that commemorates NAD’s original designs but conceals considerable technological depths, including Dirac Live room correction, wired/wireless networking with app-directed streaming, and Class D power.

I love vintage. Of my four motorcycles, which included a beloved 1958 Triumph T20 Tiger Cub, the 1989 Honda NT650 is the newest. Of my dozen or so guitars, my 1964 Strat and 1966 D-18 are the undisputed stars, while a 1965 Fender Deluxe Reverb guitar amp is the apple of my ear. I’ll never part with any of these; just pile them upon my bier when the time comes. But vintage hi-fi? Vintage hi-fi?

Daniel Kumin  |  Jan 17, 2023  |  5 comments

Performance
Features
Ergonomics
Value
PRICE $2500

AT A GLANCE
Plus
Audyssey room correction (Dirac Live coming soon)
9 powered channels for full Atmos/DTS:X
Precisely integrate up to four subs via Audyssey
Full compatibility with Marantz/Denon’s HEOS
Two-way Bluetooth (for wireless headphones, speakers)
Minus
Native streaming mostly requires HEOS app
No affirmation of surround mode (Atmos) when streaming from TV

THE VERDICT
A refined AVR offering 9-channel power for a full Atmos or DTS:X setup. It has excellent room-correction capabilities with an innovative multiple-subwoofer option.

With the advent of features such as room correction, object-oriented surround, and networked/wireless streaming (to name but three), AV receivers have become more elaborate than ever. So much so that just to enumerate all the features and functions of the Cinema 50, the next-to-top model in Marantz's newest AVR lineup, would easily exceed the column inches allotted to this entire report; pity the poor AV reviewer! (I know you all do.)

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  |  9 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.

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