Daniel Kumin

Daniel Kumin  |  Dec 05, 2017  |  0 comments
Performance
Features
Ergonomics
Value
PRICE $1,500

AT A GLANCE
Plus
Generally neutral sound reproduction
Dolby Atmos and DTS:X spatial enhancement
Ample level for serious listening to both music and movies
Minus
No physical surround-speaker option
Subwoofer-to-soundbar integration is tricky

THE VERDICT
Sony’s high-end soundbar-subwoofer twosome delivers natural, tightly imaged, Atmos/DTS:X-abetted sound along with striking, understated good looks.

Soundbars are marching relentlessly up-market, and Sony is right there with the Dolby Atmos- and DTS:X-capable HT-ST5000, which carries a list price of $1,500 and is being widely promoted this holiday season at $1,298 from the major retailers. It checks all the latest boxes: scarily slim, seriously wireless (including a wireless subwoofer), and no-rear-speakers faux surround sound.

Daniel Kumin  |  Oct 24, 2017  |  1 comments

Audio Performance
Features
Ergonomics
Value
PRICE$479

AT A GLANCE
Plus
Satisfying power for both two-channel and multi-channel modes
3.1.2-channel Dolby Atmos/DTS:X setup option with phantom surrounds
Surprisingly responsive home-network streaming
Basic auto-setup/EQ on board
Minus
Five-channel power requires choice between height or rear channels
No analog multiroom capability
No audio outputs other than HDMI

THE VERDICT
Good five-channel power, 4K/HDR readiness, excellent streaming responsiveness, and phantom-rear-channel Atmos give this affordable AVR its distinct attractions.

Everybody knows what to expect from a flagship or cruiser-class A/V receiver: top-bracket power of 120 watts per channel or more, with nine, 11, or even 13 channels ready for latest-generation surround technologies like Dolby Atmos and DTS:X, as well as hightech auto-setup routines and DSP on board. And then there are the deluxe extras, such as extensive multiroom capabilities, 4K/HDR passthrough and 4K scaling, and plenty of internet- and computer-audio streaming options. But what can you expect from the other end of a brand’s AVR fleet? Not so much, right?

Daniel Kumin  |  Sep 28, 2017  |  2 comments

Audio Performance
Features
Ergonomics
Value
PRICE $2,399

AT A GLANCE
Plus
Unimpeachable audio and basic video quality
Generally good ergonomic design
Eminently useful pop-up Quick Menu
Minus
No aptX for Bluetooth
Local-streaming audio doesn’t display file type/sampling info
Fairly downscaled remote

THE VERDICT
Onkyo’s latest A/V preamp/processor adds the Dolby Atmos/DTS:X and 4K/HDR capabilities needed to bring the brand’s pre/pro current, while maintaining very solid value in the field.

The A/V preamp/processors from Onkyo (and sister brand Integra) have been through five or six generations over the years, and I think I’ve tested or at least used just about all of them. And for that decade-plus span, my overall reaction to them has remained pretty consistent: all the A/V-system quarterbacking any rational being needs at a fair price. Onkyo’s latest iteration, the PR-RZ5100 network A/V controller, seems unlikely to change that conclusion while updating the series to 11.2-channel, 4K/HDR status.

Daniel Kumin  |  Aug 09, 2017  |  3 comments

Performance
Build Quality
Value
PRICE $1,995 pr (assembled); $1,295/ pr (kit)

AT A GLANCE
Plus
Remarkable, panel-speaker-like stereo imaging
Neutral tonal balance
Complete absence of “floor-bounce” thickening
Minus
Curtailed bass requires subwoofer support
Needs custom- or auto-equalization for best performance
Modest subwoofer localization

THE VERDICT
A genuine rarity—a truly distinct take on consumer loudspeaker design— Dayton Audio’s Epique CBT24 delivers exceptional performance with exceptional stereo imaging. Extremely unusual looks and the need for modest equalization and a subwoofer shouldn’t deter adventurous listeners.

And now for something completely different: Dayton Audio’s Epique CBT24.

What’s an Epique CBT24? A 24-driver, no-crossover, one-way tower loudspeaker that stands 5 feet tall yet is no more than 3.5 inches wide over its full, dramatically arched length. A tower speaker with a unique geometry, pedigree, visual aesthetic, and equally unique technical story (and even marketing plan).

Daniel Kumin  |  Jul 20, 2017  |  4 comments

Audio Performance
Features
Ergonomics
Value
PRICE $600

AT A GLANCE
Plus
Fine amplifier sonics and power
Excellent, quick-responding home-network streaming plays most formats, including HRA and DSD
Speaker Relocation & Phantom Surround feature
Minus
Scales only 1080p/24 video to 4K

THE VERDICT
Excellent audio performance and a unique feature set counterbalance a somewhat quirky and (in a few cases) slow user interface.

It’s been several years since I’ve had a Sony AV receiver in my rack, so when the STR-DN1080 arrived on my porch, I was eager to see what the foundational brand’s 7.1-channel Dolby Atmos/DTS:X model had to offer. Sony has been synonymous with consumer electronics for so long that today—in the more specialized corners of the field, such as home theater—it’s easy to overlook the company that was such an early player in the game. But Sony still has an enviable market position, as well as design and engineering firepower aplenty to compete in any sphere they choose.

Daniel Kumin  |  Jun 16, 2017  |  0 comments

Signature S60 Speaker System
Performance
Build Quality
Value

PSW125 Subwoofer
Performance
Features
Build Quality
Value
PRICE $1,600 as reviewed

AT A GLANCE
Plus
Excellent range and tonal balance
Dramatic looks
Good blend from unusually low-profile center
Minus
Sub doesn’t add much to the towers alone

THE VERDICT
With the Signature Series, Polk successfully practices its long-held ethos of delivering high performance at affordable cost in a new, smartly designed lineup.

Of the three or four speaker brands that pumped the vast majority of air throughout the hi-fi boom of the 1970s, only one—Polk Audio—is still doing what they’ve always done (design and make loudspeakers), where they’ve always done it (more or less), and with very much the same ethos (value/performance, with value in italics). OK, so Polks, like virtually all other mass-market speakers sold in the U.S. are now actually manufactured overseas. But they’re still conceived here according to the old Polk standards—industrially designed in San Diego out of the corporate headquarters and engineered in Polk’s original hometown in greater Baltimore.

Daniel Kumin  |  Jun 08, 2017  |  5 comments

Audio Performance
Features
Ergonomics
Value
PRICE $1,800, $2,950

AT A GLANCE
Plus
High power in compact, Class D package
Dynamic, uncolored sound
Runs relatively cool
Minus
Channel configurations not ideal for typical surround layouts

THE VERDICT
All the power most will ever need, with the sound quality you want in a slim, cool-running package.

Power amplifiers are God’s gift to the long-suffering audio reviewer, his (or her) compensation for all those A/V receivers, smart-streamers, net-connected speakers, and assorted other CPU-centric components that gray and thin our hair. No arcane MAC or IP addresses for the power amp; no obfuscatory wireless setup routines, stubbornly mute computer connections for auto-EQ procedures, or HDMI ports that refuse to shake hands with other HDMI ports. Whatever its provenance, the power amp demands little more than audio inputs, speaker outputs, and a power cord and calls it good.

Daniel Kumin  |  May 18, 2017  |  0 comments

Pulse Soundbar
Performance
Features
Ergonomics
Value
Pulse Sub
Performance
Features
Build Quality
Value
PRICE $1,598 as reviewed

AT A GLANCE
Plus
Excellent musical sound quality
Notable bass extension, with or without sub
Many streaming capabilities, including hi-res audio
Multiroom system architecture
Visually outstanding
Minus
Some level and dynamics limitations
Occasional cumbersome or inconsistent operation

THE VERDICT
Accurate, dynamic musical sound, lifelike stereo imaging, and remarkable bass extension and control—plus extensive multiroom streaming abilities—easily counterbalance the few ergonomic quirks of a lovely, ultra-compact design.

Don’t look now, but the soundbars are gaining on us. Hardcore home theater heads like you and me can scoff all we want, but consumer electronics’ all-inone answer to audio for video is getting better, smarter, bassier, and popular-er, by leaps and bounds. High-end-ier, too.

Daniel Kumin  |  Mar 02, 2017  |  0 comments

CG3 5.1 Speaker System
Performance
Build Quality
Value

Speedwoofer 10S Subwoofer
Performance
Features
Build Quality
Value
PRICE $1,079 as reviewed

AT A GLANCE
Plus
Rigorously balanced sound
Plays surprisingly loud
Easy, excellent sub/sat blending
Minus
Sats can be a bit power-hungry in larger rooms

THE VERDICT
Given its low cost, solid dynamics, and impressive neutrality, it would be tough to find a better or more honest small speaker system for the price than RSL’s latest.

When it comes to loudspeakers, how big is big enough? How small is too small? What size is j-u-u-ust right? Speaker buyers have been asking these questions, and speaker makers have been answering them, ever since a certain Brand B shook the world years ago with micro-sized satellites employing 2.5-inch drivers that struggled to reach down to 200 hertz, mated with similarly challenged Lilliputian subs. Physics notwithstanding, buyers took to them in droves—and since then, the race to the bottom, cubicvolume-wise, has been on.

Daniel Kumin  |  Feb 22, 2017  |  1 comments

Performance
Features
Ergonomics
Value
PRICE $699

AT A GLANCE
Plus
Good power in compact form
Outstanding app-enabled subwoofer auto-setup
Onboard 192/24 USB DAC
Minus
No line outputs for external amp
Small display

THE VERDICT
Elac’s Element EA101EQ-G amp/DAC nails the sweet spot of price, performance, and worthwhile features with surprisingly audiophile sound and the added value of auto-EQ and app-enabled subwoofer crossover/blending.

It’s an amplifier. It’s a USB DAC. It’s a room/subwoofer equalizer. It’s a headphone amp. It’s an app-enabled Bluetooth receiver. It’s all of these, and it’s only $699—and it’s from the revived German brand Elac, whose latest Andrew Jones–designed loudspeakers have won acclaim in these pages and elsewhere. Ultimately, Elac’s Element EA101EQ-G may be best characterized as what the stereo receiver is morphing into for the 21st century.

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