Daniel Kumin

Daniel Kumin  |  May 03, 2018  |  1 comments

Performance
Features
Ergonomics
Value
PRICE $3,000

AT A GLANCE
Plus
Outstanding sound quality
Very high standard of fit, finish, and industrial design
Generally excellent ergonomics with well-conceived app
Minus
Premium pricing may scare off some buyers
Occasionally slow volume-control response via iOS app

THE VERDICT
An excellent solution, for those who can afford it, for a streaming/computer-audio system where sound quality is as important as features or user interface.

Is it an integrated amplifier with onboard wireless and network streaming, or an audio streamer with built-in amplification?

Yes. The Uniti Atom, from British iconoclast Naim Audio, is both of these, as well as a quarterback for the company’s Mu-so wireless- multiroom ecosystem (and a few other things mixed in). Like all Naim products since the brand’s inception in the mid-1970s, the Atom is distinctly different from most competing designs in both appearance and operation; the company’s proximity to the powerful vibrations of Stonehenge doubtless has something to do with this tradition. That said, the Atom is less different from its competition than many a previous design, because this sort of streaming amp is what the classic stereo integrated amp seems to have morphed into, here in the post- physical-media 21st century. But perhaps the rest of the world has simply caught up, or caught sideways, to Naim.

Daniel Kumin  |  Mar 08, 2018  |  6 comments

Performance
Features
Ergonomics
Value
PRICE $999

AT A GLANCE
Plus
Solid two-channel and multichannel power
3.1.2-channel Dolby Atmos/DTS:X virtual height effects
Excellent Audyssey MultEQ XT32 room correction
HEOS wireless multiroom
Minus
Wired multiroom limited to one zone

THE VERDICT
A fine seven-channel amp, attractive ergonomics, full 4K/HDR-readiness, and 5.2.2 Dolby Atmos and DTS:X make for a very competitive midrange option.

Denon’s new AVR-X3400H A/V receiver scored points with me even before I got it out of its box: The four-piece packaging foam (top/bottom front and back) allows for easy removal of a heavy-ish item without battling box flaps, splintering full end-cap pieces, or leaving a trail of Styrofoam crumbs behind. (Yes, I’m packing-material obsessive.) But let me not prejudge.

Daniel Kumin  |  Feb 07, 2018  |  11 comments

Performance
Features
Ergonomics
Value
PRICE $1,600

AT A GLANCE
Plus
Impressive dynamics and clarity in both stereo and multichannel
Quick-response onscreen interface
Four-zone multiroom capability plus wireless MusicCast
Excellent, responsive streaming-audio client
Minus
Remote control is crowded and not illuminated

THE VERDICT
Fully competitive with other flagship AVRs in basic performance, the Yamaha RX-A2070’s proprietary DSP music listening modes are an added attraction that could win over even the most serious listeners.

Once, receivers used to receive (radio waves), and amplify, period. They still do, but those are almost beside-the-point functions. Receivers nowadays are more concerned with decoding, casting, wireless-connecting, virtualizing, surround-formatting, multi-room-extending, auto-analyzing, and more. In fact, I don’t know why we still call these things “receivers,” but, whatever.

Daniel Kumin  |  Jan 03, 2018  |  0 comments

Sib Evo Dolby Atmos 5.1.2 Speaker System
Performance
Build Quality
Value

Cub Evo Subwoofer
Performance
Features
Build Quality
Value
PRICE $1,299

AT A GLANCE
Plus
Excellent sound quality
Great subwoofer/satellite integration
Plays louder, cleaner than some similarly sized systems
Atmos on board
Minus
Spring-loaded push connectors can be irritating
No prepackaged 5.1.4-channel option

THE VERDICT
A high-performing, moderately compact, one-carton speaker solution for serious home theater—with Atmos.

Focal, the French loudspeaker maker—the French loudspeaker maker (there are others, but really, name one)—is best known on these shores for the Utopia series of haute-highend ultra-towers, which, cresting at something like $185,000 for a pair, step well over what I think of as the Che Guevara line. (That’s the line across which, following the revolution, anyone owning a pair can count on a very long vacation at state expense in a re-education camp.)

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.

Pages

X