Daniel Kumin

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Daniel Kumin  |  Mar 30, 2015  |  4 comments
A new screen reinforces an old truth...
Daniel Kumin  |  Mar 12, 2015  |  4 comments
Remember radio? You turned it on, tuned it in, and got music, for free. (Well, free-ish; of course there were ads.)
Daniel Kumin  |  Mar 06, 2015  |  2 comments
Audio Performance
Video Performance
Features
Ergonomics
Value
PRICE $5,000

AT A GLANCE
Plus
State-of-the-art wireless (WiSA) audio performance
Includes full WiHD Wireless-HDMI link
Substantial, very high- quality design
High-res audio compatible—wirelessly
Minus
File-streaming feature not fully baked
No mixed wired/wireless multichannel output
No video processing on HDMI inputs
Limited system control features

THE VERDICT
The SD-WH1000U is beautifully built and an outstanding A/V performer wired or wireless, but it’s not quite up to service as a full-system hub controller.

Trundle down to your local big-box store, and you will find quite literally dozens of Blu-ray Disc players on offer, starting well under $50. Big ones, little ones, skinny ones, flat ones, cheap ones, and cheaper ones.

None of these will be Sharp’s new SD-WH1000U, a Blu-ray player with a difference. Two differences, in fact: First, it has a jaw-slackening price tag of $5,000; second, Sharp’s design is wireless-centric, being the first WiSA-compatible player to appear, and one of the very first WiSA sources of any description.

Daniel Kumin  |  Jan 29, 2015  |  4 comments

Performance
Build Quality
Value
PRICE $5,693

AT A GLANCE
Plus
Awesome potential for clean loudness
Impressive tonal fidelity and finesse
No subwoofer required
Atmos!
Minus
Requires generous spacing and AC power
Connectivity is a bit complex

THE VERDICT
A one-stop, state-of-the-surround loudspeaker solution, especially apt for any who prefer not to accommodate a subwoofer—with the bonus of being Dolby Atmos enabled.

Definitive Technology’s BP-8060ST has remained a highlight of the Baltimore-area maker’s lineup for several years—a dog’s age in the new-and-improved, series-II world of high-end loudspeakers. The longevity suggests that Definitive considers this slim “power tower” a fully evolved design, and indeed it’s hard to argue the point.

Daniel Kumin  |  Dec 24, 2014  |  Published: Dec 23, 2014  |  3 comments

Prime Satellite 5.1 Speaker System
Performance
Build Quality
Value

SB-1000 Subwoofer
Performance
Features
Ergonomics
Value
PRICE $1,000

AT A GLANCE
Plus
Honest, accurate, full-range sound
Painless sub/sat blending
Cheap!
Minus
Won’t match ultimate volume level of larger, more costly systems

THE VERDICT
If your criterion is un-hyped reproduction, SVS’s Prime Satellite 5.1 system is as good as it gets for $1,000.

Good-sounding small speakers no longer impress me. After all, these days, pretty much anybody with a laptop and an Internet connection can design a small two-way that’s reasonably neutral. The tools are all online (many of them share/freeware), fine-performing drivers ranging from cheap ’n’ cheerful to exotic ’n’ expensive are readily available with complete Thiele-Small parameters, and MDF and veneer are plentiful down at Lowe’s. You don’t even need to know Ohm’s law; fluency in Windows or OSX and some basic woodworking skills are probably more useful.

Daniel Kumin  |  Dec 19, 2014  |  0 comments

Performance
Features
Ergonomics
Value
PRICE $1,599 as reviewed

AT A GLANCE
Plus
Fine tonal balance with genuine deep bass
Very substantial level potential
Elegant appearance
Minus
A few operational and hookup quirks (it’s French!)
No remote-control learn/teach scheme

THE VERDICT
A 5.1-channel system in soundbar packaging that combines tonal accuracy with impressive low-frequency response and power, plus surround as effective as we’ve heard from an all-up-front affair.

As recently as a couple of years ago, anyone shopping for an “audiophile soundbar” was in danger of being laughed off the lot. The bar scene was dominated by price-driven, mass-market models sold in big-box stores, and most of these were plastic jobs from the mega-mills of the Pacific rim, with just a smattering of somewhat more upscale choices from a few more serious American and Canadian brands.

Daniel Kumin  |  Nov 19, 2014  |  1 comments
Dolby Atmos, the latest, “object-oriented” surround sound solution magicked up by the San Francisco technologists, has earned enough ink here and elsewhere that many of us are passingly familiar with it already. Briefly, then, object-oriented means that instead of panning discrete effects or overall mixes to left, center, right, or various surround channels, sound designers and producers can now direct sounds through a virtual listening space, letting the computer work out the details. Ultimately, of course, whether at the theater or at home, sounds still emanate from physical loudspeakers driven by physical amplifier channels, so there’s a certain amount of semantics at play here. But Atmos is scalable: A commercial theater can have as many as 64 discrete, individually addressable loudspeakers, including multiple “height” speakers in the ceiling.
Daniel Kumin  |  Nov 19, 2014  |  6 comments

Audio Performance
Video Performance
Features
Ergonomics
Value
PRICE $1,999

AT A GLANCE
Plus
Dolby Atmos surround
4K-ready/upscaling with HDMI 2.0
Nine channels of flexible power
Top-tier Audyssey room/speaker correction
Minus
No HDCP 2.2 for future UHD content
Fairly basic supplied remote
Some mode-selection options a bit cumbersome

THE VERDICT
Outstanding audio capabilities and thoughtful ergonomics underpin our first Dolby Atmos–capable A/V receiver.

It’s been several years since I’ve had the opportunity to “do” a big Denon A/V receiver. So when a sample arrived of the company’s behemoth AVR-X5200W, one of the very first receivers ready to decode and distribute Dolby Atmos in a home theater setting, I was ready to begin. Atmos is the San Franciscans’ latest, “object-based,” scalable-multichannel surround format.

Daniel Kumin  |  Nov 11, 2014  |  2 comments
This week, I'm going off on something that really gets me going: drummers.
Daniel Kumin  |  Oct 30, 2014  |  2 comments

Performance
Features
Ergonomics
Value
PRICE $500

AT A GLANCE
Plus
True 5.1-channel sonics from a soundbar system
Reasonably neutral tonal balance
Fairly deep response
Unexpectedly substantial volume
Minus
Restrained treble
No IR passthrough

THE VERDICT
This Vizio is a large, affordably priced, true 5.1-channel soundbar system that actually plays loud, with respectable bass extension and very presentable sound.

Vizio has come a long way from its roots in a small PC-monitor brand (Princeton) a decade or so ago. Depending on your metrics, the California firm is now the No. 1 brand in both LCD HDTVs and soundbars. Today, the soundbar has ridden the coattails of the big-screen explosion to become an important product category in its own right. And with many serious loudspeaker makers getting into the game (likely a matter of survival in some cases), the ante has been raised so that what was once a mere profit-sweetening sales-ticket afterthought to a TV sale is now a hotly competitive category where performance and features figure as prominently as price.

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