When I left home for college in 1984, I brought my stereo system along. It consisted of a Kenwood receiver, Technics turntable, and a pair of Fisher 3-way speakers. After discovering a few high-end stereo shops in Boston, and having my turntable set up properly; I started shopping for a better amp. My meager funding ruled out separates but the proprietor of a small hi-fi shop pointed me to that now-familiar brown box. I returned to my dorm room clutching a brand-new NAD 3020, for which I believe I paid around $220. My reward was the cleanest sound I'd ever heard, bar none. I used that amp all through college and probably for another 10 years after. Today, NAD has recreated this amazing product for the digital age. Where we once relied on vinyl and ferrous tape, now it's all about bits and bytes. The timeless philosophy of clean high-quality sound, versatile operation, and a low price has now given birth to the all-new D 3020 Hybrid Digital Amplifier.
Pass Labs recently introduced their new Xs Preamplifier and XS 300 Pure Class A (300 watts) power amplifier mono blocks.
Sometime around 2007, Thiel introduced what was then (and still is) an astounding speaker in the CS3.7 which for the most part was significant because Thiel was engineering their own driver designs, versus buying OEM. The 3-way design was pure Thiel, soft and rounded yet muscular in design, Jim Thiel showcased the corrugated midrange and tweeter "coincidentally" mounted configuration. The CS2.7 is the result of that success in a more affordable package.
After reviewing the excellent HiFiMAN RE-400 Waterline in-ear monitors (earphones), I was graciously sent the RE-600 Songbird, a higher-end model offering better performance, for a price. At $399, the RE-600 are a serious investment into music playback and more than most want to spend.
Lately I had been sampling the Bryston Mini T Bookshelf speakers with my reference amp, a modest Marantz Integrated, and though they matched well I wondered how they would fare with some serious Bryston power behind them. So when Bryston offered up some 28BSST2 's for review I had one stipulation: let me try them with the Mini T's.
This Sonus faber home theater speaker system is based on the new Venere 3.0 floor standing speakers, the flagship of the Venere line. The Veneres are designed in Italy and include drivers designed from the ground up specifically for this speaker line. The drivers are made exclusively for Sonus faber by some of the best suppliers on the planet. The Veneres even have the famous Sonus faber lyre-shaped cabinets.
Audeze has been a rising star in the headphone arena for several years, making their name with extremely high quality planar magnetic over-the-ear designs. Their latest model is the LCD-X, which touts a thinner diaphragm for improved transients.
The SC-79 marks the fourth revision of the Pioneer SC-line that I have reviewed. From the beginning I've been impressed with the amount of features they fit inside and the performance they offer. The SC-79 announcement is as excited for a new receiver as I have been. Far from a marginal upgrade, Pioneer went all-out and packed in new features galore. The biggest is a pair of ESS SABRE32 9016 DACs. A single-step below the 9018 used in top-flight two channel audio products, the 9016 is the highest end DAC in a receiver today.
While the TX-NR5010 remains the company's flagship model, the TX-NR929 is Onkyo's most fully-featured receiver released in 2013, carrying the THX Select2 Plus variety. Having both owned and reviewed Onkyo receivers, I was greatly looking forward to putting this model through the paces.
When I turn on the Sony STR-DN1040 and am greeted by a colorful, interactive full screen graphical interface, I am surprised. It is even in high definition! Someone has actually been listening to complaints from users and decided to do something about it. They are trying to make the home theater less complex than the PC of the 1980's. Is the Sony STR-DN1040 just a pretty face or does it have the brains and brawn to go along with its beauty?
Everywhere you look established specialist audio companies are getting into the headphone and lifestyle market. These products are smaller, more affordable, and easier to use than traditional hi-fi. They appeal to a new generation of music lovers looking for products that fit their more mobile and computer centric lifestyles. I'm the ideal case study. I spend hours throughout my day listening to music on headphones at my desk. Streaming RDIO, watching videos on YouTube, editing videos, etc. While the built in headphone output on my Mac book Air is good. I've been using external USB Dacs for some time to drive bigger less sensitive headphones. Arcam sent us two of their R series boxes to check out, the rPac USB headphone DAC/amp and the rBlink Bluetooth DAC.
NAD introduced its own iPod dock, the VISO, last year at CEDIA. As one would expect from this high-end company, little expense was spared in its design as it sought to bridge the iPod, and other digital music players, with quality amplification and speakers while keeping it all in a compact package. With the proliferation of AirPlay streaming, it made sense that the second generation product should include this super-convenient feature. Hence, we have the VISO 1 AP, the subject of today's review. Where last year's VISO required you to chain your iPod to the unit, the AP lets you keep your iPod in your pocket so you can control your music from anywhere within reach of your WiFi network.
HiFiMAN unveiled the RE-400 Waterline In-Ear Monitors back in January at CES. Their goal was to set a new standard for high-performance, yet affordable, in-ear monitors and the name Waterline implies just that. With a low $99 price tag, that is not an easy goal to achieve.
Legacy Audio is well-known in the A/V community. They market speakers of all sizes from bookshelf to huge floor-standers, and they have been around for more than two decades. Their speakers are made in the USA, and since the company was founded in a cabinet-making shop, the quality of the wood finish is a hallmark of their designs. The sound fits the looks, and I have wanted to test a pair for quite a while. Legacy sent me their Focus SE's, which are floor-standing speakers and are full-range. The SE stands for Silver Edition, and it celebrates Legacy's 30th anniversary.
RBH Sound is no newcomer to the audio market. They began in 1976 as an OEM manufacturer for companies including McIntosh, JBL, and Parasound. Since then, they have built up their own brand name; one of quality high-performance loudspeakers. Now they have started to produce their own line of earphones. The RBH EP2's, reviewed here, are in-ear earphones.
I think it's fair to refer to the Benchmark DAC2 HGC as a DAC since that is its official title, or a headphone amplifier but the owner's manual refers to it as a 'Reference Stereo Preamplifier'. Whatever you call it, this little box does a lot. I reviewed it mostly as a DAC but tried out the preamp and headphone functions as well.
Recently, we reviewed the Pass Labs INT-150 integrated amplifier, which is biased into Class A at about 5 watts, and leaves Class A into Class AB at 10 watts peak. It is a superb integrated amplifier. The INT-150's brother, the INT-30A integrated amplifier, is Pure Class A throughout its 30 watt output (into 8 ohms) specification. Chris Eberle originally reviewed the INT-30A in 2012, and in this review, I compare the INT-30A with the INT-150, and add bench tests which were not in Chris' review.
When I was asked to review the Atlantic Technology PB-235 Powered Soundbar, I jumped at the chance since this would be a new product category for me. I had never spent any length of time auditioning such a unit either for professional or personal use. It wasn't for lack of desire; rather, I just wasn't ever in the market nor asked to review one. This product category has grown in recent years as more and more companies have jumped into the arena. I was excited to see how Atlantic Technology's offering would fare, considering how good their home theater speakers are (I reviewed the 8200e system a few years ago). So when the opportunity presented itself, I jumped at it.
If you've read any of my reviews before, you know I am a fan of Anthony Gallo Acoustics loudspeakers. I reviewed the original Strada loudspeaker and TR-3 subwoofer in 2010 and was so impressed I almost bought them. The only reason I didn't was because I knew the Reference 3.5 was coming. Those? I bought those, and they are still my reference loudspeaker (however, the 3.5 will be discontinued soon). Gallo claims the new Strada 2 loudspeakers are even better than the original Strada, and the TR-3D is an improvement over then TR3. Both new speakers use almost identical technology to that of the Reference 3.5. Another salvo by Gallo has leveled the paying field between the new Strada 2 and the Reference 3.5s even more. The price of the Strada 2 and TR-3D is identical to the earlier models. The complete system cost with stands weighs in at $4,417 (which includes two TR-3D subs). This used to be a lot cheaper than the $5,995 Reference 3.5. Gallo recently reduced the price of the Reference 3.5 to $3,995, plus an additional $749 for the amp. Now, the price of the two systems is almost identical, within less than $400. The question is, which is better? We will see.
For all the things we associate Sony with for home theater, speakers are lower down on that list. Many people scoffed when they decided to introduce a $27,000 pair of speakers, the SS-AR1, but response to them has been phenomenal. They've followed that up with a full set of home theater ES speakers meant to compete with the likes of B&W and other high-end brands. They are also a big player in sound bars with their recent models racking up a bevy of awards. What they haven't had is a product to merge those two ambitions in audio until now. With the HT-ST7 sound bar Sony is taking aim at the high-end sound bar market and offering up a few features that we don't usually see at this price point.