OPPO, known for their very high quality universal players, has now ventured into another arena: headphones. Their first model, just released, is the OPPO PM-1, which is an over-the-ear design, using planar magnetic drivers. At a time when everyone seems to be offering headphones and/or earbuds as part of their product portfolio, only a handful really stand out as top notch performers. The PM-1 is destined to join that group.
For years JVC has produced the best contrast ratios of any home projector thanks to their D-ILA technology. They have been able to manage these stellar black levels despite being the only major company to not utilize any sort of dynamic iris system in their projectors. This year they have added a dynamic iris system to their projectors that promises to provide even deeper blacks than ever before. The JVC X700 also features their updated e-Shift3 that now accepts a 4K signal and offers more control than before. As everyone seems to be clamoring for UltraHD, can the JVC X700 deliver the goods while still using a regular 1080p panel?
At home, acoustically transparent projection screens have been around for years, but have always had flaws. The size of the holes required for allowing sound to pass through are often visible from normal seating distances in the home. Also, much of the light passes through the screen, and this reduces the brightness of the image you will see. A projector you can buy for $3,000 now has more than enough brightness to allow some loss through the perforations. We have also seen the introduction of woven screens that allow sound to pass through, but also have a fine texture that is invisible from a normal distance. One such screen material is the Enlightor 4K from Seymour Screen Excellence. Boasting ISF certification for image quality and said to be acoustically transparent from 100 Hz to 20 kHz, it looks to be a screen material that can give you that movie theater immersion at home.
Looking over Secrets' last few years of projector reviews, it quickly becomes evident that the pricing sweet spot has settled around the $3000 mark. This makes sense since it's only a little more or less than you'd pay for a top-quality 65-inch flat panel. A few years ago, any TV over 50 inches carried a big price premium. When I bought my Pioneer Kuro in 2009 for example, I paid $2,900 for a 50-inch screen. I really wanted the 60-inch model but it was almost double the price at $5,600!
The REALLY BIG screen experience is still only available from front projection. Last year, I got to check out Mitsubishi's DLP, the HC8000D. This time, BenQ sent me their new W7500. For $2,799, it offers some great features and very high performance coupled with tremendous light output. Let's take a look.
Bowers and Wilkin's (B&W) is a name that anyone even casually interested in audio and speaker manufacturers will undoubtedly know. With their distinctive look and stellar reputation, B&W speakers have found their way not just into many home audio set-ups, but also of the world's most iconic professional recording studios (raise your hand if you've seen the picture of an array of B&W speakers and Classé electronics at Abbey Road studios). Despite having known of B&W for as long as I've been involved in this field, I have personally had little experience with the speakers directly. I was therefore excited to have the opportunity to evaluate the B&W's 805 Diamond bookshelf and HTM4 center channel speaker and I am eager to pass along my thoughts.
Receivers are hard to review. It's almost impossible to directly compare them to another model as there is so much wiring involved. Attempting to rely on memory has its own challenges, as it can be unreliable when it comes to audio. With all the difference sections of a receiver, from audio and video handling, to room correction and amplifiers, it is difficult to determine what is performing right and what is wrong. It was with great anticipation I delved into the new Arcam AVR750 receiver, the flagship model from the well-regarded UK company.
The "soundbar" business must be booming, or at least manufacturers are banking on it doing so, as just about everyone has come out with one if not several offerings. The gambit seems logical: jam a bunch of audio transducers into an enclosure which tucks in under the typical display panel, usually with a separate small subwoofer, offering better-than-built-in sound. Onkyo is a big name in consumer AV, best known perhaps for their much lauded Surround Sound Receivers. The subject of the current review is their latest take on this mass market soundbar segment: The LS-B50, part of their "EnvisionCinema" line of products.
The HP20 is a welcome addition to the in-ear (earbud) headphone family from none other than NAD. These little guys pack a lot of punch into a small package and at $169 they cost almost half as much as the $299 NAD HP50 headphones. Like the HP50, the HP20 also takes advantage of the years of research spent at the acoustic labs of Canada's National Research Council. This research is what Paul Barton utilized to create RoomFeel, the concept of making a headphone sound more like listening to a pair of speakers in a room.
GoldenEar Technology has been making some fairly dramatic waves in the loudspeaker market over the past few years. The Triton Seven home theater system, reviewed here, is anchored by the Triton Seven stereo loudspeakers for front left and right channels. The rest of the system consists of the SuperCenter XL center channel speaker, the ForceField 5 subwoofer and two pairs of SuperSat 3 bookshelf speakers for side and rear surround duty. This makes a full 7.1 channel home theater speaker setup with an MSRP of about $4200. That's definitely not home-theater-in-a-box money, but it's actually a reasonable sum to spend for someone who cares about getting good sound. So….let's see how these babies stack up!
The Alpha PS1s are PSB's first powered speakers, and are bookshelf in size. Driven by built-in Class D amplifiers, they feature 3.5" metalized polypropylene main drivers and 0.75" aluminum dome tweeters in elegant ported enclosures. These speakers are the latest member of PSB's Alpha line which has been very popular and well received by the audio press and consumers alike. Late last year, PSB announced they would be releasing a super compact powered subwoofer. This new sub was designed to go along with PSB's incredible little PSB Alpha PS1 ($299) desktop speakers that I reviewed in July 2013. So I promptly requested a review sample as I wanted to write this quick follow-up to my earlier review.
B&W 601S2s were the first loudspeaker I ever bought for myself. Charged on a credit card in college, and beyond what I should have spent, they wound up saving me hundreds of dollars in the long run. With their intoxicating sound, far beyond anything I'd owned before, I'd spend hours listening to them. With a 300-disc CD changer and a La-Z-Boy recliner, many nights and weekends were spent listening to albums uninterrupted. As soon as the new CM10 tower speaker was introduced, I set out to spend some quality time with it and return to where the audiophile in me was born.
The S-550i is the larger of two new integrated amps from Krell. Both of these amps feature circuit boards that utilize surface mount components. This means they can pack more power into smaller chassis than ever before. The S-550i is rated at 275 watts per channel into 8 ohms, and that doubles to 550 wpc into a 4 ohm load. This being from a box that is less than 6 inches tall. So now you can get tons of Krell goodness in a small package and at a very affordable price.
1983. The compact disc is introduced and record companies everywhere rejoice at the prospect of selling everyone worse sounding versions of music they already own. The universe, however, seeks a balance. The same year, Naim unleashes the first Nait integrated amplifier and the product category is never the same. The runtish, low-powered amplifier was controversial on many fronts, but its astonishing degree of musicality was never in dispute. The Naim Supernait 2 integrated amplifier does not deviate from their unique path that began more than three decades ago.
Suddenly the ESS SABRE DAC is showing up everywhere. At first it was only in high-end audio products like the Oppo BDP-95 and BDP-105 Blu-ray players. Now we have seen it in the Pioneer SC-79 receiver and in a pair of SSPs (Surround Sound Processors): The Krell Foundation and the Yamaha CX-A5000. From bench test numbers to listening tests, the SABRE offers up performance that is at the top of the DAC chain. Many of us just assumed we wouldn't see it in a processor or receiver due to the price. The Yamaha CX-A5000 11.1 SSP uses a pair of ESS SABRE 9016 DACs to support its 11 channels. A step down from the 9018, the SABRE should provide the Yamaha with superior jitter reduction, less tonal noise floor, and slightly greater dynamic range compared to the other DACs at its price. Is the rest of the CX-A5000 engineered around the SABRE up to the task?
The NAD HP50 is the latest headphone design from Paul Barton, founder of PSB, a sister company of NAD, and features a new trademarked concept called RoomFeel. RoomFeel attempts to recreate the sound of listening to high-end speakers in a room. Most listening rooms add a low frequency bump to the sound that is often not taken into account when designing headphones. A room gain compensation transfer function was developed to add a +3 dB per octave boost from 200Hz down to 50Hz in order to replicate the fuller, warmer sound of a room. Clearly a lot of time and engineering has gone into the development of these headphones, the only question is, did it pay off? Yes it most certainly did.
Horn speakers have been around nearly a century. They were used in movie theaters when the films became "talkies", and their advantage is that they are extremely efficient, which is good, because the power amplifiers in the theaters during the 1930's were very low powered. Linn Audio has built horn speakers for several decades, but most hi-fi enthusiasts may never have heard a horn speaker. They are characterized by wonderful, effortless midrange. The Linn Audio Athenaeum horn speakers are reviewed here.
Projectors are often described as having a "film-like" image. We are all trying to replicate that movie theater experience at home and so it seems that achieving that look is what we would strive for. The SIM2 SUPER LUMIS has shown me that in a modern projector; film-like is no longer what we want. All our sources now are pixel-perfect digital sources. Ideal projectors are razor-sharp and incredibly bright. We can focus down to a single pixel on the screen. Very little we see in the theater today is film sourced or projected from film, and nothing we watch at home is stored on film. So "film-like" is not what I'm after in a projector. What I'm after is something that shows me every last detail and imperfection in what I'm watching. A projector as true to the source as possible. With that in mind, the SIM2 SUPER LUMIS projector is a machine that is capable of doing just that. Powerful, precise, and utter revealing of everything it projects onto the screen.
Listening to my records one night, I received an email from Susan Johnson asking if I would be willing to review the Emotiva Stealth DC-1. Would I ever! Last year I tried the Emotiva USP-1 preamp and UPA-200 amp in my system and I have been very happy with the combination. Needless to say I was very curious to see and hear this reference piece from Emotiva.
Don't you often wonder why expensive televisions are sold with speakers that sound like they're made of tissue paper and powered by a cell phone? No matter what the price of the set, it always seems that sound quality receives little of the design budget. This results in predictable audio quality – tinny, prone to distortion, and adequate only for the most basic of dialogue. The good news is that there ARE alternatives! Pinnacle Speakers offers an array of high quality powered sound bars, surround speakers, subwoofers, and in-wall/in-ceiling speakers that can bring your television's sound to life!
The new "X" line of M&K Sound subwoofers consists of three models: the X8, X10, and X12. When asked how the new "X" line subwoofers were different from the previous generation, Claus Glaesner, President of M&K Sound USA, replied, "These subwoofers are a major step up in every way from our previous subwoofers. The build quality, driver quality, and sound quality represent a new reference level of subwoofer that was previously not available on the market."