Audio Player Reviews

Marantz SA-KI Pearl SACD player

The Marantz tradition has always been about enjoying music. The Marantz SA-KI Pearl is a limited-edition SACD player from the Marantz Reference Series product line. The "KI" in the product name refers to Ken Ishiwata, who is the actual designer of the SA-KI Pearl. Ken Ishiwata has an impressive biography. He fell in love with music as a young man. He pursued a career in fashion photography following in the footsteps of his father. In the late 1970's, Mr. Ishiwata started his career with Marantz. Today, he is an accomplished violinist, audio engineer, electronics engineer, and brand ambassador for Marantz in Europe.

McIntosh MCD500 SACD Player

McIntosh has been producing dedicated SACD players for several years, and their latest edition to the line is the MCD500. This iteration has a much lower noise floor than previous models, which allows for the presentation of greater detail in soft musical passages. Our bench tests proved this to be the case, as the measured noise floor was at least 20 dB better than the MCD201 that we tested a few years ago.

Bowers and Wilkins Zeppelin iPod Amplified Speaker Dock System

The iPod dock/speaker market continues to grow every year and more high end speaker manufacturers are joining the game. Products range from cheap and flimsy $20 plastic models to higher end models such as the Fatman iTube Red-i that lists for $649. Bowers and Wilkins, renowned British loudspeaker company, has created their own high end iPod speaker dock system called the Zeppelin, which lists at $599, and is the subject of this review.

Marantz SA-15S2 Reference Series SACD Player

Marantz can be thought of in two ways: the company owned by D&M Holdings with a huge market to satisfy, developing highly competitive consumer level products such as receivers and DVD players. Secondly, Marantz is an audio-first legacy from Saul Marantz, that produced vacuum tube gear in the 1950's, and leading the way to solid state in the 1960's. Here, we take a look at their SA-15S2 SACD player.

Emotiva ERC-1 CD player

The first thing you'll notice about the Emotiva ERC-1 CD player is that it looks great. The faceplate of the player and the remote are brushed aluminum painted black accented with unfinished brushed aluminum at the edges. Nice. When it's turned on the buttons on the face of the player light up with blue halos. This player would look right at home next to Macintosh gear.

Cambridge Audio 840 Series CD Player, Stereo Preamplifier, and Stereo Power Amplifier

My wife, who I affectionately refer to as "the music Anti-Christ" often calls me "He without Brains" when it comes to purchasing audio gear. Our latest interchange of pleasantries began when I announced that I needed a new CD player in the $1500 to $2000 range.  She found one at Costco for considerably less than a hundred bucks and thought I would be very pleased.  "You just don't get it" I said, to which she replied "Neither will you".  I think she meant it in so many ways.

Marantz SA-7S1 SACD Player

Marantz has been a renown audio company for a better part of the 20th century. Although it changed hands several times over the years, the quality never wavered from being superb. The average consumer these days may think of mass market receivers when the name Marantz is mentioned, but they also build some of the best high performance products in the consumer arena. The SA-7S1 is Marantz' top-of-the-line SACD player. It is fully balanced throughout - thus having XLR outputs along with the standard RCA unbalanced outputs - and has some of the lowest distortion bench test results I have ever measured. It sounds as smooth as satin whether playing SACDs or standard "old fashioned" CDs, and is built to make sturdy equipment racks creak when you place it on the shelf. Last, but not least, it is beautiful to look at whether it is playing or not.

NAD C565BEE CD Player

I well remember the day I got my first NAD product back in the 70's. I have long since forgotten the model number, but it was a stereo receiver. I remember listening to it and thinking how great it sounded compare to the old Marantz it was replacing. I knew back then that moving up to the NAD meant that I was no longer just listening to tunes. I had moved up into the realm of being a lover of music, an audiophile.

Earthquake Sound iQuake IQ-52B iPod Dock

There are plenty of iPod Docks out there for you to plug in your iPod and listen to your music using speakers instead of earphones. Some of them are very inexpensive and others somewhat more, but what sets the Earthquake Sound iQuake IQ-52B apart from the rest are its sound quality and features. Read our review to see how flexible this little package really is.

Focal XS 2.1 iPod Amplified Speaker Dock

The past seven years has seen rapid proliferation of the iPod dock market. Unfortunately, while many of the products have succeeded in following the Apple aesthetic, rarely is there substance behind the flash. Is the entry by Focal merely more eye candy or is there something more compelling? The XS 2.1 distinguishes itself by offering something beyond your typical iPod speaker dock.

ISTAR Mini Network Media Tank

Every now and then you run into a product you are so impressed with you just have to share.  The ISTAR Mini Network Media Tank is one of those products.  By all accounts the product is another media extender set top box that you plug into your TV that plays video, music and photos from an attached hard drive or home network.  There are lots of these products on the market.

DViCO TViX HD M6500A Media Streamer

I found both video and audio quality of the TViX M6500A to be exceptional, and over the last few months, some of the firmware updates have already made this unit significantly more stable and better than its previous versions. Given that DViCO has been quite adamant in providing support for existing products and continually improving them, I have no doubt they will succeed in turning this unit into an ever more powerful item over the upcoming months.

HD Digitech HDX900 HDTV Media Streamer

The HDX900 is an HDTV streamer based on the Network Media Tank (NMT) middleware platform by Syabas. If you don't know what a streamer is yet, think of the AppleTV but without any of the Apple restrictions. Consider a player that will play all of your movies, in file format, including Blu-ray, DVDs, or any popular format you might have on your computer hard drive, as well as pictures and audio, but doesn't require you to pay a monthly iTunes bill.

mStation 2.1 iPod Dock Amplified Tower Speaker System

The mStation 2.1 tower is an all in one solution for taking your iPod music out of your ears and into your room. The tower consists of one down firing 5.25" woofer, and two speaker modules with 2 – 2" midrange and 1 – 1" tweeter per speaker. There is a docking station a USB port and a 1/8" (3.5mm) stereo miniplug jack. All in a four foot tall, 14" wide aluminum tower.

Qsonix Q110 Media Server

The Qsonix Q110 is a media server meant to be put in by a custom installer, but you can do it yourself because it is very easy to work with. It has a 250 GB hard drive that will hold hundreds of CDs in lossless compression format and serves four zones simultaneously. The user interface is a dream and employs a touchscreen that has drag and drop functionality, using your finger to bring music into the que for playback.