Of all the gear that I reviewed last year, my favorite component by far was the Squeezebox Touch. Having instant access to all of my music, and high resolution downloads, was just a fantastic thing that led me to listen to far more, and varied, music that before. However, the one thing I always said about the Touch is that while I loved it, I wasn't going to buy one for my Dad since I'd have to install a PC server component, or hook up an external hard drive that I'd have to keep ripping his music to for him. For him, a simple, all-in-one solution would be what I would want.
Audio Player Reviews
Early adopters live in a world of potential. We latch on to a new paradigm shift significantly ahead of the adoption curve. As such, we're often saddled with legacy methodology or products. Solutions are never simple or straight forward. We push ahead and often have to improvise. Eventually the mass marketplace catches up and products appear addressing our needs. Audiolab markets a CD player called the 8200CD. The 8200CDQ, reviewed here, also contains a built-in preamplifier that can deliver 4 volts RMS through its fully balanced outputs. This eliminates signal loss in cables that would normally connect a CD player's outputs to the preamplifier.
It seems only appropriate that I follow my recent review of the Apple TV with a look at another digital player, the Nixeus Fusion HD. This product is another example of a multi-media streaming device. It has the ability to play back a wide variety of formats for video, still photos, and audio. To this it adds Internet functionality in the form of a web browser plus access to services like YouTube and Flickr. It also offers file management in the form of BitTorrent and easy connectivity with your networked computers via Ethernet or WiFi.
Every so often I get to review a product that sets itself apart from the "other guy" stuff. You know, the mass produced stuff that we often see in the brick-and-mortar stores. The special products are ones that are intelligently designed and built to exacting standards. It's sort of like comparing a Mercedes to a Chevy. Nothing wrong with a Chevy, but just slamming the door on the Mercedes can make you go, "Whoa! Now that's quality"! In this review, we cover the Cary Audio Design CD-500 CD Player.
Almost every manufacturer these days is including some type of network support in their products. From receivers that connect to home music servers and disc players that stream music and video from the internet, we have lots of options for enjoying content with our home entertainment systems. While Marantz has been including network support in their products for a while, they have not offered a stand-alone network streamer until now: The NA7004 streams music from your computer, the Internet, and even USB thumb drives.
Ever since Louis Daguerre took the first photograph and Thomas Edison lowered the needle on the first phonograph, media has been a part of our lives. The reproduction of still and moving images and sound is an art form that we are unlikely to see the zenith of in our lifetimes. Since the early part of the twentieth century, sound and video reproduction usually came in the form of magnetic tape, film or vinyl records. Now with the proliferation of digital storage methods, evolution has accelerated. The Apple TV second generation media streamer tosses the hard drive storage from first generation model. What does it add? Read our review to see for yourself . . . .
Sony originally came out with the SACD format in 1999. Unfortunately for those of us that invested in the format, mass market support never really came around, though in the audiophile community the format still thrives. The SCD-XA5400ES is one of Sony's latest iterations, and is their current reference model.
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 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.
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 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.
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.
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 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.
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.