Arcam AVR750 7.1 A/V Receiver

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.

Yamaha CX-A5000 11.1 SSP (Surround Sound Processor)

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?

Anthem MRX 710 7.1 A/V Receiver

Anthem's second-generation MRX receivers now offer more HDMI inputs, dual HDMI outputs, 4K upscaling and pass-through, faster HDMI switching and come in three models with the primary difference being the amount of amplification and number of channels. The entry level receiver is the MRX 310, which offers 80 watts per channel for 5.1 channels. The MRX 510 is the middle receiver in the MRX lineup and offers 100 watts per channel for 7.1 channels. The flagship model is the MRX 710, reviewed here, which offers 120 watts per channel for 7.1 channels. As for other differences between models, the MRX 710 and MRX 510 allow the front left and right speakers to be bi-amped. The MRX 710 and MRX 510 have seven rear and one front-panel HDMI input, while the MRX 310 has seven rear HDMI inputs. All three models support software updates via USB.

Sony STR-DN1040 7.1 A/V Receiver

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?

Pioneer VSX-43 7.1 Elite A/V Receiver

Back in my college days, I had a roommate that had a nice stereo Pioneer receiver. It cost him a few hundred bucks. Since it was pre-digital, the inputs were pretty basic. Simply hook up to a cassette deck and turntable and we reveled in the audiophile sounds that its 30 watts/channel produced. Ah, the 70's were the "golden era" of audio. Point being, everybody has to start somewhere in their journey to musical nirvana. Fast forward to 2013 and now for around $500 you can get a 7.1 surround, network capable, DSP loaded, phone/Android integrated, Bluetooth, 80 watt/channel Elite receiver from Pioneer. True, the VSX-43 is their entry level Elite receiver, but it is packed with features that would have cost you a lot of money, even just a few years ago. But does the VSX-43 have what it takes to be the brain and brawn you are looking for in a modern home entertainment system?

Surround Sound Systems: 5.1 or 7.1?

I'm going to be in the market for my first surround sound system. I was wondering if you know if what I'm looking for exists. I'm looking for a surround sound system that can be expanded to more speakers. Like a system that is a 5.1 surround that has ports to add an additional two speakers to make it a 7.1 surround. A kind of modular surround sound system. I'd love to get the 7.1 right away but if I can save some money right away with a 5.1 and maybe in 6 months or so add a couple speakers that would be the best.

- Bill Russell
Bismarck, ND

Sundance Film Festival 2012

Sundance 2012 was as busy as ever including the all important film deals. There may have been a slight let-up in the downtown party scene, but I may not have been the best judge of that as I opted to stay in on Friday and Saturday night of the opening weekend. That was due in part to the relentless Saturday snow which became slush on the ground. I wore my favorite shoes, they are not waterproof. That Saturday snow also led to an enormous traffic jam. At about 6 pm on that day it seemed like there was one theater bus, with about 500 people on it and it was not going anywhere.

BenQ W1200 DLP Projector

With a steady flow of new models hitting the market since the CEDIA Expo, I've had plenty of projectors passing through my theater of late. When I got the opportunity to review the BenQ W1200, I realized it was my first time evaluating a product from this company. The W1200 is a full 1080p single-chip DLP projector.

SECRETS Best of 2011 Awards

The SECRETS Editorial Team is pleased to announce the Best of 2011 Awards. This year we have added a new Media Category for 3D Movies, in addition to Blu-ray, CD and Vinyl Recordings. And this year we have two products winning the "BAD ASS" Award, and one Media "BAD ASS" for Audio. This year the Editorial Team is highlighting two technology areas for particular attention in 2012, so be sure to check out the  "Technologies on the Rise Awards".

Congratulations to all of our 2011 WINNERS!!


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An Interview with Jazz Drummer Eric Harland

Drummer and composer Eric Du'sean Harland, 34, was all of 17 when Wynton Marsalis heard him perform and encouraged him to study in New York City. After graduating from the Manhattan School of Music, and pursuing ministerial studies at Houston Baptist University, Harland launched a drumming career that has now spawned over 80 recordings with the likes of Terence Blanchard, Stefon Harris, McCoy Tynor, Charles Lloyd, Dave Holland, and Ravi Coltrane. Currently active in four major ensembles, he has received 1st Place in the last three DownBeat “Rising Star Drums” polls.

Bryston BDA-1 Digital to Analog Converter and Halide Design USB to SPDIF Bridge

Digital to Analog converters (DACs) have been enjoying something of a renaissance in the past couple of years due to the widespread adoption of computer based music. Back before SACD, DVD-A and multichannel audio, DACs were the source component du jour for redbook CD. With the adoption of the new high-resolution formats, DACs fell out of favor, replaced by integrated universal disc players. Today, many people have gone to entirely computer based audio setups. The highest resolution digital audio available today does not come on a disc, but is available via download. This means DACs are back, and the Bryston BDA-1 is regarded as one of the best of the new breed of 24 bit 192 kHz DACs. Along with the Brytson BDA-1, we review the Halide Design USB to SPDIF Bridge.