Audio

NewClear Audio NC1000L Class D Stereo Power Amplifier

Class D (i.e., "Switching") amplifiers have been around for quite a while now. What's clear from models produced so far is they all sound different, even when using the same core technology. Like many amplifiers of the type, the NewClear NC1000L uses the Bang and Olufsen ICEPower module. What makes the NC1000L different isn't this module; it's how that module is implemented. NewClear Audio was started by Sean Brady to improve upon the sound of existing switching amplifiers. Sean had heard some very good amps based on ICEPower technology, but thought he could do even better. The question is, does the NC1000L deliver the goods compared to similarly priced, traditional Class A/B amplifiers?

B&W 805 Diamond Bookshelf and HTM4 Center Channel Speakers

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.

 

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.

Onkyo LS-B50 Soundbar

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.

NAD HP20 In-Ear Headphones (Earbuds)

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.

Update: PSB Alpha PS1 Bookshelf Speakers

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 CM10 Floor-Standing Speakers

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.

Krell S-550i Integrated Amplifier

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.

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?

NAD HP50 Viso Over-the-Ear Headphones

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.

Linn Audio Athenaeum Horn Speakers

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.