Once you dip below the $50 mark in the portable headphone market, you're generally going to be looking at a noticeable drop-off in sound quality. That's why we're always pleasantly surprised to come across earphones that manage to provide good audio at a low price--even better if they're comfortable, as well. The Yamaha EPH-30 is one such set, and though they're not without their pitfalls, we have no qualms about recommending these $40 earbuds.
Sound bar speakers vastly simplify home theater setup and installation, but their sound quality always falls short of bona fide 5.1-channel speaker-subwoofer-based systems. The single-box Zvox Z-Base575 get closer to that ideal than most.
The problem with sound bars is they're too small. Even pricey bars like Yamaha's YSP-3050 ($1,199 MSRP) can't generate full-blown home theater impact. And it's a bit bigger than average (31.5 inches wide by 6.1 inches high by 6 inches deep), but films like "Mission: Impossible III" sound tepid over the YSP-3050. The film's explosive effects lack the excitement you'd get from a 5.1 system. Yamaha's technology is amazing, but it can't produce high-impact sound from skinny cabinets. I'm not singling out Yamaha here; Denon, Marantz, Polk, Samsung, and Sony sound bars all--to varying degrees--squash dynamic range of movies.
Stepping up to the YSP-4000 ($1,600 MSRP) won't make that big a difference; in my CNET review I noted that it stumbled with big special effect-driven flicks like "Mission: Impossible III." The explosions fell flat, the bass was rumbly, and the Yamaha couldn't play loud at all. Hooking up an Acoustic Research HT60 subwoofer to add extra muscle helped a little, but the YSP-4000 still lacked punch.
Part of the problem is that almost all sound bar speakers are too small. Zvox's Z-Base575 is big and very, very deep. How deep is it? Sixteen inches! So unlike other surround bar speaker systems that can either be wall-mounted or set on a shelf, the Z-Base575 was designed to be used as a base under your TV. Don't worry, the sturdy medium-density fiberboard cabinet can support heavyweight displays. … Read more
As a musician, one of my favorite moments of 2008 was the chance to meet Yu Nishibori and his musical invention, the Tenori-On. Coming across like a futuristic cross between a drum machine and a game of Tetris, the Tenori-On music sequencer is one of those truly odd and beautiful devices that seems too cool to be real. Even the Museum of Modern Art saw fit to pick one up--one of only five instruments in its 4,000 item collection.
The problem was, it was just too expensive. You really needed to have a fetish for Japanese electronic music sequencers … Read more
Just as carmakers develop electric cars, motorcycle manufacturers also see the writing on the wall, showing off a collection of electric bikes at the 2009 Tokyo Motor Show. The Tokyo Motor Show has always played host to a substantial display of motorcycles, and this year is no different--except that the highlights of the show all have a green angle. Honda, Yamaha, and Suzuki all brought concepts to the show that could spell the future of riding, and possibly a new way for future commuters to get to work.
CHIBA, Japan--Want to request a song from a creepy childlike automaton? There's an app for that.
At Ceatec 2009, Yamaha showed off its prototype HRP-4C robot, which can show a range of motions, strut down a catwalk, and now belt out tunes from a preselected list.
During the demonstration Tuesday, audience members were encouraged to use their iPhones to request one of six songs from the raven-haired robot, decked out in futuristic stormtrooper gear. The winning track is titled "Give Me Wings."
The HRP-4C was featured as part of Yamaha's Play IT initiative, which explores ways … Read more
When it's not enough to let your iPhone control your life, you can have it control a robot.
An enterprising tinkerer in Japan has turned an iPhone 3GS into a humanoid robot by wiring it to a mechanical body.
Check out the video. Robochan is perhaps disturbing, but undeniably cute. The anime face and leek-waving are nods to Hatsune Miku, a character created for Yamaha's Vocaloid singing synthesizer application. Hatsune is a virtual idol in Japan; one of her albums topped the Oricon music chart last month.
Robochan consists of a 3GS wired to … Read more
Auto speaker setup and calibration is a popular feature on almost every receiver and a lot of home-theater-in-a-box systems.
Sure, it sounds like a peachy idea, but the accuracy of auto setup is hardly a sure thing; and at their worst, auto setup systems sound worse than no setup at all.
Ideally, the setup system automatically determines speaker sizes (large or small), measures speaker-to-listener distances, sets the volume levels of all of the speakers, determines the proper subwoofer volume level, checks that all the speaker wires' "+" and "-" connections are properly oriented at the speaker and receiver ends, and calculates the subwoofer-to-speaker crossover point. Some receivers also employ EQ (equalization) curves to correct for speaker and room acoustic anomalies.
What's not to like? Well, it the auto setup worked perfectly, nothing.
But they're mostly flawed: Subwoofer calibrations are almost always off. Auto calibration systems boost the sub volume much too high, and overestimate the sub distance to the listener by a factor of two (so a 10 foot distance becomes 20 or more feet).
Worse yet, auto setup systems rarely set the subwoofer-to-satellite speakers crossover frequency to the optimum point. That is, they tend to set the crossover too high, say 150 Hertz, which unnecessarily restricts the speakers' bass response. The speakers might sound better with a lower crossover setting. I recommend 80Hz for all speakers with 4- to 6-inch woofers; 100Hz for 3-inch woofers; and higher settings of 120Hz or 150Hz only for the tiniest speakers.
Accessing the measurement data post auto setup can be tricky on some receivers. Then you really don't know what you have.
Thing is, manual setup isn't all that difficult and will likely be more accurate. And chances are you wouldn't muck up the distances as poorly as the autosetup would. Running the test tones over the speakers and manually adjusting the sound by ear or with a Radio Shack meter isn't so hard to do.… Read more
Great-sounding home theater is becoming increasingly rare, as consumers move toward space-saving solutions like soundbars and tiny home-theater-in-a-box systems (HTIBs). If you still care about sound, have a budget around $1,000, and want the convenience of an all-in-one package, the choice largely comes down to two systems: the Onkyo HT-S9100THX ($1,100 list price) and the Yamaha YHT-791BL ($800, the subject of this review).
The two systems are very similar: you get a component-grade AV receiver with four HDMI inputs, plus a big, boxy 7.1 speaker system that delivers better sonics than the rest of the HTIBs on … Read more
Yamaha is unique among home audio manufacturers in that its prepackaged home theater systems include the same AV receivers that are offered as standalone units. We received the Yamaha YHT-791BL home theater system for review and were impressed with the included HTR-6250BL AV receiver compared with other home-theater-in-a-box systems, but we also wanted to see how it compared with other standalone AV receivers.
On its own, the Yamaha HTR-6250BL wasn't as impressive. Yes, it has four HDMI inputs and plenty of analog video connections, but the HTR-6250BL lacks the ability to assign inputs, which limits its flexibility. It also … Read more