We look at a real swagger wagon from Toyota, find some cool-looking Honda hybrids, sit in a new supercar from McLaren, and drive the lowest tech car we've seen this year.Subscribe with iTunes (audio) Subscribe with iTunes (video) Subscribe with RSS (audio) Subscribe with RSS (video) EPISODE 192 SHOW NOTES
NHT (Now Hear This) speakers have been audiophile favorites for going on 23 years. I loved the original SuperZero, SuperTwo, Model 3.3, and Evolution speaker systems; each was in its own way a classic design.
The new SuperZero 2.0 is an update, rather than a replica of, the original SuperZero. The new, shiny black laminated speaker is an understated jewel, but the SuperZero 2.0's price tag is $99 vs. $125 for the original model. NHT now sells speakers through dealers and factory-direct.
I recently heard the SuperZero 2.0, and the sound was vivid, with a … Read more
Onstar starts Facebook testing, Toyota tweets about six new hybrids, Sony announces four new car stereos, we take a ride in the new Ford Edge.Subscribe with iTunes (audio) Subscribe with iTunes (video) Subscribe with RSS (audio) Subscribe with RSS (video) EPISODE 186 SHOW NOTES
Yesterday, Sony added four new single-DIN in-dash receivers to its Xplod line of car audio equipment, replacing last year's CDX-GT line. The new CDX-GT650UI, CDX-GT550UI, CDX-GT350MP, and CDX-GT250MP will all be available in the coming weeks with prices ranging from $80 for the most basic GT250MP to $160 for the most fully-featured unit, the GT650UI.
The top-of-the-line CDX-GT650UI and CDX-GT550UI have USB ports on their faceplates to connect with iPods, iPhones, Sony's Walkman, and other USB mass storage devices, as well as analog auxiliary inputs. Both units also feature Sony's ZAPPIN, Quick-BrowZer, and Jump Mode search technologies … Read more
Sony may have lost the MP3 player battle, but it still knows a thing or two about making small, powerful speaker systems.
As evidence, we have the newly announced iRDP-X50iP, a portable speaker dock made for the Apple iPhone and iPod that boasts 40 watts of power in an elegant, minimal design.
With an asking price of $199, the iRDP-X50iP includes a bass reflex speaker design, aux input, remote control with full iPod control functionality, Mega Bass audio enhancement circuitry, soft-touch controls, and certified compatibility with the iPhone and recent iPods.
Sony's press release for the iRDP-X50iP emphasizes its … Read more
With Apple thoroughly touting the headphone remote capability of its various iPods, third-party headphone manufacturers are eagerly turning out products with integrated playback controls. One solution we've seen is the in-line remote cable attachment that can connect to any set of headphones, thereby letting you simply update your favorite pair.
Of course, if you need to upgrade from Apple's stock earbuds anyway, picking up a brand-new model with the controls (and mic, if applicable) built in makes more sense. The selection is constantly expanding, but not all the options provide a great experience. We've rounded up some … Read more
Just about every home theater receiver comes with an automatic speaker setup and calibration system: Denon, Marantz, and Onkyo feature Audyssey; Pioneer has MCACC (multichannel acoustic calibration); Sony's is called DCAC (digital cinema auto calibration); and Yamaha's proprietary system goes by the name YPAO (Yamaha Parametric Room Acoustic Optimizer). The systems handle the basics like determining the sizes of all the speakers, setting speaker and subwoofer volume levels and the speaker-subwoofer crossover point, measuring the distances from the speakers to the listener, and checking that all of the speaker cables are correctly hooked up. Some autosetup systems also employ equalization to balance the frequency response of all the speakers, and they try to minimize room acoustic problems.
To accomplish these goals, the systems send test tones through all of the speakers and the subwoofer, and they all use a microphone to capture the sounds of the speakers. Autosetup is a great idea, but there's no guarantee you'll have a perfectly adjusted home theater sound after the test tones have run through all of their beeps, whooshes, and thumps. The volume levels of the speakers may not be perfectly adjusted, the speaker-to-listener distances may be inaccurate, and the subwoofer volume may be too loud or too low. In the worst cases, the autosetup sounds worse than doing no setup at all.
These malfunctions can be caused by a number of things: your room may not be quiet enough, microphone placement can have an effect, or your subwoofer's built-in volume control may be set too low or too high. I'd recommend checking that all of the speakers are wired "in-phase," meaning red/+ and black/- connections are consistent at the speaker and receiver ends. Some autosetup systems check the wiring, but try to get it right in the first place.
I recently met with Chris Kyriakakis, Audyssey's CTO and founder, to talk about new developments at Audyssey, and while I had his ear, I brought up my concerns about autosetup problems. He followed up with a list of tips that generally apply to most autosetup systems. There's a lot of useful information about Audyssey setup on the company's Web site.… Read more
Judging by the Comments responding to my recent "Do receivers have too many features?" blog post, a lot of folks think today's receivers are overstuffed with gizmos. Now sure, if you crave a full complement of the latest doodads--streaming Rhapsody-Napster-Pandora-Flickr, USB inputs, iPhone certification, Audyssey MultEQ XT Auto Calibration, Wi-Fi, Windows Vista, DLNA, HD Radio, Internet Radio, multiroom-multizone connectivity, Ethernet and RS-232C ports, or Bluetooth Wireless Audio Transmission Capability--rush out and buy a home theater receiver. Enjoy reading the 120-page operating manual and exploring layer after layer of setup options. Good times!
But if the goal is to simply enjoy music and a movie every now and then, do yourself a favor and consider a stereo receiver, or if you don't care about radio, an integrated amplifier (an integrated amp is essentially a receiver without a radio). Another plus for stereo home theater converts, they'll never have to deal with convoluted speaker setup menus, or risk an out-of-balance sound mix. Stereo is nearly impossible to get wrong.
A lot of people think stereo receivers are old hat and they "have to" buy a surround receiver. Wrong! And as I pointed out in the blog post the other day, home theater receiver features aren't "free"; manufacturers pay very significant licensing fees and royalties to the companies that developed those features. To bring a receiver in on budget, engineers and product planners make cost-saving decisions to cut back on other aspects of the design. The audio circuitry is probably the first to take a hit.
With stereo receivers the engineering budget is directed to the audio side and Denon, Marantz, NAD, Onkyo, Sony and Yamaha all make stereo receivers. Apparently, there's still a market for stereo components, and now that more and more folks are getting into LPs, most new stereo receivers have turntable inputs. … Read more
It seems that antenna issues are not the only problems surfacing with the new iPhone 4, or at least that's what one of our readers has experienced. Al, a Buzz Out Loud listener, wrote in to report that his Jabra Stone and Kensington A2DP headset would not connect to his new iPhone 4, whereas his wife's Motorola mono Bluetooth headset worked with it fine. We were intrigued by this development, and decided to test it with the headsets we had in the office.
There's no shortage of new sound bars to review, and I still believe they're a great solution for some home theater buyers. They simplify setup chores, and eliminate the hassles associated with placing five or more speakers and running wires to all the speakers. Some self-powered sound bars offer a range of inputs, including HDMI connectivity, so there's no need to buy a receiver.
The best ones get close to the room-filling sound of a bona-fide 5.1 system. The latest Yamaha Sound Projectors like the YSP-4100 and YSP-5100 do a better job at creating a passable facsimile of a surround experience than most, but those two models are priced around $2,000! And those substantial MSRPs don't include the price of a subwoofer. So figure another 300 or more dollars for a sub.
For that kind of investment you can buy a significantly better-sounding 5.1 channel component-based system. If sound quality takes priority over ease of setup and installation, check out Aperion's Intimus 5B Fusion SD satellite/subwoofer system ($1,559) mated with an Onkyo TX-SR507 receiver ($399).
It'll trounce the YSP sound bars on every count, with dramatically better, more-enveloping surround sound, greater dynamic impact--plus, the Aperion/Onkyo system will sound better with music. That last one is a common failing; few sound bars cut it with two-channel music. So if you intend to play CDs in your home theater, steer clear of sound bars.… Read more