NAD rocked the audiophile world in the late 1970s when it introduced its astonishing 3020 integrated amp. That amp eventually became one of the best-selling of all time and established NAD as the brand that prioritized performance over superfluous features and glitzy styling, at affordable prices. That “sound quality first” ethos continued over the decades, and NAD recently scored another direct hit with its Viso HP50 over-the-ear headphones. So, I was eager to check out their new Viso HP30 on-ear model.
Monday, 29 February 2016
The debut of the iPod was so cataclysmic that it nearly hurled the planet out of orbit. “1,000 songs in your pocket” was a revolution on par with “perfect sound forever.” And now it seems just as archaic. In fact, Apple no longer offers the iPod classic, and Bowers & Wilkins has quietly eliminated the iPhone/iPod dock from its formidable Zeppelin one-piece audio system. If you want to plug a wired device into the new Zeppelin Wireless, it’ll have to go into the analog minijack in back—the servants’ entrance, as it were. Only your wireless AirPlay and Bluetooth sources can waltz in the front door. The new Zeppelin is nearly an inch wider than the four-year-old Zeppelin Air, itself an update of the original Zeppelin from 2008. It costs $100 more, and shorn of its dock, it looks more than ever like a football—an American football, I should specify, since Mr. Bowers and Mr. Wilkins spoke with a British accent. On the front is a tab with LED indicators and buttons with backlit icons to pair Bluetooth devices and activate the aux input. On the back are the analog and Ethernet jacks; the USB jack is for service only. The composite video output has been eliminated along with the dock.
Most projector manufacturers refresh their product lines every fall like clockwork, but JVC opted to sit things out for 2014. The main reason (I suspect) was the state of flux surrounding the HDMI standard, which at that point was evolving to a new 18-gigabit-persecond version designed to accommodate a full range of 4K/Ultra HD bells and whistles, including 60-hertz frame rate, 4:4:4 color sampling, and high dynamic range.
The last time i hadmy hands on a Sony product, it was a 4K projector priced at ten grand. That model, the VPL-VW350ES, had many positive attributes, along with one weakness: somewhat lackluster contrast compared with that of projectors that provide a dynamic iris control.
Video geeks know that picture contrast can have a dramatic effect on image quality. Sure, the detail boost that 4K provides is nice, but in the grand scheme of things, contrast ends up being an even more important factor. That’s why I was stoked at the prospect of reviewing Sony’s new 1080p VPL-HW65ES, a $3,999 projector that includes a dynamic iris to optimize contrast.
When a venerable audio brand leaves its founders behind, sometimes it loses its way. But sometimes it gets a whole new lease on life. That’s what happened when the International Audio Group (IAG, originally of Taiwan, now of mainland China) acquired a handful of British brands, including Wharfedale, Mission, and Quad. When I visited IAG’s design and manufacturing facility in Shenzhen a dozen years ago, I was surprised at how self-reliant it was. The resident speaker designer could have a custom part made and tested in 24 hours, rather than having to outsource it and wait for months, as Wharfedale’s British forebears had to do. Thus, he has the luxury of endless tweaking. Even so, Wharfedale hasn’t had a commanding presence in the U.S. market commensurate with the brand’s engineering resources and expertise. Will the new Diamond 200 series change that?
Beginning in 2009 and early thereafter, Taiwan-based BenQ Corporation has claimed the distinction of being the best-selling brand for DLP projectors worldwide. While models designated for the business and education markets bolster the overall sales figure, the company has enjoyed a strong presence in consumer home theater as well. BenQ aims to retain that No. 1 status, aided by their new HT series of home theater machines, which includes our review unit, the range-topping HT4050. Stocking the projector with an assortment of finely honed features, BenQ promises the performance level found in more costly models while targeting an appealing price point. Will the HT4050 deliver winning image fidelity and a winning sales formula for BenQ? Let’s find out.
Producing a test report on a “flagship” A/V receiver is always a bit of a high-wire act. On one hand, the receiver represents the top of the line: Maximum power, maximum features, and maximum performance are all expected—and generally delivered. On the other hand, cruiser-class designs rarely offer much of real importance that a model two or three jumps down any given maker’s line doesn’t also do quite competently—and for roughly half the price, which means it’s the model that most folks eventually buy. This leaves the hapless reviewer with the unenviable choice of either damning with faint praise or condemning excellence for its expense.
Here we are now a full four years beyond Sony’s debut of the VPL-VW1000ES, the first consumer-level native 4K projector. And yet the bounty of 4K content that was promised at that time is really now just coming to fruition with an assortment of streaming options and a new Blu-ray format springing forth. In late 2015, Sony did what I’d call a mid-cycle refresh on one of our previous model, the VPLVW600ES, adding a few new features like HDR capabilities and improved contrast and brightness. But is the VPL-VW665ES the projector to buy as we head into the land of Ultra HD and all its promises?