You'll never find a comparably equipped 1980 Corvette outperforming a 2011 'Vette, or a 1980 TV or computer blowing away a '11 model. Audio is a different matter; a lot of decades-old gear really does sound better than its 2011 equivalents. That's especially true when comparing 1970s and 1980s receivers with today's models. I covered why that is so in last weekend's "How can 30-year-old receivers sound better than new ones?" blog.
The Yamaha RX-V671 covers the core functionality of an AV receiver well: it sounds great and has plenty of connectivity. Its six HDMI inputs will be enough for nearly every home theater, and one of those inputs is on the front panel, which is great for making a quick connection to a laptop or digital camera. Yamaha is also the only manufacturer that offers a colorful and responsive user interface, although the RX-V671's interface would still be considered archaic on any other home theater device.
Its main failing is the lack of AirPlay support, which we think is the … Read more
It's a strange turn of events, but mainstream manufacturers long ago gave up on the idea of selling receivers on the basis of superior sound quality. I'm not claiming today's receivers sound "bad," but since almost no one ever listens to a receiver before they buy one, selling sound quality is next to impossible.
Back in the days when brick-and-mortar stores ruled the retail market, audio companies took pride in their engineering skills and designed entire receivers in-house. Right up through the 1980s most of what was "under the hood" was designed and … Read more
Rumor has it that Research In Motion is working on a media-streaming device.
BlackBerry enthusiast site NerdBerry has supposedly confirmed with a trusted source that RIM will soon offer a digital media receiver, code-named BlackBerry Cyclone and destined for the market this fall.
Details on the device are a bit slim at this point, but NerdBerry reports that it will have access to Netflix and YouTube (not the most compelling lineup; we'd like to assume there would be more content providers upon launch). Other rumored features include HDMI, Wi-Fi, and DLNA/home network content playback.
As for aesthetics, NerdBerry says the media hub will resemble the BlackBerry Presenter, a small device capable of displaying PowerPoint and PDF files from a BlackBerry onto a monitor/projector. No word if it will feature the next-generation QNX interface found on RIM's PlayBook tablet.… Read more
If you're looking to buy an AV receiver this year, one of the major step-up features you'll be tempted to pay for is built-in networking. All the receivers we're looking at in the $500 price range have an Ethernet port on the back and support for a variety of streaming-music features, such as Pandora, Rhapsody, Napster, Slacker, and Internet radio. As much as we're fans of those streaming-music services, we'd hesitate to recommend paying extra for getting them built-into a receiver, since AV receivers are our least favorite way to access them. Here's why.… Read more
Most of the major AV receiver manufacturers have already announced and released their new 2011 line, but Harman Kardon is playing catch-up and rolled our four new midrange AV receivers yesterday. All of the details are already available on Harman's website (including excellent owner's manuals for each model) and we've broken down the most important features throughout the line.
Key features of the Harman Kardon AVR 1565:5.1 AV receiver, 50 watts per channel Three HDMI 1.4a inputs 3D video pass-through and audio return channel Front panel USB port (for firmware updates only) Three digital audio inputs (two optical, one coaxial) Basic text on-screen display Logic 7 audio processing $400 list price; available now
Onkyo has a reputation for delivering tons of features and high-end performance at a budget price, and in many ways the TX-NR609 fits the bill.
It's packed with six HDMI inputs (including a front-panel input), built-in networking (plus an optional Wi-Fi dongle for a very affordable $40), and more streaming-music services than even the Denon AVR-1912. Even better, the current street price is around $495, which is the cheapest we've seen a midrange receiver of this caliber.
The Denon AVR-1912 is the most complete midrange AV receiver we've seen in 2011 so far.
It's one of the only two receivers in its class (the other being the Pioneer VSX-1021-K) with built-in support for Apple's AirPlay, a feature that lets you use any iPhone, iPod Touch, or iPad as a wireless music source. While the Pioneer has a nicer interface, the Denon outdoes it with slightly better sound quality, a sixth HDMI input, a two-year warranty, and onboard support for Pandora, Rhapsody, and Napster.
The Denon AVR-1912 is our go-to pick if someone asks, "… Read more
Pioneer has undeniably been the main innovator in the midrange AV receiver space over the last few years. For example, the company added the ability to connect an iPod/iPhone directly via USB, and included a cable for that purpose, before anyone else. Now Pioneer is making iPod support one step easier with the VSX-1021-K, letting you wirelessly stream music from an iOS device--such as an iPhone, iPad, or iPod Touch--using AirPlay, Apple's proprietary media-streaming format (check out our full hands-on). In addition to AirPlay, the VSX-1021-K also features a slew of other attractive features, including five HDMI inputs, DLNA compatibility, and Pioneer's iOS remote-control app, iControlAV2. Not to mention the fact that it sounds pretty great, too.
As impressive as that package sounds, it's still not quite enough to make the VSX-1021-K our top midrange receiver pick of 2011. The Denon AVR-1912 edges it out just slightly by also offering AirPlay, plus one more HDMI port, a two-year warranty, more built-in streaming media services, and slightly better sound quality. That still makes the VSX-1021-K our second-favorite receiver of the year and it could be the top choice for some buyers who really can't stand the inferior onscreen display of the Denon.… Read more
The home-theater-in-a-box systems (HTIBs) I reviewed 10 years ago were pretty lame, but I've been amazed by the progress of these systems over the years. The best of the breed, like the Onkyo HT-S990THX and the Samsung HT-BD1250, produce astonishing sound quality for not a lot of money.
But the market appears to be moving away from HTIBs, as more and more of today's buyers are opting for easier-to-install sound bar speakers. I can understand why; HTIBs may be one-box solutions, but they still require extensive setup routines, and you have to run wires to five or more … Read more