Home theater gear to keep an eye and ear on
The outlook: Pioneer and speaker designer Andrew Jones have developed quite a reputation for its great-sounding line of budget speakers and now they're focusing their talent on a sound bar. The SP-SB23W has the typical features included on a modern sound bar, including built-in Bluetooth and a wireless subwoofer, but the real reason we're excited is Andrew Jones has a knack for outstanding sound quality at a budget price. We won't know how it sounds until we get to hear it, but our expectations are sky-high.
The outlook: Simple.TV and its quirky over-the-air DVR is back. After a long period of silence, the company is releasing a new box this fall, sporting dual tuners, an overhauled user interface and faster hardware by designed SiliconDust. If you're looking to cut-the-cord, this might be one of your best options, especially if you don't live in an area supported by Aereo.
Harman Kardon Sabre SB35
The outlook: If you want a sound bar as thin as your flat-panel TV, you'll love the Harman Kardon Sabre SB35. It's extraordinarily svelte at 1.25 inches thick, paired up with a similarly thin subwoofer that can also be placed flat on the floor for an even more compact look. The big question is whether Harman can get great sound out of this design, but we'll have to give it a listen before we render a verdict.
The outlook: When Monoprice rolled out its 9774 premium speakers, they were literally too good to be true; the company was sued for patent infringement by Klipsch and forced to remove its Energy Take Classic-mimicking speakers off the market. Now Monoprice is back with new 10565 premium speakers that look only somewhat different from its 9774 system. If the new speakers sound as good as the old ones, this is an unbeatable bargain -- at least as long as they stay on the market.
The outlook: Sony's new line of high-resolution audio players can get pricey, but the UDA-1 is the most reasonable of the bunch. It's billed as a USB DAC for your PC, but it also packs a 20-watt amplifier and an optical audio input, which means it could even work in some home theater setups. Like all of Sony's new components, it can play nearly every high-res format out there, including FLAC, Apple Lossless and yes, even DSD. And it's hard to resist it's simple, minimalist look.
Polk Audio Woodbourne
The outlook: Polk Audio's Woodbourne impressed us back at CES 2013, but the classy Bluetooth speaker has been delayed well past its spring release date. Now the Woodbourne is finally set for an October release and it still combines vintage-chic looks plus modern technology thanks to built-in Bluetooth, AirPlay and Wi-Fi. It's seriously expensive at $600, so here's hoping it looks as good as it sounds.