Back during the analog TV era, a well-regarded manufacturer offered me a rear-projection set—not for review, just for my own use. I turned it down. I didn’t want one of those big, butt-ugly things in my living room. In later years, RPTV went high def, slimmed down, and became the best buy in big-screen TV in terms of inches per dollar. But that wasn’t enough to save it. In the closing jingle-bell months of last year, the one remaining RPTV manufacturer pulled the plug, and the product category quietly passed into history.
Price: $1,299 At a Glance: DAC, headphone amp, preamp for digital sources • Asynchronous USB input • Makes your audio files sing
The Wadia 121 calls itself a decoding computer. While the term DAC (digital-to-analog converter) also fits, Wadia understands that nomenclature is destiny. This product just may be destined to change forever the way you hear high-resolution music files, signaling a new chapter in audio history that no audiophile can afford to ignore.
Whenever I see a bunch of people running in one direction, I run the other way. Let them paw over whatever is enjoying its 15 minutes of fame—I'd rather explore what they've overlooked, at a leisurely pace, in splendid isolation. During the waning days of the LP era, just as the CD's "perfect sound forever" campaign was coming on strong, I refrained from discarding most of my vinyl. Oh, I bought CDs, especially for new releases. But I also haunted the Tower Annex in Lower Manhattan, filling holes in my classical library with used LPs at two or three dollars a pop. For a junior-grade inkstained wretch, vinyl was more affordable than full-priced $15 CDs (in 1980s dollars) though I bought plenty of those too.
Conventional circuit boards and their metallic tentacles may be on their way out—someday. Scientists at Oxford University have developed a new kind of sealed “metaboard” by embedding copper coils into a conductive layer. This meta- board can transfer data and power using magneto-inductive waves instead of wires.
Here's what this blog is not going to be: a diatribe about how much I hate CES and, more specifically, the city of Las Vegas. Oh, I'll give that desert hellhole one or two well-deserved kicks, but you're probably not interested in my self-indulgent whining, so I'll keep that part brief. A reader who has never attended CES, but has heard about it for years, would be more interested in what it's like to actually go, to be there, to have the experience. So I'll give you a taste of that instead. CES veterans will want to skip this blog entirely. This is for the newbies, OK?
The new Kindle Fire HD tablets have a big plus that’s in danger of being overlooked. And that’s Dolby Digital Plus. When Amazon’s literature boasts about “exclusive Dolby audio and dual stereo speakers for crisp, booming sound without distortion,” Dolby Digital Plus is what it’s talking about.
Audio Performance Video Performance Features Ergonomics Value
Price: $1,100 At A Glance: 125 x 7 watts D³ power • Brawny, assured bass • Network audio cornucopia
Someday I will be able to review a Class D receiver without mentioning this up-and-coming amplifier technology in the lead. That day hasn’t come yet and probably won’t in the next few years. But I can see it shimmering on the horizon.
Class D has been steadily infiltrating Pioneer’s upper-crust Elite line since 2008 and now accounts for five of the line’s seven models. With the SC-61, reviewed here, the latest version of the technology—which Pioneer calls D3—has come down in price to as little as $1,100. That’s a far cry from the $7,000 Pioneer charged for its first-ever Class D model five years ago.
CL-2 Speaker System Performance Build Quality Value
CLS-10 Subwoofer Performance Features Build Quality Value
Price: $2,888 At A Glance: 180-degree cylindrical tweeter • Stable, wide-open sound • Tilted sub driver
Shape is destiny for Anthony Gallo Acoustics. The company is best known for its spherical and cylindrical speaker enclosures, made of metal and tough as tanks. But the Classico Series is the first Gallo product to use a plain rectan-gular box—for consumers, the company says, who prefer a more traditional look. Though not as curvaceous as other Gallo lines, the Classico is still available in a beautiful Cherry veneer finish, along with the more staid Black Ash veneer of our review samples. Note that the speakers are sold only through the Gallo Website: roundsound.com. The more conventional construction and factory-direct approach make the Classico models among the most affordable Gallo speakers ever.
Amazon has added Compact Discs to an existing trade-in program that already embraces Blu-ray, DVD, games, books, and electronics. There are two categories: Like New, for unscratched discs with original packaging and artwork in mint condition; and Good, for playable discs with light scratches and other disc or packaging blemishes. Send your stuff to Amazon, with free shipping, and a virtual gift card will be credited to your account. Trade-in lucre might be anything from $1.40 for Adele’s 21 to $5.30 for the Special Edition of Jethro Tull’s Thick as a Brick 2 to $35 for the 13-disc Rolling Stones box set. Of course, some people like having physical media in their libraries, and others may want to keep their audio-codec options open for future reconversions. But if you really hate all that plastic—so much that you want it gone now—here’s your chance to get rid of it and get paid. Amazon will gladly let you consume the credit as new downloads. Search eligible items on amazon.com.
If you’re used to plugging your unencrypted basic-cable feed directly into your TV’s QAM tuner, you might want to sit down. We’ve got some bad news: The Federal Communications Commission (FCC) has caved in to decades of cable-industry lobbying and will now allow cable operators to encrypt basic-cable service—the bottom tier consisting mostly of broadcast channels—in digital cable systems. In-the-clear cable service, mandated 20 years ago by an act of Congress, is all but dead.