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AIG EQUIPMENT REVIEWS

Bryston B135 SST² Integrated Amplifier/DAC

Bryston B-135 Integrated Amp“This all-purpose amplifying and control device has been at the heart of my audio system for several weeks now, first as a basic amp, replacing a 3B SST, and subsequently operating as a full preamp/amp/DAC. I won’t say that it has surprised me a lot, but it is a case where familiarity definitely does not breed contempt…”

Audioquest DragonFly USB DAC

Audioquest DragonFly USB Dac“This is a product that may look a little like a Dragonfly, but one that soars more like a Dragon flying, as seen in various special-effects-heavy Hollywood films of late. It’s a friendly beast, too, easy to set up and use with any computer of today’s normal specs for USB digital audio output. It can be used with headphones, powered speakers or as your computer output into an audio system. I had mine going in 10 minutes through Windows 7 in my new Quad-core i7 laptop PC.

AURALiC Taurus Headphone Amplifier & Analog Preamplifier and ARK MX+ 96 kHz Coaxial/USB DAC

Auralic Taurus Preamplifier and Headphone Amplifier “AURALiC is a Hong Kong-based company that has its own very specific, and special ideas about designing audio components. With ideals based around classic professional products, such as the famous and revered designs of Rupert Neve, the company sets high standards for itself.”

TASCAM DR-680 High Resolution Digital Recorder

Tascam DR-680 Multitrack Digital Recorder“The key positive info about this recorder is that it will record 6 tracks at 96/24 resolution, and 2 at 192/24, if you’re feeling especially hair-shirt purist. This high resolution capability for 6 was what sold me on this machine. It’s just about the same size as my Edirol R-4 (now shakin’ in Shanghai, thanks to eBay), which served me well for a few years, but more versatile, not locked to a 40 GB hard disc, and allowing up to 32 GB SDHC cards, which I mainly used for outdoor recording at the cottage, along with a couple of 16 GB cards…”

NAD C 446 Digital Media Tuner: NAD Goes Media Mad!

NAD C446 Digital Media Tuner“Digital audio in its many variations seems to yield new categories of product constantly, this new product from NAD a case in point. It will snoop for music files in your computer via its wired or wireless networks, receive AM and FM broadcasts, and search the internet for transmissions of all sorts, from faraway radio stations to specific podcasts, and send all of these directly to your high end audio system via 24-bit/192-kHz DACs (caveat coming) via RCA jacks, or by direct digital feed (Toslink). It also has a Data Port for your MP3 player when you add the appropriate dock and cable.”

Samson ZOOM H2n(ext) Handy Digital Recorder - ZOOM Forges Ahead of the Pack…

Samson Zoom H2n“I’ve admired and owned ZOOM products for a few years now, both H4 and H2 passing through my studio and out into the field. Those reviews have already been published, and this Japanese company has now taken over its own worldwide distribution of its newest products…”

Sony BDP-SX1000 Portable Blu-ray Player - HD redux!

Sony BDP-SX1000 Portable Blu-ray Player

“This player was very impressive right out of the box, especially with Blu-ray music discs, with a truly photographic picture that is yards ahead of my Samsung 10″ DVD portable, which died on me a couple of years ago. The first generation Blu-ray portables proved to be very expensive, as were the early DVD ones (I paid $1500 for my first Panasonic), so I waited a bit on this one, finding the BDP-SX1000 on eBay at prices from $288.88USD (what I paid) to well over $500…”

Anthem MRX 700 A/V Receiver - An Anthem That Is More Than Patriotic!

Anthem MRX 700 A/V Receiver“Before I delve into the installation, a little more info about the MRX 700. It is the top-of-the-line A/V receiver from Anthem, and sports a polite and tidy front panel with a brushed black face. All the basic buttons are present to navigate, but, as with most A/V products you need your trusty flat screen TV to set everything up. A nifty thin sliding door reveals easy front access for a USB input, headphone jack, and RCA audio/video jacks…”

CEntrance DACPort

Dacport - detail“Headphones are hot these days. And, like much of the rest of the high end, headphone prices have been smashing through one upper price threshold after another. It was not very long ago that a $1,000 pair of headphones was exceedingly rare, the purview of Stax and a scant few other esoteric models. These days, when shopping at the upper end of the spectrum anyway, a grand is more like the starting point, with plenty of models in the fifteen hundred and up range…”

NAD Masters Series Components - Very Classy!

NAD Master's series Detail“NAD has traditionally produced relatively inexpensive audio products, so the Masters Series is more than a step upmarket. Clad in grey and silver cabinets, these components are very elegant. The M3 integrated amplifier is included here, but was reviewed previously by AIG, so I will quote from that review. The tuner and disc player are more recent, and proved to be elegant in operation as well as looks. Let’s start with the M4 tuner…”

OPPO BDP-80 Universal Blu-ray Player

OPPO BDP-80 Universal Blu-ray Player“I was interested in this player as much for its audio capabilities as its video quality. That said, I started my evaluation with our standard Blu-ray and DVD video test discs through the Anthem LTX-500 1080p projector onto our Vutec 92″ pull-up screen. The discs included Joe Kane’s Digital Video Essentials in both Blu-ray and DVD editions, and the FPD Benchmark Software disc. There are tests for colour, resolution, greyscale, geometric performance, and motion artifacts, to mention some of the main criteria…”

NAD/PSB Image Series Home Theater System

NAD T775 Receiver“At the suggestion of Lenbrook Industries Consumer Product Marketing Manager, Denise Babin, I agreed to do a complete review of this one-company/two-brand home theatre system. Maybe I should have thought about it a little longer; it was a pretty big project, as it turned out: an upper echelon NAD Blu-ray player, a powerful and very versatile HT receiver, and 6 channels of PSB Image reproduction. I brooded about this while I spent the better part of a day or two unboxing and measuring all the speakers…”

Tivoli Audio Networks Radio with FM - Internet Radio in Style & Stereo

Tivoli Networks Internet Radio“We’ve reviewed several Tivoli products in the past, and always been impressed at their style and substance in terms of performance. Well, there’s no letdown here in this attractive, well engineered package. The Networks Radio is more than just that, a small audio system that offers a built-in Wi-Fi capability that allows you to tap into your computer’s music and podcast files. It also has wired ethernet, USB computer access, and AUX analog audio inputs, plus another “Mix In” that allows combining your computer audio output with any other input…”

Tangent Quattro Mk II Internet/FM Radio

Tangent Quattro Internet Radio“In Canada these days, we see jurisdictional battles between on-air broadcasters and specialty-channel carriers like cable and satellite, with the traditional former crowd now screaming for carriage fees when their signals are re-broadcast on such services as Rogers cable or XpressVu and Star Choice satellite distribution systems. Of course, the cable and satellite folks claim they are doing the broadcasters a favour, and don’t want to ante up any dough at this time just because conventional broadcasting is suffering advertising losses because of the recession. Whatever happened to the truism that a TV (or radio) channel was a license to print money?”

Samsung BD-P1500 Blu-ray/DVD Player

Samsung BD-P1500 Blu-ray player
“I haven’t seen a Blu-ray player for $49.95 at Costco yet, but prices are coming down, as this recent model from Samsung attests. The BD-P1500 is being sold for close to $200 in Canada, and for as low as $150 in the US. But it’s not a stripped down model by any means, with HDMI 1.3 output for full 1080p at 24 fps, and Samsung’s Anynet+ (HDMI-CEC) connectivity, “which allows you to operate compatible HDMI products with a single remote”, according to an online blurb…”

NAD VISO FIVE DVD Receiver

NAD Viso Five DVD Receiver“Here, NAD, in its new VISO series, has taken a somewhat reductionist approach, in the FIVE combining a full-featured DVD player and a full 5-channel receiver, eschewing all the gratuitous extra channels and fancy (and largely silly) Dolby-this and THX-that formats which clutter most receivers and confuse many consumers. Though it does offer Dolby Pro logic IIx and DTS Neo:6 Music modes, as well as Doby Digital and DTS movie play, it offers just its own EARS DSP matrix format in addition…”

KURO Plasmas & Blu-ray from Pioneer

Pioneer Elite Blu-RayLate last year, I spent an afternoon in the Pioneer Canadian showroom watching and testing these Elite products with a variety of Blu-Ray discs and DVD test material, including Digital Video Essentials, and a new Blu-ray disc that’s very revealing of such things as motion artifacts, called FPD Benchmark Software, which comes from Japan. With both TV/monitors hooked up via HDMI to another Elite product, the SC-09TX receiver, I was able to get a good look at just about the finest plasma performance I’ve ever seen. More on that below, but first a brief description of the two HTDVs and the Blu-ray player…”

Sanyo R227 Internet/FM Radio Plus

Sanyo Internet Radio“I used to listen to shortwave radio at the cottage on a nice little Panasonic portable, the supplied antenna strung around the cottage’s Douglas Fir beams. It was fun more than a few years back to tune into other cultures and their music and news. But along the way to this century something changed, even evolved, and the shortwave cultures became a babble of propaganda, Jesus, and jabberwocky…”

Shanling MC-30 CD Receiver

Shanling MC-30 CD Receiver

“The cynical, easy, and possibly common view of the Shanling MC-30 is that it’s a rather shameless attempt to separate trendy, design-conscious yuppies looking for an upscale iPod dock that stands out from the plastic rabble at the Apple Store from a thousand dollars. Not surprising, I suppose, given the MC-30’s dramatic looks and prominent iPod “cradle”, but, as I found out, quite unfair…”

OPPO DV-980H Universal DVD/SACD Player - Price/Performance PLUS!

Oppo 980 HD“I should point out off the top that this is an audio review, though I may add a sidebar later about its video performance with one of our projectors. But it’s so hard to even countenance its removal from my audio system that I can’t even predict when it might happen, though when that time comes I’ll probably also compare it with the 970HD predecessor model…”


  Outside the Speakers

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