Denon AVR-X8500H Review

Brought to you by Home Theatre Review


AV technology has been changing so fast lately that many receivers become obsolete just a year after they're introduced. Far fewer are designed with the ability to remain relevant for multiple years. So, when a company introduces a new flagship, like Denon's AVR-X8500H, which debuted at CES 2018, one can't help but wonder if it's the receiver of the moment or if it might have the goods to remain relevant into the future.

If nothing else, Denon has certainly raised the bar with the AVR-X8500H when it comes to amplification. Right off the bat, this new Denon flagship represents the world's first 13.2 channel AV receiver with 13 channels of amplification, adding four additional amp channels compared to the AVR-X7200WA I reviewed a couple of years ago (and two more channels than the 11.2 channel AVR-X6400H released last year), with control for up to three separate zones of both audio and video. The amp section keeps the R and L channel signal paths separate from each other for improved performance

Denon also includes support for all three immersive surround sound formats, and also covers its bases in terms of High Dynamic Range (HDR10, Dolby Vision, and HLG standards are all supported), so you're good to go on all the latest audio and video formats. In the previous flagship, Auro-3D was a $199 upgrade option; with the AVR-X8500H, Auro-3D is included in the receiver purchase price, as it is in all Denon's latest receivers above $1,000 (Auro-3D became available via a firmware download in late May for early purchasers of the receiver)...continue reading here

31 August, 2018 by Michael Babb

SVS SB-16 Ultra Review

Brought to you by Stereophile

Yacoubian's infomercial on YouTube about the SB16-Ultra ($1999.99) lists the three design features that enabled SVS to build a subwoofer with so large a cone and still meet the design goals of extended, low-distortion bass output and fast transient response: an 8" edge-wound voice-coil in a new motor, a 1500W RMS (>5kW peak) Sledge amplifier with fully discrete MOSFET output (each output device is rated at 200V and 64A), and control and bass management via a smartphone app.

Yacoubian claims that the SB16-Ultra's 8" voice-coil is the largest used to date in a consumer subwoofer. Most large subs have voice-coils 2" to 4" in diameter that sit inside the permanent magnets; the SB16's 8" coil sits outside the magnets. SVS found so large a coil necessary in order to: avoid the cone flexing and the resultant boomy bass produced in and by subwoofers that have cones 15" to 18" in diameter but voice-coils of only 2" to 4"; maintain linear control over so large a cone; better dissipate heat, which lessens thermal compression and so increases a sub's power handling; provide better centering of the voice-coil, with less tilting during large excursions; and to use the permanent magnets most efficiently. The SB16-Ultra's voice-coil is wound with copper-clad aluminum wire (CCAW); CCAW has a number of advantages: it's lighter than pure copper, for lower moving mass; it's stronger than pure aluminum; has higher electrical conductivity; and is more easily soldered, for more durable and reliable connections...continue reading here

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12 June, 2018 by Michael Babb

Stemfoort SF-200 Review

Brought to you by Hifipig

Stemfoort may not be a name that immediately trips off the tongue when speaking about amplifiers, but the companies heritage goes back to the mid eighties and they are owned by J.E.Sugden, who many will know for their Class A amplifiers. Lionel Payne takes a listen to their SF-200 Passive Line Amplifier costing £2135 for Hifi Pig.

I have to admit that I hadn’t heard of Stemfoort Audio before being asked to review this integrated amplifier. Stemfoort began life way back in 1985 in Holland and was a partnership between a recording engineer and a group of enthusiasts and audio designers. J.E.Sugden & Co. acquired the company in 1988 and, interestingly, the original founder still remains an active and valued technical director with Sugden and was the designer of the SF-200’s unique circuits

The SF-200 is a passive line amplifier, often referred to as a straight line amplifier. This means that the basic configuration is a volume pot directly coupled to the power amplifier section, i.e. the preamplifier is passive ensuring the most direct signal path from your source to your loudspeakers. Handmade by a team of dedicated audio enthusiasts, the SF-200 is a wide bandwidth design reaching frequency extremes of 6Hz to 120kHz making it an ideal partner for hi-resolution formats...continue reading here

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05 June, 2018 by Michael Babb

Martin Logan ESL 15A

I prefer and have owned electrostatic speakers for most of my audiophile life. Depending on your point of view, this makes me either the most qualified or the least appropriate writer to review MartinLogan's new electrostatic loudspeaker, the Masterpiece Renaissance ESL 15A.

Oh, I've flirted with dynamic speakers. I've owned and loved—and ultimately, when I was an audio retailer, sold—models from Revel, Thiel, Vandersteen, and many others, while my long-term choice has been electrostats. And while I've spent plenty of time with electrostatic speakers from Acoustat and Quad, I've ended up owning MartinLogans: Sequels, Quests, ReQuests, and, currently, Prodigys.

What attracts me to electrostatic speakers are the clarity, neutrality, and sense of "thereness" I hear from them, along with the natural cohesiveness of the imaging and midrange reproduction of tall, dipolar, line-source designs. The dispersion characteristics of electrostatic panels minimize sidewall reflections, and their lack of crossover electronics in the critical mid and high frequencies has always been a selling point for me. And I find the simplicity of electrostatic speaker design appealing...continue reading here

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24 May, 2018 by Michael Babb

Martin Logan ESL 13A Review

Brought to you by Home Theatre Review

MartinLogan introduced its Masterpiece electrostatic line about two years ago with the flagship $80,000/pair Neolith speaker. A year or so ago, the Masterpiece line expanded with the $25,000/pair Renaissance ESL 15A. Just a few months ago, MartinLogan introduced the two latest models in the Masterpiece series: the $15,000/pair Expression ESL 13A and the $10,000/pair Impression ESL 11A. While the $10,000 Impressions would technically be the closest model to my MartinLogan Summits (which had a base price of that same amount a decade ago), I opted to review the Expression ESL 13A instead.

"ESL" stands for electrostatic. Electrostatic transducers are what MartinLogan is best known for, and the current Masterpiece ESL lineup is the pinnacle of many years of ESL development. The speakers are technically hybrids, as everything below 300 Hz is handled by more traditional cone woofers--in the case of the ESL 13A, a pair of powered 10-inch aluminum cone woofers handles the lower frequencies...continue reading here

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24 May, 2018 by Michael Babb

Martin Logan ESL 11A Review

24 May, 2018 by Michael Babb

Martin Logan ESL 9 Review

Brought to you by SoundStage! Hifi

The last two MartinLogan components reviewed by the SoundStage! Network were the BalancedForce 212 subwoofer, on this site, and the relatively conventional Motion 35XT loudspeaker, on SoundStage! Access. They proved so good that each received a Product of the Year award. However, as most audio enthusiasts know, MartinLogan is best known for their electrostatic loudspeaker (ESL) models, most of which are hybrid designs that combine an electrostatic panel for the high- and midrange frequencies with a conventional dynamic woofer.

I’ve long admired MartinLogan ESLs for their elegant sound and equally elegant looks, but when ML introduced their economical Motion line of dynamic speakers with Folded Motion tweeters, I worried that the days of high-end ESLs from MartinLogan might be numbered. I needn’t have -- they continue to produce several lines of hybrid ESLs, including their current flagship, the Neolith, which costs $79,995 USD per pair...continue reading here

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24 May, 2018 by Michael Babb

Chord Dave Review

Brought to you buy Hifi Pig

I remember being at the High-End Show in Munich a couple of years ago and John Franks the MD and Chief designer from Chord Electronics announcing the launch of their new DAC, DAVE in a hail of superlatives which frankly I greeted with a degree of caution. Indeed, the name alone screams overkill, with DAVE standing for Digital to Analogue Veritas in Extremis…digital to analogue truthful in the extreme. I needn’t have been so concerned and I’m going to do this review, to use the vernacular of my home town, a bit arse about tit and say that Chord Electronics’ DAVE is indeed the most accurate DAC I have had the pleasure of using in our system – you can, if you like stop right there. My current reference, the fully loaded Lampizator Big 7, is certainly no slouch in terms of sheer musical enjoyment, but when it comes to accuracy and High-fidelity it is left somewhat in DAVE’s wake…but more on that in a short while... continue reading here

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08 May, 2018 by Michael Babb

Chord Qutest - It's that good

We really are massive fans of the new Chord Qutest here at Miranda Hifi. The sound it achieves for the price it hits is astonishing. There are a number of excellent dacs in this price point, not one of them sounds as good as the Qutest does. It has gotten to the point where we have run out of superlatives to say for it.

So don't just take our word for it, have a read of this review by the good people at HiFi Choice and see for yourself it's not just us who raves about the Qutest.

Chord Qutest Review - HiFi Choice


04 May, 2018 by Michael Babb

Polk Signature S55 Review

Brought to you by Home Theatre Review

The name Polk invokes a certain brand promise--one of quality and value built over a long history of fine products in home audio and beyond. My own personal history with Polk dates back to my first after-market car audio system, put together with Polk dB speakers back in the early 2000s. And for the home, the Polk LSi 707s (precursor to the current LSiM series) were part of my first foray into quality hi-fi audio. So, when I was offered the opportunity to review the S55 tower speakers from Polk's new Signature line, I jumped at the chance.

The Signature line is one step up from the company's entry-level T-series speakers. There are three tower speakers in the Signature line. The S55 is the middle one in the range; it uses the same tweeter as the other two models, mated with dual 6.5-inch midrange woofers. The S50 features two 5.25-inch woofers, while the S60 carries three 6.5-inch woofers...Continue reading here

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29 March, 2018 by Michael Babb
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