Michael Trei

Michael Trei  |  Apr 15, 2020  |  4 comments

Speakers
Performance
Build Quality
Value

Subwoofer
Performance
Features
Build Quality
Value
PRICE $8,000 (as tested)

AT A GLANCE
Plus
Refined sound
Powerful, feature-rich subwoofer
Minus
Tweeter on 60XTi tower sits high off the ground
60XTi tower requires careful placement

THE VERDICT
Upgrades in style and performance take MartinLogan's Motion series speakers to the next level, while its Dynamo 1600X subwoofer is a feature-packed beast.

Ask a car guy to identify any classic American car from the 1950s or 1960s, and most would be able to pin it down to the exact year of production. Back then, the auto companies would change up styling every year, even if the mechanical stuff under the sheet metal remained essentially unchanged. The problem with that approach is that tooling up to build new models every year gets really expensive, so these days most cars have a life cycle of a few years before an all-new generation is introduced. To keep these longer-lasting designs looking fresh, at some point in the life cycle they'll give the car what's known as a facelift, replacing a few key parts like the grille, taillights, and trim to lend it a new look.

Michael Trei  |  Apr 08, 2020  |  2 comments

Performance
Features
Ergonomics
Value
PRICE $300

AT A GLANCE
Plus
Digs deep to leave records sparkling
Far more effective than brush cleaners
Affordable
Minus
Hands-on manual operation
Loud vacuum motor

THE VERDICT
The Record Doctor VI is a bare-bones wet record cleaning system that delivers superb results at a bargain price.

It's easy to dismiss the recent resurgence of interest in vinyl records as a youth-driven phenomenon, with millennials embracing vinyl more for its hipness factor than for the great sound that it can deliver. But in the course of my day job setting up and maintaining high-end turntables, I'm finding that much of the rekindled attention is actually coming from my fellow Boomers and Gen-Xers. Some of us never stopped playing our records. Others, it seems, simply stashed theirs in the basement decades ago when CDs seemed so convenient and are just now pulling them out to appreciate all over again.

Michael Trei  |  Nov 13, 2019  |  0 comments
Audiophiles gathered at the 2019 New York Audio Show to explore an eclectic mix of gear — from MartinLogan’s towering Neolith electrostatic speakers to a Luxman tube setup commemorating 50 years in the U.S. to quirky horn speakers from China’s ESD.
Michael Trei  |  Oct 09, 2019  |  6 comments

Performance
Features
Ergonomics
Value
PRICE $1,499

AT A GLANCE
Plus
Punchy, music-friendly sonics
Flexible speaker configuration options
HEOS wireless streaming
Minus
Limited custom installation features
Non-backlit remote

THE VERDICT
Marantz’s SR6014 proves that an A/V receiver can deliver both great music performance and the latest home theater audio formats, all at an affordable price.

Marantz has been a premium audio brand for more than 65 years, so it makes sense that the company's A/V receivers focus squarely on audio performance, rather than racking up loads of home theater bells and whistles only a few will use. But while it's clear that Marantz's offerings tip the scale a bit more toward music enthusiasts than the custom installation scene, the new SR6014 isn't some stripped-down product aimed at hair shirt-wearing audiophiles. Instead, it's a bang-up-to-date home theater receiver that ticks off all the boxes for most-wanted surround sound features.

Michael Trei  |  Sep 11, 2019  |  0 comments

Speakers
Performance
Build Quality
Value

Subwoofer
Performance
Features
Build Quality
Value
PRICE $2,900 (as tested)

AT A GLANCE
Plus
Lively and dynamic sound
Optimized for movies
Outstanding value for money
Minus
Awkward form factor
Drab cosmetic

THE VERDICT
By combining the benefits of both THX certification and Dolby Atmos, this superb high-value home theater speaker package from Monoprice knocks it out of the park.

What's in a name? If visions of $10 HDMI and iPhone Lightning cables pop into your head when you hear the name Monoprice, you should know that the company introduced the premium Monolith brand a few years back to move beyond its image as an online peddler of low-cost cables. Think of Monolith as being a bit like Genesis is to Hyundai: a fresh name free of the parent brand's bargain basement associations.

Michael Trei  |  Jul 31, 2019  |  0 comments
Speakers
Performance
Build Quality
Value

Subwoofer
Performance
Features
Build Quality
Value
PRICE $2,499 (as tested)

AT A GLANCE
Plus
Clean and tidy sound
Excellent tonal match between models
Superb high-gloss painted finish
Minus
Sound is a bit polite with some material
No wood finish option

THE VERDICT
This RSL CG5 system offers relaxed sound that's easy to like, impressive build quality, and great value.

Everybody loves a great comeback story. Whether it's Tiger Woods winning The Masters after a decade of disappointment, or Apple's return to global dominance after nearly going bust twenty years back, it's nice when someone or something can make a strong return.

Michael Trei  |  Jul 03, 2019  |  15 comments

Performance
Features
Ergonomics
Value
PRICE $999

AT A GLANCE
Plus
IMAX Enhanced certified
Nine channel amp for flexibility
Extensive wireless options
Minus
Ample power for a medium-size room
Limited crossover control Non-illuminated remote

THE VERDICT
Pioneer's first A/V receiver to carry IMAX Enhanced certification offers fine sound and bang- up-to-date technology at a mid-level price.

More than any other category of home theater gear, A/V receivers are subject to an ever-evolving list of "must have" technologies. The required logos for each of these licensed features now forms a long row extending the full width of most receivers, with IMAX Enhanced counting as the latest logo gunning for real estate on any AVR that wants to be up-to-date.

Michael Trei  |  Jun 05, 2019  |  0 comments

Performance
Build Quality
Value
PRICE $500/pair

AT A GLANCE
Plus
Clear and dynamic sound
Bargain price
Minus
Plain-Jane appearance
Limited finish options

THE VERDICT
The A170 is a refined, capable speaker that draws the best from recordings, and punches way above its bargain price.

It's funny how old impressions die hard. Remember the loudspeaker wars of the 1960s and 1970s? I certainly do. Back then, people would describe speakers as having either an East Coast or a West Coast sound, with the buttoned-down and refined east represented by brands like Acoustic Research, Bozak, and Dynaco, and the more raucous, wild west dominated by Altec Lansing and JBL.

Michael Trei  |  Apr 03, 2019  |  0 comments

Speakers
Performance
Build Quality
Value

Subwoofer
Performance
Features
Build Quality
Value
PRICE $1,800 (as tested)

AT A GLANCE
Plus
Neutral balance
Close timbral matching between models
Excellent value
Minus
Pedestrian styling
Basic finish options

THE VERDICT
PSB's long-running Alpha Series has been a value leader for more than 25 years. Now in their third generation, these speakers sound equally good with music and movies, and the value quotient is stronger than ever.

I think of PSB's entry-level Alpha Series speakers as being the loudspeaker equivalent of the Toyota Corolla. The Alphas may not be the sexiest speakers around, but they do offer solid engineering, long-term reliability, and excellent performance at a very reasonable price. Speakers from PSB's now sadly discontinued flagship Synchrony line have served as my personal home theater reference for over a decade, so you could call me a bit of a fanboy. As you might expect, that means I'm also interested in seeing what the company can deliver when keeping costs down is part of the equation.

Michael Trei  |  Mar 20, 2019  |  0 comments

Speakers
Performance
Build Quality
Value
Subwoofer
Performance
Features
Build Quality
Value
PRICE $996 (as tested)

AT A GLANCE
Plus
Dynamic and lively sound
Good stereo and surround sound imaging
Minus
Requires careful setup for best performance
Basic black finish only

THE VERDICT
Klipsch’s R-41M speaker system amply demonstrates how a 5.1 surround package can outperform a same-priced soundbar. Enthusiastically recommended for both movies and music.

Putting together a home theater system on a limited budget can be a daunting task. That's why so many people instead take the easy route and buy a soundbar to handle audio. Sure, a one- or two-box (with subwoofer) solution is simple to shop for and a snap to hook up, but what about the sound quality? With soundbars, the amplifiers, speakers, and signal processing are all designed to work together in an integrated unit, so it's often possible to squeeze surprisingly big and powerful sound out of the bar's tiny drivers.

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