Rob Sabin

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Rob Sabin  |  Sep 27, 2018  |  0 comments

Performance
Features
Ergonomics
Value
PRICE $300

AT A GLANCE
Plus
Alexa voice control
Flexible connectivity
Good sound quality
Great value
Minus
No multiroom music functions

THE VERDICT
Polk’s feature-packed soundbar offers Alexa voice control and above-average sound quality. For $300, there’s plenty here to like.

A couple of Consumer Electronics Shows ago I was visiting the booth of Sound United, the parent of Polk Audio, when a friendly executive invited me up a narrow staircase to a private meeting room. Once I was sworn to secrecy, a long, thin, black travel case was brought out and laid on the ground, and its buckles were snapped open for the big reveal. I half expected it to house a bazooka of some sort. Instead, what popped out was the prototype of a thin spear of a soundbar that appeared to have an Amazon Echo Dot sunk into its middle. Polk’s team was rightfully excited about their new project. The smart speaker was just beginning its explosive push into people’s homes, and no one had yet combined Amazon’s increasingly popular Alexa voice control technology with a soundbar. It seemed liked a perfect fit for the emerging market. So, in a way, it really was Polk’s new secret weapon.

Rob Sabin  |  Jul 05, 2018  |  0 comments

Performance
Features
Ergonomics
Value
PRICE $399

AT A GLANCE
Plus
Affordable price
Alexa voice control
Links with other Sonos speakers
Minus
More optimized for TV sound than music
Requires HDMI ARC for voice control of TV

THE VERDICT
Sonos’ compact, Alexa-enabled soundbar offers impressive performance for the price. All in all, a smart value.

Without knowing history, you might dismiss the Sonos Beam as just another budget soundbar dropped into a largely undistinguished field. But as with most things Sonos, this attractive yet intentionally non-descript oval is significant both for the company and the audio business. Sonos execs have long seen the living room television as the most logical gateway for their wireless multiroom music system.

Rob Sabin  |  May 25, 2018  |  3 comments
Our “Flashback” feature “Speaker Cables: Can You Hear the Difference” (link below) offered as part of the ongoing celebration of our 60th year, is a juicy tidbit from 1983 that proved one of the most controversial articles in our predecessor Stereo Review ’s history.
Rob Sabin  |  May 01, 2018  |  5 comments

Performance
Features
Build Quality
Value
PRICE $800

AT A GLANCE
Plus
Excellent video and audio quality
Smart ergonomics
Solid build quality
Minus
Potential for viewer fatigue
Battery gets hot
Propensity toward video noise with low-bitrate streams

THE VERDICT
Royole’s Moon successfully pulls off a serious home theater experience in a portable, wearable package.

Quick story: Back in the mid ’90s, I was the editor of a gadget review magazine. As long as a product was geeky enough and ran on AC or batteries, it was fair game for a test. This led me to bring home a variety of doodads that had nothing to do with audio/video— a self-cleaning litter box, a sports radar gun, et al. One day I walked in with what was claimed to be a “personal air conditioner,” basically a black beanbag neck wrap that had an imbedded metal cooling strip; the idea was that applying the band to your neck would keep you chilled in hot weather. When I tried it on for my wife, she walked by dismissively without even pausing. “That’s a good look for you,” she said.

Rob Sabin  |  Apr 27, 2018  |  2 comments
The Technology changes, but the goal remains the same.

In prepping for the May print issue’s focus on front projection, I found myself philosophizing on the value of having a big image for viewing movies, TV serials, and sports. Not just big, but really big.

Rob Sabin  |  Apr 26, 2018  |  5 comments
Julian Hirsch’s review of the Bose 901 in 1968 helped set off one of the greatest and longest-lasting audiophile debates.

There may be no singular product in modern audio history that has generated more accolades, derision, or pure controversy than the Bose 901 loudspeaker. Introduced in 1968 by a then four-year-old concern named after its MIT-educated founder, the 901 neither looked, nor sounded, like any speaker that had come before it. With its pentagonal cabinet that faced eight of its nine identical 4-inch, full-range drivers at the reflecting wall behind the speaker, its designer Amar Bose sought to have it mimic the way we hear in concert halls and imbue its sound with a giant soundstage and spatial realism that was unsurpassed.

Rob Sabin  |  Apr 18, 2018  |  1 comments
With new ultra-short-throw and cheaper 4K projectors appearing on the market, your path to the ultimate home theater experience appears to be shrinking.

Last year in our annual front projection update, we wrote about how the category wasn’t about to be left behind on the 4K, Ultra HDTV revolution. Nothing in this business stands still, of course, and we’re happy to report that “front projection’s reinvention,” as we dubbed it last year, is moving into yet another phase. Not only are 4K-compliant projectors more readily available, better performing, and in some cases much cheaper, we’re also seeing a batch of fresh ultra-short-throw home theater projectors reaching the market in 2018. So what does this mean for you if you’ve always dreamed about sitting back in front of that giant 100-inch screen? Read on to find out.

Rob Sabin  |  Apr 11, 2018  |  4 comments

Performance
Features
Ergonomics
Value
PRICE $349

AT A GLANCE
Plus
Superb sonics with extraordinary bass
Great build quality
AirPlay capable
Easy setup
Minus
Integrated music streaming restricted to Apple Music
No bluetooth
More limited smarts versus competition
No wired input for TV viewing

THE VERDICT
Apple has created the best-sounding small speaker we’ve heard to date, but its Apple-centricity and immaturity as a smart device may deter some buyers.

From conception through launch, the Apple HomePod speaker was six years in development. That’s a long time to bring to fruition something as ubiquitous and seemingly simplistic as a wireless tabletop speaker. If we account for the many poor examples of the breed, we can acknowledge that a truly excellent wireless speaker might require some extra time to create...but six years? The HomePod was so long in coming that the “smart speaker” with builtin voice assistant that it eventually became hadn’t yet been invented (by rival Amazon) when the project was begun. Which, I’m certain, delayed it even further.

Rob Sabin  |  Apr 01, 2018  |  3 comments
Audio had Loof every April, but Stereo Review had Rodrigues all year long.

In preparation for our April print edition , and in search of a subject for our retrospective flashback feature, I pressed deep into our 60-year archive for hints of the origin of Lirpa Labs and its mysterious, opinionated, and wildly creative founder, Loof Lirpa.

Rob Sabin  |  Mar 29, 2018  |  4 comments
For decades, the cartoons of Charles Rodrigues poked fun at us and the hobby we otherwise take all too seriously.

In the very first issue of HiFi & Music Review in 1958, the magazine that became Stereo Review and then Sound & Vision, a gifted 31-year-old artist named Charles Rodrigues contributed the first in a string of cartoons that both celebrated, and made fun of, that odd bird known as the audiophile. It ended up being a long run that lasted more than 40 years.

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