Rob Sabin

Rob Sabin  |  Jul 01, 2020  |  3 comments

Performance
Features
Ergonomics
Value
PRICE $799

AT A GLANCE
Plus
Outstanding music and movie sound
Impressive rendering of height information
Solid bass for standalone soundbar
Minus
May require latest eARC HDMI connection for Atmos
No DTS decoding

THE VERDICT
The latest home theater offering from Sonos delivers an impressive Atmos experience from a standalone soundbar. Add the company's Sub and bookshelf speakers as surrounds for even more intense audio immersion.

The new Sonos Arc soundbar is the company's fourth home theater product and the clear result of an evolution. Its first soundbar, the Playbar (currently $599 and being closed out), debuted in 2013. But with only a single optical input intended to ease installation and no HDMI port, it was already outdated on Day 1.

Rob Sabin  |  May 13, 2020  |  0 comments

Performance
Features
Ergonomics
Value
PRICE $1,600

AT A GLANCE
Plus
Easy, app-driven automatic setup
Good audio quality via hi-res wireless WiSA platform
Simple and intuitive control app
Minus
Lack of A/V switching may be an issue for some systems
No included remote control or learning feature
No decoding or full-resolution transmission of DTS-HD or Dolby TrueHD bitstreams

THE VERDICT
Enclave's THX-certified wireless system delivers highly dynamic and enjoyable surround sound in an easy-to-install and use package...though it comes at a price.

When I was a trade reporter many years ago, I wrote an article about the skyrocketing sales of packaged home theater audio systems. Inside each box was a rudimentary A/V receiver, five or six speakers (typically compact satellites in plastic cabinets), color-coded speaker cables, and graphic instructions to get things hooked up. The article's big takeaway was that the brands selling these (Sony, Panasonic, et. al. ) had discovered that many buyers either left the rear surround speakers in the box or wired them up and placed them on top of the front left- and right-channel speakers.

Rob Sabin  |  Dec 24, 2019  |  5 comments

Performance
Features
Ergonomics
Value
PRICE $499

AT A GLANCE
Plus
Audiophile-quality sonics
Easy access to networked and internet-streamed music
Extensive HDMI switching
Minus
Non-backlit remote

THE VERDICT
Denon’s modern take on the classic stereo receiver delivers excellent sound quality, video switching for 2-channel home theater, and all the amenities of an app-driven, internet-connected music system.

As I uncrated the Denon DRA-800H stereo receiver and set it on my rack for review, I was struck by a powerful wave of nostalgia. Back in my early days of audiophilia, stereo—no wait, stereo and vinyl—was pretty much the game. Buying a basic receiver was a typical rite of passage for a high school or college student back then, and it was staring at rows of them at the local TV/appliance store—with their shiny brushed chrome faceplates, dials and buttons, and backlit tuning displays—that got me hooked on audio in the first place.

Rob Sabin  |  Sep 18, 2019  |  0 comments

Performance
Features
Build Quality
Ergonomics
Value
PRICE $1,599

AT A GLANCE
Plus
Stupendous build quality
Dead-waking dynamics from a single box
Balanced, audiophile-quality sound
Minus
Limited bass extension
Narrow soundstage
Pricey

THE VERDICT
Though it doesn’t come cheap, Naim’s newly revised Mu-so brings true audiophile sensibilities and surprising wallop to a well thought-out and full-featured wireless speaker.

The original Mu-so wireless music system released in 2014 was a first in the emerging "lifestyle audio" category—a truly high-end, wireless, multiroom speaker from one of the most respected brands on the planet. I auditioned the Mu-so back then, and what I remember most from the unboxing was its nearly 30-pound heft, and the manly, finned heatsink that ran the width of the back panel and threatened to cut any flesh that wandered too carelessly in its direction.

Rob Sabin  |  Jan 02, 2019  |  2 comments

Performance
Features
Ergonomics
Value
PRICE $600

AT A GLANCE
Plus
Neutral, open sound
DTS Play-Fi high-res and multiroom options
Extensive wired and wireless connectivity
Dedicated subwoofer out
Minus
Limited bass output begs for a subwoofer

THE VERDICT
SVS breaks the mold with a surprisingly versatile and great-sounding wireless speaker package.

SVS, a company that made its name selling high-performance/high-value subwoofers direct to consumers via the web, has since gone on to build similarly gifted and affordable full-range speakers. Audiophile sound quality that doesn't break the bank is in the brand's guiding DNA. So, it should come as no surprise that SVS's debut wireless product makes an audiophile statement in both its design philosophy and sonic personality.

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.

Pages

X