Daniel Kumin

Daniel Kumin  |  Oct 08, 2019  |  13 comments

Performance
Features
Ergonomics
Value
PRICE $299

AT A GLANCE
Plus
Outstanding sound from compact solution
Ample dynamics for a broad range of headphones
Minus
96kHz maximum PCM sampling rate
Requires extra-cost adapter for use with Apple Lightning devices

THE VERDICT
AudioQuest's Headphone amp/DAC-on-a-stick offers sonics to rival standard-size components.

Listeners tend to consider an external digital-to-analog converter as either completely unnecessary or absolutely essential. If you believe bits is bits, you're probably perfectly happy with the converter inside your smartphone, tablet, or computer. If you don't, you likely have auditioned many a converter component with a seriously gimlet ear. Both tribes, however, can agree that the headphone amps in most smartphones, tablets, laptops, and desktops leave a lot to be desired when it comes to peak output, dynamics, and inherent sonic quality.

Daniel Kumin  |  Sep 25, 2019  |  0 comments

Performance
Features
Ergonomics
Value
PRICE $799/pair

AT A GLANCE
Plus
Remarkable bass extension and output
All-in-one solution including phono input
Noteworthy treble clarity and definition
Minus
Soundstage depth less dramatic than some designs
Tiny input labeling

THE VERDICT
With analog, digital, wireless Bluetooth, turntable, and USB computer connections, Kanto's great-sounding TUK powered bookshelf speaker is ready to rock right out of the box.

Kanto is a Canadian firm barely a decade old that specializes in powered loudspeakers. The company has established substantial cred for its active desktop and bookshelf speaker lines, both of which deliver high value and widely noted performance. Now, with a new model called TUK, the company is moving up-range in market-segment, size, and price. Also, utility: TUK is an all-in-one powered-speaker solution, with a phono-preamp, an asynchronous USB DAC, a headphone amp, preamp controls, a subwoofer crossover, and amplification all built right in.

Daniel Kumin  |  Jul 10, 2019  |  1 comments

Performance
Build Quality
Value
PRICE $1,600/pair

AT A GLANCE
Plus
Accurate and dynamic sound
Excellent imaging depth of field
Impressive bass extension and weight
Minus
Bass balance may be less amenable to some rooms or placements

THE VERDICT
The latest tower from SVS is a top value/performance contender for full-range loudspeakers.

Certain geographies have long-held associations with loudspeaker design. Maidstone, Kent or Steyning, Sussex in Britain (KEF and Bowers & Wilkins, respectively) for example. Or Cambridge, Massachusetts (Acoustic Research/KLH/ Advent) and Los Angeles, California (JBL) here in the United States.

And Youngstown, Ohio?

Daniel Kumin  |  May 29, 2019  |  0 comments

Performance
Features
Ergonomics
Value
PRICE $1,999

AT A GLANCE
Plus
Unimpeachable sound quality
Impressive power and dynamic ability
Chromecast built-in, AirPlay, and Spotify Connect support
Minus
No phono input or headphone output
No native streaming (requires smartphone, tablet or similar)

THE VERDICT
Flexible streaming options enhance the appeal of this sleek-looking integrated amplifier/DAC with serious audiophile pedigree and performance.

Primare is a small audio component manufacturer in Sweden founded by an industrial designer from Denmark. The Malmö-based firm's quirky high-end electronics have found favor among in-the-know audiophiles for nearly thirty years. Recently, a new line of streaming-centric components was introduced that appear custom-made to broaden Primare's appeal, and if the entry-level Prisma I15 integrated amplifier/DAC ("streamplifier," as I like to call them) they've supplied us for review here is any indication, the move will succeed.

Daniel Kumin  |  May 23, 2019  |  0 comments

Performance
Build Quality
Value
PRICE $2,000

AT A GLANCE
Plus
Top-tier tonal accuracy and dynamic ability
Amazingly compact for performance level
On-board EQ offers flexible placement options
Minus
Relatively tight sweet spot
No on-board streaming, digital inputs, or DSP

THE VERDICT
Elac's powered-speaker is highly compact, yet capable enough to satisfy serious listeners.

Active loudspeakers, or speakers with built-in amplification, have long been box-office poison in the U.S. market. That's because we Americans like our big receivers, choosing them based on power ratings, and then hooking them up to conventional, passive speakers using garden-hose speaker wire. When you add up the market segments that simply won't consider active speakers, including owners of receivers lacking preamp outputs and those who simply cannot get their heads around the whole powered-speaker concept, the issue becomes a non-starter.

Daniel Kumin  |  Feb 27, 2019  |  0 comments

Performance
Features
Ergonomics
Value
PRICE $699

AT A GLANCE
Plus
Impressive power and sonics from a sub-compact design
Dynamic enough to handle a wide range of speakers
Useful Bass EQ/subwoofer filter options
Minus
Digital conversion does not extend to 32-bit/384kHz

THE VERDICT
The D 3045 is a surprisingly powerful compact integrated amplifier with an eminently capable onboard DAC that's equally at home on the desktop or component rack.

Five years ago, when I examined NAD's $399 D 3020, the progenitor of the D 3045 before us here, I liked it—a lot. The D 3020 was among the first of what I've come to call DAC-lifiers: small-ish integrated amps with onboard digital-to-analog facilities intended for audio-streaming or computer sources and projecting at least some level of audiophile sophistication.

Daniel Kumin  |  Feb 06, 2019  |  0 comments

Speakers
Performance
Build Quality
Value

Subwoofer
Performance
Features
Build Quality
Value
PRICE $1,499

AT A GLANCE
Plus
Rich, full-range sound
Fine imaging
Great-looking and nicely finished
Minus
Center-channel not a perfect timbral match with towers
Subwoofer output and extension does not fully complement towers

THE VERDICT
This highly affordable Q Acoustics 5.1 package offers big, warm, dynamic stereo sound from compact towers, and good movie sound with or without the included sub.

Q Acoustics is a relatively new British loudspeaker manufacturer who has made a goodly amount of noise in the value/performance speaker arena for a dozen years now. I count the firm among the 21st-century flowering of affordable-speaker-makers catalyzed by partnerships with Chinese manufacturing firms and ever-more powerful and widely accessible computer-modeling design processes. The result of this confluence has been a bounty of excellent designs in the most competitive price ranges, from new and old names alike, that in the aggregate make the home-theater dollar go further than ever before.

Daniel Kumin  |  Dec 05, 2018  |  0 comments

Performance
Features
Ergonomics
Value
PRICE $5,000

AT A GLANCE
Plus
Top-shelf sound reproduction
Enough power to handle nearly all loudspeakers
Price-no-object manufacturing and finish
Minus
Challenging input-identification ergonomics
No phono input

THE VERDICT
Cambridge Audio’s commemorative Edge A combines top-shelf sound with gorgeous industrial design. The price may be a cut above average, but the Edge A is no average integrated amp.

Do you really need a $5,000, 54-pound, two-channel integrated amplifier? Yes, of course you do. Especially if that integrated amplifier is the new Edge A from Cambridge Audio, a British firm with a long record of seriousness about sound reproduction. Cambridge’s gear has always struck me as a rigorously high-end/high-value proposition, but the Edge A looks, tastes, and smells more like a no-holds- barred statement design, the kind we’re more likely to expect from a company whose bottom line is that they don’t give a fig for the bottom line.

Daniel Kumin  |  Sep 19, 2018  |  0 comments

Performance
Features
Ergonomics
Value
PRICE $7,499

AT A GLANCE
Plus
Reference-grade sonics
Outstanding digital audio performance up to 32-bit/384kHz
Gorgeous fit and finish and industrial design
Minus
Basic user interface
Comparatively limited onboard music streaming options
Ethernet connection can be finicky

THE VERDICT
The Micromega M-150 is a pricey, somewhat limited, but fine-sounding integrated amp with a super-slim form factor and surprising power.

Nominally, French firm Micromega would seem a deeply conflicted organization. Is it micro, or is it mega? We may never know. (For the record, “Micomégas” is an 18th-century, ur-science-fiction novella by that most French of Enlightenment figures, Voltaire.)

Either way, the south-of-Paris firm has an established record of filling niches in the ever-shifting digital-audiophile world, beginning with several notable high-end CD players. Today, like most such manufacturers, Micromega is redefining itself for the post-physical media age: Witness its latest M-One duo of streaming- capable, digital-input integrated amplifiers—streamplifiers, as I like to call them.

Daniel Kumin  |  Aug 29, 2018  |  6 comments

Performance
Features
Ergonomics
Value
PRICE $599

AT A GLANCE
Plus
Class-leading DSP surround
5.1.2-channel Dolby Atmos/DTS:X decoding
Useful Scene memory feature
Wireless surround speaker (and multiroom) option via MusicCast speakers
Minus
No 9-channel (front- and rear-height) Atmos/DTS:X expansion option
Slow DLNA audio streaming respons

THE VERDICT
Yamaha’s unique DSP-surround technology sets apart what is otherwise still a strong A/V receiver in a highly competitive market niche.

I get to review a lot of A/V receivers. Familiarity breeding— well, familiarity— I confess that I tend to sort new examples into one of three classes. The flagship models cost a lot, pump out 140 or so watts from each of at least nine and often more channels, and they tend to cram in every conceivable feature. Entry-level jobs are cheap, five- or seven-channel affairs that usually top out at 65-or-so real watts per channel and incorporate more basic feature sets.

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