New Boston M340 Review

Saturday, 24 November 2012 |


The new Boston Acoustic M340 is nothing less than astonishing. It is easy to underestimate this speaker at first glance. It is barely the width of two tins of soda which makes it very attractive and easy to fit into a modern uncluttered d├ęcor. What is not visible is the quality of the sound which is unexpectedly good, if judging by the size. This is speaker art and design at the highest levels.



The legendary designer Ken Ishiwata has been working on Boston since 2005 when D&M Holdings took the American brand over to their European stable. 2011 saw the overhauled A-Series in stores and 2012 brings us the M range. Mr. Ishiwata has a passion for music and re-creating an accurate sound stage so that any recorded information can be enjoyed and the senses stimulated to imagine it as a live event. The Boston Acoustic M340 is a wonderful example of his success. It creates a sound stage unexpected in speakers so slimline.  It has amazingly quick and accurate bass, crystal clear highs, and great midrange, which means that it is now possible to enjoy good quality sound in your lounge or theatre room with speakers that are easy to fit in with the decor.

Early in 2012 I had the opportunity to view the M-series in development stage in a visit to Eindhoven where D&M Holdings have their head office. It is a pleasure to peel the soft cloth off the final product after seeing the cabinet design prototypes. The amount of research and development that went into achieving a slimline cabinet is astonishing. Every aspect was considered in the quest for delivering quality sound from a thinner speaker.  The type of material used for the cabinet, down to the glue used to keep everything together, was dissected, tested and specified to ensure a product that will become a household friend.

Side by side with the KEF Q300 (which is similar in width as the B&W 600 Range and KEF Q Range), the Boston M340 is almost a third of the width

The speakers are available in classic black piano lacquer or walnut side panels and a leather-feel finish in the middle and have an organic, cultured flavour that will fit in well in the best estate living in SA.

In an interesting technical twist, the speakers have no Bi-Wire option. It does have  a sophisticated crossover module . It makes the connextions easy and efficient and produces the sound quickly. These speakers need an amplifier that can deliver power to the speakers. Recommended power amplification is stated at 50 – 350 Watts.

Connected to a  Rotel RB1582 (a brilliant 200watts power, Class AB, amp)  the speakers deliver amazing sound. The bass are tight and can be felt throughout a 20m2 room. It is one of the few speaker sets in this price category, that deliver a natural resonance of bass guitar sounds, in my opinion. It also handles vocals well. Voices are centered and clear as well as natural.

It is quite clear where the instruments are placed and experiencing this sound stage adds to the overall positive experience and creates a mood that draws you in.

Fimiliar tweeter from Boston Acoustics, was previously used on the Boston VS Range
The Boston Acoustic Engineers did a brilliant job and may be the first to come close at perfecting a true slim- line lifestyle speaker. It takes up virtually no space, it is pleasing to the eye, and it impresses with anything you play through them.

This is one of the picks for 2012, go audition it for yourself, you will then know why I have such respect for this speaker.

Marantz SR7007 review

Wednesday, 31 October 2012 |


I am pleased with the new offering from Marantz. The Marantz SR7007 is really awesome, I give it full marks for features, looks, ease of use, performance and value for money. The way it powers even demanding speakers to perform is truly spectacular. It is also one of the best receivers with multi-room capabilities, and the ZONE 2 HDMI makes it easy to send full HDMI signal from any HDMI source to a second room.



Marantz is one of those companies that will probably be around as long as there are people to hear music and who want to enjoy it at home and after many years of giving the world some of the best Hi-Fi equipment, and being pioneers in the home theater industry, they are still innovative and continually fine tune and develop the equipment, staying ahead of the curve every time they change a model number. And this is the case with the Marantz SR7007.
The Marantz SR7007 came to me in the usual square box. Opening the box revealed a surprise : an instruction manual – with just four pages! Even better, it is four pages of Large print, easy to read under any conditions, and really easy to follow.

The accessories are standard: Manual, Instruction CD, Remote with batteries, FM Cable and Auddyssey mic.



The remote has the same look as the user friendly Marantz SR7005, only a few buttons changed to accommodate the expanding multi-room functions.



First I carefully investigated the back panel and found three HDMI Outs. Yes, an impressive three HDM outputs.

I read and followed the instruction manual.

In short it said the following:
1. Unpack
2. Plug in TV HDMI on HDMI Out 1
3. Plug in power cord
4. Follow on-screen instructions.



I thought it could not really be this simple? What if the wires accidentally touch each other, which can cause a short? But Yes, they have made the setup Simple and Safe. When you go to what they call “Setup Assist”, the amplifier itself switches off, leaving you with an instruction menu. From there you can choose language, speaker connection/calibration, Input setup and Network setup.

 Now you just need to follow the instructions on the screen with no danger of shorting out cables.



 While the Marantz SR7007 only claim to be a 7.1 surround sound amplifier, it is possible to achieve an 11.2 configuration. This is done by sharing power from its surrounds and surround backs to sister pairs.

 When doing a more custom setup, with Zone capabilities, the onscreen menu is easy to understand. The onscreen menu makes it easier to do a more custom set up, which is necessary to get more optimum use out of the room and the equipment. Getting to the settings are easier, understanding which settings will achieve better results, take practice.

To add the Blu-Ray player is a simple matter of plugging it in to the relevant HDMI input and the HDMI Zone 2 out to a tv in your preferred zone, and as quick as that, you will have a picture.

Now at the same time you will be able to add any HDMI source to the receiver and play it in your main zone, at the same time as the Zone 2 output, this giving you 2 separated HDMI sources running to two different Zones at the same time.



Now you have the choice of watching two completely different things at the same time – bliss and peace for all members of the family!

So setup and gadgets impress. What about performance? To test the units’ power in a 5 channel setup, without using the Bi-Amp and Bi-Wire capability. I loaded a John Mayer live Blu Ray. I stood in the middle of the room, lights off, and closed my eyes. It felt like I was there at the concert. I heared the whistles of fans from behind, the screams of admiring fans. It creates a wonderful ambience really, I have heard many systems with this same live disc, and this just has such depth in the sound. The singing was perfect, I love the way it recreates the moment.

I then got a WAV. track from my NAS drive, to test the streaming ability. I  chose a classical piece with nice low-end, quick and sharp acceleration on the violin. The Marantz SR7007 handled it with absolute authority.

Next I played the intro from movie Transformers 3, and from the start, the intro sounded stunning. The music is clear, yet not dominating, Optimus Prime’s voice could clearly be heard over the rumbles of thousands of emotional mechanical robots shooting the living galactica out of each other. I could hear the dialogue all the time, the balance between the background and the point of actions is excellent, and the mood the director wanted to create was very obvious.

To conclude, you expect that Marantz must produce something good, but they do so consistently model to model, year on year with astonishing consistency. The Marantz SR7007 sets the bar, and continues the proud heritage of the Marantz brand.

Marantz UD7006, brilliant all rounder!

Friday, 20 July 2012 |

Marantz as a brand has always been at the top of the Hi-Fi game, and it always reflects when they release a product into the market. Such a product is the Marantz UD7006, a universal player which is a universal player in the purest sense. If you ever wondered if you could use a Blu Ray Player for your CD playback, this is the unit to consider, this is the unit that truly lives up to the term Universal Player. As you will see, by the many respected reviewers in the Home Theater field, that the Marantz UD7006 is a brilliant all rounder.

At the end of 2010 Marantz released the SR7005, which at the time was legendary. It would be the first Airplay enabled receiver on the market and the leader of the pack from D&M Holdings. This release secured Marantz’s name not only as a leader in Hi-Fi, but they got respect as a Home Theatre company and a pioneer at it. From that point onwards Marantz released an army of award winning home theatre equipment, such as the SR6006, NR7004, NR1601 to name a few.



So what do you get when you take Marantz’s more than 70 years of Hi-Fi experience and develop excellent home theater products?

Yes, you get the Marantz UD7006 Universal disc player. It is a user friendly, no nonsense player which can be integrated even in older home theatre systems. It is easy to setup, the user interface is easy to understand. The remote control is well laid out, getting familiar with the setup will take no time at all.

Movie playback is impressive, Home Theatre Choice Magazine noted:

…we’ve few reservations about the Marantz. It’s predictably excellent with Blu-ray, most especially with a good 2D transfer such as True Grit.
The epic vistas are wonderfully vivid, with consistent, noise-free backgrounds and beautifully crisp details. The film’s stately camera pans are handled in an assured fashion, too.
3D Playback is also not to be thrown away, when Trustedreviews.com had it one their work bench they noted:

The sense of wonder continues with 3D material like Thor. As the camera glides through Asgard in the overblown but dazzling establishing shots, you really do get the feeling of immersion and depth that the technology promises – thanks in no small part to the UD7006’s ability to pass on the left and right 1080p images without any glitches or artefacts.

It all is good and well with Home Theatre performance, but what is really impressive by the Marantz UD7006, one which sets the standard for a true universal disc player, is its ability to play back CD with passion, detail and accuracy, the traditional Marantz way.



Being fitted with a 32-bit DAC chip, it gives brilliant CD playback capabilities. Just a few quoted words from reviewers:

...but anyone who knows the value of heavyweight build quality, high-quality components and the impact they can have on AV performance will appreciate what the UD7006 has to offer – its 2D and 3D picture quality is sublime, while music playback is streets ahead of the budget competition. TRUSTEDREVIEWS.COM
The UD7006 also does an astonishingly good job with standard CDs. Heard at their best via the player’s analogue output (which measured well for jitter in our Tech Labs) and routed through a 32-bit PCM1795 DAC from Texas Instruments, the UD7006 paints a beautiful soundscape. HOMETHEATRECHOICE.COM

…files from USB or disc sound about as good as they ever do, and in fact we admit that some AAC-encoded files at higher data rates had us fooled that we were listening to perfectly respectable CD sound. TECHRADAR.COM
Superb picture; great sound, particularly with music; luxurious build and appearance. WHAT HIFI

On the downside the Marantz UD7006 does have a few limitations which is found on more budget players, it falls short as a media player, having limited abilities to play back certain file formats from a hard drive or USB. Many reviewers felt it needed one more HDMI port (which is really not so bad if you have one of their superb Receivers). Other than that there is nothing bad to say.

Conclusion:

Being bombarded with the term “universal player”, few can stand up to the Marantz UD7006. The only one the market have produced that is equally excellent was the Marantz UD7006’s brother, the Denon 2012UD, also from the D&M Holding stable. Yes, you can have an excellent time watching a movie. Yes, you will have a wonderful time being emerged in a 3D film. And importantly, YES, you will be able to enjoy your CD with top quality playback. For the few short comings it might have, the Marantz UD7006 is really in the purest sense a universal player.


Yamaha Aventage RX-A3010, be amazed

Tuesday, 8 May 2012 |

How many times do you love a speaker package, that certain speaker package on which you want to add just one receiver, not multiple power amps, just one receiver. Some speaker require just that much more power behind it like with brilliant speaker packages like the B&W CM9 package and the Monitor Audio RX8 Package. When ever a receiver was added to these packages the sound was held back, it lacked inspiration, it lacked power.



This is where the Yamaha engineers did more than enough. I added the Yamaha Aventage RX-A3010 to Monitor Audio RX8 package after having few successes with any receiver, receivers well above the R30 000 price bracket. Success was accomplished with this beautiful speaker package with additional power amplification. I hooked up the Yamaha RX-A3010 with ease. The design is clever, BI-AMP channels sits next to each other, making cabling easy, no need to make custom cable to stretch over the length of the output terminals. All input and output sockets are well spaced, easily enabling me to insert cables where my Plasma stand made it difficult.

High Resolution picture, click to enlarge.
All cabled and ready to go, I did the setup quickly, yet thoroughly. The user interface gives you the ability to make informed decisions, setup of network features and bi-amp option was a brief.

My first quest, see if this beautiful amp can entertain stereo wise, no subwoofer, no centre or surrounds, plain stereo in pure direct. I pressed play and Diana Krall started the complex music she is known for. WOW! This is 4ohm Monitor Audio RX8 speaker which some of the biggest and best receivers could not even make bearable to listen, now here flows an array of waves. I lower the volume to test whether the speaker keeps its sound still as pure, sure enough the bass is well heard and felt, the mid range is still impressive, the little finer sounds from the percussion instruments still making their presence known. On higher volume I felt like I am at an concert, the staging is precise, vocals in the middle with the piano, you can envision her sitting behind her piano.

Well impressed I added a David Foster and friend to the Blu Ray drive. The surrounds are perfect, applause behind, the stage with the singing and instruments in front. The experience you get is what the recording intended, you being at the life event, and it sure made me feel that I was right there.

Same could be said when I attached the CM9 Package to the RX-A3010 (which is currently setup at the Menlyn Sound and Image Branch). Normally on the CM9 Package we would add proper high current power, like the Harman Kardon AVR 660/760, or add power amps, which is ideal. I never formed an image in my mind that a Yamaha receiver will drive this absolute stunning speaker this well. The sound was rich, full and musical as a B&W should sound, nothing was held back. Movies was full of atmosphere evident when watching Avatar, Iron Man 2 and the refreshed Jurassic Park remake.

Overall, sited by many magazines, the Yamaha RX-A3010 is impressive, very very impressive...

What Hi-Fi Said:

Impressive scale; fluid, unaggressive delivery; immersive soundfield; fine spec; flexible with partnering equipment. 

Audioholic Said:
This is the sort of receiver that you can grow old with. Just like the RX-Z11, when you buy this, you may be tempted to upgrade in a few years, but you certainly won'tneed to. GOTTA HAVE IT!

One word, BRILLIANT!!!

Marantz PM6004 and CD6004

Tuesday, 28 February 2012 |


The Marantz PM6004 and CD6004 forms part of Marantz new 6000 series.
With its impressive array of inputs and outputs, the Marantz PM6004 Amplifier offers an ideal way to consolidate all of your audio devices. The amplifier features exceptional audio engineering, allowing it to amplify sound without loss of fidelity or balance. It also has a phono input, so you can enjoy music from your turntable on traditional stereo speakers. And with Marantz's audio technologies, this device is sure to please even the most discerning listeners.
A thorough upgrade of the amp has achieved even more substantial improvements. It’s that ability to cut right to the heart of a track that’s most impressive.
Even more impressive is the fact that this solidity combines with a lightness of foot that helps the amp dance from beat to beat without a hint of sluggishness. Do make sure you click the ‘source direct’ button to get the very best out of it, though.
Of course, a component that is individually superb can flop when paired with another, but that’s far from the case here. Connect the PM6004 with the Marantz CD6004 CD player and it’s immediately clear that they’ve been tuned to complement each other.
Although the PM6004 is flexible enough to be partnered with other, non-Marantz electronics, as a pair they pull in the same sonic direction, and the resulting presentation is as fast-paced, detailed and dynamic as you could possibly hope for from a hi-fi pairing at this end of the market.
The CD6004’s predecessor is what-hifi's reigning CD player champion so unsurprisingly Marantz has made slightly more cautious, less substantial changes. Mind you, a new CD mechanism, upgraded power supply, brand new DAC, new amplifier module and a new, vibration-eliminating solid metal bottom-plate still sounds like a great deal of work to us.
Oh, and the USB port on the front, which could always digitally access iOS devices, can now charge iPads as well as iPods and iPhones.
According to Ken Ishiwata, Marantz’s Brand Ambassador, that’s a particularly tough nut to crack, as the amount of power needed to charge an iPad can all too easily have a detrimental effect on the audio signal. Through the use of audiophile-grade components and proprietary circuit topologies, the Marantz CD6004 Compact Disc Player reproduces your CDs with superb quality. When connected to a good set of speakers or headphones, it delivers a satisfying balance of bass, midrange, and treble that is sure to please music lovers.

The Player's USB input makes it easy to connect an iPod or other MP3 player to enjoy your entire digital music library. Upgrades on the CD6004 really have made big improvements to what was already an extremely accomplished performance. Play Little Dragon’s recent electro-pop hit Ritual Union and this is immediately apparent: the delivery is significantly more spacious and open, the vocals are clearer and more focused, and individual instruments have more space around them but are still rhythmically glued together to create a pleasingly complete presentation.
There’s an extra smidge of subtlety to detail and dynamics, too, so you get a little more of the reverb and echo on the voice – in other words, the disc sounds more as it was intended.
Essentially it’s cleaner, clearer and more interesting than its predecessor, and in the best possible way you’re less aware of the player itself, especially when you take advantage of the ‘display off’ and ‘digital off’ options.
-Information sourced directly from:
-Whathifi.com: (http://www.whathifi.com/review/marantz-pm6004; http://www.whathifi.com/review/marantz-cd6004)
-Marantz.com: (us.marantz.com/us/Products/Pages/ProductDetails.aspx?CatId=HiFiComponents&ProductId=PM6004)


Marantz UD7006 Universal Disc Player

Monday, 6 February 2012 |

Marantz’ new Universal disc player fell into the hands of the guys at What-HiFi and as they say “…it could be another fruitful year for the Japanese company…”

The UD7006 Universal Disc Player is Marantz’ very first 3D-ready unit. Staying in line with the design of the older generations, the UD7006 is a fully universal deck this means that SACD’s as well as DVD-A discs can be played with no hassle.

The UD7006 universal player also has on-board decoding and a set of eight-channel analogue inputs, allowing those with older generation amplifiers, which do not have HDMI inputs, can also enjoy high-definition surround sound.

The UD7006 universal player is DLNA certified, alleviating possible issues if an amp is not 3D compatible, rather than requiring a second HDMI output, the HDMI picture can be fed straight into the display and use a multi-channel output for the sound. The UD7006’s DLNA certification means that the unit can be used as a “client streamer” for music, videos and photo files stored on a home network.

…The UD7006 is a fine opening gambit from Marantz – it’s going to take something pretty special to top it…”

-Information sourced from: http://www.whathifi.com/review/marantz-ud7006

Klipsch SW-450 Subwoofer

Tuesday, 31 January 2012 |

Overview:

The Klipsch SW-450 may be a large unit, however there is definitely more than meets the eye. The cabinet is deep – 49.5cm but it is relatively narrow – 35.6cm. A different take on the finish breathes in a breath of fresh air, it is covered in a vinyl wrap rather than a glossy black finish, this blends the SW-450 subwoofer into its’ surrounding comfortably. The SW-450 subwoofers’ design means that it works well with many other speakers within the Klipsch range. Moreover, the sleek look of the SW-450 subwoofer llows for the unit to compliment many HD televisions found on the market today.

The Klipsch SW-450 subwoofer offers a downward-firing 10” driver with a fibre-composite cone. On the SW-450’s rear panel is a bass reflex port – as What-HiFi notes the port is “big enough to swallow-up your average rabbit…” Given the placement of the bass reflex port, it is advisable to keep the SW-450 subwoofer a far way away from a wall. The Klipsch SW-450 subwoofer received a four-star rating from What-HiFi.


The Sound Quality:

The SW-450 subwoofer has a notably more substantial sound, unlike some the SW-450 rivals. The bass notes are clearer, with more weight behind them. However with the more complex bass-lines the SW-450 has a tendency to “…lose its’ way…”; there also is a little bit of a rattle from the casing when the SW-450 subwoofer is pushed to its’ limits, but the unit is still a capable choice.

The Benefits of the SW-450:

People who advocate the SW-450 subwoofer feel that aside from the non-gloss look of the subwoofer, the sound quality is superior, especially in terms of the deep bass notes – as the sound weighter, tighter and more crisp.

The Downfalls:

As with many of Klipsch’s units, the SW-450 does not have a lot of downfalls, however the clarity lost on the more complex baselines does leave the SW-450 slightly wanting.

The Specs:

The SW-450 subwoofer has two line inputs, two speaker inputs and is relatively small in comparison to its’ rivals. The power wattage measures in at 200W. The powerful 10” driver means an increased bass response with low distortion and the SW-450 has a built-in Class D amplifier which delivers 450W of dynamic power.

-Information sourced from What-HiFi.com: http://www.whathifi.com/review/klipsch-sw-450

Yamaha Aventage Series

Thursday, 26 January 2012 |


What Yamaha says about the Evolutionary process of the new Aventage series:

“…When AVENTAGE was introduced in 2010, this new top rated AV Receiver series represented a dramatic, inspired leap forward with best in class audio/video component design. AVENTAGE brought studio grade sound and sophisticated video enhancements to your home with unparalleled attention to detail in design, engineering, and fabrication. Every electrical path, every part, every piece, was rethought and redesigned if necessary to achieve total performance excellence throughout the series. Materials were tested thoroughly, and the finest were selected to maximize performance. Details that at first glance would not seem to affect the quality of sight, sound and control, were brought together in AVENTAGE components, and in the end produced a work of visual and acoustic art...


The RX-A AV receivers:

“…The AVENTAGE line of high-performance AV receivers is based on the audio design concept of providing a massive, full-bodied sound for movie sound effects and the accurate reproduction of music sources. By expertly harmonizing traditional and advanced technologies, every factor that affects sound quality, from materials and parts to construction, layout, vibration damping (unique foot) and “fine-tuning” the sound, is handled with no other thought than to achieve the best possible audio quality. As a result, every AVENTAGE model has the ability to reproduce the most subtle details of high-definition sound, so that listeners can enjoy a truly high-class sound studio experience at home…”


How the Sound & Image guys feel about the range:

The new range of Yamaha AV receivers has definitely changed how AV should be.The Aventage series has many new features, from the building of the shell all the way through to the networking capabilities. The Aventage series allows for better connectivity and an easier to use GUI. The Aventage series can be added to most modern and traditional speaker systems, which means that if you are just starting out in the world of audio-visual, you do not need to spend and arm and a leg on top of the range speakers.


What are the benefits?:

Aside from the value for money – in terms of this entire range being affordable to the average audiophile, the AV receivers have a variety of features like, Pandora Internet Radio, DTS HD, Silent Cinema, Bluetooth and, among many other glorious additions, iPod and iPhone compatibility.


What are the disadvantages?:

Quite honestly, we don’t see many, this unit is compatible with many other units, amps, bluray players and universal disc players.


Aesthetics:

The receivers are sleek in design, allowing for you to place them in almost any home theatre environment. They are finished in a glossy and versatile black shade, (okay, so some of us would like to see maybe a purple or a pink), the back-lighting on the front display is not overly bright – no blinding with the display lights, so you will watch the television rather than trying to read what is on the receiver screen. The text on these units are big enough to read without squinting, a definite bonus if you ask me.


Awards:

As with many of the units, most are given awards from What Hi-fi magazine, it is not too surprising then that the RA-X1010 AV receiver was given the Five-Star Award in November 2011.


Overall?:

In a nutshell? Yay for Yamaha!

Boston Acoustics: Soundware S5.1

Friday, 13 January 2012 |

Boston's all-new Soundware S5.1 system is the big brother to the well-received, award-winning Soundware XS 5.1 satellite system. There are several modifications of the design including: a larger 10" vented subwoofer, with a 200W amp - which peaks at 300W.

The satellite speakers are slightly larger, giving more room for greater acoustic performance, as they bear ¾" tweeters and 3½" mid-bass drivers.

Among other important features, this system is available in both Gloss Black and Gloss White, making the system that much more versatile in home designs.