Home Theater Review

 

Audiophile Source Component Reviews

Pioneering Audiophiles such as Linn's Ivor Tenenbaum all agree that the source is the most important part of a system. Reviews of source components including turntables, CD players, CD transports, SACD players, DACs, Tuners, USB converters and even phono cartridges by Home Theater Review's stable of professional reviewers will give you the inside scoop on which ones deserve your special attention.

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Home Theater Review's Best of 2013 Awards

Home Theater Review's Best of 2013 Awards

By HomeTheaterReview.com

Overall Rating
0 Stars
 

It's that time of year again. The HomeTheaterReview.com staff has discussed all the products reviewed over the year and decided which ones rated the best. Check out our list of the best of 2013. Read More

 
PS Audio PerfectWave Transport CD-DVD-ROM Transport

PS Audio PerfectWave Transport CD-DVD-ROM Transport

By Brian Kahn

Overall Rating
4 Stars
 

Since CDs are still the highest quality medium for the vast majority of music, a good CD player is still important. HomeTheaterReview.com writer Brian Kahn tests out the PS Audio PerfectWave Transport to see how it performs. Read More

 
Home Theater Review's Best of 2012 Awards

Home Theater Review's Best of 2012 Awards

By HomeTheaterReview.com

Overall Rating
5 Stars
 

It's that time of year again. The Home Theater Review staff has looked over all of the year's impressive offerings - of which there were many - and narrowed it down to what they believe to be the best of 2012. Read More

 
BSG Technologies QOL

BSG Technologies QOL "Signal Completion Stage"

By Terry London

Overall Rating
1 Stars
 

The BSG Technologies QOL Signal Completion Stage has received a lot of attention and praise as being a one-stop solution to all the audio problems in your system. Terry London put it to the test, and well... Read More

 
Napa Acoustic NA-208C CD Player Reviewed

Napa Acoustic NA-208C CD Player Reviewed

By Andrew Robinson

Overall Rating
4 Stars
 

Newcomer Napa Acoustic offers the NA-208C CD player. HomeTheaterReview.com reviewer Andrew Robinson took the player for a spin. Read on to see how his evaluation of the piece went. Read More

 
Marantz SA8004 SACD / CD Player / USB DAC Reviewed

Marantz SA8004 SACD / CD Player / USB DAC Reviewed

By Brian Kahn

Overall Rating
4 Stars
 

Marantz adds the SA8004 SACD player to the company's offerings. However, the SA8004 has a few interesting tricks up its sleeve. Brian Kahn takes a look at the component to see if it is worth your time. Read More

 
Electrocompaniet EMC-1UP CD Player Reviewed

Electrocompaniet EMC-1UP CD Player Reviewed

By Terry London

Overall Rating
4 Stars
 

The most widely used physical media for music is still the Red Book CD. Electrocompaniet has made a new CD player, the EMC-1UP, that acknowledges this and attempts to elevate that media to new heights. But does it succeed? Read More

 
Crestron HD-MD8x1 HDMI Switcher Reviewed

Crestron HD-MD8x1 HDMI Switcher Reviewed

By Jerry Del Colliano

Overall Rating
4 Stars
 

HDMI can be a problem factor for any AV component, regardless of price. Crestron offers up the HD-MD8x1 HDMI switcher as a solution to this problem. Jerry Del Colliano examines whether or not it is successful. Read More

 
McIntosh MCD500 SACD/CD Player Reviewed

McIntosh MCD500 SACD/CD Player Reviewed

By Brian Kahn

Overall Rating
4 Stars
 

Brian Kahn unboxes the McIntosh MCD500 SACD/CD player and puts it to the test. What he discovered as he continued to attempt different sources, is that this player had several surprises in store for him. Read More

 
High Resolution Technologies iStreamer Reviewed

High Resolution Technologies iStreamer Reviewed

By Steven Stone

Overall Rating
4.5 Stars
 

Connect your iPhone, iPod Touch, or iPad to the iStreamer to get the best sound from your portable music library. Compact, simple to use, and most importantly, very good sounding, the iStreamer advances the sonics of an iPod by leaps and bounds. Read More

 

Source Component Wiki

1.0 Overview of Home Theater and Audiophile Sources
2.0 Types of Home Theater and Audiophile Sources

2.1 Blu-ray Players
2.2 Compact Disc Players
2.3 Compact Disc Transports
2.4 Apple iPod
2.5 DVD-Video Players
2.6
2.7 Turntables (LPs)

3.0 Dead Formats

3.1 HD DVD Players
3.2 D-VHS Tape Decks
3.3 SACD players
3.4 DVD-Audio Players
3.5 VHS
3.6 Laserdisc
3.7 Betamax
3.8 DAT
3.9 DCC
3.10 Cassette Tapes
3.11 8-Track Tapes


1.0 Overview of Home Theater and Audiophile Sources
For decades, the best content a movie buff or audiophile could find has come from a disc of some sort. Many of these disc players and alternative sources are still in use today, even if they aren't at the bleeding edge of AV technology, the way HD media center PCs or profile 2.0 Blu-ray players are.

2.0 Types of Home Theater and Audiophile Sources

2.1 Blu-ray Players
Blu-ray players are the most cutting edge disc players on the market. They can output 1080p video and HD 7.1 audio from native Blu-ray discs, connected via HDMI cables. Blu-ray players also can play CDs, DVD-Videos and other discs. Blu-ray players are easily firmware-upgradeable to add more player functionality and interactivity. Today's Blu-ray players are slow to load, compared to DVD-Video machines and come packed with copy protection to reduce piracy.

2.2 Compact Disc Players
A compact disc player is a one-chassis unit that plays a CD and comes in various shapes, sizes and configurations for home theater applications. A CD player generally includes a CD transport, which is a mechanism to spin the CD disc, as well as a digital to analog conversion section that takes the zeros and ones from the compact disc and converts it to an analog signal that a preamp or receiver can switch and boost en route to your system. Many home theater and audiophiles use "universal" players to cover the now-dead HD disc formats of SACD and DVD-Audio, as well as CD. Home theater enthusiasts also frequently use Blu-ray players as DVD or CD players as they are backwards-compatible with many but not all legacy disc formats.

2.3 Compact Disc Transports
A compact disc transport is simply a CD player without the digital to analog converter. Audiophiles in the late 1980s loved separating the CD transport and DAC for performance reasons. Today, most AV preamps have digital to analog sections in them, so there is no need for the redundant processing, as less is more in the world of audio. You would never want to process the audio of a source from analog to digital and back if you could avoid it.

2.4 Apple iPod
Apple's iPod is a source that nearly everyone has. While relatively low-resolution in most applications, the iPod offers handheld access to a collection of thousands of songs, which only a few years ago was never dreamed possible. Apple's iTunes Music Store has taken the steam out of (or, to be more accurate, killed off) the traditional record store. Many companies manufacture iPod docks that make it easy for your iPod to interface with your system. There are even audiophile iPod docks from the likes of Wadia and Krell. Some installers even use iPods to control entire distributed audio systems.

2.5 DVD-Video Players
As much as we would like to think Blu-ray is the only format out there, DVD-Video still sells many more discs than any HD format on the market today and boasts a whopping 91 percent market penetration. At last check, Blu-ray was on the rise, but only had about 10 percent of American households playing the HD discs. DVD-Video is easily played in a Blu-ray player, as an enthusiast is usually looking to simplify his or her system to a point where he or she won't need three or four disc players. Normally, an enthusiast might have a universal player for SACD and DVD-Audio (and DVD-Video possibly), a Blu-ray for HD discs and likely DVD-Video.

2.6 Universal Players
Universal players developed out of the consumer demand for a home theater or audiophile source that would play both of the HD audiophile sources (SACD and DVD-Audio), as well as CDs, DVD-Videos and various other discs. People are hanging onto these players, because the HD discs are still the best-sounding things you can play in your system. However, to date, there are no universal players that play HD video formats like HD DVD and, more importantly, Blu-ray.

2.7 Turntables (LPs)
Yes, some people still play records and you can't call vinyl a dead format, as record labels are willing to re-release old and even some current titles on the aging format, with re-mastered tracks and that classic "warm" sound. Vinyl represents a taste of the old days and, with vintage record stores being the only thing left from the days of music stores that weren't part of big-box retailers, enthusiasts love the idea of buying records from their past for pennies on the dollar and spinning them on their trusty old record players. Audiophile record players make a pretty compelling sound and are very popular today with Baby Boomer clients, even 25-plus years after the advent of the compact disc.


3.0 Dead Audio/Video Disc Formats
There comes a time with every AV format when you just have to pronounce the patient dead. Yes, there will be those who visit the grave site and mourn the loss, but for most of us, it's time to move on with our systems and hope for better in the future.

3.1 HD DVD Players
After Blu-Friday before the 2008 CES, Toshiba pulled the plug on their Blu-ray-competitor format, HD DVD. With less expensive players and solid studio support, HD DVD had momentum, but consumers didn't want a format war like that between VHS and Beta a generation ago. When Warner Brothers moved their support from both formats to Blu-ray, Toshiba and their partner Microsoft couldn't save the patient and some early adopters got burned.

3.2 D-VHS
The first way HD enthusiasts were able to get HD prerecorded into their system was with D-VHS. The image was good and the players were backwards-compatible with VHS tapes, which was compelling for many but the high player (deck) cost and the fact the tapes didn't last that long were deadly blows to the format. Also, the lack of direct access to chapters left consumers used to DVD or Laserdisc wanting more. Blu-ray gave that to them a few years later.

3.3 SACD
Sony just couldn't muster up enough support for their HD disc format using their DSD technology. The mistakes were everywhere: very little support of 5.1 surround, no car audio presence and very little backwards-compatibility to CD (called a Hybrid SACD) made the discs hard for consumers to swallow. Retailers didn't know where to put them. Players were expensive and, to play 5.1 surround, you needed thousands of dollars in additional equipment, including a new preamp or receiver, cables and beyond. SACD enjoys a tiny niche market of audiophiles and audiophile record labels supporting the format to this day, but it's safe to call the format dead for 99-plus percent of consumers.

3.4 DVD-Audio
Sony wasn't the only one failing with an HD disc format. Warner and its partners were busy screwing DVD-Audio with poor title support, expensive players and the need for thousands of dollars in additional gear. Backwards-compatibility with DVD-Video and good name recognition made for some hope with DVD-Audio, but it all came crashing down when the labels assumed that consumers would flock to the format and THEN they could release more meaningful titles. Hint for the future: the egg comes before the chicken. Retailers also rejected DVD-Audio, as they didn't know where to file the discs, just as they hadn't known where to categorize SACD.

3.5 VHS
I don't know if it is fair to call VHS dead, because it still sells very nicely but as an analog standard-definition tape format with limited (if any) surround sound, it's not exactly what you want to be playing on your new 65-inch 1080p plasma to wow your friends. With 91 percent market penetration for DVD-Video in America, it's safe to say that VHS has already seen its best days as an enthusiast format.

3.6 Laserdisc
There was a time in the 1990s when laserdisc was the format of choice for home theaters. The large format of the discs made them have the collector appeal of LPs, but they were hard to store, compared to DVDs, which came to market later in the 1990s, and basically took over. A laserdisc could make a nice SD picture (far better than VHS) and often had good surround sound, including even early DTS tracks (can you say "Where's the Goat?"). Today, laserdisc is the definition of a dead AV format.

3.7 Betamax
It could be argued that Betamax shouldn't even be mentioned on this list, as it was dead before home theater became popular in the 1980s, but Beta made a nice image - an image better than VHS. However, the "better format" isn't always the one that wins. Consider Beta deader than a doornail.

3.8 Digital Audio Tape (DAT)
DAT was primarily a pro audio tool employed in the studio, but consumers did use it in limited quantities. DAT opened up the first real concerns about piracy, as you could make a convincing copy of a CD on a DAT. What you would do with it after that, we have no idea. There were DAT decks for home use, but why not play your CD? There were DAT decks for your car, but good luck keeping those working.

3.9 Digital Compact Cassette (DCC)
If you blinked, you could have missed this one from Philips. It was basically an amped-up cassette tape. Consumers yawned in the early 1990s and it died a quiet death.

3.10 Cassette Tapes
The commercial importance of cassette tapes was huge, as they were a viable media for decades for consumers looking to buy a compact music format, especially with the rise of the Sony Walkman in the 1980s. Not everyone was willing to drag a portable CD player around, not to mention a whole CD collection. Cassettes were more portable, recordable and affordable. Today, with CD-Rs as cheap as they are and in every computer, the cassette has no real place in a modern audiophile or home theater system unless it's a Nakamichi cassette player such as the "Dragon," which has such cachet that collectors clamor for them even to this day.