Sony STR-DN1040 and STR-DN840: Wireless 7.2 Audio and 4K Upscaling

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Wireless AV receivers can be a bit of a mixed bag, especially when it comes to video. High definition resolutions can struggle on typical home setups, particularly if a lot of other devices are using the wireless feed, but in recent times we’ve been impressed by the technology’s adaption to cope with modern standards. Sony should know a thing or two about this, and is looking to up its game following stiff competition from the likes of Denon, Yamaha and Pioneer with the 165W STR-DN1040 and slightly less powerful 150W STR-DN840, delivering 7.2 cinema-quality sound along with 4K movie upscaling sans cables.

A rather striking yet minimalist design sets these apart from cheaper models immediately, and both are packed with connectivity that includes inputs for Blu-ray and DVD players, set top boxes, games consoles and an SA-CD player with USB to instantly connect and play back from MP3 players or flash drives. You can stream audio or HD video straight from a smartphone or tablet, and the optional SideView app means input source and volume adjustment can be done from a handheld.

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Sony is obviously putting a lot of emphasis on the audio quality here. Both receivers use 192kHz/24-bit audio that’ll do justice to lossless formats such as FLAC and high-bitrate compressed formats, and according to Sony can “recreate the authentic acoustics of Hollywood’s finest theatres”, with a concert mode that supposedly apes the acoustics of famous venues such as the Berlin Philharmonic Hall, Concertgebouw Amsterdam and Musikverein Vienna. There’s a good degree of customisation here as well, with an advanced sound optimiser that can tailor frequencies for extra clarity and something called Advanced Digital Cinema Automatic Calibration (D.C.A.C.) that fine-tunes sound from each speaker to get the best from the layout of your living room.

Wireless capabilities include streaming music from cloud services like Music Unlimited, a range of internet radio stations via vTuner, Spotify and support for AirPlay to offer Mac users streaming support from the whole range of Apple’s devices.

Both models are scheduled for release this month, with no pricing available as yet.

Onkyo TX-NR818: Harmonious high-end quality at midrange price

Home cinema may well be the perfect scenario if you are a movie fan; sitting in the lounge with your popcorn at the ready watching the latest blockbuster on your big plasma.  There it is in full HD leaping right out at you. The only problem is unlike the real cinema experience, the sonics just don’t cut it.

TX-Onkyo

Onkyo which means ‘sound harmony’ in Japanese, has long been a leader in high quality home cinema audio but with the unveiling of the TX-NR818 and its slightly lighter stable mate the TX-NR8717,  the assault on the mid range market is well and truly underway.

These two network channel receivers are packed with punch and feature laden with goodies to melt the heart of any home cinema audio enthusiast whose pocket is not perhaps as deep as they would like it to be.

Audyssey MultEQ XT32 room acoustic correction calibrates your speakers and equalizes the system to optimize the sound for your room space. Onkyo has also ported across its three 7.2 decoding systems normally found in its higher end models; Dolby Pro Logic IIz, Audyssey DSX DTS. DTSNeo:X which uses front wide and front height technology to produce a more enveloping 3D sound performance.

The TX-NR818’s video delivery is boosted using a dual core chip combining an HQV Vida VHD 1900 video processor for 1080p up scaling and Marvell’s 4K video processor which can convert 1080p HD to a 2K or 4K display.

Both receivers offer up eight HDMI inputs one front, and seven in the rear together with two outputs and support for mobile HDMI, a godsend if you want to reproduce media from your smart phone in 7.2 channel surround sound.

There also plans to release a USB Bluetooth adapter so both receivers will be able to interact with hand held devices.

TX-NR818  £999   Black or silver.

TX-NR717  £800  Black or silver.

TruLink 3 Play Video Digital Audio Selector

I’m guessing the guys at CablesToGo spend a lot of their time just staring at people’s home cinema setups, frustrated at all the inefficiencies. After watching a seemingly innocent and everyday set of actions in front of a TV I’m guessing the leap up in a fit, exclaim “there must be a better way!” and hurry off to their lab where they spend most of their time, tirelessly slaving away to make your living room entertainment a little less messy.

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What problem has their laser-guided eye landed on this time. Well if you’re a bit of an AV enthusiast and have recently invested in a new home theatre system you will find that as much as you love it, it is likely to only have 1 fibre optic Toslink input. This will cause a problem as you want to be able to hook up your PC, Sky, DVD player and game console to your system. *drumroll* Until now!

CablesToGo has launched The TruLink 3 Play Video Digital Audio Selector which can connect up to three Toslink digital audio inputs, three stereo analogue audio pairs and 3 component video signals to a single component video output. Like countless other Cables2Go products we’ve looked at in the past, the selector is compact, very simple to install and operate and includes a wireless IR remote control for convenience and control. In keeping with Cables2Go tradition, the unit is a sleek black box, and sort of makes you want to see a Cables2Go guy’s living room and marvel at the neat array of black boxes quietly making everything better.

The CablesToGo Component 3-1 Video Digital Audio Selector is available immediately through retailers including Amazon from £49.99

Port-land: Pioneers new connect-anything AV receivers

Have you ever seen any domestic technology with over 100 ports? Well, say hello to Pioneer’s new range of AV receivers, where studio-quality sound, HD video and extremely versatile connectivity options are just a few of the many features on the new SC-LX85, SC-LX75, VSX-LX55 and VSX-2021 models.

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The SC-LX85 is the flagship device, with more ports than the average user would know what to do with. Along with the SC-LX75, the two offer a number of unique features:

Direct Energy HD amplifiers offer a true multi-channel, continuous power output of 810 watts over 9 channels (720 watts in the SC-LX75). While you can listen to all nine channels at once, you can also set the device to play five channels in one room, and stereo sound in two other rooms at the same time. Madness.

THX Ultra 2 Plus (SC-LX85) and THX select 2 Plus (SC-LX75, VSX-LX55 and VSX-2021) certification means the device has been super-approved for home cinema listening. Remember the big THX logo that comes up at the start films in the cinema, before the sound explodes your glasses and ruptures your ear-drums with sonic awesome? That’s these guys, and they approve.

The Hi-bit 32 and hi-sampling audio processing promises to revive the original sound of audio files by smoothing out distortion. We’re always dubious of these technologies, however, and would recommend giving it a listen before being sold on this feature.

All four AV systems have impressive Apple integration. They’re all “Made for iPod/iPhone/iPad”, and include a USB/video cable for iPhone, iPad and iPod touch devices, enabling plug and play capability with no dock required.

Users can then playback audio, video and photos stored on their devices, while charing them. There’s also full support for the iPad, including 2.1A battery charge facility via the USB port – making the Pioneer range the only AV systems on the market to do so.

There’s also full Apple AirPlay support, which lets music be streamed from iTunes or iDevices straight to the system. Album art and song information are displayed on a connected screen. You’ll need an adapted to do this on the VSX-2021, although a wired connection is supported straight out the box.

Streaming music content to the new Pioneer receivers can also be done through Bluetooth or DLNA – the AV receivers can play music up to 192kHz/24-Bit, and there is special software to improve the sound of Bluetooth-streamed tracks.
Pioneer has also developed two iPhone apps for the product, the first being social-playing Air Jam. The app allows up to four users to cue songs for playback from their phones (AS-BT200 Bluetooth adapter required). Each device displays the list of songs added by all users and the device each song will play from.

The other app, iControlAV2, lets users control of volume, bass, balance and room settings – as well as equaliser information – from a mobile device.

Each device also boasts vTuner Internet radio, accessible from the on-screen display. Then there’s the HDMI (v1.4a with 3D and ARC) connectivity for 3D playback, HDMI Standby Through for passing audio and video from a set top box through the AV receivers without the need to turn on the component, and auto level control technology to ensure a consistent listening experience, compensating for fluctuating volume levels across digital audio tracks, television channels and commercials. We’d buy it just for that.

Pioneer have plans on your living room: New range of iPod docks, AV receivers and Blu Ray players

Latest Gadgets went down to a Pioneer product launch and were dazzled by an array of AV receivers, speakers, Blu Ray players, iPod Docks and earphones. Here are just some of the things we saw.

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AV Receivers are no-one’s idea of sexy but the entry to mid-level VSX range were feature-filled work horses. HDMI 1.4 support enables them to handle 3D Blu Ray content, they can stream audio over Bluetooth and the free iControlAV iPhone app allows you to control inputs and fiddle with the dynamic range via the accelerometer (more fun than it sounds). They can also connect to internet radio over the home network. Yours to buy from June 2010 except for the premium glossy black VSX-1025 which will be available in July.

Plugged into the AV Receivers were the BDP LX53 and BDP-330 Blu Ray players, which have built in Ethernet and optional wireless dongles. Both support support 36-bit Deep Colour, can upscale DVDs and connect to youtube. And of course they work with the iControlAC iPhone app as well.

Pioneer also had three iPod docks on display – the XW NAC3 and XW-NAC1 and the XW NAV1. The creatively named XW NAC3 and XW-NAC1 both come equipped with docking stations for two iPods or iPhones at once. Silly at first glance, the “SHUFFLE” function means music can be played back from both of the docked iPods or iPhones at random. Powerful mathematics is at work allowing for a DJ-like effect transitioning from one track to the next relatively seamlessly. It’s not quite DJ Shadow-in-a-box but it’s fine for background music and perfect for Bring-Your-Own-iPod style parties.

The top of the line XW-NAC3 model offers internet connectivity via a LAN interface and is DLNA certified. The words DLNA are normally enough to have me reaching for my wallet, as DLNA devices are awesome. The XW-NAC3 is no exception. When hooked up to the net, you can access internet radio or play back music from DLNA compliant home servers – theoretically you can playback all the music in your house. There is a USB port for connecting mass storage devices to playback a variety of formats (MP3, WMA, AAC, WAV or even FLAC). files stored on it. There is even a clock.

The XW-NAV1 goes far beyond an iPod dock as is more of a digital media player. It has an iPod dock (obviously) but also features an FM tuner, CD/DVD player and can connect to a TV via HDMI for a high quality, upscaled Audio/Visual experience. The composite video out allows you to watch video stored or streamed via the iPod on a TV and a USB port plays back most media files. A neat CD-to USB ripping function lets you copy CDs onto USB without getting a PC involved.

The XW-NAC3 and XW-NAC1 iPod speaker systems will be available as from June 2010, followed by the XW-NAV1 in July.