Audio Gets A Double Dose Of High - Twice

Audio Gets A Double Dose Of High

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High end and high resolution were the leitmotifs played by many marketers in recent days as they launched new home audio products. Many companies sang their products’ praises at the recent Munich High End show.

High-resolution decoding figured into products launched by NAD, Mytek, Sony, Brinkmann, and Bluesound, and a super-high-end variation of high-resolution decoding – called Master Quality Authenticated (MQA) – advanced on the product and software fronts.

Other high-end products debuted from such companies as Mark Levinson, Wilson Benesh, and Definitive Technology.

Separately, the music industry extended its Hi-Res Music logo from downloaded songs to streamed songs to help consumers identify high-resolution recordings that meet the high-res music definition developed in 2014 by multiple industry groups.

On the hardware side, here’s what companies have revealed:

Definitive Technology: The Sound United brand expanded its support of Dolby Atmos and DTS:X surround with a ground-up redesign and re-engineering of its bipolar-speaker lineup.

The lineup includes four floorstanding speakers at $649 to $1,749 each, all with built-in active subwoofers and bipolar sound dispersion. The top floorstander incorporates an integrated two-way up-firing height-channel speaker to deliver Atmos and DTS:X height effects. The other three floorstanding models accept an optional top-mount two-way A90 speaker module, priced at $499/pair, to deliver height effects.

In contrast, Definitive’s previous bipolar series didn’t include any speakers with integrated height drivers, and the line’s height module was a full-range model that fit only on top of the line’s most expensive speaker, priced at $1,499 each.

The BP9000 series also includes two bipolar surrounds at $249 and $349 each. They lack built-in subs. The three center-channel speakers in the series are priced at $499 to $999 each. None is bipolar, but two feature built-in powered subs.

Hafler: The division of Radial Engineering unveiled the P3100 two-channel amplifier for studio recording and audiophile listening. Due in July at a targeted suggested retail of $1,800, the P3100 delivers 2x150-watt output into 8 ohms and 2x200 watts into 4 ohms. It incorporates Hafler’s trans*nova lateral MOSFET topology to reduce the length of the signal path while providing what the company calls “exceptional stability.” It comes with major heat sinks to make a fan unnecessary.

NAD: The Lenbrook brand is adding new wireless-multiroom components that wirelessly stream high-resolution audio from networked sources.

The new products are the $3,499-suggested M32 Direct Digital integrated two-channel amplifier, which is the first integrated amp in the Master Series, and the $3,999 M50.2 digital music player/server/CD ripper, shipping in June and August, respectively.

The M50.2 combines the functions of two previous components, the M50 player and hard-drive-equipped M52 Vault, into one component and doubles the storage capacity to 4TB.

The products incorporate proprietary BluOS wireless-multizone technology developed by sister brand Bluesound.

The M50.2 also downloads high-res music directly from the cloud, streams cloud-based music, plays music files stored on a USB stick or USB-connected hard drive, and streams music from Bluetooth sources and redistributes the sound over Wi-Fi.

Sony: Wireless multiroom audio and high-resolution audio are among the anchors of Sony’s 2016 home-audio lineup.

New products include Sony’s first high-res-capable tabletop stereo system, the company’s first high-res-encoding USB turntable and first Blu-ray player that decodes high-res music files from networked sources.

In wireless Wi-Fi speakers, the company launched the $299-suggested SRS-ZR7 and $199 SRS-ZR5, both equipped with Bluetooth, Wi-Fi, and Sony’s proprietary wireless multiroom-audio technology. The former features high-res music playback.

The $599-suggested HX500 is the industry’s first USB turntable to encode vinyl into high-res files. It encodes music in up to 5.6MHz DSD and up to 192 KHz/24-bit WAV. The $999-suggested CAS-1 compact mini system plays high-res files streamed via USB connection to a computer. It’s designed for nearfield listening.

In Blu-ray players, the $349 UHP-H1 universal player (with SACD and DVD-Audio playback) is Sony’s first Blu-ray player to play high-res music files, including DSD files. Files can be played from USB or via DLNA networking. It also features dual HDMI outputs and DLNA video streaming.

The player also features Sony’s proprietary wireless multiroom audio technology to stream music from and to other rooms. Music can be sent from a USB source connected to the player or from a CD.

The $799-suggested HT-NT5 soundbar, like a current $799 model, features Wi-Fi, wireless multiroom audio, and high-res audio playback, including DSD files. High-res payback is presumably via USB as with the previous soundbar.

Wilson Benesh: The British speaker and turntable maker is bring color to its carbon-fiber-composite speaker enclosures for the first time with the floorstanding A.C.T. One Evolution P1. It ships in July at $39,750/pair through importer The Sound Organisation. Until now, carbon-fiber material has been available only in black, the company said. The speaker will be available in Enzo red, and other motor-sportsinspired colors are planned.

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