Archive for category Review
“It’s also easy to bind lighting scenes to different AV activities, so if you want your overhead lights to dim when you watch a movie but not when you surf TV, setting that up is a snap. The Harmony Elite also has two lighting hard buttons and two smart plug hard buttons at the bottom of the remote, which you can assign different loads to permanently. If you tend to need to operate the same loads when you’re entertaining yourself, that could be super handy.
The Harmony also makes it easy to configure your favorite TV channels. In my case, I told it I was on Dish network and had local Montgomery, AL channels, and the app automatically preconfigured a bunch of stations it thought I would like. Un-starring the ones I have no interest in and adding my own more obscure favorites took only seconds. Once all of that is done, you simply upload the results to the remote itself, run through a test to make sure everything is working correctly, and you’re done.
The remote itself is an interesting one. As I said above, the presence of dedicated lighting control and smart plug hot buttons does set it apart from the rest of the Harmony pack. In terms of its overall shape and layout, though, it’s not all that dissimilar to the discontinued Harmony Ultimate Home, though its buttons are much more logically laid out, much like the IR-only Harmony 950.”
I started out by streaming two-channel music using built-in apps and from my iPhone using both AirPlay and Chromecast through the Synchrony One towers with no subwoofer. The Onkyo was not happy when I attempted to stream high-res audio from Qobuz via Chromecast, stuttering and locking up at time. (I’ll put this down to the fact that the service hasn’t officially launched yet in North America, and I was using an overseas-based press preview account.) Other music streaming services worked fine via Chromecast. Listened to on Tidal, Joe Cocker’s superb cover of Bob Dylan’s “Seven Days” recorded with Sly and Robbie on drums and bass revealed a nicely fleshed out, punchy sound, with plenty of bottom-end kick. Any lingering concerns I had about the amp’s ability to drive the Synchrony towers were quickly put to bed, and I was able to crank the music up nice and loud without having the sound turn raw and thin.”
“I finished up with “Blade Runner 2049.” Pretty much the entire movie is an aural demo, so I just l went with the introductory credits and first scene. From the moment the music started, I was hit with a wall of sound. The haunting soundtrack didn’t just hit me from the front though; there was a real presence coming from above and from the sides. It was more like I was within a bubble of sound and I was completely immersed in the experience. Considering the $499.99 list price, this level of involvement with a soundtrack is really impressive. Once K enters the replicant’s home, I wasn’t let down either, with no issues picking up the subtle sounds from the boiling pot, nor of hearing the back and forth speech between K and his replicant target. Once the fight broke out, all the thumps and crashes were nicely weighted, and the surrounds did their part to add extra ambiance and effects where called for.”
A foray into using a 5.1.4 speaker setup arguably suited the Marantz even better than 7.1.2. This array added more height detail and made the soundstage feel more expansive at lower volumes too. Dense scenes within the City of a Thousand Planets, from Valerian… (4K BD) are suitably warm and stifling. Each neighbourhood is filled with its own charm, the Marantz missing little in bringing both the earthy grime and vibrancy to the film’s soundscape.
In general, the SR7012 acquits itself as a solid and sophisticated performer, if not an all-action monster. My Fifth Element 4K UHD reference Atmos disc is perfectly accurate and enjoyable but, when the scenes hot up, this does lack that last degree of grunt compared to more potent (and more expensive) AVRs. It’s a better bet for smaller speaker packages and systems. Add to this the formidable feature set and stellar performance with stereo music, and it’s warmly recommended.”
It all comes together to thrilling and deeply satisfying effect with the Blu-ray of Blade Runner 2049. Opinions might differ over the film itself, but there can be no denying the potency and compound complexity of the film’s 5.1 mix in the hands of this B&W setup. It’s immersive, powerful and yet incredibly subtle. During the sequence with Blade Runner K and his holographic girlfriend Joi on a rooftop (Chapter 2), the ambient falling rain is so convincing and the droplet splashes so specific and varied (acquiring a hollow metallic ring when they fall on an unseen drainpipe over your shoulder, for instance), it actually gave me a little shiver.
At the other end of the decibel scale, the visceral intensity of the Las Vegas attack (Chapter 12) still has me flinching, even though I’ve watched the movie several times. The sub’s capacity for heavy-fisted damage is perfectly showcased as it teams up with the concrete-trashing transient surround effects to deliver mayhem and gathering rubble with extreme prejudice. Hans Zimmer and Benjamin Wallfisch’s post-Vangelis soundtrack has muscle and menace in equal measure, but also a gentle lilting beauty as Tears in Rain from the original Blade Runner is reprised in the final scene. It all leaves me exhilarated but rather exhausted.
Direct function can be used to shut down digital audio and video circuits, to better serve high-resolution sound sources and CDs. When using the stereo analogue stage, you can also select one of three DSP filters (Sharp, Short and Slow) to fine-tune the output to your liking. Differences here are best described as subtle.
The player does a transformative job with high-grade CD pressings. There’s no metallic edge, no sibilance, not even the vaguest sense of discord. Even the worst excesses of mass-produced platters are largely tamed.
Ditto for SACD playback. Spinning saxophonist Tommy Smith’s modern jazz outing Blue Smith (Linn Records) is probably the next best thing to being in the recording studio for a live session. The soundstage has tangible girth, and resolution in reserve.”
I wanted to duck as I scampered with Wick through Rome’s catacombs, trying to elude assassins whose bullets whizzed over my head and ricocheted behind me off the cavern’s walls. And, as if the HW-N950 wanted to prove it could convey subtle as well as spectacular, it made me feel like I was one of them during the scene portraying a room filled with operators plugging and unplugging their switchboards, chattering on their phones, and clacking on their typewriters. Dialogue was also rendered clearly, too, even when Reeves spoke in low, emotionless tones.
But it was the film’s special effects, of course, that best highlighted the benefits of the HW-N950’s upward- and side-firing speakers. They filled the fairly large (about 25 by 16 feet wide) room with sound like I’ve never experienced before, despite the room being less-than-ideal for bouncing audio waves off the walls and ceiling. The ceiling is just 8 feet high, but it slopes away from the soundbar at the front of the room. There is a nice, full wall about 10 feet to the left of the soundbar, but the right side opens to a hallway. Yet whether I was listening to knives slashing at the air or bullets whizzing overhead, the directional movement was remarkably realistic.