Streaming Media Boxes – are reviewed in the new Consumer Reports. More people are watching video delivered to their big-screen TVs from the Internet. They access the content online from a Blu-ray player, video game console, smart TV or a computer. Or they get a set-top streaming media box, of which there’s over a dozen available, priced from $50 to $100. Some offer a push-button option, which, if your home router supports it, allows to connect to your wireless network. Consumer Reports said they all offer great image quality, but of course it is highly compressed and processed and not nearly the quality of Blu-ray or even OTA (over-the air) HD broadcasting. Some boxes give you access to services such as Netflix, Vudu and Hulu, while others are more limited. Some allow access to photos, home movies and music from your cell phone, tablet or computer. Their best box was the Western Digital WD TV Play at $65, which they found easier to use than Apple TV or Roku 3. However, it doesn’t support Amazon Prime. Google has their new Chromecast, which is just $35 but lacks a number of services to compete. As the use of mobile devices keeps growing, there is a bigger concern about the protection of personal information. Consumer Reports also rates some of the top smart-phone security apps.
Acoustic Sounds First to Offer All-DSD Downloads – The Salina, KS high-end retailer who sells more SACDs than any other outlet, has launched their Super HiRez web service which is the first to offer major label Direct Stream Digital downloads, the same technology often used to make the stereo layer of SACDs. They offer 64 times the resolution of standard CDs and of course a huge improvement over compressed formats such as MP3. They have closed a deal with Universal Music Group and expect to have 30 to 40 titles in multiple format from them. The Super HiRez site has a tutorial instructing on what is involved in playing the DSD downloads. Compatible playback software is available for computers, and using a DAC converter the output can be connected to a home audio system. Many will have a music server that can have additional external storage drives to store the greater amount of data involved in the data-heavy DSD downloads. You can also play the files off a USB memory stick plugged into your Blu-ray player, preamp or receiver if it has a USB port. Cost is about $25 per album.
Zoom Hi-Res Portable Recorder – The new Zoom H6 Handy Recorder is a compact device which might appeal to some audiophiles. At $399, it comes with two mic modules, X-Y and MS, and an accessory pack has a windscreen, AC wall wart and remote control for $60. It has four XLR inputs and can mount on a DSLR camera (but you can’t use the viewfinder when it is mounted). It runs on 4 AA batteries and weighs under 10 ounces. It records stereo WAV files from CD quality up to 96K/24bit, MP3s from 48 to 320kb/s on various digital cards. It has bass filters, compression, and peak-limiting modes if you want them. There is also a shotgun-type mic available.
And You Think the Hype in Audio is Bad… – is the title of an article in AudiophileReview.com which is so hilarious it moves me to pass it on in spite of it being in a similar publication. It is on the East Indian promotion of a bottled water called Starfire Water and it rivals the wildest things any high-end audiophile has swallowed concerning certain audio products. Must be seen to be believed! And it’s endorsed by that great scientific mind Mariel Hemmingway (msp) too!