Best Gear of April 2021

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    Best Gear of April 2021

    We didn’t really plan it this way but two of our Top Picks for April have more than just A/V in common — they both sell for less than 200 bucks. Our first low-cost specimen is a no-frills subwoofer from a brand you may not know that delivers surprisingly respectable performance down to 30 Hz. Then there’s an all-around great performing portable speaker from a brand you most definitely do know. Rounding out the mix is a serious desktop speaker setup and a sweet sounding home theater ensemble from an exotic brand whose speakers you thought you couldn’t afford.

    Sonos Roam Portable Wireless Speaker: $169


    Performance
    Features
    Ergonomics
    Value

    The company that invented the wireless multiroom speaker a decade-and-a-half ago is finally starting to hit stride in the popular battery-powered portable category, which it inexplicably ignored for years. Roam is a smaller, lower-priced follow-up to 2019’s excellent Move and it has a heck of a lot going for it.

    For starters, it’s ultra-compact and carries an IP67 rating, meaning it’s immune to dust and water — you can submerge it in 3 feet of water for up to 30 minutes without consequence. On top of that, it boasts up to 10 hours of playtime with a fully charged battery, supports Bluetooth streaming, connects with other Sonos speakers in and around your home via Wi-Fi, and is equipped with the proprietary and highly effective Trueplay auto-calibration system that adjusts EQ on the fly to adapt the sound to any environment.

    But wait, there’s more: Roam doubles as smart device that supports Google Assistant and Amazon’s Alexa voice platform when operating via Wi-Fi and is controlled via the Sonos app, which provides access to Tidal, Qobuz, Spotify, Apple Music, and dozens of other streaming services. Best of all, the speaker sounds amazing for its size and can be linked to a second Roam for true stereo. Reviewer/recording engineer Leslie Shapiro called it one of the best sounding portables she’s ever heard. If portability and sound quality are important to you, the Sonos Roam is an outstanding choice.

    AT A GLANCE
    Plus
    Rich, warm, sound
    Impressive bass
    Streaming via Bluetooth, Wi-Fi, and AirPlay 2
    Water/dust-proof
    Minus
    Lacks treble clarity at high volumes
    Pricey for a portable speaker

    Full Review Here

    IK Multimedia iLoud MTM Desktop Speaker System: $700/pair


    Performance
    Features
    Ergonomics
    Value

    Over the past year we’ve all spent an inordinate amount of time gazing at screens — from TVs (main and secondary) to phones and tablets to your trusty laptop/computer monitor. Except for that big-screen TV, it’s safe to say that sound was (is?) seriously lacking in those other viewing experiences, which brings us to the iLoud MTM desktop speakers from Italy’s IK Multimedia (I’d never heard of them either). At 11 inches tall, the monitors are quite a bit larger than your garden-variety PC speakers and miles ahead in terms of sound quality, with each woofer-tweeter-woofer complement drawing on 100 watts of power to create an amazing near-field listening experience.

    On its own, the driver configuration goes a long way toward improving sound by minimizing potentially destructive reflections from the desktop and other nearby surfaces. Add to that stands that can be adjusted to tilt each speaker between 0 and 20 degrees. But IK doesn’t stop there, equipping the speakers with a DSP-controlled crossover, dynamic-range management, and a number of EQ settings for tailoring the sound to your liking. The system even provides automatic room correction via a supplied measurement microphone in what must be an exceedingly rare (non-existent?) feature for desktop speakers.

    Running the output of his iMac through an outboard digital-to-analog converter, veteran audio reviewer Dan Kumin described the MTMs as “extraordinarily accurate” speakers capable of astonishing bass extension and output. “On my desktop, the IKs sounded clean, dynamic, and free of colorations or distortions, even at the lower frequencies where you’d expect 3.5-inch woofers to consider filing complaints.” He also found that the not-so-little speakers do well with “far-field” listening, meaning they would be a welcome addition in a small room. If your post-pandemic desktop audio setup is in need of an upgrade, put the iLoud MTM speakers on your short list.

    AT A GLANCE
    Plus
    Superbly accurate tonal balance
    Remarkable bass extension
    Highly adaptable onboard EQ options
    Onboard auto room correction
    Minus
    Finite output may not suit far-field listening
    No auto on/off
    No built-in sub integration option

    Full Review Here

    Published at Thu, 29 Apr 2021 16:01:09 +0000

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