Best Gear of November 2020

As pandemic panic sweeps across the nation, we look for inspiration from the approaching Winter Solstice and ever-resilient holiday spirit. In recent weeks we found some in a handful of exemplary A/V products, including one that puts your father’s video projection system on a bold new path. All are certified Sound & Vision Top Picks and all are ready to ignite your imagination. Here’s to making the best of a trying situation with hopes for smaller yet meaningful gatherings with family and friends on this national holiday. Happy Thanksgiving!

NAD Masters M33 Streaming Integrated Amplifier: $4,999


Performance
Features
Ergonomics
Value

NAD’s eagerly anticipated Master Series M33 is a stereo tour de force combining state-of-the-art power and 32-bit digital-to-audio conversion with an impressive array of connectors and multiroom streaming via NAD’s BluOs platform or AirPlay 2 in an elegant chassis with a striking color touchscreen. The M33 delivers 200 watts a side (or a menacing 700 watts bridged!) courtesy of audiophile-approved Eigentakt amp modules from Denmark’s Purifi’s and counts balanced XLR and moving magnet/coil phono inputs among its many connections. In addition to providing access to top music streaming services — including Tidal, Spotify, and Qobuz — BluOS is MQA-compliant and supports aptX HD-enabled Bluetooth.

The icing on this hi-res audio cake is a futureproof modular design with two expansion slots and cutting-edge Dirac Live room correction. NAD provides a remote handset but you can opt to use the companion app for control or go hands-free with voice control powered by either Alexa or Google Assistant. The payoff? Sonic perfection from a “just add speakers” control center built for enthusiasts. Reviewer Dan Kumin summed it up this way: “The M33 proved utterly devoid of any sonic shortcomings, producing all the clean, dynamic, perfectly detailed power I could use, and with all the depth and detail that comes from technically transparent D-to-A processing and outstanding dynamic range.” High praise, indeed.

AT A GLANCE

Plus

Reference-quality power and D-to-A conversion
Excellent phono section
Dirac Live room correction
Minus

Coarse “app” volume control steps
No USB type-B port for computer connection
Occasionally wonky AirPlay 2 streaming

Full Review Here

Denon AVR-X6700H 11.2-channel A/V Receiver: $2,499


Performance
Features
Ergonomics
Value

At a time when seemingly everything is made in China, Denon’s X6700H is actually made in Japan, harkening back to an era when most top-brand receivers were designed and assembled there. The X-Series flagship is a forward looking AVR featuring pass-through support for 8K and all high dynamic range (HDR) formats (including Dolby Vision and HDR10+), HDMI 2.1 connectivity, and support for the super high-end immersive audio format DTS:X Pro following a software update that landed on November 11. As veteran reviewer Tom Norton put it, the X6700H is a “highly sophisticated switcher/distributor that can pass through any signal format currently available or likely to appear in the foreseeable future.” No small thing.

With 11 channels of power onboard (140 watts into 8 ohms with two channels driven), the X6700H is flexible enough to accommodate a number of speaker configurations up to 7.2.4 or 5.2.6. Or, you can go with fewer surround channels, say 5.2.4, and use the two extra channels to power a second audio zone. The receiver is guaranteed to delight enthusiasts with eight HDMI inputs, two preamp outs for extending its processing power to 13 channels (with an outboard amplifier), and two independently adjustable subwoofer outputs. It also supports audio playback up to 24-bit/192 kHz or 2.8/5.6-MHz DSD and is ready to decode Dolby Atmos, DTS:X, Auro-3D, and IMAX Enhanced soundtracks in addition to being equipped with Audyssey MultEQ XT32 room correction and wireless multiroom streaming via Denon’s HEOS platform.

Auditioned using a 5.2.4 layout with four overhead speakers and two subwoofers, the X6700H gave Norton’s everyday $8,000-plus separates-based rig a run for its money: “Crushing dynamic bursts in Blade Runner 2049 were as clean and startling as I’ve ever heard them in my room. The Greatest Showman was equally thrilling with its mix of clear vocals, moving underscore, and powerful bass. The Denon also did an excellent job with both Dolby Atmos and DTS:X immersive audio [with] the overhead speakers offering a convincing presentation of the chaos” in Tangled and Oblivion.”

AT A GLANCE

Plus

Superb performance
Preamplifier Mode
Excellent onscreen setup guidance
Minus

Runs hot
Non-backlit remote

Full Review Here