Thursday, May 23, 2019

Revel C263 6.5 Inch 2-Way Aluminum In-Ceiling Speaker Review

We all like some form of entertainment. Movies are a great way to get away and get lost in a story. If you like movies, you probably have a home theater system at home, or are working on one. A critical part of it are the speakers.

There are multiple types of speakers. The most popular types are bookshelf, tower, and in-wall and in-ceiling. When you are designing your speaker system, a big part to consider is the WAF, or Wife Acceptance Factor. You typically get the best sound from bookshelf or tower speakers. But if you are married, your wife may not like all of those speakers hanging on the walls, or just being visible. Hence, the WAF. This is where in-wall or in-ceiling speakers come in. You don’t notice them.

In-wall or in-ceiling speakers are great for the WAF factor. But with the newer Dolby Atmos or DTS:X surround sound formats, there is now height channels to consider in your surround sound design. There are multiple speaker designs for this new height channel speakers. But the best one is adding a set of in-ceiling speakers. So whether you are looking because of the WAF factor, or you are upgrading an existing system for the new surround sound format, you could be in the market for some in-ceiling speakers. Enter the Revel C263 6.5 inch 2-way in-ceiling speaker.

Features and specs:


6 ½” In-Ceiling Loudspeaker

High-frequency Driver Components

1” Aluminum-Dome Tweeter with Waveguide

Recommended Amplifier Power

10 - 100 Watts RMS

Low Frequency Extension

6-1/2” Aluminum Cone, Cast-Polymer Frame Woofer


C-2 fastening mechanism • Compatible with wall material thickness range: 0.5” – 2.0” (1.3 cm – 5.0 cm)


Cutout dimensions (dia.) 8” (20.3 cm) Square grille finished Height: 9.1” (23.1 cm)


Square grille finished Width: 9.1” (23.1 cm)


Mounting Depth 4.8” (120mm)


3.1 lb (1.4 kg) / Shipping weight: 4.6 lb (2.1 kg)

The Revel C263 came in a standard brown box. Opening the box revealed a very well protected speaker held in place by custom molded cardboard. Materials used in the construction was metal and plastic. Quality of materials used was excellent, as was the fit and finish. It is a very well made speaker. As an in-ceiling speaker, it also includes the crossover network, which is built-into the housing. The crossover network components: The coils, caps, etc are metal with some plastic. The speaker housing is plastic. The speaker itself is a 2-way design, with a tweeter and woofer. The tweeter is 1 inch and woofer is 6.5 inch and both are aluminum. And everything was put together very well and was of excellent quality.

In designing a speaker system, there is voicing to consider. If you are adding to an existing speaker system, such as adding height speakers to upgrade to a Dolby Atmos system, you will want to keep voicing in mind. This means you will want to get new speakers that will sound similar to your existing speakers. That way, when you are watching a movie and you hear the surround sound effects moving from speaker to speaker, it isn’t audibly noticeable when sound goes from one speaker to another. Revel offers models where the drivers are aluminum and micro-ceramic composite, so when given the opportunity to review Revel’s in-ceiling speakers, we went with the Revel C263. Having an aluminum wooer, it would voice more similar to the NHT Classic Three speakers in our reference room, which uses aluminum drivers.

Also included in the box was the owner’s manual, speaker cut –out, and magnetically held in place metal speaker grill. The instructions were very easy to follow. This made for a very simple installation. There were four extremely long screws that went from the front to the back of the speaker housing. At the back of the housing were four legs that these screws went into. As you tightened the screws, it moved the legs, or anchors, towards the front of the speakers housing until it hit the drywall. Tightening the screw tightened the anchor up against the drywall and held the speaker firmly in place. And magnets built into the housing held the speaker grill in place on the front. Speaker wire connections were simple spring loaded terminals which held the speaker wires in place. Now that they are installed and wired, let’s hear how they sound.

To test how they sound I first turned to movies. I went to a couple of my favorite movies: R.E.D. and Ready Player One. Explosions and mayhem are great for testing speakers, but so is a lot of surround sound activity, to test speaker integration with the rest of the system. And then music is also a great way to test sound quality and resolution.  So for music I turned to: Christina Perri: 1000 Years, and Adele: Rolling in the Deep. In the listening tests I was looking for speaker integration as well as sound quality.

I was very impressed with the speaker integration. Voicing was actually very good. The Revel C263’s using aluminum with both drivers was a good match for my reference NHT Classic Three’s. The voicing was not perfect, but it was as good as I was hoping. And the difference was not very noticeable, unless you stopped and really listened for it. They also did not have the dynamics, resolution, or low end extension and output as the NHT Classic Three’s. But for in-ceiling speakers at their price point, they sounded much better than I was expecting! With this kind of sound, Revel has a welcoming home in my theater room.

Listening to music, I first turned to Christina Perri: 1000 Years. Piano sounded very natural with very good harmonics. Owning a baby grand, and being around piano my whole life, I tend to be extremely critical of piano. The Revels did a very good job. Guitar sounded really crisp and clean with better than expected resolution of the strings and pitch definition. The same was true of the violin. Vocals were also very good with a smooth texture that provided very good resolution of the timbre and harmonics. Drums also had good impact and played with good extension and authority.

Next up was Adele: Rolling in the Deep. Guitar was crisp and clean with very good resolution of the strings. Kick drum had good impact, low end extension, and played with sufficient authority and dynamics. High hat and cymbals were also really crisp and detailed. Piano was also very natural sounding with nice harmonics. And Adele’s vocals came out with excellent texture and timbre.

For movies, I first turned to one of my favorite: Ready Player One. The race scene at the beginning of the movie is one of the best. There’s a lot of mayhem as cars are racing, whizzing and crashing all around you. And then there are all of the coins from the crashed cars as they get collected. King Kong running around the screen and across the speakers is also really cool.  The Revel C263’s did a great job in turning all of that mayhem into realistic sound that gets you caught up in the movie.

The next movie I turned to was R.E.D. One of my favorite scenes is the stand-off scene between the old man Marvin played by John Malkovich and the lady CIA Agent, with his 460 S&W Magnum vs. her RPG. On that action scene, there’s great surround sound effects as there are bullets flying all around you. There’s explosions from grenades. And then the awesome scene with the great shot of his bullet exploding the RPG in mid air. The speakers were dynamic and did a great job!

I was more impressed with the Revel C263’s, as Revel’s entry level in-ceiling speaker for only $175 MSRP. They provided great sound, especially for their price point. Even when really pushed at high volumes they sounded great without strain. If you are in the market for some in-ceiling speakers, the Revel C263 should be on your short list. Based on their design, features, quality and performance, the Revel C263 has earned our Highly Recommended Award. For more info and complete specs, check out their website at Reference gear used: Onkyo TX-RZ920 receiver, Emotiva BasX A-500 5 channel amplifier, Oppo Digital BDP-103D transport, NHT Classic Three and Classic Three C speaker system, and SVS PC Plus 16-46 subwoofer.

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Saturday, May 11, 2019

Emotiva BasX A-500 5 Channel Home Theater Amp Review

We’ve come a long way since the beginning of Dolby with Dolby Stereo. The sound keeps getting better, not just in the number of channels, but also the quality of the sound as well. We now have easy access to 11 channels for full surround sound envelopment with Dolby Atmos and DTS:X. And modern surround sound receivers also allow use of discrete separate amps for better sound. So whether you want to improve the sound of your 5.1 of 7.1 surround sound, or you want to upgrade to the latest 7.1.4 of Dolby Atmos or DTS:X, you will probably need a separate amp. Enter the Emotiva BasX A-500.

Emotiva is an audio product manufacturer that focuses on the budget minded audiophile. If you consider yourself an audiophile and are looking for a high quality product that gives a huge bang for your buck, Emotiva is who you are looking for. And a great amp of theirs from their budget BasX line is the BasX A-500. If you want to improve the sound of your main 5.1 channels, it’s a perfect fit for that. But if you want to make the jump to Dolby Atmos or DTS:X and add 4 ceiling height channel speakers, the Emotiva BasX A-500 will work great for that as well.

Features and specs:

Circuit Topology

The BasX A-500 is a five channel power amplifier. The BasX A-500 combines classical audiophile amplifier architecture, based on a heavy-duty linear power supply, and a carefully designed high current short signal path Class A/B output stage, with advanced microprocessor-controlled monitoring and protection circuitry, to deliver superb sound quality at a truly reasonable price.

Audio Specifications

Power Output (two channels driven):

110 watts RMS per channel; 20 Hz – 20 kHz; THD < 0.1%; into 8 Ohms.

190 watts RMS per channel; 1 kHz; THD < 1%; into 4 Ohms.

Power Output (all channels driven):

80 watts RMS per channel; 20 Hz – 20 kHz; THD < 0.1%; into 8 Ohms.

Power Bandwidth (at rated power; 8 Ohm load): 20 Hz to 20 kHz (+ / – 0.07 dB)

Broad Band Frequency Response: 5 Hz to 80 kHz +0/-1.8 dB

THD + noise: < 0.02% (A-weighted); ref rated power

Signal to Noise Ratio (8 Ohm load):

> 120 dB; ref rated power; (A-weighted).

> 100 dB; ref 1 watt; (A-weighted).

Minimum Recommended Load Impedance (per channel): 4 Ohms

(which equals one 4 Ohm load or two paralleled 8 Ohm loads).

Damping Factor (8 Ohm load): > 500.

Input Sensitivity (for rated power; 8 Ohm load): 1.2 V.

Gain: 29 dB.

Input Impedance: 27 kOhms.

Input And Output Connections

Input Connections: Unbalanced (RCA); one each per channel.

Speaker Output Connections: Audiophile grade 5-way binding posts.


Trigger Input: 5 – 12 V (AC or DC); <10 current="" font="" input="" ma="" required.="">

Trigger Output: 12 VDC; can drive any load up to 120 mA.

Power Requirements

115 VAC or 230 VAC @ 50 / 60 Hz (automatically detected).

Front Panel Controls and Indicators

Standby: push button (halo ring changes color to indicate Standby or On).

Status LEDs: one per channel; blue.

Status LEDs change to red to indicate a fault condition.

Rear Panel Controls

AC Power switch: rocker switch (switches AC main power).

Status LEDs switch: disables front panel Status LEDs.


The BasX A-500 is protected against excessive operating temperature, shorted speaker connections, ground faults, and other common fault conditions.



17” wide x 4” high x 15-1/2” deep (not including connectors).

21-1/2” wide x 8” high x 21” deep (boxed).


26.5 lbs (unboxed)

35 lbs (boxed)

The Emotiva BasX A-500 came double boxed in a standard brown cardboard box. Opening the box revealed a well protected amp, held securely in place by custom molded Styrofoam, and wrapped in a black cloth bag. Pulling out and unwrapping the amp revealed a very well made product. Materials used in the construction were almost all metal, with a very high quality brushed black aluminum face plate. Quality of materials used was also excellent, as was fit and finish. The Emotive BasX is a very well made product and it shows. Taking off the cover plate showed high quality internal components, with tight connections. Connections on the back were also very good. I was amazed at the quality for only $499, and starting to get very excited to hear how it sounds. Also included in the box was the power cord, remote turn on cable, owner’s manual, and a couple spare fuses. 

 Setting up the amp in my rack was very simple. It was just a matter of connection the RCA line outs on the receiver to the line ins on the back of the amp. Then connecting the remote out of the receiver to the remote in on the amp, and then plugging it in. Having a Dolby Atmos or DTS:X 7.1.4 system in our reference room, we will be able to test the Emotiva BasX A-500 for both scenarios.

Our reference receiver is the Onkyo TX-RZ920, which has an internal THX amp rated at 135 watts, 2 channels driven at 1 kHz. The Emotiva BasX A-500 is rated at 110 watts a channel, but is rated at 20-20000 Hz. The power output should be fairly close for both the Onkyo and Emotiva, even though the rated output is a little different. This should be a fairly good apples to apples comparison. That way we can tell how the Emotiva BasX A-500 compares to an internal receiver amp. And then we’ll test how well it does as an upgrade add-on for Dolby Atmos or DTS:X. Now that it’s all connected, let’s hear how it sounds.

I started off with measurements from my sound meter, and measured during a few clips of a couple of my favorite movies: RED and Ready Player One. Reference gear used was an Onkyo TX-RZ920 THX Receiver, Oppo Digital BDP-103D transport, NHT Classic Three’s and NHT Classic Three C, in a 5.1 system and SVS 16-46 PC Plus as the subwoofer. I first measured using just the internal amp at a set volume level on the receiver. I took measurement readings for peak volume during a few clips for each movie. After I was done measuring the several clips in both movies, I hooked up the Emotiva BasX A-500. I went through the same clips of each movie, listening to each clip a few times and noting the peak volume of each clip at center listening position. The measurements came out really close, as I expected. Through out all of the clips, there was only a 1db difference in volume at the same output level, and it was the Emotiva amp that had the lower volume output. But that could be due to the slight signal loss going from the receiver to the amp through the RCA’s. But again, the difference is minimal, barely noticeable if you are listening for it and doing an AB test the way I was. Now let’s see how they actually sound. 

I was impressed with the sound of the internal amp of the Onkyo TX-RZ920. In fairly recent years, Onkyo made the jump to using a digital amp.  While it’s a digital Class D topology, it still has a very good neutral sound. For those who don’t want more, it’s a good amp. And is even THX certified.

If you want to get the best performance out of your home theater, getting a dedicated amp is the way to go. The Emotive BasX A-500 is a great economical way to do it! With an MSRP of only $499, it’s a steal! As stated previously, the output in volume is just a hair under the output of the internal amp at the same volume level of the receiver. But that’s just part of the story. There is a lot more head room with the Emotiva.

Listening to the Emotiva BasX A-500, I heard the same neutral sound as the internal amp, but there was also a lot more. Music had more clarity and resolution. The midbass was fuller with more punch. Dynamics in movies was also greater. The difference was not huge, but it was there and noticeable. And in cranking up the volume to much louder than I listen to, it was still really clean, with crisp highs, smooth mids, very articulate vocals, and tight punchy midbass.  Transparency level from the amp was also very good!  And not only that, but it sounded just really full, with plenty of reserves still on tap.

It’s kind of like the analogy I like to use with engines, and horse power and torque. You can get a big horsepower engine without a lot of torque. And while it’ll have power in the horsepower, with a lack of torque it’s lacking muscle behind it. So while the internal amp sounds good and will play loud, it doesn’t have the reserves or muscle behind it like you get with and engine that has a lot of torque. You won’t have the same full sound or the perceived headroom behind it so it won’t sound a tad thin. You can definitely tell using the Emotiva as dedicated amp gives you a lot of brawn on tap.

The Emotiva BasX is an outstanding dedicated theater room Amp. If you’re happy with the performance of your internal amp, but want to make the jump to Dolby Atmos, or DTS:X, the Emotiva BasX A-500 is a great add-on amp to power the 4 height channels. And given the close output levels as previously discussed, it’s also a great match to the internal amp, when used to power the height channels, as they are both close to the same wattages.

 Using the Emotiva BasX as an add-on amp to power 4 height channel speakers proved to be an excellent fit. Getting it all wired up, and running the calibration software, it was now time to test the amp with Dolby Atmos in 5.1.4. As Darth Vader said to Luke, “Impressive, most impressive.” The Emotiva BasX A-500 made my Revel C263’s really sing! Highs were crisp and clean, mids were very smooth and bass had good extension and punch in the midbass. There was plenty of power on tap for the Revels, and the sound provided with Dolby Atmos was holographic, fully enveloping you in all of the action!

 In the end, the Emotiva BasX A-500 provides a real synergy! It provides an excellent build quality for a product that will provide years of use. But it sounds just as good, giving a performance that is more than the sum of the parts. It’s not perfect, but given its low MSRP of only $499, it’s bang for the buck is off the charts! And it provides a lot of functionality. If you’re looking to up your game in your home theater setup, the Emotiva BasX A-500 should be on your short list. But I do have a word of caution.  If you are using your surround sound receiver to power your mains and get a BasX amp for the height channels, don’t try out the BasX on your mains.  If you do, you may just end up keeping it there and getting another BasX for the height channels! Like a BasX A-700 for the mains and a A-500 for the heights in a 7.1.4 setup. Based on its design, features, quality and performance, the Emotiva BasX A-500 has earned our Editor’s Choice Award. For more info and complete specs, check out their website at
*Sample product provided did not have any influence on the resulting review

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Sunday, April 28, 2019

Spyclops 4 Channel 2MP POE NVR Security Camera Kit Review

We all like to feel safe. Security is a big factor in our daily lives, whether we are at home or traveling, we want to feel safe. Unfortunately, we don’t live in Mayberry. And we can’t go back in time to good ol 1955 like Marty McFly. Crime is a ton higher now than it used to be. In today’s day, even your packages sitting on your doorstop are in danger! Doorbell cameras have become very popular, but that isn’t always good enough for anything other than a doorstop package. Enter the Spyclops 4 Channel 2MP POE NVR Kit: SPY-NVR4POEKIT1.

If security is important to you, you know what I am talking about. If it’s not, all you have to do is turn on the news. A doorbell camera is convenient, and better than nothing, but it is limited in capabilities. It only covers your front door. Your home more than likely has more entry points than just your front door. And if something happens while you are away from home, being able to access recorded footage can be critical. Spyclops is a brand of Metra Home Theater group, which provides products for your home audio and video needs.
Spyclops has products available for your security needs. There are multiple parts of a home security system. First is the camera itself. Next is the storage device to hold the recorded video. There is also the wiring needed to get power to the cameras, and the video from the camera to the Digital Video Recorder. You will also need a video monitor to view the camera footage, but you can provide that yourself. Everything else that is needed for your security camera system and it’s installation can be provided by Spyclops.
There are also different types of cameras, such as wired and wireless. With a standalone wireless camera, you need to have a very robust wi-fi. Anytime your wi-fi goes down, so do your cameras. With a Wireless camera kit, a dedicated wireless signal is created and is dependent on the NVR: SPY-NVR4720WB, SPY-NVR8720WB.  And they would still need power run to them. Our preference is a POE (Power over Ethernet) Camera, which uses a single cable for power and video. Up for review today is their simple and convenient all in one kit, the 4 Channel 2MP POE NVR Kit: SPY-NVR4POEKIT1.

This Spyclops kit comes with everything you need. It comes with 4 cameras, a 4 channel NVR (Network Video Recorder), and the cables needed to connect the cameras to the NVR. The cables are even crimped on both ends with the needed connectors for the NVR and the camera. All of these 4 cables are also fairly long at 59 feet. But if you do have a longer run, a longer cable is needed. They also have bulk cable available if there is a longer run.

Features and specs:

NVR Specifications:

4 channel POE LAN ports connection

HD 2MP 1080P resolution all cameras

VGA and HDMI® Outputs

Free remote view app for Android and iOS

1 TB hard drive included

Camera Specifications:

HD 2MP 1080P resolution 30FPS

3.6mm Fixed lens

IR LED’s for night vision up to 20 meters at night

Auto 3D DNR

RJ45 POE connection

IP66 rated for indoor/outdoor installations

The Spyclops SPY-NVR4POEKIT1 came in a great looking color printed box with features and photos of the kit. Opening the box revealed a well protected product held in boxes for each camera and wrapped in bubble wrap.

Materials used in the construction of the cameras were mostly metal, with some plastic. Quality of the materials used was excellent. The NVR was made of mostly metal with some plastic. Quality of the materials used in the NVR was not quite as high of quality as the cameras as the gauge of steel housing of the NVR was a bit thin, but was sufficient. Also included in the kit was the installation guide, cables, power cord and window stickers.

Installation was fairly straight forward. A fairly handy do-it-yourself handyman can handle it. For a flush mount install, you will have to drill a hole for the wire. And the cameras are designed to mount flush with the building. Wherever you decide you want to monitor your cameras from, you will need to run wire from each camera to that room. The ethernet wires from each of the four cameras plug into the back of the NVR. There are also connections on the back to the NVR for the monitor, mouse, and power cord.

The hardest part of the install is drilling the hole for the wire for each camera, and running the wire through your building. If it seems too much for you, there’s always local professionals who can help with the install. Once it’s all installed and wired up, it’s time to power it on. And the remote control can help you control the system.

The setup is not too difficult. The included setup guide was fairly straight forward and simple enough to follow. And if you do have difficulties, there is a customer service number listed in the guide that you can call for tech support. Right clicking the mouse will get you a pop-up box with links to the different screens, for system setup, video playback, video backup, color adjust, PTZ control, manual record, volume, setup wizard and fast network.

I was extremely pleased with design of the system. It’s very simple with very little setup. Once the cameras were installed, wires connected to the back of the NVR, and it was turned on. The video from the 4 cameras was automatically loaded onto the screen. The video from the camera is also automatically started to record. You can also set the cameras to record based on time, motion, or sensor. The video playback screen was also simple to navigate, and lets you look through previously recorded video. There’s even a video back up feature, to back up video for authorities in case of an incident. And to make monitoring simple, there’s also a cool app where you can monitor your cameras from your phone.

The video quality was also very good. The design of the cameras made for easy adjustment so you can get the right angle that you need. And the resolution was good. You definitely need good resolution. Think about what you are doing – you want a security system for your property in case of an incident. If something were to happen, you need to be able to see what is going on and who is involved. You don’t want to skimp on the quality of cameras.

The cameras in the Spyclops kits are of excellent quality. The optics gave a good quality image with good resolution to see the details of the image on screen. I was impressed at how much light they picked up.  Looking out my window at dusk….it was pretty dark out.  But looking at the live video feed, outside looked like it was an hour earlier having much more daylight. The night vision also worked extremely well. So well, that I questioned it. I saw how bright the image was, with still good detail. I realized I had left the porch light on, and knew it was due to the extra light from the porch light. I went and turned off the porch light. The video feed looked exactly the same! The infrared night vision just worked very well!  And seeing the house across the street proved they had good distance as well.  Having 24/7 security monitoring is very comforting!

The Spyclops kit proved to be an excellent product! It was actually better than expected. The hardware quality was very well made, the software worked very well, as did the mobile app for the mobile monitoring. It really is a complete system. Based on its design, features, quality and performance, the Spyclops 4 Channel 2MP POE NVR Kit: SPY-NVR4POEKIT1 has earned our highly recommended award. For more info and complete specs, check out their website at

*Metra Home Theater Group providing the kit with no charge did not have an impact on the review.

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Thursday, April 25, 2019

Otterbox Defender Series LG V40 ThinQ Case Review

Smartphones are getting more and more expensive. And the displays are getting bigger and bigger. This makes the need for a protective case even more critical. While any case is better than none, they are not all created equal. If you want one of the best, you need to look at Otterbox. Up for review today is their Defender Series.

 Features and specs:

Raised edge for added screen protection

Multi-layer case with solid inner shell and resilient outer slipcover

Port covers block dirt, dust and lint from getting into jacks and ports

Polycarbonate shell

Synthetic rubber slipcover

 The Otterbox Defender Series comes in a clear plastic box with it’s specs ,and the ability to actually see the case inside. Opening the box revealed a well made case. Materials used is both a hard plastic, as well as a softer rubber cover, and foam. Quality of materials used as well as the fit and finish was excellent.

 I love the design of the Otterbox Defender. When I got the new LG V40 ThinQ, it was time for a case. Knowing of their quality of protection, I naturally looked to Otterbox. There is a hard, plastic skeleton with a built in foam pad that the smartphone sits on, to protect against impacts. The skeleton is two pieces, one on the front and one on the back, and they snap together. The soft outer shell slides into place.  I also love there belt loop case holder, that holds your case securely in place.
When it is all put together, there’s the soft rubber outer layer with hard plastic shell. The level of protection is excellent. I know the LG V40 ThinQ has some of the best protection available. Everything clicked into place and melded together perfectly. The MSRP is a little pricey at $59.95, but it is worth every penny. And the option of colors are Black or Bespoke Way blue.

If you are looking for some of the best protection available for your smartphone, the Otterbox Defender Series should be on your short list. Based on it’s design, features, quality and performance, the Otterbox Defender Series has earned our Editor’s Choice Award. For more info and complete specs, check out their website at

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