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Stories You Might Have Missed: BDI, Monoprice & Killer Pies

Killer pies, the Stanley Cup Playoffs, a surprisingly robust home theater system from Monoprice, and the best A/V furniture from BDI.

BDI, Monolith and Killer Pies: Stories Might have missed

While not a huge drinker, Saturday night was an evening to celebrate; the Toronto Maple Leafs finally won a playoff series and for a few minutes I was able to forget that the New York Rangers were dismantling my beloved NJ Devils at Madison Square Garden. Game 7 on Monday night will hopefully go our way and I will have someone else to cheer for when the Leafs break my heart again (53 times) in the second round.

Maple Leafs Hockey

Ice hockey became a huge part of my life long before I ever took a step inside Bay Bloor Radio in 1979; my audiophile journey only afforded me another way to enjoy the frozen game through my Yamaha Intergrated Amplifier, Celestion Ditton 33 MKII Loudspeakers, and Sansui AM/FM Tuner.

Baseball and hockey still work for me that way; although I have to rely on the live stream of Leafs’ games through my iPhone or myriad of network streamers scattered throughout our home in 2023 to catch the action.

2023 will also be the year that I finally get to build a proper home office that does not require working and listening in the basement surrounded by 0000s of kid and pet toys; Mrs. White has been an award-winning industrial designer for the past 25 years and it is getting slightly crowded down here with all of the “Hello Kitty,” “Star Wars,” and Marvel-licensed products.

My recent Vandersteen adventure changed my plans for the new space which is going to be built over our existing garage; the hallway in our master bedroom that leads into the bathroom will soon have a new doorway and two stairs leading down into the 19′ x 17′ x 9′ space which is going to have built-in bookshelves on three sides and much better acoustics than my existing office and den. The “office” system will require a piece of A/V furniture that not only matches the decor but is built to last a lifetime.

Enter the BDI Interval 7247.

BDI Interval 7247

BDI Interval 7247 in Black ash and Walnut
BDI Interval 7247 in Black ash and Walnut

BDI gets a lot of attention from audiophiles and home theater enthusiasts because of the quality and flexibility of their products, but I have always been slightly hesitant about that kind of expenditure. 

I do love the mid-century modern aesthetic and we have more than a few pieces that fall into that style of furniture — it was just really hard to envision the children and dog not ruining it.

BDI is located in Chantilly, Virginia, and has been specializing in modern A/V furniture since 1984. When they reached out to see if we would be interested in trying out the new BDI Interval 7247 Modern Media + Storage Cabinet, I began measuring and thinking about where it would reside.

Threats of iPads and video game consoles disappearing in the ocean surf down the street if there was even a scratch on the new piece convinced all 3 children and our feisty West Highland Terrier that this was one piece of “adult” furniture that would not be ruined. 

Having owned more than a few high-end audio racks over the years, including one that ran over $1,000 USD back in 1998, I am more than aware that some racks and media units can have a positive impact on the sound quality of specific components — and a lot of that depends on the materials used in the construction.

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This 66-inch modern media cabinet features an adjustable center glass shelf, a remote-friendly and acoustically transparent handcrafted flip-down door, and a variety of user-friendly features ideally suited for use as the center of any home theater setup.

A simple push effortlessly flips open the door to reveal a host of compartment storage, including a center shelf (models 7247 & 7249) that can be lowered to accommodate speakers up to 14″ / 35.5cm in height.

Our Q Acoustics 3090CI Center Channel Loudspeaker fit perfectly on the center shelf; the top shelf was actually designed for a 60″ wide soundbar without any clearance issues.

BDI Interval 7247 66-inch Media Console Walnut Storage Open

The walnut finish is superb and it took two adults to attach the steel legs and flip the unit carefully on its side.

People wonder if it makes sense to spend $3,000 on a piece of A/V furniture and my first instinct would be to say that one can find more affordable alternatives.

West Elm makes a few mid-century credenzas that look very attractive and there are some sold by CB2 for $1,500 that would work in our current home really well.

But after using the BDI Interval with a wide range of turntables, center channel loudspeakers, network players, integrated amplifiers, and wireless loudspeakers — it is very clear that you are getting a high-end piece of furniture that offers superior ventilation, shelving, and long-term value for your money.

The ability to run 10 sets of interconnects, power cords, and loudspeaker cables through the removable rear panels and keep all of that really neat — you are not getting that from any media unit sold from the better furniture brands at a discount.

Some of the BDI units utilize a glass shelf on the top of the cabinet and I was quite relieved to discover that the Interval 7247 does not; the natural hardwood looks better and does not vibrate in the same manner that a glass shelf would. 

There is more than enough room inside the cabinet for my Roon Nucleus, two phono preamplifiers, and a CD player

BDI’s media units are not inexpensive but you really do get what you pay for with their products; the build quality is superb and the unit is incredibly inert and easy to move around if necessary.

Consider this a benchmark in the category.

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For more information: BDI Interval Series

Monoprice M518HT 5.1 THX System

Monoprice Monolith M518HT 5.1 THX Home Theater Speaker System
Monoprice Monolith M518HT 5.1 THX Home Theater Speaker System

Do you remember the HTiB concept? A lot of manufacturers would like to forget about them because they fell out of favor the moment soundbars started to become more attractive to consumers; in reality they were never a great product and only helped brands dump a lot of cheap loudspeakers and entry-level AVRs into the market.

Monoprice revived that concept with the M518HT 5.1 THX system but without the cheap AVR. You need to supply that yourself.

The M518HT is THX Certified. This speaker system has been submitted and passed THX standards for application and performance for the Compact Certified Performance Class. This means that the speaker system is optimized for rooms up to 1,000 cubic feet in size and an approximate 8-foot distance from the viewing/listening position and the screen/speaker system setup.

Monoprice Monolith THX-M518HT Satellite Speaker front and rear

The M518HT comes with 5 satellite speakers and a subwoofer. However, unlike most all-in-one speaker packages, the M518HT doesn’t have a separately designed center channel speaker. Instead, you can use one of the five satellite speakers that are included. The remaining four satellite speakers are for the left front, right front, left surround, and right surround channels.

Tip: The satellite speakers can be shelf or wall-mounted. Each speaker has a keyhole mount for single screw mounting. 

Setting up the M518HT 5.1 system proved to be somewhat difficult in the basement office but we made it work with some supplied stands (for an additional cost).

The most surprising thing about this system is just how coherent and engaging it is with a decent AVR in the $400 to $500 range.

Monoprice went for a relatively neutral tuning with all five loudspeakers and whilst it certainly sounds better with a warmer sounding amplifier (NAD, Marantz, Denon), this affordable system beats the living pants off any comparable soundbar if you care about resolution, clarity, and spaciousness with movies and music.

Watching “Andor,” “Rogue One,” and “The Mandalorian” through this system really demonstrated why tiny little drivers stuffed into a plastic box fail to reproduce the dynamics, low end impact, and presence that some television programs and films can offer; the M518HT can’t compare at all with something like the Theory Audio Design Soundbar system that is my benchmark — but the price difference is around $15,000 and Monoprice did not design it for that type of customer.

The top end can become somewhat strident if you push the volume too high, but when this system is locked in and you drive it with a high quality AVR — there are very few soundbars between $500 and $750 that are superior.

We’ve seen the M518HT 5.1 THX system on sale recently and that makes it an even bigger bargain.

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For a college student in a small apartment or dorm room, this system is worth every penny and something that you can take with you as you have more space.

If you don’t have a huge budget for a home theater system and don’t love the soundbar concept — this might be one of the best kept secrets around.

Killer Pies

Killer Pies Entrance

We have a pizza problem in New Jersey. The Garden State has far too many pizzerias. Having grown up in the pizza business, I have spent most of my adult life eating pizza, making pizza, teaching others how to make pizza, and genuinely enjoying the hunt for a truly wonderful pie.

New Jersey has also forgotten its roots somewhat; our best slice bests anything made in NYC and that was before the current generation of pizza makers began pushing Neapolitan pizza for $25.

The classic Neapolitan pizza is the Margherita. This is typically topped with tomato sauce, fresh mozzarella cheese, fresh basil, and extra virgin olive oil. Parmesan cheese is also a popular addition as well as many other ingredients. Meat is not a classic topping for those keeping score; unless you live in Asbury Park and think it adds to your faux culinary persona when you add vegan sausage and hot honey to your pie.

Killer Pies Margherita Pizza
Killer Pies Margherita Pizza

Tasty but not my favorite. Pizza has become too sophisticated. Anyone who puts Macaroni and Cheese on a pizza needs therapy. I see it everywhere and it makes me want to ditch pizza for Korean Fried Chicken Wings — unless someone has defiled their honor as well with Kraft Dinner.

The best pizza in New Jersey can be found in Elizabeth and Orange; Santillo’s Brick Oven Pizza and The Star Tavern get my money on a regular basis and I don’t live that close to either one.

But I do know great pizza.

Killer Pies in Asbury Park doesn’t quite reach for the stars like the aforementioned pizzerias, but having gone back four times in less than 2 months — there is something good happening here. They have a lot of local competition that runs all the way from the Atlantic Highlands down through Red Bank, Long Branch, Ocean Township, Belmar, and Bradley Beach.

The pizza isn’t inexpensive but nothing in the Garden State is all that affordable anymore.

The sauce hits me every time. The acidity and slightly spicy flavor just works. The crust has the right texture and crunchy taste that I demand. The baked garlic on the pie will keep the tourists away.

When in Asbury Park for a day at the beach or Stone Pony — Killer Pies is the way to go. Zero wait and you get to watch them make it for you.

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