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Audio Accessory Reviews

NuForce Icon HDP USB DAC

NuForce Icon HDP

In the past couple of years, the market for DAC's with USB inputs has really taken off. As people move their whole music library over to a music server, and lossless and high resolution downloads of albums starts to become a reality, getting that audio from your PC to your stereo has become increasingly important. NuForce made a splash with their original Icon DAC, which featured a USB DAC, a couple analog inputs, a 12W amp for a stereo speaker setup, and a headphone output. They have come back and improved upon that by releasing the new HDP model.


Argentum Audio Cables: The Mythos Analog Interconnect, Argento Digital Interconnect, Aureus Speaker Cable, and Proteus Power Cable

Argentum Cabling

Sometime in ancient history, when snakes freely roamed the earth without fear that their oil would be disparaged, John Johnson asked me if I wanted to review the complete line of Ultralink/XLO Argentum audio cables. Since I thrive on comparisons, be they of cabling, amplifiers, or sopranos, I welcomed the assignment. (The Argentum power cable is not necessarily just for audio, but we include it as such here.)


Centronics DHCT5 Cat 5 HDMI Extender

centronics-dhct5-hdmi-extender-teaser For those of us who need to get a high definition program that is stored or being broadcast from a satellite or cable receiver in one room to an HDTV in another room that may be at the other end of the house, simply using a long HDMI cable won't work due to signal loss. However, several manufacturers are now producing HDMI extenders that use Cat 5 (or Cat 6 if you like) cable. Some that I took a look at but chose not to review needed two Cat 5 cables, so I waited. Now, Centronics offers an extender that requires only one Cat 5 cable and will send 1080p up to 100 feet from the source to your HDTV. You plug a short HDMI cable from your satellite box into the Centronics transmitter and another short HDMI cable into the receiver and HDTV at the other end. Custom installers take note: You will want to have a couple of these in your van when you start on a project.


HD Micromega AirStream Wireless DAC

HD Micromega AirStream

At this year's CES in Las Vegas, I had the opportunity to attend an event for an unusual little device being dubbed a "Wireless DAC." Upon arriving, I saw a box of the plainest kind, about the size of a CD player, with one blue LED in the center. After introductions and some chit chat, I did what any of us would do, looked at the back of the unit. The rear panel was about as plain as the front! A protruding half-circle piece I presumed to be the antenna, a couple of analog RCA outs, digital out, and power cable. That was it. What is this strange box and what is it doing at a high end audio show? Well, it's the HD Micromega AirStream WHi-Fi wireless DAC and it's at a high end audio show, because it delivers high end sound.


Monster PowerNet 200 and 300 Kits for Audio and Video Streaming Through Your House AC Wiring

Monster PowerNet Kit Two years ago, there wasn't a single device in my home theater that required an internet connection. Speed ahead to today, however, and my home theater now needs more internet connections than the rest of my household. Two BD Live Blu-ray Players, a DLNA Receiver, a PlayStation 3, Nintendo Wii, Tivo HD, and a plasma with Internet Widgets all want to be online for either content downloads, media streaming, firmware upgrades, or more, and many of these require a lot of bandwidth to work well. Monster Cable's PowerNet 200 and 300 packages allow you to connect your music and video server to your hi-fi system in another part of the house by using the household AC wiring.


Earthquake Sound SWAT 2.4 Wireless Transceiver

earthquake-swat-2.4-transceiver-teaserEarthquake Sound has introduced the SWAT 2.4 Stereo Wireless Transceiver, which consists of a small transmitter and receiver that operate wirelessly up to 100 feet, sending a stereo audio signal, via the 2.4 GHz wireless network band. It is an ideal solution for sending a stereo audio signal from your receiver's Zone 2 stereo output to a hifi system in another room of the house, and it can also be used for the rear channels of your home theater setup, such that you no longer need to run a set of speaker cables to the rear of the room.

It comes with all the connecting cables necessary, as well as two 5 volt DC wall warts for power.


NextGen Twister 360 Degree HDMI Connector

twister-hdmi-360-teaser For those of us who use A/V equipment with HDMI jacks, we all have experienced issues with the cable being forced to bend at stressful angles to go to the next piece of equipment in the signal path. NextGen has solved this difficulty with the Twister, which is an HDMI jack and plug, connected together using a 3600 ball joint.


Innovolt HEM-X1000 High Capacity Power Protection (Surge Protector)

Innovolt HEM X1000 Power Protection While attending CEDIA 2009 in Atlanta I was introduced to Innovolt Inc. a company founded by Georgia Tech professor Dr. Deepak Divan in 2005 to develop surge protection for all types of applications. Although they make a variety of products including LED lighting fixtures, I was most interested in those that applied to our hobby of audio/video. Their HEM-X1000 is a high capacity surge protector, and if you don't think a good surge protector for your home theater components is a wise investment, you should reconsider before disaster strikes.


Sennheiser HD-800 Headphones

Sennheiser HD-800 Headphones 2009 is a good time to be a headphone fan. The supply of high-end headphones is exploding. At the head of the pack is the new Sennheiser HD-800. This is a cost-no-object assault on the state of the art in headphone listening. They are more than twice as expensive as Sennheiser’s previous top of the line, the HD-650.


Gefen HDMI Detective Plus

Gefen HDMI Detective Plus I caught the HTPC bug sometime back and went about building one after receiving component recommendations from Sandy Bird, one of our Senior Editors. The installation went smoothly. Then, one day I encountered an issue I had not seen before. Switching the source input from the HTPC to some other source, such as my DVR, and then back to the HTPC would sometimes give a small 800x600 window centered on the display. The output was no longer 1080p, the resolution I started out with.


PS Audio Power Plant Premier Power Regenerator

PS Audio Power Plant Premier Power RegeneratorThe PS Audio Power Plant Premier (PPP), the company’s latest version of the Power Plant P300 that company head Paul McGowan first introduced in 1997, is a true power regenerator. The PPP takes "dirty" and variable AC power from the wall socket, converts it to DC voltage, and then regenerates a new AC sine wave signal at 120 volts. It also serves as a surge protector and all-around power distribution system.