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Audio Accessory Reviews

Howard Leight Noise-Blocking Stereo Earmuffs

sync-earmuffs-teaserMost of us use portable players at least now and then to listen to our music, using earbuds. But what if there is a lot of ambient noise, such as on an airplane, or if you are in a Starbucks enjoying a refreshment while you are using your laptop, or if you are playing in a band and want to hear not only your own instrument (in my case, it is the drums), but the other musicians and a click track, while the audience is nearly as loud as you are? Noise-reducing over-the-ear headphones are the answer, and the unit reviewed here, the Howard Leight Sync Noise-Blocking Stereo Earmuffs are an inexpensive and very effective solution.

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Comects Neptune 4 x 2 HDMI Matrix Switcher

comects-neptune-4x2-hdmi-switcher-teaser Comects is a Hong Kong-based company that makes A/V accessories, including switchers. We have reviewed a few of their products, and at this point, I had stopped reviewing HDMI switchers because most receivers and processors have HDMI input switching built-in. However, the Comects Neptune 4x2 HDMI switcher is unique, in that it has four inputs and two outputs, and you can route any of the four inputs to either of the two outputs, simultaneously (meaning that it is called a "matrix" switcher). So, for example, if you have a satellite box, Blu-ray player, and media server in your home theater, and you also have an HDTV in an adjacent room, you can route the Blu-ray player to the receiver (which forwards the video to your HDTV or projector) in your home theater, while the satellite box or media server is routed to the HDTV in the adjacent room.

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Marantz NA7004 Network Music Streamer

Marantz NA7004 Network Audio Player Almost every manufacturer these days is including some type of network support in their products. From receivers that connect to home music servers and disc players that stream music and video from the internet, we have lots of options for enjoying content with our home entertainment systems. While Marantz has been including network support in their products for a while, they have not offered a stand-alone network streamer until now: The NA7004 streams music from your computer, the Internet, and even USB thumb drives.

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NuForce NE-700X Earbuds

nuforce-ne-700x-earbuds-teaserNuForce is a small company that has recently become quite visible due to their special editions of the venerable OPPO Universal Players. But, they also make their own products, including DACs and earbuds. The latter, namely the NuForce NE-700X earbuds, are reviewed here. They are inexpensive, fit in the ear canal in the most comfortable way I have ever experienced, and have low distortion. The price? $65.

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Second-Generation Apple TV Media Streamer

Second-Generation Apple TV Ever since Louis Daguerre took the first photograph and Thomas Edison lowered the needle on the first phonograph, media has been a part of our lives. The reproduction of still and moving images and sound is an art form that we are unlikely to see the zenith of in our lifetimes. Since the early part of the twentieth century, sound and video reproduction usually came in the form of magnetic tape, film or vinyl records. Now with the proliferation of digital storage methods, evolution has accelerated. The Apple TV second generation media streamer tosses the hard drive storage from first generation model. What does it add? Read our review to see for yourself . . . .

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Marc Audio Red Line (Signature) and Black Line (Reference) RCA Interconnects and Red Line Speaker Cables

marc-audio-interconnect-teasermarc-audio-black-line-interconnect-teaser

Marc Audio - Update:  Black Line RCA Interconnects - The Reference Line.

Marc Audio is another new audio cable manufacturer that has just set up shop in October. I received a sample of their first product, an RCA interconnect that is going to be their mid-level line of audio cables, called the Red Line (as of June, 2011, they renamed them as the Signature Line). I thought it might just be more of the same. But, it turned out this one is different, and it is not even their top model. For one thing, it is totally a USA product.

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Panamax M4320-PRO AC Power Conditioner

Paradigm Reference Seismic 110 Subwoofer The Panamax BlueBOLT version 1.2 Remote Power and Energy Management Platform really caught my eye at the 2010 CEDIA Expo. This newest version of the BlueBOLT AC power conditioner system expands on the energy management features and provides new control options. With BlueBOLT, custom electronics installers, integrators and end-users can remotely monitor and control power to their equipment by accessing power management components over the internet from anywhere in the world. Here, we review the Panamaz M4320-PRO AC Power Conditioner.

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Nixeus Fusion HD Digital Player (Multi-media Streamer)

Nixeus Fusion HD Digital Player It seems only appropriate that I follow my recent review of the Apple TV with a look at another digital player, the Nixeus Fusion HD. This product is another example of a multi-media streaming device. It has the ability to play back a wide variety of formats for video, still photos, and audio. To this it adds Internet functionality in the form of a web browser plus access to services like YouTube and Flickr. It also offers file management in the form of BitTorrent and easy connectivity with your networked computers via Ethernet or WiFi.

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Furman F1500 UPS with Additional Battery Power

furman-f1500-ups-teaserFurman, long known for power conditioners, has introduced a series of UPS (Uninterruptible Power Supplies) that go into operation if your home (or office) AC power goes off due to storms or other factors. From the point that your AC goes off, and the Furman supplies AC power to whatever is plugged into it, you have a certain amount of time to shut down the components you have plugged into it. The amount of time you have depends on the current draw of the connected components. The Furman F1500 is rated at 900 watts load. The optional BATT1500-EXT battery pack allows additional time. The F1500 UPS was designed with home theater users in mind, and since a sudden loss of power can corrupt receiver settings and damage bulbs in projectors, the addition of a UPS to your home theater is something to consider.

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Emotiva XDA-1 Differential Reference DAC for the Audiophile

Introduction to the Emotiva XDA-1 Differential Reference DAC for the audiophile

As general rule of thumb, I try not to review equipment from manufacturers of products that I personally own as it can lend an air of bias on my part. I'm just letting you know up front that I own a UMC-1 pre/pro and three amplifiers from Emotiva. I find their products to perform very well and are true bargains in the A/V world.

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Wyred4Sound DAC-2 AND STI-500 Integrated Stereo Amplifier

Wyred4Sound DAC-2 AND STI-500 Review

Recently the external DAC has made a bit of a comeback in popularity. While they were once most commonly paired with a digital transport, now you're more likely to see them hooked up as part of a home media server. With disk space now cheap enough that anyone can keep their entire collection archived in a lossless format, and even keep a backup copy of it around, people are using their PC to serve up their audio collection. However, getting the most out of that lossless archive has been a challenge for many as most computer sound cards left much to be desired in the audio quality realm. In this review, we cover the Wyred4Sound DAC-2 and STI-500 Integrated Stereo Amplifier.

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