Audio Accessory Reviews
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.
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.
Furman, 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.
Earthquake 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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
The 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.
Vibratron, Gravitron, Magnetron, and Bass Station: the sci-fi names alone are enough to raise eyebrows. But when you add in the fantastic appearance of the resonating bowls, and the claims that they can tune your listening room and ameliorate most commonly encountered speaker-room interactions, it's hard not to think that someone is either toying with you or daring you to entertain a new paradigm of acoustic science.
ButtKicker has been making tactile transducers (shakers) for several years now. These are devices that make your chair, couch, or floor vibrate when low frequency material is playing. They were always very powerful, and in fact, more intense than many consumers wanted. You could always just turn down the volume, but then, you were paying for high power shaking that you were not using. So, ButtKicker decided to produce a shaker that is smaller, with less maximum shaking potential, and include a smaller amplifier. The BK-KIT-4 is the result.
I've been suspicious of power conditioners ever since they first appeared – sometime in the Jurassic Park period I think. Just like the science in that movie is a little glossed over, so is the science of AC power glossed over by wild claims for power conditioning products.