Home Theater Systems

CEntrance DACMini USB DAC

CEntrance is a Chicago based company with engineering in the US and Moscow, Russia, design in Holland, and manufacturing facilities in Asia but final assembly in the US . Let's just say 'multi-national'. They got their start in pro audio making microphone/guitar pre-amps with analog to digital converters, the MicPort Pro and AxePort Pro in amazingly small packages. Designed to plug inline on the microphone or guitar cord with a USB output (the units are powered by the USB connection) they provide the smallest possible recording studio, enabling musicians to plug a microphone or guitar 'directly' into a computer as if they were plugging into tape deck. Here, we review the CEntrance DACMini.

Chrome Audio

Australia's premier source of HDMI cables, speaker cables, plasma mounts, LCD TV brackets, banana plugs and general audio accessories.Â

Toshiba BDX-2700 Blu-ray Player

During the HD-DVD vs. Blu-ray format war, Toshiba was the main supporter of HD-DVD and producer of hardware. Beyond being just an HD-DVD player, their units were well known for being high quality standard DVD players with very good up conversion of legacy titles. The present review covers the Toshiba BDX-2700 Blu-ray player.

Sabian 19″ Vault Holy China Crash Cymbal

In the 1950's Avedis Zildjian got together with Gene Krupa to make something that would be called a Pang cymbal. It looked like a regular cymbal with the edge turned upward, and it had a distinctive Far East sound quality. The Swish cymbal, a variation on the Pang, was also developed, and it had a higher pitch with more wash. Jazz drummers started using Pangs in their kit, and these days, many drummers have several of them, calling them simply China cymbals. While the first one didn't look distinctive except for the turned up edges, the China cymbals of today have all kinds of distinctive characteristics, including engravings. Sabian collaborated with Chad Smith and introduced what they call the Holy China cymbal, because it has holes in it. Drilling holes and slots in cymbals, calling them Special Effects cymbals, is very popular now, and Sabian has done this with the Holy China line. Available in 19" and 21" sizes, the present review covers the 19".

Integra DTR-50.1 7.2 A/V Receiver

Integra is a major electronics manufacturer which markets and sells their products through custom installation supply chains. Their focus goes beyond sheer performance and encompasses upgradability, system integration and multi-zone capabilities. These are qualities that are widely needed and used within the custom installation industry. The Integra DTR-50.1 Receiver is right in the middle of the lineup of Integra's receiver offerings.

Kef IQ Series Speakers and HTBSE-W Wireless Subwoofer

KEF is the venerable British-based loudspeaker company founded in 1961 by former BBC electrical engineer Raymond Cooke. The company first became famous for its monitors and Reference series speakers. In 1988, KEF introduced the revolutionary Uni-Q system, which mounted a neodymium-based tweeter in the center of the woofer voice coil. Since then, KEF has expanded its product line to include the ultra high-end Muon down to the entry level C Series speakers. The subject of this review, KEF's Q Series speakers, is the next step up from the C Series. As the name implies, it offers the Uni-Q technology in each of the five main speakers.

Emotiva X-Series A/V Cables

Emotiva, which started out marketing amplifiers, expanded to include preamplifiers, SSPs, speakers, and now, to complete the line, a complete series of cables. These include coaxial analog RCA, coaxial digital RCA, digital Toslink, balanced XLR, HDMI, and speaker cables. They come in two models, one being the X-Series that we review here, and the Ultra-Series, which is the entry level. I found the cables to be extremely well constructed, with gold-plated contacts, and rugged enough to be man-handled through the typical maze of wires that we all have behind our equipment racks. The sound in my reference system using the Emotiva cables was excellent. The prices are very reasonable, and are a better value than what I see in blister packs at various mass market electronic stores.


VIZIO has introduced a 55" (diagonal) LCD HDTV (1080p) that uses 960 LEDs in 80 control blocks as the backlighting. The control blocks change their brightness according to the brightness of the part of the scene that they responsible for illuminating. The result is absolute black, where there is supposed to be black. We measured a contrast ratio of nearly 300,000:1. It also has 240 Hz refresh rate (120 Hz plus backlight scanning) which allows for interpolated frames in between actual frames, and this delivers smooth motion during panning or objects moving across the screen. Best of all, it is available (street price) at $1,899 which is not an increase over last year's technology at the same screen size.

Cambridge Audio DacMagic

Cambridge Audio has come up with a product that has wowed everyone: the DacMagic. For $479, you get a DAC that is fully differential (a stereo DAC on each of the two channels), upsampling to 24/192, very low specified distortion, and selectable output filters. Does it perform as claimed? Read our review to see for yourself.

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Meet the Industry Professionals

Welcome to the Secrets page called "Meet the Industry Professionals". Here you will be able to see and hear the company executives who design and sell home theater and audio components. This will let you put a face with the companies whose products you buy. Secrets is the first A/V publication anywhere in the world to have such a page. Clicking below will take you to the companies we have interviewed at different times.

Panasonic 65PY700 65″ 1080p Plasma HDTV

A typical display will go quite easily into my house. When I call up the local importer, they are usually quite inclined to lend me their displays. The 65PY700 was no exception, but it did require quite a bit of work to verify that it would fit into my test lab area. The hallway and staircase leading up to the second floor are quite tight, and I've never actually tried a display larger than 55" in height . . .