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Recent AV Gadget Reviews

VidOn Box XBMC Digital Media Player Preview

VidOn Box XBMC Digital Media Player Preview

At first glance, the $49 VidOn Box appears to be little more than an inexpensive competitor to devices like the Apple TV and Roku Streaming Stick. However, if you dig a little deeper, you'll find a device that in many ways can compete with a full blown HTPC. The VidOn Box is built around a quad core ARM processor, octal core GPU, and 1GB of memory; on the software side of the equation, the Box boasts a custom build of XBMC, enabling a wide range of functionality including Blu-ray menu navigation. Want to know all the details? Click to keep reading!

Preview: The VidOn Box is a value priced media player built on the XBMC platform. Boasting full HD output capabilities and a unique menu navigation system, it has the potential to replace your HTPC.

— September 01, 2014 08:00 in AV Gadget Reviews

Marantz NA8005 Network Audio Player & DAC Preview

Marantz NA8005 Network Audio Player & DAC Preview

Marantz's NA8005 network audio player is priced at $1,199 and offers a plethora of streaming options including Apple Airplay, DLNA 1.5 support, and Spotify connect. In addition, the NA8005 can function as an outboard DAC and includes an asynchronous USB port for playing high resolution music (up to 192kHz/24 bit as well as DSD in both 2.8 and 5.6MHz flavors). If you're tired of managing a large physical media collection, Marantz's latest source device might just be the answer you're looking for. Click to read more.

Preview: Marantz's NA8005 network audio player is priced at $1,199 and offers a variety of streaming audio options, as well as outboard DAC functionality.

— August 05, 2014 07:00 in AV Gadget Reviews

Cable Keeper Review: A Hip Cable Organization Solution

Cable Keeper Review: A Hip Cable Organization Solution

As the name implies, the Cable Keeper seeks to remedy the mess of cables that are part and parcel of being an electronics junkie, installer, or Audioholic. In short, it's a functional and stylish solution for organizing and transporting cables. There are some limitations of course. The Cable Keeper isn't designed to accommodate long, thick cables; however, most anything under 15' should fit. I see it being particularly useful for those who frequently find themselves digging around a drawer for a specific cable, or taking cables and other small electronics to and from home or the workplace.

Product Review: The portable Cable Keeper is a functional and stylish cable organization and transportation solution for audio buffs, installers, and electronics junkies. Click to read more.

— June 29, 2014 08:00 in AV Gadget Reviews

Roku Streaming Stick (HDMI Version) Review

Roku Streaming Stick (HDMI Version) Review

Roku's original Streaming Stick was a great streaming device...if you happened to have an MHL port to plug it into. Now Roku has a new version out that can plug into any HDMI port, at the expense of requiring external power via either USB or a conventional wall plug. If you're interested in an A/V streaming solution that's easily hidden and readily transported, do yourself a favor and read (as well as watch watch) the full review.

Review: Roku's Streaming Stick now comes in a regular HDMI version with options for USB power or a conventional wall plug. Click to read (and watch) our impressions.

— June 18, 2014 08:00 in AV Gadget Reviews

Radial Engineering Tonebone PZ-Pre Acoustic Instrument Pre-Amp Review

Radial Engineering Tonebone PZ-Pre Acoustic Instrument Pre-Amp Review

After our review of the African Tongue Drum, I had a challenge on my hands. I wanted to share that instrument with my guitars through a single channel SWR Strawberry Blonde acoustic guitar amplifier. Unfortunately, a simple splitter wouldn't do the trick; the tongue drum uses four passive piezo-electric pressure transducers, with no pre-amp, while my guitars have active piezo-electric systems which include pre-amps. The difference in voltage outputs meant I needed a two channel pre-amp that could handle different sensitivities on the inputs while having separate volume controls to balance the output of both instruments. Fortunately, Google came to the rescue, and I discovered the Radial Tonebone PZ-Pre. Equipped with an arsenal of options, it is a truly remarkable piece of equipment. Take a peak to see what it offers.

The Radial Engineering Tonebone PZ-Pre is a two channel acoustic instrument preamplifier loaded with features in a heavy duty 14 gauge steel chassis. Click to read all the details.

Steve DellaSala — June 15, 2014 21:00 in AV Gadget Reviews

Amazon Fire TV Preview

Amazon Fire TV Preview

The Amazon Fire TV is very competitively priced streaming and gaming all-in-one box at $100 though it doesn't undercut anyone. Roku and Apple TV are the same price and the streaming sticks from Roku and Google are considerably less. If all you want is streaming, you can pay less. If you want the ability to play games (and have an extra $40 to spend for the controller), the Amazon Fire TV is for you.

The Amazon Fire TV is very competitively priced streaming and gaming all-in-one box at $100 though it doesn't undercut anyone. Roku and Apple TV are the same price and the streaming sticks are less.

— June 06, 2014 06:00 in AV Gadget Reviews

MuxLab's HDMI over IP Extender with PoE (Power over Ethernet) Review

MuxLab's HDMI over IP Extender with PoE (Power over Ethernet) Review

MuxLab's HDMI over IP Extender makes a bold promise: to transparently deliver 1080p content 100 meters (per leg of CAT5e/6 cable) from source to destination over a gigabit network. The MuxLab kit isn't exactly inexpensive, with an MSRP of $700; however, compared with the cost of an all-business 100 foot HDMI cable (which isn't rated to deliver 1080p content at that distance), the value proposition doesn't look so bad to us. Can MuxLab deliver on their promise? What are the system's limitations? What's in the box(es)? Click to read the full review.

Product Review: MuxLab's HDMI over IP Extender with PoE isn't inexpensive at $700, but it claims to reliably deliver a 1080p signal to a point over 600' away from the source. Click to read the review.

— May 30, 2014 08:00 in AV Gadget Reviews

OPPO HA-1 Headphone Amplifier Preview

OPPO HA-1 Headphone Amplifier Preview

Calling the OPPO HA-1 simply a headphone amplifier is kind of like referring to my smartphone as just a cell phone. Yes, the HA-1 is technically a headphone amplifier, but for $1,199 you get a lot more, including a state of the art DAC, stereo preamp functions, and a few other nice surprises in a compact chassis. In short, the HA-1 is everything a 21st century stereo preamp should be. Curious to know more? Click to keep reading.

Preview: OPPO's HA-1 headphone amplifier, priced at $1,199, is more than meets the eye, boasting an advanced DAC, preamplifier functions, and a Bluetooth receiver. Click to read all the details.

— May 23, 2014 08:00 in AV Gadget Reviews

Roku Streaming Stick, HDMI Version Preview and Chromecast Comparison

Roku Streaming Stick, HDMI Version Preview and Chromecast Comparison

Roku came out with a Streaming Stick a while back but it required an MHL HDMI input. Google put out the Chromecast which only required an HDMI input and some sort of power source. Roku has matched the Chromecast with their HDMI version of the Streaming Stick. Needing a power source as well, the HDMI version costs $15 more than the Chromecast but has many more streaming services available. While Chromecast has a handful of the major players, Roku has been streaming since streaming became a thing. If you want a streaming stick and access to just about every streaming service on the planet, the Roku Streaming Stick is the solution for you.

Preview: The Roku Streaming Stick (HDMI version) is their answer to the Chromecast. It has access to just about every streaming service on the planet rather than Google's limited streaming offerings

— April 18, 2014 08:00 in AV Gadget Reviews

The African Tongue Drum Goes Electronic Review

The African Tongue Drum Goes Electronic Review

My interest in the African Tongue Drum (AKA Slit Drum) came to be in 1981, when drummer Bill Bruford played what he called, a “toy version” of one on the King Crimson song, “A Sheltering Sky.” That inspirational song motivated me some 32 years later to seek out my very first one while hoping to add built in electronics for easy connection to an amplifier. I shared the idea with Dr. Lee Minton of Wood Art by Lee, and Jessie Vallad of JJB-Electronics and they both agreed to collaborate on such a project. For beginners who love jamming in drum circles or professional musicians looking for unique rhythms, this first of its kind African Tongue Drum with a built in acoustic pickup system and a standard 1/4" jack output connection is the perfect instrument. Have a look and listen to Steve playing this new Audioholics designed Electric Drum.

The African Tongue Drum with electronic pickup system allows one to connect to a loop pedal to do background drum effects. Check out our review of this unique product.

Steve DellaSala — March 23, 2014 08:00 in AV Gadget Reviews

iHome iBN97 Bluetooth Clock Radio Preview

iHome iBN97 Bluetooth Clock Radio Preview

iHome has cornered the market, in my opinion, on docking alarm clocks. They have great features (like dual alarms) and they just work. The new iBN97 is a new model that, for the first time that we've seen, adds NFC to an alarm clock. Of course, it also includes Bluetooth for wireless connectivity from virtually any mobile device. That makes this a fully wireless clock radio that has the same features as most of iHome's docking products—and likely they saved some licensing fees by eliminating the need for a lightning dock. And the best thing is that the iBN97 also costs the same as most of iPhone's other higher-end clock radios. The iBN97 is very similar to the iBT97 except that it adds NFC capability which, with a properly-equipped phone, means that you only have to get it close (placing it in the included docking bracket) to sync the devices together and stream audio to the iBN97.

The new iHome iBN97 Bluetooth clock radio adds NFC to an alarm clock. Of course, it also includes Bluetooth for wireless connectivity from virtually any mobile device. Check it out.

— March 16, 2014 06:00 in AV Gadget Reviews

Denon DA-300USB DAC Preview

Denon DA-300USB DAC Preview

With top-notch circuitry, proprietary Advanced AL32 Processing and High-Precision 32 bit, 192 kHz digital to analogue conversion, analog line outputs, and four digital inputs (including USB-B for your computer), the Denon DA-300USB DAC ticks all the right boxes. At $549, you can find cheaper options but none that have the prestige and know-how of Denon. If you are looking for an external DAC and headphone amp for your headphones, or a way to connect your computer to high quality studio monitors, the Denon is a good option.

The Denon DA-300USB DAC has top-notch circuitry, proprietary Advanced AL32 Processing and High-Precision 32 bit, 192 kHz digital to analogue conversion, analog line outputs, and four digital inputs.

— March 04, 2014 08:00 in AV Gadget Reviews

Seiki U-VISION 4K Upscaling HDMI Cable Preview

Seiki U-VISION 4K Upscaling HDMI Cable Preview

When you put out a display before a technology has matured, you are necessarily going to be behind the curve. Seiki's $1500, 55" 4K display impressed everyone with its price but the built-in scaling and upconversion was pretty disappointing. Rather than release a new display this year with better scaling and leaving all those customers with substandard sets, Seiki's U-VISION 4k upconverting HDMI cable fixes the problem and is being provided for free to owners. Non-owners that want to try it out can buy one for the bargain price of $40. At that price, we're betting there are a number of 4k early adopters that are already pre-ordering theirs.

Seiki's U-VISION 4k upconverting HDMI cable will take a 1080p signal and scale it up to 4k or a 720p signal and scale it to 1080p as well as other image improvement features for only $40.

— February 27, 2014 08:00 in AV Gadget Reviews

Pioneer AVH-X7500BT and SPH-DA210 AppRadio Review

Pioneer AVH-X7500BT and SPH-DA210 AppRadio Review

I got a chance to report from our "remote studio" testing out two of Pioneer's latest in-dash receivers. I'm looking at the AVH-X7500BT, that's a single DIN $500 unit that has a 7" WVGA screen that ejects out of it so that you can use the AppRadio apps. I'm also looking at the SPH-DA210 which has the same 7" screen and is a bit fancier model. It is a double DIN unit and has the omnipresent touch screen that lets you interact with AppRadio.

I got a chance to test out two of Pioneer's latest in-dash receivers, the 1-DIN AVH-X7500BT and the 2-DIN SPH-DA210. Both are $500 units that have a 7" WVGA touch screen with AppRadio capabilities.

— February 16, 2014 14:43 in AV Gadget Reviews