Cables & Accessory Reviews

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Steven Plaskin Posted: Apr 14, 2014 4 comments
The Overdrive USB DAC/Pre is the creation of engineer-designer Steve Nugent of Empirical Audio. Empirical Audio was formed in 1994 and initially concentrated on the sales of patented cable products designed by Steve Nugent. Steve’s background included a degree in Electrical Engineering with 25 years of digital design experience. His resume included work for the Intel Corp. where he served as a design-team lead in the development of the Pentium II processor. Steve has also been a passionate audiophile for over 39 years and this interest lead him into the modification of other manufacturer’s audio products in 2002. His modifications not only included DACs, but preamps, power amps and CD players / transports. The modification of numerous designs gave Steve a wonderful opportunity to see what sounded best in audio and DAC design. During this time, Steve developed the Off Ramp Turbo USB Converter; a device that offered a USB interface to digital products. In 2009, Empirical Audio ceased equipment modification and concentrated on original computer audio product design.
Steven Plaskin Posted: Mar 10, 2014 13 comments
The Synergistic Research UEF (Uniform Energy Field) Technology Active Tuning Circuits are the new replacements for the Enigma Tuning Circuits (Bullets) provided with the Synergistic Research Element and Galileo Series cables and AC cords, Digital Power Tools, Tranquility Bases, PowerCell line conditioners, and older Tesla Series LE cables and AC cords. The Enigma Tuning Circuits or Bullets were used to fine tune the sound of the Active Shields in Synergistic Research cables, AC cords and active devices. I have previously described the action of the Enigma Tuning Circuits in my reviews of the Tranquility Base (see review), the USB Active SE cable (see review), and the Element C.T.S. Digital AC cord (see review).
Steven Plaskin Posted: Dec 10, 2013 4 comments
Why the Need for a Specialized AC Cord?
The Digital AC-X cord is JPS Labs’ specialized cable for digital components designed to provide a “smoother, more analog environment for audio and video” components. JPS Labs is a manufacturer of a complete line of AC cords, interconnects, speaker cables and digital audio cables. They also manufacture the Abyss headphone, a state-of-the art design that is priced to match. JPS Labs has been in business since 1990 and manufactures their products in East Aurora, New York.
Michael Lavorgna Posted: Nov 05, 2013 16 comments
The SOtM tX-USBexp Audiophile PCIe to USB Audio Card
The SOtM PCIe to USB 3.0 Card is compatible with Windows 7/8 and Linux. You can power the SOtM card in three ways; through the 4-pin IDE connector that uses your computer's dirty power, externally using a 9V power supply (like the one that came with your cell phone), or with a high quality linear battery-power supply like the SOtM mBPS-d2s Intelligent Battery Power Supply which I'll also be talking about in this review.
Steven Plaskin Posted: Oct 21, 2013 41 comments
2013 Rocky Mountain Audio Fest Introduction
The Synergistic Research High Frequency Transducer (HFT) and Frequency Equalizer (FEQ) are two new products that were recently introduced at the 2013 Rocky Mountain Audio Fest in Denver (see show report). Synergistic Research decided to make a not-so-subtle point by using a Bose Wave Radio placed on a Tranquility Base to demonstrate these new products. Ted Denny III, Lead Designer at Synergistic Research, wanted no confusion that might occur using a high end audio system. Ted felt that if his new products could transform the sound of a Bose Wave Radio, a true high end audio system would experience even greater benefits from these products.
Michael Lavorgna Posted: Sep 30, 2013 100 comments
Expensive Ethernet Cables
I hemmed and hawed. I procrastinated. I averted, diverted, rescheduled, delayed, prolonged, and put off reviewing the AudioQuest Vodka and Diamond Ethernet Cables hoping that something would change. Namely, I was hoping someone would be able to tell me why, in no uncertain terms, they do in fact make a difference in the way my music sounds coming through my hi-fi. In many ways and for many reasons I wished they made no difference at all. I wish they were just some audiophile nonsense that I could plug in, listen to, unplug, and simply shrug at their utter ineffectualness. But that's just not how these things work.
Michael Lavorgna Posted: Aug 16, 2013 4 comments
iTube
The iFi iTube active tube buffer/preamplifier is actually more than that. The iTube includes two "active correction circuits" that are meant to improve your listening experience, just like the New Old Stock (NOS) General Electric 5670 tube that's hidden inside the iTube's aluminum shell. I suppose purists have already begun the cold sweats as thoughts of tampering with bit perfection outweighs the promise of greater enjoyment. But let's leave theory behind and see what the iTube delivers, sound wise.
Steven Plaskin Posted: Aug 12, 2013 19 comments
The LightSpeed USB cable is Light Harmonic’s latest entry to an ever growing and somewhat crowded filed of audiophile USB cables. Light Harmonic, well known for their outstanding Da Vinci DAC that I previously reviewed last January (see review), has created what they feel is a USB cable that very few other manufacturers can match in terms of bandwidth. Light Harmonic claims that the LightSpeed with its Ultra-high speed differential pair provides 20 times the bandwidth of USB 2.0 high speed. With its 10 GB per second bandwidth, it offers performance that many other high end USB cables cannot come close to. In fact, Light Harmonic has measured many high end USB cables and found that they cannot meet the USB Audio 2.0 High Speed standard of 480mbps. The LightSpeed physically splits the line with separation of the 5V power supply to reduce noise and disturbances of the digital signal.
Steven Plaskin Posted: Jul 31, 2013 2 comments
The Synergistic Research Element cable series represents Synergistic Research’s most current thinking on the art and science of cable design. The Element C.T.S. Digital AC cord resulted from the research and development that created the more expensive Galileo series of cables. The Element series provides many of the Galileo features at a more affordable price.
Steven Plaskin Posted: Jul 16, 2013 3 comments
The Analog Power Base is a $2,995 upgrade power supply for the MSB Technology Analog DAC. My recent review of The Analog DAC (see review) was going to include the Analog Power Base, but MSB Technologies’ recent move to a new factory delayed this evaluation. The Analog DAC comes with an outboard Desktop Power Supply that is housed in an aluminum case with two transformers. This power supply is linear with separate supplies for digital processing and the analog circuits of The Analog DAC.
Steven Plaskin Posted: Jul 09, 2013 18 comments
It was back in February 2008 that several of us took a drive to the Synergistic Research Factory in Irvine, CA. We had the good fortune to meet Ted Denney, lead designer at Synergistic Research who provided me with my first musical experience with Active Shielding. Ted came across as a very enthusiastic designer who enjoyed sharing his ideas about the new products he was developing; many of which have since come to fruition. Ted then took us to a large room with a terrific sounding system where he demonstrated Active Shielding with his cables by enabling it and then turning it off. Everything sounded much better with the Active Shielding enabled. I also remember him demonstrating a 2 tube Active Shielding power supply called the Enigma. It was fascinating to hear the sound change when Ted powered the cables with one tube and then the other. He also demonstrated a prototype of the PowerCell AC line conditioner. Suffice to say, I was very impressed with Synergistic Research’s implementation of Active Shielding with their cables.
Steven Plaskin Posted: Apr 22, 2013 33 comments
The topic of audiophile USB cables seems to elicit endless debate from computer audio enthusiasts. Many heated arguments have taken place at internet audio forums arguing the merits of these cables. There are those that feel that the improvements heard by using an upgraded USB cable versus a standard Belkin printer cable are purely imaginary.
Michael Lavorgna Posted: Dec 24, 2012 3 comments
YouFi
iFi is an outgrowth of Abbington Music Research (AMR) "with trickle-down technology licensed from AMR and aimed primarily at the future, Computer Audio generation". We have two components under review from their Micro line—a USB DAC/Headphone amp and a USB power supply. For a combined price of $500, the iFi pair offers a lot of musical muscle for your money. The rest of the Micro line includes the iCan headphone amp ($249), and iPhono MM/MC phono preamp ($399).
Michael Lavorgna Posted: Nov 14, 2012 23 comments
iFi iUSBPower
My desktop setup has evolved into an iMac running Audirvana, the Audioquest Dragonfly USB DAC, AudioQuest Victoria cable, into the ADAM A3X powered speakers. I listen to this setup every day more and less and I enjoy it every time I listen to it. While it's not perfect, nothing is in hi-fi except enjoyment and as I said, this setup works in that regard for me. So why mess with enjoyment?
Steven Plaskin Posted: Sep 18, 2012 2 comments
When I reviewed the Synergistic Research Tranquility Base with my MacBook Pro, I was asked how it performed when used with my DAC. I’m now ready to answer this question.

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