Cables & Accessory Reviews

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Steven Plaskin Posted: Oct 22, 2015 35 comments
When our AudioStream editor, Michael Lavorgna, asked me if I was interested in reviewing the Kubala-Sosna Realization USB cable, I was momentarily hesitant. I knew that some of our gentle readers would be shocked at a review of a $3500 USB cable given that the cost of this cable exceeds many fine DACs that have been reviewed at AudioStream. But my curiosity was tweaked if this cable exceeded the sonic performance of some of the excellent USB cables I have reviewed or discussed in my quest for ever-better sound from computer audio.
Steven Plaskin Posted: Sep 22, 2015 35 comments
Michael Lavorgna recently did an excellent job reviewing the UpTone Audio USB REGEN and the AudioQuest JitterBug as well as comparing the sonic effects of these devices with each other (see Review). But due to the significant reader interest in these new products, our esteemed editor thought it would be a great idea to get a second take on these products. Given that Michael did all the heavy lifting describing the design of these devices, I was happy to jump right in describing my sonic impressions of these little USB add-ons that are designed to improve the sound of USB audio.
Michael Lavorgna Posted: Sep 17, 2015 17 comments
"Listen, my children, and you shall hear", from Paul Revere’s Ride Henry Wadsworth Longfellow
Captain Obvious says, In hi-fi, the only way to determine preference is to listen. We're going to talk about listening through two Ethernet devices, filters more or less, an "Audio Grade Switcher", and I'm also going to talk about three different Ethernet cables, all of which I own, to see if they make any difference in the mix.
Steven Plaskin Posted: Aug 27, 2015 8 comments
The Shunyata Research TRITON v2, HYDRA TYPHON, HYDRA DPC-6 v2, and ΞTRON Sigma AC Power Cables represent the state-of-the art offerings from this well-known company that specializes in signal and power transfer products. These no-compromise products are created by Shunyata’s owner and chief designer, Caelin Gabriel; a man who has been steadily improving his company’s products since his first power conditioner offering in 2001. Shunyata Research’s products have not only been embraced by audiophiles, but by commercial recording studios, orchestras, and other commercial audio designers. The word Shunyata is a Sanskrit word that means the stillness or emptiness from which all creation emanates.
Michael Lavorgna Posted: Aug 20, 2015 19 comments
Why did the chicken cross the road? To see if it was different on the other side.

Unholy Bits Batman!
Let's begin with the easy part; if you've read my reviews of the UpTone Audio USB REGEN (review), AudioQuest JitterBug (review), and Schiit Wyrd (review), you'll have read that I heard a difference when each device was in and out of my systems. Generally, I would describe those differences as an improvement which is all well and good but inquiring minds want to know which device is best and what happens when you put them together. Let's see.

Michael Lavorgna Posted: Aug 13, 2015 21 comments
Let's get this Schiit straight from the horse's mouth:
What does this thing really do?
It isolates your USB DAC from the noisy USB power coming from your computer, and provides a stable, precise oscillator to repeat the USB 2.0 packets.

Why would I want this?
Because some computers don’t play well with USB DACs, and make weird noises or have glitches. Or you believe this makes your system sound better.

Sonic benefits? That’s a lot of hoo-ha!
You’re right. There’s no reason this should make any system sound better. Although we can measure the difference in USB power supply noise, it really shouldn’t matter. Despite this, some listeners have said that there are sonic benefits from using Wyrd. Us, we remain Swiss on the matter—we don’t do the hard sell by promising sonic nirvana.

Seeing as it's the job of an audio reviewer to listen and report, at least that's my job, I have to be, well, less Swiss (more American?) when it comes to writing about the stuff I listen to.
Michael Lavorgna Posted: Aug 06, 2015 35 comments
Unlike the AudioQuest JitterBug we looked at last week (see review) that plugs into your computer, the USB REGEN is designed to be placed at the other end of your USB cable, between it and your DAC. Where the REGEN also differentiates itself from the JitterBug (and others) is the guys from UpTone Audio are completely REGENerateing the data, delivering a cleaned up impedance matched signal to your DAC.
Michael Lavorgna Posted: Jul 30, 2015 13 comments
Moving Beyond The Bits
While some people still want to argue that "bits are bits" when it comes to digital data transmission, other people are looking at real-world solutions to real-world problems. I have a number of devices in for review that take aim at cleaning up our USB connections. While each offers a different approach and even a different set of solutions to more than one problem, the JitterBug is a USB filter. What is it filtering? The company states, "JitterBug’s dual-circuitry measurably reduces unwanted noise currents and parasitic resonances. It also reduces jitter and packet errors (in some cases, packet errors are completely eliminated)."
Steven Plaskin Posted: May 26, 2015 59 comments
The Synergistic Research Grounding Block is a new accessory from Synergistic Research that allows one to make multiple ground connections to various products. More importantly, it applies Synergistic Research’s UEF (Uniform Energy Field) Technology to a grounding block for sonic enhancement. I decided to write a review on this product since it can be used with a number of Synergistic Research products I have previously reviewed that utilize ground plane connections. These include the Tranquility Base, FEQ (Frequency Equalizer), and the Atmosphere - Acoustic Wave Generator. What I found most exciting about these new products is that they can be successfully applied to most any component.
Steven Plaskin Posted: Apr 30, 2015 42 comments
The Shunyata Research Venom USB cable is the only USB cable offered by this high end manufacturer of cables, AC cords, power distribution centers, and audio accessories. Most other cable manufacturers offer a range of USB cables with enhanced features at increasing prices. Shunyata research has decided to offer only one model with everything that they feel is important in a USB cable design. Given the very reasonable price of $125 for a .75 meter length, I was curious to see just how the Venom USB cable would compare to the other high priced cables I have reviewed in the past for AudioStream. Knowing Shunyata Research’s well recognized product quality and dedication to superior audio performance, I truly wanted to see how this cable would perform in my system.
Steven Plaskin Posted: Mar 17, 2015 30 comments
WARNING: This review is written for audiophiles and true believers in the audiophile experience. Non-audiophile, bits are bits people, continue at your own risk!

The JCAT Reference USB cable is Marcin Ostapowicz and Josef Piri’s latest offering to the ever growing high end USB cable market. Both of these gentlemen are probably better known as the principles behind the popular Windows operating system software JPLAY. JCAT is the hardware division of JPLAY and offers a number of computer audio hardware products.

Michael Lavorgna Posted: Feb 19, 2015 4 comments
I Like Bluetooth
Audioengine makes a number of well-priced products that deliver their fair share of musical enjoyment. I favorably reviewed their A5+ speakers (see review) and we own two pairs of their original A2 speakers. Under inspection today is their B1 Bluetooth Music Receiver which adds Bluetooth connectivity to any hi-fi while also offering an internal DAC as well as a Toslink output if you already own a DAC you enjoy. What's the point of Bluetooth? Fun.
Steven Plaskin Posted: Dec 29, 2014 119 comments
The Synergistic Research Atmosphere is a room acoustic enhancement device that allows one to modify and improve the perceived soundstage as well as the quality of the sound from top to bottom of one’s system; all of this totally controlled by an iPad/iPhone app. What is even more remarkable is that this task is accomplished without a direct connection of any kind into one’s system components. At this point, I’m sure most of you will want to know what Atmosphere is actually doing to achieve this control of the sound of our systems.
Steven Plaskin Posted: Nov 04, 2014 5 comments
The PowerCell 10 UEF is the latest version of Synergistic Research’s PowerCell AC line conditioner first introduced in 2008. This version of the PowerCell is Synergistic Research’s most ambitious undertaking in dealing with AC line noise. The Power Cell 10 UEF not only adds Synergistic Research’s new UEF technology, but also allows one to employ the FEQ Equalizer first introduced in 2013 with the High Frequency Transducer (HFT) / Frequency Equalizer (FEQ) products.
Steven Plaskin Posted: Oct 23, 2014 19 comments
The Hydra DPC-6 Digital Power Distribution Center is the first power conditioner made by Shunyata Research designed specifically for digital media products. Components such as computers, digital servers, disc-arrays, and cable modems-routers present special problems in terms of noise that pollutes the AC line that is simultaneously serving other audio components adversely affecting the overall sonic performance of our systems. Inexpensive power supplies with their minimal filtration provided with our hard disc arrays and computers produce a significant amount of digital noise. The Hydra DPC-6 electrically isolates these digital devices and provides a firewall to prevent them from polluting and degrading the sonic performance of the audio components sharing the power line.


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