Cables & Accessory Reviews

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Steven Plaskin  |  Jul 16, 2013
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  |  Jul 09, 2013
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  |  Apr 22, 2013
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  |  Jan 24, 2013
Convert Longer
The Bel Canto uLink asynchronous USB-S/PDIF Converter works the same as most other like-devices taking the USB output from your computer and turning it into S/PDIF data your DAC can connect to but it adds an interesting wrinkle to the proposition by including a glass ST Fiber output. The interesting thing about an ST Fiber connection beyond its inherent immunity to electro-mechanical noise is length—you can run an ST Fiber connection over 100 meters.
Michael Lavorgna  |  Jan 07, 2013
Why Convert?
The V-Link192 should appeal to anyone that wants to play up to 24/192 music files from their computer who own a DAC that does not have a USB input. It should also appeal to those people who have a DAC that does not support 192kHz files via USB but does support them via Coax or XLR, and even for those with an older adaptive USB DAC that does not have an asynchronous USB input. Out of these three options, the first two are, imo, no brainers whereas the efficacy of the last will be based on a case by case basis.
Michael Lavorgna  |  Dec 24, 2012
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  |  Nov 14, 2012
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  |  Sep 18, 2012
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.
Michael Lavorgna  |  Aug 30, 2012
Cables Categorically Matter
Just try playing music through a hi-fi without cables. Nothing. Nada. Silence. Now try connecting your amplifier to speakers with twine. Again nothing. Nada. Silence. Cables matter in the most fundamental way because you have to use the right cable for the right job. But what about the notion that a choice between two of the exact same kind of cable, Ethernet cables for today's tale, can matter? That two different Ethernet cables can make your network-connected file-based music playback sound different? Preposterous? Pernicious pandering? Have I sold my soul or lost my mind? Have I peed on the sacred altar of Science?
Michael Lavorgna  |  Jul 31, 2012
Thanks to John Marks of Stereophile for the heads up on this tiny app-O-controversy. The Cardas Clarifier has been sold in CD-form through Ayre Acoustics as the "Irrational But Efficacious" CD ($20) and from Cardas in LP-form as the "Cardas Frequency Sweep Record" ($28) for years. Decades even. Now computer audiophiles can delight in the Cardas Clarifier App for iOS devices for just $0.99. That's right for under a buck you can purportedly degauss your gear and listen while you do it to what my ears sounds exactly like the sound my spaceship makes when it takes off.
Steven Plaskin  |  Jul 26, 2012
Meeting Tranquility
At the last CES, numerous visitors to the Synergistic Research room were commenting on a new base for computers and components that improved their sound when they were simply placed on the base. My curiosity was aroused with these reports. Could a computer’s sound that is fed to a DAC be significantly improved by simply placing the computer on a base? Given the number of audiophile tweaks that exist, I entered this testing with quite a bit of skepticism. After all, I have tried numerous stands including those from Symposium and Back Diamond Racing with limited success when used on my laptop. Toss in some Shakti stones and fancy footers with again, limited improvement, if any. But having previously met Ted Denney of Synergistic Research, I knew that he was not in the habit of exaggerating his products capabilities.
Michael Lavorgna  |  Jan 19, 2012
I saw this handy little item in a pre-CES Press Release from OWC and thought, cool. While I did not see one in person at the show, I still think it's cool. The Newer Technology Power2U AC/USB Wall Outlet ($27.99/ea) installs into any existing 16 cubic inch electrical box with a 15Amp circuit and its UL/CUL Listed (E339607) for use in United States & Canada.
Michael Lavorgna  |  Dec 14, 2011
Want to play music from your iPad or wirelessly stream through your iPad at 24 bit/96 kHz? Well you have to tether your iPad to your DAC with this dock and it's gonna cost you all of $29.
Michael Fremer  |  Nov 02, 2011
This pocket-size (5.6" by 2.2" by 1.4"), 9.5-oz, Bluetooth-enabled powered stereo speaker with “subwoofer” is guaranteed to blow your mind. Even the usually deaf gadget writers for mainstream publications—the guys who go gaga for Bose—sat up and took notice when they heard the original foxL a few years ago. The Soundmatters publicist waited for the Platinum version to be released before contacting me for a possible review. I’ll take that as a compliment.
John Atkinson  |  Apr 25, 2011
A computer is not optimized for the uninterrupted streaming of audio data. It has rapidly become established wisdom, therefore, that the optimal means of extracting audio data from a computer's USB port is to operate that port in what is called "asynchronous isochronous" mode. This lets the receiving device, such as a digital-to-analog converter (DAC), control the flow of data from the PC. In theory, asynchronous USB operation (not to be confused with the asynchronous sample-rate conversion used in some DACs) reduces jitter to unmeasurable levels, depending on the accuracy of the receiver's fixed-frequency oscillator, which is used to clock the data to the DAC. By contrast, in the alternative and almost ubiquitous USB operating mode, called "adaptive isochronous," while the sample rate of the output data, averaged over a longish period, will indeed be the specified 44.1 or 48kHz, there will be short-term fluctuations, or jitter, due to the oscillator having to change its frequency every millisecond to match the uncertain rate of data flow from the PC.