UNIVERSAL REMOTE & ACCESSORY REVIEWS

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Mike Wood Posted: May 12, 2003 Published: May 13, 2003 0 comments
Better sound without additional black boxes.

Have you considered room acoustics? That's my first question when people ask me for home theater advice. Your theater's acoustic environment is as important to your system's sound quality as any single component. Sure, you can improve the sound with a new amplifier, new speakers, or the latest and greatest EX/ES processor; however, if your room isn't acoustically optimized, you still won't get maximum performance from your system, no matter how much it costs. Adding acoustic treatment is probably the easiest and most effective thing you can do to improve your sonic environment. Granted, it can be daunting to calculate reverberation times so that you add the right amount of acoustic treatment. Fortunately, Performance Media Industries (PMI) has done the work for you with their CinePanel acoustic-treatment kits.

Michael Trei Posted: Nov 29, 2000 Published: Nov 30, 2000 0 comments
Power to the people.

There was a time when playing with audio was a lot of fun. I was a pretty tweaky guy and would regularly try out all of the latest tweaks and accessories. Then, about seven or eight years ago, I kind of burned out. I had gone to visit the home of a fellow audiophile who was so obsessed with adjusting and fiddling with things that listening to music had taken a back seat. Rather than see myself following the same path, I decided to go on kind of an antitweak rant. Sure, careful setup remains important, but enjoying music has become even more so. Consequently, when a manufacturer approaches me with some new device made from Unobtainium that's supposed to make my life better for a mere $299, I tend to get defensive. This, however, was not my reaction when I first saw the PS Audio P300 Power Plant because most of its design approach followed what I had for years thought would be a great way to deal with the crappy AC power most utilities deliver.

Thomas J. Norton Posted: Jul 08, 2007 0 comments

HDMI connections, combined with a pristine source and a great display, can produce beautiful images, perhaps the best ever available to consumers. But the format has not been trouble free. Even if we ignore consideration of which version of HDMI we're dealing with, and the length limitations of the connections, more than a few videophiles have had problems getting HDMI some combinations of source, display, and switcher to work together.

Krissy Rushing Posted: Apr 28, 2000 Published: Apr 29, 2000 0 comments
Winning the war over remote reproduction.

If you've got as much gear as the average home theater writer, you can relate to the panicky feeling you get when you go to the kitchen for a beer and some snacky cakes, come back, and find that two of your remotes have shacked up to make a third . . . and a fourth . . . and a fifth—to the point where your collection of expensive coffee-table books is hidden under a pile of black, rectangular gadgets. That's a scary feeling—some of us have even gone into therapy because of it. Don't worry, you're not hallucinating, but you do have a problem. You need to simplify. With all the remote possibilities out there, the possibility that you'll find one that will jibe with your system and your needs isn't remote at all. You just need to figure out what sort of remote is best for you. And since we're, well, sort of control freaks (as the expression goes), we can help you figure out if you want a universal remote, a learning remote, a programmable touchscreen remote, or some combination thereof.

Brent Butterworth Posted: Mar 15, 2011 0 comments
A product that functions imperfectly yet possesses a singular character can be as enjoyable to own as one that delivers unassailable performance. Before you argue the point, know that millions of Harley owners stand ready to back me up.
Darryl Wilkinson Posted: Oct 02, 2014 0 comments
Performance
Features
Ergonomics
Value
PRICE $299

AT A GLANCE
Plus
Seven radios built in
Extremely easy initial setup
Minus
Pricey next to other DIY automation hubs
Lacks some advanced programming features

THE VERDICT
The Revolv Hub is a powerhouse that looks to be relatively future-proof from a hardware standpoint. A great choice for a newbie.

Humble isn’t a word anyone would associate with Revolv and their distinctive, teardrop-shaped, little red smart-home controller—which the company calls, with uncharacteristic restraint, the Hub. In fact, this device is easily the flashiest and most recognizable of all the smart home gadgets around today.

Darryl Wilkinson Posted: Jan 26, 2009 0 comments
Price: $2,499 At A Glance: 6.4-inch diagonal color touchscreen • Motion sensor • Built-in IR, RF, and Wi-Fi • Kicks all other remotes controls’ butts

My Remote Can Beat Up Your Remote

If you like car analogies (I don’t, but I’ll use one here anyway), RTI’s T4 is the Hummer of universal remote controls. At a little more than 9 by 6 inches (not to mention over 2.5 inches thick), it’s a monster that will dwarf nearly everything else sitting on your coffee table. It weighs 2 pounds. It sports an LCD touchscreen that by itself is larger than most other remote controls. At this point, you’re probably thinking that the prime consumer demographic for the T4 is the guy who feels the need to make up for some, shall we say, inadequacy in his personal life.

Darryl Wilkinson Posted: Oct 02, 2014 0 comments

Performance
Features
Ergonomics
Value
PRICE $99

AT A GLANCE
Plus
Z-Wave and ZigBee radios built in
In-app live chat support
Supports multiple third-party devices and services
Minus
Doesn’t support Insteon
No tablet-specific app layout

THE VERDICT
The SmartThings Hub offers an impressive range of support, its app is powerful and smartly designed, and it’s a great value.

As with all up-and-coming DIY home automation systems, the SmartThings Hub is intended to make your life a living nirvana, bringing peace, love, and, yes, even rock ’n’ roll (grunge or otherwise) into your smart home. The $99 price—with a free app and no monthly subscription fees—is certainly a tasty enticement for someone with a sweet tooth for home automation on the cheap. But the big question is whether there’s enough meaty substance to the SmartThings system to satisfy a homeowner’s long-term automation hunger. Or does SmartThings give nothing more than a sugar high that inevitably leads to a disappointing crash later on?

Steve Guttenberg Posted: Mar 20, 2015 0 comments

Sony MDR-Z7
Performance
Build Quality
Comfort
Value

PRICE $700

AT A GLANCE
Plus
Yummy sound, nice bass, clear top end
Impeccable Japanese build quality
Huge soundstage for a closed-back design
Minus
Doesn’t fold for compact storage

THE VERDICT
Sony's back with a winner! The MDR-Z7 looks, feels, and sounds like a high-end headphone.


Sony PHA-3
Performance
Build Quality
Features
Value

PRICE $1,000

AT A GLANCE
Plus
Handles ultra-high-res 384kHz/32bit files
Does DSD at 2.8MHz and 5.6MHz
Single-ended and balanced headphone outputs
Minus
No indicator for remaining battery charge

THE VERDICT
The Sony PHA-3 has undeniable synergy with the MDR-Z7, but sounds terrific with other headphones.

Sony's hardly a newcomer to the upper echelons of the headphone scene. Some of you might recall the legendary MDR-R10 from 1989—at $2,500, it was the most expensive headphone in the world. The sleek Qualia 010 debuted in 2004, and that one bore a remarkable resemblance to Sennheiser's current flagship, the HD-800, but the Qualia 010 arrived five years before! Now, with the $700 MDR-Z7, Sony's back with a new, considerably more affordable flagship. For this review, we mated it up with the company’s also-new flagship portable DAC/headphone amplifier, the PHA-3.

Steve Guttenberg Posted: Mar 20, 2015 0 comments

Sony MDR-Z7
Performance
Build Quality
Comfort
Value

PRICE $700

AT A GLANCE
Plus
Yummy sound, nice bass, clear top end
Impeccable Japanese build quality
Huge soundstage for a closed-back design
Minus
Doesn’t fold for compact storage

THE VERDICT
Sony's back with a winner! The MDR-Z7 looks, feels, and sounds like a high-end headphone.


Sony PHA-3
Performance
Build Quality
Features
Value

PRICE $1,000

AT A GLANCE
Plus
Handles ultra-high-res 384kHz/32bit files
Does DSD at 2.8MHz and 5.6MHz
Single-ended and balanced headphone outputs
Minus
No indicator for remaining battery charge

THE VERDICT
The Sony PHA-3 has undeniable synergy with the MDR-Z7, but sounds terrific with other headphones.

Sony's hardly a newcomer to the upper echelons of the headphone scene. Some of you might recall the legendary MDR-R10 from 1989—at $2,500, it was the most expensive headphone in the world. The sleek Qualia 010 debuted in 2004, and that one bore a remarkable resemblance to Sennheiser's current flagship, the HD-800, but the Qualia 010 arrived five years before! Now, with the $700 MDR-Z7, Sony's back with a new, considerably more affordable flagship. For this review, we mated it up with the company’s also-new flagship portable DAC/headphone amplifier, the PHA-3.

Brent Butterworth Posted: Jul 17, 2012 0 comments

There’s some debate among vinylphiles about whether USB phono preamps need to exist, but I for one am glad they do. When I bring home my latest haul of vinyl from Amoeba Records, I love being able to plug a laptop straight into my NAD PP 3 to make quick MP3s of albums I like so I can listen to them on my smartphone. (Sacrilege!) It’s easier than making an analog connection, and it bypasses the lousy analog-to-digital converter built into my laptop.

With the Zphono-USB, Parasound brings new versatility and features to the USB phono pre concept.

Kim Wilson Posted: Mar 08, 2011 1 comments
Apps for the home theater enthusiast.

I’m still amused by the naysayers who said the iPad was inconsequential: a product with limited use that no one asked for. Fast-forward to 2011, and it’s one of the hottest mobile devices ever, creating a new product category much in the way Apple did with the iPod and iPhone. It’s more than a giant iPhone, as some like to call it. In fact, many of the things you liked about the iPhone, you’ll appreciate more with the iPad. One such category is A/V control apps. Many manufacturers have adopted the Apple iOS platform—first the iPhone and now the iPad—with dedicated interfaces for controlling their products and systems.

Chris Chiarella Posted: Feb 15, 2006 0 comments
You know you need some accessories.

The vast capabilities of the Sony PlayStation Portable are realized not only with the latest games and movies, but with the targeted devices and software that pop in, snap on, and lord over the content and hardware. The following items are HT Gamer tested and approved.

Adrienne Maxwell Posted: May 21, 2007 Published: Apr 21, 2007 0 comments
Got a converged home? Get a converged remote.

What distinguishes a good universal remote from a great one? A good remote controls all of your components the way you need it to; a great one controls those components the way you want it to. Customization and advanced functionality are the keys, and UEI's NevoSL universal controller has both. The NevoSL's software-based programming and UEI's extensive code database combine to produce an excellent home theater controller, but this product's real strength lies in its ability not just to control but to create a converged home.

Thomas J. Norton Posted: Jun 06, 2005 0 comments

Even as DVI and HDMI were being adopted by video manufacturers as the digital links of choice, one limitation of these connections was already well known: they don't like to be used in long lengths. The generally accepted limit for an unassisted digital video cable of this type is about 5 meters or just over 16 feet, particularly with high-definition sources.

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