Accessory Reviews

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Kris Deering  |  Sep 23, 2020  |  1 comments

Harmony Elite
Performance
Ergonomics
Value

Harmony Pro 2400
Performance
Ergonomics
Value
PRICE $350 (Harmony Elite), $550 (Harmony Pro 2400)

AT A GLANCE
Plus
Easy setup and system integration
Cloud-based control and backup
Controls via IR, TCP/IP, and Bluetooth
Minus
Lacks Apple Siri support
Pro 2400 limited to custom installation channel

THE VERDICT
Harmony remotes offer the convenience and customization options of high-priced control systems, but without the intensive support requirements that come with them.

The biggest complaint I hear from clients when I'm out in the field doing video display calibration work involves problems with remote control systems. You'd think this would be because they have a stack of them to shuffle through, or they had bought some cheap off-the-rack universal remote at Walmart. On the contrary, the complaints are always about some high-end home automation system. As a happy Logitech Harmony remote control user, I've managed to avoid that direction. For the last few years, my remote of choice has been the Harmony Elite, which this review will focus on alongside its new cohort in the custom installation market, the Harmony Pro 2400.

John Sciacca  |  May 05, 2020  |  0 comments

Performance
Features
Ergonomics
Value
PRICE $1,999

AT A GLANCE
Plus
Solves major TV installation issue
Solid build quality
Out-of-the-box automation
Minus
Limited horizontal swivel range
Awkward power/cable routing
Professional installation highly recommended

THE VERDICT
The MM860 costs more than many TVs, but it solves a common installation issue, performs reliably, and looks cool.

As long as architects design houses with a fireplace as the focal point of the living/family room, people will continue to mount their TVs above the fireplace mantel. But a problem with that location is that it situates the screen too high for comfortable viewing. And even though people know that height is going to be an issue, they often have no other obvious installation choice and are consequently forced to suffer life with TVOF (TV Over Fireplace) syndrome.

Michael Trei  |  Apr 08, 2020  |  2 comments

Performance
Features
Ergonomics
Value
PRICE $300

AT A GLANCE
Plus
Digs deep to leave records sparkling
Far more effective than brush cleaners
Affordable
Minus
Hands-on manual operation
Loud vacuum motor

THE VERDICT
The Record Doctor VI is a bare-bones wet record cleaning system that delivers superb results at a bargain price.

It's easy to dismiss the recent resurgence of interest in vinyl records as a youth-driven phenomenon, with millennials embracing vinyl more for its hipness factor than for the great sound that it can deliver. But in the course of my day job setting up and maintaining high-end turntables, I'm finding that much of the rekindled attention is actually coming from my fellow Boomers and Gen-Xers. Some of us never stopped playing our records. Others, it seems, simply stashed theirs in the basement decades ago when CDs seemed so convenient and are just now pulling them out to appreciate all over again.

David Vaughn  |  Aug 09, 2016  |  10 comments

Performance
Features
Build Quality
Value
PRICE $50

AT A GLANCE
Plus
Easy to install
Tames unwanted vibrations
Minus
Why aren’t these standard issue?

THE VERDICT
If you have touchy neighbors who complain about vibrations from your subwoofer, you need these in your system.

I love bass, always have, always will. The same can’t be said for my wife, who constantly tells me, “Turn it down. You’re going to wake the dead, or worse, go deaf!” Part of my problem is that my home rests on a raised foundation with a wood subfloor underneath my carpet, which means my dual-subwoofer setup transmits plenty of vibrations from the subwoofer to the floor, which then resonate through the rest of the house. In fact, on certain low-frequency scenes in movies, you can literally see my windows vibrating. But is this really a problem?

Bob Ankosko  |  Mar 20, 2015  |  0 comments
Performance
Features
Ergonomics
Value
PRICE $99; two for $179

AT A GLANCE
Plus
Extra boom for bass hounds, especially fans of hip-hop and dance music
Minus
Clunky
Can create a buzzing sensation when worn on a belt
One more wire to deal with

THE VERDICT
Woojer is not for everyone, but it can add a visceral element to mobile listening that may appeal to gamers and fans of dance, hip-hop, and other bass-driven music.

Can a small device that clips to your belt produce the visceral sensation of a live musical performance or the deep, pulsating bass felt in a dance club? Can it wow mobile gamers with spine-tingling bass?

Kickstarter-funded Woojer (“See Me, Feel Me,” April 2014) aims to do just that with a “wearable subwoofer” that connects between your music player (or any audio source) and headphones. Technically speaking, Woojer is a polyphonic tactile transducer that converts audio frequencies below 500 hertz into low-frequency vibrations to “make your body feel like it is exposed to high acoustic energy.”

Bob Ankosko  |  Mar 04, 2015  |  0 comments
Rejuvenate Your Wi-Fi Network

Performance
Build Quality
Value

PRICE $70

AT A GLANCE
Plus
Cheap and easy to set up
Boosts Wi-Fi signal in far-flung areas
Minus
Approaches the cost of a new 802.11ac router

THE VERDICT
The DAP-1520 provides a simple and inexpensive way to improve spotty Wi-Fi coverage and set the stage for improved streaming.

Tell me you haven’t had to deal with Wi-Fi drop-outs when you move to the outermost regions of your humble abode with a laptop or tablet in tow? You know, the old 4-3-2-1-0 bar shuffle… I got so fed up with fighting to hold onto the signal from the sofa in my family room that I planned to move my router to a more central location. It sits in my basement office at one end of the house, admittedly, about as far away from central as you can get. But when I thought about having to snake wires across joists and up through the floor, I decided to find another solution—a quick fix, if one existed.

Darryl Wilkinson  |  Dec 30, 2014  |  1 comments

Performance
Features
Value
PRICE $350

AT A GLANCE
Plus
Color touchscreen with vibration and gesture support
Emits IR from remote, hub, or blasters
Integrates with multiple home automation hubs
Minus
Inconsistent performance with SmartThings Hub
No remote control locator feature
Limited external IR emitter outputs

THE VERDICT
The apply named Harmony Ultimate Home Control is the ultimate home and AV controller you can buy, program, and use without the help of a professional integrator.

It was January of 2013, and Logitech, in an effort to “refocus its strategic direction,” announced it would divest itself (by end of the year) of several non-core product categories—among them speaker docks, digital video security cameras, and, notably, its Harmony activity-based universal remote controls. Unfortunately, by that time, short of the fancy installer-only control systems from the likes of URC, Control4, and others, Harmony had pretty much eliminated the competition for remote controls selling for more than $50. So a dim, non-Harmonious future looked imminent for DIY home theater enthusiasts wanting more than the standard, three-in-one, el-cheapo universal hanging on a peg at Walgreens...

Bob Ankosko  |  Oct 14, 2014  |  0 comments
Performance
Build Quality
Value
Price $40

At A Glance
Plus
Stupidly simply setup
Multiroom music on a shoestring

Minus
Doesn’t work with landline, DSL, or Internet phone service
Limited by the number and location of phone jacks in the house
Subject to the vagaries of existing wires running through the walls
A less-than-hi-fi solution

The Verdict
Moxivo provides a low-tech, down-and-dirty way to shuttle music through dormant phone lines, but don’t expect audiophile quality.

In “A New Use for Old Wires” we described Intellegg’s Moxivo multiroom music kit, which is nothing more than a set of inexpensive cables that lets cord cutters use dormant phone lines to spread music around the house. It sounds great in theory but I was curious to see how well the “system” actually works, so I sought out a cord cutting household (I have Internet phone service at home, which is a no-no). As a new homeowner, my twenty-something son has no intention of signing up for traditional phone service, so his 18-year-old two-story home offered a perfect environment for the test.

Darryl Wilkinson  |  Oct 02, 2014  |  2 comments
It’s disappointing to note that, already well into the second decade of the 21st century, the smartest component of most people’s homes is a programmable thermostat—and chances are, it hasn’t been programmed since it was installed (if at all). But you can’t really blame homeowners for not rushing in droves to embrace home automation or, as it’s more often called, the “smart home.” Neither the high cost of reliable systems nor the low reliability of cheap systems has been all that enticing.
Darryl Wilkinson  |  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?

Darryl Wilkinson  |  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.

Rob Sabin  |  Jan 14, 2014  |  0 comments

Performance
Build Quality
Value
PRICE $70

AT A GLANCE
Plus
Small, concealable form factor
Easy installation with good documentation
Excellent performance

Minus
May cost as much as a new router

THE VERDICT
There may be other options for improving your Wi-Fi, but the REC10 represents an exceptionally simple and effective path to robust video streaming on SmartTVs and tablets.

With Internet-connected smart TVs flying off the shelves during the holiday season and into Super Bowl Sunday, many consumers may find themselves trying to stream music and video to their new sets from Pandora, Netflix, Amazon VOD, et. al. But relatively few will have a wired ethernet connection near their televisions, and nothing can dumb down a smart TV faster than a weak Wi-Fi signal. Weak Wi-Fi can have immediate and noticeable effects on your audio and video quality. To compound the problem, you may not even know what’s causing them. An inability to connect promptly to your desired services may indicate that your router is too far away. But a laptop in the same room might have no trouble at all loading web pages, and a reasonable person might think the stuttering, buffering, or lack of resolution on your TV screen is a function of heavy Web traffic during peak periods, bad infrastructure at your Internet provider, or a technical failing of the playback device.

Kim Wilson  |  Aug 21, 2012  |  5 comments

Performance
Build Quality
Value
Price: $70 At a Glance: Universal remote control system for iPhone/iPad/iPod touch • Controls all IR devices in multiple rooms • Extensive customization

The VooMote Zapper from zero1.tv is another universal remote control app/hardware solution for the iPhone. It’s unique among a batch of such apps as it doesn’t require an external device that you have to place near your A/V gear. Instead, there’s a small dongle that plugs into the iPhone’s 30-pin port. The dongle costs $70, a full $30 less than most other iPhone universal control systems, and it interfaces with a free app that you can download from the iTunes App Store.

Brent Butterworth  |  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.

David Vaughn  |  Jul 05, 2012  |  0 comments
Do wireless HDMI kits really work? We test three to find out.

In late 2003, HDMI-equipped consumer-electronic devices started to appear on the market. Unfortunately, the transition to digital has been anything but smooth. Although HDMI was a vast improvement over DVI (Digital Visual Interface) in its ability to carry both audio and video in one cable, it came with its own set of issues.

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