Recommended Components 2021 Edition Miscellaneous Accessories

Miscellaneous Accessories

Audio Research Tube Damping Rings: $5 each ★
Damping rings for all AR products are now available to the public at large. They're made of a proprietary polymer material that converts kinetic energy to heat, and their improvements are not subtle, exclaims BJR: tighter, cleaner, deeper, more dynamic bass; more coherent transient attacks; crisper, more extended highs; plus "improvements in the reproduction of subtle gradations of low-level dynamics." Give 'em a whirl—the cost is minimal. (Vol.23 No.2, Vol.26 No.8)

AudioQuest binding-post wrench: $17.95 ★
A great idea improved—similar to the original Postman, but with a metal sleeve reinforcing the sockets. (Vol.20 No.9)

AudioQuest JitterBug: $69.95 $$$ ★
With its USB Type A jack at one end and USB Type A plug at the other, the AudioQuest JitterBug is scarcely larger than the memory stick it resembles, yet its internal multilayer circuit board is packed with tiny surface-mount resistors, capacitors, and what appeared to JA to be common-mode chokes. The purely passive JitterBug, which is claimed by AudioQuest to remove noise currents and parasitic resonances from both the data and power conductors in USB ports, is intended to go between the computer and the USB DAC of a computer-music system; a second JitterBug, plugged into an unused USB socket on the computer, is said by the manufacturer to confer additional benefits. After using the JitterBug with his Mac mini, JA wrote, "I wasn't expecting the degree of improvement the JitterBug wrought with the first recording I played." He reported that low frequencies gained authority, applause sounded more like hands clapping than generic noise, and that once-clangorous pianos sounded, in the same challenging passages, more natural and smooth. From his test bench JA wrote, resignedly, that his measurements "didn't reveal why using the JitterBug improved the sound—which it most certainly did." ML started down this road by plugging JitterBugs into four USB sockets in his computer- audio rig. Upon removing all four, he heard a subtle loss of clarity. Reintroducing the 'Bugs one at a time, ML noted the most dramatic improvement with one, and a lesser but still appreciable refinement with a second—but after that, the "very subtle sonic gains" weren't worth the extra money: "One JitterBug = good. Two JitterBugs = better." Just when we thought there was nothing more to say about the AudioQuest JitterBug, KR tried it and wrote that he could hear its positive effect on a USB DAC's analog output: "When I removed the JitterBug, I missed it." (Vol.38 Nos.9 & 11, Vol.39 No.1 WWW)

Ayre Acoustics Irrational But Efficacious System Enhancement CD: $20 ★
Ayre's test CD includes five tracks of various white, pink, and brown noise, as well as two glide tones that sweep from 5Hz to 20kHz. The disc produced a less electronic sound in JM's system, while lowering the noise floor and improving microdynamics. "I am flabbergasted," said he. "Highly recommended."AD adds that this CD should be used "with caution, and with the understanding that, as with trying to measure a transformer with a DVM and unintentionally magnetizing the core, negative results may ensue and may take a few days to fade away." ST points out that "weird shit goes on in hi-fi. Don't dismiss it until you try it. I use this thing, too. Just don't play too loud." (Vol.33 No.12, Vol.34 No.2, Vol.36 No.10 WWW)

CAIG DeoxIT GOLD Wipes K-G1W-25: $24.95/25ct; K-G1W-50: $44.95/50ct ★
These small pads are made of a slightly abrasive textile that has been impregnated with Caig's DeoxIT Gold contact cleaner. JM uses them on the outside of RCA jacks and on the pins of RCA plugs to treat corrosion, oxidation, condensation, and general grime. JM: "A small but powerful stocking- stuffer...You'll feel like a pro!" (Vol.25 No.12, Vol.36 No.10 WWW)

ETI Copper LINK (Bullet) Plugs: $129 (pack of 4)
ETI Silver LINK: $279 (pack of 4) ★

Originally called the Eichmann Bullet, this RCA connector uses a clever design in which the hot signal is conducted by a hollow rather than a solid pin, and where a smaller, solid pin at the connector's periphery takes the place of an unnecessarily massive ground sleeve. AD heard "a more open and explicit sound" with a "deeper, more open, and more inviting" soundfield. Silver Bullet Plugs made the difference "clearer, more explicit, and even smoother." (Vol.27 No.12 WWW)

iFi iPower (5V, 9V, 12V, 15V): $49 ★
The iPower is an ostensibly perfectionist-quality wall wart, said by manufacturer iFi to produce very little noise. The buyer selects the iPower whose output most closely matches the playback gear in question, the choices being 5, 9, 12, and 15V; beyond that, this wart is virtually universal: the AC end accepts any of four AC plugs (supplied), so that the iPower can be used almost anywhere 100–240VAC is available. Its DC cable is terminated in a 5.5 by 2.1mm DC connector—but again, iFi supplies adapters for an addition three sizes (3.5 by 1.35mm, 4.0 by 1.7mm, and 5.5 by 2.5mm), along with a polarity inverter for devices requiring a center-negative supply. Can a better wart make for better sound? According to KR, "recordings with open, ambient soundstages sounded cleaner, and both instrumental and vocal music was more distinct. This was no major change that struck me every time I listened, but it did make all of my listening much more relaxing." (Vol.39 No.3 WWW)

Intona USB 3.0 Galvanic Isolator: $369 (plus cable)
This small module fits between a source component’s USB Type A port and a D/A processor’s USB Type B port. When HR first used it with the HoloAudio May processor, he “jumped back,” he wrote. “The sound changed more than I expected it would.” When he removed the Intona, “the soundstage was drier, flatter, and smaller. Instruments sounded plain. Reverberation on the recording was noticeably reduced. Music was less intoxicating.” JA found no measurable differences in the output resulting from inserting the Intona between a MacBook Pro and various D/A processors. (Vol.43 No.8 WWW)

Littlite L-18-LED: $99.95 ★
The latest generation of Littlite mixing-console lamps provides high- efficiency, long-life LED illumination; a rotary switch selects clear white or red light. JM finds the 18" version especially helpful near a turntable or CD player. (Vol.36 No.10 WWW)

Magnum Dynalab 205 Signal Sleuth FM Booster: $499
We've left this on the list forever, because there's not much for FM fans these days, and because this unusual, niche product has shown amazing staying power. This is not your typical powered antenna amplifier. It's a notch filter that preceeds the tuner with 18dB/octave edges, so it amplifies only the signal you want—sort of a pre-tuner tuner with selective gain. You can use it to attenuate signals that are too strong, and if you want to hear stations that are easy to receive, there's a pass-through. Best with old-fashioned analog radio signals. (Vol.10 No.6)

SOtM tX-USBhubIn: $350 ★
This horribly named accessory, which requires power from the SATA interface of the computer or computer-based server into which it is plugged (a SATA Y- connector may be required), is a USB repeater intended to preserve the integrity of the signal reaching an associated USB DAC. In KR's estimation, the tX-USBhubIn "made an easily audible improvement in the sound of a system that I'd already thought sounded entirely satisfying." (Vol.39 No.1 WWW)

UpTone Audio USB Regen: $175 ★
UpTone Audio's USB Regen is a wall-wartpowered accessory designed to regenerate both a USB datastream and the USB bus's 5VDC before either makes its way to the DAC in a computer-audio setup. Intended to be installed between the user's computer and DAC—UpTone advises siting the Regen as close as possible to the latter, and includes a solid male-to-male adapter to enable this—the Regen is built into a sturdy aluminum case just slightly larger than a Fig Newton. (The Regen's wall wart is about three times the size of the Regen itself, and is of higher-than-average quality.) As for the Regen's audible effect on a computer-audio system, ML said, "Wow: not subtle," and described the Regen as the most effective such accessory he'd tried. Commenting on the effects of the UpTone Regen on one of his multichannel systems, KR wrote, "all hints of the abiding brightness were eliminated and, as a result, the frequency balance was smooth and unaccented." In a Follow-Up, and JA found that the Regen made no measureable difference in the output signal of an associated USB DAC. He also discovered that installing the Regen without first deselecting the associated DAC as an output device and twice relaunching the file-playing software—once before adding the Regen, and again after installing it and reselecting the DAC—served to prevent his system from playing high-resolution files at anything higher than 16-bit/44.1kHz. Whee! (Vol.38 No.11 WWW)

COMMENTS
grymiephone's picture

The Linton Heritage is not an audiophile speaker, and I will stop there, it's hard to find music it plays well

Glotz's picture

And it sounded fantastic with 'entry'-level Hegel components.

Everyone is different, and especially when one levels generalist comments.

grymiephone's picture

I had a response with more details but it was deleted.

Glotz's picture

Sorry man. I think the site had some issues a week back as well. Anything that was edited sometimes got deleted.

grymiephone's picture

Oh, well. for what's it's worth:
I tested the Linton with 5 other speakers. When I ordered it, the sales person said: be warned, it's NOT an audiophile speaker. And it didn't compare well. I wanted to love them but my 23 year old Celestions had more image and punch than the Lintons. I am sure they can sound good in a different system

MatthewT's picture

I agree with the "not an audiophile speaker" remark. I wish we could know what Art Dudley thought of them. I love them, FWIW.

Glotz's picture

I appreciate both of your insights here.

It helps me come closer to the truth. Or that's not right- The perceptions of each person lend us insights into how each person feels in their system.

I know a lot of times it's hard to speak to one's system for fear of others being critical.

Nonetheless, it does tell me what possible variances there are. I thought the double Linton's were impressive, if expensive. The dealer had them in a pseudo-d'appolito configuration, with the top speakers upside down and on top of the bottom pair.

liguorid42's picture

I agree everyone's opinion of what he or she likes is valid, and an opinion that you shouldn't like something because it's not an audiophile product is invalid. That being said, if you're a wine connoisseur you wouldn't necessarily make a buying decision on a pricey Cabernet based on the opinion of someone whose beverage of choice is Mountain Dew. And "not an audiophile speaker" can just mean your favorite reviewer has not made the sign of the cross before it, and is pretty useless without some description of what you perceive its sonic flaws to be.

Glotz's picture

I think all stereo products can have a home, but you are right it's all about context.

I was impressed with the Denton's midrange, but perhaps that's not fair given I was listening to the collective output of 2 pairs of speakers working in tandem.

mememe2's picture

PLease put this in the "useless phrases" section of your mag. Can we have good pace but lack timing -no. can we have good rhythm but lack pace - no. Can we have good timing but lack rhythm - no. This description seems to be aimed at audio prats (in the original meaning of the word).

Charles E Flynn's picture

"captures the emotion"

liguorid42's picture

Back when founding father Gordon Holt started Stereophile he tried to develop a lexicon to describe how things actually sounded--things like "liquid", "transparent", "grainy", "warm"--as opposed to how things emotionally affected him personally. Theoretically you could go to a hi fi emporium, listen to KLH Nines driven by Audio Research electronics and hear for yourself what he meant. Though he did open the door with his "goosebump test". These days terms such as you describe have made subjective audio reviewing so subjective as not to be very useful to anyone else.

Charles E Flynn's picture

Thanks for your reply.

I have always wondered how one could determine that a playback chain captured the emotion of the performers when the only evidence we have about their emotions is what is provided by the playback chain.

The reproduced sound may convey or provoke emotion, but whether what it conveys is what the performer felt is something we can never determine on the basis of only the reproduced sound.

liguorid42's picture

..in the Firesign Theater album said, "That's metapheesically absurd, mun, how can I know what you hear?"

Heck, you can't know if what you're feeling is the same as what the performer is feeling even at a live performance. Not even close would be my guess. What I'm feeling when I play the piano in private is very different from when I get conned into playing for someone. What the composer felt when setting the notes to the page, different still. I doubt a loudspeaker, let alone a piece of loudspeaker cable, has anything to do with any of this.

George Tn's picture

the Schiit Sol made it on to the list in such a high spot for its price. I've been rooting for that product and it's finally being seen for how great it is.

PTG's picture

Yup.. So happy to see Sol finally get some recognition. SOL had a very rough launch but they owned up to it and made it right ! I would love to get one but am worried about how much tinkering is needed to make it right.. Still thinking about it.... It LOOKS amazing !!!

georgehifi's picture

Same for the Aegir, a A20w Class-A stereo in Class-A Stereophile. I can only think of one similar that could/would do that, and that's the mighty 20w Mark Levison ML2 monoblocks.
https://i.pinimg.com/736x/d6/6a/cc/d66acc2c1d4fa7ea17f5a9bb9345e912.jpg

Cheers George

Glotz's picture

Yes, these components are great to see classified, but it's one person's ranking for a component. The classes also cut a large swath in performance of any one category- and within each class.

That being said, I do think the Sol is pretty-well-reviewed for the money and if my rig broke suddenly... I'd get this one to tie me over.

PTG's picture

Did I miss it or was Bluesound family of products (Node2i, Vault2i ??) totally dropped off the RC2021 list ? If yes, I wonder why...

Jim Austin's picture

On previous lists, when several Bluesound products were listed together, we put them under "Complete Audio Systems." We dropped most of them simply because they haven't been auditioned in years--indeed, no Stereophile reviewer ever tried a gen-2 version of any of the products except the Node2i, which I bought a few months back and use daily. Dropping products that haven't been auditioned in a long time is longstanding RecComp policy.

With only the Node2i on the list, it no longer makes sense to list it under Complete Audio Systems; it should be moved to Digital Processors. But I overlooked that fact when preparing the 2021 edition.

Jim Austin, Editor
Stereophile

C_Hoefer's picture

I just navigated to this page intending to point out the error in location of the Bluesound Node 2i - glad to see you already caught it! It belongs in digital players.
--CH

prerich45's picture

I'd like to see some of the other offerings tested by Stereophile. The Gustard dacs have measured well by another site. I've actually purchased one to see how it fairs to my ears - as I've already seen its numbers. SMSL,Gustard, and Topping are making some possible world beaters, it would be interesting to see this publication put them on the bench.

Fstein's picture

Lirpasound announces $79 amplifier, states previous price of $159,000 a joke no reasonable person would believe

X