Recommended Components Addendum

FM Antennae

Editor's Note: No indoor antenna can compete with a good roof or mast-mounted outdoor antenna, but because apartment dwellers often don't have a choice, we list the following indoor models that we have found to work well: AudioPrism 8500 ($499, Vol.14 No.6), AudioPrism 7500 ($299, Vol.12 No.5), Magnum Dynalab 205 FM Booster ($350, Vol.10 No.6), RadioShack amplified indoor FM antenna ($29.99, Vol.19 No.11), RadioShack 15-2163 FM antenna (Vol.27 No.7), and Fanfare FM-2G ($99, Vol.20 No.12). Outdoor antennae we have reviewed and recommended are the Antenna Performance Specialties Sniper ($595) and Antenna Performance Specialties APS-13 FM ($199), the original versions of which were reviewed in Vol.19 No.3.

Power-Line Accessories

Acoustic Zen Gargantua II AC cable: $1488/6ft PB: "Optimized for low resistance and loop inductance,[this is] a big, stiff mutha that is a complete pig to muscle into place....The Gargantuas let the Lamm M2.1 and Halcro dm58 power amplifiers show exceptional dynamic response against a background of utter, grainless quiet while allowing the distinctive sonic character of each amp to speak clearly....The Gargantua is not cheap, but its performance put it into the company of the best power cords on the market." Longer lengths cost $160/ft extra; less $80/ft for shorter cable. (Vol.26 No.1 Review)

Audience powerChord: $450/6ft "The wonderfully flexible powerChord, too, was a winner, significantly cleaning up the sound by lowering the noise floor, opening up the space between instruments, and significantly improving the system's resolution of low-level and inner detail." Though BD's reference, Synergistic Research's AC Master Coupler, offered better senses of space and ambience, the Audience was very nearly as good and much easier to use. (Vol.25 No.8 Review)

Audio Power Industries Power Wedge Ultra 116 power conditioner: $1740 * WP described this balanced AC line conditioner as a "well-built, intelligently thought-out solution to the problems of power-line–borne noise and the vagaries of ground-loop hum." Though he cautioned that you shouldn't look for any line filter to compensate for a lagging component, if your system is refined enough, the 116 "can take it to an even greater resolution." In this context, it got his emphatic recommendation. (Vol.22 No.4 Review)

AudioPrism LF-1 Mk.II Quietline Parallel AC line filter: $224.95/8 * An important step in the war against noise. According to BW, these devices look like AC adapters minus the wires, and contain "extremely effective noise-suppression circuitry that works by shunting all the noise to the 'neutral' side of the power line." In his house, all noise "vanished instantly as soon as the QuietLine was plugged in." For best results, use the LF-1 on the same circuit as the offending device. (Vol.21 No.12)

Equi=Tech 2Q: $2689
Equi=Tech 1000: $1989
Two high-resolution bifilar-wound isolation transformers with magnetic and Faraday shielding. The Q650 that was reviewed, now called the1000, with increased capacity, is designed to be used with low-current-draw front-end components. CS: "Everything sounded smoother and quieter, with blacker backgrounds—which set off tonal colors in bold relief. Images were more centered and resolved. The bass was tighter and more tuneful, more forward and detailed, with greater authority and scale—which contributed to a realistic sense of rhythm and pace." The high-current-capacity 2Q features 20A/120V input with a Hubbell plug inlet, ground-fault protection, re-set circuitry, two unswitched outlets, and four analog and four filtered digital AC receptacles. CS: "Low-frequency extension was simply phenomenal, with greater scale, authority, harmonic body, and liquidity....My amp sounded as if it had significantly more power, dynamic headroom, and speed." (Vol.26 No.6 Review)

JPS Labs Aluminata: $3499 A no-compromise (but stupid-priced, according to JA) power cord that confers dramatic performance enhancements on any high current device (such as power amps), says CS, who found it made his amps sound more dynamic and more efficient, while providing a solid foundation for the deepest, most convincing soundstaging imaginable. A must-audition product for owners of the priciest most demanding muscle amps, summed up Stern. "Dead black quiet, like most JPS cables," sums up KR, pointing out that that's "all for the best in a power cable." (NR, but see CS's VTL review in Vol.25 No.11)

JPS Labs The Digital AC Cable: $349 Uses "very-high-purity" stranded copper conductors, insulated to a 300V rating and said to contain a special compound that absorbs and dissipates high-frequency energy. AD: "The Digital AC endowed the music with a better sense of flow and a smoother, more 'liquid' presentation....The sound was more open...with an easier, more natural sense of movement from note to note....The performance as a whole also seemed more dramatic and, in some spots, downright louder." He purchased The Digital AC to use with his Sony SACD player. (Vol.26 No.4 Review)

Kimber PowerKord 10: $10/ft, plus $120 for termination * ST uses Kimber Kords throughout his system, and noted tremendous differences with a Jadis Defy-7. But try before you buy, he warns. (NR)

Monster Power AVS 2000 Automatic Voltage Stabilizer: $1499.95 A computer-controlled Variac transformer that holds the output voltage within 1% of 120V, the AVS 2000 relieves the stress put on component's circuitry. CS preferred the effect the AVS 2000 had on his front-end gear opposed to that it had on his amplifiers: "Despite impressive improvements in midrange detail and resolution, I found I wasn't getting as much of a sense of the frequency extremes, particularly heft and body in the deep bass, as I did when the amplifiers were plugged directly into the wall current." However, when plugging the AVS 2000 into his front-end components, Chip noted, "There was greater resolution on every level—the overall presentation was clearer and more open, with greater precision and definition, less grunge." LG is also a fan. (Vol.26 No.6 Review)

PS Audio P300 Power Plant: $1245 * Described as a "regenerative AC synthesizer," the Power Plant is a two-channel, class-A/B bipolar balanced design with twin transformers—essentially, an audio power amp with a (variable) single-frequency output and a regulated output voltage. It is intended for use with source components at a maximum load of 200W. RD was much smitten: "The benefits...were such that it took a real effort of take it out of the system." The most striking effect was in the upper midrange and above, which was "stripped of 'electronic' overlay....Recordings old and new sounded fresher, more immediate—more like real music." Other pluses: enhanced resolution, greater depth, better pace'n'rhythm. Raising the AC frequency (50–120Hz available) produced "a startling sonic improvement" that improved the sound of every component RD tried with the P300. Runs hot, he warned, but gets his vote for Stereophile's "2000 Accessory of the Year." JA is equally impressed, finding that the P300 illuminated the slightly gray presentation of the Mark Levinson No.380S (which the No.32 Reference avoids with internal AC regeneration). "I can now live with the '380S for a while longer," he sighed. Ease and liquidity seduced his ear and backgrounds were more black. RD says of the MultiWave update that it "makes such a difference that I consider it a mandatory option well worth the extra $250." (Vol.22 No.12, Vol.23 Nos.5 & 12 Review)

PS Audio Power Port Classic AC receptacles: $50 each Uses terminal screws made of silicon bronze and internal contacts made of "high-purity" brass plated with 15 coats of polished nickel. All of the AC receptacles in AD's home that feed hi-fi components have been upgraded to PSA Power Ports. He heard "stronger music and blacker silence, with a slight, overall improvement in listening ease." BJR agreed: "The system reproduced far more midrange inner detail and delicacy. The improved dynamic range of the system was staggering. The system's noise floor seemed to have been lowered significantly....High-level dynamic slam seemed effortless....The lower bass seemed extended by another half-octave." And JA: "The apparent lowering of the electrical noise floor [from clean AC] is addictive." (Vol.26 No.11, Vol.27 No.3 Review)

PS Audio Ultimate Outlet: $299 * "For those unfortunate souls whose audio systems are still powered by AC as it comes out of the wall socket," wrote RD, "I recommend PS Audio's Standard Ultimate Outlet as the least expensive product that demonstrates the audible benefits of PSA's approach to power-line conditioning." With the Standard UO, transient crispness was heightened, dynamics were increased, the focus of images within the soundstage was improved, and the music, in general, became more involving. Upgrading to the $399 High Current UO brought greater improvements to dynamics, deepened the soundstage, and increased bass clarity. (Vol.24 No.12 Review)

Shunyata Anaconda Alpha AC cord: $1995
Shunyata Anaconda VX AC cord: $1995
The top models in Shunyata's PowerSnakes line, the Anaconda Alpha (7 gauge, 45A) and the Anaconda VX (9 gauge, 35A) use cryogenically treated CDA-101 copper, a patented winding geometry, and hand-braided conductors. The VX, intended for use with digital and visual electronics and recording equipment, fills the jacket with Fe-Si-1002 noise-reduction compound for the absorption of electromagnetic noise. "Vaporized" fine layers of haze and noise, thought PB, while providing greater dynamics and detail resolution. MF is also a big fan. (Vol.27 Nos.1 & 8 Review)

Shunyata Research Hydra Model 8: $1995 The Hydra Model 8 is an entirely passive device that has eight cryogenically treated, silver Shunyata Venom outlets—two digital-specific, two analog-specific—on the rear panel of its hermetically sealed, box-within-a-box aluminum case. Fe-Si-1002 noise-reduction compound fills the space between the two boxes and is said to absorb electromagnetic noise. With the Hydra 8 in his system, PB noted "quieter backgrounds and inter-transient silences, and a more relaxed and organized presentation." "The best I've heard!" adds MF, finding in his review of the Musical Fidelity kWP-kW combo that the Hydra 8 proved to be "the real key to musical satisfaction," smoothing out the highs, tightening the bass, and adding cohesion to the overall presentation. "An amazing product," he concluded, "mysteriously good." PB agrees, adding that he wouldn't be without his Hydra 8. (Vol.27 Nos.1 & 8 Review)

Siltech SPX-30 Classic G5: $600/m, $112 additional 0.25m PB: "All of the Siltech cables are beautifully made and finished and, hallelujah, are flexible, slim, and easy to dress." See also "Interconnects." (Vol.27 No.10 Review)

Synergistic Research Reference AC Master Coupler X2: $675/5ft, with Mini-Power Coupler "Brings out the best in whatever components you hook it up with," declares J-10 of the AC Master Coupler X. "Lets the music through more effortlessly." More expensive Master Coupler2—$1800 for 5'!—is stiff and unwieldy, but one of the best out there, says J-10. Particularly suited to amplifiers and for other high-current applications. The more expensive Designers' Reference Master Coupler2 ($2000/5ft) is a J-10 favorite. (Vol.24 No.11)

K Audience AdeptResponse, FIM 880 AC outlets, Panamax MAX5510 ACRegenerator & MAX4400-20Amp.

Stands, Spikes, Feet, & Racks

Good Speaker Stands There are too many possibilities, but, briefly, a good stand has the following characteristics: good rigidity; spikes on which to rest the speaker, or some secure clamping mechanism; the availability of spikes at the base for use on wooden floors; if the stand is steel, provision to keep speaker cables away from the stand to avoid magnetic interaction; and the correct height when combined with your particular speakers (correct height can be anything from what you like best to the manufacturer's design height for best drive-unit integration). Though Stereophile hasn't reviewed speaker stands, it's not because we think they're unimportant—for speakers that need stands, every dollar spent on good stands is worth $5 when it comes to sound quality. Brands we have found to offer excellent performance are Arcici Rigid Riser, Merrill (see Vol.18 No.1, p.39), Sound Anchor, Sanus Systems Steel and Reference, and Linn. (Sound Anchor also makes an excellent turntable stand, reports TJN.) Interface material between the speaker and the stand top plate is critical: Inexpensive Blu-Tack seems to reduce the amplitude of cabinet resonances the most (see Vol.15 No.9, p.162).

Audio Points by Star Sound Technologies: $49.99–$99.99/set of 3 Highly polished point of solid milled brass, claimed to have been developed along the theories of Coulomb Friction, transfer resonant energy through the virtual point away from the component. 28 sizes and thread combinations available. (NR)

Audio Selection Cones (formerly German Acoustics): $11 each * These effective brass-colored steel cones have removable hardened tips. (NR, but see Vol.15 No.9, p.162.)

AudioPrism Iso-Bearings: Small (2.5mm), $59.95/3; Large (3.3mm), $89.95/3 * Squishy, nonreactive polymer balls with plastic cups are recommended by CG for effective acoustic isolation. (NR, but see Vol.15 No.9, p.162.)

AudioQuest Sorbo-gel Q-Feet: $89/4 Now in a more reactive formulation in bright blue, these feet are the best means of isolating components from vibration. (NR)

Aurios MIB component supports: $299/3 * RD highly recommends these footers. Of the latest 1.2 version, he writes, "Do everything the originals did, but leveling is much less critical." (Vol.24 No.5)

Black Diamond Racing Pyramid Cones: $20 each * "Expensive, but very effective," according to J-10. WP and JA, who generally use these whenever they need to support electronic components, agree. (Vol.21 No.6)

Black Diamond Racing The Shelf: $440–$875 * Heavy, costly, but extremely free from torsional flex, this loaded carbon-fiber isolation platform impressed WP with a "marked increase in perceived silence" when placed under equipment. He also noted that low-level musical information became more prominent with the support in his system. J-10: "Transparency was greatly enhanced, coupled to a greater sense of air and original acoustic." WP maintains that when he "wants to really hear what a component is doing—as free as possible from the effects of its environment—it ends up on The Shelf." (Vol.19 No.2, Vol.21 No.6 Review)

Boltz CD 600 storage rack: $269; expansion kits, $159
Boltz LP shelves: $529 for a three-shelf unit; each additional shelf: $149 *
Surfing the Net, MF found these do-it-yourself racks: each is 48" high, 24" wide, just 6" deep, and holds 600 CDs! You can double or triple the capacity with the expansion kits, and the racks are now available pre-assembled. Now available as equipment racks, TV stands, and LP shelves. MF bought the LP rack, which consists of a heavy base and three shelves; additional shelves (3' wide by 10" deep) run $149 each, and you can stack 'em to the ceiling! "Really well-made and incredibly sturdy," reported The Analog One. Free shipping. (Vol.22 No.11, Vol.24 No.1)

Bright Star Air Mass 3: $129 * Ingenious, inexpensive, and effective air-bladder product that damps out floor and air-borne vibrations, MF said. WP agrees. Originally called Air Mass 1. (Vol.20 No.2)

Bright Star Audio Rack of Gibraltar 1 equipment stand: $1895 *
Bright Star Audio Big Rock 1: $199 *
Bright Star Audio Little Rock 1 Isolation Pod: $165 *
Bright Star Mini-Rock F VPI isolation base: $144 *
A very effective isolation system for control of unwanted vibrational energy. Individual components float on a sand bed for energy dissipation, and are weighted down with the Little Rock to minimize spurious vibrations. The payoff is enhanced resolution of the music's nuances, says DO. RN adds that this system consistently tightens the bass, increases sonic transparency, and smooths treble hash and grain. The Bright Star TNT Big Rock is a $275 sand table specially sized to support the TNT. WP, MF, BD, and BJR all use one under their VPIs, as they provide a stable surface and offer such sonic benefits as a lower noise floor and increased bass. The Mini-Rock F is specially sized for use under the TNT's flywheel. (Vol.16 No.5; Vol.18 No.11, Mini-Rock F; Vol.20 No.4, TNT Big Rock.)

Bright Star Rack of Gibraltar 2 equipment stand: $2450 * Rigid, super-stable platform for audio equipment, and the "carrier" for the Ultimate Isolation System: air-base (Air Mass) and sand-filled damping platform (Big Rock) makes a "sandwich" of sorts. The Gibraltar 2, with its two-wide, three-high, widely spaced, large shelves, isn't quite ready for MoMA and boasts no neon lights, but "in its simplicity and quality it's attractive, even elegant," said BD. He recalled Louis Henri Sullivan, who immortalized the phrase "form ever follows function." Suitable for turntables, superbly built, and the best BD has ever used. (Vol.23 No.5 Review)

Bright Star Ultimate TNT Isolation System: $1060 * Simple, affordable, effective isolation system for the VPI TNT that combines a static pneumatic isolation mount with mass loading. WP noted that "high frequencies seemed clearer, less smeared—harmonics leapt off strings and floated independent of the fundamental...Bass sounded more deep and taut, especially sustained notes or anything in the bottom two octaves of the piano." BD agrees, finding that the Isolation System lowers the TNT's (already low) background noise, resulting in subtle but noticeable improvements in image dimensionality, ambience, and inner detail. (Vol.20 No.7)

Gingko Audio Cloud 11 isolation stand: $379 The Cloud 11 uses up to ten rubber-like balls strategically placed between two slabs of acrylic. Mikey's sample was configured for use with the VPI Scoutmaster turntable. MF: "Putting the Cloud under the Scoutmaster resulted in a dramatic lowering of the noise floor and an improvement in the 'blackness' of the background. Images stood out in clarified relief, bass tightened, transients sounded sharper and more natural. The differences were not at all subtle." (Vol.27 No.11)

Golden Sound DH Cones, Squares, and Pads * With the Cones alone, J-10 "noted a lift in overall transparency, with a slightly tighter focus." Using the Squares alone, "the sound was softer than the Cone/Square combo...but nevertheless got high marks for a sweet and pleasant presentation." And in combination? "The highs and upper midrange were beautiful and open, the midrange had just the right amount of juice, the lower midrange wasn't boomy at all, and the bass extension was excellent." ST is also a fan, particularly of the Pads, which "wrought quite an improvement in sound under my Cary SE300Bs." Super Cones, $100/set of 3; Jumbo Cones, $70/set of 3; Large, $50/set of 3; Medium, $40/set of 3; Small, $20/set of 3. Squares, $30/set of 3, $40 set of 4; Super Pads, $250 (19" by 17" by ½" thick); Golden Sound Pads, $150 (12½" by 17½" by ½ thick); Acoustic Discs, $120/set of 12. (Vol.20 Nos.11 & 12, Vol.24 No.5)

Grand Prix Audio Monaco equipment stands: $1250–$5111 Despite their stylish, lightweight design, a four-shelf Monaco stand can carry up to 150 lbs per shelf, for a maximum total load of 500 lbs. PB: "More than anything else, the Monaco brought a sense of focus and a difficult-to-explain sense of calm" to the sound of everything he placed on them. Loading the hollow stainless-steel columns with lead shot produced another increment of improvement: "Backgrounds became quieter, low-level detail retrieval improved markedly, and dynamic contrasts took on greater subtlety and sharper contrasts." Using separate isolation footers under components only "muddled things," providing evidence of the "fundamental soundness of the GPA approach to vibration control." The amp stand is expensive but "works as promised and looks cool too," decided MF. A 3-shelf system costs $2856; 4-shelf system, $3999; 5-shelf system, $5111; base module, $1855; short or tall module, $1235; amplifier stand, $1250; Formula Shelf Carbon-fiber/Kevlar composite shelf, $900. (Vol.24 No.7, amp stand; Vol.25 No.12 Review)

Lovan Classic II Modular Racks: $484–$672 based on shelf size and board color * An elegantly simple, adaptable, and absolutely rigid rack design consisting of spiked three- or five-footed modules designed for stability and for stacking in combinations of high- and low-height modules. Supporting columns can be filled for additional stability. KR's double-width AVR rack shelves needed a layer of DynaMat to completely deaden them. (NR)

Music Direct record rack: $299–$450; add $100–$150 for additional shelves Sturdy, attractive racks with modular shelves of ¾" MDF in lengths of 31" and 59". Steel backsplashes keep records lined up evenly, while a series of hidden support rods make sure they never fall over or bend, even when the rack is only partially filled. Available in maple with silver uprights or cherry with black uprights. Add $100 for each additional shelf. MF: "Designed by vinyl enthusiasts for vinyl enthusiasts." (Vol.27 No.6)

S.A.P. Audio Relaxa magnetic levitation platform: $795 Uses pairs of opposing magnets in each of four feet that are stabilized using a bearing/shaft mechanism designed to minimize mechanical contact. MF: "The Thorens 850's sonic charms only improved with the better isolation provided by the Relaxa. Image focus, and the subtlety and clarity of musical transients, seemed to be rendered more cleanly." Compared to the Gingko Audio Cloud 11, the Relaxa demonstrated less effective attenuation overall, but did a much better job of dispensing with motor noise. (Vol.27 Nos.2 & 11)

Sound Anchors Cone Coasters: $14 each * These discs, machined from a sandwich of stainless steel, Kevlar, and polyester, are designed to prevent speaker spikes from ruining your floors and to prevent vibrations from being transmitted through wooden floors. BJR found that using them with his Alóon Vs resulted in greater perceived detail and "faster" bass. (NR)

Symposium Energy Absorption Platform: $499 *
Symposium Ultra Isolation Platform: $599
The top and bottom of the Ultra platform are aluminum, while the middle is made up of several unequal-thickness layers of vibration-damping material designed primarily to drain vibrational energy away from your component, rather than to provide isolation from external vibrations or footfalls. It succeeded at lowering noise and enhancing resolution, while bringing "an entirely subjective sense of ease" to listening, said JM. The less-expensive platform jazzed MF with the "top-to-bottom authority, focus, and slam" that his system gained when the platform was installed under his turntable. Prices are for 19" by 14" size; 19" by 21" costs slightly more. (Vol.20 No.5. Vol.26 No.3 Review)

Symposium Rollerblock Series 2+: $399/set of 3, $499/set of 4 * For improved resolution from your CD player (or any other digital equipment), ST recommended these precision-machined items, which consist of a block with a ball bearing set in a hemispherical depression. Once they're in place, he said, the sound "just tightens up, cleans up, clears up. I hear more low-level information. Imaging improves. Timing, too...Transients are crisper. I hear improvement in just about every respect." The only drawback (outside of cost) is that the player might "roll around a little" when you load a disc or hit Play. SD concurs with ST's enthusiasm; MF became a believer in the "high-roller" phenomenon when he put his AudioPhysic Virgos on the similar Yamamura speaker bearings. (Vol.22 No.4)

Vibrapods: $6 each; available singly or in packs of 4 * KR: "Placed under CD players/transports, DACs and preamps, the small (1"x3" diameter), formed Vibrapods isolate and enhance performance. Five different models rated for loads of 2–28 lbs; match the quantity to the component. I keep a box of them around so that no component goes without." A KR favorite. (NR)

Walker Valid Points: $295/set of 3 large cones and 5 discs; other sizes available * Heavy brass-alloy-and-lead cones, with points that rest atop large, brass-ringed, lead-filled "tuning discs." "Definitely worth checking out," said MF, "and Walker will refund your money if you're not satisfied. (You must return the set within 30 days in the original condition.)" MF adds that "not only do I like them a lot, they're well worth the price—as I clearly found when I put a set under the Ayre K-1 and added a few of the discs on top." Combined height may be too tall for some racks. Super Tuning Kit ($425) includes three large cones, five discs, and four 1" discs. (Vol.20 No.5, Vol.21 No.11)

Zoethecus audio stands: $569–$1682, e.Shelves, $34 each; z.Pods, $140 each; z.Slabs, $200 each * Attractive frames carry e.Shelves (aluminum-topped, medium-density fiberboard), z.Pods (nine-layer, constrained-layer-damped), and/or solid z.Slabs, which rest on phenolic corner crossbraces dotted with Isodiscs to "isolate the shelves from floor- and airborne vibration." e.Shelves are best for mechanical devices like turntables and transports, z.Pods for electronic ones. According to MF, "the isolation part works extremely well...the energy-draining shelves seem to work as well," though he now says they "can impart a slightly 'squooshy' sound to some components." (Vol.22 No.7)

K Bright Star IsoNodes, Finite Elemente Reference Pagoda equipment stand, String Suspension Concepts and Finite Elemente Cera-ball feet.

Deletions Sanus Systems CF-5 component stands discontinued; OSAR Selway & Magruder equipment racks, Ultra Dynafeet, Salamander Designs Synergy System and Archetype equipment racks, and PolyCrystal equipment racks and Brass Spikes all not tried out in a long time.

Digital Data Interconnects

Apogee Electronics Wyde-Eye: $49.95/0.5m; $59.95/1m; $69.95/2m; $79.95/3m; $89.95/5m; $99.95/10m $$$ * "If you haven't heard this 110 ohm balanced data cable, you're missing out!" crows LL, adding that it's "more transparent, more musically honest than any I've heard—and it's ridiculously cheap!" JA is also impressed, and uses 50' lengths for his Stereophile recording sessions. KR, however, while agreeing that Wyde-Eye is an excellent value, notes that it is less transparent-sounding than the (much more expensive) Illuminations. Also available for the same price in a 75 ohm version for S/PDIF applications, using Canare's true 75 ohm RCAs. (NR)

AudioQuest OptiLink Pro 2: $350/1m, with AT&T-ST termination * Expensive ST datalink that JA and JE recommend highly. Excellent bass performance, with power, clarity, and dynamic contrast, says JE. Rich sound. ST terminations can be fragile, adds JA. (Vol.16 No.11)

Canare DigiFlex Gold model RCAPOO3F: approx. $10.70/3ft * Before you try any of the expensive coaxial links, CG advises trying this inexpensive, true 75 ohm cable with Canare crimp RCA connectors. He rates it as his first choice in a digital cable at any price, even preferring it to the Kimber AGDL. JA uses the 110-ohm version in various lengths for CD mastering. (Vol.16 No.7)

Kimber Orchid: $580/1m * Expensive, but the best AES/EBU link JA has used. J-10 loved the Orchid's midrange liquidity and detail, but preferred Illumination's S/PDIF cable overall. SD (almost) doesn't equivocate: "Probably the best out there for now....A stunner!" RH and RD are also fans. New lower price usefully brings this cable in reach of more music lovers. (Vol.19 No.5)

Stereovox hdvx: $100/1m "Chris Sommovigo does it again with another and better and cheaper digital coax!" cries KR. This BNC-BNC S/PDIF cable comes with RCA adapters and is sturdy enough for a reviewer's constant reconnecting and neutral enough to reveal the subtleties of the connected equipment. "$100? I cannot imagine spending more!" decides Dr. Kal. JA agrees. (NR)

K AudioQuest Optilink-5, Audience Au24, DH Labs Silver Sonic D-110.

Deletions AudioQuest VSD-4 discontinued; Digital Precision X-60 i2Digital dropped in favor of Stereovox hdvx.

Books & Computer Software

David Moulton's Playback Platinum Test CDs: $44.95 each if purchased separately, $159.80 for the set of 4 Four-volume lecture series that covers the fundamentals of audio from a popular-music production standpoint: Vol.1, Loudness, Compression, Distortion; Vol.2, Stereo Miking; Vol.3, Equalization; Vol.4, Digital Audio: Sensory Listening Tests. Each volume is on a separate CD, which comes in a hardbound, textbook-sized book that includes about 50 pages of additional text keyed to each track of each lecture. JM: "I'm impressed with how Moulton & Co. take material that has the potential to be dauntingly dry, and make it enjoyable and memorable by adopting at times a 'radio drama' approach." (Vol.26 No.5 Review)

Digital Recordings Audio-CD Hearing Test: $24.95 * This system permits useful evaluation of hearing thresholds with only a CD player and a pair of headphones. KR reported that it reveals any significant gaps in your hearing. (His own results were "close to ideal, especially considering my age and usual haunts." Whew.) "Ever wonder why others don't hear what you do? This simple test will tell you, even though you may not like the answer." Such a card. (Vol.23 No.1)

ELAC Technische Software CARA REL 2.1 Plus program: $74.95 * To use CARA, one must create a full three-dimensional model of the listening room, using the program's CARACAD module. KR: "By 'full,' I mean that all room dimensions and surfaces are defined: doors, windows, furniture, soffits, bays, etc." Kal found it time-effective to reduce the complexity of the model (eg, remove smaller objects) and the order of reflections (3–4) for the early iterations, at which point the number of possible speaker and user positions is large—an 800MHz Pentium III can take 48 hours or more to run even that modest a set of variables. "Several simplified runs will tell you which arrangements deserve more investigation. After that, you can limit the range of positions for speakers and listener while progressively increasing the number of reflections and adding more feature details, as a confirmation of the optimum arrangement." Checking predictions against the results with ETF or with TacT RCS measurements confirmed CARA's conclusions to an amazing degree. KR: "Wouldn't you like to know how well a speaker might work in your room before you buy it? I would." Runs under Windows. Web. (Vol.24 No.9 Review)

ETF 5.x room response software: $149 * KR says, "This Windows 95 program is the most cost-effective and critical way to assess your room and system acoustics and monitor your adjustments to them. Unlike modeling programs, ETF actually measures room responses and modes, and is an essential tool for users of equalization and correction systems." J-10 and SD agree. Compared with Acoustisoft's ETF 4.0 software, which was reviewed by KR, ETF 5.0 contains a revamped interface, a full MLS-based signal generator/analyzer with both post-process and pseudo-real-time capabilities. Very easy to use and requires only a decent duplex soundcard and microphone. Web. (Vol.21 No.7 Review)

RPG Diffusor Systems Room Optimizer Software: $99 * MF recently moved to a new home with bare, reflective walls—where to plunk the speakers? RPG Diffusor Systems' Room Optimizer Software—available from, among others, Audio Advisor—to the rescue. Plug in the room's dimensions (they must be rectangular) and the program will output the location where the modal response is flattest and the speaker-boundary interference is minimized. It'll also tell you where to sit! (Vol.22 No.11)

Visual Ears: $89, plus $3 S&H * Inexpensive but excellent computer program for PCs and Macs. Available from KB Acoustics, P.O. Box 50206, Eugene, OR 97405. Tel: (541) 935-7022. Allows an audiophile to move simulated loudspeakers and a simulated listening seat around a simulation of his or her room (in three dimensions) to find the position that gives optimal performance below 200Hz or so. (Vol.13 No.12, DOS; see "Industry Update" in Vol.19 No.4 and "Fine Tunes" in Vol.21 No.8, Windows.)

K SignalScope and SignalSuite for Mac OSX, TrueAudio spectrum analyzer for Windows.