Recommended Components Addendum

Loudspeaker Cables & Interconnects
Editor's Note: Rather than place cables in the usual "Recommended Components" classes, we've just listed those cables that members of the magazine's review team either have chosen to use on a long-term basis or have found to offer good value for money. They are therefore implicitly recommended. Where a cable has been found to have specific matching requirements or an identifiable sonic signature, it is noted in the text. "Try before you buy" is mandatory with cables; many dealers have a loaner stock to make this easier.


Acoustic Zen Silver Reference II: $948/1m RCA; $998/1m XLR
The top of Acoustic Zen's line and made of seven-nines silver, the SR II offered, according to PB, a near-ideal balance of superb low-level resolution, harmonic richness, speed, and dynamics. "Bass was firm, deep, and defined, the midrange open, silky, and richly detailed." The interconnects worked equally well with tube and solid-state components, he found, concluding "I would not have been surprised had their price been twice as high." However, "not the best choice for a system that already sounds bright or forward." $500/m for longer cables, 15% off for 0.5m. (Vol.26 No.1 Review)

Alpha-Core Micro-Purl: $78/1m pair (Cu); $127/1m pair (Ag)
BD found that all the Alpha-Core cables shared these characteristics: "powerful, slightly forward, a touch cool, and having great extension and power at the frequency extremes." Detail and dynamics were very good at the louder end of the scale. Very-low-level detail, however, was lost. Similarly, wrote BD, "While the soundstage as a whole was reasonably deep, the individual images lacked dimensionality." While the Ag interconnects lacked the Cu's slight bass prominence and forward perspective, the Cu had a warmer tonal balance and more expansive soundstage. BD: "Their failings...are in dealing with a level of subtlety that's likely not a huge consideration with the gear they're priced to match....I unhesitatingly recommend their inclusion in any budget system, and strongly suggest that anyone cabling even an upscale system give them a serious audition." (Vol.24 No.10)

Alpha-Core Triode Quartz Silver: $186/1m pair
BD found this silver-conductor interconnect to sound much more like a "super version of the Micro-Purl Cu," but with "a lot of the inner detail and textural nuance that the Micro-Purls lacked." Whereas the Micro-Purls proved to be a great budget cable, the TQ2s "are a step beyond 'good for the money' and well into the realm of 'good at any price.' Coupled with their still very modest cost, their performance represents a true bargain—one of those undiscovered gems." Price is for unbalanced interconnect with RCAs. (Vol.24 No.10)

Analysis Plus Solo Crystal: $439/1m
MF: "For transient clarity, linearity, low-frequency nimbleness, high-frequency extension, and overall cleanness, the Analysis Plus was extremely impressive. It was neat and tidy, left no loose ends, and was free of glare, grain, or other annoying artifacts. The fast attacks of vocal sibilants and cymbals were handled with impressive clarity and ease. The bass was very tight, extended, well-controlled, and correctly sized." (Vol.26 No.4 Review)

Audience Au24: $552/1m pair, unbalanced, $336/additional meter; $970/1m pair, balanced, $672/additional meter
"The Au24s had a neutral, relaxed sound," said BD, "with good extension at the frequency extremes and a wide, deep soundstage." However, they did not reach the density of tonal colors and the extreme inner detail of the expensive Nordost Valhalla. Nor could they match the Nirvana S-X Ltds.' incredibly natural soundstage reproduction. Nevertheless, "The Au24s were no slouch, just a bit off the standard set by the very best I've heard." (Vol.25 No.8 Review)

AudioQuest Cheetah: $1000/1m pair
The Cheetahs use perfect-surface silver (PSS), single-conductor, solid-core stranded wire, Teflon Air-Tube insulation, and a Triple Balanced design. A Dielectric Bias System (DBS)—a 12V DC bias—"charges" the cable's insulation. AD decided that the DBS had no influence on the Cheetah's performance one way or another. Compared to his inexpensive, homemade interconnects, the Cheetahs had "minutely fuller" bass and were "marginally better" at conveying deeper, darker silences. AD: "Music flowed beautifully, and there was nothing musically unnatural or sonically pinched or distorted about it." MF found that the Cheetahs added bass control and greater HF extension to his Musical Fidelity kWP-kW combo. A JA favorite. Though KR noted "a slightly better, smoother transition from the midrange to the treble" with the DBS battery system operating on the less expensive but similar Panther ($700/1m), discernible differences were apparent only during quick A/B comparisons. (Vol.27 Nos.1, 8, & 11 Review)

Empirical Audio Holophonic-XPC: $630/1m pair; Holophonic-PC, $620/1m pair
BD was initially underwhelmed by these interconnects: "There seemed to be some life and pizzazz missing from the music." However, after sufficient time with the Holophonics in his system, instrumental tones seemed purer and more direct, while low-level subtleties were more accurately portrayed. Empirical offers a 30-day money-back guarantee. (Vol.28 No.4 Review)

Harmonic Technology Pro-Silway III: $479/1m balanced pair; $240/additional stereo 1m pair
A hybrid of two filaments of copper and two of 6N-pure (99.99997%) silver. The braided copper outer shield is plated with pure silver and insulated with Teflon tape or air-foamed PE (polyethylene with air bubbles as the main dielectric). The connectors are "NASA grade," according to Harmonic Tech. Caused a significant change in the sound of the Audio Research VTM200 MF was reviewing: "The bass firmed up and rejoined the music, the midrange took on a richer, more full-bodied texture, and the top remained extended, detailed, and ultra-revealing, but not quite as right." In comparison to the Analysis Plus Solo Crystal Oval 8, MF said, "The Harmonic Technology cable resulted in greater delicacy and transparency; an increased ability to experience and 'feel' instrumental textures; and more, and more tactile, bass....However, there was somewhat less bass control; rhythmic flow was somewhat impeded, and transients, while crisper and more detailed, were also slightly edgier and less finely drawn. But the net effect of the more tactile bass and the crisper transients was an overall sound of greater warmth and apparent detail." (Vol.24 No.1, Vol.26 No.4 Review)

Hovland Music Groove 2 tonearm cable: $795/any length up to 1.5m pair, with RCA or straight DIN terminations; $835, with 90 DIN connector
This silver-plated copper cable—MF's reference for the Graham tonearm—embodied a "relaxed, warm, 'physical' " sound with "detail, depth, dynamic authority, and three-dimensionality." It sounds rolled-off only if you're accustomed to bright, he said, rolling his eyes. XLR preamp connector adds $60. (Vol.21 No.2, Vol.23 No.5, Vol.24 No.2)

Kimber Kable KCAG-147: $490/1m pair, XLR or WBT-RCA connectors
Unshielded but astonishingly transparent, and offering improved image focus and even better clarity when compared with Kimber's PBJ. A TJN and JA favorite. (NR, but see Vol.16 No.7)

Kimber Kable Silver Streak-147: $260/1m pair, with WBT-RCA connectors; balanced: $360/1m pair
This low-impedance, low-resistance cable "represents a major performance breakthrough for the price," said ST. Its secret? Only the signal-carrying portion of the braid is silver—the returns are copper. ST reported gains in clarity and quickness. "The sound is cleaner, quicker, less confused...I suggest you run with the Streak." BW adds that the Kimber's excellent resolution of detail and transients has to be balanced against the fact that it might add too much "zip" to already bright systems. (Vol.19 No.11)

MIT MI-350 Twin CVTerminator Series II: $1495/1m pair
BJR's reference interconnect for many years. "Transparent, dynamic, and impressive performance at frequency extremes," says he. (NR)

Monster Cable Sigma Retro Gold: $750/1.5ft pair; $1000/3ft pair; $1500/6ft pair
Designed by Demian Martin, the Sigma Retro Gold interconnects use three different gauges of six-nines copper conductors, and are wound with Monster's patented Micro-Fiber thread. Tonal balance was very neutral, neither too warm nor too cool, and provided the correct mix of delicacy and body. Speed, clarity, air, and extension at the top end were stellar. Edge definition and detail were superb, creating a sharply focused and obvious sonic picture. The reproduction of dynamic transients and the re-creation of images and soundstages were excellent. While image dimensionality and soundstage depth were good, the Monsters couldn't quite match the Nirvana SX-Ltd. or Audience Au24 in these areas. BD: "The Monsters should sound great in any system." Full kit with speaker cables and interconnects costs $4500. (Vol.27 No.2 Review)

Nordost Valhalla: $4000/m pair, with WBT Nextgen RCA termination; balanced (XLR) configuration, $60 extra; additional length, $1000/m
Although these cables are "insanely expensive," BD was sure that you'll love what they do for your system. Images were detailed, distinct, and densely filled-in and three-dimensional. The soundstage moved out farther than BD had ever experienced. However, while it was obvious that the Valhallas were special, it was also obvious that they had a distinct tonal signature. BD wrote, "The system always had a lighter, drier sound with the Nordost—the tonal balance was shifted slightly upward, and the overall presentation was a touch cooler than with other wires." RD: "Expensive, but, boy, are they good!" (Vol.24 No.11 Review)

Pure Silver Connection (PSC) PST 8: $450/1m pair
Balanced interconnects featuring solid, silver-plated 6N copper and round conductors. LG reported that they reduced system hum problems and were "highly recommended!" (NR)

Siltech SQ-110 Classic Mk.2 G5:$2600/1m pair, $500 additional 0.25m
The G5 Classic cables evolved from Siltech's highly regarded G3 series, and are designed to minimize the pickup of RF and EM interference while maintaining low inductance, low capacitance, and low resistance. The wires were "open, extended, and smooth," with a "voluptuous and rounded" midrange, "beautifully extended" top end, and "well-controlled, deep, and precise" bass. Due to their "slightly more laid-back presentation and mellower overall character," PB suggested they be used with components that are a bit forward. (Vol.27 No.10 Review)

Silversmith Audio Silver: $1400/3ft unbalanced pair; $1450/3ft balanced pair
Silversmith Audio's purist approach to interconnect design features two conductors (three for balanced) suspended in individual Teflon tubes and bundled into a single larger tube and a mesh shield of silver-plated copper. The Silvers occupied "a great middle ground" between the Nirvana SX-Ltds and Nordost Valhallas, combining tonal neutrality with well-defined images and a slightly laid-back presentation to provide "a nice combination of strengths and weaknesses that will make them a solid performer no matter the situation," said BD. (Vol.28 No.6 Review)

Synergistic Research Alpha Sterling X2: $299/1m pair, with Active Shielding interconnects with Mini-Power Coupler
With the Alpha Sterling's Active Shielding engaged, CS became suddenly aware of "a wealth of spatial cues—stupefying dimensions of soundstage layering. The heightened sense of dimensionality was intoxicating." And with the Mini-Power Coupler, CS found the soundstage to extend beyond the rear wall, "conveying greater depth and dimensionality." (Vol.24 No.11)

Synergistic Research Designers' Reference X2: $2250/1m pair, with Mini-Power Coupler; $500/pair each additional 0.5m
These interconnects do everything superbly, says BD, who found that they're essentially neutral in terms of tonal balance and dynamics across the frequency spectrum. Particular areas of excellence, he sums up, include a realistic balance of inner detail and coherence, image dimensionality, and ambience recovery. J-10 agrees, noting that the Synergistic is "wideband, ultradynamic (micro'n'macro), colorful, harmonic, detailed, [with] lots of air in a huge soundstage, deepest bass, beaucoup de midrange resolution and texture, [and] highs as sweet as your equipment can dish out." However, he did find it "a touch biased toward the large-gestured and grand rather than the small and well-formed." J-10 reports a significant improvement in refinement and power handling with a Master Control Center and Active Shielding. CS found that adding Active Shielding "seemed both to illuminate and deepen the soundstage and generally firm things up." Timbres were "more natural...with enhanced bass energy, which translated into deeper, more holographic soundstaging, greater front-to-back imaging and focus...and greater retrieval of ambient information and microdynamics." (Vol.21 No.1, Vol.24 No.11)

Crystal Cable, DiMarzio, Acrolink 7N-DA6100 Mexcel.

Stereovox SEI-600 replaced by new version not yet auditioned.

Loudspeaker Cables

Acoustic Zen Satori Shotgun: $1188/8ft pair
The all-copper Satori Shotgun has a total gauge 7 AWG. PB: "If the [Acoustic Zen Silver Reference II] represented a stunning bargain, the Satori Shotgun took the concept of value into another universe....Deep, taut, articulate bass? Check. A harmonically rich but uncolored midrange? Double check. Smoothness, purity, and world-class extension on top? Triple check. At times there seemed as if there was just a dash of silvery mellowness on top, but the Satori Shotgun never seemed to impede the retrieval of low-level detail on reverb trails, cymbal strokes, brushed snare drums, or the sheen of massed violins." Longer lengths cost $100/ft extra; less $50 for shorter lengths. (Vol.26 No.1 Review)

Alpha-Core Python MI2: $287/8ft biwire pair
BD: "Of all the Alpha-Cores, the Python MI2 speaker cables sounded the most like a budget cable....Unlike the interconnects, the MI2's tonal balance was somewhat to the warm, dark side of neutral. Their bottom end was full and powerful, but lacked a bit of dynamic snap and precision. On top, there was a noticeable lack of air and extension....The midrange lacked dimensionality and inner detail....Their soundstage was also foreshortened in depth....The bottom line: The Python is a good budget cable but no giant-killer....I certainly recommend that they be considered for inclusion in a low- to midpriced system." (Vol.24 No.10)

Analysis Plus Oval 9: $439/8ft pair
Hollow oval cable designed "by physicists and engineers who helped NASA, Motorola, Mitsubishi, and others," claims the documentation, which also states that all members of the design team "hold advanced degrees in electrical engineering or physics" and that their specialty is "the art of computer simulation." The best relatively inexpensive speaker cable Mikey has heard. "You won't be disappointed," he sums up. (Vol.24 No.1; see also MF's comments on the Oval 8 in Vol.26 No.4 Review)

Analysis Plus Solo Crystal 8: $1060/8ft set
See "Interconnects." (Vol.26 No.4)

Audience Au24: $1373/3m pair, single wire, $337/additional meter; $2589/3m pair, biwire, $675 additional meter
"It was as a speaker cable that the Au24 really shone." BD actually preferred the Au24 to his reference Valhalla in terms of tonal balance, imaging, resolution of inner detail, and soundstaging. (Vol.25 No.8 Review)

AudioQuest CV-4: $410/8ft pair
A rather stiff but basically neutral-sounding solid-core cable that JA recommends highly. Can be a little bright with the wrong speakers. Current version features AudioQuest's DBS technology. (NR)

AudioQuest Gibraltar: $975/10ft pair, single bi-wire configuration, spade-lug or banana-plug termination
Each half of the twin lead houses a helical wind of four solid ultra-pure copper conductors with one set for bass signals, the other for treble, while the overall twin-lead layout keeps the two sets magnetically separated in a true biwire design. BD found that the flexible Gibraltar was "easy to run and accommodated most extreme bends and crinks....The Gibraltars caught me off-guard with their subtlety and nuance, and even by sounding slightly muted at times....Tonally, the AQs were slightly to the warm side of neutral and a bit bigger on the bottom than my other cables....Their soundstage was a little narrower than that produced by my other cables, with images concentrated between the speakers and, if anything, slightly recessed....[They] also didn't seem to produce quite as much air, or reproduce the space around the images as well as I'm used to." Nevertheless, KR has settled on a 6' double biwire run of Gibraltar as his standard cable for speakers that permit biwiring. The set consists of two full-length runs sharing only the amp-end terminals and is priced, appropriately, at twice the price of single runs. JA also finds the Gibraltar an excellent value. (Vol.26 No.6 Review)

AudioQuest Kilimanjaro: $6400/8ft pair
Along with AQ's Cheetah, their Kilimanjaro "offered the best combination of detail and frequency extension" when used in the Musical Fidelity kWP-kW combo, said MF. Smooth, very smooth, adds JA. (Vol.27 No.1 Review)

AudioQuest Mont Blanc: $2125/10ft pair, single-wire, spade-lug, or banana-plug termination
Like the Cheetah interconnects, the Mont Blanc cables use AudioQuest's Dielectric Bias System (DBS), which AD didn't find affected the cable's behavior. The cables use pure-surface copper (PSC), single-conductor, solid-core stranded wires and AQ's Counter-Spiraling "Earth Feature" Geometry, in which conductors in the positive bundle are wound in one direction while conductors in the negative bundle are wound in the opposite direction, to minimize electromagnetic interference. Compared to AD's homemade cables, the Mont Blancs "sounded deeper, bigger, blacker, stiller...albeit by a small margin." However, KR "loves them" (though he notes that it's not a "lifetime commitment"). (Vol.27 Nos.8 & 11 Review)

Empirical Audio Clarity-7: $1512/8ft pair
Single-wire configuration, terminated in gold-plated OFC spade lugs for 1/4" or 5/16" speaker lugs. "Very, very good—and well worth a listen," said BD. Empirical offers a 30-day money-back guarantee. See "Interconnects." (Vol.28 No.4 Review)

Harmonic Technology Magic Reference Woofer: $2500/8ft quadruple set, $250 each additional 1ft quad
See Pro-Silway II interconnect for build details. All Harmonic Technology cables are said to take advantage of "amazing" discoveries in metallurgy that eliminate what they call "crystalline barrier distortion." While reviewing the Audio Research VTM200s amps, MF said, "With the Magic Woofer cable, the system finally began to communicate the music's emotional center....It was as if a switch had been thrown. I know that sounds a bit dramatic, but it was unmistakable." MF's long-term reference. He confirms that the current version deserves continued recommendation. (Vol.24 No.1, Vol.26 No.4 Review)

Kimber Kable BiFocal-X: $1400/8ft pair, with WBT connectors
A different Kimber cable design, the BiFocal-X offers "a well-balanced mix of characteristics that should mate beautifully with a wide range of systems," according to BD. He adds, "These cables do just about everything right and are among the very best I've heard." (Vol.21 No.5)

Kimber Kable BiFocal-XL: $2060/8ft pair. with WBT connectors
The XL version of the BiFocal cable doubles the number of connectors, and "in the right system is a big step up in every way," reported BD. The improvement, he says, "adds just a bit of tangibility, and slightly better extension and accuracy at the frequency extremes." (Vol.21 No.5)

Kubala-Sosna Fascination: $800/m pair; $250/additional meter Kubala-Sosna Anticipation: $350/m pair; $125/additional meter
Kubala-Sosna claims that their OptimiZ technology "results in a lower characteristic impedance and a higher ratio of capacitance to inductance than any other cable." Each cable consists of a hefty pair of conductors twisted around each other, sheathed with a knitted cover, and solidly terminated in thick spade lugs. With the cables in his system, KR noted a decrease in overall residual hiss and softer but more precise highs. "I can't say that the change is substantial, but it is definable." (Vol.28 No.3)

MIT MH-750 Shotgun: $999/8ft pair, plus terminations
Output-Specific Speaker Interface with built-in termination network and Iconn interchangeable screw-on connectors. Impedance-matched to the system they're used with. See MIT MI-330 interconnect for sonic description. (Vol.23 No.3)

Monster Cable Sigma Retro Gold: $1250/5ft pair; $2000/8ft pair; $2500/10ft pair; $3000/12ft pair
Very similar in design and sound to the Sigma Retro Gold interconnects, these cables use two different gauges of six-nines copper conductors wrapped in MicroFiber, then woven around a solid, nonconducting core. Unlike the interconnects, however, the speaker cables were more dimensionally neutral, with images neither noticeably forward nor at all recessed. Full kit with cables and interconnects: $4500. (Vol.27 No.2 Review)

Nirvana Audio S-X Ltd.: $2780/2.5m pair
"A dynamite speaker cable," the S-X Ltd. was tonally neutral and produced well-defined images, powerful and fast transients, and incredible transparency. The only nit BD could pick was a slight compression of front-to-back soundstaging depth. "A big jump in performance from the company's SL." Add $50/pair for biwire configuration. (Vol.28 No.10 Review)

Nordost Valhalla: $4200/m pair, with banana-plug or spade termination; additional length, $1900/m
The Valhalla contains 40 silver-plated copper micro-monofilament conductors, each polished and wrapped with a monofilament spacer prior to encapsulation in the Teflon ribbon. Similar to the Valhalla interconnect, the speaker cable's overall presentation was "clean, airy, and detailed," according to BD, "without ever being over-etched or harsh....The portrayal was incredibly compelling from top to bottom, but the midrange...seemed almost holographic....[They] sounded almost relaxed—but still clean and precise—and their images were dense, detailed, and dimensional." An AD favorite. (Vol.24 No.11 Review)

Pure Silver Connection (PSC) R50: $1250/3m pair
Features biwiring via silver-plated, solid-copper spades in tandem with gold-plated banana plugs. Optimized speaker response in LG's system. "They're solid-silver ribbons, incorporating 'Cuiletto 1' ribbon for the highs and R30 ribbon for the lows." Again, "highly recommended!" (NR)

RadioShack 18-gauge solid-core hookup wire: $3.99/60ft spool $$$
Ridiculously cheap way of connecting speakers, yet ST reports that this cable is okay sonically. You have to choose for yourself whether to space or twist a pair for best sound (or even whether to double up the runs for less series impedance). (NR)

Siltech LS-188 Classic G5 Mk.2: $4800/2m pair, $500 additional 0.25m
"Truly excellent cables," said PB. See "Interconnects." (Vol.27 No.10 Review)

Silversmith Audio Silver: $2950/8ft pair
The Silver cables consist of completely separate units for plus and minus, each composed of a silver ribbon suspended in a mesh-covered Teflon tube and terminated with spade-type cutouts sized to match speaker binding-post diameters. See "Interconnects." (Vol.28 No.6 Review)

Synergistic Research Absolute Reference Speaker Wire X2: $6800/10ft pair, with Mini-Power Coupler
BD finds these speaker cables, like the Designers' Reference interconnects, to be essentially neutral. "They add so little character of their own to a system's sound that they'll likely seem unimpressive on first listen," he warns. CS agrees, adding that he was "impressed with the way they just get out of the way and let you zero in on the music...[they] throw a good image with a lot of air in it, natural highs, smooth midrange, and nice, tight, uncolored bass." J-10 concurs: "one of only a handful at the very top of the cable hill." (Vol.21 No.1, Vol.24 No.11)

Crystal Cable, Wireworld Gold Eclipse 3+, Harmonic Technology Improved Magic Woofer/Tweeter cables, Acrolink 7N-S20000 Mexcel.

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. $11.12/3ft $$$
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 HDXV: $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)

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

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: $39.95
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. (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.)

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