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Now that flat-screen HDTVs have had a couple decades worth of refinement and product development, it's fair to say that it's harder to find a bad TV than it is a good one. A modern HDTV pairs excellent picture quality with built-in smart TV streaming features, all at an incredibly affordable price. The most recent trend with HDTVs has been increasingly larger screen sizes; it's now possible to find 55-inch TVs priced similarly to 40-inch models from even a few years ago. Our top HDTV picks display inky black levels, creating a more immersive experience thanks to the well-defined contrast between light and dark areas. These selections also provide excellent color accuracy, recreating an image to make it look lifelike (along with carrying the necessary adjustments to dial in the perfect images with true-to-life colors). Each of these picks can also easily process moving image and maintain clarity with fast-moving program or movie scenes free of shudder or skipping, making them well-suited for home theater use. We also evaluated each TV's respective smart TV capabilities for ease of use and functionality. If you're still unsure, head straight down to our HDTV buyer's guide below.
August 15, 2019
AV receivers (alternately, A/V receivers) act as an electronic gateway or organizer for your home entertainment system, and consolidate the function of multiple devices into a single box. Modern AV receivers offer several HDMI inputs and an ARC-capable output, with higher-end units featuring advanced video processing as well. Better AV receivers offer superior sound quality, which can immerse viewers in the "atmosphere" that movie directors intended. The best AV receivers below offer excellent options for expanding your home audio or theater system, and we’ve also provided an AV Receiver buyer's guide below for your review.
September 06, 2019
Sound bars are by far the easiest way to add volume and clarity to any TV or home theater system. Most TVs come with small downward or rear firing speakers that have especially poor bass response, and often unsatisfactory volume. This generally makes for terrible sound quality, and most don’t reach below 300 Hz or above 10,000; human hearing extends between 20-20,000 Hz, meaning that over half the spectrum is missing! The output from built-in speakers is certainly usable, especially in smaller rooms, but let’s face it: everyone wants their TV to sound more like a movie theater. The good news is that it's possible to move closer to this ideal with a minimal investment. Around $100-200 will net you a unit that can drastically improve sound quality over built-in speakers, lowering bass response down past 100hz to put some good thump in your music and movies, and offering a much more spacious, realistic presentation that will leave you wondering how you ever got by with the bare minimum.
August 08, 2019
  • Try searching for the best plasma TVs in 2021, and you may have found out the hard way that plasma TVs no longer exist. LG and Samsung sold their last PDP sets in 2015 (largely as re-hashed versions of their respective 2014 models), while Panasonic packed up their plasma TV operations in 2014 and left the US entirely only a couple years later. Despite their inherently superior picture quality and surprisingly affordable prices, dwindling consumer interest and falling prices of rival HDTV technologies led to the plasma display panel joining CRTs and DLP/rear projection in the "obsolete" section of the consumer TV market.
    February 13, 2020
  • It's no secret that the most popular type of HDTV on the market today is the LED TV. Technically a misnomer born out of marketing and convenience, the term "LED TV" actually refers to an LCD TV that utilizes an LED backlight to display an image. LED TVs have attained their popularity due to their affordability, varied screen size options, as well as their low energy consumption and compatibility with all different types of content.The latest innovation in this field is the widespread use of "Quantum Dot" technology. While this may sound like something out of a sci-fi TV series, quantum dots are quite real and are commonplace in higher-end LED TVs. The basic science underpinning quantum dots revolves around their behavior when excited by certain frequencies; LED TVs equipped with quantum dots utilize a blue LED backlight, which in turn "excites" quantum dots into emitting red and green tones. In a nutshell, these TVs can display brighter colors that appear more lifelike and saturated, translating into a more pleasing image overall. If you want to do more research, check out our HDTV buyer's guide.You’ll find two distinct layouts that utilize LED backlighting: full array and edge-lit. Full-array backlighting positions the LED backlight directly behind the LCD panel. This is often combined with a feature known as "local dimming" in higher-spec models, which can selectively dim or switch off LEDs depending on the desired image to obtain deeper black levels where they are needed. Edge-lit LED backlighting moves the LEDs to the edges of the panel, instead relying on special light guides to illuminate the screen.In our research, we've noted that full-array LED TVs with local dimming consistently outperform their edge-lit counterparts in screen uniformity, black level measurements, and contrast with both standard and HDR content. When combined with quantum dot technology, these LED TVs are capable of generating an outstanding picture while keeping the cost versus screen size at a reasonable level.
    June 19, 2019
  • Digital media players have evolved a lot over the last few years, growing from a niche market to establishing a presence in millions of households. There are a lot of different devices available on the market, and they tend to offer a lot of the same features, with minor variations overall. However, these minor variations soon become major differences since they can impact how you control your digital media player and what it does in your living room. As you consider different models, take into account your own viewing habits, the features you want, and the media sources you’re most likely to use.These digital media players give you the best options and performance thanks to a wide range of channels and streaming services to choose from and utilize, with support for at least Netflix and some other media streaming options. All of these devices offer HD media options of up to at least 1080p, though you’ll typically need to also have access to HD video through a streaming service. These picks are easy to connect to your existing entertainment center either wirelessly or through an Ethernet port. Lastly, they all include remote controls with a variety of voice and manual input commands for accessing your preferred media.
    April 01, 2016
  • Projectors are used for a wide variety of purposes, ranging from high-end home theaters to business presentations and classroom applications. Depending on their intended use, projectors can vary in their technology, style, and price. We’ve compiled lists of some of the best projectors currently available while considering different budgets and performance needs. Although we’ve included several high-end models, we’ve kept ultra-expensive projectors off the list in favor of one’s which are more realistic for use in the average home or business. If you’re new to projectors and need some pointers on what to look for, be sure to also check out our buyer’s guide below.
    March 31, 2015
  • Video conferencing is a popular way for business groups to stay connected, even when there are hundreds or thousands of miles separating team members. While the most basic setups utilize consumer-grade webcams to get the job done, the best solution for video conferencing is to invest in dedicated equipment designed to function in such an environment. Our top recommendations are based on ease of use and overall audio/video capabilities. Though they're not the most affordable options around, each one is designed to excel in the most common video conferencing scenarios with minimal attention or maintenance required for reliable performance.
    March 25, 2020
  • Standing desks have become incredibly popular in recent years thanks to the ergonomic benefits they offer. Essentially, a standing desk can remove the possibility of slouching or bad chair posture. Though they come in many different shapes and styles, the best standing desks on the market offer easy adjustability and enough weight capacity to reliably hold your equipment. While hand-cranked units exist, we feel that the added convenience of power operation more than justifies the additional expense. Here are some of our favorite standing desks (with one converter) on the market today.
    March 20, 2020
  • Bluetooth speakers are an ideal way to bring the party wherever you go. Whether it’s at the beach, your backyard, a picnic, or anywhere else you need tunes, a good Bluetooth speaker will do the job in a way that your cell phone alone simply can't. If you don’t already own one, you’ll be surprised how many places seem ideal to bring one along. Here are some of our favorites among the best Bluetooth speakers on the market today.
    February 19, 2020
  • FM transmitters are best for consumers who want to bring the convenience and sound quality of iPods, MP3 players and other mobile music streaming devices along with them in older model automobiles that can't accommodate such technology. These transmitters work through your car stereo by pinpointing the clearest available FM signal and broadcasting music from your device. There are other features available with some transmitters such as hands-free phone use and USB ports to charge your device and Bluetooth wireless connectivity. Some of them even have remote controls for easier use of all available functions.
    February 03, 2016
  • High-def recording has become the standard in the consumer camcorder market. With such incredible image quality, it is important you purchase a tool that will help you shoot video that lives up to the quality. The new features do everything from help you with color-correction, to allowing for low-light filming, to giving you an image-steady factor that eliminates camera shake when utilizing zoom. No matter what direction you go, be sure to think of what is most important to you. Sometimes you should choose based on price other times based on the portability of the camera. With this kind of variety you can cherry pick the options most important to you and edit perfect films for your family. If you need something more capable than a consumer model but you’re not quite ready for a professional camcorder, prosumer camcorders provide an excellent compromise. When starting your own videography business or just getting into filming, prosumer cameras will help you learn all the features of the more complex camera while still helping you shoot quality video. Many of these prosumer devices help you decide how to use the dynamic features to get the exact image you are looking for. You can film everything from documentary footage to weddings to full length feature films on these cameras, all the while testing your skill and learning about how to properly use a camera for the most effective footage. With the new "ease of transfer" options you can be editing the very day you shoot, making your turnaround time nothing for polished, amazing HD footage. Within the professional category, you will find a wide variety of prices, but all are quality camcorders that are utilized by professionals the world over. These cameras tend to be a bit heftier, providing both balance as well as durability to last over extensive time frames. Models in this area have the ability to use an extensive array of lenses giving you even more options when it comes to the look of your video. Please note that these cameras take a bit more hands on training to use properly, but isn't that the greatest thing about digital video? The learning curve isn't hampered by wasting film or losing time waiting on footage to be developed. In addition, camera houses now understand that new and experienced film makers want the features, but also the ability to be able to pick up the camera and shoot flawless HD video all while still in the initial learning period. Also, with the addition of many focus assistant features, these cameras will help you get used to filming HD video without ruining an event or wasting time.
    February 02, 2016
  • It’s important to give your camera and lenses the best care possible and one way to do that is to have a safe a secure way to store and transport them. Camera bags and cases are great in that role. They’re specially made to provide a high level of protection from water and shock damage. Plus they’re designed to create an easy organizational system inside them so that you always know where a specific piece of equipment is. Camera bags come in many forms like sling bags, backpacks, and hard cases. Here are the very best ones.
    February 02, 2016
  • Two-way radios, or walkie-talkies if you prefer, are one of the least expensive ways to communicate between parties. You can rely on them when cell phone service is spotty, they can keep families in touch with one another, and they're a crucial tool for staying safe in the wilderness or even on the water. There are two-way radios for every budget, with some of the cheaper models running a mere $20 for basic call capabilities; while the more expensive versions come with a whole list of additional features like weather radio channels, privacy codes to prevent unwanted outside interference on your signal and even GPS receivers. The best two-ways offer greater talk range, and while most manufacturers claim such range abilities in the 20 mile range, or further even, these potential communication distances are only realistic on open water or flatlands with little to no obstacles to the signal. In more common surroundings, be it urban or rural, everything from trees to concrete will hinder your signal's true power and thus talk range is lessened greatly. The average range in this case is about two to four miles, and if your two-way is making clear, static-free transmissions at this distance, then you've got a good product.
    February 01, 2016
  • Singing can be one of the best -- not to mention the most fun -- ways for children to develop language and of course music skills. In addition, it can be a great group activity that can bring families together. As manufacturing costs have gone down with respect to karaoke machines in general, a new product category has developed in recent years aimed squarely at kids. The best of these machines integrate both fun, kid-oriented design and color, and quality hardware that won't break after the third time your kid drops the mic on the floor. Most machines take CD-G discs, which contain music as well as lyrics on a separate track. The microphones that ship with these systems vary in quality, but for many the overall experience using the machine is more important. Some picks on this list are for older kids, and some are better suited to younger kids all the way down to toddlers. All in all, they represent a snapshot of the best karaoke machines currently available for kids.
    January 29, 2016
  • Many photographers don't realize how important a fast, quality memory card can influence their workflow. Not only do quality memory cards typically operate faster, but they are also demonstrably more stable. Imagine losing an entire day's shoot to memory card corruption! It happens all the time.Many individuals simply look for a good deal, or perhaps just want to limit their shopping to cards that match their camera's maximum write speed. After all, what's the point of paying extra for a card when your camera can only write data so fast, right? Don't forget, writing is only half the process. There's still the reading of that data! After filling up that slow 16GB card with pictures from your day at the beach, for instance, you get home, pop the memory card into the reader and wait…and wait! Instead of getting to edit your pics quickly, you’re stuck staring at the upload progress bar that just seems to be sitting still, like it’s almost mocking you. On the other hand, with a faster memory card the reading part of the process can be cut in half or sometimes much more.The process by which manufacturers produce flash memory has become more dependable over the years and the chances of corruption seem to have gone down significantly in that time. However, corruptions certainly still happen often enough for you to be mindful of the possibility. Case in point,  I borrowed a memory card to complete a wedding, got home, and a large portion of the photos on said card were corrupted. What a nightmare that was! You can do your part to help mitigate this possibility by keeping your memory card clean, dry, and stored in the recommended temperature range. Another thing you can do (and perhaps the most effective) is purchase a quality memory card by a reputable manufacturer sold by a reputable dealer as counterfeit memory cards are more common than you might think. Stick with a dealer with good reputation for providing authentic products; if the deal looks too good to be true, well, you know the rest.You’ll also want to consider that a high quality memory card will more than likely last you for the rest of your photography career and they can also take a beating. There have been several anecdotal stories of people finding memory cards lost over the side of cruise liners or river rafts that have been recovered working many years after they were lost! Although you may initially wince at the price, consider that a smart memory card purchase can mean you won't have to buy another for a very long time, if ever again for that matter.If I might suggest, buy the largest you can afford. In just a few years time that 16GB card you buy today will quickly become tight on space if you ever eventually decide to mix video with your photography. Even so, you'd be surprised at how quickly a 16GB card fills up shooting 20MP RAW files. With as competitive as the market has become, it doesn't cost much more to jump up a size or two compared to a few years ago. Take advantage of that!The best cards listed here were chosen because they’re from reputable manufacturers. With an established history, you can be better assured that a card made by certain manufacturers will not only last but will also not corrupt your data as these cards are proven reliable. These memory cards are also chosen because at their respective price points, they represent the highest performance cards you can buy. If reliability is the most important metric, performance is the second most. No one wants to wait around for the camera's buffer to empty or data to transfer any more than they have to. Finally, these cards are chosen because they utilize special features like Error Correction Code (ECC) that can help eliminate errors during data transfers or special shock absorbing coatings to better ensure reliability during everyday use. Some even ship with data recovery software to get back those files you might accidentally delete.
    November 16, 2015
  • Many photographers, especially those just starting out, tend to overlook the utility of the humble monopod. It's a shame really, because monopods can solve many common photography issues tripods simply can't. For instance, at many tourist attractions including high-trafficked museums or historical buildings, tripods are prohibited. It's just not safe to splay out the legs of a tripod in the area where a lot of people are walking, especially with their attention often away from in front of where they’re walking. However, monopods are often allowed because they don't interfere with the flow of pedestrian traffic.Often, with cameras pushing ultra-high usable ISOs, you only need something steady to rest the camera to get a sharp shot of a dimly lit interior versus locking it down on a tripod. If you’re shooting a long telephoto lens at a sporting event and the weight of the lens precludes hand-holding, a tripod would be overkill; however, such a situation is perfect for a monopod. Many outdoor photographers who hike to interesting shooting locations well off the beaten path enjoy specially made monopods which double as walking sticks. Talk about two birds with one stone!Many people choose to put heads on top of their monopods, but this is strictly optional. Specially designed monopod heads can increase the usefulness of a monopod or make the monopod easier to use. However, they can also add significant weight to the unit so decide for yourself if the trade-off is worth it.The monopods on this list were chosen because they’re sturdy, the absolute most important metric for any monopod; when you lock these units, their mechanisms stay locked! These monopods are also made with lightweight materials for easy transport because what's the point of carrying around the weight of three legs if you can only use one? Finally, these monopods are all exceptionally well made because nothing so negatively affects the user experience like getting to a location you may never visit again only to have a pivotal component suddenly break. Rest assured, the monopods on this list will provide years of reliable service.
    October 15, 2015
  • Rings flashes, sometimes stylized as "ringflash" by manufacturers, are extremely popular in fashion and portrait photography and have been since their inception in the 1960s since photographers appreciate them for their unique lighting profile. If you ever see a well-lit portrait devoid of facial shadows and catch lights centered on the pupil, it might have been taken with a ring flash.Ring flashes are known for their ability to make "shadowless" images, even though they do actually produce shadows. In fact, another tip off that the image was show with a ring flash is a noticeable dark outline around the entire subject when they aren't far from a backdrop or background surface - that's the shadow! They do, however, eliminate almost all of the shadows on a face when used in portraiture. This is one of the reasons they remain so popular among professional fashion shooters when they want a model flatly lit.Another reason portrait and fashion photographers use ring flashes is because ring flashes create specular highlights which are bright spots caused by reflected light. You see them all over shiny objects when a bright light is pointed at them. Ring flashes create a unique specular pattern or shape that many fashion photographers find appealing.Let's not forget to mention, ring flashes give a very desirable catch light, centered right ont he subjects pupil. It's a very striking effect! You commonly see this effect exaggerated in beauty product ads with the model's face close up. It can often makes eyes pop all the more. Macro photographers also find ring flashes to be an essential part of their kit. Since a ring flash is typically mounted flush with the front of the lens, the lens won't cast a shadow on the image, which ruins macro shots.Many ring flashes can even take modifiers to further change the quality of light they produce making them flexible and adaptable to a variety of artistic lighting styles.One caveat of note, however, is that since a ring flash is mounted so close to the lens, when a portrait subject looks at the lens they are also looking at the flash. Indeed, one of the cardinal rules of off-camera flashes is to get them AWAY from the lens, such as with a flash bracket. Ring flashes defy this rule in the most severe way and this close flash-to-lens proximity will very often cause red-eye, on top of the drastic shadow behavior. Be prepared to remove unwanted red-eye in post production when using these types of flashes. Good quality ring flashes are dependable and will last you a very long time. Ring flashes also offer a platform to grow and change styles thanks to light modifiers.The ring flashes listed here were chosen for their predictable light quality. You don't want to spend a lot of extra time monkeying with color temperature fixes after-the-fact in you can help it. These ring flashes are also extremely well-built and should stand up to the rigors of repeated use, either in the studio or in the field. These flashes also offer unique options or modes that make them good tools for their intended purposes, like portable battery packs for fast-paced location work or perhaps TTL functions that allow you to work faster.
    September 21, 2015
  • If you need or want to nail exposure the first time, an oft overlooked tool in this day of ubiquitous built-in meters, is the handheld light meter. Not too long ago a handheld meter was essential to every professional photographer's workflow. That's not so much the case anymore as camera manufacturers have done a good job integrating accurate light meters into their cameras. But, no matter how good they are, there are limitations to metering reflected light that cannot be overcome with a built-in light meter. That's where dedicated, handheld light meters come into play.When a photographer meters a scene from the camera, they are taking what is termed a reflective reading. Depending on the scene, this could include much more light information than simply what falls on the subject, up to and including extraneous light or objects near the subject that could confuse a camera's reflective light reading. Modern photographers get around this problem by "chimping" the exposure, that is, they take a picture at a given exposure, judge the result, then make changes and try again. And again. And sometimes again.For many professionals, trial and error is not an option. Not to mention, it just doesn't look professional. If the client is present on the shoot it probably will not instill confidence in the photographer's abilities to see the constant guessing and correcting. A handheld light meter can eliminate this guesswork.Handheld light meters measure what's called incident light. This is the light as it falls directly on the subject at the subject's position. It doesn't get confused by other brightly color objects in the frame and it doesn't adjust itself to light sources that emit light that doesn't hit the subject. It's takes a true reading of the light that the meter then uses to generate a measurement to render the subject perfectly exposed. It can do this on the first try, not the fourth.Listed here are the five best handheld light meters for photography. They are chosen because they are highly accurate, which is the most critical metric for any light meter. These light meters are also highly customizable, allowing photographers to change meter settings for a variety of situations including video or complex lighting setups. Our selections also have models or optional accessories that further increase their usefulness, like changing out the radio to trigger flashes from specific manufacturers, like Broncolor and Elinchrom, or add Pocket Wizard ControlTL support.
    September 01, 2015
  • Digital compact cameras are some of the most popular picture-taking devices today. These devices range from simple "point-and-shoot" models to more advanced offerings that offer dSLR-style creative control. We’ve included the top picks from the most popular segments, factoring in criteria such as performance, versatility, ease of use, and value.If you're looking for a digital SLR, check out our list of the best dSLR cameras. Be sure to also take a peek at our digital camera buyer's guide for an in-depth guide to picking the camera suited for your needs.
    August 27, 2015
  • One of the most important bits of kit in any landscape or portrait photographer's bag are neutral density filters. These filters block some portion of the light entering your lens, allowing you more creative freedom and, if used right, maybe better images. If you want to use a large aperture for a shallow depth-of-field on a sunny day or slow the shutter speed to capture the swaying grass in an open pasture, you'll probably need a neutral density filter. In videography, neutral density filters are essential to preventing overexposure in scenes where there is too much light to manage with the video's fixed shutter speed.Neutral density filters come in many styles, like square or rectangular slide-ins, and some even offer a graduated density pattern, perfect for holding back the sky's brightness against a darker horizon and foreground. Popular makers of slide-in graduated neutral density filters are Lee Filters, Singh-Ray, and Formatt-Hitech.Of the varied styles that neutral density filters come in, screw-on is by far the most popular. By foregoing the need for expensive and bulky foundation kits, like those that are needed for square and rectangular slide-in filters, screw-on filters are compact, light, easy to use and cost effective. Most of the makers listed here offer several slide-in neutral density options, many of which are just as exceptional as their screw-on counterparts.When purchasing, be sure to get the right size filter for the lens you intend to use it on. One particular money saving strategy would be to purchase a filter for the largest lens you own and use step-up adapters for your smaller lenses. In this way you can use one filter, adapt it to all your lenses, and save money over purchasing a filter for each size lens you own.The best solid screw-in neutral density filters listed here are chosen because they do not introduce unsightly color casts, which can be very time-consuming, if not near impossible, to correct in post processing. They are extraordinarily well-made selections, using the finest glass or optical resins and all but one has rings made of brass, a material that resists binding with other surfaces. The filters here also offer state-of-the-art usability features like front-threading and multi-coatings, which reduce flare, help with cleaning, with some even being scratch resistant.
    August 10, 2015
  • Tripods are invaluable camera companions, allowing for clear photos at longer shutter speeds, eliminating camera shake, and making shooting more comfortable in general. Just as cameras come in a variety of different categories, tripods are available in different types, sizes and builds. Lightweight, inexpensive tripods can be best for point-and-shoot cameras while larger, professional cameras need sturdier tripods with an enhanced weight capacity. For best overall tripod, we considered the product's size in relation to its weight capacity and height range as well as durability and features. Not sure exactly what all those features mean? Get acquainted with tripod basics with our tripod buyer’s guide listed below.
    April 22, 2015
  • Smartphones and Skype phones have become increasingly popular as of late, which means fewer consumers are using landlines to communicate. This has led many electronics manufacturers to re-think the cordless phone. Designed for portability and convenience, cordless phones were once at the cutting edge of technology; but in this highly advanced world of newer and smaller devices, the cordless phone has gone through some changes to keep up. The basics are still there; consisting of a base station that broadcasts calls and charges a wireless receiver, but these units now offer similar call quality and features of many smartphones. There are also multiple receiver versions where you can keep two or four cordless devices at various areas of the house for convenient pickup of a call and intercom availability between handsets. When you're looking for a cordless phone, there are a number of things to look for when you're doing your research. Check out the various features of the phone; starting with talk times, Caller ID, speakerphone, conference, and intercom capability. Many of the latest units can expand the number of handsets per line all the way up to ten or twelve, even if you originally purchase the unit with only one, two, or four handsets at the outset. Some more advanced models have Bluetooth capability to attach headsets or sync cell phones to the phone for communication purposes and to transfer contacts between a mobile device and your cordless phone. Most cordless phones are pretty self-explanatory to use; but consider the interface and all of the extra buttons you'll need to push, especially if the base has a built-in answering system. Many of them do now, as well as integrated recording functions to record conversations with varying storage length times on both. We've done much of the research for you already and found a myriad of options for your cordless phone needs. Peruse our lists below for some of the best models available at the moment.
    March 18, 2015
  • For consumers seeking to "cut the cord" from high monthly cable or satellite bills, there’s the option of a digital television adapter or digital-to-analog converter box. These are television tuners are designed to receive the free broadcast signals transmitted over the airwaves mainly from the major networks and some local or regional stations.These converter boxes are affordable options for bringing home network programming at a onetime price versus a monthly charge. Some of these boxes come with recording functions performing much the same way as a DVR does. Some models can even support multimedia files like digital photos, videos, and music.We've chosen the following picks because of their connectivity options for hooking them up to a variety of devices, as well as their ability to record shows to a USB flash drive or and external hard drive. Each of the following converter boxes also offers basic features such as program guides or parental controls. Finally, each of our selections is easy to use and affordable to purchase, with all of the picks costing around or under $50.
    March 11, 2015
  • If you have an elite home theater system and favor heavy-duty protection for your equipment, consider investing in a good power conditioner. These devices constantly monitor the voltage coming through the power lines to ensure your entertainment systems receive a consistent flow of 120 volts. Fully equipped models can also double as surge protectors to provide an added layer of security.These units are generally on the bulky side, so we’ve selected models which require minimal space accommodations. While these power conditioners may seem unreasonably expensive, they do offer maximum protection against over and under power situations which can potentially damage equipment. Each of our recommendations excel at voltage regulation while offering a wide variety of features to suit the needs of various home theater systems.
    March 10, 2015
  • Buying an HDMI cable is actually much easier than you may think. Just be sure you're buying an HDMI cable and not some other cable instead. There can be some confusion when it comes to selecting the best cable for your home theater equipment and HDMI is currently the most popular audio/video cable standard because it offers the best quality picture and sound possible, simultaneously, over one cable.Most HDMI cables on the market today will work just fine with high definition content. The ones that are labeled as high-speed cables are able to handle greater bandwidth capacities at a mandatory minimum of 10.2 gigabits per second, though a claimed bandwidth of 18 Gbps is more commonly encountered. With 4K material having just about replaced 3D as the most data-intensive format, manufacturers now offer a wide range of options that support all current and previous content.The best HDMI cables offer gold-plated terminals to prevent corrosion, utilize high-conductivity materials such as copper (or silver in some cases) for a clean signal transfer, and contain shielding materials to prevent from outside noise or distortion from radio frequency and electromagnetic interference. That said, the digital nature of HDMI cables means that they either work or they don't. Save for unusual circumstances such as 50-foot-long cables that travel through walls, the most common symptom of an HDMI cable failure is a blank screen. For typical home use, we recommend going with the lowest priced options without sacrificing build quality.
    February 17, 2015
  • Earphones are by far the easiest and most cost-effective way to listen to music. Earphones offer not only the conveniences of portability and durability, but also tend to represent a higher value for money, in terms of absolute sound quality with regards to sound resolution and expression of detail, than full-sized headphones. They lack the more refined aspects of sound presentation that can only be reproduced by proper speakers or open headphones, like a sense of 3-dimensional space, but some high-end multi-driver earphones can simulate these aspects very effectively. They also function as multi-purpose listening devices, as they can be used with cell phones to increase call quality and isolation from unwanted noise; some even feature microphones and volume and/or track controls to this end. Some people even use earphones at concerts to help protect their hearing. The earphones in these lists have been chosen as the best for their particular price points and target audience, offering different solutions for casual listeners, audiophiles, studio engineers, and performing musicians, and ranging in price from pocket change to serious investment. The best way to shop for an earphone is to try as many of them as possible; if that is not an option, it's generally wise to set a price limit, and pick the best earphone for your listening style and preferred genres. Also keep in mind that, while sound is usually the most important feature, how much you enjoy the earphone is also going to depend on how happy you are with the amount of money you spend; if you pick an earphone from these lists, and feel that you've been ripped off, odds are you are either spending more than you personally wanted to spend on earphones, or your pick is missing some feature or characteristic that you were expecting, but perhaps didn't take into consideration. There are two different types of driver technology used in modern earphones: dynamic drivers and balanced armatures. Most earphones, and indeed most headphones and speakers, use a dynamic driver, a moving diaphragm that vibrates in its entirety in order to produce different frequencies. They tend to be the most effective at producing pounding low frequencies, and higher-end dynamics give bass a tactile presence and texture that very few balanced armatures can match. Most of the earphones discussed here use dynamic drivers, unless otherwise noted. Balanced armatures are a more complex type of speaker, having only very small moving parts, most widely known for their use in hearing aids, cochlear implants and other aural-assistive technologies, applications for which their small size makes them ideal. However, as armature technology has evolved, the quality of sound they can reproduce has increased drastically, and they are now featured in the majority of high-end earphones due to their tonal accuracy and decreased distortion. Balanced armature drivers tend to perform best in the mid and high frequencies, generally producing cleaner, more well-defined notes than dynamic drivers. Newer, more expensive earphones tend to feature balanced armature drivers, and sometimes quite a few of them; our pick for Best High-End Earphone, the Shure SE846, utilizes four balanced armature drivers per side. Some modern earphones, like the K3003i, feature a hybrid design, using a dynamic driver to handle the bass frequencies and incorporating balanced armatures for mid and high frequencies. These earphones have been hand-picked as the best value for money and overall performance; I feel confident that anyone following the buying guidelines above and taking time to carefully consider their choice will be very satisfied with their purchase.
    January 19, 2015
  • The primary market for Bluetooth speakers is the portable segment: portable speakers are becoming more and more popular as people have access to a wider selection of music through the internet and social media, and everyone loves to share their tunes. Whether you're looking for something basic to make and receive calls, or want something a little louder to take to the beach or park, there are Bluetooth options for nearly any portable application.We've sifted through the chaff and found the best portable speakers that can be had for $100 or less. The products listed here have been chosen based on their sound quality and overall usability, as well as features like battery life, durability, and portability. They are listed here in order of absolute sound quality, but remember that the most expensive is not always the best for everyone's needs, so be sure to consider how you will be using your speaker, and making your selection accordingly, before shelling out your hard earned cash! In the end, all of the speakers listed here are safe buys, and will make an excellent companion for sharing your tunes and taking them with you on the go.
    January 19, 2015
  • As the most easily obtained physical source material for music, as well as the most popular format for high resolution playback, CDs are still indispensable for truly serious listeners, and a CD player of some sort is typically at the center of any home sound system. Whether serving double duty as CD and DVD / Blu-Ray player in a home theater, or feeding a dedicated amp in an audiophile headphone rig, a CD player is the heart of most audio systems, and finding a good one can be tricky. Sure, you could go to Best Buy or Radio Shack and pull the cheapest one off the shelf, but it’s probably not going to last, and likely won't sound too great either, assuming you are using quality speakers or headphones. These lists serve as a guide for buyers new and old, for home audio/theater enthusiasts, audiophiles, or even just regular people who want a product that is made well and sounds good. The products listed here have been chosen after hours of careful listening and research, and should provide excellent solutions for most, and a jumping point for further research for anyone who is new to audio as a hobby.
    January 19, 2015
  • The importance of center channel speakers is a matter of much debate among audio enthusiasts. For those not prepared to invest in a full system, or using their speakers in a smaller room, money may be better spent on higher quality floor or bookshelf speakers, or a good 2.1 system if extra bass is desired. On the other hand, no truly high end system is complete without a good center, which helps vocals and dialog remain clear over powerful subwoofer bass, and enhances the dimensionality of sound in larger rooms and home theaters. Ultimately this is a matter of preference, and anyone looking to invest in a good system should try before buying if at all possible (looking up a local HiFi shop is the best place to start), but the size of room the system will be used in should certainly be taken into account. However few shops with speakers available for demo will be the exact size of your room, so when in doubt, assume that larger rooms to be outfitted with a subwoofer(s) will benefit from the additional midrange emphasis provided by a center channel, while smaller rooms typically require fewer speakers. The speakers listed here are recognized for their price to performance ratio, as well as their ability to lift vocals above the mix to create a more realistic, 3-dimensional sound. Pick your price range and enjoy!
    January 19, 2015
  • A subwoofer is the one piece of audio equipment that will lift a simple sound system out of the ordinary, and can make or break the most expensive HiFi system. Even the cheapest subwoofer will take a pair of basic bookshelf speakers and turn them into something that sounds like a real sound system. A truly high-end subwoofer, on the other hand, is the difference between simply "good" sound and true realism. Good low frequency response is an absolute must for a home theater system, making dialogue richer and more immediate sounding, and bringing much-needed depth to sound tracks, explosions, and ambient noises. Most music requires solid bass response too: everything from orchestral classical music to dubstep sounds better when bass notes are fully fleshed out and given their real atmospheric textures by a dedicated subwoofer. Even a loan acoustic guitar benefits from extra LF, making plucked strings sound much more immediate and realistic, and adding rich reverb to lower notes. Subwoofers, like speakers, come in all shapes, sizes, and designs. Some are optimized for outdoor use; others are ported to give the most powerful output possible, or sealed to maintain tightness and evenness of response. And price does matter; here, perhaps more than anywhere else in home theater audio, you get what you pay for. Spend under $100, and you're really just adding extra thump. Jump to $200 or so, and we're talking real slam with decent extension and easily distinguishable multi-tonal textures. Around $500 will get you deep, tight, punchy bass that can shake windows and, in a smaller space or with multiple woofers, produce room lock, that famous sensation of a room being filled by bass waves, pressurizing the air and creating a truly immediate, tactile experience. Cross the $1,000 mark, and you are in true HiFi territory: expect serious LF vibrations and the kind of sound that will put anything you've ever heard, including movie theaters and high-end concert hall systems, to absolute shame. All in all, if you aren't willing to shell out at least half the price of the rest of your system for a subwoofer, you won't be doing your speakers justice, but better any subwoofer than none! This is perhaps the most important piece of any sound system, and if you aren't putting serious consideration into which one is best for you, you'll be shortchanging yourself and anyone who hears your system.
    January 19, 2015
  • Floor speakers are the most important aspect of any home theater system; realistically, they're the only speakers you could use on their own and still wind up with respectable sound. Some folks might try to get away with just a center channel like a sound bar, but it's really not the same. Some tower speakers can create enormous sound fields that approach that of full surround sound, which a lone center channel or sound bar could never accomplish. Floor speakers come in all shapes and sizes, and are designed for a variety of listening styles and intended uses; rather than looking solely at ranking or price, remember to consider how and where you will use these speakers when reading reviews. I'm sure the Focal Grande Utopia EM or Sound Lab U-1PX would sound great no matter where you put them, but they are designed for large dedicated listening spaces; smaller speakers like the Triton Two would probably sound (and look) much more appropriate in a master bedroom or smaller den. There are two main types of floor speakers: dynamic and electrostatic. Dynamic speakers are your traditional air-moving cones with a diaphragm, they account for virtually all "normal" speakers. Electrostatic speakers utilize a charged field within which a very thin membrane vibrates to create sound waves; the resulting sound is very fast and can produce an extremely large soundstage with peerless imaging, but they have a smaller sweet spot, meaning that you should point the speakers directly at your intended listening position; the sound won't be as realistic or spacious from outside the sweet spot, which is usually big enough for 1-3 people. Dynamic speakers have a sweet spot, too, but it is usually much larger, and they sound better outside the sweet spot than electrostatics. Electrostats are usually bought by audiophiles who use their speakers mostly for music, but with a supporting subwoofer they can sound great with movies, too. If you've never owned electrostats, please try to demo before buying, as they sound noticeably different from dynamic speakers and are considered to be an acquired taste by many. The speakers that comprise the following lists range from excellent budget models, which deliver great bang for your buck, all the way up to peak HiFi setups and the kinds of speakers used for mastering in the world’s most renowned studios. I advise most first-time buyers to start low; many non-audiophiles won't feel the need to spend more than a few hundred dollars to get very satisfying budget models, and I would bet that most people will be happy with speakers like the Pioneer FS-52 without feeling the need to upgrade. That said, you get what you pay for, and if you’re ready to shell out a thousand or more, you'll get serious audio that will make your local movie theater sound muddy and undetailed, and if you decide to roll with the big dogs and spend over $5,000, you're getting into the realm of professional-class sound and will probably never want to go back. In the end, every speaker listed here is great for its intended purpose, and no matter what your budget, there are speakers out there for everyone. Have a good read, and prepare for a big package to show up on your doorstep soon!
    January 19, 2015
  • Building a custom home theater system can be a daunting task for those without extensive experience with audio equipment; indeed, even with hours upon hours of research, sorting the wheat from the chaff can be a challenge in an industry filled with buzzwords, confusing terminology, and sheets filled with graphs and numbers that seem like they would take a college degree to understand. Luckily, some of the best names in the industry, well-known or not, offer easy solutions for those without the experience or time to research a system piece by piece. Ranging from 5.1 to full 11.4 setups and everywhere in between, manufacturers everywhere between the lauded Bowers & Wilkins and JBL, to little-known audiophile favorites like KEF, and budget-wonder brands like Monoprice offer full surround-sound systems that are built and tuned specifically to sound great as a single, cohesive system. This not only makes things easy for you, the buyer, it also ensures that the whole system will sound great together. However, not all who try succeed, of course, and those listed here have been chosen for offering superior value for the dollar and the ability to blend well as systems; no one component takes the stage over others, the subwoofers integrate well, and everything just works. Not all systems are built equal, and you do usually get what you pay for, but when researching please keep in mind that audio products are highly susceptible to the phenomenon of diminishing returns: the higher you climb in the audio stratosphere, the smaller improvements you get with every jump up. The difference between the Monoprice 5.1 system and an entry-level offering from MartinLogan will be noticeable to anyone with ears, but going from Klipsch's Reference Series up to the Palladium probably won't be worth spending 10x the price unless you are a very discerning listener (or if you have money to spare and really like the look of the Palladiums; they are gorgeous). It's also very important to consider the size of your space; larger home theaters won't be served well by a system with satellites instead of floor speakers, and putting the JBL Synthesis Everest in a master bedroom is going to yield incredibly disappointing results, unless you just want to blow your windows out! Be sure to consider all of these elements when making your purchase to ensure that you are satisfied with the money you spend, but above all, remember to enjoy your new system!
    January 19, 2015
  • Headphones are easily the most popular way to enjoy music, and since the dawn of the portable cassette player, not to mention the more recent dawn of the MP3 player, the market has been growing remarkably fast. This is great for enthusiasts, consumers, and professionals alike, because more competition means better products, lower prices, and more innovation. With the ever-increasing popularity of portable media devices, coupled with the new technologies that arise from their development, the market has taken an explosive upturn in just the last 4 years, and there are now headphones for just about any kind of activity imaginable, catering to a wide variety of listening styles, feature sets, and form factor preferences. Headphones comes in all different sounds, sizes, form factors, and prices, and before even beginning research, it is best to decide exactly what you will be using your headphones for; this is a factor that should influence your choice just as much as your preferred sound or price range, because ultimately it will have just as much importance in whether or not you are satisfied with your purchase. Choosing the right headphones means knowing how big you are comfortable with them being; there are some excellent Bluetooth headphones, and the Bluetooth feature makes them incredibly portable, and yet I would seriously hesitate to recommend it to someone who will use their headphones mostly for jogging or exercise, because they are enormous! Likewise, we would hate for someone planning to do most of their listening at home to compromise the level of fidelity they are able to experience simply because they liked what they heard about headphones listed in the Running section. Setting a price limit for yourself can be very useful as well. Audio products are subject to drastic diminishing returns at around $100-$300, depending on how acute one's hearing is, and only those with well-trained or exceptional naturally endowed hearing abilities will be able to notice differences in levels of detail and refinement between headphones above this price range. Many enthusiasts and audiophiles begin their lengthy, often expensive quests for the perfect headphones by doing exactly what you are doing right now, and while we always encourage people to try as many products as possible, we would hate for someone to spend more than they need to just to find a sound they can be happy with. All that being said, audio preferences are, first and foremost, subjective, and ultimately what matters most is that you enjoy your music, so if you find a sound you really like, stick with it! Most headphones, even those described using similar terms, or possessing very similar frequency response curves, sound very different when the sound hits your ears, so if you've got something that really sounds good to your ears, it's usually a good idea to either keep what you've got, or perhaps upgrade within the same line of products. Again, we always encourage people to try as many products as possible, especially before buying one, but if you find yourself 99% satisfied with a particular product, it's usually futile to go back out and find something totally new in an attempt to correct the one tiny flaw you have found in an otherwise great headphone. So please, read on, and enjoy! Remember that the best way to learn about headphones is to hear them, so be sure to look up your local HiFi or audiophile store and pay them a visit to see what models they have in stock; the people who work at such places are usually very knowledgeable, and may wind up being an even more valuable resource to you than anything you read on the web.
    January 19, 2015
  • The digital pocket scale is perfect for a wide variety of uses, though they seem to be most popular in the kitchen, the jewelry shop, and with small businesses. These diminutive scales often measure weights of up to 11 pounds, and can shift between various units of measurement from the commonplace, such as grams, pounds, or ounces to the more specific like pennyweights or fluid ounces.You want your scale to have tare capabilities, which allow you to reset the scale to zero to accommodate external surfaces or multiple elements on the same surface. You also want an easy to read display that breaks your readings down to simple increments.If you're in the market for a digital pocket scale, give these five picks for best digital pocket scale a look, each chosen along the following criteria including size, units of measurement read, amount of weighing modes, functionality, ease of use, ease of calibration, extra features, and price.
    November 25, 2014
  • Did you know the average person accumulates roughly $600 in loose change a year? With that much coin, you're going to want a good coin sorter and these units range in price based on sort speeds, coin capacity and denominations accepted. Some will take one dollar coins, while others only handle the main four which are quarters, dimes, nickels, and pennies.If your pants pockets are jingling every day, give our list of best coin sorters a look. These picks have been chosen based upon the following criteria including their hopper capacity, bin and wrapper capacity, the coin denominations accepted, their ease of use, and price.
    November 24, 2014
  • Despite the popularity of smartphones and voicemail, there's still a demand in the marketplace for answering machines. These products have evolved from the clunky, micro-cassettes recording units into convenient digital units perfect for today's high-tech lifestyles. But even with these modernized advancements, there are fewer companies out there offering good options on answering machine systems so finding a quality product such as this can be a challenge for some.The best answering machine options out there should feature good sound quality, time/date stamp, lengthy recording times, and remote message retrieval. Luckily, we've done the research for you and have determined the five options currently available. These best answering machines have been chosen based upon the following criteria including their sound quality, quantity and types of features, their ease of use, and affordability.
    November 24, 2014