Monday, May 29, 2006

home stereo: iDea Wireless Home Dock for the iPod and PSP

The iDea Wireless Home Dock is an all in one dock for the gadget freak. The iDea Dock connects to almost any audio device, like the iPod and PSP, and transmits the audio to a matching receiver or wireless headset.

The dock comes with one remote and one Hi-Fi Receiver and sells for $150.


The FIRST Dock that supports the iPodTM, PSPTM, MP3 player and MP3 mobile phone -- 4 platforms together, a smart and stylish "One for All" design.

The FIRST Dock with its Remote Control Unit that supports the iPodTM "MENU", Click Wheel's "Scroll UP" and "Scroll Down" 3 functions remotely. Even the genuine iPodTM Remote Control Unit can NOT do it.

The ONLY Wireless Dock that broadcasts music from the iPodTM, PSPTM and MP3 player/ MP3 phone to the connected home/office stereo, and send music wirelessly to multiple rooms' stereo nad earphone (w/receivers).

The ONLY Wireless Dock that supports the "Night Listening*" mode - It playbacks iPodTM/PSPTM Audio and displays the iPodTM photo/ video on the connected Home Stereo and TV. (*Night Listening : Because the Wireless Dock supports the Wireless Broadcast, you may dim the TV and Hi-Fi volume to keep it quite outside, yet still enjoy the music through the self-amplified Wireless HD-Audio headset.)

Enjoy the PSPTM games and movies with the sound broadcasting through the home Hi-Fi stereo.

Supports the Sony Walkman MP3 and Walkman Phone for sharing the music wirelessly as well.

[via Gizmodo]

home stereo: Sharp's MP-B300 and MP-B200 Mp3 players are oddballs

Monday May 29, 2006 5:25 PM EST - By: T.O. Whenham
Source: Engadget

Sharp must have focused on making their new MP-B200 and MP-B300 thin instead of attractive. The two players are only 8.9 mm thick and weigh just 65 grams, but they have a bit of an odd look to them. The players come in either a 512MB capacity, or 1GB for twice the storage fun. If that isn’t enough storage capacity for you (and why would you settle for that little amount these days?), the players have a miniSD card slot for a little extra.

The players can play tunes in either MP3 or WMA format. The built-in FM transmitter let’s you play your MP3s through your home stereo or car stereo without needing a docking station or other accessories. It also sports an FM tuner, with the added bonus of being able to record off the radio as you listen (shreeks the RIAA). It comes in a choice of several color schemes and finishes, but I’m not sure that they help.

No word on where or when they will be released, or what they will cost, but with that FM recording feature you can pretty much bet it's not leaving Japan.

home stereo: Personal Tech Review: Apple iPod Hi-Fi

By David Haskin

May 29, 2006 12:00 AM

Historically, Apple Computer has had a fairly hands-off approach when it came to accessories for its venerable iPod. While offering a few essential attachments, Apple always seemed to stop short of encroaching on the third-party products coming from companies such as Belkin, Bose, and Monster Cable. With the release of the iPod Hi-Fi, Apple has changed its course and is directly vying for a piece of the add-on action. This first attempt looks and sounds wonderful but falls a bit short on features.

The iPod Hi-Fi is basically a complete speaker system designed to complement your iPod. It houses two midrange speakers, with a single large center woofer. A dock connector on the top makes it easy to drop in your player and turn on the tunes. For older iPods or other devices, a dual-mode auxiliary input is available in the back, allowing playback from either an analog or digital optical source. The only controls on the Hi-Fi itself are touch-sensitive volume up and down on top of the unit, in front of the iPod dock. The unit is powered either from a standard AC cord or with six D-cell batteries. The battery option and the built-in handles make the Hi-Fi a rather heavy but still portable way to take your stereo system with you.

Straightforward Setup

Setup was mindless. The hardest part was determining which of the 10 included inserts fit my particular iPod. When the iPod was securely docked, a Speakers menu option appeared on the display. From there, three options are available: tone control, backlight settings, and large album art. The tone control was straightforward, allowing me to boost either the bass or the treble. The large album art setting turned out to be a mixed blessing. While it was nice to be able to see the album cover from across the room, the track information wasn't shown, whether or not the particular track has attached art. Unfortunately, it's likely going to be a feature that most people will play with for a few minutes before turning it off and forgetting about it.

In its main function--pumping out the tunes from my iPod--the Hi-Fi performed well. Sound quality was generally good, and it had a good range. The system did the job of filling whatever room I put it in, without having to make the output too loud.

An Apple remote, now universal across Apple's product line, is included and provides basic play/pause, next/previous tracks, and volume control. A subtle LED blinked from behind the speaker grill as an acknowledgement of commands from the remote.

One annoyance was the complete lack of menu control from the remote. In order to select a playlist, a specific song, or even the Shuffle Songs option, I needed to get up and use the iPod's click wheel. This annoyance was compounded by the fact that the remote had a Menu button, but its function is apparently disabled for use with the Hi-Fi.

Unfortunately, the sound quality alone couldn't sell me on the iPod Hi-Fi. Considering it's being billed as a replacement for my home stereo, I was disappointed in the lack of features built into the unit. With its $349 price coming at a premium compared with other products already on the market, the iPod Hi-Fi delivers good sound and the Apple logo as its main selling points.

Thursday, May 25, 2006

home stereo: Central Ohio resident in spotlight after taking regional guitar-miming title

Wednesday, May 24, 2006
Aaron Beck

Since ancient times, man has taken up the guitar, practiced methodically and appealed to the masses. Since the late 1960s, with the advent of the electricguitar god, man — in front of his home stereo, behind the wheel of his car, next to the jukebox, in his arena seat — has mimed riffs and chords.

Millions are continuing the tradition, although a splinter group of six-stringers is performing sanctioned air-guitar tunes.

One sultan of silence is 23-year-old David "the Rocktopuss" Ayling.

The Columbus resident, whose actual guitar skills "suck," floored three U.S. Air Guitar judges at the Midwestern regionals Saturday in Metro Bar & Grill.

Thanks to a flamboyant stage presence, spot-on ghost-guitar wizardry and the requisite lack of shame, Ayling mimed his way to the U.S. Air Guitar National Championships — to take place June 22 in New York.

Outside the Metro bar, holding a suitably gaudy 1-foot trophy for his lightning fretting on the Darkness track Get Your Hands Off My Woman, Ayling said: "Wow, I can’t tell you how ridiculous I feel."

Yes, in the world of official airguitar competition, feeling ridiculous is required — at least after the fact.

In front of about 200 patrons, Ayling and 11 other contestants — male and female, from Ohio, Indiana, Kentucky and Michigan — took turns air-guitaring on a ramshackle plywood stage.

During a series of blaring, 60-second clips from selfchosen guitar-centric music, the performers riffed lead runs and chords; and mimicked Eddie Van Halen, Angus Young of AC/DC and Warren DeMartini of Ratt, Swedish classical-metal madman Yngwie Malmsteen and several other men who play actual instruments.

Guitar picks and cases, costumes and "air" roadies were allowed and encouraged, but official U.S. Air Guitar rules barred the mimes from using anything that resembled a guitar. Air rhythm sections, pyrotechnics and air banter were not permitted. (Official rules do apply, as listed at

Three judges evaluated the talent, using a system (4.0 the lowest, 6.0 the highest) to score performances.

The judges, the master of ceremonies said, were looking for "technical merit, stage presence and the most difficult and most decisive quality: ‘airness.’ "

Moments before fake guitarists took the stage, the Metro bar was pregnant with tension.

Shirtless Josh Dolen, a wiry 18-year-old from Zanesville in black faux-leather pants and a shoulder-length blond wig, said: "This is one of the biggest moments of my life. I’ve been practicing Cowboys From Hell for months."


"I’d get in my bedroom and turn it all the way up and just let my airness flow, man."

Dolen, who like most of the other contestants doesn’t play guitar, has "been playing air guitar for years."

Brian "Duke Thrashington" Shapiro twirled his curly locks, made many a heavy-metal guitar face and raced his fingers up and down an imaginary fret board to an earpiercing clip of super-shredders Malmsteen and Michael Angelo Batio.

Shapiro, a senior at the University of Toledo, heard about the competition after tuning in an episode of Late Night With Conan O’Brien with 2005 national champion Fatima "Rockness Monster" Hoang.

"I practice air guitar all the time," the 20-year-old said — "in my room, in my car, walking down the street. I’m always rocking out."

So said Pete Rose look-alike Jamie "Rockin’ " Russell, 38, of Campbellsville, Ky.

"All of my friends think I play guitar because I actually look like I’m playing," he said.

The real-estate agent started his segment with a snippet of Ratt’s Lay It Down — then, biting his lower lip, closing his eyes and confidently strutting toward the audience, segued into Eddie Van Halen’s shred masterwork Eruption.

Afterward, as the Airoin Junkie — dressed in red-whiteand-blue briefs — strolled by, Russell said, in all seriousness, "I’ve been doing this for 20 years, but this is my first official competition."

His maiden public air-guitar demonstration — spring break 1987, Daytona Beach, Fla. — featured Eruption and another Van Halen chestnut, Ain’t Talkin’ ’Bout Love.

"I had 8,000 people eating out of my hand," he said. "I won 30 cases of Budweiser for me and my friends."

During the weekend, however, Russell walked away empty-handed.

"This was all about flash," he said in disgust — "nothing technical at all.

"I’m coming back next year as Gene Simmons. I already got the wig and the kabuki (makeup). If that’s what they want, I can give it to ’em."

As for Ayling, he is setting his sights entirely on becoming the fourth U.S. Air Guitar champion.

The videographer and documentarian for Ignition Films in Toledo also commutes there to sing in the rock band Onceover.

"I missed a recording session tonight to do this," he said.

"My band mates will understand, I think. But I can’t wait to tell my boss I have to take off work to go to the national Air Guitar championships."

home stereo: Nike takes Apple's Ipod for a run

New York (NY) - You connect the Ipod to your computer to your computer, to your home stereo and to your car. Now Apple and Nike want you to take that extra little step to hook the device up to your workout wear: Nike will be offering a "Nike+Ipod Sport Kit" that connects running shoes with the MP3 player - not to playback music, but to store and display workout data.

The first product to be able to connect to the Ipod will be Nike's Air Zoom Moire, a higher-end running show that will retail for around $100. According to Nike, the model is equipped with numerous sensors that calculate various types of workout information such as time, distance, calories burned and pace. The information is transmitted wirelessly to an Ipod Nano, where it is stored and displayed. Alternatively, the device can also provide real-time audible feedback through the player's headphones.

After a workout, the Ipod can be connected to a computer system to synchronize and store workout data in a customized workout log on Nike's website. According to the company, the application allows users to track training goals, and review distance, time, pace and calories burned.

Since the Ipod does not have wireless capabilities, users need to purchase a "Nike+Ipod Sport Kit," which includes a thumb-sized wireless transmitter that is connected to the charger interface of the music player. The transmitter is based on Bluetooth technology and - at least theoretically - could also be used to support wireless headphones. Apple did not say if it will offer such functionality through the Sport Kit.

Nike said it will be expanding its Ipod wear this Fall with six more shoe models: (Air Zoom Plus, Air Max Moto, Nike Shox Turbo OH, Air Max 180, Shox Navina and Air Max 90.)

It is not the first time that firms such as Nike try to add some additional value by connecting their products to electronic devices. In the late 1980s, it was Adidas that actually integrated a microcomputer into a $180, funky silver shoe to track workout data. In more recent days, the company introduced the "Adidas 1," an expensive ($250) sensor- and microprocessor-equipped running shoe last year. And then there are various efforts to bring Bluetooth technology into sports wear, such as the collaboration between Burton and Motorola. The success rates of these efforts range from moderate to flop.

Can the Nike Sport Kit break the barriers and convince joggers and runners to enhance their workout with the help of the Ipod? On a positive note, the Nike/Apple model is the first truly easy to use networked model to store and track workout information, but some users may feel that the capability to track information only on Nike's web server and not on a local PC may be not enough. And then there's a Bluetooth device that is constrained to only one function and apparently works only with the Ipod Nano.

Wolfgang Gruener
May 23, 2006 21:12

Thursday, May 18, 2006

Home Stereo: Now Batting: The XM Inno

Have you ever tried to surreptitiously listen in your office to that baseball game that's being played so inconveniently in the middle of the afternoon (like today's Yankees/Rangers game)? Wanted to listen to it while walking around, but forgot your transistor radio? The Pioneer inno, as well as the nearly identical Samsung Helix, is XM Satellite's $400 answer to this pressing humanitarian need, giving the user the ability to listen to live satellite radio while walking around, and in a pretty stylish way, too.

The inno's dimensions are comparable to a full-size iPod, except that the front edges are beveled slightly, and the bottom rounded. The body is made of a metallic bluish-gray facade, with a small stubby antenna protruding out the top. Taking a cue from the Motorola Razr, the buttons on the face are all outlined with bright blue lights.

The inno comes packaged with goodies, including a cradle to recharge the unit, a 20-foot antenna, a remote control, uncomfortable headphones that also double as an antenna, and a pair of ear buds that, while snug in the ear canal, sound muddy. (Not helping this is the fact that, unlike the iPod with its myriad audio profiles, you can only adjust the treble and bass levels.) The device plugs into the cradle on its side, which seems a little awkward, even if the crisp screen automatically reorients images 90 degrees when plugged in. The cradle also comes with a line out jack for connecting the unit to a home stereo, but it's almost redundant considering the power of the unit's FM transmitter. Aside from the fact that you have your pick of the spectrum to stream the device, it also comes in clearly even when the stereo is a good 15 feet away. Annoyingly, though, the same transmitter that works so well in the home is next to useless when trying to stream it to your car stereo.

Outside the office, reception was remarkably clear, with only a few dropouts even in the cavernous avenues of New York; In fact, walking from Penn Station to Grand Central, I got better reception than the FM radio for my iPod. One of the nice things, especially when listening to aforementioned baseball games, is that the screen displays and continually updates the score, inning, and number of outs. While that's no so demanding for, say, a pitcher's duel, it's quite helpful when you're dealing with a slugfest and rambling announcers.

For those times when you can't get a signal, you can listen to music you've uploaded to the device from your computer (not with iTunes, of course). Adding to its functionality is that, like your old-school tape deck, you can record music being broadcast over the air; thanks to the device's 10-minute buffer, if you've been listening to the same station, you can even start recording mid-song and get all of it. You can even program the inno to record a certain station at a specified time. Unfortunately, the song can't be downloaded onto your computer, and there's only 1 GB worth of storage on the inno, which seems paltry these days. Even so, the ability to record songs has drawn the ire of record companies, who are seeking $150,000 for every song downloaded by XM customers. As Geddy Lee, the frontman for Rush sings in "The Spirit of Radio," (which I recently recorded on the inno)
One likes to believe in the freedom of music
But glittering prizes and endless compromises
Shatter the illusion of integrity

Posted by Michael Prospero at May 18, 2006 03:11 PM


PARIS, May 18 /PRNewswire/ --
- Development Parties Jointly Showcase the Full Potential of MPEG Surround at Audio Engineering Society Pro Audio Expo in Paris
Agere Systems, Coding Technologies, Fraunhofer Institute for Integrated Ciruits IIS and Philips, the inventors behind the groundbreaking MPEG Surround technique, jointly demonstrate the full potential of the new Surround Sound system at AES (Audio Engineering Society) Pro Audio Expo in Paris. Combined with an underlying audio codec such as MPEG-1 Layer-2, MPEG-4 AAC or MPEG-4 HE-AAC (aka aacPlus), MPEG Surround fundamentally reduces bit rate requirements for high quality multi-channel audio compression and maintains backwards compatibility to existing stereo equipment at the same time.
MPEG Surround comprises a full set of tools enabling the representation, reproduction and rendering of multi-channel audio for a broad spectrum of applications, from digital broadcasting, to mobile entertainment, to Internet music distribution. In the past month, already a number of real-world demonstrations have been showcased by the developing parties, such as 5.1 surround audio for digital radio and TV via DVB-T, DAB, or HD Radio. The MPEG Surround demonstration at the AES Pro Audio Expo will be the first joint presentation by all four parties, showing the full potential of MPEG Surround across various application fields. The new MPEG Surround standard will be frozen in July this year.
"We are excited to be jointly demonstrating the MPEG Surround technique. After mono and stereo, MPEG Surround is the next step for sound quality in today's media entertainment", commented Dr. Peter Kroon, Chief Multimedia Architect of Agere Systems Mobility Division. "It brings true surround sound to any media system at next to no overhead in transportation and storage, and preserves consumers' investment as existing home stereo equipment can stay in use. This level of flexibility will be the key for MPEG Surround to be deployed on a global scale."
"It has been the goal of MPEG to design something really outstanding in the multi-channel space, and thanks to the deep expertise of all four parties a system is available now that fits all needs and provides a remarkable performance", says Martin Dietz, CEO and President of Coding Technologies. "Asked two years ago, not many experts would have expected this enormous accomplishment, and today it's reality."
"The surround sound world has been waiting for a technical solution to smoothly integrate multi-channel and stereo audio into present and future systems," says Juergen Herre, Chief Scientist at Fraunhofer IIS. "MPEG Surround does even more than this: it easily outperforms any conventional technique with regards to features, performance, and flexibility. We are proud of our contribution to this exciting new standard."
"MPEG Surround is a great example how innovatively engineered solutions directly cater to the requirements of the market," says Leon van de Kerkhof, Program Manager Audio, of Philips Applied Technologies. "Surround sound has proven to be a huge success in packaged media, and has an even stronger potential in new entertainment services. MPEG Surround creates added value and new opportunities for all parties across the chain, from content providers, to device manufacturers, to consumers."
MPEG Surround will be demonstrated in the MPEG Surround demo room 'Asie' at AES Pro Audio Expo in Paris, May 20-23, 2006
Agere Systems
Agere Systems is a global leader in semiconductors for storage, wireless data, and public and enterprise networks. The company's chips and software power a broad range of computing and communications applications, from cell phones, PCs, PDAs, hard disk drives and gaming devices to the world's most sophisticated wireless and wireline networks. Agere's customers include top manufacturers of consumer electronics, communications and computing equipment. Agere's products connect people to information and entertainment at home, at work and on the road-enabling the connected lifestyle.
More information about Agere Systems is available from its web site at
Agere, Agere Systems and the Agere Systems logo are registered trademarks of Agere Systems Inc.
Coding Technologies
Coding Technologies provides the best audio compression for mobile, broadcasting, and Internet. SBR(TM) (Spectral Band Replication) from Coding Technologies is a backward and forward compatible method to enhance the efficiency of any audio codec; putting the "PRO" in mp3PRO and the "Plus" in aacPlus. Parametric Stereo from Coding Technologies and Philips again significantly increases the efficiency of audio codecs for stereo signals at low bit rates. Products from Coding Technologies are fundamental enablers of open standards such as 3GPP, 3GPP2, MPEG, DVB, Digital Radio Mondiale, HD Radio, and the DVD Forum.
Coding Technologies is a privately held company with offices in Sweden, Germany, and Silicon Valley. Founded in 1997 in Stockholm, the company later merged with a spin-off of the renowned Fraunhofer Institute in Germany, the inventor of MP3. Coding Technologies' customers include America Online, EMP, iBiquity Digital, KDDI, mmO2, Nokia, Orange, RealNetworks, SK Telecom, Sprint, T-Mobile, Thomson, Texas Instruments, Vodafone, and XM Satellite Radio.
For more information, visit
Fraunhofer IIS
Founded in 1985 the Fraunhofer Institute for Integrated Circuits IIS in Erlangen, today with 450 staff members, ranks first among the Fraunhofer Institutes concerning headcount and revenues. With the development of the audio coding method MP3, Fraunhofer IIS has reached worldwide recognition.
It provides research services on contract basis and technology licensing.
The research topics are: Audio and video source coding, multimedia realtime systems, digital radio broadcasting and digital cinema systems, integrated circuits and sensor systems, design automation, wireless, wired and optical networks, localization and navigation, imaging systems and nanofocus X-ray technology, high-speed cameras, medical sensor solutions and communications technology in transport and logistics.
The budget of 52 million Euro is mainly financed by projects from industry, the service sector and public authorities. Less than 20 percent of the budget is subsidized by federal and state funds.
For more information, visit
Royal Philips Electronics
Royal Philips Electronics of the Netherlands (NYSE: PHG, AEX: PHI) is one of the world's biggest electronics companies and Europe's largest, with sales of $37.7 billion (EUR 30.4 billion) in 2005. With activities in the three interlocking domains of healthcare, lifestyle and technology and 159,200 employees in more than 60 countries, it has market leadership positions in medical diagnostic imaging and patient monitoring, color television sets, electric shavers, lighting and silicon system solutions.
News from Philips is located at

Home Stereo: Basic Home Stereo Connections

What do I do with all these wires?..

Home Stereo connections can certainly be a challenge. Here's the scenario: you have a friend who's asked you to help move them into a new home. You've finally unpacked all their belongings into their new home. Next, they ask you to help reconnect their home stereo equipment. You look at this mass of wires lying in front of you, and you freeze. "What does all this stuff do," you ask. We're going to demystify cables and connections.
This topic can be fairly technical in nature, but to make home stereo connections easier we've divided this complex into several different pages. Each of the four main categories of cables has a page in this complex that describes them in some more detail. At the most basic level, this is what the wires in your system accomplish the movement of an electrical (or light) signal from place to place.

These are the types:
Different types of Home Stereo Connections
Stereo Interconnects: low voltage wires called "RCA", "interconnects", or "Phono" cables connect most of the pieces of your home stereo at what's called "line level."
Speaker Cables: high-voltage high-current speaker cables carry electrical signals from your amplifier or receiver to the loudspeakers which produce sound based on those signals.
Digital Connections: optical digital cables connect can connect your CD or SACD/DVD-A player to an outboard digital-to-analog converter or A/V receiver.
Electrical Cords: Lastly, and maybe the most crucial connection: your stereo equipment and the 115/120-volt electrical service of your home.
Most audio equipment sold to consumers nowadays comes with the required interconnects in the box.
Here is a lovely definition of what a home stereo interconnection should do courtesy of eCoustics, a really cool website devoted to the pursuit of wonderful sound:

"The basic purpose of a cable is to transfer the signal from point A to point B unadulterated. At audio frequencies the goal is to minimize losses by controlling the amount of Resistance, Inductance and Capacitance. For speaker cables, we have found the primary concerns for optimal signal transfer is to minimize resistance, followed by inductance, while also keeping capacitance in check to eliminate the possibilities of amplifier oscillation or frequency peaking. For line level analog interconnects it򳠡 good idea to use cables that are low in capacitance and are well shielded to eliminate interference and external noise sources from mitigating into the signal. For video, good shielding and maintaining the proper characteristic impedance is vital."

Additionally, one of the best discussions on this topic can be found in Chapter 11 of The Complete Guide to High-End Audio by Robert Harley. I strongly recommend you run out and purchase this book as it presents some of the more esoteric aspects of home audio in a fun and easily understood fashion.

As with everything dealing with home stereo, there are design differences between various products used in home stereo connections. What will lead to better performance in one product versus another is a matter of dispute. To be sure, cables and wiring do have an effect, even on the entry-level piece, as well as at the farthest margins of product spectrum.

home stereo: A new way to savor satellite sounds

May 11, 2006
By Terry Maxon / The Dallas Morning News

If there was a shortcoming in the original XM Satellite Radio service, it was that the equipment for home and cars didn't have the ability to save the music. You had to pretty much take the programming as it came, with no built-in way to record it.

Pioneer's Inno player serves up new ways to get XM Satellite Radio service.

XM Satellite Radio hasn't changed, but the recently released Pioneer Electronics Inc.'s Inno player serves up new ways to get one's XM.

The Inno, announced in January and now available, lets users record up to 50 hours off XM and also plays MP3 and WAV sound files. Users can also set timers to record programs.

It adds up to a lot of capability in a small package. How small? It's narrower, shorter and lighter than Apple Computer Inc.'s iPod, although the Inno is a little thicker.

Users can carry the Inno with them, plug it into a supplied dock for the home stereo or, with an optional kit, play it in a vehicle. The Inno can be tuned to transmit on FM frequencies from 88.1 to 107.9 to play through an FM radio.

Recording a song off the live XM radio is simple. At first, it seems counterintuitive; who would want to begin recording a song after it already has begun? However, the Inno has a built-in buffer that remembers the song from the beginning. Hit record, and the Inno captures all the song.

Setting the timer to record is simple. The setup screen lets the user quickly establish what day, hour and minute the recording is to start and stop — useful when there's a game, talk show or other bit of programming that you can't listen to live.

One feature we didn't try was the ability to move MP3 and WAV files from a personal computer onto the Inno or using the tie-in with Napster to buy songs for the computer and the Inno.

All this convenience comes at a price, of course. The basic Inno unit costs $399.99, which includes a wealth of accessories — a home dock, an external antenna, cords to hook it up to a home stereo, earphones and a remote control.

The car kit, with mounting equipment, power adapter, antenna, dock and remote, costs another $70. The car kit includes a cassette adapter, although the Inno does have the FM capability.

Optional headphones with built-in antenna can add another $39.99.

But for a true XM believer, it may be a small price to pay. The Inno offers the ultimate flexibility for ways to get that daily fix of music, talk, sports and other programming.

Pros: The Inno adds the ability to record and transfer music to XM's core service.

Cons: It's a pricey way to get one's XM dose.

Bottom line: A lot of features in a small package, for those with the bucks.

home stereo: Satellite shows are interfering with some FM stations

By Clea Simon, Globe Correspondent | May 18, 2006

The majority of listeners who hear Howard Stern on Sirius Satellite Radio pay for the privilege. But a growing number who pick up shows from both XM and Sirius satellite services are getting Stern but would prefer not to. The occurrence of satellite ''bleed through" -- when regular FM programming is broken into by a satellite signal -- is small, but as the number of satellite subscribers increases, so does this radio interference problem.

Sign up for: Globe Headlines e-mail | Breaking News Alerts This interference is neither a Stern prank nor promotion. It's an unintentional side effect of the services' cost-saving measures. Satellite radio requires special receivers to pick up its signal, and when these receivers are professionally installed, they do just that. However, to attract listeners who want a low-cost option, both XM and Sirius have licensed ''do it yourself" plug-in receivers that can be used in a car or with a home stereo. These plug-in receivers, known as FM modulators, usually contain small, low-power wireless transmitters.

Once they pick up the satellite signal, the FM modulators use these low-power transmitters to rebroadcast the satellite signal to the car or home stereo on a low-end FM frequency, such as 88.1 or 88.3. This makes it possible for the user to ''tune in" satellite on their regular radio. Unfortunately, as the number of these FM modulators grows, more and more outside radios pick up their signals as well. This low-power retransmitting is allowed by the FCC's so-called Part 15 rules and isn't supposed to interfere with licensed broadcasters. But according to both listeners and traditional broadcasters, the interference is there and growing.

''We have gotten numerous complaints," says William Kuhlman, chief engineer of MIT station WMBR-FM (88.1). Listeners trying to tune in to this small MIT-based station, he says, ''hear bits of Howard Stern bleeding through into our morning shows when they commute to work." The problem is national. The Vermont public radio system in particular is encountering difficulties with its new classical radio network, according to Scott Fybush, editor of the Rochester, N.Y.-based NorthEast Radio Watch. The network is carried by repeater stations across the state. But since the network uses the 88.1 frequency, at times the repeaters rebroadcast satellite shows, instead of the public radio content.

''It's a perfect storm of circumstances," says Fybush. ''Nobody anticipated when the Part 15 rules came about that there would be so many of these devices." Another problem, he says, is that many of these low-cost receivers are manufactured overseas where, without domestic oversight, they may not all be made to the legal specifications. ''Some engineers think they are putting out more [power] than Part 15 allows," says Fybush.

The FCC is looking into the problem and is investigating both XM and Sirius. One solution, suggests Kuhlman, would be to push the satellite signals further down the dial below most stations -- to 87.9 FM for example. But this may be too little, too late.

''The cat is very much out of the bag," says Fybush. ''All of these devices are out there. There are millions in cars and homes. You can't just turn around and say none of these are legal anymore."

© Copyright 2006 Globe Newspaper Company.

home stereo: iPods Edge Out Home Stereo Systems

Morning Edition, May 2, 2006 · The popularity of digital music players like Apple's iPod is reshaping the home-stereo business. Users aren't just relying on the devices to store their music. In some instances, they're using them as their main listening device in the home. Sales of high-end audio equipment have taken a dive as a result.

Greg Thomas considers himself something of an audiophile. But these days, he usually listens to music on compressed digital files played through his iPod. He has downloaded about 10,000 songs onto the digital-music player, which are available at the touch of a button.

"I never have to go into my CD cabinet and cruise through there trying to find the title [I'm] looking for," Thomas says. "It's all right there, so the iPod has completely replaced using CDs for me."

And it's not just his CD collection that's gathering dust. The 39-year-old Maryland schoolteacher says his trusty home stereo, the one he's had for years, now sits tucked away in a closet.

Thomas says that sound is still important to him, but he's replaced his bulky stereo -- with its wires, cables and individual components -- with a small, stylish, white speaker system that lets him to listen to his iPod without using headphones.

The changing listening habits of Thomas and millions like him are causing a profound shift in the audio market.

The Consumer Electronics Association, the industry's main trade group, says sales of digital-music players tripled last year, with the value of shipments of digital-music players totaling $3.7 billion versus just $1.2 billion for traditional home stereos. That's something which hasn't been lost on those who sell stereos for a living.

"It's a landscape that is fraught with peril, but also fraught with opportunity," says Gary Yacoubian, president of MeyerEmco, a small, specialty-audio chain in the Washington, D.C., area. He says it's the first time ever that sales of small, portable, digital-audio devices, like the iPod, exceeded those of home entertainment systems.

Yacoubian says that, at first, there was resistance to carrying digital-music players in his stores. But now, alongside the super-expensive stereo receivers and speaker systems sit small music systems designed specifically for the iPod and other MP3 players. Some of the systems are made by personal-computer makers rather than traditional audio manufacturers.

Unlike the thousands of dollars a high-end stereo might cost, these devices retail for just a few hundred dollars.

And while some audio purists point to the fact the iPod and similar devices play back compressed digital files at a lower quality than CDs, listeners don't seem to care, at least not according to the sales numbers.

Wednesday, May 17, 2006

Cream of Fresh Asparagus Soup

What a great way to use that spring-fresh asparagus!"
Original recipe yield: 6 servings.
Prep Time:10 MinutesCook Time:40 MinutesReady In:50 MinutesServings:6 (change)
1 1/2 pounds fresh asparagus
1 1/2 cups chopped onion
6 tablespoons butter
1 pinch salt
6 tablespoons all-purpose flour
2 cups water
4 cups hot milk
1 teaspoon dried dill weed
1 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon ground white pepper
2 tablespoons soy sauce

Break off and discard tough asparagus bottoms. Break off tips; set aside. Coarsely chop stalks.
Cook in skillet over medium heat with onion in butter, salting lightly, for 8 to 10 minutes.
When onions are clear, sprinkle with flour. Continue to stir over lowest possible heat 5 to 8 minutes.
Slowly add water or stock, stirring constantly. Cook 8 to 10 minutes, stirring frequently, until thickened. Cool slightly.
In blender, puree sauce bit-by-bit with milk until thoroughly smooth.
Return puree to 3-quart pan, preferably a double boiler. Add dill, 1 teaspoon salt, pepper, and tamari. Heat gently but don't boil.
As soup heats, cook asparagus tips in boiling water until tender, but still very green, about 2 minutes; drain. Add whole pieces to soup.

Submitted by: Holly

Sunday, May 14, 2006

What Kind Of Stereo Do I Need?

To determine the type of stereo best-suited to your needs, let’s go back to the questions asked in the Getting Started section of the site. You’ve undoubtedly evaluated your finances, and know what your tastes in music are. You’ve also likely taken a look at the myriad of types of audio equipment that populates the marketplace. With those things done, we can now safely attempt to answer what kind of stereo is best for you.
If you are a “gadget person” or need to have the best of everything, cost-no-object, then a high-end system is for you. Otherwise, you can work with a less sophisticated solution.

Consider the following as you decide which stereo solution is best for you:

Remember, one of our earliest considerations was the amount that you were planning to spend on your stereo system. If your planned expenditure is less than $500.00 you are going to be seriously limited in your choice of gear. You can still get good performance, but there will be plenty of compromises that need to be made. If you have more money to spend, your choices multiply quickly. But bear in mind, just because an item is more expensive, there’s no guarantee that it will out-perform a less expensive piece.
Look closely at your personal situation. If you live in an apartment, your space is most likely limited. Having a 300-watt per channel system might be overkill. You may never fully exploit the capabilities of your system and your “investment” might be more of a waste. On the contrary, if you have a large listening room or family area that you wish to have filled with sound, its advisable that you get a more advanced, and more capable system.
In my opinion, the most important aspect of choosing, buying and setting up your home stereo is the performance consideration. Everyone has a different expectation regarding the level of performance they expect from any purchase. For example, the purchaser might not need or want the home theater effects or equalizer in the all-in-one system. Instead they may value faithful reproduction of music from digital sources like Compact Disc, or a rare recording format like reel-to-reel tape.
You must determine much utility and enjoyment you expect going to get from the purchase of this stereo system or component. This is known as the “value proposition.” You are seeking a strong value proposition: highest utility for most reasonable price. Regardless of the type of music you’re fond of, there are some key performance goals you should have for your stereo system.

Some people simply want static-free reception of FM radio. Today, even budget micro-systems give entirely passable sound. Others want to be engaged by the sound; they want to feel apart of the recording session. If your desire is to hear a saxophonist breathing into his reed, and want to actually “see” the performers in front of you, there is only one way to go: high-end.

Balance of Forces
Getting the right kind of stereo involves balancing the price/performance/space considerations, and purchasing equipment that sounds good working together, to provide the best performance possible while not blowing your budget. The key to creating the best system is getting your equipment to work “synergistically”. By that I mean, finding pieces whose individual characteristics are complimentary. Each component or piece in the reproduction chain will most likely “color” the music in some way. Our job is to reduce this.
If you think in terms of price/performance/space, the result will be a system that is best-suited to your personal tastes and priorities.

From Anthony Armstrong,

Friday, May 12, 2006

iPods Edge Out Home Stereo Systems

Morning Edition, May 2, 2006 · The popularity of digital music players like Apple's iPod is reshaping the home stereo business. Users aren't just relying on the devices to store their music. In some instances, they're using them as their main listening device in the home. Sales of high-end audio equipment have taken a dive as a result.

Greg Thomas considers himself something of an audiophile. But these days, he usually listens to music on compressed digital files played through his iPod. He has downloaded about 10,000 songs onto the digital-music player, which are available at the touch of a button.

"I never have to go into my CD cabinet and cruise through there trying to find the title [I'm] looking for," Thomas says. "It's all right there, so the iPod has completely replaced using CDs for me."

And it's not just his CD collection that's gathering dust. The 39-year-old Maryland schoolteacher says his trusty home stereo, the one he's had for years, now sits tucked away in a closet.

Thomas says that sound is still important to him, but he's replaced his bulky stereo -- with its wires, cables and individual components -- with a small, stylish, white speaker system that lets him to listen to his iPod without using headphones.

The changing listening habits of Thomas and millions like him are causing a profound shift in the audio market.

The Consumer Electronics Association, the industry's main trade group, says sales of digital-music players tripled last year, with the value of shipments of digital-music players totaling $3.7 billion versus just $1.2 billion for traditional home stereos. That's something which hasn't been lost on those who sell stereos for a living.

"It's a landscape that is fraught with peril, but also fraught with opportunity," says Gary Yacoubian, president of MeyerEmco, a small, specialty-audio chain in the Washington, D.C., area. He says it's the first time ever that sales of small, portable, digital-audio devices, like the iPod, exceeded those of home entertainment systems.

Yacoubian says that, at first, there was resistance to carrying digital-music players in his stores. But now, alongside the super-expensive stereo receivers and speaker systems sit small music systems designed specifically for the iPod and other MP3 players. Some of the systems are made by personal-computer makers rather than traditional audio manufacturers.

Unlike the thousands of dollars a high-end stereo might cost, these devices retail for just a few hundred dollars.

And while some audio purists point to the fact the iPod and similar devices play back compressed digital files at a lower quality than CDs, listeners don't seem to care, at least not according to the sales numbers.

by Jack Speer

Monday, May 08, 2006

Zyng Asian Grill

For many people who regularly dine out in Rockford, you may have noticed that we are starting to get a lot of new restaurants in town. The hard part is, however,deciding which ones to try. We will try to check out a few of them to let you know which ones are worth it. Zyng's is one awesome place that I recently tried and really enjoyed.

First of all, the cuisine is Asian, so if you don't like Asian food obviously don't go. But for anyone who loves Asian food, it was perfect! What I really enjoyed about the restaurant was the ability for you to pick out exactly what you want. They have a make your own stir fry type of dish, which allows you to pick the noodle or rice, meat, vegetables, and seasoning you want. They then cook it, and bring it out to you at your table.

Besides the make you own stir fry, they also have many other entrees to choose from. They, also, in addition to entrees, have a variety of appetizers, soups, salads, and specialty teas.

The restaurant's warm, friendly atmosphere made me have an enjoyable time and definitely want to go check it out again. Go try it for yourself with some friends this weekend and let us know what you think!

posted by Emily Johnson

Sunday, May 07, 2006

Home Stereo :DLO ships HomeDock Deluxe for iPod

Digital Lifestyle Outfitters (DLO) today announced it is now shipping the DLO HomeDock Deluxe Home Entertainment Dock for iPod with On-Screen Navigation. The HomeDock Deluxe lets users view and select their iPod's music on a television screen using the included 18-button remote control that navigates through the iPod's music, videos and photos. The company says the new device adds a new twist to the iPod by displaying music content onto a television screen. The remote allows users to control over 14 playback functions via an original, customizable interface. Song information is large and easy to read from anywhere in the room, according to DLO. The HomeDock Deluxe has two distinct modes: On-Screen Navigation Mode (for music interface on a TV) and iPod Mode (to play videos or photo slideshows on a TV directly from the iPod).
"On-screen navigation of iPod's music on your TV has been a dream of iPod owners for a long time and now DLO will be the first company to put that feature into customers' hands," said Jeff Grady, CEO of DLO. "The Homedock Deluxe's innovations expand the iPod's reach for our customers. The Deluxe changes the way you experience your iPod."

The HomeDock Deluxe features four color theme settings: Aqua, Forest Green, Metal and Teal, enabling owners to personalize their HomeDock Deluxe to match their personal taste or a room's decor. It also features three Screen Savers including Status Bar (which shows the current song info and play status), Black Screen and DLO Logo.

The DLO HomeDock Deluxe connects to a Home Stereo and TV with standard RCA plugs and S-Video connection -- without any adapters or Y-cables. The iPod's music is sent to the stereo through the audio line-out from the dock connector of the iPod. The HomeDock Deluxe continuously powers an iPod while connected to a home stereo or TV. Optionally, HomeDock Deluxe owners can simply connect it to a stereo or pair of powered speakers for music-only playback (without on-screen TV navigation or video playback).

HomeDock Deluxe offers everything needed to connect an iPod to a home stereo and/or TV in one simple package, including an AC power adapter, a 6-foot AV cable, an 18-button IR remote control and a powered speaker adapter cable. With an adjustable docking stand, the HomeDock Deluxe works with any dockable iPod back to the 4th generation iPods, including the iPod nano and iPod mini. It features a USB 2.0 port for syncing from a user's computer and is available now for $150.

Home Stereo: Tiny Pico Plays iPod® Songs Through Your Radio

Published 1st May 2006

Kensington launches Pico FM Transmitter for iPods® to play music wirelessly through a car or home stereo...

Kensington, the computer accessories company, is launching an ultra-thin and sleek FM transmitter for use with any clickwheel iPod®. The Pico, designed to connect perfectly with the iPod nano, transmits whatever songs the iPod is playing to any car or home stereo via the radio function, without the need for any wires, software or setting changes.

The Pico uses the iPod’s LCD screen to display radio frequency information, making it extremely easy to tune a nearby radio into the same frequency. The Pico has a side scroll-wheel that enables the user to select a free band, and can be preset to two frequencies so that users can match car and home devices to pick up their iPod’s music automatically.

The technology inside the Pico’s transmitter has been designed to minimise battery drain on the iPod, removing the need for a separate power supply. It is the same colour, width and depth as a nano, but works with any iPod with a 30-pin doc connector. Designed in California, the Pico has a ‘made for iPod’ endorsement and comes with a two-year warranty.

Kensington’s Pico FM Transmitter will be on sale pending a review of the legislation surrounding radio transmissions by the British Government. It will retail at around £34.99: pricing and retail outlet information will be confirmed once a decision has been made on the legality of the device.

“The Pico is a really clever little device that enables you to wirelessly connect your iPod to your home or car stereo – with no set-up or configuration,” said Phil O’Neill, managing director at Kensington Europe. “All the user needs to do is tune their car or home stereo to a clear radio station, select the same station on the iPod and press play. This will quickly become a must-have for iPod users everywhere.”

Home Stereo: iCast wireless connects iPod to home stereo

Soundcast Systems on Monday introduced iCast, a $299 wireless interface for the iPod that helps it to interface with a home stereo system.

The price of the iCast includes both a transmitter and receiver — the receiver plugs into the home entertainment or stereo system, while the transmitter provides a dock connector for the iPod (multiple inserts are included to accommodate different iPod models). The transmitter and receiver connect without requiring any programming or setup.

The iCast transmitter charges the iPod’s battery when it’s placed in the dock, and tracking and menu controls continue to operate while the iPod is in the dock. The iCast receiver — made in black to match most home stereo gear — also duplicates several iPod functions, so it can operate as a remote control if the stereo is located in another room from the iPod.

The iCast uses the 2.4GHz frequency range to communicate between transmitter and receiver. It employs Frequency Hopping Spread Spectrum (FHSS) technology to search for open bands, to prevent the iCast from being disrupted by interference with microwave ovens, cordless phones and other devices that work in the same frequency range. Soundcast said the iCast base can work up to 150 feet through multiple rooms indoors.

Soundcast also plans to offer separate iCast receivers if you want to connect your iPod to different stereos in your home — the receivers alone cost $129. Expect to see the iCast hit retail stores in April.

By Peter Cohen

Friday, May 05, 2006

Home Stereo: Logitech Introduces Wireless Music Solution

Logitech has announced three new wireless products built around the proprietary Logitech Music Anywhere technology, which streams music from a PC or portable music player to a home stereo. The Music Anywhere system uses adaptive frequency hopping to avoid interfering with existing wireless services, and, since it doesn't use 802.11 frequencies, can't be used for other home-networking purposes.

The first product, the Logitech Wireless Music System for PC, streams music from users' computers to connected home entertainment systems within a range of about 300 feet. The three-piece system includes a wireless transmitter that connects to a PC via USB, a wireless receiver that connects to a home stereo receiver via RCA or 3.5 mm jack, and an infrared remote control.

The remote is used to control the PC's music playback, and can also be used from another room. Logitech says the remote control is compatible with iTunes, WinAmp, Windows Media Player, RealPlayer, and MusicMatch.

The Logitech Wireless Music System for PC will be available in September for $149.99 (list).

Logitech's Wireless Music System for iPod does the same thing as the PC system, but connects to any portable music player through the headphone port and has a range of about 30 feet. The Wireless Music System for iPod will be available in October for $149.99 (list).

Lastly, Logitech has also built the proprietary wireless technology into the new Wireless Headphones for PC. The headphones have the same wireless receiver built in, and connect to the PC via USB with a claimed range of 165 feet. The headphones will be available in October for $129.99 (list).

Copyright © 2005 Ziff Davis Media Inc. All Rights Reserved. Originally appearing in PC Magazine.

Home Stereo: MusicGiants

You sign up with a music download service, get your 128-Kbps (or 192-Kbps, if you're lucky) music files, and put those files onto your portable audio player. Everything sounds fine when you're listening through your low-end earbuds on the subway, but when you try to play those files through your high-end home stereo or headphones, you will notice that their sound quality is pretty poor because of all that compression. Enter MusicGiants: Finally, a company is offering a music download service that uses a lossless compression format, Windows Media Audio (WMA) Lossless, which provides true CD-quality audio in about half the file size. For comparison, most commercially available MP3 and WMA files are encoded at from 64 Kbps to 192 Kbps; the WMA Lossless codec outputs files that are generally between 380 Kbps and 1,100 Kbps. The company believes that the high fidelity of the lossless files will entice artists who have previously shunned the digital download scene (Led Zeppelin, for example) to make their music available.

by Michael Kobrin

Home Stereo: Belkin TuneStage for iPod

It didn't take long for Belkin's new TuneStage for iPod to become one of our favorite iPod accessories. It lets you stream music wirelessly from your iPod to your stereo from up to 33 feet away via Bluetooth 1.2. Setup is a snap, and the sound quality is good. The TuneStage does have some limitations—most notably that it doesn't work with the new iPod nano or the iPod shuffle—but none were deal-breakers for us. And the metallic silver and white base station with its bright-blue LED looks classy next to any home stereo (plus the LED just happens to match the blue lights on our Harman Kardon receiver).

The compact base station (6.5 by 4.5 by 1.2 inches) plugs into your home stereo using the included gold-plated RCA-to-stereo mini plug cable. We like that the device itself has both RCA jacks and a 3.5-mm mini jack, so you can choose which end of the cable to plug in to your stereo based on its input capabilities. All you need to do from there is plug the base station in and turn it on.

The small silver and white transmitter plugs into any iPod with a remote-control jack—that's the little 4-pin connector next to the headphone jack. Alas, iPod nano and shuffle users are out of luck (for now) since neither of those models have that port. Pairing with the base station is automatic. Just plug the transmitter into your iPod and press Play.

The transmitter is rated for up to 33 feet, depending on the shape of your home, the number of obstacles blocking the signal, and the proximity of items such as microwave ovens, 2.4-GHz WLAN, and cordless phones. The system can work around most interference problems, however, via its adaptive frequency hopping. We tested the unit at a distance from the base station of about 16 feet while using a microwave oven, and we only experienced a dropped signal when we put our iPod right in front of the oven.

by Michael Kobrin

Thursday, May 04, 2006

How To Connect Your Digital Receiver To Your Home Theater Setup

In the not too distant past, stereo receivers were only used for connecting components of your home stereo system and switching between them, but times have changed drastically in the home entertainment field in just the last few years. Today a stereo receiver, or digital receiver as they are sometimes called, is expected to also handle video inputs from any number of devices and be able to route that as well to the TV set. In addition, today's receivers must have the capability to decode surround sound and support up to at least 5 speakers and a subwoofer. That's a lot to ask, and also a lot to connect up, so let's discuss how to connect your digital receiver to your home theater setup.

If you buy an all-in-one home theater system package, you probably won't have much problem setting things up because it's all usually laid out for you in the instructions and the components should all match very well. But if you are putting together your own home theater package made up of different components then you need to plan ahead and buy the right equipment to get the job done.

As far as the receiver is concerned, be sure that you buy one that has the number of connections that you will need to handle all of your system components. For video, almost all receivers give you a connection for a DVD player, a VCR, and a cable or satellite box, but do you also plan to connect up a digital camcorder, a video game system, or digital video recorder? If so, you will need enough inputs for all these pieces of equipment too. And you can expect to pay more for that many extra connections, but if that is what you need, the cost is worth it.

Now you need to be sure that the connection types are what you want too. Almost all video equipment can be connected through a standard composite connection cable, but if you want to improve the video quality you will use an S-video connection instead. Having a good mix of input connections between the two can be a good idea as most camcorder video will not have to be of the highest quality anyway.

On the audio front, many digital receivers are coming with surround sound decoders built into the unit and that is usually the simplest solution. Just make sure that the digital connection for sound from your system components matches the input connection on the receiver. Usually it is either an optical or coaxial connection. Just be sure that whichever it is, they match on both ends.

Then be sure that you have enough speaker connections to drive your speaker setup. If you like to use the newer 6.1 or 7.1 surround sound system format you will need enough speaker connections on your receiver to power all those separate speakers.

Once you have the right equipment with the right connections, actually installing the receiver is a matter of staying organized as you go. It may be a good idea to label each cable set on both ends to remind you what goes where. And be sure to keep the polarity straight when you install the speakers too. Each speaker has a "+" and "-" terminal, so make sure that you match them up correctly with the corresponding terminal on the receiver or your sound quality will suffer.

Following a few well planned guidelines and being as organized as possible can help you to not only buy the right digital receiver equipment for your home theater setup, but also install it correctly as well.

Find free stereo receiver reviews and the best stereo receivers by visiting our Home Theater website.

by Jim Johnson

The Future of Radio

What a huge idea! To have the ability to listen to commercial free music, wherever, whenever! One great idea can change everything. XM Satellite Radio has changed everything. XM is now America's #1 Satellite Radio provider. It features over 160 digital channels -- over 30 channels of news, sports, talk and entertainment, over 20 dedicated channels of XM-brand Instant Traffic & Weather, and the largest playlist in the industry with access to over 2 million song titles.

Probably the best thing about an XM Satellite radio is that you don't have to replace your old radio to get XM. It's swift and simple to add XM to your existing car or home stereo. With the XM system, you'll still be able to listen to your regular AM, FM stations and your CD or cassette player. A great feature of XM radios is its ability to display the channel name, artist name and song title, so you won't ever have to ask "what's the name of that song?" That's priceless! If you're in the market for a new car, be sure to ask about having a XM Radio installed. XM-equipped audio systems are offered in over 100 new cars for the 2005 model year.

There is no doubt that satellite radio is the future of the music and audio entertainment industry. Satellite radio is doing to radio what cable television did to television years ago. An explosion of information is ready for your ears! Founded in 1992, as the American Mobile Radio Corporation, XM offers receivers from the price range of $30 - $300. For the budget-friendly consumer, XM also offers these receivers at a month-to-month plan, with service fees at about $12.95 for the first receiver. Subscribers may purchase packages from 1-5 years, in which the average cost is under $10 per month. XM also offers internet only packages and mobile (i.e. Ipod) services for satellite radio.

For those you curious to how they "do it", here's a synopsis. XM provides digital programming directly from three satellites in geostationary orbit above the equator. There are the XM-1 ("Roll"), XM-2 ("Rock") and XM-3 ("Rhythm"). The integration of three satellites and a ground-based repeater network is designed to give gap-free coverage anywhere within the continental United States. Unfortunately, XM-1, and XM-2 were created with a design fault on the Boeing 702 series of satellites, which basically means that their life spans will be only about six years, instead of 15 like the maker intended.

You can compare prices and reviews for XM Radio at Affordable XM Radios

by Bo

Modern House Floor Plan

It used to be that the word "modern" brought to mind the idea of spartan or monastic spaces. Possibly even bland and boring in terms of what we call the modern house floor plan. What most people have in mind is a more livable mix of form and function. Sleek architecture combined with state of the art technology create a modern, minimimalist appeal.

State of the art speaker systems can be concealed in the drywall of rooms throughout the house to create the ultimate home stereo without the clutter. Home theater equipment placed on a revolving table can double as new age art for both living rooms and bedrooms.

Living space can be divided into sections with simple ideas such as plain rice paper screens. This eliminates the need for some walls which could crowd the open floor space. Screens can also be easily moved if you tire of them. Windows and doors should be kept free of excess decoration. If naked windows bother you, keep the coverings to a minimum with blinds or a single pair of plain curtains.

Not all design elements need be expensive. Floor to ceiling facing mirrors can infinitely expand a room as well as multiply any decor you choose keeping necessary purchases to a minimum. Look for bargin furnishings that can do double or even triple duty in your house.

Paint and lighting are best friends to the modern house floor plan. Paint can add color, depth and even texture without taking up space while lighting, particularly recessed lighting, allows for the artistic addition of light and shadow without clutter.

A modern house floor plan can allow for open floor spaces and provide a minimalist look without being bland or boring.

Entrepeneur and free lance creative writer. For more of my works please visit House Floor Plan

home stereo: Hi-Fi questions and answers

Should I bi-wire?

Simply, yes if you have bi-wire terminals on your speakers. Bi-wiring terminals at the back of your loudspeakers allows you to disconnect the join between the electronics in the speaker (crossover) and then connect a cable from your HF unit (tweeter) and bass/mid range driver to your amplifier. You will get better sound quality. For further advice on this visit any Hifi Corner branch.
Should home cinema speakers be all the same brand?

Convension wisdom is that for the best cohesive sound then all the speakers in a home cinema system should be of the same brand, ideally of the same quality. It is then less likely you will hear tonal differences between the actors as their voice moves across the sound stage. Practically it may not be possible, and the choice to keep the speakers throughout will depend on the overall quality of the hifi/home cinema system. The higher the quality the more it is recommended to have the same or very similar speakers. The only exception may be the sub-woofer or low bass frequency unit. Ideally one should not 'hear' this but 'feel' it working. As a good many sub-woofers don't work as they should; you may be better off buying one from a specialist sub woofer manufacturer.
What brands of loudspeakers does Hifi Corner stock?

Hi-Fi Corner stocks Art, Bose, REL, B&W, KEF, Quad,Spendor, Tannoy, Mission (NXT), Yamaha (sub woofers), and many more. You are advised to phone before travelling.
Why you should pay a visit to Hi-Fi Corner.

Hi-Fi Corner use only the very highest quality comparators from NEXUS to demonstrate the differences between loudspeakers. We recommend you always listen to speakers before purchase.

Hi-Fi Corner have customers not only throughout Scotland but in England, Wales and Northern Ireland. Our reputation extends throughout the UK.

home stereo: Hi-Fi FAQ

How should I position my speakers?

In an ideal world once the carpet is down in your room you should position your speakers, then the rest of the furniture around your hifi.

For a variety of reasons (or people) this isn't practical. You may have no choice in the matter but ideally try and position the speakers in a triangle. Preferable an equilateral triangle (helps if you did geometry) where you are at the apex of this triangle. If the speakers are too far apart you will get a left and right sound with no centre stage. If you are too far away you will also not have a wide sound. The distance apart depends on the dispersion characteristics of the speaker. Your ideal listening position is also determined this way as well. Better quality loudspeakers have greater flexibility in listening position. This is quite often forgotten in the decision making process of buying.

Remember that the room and furnishings will have an effect on the sound, so be brave and experiment.
Why do my speakers keep blowing when the power output is above the amp?

Speakers have drive units in them. These are the electro-mechanical parts which produce the sound. Each drive unit is designed for specific frequencies and has a different power rating. If your amplifier is say 10watts and the speaker is rated at 20 watts, the high frequency unit may only be rated at 5W. So it is still possible to overdrive it. More likely the reason the speakers have been damaged is that the amplifier has reached its peak output power and instead of sending out a nice sine wave music signal, for which speakers are designed, it has sent out a square wave spike. Speakers don't like this and basically it burns the fragile wires at the back of the drive unit. It is Hifi Corner's experience that more speakers are damaged by amplifiers having too low a power output rather than the reverse. Melted or fused wires at the back of the speakers are not under guarantee, so take great care. Overdriving of amplifiers often happens under the following conditions:- when the tone controls are turned up (this demands more power even at same volume levels); wild parties (the more you have to drink the harder of hearing you become); and when no-one was in the house (except the children/cleaner who deny ever touching the hifi).
How many drive units should I have?

The working parts of a loudspeaker, the drive units, come in a variety of shapes and sizes. Like the size of the speaker itself, a good speaker with two drive units will sound better than a bad speaker with five. The more drive units the harder it will be for the designer to make it sound good. So be wary of inexpensive designs with multiple drivers. Speakers sold on specifications tend to be aimed at the less experienced buyers. Hifi Corner have superb demonstration facilities and there is no substitute for listening yourself.
What is "in phase"?

Terminals at the back of the speaker are marked 'plus' or 'positive' and 'minus' or 'negative' . Amplifiers also have at the back 'positive' and 'negative' terminals. They may be colour coded. If one of the terminals is misconnected then the speaker is said to be out of phase.

Basically when one of the drive units is moving out on one speaker, it will move in on another. The net effect is that bass is lost as the speakers are working against each other.

Stereo becomes diffuse and it is difficult if not impossible to localize sounds in the middle of the speakers. Correcting this balance means the speakers are 'in-phase'. This is a common problem which if careful connections are made should be avoided.

If you are not sure if your speakers are 'in-phase', reverse the polarity of one of your speaker terminals, and listen to which setting gives you the most bass. Be careful to switch the amplifier off before changing and do not let the terminals cross (or short circuit) each other.

home stereo: Hi-Fi Loudspeaker Q and A

The questions below are often asked in Hifi Corner's stores.

Hi-Fi Corner are the oldest established audio specialist in Scotland, with stores in Edinburgh, Glasgow and Falkirk.

FAQ'S on loudspeakers. All Hifi Corner FAQ's are non technical and represent questions often asked by our customers. There are more technical sites elsewhere which cater for those requiring in-depth knowledge.
Should I have a bookshelf or floorstanding speaker?

You should buy what suits you sound wise, is always the correct answer when talking about loudspeakers. Technically larger units can give a deeper bass due to the cabinet dimensions, but size isn't everything. It is better to have a good small speaker than a big bad one! Whilst you may get more bass from a larger speaker, if its not well designed, the larger cabinet can cause colourations (unwanted colouring of the sound).
Why should I have my speaker off the floor?

Most speakers are designed to have their working parts (the drive units) at a certain height. Normally in bookshelf speakers the height of the tweeter (High Frequency or HF unit) should be at head height. Having small speakers on the floor means the height is therefore wrong. The floor also introduces colourations and the bass (low frequency) notes will resonate with it giving a poor diffused boomy sound. Ask a friend to lift one speaker off the floor whilst you listen to it and hear the difference.

Vibrations through the floor also feedback into your hifi equipment, be it a turntable, cd or even amplifier. These vibrations interfere with the music.

The ideal solution is a purpose made speaker stand at the correct height for your speaker. Hifi Corner stores can advise in this matter.
What advice have you regarding speaker stands?

A loudspeaker stand is designed to get your speakers at the correct height. In many speakers (although there are exceptions) this is head height when sitting. The stand should be of stable construction. Its purpose is also to isolate the speaker from its surrounding.

Spikes are generally used on the base of the stand to minimise the vibrations going through the floor. There is a train of thought that the stand itself should be solidly mounted to the spaeker, whilst some people prefer another set of spikes between the speaker stand and the speaker itself for further isolation. Try blu-tack between the speaker and the stand and then the spikes and see which sounds better to you.

If stand can be filled with sand or lead shot, or a mixture, this will give extra density. It is demonstrably better to have filled stands.

Hifi Corner stock and recommend specialised equipment and speaker stands from Atacama, Stands Unique and Soundstyle. The Atacama Nexus stand offering fabulous sound and value for money at present.

The Top Two Choices From Onine Stereo Receiver Reviews

When considering any electronics purchase there is usually more than enough brands and models to choose from and it can even start to get confusing for the average person who is not an electronics equipment whiz. Fortunately, the internet is a vast storehouse of independent consumer ratings and if you do some homework you can usually spot the top products very quickly.

When looking for stereo receivers these days there are a few features that come to mind that should be included on the latest models to really give you the most for your money as the digital entertainment age comes into it's own. One is that unlike receivers of the past, today's stereo receivers need to incorporate video into the mix as well as audio capability. For years a home receiver was used mainly for the home audio system, but now a typical home entertainment setup requires a receiver to process video signals as well.

A modern receiver would also be able to decode and process both Dolby and DTS 5.1 surround sound and support the 5 speakers and subwoofer that is required for creating a true surround sound experience. The receiver should have plenty of inputs for the audio/video devices that will be used with it and a variety of connections for those devices to insure the best audio and video quality.

With all of that in mind, we have found that two digital receivers have the features and positive reviews that we like to see to be able to meet the needs of most people. And here they are:

1. The Yamaha RX-V650 is a great receiver that produces clean, crisp sound and can actually function well with either 4 ohm or 8 ohm speakers, which can be important if you aren't sure what your speaker setups's ohm rating is. It also develops plenty of power, being rated at close to 100 watts per channel. That amount of power will fill even the largest rooms with sound. The rear video inputs are: Composite: 4, Component: 2, S-Video: 4, and the video outputs are Component: 1, Composite: 2, S-Video: 2. There are 4 rear audio inputs and two outputs. This receiver will also support on up to Dolby 7.1 surround sound. It costs just under $400 online and is a great piece of equipment for most home theater needs.

2. The Panasonic SA-XR50 - This is a less expensive digital receiver that still delivers great value and performance by all accounts. It supports up to 6.1 surround sound and puts out 100 watts per channel of power making it an easy choice to power speakers effectively even in large rooms. The audio inputs are: 4 A/V, 1 coaxial, 1 optical; and the video inputs are 3 composite, 3 S-video, 2 component. This receiver often sells for under $300 online making it a great bargain.

Either receiver mentioned above would no doubt make a fine purchase for either your home stereo or home theater needs as both are highly rated in most online stereo receiver reviews. There are also other fine receivers available though, and it's always good to make a thorough search to find the one that fits you best.

Find free stereo receiver reviews and the best stereo receivers by visiting our Home Theater website.

History of the Computer - Analog or Digital?

In 'History of the Computer - the emergence of Electronics', we saw how the development of Radar during the second world war led to an understanding of pulse technology. At the same time methods were refined for the calculations required for the ballistic trajectories. From these beginnings, the digital computer was developed.

What is meant by 'Analog' and 'Digital'? A couple of examples will explain the difference. An analog is something which is analogous, obviously, but you may know that an analogous process or function is one that is equivalent, or very similar to another one. An analogy is often used to explain, or to assist the understanding of, some new feature in terms that are understood.

For example a home electric circuit for house wiring to operate a lamp. The supply is controlled by a circuit breaker, when it is available at the outlet where the lamp is plugged. This can be compared to plumbing, where the water supply is controlled by a valve or tap on entering the home, then pipes carry the water to the kitchen, where the supply can be turned on or off by a tap or faucet, and is immediately available. The rate of flow of the water can be controlled, which is analogous to a dimmer on the lamp.

The analogy is not absolutely the same, but aids in the understanding of the electricity supply by someone who knows the plumbing system.

Digital, concerning digits or numbers, refers to the use of numbers to represent all things. As an example, a digital watch uses numbers to indicate the time. The numbers on the face of traditional watch are distributed around the dial, so that the hands pointing to them are analogous to the passage of time. For example the minute hand pointing straight down, half way through the circle of the clock, represents the passing of half an hour. If the hour hand is pointing to the number 3, this indicates 3 hours of the 12 for a complete circuit. When we learnt to tell the time we knew that this was half past three. The digital watch however says 3:30.

Closer to our topic, we can consider the evolution of the gramophone record. The vinyl LP was the standard medium for music recording and playing from the 1950s, tape recordings were also developed in parallel. Both these media use a modulation system, where the amplitude, or strength, of the modulation is proportional, or analogous, to the loudness of the original live singing or playing. This music had been converted by a microphone into an variable electrical signal, analogous to the sound.

With the invention in the 1980s of the Compact Disc, digital techniques were employed to represent the changes in sound levels, by using a sampling pulse to monitor the loudness of the sound. This sampling pulse is used at a high frequency, so that it is not audible, and traces the progress of the sound. The principle is analogous to the movie camera where a sequence of still pictures are shown at a rate of 32 frames per second, so that they appear to show a moving picture. Similarly a tv uses a frame rate of 50 or 60 per second (strictly speaking 25 0r 30 interlaced).

The big advantage of a digital recording and reproduction system (amplifiers etc are also digital) is that, due to the nature of the high frequency pulses, it is possible to copy them exactly when transferring from one medium to another, for example copying a from cd track to compilation cd. With an analogue system there are losses in every transfer, so that a recording on a cassette tape copied from a vinyl lp via a home stereo is noticeably poorer quality than the original.

A computer can also be analog or digital, though the digital type have vastly outgrown the analog. An analog computer might be used in research work, where, for instance a record may be made on a moving chart of the temperature and humidity in a room being air conditioned by a new design air conditioner, the chart could also be a display on screen. Either way, the graph is an analog representation of the temperature and pressure.

Early electronic controls in aircraft were run by a form of analog computer, the amount the ailerons moved was proportional to the movement of the joystick, but not directly proportional. A calculation was performed, which depended on the speed and height of the aircraft, and other factors. The electronic 'boxes' involved linear amplifiers and variable response circuits, all fed by sensors from the flight controls etc.

Subsequent articles in this series are concerned only with digital computers. We look at how they are put together, and how they perform, in simple steps, more and more advanced calculations.

Tony is an experienced computer engineer. He is currently webmaster and contributor to . A set of diagrams accompanying these articles may be seen at . RSS feed also available - use

What You Need To Know About Stereo Receivers

There has been a revolution taking place in the home entertainment and electronics field in the past decade that will change how we view and listen to entertainment forever. Not long ago, you watched TV and listened to stereo music separately. But increasingly audio and video sources have become combined and now we have a multitude of audio/video devices that we can choose to enjoy including dvd players, camcorders, video games, HDTV, and more. And with this audio/video consolidation the home stereo receiver has had to keep up with the times.

Today we have a wide selection of receivers to choose from. Of course, you can still get the most basic stereo receiver that accepts sound inputs and powers only two speakers at a time. In fact, you can get some very high quality equipment in this area very inexpensively now. In fact, you can build a very cheap and basic home theater setup by using the stereo receiver to process sound from a DVD player, VCR, and your TV.

If you get a receiver that has support for Dolby Pro Logic, Pro Logic II, and Pro Logic IIx, you can even get simulated surround sound from your home theater system if you have four or more speakers. Of course, the pro Logic formats are not digital, they are for analog sound inputs but it can help improve your sound quite a bit if you still use analog components.

For most modern uses though, you will need a receiver that can handle both digital audio and video inputs and then routes the signals to the correct component like your TV and speaker setup. On the video side look for receivers that have enough video inputs to support all the video devices that you plan to use, and also be sure that the connection types match up between the video devices you have and the receiver inputs. On the audio side, if you plan on using the digital surround sound capability that much of today's entertainment is going to, your receiver should be able to decode both Dolby and DTS 5.1 surround sound and then support at least 5 speakers and a subwoofer to distribute each channel's sound to the appropriate speaker.

You will want to have plenty of power to accomplish all of this and so for a typical home theater setup you will need about 50 watts of power for an average room, 75 watts per channel for a larger room, and for very large rooms 100 watts per channel or more will be needed to truly get the sound you want.

The top stereo receiver manufacturers are Sony, Panasonic, JVC, Onkyo, Denon, Pioneer, and Yamaha. If you browse their current offerings you will find that most of these companies make high quality products that will work well. The biggest question is what your needs are instead. Once you understand what your needs will be, you can then choose the best stereo receiver from any of those brands to fill those needs very well.

Find free stereo receiver reviews and the best stereo receivers by visiting our Home Theater website.

Tuesday, May 02, 2006

Channeling in California

Native vegetation is rebounding on Santa Catalina Island.

A dense fog hung over the Gulf of Santa Catalina as my wife, Beverly, and I boarded a high-speed boat at Dana Point, not far from the famous Mission San Juan Capistrano, southeast of Los Angeles. It took just an hour and a half to cross the thirty-five miles that separated the mainland from our destination, Santa Catalina Island. Covering seventy-six square miles, Santa Catalina is one of southern California's eight Channel Islands. Five others--San Miguel, Santa Rosa, Santa Cruz, Anacapa, and Santa Barbara--constitute Channel Islands National Park. The remaining two are San Nicolas and San Clemente.

The Channel Islands (often called the Santa Barbara Islands) began emerging above sea level about 5 million years ago as volcanic, igneous, sedimentary, and metamorphic rocks were uplifted by tectonic forces associated with the San Andreas Fault. Some, including Santa Catalina, were also overlain by lava flows. During the last glaciation, when sea levels were roughly 400 feet lower, a few of the islands were connected to each other, but all of them have always been isolated from the mainland. As a result, each hosts a variety of endemic plants and animals--that is, species or subspecies found only there.

Santa Catalina is twenty-two miles long and ranges in width from half a mile, at an isthmus, to eight miles. It is essentially a mountain ridge, the highest point being 2,097-foot Mount Orizaba. Along the coast, precipitous cliffs up to 1,400 feet high are interspersed with coves and bays leading into deep, V-shaped canyons. Most of the beaches in the coves are covered with cobblestones, while a few are sandy. Summers are warm and dry: most of the annual rainfall of twelve or more inches falls during the winter. Although the Santa Ana winds that blow from the mainland in winter are often violent, temperatures remain mild.

The original vegetation of Santa Catalina Island has been altered by human activity, particularly through the introduction, more than a century ago, of sheep, goats, and cattle, followed by mule deer, wild pigs, and bison. After years of intense grazing, existing chaparral and coastal scrub communities were largely replaced by nonnative grasses. During the last half of the twentieth century, however, efforts were made to control feral goats and pigs and to remove some of the cattle and bison (only a small herd of bison now remains as a tourist attraction). Today, 88 percent of the island is owned by the Santa Catalina Island Conservancy, which was formed in 1972, and the original vegetation is gradually being renewed.

The habitats include oak woodland, riparian woodland, chaparral, coastal scrub, bluff faces, maritime desert scrub, grasslands, and marshy areas and ponds. About 640 plant species have been recorded on Santa Catalina, nearly two-thirds of them native. Most of the native plants can also be found in the Santa Monica Mountains on the mainland, but several are restricted to the Channel Islands or just to Santa Catalina. Some of the rarest plants live on steep rocky cliffs that have been inaccessible to the island's feral goats.

A California quail and a Bewick's wren are among four bird subspecies found only on Santa Catalina. Native mammals include five endemic subspecies, the largest of which is a Channel Island fox. There are also various endemic invertebrates, including two snails, several butterflies and moths, a few beetles, a cricket, and a walking stick.

Oak woodland develops best in moist, protected canyons and valleys with deep alluvial soils. Island oak, canyon oak, and scrub oak are common, along with Catalina cherry, elderberry, and summer holly (actually a member of the heath family). The rare Catalina ironwood is found in Toyon Canyon and in a few other canyons. Wildflowers include miner's lettuce, lacepod, a buttercup, and the showy fiesta flower (a member of the same family as waterleaf). Among the ferns are California polypody, maidenhair fern, and golden-back fern.

by Robert H. Mohlenbrock

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