Saturday, October 29, 2011

ZVOX ZBASE 580 Soundbar Review

Up for review today is an excellently designed soundbar by ZVOX, their ZBASE 580. TV sets sound tends to be rather anemic sounding. It's usually ok, but just barely. After all, the sound from the TV is usually not thought about until after it's already home and on the wall or stand.
I'll admit that the ZBASE 580 is not quite in the league as a good 5.1 surround sound system. But lets face it, the fancy surround sound is not for everyone. And dealing with all the wires and speakers can be burdensome. Thus, the need for soundbars.
Soundbars tend to come in two varieties. The first is just a slim soundbar in a multiple speaker array, that sounds much better but still anemic on the low end. The next type is a similar design but includes a powered subwoofer, which is still an additional component.
Enter the ZVOX ZBASE 580, with an MSRP of $599. It is an all in one solution. No additional wires or components. The ZBASE 580 is a single box soundbar with a speaker array in the front, and two 6.5" down firing subwoofers. It has everything covered in a single box to make wiring as simple as possible.
It's build quality is also amazing. It features an all wood construction. And it is sturdy enough to handle standing your flat screen on top of it, up to 160lbs! It's features and specs include:
Dimensions: 36"W x 16.5"D x 5"H
Weight: 33 pounds.
With box and packing: 39 pounds.
Amplifier: The 580 uses a high-efficiency 120 watt Class D digital amplifier.
Rear inputs: (2) analog stereo inputs, (1) digital (Toslink) optical input, (1) coaxial digital input.
Front input: (1) 3.5mm stereo front panel input.
Frequency range: 34 Hz – 20 kHz.
Virtual surround sound: The 580 uses ZVOX's proprietary PhaseCue II virtual surround sound processing. PhaseCue II, as its name implies, manipulates the phase of the separate channels to "fool the ear" into believing that sound is coming from a variety of sources throughout the room. The benefits of PhaseCue II vary greatly based on program material. Live music and well-recorded modern movie soundtracks will deliver rich, three-dimensional sound - pulling the sound out from the speakers and into the room, literally surrounding the listener. Note: All virtual surround systems- including the PhaseCue II system - are limited in their effects when compared to a good 5.1 system. And sitcoms, news broadcasts and soundtracks from older movies often have very little in the way of three-dimensional sound. That being said, PhaseCue II is capable of generating a wonderful and engaging virtual surround experience.
The 580 is bi-amplified, using a specially designed amplifier that includes electronic contouring for superb frequency response.
The 580 uses dual 6.5" subwoofers with a high-mass long-throw design in a ported enclosure. The 580's five 3.25" main speaker drivers use a long-throw design to create remarkably wide range, accurate sound.
The system is magnetically shielded so it can be used near a TV or monitor.
Unlike most systems in its category, the 580 uses an MDF (medium density fiberboard) wood cabinet - instead of molded plastic. MDF is the preferred construction material for high-performance speaker systems.
A subwoofer output jack on the rear allows an owner to connect a separate powered subwoofer (optional).
A 2-meter RCA-RCA analog stereo connecting cord is included.
The ZVOX 580 is backed by a one year limited parts and labor warranty.
The ZVOX ZBASE 580 came well packaged and secured and wrapped to protect it's finish. Unwrapping it revealed a well built cabinet. I liked the elegant touch that the gloss black finish side panels yielded. Also included were a power cable, optical cable, remote user manual and set-up guide.
It is also pretty loaded with features. For a soundbar, it has a lot of inputs. Not only does it have multiple analog and digital inputs on the back, it even has a subwoofer output...just in case the two built-in subwoofers weren't enough for you. It also has a front panel input so you can connect your mp3 player. the learning feature is also cool. If you saw the remote and thought to yourself, oh no, not another remote...this feature is probably for you! You can program it to learn from your TV's remote, or cable remote. How cool is that for a soundbar?! And in case you can't find the remote, there are power and volume controls on the front.
The ZVOX also has your sound options covered as well. Treble and Bass aren't the only things that can be adjusted. There is also a Dialog Emphasis feature that increases the clarity of most voices. And it doesn't stop there. The ZVOX ZBASE 580 also has Surround Levels Sd1 for a low virtual surround effect, Sd2 for a moderate virtual surround sound effect, and Sd3 for a strong virtual surround effect.
The ZBASE 580 can support a TV up to 160 lbs being set on top of it, so chances are it can handle your tv being set on top of it. The included instructions were easy to follow. It didn't take but a few minutes to get it set up and running. And ZVOX has an amazing 30 day trial period, where if you aren't satisfied with it, just send it back.
What I can tell you is once I turned on the power...WOW! I just shook my head at the thought of using just the built-in TV speakers again. The sound was that good compared to those in the TV.
The sound was amazing. Vocals were clearly audible and easy to understand. The surround settings really did add a wide surround effect that sounded great. And the two build-in subwoofers actually added some really good bass and low end extension that sounded really cool. I couldn't stop the smile coming on my face. The mids and highs were crisp and clean with good detail and resolution. I could tell that the front array of 3.25" long throw drivers had some special engineering to them, and were not just off the shelf overseas drivers. And the subs provided tight bass with good authority that wasn't too boomy. It actually sounded as if I had a separate subwoofer! And if you wanted it loud, it played loud, AND undistorted.
The ZVOX ZBASE 580 is what all soundbars should be. The build quality and sound quality were all top notch. If you're in the market for a soundbar, the ZBASE 580 should be on your short list. Based on it's design, quality, features and performance, the ZVOX ZBASE 580 has earned our Editor's Choice Award. For more info and complete specs, check out their website at

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Thursday, October 27, 2011

Kingston DataTraveler Locker+ Review by Kirk Spencer

Are you in need of a secure usb flash drive? Kingston makes the DataTraveler Locker+ which is serious about security. The drive uses a 256-bit hardware-based AES encryption! It is supported on Windows and on Mac OS, but unfortunately Kingston did not include any support for Linux users. If you are a Linux user, go get a different drive. The hardware-based encryption makes it impossible for Linux users to access the drive. It's features and specs include:
Superior password protection — user sets a password to prevent
unauthorized access; drive reformats after 10 invalid attempts
Hardware encryption — the best in personal security to keep your data
Swivel design — metal swivel design so there’s no cap to lose
Easy to use — step-by-step password setup process. No admin rights or
application installation required
Guaranteed — five-year warranty with 24/7 customer support
Customizable — Co-Logo program available2
Capacities* — 4GB, 8GB, 16GB, 32GB
Dimensions — 2.58" x 0.71" x 0.41" (65.76mm x 17.98mm x 10.7mm)
Operating Temperature — 32° to 140°F (0° to 60°C)
Storage Temperature — -4° to 185°F (-20° to 85°C)
Simple — just plug into a USB port
Guaranteed — five-year warranty
Minimum System Requirements —
USB 2.0 compliant and 1.1 compatible Two (2) free consecutive drive
letters required for use3Compatibility
Operating System
Windows® 71

Windows Vista®1 (SP1, SP2)

Windows XP (SP3)

Mac OS (10.5.x - 10.6.x)
Setting everything up is a very simple process. The drive includes a separate partition which contains all the software to decrypt the main partition. When you plug in the drive it has an auto run file which will launch the setup software. The setup wizard will guide you through the process. A password is required which must meet a set of minimum requirements: 6 to 16 characters long, at least three of the following: upper case letters, lower case letters, digits and special characters. Once everything has been setup, you will see an additional drive letter in your file explorer window which can be used the same as any ordinary flash drive. Keep in mind that this is a super secure drive. Kingston wasn't messing around when they built this thing. If anyone attempts to access the drive 10 consecutive times with an invalid password, the main partition will be formatted making it virtually impossible for any kind of brute force software to hack it.
The drive has a nice bright blue led indicator. It comes in a swivel protector which drive is attached to and there is a key chain attachment which can be connected to the drive if you're looking for a convenient way to carry it around. Overall the build quality is nice and if taken care of you shouldn't have any problems. If you're a little rough with your flash drives then you might have issues with the swivel protector, but I honestly doubt it.
We ran the drive through some performance tests to see how it holds up. If you compare these results with other usb flash drives you might notice that this one is slower. One thing to keep in mind is that the drive is encrypted which will affect performance. As the security increases, performance will almost always decrease.
All things considered, the drive does exactly what it's marketed for and it does it extremely well. The flash drive is super secure with plenty of storage space and despite the security it will perform fast enough for most users. With a solid build quality this drive should keep your files safe for years to come. We're giving the Kingston DataTraveler Locker+ 16 GB drive our Highly Recommended award for it's superior level of hardware based security and exceptional build quality.

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Saturday, October 22, 2011

Kindle Keyboard 3G Review

Ebooks are the wave of the future in book publishing. Like them or hate them, no one can dispute that fact. While I can agree that there is just something about opening a new book and feeling the spine crack and the pages rustle, for ease of use and ease of buying, nothing can beat an ebook. While the genre has a bit to go in picture books, for adult reading it can't be beat.

So, how do YOU read your ebooks? Have you downloaded an app onto your laptop? As easy as that is, it's awkward to read books this way, too big. Have you downloaded them on your phone? Portable, but get ready for eye-strain!

Today, we have for review a devise that is ideal for ebook reading. In fact, that is what this was designed for: Amazon's Kindle Keyboard 3G.

I don't mind telling you that I was very excited for this review. I have heard all about the Kindle, but hadn't before had the chance to play with it. Sadly, now I know exactly what I was missing and all I can do is look back and mourn those lost months when I could have been reading on a Kindle and wasn't.

The Kindle is about the size of a standard paperback book. Even in it's carrying case (A must have accessory) it fits easily into your hand and is easy to slip into a purse or pocket. With the wireless option turned on, you can access your Amazon account anywhere with wi-fi and you can purchase and download new books quickly and effortlessly. Even the library is in on the game, allowing the borrowing of ebooks. The internal memory of a Kindle is very impressive at 4GB. Large enough to hold even my extensive library and audio books are shown and sold alongside the printed versions.

Reading the Kindle was easy, even outside in bright sunlight with no washing-out of the display like you can get with your cell phone or tablet PC. There is no backlight on the Kindle, so reading in dimmer light can be problematic if you don't splurge to get the carry case with the built in light, which is a worthy purchase for investment protection alone. I didn't find the lack of backlighting a problem, as reading for hours on end with a backlight is a headache promoting activity and it is a more authentic book reading experience without it. Also, no backlight helps extend the battery life exponentially. With no backlight and the wireless turned off, the battery can last for weeks on end. Even with the wireless turned on, I found the devise went nearly a week without needing a charge, and I am a voracious reader.

The Kindle comes with a charger cord and a quick start guide. The cord is easy to use, and, as it's white in color, easy to find. That's no small convenience if you're anything like me with a somewhat daunting tangle of cords plugged into my wall. Being able to plug in at least one devise without having to hunt for ten minutes for the right cord is a blessing! The cord is adaptable for plugging into either the wall or your PC.

The quick start guide is simple and easy to follow. Everything you need to know with pictures included, in five pages. No need to read a book so you can read a book!

It's features and specs include:
Model- D00901
Display — 6" diagonal display, 600 x 800 pixel resolution, 16-level gray scale.
Size — 7.48 inches by 4.84 inches by 0.34 inches (190 mm by 123 mm by 8.5 mm).
Weight — Kindle Wi-Fi: 8.5 ounces (240 g); Kindle 3G+Wi-Fi: 8.7 ounces (247 g)
Storage — 4GB internal storage, with approximately 3GB available to the user.
Audio — 3.5mm stereo headphone jack, built-in stereo speakers, built-in microphone. The microphone is not enabled but is provided for future use.
Power — AC power adapter and rechargeable lithium polymer battery.
Connectivity — USB 2.0 (micro-B connector). HSDPA/GSM wireless modem in Kindle with
international wireless.
Operating temperature — 32°F to 95°F (0°C to 35°C).
Storage temperature — 14°F to 113°F (-10°C to 45°C).
Wi-Fi — 802.11b or 802.11g

It is easy to change the size of the text with just a touch of a button, a feature that makes this device a must have for older generations who still love to read but find their eyesight diminishing. Flipping between pages is a snap, with large buttons on either side of the screen for navigation. Maneuvering between books is equally easy and the Kindle will remember your place in multiple book so read as many as you like.

Following the instructions to get it connected to my home wi-fi network was simple, but not necessary having the 3G model. Taking it on vacation, it was easy to search for new books. The 3G icon was lit up so I know I was connected, and was able to search for new books. The 3G model definitely made things easier.

The keyboard is tiny, but easy to use and layed out in the QWERTY style. And one feature I especially appreciate, you can 'lock' your kindle with a password to keep little eyes and hands from thinking this is a new play toy just for them.

The built in speakers on the Kindle allow for the 'reading' of audio books. I found that the speakers volume was more than adequate, but were slightly tinny in sound. That small fault disappears entirely when you use headphones. You can also use an adaptor to plug into your car's audio system, an absolute lifesaver on long trips!

The Kindle Keyboard 3G retails for $139 and can be purchased in numerous stores as well as on line at Based on it's features, design, and performance, the Kindle Keyboard 3G has earned our Recommended Award. For more info and complete specs, check out their website at

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Tuesday, October 18, 2011

2011 Holiday Gadget Gift Guide

It's that time of year again, when many of us are scrambling around frantically searching for a Christmas gift for a loved one. We at have also been working to put together a few ideas for gift ideas in our annual Holiday Gadget Gift Guide. And it includes full reviews of each of the items in the guide. So check the review schedule for when the full reviews for each item are scheduled. Hopefully we will be able to give you a few ideas.
1) Kindle Keyboard 3G by Amazon
Tablets are getting more and more popular. Some of them have so many features, to the un-tech savy, they can be a little intimidating. If you fit in that criteria, or you are just looking for a simple e-reader, the Kindle by Amazon would be perfect. While it does not do a lot other then being an e-reader, it is extremely efficient at what it does. To be reviewed 3rd week of October.
2) Kingston DataTraveler Locker+ thumb drive.
Thumb drives are really popular. And it also helps that they are cheap. They come in both small and large capacities, which has made them easy for multimedia use, such as music and photos. They also do a great job holding data. But if you are worried about it getting in the wrong hands, this password protected flash drive could be for you. To be reviewed 4th week of October.
3) ZVOX 580 sound bar.
I love my surround sound, which makes watching the big screen so much more enjoyable. Running all of the wires is a big pain, but worth it. But dealing with all those wires is not for everyone. Or, you have it in your main listening room and are looking for something more simple in the bedroom. If you fall into those categories, the ZVOX 580 would be a perfect for you. It is an all-in-one simulated surround sound solution in a single box as a soundbar with limited wiring involved. It even has dual 6.5" subwoofers built-in. to be reviewed 4th week of October.
4) ION Premium Drum Set.
Ever want to be a Rock Star? Thanks to Rock Band, millions are able to in the comfort and privacy of our own homes. But rock stars can be wild, and acting the part can be hard on the equipment, such as the drums. The ION Premium Drum Set is a premium quality set, that can actually take a lot of abuse by your rock stars, and live to keep rocking. To be reviewed the 2nd week of November.
5) Coby MP957 MP3 player.
MP3 players are great! They are small and easy to take our music on the go. But being continually on the go, you may want more than just music. The Coby MP957 will actually do music, photos, ebooks and video. It could be just right for you, and it's price also won't break the bank. To be reviewed the 5th week of November.
6) Kicker iKick iK501 iPod dock.
Kicker has it's slogan, "Livin' Loud." If you're like me, you like your music loud. But when it comes to iPod docs, it can be more difficult to find one that can handle that kind of abuse. The Kicker iK501 iPod dock is designed to do just that. It has separate tweeters, midbass drives and a build-in subwoofer. Now with your iPod dock you can keep "Livin Loud." To be reviewed the 3rd week of November.
7) Coby CAM5002 Camcorder
If you have kids, you know that sometimes things happen that you just have to get on tape. But keeping a bulky camcorder in your purse or pocket is not an option. And while your cell phone can work, how good does the video really look? The Coby CAM5002 is a new HD Camcorder that can easily slip in your purse, and will have you ready to capture those special moments at a moments notice. To be reviewed the 1st week of December.
8) Sansa Clip Zip MP3 player.
Looking for a small ultra-portable mp3 player? The Sansa Clip Zip is an ultra small 4GB mp3 player with lots of functionality. Having a fair amount of storage built-in, it also has a memory card slot for unlimited storage with additional memory cards. It is also compatible with Sansa's new music cards, with 1,000's of songs based on different music types. To be review the 3rd week of November.
9) Sigma BC2209 Targa STS Bike Computer
There are a lot of options for bike computers. The Sigma BC2209 Targa STS is a premium bike computer, so you wont find it at Walmart. But with many things, you tend to get what you pay for. The Sigma BC2209 is a prime example. It does a lot more than just telling you how fast you're going or have an odometer. It is also built solid to handle the single track trails. To be reviewed the 4th week of November.
10) RBH Signature SX Surround Speakers.
Not all speakers are created equal. RBH, located in Layton Utah, produces great sounding speaker systems that also sport an excellent build quality and gorgeous wood finish. The 5.1 Signature SX surround system they provided features bookshelf speakers for the fronts, rears and center channel, and subwoofer with a 10" driver. To be reviewed 1st week of November.
11) Kicker KMT60 Marine Speakers.
Kicker's "Livin Loud" theme has carried over into their KMT60 marine speakers. Boats can be loud, so the KMT60 needs to play loud as well. And the dual 6 1/2" midbass drivers and horn tweeters are designed to do just that. They are designed for easy mounting the boat's wake bar. To be reviewed the 2nd week of December.

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Sunday, October 2, 2011

Savant Highlight Awards from CEDIA 2011

Osterville, MA. September 22nd, 2011—Savant Systems LLC, having delivered the first Apple®-based home automation and commercial control system, has garnered several noteworthy awards during the 2011 CEDIA tradeshow. “These awards acknowledge the dedication of every Savant employee as well as the tireless hard work of our dealer base, making Savant the most sought after residential and commercial control solution,” stated Savant CEO Robert Madonna. In addition to these manufacturer’s awards, several Savant dealers also earned prestigious CEDIA ELECTRONIC LIFESTYLES® Designer Awards for their work integrating Savant control systems. All things considered, 2011 CEDIA was another successful and productive show for Savant.

CEDIA Manufacturer Lifestyle Award:

Savant Telephony: Savant’s flexible and scalable telephony solution is based upon the Savant PBX Server (Private Branch Exchange) and delivers full-duplex communication capabilities. The Savant PBX supports up to 72 endpoints all capable of making internal and external local, long distance and international calls. Savant Telephony users will benefit from an interface that is intuitive and seamlessly integrated with their control and automation functionality—and the only solution to deliver it all from an iPad®, iPod touch® or iPhone®.

Custom Retailer Excite Awards and CEPro Best Awards:

Smart Energy Monitor: Savant’s SmartEnergy technology measures energy usage and production in real-time and can also deliver historical usage data from multiple energy management devices, empowering homeowners and facilities managers alike with critical information as well as the control and automation capabilities to maximize efficiency by adjusting usage patterns. Savant’s SmartEnergy Monitor enables users to reduce energy costs by monitoring how and when specific devices draw power—particularly during peak pricing or load periods. While conserving energy is paramount, the SmartEnergy Monitor improves efficiency while continuing to maintain the user’s preferred lifestyle.

Savant Select: The Savant Select™ is an entirely new approach to state-of-the art whole-home control, blending the modern functionality of an integrated 4th generation iPod touch with traditional backlit buttons and essential navigation keys. This makes the Savant Select easy and comfortable for everyone to use while delivering the most exciting control options of any smart remote to date. The Savant Select takes full advantage of Savant’s award-winning TrueContol II app, which transforms the iPod touch and iPhone into the ultimate two-way remote for your Savant SmartSystem. The flexibility of the integrated iPod touch enables the Savant Select to have a “Presence” feature—it can operate the control functionality for each room as you move throughout the home.

About Savant: Savant was founded by a core group of technology pioneers with hundreds of years of combined real-world experience in peripheral applications such as programmable systems, digital signal processing, telephony, switching systems, video processing, and home electronics integration. Savant's products, technologies and applications define the future of control, automation, communication, media, and audio/video management. By combining a reliable and maintenance friendly open platform with advanced user interfaces, Savant has distinguished itself as the leader in residential and commercial control systems.

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NuForce Introduces Audiophile-Grade Digital Audio Conversion and Headphone Amp for iPad®, iPhone® and iPod Touch®

iDo extracts audio data in its original digital form (in USB Host mode) from Apple mobile digital devices, delivering bit-perfect, low-jitter, audiophile-quality music file playback

Milpitas, Calif. – September 8, 2011 – NuForce, Inc., a leader in professional and consumer audio solutions, announces today its Icon iDo digital audio converter (DAC) and headphone amplifier for iPad, iPhone and iPod Touch devices. The Icon iDo delivers audiophile-grade CD quality sound to digital music files stored on Apple® mobile digital devices. iDo is ideal for music enthusiasts and musicians alike who primarily listen to—and have their digital music libraries stored on—these devices.

“We’re thrilled to bring our knowledge and understanding of the high-end audio market direct to Apple enthusiasts,” said Jason Lim the CEO of NuForce. “Apple products are becoming the hub of a person’s entire music and audio collection, so improving the audio quality produced by these devices is key. The Icon iDo delivers on that at very affordable price point.”

A fast and easy connection for audiophile-grade sound.
Using the Icon iDo is simple. Users can connect any Apple mobile device to the Icon iDo with the Apple® approved and included 30-pin sync/charging cable, attach the power supply, and then plug the Icon iDo into a home stereo system using RCA cables or a single coaxial. Users can also plug in headphones directly into the Icon iDo for personal high quality sound playback in a manner the artist intended it to be heard.

How iDo makes music stored on Apple devices sound even better?
Apple uses its own audio codec, Apple Lossless Encoder (ALE), to compress and store music files on its devices in original CD quality without loss. However, even ALE files only sound as good as the default DAC (digital-to-analog converter) found within the mobile digital device. Icon iDo bypasses the built-in DAC and extracts the audio data stored on the device in its original digital form in USB Host Mode. It then converts the high-quality files for bit-perfect and low-jitter music playback.

A portable power station for the ultimate headphone listening experience.
Icon iDo also offers a built-in headphone amplifier capable of powering power-hungry headsets, giving users a total audio experience. By properly powering headphones, Icon iDo enhances the auditory performance of the headphones because optimal amperage is being delivered to them, allowing for greater audio clarity.

Product Specs:

Inputs:•USB (from iPod, iPhone, iPad)
•Maximum sampling rate: 48kHz
•Resolution: 24-bits
Outputs: •Analog RCA Output = 2Vrms
•Digital Output: coaxial RCA 75-ohm
•3.5mm full-size headphone output jack drives headphones up to 300-Ohm (12 mW@300-Ohm)

Headphone power spec:•130mW rms @ 16 Ohm
•88mW rms @ 30 Ohm
•51mW rms @ 60 Ohm
•28mW rms @ 120 Ohm
•12mW rms @ 300 Ohm

More Features: •IR Remote Receiver accepts Apple remote control IR signals for volume and playback adjustment on iOS device
•Frequency Response: 10Hz to 20kHz (-0.5dB)
•Dimensions: 6” x 4 ½” x 1”
•Includes DC Power Supply and 30-pin charge/sync USB Cable
*The maximum sample rate currently supported by Apple is 16-bit/44.1kHz or 24-bit/48kHz.
**Icon iDo is designed to work with Apple iTune and iPod software. Other applications may not work.

The Icon iDo is available now for $249 from several online stores and Nuforce dealers. It will be available at Magnolia Home Theater (of Best Buy) retail outlets in November 2011. For more information on this or any other NuForce products, contact PR representative Jessica Darrican at 305-576-1171, extension 116.

About NuForce:

Based in Milpitas, California, Nuforce first gained visibility for its patented Class-D power amplifiers, earning numerous awards from audio publications in the U.S. and Japan. Building upon its reputation as a company that developed state-of-the-art audio products, Nuforce worked diligently to expand its product line with digital-to-analog converters, in-ear and over-the-ear headphones, speakers and subwoofers, cables, additional home and headphone amplifiers, and other high-end audio accessories.

Today, Nuforce is sold internationally and remains firmly committed to being a high-performance consumer electronics company adhering to stringent quality standards, ensuring integrity and value in every Nuforce product.

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