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Sound advice

I hit the information superhighway looking for home theater advice after heading to a local stereo store to buy a wire, one wire 6 feet long to connect my DVD player to my amplifier, and discovering that it was going to set me back $62.

Yikes.

All the sales rep could do was cite audio advantages I’m sure only my blue heeler could appreciate and picture quality improvements more than likely lost on my eyeglass prescription. I went home and surfed dozens of Web sites. These seven proved bookmark-worthy:

Audioholics.com — This site is run by a couple of audio engineers who not only review AV equipment, but also crack open the cases to see what’s inside. In some instances they’ve outed top-end hi-fi manufacturers for selling cheaper, off-brand versions of their equipment, with the same guts as their premium product. The site includes detailed explanations on issues like stereo wiring, high definition video and reviews on home theater products priced from $299 to $20,000.

Audiogon.com — The site is like eBay for people with an ear candy fetish. It features thousands of AV items sold through auction by consumers, as well as discounted store demos and top end clearance items. Anyone can browse or buy, but there’s also a paying-members-only portion of the site with services like blue book quotes for audio equipment and detailed reviews.

Fastpayfastship.com — This is a weird Web site that sells everything from camping gear to cellular phone accessories. It has some of the cheapest prices around for name brand audio cables and usually beats local store prices by $25 or more. Merchandise usually arrives within three days after sale. Know the brand you want and use the site’s search engine to find it. The menu bar categories are pretty worthless.

Elusivedisc.com — If there’s a vinyl record out there that you want, including new music releases, Elusive Disc probably has it. The company also has extensive inventories of super audio compact discs, DVD audio recordings, XRCDs and compact discs pressed in gold. Elusive Disc specializes in hard finds, not cheap finds. All of its merchandise is audiophile quality. Its turntable prices will make you wish you never gave your record player to Goodwill.

Howstuffworks.com — This is a Web site for wonderers and researchers. It includes great information about how LCD and plasma televisions work, as well as any other electronic conundrum one might encounter. The site also includes bizarre topics like “how stun guns work” and “how going over Niagara Falls works,” or doesn’t work. This Web site, while informative, is also supported by product advertisers so there’s a little bit of pimping going on. The technical information is sound.

Soundandvisionmag.com — This magazine is a mainstay of bookstore periodical racks, but offers a friendly online product, complete with archived reviews of audio-video products and a full list of Sound&Vision’s editor’s choice awards. There’s also a very good “buying tips” section that doesn’t endorse specific brands, but offers a suggestions on how to buy. S&V’s current article on “The Amplifier Power Ratings Game” is a must read for anyone enticed by stereo ads promising watts galore: soundandvisionmag.com/ tips/2250/the-amplifier- power- ratings-game.html.

AVSforum.com — This is the place for talking with other consumers about everything from home theater to XM satellite radio. The Web site made PC World magazine’s best products of 2007. Click on the “enter main forums” tag in the site navigation menu and you’ll find just about every audio video topic you ever wanted to discuss. This is a good place to get first-hand consumer opinions on all things audio and video, plus sound professional reviews.



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