Sound Advice: Recommendations for holiday season

  • Article by: DON LINDICH , Special to the Star Tribune
  • Updated: November 16, 2012 - 3:46 PM

Answers to your multimedia questions.

With the holiday season around the corner, between now and the end of the year I will focus on product recommendations and reviews. If you have a question about a specific product or are looking for buying advice, stop by my website and drop me a line!

Instant chargers

Q Do you have any recommendations for devices that use AA batteries to charge your cellphone?

A I've had good luck with the Energizer Energi-To-Go AA instant chargers, but there may be a better solution for charging your phone, especially if you have a smartphone.

Look for a USB instant charger. These compact power packs have rechargeable batteries that charge via a USB connection. The pack has another USB port for charging your device via the regular cable that came with the phone. If I am traveling I never leave my hotel without one as it typically extends the amount of time you can use your phone by about 50 percent, and I usually can't get through an entire day without at least a partial recharge.

The Duracell Instant USB Charger gets good reviews and sells for around $30. There are a great many devices like this on the market, some of them selling for under $15 so be sure to shop around.

Upper-end soundbars

Q My wife and I would prefer not to wire the room for a 5.1-channel surround sound system with multiple speakers. I want really good sound. What do you recommend for the upper end in 5.1-channel soundbars?

A There are a lot of offerings in the 5.1 channel surroundbar market. These models have multiple drivers that reproduce all of the main channels of a surround system, meaning the soundbar contains front left, center, and right speakers along with the left and rear surround channels. While they do not make sound effects come from behind like a system with separate speakers, they do fill the room with spacious sound that is very satisfying.

If you want the best in a 5.1-channel surroundbar, the models from Definitive Technology (www.definitivetech.com) are still the ones to beat. Their Mythos SSA-42 ($799) and Mythos SSA-50 ($1,099) are designed for use with 42-inch and 50-inch and larger TVs, respectively. These surroundbars are unpowered speakers and must be paired with a subwoofer to fill in the low bass, as well as a receiver to power them and switch between sources like Blu-ray players and cable/satellite boxes. The entire setup will cost between $1,500 and $2,000.

If you do not want to purchase any additional electronics, Definitive Technology has recently introduced a new system that is self-powered, the $1,999 SoloCinema XTR. This system combines a powered wireless subwoofer with a soundbar containing HDMI ports, signal processing and power for the speaker. Think of it as a high-quality receiver and top-quality surroundbar merged into a single component. For simplicity and high quality there is nothing like it.

Send questions to donlindich@gmail.com. Get more recommendations and read past columns at www.soundadviceblog.com.

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