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.
Q Do you have any recommendations for devices that use AA batteries to charge your cell phone?
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 room 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 less than $15, so be sure to shop around.
Q My wife and I would prefer not to wire the room for a 5.1-channel surround sound system with multiple speakers. But I want really good sound. What do you recommend for the upper end in 5.1-channel soundbars?
San Ramon, Calif.
A: There are a lot of offerings in the 5.1 channel surroundbar market. These models have multiple drivers that reproduce all 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 you 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 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 else quite like it. You can see both at www.definitivetech.com.
I have written about soundbars quite a bit recently because questions like yours have been coming in every day. I have one more soundbar-related column coming up, so those interested in the topic should be sure to follow the column in the coming weeks.
Read product reviews by Don Lindich at soundadviceblog.com.