Music on cable TV, charging batteries overseas, quality speaker brands

Week of June 19, 2005

Q: I’m looking for a system that will allow me only to listen to the Music Channels on my cable TV. I like to read in my living room while listening to music. We have TVs in other rooms, but not in the living room where we try to minimize clutter. Sometimes I listen to the radio or to CDs so a Bose or Polk is a partial solution, but other times I’d like to listen to one of the cable channels. Does anyone make a tuner that picks up, say, channel 627?

-Will Craig, Minneapolis, MN

A: You have to get a cable box from the cable company. You can have one without having a TV and use it to tune the music. It’s the only way to do it. Just connect the audio outputs from the cable box to an input on your sound system.

Q: I have a Canon Power Shot G-2 that I plan to take with me on a trip to the Scandinavian countries very soon. If I need to charge the battery, what equipment do I need to accomplish the task? I have a Franzus Converter Kit with various adapter plugs to accommodate the 220v to 110v and also a 50 and 1600 watt transformer for a variety of appliances. Do I need to use a transformer with my CA-560 Canon Compact Power Adapter, or is a conversion feature built into the adapter?

-Marles Preheim, N. Newton, KS

A: If the adapter has a switch for 120/220, it can do it. I do not think it does as most AC adapters that are included with consumer electronics do not support dual voltage. You do not have to worry, though- your converter kit is just like an AC outlet in your home- just plug your camera’s adapter into it and charge away!

Q: I have found your email from your web site where you discuss speakers, I wish to get your advice about following brands. (Little-known speaker brands mentioned here.) They are selling very cheap yet the quality seems to be reasonable.

-Edward Hwang (no city given)

A: Speakers are the most important part of your system by far and I recommend you stick with an established brand. Speaker companies come and go frequently and you want them to be there if you ever need service. You are also much more certain of getting a great product.

Some of the best speakers are from companies not well known to the general public. I checked the company websites and researched the brands you listed and found little in the way of company history or a solid consumer base. I also found little mention of them on hobbyist message boards such as www.avsforum.com. For that reason I recommend you stick with an established brand.

Among brands sold in big-box stores, Polk Audio has produced some excellent products lately. If you want high quality at a very reasonable price from a web-based vendor, try Axiom Audio. Their website is www.axiomaudio.com. Many of my readers have purchased Axiom’s products and have been extremely pleased with them. Finally, if you have some financial flexibility to get something really special, try the Walsh models from Ohm Acoustics. You can see Ohm’s excellent speaker line at www.ohmspeaker.com.

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