Why Use a Fire TV Stick on your Audio Receiver Instead of an Echo Dot

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The Amazon Echo is a fantastic device. It does all the cool things you've heard like tell you the weather, how far it is to Fargo, ND, sports scores, news and of course it can play music using Alexa, Amazons budding AI.

If you want to play Amazon Prime Music or Prime Music Premium the big problem with the big Echo is that it has no audio out. Enter the Amazon Dot which does have an analog audio out built in. This is a great solution for sure.

The Better Solution for Music and Theater in your media room
But if better music from our home theater or stereo system is your aim then pass on the Dot and get an Amazon Fire stick and plug it into one of the HDMI ports on the back of your audio receiver and you're ready to rock, literally. The Fire stick has Alexa built in but you need to use the remote to start the music playing but Alexa works just as well without the Echo. Hold the button and say "Play top pop songs from the 80's" or "Play the sound track from Hamliton"*

What are the benefits?

  1. Bypass the clunky input interface your TV likely has.
  2. Get a direct connection to your receiver rather than delivering an analog audio feed.
  3. Likely you'll use one button to turn on the receiver to the correct HDMI port.
  4. If you have a multi zone receiver you can play the Fire Stick on a remote set of speakers while someone else can still watch the TV.
  5. It costs $10 less than the Echo Dot.
Granted you need to pick up the remote and press a button to talk to Alexa with the fire stick but I personally find this a better solution than a Dot because it has a dual purpose of giving me easily accessible music and video from one inexpensive streaming device.

*Amazon Prime Music has a little over a million songs you'll be able to access if you have a prime account. But add Prime Music Unlimited you get over 10 Million songs and Prime members get that for less than $7 per month.

We may receive a commission on links from this article. But we do own and really love this product!

The Best Amazon Speaker and Headphone Deals for Cyber Monday 2016

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2016 has been the best year for Black Friday and Cyber week deals in a long time. It's not so much that the deals are better or cheaper, it's that there are more of them and they are not selling out quickly. Sure the stupid $149 50" TV's sell out quick but there is still real money to be saved this holiday than in a long time. And, it's on quality products, not crap that they simply want to get rid of.

Here's our list of speakers and headphones for this weekend and Cyber week.

Speakers


Top of my speaker list is technically not a speaker but it can help make any speaker smarter and full of more information and music. At just $40 the Amazon Dot (the baby Echo) really packs a wallop with great features and functionality.





The Polk T15 is a great value bookshelf speaker at $115. Combine it with a small amp and an Amazon Dot and you have a bedroom or living audio system no bluetooth speaker can touch. You can also go the Google Chromecast Audio for $25 or so almost anywhere this week and get similar functionality from your phone.




Although out of stock at this posting, You can still order this great Polk Audio T50 floorstanding speaker for only $75, half off the normal price and get Prime shipping. With the speaker set up as Polk has them you'll get bass response that will be quite satisfying at this price point.

These are great for an audio only system for when you have time to sit and listen. Or, use them as a base for a home theater speaker system front speakers.



Headphones


OK, this is really a good deal assuming you don't mind the skull on your headphones. These get consistently great reviews and don't overload the bass. Usually $69 these are now only $49.99. They come in black, silver and blue. We ordered a pair and can't wait for them to arrive.







But... if you love the extra bass, these Sony Extra Bass bluetooth headphones are only $68 vs their usual $139. Sony is one of our main headphones of choice and these surely won't disappoint. Note there is no way to turn off the extra bass so if that's not your thing but Sony is, try these Sony headphones instead.

Sound Bars for 2016 - Upgrade the Sound on your TV

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Soundbars have grown in popularity over the years peaking in 2014 and holding steady in popularity in 2016 according to google trends. They offer an easy to set up addition to your flat screen TV as a usually much needed sound upgrade.

Even the best TV sets have only mediocre sound quality. If you're going to watch a 55-60" TV you might as well get the big sound to go with it and a sound bar is a low effort way to get there.

One of the annoyances to me was the necessity of a second remote to control the soundbar in addition to the TV or cable box. One really easy way around this problem is to purchase the sound bar from your TV manufacturer. The good news is the top TV brands, Vizio, Samsung, Sony and LG all have great sound bars to go with their TV's. Usually they seamlessly hook up to the TV in a way that allows relatively seamless connectivity between the soundbar and the TV or cable remote.

Below is a list of some favorite 3.1 soundbars found on Amazon with Prime shipping. All around $300 at this writing. Note, Sony does not make a 3.1 soundbar so we did not include one here.

The Vizio SB4031 D5 is a 40" soundbar with no subwoofer. I like that the TV sits on the base speaker so there is no need to locate a sub somewhere in your room.

Besides being a true 3.1 (has a center channel for voices) it works with Vizio's app for easy control




 The Samsung HW-K550 3.1 Channel 340 Watt Wireless Audio Soundbar is another true 3.1 system. It does have a separate sub that can be placed in a corner or almost anywhere out of the way. The sub is wireless so all you'll need is a plug.








The LG 320W 4.1 is a weird duck. The reviews are great but it's neither a 3.1 in the true sense of the word or a 4.1 as it claims. It does have 4 speakers in the bar itself and a sub (the .1 part) but they consist of left, right and two surrounds that are in the bar itself. This makes for an awkward situation. The extra speakers being IN the bar don't make for the ultimate surround experience but hey, like I said, the reviews are good. Have this one? Leave a comment.





Thanks for reading and if you want to support our efforts by purchasing a product you saw on this site we get a small commission, so thanks. If not no worries, we love writing about this stuff.  TSG.

What Type of Material is Best for Speaker Cabinets?

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Speakers are also made out of just about any type of material you can imagine as well.

Wood, MDF, HDF, Plastic, Composites and even metal speakers. Most speaker cabinets are made out of MDF (Medium Density Fiberboard) or wood. You might think that wood cabinets would be superior to MDF cabinets but it is often not the case.

MDF


MDF if made correctly is often stronger and more stable than wood and can be more cheaply finished with beautiful wood veneers. This means you have a greater choice of looks and finishes since a cherry veneer is far cheaper than a solid cherry speaker.

Because MDF is easy for manufacturers to work with it's also more cost effective and delivers a more affordable product to your average consumer. This is not to say that solid wood cabinets are a bad thing, just that there is often no advantage to using it in speaker design.


Sound differences


Solid wood will also color the sound. Just like you can purchase acoustic guitars with different types of wood tops that offer varying colorations, wood will change the sound of the speaker.

MDF will also be more resistant to changes in temperature and moisture, offering a more stable sound over time.

As for other materials, plastic and metal, I'd personally shy away from these outside of small blutetooth speakers.

4 Good Bookshelf Speaker Values in 2016

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Considerations in purchasing a bookshelf speaker 

Here is a list of common sense things to keep in mind when purchasing a bookshelf speaker.

  1. Where am I putting it? Will it fit? Too many times I've eyeballed something and thought, yeah that will fit. Then, ah, no. Make sure it will fit.
  2. Front port, back port, no port. No matter where the port is on your bookshelf speaker, or even if there is none you'll want to leave at least an inch behind it free. Don't put a speaker flush against a wall or back of a bookshelf.
  3. What type of music do you listen too? If it's bass heavy, then consider a 6" woofer. If not you can get a 5 1/4" or even 4". Yes, the 3/4 of an inch can make a difference as well as where you place your speaker to get more bass.

OK those are just the basics. For more on choosing a good bookshelf see the link at the end of the article.

Enough already, here are my choices for best value bookshelf speakers in 2016.


Polk Audio RTI A1 Bookshelf Speakers


I've always been partial to Polk and Boston Acoustics speakers. They offer a smooth, evenly balanced sound without any harsh highs and reasonable amounts of even, non-boomy bass. There is a reason these get 5 Stars on Amazon. They really do rock. Sold as a Pair. $199







NHT SuperOne 2.1 Bookshelf Speaker


Full disclosure. A friend of mine was once involved with NHT but that does not color my recommendation. These speakers are wonderful. With a kick-ass 6.5-inch long throw pulp cone woofer and a 1" silk dome tweeter housed in a tight, nicely fashioned cabinet that screams quality. Oh, and they sound sweet. Another 5 Star choice but with a slightly higher price at $350 per pair.





Fluance SX6-BK High Definition


Fluance Bookshelf Speaker
This is my "value" pick. If you don't have a lot of cash, the Fluance is a great choice. Despite what the name might suggest, these are really 5" woofers. Not that this stops these speakers from an online only retailer from sounding great. They are easily worth 3X what you're paying. We purchased these to test against TSC speakers and they really sounded great. Only 4.5 starts (only!) but you can't go wrong at $129.00 a pair





Pioneer SP-BS22A-LR Andrew Jones Designed 


Even without the fancy Dolby Atmos top facing drivers these bookshelf speakers sport, they may be the cream of this crop. They allow fit nicely in afull surround sound system or will sound spectacular all on their own. Honestly, you could pay more for an Atmos bookshelf speaker but 4.5 star reviews will tell it all. $299 a pairSee them here.

That's all for these four but other considerations for top selling bookshelf speakers would be Boston Acoustics, Klipsch and JBL. Also read How to Choose a Bookshelf Speaker.

Note: Buy clicking on the links in this article you we may receive a small commission which will help me buy coffee to get us out of bed to write more articles like this. Thanks and happy listening. 

How to Choose a Bluetooth Speaker

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Choosing a bluetooth speaker is easier than you think, not much different from other discretionary expenditures you might make.
  1. Do I need a bluetooth speaker? - Do you often listen to music with friends or without a headset on? If yes, you should get one.
  2. How much do I have to Spend? - There are bluetooth speakers for every budget $10 - over $1,000. This of course is a personal thing no one else can guide you on, except your spouse.
  3. Where will I listen to it? - Is the room big or small, is it outside? The bigger the room or if outside, you'll want to choose a larger more powerful speaker bluetooth speakers, unless it positioned close to your listening area.
  4. What will you listen to? - Do you listen to Jazz or heavy vocal music or even podcasts? These tend to sound decent with mid sized speakers while pop and hip hop, usually more bass prominent might require a speaker with more bass response. My favorite for Jazz is the Bose Color. Nice clear mids with just enough bass.
  5. How portable do you need it to be? - There's portable, then there's very portable. One of the best sounding Bose Soundlink Mini is pretty portable, but the JBL Clip will attach to a belt loop as you do work around the house or yard.
I could likely go on but these are the main considerations on my list. Below are some of my favorites.

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