Q: I recently purchased the GoldenEar Aon 3 speakers you recommended and the guy at the local independent audio store said the sound of any bookshelf speaker is better on a speaker stand, so we bought them. Is that for real, or are speaker stands a high margin item like an expensive HDMI cable?
-- Mickie Pearsall, Milwaukee
A: You should go back to the store and thank the person who sold you the speaker stands. Though many speakers are called "bookshelf speakers," a better term for them would be "stand mounted speakers." A speaker stand will provide solid support, allow the speaker to be placed out in the room where it can "breathe" and provide the best sonic performance, and you have practically unlimited placement flexibility. Given the $999 price and class-leading performance of the Aon 3 speakers, I consider the speaker stands to practically be mandatory.
Given my harsh words about high priced HDMI cables a few weeks ago, I would like to follow up with the other side of the coin in regard to accessories and the retailer. Your local retailer was definitely giving you good advice and they deserve your support. Margins on electronics are mighty low these days, and accessories are a higher margin item that helps specialty retailers stay in business. There is nothing wrong with making a profit and if you don't support them, they won't be around to support you. I am not saying to throw away money needlessly or buy everything that is suggested, but I do think if you are pleased with the service and experience that buying accessories from your local independent retailer is a good way to show your support.
I come down pretty hard on high-priced HDMI cables and will continue to do so. They have no redeeming qualities whatsoever and given what I know, the audacity and dishonesty of the scam is extremely offensive to me. What makes it more frustrating is I get emails from readers telling me someone tried to sell them a $100 HDMI cable to go with their $60 Blu-ray player.
Buying other accessories such as speaker stands, audio racks, media storage furniture is another story. These accessories have genuine merit and the stuff your specialty retailer has is way better than the stuff you find in furniture and department stores, too. Be sure to visit them first when you need something.
Q: My girlfriend saw a USB HDTV tuner stick that lets you watch network TV on your computer laptop. She was afraid that it would use up too much of her monthly bandwidth so she did not get it. Is there any way to use one without running up a big data bill?
-- Paul Stauer, Beaver, Pa.
A: The TV tuner stick does not use any bandwidth because it does not connect to the Internet. It uses an antenna to receive free broadcasts over the airwaves, or even unencrypted cable TV that she may already be paying for. The Internet connection won't come into play at all. Just plug the tuner stick into the computer, attach a cable line or antenna to the other end, install the software and you are ready to go.
Contact Don Lindich at www.soundadviceblog.com and use the "submit question" link on that site.