HomeShow Audio/Video Kit, by XtremeMac
Posted: 28-Dec-2004

4 1/2 out of 5 Mice

Vendor: XtremeMac Type: COMMERCIAL

Reviewer: Bill Catambay Class: HARDWARE

Overview
Have you been looking for the right cables to hook your iPod to your home entertainment setup? What should you use for just audio? How about to watch iPod videos on your TV? It would be nice to connect it to your car stereo as well, right? And how about sharing your iPod music by piping it to two sets of headphones? If you find that you have wondered about two or more of these questions, than rather than buying each cable individually, you might want to consider buying a package of cables. XtremeMac presents a solution to all of these needs in the HomeShow Audio/Video Kit.

HomeShow Audio/Video Connection Kit gives you all the quality cables you need to use your iPod as a compact home entertainment center. View video and pictures from your iPod on your television with the home theater cable. Enjoy your playlists through your home stereo with the home audio cable. You can even connect your iPod to external computer speakers or the "Aux In" port on your car stereo with the included auxiliary audio cable. Each cable measures four feet long to ensure ample reach to all of your audio and video components. The kit also includes an audio splitter for connecting two pairs of earbuds to the same iPod so you can share your music with a friend.


HomeShow Cables


Price

$49.95


Features

  • Comprehensive 4-piece home A/V connection kit
  • Home theater cable connects iPod to RCA audio and video inputs
  • Home audio cable connects iPod to home stereo systems
  • Auxiliary audio cable connects iPod to computer speakers and car stereos
  • Audio splitter allows two pairs of earbuds to connect to the same iPod
  • Each cable measures 4 feet long for ample reach


Setup
With a variety of different cables, there are a number of different setup possibilities with the HomeShow package. Let's break it down cable by cable:

Home Theatre Cable

The Home Theatre Cable is a 4-foot cable that has an iPod mini plug on one side, and three RCA plugs on the other. It is designed to send both audio and video to an external device. You plug the iPod cable into your iPod (or other MP3 device), and then connect your RCA cables to your TV. Optionally, you can plug the RCA cables into another video device, such as a VCR or DVD player. the yellow Video RCA plug into your TV and the red and white Audio RCA plugs into an audio stereo to play the music on your stereo while watching the video through the TV.

In order to use your iPod to play videos on an external video device, you need to set the "TV Out" option in your iPod to "On". You do this as follows:


Main Menu --> Video --> Video Settings --> TV Out: On


Home Audio Cable

The Home Audio Cable is a 4-foot cable that has an iPod mini plug on one side, and two audio RCA plugs on the other. It is designed to send just audio to an external device. You plug the iPod cable into your iPod (or other MP3 device), and then connect the red and white Audio RCA cables to your stereo (or any other player or recorder that uses RCA audio input).

There are no special settings that have to be in place on your iPod for audio to be played through an external device.


Auxiliary Audio Cable

The Auxiliary Audio Cable is a 4-foot cable that has an iPod mini plug on both sides. It is designed to connect your iPod to external computer speakers or the "Aux In" port on your car stereo. You plug one end of the cable into your iPod (or other MP3 device), and the other end into your external speakers or car stereo.

As with the Home Audio Cable, there are no special settings that have to be in set on your iPod for this cable to work.


Audio Splitter

The Audio Splitter is the only part of this kit that is not a cable. It is basically a mini plug splitter, similar to a phone line splitter, but a much nicer design than any phone splitter I've ever seen. It has one male mini plug on one side, and two female mini plug connectors on the other side. You plug the male end of the splitter into your iPod, and then you can plug two different sets of headphones into each of the two female mini plug connectors.


In Use
I found all of the gadgets in the HomeShow kit to be quite useful, but for me, the Home Theatre Cable is hands-down the star of this connection kit. This cable, alone, increases the value of your video iPod dramatically by allowing you to watch iPod videos directly on your TV. I have purchased several TV shows on iTunes, a handful of music videos, and even a couple of short movies, such as Pixar's Bound. It's nice to be able to watch the videos on the iPod, but there are occasions when watching the video on that tiny little screen is just not satisfactory. If I want to share Bound with family, or if I want to catch up on a TV show, I would much rather have it play on my TV.

The problem is that the purchased videos are protected, and so you cannot burn a DVD from these videos to play on your DVD player. You can watch it on your computer (each purchase can be viewed on up to 5 computers), or you can watch it on your iPod. If I miss an episode of Prison Break or Lost, I typically get on iTunes and purchase the episode, but I would much prefer to watch the episode on my TV. That's where the Home Theatre Cable comes in.


Using the Home Theatre Cable to watch Pixar's Bound on TV through my iPod


First I upload the purchased videos to my iPod. Then, after connecting the Home Theatre cable to my iPod and TV, and making sure that the iPod is set for "TV Out", I can watch my iPod videos on the big screen. You might think by taking such a small sized video and blowing it up on a big television screen that it would look bad. It's certainly not DVD quality video, but the playback of iPod videos through your TV is amazingly good. In fact, it's much better than my typical cable signal (for some reason, the major network channels through my TV cable have a lot of "snow" depending upon which day of the week it is).

Now I can take my iPod anywhere I go, along with my Home Theatre Cable, and play movies such as Pixar's Bound (see picture above) on any TV that has RCA jacks (which are most these days). This cable is awesome for catching up on missed TV episodes as well as sharing videos with your family.

Although the Home Theatre kit is the main star of this ensemble, the other "players" are certainly worthy of "best supporting" roles. When using the iPod for just music, which is really what I use it for the majority of time, it is nice to be able to play that music on your home stereo system or in your car. iPod speaker systems are all over the place these days (I own two of them), but none of them can fill up a room like my home stereo system can. Using the Home Audio Cable, I can pipe my music playlists through my stereo and really liven up a party. Granted, if you aren't having a party, then an iPod speaker system will suffice. On the other hand, if you don't already have an iPod speaker system (a decent one runs for about $200 to $300), you can save yourself the dough by just using this cable with your existing stereo system.

Likewise, the Auxiliary Audio Cable is great for playing your iPod in your car. Ever since the 1st generation iPod, I have been using an iPod in my car (I cannot remember the last time I played the radio or used my CD player). You will need to have an "Aux In" port on your car stereo for this cable to work for you. If you're like me, and don't have one, then you've likely purchased a cassette adapter or an FM transmitter, and both of those devices already come with their own cable. I've already made the decision that for my next car purchase, as a minimum requirement, it must have an "Aux In" jack for my iPod. That's when this Auxiliary Audio cable will come in handy.

Rounding off the connection kit is a handy dandy little mini plug splitter. Of course, if you want to share your iPod music, you will likely use one of the above cables to play it through your external speakers, but there are times when headphones are simply more appropriate (such as on an airplane trip or long road trip). One iPod, two sets of headphones, and this Audio Splitter, and two of you will be enjoying music on the trip.

Having these cables is exciting, because they truly expand the abilities of my iPod. But what about quality and longevity? I've been putting these cables through tests for months now, on a number of different systems and TVs, and I've never experienced any drop in quality. The connections are firm, the sound that comes through is rich and dynamic, and the video is remarkably good even when exploding an iPod video to 10 times it's native size. The cables are well insulated, and I especially like the ribbed grips on each of the cables, making them easier to plug in and out. I am ecstatic about the quality of these cables.

There is one place for possible improvement, and that's the length of the cables. For the Auxiliary Audio cable, I think 4 feet is plenty long; in fact, I cannot think of a situation where you would need this cable to be any longer. However, I can see situations where the other two cables might be more desirable at about 6 feet. It all depends upon the setup of your home entertainment center. My TV sits on a stand that holds my DVD player, and to the left is a stereo rack where my stereo components reside. My iPod then sits further to the left, in my Klipsch speaker dock on top of a small table. The iPod is close enough to my stereo such that 4 feet is plenty long for using the Home Audio cable with the stereo; but 4 feet is not long enough to reach the back of my TV using the Home Theatre cable. In the picture above, shown is my guest room TV and iRhythms speaker dock which are plenty close for the 4 foot cable. In some situations, some positioning compromises may have to be made in order to use the cables the way you most desire.

Summary
XtremeMac's HomeShow Audio/Video kit is a convenient package of three different cables designed specifically for your iPod. My favorite cable in the kit is the Home Theatre cable that lets you watch your purchased iPod videos, such as TV shows and music videos, directly on your TV. It also includes a cable to play your iPod music through your home stereo system, and another cable to use with your car stereo. The kit also includes a convenient and cute little mini plug splitter that lets you hook up two sets of headphones to your iPod - great for the plane or long road trips. The cables are each 4 feet long, which works great in most situations. I would have preferred the Home Theatre cable be extended to 6 feet. These are high quality cables with very nice ribbed grips. After months of use, I found that the HomeShow kit truly is the ultimate iPod connection kit, and at a very affordable price.

Pros

  • Watch iTunes videos on your TV
  • Play your music library through your home stereo
  • High quality cables with well-design plug grips
  • Convenient audio splitter and auxiliary cable for your car stereo


Cons

  • 4 feet may not be long enough for all situations
  • You may already have some equipment that may forego the need for all the cables


Overall Rating

4 1/2 out of 5 Mice