Back in 2005, I had the privelege and the pleasure to work with Mike Chin (the guru behind SilentPCReview.com) and Matt Wright (a PC video maven who writes for sites like MissingRemote.com and HTPCnews.com) on a book entitled Build the Ultimate Home Theater PC. It let me ride a favorite hobby-horse of mine: namely, an intelligent and productive link-up between a PC and a home entertainment/home theater system. Because PCs can do storage, grab stuff off the Web, and organize music, video, and multimedia so nicely, the marriage between a properly equipped PC and a high-end receiver or pre-amp is appealing to me and all kinds of other audio- and videophiles.
Because of that book, and other writings I’ve done for Tom’s Guide and Tom’s Hardware on multimedia and media center PCs, I still occasionally hear from other movers and shakers in that space. About three months ago, a gentleman by the name of Mike Wigle contacted me about his product, ZZcoustics, probably because I’ve been active in the HTPC world for some time and still write about it from time to time. The product is a small box (dimensions of 4x2x1in/10.2×5.2×2.5cm) with a male mini-jack on one side and a pair of RCA jacks on the other side (white and red for left and right stereo channels, respectively).
Unless you’ve gone to the trouble of installing a high-end audio card into your PC (such as the Asus Xonar HDAV 1.3 Deluxe or the HT Omega CLARO Plus) you will probably encounter line output issues should you try to connect the outputs from a headphone jack or audio connectors from your PC’s motherboard). Simply put, the ZZcoustics does a bang-up job of amplifying the output voltage from its input (the headphone jack side) and delivering standard line-in voltage and impedance from its RCA outputs to your home entertainment sound system.
What does this mean? The oscilloscope audio/video demo on the ZZcoustics site does a pretty good job of showing you: weak, puny audio from the headphone jack on a notebook or desktop PC, blazing hot, clear sound from the output of the ZZcoustics box. At $40 a pop, these units are a great investment for anybody seeking great (stereo) audio from their notebook or desktop PC, or from a compact audio device (like an iPod or MP3 player), into a home entertainment system of some kind.