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Tributaries AC100 review: Tributaries AC100

Tributaries AC100

Jeff Bakalar Editor at Large
Jeff is CNET Editor at Large and a host for CNET video. He's regularly featured on CBS and CBSN. He founded the site's longest-running podcast, The 404 Show, which ran for 10 years. He's currently featured on Giant Bomb's Giant Beastcast podcast and has an unhealthy obsession with ice hockey and pinball.
Jeff Bakalar
2 min read

We've all been there before: Your new DVD player or game console outputs a digital signal via only an optical jack, but your AV receiver only has a free coaxial connector. You need that digital signal to get 5.1 Dolby or DTS surround sound. Otherwise, you'll be stuck listening to two-channel stereo. Or the matrixed faux surround, courtesy of Dolby Pro Logic or Neural modes--nice, but why settle for that when you've sunk all this money into your home theater system? Thankfully, there's a workaround: Instead of opting for a new DVD player or a new receiver, you can purchase a small device that will convert an optical signal to a coaxial or vice versa.


Tributaries AC100

The Good

Converts digital audio signals from optical to coaxial and vice versa; can also be used as a repeater instead of a converter.

The Bad

Barely accessible interface switch; requires AC power; nearly identical competing products cost far less.

The Bottom Line

The Tributaries AC100 Coaxial/Toslink Audio Converter converts digital audio signals as advertised--but so do cheaper devices that perform just as well.

One such device is the Tributaries AC100 Coaxial/Toslink Audio Converter, a tiny white cube measuring in at 1.6x0.9x1.7 inches. It's got two sets of coaxial and optical connectors on opposing Input and Output sides. Operation is simple--just plug your source into the In side of the converter, switch the lever to choose the output interface, and you're all set. There is one annoyance: that single toggle switch is set flush with the plastic exterior, so you'll find yourself needing a pin or a toothpick to make the appropriate adjustment. (In addition to converting a signal, you also have the option to repeat the signal being transmitted as well--useful if you're covering a long distance with two shorter cables.)

The AC100 utilizes a 7.5V AC power supply (included), so it will take up yet another berth on your power strip. Should you be using the unit to repeat a signal via the coaxial connection, no power is required (though you could accomplish the same thing with a two-dollar connector).

In terms of performance, there's not a whole lot to say about the Tributaries AC100 Coaxial/Toslink Audio Converter besides the fact that it works completely as advertised. But here's the rub: There was no discernable difference in performance between the AC100 ($50 list) and a similar RadioShack PCM/Optical Converter (about $20). (Unfortunately, it appears that the RadioShack device--catalog No. 15-1228--is no longer available online, though it may still be available at local 'Shacks around the country.) In other words: the Tributaries AC100 is a perfect solution for anybody who needs to convert a digital signal across disparate plug types, but going with a similar "no-name" alternative will likely work just as well--and save you a few bucks.


Tributaries AC100

Score Breakdown

Design 7Features 7Performance 7