Mondial M.A.G.I.C. Cable TV
The Mondial M.A.G.I.C. isn't a large
product, so this won't be a long review. However, if you have a complex home-theater
system that's attached to a cable TV provider, it just might be the solution to a huge
problem -- one that could destroy your enjoyment of all of your home entertainment. I am
speaking of hum.
Actually, not just hum, but HUUUUUUUMMMMMMMMMM!
Boy, that can sorta make the whole expenditure seem moot.
That's the situation my buddy Nigel found himself in when
he added broadband cable service recently. Actually, I'm not sure that Nigel didn't
already have a problem -- he just didn't know about it because his computers, TV, and
hi-fi were all separate entities. However, when he called in the kindly folks from Time
Warner Cable, he reckoned that as long as he was disrupting things to get wired up, he'd
go whole hog and turn everything into one big wired-house extravaganza. So he finally
connected the TV and his DVD player into his hi-fi system and sat back ready to be wowed
by the "out of the box" experience his good buddy the A/V reviewer was always
All the time. With every source. It just about drove
him crazy; he thought it was unfair and he blamed me for the whole idea.
Which is why I answered my door to find a red-eyed Nigel
insisting I come to his house immediately and fix what I had wrought. I didn't even argue
the point -- I've been married over 20 years and I am finally learning that some battles
just aren't worth fighting. I hied me hence and turned on the system.
"What's going on?" my friend demanded.
"I think I know what's causing it," I said, and
unplugged the cable connection at the wall.
"Ground fault," I explained.
"Well, that certainly stopped the hum, but can you fix
it so I can watch TV, too?"
As it so happened, I could. I just happened to have --
somewhere -- a Mondial Antenna Ground Isolation Circuit (M.A.G.I.C.). All I had to do was
find it, and insert it between the cable input and the TV. The hum would be gone and Nigel
could watch the BBC.
Sometimes a thousand twangling instruments will hum
about mine ears
Hum is actually interesting stuff if you can get over the
fact that it is a pestilential annoyance. It frequently crops up in audio/video
installations when different systems or components, all of which are grounded and
noise-free on their own, are joined together. In theory, an earth ground has zero volts AC
and DC -- however, there's usually a very small amount of voltage present in a ground.
This in itself does not necessarily cause hum, but if two devices are connected to grounds
where there's a difference in electrical potential between them, current will flow through
one ground wire to the other, developing a voltage whose flow is audible as hum.
When you connect different components to different
circuits, you frequently get hum, since each circuit's ground will probably be just a
smidge off of zero volts AC and DC -- if everything is connected to a component that is
grounded, you can sometimes "cheat" your grounded plugs on everything else and
solve your hum problem. (But never, never float everything or you could be
in for a heart-stopping shock -- and that's not a figure of speech.)
But that cable TV connection -- that's a tricky one. The
coaxial cable that enters your house is usually grounded via its shield -- and that's
grounded, not at your house, but at the cable provider's main distribution outlet, which
can be miles away. Remember that different circuits in the same house can have ground
planes that differ in voltage; and then ask yourself what the chances are that something
grounded miles distant from your house has the same potential. Fat chance!
The answer is to "interrupt" the grounded shield
on that coaxial cable coming into your house. (Actually, in theory, cable installers are
supposed to connect the coax cable's shield to the ground in your circuit box when they do
the installation -- in fact, the IEC specifies they do -- but I have never actually seen
one who does.) There are ways to "roll your own" hum-blockers, but they require
several identical capacitors and some basic knowledge of electronics. If you aren't
intimidated by that, feel free to Google "hum + TV" and you'll find instructions
on how to proceed.
If, on the other hand, you'd prefer a well-made,
easy-to-install, plug'n'play solution to the problem, then Mondial's M.A.G.I.C. is the
answer for you.
The oracles are dumb, no voice or hideous hum
The M.A.G.I.C. is a small black die-cast aluminum box with
two threaded gold-plated F-connectors mounted on one side and a ground terminal on
another. One F-connector is the input, and the other is the output. The unit breaks the
coaxial cable's ground connection while passing the signal unabated. It maintains the
ground connection on the part of your A/V system, however, so it doesn't compromise
safety. Mondial claims it does this with virtually no signal loss, which was reflected in
Nigel's and my experiences with the product.
M.A.G.I.C. is a sealed unit, so everything I say about its
innards is taken straight from Mondial's literature -- I haven't cracked one open to check
their claims. Inside the tiny unit is a double-sided glass-epoxy circuit board with
"over 30 surface-mounted components." The unit "also contains a gas
discharge lightning suppressor [that] protects your home and equipment from local
lightning strikes. It will also eliminate static electricity build-up on the cable line,
preventing damage to your system at its most vulnerable point."
If you need to connect multiple sources, Mondial makes a
M.A.G.I.C. Splitter, which houses two discrete M.A.G.I.C.s in a single housing.
My ears hum and a cold sweat bathes me
In one sense, there's not a lot to tell. I found the
M.A.G.I.C. and an extra few feet of coax and connected them in front of Nigel's TV. We
turned on the system and heard . . .
. . . Mishel Husain reading the nightly news. No hum, no
hiss, nothing annoying at all. (Nigel would disagree since Manchester United had lost that
day -- but you get the idea).
There was an unexpected consequence, however. Nigel
couldn't get over how good his picture looked. "It's never been that sharp," he
reported happily. Indeed, it was noticeably clearer, sharper, and brighter than it had
been earlier in the day.
I asked my pal Tim, who is a techie at a cable provider if
he could formulate a reason why that would be so. "It's possible that breaking the
ground eliminated voltage on the cable shield," he conjectured. "That could have
a huge impact on the video signal-to-noise ratio." He thought for a minute. "At
first, I was a little dubious about the claims to eliminate static build-up, but that could
be a factor as well. I'm not sure why that might have an effect, but I wouldn't completely
Hey, if you find something that works, stick with it. Nigel
agrees -- he refuses to return my M.A.G.I.C.; that's okay, because I borrowed his
Towered cities please us then, and the busy hum of men
If you don't have cable or you don't have hum, Mondial's
M.A.G.I.C. won't do a thing for you. Don't give it a thought.
But if you do have hum or HUUUUUUUUUUMMMMMMMMM, the
M.A.G.I.C. is well made and works. It's a simple solution to a noxious problem.
Mondial M.A.G.I.C. Cable TV Isolator
Price: $99.95 USD.
Warranty: Two years parts and labor.
3502 Woodview Trace
Indianapolis, IN 46268
Phone: (317) 860-8100
Toll Free: (866) 781-7284