The Emotiva Control Freak volume control, upper right. Emotiva

Back in the 1970s and 1980s, consumer electronics manufacturers knew their way around knobs. The feel of the volume control knob was paramount, and I can't explain why, but there was a real satisfaction to grabbing a knob and turning it.

In 2014 I still like volume-control knobs -- onscreen "sliders" or up/down volume buttons may get the job done -- but honest-to-goodness knobs make it so much easier. With a flick of the wrist I can instantly get the exact volume I want. Enter the Emotiva Control Freak, a knob you can place anywhere on your desktop to control volume. As soon as I used it, I knew the Freak would be an essential part of my desktop audio system, I love this thing!

The oh-so-smooth feel of turning this beautifully machined aluminum knob recalls the glory days of Japanese-built stereo receivers. I admit the tactile aspects of knob twirling might seem frivolous, until you try it. The Control Freak's rubberized base kept it in place on my desktop -- it never budged.

I hooked up the Control Freak's cables first between my Schiit Bifrost digital converter and my Emotiva Airmotiv 5S desktop speakers; later I switched over to Focal Alpha 50 speakers (both models have built-in power amps). If you don't have a desktop digital converter, hook up the Control Freak's cables between your computer's headphone jack and your speakers. Just bear in mind, the Control Freak is designed to work with speakers with built-in amplifiers. The Control Freak's cables are terminated with RCA plugs, but Emotiva also includes a separate adapter fitted with a 3.5mm plug to connect to a computer's or portable music player's headphone jack. The Control Freak is a "passive" device, so it doesn't get plugged into an AC wall outlet or use a wall wart.

The Control Freak sells for $49 in the US; this converts to

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