Harman Kardon BDS: Get home theatre without the drama

If you like your audio integrated, your video on a vast scale and your technology wires-free, the new Harman Kardon BDS home theatre series could be just the ticket – packing in a multitude of features to unite and maximise your multimedia.

The range features Harman’s TrueStream wireless streaming, which delivers audio via an integrated Blu-ray player to run real-time content from the web, for example YouTube, as well as a variety of portable sources. It also features Bluetooth and Apple AirPlay wireless technology so you can access – and broadcast – content from all imaginable avenues.

Harman-Kardon-3D-Blu-Ray

So basically, if you want to reproduce your films, music or any other media content from any of your kit that knows how to share, the BDS home theatre system brings it all to the big screen via Blu-ray. Complete with surround sound and1080p high definition picture quality if you like your pictures big and your audio booming.

If you don’t want to pay for extra spec, or you like your kit to fit the job, you’ll be heartened to hear that the series comprises five models – each one built around a different 3D Blu-ray player – but all featuring the same Harman Kardon audio, supreme connectivity, sleek lines and looks. There are two 2.1 systems and three 5.1s, each packed with the TrueStream and Bluetooth syncing, 65W RMS audio power, 3S Blu-ray playback, HDMI hook-up and Dolby Digital / DTS decoding. If there’s not enough devices broadcasting straight into your lounge room after you’ve hooked up this little lot, you can even download a remote control app and control it all from your favourite iOS or Android device!!!

The inbuilt TrueStream technology on every model connects the Harman Kardon series to up to eight Bluetooth devices – even Apple iOS or Android, Windows Mobile or Blackberry kit – so you can create your own gadget multiplex in the one room. With input sources including TV, Blu-ray disc, DVD, CD, radio, USB and mobile internet / content, you can streamline the technology you want on show, while any more unsightly, yet perfectly functional elements can be discretely hidden away – visible only via their Bluetooth identities.

Prices range from £999.99 for the most modest and catchy-named BDS 775 to £1099.99 for the customary all-white 7773W system. Cheaper than a lifetime of cinema tickets in any case.

Audyssey Audio Dock Air: Airplay-powered boombox

It’s lazy cliche (a phrase which is itself slightly overused) to attribute the success of Apple products to the mythical Apple hype machine. Firstly, up until the iPad, the volume of Apple devices sold paled in comparison to other manufactures. There are still more non-Apple computers and phones out there in the world, all without the magic of Apple marketing. Secondly, it implies that other consumers are sheeple, happy to fork over hundreds of dollars, euros or pounds just to try out the latest and greatest knick knack on the strength of a swish ad campaign alone, but you and you alone had the perspicacity to purchase elsewhere. And lastly because lots of Apple products aren’t warmly embraced by the marketplace – even when they should be.

Audyssey-Audio-Dock-Air

I’m referring to the slow adoption of Apple’s uncompressed wireless streaming standard – Airplay. The ability to share audio and video on the big screen, or over big speakers, with a simple button press (and all with a superiour sound quality to Bluetooth) is wonderful, but not yet widely supported. So we were very keen to try out life with the Audyssey Audio Dock Air.

Set up was relatively straightforward – you create a local network on the device, hop in from your iPhone, iPad or regular computer and then configure it to your local network. It took a few goes for me to get this up and running but I think that is mostly my fault for using non-Roman characters for my SSID (it’s since been changed to “Take my wifi – please” a wonderful joke from @SquidyUK).

The Audyssey Audio Dock Air is great to look at – a big, imposing looking box that demands to be taken seriously. There’s a discrete port at the back for old-fashioned wired input and an equally tiny headphone port at the front. There’s a rotary dial for volume on top that you can also click to mute. And that’s it. The only thing that detracts from the unit’s stylish look is the big power brick at the back, but that’s easy to tuck away.

Amazingly it’s even better to listen to with rich, clear and balanced sound. There’s a lot crammed into a relatively small packaged but even when you throw the bass heavy madness of the latest Killer Mike album (R.A.P Music which El-P worked production magic on) or some delicate jazz from Robert Glasper, it’s hard not to raise an eyebrow in admiration at how clear the sound is. And it that’s not enough, you can link up to four Audio Dock Airs for a multi-room audio system.

The only issue I had was that there was a slight delay with connecting to the system but I’m not sure if that’s an Airplay issue in general. I switched between iPhones and iPads and the wait to get up and running always felt slightly too long (for context it’s only 5-10 seconds longer than connecting to Bluetooth but you do notice).

The Audyssey Audio Dock Air is out now for an RRP of £300. It’s not cheap but if audio quality matters to you, it’s definately worth it.

For more information head to http://www.audyssey.com/

Philips new Fidelio range

Philips invited us to look at some of their new high-end speaker systems – the Philips Fidelio range.

AW9000

Top of the range is the Philips Fidelio Wireless Hi-Fi speaker AW9000. Delivering high-powered audio and stereo imaging, the AW9000 has 100W power drivers, angled speakers and eight Hi-Fi drivers. Plus they look gorgeous.

Price: £499.99 available from John Lewis

If you love your existing speakers and don’t feel like upgrading just to get the latest bells and whistles then you are very sensible indeed. You may however be interested in the Philips Fidelio Wireless Hi-Fi Receiver AW2000 or Philips Fidelio Wireless Hi-Fi Link AW1000, which connects your existing speakers to your wireless system. The Hi-Fi grade amplifier delivers 2x50W RMS power output and a Class-D digital amplifier, for enhanced sound quality and gives you the magic of wireless streaming.

Price: Philips Fidelio Wireless Hi-Fi Receiver AW2000 £249.99 Philips Fidelio Wireless Hi-Fi Link AW1000 £149.99, both available from John Lewis from September 2012

A nice surprise was critically acclaimed solo artist, multi-instrumentalist, and lead guitarist in the band Blur, Graham Coxon, who joined forces with Philips to championing the Fidelio range.

G-Coxon

“You want to hear the detail in the track. Songs recorded in the studio often lose some of the depth when played back through home systems. This is the beauty of live music – the audience can hear each song as it is meant to be heard. I’m pleased to be working with Philips as it’s Fidelio speakers really do capture every note. People can now have a gig in their front room!”

To see a short video of Graham performing and talking about the Fidelio range head here.

Logitech UE Speaker: Wireless music streaming

Logitech have announced the release of their new UE Air Speaker system, which incorporates Apple’s AirPlay technology, allowing your music to be streamed wirelessly from a whole variety of Apple products – more specifically iTunes, iPhone, iPod or an iPad.

Logitech-UE-Air-Speaker

Offering high quality audio streamed over your home Wi-Fi network, the speakers incorporate dual tweeters and woofers for maximum impact. Easy to set up and with a modern, stylish design, the speakers are all set to take pride of place in any music lovers shopping list.

If you are wondering what UE stands for, then wonder no longer. Unique Electrics, would be a good guess, but no… it is actually Ultimate Ears. Strange but true. Then again, who are we to complain about a name when Logitech offer speakers that perform to the high standard that these do?

Don’t just take our word for it, the Logitech UE Speaker has won an honoree award in the Wireless Handset Accessories product category at the International CES Innovations Design and Engineering Awards 2012.

They are simplicity itself to use; all you have to do is dock your Apple i-device and download the Logitech UE Air app. You just need to connect to your Wi-Fi network and you are then all ready to start streaming music to your hearts (or should we say, ears) content. If you use their Apple Dock Connector, you can even charge your device as you stream. Logitech seem to have thought of everything. Ultimate Ears, indeed.

Priced at £299, the speakers are available from the beginning of April from most retailers in the high street and online stores.

For more information visit www.logitech.com.

Pioneer’s new Airplay-enabled Network Audio Players

Earlier this week, Pioneer announced two lovely new Network Audio Players. The N-30 and N-50 both support Apple’s AirPlay function and offer the ability to play music files from a variety of sources and formats, including high resolution 192 kHz/24-bit audio files. Awesome.

Pioneer-N50

Why should you be excited, then? Well gadgeteers, both players feature high quality playback of music files, including FLAC and WAV, up to 192 kHz/24 bit. Sweet. But oh, that’s not all.

We’ll get you started with the N-50 which has dual transformers and USB/Optical/Coaxial digital inputs to work alongside the RCA and Optical/Coaxial outputs. Additionally, (and quite fantastically) it can support internet radio and iPod files, so, whatever format it’s in, and no matter how far it’s embedded within the deepest, dankest and darkest corners of your computer’s musical collection, then it’s likely to play for you. It is very good like that. Is there a catch at all? Unfortunately, yes; you do need an additional adapter for wi-fi compatibility… wait… wait… it’ll be okay. Read on and feel comforted by the horse’s mouth… no wait, that’s really not right. Ah yes, feel reassured by some info straight from the source… better.

Technology and Product Information Manager at Pioneer Europe, Philippe Coppens says: “Audiophiles now want to enjoy audio playback from their whole music library as well as online media, in the best possible sound quality. Keeping that in mind, Pioneer’s network audio players were developed to offer a new listening experience, giving access to music files wherever they are stored —PC, NAS, HDD, iPod/iPhone/iPad, or USB— as well as internet radio programmes from around the world.

“For the N-50, we have further integrated asynchronous USB DAC functionality and DSP processing, along with the parts and construction to make sure the requirements of even the most demanding audiophile are met.”

What about the N-30 then? Well, err, dear audiophiles, it’s not quite as good as the slick N-50, but it still does a top-notch job. Yeah, it lacks the dual transformers and digital inputs (excluding AirPlay and DLNA, of course), and the iPod compatibility, but otherwise carries out the same functions as its “big brother” model.

These luscious new Pioneers are available in black now, priced at £349.99 for the N-30 and £499.99 for the N-50.

Small yet perfectly formed – Pioneer’s new range of Slim AV Micro Systems

Just announced by Pioneer is a new range of multifunctional AV systems. Small in size but big in functionality, the range can cater for most flavours of media, including Apple iPod and iPhone connectors, DVD, CD, AUX input, along with FM radio channels. In fact, everything you could dream of from an AV system.

Pioneer-AV-Micro

In total there are three models released as part of the range, the X-SMC5, X-SMC3 and X-SMC1. Each model boosts sleek looks with an all-in-one body and Apple’s AirPlay technology, allowing it to be used as a docking station for your i-device. The docking station itself is nicely integrated into the main body of the system, and smartly pops out at the touch of a button.

Taking up the minimum of space on your worktop, desk or bookshelf, the systems feature a small stand and speakers which grant surprisingly sharp performance. The 2x20w speakers are loud enough to be heard from across the busiest office or awaken you from the deepest sleep. For those who wish to keep their musical habits a more private affair, there are also ports to plug your headphones into.

Along with the docking station and speaker set-up, the AV systems include a number of technically-pleasing features. The AirPlay application allows users to stream music from their iTunes library held on any Apple device, PC or Mac through a WiFi connection. The Air Jam app (which is available for free in the iTunes store www.itunes.com/appstore/) allows up to four Bluetooth connected devices to create a collective playlist that can be played back through the AV system. Very clever, although be prepared for a few arguments when it comes to choices of song.

Oh, and did we mention the AV systems can also be used as an alarm clock? Indeed, the only worry you will have is deciding what format of media you will be woken up to…

For further information, visit http://www.pioneer.co.uk .