Logitech’s Ultimate Ears Boom Speaker

logitech-ultimate-ears

Portable Bluetooth speakers line the virtual shelves of tech shops up and down the internet, each with an almost identical feature set and very little to help recommend itself over another. There are two choices to manufacturers hoping to enter such a crowded product category. One is get lazy, knock out a product with your brand on it and sit back, comfortable in the knowledge that people with probably by some, just through the sheer volume of numbers.

Fortunately Logitech have taken the road less travelled with the Ulimate Ears Boom. The UE Boom is a can-shaped 360º speaker with a lovely textured design and sounds as good as it looks.

The speaker packs dual performance drivers and dual passive radiators and is impressively loud and clear across all frequencies, albeit with some loss in the low end. For something so dinky (it reminded me of a beer can) it’s impressive how it can really fill a room – without distorting. Another cool feature that I was fully onboard with is the ability to pair with another Boom for wireless stereo sound – although this isn’t a cheap device so the idea of buying two just for this unlikely. If however you and a friend share the same device it’s nice to be able to join forces.

The Boom has a wonderful textured feel and great, clear cut design – I was a big fan of the huge volume control buttons that adorn the side. The look of a speaker isn’t normally crucial, but seeing as it’s designed to be popped in the middle of the room it really helps that it’s easy on the eye. The little hook at the top that enables you to dangle the speaker was also useful – significantly widening your placement options. You can also unscrew the hook and attach the Boom to a tripod – if you have a Gorrilla Pod you can then hook the Boom up to a beam or tree branch and have crazy overhead sound fun – especially if you’ve made a wireless stereo pair.

Again combining form with function, the colourful acoustic skin has a plasma coating that makes it water and stain resistant. And with 15 hours of battery life it’s more than ready for all but the longest of park jams. The lack of buttons, power, pair and volume makes it easy to use, especially when you’re at ease and don’t feel like fiddling.

Available now for £169 from ultimateears or Apple.

Bayan Audio’s SteamPort Universal: Another Step Towards a Wireless World

Streamport-Universal

For the past ten years or so we have been able to carry around our entire record collection thanks to the digital music revolution. Whether it is an MP3 player, smartphone or similar mobile device, most of us now have the ability to listen to any song, anywhere, on demand.

While this has its advantages on the commute to work, travelling in the car or even at the gym, being able to listen to our favourite tracks at home relies on existing technology. One of the first MP3 solutions was via a humble cassette with an auxiliary lead, and then we turned out attention to a 3.5mm jack with 2 phono connections. However, nobody likes wires, they look untidy, get tangled up and take an eternity to unravel.

Another problem with plugging in your smartphone is that if you want to send a text, browse the Internet or play the latest version of Angry Birds, you are virtually attached to your stereo system. One of the best things about mobile devices is that they are able to deal with all manner of tasks, yet a physical wire renders all interaction inconvenient and irritating. It is like when remote control cars were on wires, unless you were prepared to run alongside it, you could only go so fast and so far.

Apart from the holy grail of wireless charging, we have pretty much achieved a world without cables with Bayan Audio now seemingly solving yet another common problem.

StreamPort Universal is a Bluetooth enabled audio receiver that plugs into any stereo system and connects to a compatible device wirelessly. Therefore all you need to do is plug in the StreamPort Universal to any sound system with a 3.5mm jack or RCA input, pair your MP3 player, smartphone, tablet, laptop or any other Bluetooth device, select the music, audiobook or radio station you desire and enjoy life with less wires. Simple.

The receiver is also the first of its kind with NFC, an increasing common smartphone feature and possibly included just in case future devices decide to ditch Bluetooth. Anyone remember infrared?

This pocket-sized device’s 10-metre range is more than enough for listening to music around the home and its integrated high quality digital to analogue converter enables high quality near-CD quality audio.

The StreamPort Universal costs £59.99 but if you enjoy all the trappings and freedom a smartphone offers, this is a small price to pay.

Sonos Launch the PLAYBAR Soundbar: Review Roundup

Sonos-Playbar

Despite humble beginnings in the not-so distant past (founded in 2002), Sonos have catapulted themselves to the forefront of the AV market, becoming the byword in wireless audio technology.  The latest innovation comes in the form of a soundbar, bringing Sonos into the world of home cinema.  It has long been clear that the quality of the speakers in today’s TVs simply hasn’t kept pace with the significant enhancements made to picture quality and screen size.  There are plenty of solutions out there for those of us who have decided that it’s about time the noise matches the picture, but, having helped to revolutionise home HiFi, Sonos have decided to apply their own considerable expertise to the Home Cinema experience.

Sonos seem to think they have hit the nail on the head with their latest offering and they aren’t shy about telling us exactly that, with Sonos Inc CEO, John MacFarlane, saying “Playbar will change everything about the sound experience in your living room, bringing together amazing HiFi sound for your TV and wireless access to the world’s music in a radically simple way”. But do the experts agree that the Sonos Playbar is about to revolutionise the AV experience in your home?

What HiFi: It’s great for sports, opting for a more immersive sound.

The big question, of course, is how the Sonos Playbar sounds, so we kick off (excuse the pun) with a spot of Premier League football. Within just a couple of seconds it’s clear that this is a massive improvement over even the most impressive-sounding flatscreen TV. The width of the soundstage that’s created is mighty impressive, and there’s detail, weight and tonal balance that a TV on its own simply can’t deliver.

SlashGear: A smart piece of tech with nifty features; there is no remote, but that need not be an issue.

Sonos has fitted the PLAYBAR with an accelerometer so that it knows which way up it’s placed: that means it can automatically figure out if it’s on the wall – with the “top” facing out – or sitting flat, and adjust the equaliser settings automatically. There’s also a pass-through IR system, which repeats your TV remote’s commands in case the TV’s own IR receiver is blocked in some way.

T3: It sounds good, but the addition of a Sub is almost essential.

Add the Sonos SUB to create a ‘3.1’ system and things change. Having that dedicated bass channel allows the PLAYBAR unit to concentrate on higher frequencies, thus creating a more balanced sound. Like us, you’ll have to play around with the SUB settings, as having it too loud can be overkill.

Wired: It beats the competition for looks

Stocked with an impressive nine drivers, the compact, low-profile Playbar employs rounded corners and silver accents to earn more style points than most sound bars, which tend to be black, boxy, and décor-damaging. At just 3.3 inches tall, it can sit in front of your TV without blocking the IR or the screen itself.

Gizmondo: It’s expensive, but for those with the money it will live up to expectations

The Playbar does a lovely job, but you could get something that sounds just as good with more features for less money. That said, Sonos is a luxurious, simple, and satisfying way to listen to music. If you can afford it in the first place, you won’t be disappointed.

All in all, the consensus is that the Playbar is an attractive and well featured piece of kit. All of the usual Sonos features are included and it makes a great addition to an existing Sonos system. However, the Playbar is not cheap and to really get the best from it the cost skyrockets further as you add the all-important Sub. If style and substance are your primary concerns the Playbar is well worth considering, but if your credit card bill is of more importance, perhaps it is worth seeking a cheaper alternative.

PLAYBAR will retail for £599 and will be available for purchase at Sonos.com, and other retail partners around the world. For more information on SONOS PLAYBAR, including technical specifications and more, please visit Sonos.com/playbar.

iRig HD: Nature of the fret

Technology can be a burden. The frustration I feel when one of my gadgets lets me down is almost palpable. Even the slight lag that’s started when I open the Mail app on my iPad is starting to get to me. But when it’s all working it can be truly liberating, especially for creative processes. I can write, shoot and edit a short film all from my phone. And do a whole bunch of accounting if I really want to as well. As someone who remembers having to trek all over town to recording studios, and the masses of hardware needed to even attempt to emulate that at home the ability to record high quality audio on the go is really valued.

iRig

IK Multimedia’s all new iRig HD enables me to do just that. iRig HD is a high-quality digital guitar/bass/instrument interface that means you can plug your analogue instrument into an iPhone and make digital magic if you are that way inclined. And I am.

iRig HD features crystal clear digital signal thanks to its superior 24bit converter, an onboard gain control for perfect level setting, a low power consumption circuit for longer device battery life, plus an ultra-slim design and interchangeable adapter cables for maximum portability and universal compatibility.

The iRig HD is a simple “plug in and play” interface but is also quite clever in its flexibility.

The 1/4″ instrument input jack is pretty standard and there are included cables that plug directly into the annoying new digital Lightning or old-fashioned 30-pin connectors so you can work with pretty much all generations of iOS device. You can even take the fun home with you as there is an included USB cable, that connects the iRig HD to any regular Mac. It’s also small enough to pop into your back pocket, guitar bag etc and forget about it until you need it.

IK multimedia have a range of apps that you can use iRig HD with but you’re not locked into their ecosystem and you can compose tracks in all the usual suspects – including GarageBand.

iRig HD will be shipping in the Spring of 2013 and will be available in musical instrument and electronic retailers worldwide. Price is to be announced.

Mini Aero: High-performance wireless active speakers

One of my best friends and next door neighbours is a fireman and if I even want to set his heart racing I show him the tangled mess of cables behind my computer. Or undo the top two buttons on my shirt. Fire hazards aside, wires and cables are an annoyance, prone to tangling and restricting layout and interior design. Wireless internet freed up productivity and made cafes into hotbeds of pretentious people working on their screenplays. And wireless iOS syncing was a future step towards making traditional computers less relevant in the smartphone and tablet age. So wireless technology is great – and wireless speakers … greater still.

Moos-Mini-Aero

Moos Audio’s Mini Aero compact active monitors aren’t just any wireless loudspeakers – they are the best wireless loudspeakers money can buy … at least according to Moos. Designed for both PC and Mac high definition digital music playback, the Mini Aero are the first ultra high resolution, wireless loudspeakers with lossless, bit-accurate transmission of digital audio at up to 24bit/96kHz, and playback of all data rates up to 24bit/192kHz. So they sound great. If you care at all about audio fidelity you’ll be pleased at the effort that are putting in. Especially if you’re recording a track or mastering some audio – fidelity matters.
The Mini Aero uses WATT, (Wireless Audio Transport Technology) and claims that performance exceeds that of many traditional, wired high-end audio systems.

But these are more than just a gimmick. Technical highlights include the first ever audiophile-grade wireless transport, Scan-Speak Revelator drive units, ultra high end quad mono differential Wolfson DACs with an entire DAC dedicated to each drive unit (SNR > 125dB), ultra-low jitter design, all-aluminum unibody port with dual symmetrical flares, metal-reinforced Baltic birch plywood cabinets, composite internal damping consisting of specially processed long fiber natural wool and aerospace-grade acoustic foam developed for NASA space missions, SHARC floating point DSP, and audiophile-grade Hypex amplification capable of delivering 400W continuous per speaker pair, and peaking at 1kW.

It doesn’t hurt to look good and the Mini Aeros have a high gloss piano lacquer, which contrasts with the machined black anodized aluminium and intricate surface texture of the speaker drive units. Colour options include Bianco Cygnus, Nero, Rosso Metis and Super Fly so there is a Mini Aero to suit every taste, although at $2499 not every pocket.

The Mini Aeros are sold direct via www.moosaudio.com and yours for just US$2499 plus tax.

Belkin’s Thunderstorm Handheld Home Theatre: Take your iPad to the movies

Despite having splashed out a few years ago on a big telly (the prices of which are now comically low) I watch a lot of content on my iPad. Especially after I discovered that Netflix has all 5 seasons of Friday Night Lights and that my deadlines were “flexible”. But great though the iPad is – and it is pretty great it’s not quite the same as a trip to the movies, or a fancy home cinema set up. Belkin know this and want to beef up the iPad viewing experience with the Thunderstorm Handheld Home Theatre.

Belkin-Thunderstorm
Belkin-Thunderstorm

Belkin teamed up with mobile sound leader Audifi so the the Thunderstorm Handheld Home Theatre features high-efficiency, front-facing speakers that project cinematic-quality sound. Not your grandfather’s iPad dock, the Thunderstorm features ported speakers and integrated air channels in the design allow optimal airflow so bass frequencies come alive. It’s the sort of thing the Inception soundtrack was composed for.

There’s also a downloadable Thunderstorm App for extended control with customisable soundscapes for music, movies and games. There’s Musical which is balanced for music and web video; Cinematic which has a broader soundscape with simulated accentuated middle channel to lend clarity and presence to dialogue; and Action which spreads the soundscape out to its fullest extent and sharpens sound effects so games explode off the screen.

Designed to fit flush around the iPad, the Belkin Thunderstorm Handheld Home Theatre connects directly through the iPad dock connector for a seamless, unified experience. This direct connection eliminates the possibility of dropping the connection to the speaker and provides optimal calibration for the audio sound effects. It also features a multi-fold cover for a variety of comfortable viewing angles and screen protection.

Belkin tapped us to engineer the sound performance of the Thunderstorm Handheld Home Theatre from the inside out and we’re happy to see end results that deliver an immersive mobile audio experience. Through the design of core circuits, sound processing, custom speakers and a surprisingly thin acoustic enclosure, Audifi engineered a level of sonic depth and precision that was, until now, impossible to achieve in mobile devices.

Bruce Lancaster, general manager and vice president at Audifi.

The Belkin Thunderstorm Handheld Home Theatre will be available for both 30-pin connectors and the new Lightning connector.

Belkin Thunderstorm Handheld Home Theatre – £179.99/€229.99

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.

C.VOX clothing: Make loud fashion statements

Like audio and warmth? You’re not alone and C.VOX (Communiqué Vox) have just the thing for you – a range of clothing with built-in headphones, speakers and a control system, which has just launched in Debenhams.

CVOx-standing

If you know Skinnydip you’ll be familiar with their range of beenie and trapper hats that feature built-in speakers. The C.VOX range of clothing is a much more detailed approach and a much more extensive range of clothing. C.VOX’s most impressive item is the stylish jacket pictured above, which includes a sound system and hands free set yet remains completely machine washable.

We are thrilled to be offering such an innovative product to our customers. The range incorporates fashion, technology and practicality at a competitive price.”“It is the perfect, safety conscious way to conceal gadgets whilst still being able to freely use them in public, it’s the must have item for any commuter.

Paul Baldwin, Head of Menswear Buying

It’s certainly great for those of you who often lose headphones or who have tangled cables everywhere they go. Inside the jacket is a simple 3.5 mm jack so you can connect most portable music player or smartphones. A built in washable speaker, microphone and control system on the sleeve allows the wearer to skip, pause and play music as well as answer and hang up calls.Earphones are wired through the jacket and concealed in the collar to avoid any unnecessary tangling.

CVOX

The C.VOX range for men and kids includes jackets, gilets and hooded sweatshirts. We got to try the C.VOX range hooded sweatshirts which have playback controls hidden inside – near the top of the zip. This was good if you had the top slightly open but it would be good if you could pause without opening the jacket. The sounds quality was surprisingly good – especially if you had the speakers directly on your ears. You could also hang them by side of your head and still get some ambient sound – which was great for audio, although you lost some of the power of music that way.

The C.VOX range has been created to push the boundaries in functional technology and fashion. We look forward to developing and launching new clothing lines with the latest innovations and trends for the coming seasons.

Peter Layzell spokesperson for C.VOX

Prices range from £33 for children and from £65 for men.