Bayan Audio Soundbook: Wireless Audio Dynamite

Bayan-Audio-Soundbook

I’ve seen more wireless music docks than I’ve had fish suppers, and I don’t think that my lifelong vegetarianism detracts from that statistic. Some, dare I say most, ellict a certain sense of ennui, but even I was excited to hear about the release of the Bayan Audio Soundbook – a small speaker powerhouse that brings something new to the table.

The 15W speaker uses aptX audio compression so the sound quality if far more detailed than certain larger speakers I’ve come across, with a decent level of bass as well. There’s also TDMA noise rejection to eliminate interference from other nearby electrical equipment.

The Soundbook is quite compact and designed to be neatly tucked into a bag and pulled out during picnics or camping trips. However it can also be used in the boardroom as there is an integrated microphone that allows for hands free conference calling (I’ve only ever done hands free conference calling in a board room).

The ballistic nylon cover also doubles as a stand and comes in Silver/Turquoise or Charcoal/Burnt Orange. But the cover also triples as an on/off switch so you simple close to preserve battery life and “open to play”.

The Soundbook uses Bluetooth 4.0, so can deliver 10 hours of streaming wireless music on a single charge. The Soundbook also has NFC paring so all the non-iPhone owning smartphone users can revel in one-tap ease of use. Of course AirPlay would be nice but the Apple-only streaming technology literally carries a premium.

The Soundbook also has an integrated FM radio with an invisible aerial. I grew up on Radio 4 so have a soft spot for the radio and am glad it’s included. DAB would be nice but if you’re pairing with a smartphone, you have access to most digital radio shows away.

Soundbook from Bayan Audio will be priced at £149.99 including VAT and will be available to buy at bayanaudio.com from 7th July 2013.

Wahoo RFLKT: Second Screening on Two Wheels

Wahoo-RLFKT

I’m an avid cyclist, so I’m constantly on the look out for great tech that can make my life better. We even published a handy guide. So I was delighted to get my hands on the RFLKT iPhone bike computer – a cycling computer that harnesses the power of your smartphone (provided your smartphone is an iPhone).

Slightly larger than a regular cycling computer (the case reminded me of a mini-DV), the Wahoo RFLKT is incredibly easy to set up as you just hit a button and it pairs with most cycling apps on your phone. It’s also very easy to install – either in an ostentatious fashion on your handlebars or in a discreet gentlemanly manner on your stem (using rubber bands!). Both are quick and effortless but if you live in an crime ridden city you’ll need to carry the metal removal key around with you. It’s hard to casually remove RFLKT without the key which should deter the casual thief, so gauge the motivation levels of your local larcenists as you park.

The RFLKT wirelessly receives all app data and ride information from the iPhone via low-power Bluetooth 4.0 technology. My iPhone battery is unreliable to the point where I don’t leave the house without back-up power and want to set the ring tone to “Why Does It Always Drain On Me?” but riding around all day with RFLKT (playing MGMT) didn’t have any significant impact on battery life. The RFLKT runs on a single coin-cell battery which should hold out for a year.

RFLKT reflects your iPhone screen so you can operate your favourite iPhone cycling app, switch between screens, start or stop intervals and even control iPhone functionality such as music playback, while your iPhone remains safely out of sight. There’s even a little light for when you’re riding at night.

I have a perennial problem with apps such as this in that I listen to music through Spotify or the Podcasting app so every time I hit the music playback album iTunes would kick in. That’s a minor gripe. And because I’m spoilt I really wanted this to be a touch screen – I kept swiping at the screen – even though many cyclists wear gloves making this a stupid idea. A clock face would have been nice – but not essential.

The app relies on your iPhone’s GPS for data, making it accurate overall but leading to wild jumps at times – the occasional glance at the screen will make it seem like you’re breaking the speed limit. You can plug RFLKT into Wahoo’s wider eco-system of accessories- they have a heart strap monitor and cadence sensor if you really want to drill down on data. But if you’re a little less hardcore the RFLKT is an excellent entry point into cycling metrics.

The Wahoo RFLKT is priced at £119.99 and is available from the end of June from the Apple store, and www.wahoofitness.com.

SuperTooth HD Voice: Hands on the Wheel

SuperTooth-HD-Voice

On December 3, 2003, the UK government made it a criminal offence for motorists to drive a car whilst talking on a mobile phone. Since then no company has really come up with an inexpensive after-market solution that allows drivers to safely talk on their phone whilst driving.

At the moment almost all-new cars sold in the UK come with a Bluetooth hands-free phone system, but what about those of us who don’t have Bluetooth? Well SuperTooth, a leading manufacturer of portable audio accessories, believes their recently released HD-Voice Bluetooth hands-free system could be the ideal solution for drivers who want to add the Bluetooth connectivity to their cars, but don’t want to spend several hundred pounds.

SuperTooth’s HD-Voice is a small, inexpensive device that clips on to a car’s sun visor, once it’s securely in place you simply pair the device to your phone and bingo, you’ve got a fully functional voice-controlled hands-free kit.

A spokesperson from SuperTooth reckons that the call quality on the HD-Voice is so good, that many drivers will end up choosing their system over a car’s native hands-free phone system.

A bold claim, but under closer inspection they might actually have a point. The HD Voice comes with two built-in speakers, two microphones and clever voice recognition software. This means the system can pick up simple voice commands really well, especially impressive when it’s fighting against the noise of the engine or road.

SuperTooth-HD-solo

Once the driver has gone through the simple pairing procedure the system is ready to. When an incoming call comes through you simply says “OK” to start the call. The HD-VOICE also indicates the battery level of the device, the bluetooth connection status, and can even announce GPS instructions direct from your smartphone.

One of the reasons why the system is so robust is it comes equipped with voice recognition software which means a driver never actually needs take their hands off the wheel, which can’t be said of some systems, as they usually require a couple of button presses on the dashboard or on the steering wheel to answer or make a calls.

The HD-VOICE is compatible with all mobile phones and smartphones boasting Bluetooth technology. And there’s no need for a lengthy or complicated installations as once it is clipped to the sun visor it is pretty much ready to go.

The battery life is rated by SuperTooth at an impressive 20 hours talk time and 1,000 hours standby, so it can easily sit in a car for a long periods of time without the need of a recharge. To recharge the device it uses a simple USB charging cable, and it can also be plugged into a car’s 12-volt power point with the use of an adapter.

The HD-Voice also supports A2DP audio streaming over Bluetooth, which means it can play music in stereo over the devices’ two speakers. A nice touch, but in reality music playback isn’t its strongest suit especially compared to a car’s built-in audio system, and you can’t actually route the audio back through your car’s system via an audio-out, which is a bit disappointing.

The HD-Voice is capable of recognising 12 languages including – British English, American English, French, Italian, German, Spanish, Mexican Spanish, Brazilian Portuguese, Chinese, Russian, Japanese and Polish.

For more info head to SuperTooth.

Embrace+: Colour Changing Notification Bracelet

Embrace+

Perfect for those moments when that handy flashing green light on your smartphone isn’t quite enough information: The Embrace+ reveals exactly what type of communication you’ve just received without so much as glancing at your handset.

We’ve all been there; broken meetings, conversations and gatherings to check our phone… Only to find that bleep or flashing light is just another spam email, an unnecessary Facebook notification or, worse still, an unsolicited text message urging you to cash in your PPI millions today.

Mercifully these social faux pas can become a thing of the past thanks to the Embrace+, a smart bracelet that speaks directly to your iPhone or Android phone. Fully customisable, you can configure each type of communication so the optical fibre in the band flashes different colours and different length blinks. From Tweets to Tumblr to texts from your mum, the bracelet tells you exactly who’s getting in touch… While making you look pretty darned cool and futuristic in the process.

There’s more: other configurations include alerts for low battery, reception range, important calendar dates and specific contacts and groups so you know whether it’s your boss or your better half on the blower. Neat, right?

No buttons, no screws and tastefully designed with a shape and myriad colour options to suit boys and girls: as our smartphones become larger to include the many functions we now desire and require while out and about, there’s more of a call for a device like this. Simply check your Embrace+ and decide whether it’s worth delving deep into your bag or bottomless pockets.

Besides exercise-specific smart bracelets such as the recently launched Amiigo fitness bracelet, the Embrace+ is a unique concept. Right now it’s at prototype stage, and they’re looking for a little help with the final push to market. Visit their Kickstarter page and get involved in the future.

Top 3 Bluetooth Speakers: SWITCH, Braven 570 and JAMBOX

If you’re on the back of the bus and thinking of sharing your latest and greatest trapstep remix with your fellow passengers then we forbid you from reading this article. Or from taking the bus. If however, you are a sane and responsible member of society then you might at times want to amplify your smartphone’s sound system. We had a play with three Bluetooth speakers that go above and beyond the call of duty and do a little bit more than pump up the bass.

SWITCH

Native Union SWITCH

You probably remember Native Union from their chic take on phone handsets. They’ve applied that same eye for style and design to SWITCH a powerful, portable Bluetooth speaker, conference call unit and mobile power bank … all in one. The SWITCH is the newest speaker we’re looking at and its most useful function is obviously the combined output of its three speakers (including an active sub-woofer). However the SWITCH also doubles up as a portable battery, so if any of your many, many eligible devices need a top up it’s on hand to do the needful. And the SWITCH triples up as a conference call centre with its full-Duplex microphone enabling crystal clear group chats that I imagine business people have.

SWITCH is available online at NativeUnion.com for £129.99.

Braven-570

BRAVEN 570

The BRAVEN 570 wirelessly pairs with any Bluetooth-equipped smartphone, tablet or computer for 10 hours of audio playback. Like the SWITCH it also packs a internal battery – this time with 1200mAH so you can juice while your pump up the jams. And not to be outdone by the SWITCH, an internal microphone provides speakerphone functionality. The BRAVEN 570 may not look as pretty as SWITCH, but is a little prettier, encased in an impact-resistant polymer and is available in Arctic White or Lunar Black finishes,

The BRAVEN 570 speaker costs £99.99 and is available online for £99.99 from Braven.eu.

Jambox

Jawbone JAMBOX

Pretty much the speaker to beat in terms of mind share, the JAMBOX is a beautifully designed and lovingly assembled piece of hardware. Elegant in its simplicity the BIG JAMBOX I played with last year was one of my favourite bits of speaker tech. Unlike the other two the JAMBOX is not a portable battery, so you will have to make do with it’s dual role as a speaker and conference call centre. It’s no slouch in the design stakes however, and is available in a range of interesting colour combination (you can mix and match up to 100 varieties).

The JAMBOX is out now and can be found for a range of prices on Jawbone.com (expect to find one for between £120-145).

Audioengine’s W3 Wireless Audio Adapter: The End to Spaghetti?

W3-wireless-audio

Not sure about you, but I have a drawer stuffed full with wires and leads – the detritus of a former life when everything electrical had to be connected. It’s made worse of course because not being a tidy person, there’s no order to it, just a tangled mass of USB, phono and scarts that were once needed but now lay dormant but are there just in case I need them.

Of course that won’t happen anymore because I am fully wireless and proud of it. There may be a time in the future when a study shows all these radio waves flying about are bad for us, but until then, I live a life of wire sobriety.

So given the fact wired connectivity is most definitely on life support, there’s a journey of discovery to be made with each new wireless product while we wait for the transition to fully integrated wireless on every device. Will this new one be better for my home system than the one I already have?

W3-reciever

Audioengine’s W3  Premium Wireless Audio Adapter will certainly a raise an eyebrow or two. This could well be the Swiss army knife for wireless audio, given it can turn any audio system with USB or 3.5mm mini-jack or RCA audio outputs into a wireless device via a sender and receiver with a range of over 30 metres (100 feet) with, it is promised, no drop outs or interference. A particularly bold claim considering most homes are full of noisy devices from cordless phones to microwaves. The 16-bit USB DAC handles audio up to 16 bits/48KHz with no compression, as well as analogue audio via a 3.5mm minijack so this device could be a very effective way of making your subwoofer or your surround-sound speakers wire free.

You can use W3 as a wireless USB DAC to send music from your computer to any stereo system or add W3 to your home cinema as a wireless link to your subwoofer or powered rear speakers. Setup is fast and you can add extra W3 wireless receivers, which are available separately.

Audioengine director, Brady Bargenquast

The sender and receiver units are powered via your computer’s USB port, the AC power adapter which is included in the package, or from any other USB power source such as an iPhone charger which is a perfect example.

At £125, the W3 Premium wireless audio adapter is a decent value investment for wireless wi fi and with the sender device capable of broadcasting to up to three receivers simultaneously, you can add additional receivers for £75 each and have a pretty comprehensive multi room system.

When you look at alternatives available at the moment, you might want to think about  Apple’s Airport Express system which connects your iphone music to the audio-in socket of each speaker via individual modules, one for each speaker. As they transmit at both the 2.4GHz and 5GHz frequencies they’ll automatically connect to the best available band for the fastest possible performance. Then again, if you don’t have any speakers, you could invest in Jawbone’s Jambox wireless speakers which belt out some powerful Bluetooth enabled sonics and are portable enough to use on the go too.

Video: Stick-N-Find, the Bluetooth-powered traceable stickers

sticknfind-bluetooth-tracke

While browsing through hundreds of pre-CES press releases, we stumbled across the Stick-N-Find Bluetooth location sticker. The 0.16 inch ultra-thin stickers are about the size of a ten pence coin and feature Bluetooth Low Energy. The idea is that you stick them to things like keys, TV remote controls and phones. They can even be placed on children and pets. You then use the accompanying free app to display the location of all stickers within range.

“Stick-N-Find Stickers have a range of about 100 Feet, with a battery that lasts for over a year,” said Jon Mitts , Lead Inventor at SSI America (the company behind Stick-N-Find). “Of course you can open up the sticker while it’s still stuck and replace the battery. Stick-N-Find stickers have a buzzer and light so that you can even find stuff in the dark.”

The free iOS /Android app tracks the distance the stickers are from the user’s phone, literally converting the screen into handheld “Radar.” Multiple stickers can be tracked all at the same time with each sticker lit in its position on the Radar Screen. The user can walk in a specific direction while the Radar Screen shows if a sticker location gets closer or farther away. Users can choose between a buzz, flashing lights or both with just a tap on the radar screen.

Other features include a “Virtual Leash” and “Find It” abilities. The Virtual Leash turns on an alarm if a designated sticker moves outside of a selected approximate distance. Different sounding alarms can be designated for different stickered items. The “Find It” feature, great for finding your luggage at an airport baggage claim, will alert you when a stickered item comes into range.

We caught up with the company as they showcased the Stick-N-Find at this year’s CES in Las Vegas. Check out this video for a live demo of the product:

You can find out more, and pre-order your Stick-N-Find, at www.StickNFind.com

Top Fitness Gadgets for 2013

I live alongside a canal, which is a prime running route and these past few days I’ve seen an exponential increase in people giving jogging a go, determined to “finally fit into those jeans”, or some other long-held dream. The numbers gradually dwindle over the month and by early March I can once again walk next to swans, unencumbered by fitness fanatics. That’s obviously because “getting in shape” is a hard, hard task. Fortunately there are some gadgets on hand to help out.

arctic-gym-mat

Arctic Cooling Gym Mat
The Arctic Cooling Gym Mat is an all-in-one gaming system offering a wide range of games and exercises to entertain you and hopefully tighten you up a bit in all the right places. 30 sensor fields detect your position on the mat precisely and display your movements on the TV screen so you can interact with the games. There is a two player mode on some games, so you and a training buddy can shape up – or just get involved in a dance-off.

The Arctic Cooling Gym Mat is £45.35 from www.waeplus.co.uk

Fitbug

Fitbug Air
The Fitbug Air is a wireless activity tracker, which a little dongles that measure every physical thing you get up to (there’s an untapped million dollar industry for whoever makes the first wireless mental activity tracker). The Fitbug Air tracks calories burned, steps taken and aerobic steps (over 100 per minute) so you can see the benefits of your run or walk in real terms. The Bluetooth sync with your phone means that you can also see the benefits in real time so you can track your pace. Fitbug can even send encouraging texts or emails are you a progressing – a handy substitute for friends.

The Fitbug Air can be purchased for £49.99 with a full year’s subscription or £24.99 with £2.99 monthly subscription from www.fitbug.com.

Garmin-forerunner

GARMIN Forerunner 10 Watch
The Forerunner 10 watch by Garmin is ideal for anyone who wants to keep track of their speed, rhythm, distance covered and calories burned when running. With a Virtual Partner mode it is compatible with Garmin Connect, where you can share and analyse your details and progress online with other users. The watch is also waterproof to 50 metres and has a customisable screen. Plus it tells the time.

GARMIN Forerunner 10 Watch is available in black, pink or lime green for £98.52 from www.waeplus.co.uk

iT7-LG

iT7s wireless in-ear headphones
I can’t exercise in silence. The last thing I want when exercising is to be alone with my thoughts. Fortunately iT7 make some pretty great wireless headphones, designed specifically for active use. The iT7s headphones feature Bluetooth technology, making it possible for users to listen to music and take calls during workouts, without being tethered to a mobile or music device by an unwanted wire.

The iT7s headphones are available for £99.99 from the Tesco Phone Shop.

e-Lites

E-Lites E80 Regular (G9) Electronic Cigarette Starter Kit
Perfect for anyone hoping to quit smoking or planning to make love to a robot the E80 E-Cigarette Starter Kit is the ideal introduction to electronic smoking. The Starter kit includes the equivalent of 80 tobacco cigarettes, a rechargeable G9 battery and a practical USB charger. Available in Reds (Regular) Golds (Lights) or Greens (Menthol).

E-Lites E80 Regular (G9) Electronic Cigarette Starter Kit – £23.96 from www.waeplus.co.uk