TWIG: Blackbox silencer headphones, SLURLs review, Sound Pillows and more

The Week In Gadgets

It’s been a busy week in technology with the demise of my favourite web app Google Wave, the unveiling of Amazon’s Kindle 3 and Apple’s “Magic Trackpad”… or as we like to call it “Trackpad”

Released 2 weeks ago, but only in my hands this week, Blackbox’s new i10 silencer headphones were also impressive. Self-powered and noise cancelling the i10s are for hardcore audio enthusiasts – especially as they only work via Apple’s unique 30 pin dock. They claim to cancel 92% of background noise using ANR technology and at £79.99 RRP are comfortably in the reach of most “high end” earphones – although the 30 pin dock connector does restrict what you can use these headphones with.

Blackbox-Headphones

We were all excited about the release of Y-Cam’s Bullet, a weatherproof network camera, which allows you to view and hear footage in real-time, from anywhere in the world. Think of the possibilities. Keep an eye out for Naomi’s review which should be out some time next week.

We had a look at a range of fantastic pillows, travel pillows and headboards from Sound Asleep that came with built-in speakers. I was then pointed in the direction of Sound Pillow, who also make an integrated pillow speaker –designed for tinnitus sufferers but popular with festival goers, travellers and students. You can check out the £27.99 pillow here.

We mentioned SLURLs a while back and I was lucky enough to get my hands on a review copy. Initially I approached the slim volume with scepticism – how funny can a book about domain names be? Fortunately it turns out that the answer is “quite” and Chief SLURLer Andy Geldman managed to throw in some genuine laughs as well as a few interesting facts and a Nathan Barley reference along the way. SLURLs makes a great causal read or gift for anyone with even a passing interest in Internet culture. Make a nerd happy here.

Of course there were a slew of apps released. The Cineworld iPhone app caught my eye – it uses geodata to locate your nearest Cineworld, with films and screening times and compare with other Cineworlds. Best of all you can purchase tickets from the app, distinguishing it from other similar Movie apps.

Pinch recently launched a multiplatform app “Pinch – iMessenger, iContacts & iLocation Sense”. iDon’t know what this means but it appears to improve on standard SMS but including location data and social networking features. They have launched the Pinch iPad Global Contest where users can win iTunes gift cards, iPads and more prizes. Check it out for download details, support handsets and details on how to win an iPad.

And finally the fun and free iPhone and Android “Postcard” sends your holiday snaps to an FTP in Dorset and posts them the same day (there is a 4 pm cut off ) Simple yet effective. Check it out.

Skullcandy 50/50 headphone review: Bass on a budget

My informal headphone review process for the past 10 years has been to put HipHop by Dead Prez on and stroke my chin. The Skullcandy 50/50s passed this test with flying colours. For some of you, the next 290 words may be a waste as I have already told you all you need to know.

Skullcandy-50-50-review

Of course sound quality is what matters, and on the whole the 50/50s deliver. Powered by an 11mm driver and built from some sort of polycarbonate/aluminium hybrid (where I am guessing the 50/50 name comes from) the 50/50s deliver a rich booming sound. I played Ray Keith’s The Chopper (The Shy FX mix obviously) and found it to be a incredibly rewarding experience. If you are the sort of person who is Addicted to Bass, the pure tones of the 50/50s won’t really disappoint.

Mellower fair was a litte less impressive – folk music and podcasts didn’t work as well as more expensive inner ear headphones in extreme environments (traffic filled tunnels and noisier sections of the London underground) but in normal listening conditions they faired just fine.

The 50/50s come with an in-line microphone and remote control and works well as a remote for iPods and hands free kit for iPhones – with the standard play,pause skip functionality you would expect. You also get a carry case and a range of replacement tips to fit your particular ear size. For an inexpensive pair of headphones, the 50/50s throw in quite a bit.

Skullcandy are an interesting outfit. Their earphones always look … funky. I can’t see my earphones when I’m using them, so how funky they look seems like a massive irrelevance but little details such the fabric covering on the cables or the little logo on the volume clicker/earbuds go some way to make these units stand out when compared to similar offerings. They are also available in a range of colours – black, white & chrome, red, white & green and blue.

If you are a headphone snob, then you probably won’t have made it this far down in the review and will be busy hoarding pennies for some Beatz by Dre. However if you are seeking bass on a budget and need an inline remote and mic then the 50/50s, which have a RRP of just £50 are pretty hard to beat. Technical stat are:

Speaker Diameter: 11mm
Frequency Response: 20-20 K Hz
Max Input Power: 100mW
Cable Type: TPE
Cable Length: 1.3m
Plug Type: 3.5mm Gold Plated

Hands on with the Jaybird Endorphins – a wire free workout?

What with it being the London Marathon today we thought we’d road test the Jaybrid Endorphin sports earphones – which they have recently started distributing in the UK via Amazon.co.uk.
I was looking for the best headphones to work out in – with as little interference from wires as possible, whilst retaining sound quality. I do a lot of outdoor running, with a little freerunning/tricking thrown in and nothing ruins a perfectly executed Butterfly Twist more than having you headphones fall out mid-air.

Jaybird-Endorphins

Initially the Wireless Bluetooth headset – the Sportsband seemed ideal. But whilst they offer a good wireless work out for the average treadmill runner, the pair I tried on at the Gadget show live seemed to slip whenever I was inverted. And the sound quality, whilst good, wasn’t as amazing as standard Jaybird wired products. We are keen to see Jaybird’s latest generation wireless headphones, the BlueBuds, which are released at the end of April . Bluebuds promise wired sound quality, combined with wireless convenience. But more about those when we get our hands on a pair.

The Jaybird Endorphins promised a wire-free rather than wireless workout. They are designed to be secured at the back of the head and then threaded down through your shirt keeping them out of the way without compromising sound quality. And with 10mm high performance neodymium drivers the performers, the sound quality on these headphones is top notch. The bass from the Endorphins’ sound chambers is warm and expansive and successfully drowns out all external distraction – be it in a gym, park or even an office. The earphones are titanium coated, which protects them from sweat based deterioration (sweat can destroy a perfectly good pair of headphones). They also come with a lifetime’s anti-sweat guarantee.

The headphones come with a massive variety of tips to suit most ears, a comfortingly solid travel case and some plastic hooks to guide them around your ears. Once I’d set them up I headed to the park for a nerd happy run wearing some Vibrim FiveFingers, the Jaybird Endorphins and using Runkeeper on my iPhone. To be honest I was amazed. The sound quality was, as expected superlative and created a truly immersive running experience. The wire-free system was also great and they stayed put through my admittedly tame repertoire of tricks. But I’m fairly confident that if they can stay put during a headspin then they will stay put through anything.

So for a hassle free, high quality workout and listening experience, I would have to recommend the Jaybird Endorphins. Until the Bluebuds come out at least.

Sony iPhone headphones – something for everyone

It’s become a modern-day love/hate story for the iPod generation: The ecstasy you feel when you finally get your mitts one of Apple’s sleek little devices, is immediately overcome by the disappointment of experiencing its below-par, bundled earphones.

The limitations of the standard-issue accessories are a much-vented source of frustration for consumers who have already splashed out a small fortune on the game-changing music gadgets. Despite their iconic design, the thin casing of the earphones produces a tinny, synthetic sound and often, excessive noise-leaking. The latter is particularly an issue for “shyPod” owners, who would prefer not to inflict their dubious music taste on others.

Sony-iPhone-Headphones

However, all this could be about to change with the release of Sony’s new range of MDR-EX300iP and MDR-E10iP inline, remote-controlled headsets, designed especially for iPods and iPhones. The two new additions will join Sony’s less advanced MDR-EX38iP model, which is already on sale, and Apple’s premium in-ear earphones, in an increasingly competitive market.

The headsets’ USP seems to be that there is something for everyone. Keep-fit fanatics will be impressed by the accessibility of commonly-used functions, which are conveniently nestled together on the mini remote. This neat option will hopefully make exercising to music a fumble-free experience. The device has buttons to play/pause, skip tracks and adjust volume. It also proves handy for iPod Shuffle users, as the remote includes a button to activate the gadget’s unique VoiceOver function, while for iPhone users, the earphones’ built-in microphone is designed for easily making hands-free calls.

As for sound quality, an impressive set of stats would appear to give it the edge over competitors. According to Sony, both models of the headset features a 13.5mm Neodymium driver unit that’s oriented vertically in the ear. This combination teams extra sensitivity with powerful bass and a wide, dynamic range. The MDR-EX300iP has a frequency response of 5-24,000 Hz and the MDR-E10iP has a response of 18-22,000 Hz.

If Sony really does deliver on all its promises with the MDR-EX300iP and MDR-E10iP models, iPod and iPhone users will, at long last, be able to enjoy a multi-faceted sound experience to match Apple’s renowned innovation. It’s taken a while, but Sony might have finally cracked it.

The MDR-EX300iP and MDR-E10iP headsets come in a variety of colours, and consumers can opt for either in-ear or over-the-ear styles. They are compatible with every generation of iPod and iPhone, and are available at all good electronic retailers from May.