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.

Canton wireless HiFi speakers – music to your ears?

A new range of plug and play speaker and accessories has just been launched by Germany’s largest loudspeaker manufacturer, Canton, which on paper look set to be high on any music lovers Christmas list. The three products are interchangeable with each other, and consist of the snappily titled your_DUO, your_STICK and your_DOCK…

Canton-Duo

your_DUO – two active wireless loudspeakers that fully support 24bit HD audio technology, coming complete with a receiver and remote control.

your_DOCK – an iPhone or iPod docking station, that can be used as a wireless transmitter and charger, complete with remote control.

your_STICK – PR or Mac compatible USB transmitter adapter.

All three Canton products are plug and play systems, requiring absolutely no drivers at all to work. Operating via one of three wireless channels, each device is easily set up with a touch of a button selecting the correct channel, after which they are all ready to go. Simplicity itself. You can also select one of three audio zones, allowing you to control the volume of more than one set of speakers in a room, while at the same time granting you independent volume control in another room.

There is also no limit to the number of Canton speakers you can connect to a transmitter, so you can have as many or as few as you like in one room or all around your house. Wonderful stuff.

Each of these HiFi products can be purchased as a twin bundle or individually (which two products you decide to buy is up to you), ranging from £129 up to £599, depending upon your selection. Granted they are not cheap, but this is a HiFi system for those with seriously good taste in music. For more information visit: www.canton.de

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 .

Panasonic Hi-Fi HC15 review

Uh-oh. A new Hi-Fi without an iPod dock? What were the engineers behind the Panasonic SC-HC15 thinking? That people could live with MP3 CDs and USB sticks filled with tunes as long as the system looks good enough? We tested that theory out.

Panasonic-Hi-Fi

Sound

First of all – it sounds good. Whatever voodoo that goes on in the name of the Aero Stream Port, it works well. You get a rich, robust bass from the 10W speakers when the volume is at normal levels – and it really pounds as your crank it higher.

The sound distorts a bit at very low-levels – although that can only be expected. You should probably stop worrying about your neighbours and crank it up, anyway.

Design

It’s also pretty beautiful. It’s piano-black finish and slender design (just 69mm thick) make it an ideal shelf-sitter. The thin profile and sleek design mean that it’s really unobtrusive – unlike bigger CD systems.

The front even mechanically slides open in a very-futuristic-for-1990 kind of way. The display is equally bachelor-tastic – a white on black.

Connectivity

The device plays normal CDs, MP3 CDs and USB sticks – so it’s not totally old tech. We’re not entirely sure who still uses MP3 CDs, but it’ll be great for the less-tech savvy generation.

Plug an iPhone into the USB dock and it won’t work, however – a big disappointment for today’s Apple generation. We still can’t get past the question – who downloads music onto USB sticks to play? If you do, please write in. Our thoughts are that a dock with a built-in mini-jack cable would have been more useful.

Conclusion

The HC15 sounds good, and its bachelor-friendly 90’s design is still in style. Unfortunately, the technology also feels a bit 1990’s. This means that today’s tapping and sliding iOS generation may find it a bit retro, in the “oh wait, this Sega Megadrive isn’t very good anymore” kind of way. Tech-heads should move on.

If you’re looking for a device for a less tech-aware consumer, the Panasonic sounds good, and is so simple, elegant and small, it won’t look out of place anywhere.

Altec Lansing inMotion Air: Music player of my streams

Altec Lansing’s inMotion Air is looking to redefine what a stereo can be – in the future consumers will no longer require a system that can play a multitude of mediums – the inMotion Air is looking to this future – a future where you just want to stream music from your many Bluetooth enabled devices including iPads, iPods, mobile phones and just about any other bluetooth device with music on it.

inMotion-Air

Not only can it stream music from devices it can stream Internet radio or other audio content from your computer using a wireless dongle.

Available in slate black or gunmetal, the inMotion Air has top-mounted controls, a soft-texture finish and built-in handle.

Its wireless adapter hooks into your computer and can transmit stereo audio up to a range of 100 metres. Which means it could be easily be used as an ideal product for anyone who wants music in the garden or a room away from your computer.

No software or driver installation is required – making setup simple and fast to pair the Air with the adaptor involves holding down the pairing button on the speaker and on the USB dongle, and when the lights alternately flash red and blue, they are paired.

The inMotion Air comes with a built-in rechargeable Lithium-ion battery for portable use, providing up to seven hours of music. So it’s the perfect device for getting your ever-burgeoning digital music collection out into your garden or lounge – and most importantly away from those horrible PC speakers.

A notable inclusion for those you concerned about the quality degradation is Altec Lansing’s apt-X Bluetooth codec, which supposedly gets around the main bugbear with Bluetooth, the lack of quality. It creates superior sound quality, and the Bluetooth Class 1 system used cuts down on interference from wi-fi networks and cordless phones.

If you buy two units they can be linked to the same transmitter for basic multi-room playback, and the remote gives control for both iTunes and Windows Media Centre – so you don’t have keep going back the computer to change tracks.

If you’re looking for a premium speaker box that’s a step above the average run of the mill iPhone speaker and you want to be able to stream music, with possibility of multiroom support, then we see no reason why shouldn’t consider the inMotion Air – it offers functionality, quality all at a reasonable price.

It costs around £180-£200 and is available from Apple, John Lewis, Dixons and PC World stores.

Lenco UK Launch 3D Sonic Soundbar

Hang on a minute, I’m not a purist by any stretch of the imagination, but if you already have virtual surround sound, will 3D sound make a significant difference to the audio soundtrack of your life? Well, apparently it will make quite a significant bit of difference according to Lenco UK, who has partnered up with Sonic Emotion to create the SB-100; a high performance 3D Soundbar that takes home audio to ‘a different dimension.’

Lenco-SB-100

This is a discreet home audio unit that has six integrated 10W speakers and a 20W subwoofer to enable the sound to emanate from all around you, without the need for any visible speaker system. Delivering a total power output of 80W (SMS) the SB-100 is compatible with MP3 and DVD players, televisions, computers or game consoles and has two line inputs for using with multiple sources.

Andy Macaluso – Director of Sales and Marketing for Sonic Emotion declared that “We’re excited that Lenco has chosen sonic emotion 3D sound technology as a certain way of providing their customers with a simple-to-use yet unbeatable sounding device”.

The unit was nominated at the Digital Movie awards in 2010, and its competitive low price makes it a viable alternative to some of the more high end home entertainment systems available on the market.

As we’re currently experiencing such a 3D rush right now, it remains to be seen whether or not the popularity will continue. In the mean time the SB-100’s low price tag will certainly provide a cheap way of enjoying Avatar’s 3D charms, even if it is only short lived.

Available from www.lencouk.com

The topsy-turvy world of wireless speakers

Wireless. Everything is wireless these days. It’s great isn’t it? Long gone are the days of desperately trying to disguise a mesh of unsightly wires, stubbornly sticking out from behind a desk with a wastepaper bin, only to find the wires keep getting stuck in the lattice of the bin and everything is a complete mess, because nothing requires wires anymore! The latest technical genre to have a ‘wireless makeover’ are speakers, traditionally one of the worse culprits in the headache-inducing wire-mesh conundrum.

bump-wireless-speakers

When any type of technology has a makeover and becomes significantly improved, its cost also tends to be significantly increased, and this is very much the situation with wireless speakers at present – quite a lot available, but it will cost you. This is where Aluratek’s new wireless Bump speakers may step in, as costing just $79.99, are an affordable solution to helping reduce the ball of wires that currently lies behind your computer. There are three ‘Bump’ models available, but the model receiving the most complimentary coverage is the AUWS01F. This neat and stylish gadget picks up a signal from a 2.4GHz wireless dongle and converts it into high-quality sound.

In comparison to Aluratek’s highly affordable Bump wireless speakers, are the highly unaffordable Danish audio specialist ‘Libertone’, Libratone Beat wireless speakers, which net in at £549. Although being clad in cashmere, promising a 360-degree FullRoom sound experience, despite consisting of only a single unit but by combining twibbon tweeter that bounce sound off the wall and some too-clever-to-mention DPS functionality, the Libertone Beat is a good example of how ‘far apart’ the world of wireless speakers are at present. Although this high-end wireless speaker, if you can afford it, with its state-of-the-art Scandinavian design and pioneering technology, really would ‘liberate’ your music collection.

Libratone-Beat

Whilst the Creative Inspire S2 Wireless Speakers brings the wireless speakers medium back down to earth. These compactly designed speakers employ a 2.1-channel set-up with the satellites truthfully described as being palm sized. Creative also includes a Bluetooth adapter into the bundle, which, when plugged into your computer, will automatically sync with the wireless speakers. Whilst these speakers may not produce the sound quality of their more expensive rivals, at approximately £90, they are an affordable wireless option.

For jus £59.99, Connected Essentials HPL200 Wireless Speakers, will not break anybody’s bank. Whilst they may lack the style and sophistication of their more expensive counterparts, Connected Essential claim the HPL200 produces crisp, clear sound. Whilst any company is bound to make such claims, these speakers are completely wireless and a cheap way to de-clutter your home of wires.

TWIG: Logmein Ignition iPad app, Edifier Soundbar USB, Sony 3D HD projector

The Week in Gadgets

It has been another busy week in the world of gadgets. IFA in Berlin saw the unveiling of numerous interesting gadgets – Epson’s top of the range projectors, Samsung’s Galaxy Tab, HP’s Envy laptops and much much more. We will be looking over a range of releases in more detail over the coming week. Apple released a slew of new iPods and finally updated the Apple TV. We had some initial thoughts here. Twitter released an iPad client with a futuristic and challenging UI. Meanwhile XBMC-based media server Plex could be built directly into DLNA enabled LG TVs. As my main moan with mainstream media servers is that they lack the elegance of XBMC, this is potentially the answer to sereval of my prayers.

Edifier-Soundbar

Edifier, who made the affordable Opera shaped Prisma speakers have released a Soundbar USB – a micro speaker system with a specially designed bass reflection port. Doing exactly what is says on the tin, the Soundbar is a easy way to beef up underpowered laptop speakers, or provide a little more oomph to your audio when you are on the go. Yours for £49.99.

Flying in the face of Epson’s bold claims that the world (or image quality rather) is not ready for 3D projectors Sony released its first 3D home cinema projector, the VPL-VW90ES. Projecting in Full HD 1080p (of course) Sony’s headfirst push into the world of 3D continues and the VW90ES uses active shutter glasses and an upgraded version of Sony’s 240Hz Panel which is supposed to minimise cross talk. Out in Europe in November, we are keen to take a look and see if the image quality passes muster.

Sony-3D-projector

iPad owners keen to work some VPN magic on their tablets should head to the App store and check out the latest update to LogMeIn Ignition – one of the better remote access apps that gives access and more importantly control to your desktop or laptop from your iPad. I’ve tried quite a few remote access apps for the iPad whilst the idea sounds great, actual day to day use is next to impossible – the all powerful WIMP paradigm just doesn’t helpfully translate to the multitouch era. LogMeIn recognise this and have worked hard to simulate a multitouch workflow – supporting pinching, swiping and left and right mouse clicks. Unfortunately, you still have to “learn” how to use the app – a little hints dialogue opens on log in, reminding you of the various gestures. However, once learned (and being honest it doesn’t take all that long) it is reasonably easy to select windows, transfer files or switch views in a multiple monitor setup.

The LogMeIn Ignition for iPad and iPhone app can be downloaded from Apple’s App Store for a one-time charge of £17.99 and the update is freely available to existing Ignition owners.