NaimUniti 2 takes high end to another level

High end often means high price, but it’s an often overused term. It’s become a standard phrase for anything remotely above ordinary; much like the often over hyped term 6 or 7 star hotel that now seem to be almost commonplace. Since when did 5 star lose its sheen?

NaimUniti

Audio however, is always a hard fought battleground, with new products and better development coming thick and fast. Fortunately, Naim Audio has always avoided getting sucked into this melting pot; this proudly British manufacturer manages to maintain a dignified distance from the front line with a range of excellent high end products aimed fairly and squarely at the audio connoisseur.

The NaimUniti 2 is a revitalised version of the highly respected NaimUniti the compact all in one audio system that contained an amplifier, CD player, a multi format tuner that delivers DAB, FM and internet radio together with a whole family of digital and analogue inputs including a front panel USB. There’s a built in Ipod/iPhone and iPad dock, digital to analogue converter and a high resolution 24 bit/192 khz network stream player.

The revamped NaimUniti2 now has a Burr-Brown PCM1793 DAC, a redesigned CD player section with a new clamping mechanism and integrated amplifier has been beefed up from 50 watts to 70 watts to embrace a wider selection of speaker types.The NaimUniti 2 also has a larger front panel display screen, bringing it a step closer to the sleek lines of its bigger sibling, the SuperUniti which delivers 80 watts output and a digital volume control button.Finally, there’s no shortage of connecters, with no less than five analogue and five digital inputs to hang out with our other home devices such as set-top TV boxes, DVD players and games consoles.

The NaimUniti2 is no cheap date though, coming with a price tag of £2,795. Then again, that’s the price you pay for quality.

National Science & Engineering Week

Latest Gadgets got the chance to sample some space-food last week in preparation for National Science & Engineering Week (9-18 March). Although we didn’t get to leave the atmosphere to sample the amusing bouches, we did get to meet someone who has: Britain’s first astronaut Helen Sharman.

AstroFood

Whether we were chowing down on the Mars Breakfast Bar or finishing off with Martianmallows, one thing was clear: this wasn’t your typical food-in-a-tude space snacks. Created by the eccentric The Robin Collective, the spread (of numerous courses and cocktails) was curated to be both delicious, nutritious and adhere to the challenging non-enviroment of space.

The Robin Collective envisage this as the type of food Virgin Galactic would serve in-flight – and when compared with traditional aeroplane food, it really was out of this world.

AstroFood-Two

The Menu

Mars Breakfast Bar: Created from dehydrated bacon, black pudding and other traditional English breakfast ingredients,  the breakfast bar was designed to show that all foods in space will have to be pre-mixed, lest they float away.

Amoon Bouche: Some of the strongest cheese ever made. Because space dulls the tastebuds, every food will potentially have to be quite potent. Mrs Sharman pointed out that back in her day, the Russians used to pump their food full of garlic, whereas the Americans had a penchant for chillies.

Supersonic Salad: Using crops from the Micro-Ecological Life Support System Alternative (MELiSSA), the salad contained only crops that can be grown in space. Well, crops that are hoped to be grown in space. Brian Ratcliffe from the Robert Gordon University, Aberdeen informed us that at the moment, only wheat has successfully galactically germinated. The other potential vegetables are tomatoes, herbs and spinach.

Prof. Ratcliffe informed us that the problem with these foodstuffs is that there isn’t enough protein to fully fulfil out nutritional needs. For that, we need algae. Specifically spiralina – a blue-green algae. We tried it as part of a caprihlana cocktail and were suitably impressed.

He also noted that B12 might be a problem, but could probably be recycled from human faeces…

Martionmallows: The healthiest marshmallows in the world (fortified with vitamins) highlighted every gramme sent to space adds a huge cost. Light-weight ‘mallows are the perfect for maximum taste at minimum weight.

Stardust: Stardust has just one ingredient – miracle berries. Rub the powder around your mouth and suddenly everything sour tastes sweet – including the two lemons and a lime we polished off. Using taste-bud changing technology means that food won’t have to be filled with sugars to be sweet – keeping astronauts healthy in the heavens.

Chewbacca Gum: After suitably stuffing our faces, we finished with an after dinner mint-gum. Made super-strong, the chewbacca gum is designed to exercise the jaw to prevent muscle wastage in a part of the body that is difficult to strengthen in space.

We’d like to thank Helen Sharman and Brain Ratcliffe…….as well as recommend National Science and Engineering Week to

We’d like to thank Helen Sharman and Brian Ratcliffe for this experience, as well as recommend the Engineering Week to everyone (more details, including local events, here)

Arcam FMJ D33 SuperDAC: Underneath the glam

Some stellar news for you music lovin’ gadget fiends here, Arcam (who really, really enjoy the fact they are based in Cambridge) has introduced its latest and highest performing Digital to Analog Converter to date; the Arcam FMJ D33 SuperDAC at a cost of er…just £2000. Don’t worry, it’s awesome, and it can certainly work out the way you’ll want it to.

Arcam-FMJ-D33

Totally compatible, The 6.2kg, 433 x 370 x 110 (W x D x H) D33 looks to transform sound on the Mac, PC, iTunes, alongside hi-res files, CD, DVD, Blu-ray, set-top boxes and more, giving each source a level of performance that is engaging. These are bold, yet do-able ideas.

What’s the crack? Well, this new model uses the latest high-end dual Burr Brown PCM1792, 24bit / 192kHz converters (one per channel), twin toroidal (circular) transformers in the power supply and state-of-the-art 4-layer printed circuit boards. Sexy stuff, eh?

The D33 features an asynchronous USB input offering the convenience of computer-based music (PC or MAC) and the ability to enjoy the very latest 192kHz ultra high-resolution recordings with decent quality. Two coaxial and two optical inputs plus a professional-grade AES/EBU connection complete the line-up so everyone can take advantage of the D33’s clear performance upgrade. Worth the dosh, innit?!

What’s really cool here is that, underneath the glam, you can certainly see that Arcam’s thirty five years’ worth of audio engineering experience has really been focused in on the D33, and they should most certainly be proud of how it’s come out. Users are without question going to see the benefit of the 0.5w standby power consumption and duplex RS232 control interface (which is suitable for custom installation).

Wait… hang fire, there’s some more… phew; the filter position with both LEDs off is a “bypass” mode that misses both the FPGA filters and instead uses the stock filter in the Burr Brown DACs according to the user’s choice. For the other two, they are handled in a FPGA and are minimum-phase digital filters with a fast, slow and roll-off. Both of these filters seek to remove the pre-ringing on transients found in normal digital filters – smoothly does it Arcam, smoothly does it. Indeed, the fast roll off filter redistributes the energy from any pre-ringing until after the transient. Although this causes greater post-ringing than the standard digital filter, it results in a much more natural sound as there is no pre-ringing in live music; and we can definitely dig that.

To conclude, and leave you to get reasonably excited… this grand piece of kit (complete with a sizeable multi-stage regulated power supply, stealth mat and sound dead steel construction as well as the full IR and RS232 remote control), is available and on demonstration at Arcam Concert Dealers right now. ‘Av a gander.

For more information visit the official Arcam website: http://www.arcam.co.uk

Alienware X51: Big things in a small package

There are some people to whom gaming is not just a game. You know who you are. And you know deep down that it’s *just* a game right? You can have a really engaging round of tiddlywinks if you have the right people. I know you’re shaking your head in disgust so I’ll tell what you want to hear. If you crave power, performance and dizzyingly high framerates from your gaming “rig” and are not fooled by the so called charms of the outside world then you will want an Alienware system atop your desk. But despite all the elxir, gamers are getting older and having to think about things like clutter in the living room. Whilst they might crave a “beast” compromises with the other half have to me made. And for these people Alienware are proud to present the Alienware X51 – a comparatively dinky high-end performance rig for PC gaming.

Alienware

The Alienware X51 is Dell smallest gaming desktop ever and crams 1080p high definition and 3D gaming into a new, smaller chassis so that at the flick of a switch, nearly any living space, from the living room to the dorm room, turns into an entertainment and gaming mecca.

The Alienware X51 allows us to bring the exciting nature of high-definition, immersive gaming within reach of more gamers than ever before. With the X51, we’ve expanded our gaming desktop offering to cater to all gamers in addition to our core enthusiast and competitive gamers. Now everyone can enjoy the latest games on a sleek, powerful, compact and customisable system. The X51 desktop delivers an incredible feature set for its size and price.
Arthur Lewis, vice-president, Alienware and Product Management for Consumer, Small and Medium Business.

So what’s inside? The Alienware X51 features powerful 2nd generation Intel Core i processors, NVIDIA GeForce GT or optional GTX class graphics cards for intense gaming performance, Wireless-N technology for easy Internet access, HDMI 1.4 for connecting to 3D TVs and watching 3D Blu-ray movies (optional extra obviously), two SuperSpeed USB 3.0 ports for fast data transfer, High-Definition 7.1 Performance Audio and GDDR5 graphics memory.

At its entry-level configuration with a Core i3 processor, 4GB memory , 1GB NVIDIA GeForce GT 545 graphics, and a 1TB 7,200rpm hard drive, the X51 clocks in qt at £699 including VAT and delivery.

Elipson relaunch tribute to BS50 loudspeaker design

In a nice move to celebrate its 60th birthday, earlier this week Elipson announced that it is honouring the landmark models that have shaped its history leading a market centred around the fusion of lifestyle design and high quality audio engineering.

Elipson-BS50

So, the first Elipson speaker to do very well on said market was the BS 50 (or, erm the Ball Staff, 50 cm diameter). Originally, this little 2 way white beauty (weighing in at a perfectly manageable 69.2 pounds and 31.4kg) was designed in 1953 to compliment the very first sound and light shows at the famous Château de Chambord in France (which, for the record look darn impressive… Google ’em). So, it’s pretty cool then? No bro, it’s cooler than cool. This charming spherical speaker (positioned on its alloy tripod, and complete with a distinctive ear piece) with its respectable 80 Watts of max music power also became the reference for voicing at the equally as prestigious Maison de la Radio Broadcasting House in Paris. Man, this thing has been getting about over its time, eh?!

All things considered, this is a more than fitting tribute to the world-beating original, Elipson has reproduced this slick and experienced noisebox using today’s latest materials, while preserving the acoustic sound qualities that were so valuable to a product that quite frankly defied the average standards of loudspeaker design. Take that.

The BS 50 Tribute loudspeaker system is available now via BBG Distribution Limited at http://www.bbg.eu.com.

£300 to spare? How about a wallet for your iPhone 4S?

Now here’s a problem I’d like to have. You have just under 300 quid burning a hole in my pocket and want to buy a present for the woman who has everything – including the new iPhone 4S

The answer to the problem would be? The Capulet Wristlet for the iPhone.

Capulet-Wrist-iPhone-4S

This designer piece from the London-based luxury accessories brand, is a wallet, which has room for your iPhone and which can be hung from your wrist or popped in a handbag should you so wish.

Designed to take out dancing, or to pick up if you pop down the shops, the Wristlet comes in a variety of colours, and has a compartment for the iPhone 4S, a coin compartment and room for credit cards.

Choose from cobalt, seashell white, powder blue, jet black and sunset red

Capulet head of design, Joyce Lin, said: “I wanted to create a wristlet that was relevant to today’s modern woman. It needed to be a minimalist design, carry all the essentials, and seamlessly transition from day to evening.I think this wristlet achieves all of these design
goals.”

The wristlet costs £299 and can be pre-ordered from www.capuletlondon.com/iphone

Scanomat Top Brewer: The future of coffee?

I’m sure I’m surprising exactly no one by being a writer who’s into coffee so my delight at seeing the Scanomat Top Brewer was a predictable as the slew of “lose weight in the new year” articles I’m going to write when this is done.

Scanomat-Coffee

But in all fairness, the Scanomat Top Brewer is an amazingly stylish approach to brewing beans. You’ve already seen what happens when Apple-esque design infiltrates the world of thermostats. And it’s equally impressive when it hits the world of coffee. There’s even an app.

The Scanomat Top Brewer is a professional grade coffee machine for high-end cafés (I spoke to the MD to broke the sad news that I probably wouldn’t be able to fit one in my tiny flat). The Scanomat has top notch grinders installed so it can fire out 4 cups of filter coffee in a minute. This coupled with the world’s tiniest milk frother, automatic cleaning and precision engineering means that the Scanomat can crank out the perfect espresso every time (and an impressive range of other coffee-based drinks too). There’s even a option for cold water, juice and hot chocolate drinks. Like I said it’s a shame I lack the space and funds to fit one in my kitchen.

The aforementioned app connects to the unit and enables you to select the brew of your choice – and you can save your particular preferences to a favourites part of the app. The app also allows you to monitor the temperature and progress of your drink – and if you run out of coffee you can order more right there from the app (there’s also a finger touch keyboard if you don’t have a smartphone handy).

The Scanomat also has pretty decent green credential and runs on a unique Zero Watt system that stops if from drawing power when on standby.

Hopefully coming to a coffee shop near you.

www.scanomat.com

Elipson Planet L: “Le style c’est Elipson même”

I’ve never been a fan of the phrase “style over substance”, in tech reviews as style (and in this context more specifically design) is such an important part of technology. To quote Buffon as people always do in these situations, “Le style c’est l’homme même”. So when I read that Elipson’s stylish high-end speakers were coming to the UK, I was delighted, as they look simply stunning.

Elipson-Planet-L

For those that don’t know, French manufacturer Elipson have made a nomme for themselves after registering design patents and developing new acoustic technologies in Europe for over 70 years. Its development started with a loudspeaker made up of a sphere and an ellipsoidal reflector (hence the “Elipson”).
If you’ve been in a recording studio or concert hall in France, the chances are high you’ve heard an Elipson speaker.

The Planet L’s feature a bass reflex enclosure made from an inert glass-fibre resin compound and finished in a choice of three piano gloss colours; red, white and black.

The specification boasts a powerful 2-way, 165mm coaxial driver with an integral 25mm soft dome tweeter. With no less than 4 clever mounting accessory options, the Planet L’s can be used for table, floor, wall and ceiling applications and can be purchased as a stereo pair for music or individually for multi-channel or commercial applications.

The Planet L loudspeakers are available from authorised UK retailers from 1st December at an SRP of £599 per pair and are the first products of an ambitious roadmap for 2011, including active wireless audio systems all with unique and iconic lifestyle designs.