Sony RDP-X50iP iPod dock review

Sony were nice enough to send us a Sony rdp-x50ip iPod dock to review (and then send back). We see a lot of iPod docks here at Latest Gadgets. Some have alarm clock functionality. Some have funky or innovative design. And others are jam-packed with features. The helpfully named Sony rdp-x50ip is none of these things. What it is however is a reasonably decent iPod dock.

Sony-RDP-X50iP

As you can see, the design team took a fairly no frills approach, or minimalist depending on your point of view – with a solid wall of speakers and a slot for your iPod/iPhone, with a few adjustable brackets for stability.

There are a couple of basic buttons on the top – for playback and one intriguing MegaBass button that gets a shout out on the box. The MegaBass button beefs up the sound a little – especially for bass-heavy tunes, as you’d expect it doesn’t really have an effect on podcasts or acoustic folk.

40 Watts of power gives the Sony rdp-x50ip “room filling sound” and once you get past the lack of features it’s pretty impressive as a unit – I threw a couple of Morris Day and the Time classics at it in the living room and the sound quality was more than adequate. In fact I’d go as far as to say it was good.

Whilst lacking the bells and whistles of some of its competitors – most dramatically the Pioneer Kodo series, which takes iPod docks to the next level, the decent “room filling” sound makes the Sony rdp-x50ip a decent, but not mind blowing, purchase, although the £179 RRP is a little steep.

Proporta TurboCharger 5000: Get fired up on the move

Between mobile phones, tablet PCs, cameras and whatever other gadgets so many of us cart about all day, it’s sometimes hard to keep up with what’s been charged and what hasn’t. And if you’ve got a gadget that’s juice-hungry, it can be really easy to run out of power even if you’ve gone out with a full battery charge.

Proporta-Turbocharger5000

So what’s the solution? Well, you could carry about an assortment of chargers with you wherever you go, but short of lumbering around with a shopping-bag sized bag to carry them all in, you’d also need to find somewhere to plug them in. Hmm, not an easy option. So is there a solution? Well, now there’s the Proporta TurboCharger 5000.

This nifty little device is compatible with any of your devices that charges up from a standard USB port, and its makers say that it packs enough power for even the hungriest of gadgets – including the iPad.

With one Mini USB input port and two USB output ports, the Turbocharger 5000 also comes supplied with a number of connector heads. Its LED screen shows you how much charge it has, but its makers say it is possible to charge up the iPad, for instance, and a BlackBerry at the same time.

Could be a Godsend for anyone who travels on business, or who just spends a lot of time out and about but still wants access to all their electronic wizardry.

At £42.95, it’s not over-expensive, and it’s a small price to pay if it’s essential that you have access to your tablet and phone at all time.

Find out more at www.proporta.com

Blue Mikey iPod microphone review

Looking to take your iPod audio recording to the next level? Yes? Good thing I asked. The Blue Mikey is a portable microphone and recorder for the iPod and iPod touch. When I last crossed paths with Blue to review the Yeti Microphone I was blown away by how good the audio quality on a simple USB microphone was.

Mickey

The Mikey attachment easily converts your iPod into a stereo field recorder. The two custom-tunes capsules provide high-end (or at the very least higher end) recording capabilities for your iPod. There is also a 3.5 mm line-input so you can pop a guitar (or any line input really) and record direct to your iPod. If you plan on doing some heavy duty recording, the Blue has a USB pass-thru connection enabling you to record and charge at the same time.

Connection is simply a matter of plugging the unit in. BUT, before you fire up the in-built Voice Recorder app (and you were going to weren’t you), download the free Blue FiRe App. The in-built Voice Recorder app only recorders in low quality mono – rather defeating the point of getting the fancy audio peripheral. Blue FiRe provides CD quality stereo recording and basic file management and editing. There’s even an ftp feature built in. And of course you can use Mikey with other high quality recording apps – or which there are many.

Mikey features a toggle switch for sensitivity so you can record soft sound sources, podcasts, acoustic instruments or (according to Blue) monster truck rallies. The head is adjustable to about 7 different positions to allow you to fine tune your recording.

So is it all rainbows and lollipops? Well it doesn’t work with the iPhone 4. So bear that in mind before heartbreak ensues. But if you own an iPod or iPod touch (or even a 3GS), and millions of you do, then the Blue Mikey is yours for £59.99.

BeoSound 8 comes out with a Bang (& Olufsen)

Bang & Olufsen announced the BeoSound 8 as a speaker dock for your iPhone and more importantly, your iPad. It seems like every day there is a speaker dock for the iPhone released but the compatibility with the iPad makes this one a little different. If you keep most of your music on your iPad, BeoSound 8 is a beauty.

BeoSound8

BeoSound 8 offers superb audio quality in a small package. A speaker’s audio quality is influenced by its physical position in a room. BeoSound 8 solves this by integrating a room adaptation switch allows you to adjust the performance to suit the placement of the speakers, be it a corner, against a wall, or standing freely. The three switch positions will primarily change the equalization of the bass channel. This allows the speaker to be placed anywhere without compromising the sound performance.

The BeoSound 8 can connect wirelessly to your PC or Mac using Apple Airport Express or AirTunes. The look is sleek and polished in typical Bang & Olufsen fashion. The body comes in black or white and you can personalise the speaker fronts with different colours to suite your home. The cone shaped speakers hide the depth and provide a breath of fresh of air in a world of box speakers. I like that the BeoSound 8 can be hung on a wall using a wall bracket. If you are lucky enough to own more than one Bang & Olufsen product, you can use one of their intelligent remotes to control all your devices or use the dedicated remote supplied.

To supplement the BeoSound 8, a free BeoPlayer application for the iPhone and iPad will be released in December to allow Internet radio to be played. The paid-for ‘Pro’ version will have a music library browser and alarm clock.

Available from late November at £900, it hurts the wallet. For that price, I would have liked a few more features. Perhaps the full version of the BeoPlayer included? Composite video output to allow video through the TV? The BeoSound 8 definitely makes a statement. But is the price of that statement worth it?

Philips GoGear MP3 players: Credible iPod alternatives

iPod. It’s pretty much the first and last word in personal digital audio. So does Philips really think that its GoGear MP3 players can compete? Well, yes. And if not compete, they can certainly under-cut the opposition.
GoGear is a range of differently sized, featured and priced MP3 players, from the entry-level Raga at £39.99 to the £129.99 Muse.

Philips-Go-Gear

As well as playing digital audio files – MP3, WAV, WMA, FLAC, APE – all of the MP3 players come with a 20-preset FM radio function, voice recorder and an impressive battery life. You’ll get 22 hours music playback on the Raga model, to an almost two-days (45 hours) on the Muse. The Muse also supports AAC and Ogg Vorbis formats, making it the default player for users with exotic music file formats.

Battery life for video is not quite as impressive, however. It runs in at five hours on the Ariaz and Muse, and only four on the Vibe. For comparison, the iPod Touch puts out seven hours from a full charge. You won’t find any video on the entry-level Raga.

The Vibe, despite a smaller battery life, has also got a smaller screen: 1.5-inches. The Ariaz has 2.4-inches, while the Muse boasts a 3.2inch HVGA touchscreen, with the ability to connect to an HDTV. We’re pretty sure it’s a 720p output, although we’ve not run a test ourselves. Even it was sub-HD, however, it’s a very nice feature.

The Muse is clearly Philips’ golden boy, with plenty of features thrown in to ensure people step-up from the Ariaz to the premium model. Along with the touchscreen, HD-out and the additional format support, it’s also been blessed with a microSD card slot for further expanding your music collection. At its peak, the 32GB Muse can use external storage function to turn into a 64GB music device.

If you’re feeling less ambitious, the Muse also comes in more manageable 8- or 16GB models. The Ariaz and Vibe are available at 4/8/16GB, while the Raga offers 2/4/8GB. With any of the players, you’ll receive a pair of sound isolating headphones with surround technology, making you feel right in the middle of the action.

Will to GoGear MP3 players kill the iPod range? No. But the Raga’s 8GB for £39.99 RRP (currently £29.99 at Argos) is great for people on the go. And music lovers could do worse than the Muse, with its expandable memory meaning more storage for less. And the HD-out means that you’ll be able to share awesome videos anywhere, providing the TV has been bought within the last five years.

At just five hours of battery for video, however, it seems that the Muse is destined to be a portable media player for HDTVs, rather than a standalone video browsing device.

TIME iPod alarm clock and speaker dock review

Exspect’s design team deserve a pat on the back. As someone who is emailed literally 3 times a week with new iPod dock releases, I have a somewhat jaded view of that genre of device. As a result the raised eyebrow that came when Exspect’s TIME iPod speaker dock hit my inbox was genuine.

TIME-dock

As you can see from the image above, the Expect, when fully docked with an iPhone forms a replica analogue clock face. Your iPhone serves double duty as the “12” and the clock face via an app that automatically installs when you first install the app (well I had to give it a few goes but eventually it installed on an iPhone 3GS and an iPhone 4).

With its sleek, slimline silver frame and piano black face, the TIME dock is actually striking and makes a really good “statement” piece for your bedside table.

It also comes with a rather basic remote control that allows you to skip, play and pause tunes and switch between the music player or radio app. There is also a snooze button built into the remote, but I can imagine that being a little counter productive – I like the physical process of wandering over to the snooze button. Unfortunately playback is a little basic – so you can’t access iTunes playlists from within the app, which is useful if you are using the dock for music playback.

The built app allows access to the Music player, as well as the radio app and of course enables you to set alarms clocks. The interface is simple and straightforward but lacking the graphical flourishes of the bundled app that comes with the GEAR4 alarm dock.

The sound quality is also a bit thing and not quite up to the GEAR4’s level of bass – it’s great as an alarm clock but not quite up to task as a fully-fledged iPod dock, in part due to the limitations of the app, which could hopefully be addressed by an update. At £49.99, it is half the price of the GEAR4 and replicates the main functionality of that device and has a pretty striking look so it is definitely something worth checking out if you are a student, or person on a budget.

Altec Lansing MUXZ range headphone review

Altec Lansing, makers of the first iPod dock and all round audio experts have dived headfirst into the world of headphones with interesting results. We had a play with their new MUXZ range.

Altec-Lansig

At the low end there are 3 bargain basement £19.99 fashion earphones – the Mesh, XX and XY. The chromosome pairs, are as the name suggests, tailored to appeal to masculine or feminine users and to outrage gender theory academics. The Mesh a gender neutral bass heavy pair completes the trilogy.

The £29.99 Core has inline voice controls and the £49.99 Extras have enhanced bass and full Apple compliant inline controls.

The top of the line pair, however are the MUXZ Ultra which look … well a little bizarre. As you can see from the image above they have a chunky barrel design to them and poke out of the ears a little. The wire also pops out a little bit in an odd little loop. This isn’t just difference for difference sake, and the quirky design is supposed to alleviate cable strain – which can be fatal for some headphones. All this is of course, secondary to the sound, which is fantastic – which at £99.99 it would have to be.

The balanced armature drivers provide excellent well-defined audio – it’s not bass heavy and if anything is quite restrained on the bass front. The supplied rubber tips should fit most ear types to provide and snug fit, which is when the background noise cancellation really kicks in. My standard bass heavy test tunes sounded a little muted, but other more varied sounds fared excellently. This review is a day late as I got side-tracked listening to Bitches Brew on the Ultras then enthusiastically raving about how good it sounded to any poor soul who would listen.

There are also inline iPhone controls, which are a little on the large side, but easy to grab on to without looking when answering calls or skipping a track.

From the cheap and cheerful Meshes to the quite swanky Ultras the Altec Lansing headphone range managed to impress at a range of price points.
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UPDATE

The Muzx Ultras price has dropped to £79.99, and the Muzx Extras to £39.99. They will be available 15th October from all the usual retailers including Apple, DSGi and Amazon.

Apple revamps iPod range, iTunes and Apple TV; eats a little humble pie

Apple have been hard at work and yesterday Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtleneck owner and Apple CEO Steve Jobs launched a totally revamped Apple iPod range, a new Apple TV and a music based social network, Ping.

Keen observers will have noticed Apple tacitly admitting 3 mistakes, as they restored buttons to the iPod shuffle, removed video from the iPod nano and switched to an all streaming model for the Apple TV. With convergence slowly killing off the PMP as a device category (no mention was even made of the iPod classic, the device which helped Apple rebuild their empire) it’s interesting to see what the market leader and more often then not, trend setter Apple had to say on the matter.

iPod-family

The new iPod shuffle has buttons (yay!), 15 hours of battery life and now works with Genius playlists. The iPod nano had a much more interesting makeover, removing the ho-hum video camera and playback facility and, most importantly the scroll wheel. The nano is now a small square of mulitouch glass and looks like a baby iPod Touch. Promising 24 hours of battery life the nano seems to run a version of iOS and has a similar homescreen – with icons for playlists and Nike+. It’s possible that apps could be developed for the platform in time – simple games and the like, although nothing was mentioned.

Apple’s flagship PMP the iPod Touch also received a major overhaul – although to even call it a PMP seems disingenuous as Apple were keen to point out it is a major player in the mobile gaming device market and the casual gaming ecosystem developing on App store is growing at an impressive pace. The Touch has been dramatically slimmed down and its new svelte form features the iPhone 4’s Retina Display, A4 chip, gyroscope, front and back facing cameras and 720p video recording. The camera isn’t quite as good as the iPhone 4’s but until we get some hands on time with it we won’t be able to compare.

iTunes was also revamped and now includes a socially driven musical recommendation engine- Ping. There are approximately 160 mn iTunes accounts floating around and the interface is light and Facebook-esque so it could work reasonably well. It reminded us of mflow – the Twitter-meets-iTunes service we looked at here. (Incidentally Twitter have finally updated their iOS client for the iPad and it’s pretty neat.)

Finally, Apple at long last revamped the Apple TV, shrinking it dramatically, painting it black and abandoning syncing for streaming. But did they make it useful? Well Netflix integration and iTunes streaming for TV shows and movies certainly goes a long way. It only streams in 720p, which makes streaming fast and bandwidth friendly, although I’m sure video enthusiasts will be furious. In the UK things are a little less clear. The USD99 US apple TV gets Netflix streaming and 99c HD TV shows. The UK version seems to lack the HD TV shows and nothing has been mentioned about Lovefilm or iPlayer integration. It is also GBP99. It’s not being released for about 4 weeks so hopefully there will be a little more clarity then.