Sony MDR-HW700DS: World’s first 9.1ch headphones

MDR-HW700DS

Like the amplifier in Spinal Tap that goes up to 11, when it comes to anything to do with sound bigger numbers are usually better. So, forget about your puny 5.1 or 7.1 sound systems, these latest wireless headphones from Sony offer a 9.1 audio experience – but without actually having all the speakers. They use what Sony calls Virtualphones Technology to reproduce the effect of multi-channel speakers.

The unit’s ‘Cinema’ mode has been created with the support of Sony Pictures Entertainment and the company says, “This mode ensures an authentic cinema sound experience and virtual sound arena that is based on an analysis of the prestigious sound mixing stages used for the production of major motion pictures.” Which in non-PR speak means it should sound like the director intended.

The transmitter unit can be used as an HDMI switchbox for up to three sources so you can enjoy audio from multiple devices. It also supports 4K sources so you can send uncompressed audio to the headphones, and has a conventional stereo line-in though of course the latter won’t give you the full surround-sound experience.

These then aren’t just a set of headphones, they’re a positive feast of audio technology, so what are the reviewers making of them?

Bonkers bass and voices in your head

Trusted Reviews was impressed by the sound quality, “…their dynamic range is sensational, with bass handling proving able to do full justice to the sort of bonkers low-frequency rumbles employed by most modern action movies.”

It also praised the surround-sound capabilities, “…the scale of the film – or game – soundstage it produces creates a world much larger than the physical presence of the headphones.” However, the way dialogue is delivered came in for some criticism, “While dialogue appears to stand forward of most of the mix and is extremely clear, it still feels distractingly dislocated from what you’re watching. The words spoken sound like they’re in your head, rather than like they’re coming from the mouths of the actors on the screen.”

“The 50mm drivers offer enough bass to immerse the user for up to 12 hours before the cans need fast recharging.” notes Pocket-lint although it hasn’t done a full review as yet.

People who have actually bought the headphones seem impressed too, with one Amazon reviewer in the US saying, “Sound quality is stunning. I especially like that putting the headphone on, turns them on and powers up the HDMI box all at once.”

Another US Amazon customer praises the unit’s ability to combat interference, “The headphones work on the 2.4 GHz or 5 GHz band. Switching bands automatically if you desire. My neighborhood is crowded on the 2.4 band, so I use my Apple devices, including an airport express and airport extreme, all of them on the 5 GHz band. I had only heard just a few skips, probably when the headphones change channels automatically. Otherwise signal is perfect, without any noise whatsoever.”

We’ll leave the last word to Trusted Reviews, “While the HW700s are only good rather than spectacular music performers, they’re capable of completely transforming gaming or movie sessions where you either don’t currently have any surround sound kit or else you regularly find yourself wanting to play or watch stuff in antisocial circumstances.”

If you’re impressed enough by all this to think that you might want to buy the Sony MDR-HW700DS headphones they’ll be available in the UK from this month. You’ll need to find £450

Samung’s 2013 Audio Visual Lineup

Samsung-Soundbar

Wireless is one of the watch words for this year’s CES and Samsung, one of the heavy hitters when it comes to home entertainment have emphasised that in their new range of shiny boxes designed to delight you in the living room.

Samsung’s Valve Amplified Soundbar (model HW-F750) is the first soundbar to feature a built-in valve amplifier for that old fashioned warm sound that audiophiles cherish. The HW-F750 is also the world’s first soundbar that can wirelessly connect with a TV via its SoundShare function and has picked up a 2013 CES innovation award. Speaker placement can be a tricky business but the HW-F750 features a gyroscope sensor to gauge height, rotation and slope to optimise sound quality, whether the soundbar is placed in a horizontal or vertical position.

I’ve saw countless bluetooth speakers over 2013, but Samsung’s Portable Wireless Bluetooth Speaker (model DA-F60) is attempting to distinguish itself through advanced sound quality and simplicity. The DA-F60 incorporates neodymium magnets and a passive radiator so you should enjoy tuned low-frequency reproduction and virtually no distortion even at high volumes.

The speaker’s integrated NFC connectivity makes it easy for consumers to pair the speaker by simply tapping the two devices together. Additionally, support for Samsung’s SoundShare feature means users can employ the DA-F60 as a TV speaker using wireless connectivity.

Samsung-HTS

Samsung’s 7.1 Channel Home Theatre System (model HT-F9750W) was design to be the ebony to Samsung’s 2013 TVs’ ivory, with a Gallium Nitride (GaN) value amplifier that delivers pure sound, and design and usability features that bring home a totally seamless experience – as long as you subscribe to the Samsung Way.

Samsung’s Premium Blu-ray Player (model BD-F7500) features advanced upscaling capabilities, allowing users to experience ordinary SD and HD content in superior resolution. Yes HD is no longer good enough and now you will have Ultra High Definition content to think about. The BD-F7500 was also a winner of a 2013 CES innovation award.

Harman Kardon BDS: Get home theatre without the drama

If you like your audio integrated, your video on a vast scale and your technology wires-free, the new Harman Kardon BDS home theatre series could be just the ticket – packing in a multitude of features to unite and maximise your multimedia.

The range features Harman’s TrueStream wireless streaming, which delivers audio via an integrated Blu-ray player to run real-time content from the web, for example YouTube, as well as a variety of portable sources. It also features Bluetooth and Apple AirPlay wireless technology so you can access – and broadcast – content from all imaginable avenues.

Harman-Kardon-3D-Blu-Ray

So basically, if you want to reproduce your films, music or any other media content from any of your kit that knows how to share, the BDS home theatre system brings it all to the big screen via Blu-ray. Complete with surround sound and1080p high definition picture quality if you like your pictures big and your audio booming.

If you don’t want to pay for extra spec, or you like your kit to fit the job, you’ll be heartened to hear that the series comprises five models – each one built around a different 3D Blu-ray player – but all featuring the same Harman Kardon audio, supreme connectivity, sleek lines and looks. There are two 2.1 systems and three 5.1s, each packed with the TrueStream and Bluetooth syncing, 65W RMS audio power, 3S Blu-ray playback, HDMI hook-up and Dolby Digital / DTS decoding. If there’s not enough devices broadcasting straight into your lounge room after you’ve hooked up this little lot, you can even download a remote control app and control it all from your favourite iOS or Android device!!!

The inbuilt TrueStream technology on every model connects the Harman Kardon series to up to eight Bluetooth devices – even Apple iOS or Android, Windows Mobile or Blackberry kit – so you can create your own gadget multiplex in the one room. With input sources including TV, Blu-ray disc, DVD, CD, radio, USB and mobile internet / content, you can streamline the technology you want on show, while any more unsightly, yet perfectly functional elements can be discretely hidden away – visible only via their Bluetooth identities.

Prices range from £999.99 for the most modest and catchy-named BDS 775 to £1099.99 for the customary all-white 7773W system. Cheaper than a lifetime of cinema tickets in any case.

The SurroundSound Anywhere 220 loses all that spaghetti

Whilst you might be sitting at home enjoying some stunning surround sound from your home theatre system, you might also be nursing a bruise or two from tripping over your rear speaker wiring. Then again, if you’re thinking of going out to get a new surround sound system and the wireless option is just too rich for your budget, Marmitek might just have the answer you’ve been waiting for..

Marmitek-Wireless-Surround-Sound

The SurroundSound 220 is a wireless solution for non wireless speakers that seems just too simple for words. Just connect the speaker output wires from your surround sound amp to the 220 digital audio transmitter and the rear speakers to the supplied audio receiver and you’re all set to go.

The audio transmitter will automatically copy the volume level of your amplifier so you can still use your TV remote and there is a separate volume control on the transmitter and receiver so you can easily adjust the balance between front and rear speakers.

The sound data is digitally transmitted uncompressed, so you’ll be getting audio that’s significantly better than CD quality.

The only things you’ll be missing then are the miles of wires you no longer need. Genius.

The SurroundSound Anywhere 220 is available for £109.95, a pretty good price to pay for a wireless surround solution.

Cyber Snipa Sonar 5.1 Championship Headset review

So many gaming headsets are out there, we thought we would put one of them to test. Cyber Snipa specialise in PC gaming perishables. We got to try out the Sonar 5.1 Championship Headset from their award-winning line.

Cyber-Snipa-Headset

The audio was crystal-clear coming from the four speakers from each cup. The 3D positional software made me hear exactly where the enemy was coming from. The in-line controller allows you to control volume and each channel independently, including the sub, front, center and rear. This is useful for adjusting settings according to what are listening to, chat, movie or music. It has speaker drivers which gives true surround sound. I could really hear the action coming from all around me. It was really comfortable to wear and I was happily wearing for a few hours. It looks amazing and the design feels solid. A unique feature is the flexible boom mic so you can put it as close or far as you like. For the clearest sound, a mic should be touching the side of your mouth and some boom mics are made too far away or too short. This can be moved to suit you. You can also turn off your mic on and off if you need do not want your teammates hear something. The boom mic includes noise cancelling so your team mates will only hear you and not your mum (or wife) shouting to come down for dinner.

It plugs in with a 3M USB cable. I could sit on my sofa and easily have it plugged in. Some headsets can have short cables which I find annoying. If you attend tournaments or travel, this will suit you as it has a travelling case. The earpads can fold in to save space. I can see why they called it the Championship Headset. You can get it now from Amazon for £41.77 here.

Wireless Soundbar gives sonic muscle to svelte screens

Today’s flat screen televisions may provide sharper than a knife HD picture quality, but the trade off is there’s not a lot of room inside them to generate the sound to match the visuals. The collars don’t quite match the cuffs so to speak. And lets face it, terrific audio can make a world of difference when you’re watching a movie or a concert, it just adds that extra bite to the whole thing…

Wireless-Soundbar

Roth’s new BAR 1 audio system includes a slim line soundbar and wireless sub woofer .that carries more than enough firepower to deliver plenty of high quality audio right into your living room.

The Bar 1 has eight mid range drivers peaking at 64 watts (32wX2), two high frequency tweeters offering 32watts RMS and the wireless sub woofer pushing out an impressive 260 watts with a wireless range of just under 30 feet.
The soundbar itself at just two inches deep is discreet enough to fully complement the sleek lines of your table top TV or be up next to the wall mounted flat screen and Roth thoughtfully provides a flush wall bracket for just that purpose.

The unit connects to the television via twin RCA’s or a 3.5mm stereo jack making it fully compatible with all your music media including iPods and CD’s. The soundbar’s plug and play format makes connectivity a breeze.
Company founder James Roth bullishly predicts “At last, no more fiddling with the TV remote in an effort to hear exactly what your TV’s pretty pictures are actually saying”

So plenty of audio muscle then to match the clarity of your flat screen. The only draw back could be the rather hefty price tag of £329 srp.

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

Pioneer HTP series: Compatibility, connectivity and flexibility

Pioneer’s latest audio home cinema launch promises the best in technology and design to bring ‘movies to life’.

The audio-visual company launched three new receiver subwoofer home movie systems with a focus on digital sound and compatibility. The systems pass 3D video signals over JDMI, and include the latest HDMI inputs. They are also 3D TV broadcast receiver, Blu-ray Disc player and game console-friendly.

htp-610

Happily, the speakers allow high definition audio to be processed in the system, combined with digital transfer of both HD video and audio through a single cable, reducing wire clutter. And perhaps in recognition of the fate of the traditional home sound system, the products also enable USB plug-in for MP3 players.

The stylish, glossy black finish means these systems will also be compatible with most living environments.

The ‘HTP’ series has a main subwoofer unit, with a home cinema receiver and three speaker set variations.

The new range features the HTP-610 5.1 channel, the 3.1 channel HTP-SB510 bar-style and the 2.1 channel HTP-FS510 front speaker system.

The 5.1-channel system is targeted at the ultimate film buff; for those that want the premium audio effects to match their already perfect visual display. It features four slim speakers and a powerful output of 6 x 100W.

HTP-sb510

The 3.1 bar style system is suitable for those that want quality sound but don’t want to invest in the full home cinema package, or for the many of us short of space. The bar can be conveniently attached to the wall, and provides power output of 4x 100W. However, unlike the comparative Samsung and LG varieties, this one comes without a built in Blu-ray drive.

HTP-FS510

The 2.1 series delivers impressive surround sound at a more modest price, with two slim speakers to subtly complement your flat screen TV. The speakers are height adjustable and offer 3 x 100W in power output.

The speakers feature decoders for Dolby TrueHD and DTS-HD Master Audio, and monitor the sound field with a built in microphone. The systems come with an intuitive preset remote, which can also be used with other Pioneer equipment.

The range is due out in December with these prices: The HTP-610 at £599, the HTP-SB510 at £599 and the HTP-FS510 at £499.