General Technology

Apple's selling refurbished HomePods at a discount

Tech Radar - Wed, 14/11/2018 - 20:59

If you love the Apple HomePod but not its $349 price tag, you'll be pleased to know that you can now get your hands on a refurbished model through the Apple website with $50 off.

Now selling for $299 on the refurbished section of the store, the pre-owned HomePod is available in space gray or white to US customers, with a limited quantity available to purchase. 

Apple's Certified Refurbished products have been used and returned to the store, after which they are put through a "rigorous refurbishment process" to ensure they meet the company's "high standards".

The HomePod is Apple's first smart speaker, and offers fantastic audio quality combined with the smarts of Apple's voice assistant Siri - although, when we reviewed the speaker, we found that Siri just doesn't quite measure up to the likes of Amazon's Alexa or Google Assistant.

Are there any risks?

If you're planning on buying one of the refurbished HomePods, you may be wondering whether it will work and look the same as a brand new model. 

Apple says that each refurbished product is put through full functionality testing, thoroughly cleaned, and put through a detailed inspection, which means you shouldn't be able to tell the difference between a new and refurbished model. 

One downside to buying refurbished Apple products is that they come with the standard one-year warranty that you get with new products. Many companies that resell repaired stock will offer an extended warranty just in case there is anything wrong with the product as a result of the refurbishment process. Worth thinking about if you're buying a big ticket item.

Furthermore, $50 isn't exactly a huge discount on the HomePod, considering the retail price is nearly $350 - particularly as you're essentially buying second hand. Still, if you have a budget of $300 for your next smart speaker, this discounted price may be just what you were looking for. Alternatively, you might prefer to hold fire until Black Friday, in case the price of new devices comes down even further.

Via MacRumors

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JBL launches its premium PartyBox Bluetooth speakers in India

Tech Radar - Wed, 14/11/2018 - 01:49

JBL unveiled its newest musical accompaniments, the PartyBox 200 and the PartyBox 300 speakers, at a high-profile launch party in Bangalore on Tuesday.

The speakers feature Bluetooth connectivity to play music wirelessly using smartphones and tablets, a USB input option for thumb drives and a 3.5mm audio jack. 

Both speakers come with two 6.5-inch woofers and three 2.5-inch tweeters and are compatible with mics and guitars. Using the built-in light feature users can also choose one of three lighting options- Meter, Pulse and Party. 

Users can also wirelessly connect up to two PartyBox speakers using True Wireless Stereo via Bluetooth, or wired via one RCA port to another.

The PartyBox 200 and PartyBox 300 are powered by a 12V DC power source while in use. They are also portable, and the Partybox 300 comes with a rechargeable 10000mAh battery which provides up to 18 hours playback.


“I love that my JBL PartyBox combines JBL Signature Sound with stylish lighting, and the speaker’s bass brings my personal parties to life.’’

Priyanka Chopra Pricing and availability

The JBL PartyBox 200 is priced at INR 32,499, while the PartyBox 300 is priced at INR 35,999. Both are available at JBL.com, and at other online and offline retail stores, including 350 Samsung brand stores across the country.

Categories: General Technology

The best Bluetooth headsets 2018: top hands-free kit

Tech Radar - Wed, 14/11/2018 - 01:28

To many people hands-free Bluetooth headsets seem a little over the top and unnecessary. But for many others who rely on their phone and make lots of calls each and everyday, they're a game-changer. 

Sure if you only had one or two calls to make per day you could pick up your phone each time, but if you need to make more than ten calls or thereabouts, it's going to be a hassle. Meaning you can say hello to hand strain and goodbye to multi-tasking.

That's why we've collected together the best of the best hands-free headsets that are comfortable to be worn for most of the day, are convenient to be used in a hurry and serve up good audio quality throughout. 

But although a good Bluetooth headset can make your constant calling life infinitely easier, once you go out searching for a great headset you’ll find that choosing the best Bluetooth headsets among the myriad knockoffs and imitations can be a pain. And even if there are some devices that look similar, the actual features and functionality can vary wildly.

But don’t worry, below you'll find the very best Bluetooth headsets currently available, and we've used our price comparison tool to help you find the top deals as well.

The Plantronics Voyager 5200 is one of the very best Bluetooth headsets around, from a brand name that is well respected when it comes to headsets. It's designed with comfort in mind, so you can wear it for extended periods without it bothering you and it sits securely in place too, so it won't fall off. It's also completely hands free, as caller ID will announce the name of whoever is calling you and you can simply say "answer" to take the call. Its noise-cancelling is effective even in busy environments and multiple microphones ensure strong voice quality, for a great all-round Bluetooth headset. Its also coated in sweat proof material which gives it a robustness that other Bluetooth headsets lack.

The Sony MBH20 headset used to sit at this point in our list. It was a simple, easy-to-use headset with good battery life, but it's since been replaced by the MBH22. Although they both have a similar, simple design, this latest model is packing some newer features. 

There are the same minimal buttons, but now there's a USB Type-C connector instead of an older microUSB port. It's still a good, comfortable fit although there is only one earpiece, which means that might not be the case for everyone. 

You can connect two phones at the same time to switch between calls if you're that in demand, as well as smart access to Google Assistant and Siri.

Plantronics simply makes phenomenal Bluetooth headsets, which is why it should come as no surprise that this isn’t the first Plantronics headset to make it on the list of the best Bluetooth headsets, and it certainly won’t be the last. The Plantronics  Explorer 500 is built to be compact and discreet, but there is a huge amount of tech built into this tiny package, including three microphones and a boom arm for stellar voice quality. Its small size does mean its battery life isn't exactly on the same level as some competitors, but at seven hours of talk time it's still very passable. 

The Jabra Stealth is one of the nicest designed Bluetooth headsets in our roundup, and not only does it look good, it also feels comfortable to wear. It's not quite as small and unnoticeable as its name suggests, but with such a nice design, you won't really mind that much. Perhaps most importantly, sound quality on this headset is excellent, and it does a good job of limiting background noise picked up by its mic as well. This is definitely a Bluetooth headset worth investing in if you rely on voice-free calls. 

The Sennheiser Presence UC is a brilliant Bluetooth headset if you work in a fast-paced environment where you need to multitask, as it has a multi-connectivity feature that connects to both your phone and computer, so you can quickly switch between the two. It has very good sound and recording quality, and talk time is also very impressive. It's not the most comfortable headset, however, so if you need something that you're going to wear all day, then something like the Jabra Motion will be better suited to your needs. 

If you work outside in noisy environments, and need a robust Bluetooth headset that can eliminate background sounds, then the Jabra Steel is the best Bluetooth headset for you. Resistant to dust, dirt and water, it can also survive high drops, making it an excellent headset for outdoor use - and it comes with a 5 year warranty as well. It also features aggressive noise cancellation which will make your voice calls nice and clear, even if you work somewhere where there is a lot of background noise. Sadly, though, there's no physical volume control buttons on the actual headset, which makes it a bit annoying if you need to adjust loudness.

The Plantronics M70 is the successor to the popular M55, and like its forbear, it is a budget headset, but you get a lot for your money. While it doesn't have a premium build it's perfectly comfortable to wear, it supports voice commands for truly hands-free use and the sound quality is good, especially when aided by the built in noise-cancelling tech. The M70 also has a DeepSleep mode which activates when it's separated from a paired smartphone for 90 minutes and leaves it with up to five months of battery life, but simply bring your phone within range and it will quickly wake up again.

  • This product is only available in the US and UK at the time of writing. Australian readers: check out a fine alternative in the Plantronics Voyager Edge 

With a talk time of over eight hours the Jabra Wave is a Bluetooth headset which just keeps going and going, making it a great choice if you're going to be away from a charger for an extended period. Its fairly large size means it's not the most discreet of headsets, but it's a worthwhile trade-off for all that battery life. It also features strong audio quality and is good at suppressing noise, especially wind. Add to that easy pairing and the ability to connect it to two devices at once and the Jabra Wave is a good option.

  • This product is only available in the US and UK at the time of writing. Australian readers: check out a fine alternative in the Plantronics Voyager Edge 
Categories: General Technology

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Should I buy the Samsung HW-K450 2.1 Wireless Sound Bar?

Tech Radar - Tue, 13/11/2018 - 02:20

The bottom line: Is your TV's audio sounding a bit weak? Want to beef up that bass? Fill your living room with sound by picking up the Samsung HW-K450 2.1 Wireless Sound Bar, which can blast out tracks with 160W of power – and an additional 140W from its wireless subwoofer.

Enhancing vocal frequencies, it provides an exceptionally crisp and clear sound when tuning in to your favourite streaming service. You can choose from six preset sound modes to enhance your viewing experience, whether you're watching the football, listening to music, or putting on your favourite film.

Pros: Optimised for vocal clarity, wireless subwoofer for easy placement

Cons: A soundbar will never replace full 5.1 sound

SAMSUNG HW-K450 2.1 Sound Bar: Everything you need to know

Sound quality 

The Samsung HW-K450 2.1 Sound Bar and subwoofer, like all in its range, produces the illusion of surround sound. The subwoofer elevates sound elements and changes them up to match the mode that you’ve set. For example, switch on movie mode and dialogue has said to have been made clearer while additional bass has been added to enhance dramatic scenes. 

With three advanced audio features including Crystal Sound Pro and Surround sound expansion, you are free to work the system until you find your personal sound preferences. 

The Sound Bar

The sound bar forms the hub of the system and is, contrary to the product name, wired up to your TV/DVD player via HDMI to enhance your favourite shows and films. When Samsung refer to the wireless sound bar, they are referring to its bluetooth capabilities, which means you can connect your phone or handheld device for some background music. 

The Subwoofer

The subwoofer is the other wireless element of this speaker set, which means it can be conveniently placed anywhere within your lounge. It's worth noting that many people who are hard of hearing choose to purchase a system that can separate speech from other sounds to make deciphering favourite films much easier. 

If you want to make a true feature out of your entertainment system, Samsung have also designed a rear speaker system that works alongside the sound bar and the subwoofer to enhance the cinematic experience. 

What else do you need to know?

If you have an Android phone, you can download an app which allows you to manage your sound system. From waking up the required devices to easily playing your favourite tunes, this is a great bonus for anyone who buys the set. Included in the box, you’ll receive a sound bar, a wall mounting kit, cables and a manual so you can design your own sound system as you wish. 

If you like the idea of this sound system, check out the latest deals further up this page.

Categories: General Technology

Best turntables 2018: the best record players for any budget

Tech Radar - Tue, 13/11/2018 - 01:18

Best Turntables Buying Guide: Welcome to TechRadar's round-up of the best turntables (also known as record players) you can buy in 2018. 

Turntables can be a fantastic investment. Not only is the vinyl revival movement here to stay, but the players themselves last for ages. 

While the idea of a turntable might call images of the '60s and '70s to mind, you'll find that most modern turntables are pretty well-equipped with the latest tech – i.e. Bluetooth built-in or USB output that allows output records straight to your PC, meaning you can listen to your vinyls anywhere. 

One downside it that, as a result of all of these new products and tricky naming conventions, the market for the best turntables can be more confusing than a college cover band (we're looking in your direction AB/CD), but stick with us and we’ll find the best turntable for you.

To start, we'll walk you through all the little details that go into choosing the best turntable for your listening needs and budget. Do you want to go on the high end with a belt drive? Or how about a more user-friendly direct drive turntable? What about phono preamps? Do you need one? 

All of these questions will be answered right here, so don’t worry, you’ll be absorbed in all of your favorite albums before you know it.

[Update: Black Friday 2018 is fast approaching, so if you're thinking of buying a new turntable, it's definitely worth waiting until November 23 incase you can get yourself a better deal. Make sure you bookmark our Black Friday and Cyber Monday deals pages for real-time deals news and you might just save yourself a lot of money.]

What is a good turntable to buy?

On of the most vital components to look for when you’re shopping for the best turntable is how well damped it is. 

Damping is essentially the method by which manufacturers combat vibrations – whether internal or external. They do this through the use of different motor configurations, and through the use of various components. 

Most of the time, belt-driven turntables are going to be a lot quieter and offer higher fidelity than their direct drive brethren – as direct drive turntables have a motor that is directly connected to the platter. However, there are some great direct drive turntables out there, so don’t write them off quite yet. 

Your own personal needs are important too, though, so don’t forget about them. If you’re just starting out, you probably don’t need to be fooling around with a complex turntable with an adjustable vertical tracking angle, anti-skate and azimuth. Do you want to rip your vinyl to your digital library? If so, look for a turntable with a USB output and reliable software to get the job done.

What's the best turntable?

The Audio-Technica AT-LP120-USB is the best introductory turntable for aspiring vinyl enthusiasts. Out of the box, it features the ability to play 33 ⅓, 45 and 78 RPM, this means there will never be an album you can’t play. There’s also a built-in phono preamp so you never have to worry about finding one on your own.

New record collectors will love the easy setup and features while more vetted users will love the option to dial in the vertical tracking angle, tracking force and easily replaceable headshell. Sure, it looks like a Technics SL-1200 ripoff but at a fraction of the price, it’s entirely worth it. 

The AT-LP120-USB also comes with a USB output that allows you to record your record collection if you want. To put it simply, this deck strikes the perfect balance of ease of use for beginners while still including some more advanced features for you to grow into.

If you’re not looking to drop a fortune on the best turntable in the world and don’t necessarily care about squeezing every last drop of fidelity from your LPs, the Audio-Technica AT-LP60 is a perfect starting point. It’s portable, can play most vinyl and is by far the most inexpensive turntable we have on this list. It’s also totally automatic, meaning it’ll queue a record and return the arm to resting position without requiring a manual lever. 

The only caveat with a turntable this cheap is that it won’t grow with you as your vinyl collection expands. The built-in phono preamp means you’re stuck with it, however you can replace the needle once it wears out.

While there are cheaper, poorly engineered turntables on the market, it’s not worth it, as you risk damaging your precious records with poorly aligned and improperly weighted tonearms. Vinyl is expensive so we recommend the AT-LP60 for beginners just looking to get started. 

The Denon DP-300F is a gorgeous turntable that sounds just as good as it looks. The included DSN-85 cartridge isn’t the most accurate but it nevertheless manages to make your music sound airy and reasonably detailed, especially for it’s price.You’ll need  to spend a lot more cash to hear more detail.

While the DP-300F lacks the USB outputs of some of the turntables listed here, it’s still a great starting turntable for anyone who doesn’t want to manually queue their albums or have a habit of falling asleep while listening to music. The Denon’s automatic start/stop feature means your needle won’t be worn down at the end of the record as the arm immediately returns when an album is done. 

Build quality is decent for an all-plastic turntable, but its buttons feel cheap – a minor problem but shouldn't be a deal-breaker for you. If the Audio-Technica AT-LP120-USB doesn’t fit your aesthetic, consider the Denon DP-300F instead.

Read the full review: Denon DP-300F

The Fluance RT81 is an excellent starter turntable for the enthusiast. It’s simple to set up and use for newbies but you can switch out the cartridge to squeeze out more performance later on. Newbies also won’t have to worry about getting a separate phono preamp, as one is built in. However, you can turn it off if you want to use a better external preamp. 

The only downside is that Fluance’s advertised “auto-off” feature simply turns off the platter, preventing excessive needle wear but you’ll still have to return the arm to its resting place yourself. You’ll also have to manually queue records, which isn’t a deal breaker by any means but is something to consider for those looking for a fully automatic turntable. The Denon DP-300F is a great choice for those looking for a fully automated record listening experience. 

Read the full review: Fluance RT81

From here on out things start to get a little bit more ‘real’: The Pro-Ject Debut Carbon is in the runnings to be the best entry-level hi-fi turntables you can buy. 

While vinyl newcomers may cringe at the price, the Debut Carbon is really an incredible bargain. For the money, you get an very well made deck that’s damped properly for fantastic sound quality. The carbon fiber tonearm is lightweight and stiff, and is usually reserved for turntables costing much more.

The Pro-Ject Debut Carbon is for the budding enthusiast that’s committed to the record collecting hobby and because of that commitment, it doesn’t feature niceties like an auto-returning tonearm, buttons for changing speed or an included phono preamp. Newbies may be turned off by the manual changing of the belt position to change speeds and the lack of an included preamp. However, if you want to extract more detail and resolution from your records than the cheaper options on this list, or if you want to get started on the path of being a true vinyl collector, the Debut Carbon is probably your best bet.

Read the full review: Pro-Ject Debut Carbon

There’s a lot of debate whether the Rega Planar 1 or the Pro-Ject Debut Carbon is the best entry-level hi-fi turntable. It’s a close match and there are no clear winners, each providing an excellent starting place for audiophiles on a budget. 

While the Rega may lack the fancy carbon tone arm of the Pro-Ject, the Planar 1 still sounds excellent and is well damped with its phenolic resin platter. And for newbies, the Rega Planar 1 is still easy to setup, though you’ll have to provide your own phono preamp. 

Ultimately, the Rega Planar 1 just sounds so good that it’s hard to fault it too much. Vocals are revealing and you can hear the texture from instruments like the violin. The included Rega Carbon cartridge isn’t anything special but manages to be a great match for the turntable. It’s a tough choice between the Planar 1 and the Debut Carbon but you can’t go wrong with either.

The Marantz TT-15S1 costs a serious bit of change, but you’re actually getting a killer bargain. The Clearaudio Virtuoso included with the turntable is $1000 when purchased separately. Additionally, you get a killer tonearm and gorgeous turntable at a price that’s definitely an investment, but not unreasonable. 

So what does the Marantz TT-15S1 get you over the competition? Attention to detail. Just about every part of the turntable has been poured over to be the best it can be for the price. The fit and finish are excellent and it’s a pleasure to handle the high-quality components. This is a turntable you’ll find yourself admiring its visual and audible qualities. 

Newbies should not get this turntable as it requires more knowledge to set up properly than the entry-level turntables on this list. But if you’re ready to take your record collecting and listening to the next level, the Marantz TT-15S1 is the perfect place to start.

Read the full review: Marantz TT-15S1

If the Clearaudio Concept and Marantz TT-15S1 seem familiar, that’s because the Marantz was built by Clearaudio to Marantz’s specifications. This means everything about the excellent build quality of the Marantz carries over to the Clearaudio Concept (i.e. this is a turntable that is as gorgeous as it sounds). 

One small but notable difference between the Marantz and the Clearaudio is the ability to play 78 rpm records. While most people will never come across 78s, it’s nice to know that the Clearaudio Concept is capable of playing them. The Concept also has a handy speed dial on the plinth, meaning you don’t have to swap the belt position manually.

As for negatives, the Clearaudio Concept has no notable flaws. Yes, it’s expensive but you’re still getting a bargain in this price range. The included Clearaudio Concept moving-coil cartridge costs $1,000 by itself. Yep! 

Read the review: Clearaudio Concept

The Sony PS-HX500 is a great entry-level turntable for those just getting started with record collecting. Its standout feature is its ability to record Hi-Res audio from its USB output in 96kHz/24bit resolution. This is an excellent feature for those looking to digitize their records. 

In terms of sound quality, the Sony PS-HX500 sound spacious and provides good detail. However, the included needle sounds a bit harsh and sibilant at times and lacks the resolution of more expensive cartridges. 

While some may like the minimalist design of the Sony, it’s utterly forgettable and its plastic build leaves a lot to be desired. Handling the turntable on a daily basis leaves us wanting more premium materials that don’t rattle. 

  • Want to listen to digital music instead? Check out our list of the best MP3 players.
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