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Best headphones of 2018: Headphones for any budget in India

Fri, 13/07/2018 - 22:45

Best Headphones Buying Guide: Welcome to TechRadar's round-up of the best headphones you can buy on any budget in 2018. 

Everyone is unique, which is why everyone has their own, personal taste in music making it all the more important to be quipped with the perfect pair of headphones.

Upgrading your headphones is a personal choice, but it's an essential step if you want to move away from the cheap earbuds that your phone probably came bundled with.  

But, since there are so many categories of music, there are just as many options when it comes to headphones. Some people like the convenience of a wireless set while others prefer the reliability and audio quality of wired headphones. 

Then there are those who want in-ear headphones, while the rest prefer over-ears. 

A better pair of headphones will add a new dimension to your music, whether it's more detail, added functionality or just more bass. 

It sounds like a lot. But that's why we have a guide for the best ones. 

The headphones that you'll find here have tons of features to help you get the most out of your music. These features range from wireless connectivity to noise-cancellation and come in the three major form-factors: in-ear, on-ear and over-ear headphones.  

We've selected the best headphones for each form-factor, and we've even picked out a budget option for each so that you should be able to find an excellent pair, no matter where your price point lies. 

Here's a quick look at the best headphones this year:

If you already know which kind of headphones you're looking for, then you can browse through our other, more specific, recommendations: 

What headphones does TechRadar recommend?

We think the two most important things to consider when buying a pair of headphones are form-factor and price, and that's exactly how we've organised our guide.

Below you'll find our top picks for the best in-ear headphones, the best on-ear headphones, the best over-ear headphones, the best noise-cancelling headphones and finally the best wireless headphones.

As well as a top pick for each form-factor we've also included a budget pick which manages to offer great sound at a much more competitive price point.

1More Triple Driver In-Ear Headphone

After spending a few weeks with the 1MORE Triple Driver in-ear headphones we were blown away at just how much value they give in this price range. 

It’s hard to think of a better sounding pair of headphones that are as durable. There’s very little with which we can find fault with but it's worth mentioning that the rubber cable is an unnecessary struggle and the remote control feels cheap because it's made of plastic without a metallic finish. But this is honestly just nitpicking. 

Instead, it's better to highlight the 1More Triple Driver's warm tonal balance. Even the bass sounds good with extension and impact. It gives you the right amount of boost without completely taking over.

Read the full review: 1More Triple Driver In-Ear Headphone

Sennheiser CX 213

The Sennheiser CX 213's build upon the legendary budget in-ears, the CX 180, which have been around quite some time. 

Although it's a minimal upgrade when it comes to the CX 213's, the sound quality is balanced with a slight bass bump. Bass is slightly emphasized and features good impact while maintaining good control. It also has better passive noise cancellation to the table over the CX180.

Grado SR60e

For your money, you can't do any better than Grado's SR60e. The third-generation of the Prestige Series is its best and most refined yet. 

The SR60e is a particularly smart choice if you're looking for an entry-level set of headphones that sound like they should cost you way more than they do. Its open-back ear cup design gives you a more breathable experience than what most on-ear headphones can deliver. 

In our candid opinion, it's the gold-standard when it comes to on-ears.

Oppo PM-3

The Oppo PM-3 truly deserve to be called the best over-ear headphones. 

The build of these headphones is comparable to other big brand names like Sony and Philips, who are experts at putting together their own contraptions. 

The synthetic ear pads may be a little off putting to a few users but fear not, they're soft, comfortable and don't overheat your ears.

Their compact design makes them easy to travel with and hold their own against heavy wear and tear. 

They deliver incredible sound across the entire soundscape with clear and natural highs paired with balanced bass. The Oppo PM-3 never fails to provide crisp sound quality to the users.

Read the full review: Oppo PM-3

Even though they have a plastic body, the AKG K92 stands as a very good competitor when it comes to audio quality. In most cases, you get what you pay for but these headphones push above and beyond their price range. 

They're dynamic, expressive and let you clearly listen to individual instruments without being reduced to a mess of sound.

Most users prefer them for in-house use due to their size but being lightweight, portability is feasible. Their size is an asset rather than a drawback because their fit wouldn't be comfortable otherwise.

All in all, their performance is amazing and they definitely give other brands a run for their money.

Read the full review: AKG K92

When you buy a pair of noise-cancelling headphones, you're often trading sound quality for the ability to block noise. It's a trade that we've been willing to make for years because, honestly, we just hadn't been able to find a pair of headphones that could do both noise-cancellation and Hi-Res audio.

Until now. 

The Sony WH-1000XM2 is the follow-up to the surprisingly great MDR-1000X. They might have a slightly shorter battery life than Bose’s flagship over-ear headphones, the QuietComfort 35, but Sony’s WH-1000XM2 outclass the QC35 in terms of both performance for the price and overall feature-set.   

Read the full review: Sony WH-1000XM2

The Philips Fidelio NC1 replaces the Sony WH-H900N in our list. They come with two 1.5" Neodymium drivers and have a 3.9 ft cable. 

If you're looking for good travel headphones, they fit the bill with a hard case while folding in comfortably keeping them from being ruined when you throw them into your bag. 

The aluminium finishing gives them a premium look and subtle design, despite 'High Definition Audio Philips NC1' etchings on both sides.

The headphones offer quality audio to the users while delivering 30 hours of battery life. Even if you choose not to use noise cancelling, the audio quality is amazing providing a balanced sound without forcibly favoring the bass. 

If you're on-the-go and don't want want to lug around massive headphones, this is the choice for you. 

Read the full review: Philips Fidelio NC1 

Sennheiser Momentum Wireless

If you're a frequent traveler you're probably all too familiar with headphones that can't hold a charge and can't block out sound, let alone sound very good. Let us introduce you to the Plantronics BackBeat Pro 2, one of the few headphones on the market that can do all of the above and cost less than half as much as one of the bigger names like Beats, Bose and Sony. 

They also include a neat little feature that allows them to automatically turn off when you're not wearing them, meaning you're able to easily maximise their battery life without much effort. 

If we had to boil it down to its core, the BackBeat Pro 2 offers an excellent travel headphone with incredible battery life, supreme comfort, the ability to pair two device as once and, most importantly, good sound quality for the cost.

Read the full review: Plantronics BackBeat Pro 2

Optoma NuForce BE6i

Optoma NuForce BE6i are an updated version of the original NuForce BE6. However, the changes are minimal in the new pair of headphones. 

They come with 10mm dynamic drivers and eight hours of battery life, which is a bump up from the 6 hours that their predecessor offered. They have an aluminium enclosure for the drivers but it's paired with a sub-par plastic remote on their tangle resistant flat wire. 

They deliver good quality sound with controlled bass and decent clarity up top.

The Optoma NuForce NE6i are a pair of no-huss, no-fuss headphones that can survive heavy use.

Read the full review: Optoma NuForce BE6i 

Jabra Elite Sport

All things considered, the Jabra Elite 65t are one of the best truly wireless headphones you can buy today. They cost slightly more than the Apple AirPods but they also offer better sound quality, noise isolation and adjustable ambient noise when you want it. And if you don’t like the design of the odd, alien-looking AirPods, the mature, understated look of the 65t may be to your liking. 

While the Jabra Elite 65t are easily one of the highest scoring true wireless headphones we've reviewed, there are a few others on the market worth considering: If you want a pair of exercise earbuds, there’s the Jabra Elite Sport which has a higher water resistance and handy sports-oriented features. For audiophiles who don’t mind stretching the budget, the active noise cancelling Sony WF-1000X are an excellent choice. Bassheads will want to try the SOL Republic Amps Air.  

If you only have the budget for one of these, though, go for the Elite 65t.

Read the full review: Jabra Elite 65t

Press on to page two to see how to pick out a good pair of headphones along more of our recommendations.

A pair of headphones is more than just wires, or lack thereof, and ear plugs or foam cushioning. There's more to them that what immediately meets the eye, which is why is we've provided a breakdown of what you should know for each of the form factors. 

Knowledge is power, so knowing which features are important to you in a pair of headphones will go a long way in helping you choose the perfect pair of headphones.

Not only will learning more about headphones help you make a more informed purchasing decision, but you'll also be able to ascertain when you're really getting your money's worth.

In-ear headphones

These type of headphones are usually the cheapest and easiest way to get audio from point A to point B. If you've purchased an MP3 player, or more recently, a smartphone, it's likely that a pair came out-of-the-box.

Earphones rest in or just outside the ear canal, creating a tight seal to keep air out and sound in. Compared to other types of headphones, these are the most discreet ones you'll find. Their small form-factor also makes them the king/queen of portability and the prime choice for athletes.

You're not likely to find strong performers at the low-end of the price spectrum. Their sound delivery is generally muddled, lacking bass and overcompensating for that with harsh mids and highs.

Not to mention that the build quality falters. That being said, it won't cost you much money at all to find a value-packed option complete with inline controls and a microphone.

On-ear headphones

While similar to over-ear headphones in appearance, they fit to your head a little differently. Instead of enveloping your ears with a soft cushion, on-ear headphones create a light, breathable around the edges of your ears. Thus, the noise isolation is much less effective than in-ear or over-ear options. This might be a deal breaker for some, but there are some benefits to keep in mind.

On-ear headphones are usually more portable than their over-ear brethren, and as such they appeal to travelers and the fitness geeks. Taking a walk or a jog around town is also safer, as you can hear traffic go by and be aware of potential hazards.

The cushioned pads of these headphones is one of the more important features to check before making a purchase since they rest right on the edges of yours ears. You want to make sure that the fit is right, not too tight, and that the pair gets more comfortable as time passes, not the other way around.

Over-ear headphones

This ear-muff style of these headphones generally provide greater richness and depth of sound, which allows listeners to pick apart the instruments and decibels easily. Additionally, over-ear, or circum-aural headphones, go around the ear and offer a generous amount of padding.

The price range for a set of on-ear headphones begins around Rs. 5k and from there, the sky's the limit. For example, the Oppo PM-1, while excellent, are priced exorbitantly at Rs. 56k. It's definitely not necessary to spend that much. That said, you tend to get what you pay for.

If your headphone budget is in the Rs. 500-15,000, you'll start getting into options that have excellent build quality, premium materials and amazing sound and features like ANC (active noise cancellation.)

Wireless headphones

This category of headphones doesn't limit you to a specific form factor like the others. In fact, you can find in-ear, on-ear and over-ear headphone styles sans wire.

Opting to go wireless will cost over and above the price traditional of wired cans. So, keep in mind that bustling to go futuristic isn't going to be cheap. One important thing to keep in mind is that your music player must support the Bluetooth wireless protocol because that's a prerequisite use these type of headphones. 

Bluetooth technology has become exponentially more reliable over time, but it's always susceptible to disturbances in the force. In short, any little thing, from the understandable (conflicting Wi-Fi signals, microwaves, cordless telephones), to the absurd (sticking a hand in the space between the device and the headphones) can sometimes interrupt the wireless listening experience.

Noise-cancelling headphones

This category, like wireless headphones, isn't limited to a form factor. You can find this clever mix of technologies integrated into the ear pieces of in-ear and over-ear headphones alike.

Many companies falsely claim to offer true noise cancellation with just the padding included around the ear cups. Don't believe it. This is PNC (passive noise cancellation), and it doesn't amount to much. You can even replicate this effect by cupping your hands around your ears, so why shell out the big bucks for it?

On the other hand, ANC (active noise cancellation) is the real deal. This technique employs a set of external microphones, which detect the decibel level outside. Once it has an idea of the incoming noise level, the headphone speakers inside transmit a noise generated to dampen the racket. The end result is an effect that hushes the outside noise, allowing you to focus.

Categories: General Technology

Apple HomePod holds just 4% of the smart speaker market, according to analysts

Wed, 11/07/2018 - 07:53

By the end of 2018, people who love AI assistants and hate tapping out questions on their phones will have bought 100 million smart speakers. And that number could soar above 300 million within the next four years. 

So far, not many of those 100 million have been Apple HomePods. In a Monday report, analyst firm Canalys stated that Apple will control only 4% of the smart speaker market by the end of this year – so, approximately 4 million in sales. 

Credit: Canalys

By comparison, Amazon will control “over 50%” of total sales with its Amazon Echo line, while Google and its Google Home speakers will constitute 30%. 

Canalys’ analysis confirms earlier reports that HomePod trails far behind Amazon Echo sales in 2018. Slow sales reportedly led Apple to reduce production of HomePod speakers

One could argue that 4% market control after half a year of sales isn’t that substandard, considering Amazon has sold multiple smart speakers for years – but Apple clearly has loftier ambitions.

According to the report, Apple will improve its sales somewhat by 2022, raising its total market control to 10%. Perhaps the rumored Apple HomePod Mini launch could help the company improve its totals. 

Simultaneously, Amazon’s current smart speaker market dominance could start to dwindle within that time. 

In the short term, the upcoming Amazon Prime Day sales and newly announced Alexa for Hospitality (hotel room smart speakers) could help drive up Amazon’s market dominance, the report says. 

Yet, in the long term, Canalys predicts that “other” smart speaker manufacturers will claim 21% of the market by 2022, and that Amazon will lose much of its market share to those companies. 

Ultimately, Amazon and Google could both control 34% of the market, meaning that Google is projected to gain ground while Amazon loses it. 

China has over 450 million households today, three times the number in the United States | Credit: Canalys

Canalys also broke down the worldwide distribution of sales by country. The United States currently leads the pack at 64%, followed by China at 10%, the United Kingdom at 8%, Germany at 6% and South Korea at 3%. 

Plus, China’s market share is projected to grow exponentially over the next 10 years. 

Predicting the 'other' smart speakers

Up until now, Amazon Echo vs Google Home has been the only real smart speaker war to watch closely. 

But, this report suggests that other upcoming launches could really resonate with consumers. 

Ikea and Sonos' smart speaker prototype

Facebook’s smart speaker with rumored 15-inch screens may have been a contender before recent scandals delayed the launch, but now Facebook is considering a non-US speaker launch, which locks it out of the most profitable sales market. 

The Samsung Bixby smart speaker, projected to launch in late 2018, could be a legitimate sales contender, since it will be able to connect its speaker with other Samsung products like its smartphones and TVs. 

Spotify’s rumored smart speaker could also generate some buzz when it launches, and even Ikea plans to launch a smart speaker of its own with Sonos. But, we suspect these won’t be able to get quite as much traction as those made by other, bigger tech companies. 

Via 9to5Mac

Categories: General Technology

Save 20% on these early Amazon Prime Day deals on select Warehouse items

Mon, 09/07/2018 - 20:51

With just one week to go before the Amazon Prime Day deals really come rolling in, Amazon just can't help but release a few tempting offers early on.

Today's deals, like Prime Day itself, require you to be a member of Amazon Prime to enjoy these exclusive discounts. Already a member? Then dive on in and enjoy 20% off a large number of items in the Amazon Warehouse section.

Not a member? That's ok too, as you can sign up for a free 30-day Amazon Prime trial and enjoy all the exclusive benefits such as super fast delivery, Prime Video streaming, member-only discounts, and of course full access to the Amazon Prime Day sale next week on July 16-17.

As this is the Warehouse section all these items are used or refurbished. Irritatingly, Amazon isn't actually showing the discounted price on the listings and it's not on every item in the Warehouse collection. Look out for the labelling similar to the listing image below where it says "You save an additional 20% on this item at checkout."

The discounted price won't actually appear until you're making your way through the checkout, on the screen after confirming your address actually, but before payment, so you don't have to confirm the purchase. To save the hassle, fire up your calculator app on your phone and times the current price by 0.80 to see this price with 20% off.

Head on over to Amazon Warehouse to see the full selection of deals on items like PlayStation VR, USB hard drives, headphones, home and kitchen items, CDs, book, games and more. The sale is live now until 11:59 on Monday July 16.

Categories: General Technology

Drake is first artist to have 1 billion streams in a week, thanks to Scorpion

Mon, 09/07/2018 - 18:56

A new Drake album was always going to be popular, despite what you think of the rapper’s music. But Scorpion has exceeded all expectations and become the first album to be streamed 1 billion times in a week. 

This is according to Billboard, the music heavyweight that has recently changed the way it makes its charts, giving streams more weighting given this is how most consume their music now. It also reports that Drake has become the biggest artist to be streamed in the US in any given week, knocking Post Malone’s Beerbongs & Bentleys from the top spot - it managing just 413.3 million streams to Drake’s mighty 750 million.

It also means Drake now takes four out of the top 10 best-ever streaming weeks, alongside the debut week of his fourth album Views and the first and second week's streams of his mixtape/not a mixtape More Life.

Draking it in

Drake’s album may have been something of a surprise - it was released with little-to-no pre-hype but when it did arrive, everyone knew about it. This was thanks to a - now criticized - advertising exercise for Spotify. It saw fit to add Drake’s face to every single playlist Spotify has on its platform, regardless whether the playlist had a Drake track in it or not. 

Like musical knotweed, Drake is everywhere, hard to ignore and it will be tough to usurp his album anytime soon. 

Billboard’s new charts has Scorpion shifting the equivalent of 700,000 albums sold. Given Taylor Swift’s Reputation did similar numbers, this puts Drake in esteemed company. And it was only a few years ago, Adele was celebrating 25 beating Oasis' Be Here Now record of an opening week for an album.

Via Engadget

Categories: General Technology

The best Bluetooth earbuds: the 10 best wireless earbuds available today

Sat, 07/07/2018 - 04:55

What if we told you that it’s possible to live in a world where you can listen to all of your favorite music while moving around without annoying cables getting in your way? Well, thanks to the best Bluetooth earbuds, that dream is now a reality.

Offering wireless connectivity to all of your mobile devices these earbuds and earphones cut the cord - well, at least the one to your mobile phone or tablet. That makes them slightly different than the true wireless models that are taking the audio industry by storm, but still compatible with phones that don't have a 3.5mm jack.

Of course, wireless connectivity isn't the only innovation wireless headphones bring to the table: You'll find noise-cancellation in some of our top picks, as well as extended battery lives, Hi-Res Audio support and, soon, a dedicated assistant - though, that's coming sometime down the road.

For now, however, what you'll find listed below are the best wireless headphones we've tested. They don't need to connect directly to any of your devices, and we think their sound-to-performance ratios are simply unmatched anywhere.

Continuing the trend that the original NuForce BE6 started, the Optoma Nuforce BE6i are a minor update to an already great pair of earbuds and remain one of our favorite in-ear wireless headphones for the price. Offering good sound, build quality and battery life in its segment if you're looking for a pair of wireless in-ear headphones that can survive a strenuous work out, the these should be on the top of your list of headphones to try.

Read the full review: Optoma NuForce BE6i

NuForce have really crafted something special here with the BE Sport3 earbuds. They're an unbelievable value for a pair of wireless earbuds that sound great, last all day, have an extremely durable build and sublime noise isolation. They might not be the most dynamic or solid headphones, but NuForce shows us that the future of wireless earbuds is a bright one. 

Read the full review: Optoma NuForce BE Sport3

The Jaybird X3 are a great improvement over an already excellent pair of in-ear headphones with the X2's. 

We liked their slimmer profile, a battery life boost is always welcome, and the new MySound app allows you to find a sound profile that's perfect for you. 

We'd prefer to have a universal USB charger rather than a proprietary charging dock, but this is a minor complaint for a pair of headphones that otherwise tick all the boxes. 

Read the full review: Jaybird X3

There will always be those who are ready to complain about the sound performance of Beats headphones, but the inclusion of Apple's proprietary W1 chip has been a boon for the strength of their wireless connectivity. 

The Beats X hence make up for their slightly bassy sound with a rock solid connection and a pairing process that, on iOS devices at least, is as painless as it's possible to be. 

Functionally that makes these wireless earbuds a joy to use, just don't expect the most detailed or broad soundstage. If you’re shopping for a no-fuss pair of earbuds that charge in 5 minutes and don’t mind spending a little extra money on them, the Beats X are for you.

Read the full review: Beats X

Life is full of compromises, and it's no different with the Bose QuietControl 30s. On the positive side you get a level of noise cancellation that comes close to what's offered by the brand's over-ear headphones, but the concession here is on sound fidelity, which just isn’t on the same level as that of other in-ear or over-ear headphones we’ve tested. 

There's also that neckband which adds an unfortunate level of bulk to what should otherwise be a slimline pair of headphones. 

Read the full review: Bose QuietControl 30

The Jabra Elite Sport headphones are what's known as 'true wireless' headphones, meaning as well as lacking a cable between them and your phone, there's also no cable between the earbuds themselves. 

But these headphones have a lot going for them beyond their hi-tech form factor. They'll track your fitness thanks to built in step-counting and heart-rate monitors, and their battery life is decent alongside good sound quality.

However, issues with the slightly iffy heart rate data at times, and the still-not-quite-automated-enough cross training still grate. Overall, they're good enough, but a touch more expensive than they need to be.

Read the full review: Jabra Elite Sport

There's a lot to love about the second pair of true wireless earbuds on our list The AirPods are the best sounding pair of headphones the company has ever produced, and pair very easily with your phone. 

But, while there are some definite benefits, we just can't give the AirPods the top spot on our list. Ultimately, their lack of in-line remote means that there are easier headphones to use while out and about, and Siri isn’t a good enough replacement. 

They might not fall out as easily as we once feared, but they don’t feel secure enough for their price or strong enough in the performance category to make up for this transgression. Maybe Apple’s AirPods 2 can fix these issues in the near future. That said, diehard Apple fans will not be disappointed by Apple’s first wireless earbuds. 

Read the full review: Apple AirPods

If you're looking for something stylish and don't mind compromising slightly on sound quality, the Jaybird Freedom Wireless is probably your best bet. Comfort and design are definitely high points for the Freedoms, and we especially liked being able to bring the EQ settings we setup on our phone wherever we went. Unfortunately, though, mediocre sound quality and a short battery life keep them from winning top marks.

Read the full review: Jaybird Freedom Wireless

If you don't mind rocking the band, the Moto Surround hits all the high notes in terms of price, performance and battery life. In our tests, the Moto Surround survived 12 hours in between charges and displayed real skill in outputting bass, mid and treble in equal amounts. You can appreciate the balanced sound signature while your wallet appreciates the price.

Read the full review: Moto Surround

  • This product is only available in the US and UK at the time of this writing. Australian readers: check out a fine alternative in the Jaybird Freedom Wireless 

Sony has entered the truly wireless earbud game, and they’ve certainly hit the ground running. Not only does the WF-1000XF have a great sound signature, but they also add something new to the table. 

With this set of earbuds, Sony brings active noise-cancellation to the bluetooth earbud game, a feature normally found on wired earphones, and does so without having to add too much bulk or any wires. 

The only downside is the cheap-looking design, and the occasionally iffy wireless connection. But if you have a noisy commute, they’re a great choice.

Read the full review: Sony WF-1000X

Can't decide which type of headphones to buy? Check out our guide video below!  

Categories: General Technology

Apple Music overtakes Spotify in subscriber numbers in the US

Sat, 07/07/2018 - 03:42

While we’ve come to acknowledge the dominance of Spotify in the music streaming space, that dominance might be diminishing … well, at least here in the US.

A new report, which says Apple Music has just surpassed the once-titan of the streaming audio space, comes by way of Digital Music News who has a source at a “US-based, major [music] distributor" with insight into the exact numbers.

For reference, both services had around 20 million paying subscribers here in the United States last time they revealed subscriber numbers publicly in February of this year. At the time, it appeared as though Spotify would hold its lead for the rest of the year but, apparently, that hasn’t been the case.

While Apple Music has overtaken the Swedish-based streaming service here on its home turf, it has a long way to go to overtake the service on the global stage, as Spotify has around 75 million paying subscribers outside of the confines of the US compared to Apple Music’s 20 million based on numbers obtained by The Wall Street Journal in early April. 

What’s more troubling for Spotify is that Apple Music subscribers could be more voracious listeners, racking up a combined 170 million streams of Drake’s latest album Scorpion, compared to only 132.4 million on Spotify. Those numbers come by way of Music Business Worldwide who got official numbers from Apple and used Spotify’s public-facing charts to get its data.

A defeat in the US isn’t the death knell of the service but it does mean Spotify has to work harder to remain competitive, lest it become the next Pandora.

Via Engadget 

Categories: General Technology

Should I buy the B&O PLAY by Bang & Olufsen Beoplay H5 Wireless Bluetooth In-Ear Headphones?

Sat, 07/07/2018 - 00:26

The bottom line: 

Time for an upgrade? If you're tired of the middling sound quality of your current headphones, then the B&O PLAY by Bang & Olufsen Beoplay H5 Wireless Bluetooth In-Ear Headphones are certainly worth their money. Their high-end wireless technology means you can listen to anything, anywhere on any device without compromising on an immersive sound experience.

If you rarely listen to music on the go, then these headphones might not be a sound investment. But if you’re commuting to work every day, these are sure to pack a real punch compared to your bog-standard pair of Apple or Android headphones.

Everything you need to know about the B&O PLAY by Bang & Olufsen Beoplay H5 Wireless Bluetooth In-Ear Headphones  

Okay, so let's start with the most important thing – the audio. These headphones deliver an exceptional listening experience whatever your taste in music may be, with a frequency range of 20 to 20,000Hz. The crystal clear sound is only optimised by the ability to customise the headphones to your listening preferences through seven different ear tips including standard silicone ones or specially designed sport tips which protect from sweat. This not only improves sound quality but maximised comfort – something commuters and runners alike will be pleased to hear – but you’ll also be able to download the corresponding Beoplay app to further customise your listening experience.

Efficiency at its best

The B&O PLAY by Bang & Olufsen Beoplay H5 Wireless Bluetooth In-Ear Headphones are designed with comfort and ease in mind, which is why they have a sleek and slim design that features magnetic earbuds that automatically click together to secure around your neck whilst out and about, and they are dust and splash resistant making them the best wireless headphones for exercise and commuting. 

Now we know what you’re thinking: what’s the battery life on these things? The B&O PLAY by Bang & Olufsen Beoplay H5 Wireless Bluetooth In-Ear Headphones have a surprisingly impressive battery life of up to 5 hours, and you’ll also get an easy to use charging cube so you can quickly regain juice in just a couple of hours.

Sound and style you’ll love

Users don’t just love these headphones for their sound quality. Unlike some other headphones which are chunky and get tangled easily, the B&O PLAY by Bang & Olufsen Beoplay H5 Wireless Bluetooth In-Ear Headphones are lightweight at just 18g, easy to carry with an accompanying pouch and come in a range of stylish colours including black, moss green and dusty pink. 

If this is the product you’ve been looking for, check out the best Black Friday and Cyber Monday deals in the widget above. 

Categories: General Technology

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

Sat, 07/07/2018 - 00:20

The bottom line: Looking to make some noise? There'll be no shortage of sound in your living room with 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.

This speaker and sound bar set is also specifically designed to enhance vocal frequencies, providing an exceptionally crisp and clear sound when tuning in to your favourite TV show. 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

Should I buy the Bose SoundTrue Ultra In-Ear Headphones?

Sat, 07/07/2018 - 00:15

The bottom line: Bose's SoundTrue Ultra In-Ear Headphones offer high-quality audio from a renowned manufacturer. Optimised for Samsung and Android operating systems, you can talk hands-free during calls and control various music functions without having to reach for your phone. 

Delivering a deep, rich sound, the SoundTrue Ultras have been designed to allow you to immerse yourself in your music – and reviews suggest that they do a great job of isolating background noise. They're built for durability, so don’t expect the same plushness as some of the over-ear Bose headphones offer – and iPhone/iPod users will want to take note of the separate version Bose created for iOS.

Pros: No outside interference, built-in music controls

Cons: Lacks the finesse of other Bose designs

Bose SoundTrue Ultra In-Ear Headphones: Everything you need to know

We all know that Bose are renowned for their sound quality and that is what it is offering up here.

These headphones aim for a well-balanced and realistic sound with a certain emphasis on the bassline and they have been designed to be a crowd pleaser and a good all-rounder for listening to various types of music. While not marketed as noise-cancelling, the sealed acoustic in-ear design aided by the StayHear Ultra Tips is designed to help keep them well-buried and reduce the amount of sound that leaks out around you. 

Design

Many in-ear headphones start to ache after a while but the StayHear Ultra Tips have been designed with comfort in mind and attempt to remain soft while providing a secure fit. With three sizes available, you can choose the size that best fits your ear shape so they remain comfortable no matter how long you wear them. 

With the in-ear design being fully immersive, you can experience the quality of the Bose sound with minimal distraction and concentrate on the clear-cut sound that the manufacturer promises they produce. 

Function

These in-ear headphones have been engineered to be durable and sweat and weather resistant, which means the design has been given a robust makeover - not to everyone’s liking. And while this means they’re a decent pair for the gym, reviewers reckon the straight jack doesn’t make them the easiest headphones to zip inside a pocket. Also something to consider is a lot of people these days have caught onto the wireless trend for exercise as it eliminates the risk of yanking the phones out of your ear and these - well- have a wire. 

Extras

Because you’re buying Bose, you do benefit from a little extra detail. For example, these headphones come with a carry case so you can keep them protected when not in use. They also come with a clothing clip, which helps to prevent the cable from moving around and producing that horrible interfering cable noise. 

For stuffy commutes and calling people on the go, these Bose headphones are ideal. If you need a cheap and disposable pair of semi-decent headphones that offer the superior Bose sound quality, then these are the ones for you. Check out the deals above. 

Categories: General Technology

Echo Dot down to £34.99 - but you should really wait for Amazon Prime Day

Sat, 07/07/2018 - 00:15

We've been doing our usual rounds of checking prices on the most popular tech today and noticed the Amazon Echo Dot is down from £49.99 to a much more appealing £34.99.

That matches the joint-lowest price Amazon has ever sold its excellent smart speaker for, but given the Amazon Prime Day deals are due to begin on July 16, we'd seriously advise you wait before taking the plunge.

You see, prices on pretty much all Amazon devices (Echo speakers, Kindles, Fire TV and Fire Tablets) all went back up to full-price recently, which is a trick we see at most retailers before a big sale kicks in. This way, retailers can make a bigger song and dance about whatever discount arrives in the sales.

And we think this was probably the plan with the Echo Dot which has been sat at £49.99 before today this week, way up on its usually consistent £39.99 discounted price here in the UK.

So why £34.99? Well, you can probably blame Google. We noticed that the Echo Dot's biggest rival, the Google Home Mini, is currently on offer for £34 at multiple stores in the UK such as AO.com and Argos

There's a strong history in both the UK and US for Amazon and Google price-matching each other, so much so that it's always worth checking up on the other speaker if the other one is on sale, we've even gone as far to write a whole piece on Why Amazon Prime Day will also be the best time to get a Google Home Mini.

So why shouldn't you take advantage of that joint-all time low price for the Echo Dot? Well, we like to think Amazon will go even lower on Prime Day. Surely a £29.99 deal is a solid bet? 

With the Prime Day deals getting underway at noon on July 16 and carrying on until midnight on 17th, you don't have that much longer to wait. And don't worry about missing out, we think at the very worst, Amazon will still be selling the dot for £34.99 on Prime Day, so it's unlikely you'll have to pay more by holding off today.

For more of the most up-to-date and honest deals advice, take a look at our Amazon Prime Day deals hub and be sure to come back on July 16th for highlights of the best deals.

Categories: General Technology

Should I buy the Audio-Technica AT-LP60 Fully Automatic Belt-Drive Stereo Turntable with SP121BK Active Speaker?

Fri, 06/07/2018 - 23:53

The bottom line: The Audio-Technica AT-LP60 is renowned as a standout automatic turntable for its price range. 

While it comes with its own preamp built in, you're also able to use the line-level output to add your own – and the automatic adjustment on the tonearms means you won't be at risk of scratching any LPs. Overall, it’s a simple-to-use turntable for beginners, with great sound at a superbly affordable price.

Pros: Easy to use out of the box, multiple options for use

Cons: Felt slip mat could be better

Audio-Technica AT-LP60 Turntable: Everything you need to know

The AT-LP60’s fully automatic operation is its big selling point, making it especially attractive to absolute beginners worried about damaging their records. The entry-level price certainly helps, too, but don’t let it fool you. The low-vibration aluminium platter is engineered for clarity, and reviewers have been left thoroughly impressed by its full sound and favourable signal-to-noise ratio (that’s a lack of hiss and crackle between tracks, to you and us).

User-friendliness

This belt-driven turntable’s tonearm automatically lifts and lowers using the Cue button on the front of the unit, meaning first-timers don't have to worry about where to place the needle. The factory-set counterweight should also go a long way towards peace of mind, as it cuts set-up time (and stress) right down to the minimum. However, if you would like to steepen the learning curve, this unit, while equipped with a handy on-board preamp, also offers the opportunity to add your own using the line-level output.

Construction

At just under 3kg, the AT-LP60 is very lightweight and portable, especially when compared to some other automatic turntables on the market, although impressed users seem determined that this shouldn't be mistaken for a lack of sturdiness and stability. The inclusion of a felt slip mat, which can leave things a little staticky and unbalanced if not sat flat, is seen by some as disappointing, but it seems a small hurdle to overcome in the grander scheme of what is, by all accounts, a very highly-rated and excellent value turntable.

If you want a heavy-duty turntable that’ll last through thousands of plays and year upon year of use, the step up from the LP60, the LP120, might be more your speed. But for affordable quality, it seems the LP60 simply can’t be beaten, so be sure to check out our Black Friday deals above if you’re sold.

Categories: General Technology

Should I buy AKG Soft Touch In-Ear Wired Headphones?

Fri, 06/07/2018 - 23:32

The bottom line: If you're on the lookout for a budget pair of headphones from a renowned audio brand – ones that promise to deliver a punchier sound than the usual budget buys – AKG's Soft Touch may be the just what you need.

Small, yet perfectly formed, these wired headphones are designed to be compact enough to fit into little ears and stay securely in. Despite the drivers being just 8mm, AKG reckons they emanate a high-output sound that delivers a decent level of accuracy. According to the majority opinion, they do, but more favourably for mid-frequency sound – while bass and high frequencies can be slightly lacking.

Pros: Built for comfort, decent all-round sound 

Cons: Base sound isn’t particularly rich

AKG Soft Touch In-Ear Wired Headphones: Everything you need to know

Compatible with iOS, Android and other common operating systems, these headphones have been packed with technical features that allow you to listen to your music with ease. 

Usability

The one button remote cable enables you to take control of your music, with skipping, pausing and playing all easy and instant and you can answer calls to make transition from listening to speaking faff-free. Unfortunately, you can’t use the control to change the volume, which is widely recognised as an annoying lack of functionality - and if you find taking your device out of your pocket or your bag an inconvenience, there are certainly other headphones within this price range that offer you volume control from the wire. 

Design

A common problem for in-ear headphones is discomfort but AKG have really put some effort into ensuring that these headphones offer superior comfort over long periods of time. For the most part, users agree with this, which is largely thanks to the tilted ear-tips, which aid a more natural in-ear positioning. With 3 sizes of soft ear-tips available to choose, you have the freedom to ensure that these headphones are the perfect size for your ears. With them fitting snug, they aim to block out a lot of external noise so you can listen to your music without much in the way of outside interference. 

Made from polycarbonate, they’re designed to be taken out and about and should survive any amount of turmoil that you put them through. AKG also provide you with a slim-line carrying pouch to protect them when you’re not wearing them. They’re also available in grey, teal or yellow - so make sure you keep an eye out for deals in your preferred colour.

Categories: General Technology

Should I buy the Kitsound BoomBar+ Portable Bluetooth Speaker?

Fri, 06/07/2018 - 21:20

The bottom line: This portable speaker delivers perfectly-capable audio quality on a small budget.

Built with both Bluetooth and AUX connectivity, the Kitsound Boombar+ can be easily paired with laptops, computers and smart devices, making it the ideal travel companion. 

While the audio is detailed for the price, some users have found the volume lacking – so this might not be the best speaker for entertaining guests. For occasional or personal use, however, the Boombar+ might just do the job.

Pros: Super lightweight, with easy connectivity through Bluetooth

Cons: Sound quality might fade with regular use

Kitsound BoomBar+ Portable Bluetooth Speaker: Everything you need to know

As a rework of Kitsound’s best selling speaker, you can expect a certain level of finesse in the deliverance of your sound and this is reflected in the reviews. With a frequency response of 150Hz - 20Hz, most reviewers rate the sound quality fairly highly, so long as you keep the volume relatively low, that is. At higher volumes, you might experience a slight crackle over time. That said, taking into consideration the price and the fact that it is a small, portable speaker it might well be the more fiscally-friendly option.

Connectivity

If you’re using the device to amp up the volume on a film, connecting the speaker to your laptop via the aux cable is the best way of getting the a decent quality noise, as condensing the sound through Bluetooth means the delivery of sound can get a little out of sync. If you’re connecting it to your mobile to play your Spotify playlist, then you can still expect to hear a clear, high quality sound. They’ve also handily incorporated a hands-free function so you can take calls without too much faffing around. 

Performance

With 20 hours of play time, there’s plenty of juice no matter where and why you’re using your speaker and with a 3 hour charge time, it can quickly be prepared to provide an evening of music. In terms of volume, this speaker won't knock your socks off, but, this makes it quite a handy speaker for poolside listening or even camping when you don't want to disturb people around you. It'll also travel well with its sturdy exterior, and it's not the best looking speaker so you might not mind it getting bashed about.

Extras

Kitsound haven’t left anything out of the box either - they give you everything you need, including a 3.5mm to 3.5mm audio cable. As an added bonus, you get a carry case to keep it protected when not in use, and they’ve also incorporated a carry handle into the speaker so you can carry it without getting fingerprints on the glossy black cover. 

If you like the sound of this portable speaker, take a look at the best deals across the web right now in the widget above. 

Categories: General Technology

Beyerdynamic Amiron wireless Bluetooth headphones launched in India

Fri, 06/07/2018 - 17:45

German audio equipment manufacturer Beyerdynamic has launched a new headphone called the Amiron. It is a wireless Bluetooth headphone and is the latest premium headphone from the company in India. The headphone, based on the Amiron Home headset was announced by the company during the CES 2018.

It has been priced at Rs. 59,990 and will soon be available from e-commerce platforms. It features the company’s Tesla transducers technology that enables it to provide “deep, precise bass, full, natural mids and silky-clear highs”. The soft cushions around the headphone reduces the ambient noise and improves the acoustic detail.

In a statement, the company has said, “With Amiron wireless, music becomes a dynamic experience in every room and even the finest nuances become audible like never before. The innovative sound personalization via the ground-breaking MIY app takes these closed over-ear headphones to a completely new level of perfection”.

The headphones comes along with the Make It Yours (MIY) app, which is available for both Android and iOS devices. It can be used to create individual hearing profile based on a test created by Mimi Hearing Technologies.

After this test, the sound of the wireless headphone is matched with the person’s hearing ability and the result of the test is stored so that the headphones offer an optimal sound experience. Additionally, the app allows users to track their daily listening habits.

To ensure a premium audio experience, the Amiron wireless headphones are equipped with latest codecs such as the Qualcomm aptX, aptX LL and aptX HD and Apple Advanced Audio Coding (AAC).

Categories: General Technology

Best turntables 2018: the best record players for any budget

Fri, 06/07/2018 - 06:45

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, it turns out, make for great investments. 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. It's not uncommon to hear of turntables with Bluetooth built-in or USB output that allows output records straight to your PC. 

One downside 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, 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.

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. 

What’s the best turntable?

Now that vinyl is now comfortably back in the mainstream, the best turntables approach this classic music format armed with the latest technologies and aesthetics. The best turntables come in all shapes and sizes, and can vary wildly depending on the type of configuration they feature. So, if you’re looking to pick up the best turntable, you need to consider the motor configuration, building materials and whether or not you need any secondary functionality like USB recording.

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.

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

The best Prime Day deals in the US: how to get the best Amazon deals in July

Tue, 03/07/2018 - 22:00

Finding the best Amazon Prime Day 2018 deals in the US isn't easy simply because America's top online retailer likes to discount a little bit of everything in July.

You have time to prepare this year because Amazon Prime is July 16th midday and lasts until midnight on July 17th, according to our exclusively reporting and now officially confirmed by Amazon itself. Amazon.com will have a sales marathon that lasts 36 hours – a Prime Day and a half, technically.

The deals, however, won't last forever because, just like on Black Friday and Cyber Monday, Amazon offers timed, limited quantity and lightning deals. Is your favorite gadget going to be on sale? What time do Echo speakers get their big discount? And  is this the best time to buy a 4KTV? Your hard-earned dollar deserves the best value.

There are answers for all of these Prime Day questions. We've amassed a guide of pro tips for Prime Day – it has a ring to it, doesn't it? Here's your best way to have a stress-free online shopping experience starting July 16 in the US. 

How to get the best Amazon Prime day deals in the US:

1. TechRadar is your ultimate Prime Day guide

Point yourself to TechRadar for the best Amazon Prime Day prices because we have a 20-strong team of deal hunters tracking down the top bargains. 

We've become experts on every major sale holiday, including the ongoing 4th of July sales that are happening right now. We can spot the difference between genuine bargains and prices that are jacked up just to pretend the products are cheaper.

Do bookmark us, or take a screenshot to remember, or whatever you do nowadays to make sure you're ready for the ultimate Prime Day deals list.

2. Get Amazon Prime membership beforehand

You're not going to get very far with nabbing the best Prime Day deals – even with our help – if you don't have a Amazon Prime membership ahead of time.

The good news is that signing up doesn't take long. But you also don't want to wait until the last minute, because lightning deals often go fast. If Nintendo Switch is on sale for the first time, expect it to sell out in seconds.

Pro tip? You can sign up for a free 30-day trial today. And that membership will last you until the top of August, well clear of the Prime Day sales period. You'll also get the other perks of the subscription, including two-day free shipping and Prime Video streaming. Here's our in-depth analysis of the benefits Amazon Prime offers.

3. See the price history in an instant

We use a lot of tools to determine the best prices on Amazon Prime Day, and we'll share one of our all-time favorites with you: CamelCamelCamel.com. It's a great price-checking site that tracks all of the past Amazon.com pricing (stretching back over a year) and let's you see if this really is the best deal for that shake weight.

4. Is it within your budget?

This is something you'll never hear from a deals site: you don't have to buy an item just because of the hype of Prime Day. There's a lot of tempting offers, but if it's outside your budget, even when on discount, it doesn't mean it's the right deal for you.

There are still several shopping holidays (invented by marketers and real) in the 2018 calendar year that you're going to want to wait until you see the best price for you at the best possible time. After all, you're going to have spent a lot of money on BBQ and seeing fireworks during the 4th of July. Sometimes delicious hotdogs and hamburgers are more important than buying a new 4KTV on Prime Day.

We always have a Deals section running 24/7/365, too. We never close.

5. Who cares, buy it anyway!

Prime Day purchases should be a calculated, not rash decision. You shouldn't buy something just because it's on sale; you should buy it because you'll be able to use it to better your life (a productivity tool), or simply enjoy it (entertainment content).

"Am I going to be better off if I purchase this now on Amazon Prime Day today at the given discount?" is what you should ask yourself. Let's give you a concrete example, according to our Prime Day deal experts on this. If you're going to buy a brand new DSLR camera this year, and it's 15% off list price, and you're going to take photos for special occasions coming up between July and the rest of the summer, then that's worth getting today. Don't miss out on putting tools to work today, especially if they are cheaper and you really want to buy them.

6. Amazon.com on a desktop is preferred 

Phones and apps are dominate in 2018, but going back to an old-school computer to visit Amazon.com (and us first) is the best way to save strategically. It's the most reliable way to canvas the official website and weave in and out of pages to find the best Prime Day deals.

You also have to keep in mind that there's going to be a huge surge on traffic to the website and app, so we recommend browsing the deals on a laptop or PC. It's been more stable for us in years past.

7. Late Amazon Prime Day deliveries offer savings

There's a huge rush for Amazon Prime Day goods across the country, so much so that the hours after July 16 and July 17 are going to be difficult on UPS drivers across America. We're ordering so much, and the promise of two-day free shipping is likely to be a part of most everything we buy.

Deliveries don't alway show up on time – or at all. That's difficult during Christmas when it ruins the big day, but you still deserve to get your items quickly right after Prime Day. Here's a tip: if it doesn't arrive on the promised date, complain to the customer service on Amazon.com. They'll usually add an extra month to your Prime membership, or sometimes refund the item in full if it's a bad enough slip up.

8. Check Amazon rivals: Walmart, Best Buy, Target, etc

Obviously, Amazon has the best and only Prime Day deals, but plenty of other retailers discount items in droves in July to attract online shoppers. They figure, well, you're online, so maybe you'll be swayed by their pricing.

That's why our tech reviews are always updated with the best price through a widget. You can see which retailer is giving you the best value for your dollar. Also, keep in mind, you won't need to be a member of retailers like Walmart, Best Buy, Target and Khol's in order save on electronics and other goodies from them.

Categories: General Technology

Amazon Prime Day sale will last 36 hours: here's when the deals begin

Tue, 03/07/2018 - 15:00

Amazon officially announced Prime Day 2018 this morning, confirming it to be a 36-hour event starting in two weeks' time on July 17.

That means Prime Day takes place a week later than usual this year, more than likely due to the World Cup Semi Finals taking place on the usual date. So this year Amazon Prime Day will take place on Tuesday July 17. 

That's not the whole story though, as the deals will actually kick off at midday the day before on Monday July 16 and carry straight through for 36 hours.

Don't forget, you need to be an Amazon Prime member to enjoy the exclusive Prime Day deals. But if you're not already signed up, why not grab a free 30-day trial, which will keep you covered right through the sale and you can enjoy all the other benefits along the way too like the Prime instant video streaming service and free super fast delivery.

To get you in the mood, Amazon has a couple of early UK deals to get you going. We imagine there'll be some US ones to add later today and hopefully some in other regions like Australia and India too.

Early Prime Day deals (UK) Early Prime Day deals: USA, India and Australia

Ok, so we've not had official updates from the Amazon USA, India and Australia teams yet, but we're confident they'll be launching their own warm-up deals too, probably along similar lines to be honest witch discounts on Amazon Music Unlimited or maybe the extra channels on the video streaming services, with juicer discounts to follow on other products and services.

So if you were thinking of signing up to those services anyways, we'd maybe wait a while to see if a discount appears, as these service deals are usually only open to 'new' subscribers. 

As far as Prime membership deals go in the US, India and Australia, it certainly can't hurt to wait to see if a deal is just around the corner. US customers saw a $20 increase on the the annual Amazon Prime fee recently, so we've got our fingers crossed for a minimum $20 discount closer to Prime Day.

Amazon Prime services have only just launched in Australia (seriously folks, get out there an watch Vikings, The Americans and Into the Badlands already) but we're optimistic Amazon will decrease the Amazon Prime membership fee at some point as a brief special offer before Prime Day 2018 in order to bag a bunch of extra subscribers, and we've got our fingers crossed for a Rupee reduction on the Indian price too.

Stay tuned to our Amazon Prime Day 2018 coverage for all the latest updates and deals. 

Categories: General Technology

Drake takes over Spotify playlists and breaks records, but people aren’t happy

Mon, 02/07/2018 - 19:53

You may have noticed recently that something strange happened to Spotify’s playlists. They were taken over by Drake. All of them. Even the ones that didn’t have a Drake track in them. There was Drake on the cover of Songs To Sing To In The Car smiling in a car, Drake looking out of the window of a helicopter, admiring the early morning sunrise for Daily Commute. Oh, and there he was again holding what seems to be a bra for Slow Jamz. 

This was all part of a promotional campaign for his latest, surprise album Scorpion which is now on Spotify. All 25 tracks of it, which is the equivalent of listening to Kanye’s ye three times and still having time for one more track. 

In short: it’s a lot of Drake and while it meant the album smashed Spotify’s streaming record with 132 million streams on its opening day, but it’s proving too much for some. 

Reddit refund

On Reddit, one user has caused a storm by revealing that he asked for a refund for his Spotify subscription and got one - all because he wasn't happy with the Drake takeover.

"I just messaged Spotify customer service on their website and told them I wanted a refund since this is advertising and I pay for premium with no ads, and they have now refunded my last payment," wrote Schwagschwag

Searching through the comments, though, and it doesn't look like this is the case for every angry user.

Another poster was keen to point out that while Drake was on the cover of every playlist, his music was actually in fewer that 50% of them

Spotify has yet to comment of the Drake takeover. For Drake fans, we're sure it was their Christmas Day. But for those who just wanted a bit of cinematic chillout to accompany their day and not hear Drake banging on about how he started from the bottom, we're sure Apple Music and others started to look tempting.

Categories: General Technology

The best Prime Day deals: how to get the best Amazon deals in July

Sat, 30/06/2018 - 21:20

Amazon Prime Day deals are coming your way in July and we want to help you find the best deals in what is usually the sales event of the summer.

Thanks to a leak we exclusively uncovered last week, it looks like Amazon Prime Day is probably going to start at midday on July 16th and carry on until midnight the following day on the 17th. That's one hell of a long 'day' Amazon. The date has not been confirmed officially yet but we've got all our money firmly placed on those days.

We love a good deal here at TechRadar and we've been bringing you highlights of the best prices for years now around Prime Day, Black Friday, Cyber Monday, Boxing Day, Memorial Day, bank holiday sales and every day in between too. And yes, we've got you covered for this weekend's 4th of July sales too. So if you want to see the best deals rounded up by seasoned pros instead of seasonal enthusiasts, we'd very much like to see you right here on July 16th.

For now though, take a look at our top tips on how to get the most from the best Amazon Prime Day deals so you can get ready in advance to have a stress free shopping experience on the day. And you don't even have to leave the house. Remember those days, when you had to go out to buy things? What an awful time.

How to get the best Amazon Prime Day deals:

1. Come back to TechRadar.com for the best deals

We'll be pointing you towards the best Amazon Prime Day deals throughout the event here at TechRadar with our dedicated 20-strong team of deal hunters tracking down the best bargains. 

We're looking for deals all year round, not just Prime Day and Black Friday, so we're pretty handy at spotting the genuine bargains over the fake discounts that aren't worth your time. So feel free to bookmark us if you want to stay up to date with the finest deals.

2. Get Amazon Prime membership beforehand

To get the best Prime Day deals from Amazon you'll have to be a member of Amazon Prime. Signing up doesn't take long at all, but considering some of the deals can potentially sell out in minutes, it's a step you really don't want to be doing on the day.

Pro tip? If you've never signed up before, you can actually sign up for a free 30-day trial right now, which will last right through the sale in mid-July. You can enjoy all the membership benefits straight away too like fast delivery and the excellent Prime Video streaming service. We've actually written extensively about the benefits Amazon Prime offers. Here are some links to the free trial in the following countries:  US, UK, Canada, India and Australia.

3. Compare previous prices with CamelCamelCamel

An odd site name for sure, but CamelCamelCamel.com is a fantastic resource for checking just how good a deal is. Simply copy/paste in the Amazon URL on the site of an item you're thinking of buying and you'll see an extensive price history for it on Amazon stretching back over a year. This way you can see if that day's deal is really the best ever price, or how often it gets a similar discount and how likely it is you'll see a similar price in a few months' time.

4. Remember, you don't have to buy it

With so much hype around Prime Day deals it's easy to get swept away by the huge amount of deals and supposed big discounts. So yes, use CamelCamelCamel like we mentioned above, but even if it is the lowest price yet, that doesn't mean it's the right deal for you.

If you've set aside a budget and you know it's important to not overspend, try and stick to your guns. Prime Day is not the final sale of the year, hell it's not even the final sale of the summer, there will be plenty of other fantastic deals and it's our job to find you the best ones all year round in our Deals section. So while that exact TV might not be available at that price again for a while, you can be sure some nigh-on identical ones will be before the kids go back to school.

5. But don't wait too long to buy

The best Lightning Deals on Amazon Prime Day could be gone in matter of minutes, so be sure to check how many have been sold with the information provided on Amazon's site. Deals of the Day will have an expiry date, but some will sell out long before they reach that time. Game consoles and 4K TVs are especially popular on Prime Day, so if you see a price you like on your lunch break, you're risking it being gone by the time you get home from work.

6. Use the desktop version of Amazon if you can

While the Amazon app and mobile sites are pretty reliable most of the time, Prime Day last year saw quite a few buyers struggle to complete purchases with adding items to the basket being as issue.

We're confident Amazon will be better equipped to deal the huge numbers of traffic this year, but all the same, we'd recommend browsing the deals on a laptop or PC if you can as the desktop version of the site might be a bit more stable.

7. Make sure delivery date promises are kept

In the UK many items will be eligible for free next day delivery or two business days in the US and Australia. Now as a Prime member, you're paying for that delivery promise, well unless you're on the free trial, then it's free. 

But if your delivery doesn't turn up on the day it's supposed to, then you need to put in a complaint to Amazon. This has happened to us a small number of times over the years and Amazon is keen to make it right. We've had an extra month added to our Prime membership for free as an apology and even had the whole cost of some cheap items refunded in full without having to return it. Naturally, if you're not home when Amazon try to deliver on the original date that's on you. You'll find a nice orange slip informing you what to do next though.

8. Don't forget about the other retailers

While Amazon will be the main focus of course, last year we saw a wide range of rival retailers cash-in by having a sale of their own too. So it's certainly worth checking to see if they've price-matched Amazon or have maybe gone even lower.

And unlike Amazon Prime Day deals, you won't have to be a 'member' at other stores to get the deals. Or if you have a points-card elsewhere, it might be a good opportunity to bag a decent haul. We'll be keeping an eye on other retailers for you to give you as many options as possible on the day.

Categories: General Technology

Amazon Echo vs Google Home: which is the smart speaker for you?

Sat, 30/06/2018 - 03:09

They’re the giants of the web, one dominating search, the other king of the online shop. But when it comes to the race to rule the smart speaker space, the Amazon Echo and Google Home are pretty evenly matched.

The voice controlled audio devices promise to take the strain off your everyday life – need to set a time? Just ask the Google Assistant. Want to play your favorite spring cleaning playlist without lifting a finger? Your wish is Amazon Alexa’s command. Both voice-activated digital butlers can carry out thousands of tasks, many similar, but with some key differences between the two product ranges that you’d be wise to be aware of.

So, it’s the future of speakers – but which is for you? Amazon Echo, or Google Home? And, which specific model suits your needs? We put them head-to-head.

Amazon Echo: the different models compared

Let’s kick off with the smart speaker that started it all – the Amazon Echo. Its vanilla version is likely where you’ll want to begin – it stands 14.8cm tall and sounds pretty damn good for its price, supporting Bluetooth and Wi-Fi connections, with the signature blue-ring around its top that tells you when it’s listening after hearing its default wake word, “Alexa”.

The Amazon Echo Dot

Perhaps the most popular Echo of all though is the Echo Dot – it’s the cheapest of the entire bunch and is about the same size as a hockey puck. Its size means its speaker is quite tinny and weak, so it's better suited for rooms where music playback won’t be its primary function – but you can pair it up with a Bluetooth speaker or another audio device using an AUX jack connection, which makes it perhaps the most cost-effective upgrade you could make to an aging Hi-Fi system.

Amazon's Echo Plus

The Echo Plus has a more industrial look, standing taller than the vanilla Echo with exposed speaker grilling, and it doubles up as a smart home hub for connected devices, too, justifying its extra premium in price.

The Amazon Echo Show

The Spot and the Show are the two Amazon Echo devices to feature a screen. You can think of the Echo Spot as an upgraded Echo Dot – perfect for a bedside table, with the ability to make video calls through its circular screen. The Echo Show is essentially an Amazon Fire tablet with an Alexa speaker strapped to the bottom, letting you ask about shows available on Amazon’s services and partner apps (including the likes of BBC News), making it like a second screen for your kitchen.

Amazon's Echo Spot

All have access to the majority of Alexa skills (think voice controlled apps) available, though only the Plus can double up as a bridge for your smart home devices – while all Echo products can talk to things like smart bulbs and thermostats, it’s only the Plus that lets you do away with individual hubs for each additional gadget family.

The boxy Echo Show aside, all Echo products are attractive – particularly the new-look fabric-covered standard Echo, and the Magic Eight Ball-like Echo Spot. Unobtrusive, they’re slightly more industrial looking than Google’s speaker option, but arguably smarter looking, too.

For more on each version of the Amazon Echo, check out the full reviews below:

Google Home: each model compared

Google’s smart speaker range is a touch smaller than Amazon’s, with just the three Google Home speakers to choose from. At this stage, none feature screens either (though these are in the works, both in house and with third-party manufacturers looking to work with Google Assistant), so it’s a pure audio experience with Google at this time.

The Google Home Mini

The smallest of the three is the Google Home Mini speaker. It, like the Echo Dot, is puck shaped (if a little more pebble-like with its softer edges), with its top side covered in a fabric speaker mesh. It’s available in a range of colors, with four flashing LED lights used to illustrate when it’s listening to your commands.

The Google Home

At the middle of the range is the standard Google Home, which looks considerably different. It looks a little like a small vase, with a two-tone color design (again with multiple options to choose from) and a sloping top side that houses a touch control panel. 

The Google Home Max

The Google Home Max looks much more like a traditional loudspeaker, and is the largest of the bunch. It’s boxy in design, and closer aesthetically to the Google Home Mini with its mesh speaker covering. It can stand in either a portrait or landscape orientation to suit the needs of your decor.

While the vanilla Google Home is an acquired taste in terms of design, both the Mini and Max are subtly attractive, and should fit into any surroundings without much concern.

To find out more about each version of the Google Home, check out the full reviews below:

Keep in mind that, with both Alexa and Google Assistant, third-party speaker manufacturers are increasingly choosing to integrate the voice helpers into their products. So if there’s an audio manufacturer that you’re particularly fond of, it may be worth holding out to see if they’ve any plans to join either of the smart ecosystems – at this point, it’s highly likely that most all audio devices in the near future will come equipped with some sort of microphone and voice control system.

Smart features

The smart features of the Google Home and Amazon Echo lines are broadly similar – speak to them, and you’ll be able to do anything from playing back music, have general knowledge questions answered, controlling smart home gear and setting alarms and timers. And that just scratches the surface.

Both Google and Amazon are committed, long term, to improving their respective voice platforms, and each has done a good job so far of enticing third-party smart device manufacturers – from thermostat makers to smart lighting companies – to make their products compatible with each service. With a base level of commands available to each, with either a “Hey Google”, or “Alexa...” wake word uttered, control of the digital world is just a vibration of your vocal chords away.

But the two take a slightly different approach to the way their abilities are accessed. Google Home’s abilities are, by default, accessible to all – barring pairing up third-party smart home devices with your Google Home system, if you’ve made a request that the Google ecosystem can understand, it’ll carry out the required response unprompted. Alexa, on the other hand, relies on the installation of Skills – individual, app-like sets of related voice commands focussing on certain topics or abilities. Handled and activated through the Alexa app on smartphones, these can range from getting information on local transport times, or even to activating voice-controlled games. 

There’s no right or wrong approach – Google’s is simpler, while Alexa’s encourages faster and broader development and support from third-parties. 

Audio

As you’d expect from such a wildly varying range of shapes and sizes, you get very different sound performance across both ecosystems, let alone when comparing competing models. Here’s a general breakdown of how they sound in relation to each other:

If you can only afford the entry-level devices, and music remains a top priority for you. Go for the Google Home Mini, which sounds a lot better than the Echo Dot. Unless you hook up a Dot to another speaker over Bluetooth or the 3.5mm jack, it’s just too thin and harsh to fully enjoy. 

If you’re looking for a small Echo speaker, your best best then is the Echo Spot, which despite its size offers a richer sound. The screen, however, massively increases its expense.

When you’re moving up the size scale, Google’s Home is too bass-heavy to be truly enjoyable. It also has worse clarity than the latest generation of Echo speaker and Echo Plus. So if you’re limited to around $100/£100, the Amazon Echo may be the best choice.

With a slight premium in price, and the inclusion of Dolby processing, the Echo Plus sound is more dynamic than the standard Echo, as you’d hope.

And, despite its looks, the Echo Show sounds better than the Echo Plus and Echo, though not so dramatically as to forgive it some of its other failings.

If you’re going for pure sonic superiority between the Echo and Google Home ranges however, opt for the Google Max. Its bass is well tuned, its mids and highs well defined, and its top volume levels loud without verging into highly distorted territory.

Price

There’s such a range of prices across the two speaker platforms that, in fairness, there’s something for every wallet size. It’s more about what you’re expecting to get from your smart speaker of choice. Amazon, offering the widest spread of options, hits both the most affordable and expensive price points between the two brands, with the Echo Dot at the lower end and the screen-packing Echo Show at the top. Google sits somewhere in the middle. Compare the latest pricing between the ranges below.

Verdict

There’s no easy answer to the question of whether you should buy Amazon Echo or Google Home products. Both lines are very accomplished and, so long as you temper your expectations in line with the amount of money you’re going to spend on buying into one of the lines, all sound good enough for their price points.

The choice really then comes down to the preference of ecosystem as opposed to the hardware. Are you heavily invested in Google’s services? Then Google Home is probably for you, as the two areas are only going to become ever-more-closely linked. Google’s natural language understanding is superior too, even if its voice implementation still needs some refinement.

However, in terms of sheer value for money and the already vast reach of its collaborations and abilities, Amazon’s Alexa devices seem the more sensible bet at this stage. It’s a close run race, with Google’s powerful search capabilities potentially seeing it through in the long run. But there’s something to be said for Amazon’s more focussed approach – from our experience so far, Alexa currently feels like the more reliable assistant. But that could change. Either way, place your bets – you’re unlikely to come away disappointed.

Categories: General Technology

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