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The best noise-cancelling headphones available in India

Wed, 10/10/2018 - 21:57

Here are so many applications for noise cancelling headphones that after a point you have to wonder why nobody thought of making them sooner. Sometimes it's the incessant chatter of your co-worker, sometimes it's the construction in the plot next door, and sometimes it's just people, in general. 

Enter noise-cancelling headphones, which remove the sound of everything around you, so you can listen to your music at a lower (and safer) volume. 

There are large variations in how well this effect is achieved, but even at their worse these headphones are still much better than a traditional pair of headphones in terms of keeping outside sound at bay. 

The top picks for the best noise-cancelling headphones include devices that not only effectively eliminate the most amount of background noise, but also make your music sound pretty good in the process. 

That said, sometimes the effect isn't completely perfect. They're less effective at cancelling out higher-pitched noises, but most of the high-end sets excel at dealing with low, consistent noises like the hum of a train or plane. 

How to buy noise-cancelling headphones

So what do you want to look for when looking for a pair of the best noise-cancelling headphones? Look for anything with the words "active noise-cancellation technology" on it.

You see, when it comes to noise-cancelling headphones, there are two types to look out for: active and passive. Passive means that when the headphones are pressed against your head and the sound is cut out in the process of closing your ears off to the world outside. It's not high-tech, it's just isolation. 

Lots of headphones claim that this is some sort of advanced technique, but it's nothing more than a few layers of foam trying their darndest to keep sound out.

Active noise cancellation, on the other hand, involves some pretty interesting processes to cancel sound out. Along with the padding which passively blocks sound, microphones planted in the ear wells of headphones actively analyse the ambient noise level and reflect sound waves back into your ear that work to zap the outside noise. The goal is to hear nothing but the music, or whatever it is you're listening to.

Active noise cancelling headphones are more effective at what they do. The downside is that this noise cancellation requires batteries in order to function, so you'll have to keep them charged if you want to keep the noises of the outside world at bay.

Now that you know all that, you're ready to choose a set. Let's take a look at the best noise-cancelling headphones available, starting with a list of our top 10.

Sony just updated its WH-1000XM3 wireless noise cancellation headphones with multiple microphones and a USB Type-C port. While these may seem to be minor tweaks, they do affect the overall listening experience. There are some design changes as well with the addition of copper accents. The headphones are powered by Sony's own QN1 chipset which just sets the next benchmark for audio quality.

Read the full review: Sony WH-1000XM3 Wireless Headphones review

Sony WH-1000XM2

The Sony WH-1000XM2 are a great pair of wireless headphones which offer excellent audio quality to the listeners. If battery life is one of the major factors that concerns you then fear not, the Sony WH-1000XM2 come with a powerful battery which can serve your needs for up to 30 hours. Yes, you heard it right. 30 hours of continuous playback time.

Apart from this, you will also get to experience hands-free calling which can be easily controlled using the touch panel given on the sides of the headphones.

Read the full review: Sony WH-1000XM2

Philips Fidelio NC1

Philips presents an elegant noise-cancelling solution with its NC1. These on-ear headphones aren't wireless, but that's hardly a reason to knock them off. In the same price range as the Bose QuietComfort 25, the NC1s' are a more compact set that's high on comfort and battery life, making them perfect for the traveler on-the-go.

You get a lot for your money in this set. The box comes with the headphones, a hard case for storage and the headphones have a rechargeable battery that provides noise cancellation for close to 30 hours. The headphones come with a replaceable cable that's tangle proof.

The only thing to be aware of is that there may be some noise leakage to the people around you and that could prove to be an annoyance.

But best of all, the sound performance is extremely well-balanced and warm.

Read the full review: Philips Fidelio NC1

Bose QuietComfort 35

They're a little more expensive then the Philips NC1, but the Bose QC35 headphones offer wireless connectivity, so you can be free from cabling as well as background noise. 

They're also a much better sounding pair of headphones than Bose's previous (wired) attempt, the Bose QC25s, and their battery life is long enough for all but the longest of flights.

They also come with a cable in case you want to use them with a device that doesn't support Bluetooth. 

The QC35s sit firmly at the premium end of the spectrum, but if you want the best noise-cancelling headphones available right now at any price then there are few out there that can compete.

Read the full review: Bose QuietComfort 35

Bose QuietComfort 25

If you want the same level of excellent noise-cancellation as the Bose QC35s but want to save a bit of money, consider the last-generation QC25s. 

The biggest sacrifice you'll be making is wireless, but in our opinion the QC35s are also the much better sounding pair of headphones. 

Nevertheless, the QC25s represent a great mid-range pick. You're getting a finely-tuned set of headphones that provide over 35 hours of very good noise-cancelling performance with one AAA battery.

Read the full review: Bose QuietComfort 25

Bowers and Wilkins PX wireless

Bowers and Wilkins may not be the most popular name when it comes to headphones, but their devices don't fail to impress.

They do their job of delivering decent sound quality but also come packed with extra features. For instance, they're capable of turning on or off on their own depending on whether on you're wearing them.

You won't have to switch them out any time soon either, since they come with a USB type-C charging port.

Coming back to the audio, it's decent but it's not perfect. It doesn't exhibit the same depth that's seen in flagship models from Bose or Sony. But, they're definitely worth a listen and their features make them a tempting purchase.

Read the full review: Bowers and Wilkins PX Wireless

AKG N60NC Wireless

Wireless headphones aren't always the cheapest pair to but, but the AKG N60NC do a pretty decent job of offering a mid-range product that's on level with premium models.

The combination of great sound quality, longer than average battery life and noise-cancellation that actually works, the AKG N60NC gives you bang for your buck.

The main hang up with this pair of headphones is the fact that it comes with a 2.5mm jack serving as a charging point as well as the link for a wired connection. In either case, a 3.5mm jack and a USB type-C port would've been preferred. 

Read the full review: AKG N60NC Wireless

Sennheiser HD 4.50 BTNC

The Sennheiser HD 4.50 BTNC provide a great audio experience to the users. In addition to this, they can also become your ideal travelling partner. Weighing 238g, the headphones are easy to carry and light, compared to their rivals. Despite stiff competition in this category, these headphones hold their own thanks to their pocket-friendly price tag.

These headphones aren't the best in appearance with the aluminium finish looking flimsy but that's also the primary reason that they're so lightweight. The bass isn't very strong and the fall in music quality is noticeable when the NoiseGuard mode is on. But then again, this isn't unusual for headphones using NoiseGuard. It's effective and does what it's supposed to do. 

These headphones compare well with others and are optimal for frequent travelers.

Read the full review: Sennheiser HD 4.50 BTNC

Plantronics BackBeat Pro 2

If you're a frequent traveler then you're probably familiar with headphones that can't hold a charge, can't block out sound and for the most part, don't sound very good. 

If you're tired of buying headphones like that, 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 half as much as compared to one of the bigger names like Beats, Bose and Sony. 

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

Read the full review: Plantronics BackBeat Pro 2

The Samsung Level On Pro Wireless are one of the few headphones we've tested that feel like they're meant as a package deal for another device. Yes they'll work with every Bluetooth and 3.5mm jack-equipped handset on the market, but you're better off sticking to a Samsung device in order to squeeze every ounce of aural goodness from the UHQ audio codec.

It's one of the comfiest pair of cans on the market, and they're also much cheaper than a lot of the competition. If it had a better sound quality for the vast majority of cell phone users it would be an easy recommendation but, as it stands,it really makes the most sense at checkout when purchased alongside Samsung's Next Big Thing.

Read the full review: Samsung Level On Pro Wireless Headphones

The PXC 550's greatest strength is their sound. Other wireless noise-cancelling headphones might offer a better user interface or better noise-cancellation technology, but ultimately none of the above match up to the sound quality of these Sennheisers. 

However, that said, there are a couple of irritations that prevent us from being able to fully and unreservedly recommend them, such as unresponsive touch controls. These annoyances aren't deal-breakers, but there are definitely other noise-cancelling headphones out there that don't suffer from the same issues.

Read the full review: Sennheiser PXC 550

We're constantly reviewing new noise-cancelling headphones, but let us know on Twitter if there is a set that you'd like us to take a look at.

Categories: General Technology

Beats Studio 3 wireless headphones get gold accents and new high-flying colors

Wed, 10/10/2018 - 20:16

Beats by Dre is aiming squarely for the business-class flyer with a new range of its premium Beats Studio 3 wireless headphones, first released in late 2017.

The new Skyline Collection range features the same internal specs and active noise cancelling functionality as the original models, but with a bit of a face-lift.

The Beats Studio 3s are now available in three new luxury-themed – and luxury-sounding – color schemes: Midnight Black, Crystal Blue, Desert Sand, as well as the previously-available Shadow Gray. All four also add in some flashy gold accents on the Beats logo and either side of the band.

These new style options join the original core colors of White, Blue, Black/Red, Porcelain Rose, and regular ol' Matte Black.

Despite the considerably flashier appearance, the new models will be available at the same $349.95 (£299.95 / AU$449.95) price as current models, and are expected to go on sale in the coming weeks.

Look sharp

At one point the Beats Studio 3 headphones were selling over 10 units every minute across the globe shortly after being released in late 2017. In our review last year we praised the extensive 22-hour battery life when using active noise cancelling – going up to 40 hours without – but called out the middling mids and somewhat sub-par bass. 

Beats headphones have always been as much a lifestyle item as an audio accessory, and they certainly look better than ever.

Categories: General Technology

Sony’s WH-1000XM3 launched in India at Rs 29,990

Wed, 10/10/2018 - 19:49

Sony has launched the WH-1000XM3 noise-cancelling headphones in India, the sequel to the Sony WH-1000XM2, and the heir apparent to the top position in the noise-cancelling headphone kingdom.

With their WH-1000XM2, Sony stole the show with its predecessor was its excellent noise-cancellation modes, Quick Attention Mode and aptX/aptX HD support, which of course is carried on to the 1000XM3. 

Even the impressive 30-hours battery backup remains, but with a faster charging method that promises to deliver 5 hours of backup with just 10 minutes of charge. Whereas, its predecessor delivered around 2.5 hours of backup with 15 minutes of charge. 

What’s improving this year, according to Sony, is the introduction of multiple microphones that will help calls come through cleaner and a switch from a microUSB port to a USB Type-C port along the earcup of the headphone. 

The overhaul

After using it for a day, we noticed a substantial improvement on noise-cancellation over its predecessor. Although, the audio sounded relatively similar and it's great.

There are major changes in the design. The most evident design change is in the bridge of the headphones. The curvature of the band is increased to result in minimal gap between the band and the head. Also, there's some extra cushioning done on top to make it rest comfortably for long stretches. Additionally, the cushion on the ear-cups is deeper, allowing more part of the ear to fit in comfortably.

Further, there are several small touches to the design. For instance, there's a copper accent used on the black variant for the Sony logo and the noise-cancelling microphones. Even the textured finish on the cans is a lot smoother and neater, which aids better touch controls to play, pause and other controls. 

Powering the 1000XM3’s noise-cancellation prowess is Sony’s new QN1 processor that’s faster than last year and offers more powerful processing, too – things we couldn't tell from our time with the headphones but a neat upgrade all the same. 

The Sony WH-1000XM3 will hit stores on October 18 at the best price of Rs 29,990, in Black and Platinum silver variants. 

Categories: General Technology

Marshall brings major update to the Minor Bluetooth in-ear headphones

Wed, 10/10/2018 - 01:00

Heritage rock brand Marshall has just announced that its Minor in-ear headphones have been given a major upgrade, with Bluetooth aptX, improved fit, and a longer battery life – while still maintaining Marshall’s classic roadworthy look. 

The Marshall Minor IIs come in at $129 (around £120 / AU$180), almost triple the price of their predecessors – though if the new in-ears perform as well as Marshall claim, this higher price could well be justified. 

As well as supporting Bluetooth aptX, that price tag gets you 12 hours of wireless playback from a single two hour charge. If you’re out of juice and in hurry, though, Marshall says the upgraded in-ears should provide around two hours of playtime from a quick 20 minute charge, and for further longevity, the headphones go into a low energy standby mode when you pause your music. 

Comfort and quality

As a legendary rock brand, it’s only fitting that Marshall is focussed on sound quality, and with “custom-tuned 14.2 mm drivers”, the Minor IIs should have a well balanced and crisp sound. 

The Minor IIs have also been designed with comfort in mind, with Marshall claiming that their ergonomic fit will stay comfortable all day long, with the in-ear design providing “just the right amount of noise isolation”.

Despite all the upgrades, the new in-ears still  feature that classic Marshall look, with brass detailing and the iconic logo taking center stage on the inline remote – if this all sound up your street, the Minor IIs are available to buy now from the Marshall website

Categories: General Technology

Marshall rocks out with new line of Bluetooth home speakers

Wed, 10/10/2018 - 01:00

Rocking out in the comfort of your own home just got easier, with a new line of Bluetooth speakers from hard-rocking Marshall, now available to purchase.

Each of the three speakers are iterations of previous models, from the compact and shelf-ready Marshall Acton II ($249 / £219 / AU$345), to the beefy 110W Marshall Woburn II ($499 / £439 / AU$690). In the middle sits the 50W Marshall Stanmore II ($349 / £299 / AU$480) – a mid-sized wireless speaker and the follow-up to one of the best wireless speakers in our 2018 guide.

The UK-based manufacturer is known for making amps and speakers with an authentic weight and "crunch" to the sound, making them perfect for amplifying guitar-heavy rock and roll.

Metal on metal

Marshall have since expanded into a wide range of speakers, amps, and instruments – and even their own line of Marshall Major headphones.

The three new speakers announced today all feature Bluetooth 5.0 for a strong wireless connection of up to 10m, with built-in multi-host functionality and dynamic range compression to prevent distortion at higher volumes. While they're envisioned for the home and weighed down considerably with premium parts – class D amplifiers, custom-tuned drivers, and the like – they're also practical enough to take on the road.

As usual, the Marshall Bluetooth app allows you to control EQ, switch between stereo or ambient modes, and alter the brightness of the speaker's LED lights. 

Categories: General Technology

The cheapest Google Home prices in October 2018: get the best deal on every Home speaker

Tue, 09/10/2018 - 23:22

The best Google Home prices aren't hard to fine. In fact, since you're on this page, you're already in the best place to find the latest deals on the Google Home, Google Home Mini and Google Home Max smart speakers.

The Google Home family of smart speakers are amongst the most popular smart speakers on the market that tap into the convenience of voice control. And don't tell Alexa, but Google Assistant has proved to be considerably smarter at answering our requests. The Google Home and Google Home Mini are roughly on a par with the Amazon Echo range in terms of audio quality for music, but the newer Google Home Max frankly thrashes any of Amazon's Echo speakers for music fans that want to feel every beat.

After you save on your new smart speaker, getting going with it is as simple as a voice command. All you need to do is say 'Ok Google' and ask your Google Home any question you like. Google Assistant uses the enormously powerful Google search engine to bring you the answer.

More features and apps are being added all the time, but right now you can stream music from Google Play, Spotify, Tunein or your phone. There are smart home tech features to pair it with too, so watch in awe as you smart lights and thermostats are told what to do. Even the basic features prove incredibly handy, such as adding items to shopping and to-do lists, or setting alarms – finally, no more burnt pizza!

The cheapest Google Home prices

The standard Google Home was the first smart speaker Google released. It costs a fair bit more than the Home Mini, but the more powerful speaker can be worth it if you want to play louder music. It's a great middle option between the choice of three speakers and considerably cheaper than the high-end Google Home Max.

So, how much is the original Google Home? Prices started around the $129 / £129 mark, but retailers are slowly getting more competitive nowadays. We're seeing more discounts, or bundles, sometimes including a Chromecast dongle for free.

The cheapest Google Home Mini prices

The Google Home Mini is a smaller cheaper version of Google Home, first unveiled in 2017. Instead of a pricey £129/$129, like its bigger older brother, you pay $49 in the US and £49 in the UK for the Home Mini. 

Naturally, the Google Home Mini comes with Google Assistant, meaning you ask it questions by simply starting with, "Ok, Google." And with the power of Google search engine behind it and now a super low price to match, Alexa's time may be up.

Color options include chalk (grey), charcoal (black) coral (pink) and the newest entry is mint (light green). At such a cheap price point, you may be tempted to get more than one, especially for family homes as a new Broadcast app allows you to talk to any Google Home device in the house.

Google Home Mini deals have been strong of late as Google is keen to catch up to the Amazon Echo Dot sales, so you'll rarely have to pay the full RRP.

The best Google Home Max prices

Ok, so you're after some serious boom for the tunes? Then you'll want to take a look at the monster-sized Google Home Max. This large-speaker houses two 4.5-inch woofers for high-fidelity music playback along with the Google Assistant tech that's proved so popular in the Google Home range of smart speakers. Technically, this speaker is what we'd call super smart as it'll adjust its music playback automatically depending on room-size and placement. The microphone has been improved too and is more than capable of picking up your requests from the other side of the room even with music blaring out at significant volume.

The Google Home Max prices tend to match the name to with a $399/£399 pricetag. It's been out for a while in the US, but the Max only arrived on UK shores in August 2018 and it appears to be a John Lewis exclusive for now, unless you import one from the US via eBay.

What are Google Home bases?

The bottom part of the original Google Home speaker can be swapped out for different 'bases' to replace the default grey one. They're not cheap though and the official ones are only available from the Google Store at the time of writing.

Fabric bases are the cheapest at $20/£18 and come in Mango (orange), Marine (green) and Violet. Metal bases are $40/£36 and come in Carbon (black), Copper and Snow (slightly grey). We might just have to splash out for that Violet one though.

We've seen some third-party sales and knock-offs, mainly leather-style ones, at Amazon and eBay, but nothing particularly tempting so far and the prices aren't that much cheaper either.

Categories: General Technology

First look: Devialet Phantom Reactor is a bass rumbling speaker in a tiny package

Tue, 09/10/2018 - 19:00

Devialet's Phantom speaker line has always been a showstoppers, with its sci-fi good looks and wild side-firing bass reflex ports. But the speakers have also been big, heavy, and intimidatingly expensive, too.

The company is looking to make it a little easier to join its audiophile-grade party with the new Devialet Phantom Reactor line, two new speakers that offer comparable power to the flagship Phantom speakers in a package a quarter of the size, and at a more palatable price point.

Offering Bluetooth, AirPlay, UPnP and Spotify Connect (with Chromecast Audio set to be included next year) the Phantom Reactor delivers either 600W or 900W of output power, depending on whether you opt or the suitably named Phantom Reactor 600 or Phantom Reactor 900 models.

Big sound, small speaker

Given its 219mm (Length) x 157 mm (Width) x 168 mm (Height) size, that's an astonishingly loud system – comparable to a symphony orchestra in your living room. Likewise, the 18Hz infra-bass would lead you to believe there's a dedicated subwoofer in the room – made all the more dramatic by the way the bass-reflex ports on either side of the Phantom Reactor pump air rhythmically and forcefully in time with the beat.

Despite the small package and extreme volume levels, Devialet is able to deliver its output without as much as a hint of distortion as it approaches those louder peaks. Its Analog Digital Hybrid (ADH) amp delivers the quality of an analogue amp in a digital-sized package, while the company's Speaker Active Matching audio system retains detail even at the Phantom Reactor 900's 98db max volume. 

Old and new, side by side.

Available only in white, the curvy speaker has an amazing sci-fi chic appearance. Physical inputs now include a hybrid minijack, Ethernet and optical point for TVs. There's also a new set of capacitive touch buttons in a curved strip along the top edge – sensible given how much of the control of previous Phantom products has been relegated to app-only input.

Sonically, it's a breathtaking model. Listening to the 900 model we were most impressed when presented with a live recording of a solo bass guitar. It was playing bass harmonic notes, which are usually challenging in terms of clarity for a speaker this size to pull off accurately. But there was incredible detail with the Phantom Reactor 900, with the bell-like notes of the harmonics chiming in the air, before rumbling into deep, thunderous deeper notes with the dramatic movement returned via the bass reflex ports. It was particularly impressive that it retained the metallic twang of the performer's freshly-wound strings, a detail that would have been lost on less capable systems. 

Though they'd be perfect in a stereo pair (well suited in their new size to being sat either side of a TV), it's frustrating however that the Reactors wont work in tandem at launch. Devialet promises it's a feature in the pipeline, though it'd have been great to see this ready from the off, given that it's now practically a standard with competition like the Sonos One. Likewise, there's no smart helper like Google Assistant or Alexa involved here, which would have been welcome given the price point...

Phantom Reactor price and availability

The Phantom Reactor goes up for pre-order on October 10, hitting shops on October 24th. Prices start at £990 for the Phantom Reactor 600 ($999) and go up to £1290 ($1299) for the Phantom Reactor 900. It's still not cheap then, but it is uniquely designed, and really rather wonderful sounding.

You'll find it in stores including Selfridges, JohnLewis.com, Amazon UK and Harrods in the UK, and Corso Como, B8ta, Nordstrom, Microsoft Store, Barneys and Amazon in the US, as well as Mr Porter worldwide.

Categories: General Technology

Google Home 2: what we want to see

Tue, 09/10/2018 - 01:31

Google Home 2… the smart speaker that’s yet to be announced, but is certainly on the horizon. Google have rapidly expanded its range of smart home products from its initial Google Home offering, with both the cost-effective alternative Google Home Mini and more audio-focused Google Home Max.

In some ways Google have been playing catch up with its main smart home competitor, Amazon, who dominate with a fleet of Echo, Echo Plus, Echo Dot, and Echo Spot devices available for sale amid a growing market of Alexa-compatible devices.

With a new Google Home Hub set to ape the screen-based Echo Show, and continual updates aiming to bridge the gap between the respective company’s offerings, the time is ripe for a meaningful hardware upgrade to the now two-year-old Google Home hardware.

It’s unclear whether we’d see a whole new model branded as the Google Home 2, or (more likely) just a replacement model that continued to go under the Google Home banner. 

We expect we may hear more at Google’s annual launch event, which this year is taking place on October 9. For now, we’ve run through everything we want to see from an updated Google Home speaker.

More Google

We’ve been scratching our heads for the best part of two years over this in particular – why can’t the Google Home integrate with Gmail, Google Docs, and the wider ecosystem of Google services so many of us are dependent on?

Google Assistant is already ‘smarter’ than a lot of its counterparts, largely thanks to the wealth of data and search engine results Google can dredge up for it. Having a Google Home that could read from your Gmail inbox and reply to your messages, or dictate text straight to your Google Sheets, would really start opening up the voice assistant’s untapped potential and help it pull ahead.

Sure, that’s more of a software than a hardware issue, but a new product launch would also be the perfect time to offer a wider array of smart capabilities.

Smarter casting

One thing the Google Home already does pretty well is its casting function, which allows you to summon music or video content through the speaker and throw it to your TV’s Chromecast or even your smartphone. If the voice commands could be simplified and allow for more direct voice control of Netflix-style streaming services through Google Home, it would make it much more of a crucial addition to the home.

A real AUX port

The audio drivers in the Google Home aren’t anything to shout about, and more sound-focused buyers should probably be angling for the Google Home Max, anyway. But it’s a shame such a vast range of artists are being funneled through inferior speakers. 

Google Assistant has managed to cobble together the biggest music library of any smart assistant, thanks to Google Play Music as well as the Google-owned Youtube Music – if you sign up for the service, at least. The current model can already connect to external amps and speakers over Bluetooth – finally – but getting a physical AUX port would do a lot to win over listeners concerned about losing audio quality over the air.

Design that doesn't put us to sleep

For all the charms of Google’s Home Mini and Home Max, both versions of the smart speaker lack the distinctive shaping of the original product, ditching its candle-holder silhouette and sloping touch-capacitive display – leaning towards you instead of making you crane over it – for their vaguer pillow-shaped outlines.

We’re not against changing up the formula – being able to customize more than the color of the bottom half would actually be a good start. But the style factor is one area Google still has the lead over Amazon, and we’d be sad to see an update to the main Google Home opt for the more generic design of its spin-off devices.

Competitive pricing

Isn’t this what we always want? The Google Home is still retailing at £129 / $129 / AU$199, so we imagine the new model would seem a good deal by bringing in upgraded features for the same price. Being able to invest in the older hardware at a reduced price or, better yet, getting an enhanced model that matched more closely to the Amazon Echo’s £89 / $99 / AU$119, would do a lot to lower the price barrier for new adopters.

Categories: General Technology

Sony's new hi-res headphones will pair nicely with its $8,500 music player

Sat, 06/10/2018 - 04:35

Sony surprised the crowd at the Rocky Mountain Audio Festival (the biggest high-end audio festival in the US) when it unveiled a slew of premium audiophile products – including a massive pair of 70mm over-ear headphones and a $8,500 music player. 

The headphones, called the MDR-Z7M2, are a sequel to Sony’s previous premium cans, the Sony MDR-Z7. These premium cans have a claimed frequency response between 4 Hz - 100,000 Hz (you know, only five times what the human ear is capable of hearing) thanks to an aluminum-coated liquid crystal polymer diaphragm.  

They’re also going to cost you $899 (around £685, AU$1,275). 

Of course, great headphones are only half the battle – the other half is having a great player and great source material. Thankfully, Sony also unveiled a new $8,500 (around £6,500, AU$12,000) music player that is, perhaps, the very definition of the word overkill. 

Behold, the gold-plated Sony DMP-Z1 Digital Music Player.

Gold-plated perfection

The Sony DMP-Z1 Digital Music Player supports DSD native playback up to 11.2 MHz and PCM playback up to 384 kHz/32-bit and sports two independent AK4497EQ mono Digital-Analog Convertors (DACs). To store your (hopefully) pristine collection of lossless music, the DMP-Z1 has a 256 GB hard drive and two microSD slots.

And yes, the volume knob is gold-plated.

While the headphones will be available starting in November 2018, the DMP-Z1 won't be available until January 2019 and only then through authorized Sony dealers. 

We'd better start saving now...

Categories: General Technology

The best Bluetooth speakers 2018: the best portable speakers for any budget

Fri, 05/10/2018 - 21:02

Best Bluetooth Speakers Buying Guide: Welcome to TechRadar's round-up of the bluetooth speakers you can buy in 2018. 

Even if you're lucky enough to have a dedicated AV cabinet and a speaker system to rival some of the biggest and best stadiums across the globe, there are still going to be plenty of times when you need a portable, reliable and durable Bluetooth speaker.

Whether you're looking for a speaker to take on your next adventure that'll need to be waterproof and drop-proof, a portable powerhouse that's capable of bringing the bass to an outdoor party or something small and compact that'll fit in your carry-on, we've collected together some of the best Bluetooth speaker options available to buy now. 

  • Update: Ultimate Ears has just introduced a sequel to the award-winning UE BOOM 2 and MEGABOOM called the UE BOOM 3 and MEGABOOM 3. Our UE MEGABOOM 3 review is live right now, and we should have a review of the UE BOOM 3 shortly.

Of course there are some compromises you'll have to make when you downsize your speakers to a more portable option, like reduced battery life and a drop in audio quality, but when it comes to convenience and price Bluetooth speakers can't be beaten.

As is often the case these days, your only problem is there's too much choice. So to help you decide which speaker to buy, here are some of our favourite possible portable audio companions for the beach, camping or on-the-go listening.

How to pick out the best Bluetooth speaker

With so much choice it's no huge surprise that the question we've been asked time and time again when it comes to Bluetooth speakers is: How do I pick out the best one for me? 

Well, although it may seem like the choice is endless, there are plenty with unique selling points. Some are rugged. Some are stylish. Some are weatherproof and some aren't fit for the outdoors. 

If you're having problems figuring out what speaker might work for you, start by picturing where you're going to use it and find a speaker that matches that setting. If you're a beach person, that means water- and dust-proofing are key. If you're a party person, you might want the ability to connect two speakers together or a speaker with multi-point pairing that allows multiple devices to connect at a time. We'll break down these features for you below to help you find a speaker that first for your unique lifestyle.

However, regardless of what features you want from your speaker, its imperative that it has a decent battery life and good level of sound quality. There's no point in having a device packed full of features if its battery dies quickly and it sounds rubbish. All of our picks fulfill these two requirements, so when you're picking from this list you can afford to focus more on features. 

Whatever your budget and whatever your needs, here are 10 outstanding Bluetooth wireless speakers, ranked by their price-to-performance ratio, that will surely work for you.

UE Boom 2

This sequel to the UE Boom nails everything a Bluetooth speaker should be. It's loud, yet detailed. Portable, but still incredibly durable. Plus, even better, the addition of waterproofing turns what used to be the best Bluetooth speaker around for most occasions into the best one for every occasion. 

If you're deep in the search for your next –, or first – Bluetooth speaker, you can stop looking now. (But if you're looking for a little more power, the Megaboom – also from UE – is a great choice, too.) 

Read the full review: UE Boom 2

Fugoo Style

Meet one of the Bluetooth speaker market's best-kept secrets. The Fugoo comes in your choice of jacket style (Style, Tough, or Sport), but no matter which one you choose, this speaker is just as suited for the elements as it is your coffee table. 

Despite its small size, this option offers surprisingly good sound performance and, get this, up to 40 hours of battery life when listening at medium volume. We were able to get nearly 20 hours out of it at a high volume.

Read the full review: Fugoo

JBL Charge 3

As a package, the JBL Charge 3 offers a compelling set of features and excellent sound quality to boot. It punches well above its weight, playing loudly and distortion-free. 

The Charge line of speakers have been on our shortlist of recommendations for a long time thanks to the way they combine great sound quality with the ability to charge your devices over USB. 

The latest iteration maintains JBL's dominance in the portable Bluetooth speaker market.

Read the full review: JBL Charge 3

Bowers and Wilkins Zeppelin Wireless

The new Bowers and Wilkins Zeppelin Wireless is a beautiful piece of design. It's a solid, reassuringly weighty wireless speaker delivering on all the B&W audio heritage which the British audio maestro has been building up throughout its  lifetime: The sound is clear and natural, delivering room-filling audio with seriously punchy mid-range, and dynamic, controlled bass.

Its price might put a bit of a damper on your wallet, but if you have audiophile tastes that extend into the portable speaker space, the Bowers and Wilkins Zeppelin Wireless is the only speaker you should be considering.

Read the full review: Bowers and Wilkins Zeppelin Wireless

Bose SoundLink Mini II

The Bose SoundLink Mini II is relatively ancient, having been released in June 2015. However, writing off the SoundLink Mini II because of its age would be a mistake, as it remains one of the best sounding wireless speakers. 

That said, it punches way above what its size would suggest, producing deep bass, sparkling highs and a lush midrange. While most wireless speakers sound OK, the Mini II proves that small speakers don’t need to compromise on sound, and other Bose conveniences like a charging pad. 

Read the full review: Bose SoundLink Mini II

Anker Soundcore Flare

Anker has a history of making excellent budget wireless speakers. While we weren’t entirely impressed with the Anker SoundCore 2’s sound, we couldn’t be too mad since the speaker was so affordable. 

So what happens if you can stretch your budget? For around $20 more you get the Anker Soundcore Flare, an excellent waterproof Bluetooth speaker that can stand toe-to-toe with the competition. 

The Soundcore Flare is an amazing value in the sub-$100 wireless speaker segment. Competitors like the UE Wonderboom (listed above) give the Flare a run for its money in terms of build quality but we give the Flare the slight edge with sound quality. We recommend the Flare for anyone looking for a wireless speaker that can do it all without breaking the bank. 

Read the full review: Anker Soundcore Flare

UE Wonderboom

When someone asks us for a recommendation for a waterproof speaker, the UE Roll 2 was always on the top of our list. We loved the Roll 2’s unique form factor, 50-foot wireless range and, obviously, it sounded good, too. Where it was lacking was in the bass department. Logitech, UE’s parent company, has fixed the Roll 2’s lack of bass by creating the appropriately named UE Wonderboom. 

In our eyes, the UE Wonderboom bests the Roll 2 in just about every way –except for the Roll 2’s handy bungee cord. Still, ignoring that, if you’re looking for one of the best waterproof Bluetooth speakers on the market today, it’s hard to do better than the UE Wonderboom. 

Read the full review: UE Wonderboom

Bang and Olufsen Beoplay P2

B&O created a hit with the Beoplay P2. It’s a well-designed speaker that’s extremely easy to use, has a well-built companion app, and it sounds great. On top of that, the speaker is ultra-portable without compromising on much bass content. Sure, you could get something a little bigger (and stereo) for the same price, but at this size the sound quality justifies the price. The smart gestures are a nice touch too, although we wouldn’t buy the device solely for that reason.

Read the full review: B&O Beoplay P2

Marshall Kilburn

The Marshall Kilburn might not appear to be the best choice in Bluetooth speakers. It’s large, heavy, doesn’t have USB charging and isn’t waterproof – plus, $299 (£239, about AU$390) is a lot to pay for a Bluetooth speaker. 

But none of this matters because the Kilburn sounds so darn good. 

Over a month's time, we fell in love with the Kilburn’s design, feel and pristine sound quality. There’s no other portable Bluetooth speaker on the market quite like it. It’s a head turner and conversation piece. It’s a piece of audio art that you’ll be proud to show off to your friends during a party. 

Read the full review: Marshall Kilburn

Denon Envaya (DSB-250BT)

The newest speaker in the Denon Envaya line is one of the first speakers to absolutely blow us away in 2018. It offers powerful, room-filling sound that will sound great to most ears, plus comes with an IP67 rating, make it both dust and waterproof. It's also built like a tank, making it one of the most durable speakers we've ever laid our hands on.

Despite a nearly flawless performance, the Envaya isn't perfect: While sound quaity is full, powerful and rich, it doesn’t have the treble bite some like and the buttons located along the side can feel stiff and difficult to operate. These are ultimately minor complaints, however, and the Denon Envaya remains a great Bluetooth speaker – easily one of the best you can buy this year.

Read the full review: Denon Envaya (DSB-250BT)

  • Now need something to listen to? Check out our collection of the best podcasts
Categories: General Technology

RHA TrueConnect wireless earbuds are primed to pummel Apple’s AirPods

Fri, 05/10/2018 - 05:53

After making some serious headway in the development of wired headphones, RHA is now turning its attention to the true wireless form factor popularized by the Apple AirPods. The result is the all-new RHA TrueConnect.

The new wireless earbuds, which borrow some design cues from Apple’s in-ears but offer improved audio and battery life performance, are available to pre-order starting today for $169/£149 (around AU$240) and will start shipping on October 18.

That said, the RHA TrueConnect sport a 5-hour standalone battery life with up to four additional charges from the re-charging case for a total of 25 hours, can be charged to 50% in 15 minutes and support the Bluetooth 5.0 standard. 

The headphones will offer a noise isolating design and IPX5 sweat- and splash-protection, plus RHA says that its extended-stem design should offer improved call quality while single-tap controls on each earbud can be used to play/pause, skip and summon your phone or tablet's personal assistant.

If they offer anything close to the performance of RHA's popular wired headphones, they stand a very good chance of becoming the best true wireless earbuds on the market ... at least until the Apple AirPods 2 hit shelves in 2019.

Categories: General Technology

The best noise-cancelling headphones in the UAE for 2018

Thu, 04/10/2018 - 16:04

Best Noise-Cancelling Headphones Buying Guide: Welcome to TechRadar's round-up of the best noise-cancelling headphones you can buy in 2018.

There's nothing worse than having to listen to someone else's music when sitting next to them on a plane. Except maybe the constant buzzing of the plane's engine. Or the sounds of a crying baby. Or ... well, you get the idea. 

Sometimes all you want to do is tune the world out and listen to your own music, movies and audiobooks without any distractions. We don't blame you! It's a noisy world out there, full of all sorts of unpleasant noises. 

Thankfully, that's why there's noise-cancelling headphones. These wonders of the modern era totally tune out unwanted audio - allowing you to reach aural nirvana ... even if it's only for the duration of a flight. 

They're vital for any adventure you're about to embark upon - whether it's a multi-hour flight or a train ride that's part of your every day commute - so to help you pick out a pair of headphones that deliver all of the above in spades, we've put together a list of the top 10 noise-cancelling headphones, listed below and ranked by their price-to-performance ratio.

How to buy noise-cancelling headphones

So what do you want to look for when looking for a pair of the best noise-cancelling headphones? Look for anything with the words "active noise-cancellation technology" on it.

Active noise cancellation involves some pretty interesting processes to cancel out sound. Along with the padding which passively blocks sound, microphones planted in the ear wells of headphones actively analyze the ambient noise level and reflect sound waves back into your ear that work to zap the outside noise. The goal is to hear nothing but the music, or whatever it is you're listening to.

Active noise cancelling headphones are more effective at what they do, but the downside is that this noise cancellation requires batteries in order to function, which means you'll have to remember to keep them charged.

Now that you know all that, you're ready to choose a set. Let's take a look at the best noise-cancelling headphones around:

Additional resources:

The Sony WH-1000XM2 are an excellent revision of an already great pair of headphones: They sound great, deftly wield noise cancellation technology and cost just as much as a pair of Bose QC35s. They might have a slightly shorter battery life than Bose’s flagship over-ear headphones, but Sony’s WH-1000XM2 outclass the QC35 in terms of performance and feature-set.  

You’d want to pick these Sony headphones over the Bose because not only do they provide the same level of awesome noise-cancellation, but they have three neat tricks that Bose just doesn't have on its headphones: One is an ambient noise mode that only lets in mid-to-high frequency tones (announcements over a loudspeaker, for instance) and another being Quick Attention mode that allows you to let in all outside noise without taking off the headphones. (The latter is perfect when giving a drink order on a plane or speaking to a coworker for a brief moment before diving back into your work.) The last trick Sony has up its sleeve is the LDAC codec. Alongside the widely adopted aptX HD standard, LDAC enables Hi-Res Audio playback using the 1000XM2.

Great-sounding, feature-packed and just as affordable as the competition? The Sony WH-1000XM2 are our all-around pick for best noise-cancelling cans.

Read the full review: Sony WH-1000XM2

The Bose QuietComfort 25 are the best noise-cancelling headphones we've ever used. We say that as a publication who strives for maximum performance per dollar when purchasing headphones. We say that as someone who believes that, in most circumstances, you can find a cheaper product that performs as well, if not better, than a more expensive option if you do some research.

But, in the case of the Bose QuietComfort 25, that's simply not true. They are still the best noise-cancelling headphones on the planet in 2018.

If you want the same level of excellent noise-cancellation as the Bose QC35s but want to save a bit of money, consider opting for the last-generation QC25s. (The biggest sacrifice you'll be making is wireless.) 

Nevertheless, the QC25s are a finely-tuned set of headphones that provide over 35 hours of very good noise-cancelling performance with one AAA battery.

Read the full review: Bose QuietComfort 25

Coming in at the number two spot is the Bose QuietComfort 35 II - a nearly identical product to the already-excellent Bose QuietComfort 35 but updated for 2018 with Google Assistant. This means you still get the class-leading noise cancellation Bose is known for, good sound quality and incredible comfort, plus a convenient assistant to answer any inquiries you might have while traveling.  

Taken as a whole, the Bose QC35 II NC is an excellent headphone for travelers and commuters. Bose has found a good balance of features that will satisfy most mainstream listeners. While we don't love them as much as the better-sounding Sony WH-1000XM2, they're still top of the class for noise cancellation.

Read the full review: Bose QuietComfort 35 II

If you prefer on-ear noise-cancellation, then the AKG N60NC Wireless are a great pair of headphones. 

At their mid-range price point the headphones offer fantastic value for money, with great sound quality and a level of noise-cancellation performance that's on a level with the much more premium entries on this list. 

These are a fantastically compact pair of headphones, and offer a very complete package for the price. 

Read the full review: AKG N60NC Wireless

With noise-cancelling tech just as effective as that in headphones from rival Bose, and with a more musical sonic ability, the Sennheiser HD 4.50 BTNC are a definite contender for the noise-cancelling crown. More affordable and easy to travel with, these lightweight headphones are a great value all-rounder, whether for flights, commuter trains or busy offices. 

Design-wise, the Sennheiser HD 4.50 BTNCs seem a more slimmed-down, lighter and more focused effort than the bulky and expensive alternatives from Bose and Sony; and crucially, the HD 4.50 BTNCs are just as good with audio, and almost as good on noise-canceling. Whether you're after noise canceling for long-haul ravel, for the commute, or just to stay more productive in a noisy office, the Sennheiser HD 4.50 BTNCs are worth considering. 

Read the full review: Sennheiser HD 4.50 BTNC

The PXC 550's greatest strength is their sound. Other wireless noise-cancelling headphones might offer a better user interface or better noise-cancellation technology, but ultimately none of the above match up to the sound quality of these Sennheisers. 

However, that said, there are a couple of irritations that prevent us from being able to fully and unreservedly recommend them, such as unresponsive touch controls. These annoyances aren't quite deal-breakers, but there are definitely other noise-cancelling headphones out there that don't suffer from the same issues.

Read the full review: Sennheiser PXC 550

The Samsung Level On Pro Wireless are one of the few headphones we've tested that feel like they're meant as a package deal for another device. Yes they'll work with every Bluetooth and 3.5mm jack-equipped handset on the market, but you're better off sticking to a Samsung device in order to squeeze every ounce of aural goodness from the Ultra High Quality (UHQ) audio codec.

It's one of the comfiest pair of cans on the market, and they're also much cheaper than a lot of the competition. If it had a better sound quality for the vast majority of cell phone users it would be an easy recommendation but, as it stands, really makes the most sense at checkout when purchased alongside Samsung's Next Big Thing.

Read the full review: Samsung Level On Pro Wireless Headphones

With the second generation Plantronics BackBeat Pro, Plantronics went back to the drawing board to fix many of the issues owners complained about the original. The BackBeat Pro 2, therefore, manage to keep all the great things about the original and improved upon its shortcomings, like its bulk and weight. 

In terms of value, the BackBeat Pro 2 are basically a steal. With the BackBeat Pro 2, you’re getting a 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. If you don’t want to drop $350 (£290, AU$500) on the Bose QuietComfort 35 or $400 (£330 or AU$700) on Sony’s flagship MDR-1000X, the Plantronics BackBeat Pro 2 should be on the top of your shopping list. 

Read the full review: Plantronics BackBeat Pro 2

We're constantly reviewing new noise-cancelling headphones, but let us know on Twitter if there is a set that you'd like us to take a look at.

Categories: General Technology

Google Home Mini gets new color variant ahead of next week's Pixel 3 event

Wed, 03/10/2018 - 03:57

If Google has any secrets left for its Google Pixel 3 event that's slated for October 9, color us surprised. 

Today, Google beat the leakers by announcing a refreshing new color variant for the Google Home Mini it’s calling Aqua that will be out on October 29 for $49 (£49, AU$74).

The mint-colored speaker adds a splash of color to the lineup of Chalk, Charcoal and Coral-colored Minis already on the market, but comes in at the same price.

While it initially seemed likely that we'd get a refresh of the Home Mini at this year's Pixel event, it now seems more probable that we’ll instead see at least one new addition to the family of devices at the Google event next week – either in the form of a new first-party Google Smart Display device or the long-rumored Google Pixel Stand dock that turns your Pixel into a full-fledged Home device when it’s docked.

In the last few weeks we’ve also seen a number of leaks about Google’s latest mobile device (with one or two of them even making their way into the wild) alongside a third-generation Chromecast that was sold accidentally by a Best Buy employee

With Google's October 9 event just a few days away, we won't have to wait very long to find out how many of these devices are really coming.

Categories: General Technology

The best cheap headphone deals in October 2018

Tue, 02/10/2018 - 01:00

We cover all the best headphones released. However, friends still ask if they should buy a pair of no-brand cans they've seen piled high by the checkouts at a supermarket or clothes store.  

The answer is usually: probably not. 

We get it. Headphones can be cheap. Like, dirt cheap. But as tempting as it is to shell out for something dirt cheap, by either shopping harder or spending just a little more, you'll find a pair you'll love and can use for years to come. 

The good news is you don't have to spend much at all. Some of the pairs we recommend below barely cost much more than a cinema ticket. Would you take 90 minutes of fun of hundreds of hours of audio enjoyment? We know which we'd pick. 

It’s with that in mind that we've narrowed down a list of headphones that not only sound good and feel good, but are priced appropriately for all you cost-conscious audioholics out there.

So what’s a good deal?

First have a think about whether you want in-ear, on ear or full size headphones. 

Full-size pairs are often the most comfortable, but smaller on-ear sets tend to look better and, obviously, take up less space. The sheer popularity of on-ear headphones has also led to deals just as sweet as those of some tiny in-ear buds too.  

If the budget is very restricted you may want to stay away from big glamorous brand like Beats. Lower-cost names like Skullcandy often get you similar results for much less money. And you may be surprised by how much its headphones have grown up in recent years. 

Without further ado, here are the best headphone deals we found this month.


We're not sure how Skullcandy crammed such excellent-sounding drivers into such a cheap headset, but somehow, some way, it absolutely did. The Skullcandy Grind is one of our favorite wired on-ear headphones – it's cheap, sounds incredible and looks awesome. Also, while most headphones make a statement using a logo, branding on these headphones is subtle, with a small logo stamped onto each of the sidearms. While Skullcandy isn't super transparent about the specs of its headsets, the Grind offers exquisite sound quality, complete with beefy bass response and articulate delivery of mids and highs. We tried a wide variety of music samples to see if we could find a weak point in these cans and, nope, we couldn't. The only weak point here is that it doesn't have volume controls built-in. But that's not a huge bummer.

When looking for a good pair of wireless in-ear headphones, We’re always on the hunt for something that sounds good (duh!), feels comfortable to wear for long periods of time and, most importantly, doesn’t fall out mid-workout. The Anker SoundBuds NB10 does all of the above perfectly. 

What you'll love most about the Anker SoundBuds NB10 is its warm sound and spectacular bass response. The low-end isn't as heavy-handed as some other in-ear headphones, but that demureness makes it great both when you’re at the gym and when it’s time to hang up the towel and head home for the night.

A good pair of in-ear headphones (often referred to as earbuds) really shouldn't cost you that much. And yet, everywhere you look, it seems companies are all too willing to charge upwards of $100/£100 for a decent pair of drivers. Thankfully, there's AKG, a quality headphone maker that isn't afraid to buck the trend of expensive pairs of cans. One of our favorite pieces of hardware from AKG is its Y20U in-ear headphones – a solid pair of headphones that sound great and don't break the bank. 

If you're looking for a pair of cheap headphones that are as stylish as you are, check out the Beyerdynamic Byron In-Ear Monitors. Not only do these headphones look and feel great, but they sound great, too. The headphones are compatible with both iOS and Android devices, and come with a carrying pouch and three pairs of tips to help you get the right in-ear fit. 

Why should you pick the Optoma NuForce BE Sport3 instead of the Momentum In-Ear, because it's one of the cheapest (and best-sounding) in-ear headphones we've ever found. And, good news, it's usually on sale to boot. Not only are these earbuds IP55 rated, making them rain, dust and sweat resistant, but they also have really balanced sound that works well for every genre and incredible noise isolation. They're perfect for the gym because they weigh just 18 grams and don't need to connect to your phone via a dangling, easy-to-knock off cable. Optoma says the frequency response goes from 20 to 20,000Hz, and it has a sensitivity of 102dB +/-3dB at 1kHz. On the debit side, though, there are some horror stories out there of the BE Sport3's batteries being a bit difficult to work with, so keep that in mind.

You may know Marshall for its guitar amplifiers, often used on stage by rock stars and amateurs alike, but the company does way more than just amps. In the past few years, Marshall's produced several lines of headphones, a Bluetooth speaker or two and even a smartphone. Marshall's headphones have been universally solid offerings that target the fashion-conscious more than the audiophile. Its latest offering, the Marshall Major II Bluetooth, is the company's first wireless headphones and it continues Marshall's trend for focusing on fashion and fun rather than pristine sound quality and a great build.

When it comes to headphones, the general consensus is that you very much get what you pay for. But with AKG's K92, what you're getting is so much more. These headphones offer a level of sound quality that far outstrip their budget price tag. That being said, these are some of the largest cans you might ever find, and therefore might not be the best choice for anyone out there who has a petite noggin. Specs-wise, however, it's all good. The K92's professional 40mm drivers offer an extended 16 - 20,000Hz frequency response with a 113 dB SPL/V sensitivity level. It has a cable length of about 9 feet (3 meters) and weighs around 200 grams. 

When the BackBeat Sense first launched a few years ago, it was way too expensive for the everyday audio listener. Sure, these headphones are good, but were they $200/£150 good? Probably not. Thankfully, it’s possible to find them for a much more reasonable price if you shop around. The design yields comfort and appeal. Its sound performance, battery life and features all deliver without a hitch. There are one or two problems here, but for a sweet set of headphones at this low of a price point we can't be harsh on 'em. These cans are worth every penny for someone looking to leap for a classy-looking set of wireless headphones.

There’s a lot about the AirPods that we like. They sound great, their battery life and charging speeds run laps around the competition, and it’s hard to overstate just how seamless the pairing process is. Unfortunately, they can be rather expensive if you don't get them on sale. Considering the holidays are right around the corner, we expect to see these awesome wireless in-ears on sale sooner rather than later. Don't miss them! 

The Beats Solo 3 Wireless ace their wireless tech, with very solid Bluetooth, good range and class-leading battery life. There’s a huge difference here compared with often-flaky cheap Bluetooth sets. Their bass response is sure to be a crowd-pleaser, too – it’s not meant to be neutral or accurate, but by providing meaty thuds without major boominess, the Solo 3 Wireless do what a Beats headphone should. 

Categories: General Technology

The cheapest AirPods prices in October 2018

Mon, 01/10/2018 - 09:01

Apple's new wireless headphones have proven difficult to find since launch, but we've tracked down the cheapest AirPods prices on the net to make sure you get the best deal.

Stock of AirPods has been getting snapped up at a super fast rate, which isn't great news for those of you looking for a big discount. The AirPods' price is undeniably high, but we're in familiar territory here given Apple's reputation for premium items with the cost to match.

If you've taken advantage of a cheap iPhone X deal or iPhone 8 deal lately, the Apple AirPods rank amongst the best earphones to pair with your new phone. Although, as they're bluetooth, you can pair them with plenty of other mobile phones too and even laptops.

How much are AirPods?

The official AirPods' price is $159 in the US and £159 in the UK. So you shouldn't pay any more. Although, we have seen some stores cheekily push the price up when stock thins out.

At the time of writing, we're seeing that AirPods are mainly available at the official Apple store. They're actually the cheapest there too generally as the third-party prices at Amazon and eBay have seen inflated prices thanks to the lack of stock.

Once stock is more readily available everywhere though, expect the usual outlets to charge closer to the RRP and, better yet, dip below it. Fingers crossed we don't have to wait long though!

As an alternative, there are lots of wireless earphone and headphone deals in our Beats headphone deals page.

Categories: General Technology

Sonos wins big as Apple topples Samsung at T3 Awards 2018

Fri, 28/09/2018 - 18:53

It was the busiest night on record as the 12th annual T3 Awards saw a massive 51 gongs handed out - with Sonos the big winner on the night.

The premium audio brand nabbed three awards, with the powerful Sonos One winning Best Multiroom Speaker, as well as the overall title of Best Gadget, due to its excellent audio prowess and masses of connectivity.

Apple finally beat Samsung to the title of Best Phone, with the judges (including TechrRadar's Cat Ellis) deciding that the iPhone X was a more impressive upgrade than the likes of the Pixel 2 XL and the Samsung Galaxy S9 - the first time Samsung hasn't won the award since 2015.

Jaguar's impressive I-Pace, its first totally electric car, won the title of Best Car at the "Gadget Oscars", as Amazon managed to nab the award for Best Brand - a hotly contested category that saw the newly-anointed trillion-dollar brand beat off Microsoft, Samsung and Huawei, thanks to its impressive online services and decent Echo products.

Best Laptop went to the Microsoft Surface Pro 2, which has performed well in our testing this year, and there were also awards handed out to Robert Llewellyn (Tech Legend) and Craig Charles (Tech Personality) for their efforts in getting tech in front of the eyeballs of fans - although using the Red Dwarf theme (which they both starred in) to welcome them on stage separately was perhaps a bit much...

The winners in full...

Gadget Of The Year - Sonos One

Brand Of The Year - Amazon

Retailer Of The Year - John Lewis

Phone Of The Year - Apple iPhone X

Innovation Of The Year  - Amazon Echo Show

Best Gadget under £100 sponsored by The Sun - Google Home Mini

Best Luxury Tech - LG OLED W8

Best Video Streaming Service - BBC iPlayer

Best TV - Sony AF8

Best TV Platform - Sky Q

Best TV Audio Product - Sonos Beam

Best Bluetooth Over or On-Ear Headphones - Bowers & Wilkins PX

Best Bluetooth In-Ear Headphones - Bose SoundSport Free

Best Bluetooth Speaker - Audio Pro Addon C3

Best Multiroom Speaker - Sonos One

Best Hi-Fi Product - KEF LS-50 Wireless

Best Smart Home Tech - Amazon Echo Spot

Best Connected Lighting - Philips Hue

Best Connected Security, sponsored by Express VPN - Nest iQ Outdoor

Best Connected Energy Product - tado° Smart Thermostat and Radiator Thermostat

Best Home Networking Tech - Netgear Orbi WiFi System RBK50

Best Mid-Range Phone - Honor 10

Best Mobile Accessory - Anker PowerWave

Best Fitness Wearable - Fitbit Versa

Best Laptop, sponsored by ao.com - Microsoft Surface Book 2

Best Gaming Laptop - Asus ROG Zephyrus

Best Gaming Accessory - SteelSeries Arctis Pro Wireless

Best VPN - ExpressVPN

Best Compact, DSLR or CSC Camera - Sony A7 III

Best Lifestyle Camera  - GoPro HERO6

Best Car - Jaguar I-PACE

Tech Personality - Craig Charles

Tech Legend - Robert Llewellyn

Best Home Appliance - Dyson Cyclone V10 Absolute

Best Fridge - Miele K 28202 D WS

Best Oven - Rangemaster Elise 110

Best Dishwasher - Bosch Serie 6

Best Vacuum Cleaner - Dyson Cyclone V10 Absolute

Best Washing Machine - AEG 9000 Series

Best Small Appliance - Sage The Oracle Touch

Best Garden Tech - Stihl RMA 235

Best Travel Tech - G-Ro Carry-On Classic

Best Bike - Canyon RoadLite CF 9.0

Best Home Fitness Tech - Wattbike Atom

Best Running Headphones - Jabra Elite Active 65t

Best Watch - Tudor Black Bay GMT

Best Home Air Improvement Tech - Dyson Pure Cool Tower

Best Personal Grooming Tech - Philips 9000 Series Prestige

Best Car Gadget - Nextbase 612GW

The Eco Award, sponsored by Shell - Johan Cruijff Arena, Amsterdam

Categories: General Technology

Jaybird Tarah is an all-star wireless workout earbud for wired holdouts

Wed, 26/09/2018 - 04:09

The tug-of-war between wired and wireless headphones has finally started to lean in wireless’ favor – but, as headphone company CEOs will tell you, there are still some who aren't ready to give up the wire.

To help conversion process pick up some pace, Jaybird is introducing a new pair of wireless workout earbuds called the Jaybird Tarah that will come in at $100 (around £76, AU$138). That makes them about $30 cheaper than the recently released Jaybird X4 and puts them at price, Jaybird hopes, will cause people to give up the cord for good.

"We know a lot of dedicated athletes and fitness fans haven't yet made the switch to wireless headphones," said Jamie Parker, CEO of Jaybird, in a press release sent to TechRadar. "We designed Jaybird Tarah to be the perfect introduction to going wireless - tangle-free and easy-to-use while delivering on the Jaybird fundamentals: sweat- and waterproof, a secure and comfortable sport fit, incredible sound with customizable EQ settings through the Jaybird app, and great battery life.”

That said, the wireless in-ears will be IPX7-rated (waterproof down to one meter for up to 30 minutes), compatible with Siri and Google Assistant and will offer around 6 hours of battery life on a charge – around two hours less than the X4. 

To compensate, the Tarah will have a quick charge feature that gives you one hour of play time after 10 minutes of juicing, reducing the frustration of picking up a dead pair of headphones right before you planned on working out.

Tarah will be compatible with the Jaybird app that allows you to set the EQ of the headphones, and offers light social networking features.

The Jaybird Tarah Wireless Sport Headphones are expected to be available for order exclusively at Jaybird's website on September 25 and in-stores and online starting in the U.S. and Canada in October 2018 in three color combinations: Black/Flash, Nimbus Gray/Jade and Solstice Blue/Glacier. 

Categories: General Technology

First Look: Amazon Echo Link and Amp could take over the audiophile market

Tue, 25/09/2018 - 07:43

Echos are for people who want to set kitchen timers and listen to music through tiny speakers, right? Until Amazon's September event, that's how many music fans would have described Amazon's line-up of Alexa-powered Echo speakers

That's now all changed with Amazon's introduction of a clutch of hi-fi components – the Echo Input and Echo Sub, but more importantly, Echo Link and Echo Link Amp – that together have the potential to take Alexa to every speaker, amplifier, hifi and TV in every room in a house. 

Did Amazon just make a play for the entry-level audiophile market – and take a huge swipe at Sonos along the way? You bet your soundbar it did.

Echo Input is a Google Chromecast Audio-beater. 

Amazon Echo Input bridges the technology gap

Although Amazon did unveil new versions of its Echo Dot and Echo Plus both with upgraded speakers, true audiophiles will rightly ignore them as being about convenience-over-quality. That's not the case with the Echo Input, a speaker-less dongle that lets you add Alexa to an existing speaker for a paltry $34.99/£34.99. 

This tiny, black or white Google Chromecast Audio-like device attaches to any hi-fi equipped with a 3.5 mm jack, but also wirelessly to Bluetooth speakers, essentially bringing all the features of the Echo Dot to any speaker in a home. 

"Amazon's Echo Input adds far-field Alexa experiences to existing connected devices such as Bluetooth speakers, your old home stereo or even your big-screen TV with an input jack," explains Werner Goertz at analyst firm Gartner

It's got four microphones, but crucially the Echo Input allows any speaker to be added to a multi-room music set-up. However, the announcement of the Echo Input – currently only available via invitation – proved a mere aperitif for audiophiles.

Echo Link Amp is a 60W, 2-channel amplifier.

Sans Sub, the Amp and Link are audiophile-ready

Since poor bass response has so far kept the Echo family of devices firmly away from the attentions of those after excellent sound quality, it's no surprise to see Amazon announce Echo Sub. 

This subwoofer, available in October, has a six-inch woofer and 100W power. It's for pairing with Echo or Echo Plus, and available either separately or with two Echo devices to create a quick 2.1 streaming system. Clever as that seems, however, a 2.1 setup that uses Echos is only going to suit a small room or living area.

The serious audiophile gear comes with the arrival or the Echo Link ($199.99, again only in the U.S. for now) and the Echo Link Amp ($299.99). Both support for multi-room music through Alexa, but also bring simple voice control of volume for an otherwise firmly analogue setup that presently includes only a record player. 

Echo Link Amp is a well-equipped piece of equipment.

In marked contrast to most of the Echo family so far, these are serious and well-equipped pieces of equipment. For example, the Echo Link (available later this year in the U.S.) for connecting to an existing amplifier has ins and outs for optical, coaxial and analogue audio, a 3.5 mm headphone jack, and a subwoofer line out. There's also an Ethernet port and a volume knob. 

The Echo Link Amp (available in early 2019) for connecting to passive loudspeakers adds a built-in 60W, 2-channel amplifier with left/right speaker terminals. Naturally, voice can be used to select music, change the volume, or configure multi-room options on the Echo Link and Echo Link Amp using the Alexa app or another Echo device. Critically for audiophiles, the latter contains a high-res 24-bit DAC, so expect it to access to Tidal's lossless audio music streaming service.

Is Amazon stealing Sonos' thunder?

Amazon's decision to go for the audiophile market is a direct attack on a market – multi-room music – that's currently dominated by Sonos (whose Sonos Amp is out in December). However, it's also an effort to get into a market ahead of its other rivals. 

“The focus on audio products and accessories with the Echo Sub, Echo Link and Echo Link Amp will help Amazon deliver higher-end audio experiences in the face of competition from Apple’s HomePod, Sonos products and even Google with the Home Max," says Geoff Blaber, Vice President Research, Americas at CCS Insight. “It's notable that Amazon is not just relying on pre-integration in new products, but enabling existing home appliances and devices through connectors and adapters in an effort to drive utility and usage.” 

Can Amazon challenge Sonos? Absolutely it can, and its offering of good value, modular multi-room music with voice-control baked-in will prove irresistible for some. If Echo Dot is the entry-level, then this is the next logical step up. 

Echo Sub works with Echo and Echo Plus.

Are we ready for hi-fi Alexa?

There is one big question: does your average hi-fi enthusiast care about voice control? Or multi-room? I'm not convinced they do … yet. I wouldn't be surprised if the Echo Link and Echo Link Amp remain niche products and have a limited shelf-life (and they may not even make it out of the U.S.). 

But a lot will depend on sales of the Echo Input, which will introduce – for a low price – the concept of voice control to many music fans. 

Amazon probably know that already; this is largely about ‘Alexa everywhere’. 

"Amazon's announcements are sharp reminders to Apple and Google that Alexa has a significant lead that it is working meticulously to maximize," says Blaber. "The Echo is now just one of many control points as rivals are still boarding the smart speaker bandwagon." 

So this is about extending its dominance in smart speakers, sure, but it's mostly about one thing: Amazon wants to get Alexa everywhere as soon as possible so it becomes the default way of controlling … well, everything. 

Including your kitchen and your car.

Categories: General Technology

Why did Apple buy Shazam? Here are five potential (and particularly good) reasons

Tue, 25/09/2018 - 05:00

Apple has long had its eye – ’i’, if you will – on Shazam. The Cupertino-based company sought to purchase Shazam outright in 2017 to the tune of $400 million but was caught up in red tape until earlier today, when the acquisition officially went through. 

Apple hyped up its experience with the popular music identification app company in a press release, making vague promises about “provid[ing] users even more great ways to discover, experience and enjoy music.” In the same breath, it announced that the Shazam service you know and love will go ad-free in the near future. 

If this sounds like old news, you might be confusing it for when Apple originally announced its intent to buy the platform, or when Apple integrated Shazam into Siri, allowing users to ask “Hey Siri, what song is this?” – which, admittedly, was a big deal.

But a partnership is different than the full-out acquisition: clearly Apple has bigger plans for Shazam ... as its $400 million buyout might suggest. 

What tangible benefits can a complete Shazam acquisition bring? They're a bit more mysterious. 

Without more information from Apple or Shazam to go off of, here are five reasons we think Apple opened up its checkbook for the world’s most well-known audio identification service.

1. It’s not just about music recognition...

Shazam, if you missed out on downloading the app in the last decade since it appeared on the App Store, allows you to record a sample of any audio and ask for it to be identified. This is great for songs that you hear in a store or while traveling that you can’t see the source, but it also has some other purposes like recognizing advertisements on TV. 

While the ability for Shazam to figure out which song is playing is neat, we’ll go out on a limb and say it’s actually Shazam’s ability to recognize any audio that Apple is so interested in. 

Not only can Apple use Shazam-compatible audio in its own advertisements, but it can also sink its teeth into the advertising dollars of any other company that wants to do the same. 

2. Apple Music might develop a memory 

One of Shazam’s most useful skills is that it can remember songs you’ve asked it about, keeping them stored in a neat list that you can go back to later. 

Yes, iTunes already has a wishlist feature that functions similarly, but once Apple and Shazam become one and the same, that list of songs you've recently heard could integrate with Apple Music, and the service could create entire playlists around songs you’ve asked about. 

3. Shazam creates a funnel to Apple Music 

As far as we know, Apple has no plans to take down the Shazam app that has 120 million active users and who use the app 20 million times each day. 

That wouldn’t make a whole lot of business sense. 

What it will do, likely, is use the service to funnel users exclusively to Apple Music. That might scare off some Shazam users who enjoy the egalitarian-ness of the platform, but it could also drum up even more Apple Music users while reducing traffic to the competition.

4. Apple wants to own the music pipeline

Barring Apple purchasing a record label, Apple is closer than it’s ever been to owning the music pipeline. Think about it. You’ll hear a song somewhere that you like. You’ll pull out your iPhone to identify it using Apple-owned Shazam, before opening it in Apple Music. 

Heck, you might even use a pair of Beats headphones to listen to the song after you’ve found it on Apple Music – creating an end-to-end experience that’s entirely owned by Apple.

5. The data Apple collects will be immense

The thing about acquisitions is that a company isn’t just buying intellectual property – it’s buying all the data they’ve ever collected, too. 

To a company like Apple, that data could be incredibly useful, potentially helping them identify which songs have the least recognition but immense popularity. This data could help Apple decide which music to put in front of your face when you check Apple Music, and it could give Apple the information it needs to help them sell you more music in the future.

Apply this process to all of Shazam’s 120 million active users and you’d have a massive data pool that’s only going to get deeper as Shazam gets deeper integrated into Apple Music.

Categories: General Technology

Deezer could make song playlists smarter with AI mood detection

Mon, 24/09/2018 - 19:39

How can we determine the mood of a song? The lyrics give away a lot, but there’s more to it than that: the key, the timbre of the instruments, the tempo, and even the way the music is produced contributes to our emotional interpretation of a song. 

Sometimes lyrics don’t feature at all, yet we can all comprehend the difference in mood between Beethoven’s Moonlight Sonata and the Spring Movement in Vivaldi’s Four Seasons.

Being able to understand the ‘feeling’ behind a track may seem like a uniquely human skill, yet music streaming platform Deezer has developed artificial intelligence technology to do just that, with a view to making mood playlists even more accurate. 

In the mood

Researchers at Deezer have trained the AI system to recognise the emotion and intensity of a song using audio signals, linguistic data including lyrics, and an aggregation of Last.FM song tags describing tracks (for example, upbeat or sad). 

All this information amounted to a database of over 18,000 songs which the researchers used to train the deep learning system to identify the mood of different tunes. They found that using lyrics alone to determine the emotion of a song had only average results, while the link between audio and lyrics created far more accurate categorisations. 

Although the technology isn’t yet ready to be used in Deezer’s services, it could have a huge effect on the reliability of AI generated playlists, meaning Deezer could automatically create playlists as nuanced as ‘music for reminiscing’ to ‘calming songs that won’t make you sleepy’. 

Via Engadget

Categories: General Technology

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