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SweetVinyl’s SC-1 makes your old records sound brand new

Fri, 21/09/2018 - 20:57

Vinyl has been having something of a renaissance in recent years, as music consumers craving a tangible, physical vessel for their music in an age of digital streaming and downloads are flocking to vintage record shops in search of their favorite LPs. 

Buying second hand vinyl, or even digging out your ageing collections can be hit and miss in terms of audio quality, with vinyls being particularly susceptible to wear and tear, especially if they have been stored incorrectly. 

However, even the most distorted records can be saved with SweetVinyl’s SC-1, an add-on noise removal device for your record player that removes pops and clicks using a sophisticated algorithm without damaging your precious vinyls. 

How does it work?

Although noise removal devices have been available to music industry professionals for a while, this could be the first time that amateur audiophiles will have access to the technology in their own homes.

The SweetVinyl SC-1 uses algorithms to improve audio quality in real-time, while retaining the depth and clarity of the original recording, only removing the unwanted distortion from the record. You can also use it in 'bypass mode', which isolates the digital processing from the audio, allowing you listen to the recording in its original format and hear exactly how the SC-1 makes a difference to the listening experience.

There’s also a dedicated SugarCube app for iOS and Android devices, meaning you can switch modes without getting up to physically switch buttons on and off the device. 

How does it sound?

We tried out the SweetVinyl SC-1 for ourselves using one of our scruffiest records, and were really impressed with the digital clean up process. Although it took a little time to set up, if you’re a hardcore audiophile, the results are well worth it. 

A word of warning though: you will require a pre-amp with your record player for the best results. 

The speed at which the SC-1 removes clicks and pops is staggering, and music sounded overall more clear and far warmer, with well defined bass, mid, and high frequencies – it definitely does the job. One great feature is that you can isolate the clicks and pops the SC-1 removes, so you can really hear the difference it’s making to your record. 

Still, we couldn’t help but miss some of that retro-sounding distortion – after all, isn’t that part of the charm of listening to vinyl – why not just listen to remastered digital versions of your favorite records?

It’s clear that this product is for a very niche market of audiophiles who love the warmth of vinyl but hate the fact that their old records sound more and more distorted as they age. 

So here’s the kicker: the SweetVinyl SC-1 is currently on sale for $1999 (£1550 / about AU$2800), so you’d have to be really passionate about vinyl to want to buy one for yourself from Music Direct. That being said, it really does work, and if you already have a hefty record player setup with a preamp and decent speakers, you may well be in the market for something to make those old records sound even better.

With the vinyl market booming, we’re certain there are people out there who would jump at the chance to make their dilapidated record collections sound like new again, much like there’s a bustling market expensive anti-aging face creams.

Still, there’s something to be said for just allowing yourself (and your records) to simply age gracefully and naturally. 

Categories: General Technology

First look: Amazon Echo Auto brings Alexa on your next road trip

Fri, 21/09/2018 - 16:03

Amazon has long been known for putting good things in small packages. That was the basis of its shopping model, and that philosophy has made it all the way to the latest batch of devices like the Amazon Echo Dot and brand-new Amazon Echo Input

Starting later this year, you can add a new device to the ‘small but mighty’ category: the Amazon Echo Auto. 

This device promises to pack Alexa into the car or truck at a price most folks can afford and, when it arrives, you’ll be able to access all of Alexa’s some 50,000 skills wherever you go – make calls with Alexa and use your favorite streaming music services via voice commands wherever the road takes you. (And yes, that includes routines as well.)

Like the original Amazon Echo, the Echo Auto will be available on an invite-only basis starting in the US and sold for a discount price – just $24.99 (roughly £19, AU$34). That price will increase to $49.99 after the invite-only period ends but that’s still a mighty good deal for what you get.

What you get, exactly, is a portable Echo that uses a Bluetooth connection to your phone and an eight-microphone array to take requests via Alexa and can spit out songs, directions, your to-do list, a book from Audible and more. 

The way it works is that the device uses a road noise-reduction algorithm to eliminate driving noise and, after all that excess noise is cut out, the Auto proceeds to send requests from the device to your phone which is responsible for connecting to the internet. 

The Auto can be powered in one of two ways, either via your car’s 12V power outlet or a regular USB port, if you drive something reasonably modern. 

To get the music and directions to play through your car’s stereo system, you can connect the Auto using Bluetooth (again, if your car’s head unit supports it) or via a simple 3.5mm auxiliary cable. 

The system, when all setup, offers a poor man’s version of Android Auto or Apple CarPlay with some of the added perks of Alexa, like routines and smart home compatibility. 

Sure, those other two options have a visual component, but the beauty of Amazon Echo Auto is that Amazon is offering an audio-only solution at a fraction of the cost.

Categories: General Technology

The 2018 International Hi-Fi Show is coming to Melbourne next month

Fri, 21/09/2018 - 12:00

Every year, Melbourne is host to the International Hi-Fi Show and Home Entertainment Expo – the mecca of high-end personal and home audio systems developed by leading manufacturers in the field.

The 2018 Show is home to some truly dazzling events and exhibitors, whether they’re household names or local specialists. And just so you know what you'll be missing if you don't if you don’t grab a ticket, we've listed some of the excellent highlights.

On show

Australian speaker brand Krix will be teaming up with Dolby Atmos to present a world-first demonstration of its 24.10.10 surround sound speaker array. This will be shown off in a custom-built, 32-seat cinema featuring the first Australian showing of the Barco Wodan 4K projector, and we expect it will be one hell of an immersive experience.

Next to Krix, other Aussie brands like VAF Research, Hulgich Audio, Lucie Audio, DEQX, and Elektra will be sharing the spotlight as they debut some of their new Hi-Fi prowess, and international stalwarts like Yamaha and Klipsch are sure bets to be bringing the noise.

If you’re into your vinyl, then you’d better not miss the Record Fair, where a whole plethora of vinyl and turntables will be displayed and sold. There’s nothing quite like crate-digging over a three-day stretch with fresh stock being shuffled onto the stands each day.

Where do I sign up?

The Expo takes place at the Pullman Mercure Hotel, Queens Road, Albert Park from October 12-14, and tickets are available for either a 1-day or 3-day pass. 

General admission for a day costs $22 but students can knock that back to $15, or you can score a three day VIP pass for $50 for the ultimate immersion in all things Hi-Fi.

TechRadar is an official media partner of the International Hi-Fi Show and Home Entertainment Expo.

Categories: General Technology

Amazon Echo Dot (3rd generation) release date, price, news, and features

Fri, 21/09/2018 - 05:45

Update: We have the official Amazon Echo Dot release date and price, and more details on the size of the speaker, the design, and the colors it'll come in. Here's the latest news.

You might as well wait for the Amazon Echo Dot (3rd generation) release date before buying the old entry-level smart speaker from Amazon.com. The new version for 2018 launches next month – specifically October 11 – but you can pre-order it today.

This is the new version of the cheap Alexa-powered Echo speaker announced by the company today as part of the Amazon 2018 device lineup, and it retails for $49.99 (£49.99) and offering a better design along with new features. 

The circular hockey-puck-shaped speaker has a more refined look with a fabric finish this year (you no longer have to buy that fabric Dot case add-on, basically).

The speaker itself will be more powerful, according to Amazon, and still retains its line out and Bluetooth connectivity for both physical and wireless connections.

Here's everything we know about the Amazon Echo Dot 3rd Generation.

Don't worry, it's not this big

Release date, pre-orders and price

The Amazon Echo Dot 3rd Generation will ship next month, with order going out on October 11 in both the US and UK, according to Amazon. However, you can pre-order this cheap Echo speaker starting today.

It'll cost the same as the previous Echo Dot speakers: $49.99 for the US, and £49.99 in the UK. We'll add more regional pricing in other countries as we get it.

Design and features

The new Amazon Echo Dot 2018 looks a lot like the old Amazon Echo Dot, only its hockey-puck-shaped circular body is wrapped in the fine fabric – the same fabric we've seen from the latest flagship Echo speaker refreshes.

It's more aesthetically pleasing for your home than the plastic Echo Dot Gen 1 and Gen 2 versions, and comes in three different colors Charcoal, Heather Grey, and Sandstone.

It retains its form factor, but Amazon says there's a brand new mic array for better performance. Alexa should be able to hear you better despite this diminutive speaker's size.

The speaker driver is also much larger, going from a 1.1-inch driver to a 1.6-inch driver. That helps deliver more powerful sound, lower distortion, and a bigger bass. You'll appreciate the higher max volume out of the Echo Dot 2018.

The new Echo Dot Gen 3 is 70% louder than Gen 2, according to Amazon, and yes, it still retains an aux connection for a physical speaker output. You can also connect it wirelessly to external speakers via Bluetooth.

Categories: General Technology

Amazon Echo Sub release date, price, news and features

Fri, 21/09/2018 - 04:09

If you’ve been digging your Amazon Echo or Amazon Echo Plus speaker for all of its smarts, but find the audio to be lacking, Amazon has a new thing to sell you: the Amazon Echo Sub. This is a subwoofer attachment that enhances the audio of existing Echo and Echo Plus speakers.

Amazon just announced the Echo Sub during a surprise September 20 announcement event in its Seattle headquarters. The device works with existing Echo and Echo Plus speakers wirelessly for either a 1.1 improvement with a single speaker or with two speakers wirelessly, amplifying both of their audio and turning it into a 2.1 setup.

This is a relatively new concept for smart speaker owners, so we’ve broken down all of the major details regarding Amazon Echo Sub, namely when it’s out, how much it costs and just what in the world it does.

Cut to the chase
  • What is it? A subwoofer for Amazon Echo and Echo Plus
  • When is it out? October 11 (pre-orders open now)
  • What will it cost? $129 (£119, about AU$277)

Amazon Echo Sub release date

Everyone is open to begin pre-ordering the Echo Sub starting today at the time of writing. However, the product doesn’t begin shipping in the US until later this month, and won't be generally available on October 11.

We'll update this story once we learn more regarding UK and Australian pre-order and shipping details.

Regardless, expect to see these in friends and family members' homes – assuming it sells well – by the end of the month or early October. It's sure to be a staple of this year's Black Friday sales.

Amazon Echo Sub price

The Amazon Echo Sub calls for $129 in the US and £119 in the UK. It's unknown exactly how much this speaker will cost in Australia, but currency conversion puts it at AU$277.

This is a surprisingly steep price for a device that simply amplifies the audio power of existing Echo speakers. We'll have to see by just how much this product boosts audio in a full review.

Amazon Echo Sub features

The Amazon Echo Sub doesn't have a ton of specific features to speak of. Most importantly, this is a 100W subwoofer with wireless communication capabilities.

This allows the Sub to receive audio data from the Echo speakers that would otherwise pump out of those speakers' built-in woofers. The result should be far more powerful bass response from the Echo speakers when playing music.

Categories: General Technology

Dolby Atmos: The ins, outs and sounds of the object-based surround system

Fri, 21/09/2018 - 00:10

Dolby Atmos just got its biggest promotion yet - it's now supported by Apple TV 4K, making Apple's video streamer the first to support both Vision and Atmos. 

And while there's a lot of excitement around the Dolby Atmos format, it's one that's still a bit tricky to wrap your head (and ears!) around. 

In brief, Dolby Atmos a new audio format that allows you to hear sound in a 360-degree bubble. With its object-oriented audio engineering and its up-or-down-firing speakers, Atmos is changing the way home theaters are setup and, more importantly, how sound is distributed in the room.

In the past, we've explored how exactly Dolby Atmos is the future of cinema sound, as well as how the technology is hacking our ears. But we've never sat down to truly explain what the technology is, why it's important and, most importantly, how you can get it in your own home. Until now.

[Update: Apple TV 4K now supports Dolby Atmos, and have pledged to upgrade your film collection for free if there's a matching version with Atmos support available.]


The basics: what is Dolby Atmos?

Dolby Atmos is a new audio format – like stereo sound or surround sound that takes recorded audio from a movie soundtrack or a video game and spits it out in a more immersive way. Dolby Atmos gives sound a more three-dimensional effect – imagine the difference between hearing a helicopter flying a few hundred yards away versus directly over your head.

The technology is being developed by Dolby Laboratories, an audio company that specializes in sound reproduction and encoding. You've probably seen their logo on DVD or Blu-ray boxes or on the latest audio equipment.

The audio mixing happens in sound studios where audio engineers take sound effects in movies and digitally move them around three-dimensional space. When you play the movie back using Dolby Atmos-enabled audio devices, you'll be able to hear the effects move around you, just like the audio engineers intended.

Of course, to hear Dolby Atmos, you'll need a Dolby Atmos-compatible film or TV show file (found on Netflix and now iTunes), as well as a Dolby Atmos-enabled player and a Dolby Atmos-enabled speaker system or soundbar. 

So how does Dolby plan on creating a sound bubble? For the answer to that question, all you have to do is look up. 

Dolby Atmos creates a bubble of sound by bouncing beams of audio off your ceiling and then to your ears. As you might imagine, this takes a bit of calibration, and a fairly flat ceiling. As long as you have the latter and don't mind doing the former when it comes time, let's press on.

Step 1. Finding the system

So how do you get Dolby Atmos? The first part is getting the right hardware - audio equipment that supports Dolby Atmos as well as a Dolby Atmos-compatible player. 

Of course, if that sounds too challenging, you can always just buy a system that integrates both: The Dolby Atmos-ready LG W7 OLED is fantastic with a built-in 5.0.2 soundbar that's just all-too-happy to bring you room-filling audio for a mere $6,999 (£6,999 or AU$13,499). 

If you don't have $7,000 burning a hole in your pocket, however, there are plenty of cheaper entry points – an Xbox One S or an Oppo UDP-203 4K Blu-ray player hooked up to an LG SJ9 Soundbar would do the trick.

If you'd rather just expand the home system you already have, major audio manufacturers like Onkyo, Denon, Yamaha and Pioneer all make audio/visual receivers capable of processing Dolby Atmos audio tracks, with few distinctions for the layman between the mid-tier models. 

The key point here is that as long as you have Dolby Atmos content fed through a Dolby Atmos player to a pair of Dolby Atmos speakers, you're all set. 

If you're still a bit hazy about where to start shopping for Atmos products, Dolby offers a handy catalog of all the current Dolby Atmos-ready products.

Step 2. Finding content and testing it out

Let's turn on the system and connect it to a Dolby Atmos-capable player (Xbox One or a Dolby Atmos-enabled Blu-ray player). Good job! Now, all that's left to find is some Dolby Atmos content.

Thankfully, that's a task that becomes easier with each and every passing day. The best way to test out the new system is with Netflix's DeathNote, BLAME! or Okja (available with both Dolby Atmos and Dolby Vision, a version of HDR that enhances the colors and contrast of your favorite films). 

How do you know it's playing in Dolby Atmos? Look for the Atmos icon next to the title of the film.

If you're looking for more content to watch, check out one of the 100+ titles available on 4K Blu-ray that have Dolby Atmos. (For a full list, click here.)

For gamers, however, native Dolby Atmos content is still a bit sparse. Right now, only two games are mixed for Dolby Atmos: Overwatch and Star Wars Battlefront – both of which require the PC versions of the game. 

There is another way to get Dolby Atmos in games, though. 

Dolby has recently launched the Dolby Access app on Xbox One and Windows 10 PCs that upmixes stereo and 5.1 surround mixes to Dolby Atmos. The app is free to try and available to own for $14.99. Upmixed content never quite sounds as good as native Atmos, but hey, $15 is a whole lot cheaper than a brand-new soundbar or receiver, that's for sure.

So, what are you looking for once you've got your content? Dolby Atmos creates a sound bubble of audio. You should be able to hear raindrops falling from the sky and thunder in clouds that sound like they're 10 feet above your head. Ideally, it should feel like your room is filled with sound from every direction. If it doesn't, re-check the connections or dive back into the settings.

Dolby Atmos works best in a smaller room with a level ceiling. Changing the slope of the ceiling messes with the reflection angle of the surround sound. 

Atmos is a lot like 4K, in a way

Dolby outlines three other primary sources for Atmos content: there are games on PC like Star Wars Battlefront and Battlefield 1, Dolby Atmos-compatible Blu-rays and movies from streaming services like Netflix and Vudu, the Walmart-owned video streaming service. 

Now, problematically, you might didn't have all of these on hand. The landscape is still a bit scattered at the moment. It's something Dolby has done its best to correct, but because it depends on partnerships to bring content to the masses (see: Microsoft, LG, Netflix, Vudu, Oppo, etc...) finding all the content in one spot is, at this point, a technical impossibility.

The good news is that the technology is still in its infancy. In conversations with top Dolby engineers, they've admitted that there are still some kinks to the distribution process that they hope will be alleviated when the platform grows larger and more robust. In our opinion, it's still really clever and interesting technology that will revolutionize the home cinema once it becomes the standard, rather than something reserved for audiophiles like myself.

Like Ultra-HD, there's not a lot of content out there to support the tech, but do a bit of digging and you'll uncover some real ear-candy.

Should you upgrade to Dolby Atmos?

The big question: Should you upgrade your system to Dolby Atmos?

If you're an entertainment junky keen on having the latest and greatest tech – i.e. you already own a 4K TV and a seriously sweet surround sound system – then yes. But if you're an average movie or TV buff, I would wait until the tech begins to normalize and comes down a bit more in price. 

The technology is almost ready for mainstream consumption with a number of game developers working on titles that support Atmos and with Hollywood seemingly loving the technology which means now might be the best time to jump on the bandwagon.

Like 4K TVs a few years ago, Dolby Atmos isn't for everyone. It's not the easiest thing to wrap your head around and content isn't as much of a buffet as it is a fine three-course dinner. It's an investment in the future of audio technology, one that will pay off down the road but right now feels like a bit of a risk.

Categories: General Technology

Apple HomePod 2: rumors, news, release date and more

Thu, 20/09/2018 - 01:40

Following the yearly iPhone launch event on September 12, we still don't know much about what the next HomePod will look like. There's been speculation that the Apple HomePod 2 may actually be a compact version of the original, with the name Apple HomePod Mini being rumored.

However, with no mention of an updated HomePod at September's launch, we just don't know whether Apple are about to bring out a bite-sized HomePod Mini to counter smart speaker rivals Google and Amazon.

According to a Bloomberg report in July 2018, Apple could be looking to release the HomePod 2 in early 2019, which would make sense based on the release date of the original HomePod.

The original Apple HomePod has been on sale since February 2018 and has so far been met with mixed reviews. While many people praised it as a speaker, when it comes to its capabilities as a smart home hub, there are those who question whether it’s worth its rather high price point. 

With reports claiming that sales aren’t doing particularly well, the stage could be set for a HomePod Mini, and though Apple is yet to make any kind of confirmation we have heard a few whispers about it – a cheaper and smaller HomePod could be exactly what the brand needs to draw in those who have yet to be convinced.

We've already seen how well the Google Home Mini and the Amazon Echo Dot have done, so it would make sense for Apple to follow suit. Regardless of whether it’s in the works or not, this is exactly what we’d like to see from the HomePod 2 or HomePod Mini if it ever comes. 

Cut to the chase
  • What is it? The new Apple HomePod smart speaker could either be the HomePod 2 or the rumored HomePod Mini
  • When is it out? With no mention at Apple's September launch event, an early 2019 release date is looking more and more likely
  • What will it cost? No pricing just yet but, if it is a smaller version, it’s likely to be cheaper than the fully-fledged HomePod 
Apple HomePod 2 release date

Considering the Apple HomePod 2 hasn’t actually been announced yet and there isn’t really any kind of historical pattern when it comes to previous releases for this this product, making a guess on a release date is tricky. 

We're also not yet certain whether the new HomePod will be full-sized, or a mini version of the original. We were surprised not to hear any details at Apple's yearly iPhone launch, which kept the smart home news limited to a HomePod OS update coming on September 17, with new search features, multiple timers, and additional Siri languages.

There have been rumors this year that we could see the product released before the end of 2018 – but we’re taking this information with a pinch of salt until Apple makes an official announcement.

Bearing in mind that Samsung has its own smart speaker on the way in the form of the Galaxy Home, Apple might want to make its next move sooner rather than later.

Apple HomePod 2 and Apple HomePod Mini news and rumors

There’s not exactly a glut of HomePod 2 or HomePod Mini rumors out there but there have been a couple of reports worth picking up on. 

Beats branding

One of the more recent rumors around a new HomePod came from a Chinese tech firm called Sina, stating that there could be a cut-price HomePod with Beats branding in the works.

We haven’t seen a great deal of Beats-branded releases since Apple purchased the company in 2014, so this might be a chance for Apple to revive the name while repositioning the reportedly floundering HomePod to a brand new (perhaps younger) audience. 

According to the report, the new HomePod would cost around $199 (about £150, AU$260), which is in line with previous rumors and would go some way to combating criticisms of the speaker’s high price point.  This is a report which should, however, be taken with a fistful of salt. 

The first report of a Mini HomePod

Back in March 2018, only a month after the HomePod’s release, there was a report from Economic Daily that Apple was planning to release a more affordable HomePod at some point in 2018. 

It was rumored that this cheaper HomePod would launch in the US in the second half of 2018 for around $200 (around £145, AU$260), which is significantly lower than the device’s current $349 / £319 / AU$499 price point. In this report it wasn’t made clear how Apple was actually planning to lower the price of its speaker, but a brand new and smaller Apple HomePod Mini could be a way to do this.

You've seen the rumors that the Apple HomePod 2 could actually be a HomePod Mini, but either way, here are the things we'd like to see from the new version:

Bluetooth connectivity

Sure, smart speakers are all about voice controls, and the fact that they’re standalone devices that don’t need to be hooked up to another audio source in order to playback tunes and podcasts. But, sometimes, a few added options are just convenient – especially if you’re trying to play back a track that, for whatever reason, can’t be found on the smart speaker’s streaming service of choice. 

It may not be cutting edge in the smart speaker world, but there’s still the odd occasion when Bluetooth connectivity would be useful – and in the case of a HomePod 2 or HomePod Mini being tied to Apple Music, that’d be particularly useful for anyone looking to access, say, Spotify streaming. Which brings us onto our next point…

Open access to other music services

If you buy one of the current Apple HomePod speakers, you’re essentially locking yourself into Apple’s audio ecosystem. So, iTunes purchases aside, that’s $9.99 / £9.99 / AU$11.99 a month for a single Apple Music streaming account, or $14.99 / £14.99 / AU$17.99 for a family account.

That’s fine if you’re an iPhone-owning Cupertino disciple, and Apple Music is a fine service definitely worth investing in. But, if you’ve already committed to Spotify or Google Play Music or any of the other myriad smaller streaming options, that could be a frustrating restriction. 

By knocking a few bricks out of its walled garden and letting other services have a look in could give a new Apple HomePod a user base boost – and it could be paired with incentives to jump to Apple Music, if Apple played a savvy long-game.

More color options

The Apple HomePod is certainly an attractive speaker, with its fabric mesh covering and cylindrical size subtle enough to fit among many decors. But that’s not always what you’re looking for – sometimes you want a gadget that separates you from the pack, as evidenced by Apple’s Beats headphones. 

That brand has been built around bold colorful designs, and if the rumors that the HomePod 2 or HomePod Mini is to feature Beats branding prove to be true, we’d like to see the speaker embrace Beats’ colorful aesthetic as well.

Better Siri performance

Apple’s HomePod does well on sound but when it comes to smarts it’s somewhat lacking. Compared to Google Assistant and Amazon’s Alexa, Siri is rather limited in what it can do for you as a smart home hub. This isn’t great considering it’s one of the most expensive smart speakers on the market, and Siri is your main means of controlling it.

With that in mind, we’d love to see better Siri performance in a new HomePod iteration when it comes to performing commands quickly and accurately. There are rumors that Siri will be cut from the device entirely to save on cost, but we’d rather see some improvements. 

Categories: General Technology

Bose’s latest earbuds promises you a good night’s sleep

Wed, 19/09/2018 - 18:23

If you’re one of those people who are kept awake at night by a snoring partner, noisy construction, or the sounds of some lunatic revving their Ferrari at 1.30am on a weekend, then Bose’s latest sleepbuds are the perfect solutions.

The two tiny wireless buds can run up to 16 hours at a stretch, and come preloaded with 10 ‘sleeptracks’ to help you relax and get a good night’s sleep. From rustling leaves to the swell of the ocean, you simply choose what track you’d like to listen to, how long you want it to play for, and then get comfortable in your bed. More tracks are available for selection from an online library, and the sleepbuds can be slipped back into a carrying case for a quick recharge.

The audio tracks mirror the frequencies of snoring, neighbors, dogs, traffic, and more, hiding them beneath a layer of relaxing audio. The new patented ear tips make for a snug, soft fit, and allow you to sleep comfortable on your side while wearing them. The sleepbuds are also the first product to use Bose’s noise-masking technology, which helps quieten sounds that are keeping you from a good night’s sleep.

It’s important to know that these aren’t like standard wireless headphones. They won’t stream music, nor do they offer traditional noise-cancelling like in other Bose products.

Bose sleepbuds have a high-gloss white finish and will retail for  AED 999. They’re available in the UAE on September 7, 2018 at Bose stores, bose.ae and select resellers.

Categories: General Technology

Pandora's latest feature takes a page from Spotify's playbook

Tue, 18/09/2018 - 04:00

Pandora began with a simple premise: Create online radio stations around a user-selected song, artist or genre. Users could create more than one of these stations at a time, and bounce between them as frequently as they wished with minor commercial breaks interspersed with the music.

Starting today, Pandora is ready to take that premise to the next level with a feature called The Drop that collects listening data from the music you listen to and creates an ever-updated playlist of new songs and artists that it thinks you’re going to like. 

The feature is only available to Pandora Premium subscribers and, if it sounds familiar, it’s because it’s nearly identical to a Spotify feature called Release Radar that’s been available for some time on the streaming service which offers a curated list of 30 songs updated regularly that Spotify thinks you’re going to like.

While the similarities between the two features are obvious, there are some minor differences between Spotify and Pandora’s competing features like the fact that Pandora will store up to 100 songs in your personalized playlist at a time – making it over three times bigger than Spotify's playlist – but will only be available once you’ve listened to enough music on Pandora Premium.

The strategy here, it seems, is for Pandora to add some features that draws fans away from competing services and integrating them into its new premium service. New features plus more subscribers overall would be a huge win for the service which has been struggling since Spotify and Apple Music have moved into the space.

All that said, if you're looking for a new place to get fresh, vetted music in a 100-song playlist, it sounds like Pandora has your covered.

Categories: General Technology

Best AV receiver 2018: which home cinema AV receiver should you buy?

Sat, 15/09/2018 - 08:20

If you want to transform your living room into a cinema that you don’t have to pay ticket prices to visit,  you need to pick up one of the best AV receivers. 

Why? Because even with the best TV, if you’re stuck with the poor speakers that are often built into TVs, you’ll have to settle for a sub-par audio experience. Do yourself, and your favorite movies and games, a favor – buy an AV receiver instead.

When you’re out shopping for the best AV receiver, it’s crucial to consider how many and what types of ports you need. Trust us, no one wants to constantly move 15 cables around just to use your PS4. 

This is critically important because the best AV receivers are essentially the central base that all of your entertainment equipment will need to connect and communicate with. Even if you have a ton of devices, this means that the transition between devices will always be seamless – no matter what you’re trying to play, watch or listen to, you’ll always get an amazing entertainment experience.

If you’ve already jumped on the 4K bandwagon you should look for a receiver that has a wealth of HDCP 2.2 compatible HDMI ports. And if you want to get really high-tech, and invest in multi-room streaming, you need to think about which wireless speaker system is best for you – Chromecast, Heos, or even Yamaha MusicCast. Even if you’re not immediately planning on using this technology, what’s the harm in future-proofing your entertainment setup?

For many people, Dolby Atmos will be the killer app. This 3D audio system has become the gold standard in immersive audio. It may be available on soundbars, but only an AV receiver offers true overhead Dolby Atmos audio. You only need to decide if you want a seven or a nine-channel system. (However, that said, you may not need Dolby Atmos at all, in which case a standard 5.1 sound system will fill your surround sound needs nicely.) 

So, if you’re shortlisting a new AV receiver, you’ve come to the right place, so let’s dive into the best AV receivers you can buy today.

Best AV receivers under $699

Gone are the days when buying a surround-sound-supporting receiver with multiple HDMI ports meant spending an arm and a leg. These days, you can get a great receiver with support for a surround sound setup at well under $500/£600. Like, for example, the Onkyo TX-NR676.

It's not the only receiver in its price range with a great set of features features or a plethora of inputs, but there are few comprehensive packages that are as easy to assemble, set up and use as Onkyo's. 

In terms of expected sound performance, Onkyo has long offered a great sound-quality, and this receiver is no different. The receiver supports DTS:X and Dolby Atmos, which helps give sound a much more immersive feel to it. 

We found that the receiver was generally great-sounding at all volumes. At low volumes, there was still plenty of clarity and detail, while higher volumes produced little distortion, which was nice to hear. Extremely tuned ears might miss a little detail in the high end at louder volumes, though the receiver still shoots well above its price range when it comes to sound quality. 

If you’re looking for a great A/V receiver and have a maximum budget of $400/£600, the Onkyo TX-NR676 is the way to go.

Read the full review: Onkyo TX-NR676

It might be late to the party, but Sony’s debut Dolby Atmos AV receiver entertains with some cool functionality. While it’s ostensibly a seven channel design (which means it can run in a 5.1.2 Dolby Atmos configuration) there are also two phantom rears which create a pseudo seven channel surround soundstage. The receiver can even virtually relocate the physical position of your speakers, to create a better sonic balance.   

Build quality is commensurate with its price tag. This is no heavyweight, and the fascia looks overly fussy, but the hairline finish is a premium touch. Connectivity is good. We get six HDMI inputs, all HDCP 2.2 enabled. There are also two HDMI outputs, for combi TV and projector use. There are also two analogue AV inputs, plus a pair of stereo phonos and two digital audio inputs.  

The AVR connects via Ethernet or Wi-Fi, and Bluetooth with NFC for quick pairing, plus Airplay.  The AVR also boasts Chromecast Built-in. That’s all the main wireless boxes ticked.

Setup is helped along by the latest iteration of Sony’s Auto Calibration software, which now features a 31-band graphic EQ and a stereo calibration microphone that adjusts phase, distance and level.

Usability is average. The receiver relies heavily on its UI, which is pretty but sometimes a little frustrating.  

Performance is excellent for the price. Tonally the STR-DN1080 may not be particularly warm, but it is exciting. Movies benefit from seamless panning and pronounced dynamics. Power output is quoted at  7 x 165W into 6 ohms. The biggest surprise is the effectiveness of the phantom rears, which really do help fill out the rear surround stage. This sonic trickery positions the STR-DN1080 somewhere above a standard 5.1.2 design, but below a true nine channel amp.

Overall, this is an innovative, exciting AV Dolby Atmos receiver. Consider it a brilliant value home cinema offering.  

The latest update to the popular slimline NR line, Marantz’s Dolby Atmos enabled NR1607 packs a load of features into a low profile frame. 

Choose from either a 5.1.2 Atmos configuration, or 7.1 flatbed surround. Wireless connectivity comes via Wi-Fi, Bluetooth or AirPlay.  

All seven rear-side HDMI inputs support 4K with HDCP 2.2. There’s only one HDMI output though. This is joined by two digital audio inputs (one coaxial, one digital), plus three AV analogue inputs. On the front panel, there’s another HDMI input and USB with iOS Digital Direct.  

Auto room correction is provided by Audyssey, viaa supplied microphone. It does a reasonable job EQing the receiver to the listening room.   

The 50W p/c power rating may be modest, but this little box can slam loud and hard when it needs too. The subtle, immersive 3D audio of Atmos is also well handled here; audio panning around and overhead is thoroughly engaging. 

The receiver is more than confident with two channel sources, although it lacks the sparkle of some of more expensive rivals.  While the power output is plenty good enough for smaller rooms, larger theater spaces could be a challenge. Edge past 80 on the volume gauge and the mid-range dries out. 

Overall, the NR1607 can be considered a potent slimline Dolby Atmos receiver. HDMI connectivity is class leading, and our only grumble is the solitary output, which could limit options if you want to run both a screen and a projector. 

Best AV receivers under $1,000

Yamaha’s RX-A860 is nothing if not versatile.  A seven channel design, it supports Dolby Atmos in a 5.1.2 layout and classic 7.1, as well as 5.1 with front presence speakers driven by Yamaha’s own Cinema DSP processing. Virtual speaker creation is available to help fill the rear channel hole if your speaker layout is 5.1.2, although this isn’t as effective as that offered on the Sony STR-DN1080. There’s also a weird Virtual Cinema Front mode, in which rear speakers are placed at the front of the listening room - but we don’t recommend this.  

The cosmetic design, with its partly mirrored façade, is modernistic, while a fascia flap conceals front-facing HDMI, USB and analogue AV inputs. On the rear are seven HDMI inputs, plus two outputs, but only three support 4K HDCP 2.2 sources, which is a tad mean given the price point.  

Connectivity embraces Ethernet and Wi-Fi, plus Bluetooth and Airplay. Like many Yamaha AV components, the receiver is MusicCast enabled. This means it can be used within Yamaha’s own wireless ecosystem, which also includes small wireless speakers to soundbars and music systems.  

Yamaha YPAO room calibration is provided for setup, using the supplied mic. It works perfectly well. The user interface is a bit uncoordinated though, with windows popping up hither and thither.

Sonically, this receiver is smooth and powerful. Atmospheric TV shows and blockbuster movies both benefit from its easy fast delivery. Even when driven hard, there’s no sense of distress. The RX-A860 keeps its cool. The receiver is sweet with music too. 

Yamaha has always been big on novelty DSP sound fields, and here we get an assortment of post processing flavours. Movies can be watched within Spectacle, Sci-Fi, Adventure, Music Video, or Video Game envelopes. Music has even more. Try them when you’re bored. 

Overall, the RX-A860 warrants a cautious thumbs up. In performance terms, there’s much to like, but the limited provision of 4K capable HDMI inputs could hamper system upgradability. 

  • 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 Denon HEOS AVR 

It’s not often we see something radically different in the world of AV receivers, but this HEOS model definitely qualifies. For starters, it looks fundamentally different to the herd. There’s no front panel display. Rear connectivity has also been stripped back. Standing just 90mm tall, it’s refreshing compact.  

Build quality is superb. Only a volume knob on the extruded aluminium fascia gives the AVR game away. 

There are four HDMI inputs, and a single output, all with HDCP 2.2 support. There's just two digital audio inputs (coaxial and optical), plus analogue stereo, 3.5mm minijack, lone USB and Ethernet LAN. Wireless connectivity covers Bluetooth and Wi-Fi.

Perhaps surprisingly, this is a 5.1 channel design and doesn’t support Dolby Atmos. Key to the receiver’s appeal is HEOS wireless speaker integration. While there is provision for wired rear speakers, the system is designed to work with wireless HEOS rears. In most systems, only the front L/C/R will be tethered. It can also partner with a dedicated wireless HEOS subwoofer. 

While a remote is supplied, it’s a basic zapper. There’s no onscreen display either. Setup and control is done through a HEOS app. 

For our audition, we partnered the AVR with a pair of HEOS 1s at the rear, and the wireless HEOS subwoofer. With speakers grouped, the package becomes a working 5.1 system. There’s no further calibration required.

The HEOS AVR may not be a powerhouse, but it’s a bright, lively listen. The receiver delivers multichannel movie soundtracks with gusto. It’s crisp and exciting, particularly when there’s plenty going on around the soundstage (try it with Edge of Tomorrow Blu-ray, then duck as the DTS HD Master Audio soundtrack unloads chaos in every corner).   

This isn’t a particularly musical AVR though. Pop and rock are entertaining enough, but throw a throw it something classical or jazzy and its spatial delineation turns a bit mushy. 

Using wireless rears can invite some problems. While latency isn’t an issue, we were aware of occasional low-level pops and fizzes.

As an ambitious reworking of the classic home theater receiver, we rate this first HEOS AVR as an qualified success. The cosmetics are admirable, and for dedicated HEOS multiroom users the wireless interactivity is a boon. Employing an app for control seems to make perfect sense, the only snag comes if your streaming audio sources are also app controlled and need to be juggled outside of the HEOS app. This may not be the future of AV receivers, but it’s a refreshing rethink nonetheless. 

  • 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 Marantz NR1607 
  • Looking for a great movie to put your sound system to the test? Check out our list of the best sci-fi movies.
Best AV recivers over $1,000

If you want a no-compromise Atmos experience, then stepping up to a nine channel AV receiver is well worth the premium. With this big Denon, you can opt for 5.1.4, or 7.1.2 - and that makes a big difference to the overall performance. There’s actually processing for eleven channels if you want to add additional amplification. 

But there’s more than just wraparound audio to this beast. The H suffix denotes that it’s also HEOS multiroom compatible. It can play, or route, content to and from other HEOS connected components. Spin a CD on your Blu-ray deck, and you can Party Zone the music through both your cinema system and any connected HEOS speakers.

Build quality is stellar. The receiver has a copper plated chassis with monoblock construction. There are seven rear HDMI inputs, plus one on the front fascia. All support 4K HDCP 2.2 sources. There are also three HDMI outputs. 

There’s also a forest of other inputs, including four digital audio inputs (split between digital optical and coaxial), six analogue stereo pairs and phono (MM) turntable support. You can also stream over Wi-Fi and Bluetooth.

Power output is prodigious, at 9 x 200w into 6 Ohms. This doesn’t mean you should go super-loud, more that it can effortlessly bludgeon without strain or distortion.  

The user interface is slick, with high-res graphics guiding you through the setup routine. Auto calibration is via Audyssey.  

The Denon’s performance is outstanding in every regard. It does a fabulous job with multichannel Dolby Atmos soundtracks, both explosive and atmospheric, and is no slouch when it comes to music either.  Beneath the hood are fourth-gen SHARC DSP processors. Spatial imaging and transient attack is excellent. 

Overall, we rate this class-leading Denon as a home cinema superstar. It’s feature heavy, and massively powerful. But there’s agility behind the brawn. In short, it’s a fabulous home theater performer.

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

While the Arcam AVR850 is unlikely to win any Best Value accolades – it’s unashamedly expensive for a 5.1.2 Dolby Atmos design – its overarching musicality is hard to beat. This is arguably the UK audio specialist’s best sounding AV receiver to date.   

The AVR850 uses Class G power amps, conservatively rated at 100W-per-channel.

The design is understated, with a nice matte cabinet finish and big central volume knob. It tips the scales at a reassuringly heavy 16kg.  

Connectivity is good. There are seven HDMI inputs, all with HDCP 2.2 support, plus three HDMI outputs. Audio options include six analogue inputs, and six digital audio inputs.  

The really significant difference here, compared to previous Arcam home theater boxes, is the provision of Dirac Live room calibration.

Arguably the most sophisticated auto calibration technology available, it does a extraordinary job fine tuning the receiver to the listening room. Dirac tuning is not carried out by the receiver with a microphone, but via a laptop. Sounds complicated? Don’t fret. Buyers will have room calibration done by the dealer that supplies the receiver.

While Dirac is the height of sophistication, the user interface is pretty basic, just a plain text box. Arcam isn’t even trying to impress here.

Still, the receiver sounds sensational, with precise imaging that really makes the most of Dolby Atmos encoding. It’s tight and forceful with action sequences, and delicious melodious with two channel music. That feature count may look frugal for the price, but when it comes to performance, your investment will be repaid in spades.    

The Arcam AV850 may be ruinously expensive for a seven channel amplifier, but tuned with Dirac, it’s clearly a premium performer. We’re prepared to forgive it any foibles.

Categories: General Technology

Harman and Samsung partner up to take down Sony's best wireless headphones

Sat, 15/09/2018 - 04:33

While 8K TVs stole the show at IFA 2018, there was also a fair amount of noise cancelling headphones in Berlin, too – most notably, the Sony WH-1000XM3 and AKG N700NC. The former was announced for the US and UK audience while the latter was announced as a Europe-only product.

Now, thanks to its partnership with Samsung, Harman is bringing its AKG noise-cancelling headphones Stateside to the tune of $350 and will be released alongside two other models, the AKG Y500 and AKG Y100, that will cost you $150 or $100, respectively.

On the surface, there are lot of similarities between the AKG N700NC and WH-1000XM3: Not only are they wireless noise-cancelling headphones, but they both offer adaptive noise-cancellation, for example, as well as Talk Through modes that let you hear the outside world. 

That said, the Samsung and AKG claim the N700NC only has around 20 hours of battery life after a two hour charge, compared to the 30 on the Sony WH-1000XM3. Plus, Sony’s headphones offer aptX, aptX HD and LDAC codec support while the AKG N700NC do not. 

It's not all bad, though. AKG's ace in the hole is its Perfect Calls feature that could help it surpass the WH-1000XM3 in its weakest, most criticized area. 

Sleek and stylish, the AKG Y500 are available starting today

AKG for when you're AFK

Alongside the N700NC, the other headphones slated for US release, the AKG Y500 and AKG Y100, are a pair of wireless on-ear and in-ear headphones, respectively. 

The AKG Y500 will offer up around 33 hours of battery life and come in four colors (black, blue, green, pink) while the Y100 last up to 8 hours and will be available in the same shades.

The AKG Y500 and Y100 will be available starting today in the US with the N700NC slated for launch later this year.

Categories: General Technology

Spotify's latest update triples download limit for offline listening

Thu, 13/09/2018 - 10:49

With strong competition from Apple Music, Spotify has been tweaking its music streaming service to make it more appealing to its users. It’s already testing a new Lite version of its platform in Brazil, and has even introduced unlimited ad skips in Australia for users on it free tier.

However, the biggest recent change was seemingly done quietly, with the latest update to the platform tripling the number of songs a user can download and store for offline listening, while also increasing the number of devices this feature can be used on.

After years of limiting users to downloading a somewhat arbitrary 3,333 songs per device, Rolling Stone has reported that Spotify has raised that limit to 10,000 songs per device for offline listening. 

The music streaming platform has also upped the number of devices per account which are allowed to download and store music, going from three to five, meaning Spotify Premium users could, in theory, now listen to a whopping 50,000 songs when not connected to the internet.

“At Spotify, we’re always working on improving the experience for our users,” a spokesperson for the Swedish company told Rolling Stone. “We can now confirm that we have increased the number of offline tracks per device – from 3,333 on three devices to 10,000 tracks per device for up to five devices.”

While it’s not quite the smorgasbord of over 35 million songs that online access to Spotify will net you, for music junkies this is definitely a huge improvement.

Categories: General Technology

Best headphones 2018: Your definitive guide to the latest and greatest audio

Thu, 13/09/2018 - 09:30

Best Headphones 2018: Welcome to TechRadar's comprehensive round-up of the best headphones in every style and at every price point in 2018.

We've all bought headphones that were just OK. Headphones we could wear for a few weeks, maybe, and then just toss them out if we didn't like them. They were from discount bins or check-out lines and they served a very specific (and short-lived) need.

We're not here to tell you not to buy those kinds of headphones anymore. What we will tell you, though, is that the disposable headphone lifestyle isn't one that leads to the best experience – either for you or for your music. 

Not only are cheap headphonese built to fall apart, but they're not physically not capable of delivering the audio experience artists and directors set out to achieve in your favorite movies, albums and TV shows.

TL;DR: They're cheap and basic, sure, but they're not good.

It's our mission to hook you up with a pair of great-sounding headphones. The best headphones money can buy - even when you're on a budget. 

To that end, we've listened to hundreds of headphones over the years of every make, model and variety to create list-after-list of the best noise-cancelling headphones, the best wireless headphones, the best earbuds, etc...

We encourage you to take a look at all the headphone lists here on TechRadar - but, if you're in a hurry and just want to see the best headphones, period, this is the place for you. What you'll find below is our selection of the best headphones for each form-factor, and we've even picked out a less-costly option for each so that a lack of finances won't stop you from finding a pair of headphones you'll truly love. 

[Update: If you're in the market for the latest and greatest noise-cancelling headphones, you should know that Sony has just released a sequel to its WH-1000XM2 headphones – and they're really good. Check out our review of the Sony WH-1000XM3 to find out more!]

After spending a few weeks with both the 1MORE Triple Driver in-ear headphones and the 1MORE Quad Driver in-ear headphones we were blown away at just how much value each one gave in their prospective price ranges. 

For $100 (£100, about AU$168), it’s hard to think of a better sounding and built headphone than the 1MORE Triple Driver. (That said, if you want just that little extra refinement and luxury materials, the 1MORE Quad Drivers are still a bargain at twice the price.) 

There’s very little we can fault the Triple Drivers for. Its rubber cable is annoying and its remote control feels cheap but these are just nitpicks. But, for its price, it’s impossible to do better than 1MORE's Triple Driver in-ear headphones. 

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

If you have a tendency to lose or break headphones but still value sound quality, it’s hard to think of a better value than the RHA S500u. These headphones have no business sounding so good for the price: Sound quality is balanced with a slight mid-bass bump. Bass is slightly emphasized but not egregiously and features good impact while maintaining good control. And highs, while sibilant at times, makes music sound more exciting.    

Read the full review: RHA S500u

For your money, you can't do any better than Grado's SR60e. The third-generation of the Brooklyn, NY-based company's Prestige Series is its best and most refined yet. The SR60e in particular is a smart choice if you're looking for an entry-level set of headphones that sounds like it should cost you way more than it does. Its open-backed ear cup design makes them a more breathable experience than what most on-ear headphones can deliver. In a few words, it's our gold-standard when it comes to on-ears.

(Our review is for the SR60i, but the newer SR60e headphones are largely similar in design and performance.)

Read the full review: Grado SR60e

While the original Plattan headphones were just fine for a pair of on-ear headphones, Urbanears wasn’t satisfied with being mediocre. The company took customer feedback to heart and addressed many complaints about comfort, sound quality and isolation. For the most part, Urbanears succeeded, making the Plattan II a worthy sequel to the company’s most popular headphone.  

In short, these are basic headphones without a ton of features. But, because they're feature-light, you get a good-sounding pair of wired headphones for significantly less than you would otherwise. 

Read the full review: Urbanears Plattan II

The Bowers & Wilkins P9 Signatures are simply some of the best-sounding headphones we’ve ever used. They have a tight, refined sound that offers an almost unmatched level of detail. 

That said, the fact remains that they’re a comparatively feature-light pair of cans. If you want to spend less then you can get a much more portable pair that’ll be better suited to the morning commute or a plane ride thanks to additional features like noise-cancellation and Bluetooth connectivity.

But, if you’re looking to invest in a seriously high-quality pair of headphones to listen to a high-quality music collection, then there are few that can match the P9s at this price point. 

Read the full review: B&W P9 Signature

Audiophiles typically shun wireless headphones because of poor sound quality. However, Bluetooth audio has improved tremendously over the years. There are now plenty of wireless headphones that can please the music enthusiast, with Hi-Res Audio support being more and more prevalent.

That said, the Audio-Technica ATH-SR5BT feature some of the best wired and wireless sound quality for a headphone under $200 (£150). They play well with all music genres and offer a near-flat response curve. They're extremely comfortable for long listening sessions and are well built. Battery life is equally impressive with nearly 40 hours of playback from a charge. And while they lack some features of more expensive wireless headphones like active noise cancelling and multi-device pairing, these are tradeoffs worth making for phenomenal sound.

Read the full review: Audio-Technica ATH-SR5BT

When you buy a pair of noise-cancelling headphones, you're often trading sound quality for the ability to block out outside 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 headphone 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 Beyerdynamic Amiron Wireless are the best-sounding wireless headphones you can buy, period. Sound is spacious, detailed, and makes you want to rediscover your music library. Their bulky design and average noise isolation make them terrible for travel but if you’re looking for the best sound from a wireless headphone, this is it.

Read the full review: Beyerdynamic Amiron 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

The NuForce BE Sport4 wireless earbuds are that rare find: earbuds that are good for basically all situations. While they're specifically designed for use in the gym and on the track, the BE Sport4 do an awesome job isolating audio in a crowded city environment and are even good enough for home listening.  

The BE Sport4 earbuds have claimed 10-hour battery life, which we found to be pretty close to the mark in our time with them, and from empty you can get two hours of use from just a 15-minute charge – ideal for those needing a quick top-up while they put on their trainers and pack a gym kit. 

Consider this a warning shot fellow audio manufacturers: build and audio quality do not need to be sacrificed in order to keep earbuds affordable. 

Read the full review: Optoma NuForce BE Sport4

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.

Check out our videos below for a roundup of the best headphones available.

There's usually more to a set of headphone than meets the eye. As such, we've provided a breakdown of what you can expect to find in each kind of headphone.

Not only will learning more about headphones help you make a more informed purchase, but you'll know when you're really getting your money's worth.

What headphones should you buy? Check out our video below for everything you need to know.

In-ear headphones

This type of headphone, more commonly referred to as an earbud or earphone, is usually the cheapest and easiest way to pump audio into your ears. If you've purchased an MP3 player, or more recently, a smartphone, it's likely that a set was included with the purchase.

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. That 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 seal around your ear. Thus, the noise isolation is much less effective than in-ear or over-ear options. This might be a dealbreaker for some, but there are big benefits to consider here.

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

Over-ear headphones

This ear-muff style of headphone generally provides greater richness and depth of sound, which allows listeners to pick apart the instruments and sounds much easier. 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 $100 and from there, the sky's the limit. For example, the Oppo PM-1, while excellent, are priced exorbitantly at $1,099. 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 $2-300, 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 style of headphone 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 you a premium of anywhere between $50-100 over the price of wired cans. Going futuristic isn't cheap. One important thing to consider is that your music player must support the Bluetooth wireless protocol, as it's required to use this type of headphone.

Speaking of Bluetooth, it 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 a 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

New Beats Solo3 Wireless colors will match your iPhone XS and XS Max

Thu, 13/09/2018 - 07:14

While Apple’s Beats brand might not have shared the spotlight during this morning’s keynote, Apple doesn’t want you to think the brand is AWOL in 2018. 

To that end, Apple and Beats have announced two new colors for the Beats Solo3 Wireless – a satin gold and a satin silver color that matches the iPhone XS and iPhone XS Max – as well as a trio of ultra-colorful options for the Urbeats 3

The variants for the Beats Solo3 Wireless, an on-ear pair of headphones with a 40-hour battery life, are available starting today for $299 (£249, AU$397), while the wired in-ear Urbeats 3 will be available in yellow, blue, and coral for $59 (£59, AU$99) later this year. 

While some insiders believed Apple wouldn't release any new Beats headphones in 2018, these two new color variants prove that Apple still cares about its uber-popular headphones brand even if it's forced to take a backseat to the company's staple products like the iPhone and Apple Watch.

Categories: General Technology

HomePod software update adds lyric search, Siri languages and more

Thu, 13/09/2018 - 05:13

While it wasn't perhaps the Apple HomePod 2 reveal that we'd hoped for, the Cupertino company didn't shy away from giving a quick update to its first smart speaker, the original HomePod.

The main addition is that of new supported languages that the Siri smart helper can understand on the HomePod. Support for Spanish comes to the US, Mexican and (of course) Spanish markets, while Canadian French is introduced for Canadian Apple fans.

You'll also now be able to search by lyrics when requesting songs from Apple Music using voice commands – a feature that brings more smart parity between the HomePod and the Amazon Echo.

Lost phones and caught calls

Elsewhere, the HomePod now support the tracking of multiple named timers (say, one for when to take the chicken out of the oven, another for when to leave to catch your bus), and brings the Find My iPhone feature to the smart speaker, letting you ask Siri to ping your phone to make it beep if it's down the side of a sofa.

The HomePod can now finally make and receive calls directly too, understanding spoken numbers or picking up contacts from your iPhone's address book. As you'd expect, it can grab incoming calls from an iPhone too, redirecting the audio and mic to the speaker.

Other than that, it's the HomePod that you already know and love. We'll keep you posted as to when, if ever, it receives a true follow up hardware revision.

  • iPhone XS: everything you need to know about Apple's most advanced phone
Categories: General Technology

The best noise-cancelling headphones 2018

Wed, 12/09/2018 - 14:35

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.

Can't decide which headphones to buy? Check out our guide video below:

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

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

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

Philips presents a more elegant noise-cancelling solution with its NC1. These on-ear headphones aren't wireless like our top pick, but that's hardly a reason to knock them. Coming in at $299/£195, the NC1 are a compact set that's high on comfort and battery life.

You get a lot for the money here. In the box comes the headphones, a hard case for storage and the headphones rock a rechargeable battery that provides noise cancellation for close to 30 hours. But best of all, the sound performance is extremely well balanced and warm.

(A quite note for our Australian readers: Philips sadly no longer sells the NC1's down under, so you'll need to import a pair if you're keen.)

Read the full review: Philips Fidelio NC1

A few years ago, the Bose QuietComfort 25 are the best noise-cancelling headphones we've ever used. The lows, mids and highs came through clear as day, never stepping over each other. Music of all sorts sounded predictably incredible. With the noise-cancellation turned on, we never felt further immersed and concentrated than when we let the QC25 engulf our ears.

But that was a few years ago and time has moved on since. Bose has released not just one sequel to these headphones, but two: the QC35 and QC35 II with Google Assistant built in, both of which we'd recommend above the QC25.

But, it's not all bad. If you don't mind using the older, wired headphones, the QC25s are a finely-tuned set of cans 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 are a little late to the noise-cancellation game, but their first foray impresses. 

The PX Wireless aren't just a great sounding pair of headphones, they've also got a number of other interesting tricks up their sleeve. They'll turn on and off automatically depending on whether you're wearing them or not, and they also feature the future-proof USB-C charging standard. 

In our opinion their only downside is the sound quality, which we felt lacks the depth of the flagship headphones from Bose and Sony. 

That said, if you've been a fan of the look of B&W's headphones in the past then the PX Wireless are certainly worth a listen. 

Read the full review: Bowers and Wilkins PX Wireless

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

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

The Sony WH-1000XM3 are some of the best noise-cancelling headphones on the market, full stop. They make some subtle tweaks to the WH-1000XM2's design by making it lighter than ever and swapping out the microUSB port for USB Type-C, but the changes are so minor that you might be better off saving the money and opting for Sony's second iteration of the headphones instead.

That being said, unless you’re a style-savvy frequent traveler in need of the most comfortable and best-looking headphones or someone stuck in a crowded office who needs to make the occasional phone call, you should probably save some money by picking up the Sony WH-1000XM2 – they’re nearly as good and now even less than they were before thanks to a recent price drop. 

Read the full review: Sony WH-1000XM3

If you haven't found something quite to your liking so far, we have one last option for you to look at – the all-new Nura Nuraphone over-ear/in-ear hybrid. Their form factor means you’ve not only got an earbud sitting at the entrance of your ear canal, but also an over-ear cushion sitting over your entire ear. This effectively means you’ve got two physical barriers meaning that the noise from the outside world can’t get to your ears. While more traditional over-ear headphones do a better job offering useful features at a reasonable price, the Nuraphone will appeal to the more experimental audio crowd looking to be on the bleeding-edge of the next big thing.

Read our full review: Nuraphone Headphones

Categories: General Technology

The best wireless headphones 2018: our pick of the best ways to cut the cord

Wed, 12/09/2018 - 14:25

Best Wireless (Bluetooth) Headphones: Welcome to TechRadar's guide to the best wireless and Bluetooth headphones you can buy in 2018.

Years ago, we might've tried to dissuade you from buying a pair of wireless headphones. At the time, the technology had issues with wireless connectivity over Bluetooth and sound quality took a dive as a result. On top of all that, the batteries that were put into these headphones only lasted an hour or two, max.

Thankfully, we've left those days behind us and are now living in the golden age of wireless. Thanks to advancements in Bluetooth (cough, aptX), the latest batch of wireless headphones not only stay connected in every situation, but they sound just as good as they're wired counterparts to boot. 

Sure, a wireless pair of headphones might cost a bit more than a similar wired model, but wireless headphones offer greater freedom of movement - making them perfect for a trip to the gym or a great companion for phones like the iPhone X and Pixel 2 that simply lack a 3.5mm aux port to connect with.

Whatever your reason for upgrading, we're here to help you pick out the best wireless headphones, regardless of your budget. What you'll find below are the top headphones we've reviewed with a mix of in-ear, over-ear and on-ear headphones, plus some with neat features like noise-cancellation - all vetted by our staff so you can shop with confidence.

[Update: Looking for the latest and greatest in wireless headphone tech? Check out the Sony WH-1000XM3! It just became available in September and it's already one of the best wireless headphones to have come across our desks so far this year.]

Can't decide which headphones to buy? Check out our guide video below:

What are the best wireless headphones?

The Sony WH-1000XM2 are an excellent revision of an already great pair of wireless 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 some other headphones on our list, but Sony’s WH-1000XM2 outclass them all in terms of performance and feature-set.  

Not only do they provide awesome noise-cancellation, but they have three neat tricks that few other wireless headphones have: 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 and feature-packed, the Sony WH-1000XM2 are great travel companions and all-around excellent wireless headphones.

Read the full review: Sony WH-1000XM2

Bose took the already-excellent QC35 and updated with Google Assistant. The headphone is identical in every way save for the new Google Assistant button. This means you still get the class-leading noise cancellation Bose is known for, good sound quality, and incredible comfort. Said simply, they sound great and their battery life is long enough for all but the longest of flights.

If you're looking to save some money, however, consider the original Bose QuietComfort 35. They can also be found for far cheaper these days, and if you're not fussed about having Google Assistant built into your headphones then you can save yourself some money while you save up for QC35 II. 

Read the full review: Bose QuietComfort 35 II

The Beyerdynamic Amiron Wireless are the best-sounding wireless headphones you can buy, period. Sound is spacious, detailed, and makes you want to rediscover your music library. Their bulky design and average noise isolation make them terrible for travel but if you’re looking for the best sound from a wireless headphone, this is it.

Read the full review: Beyerdynamic Amiron Wireless

Although they're a much better looking, and sounding, pair of headphones, the Sennheiser Momentum Wireless (not to be confused with the smaller, cheaper, Sennheiser Momentum On-Ear Wireless) are kept off the top spot of the list by their premium price point, which puts them out of reach of all but the most committed of music lovers. 

But for those that can afford them, these are a no-holds-barred wireless headphones are oozing with positive qualities. They're comfortable, hard-working set of headphones that will likely last for years.

Read the full review: 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

The AKG N60NC Wireless sound like a pair of headphones that should be much more expensive than they are. 

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. 

Our biggest issue with these headphones is the fact that they're on-ear rather than over-ear, meaning that we found that they got uncomfortable over longer periods. 

Regardless, the benefit of this is that this is a fantastically compact pair of headphones, and if you're willing to make the trade-off then these are great for the price. 

Read the full review: AKG N60NC Wireless

If you want a pair of wireless headphones without breaking the bank, and you don't fancy the in ear Optoma's above, your next best bet is the Jabra Move Wireless. 

These headphones may look like a budget buy, but don't let that fool you: this set of on ear Bluetooth headphones is nothing but an all-around stellar product. From the fun and edgy design to excellent performance, these cans come recommended for anyone interested in wireless on the cheap.

Read the full review: Jabra Move Wireless

You might have expected to see the Apple AirPods on the list. While Apple's true wireless earbuds are fine for certain folks - cough, iPhone users exclusively - they're not the best for everyone. If you're looking for an egalitarian pair of true wireless earbuds, you can do no better than the Jabra Elite 65t. 

Not only are these competent Bluetooth buds for use around town, with a long-enough battery life and good sound quality, but they are easily some of the best true wireless earbuds on the market, offering a perfect balance of usability, features, and sound quality. If you’re in the market for the ‘ultimate’ set of true wireless headphones and don’t mind paying for them, then they are a strong choice.    

Read the full review: Jabra Elite 65t True Wireless

Here's where things get a bit murky - the term 'wireless headphones' is often used interchangeably with 'Bluetooth headphones' - i.e. headphones that don't use a 3.5mm jack to connect to your phone, but still have a wire running between them. While we contemplated leaving these off our list entirely, Bluetooth headphones are still well-worth considering - even if it means having a wire wrapped around your neck. 

That being said, if we had to pick a pair of Bluetooth headphones to go with, it'd be the NuForce BE Sport4 headphones: They're an incredible value for a pair of wireless headphones that sound good, last all day, have a bulletproof build and incredible noise isolation. While they're not the most dynamic or resolving headphones, NuForce shows us that the future of Bluetooth is a bright one.

Read the full review: Optoma NuForce BE Sport4

When you think of noise-cancelling headphones you probably picture bulky over-ear cans like the Bose QuietComfort 35 or the Sennheiser Momentum Wireless, but three years ago Bose turned its noise-cancelling chops to in-ear headphones, and the result was the excellent Bose QuietComfort 20i.  

Soon after that came the Bose QuietControl 30 (QC30, for short). These neckbuds offer the best noise cancellation of any in-ears we’ve tried and are comfortable enough to wear around your neck for long flights. Add to that the fantastic wireless capabilities of these headphones and you have the recipe for success. 

While we'd love to see a true wireless pair of headphones from Bose, the QuietComfort 30 are a tried-and-true stopgap that you'll enjoy all the same. 

Read the full review: Bose QuietControl 30

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Categories: General Technology

New Beats headphones won't be announced alongside new iPhones tomorrow

Wed, 12/09/2018 - 04:22

We’ve got bad news for fans of Beats: you likely aren’t going to see any new headphones from The Dr.’s brand in 2018 – and yes, that includes tomorrow’s iPhone event, too.

That tidbit of disappointing news comes from an anonymous source who spoke to The Verge and told the publication that Apple is pausing the high-end headphone brand's release cycle while they work on other audio products in-house. 

While Apple has yet to confirm what, exactly, those products are, there’s a very good chance it’s the AirPods 2, replete with an AirPower-compatible charging case, and potentially a new pair of over-ear headphones that would contend with the Beats Studio Wireless line-up. 

Those potential products have been outed by investigative reports that ran earlier this year, as well as by analysts from Barclays who’ve visited Apple’s overseas production partners. 

While their existence seems to be relatively well established, when they’ll be revealed is another matter entirely ... but, considering that Apple has an event in, oh, 24 hours or so, we might not be waiting long to find out. 

Beats Bye Dre

If Apple doesn’t release a new pair of Beats there would be a large segment of fans disappointed by the brand’s absence. Much worse, however, it would continue the trend where Apple focuses more on its own headphones rather than develop the Beats brand. 

For reference, the last new series of headphones released under the Beats banner were the Beats X, which were released back in February of 2017, which debuted alongside the Beats Studio 3 and Powerbeats 3 in-ear headphones.

All that said, it’s been a quiet year for the uber popular headphone maker and, if The Verge’s source is right, it looks like it’s going to stay that way.

Categories: General Technology

Apple Music finally sorts out its user interface

Tue, 11/09/2018 - 19:04

Despite past criticisms of it’s nonsensical user interface, Apple Music recently overtook Spotify in terms of subscriber numbers in the US, and with an organized new update, it could be about to become even more popular among music lovers. 

In the update, Apple has made it far easier to browse through artist discographies, by sorting releases into studio albums, singles and EPs, compilations, and live albums, with studio albums appearing at the top of an artists’ profile to reflect their importance.  

In the past, singles and albums were lumped together, meaning you would have to scroll through every single release to find the song or album you wanted to listen to - quite the undertaking for fans of prolific musicians like Elvis Presley, who appears on a staggering 313 albums.

Music discovery made easier

As a result of the update, many artists now have an ‘essential albums’ section, making it easier to quickly listen to the top hits from an artist you have recently discovered, not unlike Spotify’s ‘Popular’ section at the top of each artist profile. 

This update comes after a series of changes in recent months, including a weekly ‘Friends Mix’ that allows you to discover what your friends are listening to, a ‘Coming Soon’ section to alert you to upcoming releases, and the ability to search for music with lyrics.

With iOS 12 expected to be revealed this week at the iPhone XS launch on September 12, it’s a busy time for Apple - however, we aren’t expecting any further changes to Apple Music to be announced at this time.

Via Apple Insider

Categories: General Technology

Sony MHC-V21D is the budget solution for a portable yet powerful party speaker

Fri, 07/09/2018 - 22:29

Sony recently added another interesting product to its audio line-up in India. It’s the MHC-V21D portable speaker system with Bluetooth, USB and NFC connectivity. 

The Bluetooth-enabled speaker is aimed to deliver powerful audio output on the go as it has a built-in carry handlebar that lets you lug it around effortlessly. Sony also fuses the illuminating light feature seen on some other high-end Sony speakers in the past. 

Unlike conventional portable speakers, this one is equipped with an  in-built DVD player, that can play high-quality content through HDMI. It also comes equipped with LDAC that is claimed to transfer three times more data than any conventional Bluetooth.

Furthermore, Sony has introduced some fun features for those who like to get creative with audio. Users can play with DJ effects to mix and produce their own music tracks using different preloaded effects like flanger, wah, isolator and pan. These can be used to play with frequencies, create flanging effects, sweep sound across speakers and more. There’s also a Fiestable app to use party features like DJ Control, DJ effect, Samplers and equaliser. 

We’ve seen Sony’s interesting motion control feature on high-end audio products previously, but the company did not miss them on this as well. It allows them to control their system with just a motion of their smartphones. DJ effects, play/pause and volume options can all be handled by motion control function.

The audio system is also powered with Digital Sound Enhancement Engine (DSEE) which is said to boost the quality of any compressed music files.

Lastly, it also gets support for Sony’s music centre app, and wireless party chain feature that allow users to pair up to 50 compatible speakers. 

How and where to buy?

The new party system is priced at Rs 18,990 and is available at electronics retail stores across the country as well as on Amazon and Flipkart.

Sony is also bundling Sony F-V120 microphone with the speaker, but the offer will be valid only for a limited period of time.

Categories: General Technology

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