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First look: Sonos Amp

Thu, 30/08/2018 - 03:44

Well, this was unexpected. Sonos takes years to do a hardware launch then it has three in the space of 12 months. 

But while the Sonos Beam and Sonos One were pushed squarely at consumers looking to upgrade their TV and audio setups, the Sonos Amp is catering to both the custom install market and those who want some oomph in their connected home setup.

It's taken Sonos over 10 years to update its Sonos Connect Amp. And this is an update as it will be replacing that old, still sturdy model. But replace it it has with an amp which is twice as powerful as its predecessor. 

What does that mean in real money? Well, it packs 125 Watts per channel - so this amp can power speakers that are that little bit demanding. It also has the added bonus of being able to power up to four speakers instead of two.

Design

And then there's the design. The Sonos Amp only comes in black. This, according to Sonos, is deliberate as it is the only color that custom install folks really care about - and that is a big bit of the market that this product is being pitched at, as it is a device that sits pretty next to your record player but also slots neatly into a rack. 

Design-wise, it takes its cue from the recent design flourishes of the Sonos Play:5 and Sonos Beam. The touch buttons and vertical light on the front have the same design as those devices, and on the top is a circular unit with the Sonos logo. 

It's much more compact than you would expect from a device of this magnitude and sitting next to the big screen where we saw it unveiled, it looked a little like a games console so certainly not imposing.

Features

The Sonos Amp isn't just about power, but connectivity. This thing is as connected as any other recent Sonos reveal. There's AirPlay 2, voice support and HDMI ARC so it will slot nicely into most TV setups. 

It also has analog for your record player and dual ethernet ports on the back. There's Wi-Fi too but this can be switched fully off when the ethernet ports are in action. 

The Sonos Amp can also be used to add stereo sound to TV, add wireless rears to a Sonos home-theater setup or, if you are feeling fancy, two Amps can combine for surround sound. 

Final thoughts

The Sonos Amp isn't for everyone. It's for high-end audio enthusiasts who want to modernize their setup and custom installers who are looking fo a connected solution to beef up an AV setup. 

But that's no bad thing - Sonos looks to have created a device that will fit into CI needs. It even surveyed 400 or so installers to see what they wanted and has opened up its API to accommodate this. 

This has lead to new features, which include: Line-in switching, volume passthrough and third-party notifications and alerts - so the potential is there to hook your smart doorbell up with your sound system. 

The Sonos Amp is out in December for custom installers. For the rest of us, it will be available in February for $599 / 699 Euros (other pricing TBC). 

  • IFA 2018 is Europe's biggest tech show. The TechRadar team is in Berlin to bring you all the breaking news and hands-on first impressions of new phones, watches and other tech as they're announced. 
Categories: General Technology

Take a peek at Technics’ futuristic Ottava S SC-C50 wireless Chromecast speaker

Thu, 30/08/2018 - 02:57

At Berlin’s IFA 2018 conference we clapped eyes on the futuristic-looking new Ottava S SC-C50 speaker from Technics. The Ottava S SC-C50 has been optimized for seamless wireless connectivity, with built in Google Chromecast making it easy to tune into your favorite streaming services.

With a striking elliptical design, the SC-C50 houses seven speakers within its casing, including three mid-range speakers, three high-frequency tweeters, and a subwoofer, all angled to fill your entire room with sound.

Tailored sound

The speaker comes with three different presets tailored to different mounting locations, meaning that your music sounds great whether you place it on the floor or on a table. For audiophiles there is also an inbuilt microphone that allows the sound to be optimized using a smartphone app. 

As the SC-C50 is Google Chromecast enabled, music playback can be controlled using Google Assistant. However, the voice assistant isn't built in, meaning this only works if you already have another Google Assistant voice-activated speaker like also on your network to communicate with the Technics device.

Futuristic design

In keeping with the futuristic design, the speaker has a sleek OLED display and programmable buttons, meaning you can preset your favorite radio station, playlists, tracks, and more.

As well as AUX and USB inputs, the SC-C50 supports playback over Bluetooth, Spotify, Tidal, and Chromecast, making it super easy to listen to your favorite music no matter the source. 

No word on pricing yet, but the Technics website has a link for you to use if you want to contact one of its dealerships and retailers for release information.

  • IFA 2018 is Europe's biggest tech show. The TechRadar team is in Berlin to bring you all the breaking news and hands-on first impressions of new phones, watches and other tech as they're announced. 
Categories: General Technology

Sonos Amp revealed - new, redesigned amp for the connected age

Thu, 30/08/2018 - 02:03

Sonos has used IFA 2018 to announce a brand-new product and reveal that it is opening up its API, in the hope that it will be the center of your smart home.

The new product is a redesigned Sonos amp, which has twice the power of the old Connect amp and can be used it in a wide variety of situations. Oh, and you can stream music off of it too. 

It has an HDMI port on the back as well as audio inputs, so you can power your vinyl collection with it. 

It will support AirPlay 2 and has a new form factor and design which allows it to fit inside a rack configuration and can be mounted, or exhibited on furniture. 

The Sonos Connect Amp has been around for over 10 years now, so Sonos has redesigned the device and added more power in the form of 120 watts per channel. 

Sonos smarts

The Connect amp wasn't optimized for TV, so Sonos has rectified this by taking the HDMI Arc module out of the Sonos Beam and put it into this new amp. It also has an IR receiver so it can control your TV, too.

According to Sonos, this is the biggest advancement from the company in the connected home space so far.

Sonos has also revealed that it wants to be the center of the smart home and it will do this by opening up its API to developers. 

It will also be releasing a new set of control APIs which will make it easier for developers to integrate into the Sonos system. Some of these APIs will be ready for the Sonos amp so you will be able to do things like notifications through the Sonos system and volume pass through. 

The Sonos Amp will be out in February 2018 and will be $599 (€699, other pricing TBC) - but it will only come in black, the custom installers' color of choice.

  • IFA 2018 is Europe's biggest tech show. The TechRadar team is in Berlin to bring you all the breaking news and hands-on first impressions of new phones, watches and other tech as they're announced. 
Categories: General Technology

B&O's Beosound Edge is an expensive, awesome sculpture and speaker in one

Wed, 29/08/2018 - 20:22

Just in time for IFA 2018, Bang and Olufsen has launched the Beosound Edge home speaker – which, according to the designer, “sits on the edge of consumer electronics and gallery-worthy sculpture”.

The coin-shaped wireless speaker has been created in collaboration with modern designer Michael Anastassiades. The speaker itself is a metallic 3D circle, with a black matte fabric top and polished aluminium sides. Bang and Olufsen is expected to release new fabric colors over time.

Here’s the most interesting part

Although the Besound Edge has an undeniably imaginative and contemporary design, it’s the functionality itself which is most intriguing. The speaker not only looks unusual, but uses its shape to create a unique user experience.

By rocking the speaker back and forth, you can increase and decrease the volume – with the device rolling back to its original position when released. However, if you don’t want the rather large device taking up room on your floor, you can hang it up as a wall sculpture. 

What about the sound?

The Beosound Edge has proximity sensors that bring the the aluminium interface to life when you approach it. You then start, stop and skip taps which a simple tap on the surface. You can also control the direction of the sound using the Bang and Olufsen app.

The speaker contains a 10” woofer bass driver on one side, and a 4” midrange and ¾ tweeter on both sides. Additionally, the Beosound Edge debuts the Active BassPort 1 which provides accurate sound reproduction at lower volumes and more energized bass at higher volumes.

If that’s not enough, the Beosound Edge comes with Play 2, Chromecast2 and Bluetooth, while also supporting voice interaction when paired with either a Google Assistant-enabled speaker or an Amazon Echo device.

How much does it cost?

The Beosound Edge is retailed at a hefty £2,900 (about $3,700, AU$5,100) and will roll out to selected retailers in November this year. Can’t wait that long? The speaker is being showcased at IFA 2018

  • IFA 2018 is Europe's biggest tech show. The TechRadar team is in Berlin to bring you all the breaking news and hands-on first impressions of new phones, watches and other tech as they're announced. 
Categories: General Technology

Audio-Technica debut its first true wireless earphones - the ATH-CKR7TWs

Wed, 29/08/2018 - 19:00

Audio-Technica has finally jumped on the true wireless bandwagon with the debut of its new True Wireless ATH-CKR7TW and ATH-SPORT7TW earphones, the company announced today at IFA 2018

The new in-ear headphones are said to combine Audio-Technica’s reputation for high quality sound with a truly wireless experience, and feature up to 6 hours of music from a single charge.

With a sleek design, the True Wireless earphones have been designed with audio precision in mind, using a carbon-coated diaphragm to reduce distortion. 

Get your workout on

The in-ears also come in a sports version, which have a certified IPX5 rating, meaning that they should be able to endure bad weather and sweaty workout sessions.

They also feature a nifty ambient noise hear-through function, allowing you to listen to the sounds of your environment by tapping the left earphone. The ATH-SPORT7TWs can handle around 3.5 hours of music per charge.

Taking it slow

Audio-Technica’s reluctance to release a set of wireless in-ears until now has largely been down to the Japanese company wanting to perfect the wireless sound quality, which can be lacking compared to wired headphones.

While wireless headphones have been around for a few years now, ‘true wireless’ is a relatively new concept, and allow far more flexibility than standard wireless models as they don’t need to be within a few feet of the music player. 

This is thanks to the rise of AptX, or in other words, ‘high-res’ Bluetooth audio. 

For casual listeners, sports nuts, and audiophiles alike, the ATH-CKR7TWs will be available in a couple of months at $249 (£229 / AU$339), while the ATH-SPORT7TWs will be priced at $199 (£179 / around AU$270).

Categories: General Technology

Audio-Technica ATH-MSR7bs revealed - offer up a big refresh of its landmark cans

Wed, 29/08/2018 - 19:00

Based on its best selling professional studio headphones, Audio-Technica has refreshed its ATH-MSR7s in a bid to enhance their sonic performance and portability. 

The new ATH-MSR7bs are 55 grams lighter than the original, and are geared towards audiophiles who want to listen on the go without compromising on sound quality, with memory foam ear pads making them perfect for long listening sessions while commuting.

A sound legacy

Audio-Technica is renowned for its attention to detail when it comes to making its drivers, and the new headphones are no exception with a 45mm driver that features a carbon coated diaphragm to reduce distortion. 

The ATH-MSR7bs also have ‘Dual-layer Air-control’ technology, which regulates airflow for enhanced audio clarity. Audiophiles will be pleased with the balanced cable output connection, which in comparison to standard headphone cables, is far better at reducing signal interference and sound distortion, making for a clear listening experience. 

Style and substance

The updated headphones are available in stylish black or gunmetal, and come with a handy protective pouch to keep them in great condition on the go, and at $249 (£219, around AU$340) you will want to keep these cans safe and sound in your luggage. 

The ATH-MSR7bs will be available in the next couple of months. 

  • Audio-Technica ATH-S200BT review
  • IFA 2018 is Europe's biggest tech show. The TechRadar team is in Berlin to bring you all the breaking news and hands-on first impressions of new phones, watches and other tech as they're announced.
Categories: General Technology

Audio-Technica ATH-SR30BT wireless headphones arrive with massive 70-hour battery life

Wed, 29/08/2018 - 19:00

Audio-Technica has debuted its latest premium wireless headphones, the ATH-SR50BT and the ATH-SR30BT at IFA 2018, with the SR30BTs offering up a huge 70-hour battery life.

The over-ear models come with a dedicated Audio-Technica Control app, allowing users to control the headphones’ noise reduction feature for a more natural listening experience in noisy environments. 

Quality sound

Combining cutting edge audio technology with the freedom of wireless listening, both sets of headphones come with touch and swipe controls on the left housing, which can be used to control the volume, as well as a switchable hear-through function so you can tune in to your environment. 

The ATH-SR50BTs boast an impressive 25 hour battery life, a fold-flat design for easy storage, and come in classic black or brown-grey finishes. 45mm drivers are said to ensure accurate and dynamic audio delivery over a wireless connection, and audiophiles can opt for the use the included 1.2m cable for studio quality playback. 

Long battery life

Coming with an even larger battery life of 70 hours are the ATH-SR30BTs, making them perfect for long haul flights. Designed for long periods of listening, they are a little more lightweight than the ATH-SR30BTs, with a relaxed around-ear design. 

The ATH-SR30BTs support Bluetooth 5.0, and come in a range of stylish colors including black, blue, pink-gray, and natural grey. They will be available to buy in Autumn 2018 for around $99 (£99 / AU$135), whereas the ATHSR30BTs are nearly double the price at $199 (£179 / around AU$270).

Categories: General Technology

Latest Apple AirPods 2 release date prediction spells bad news for fans

Wed, 29/08/2018 - 05:56

If you’ve been patiently waiting for the next generation of Apple AirPods, we have some good news and some bad news. 

The good news is that you’re likely going to see the Apple AirPods 2 mentioned on stage at Apple’s September iPhone event … but, bad news, you probably won’t be able to bring them home until sometime next year. 

The information comes by way of Barclays analyst Blayne Curtis who reports that while the new water-resistant AirPods won’t hit the market until late 2019, a version of the AirPod carrying case that supports wireless charging that we've heard rumors about in the past could be available as early as late September.

That means that we'll probably see the AirPad-ready AirPods case on stage during Apple's September event with a release date to follow shortly after.

Even better, on the software side of things, Apple may potentially add 'Hey Siri' support to the original AirPods by the end of the year – and make that a cornerstone feature of the true wireless earbuds moving forward.

All about that info

Curtis got this information during a tour of Apple’s Asian hardware suppliers and compiled a report of observations and predictions that was put out to investors. This report was subsequently obtained by MacRumors

While MacRumors didn't post the report in full, it did post product highlights – many of which focusing on the AirPods and the next-generation iPhones.

That said, also mentioned in the MacRumors post was a cheaper HomePod that could launch in 2019, which would help Apple compete with the Amazon Echo and Google Home. While a small Apple HomePod would make sense to us, other analysts suggest that it very well may take the form of a Siri-enabled Beats speaker instead.

There's no telling how many of these products will make their way on-stage during Apple's next keynote that's supposedly slated for September but, based on the Barclays report, Apple's next-gen AirPods could very likely make an appearance.

Categories: General Technology

Bose Home Speaker 500 costs as much as three smart speakers combined

Wed, 29/08/2018 - 04:19

Bose is finally ready to join the smart speaker revolution with its new Home Speaker 500, the company announced today. This $399 or £399 (about AU$550) smart speaker will have Alexa available from the start, and then add support for AirPlay 2 and Google Assistant later down the road.

What sets the 500 apart from the slew of smart assistant-equipped speakers on the market (besides its sticker price) is that it features a small screen that will display album art and the integration of Bose’s proprietary mic technology found in Bose headsets and headphones that will allow the speaker to hear commands better over loud music. 

The speaker stands at a fairly stout 8 x 6 x 4 inches (H x W x D) and uses two custom drivers pointed in opposite directions that, according to Bose, helps the speaker deliver true stereo separation from a single unit by bouncing sound off surrounding walls. That’s a big claim, obviously, but one that could be feasible given the brand’s historical contributions to audio development.

Bose might very well have cracked the code when it comes to unibody stereo separation but, unless people are able to hear it for themselves, it might be hard justifying the sticker price – what amounts to be the cost of a Google Home, Amazon Echo and Sonos One, combined.

Smart soundbars, too

To coincide with the announcement of the Bose Home Speaker 500, Bose has also announced two new soundbars that will also come with smart assistant integration – the Bose Soundbar 700 and Bose Soundbar 500.

Like the Home Speaker 500, the soundbars will launch with Alexa support and be joined by AirPlay 2 with Siri and Google Assistant later.

Setting the soundbars apart, however, is a slightly different technology:  Bose PhaseGuides. Sounding like something ripped from Star Trek's holodeck, PhaseGuides use the acoustics of a room to "place discrete sound in places where there are no speakers" – which sounds like Dolby Atmos without the overhead channels.

The soundbars will join the Home Speaker 500 on store shelves starting in October and will rock a complimentary price of $549 or £499 (about AU$750) and $799 or £799 (about AU$1,089), for the Soundbar 500 and the Soundbar 700, respectively.

Categories: General Technology

Bank holiday sales: these are the best deals from Amazon, Currys, AO, Argos and more

Sat, 25/08/2018 - 19:01

The bank holiday sales are in full swing right now and there are some fantastic deals to end the summer sales season on a high. Digging out discounts is what we do, not just every bank holiday, Black Friday or Amazon Prime Day, but every day of the week, so you know we'll steer you to the best ones.

There are some tempting offers for everyone this weekend with TVs, laptops, smart home devices, gaming consoles, Kindles, mobiles phones, cheap broadband packages, Sky TV deals, home and garden items and much more. September is usually the start of the sales lull ahead of Black Friday and Christmas with late October usually signalling the start of silly season again. So this could be your last chance for a while to get deals as good as these.

When do the bank holiday sales start?

The bank holiday itself technically starts Monday August 27th in the UK. The sales actually started super early this time though, with Amazon kicking off a week-long sale already with fresh deals arriving every day August 29th. We'll be updating our highlights throughout the long weekend.

We've already been busy digging through the bank holiday deals to bring you lots of TechRadar-friendly discounts on the latest tech below. But we're keeping a savvy eye out for plenty of other deals types too. So if you're after a bit of home improvement, you'll find discounts on multiple categories at the likes of Wickes and B&Q. If you're looking for furniture, home decor, lighting and other home styling options then you'll want to check out the bank holiday sale happening at Wayfair right now too. To stay tuned on all our regular deal updates, bookmark our deals page or follow us over on Twitter.

Bank holiday sales: quick links
  • Amazon: great discounts on Amazon devices and more.
  • Argos: cheaper items for your garden and lots of tech inside you home.
  • Currys: another huge clearance of TVs, fridges, laptops and much more.
  • Sky TV: available from just £20 a month.
  • AO: going big on cheap TVs, laptops, household appliance and electricals.
  • ebuyer: fresh discounts on the best laptops and TVs.
  • B&Q: time for a bit of home improvement or a new BBQ?
  • boohoo: A different sale type every day!
  • John Lewis: home, fashion and electricals with a price match to boot.
  • Very: home, tech, outdoors, fashion and more.

Our Top 10 bank holiday sale deals: Bank holiday TV deals Bank holiday laptop deals Bank holiday Amazon devices sale Smart home bank holiday sales Gaming bank holiday sales Bank holiday broadband deals Bank holiday mobile phone deals More great bank holiday sale picks

If you're after something specific that's not included above, you'll probably find it in one of our other regular updated deals hubs. We've got a massive list of super cheap TV deals, or maybe it's time for a new cheap laptop? If gaming's your thing and you're looking for a new console we've got you covered for a cheap PS4, or maybe Xbox One deals, or maybe you're after a Nintendo Switch bundle? We've seen some fantastic mobile phone deals too. Bank holidays are also usually a great time to get a cheaper Sky TV deal.

Categories: General Technology

Amazon really wants you to buy an Echo smart speaker this bank holiday weekend

Sat, 25/08/2018 - 02:10

'What's an Amazon Echo smart speaker?' Said just about nobody in 2018. Chances are, many of you already have an Echo device of some sort in your smart home setup, maybe the diminutive Echo Dot?

Well, Amazon clearly wants you to have more, as just mere weeks after Amazon Prime Day, we're seeing price crashes on a large number of Amazon's own devices again. Not that we're complaining as Amazon hasn't made much of an effort in previous bank holidays, so it's nice to see them step things up - the competition from everyone else probably helps as we've seen some great deals in our bank holiday sales roundup.

So if you're after your first Echo smart speaker to ask Alexa questions about the weather, sports results news briefings, control your smart lighting, or just how many grams there are in a cup measurement you'll find plenty of options across multiple price-points below.

Want more fantastic deals? Well, we've rounded up plenty, including Philips Hue deals, cheap gaming consoles, Kindles, Fire TV devices, laptops, TVs and more in our pick of the best bank holiday sales.

Categories: General Technology

Bang & Olufsen announces two new smart speakers: the Beosound 1 and 2

Fri, 24/08/2018 - 01:54

Danish luxury audio brand Bang & Olufsen has brought voice activation to its range of speakers with the new Beosound 1 and Beosound 2. 

Featuring Google Assistant integration, the new 360-degree speakers have an innovative conical design which allows the bottom of the speakers to hover slightly above the surface they're sat on, releasing thumping bass from below. 

To ensure Google Assistant can pick up your voice the speakers have built-in echo-canceling technology and include five different microphones that analyze whether sound is coming from the user or the speaker itself. 

Different strokes

The new speakers have been designed to cater for the different ways people listen to music; the Beosound 1 is crafted for portability and has a rechargeable battery, while the larger Beosound 2 relies on a constant power supply, allowing it to pump out a more powerful sound.

As well as controlling the speakers with your voice, or you phone or tablet, you can also use the touch-sensitive wheel on the top. The speakers have inbuilt sensors that detect which angle you’re approaching it from and orient the controls accordingly – so, for example, you can always swipe to the right to play the next track, no matter where you're standing in relation to the speaker. 

Button it

Both speakers feature four ‘favorite’ buttons on the top of the casing, allowing you to assign the tasks you use most often to each button, including playing your favorite radio station or reading the weather report. 

Both Chromecast and Apple AirPlay 2 are integrated into the Beosound 1 and 2, and the speakers can also play audio streamed from your smartphone. You can use  Google Assistant via the speakers to control other smart devices you have around the home, as well as the speakers themselves.

The Beosound 1 will be available in mid-September for a recommended retail price of $1,750 (£1,250 / just over AU$2,400), while the Beosound 2 will cost $2,250 (£1,650 / AU$3,100) and be available from early October.

Categories: General Technology

Best true wireless earbuds: the best truly wireless AirPod alternatives around

Thu, 23/08/2018 - 05:00

Best True Wireless Earbuds Buying Guide: TechRadar's round-up of the best true and truly wireless earbuds you can buy on any budget in 2018.

Wires aren't the best, we're the first to admit. They tangle up in your pocket, get caught on zippers when you're not paying attention and slap your neck while working out. We'd have ditched them earlier if we could've, but for a long time their sound quality and design just weren't up to par with their wired siblings.

Thankfully, however, those days are behind us.

The latest true wireless earbuds not only sound just as good as their wired equivalents, but they are now just as reliable thanks to some major improvements in wireless technology like Bluetooth 4.0. 

True wireless headphones may be a bit more expensive, sure, but that additional upfront cost pays for the convenience of living cable-free.

True wireless vs wireless, what's the difference?

Before we dive too deep down the rabbit hole, we should cover the whole true wireless vs wireless discussion happening in the audio world right now. 

Wireless headphones, as a form factor have existed for some time now - basically since Bluetooth as a standard was invented. For years they went largely unrecognized by the audio community because Bluetooth, despite being ultra-convenient, didn't do the best job transmitting music at a high enough resolution. That changed with the advent of aptX - a codec that allowed for higher bitstreams at lower latency. 

While aptX was changing the game for the whole of the audio community, audio manufacturers were working on an entirely new form factor: True Wireless.

True Wireless has no cords whatsoever. While wireless allowed us to wear headphones a few feet away from our music players, True Wireless cut the cord between the earbuds out completely, giving us true range of motion. 

The jury is still out on whether they're called true wireless or truly wireless, but the idea is exactly the same – you won't find any cables to weigh these headphones down.

Ready to cut the cord? Here are the best true wireless earbuds available today.

If you want a pair of high quality truly wireless earbuds that aren’t the Apple AirPods, then the Jabra Elite 65t should be at the top of your list. 

After spending over a month with them, we came away impressed with the well-rounded package that Jabra managed to create: The earbuds offer a subtle, mature look and a reliable wireless connection, which isn’t always the case with truly wireless earbuds. Plus, they sound great compared to the competition. 

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

Read the full review: Jabra Elite 65t

If you're more the athletic type, the Jabra Elite Sport are currently the ultimate true wireless earphones for runners and other kinds of athletes. There’s a heart rate sensor on the right earpiece, letting it monitor your exertion level as you exercise. 

A Jabra companion app lets you track your exercise, and you can kick off a workout by pressing a button on one earpiece, and the heart rate tracker is more reliable than most wrist-worn models ... as long as you fit the Elite Sport buds properly. 

The Jabra Elite Sport don't perch in your ears, they fill them rather like a custom moulded earphone. As a result sound isolation is excellent and the fit very secure. 

To sweeten the deal, Jabra recently updated the Elite Sport to boost stamina to a better-than-average 4.5 hours per charge - more than enough to get you through your weekly workouts - before hanging up the towel. 

Read the full review: Jabra Elite Sport

The NuForce BE Free5 wireless earbuds show just how accessible truly wireless headphones are today. For around $100 (about £75, AU$134) they feature a more polished design than the more expensive BE Free8, and even sound better to boot. However, we found the left earbud would drop out briefly more than we’d like, and we hope NuForce can address this issue.   

The connection dropouts combined with the frustrating controls keep it from claiming the top spot on our list, but the BE Free5 offer undeniable value in the truly wireless headphone market. 

Read the full review: Optoma NuForce BE Free5

Sony’s first pair of true wireless headphones, the Sony WF-1000X, were divisive. Some thought they didn’t offer enough bass. Others said they had too much. Some said they cut out or unpaired periodically. Others simply never had that problem. Criticisms came hard and fast from all corners of the internet and the only reasonable conclusion one could make after sifting through all of the noise was that Sony’s headphones just couldn’t please everyone.

Now, Sony’s second-generation true-wireless headphones - the Sony WF-SP700N - are here to try it again. These true wireless headphones are better tuned for the low-end and they’re stable in almost every situation. They still offer very modest active noise-cancellation tech and a sweat-resistant PX4 rating, and the new charging case is aesthetically pleasing if not radically different in functionality from before. 

Read the full review: Sony WF-SP700N

Nothing about the Optoma NuForce BE Free8 stands out but that’s actually a good thing. Its understated design flies under the radar, sound quality is good and battery life is excellent. A single charge will yield 4 hours of music playback but the changing case can charge the earbuds 3 times, giving a total of 16 hours of playback before the headphones and case need charging. 

Sound quality is slightly warm and soft, but works well for a variety of music. Audiophiles won’t be pleased but for most people, the NuForce BE Free8 will do the job. Its excellent noise isolation also make these great for commuters. 

For the money, the Optoma NuForce BE Free8 are an excellent value in the truly wireless headphone segment. These headphones do the basics so well they’re easy to recommend for those who want to try truly wireless earbuds. 

Read the full review: Optoma NuForce BE Free8

Considering it's still rare to get noise-cancellation in wired earbuds at all, the fact that Sony has managed to pack it into a pair that are not only wireless, but true wireless is very impressive indeed. 

The Sony WF-1000X manage to offer a level of noise-cancellation that's very good for a pair of earbuds - it won't offer the same isolation as a pair of over-ear cans, but if you're after a sleek form factor then the compromise is worth it. 

Beyond the noise-cancellation the earbuds continue to impress. Battery life is an acceptable 3 hours (acceptable for true wireless that is), with a further 6 provided by the charging case, and sound quality is rich and full.

Our only real reservation with the headphones is an occasional spotty connection between the two earbuds themselves (which rarely lasts for as much as a full second), and a lack of volume controls on the earbuds themselves (instead your options are limited to playing, pausing, and skipping your music).

Still, if you're after noise-cancellation and decent sound quality with your earbuds, then the WF-1000X are the way to go. 

Read the full review: Sony WF-1000X

Let’s get one thing out of the way – the B&O Beoplay E8 are one of the nicest-looking and most expensive wireless earphones you can buy. 

At $299 (£259, AU$449, AED 1,199) you can throw in a bit more cash and splurge for one of our favorite noise-cancelling headphones, the Bose QuietComfort 35 $349 (£259, AU$499, AED 1,449), which give you better battery life and a richer sound. But if you’re looking for a something to take to the gym and have the cash to burn, then the Beoplay E8 might be just what you’re looking for.   

While you won't find noise-cancellation here, you will find a longer-lasting battery life of around four hours alongside Bluetooth 4.2. The E8 come with a stylish carrying case, and you can tweak the sound to your liking using the accompanying Beoplay app on Android and iOS.

Even without tinkering around with ToneTouch, the E8 sounds crisp and clear. Bass feedback will depend on how snug you’re wearing the E8s, but was acceptable for earphones of this size. If you’re able to look past the price point, then then Beoplay E8 is a great investment. It’s super compact, offers great audio, and looks great - what more could you ask for?  

Read the full review: B&O Beoplay E8 Wireless Earphones

One of the earliest true wireless sets of earphones is still among the best. The Onkyo W800BT arrived to demonstrate these kind of earphones could sound much better than AirPods, and they continue to flatten most of the competition for sound quality.

Richer, wider and with much better stereo separation and ‘air’ than most, these are a truly satisfying listen. The cohesiveness and detail of the mid-range also hugely outclasses most other earphones of this kind. What else did you expect from Onkyo?

The only snags are that their wireless performance is not perfect, especially when you compare them to newer, cheaper models, its battery life of three hours per charge is only worth a shrug, and the charger case isn’t as neat as some. 

Still, if sound quality matters most they are winners regardless.

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

Categories: General Technology

IK Multimedia iRig Stomp I/O made me want to get the old band back together

Wed, 22/08/2018 - 23:51

I’ll let you in on a secret – like most 20-something indie kids of the mid ‘Noughties, I was in a band. We were awful. We were great. The gigs have become the stuff of legend and hyperbolic, ‘one-too-many-beers’ tall stories. And then we got older, and then we got jobs, and then life got in the way, and the dream of headlining Glastonbury died.

I’ve been looking longingly at my Epiphone Sheraton for a little while now, hoping for an excuse to restring my axe of choice and scratch the musical creative itch that’s always tickling my heartstrings. 

The IK Multimedia iRig Stomp I/O, being an iOS and USB-compatible multi-effects stompbox-come-audio interface proved just the excuse I needed, and more than surpassed my expectations.

A lot has changed in the ten or so years since I last stepped inside a recording studio, and not least of all is the rise in mobile recording options. 

Bedroom beast

With Apple’s Garageband making anyone with a MacBook a potential bedroom superstar, and tablet computing powerful enough to make putting portable digital orchestras in the palm of your hand a practical option, it’s a far cry from the tape-chopping days of booking out studio time. 

Sure, the big boys still have their Abbey Road sessions, but for bedroom rockers looking to just get their tunes heard, that’s now made easy with minimal fuss thanks to modern mobile gadgetry.

The IK Multimedia iRig Stomp I/O would have been a dream come true to a teenage me. It’s a 3-in-one delight, provided you have a small laptop or iPad, acting as both a multi-effects stomp box, audio interface and mobile recording studio.

An evolution of IK’s iRig line, the first manufacturer to really take iOS audio interfaces seriously, it’s as happy pairing up with your iPad or iPhone as it is with a MacBook, comprising of four stomp switches (with red-to-green gain LEDS), an expression pedal and a slot for popping in your iPad for use on the go. If you’re hooking it up to a Mac, it’ll work over USB power, but there’s also a power pack if you want to take the board on the go with you.

Around the rear there’s one XLR/quarter inch input for guitars with a 48v phantom power switch, MIDI in and out, ports to connect up to external pedals or switches, USB and lightning ports, a headphone output and a balanced stereo line output. Input and master output also have master gain dials for you to fiddle with.

Simple set up

While it’s not unique among modern Apple-compatible audio interfaces, compared to the audio interfaces of old being able to simply plug in the Stomp I/O and have it instantly recognised as an 96kHz/24-bit input device for my Mac was a dream (with some light configuration it’ll work with Windows devices, too). 

Within minutes I was strumming away in Garageband, laying down tracks and vocals, with the unit acting as a MIDI foot controller. 

When bought it is also packaged with software that’d cost you several hundred dollars or pounds if bought separately, including the excellent AmpliTube 4 Deluxe, AmpliTube for iPhone and iPad, AmpliTube Acoustic for iOS, VocaLive, MicRoom and more. Together, they give you hundreds of effects modelling options for guitars and vocals, letting you fine tune your sound to a professional standard.

The pedal board can take a beating too. Built with a metal chassis, I could happily stamp on it without fear of doing it damage, with its weight keeping it from shifting underfoot. 

I’m not convinced I’d want to take my iPad to a beer-raining gig however, as it’d be exposed to all manner of potential injury in a live setting. But with the benefits of leaving the touchscreen being accessible part of the appeal, I’m not sure how IK Multimedia could effectively protect the screen without leaving it covered up. 

What does frustrate a little though is the extension cable – it’s great to be able to place your iPad wired up on a stand (if plugged into a mains connection, the pedalboard can charge your tablet, too), but making the extension cable a sold-separately extra feels a little bit unfair.

The IK Multimedia iRig Stomp I/O costs $299, which translates roughly to £235 or AU$410 – an absolute steal given its versatility, durability and the wealth of software it comes with. 

My now-aged digital multi-effects pedal, the Boss GT-6, was my prized possession back in the days of my band. Who knows where the music would have taken me if I’d had one of these back in my youth? Maybe there’s time yet for that Glastonbury performance...

Categories: General Technology

The best wireless speaker 2018: find the best connected speakers for your home

Tue, 21/08/2018 - 06:25

Best Speakers Buying Guide: Welcome to TechRadar's round-up of the best wireless, connected speakers and speaker systems in 2018. 

Speakers, as we're sure you know, come in all shapes and sizes from floor-standing models that can rattle the walls and wake the neighbors to portable speakers that you can bring with you on the go, but in between those two lies wireless speakers – powerful chambers of sound that don't require speaker wire to setup.

If you're not in the mood to string wires, this is the way to go.

Ideally, the speaker that you pick will have been made with a number of built-in amps and DACs and then custom-tuned to replicate music as close to the source as possible. On top of pristine audio playback, you should be looking for speakers that pack in a plethora of features like smart assistant support, a built-in battery and Spotify Connect, all of which will help your speaker last you until the next big innovation in audio that will come a few years down the road.

To that end, what you'll find below is a list of the 10 best wireless speakers, ranked by their price-to-performance ratio.

[Update: LG has just lifted the curtain off its 2018 lineup of Xboom speakers that include the PK3, PK5 and PK7 portable Bluetooth speakers, the WK7 and WK9 Google Assistant wireless speakers and OK99 and CK99 LOUDR Hi-Fi systems. We'll be going hands on with the entire line-up at IFA 2018, and will be sure to post our impressions!]

If you're in the market for a cleanly designed, exceptional sounding connected speaker, you'll find none better than the Sonos One. Offering the best of both Sonos' multi-room speaker platform and Amazon's smart home prowess, the Sonos One is the pinnacle of connectivity. 

Want to hear your favorite song from Spotify? All you need to do is ask! Want every speaker in the upstairs to play the same song? Group them together via the Sonos app and you'll have a house party in minutes. 

While there are more powerful (and more expensive) speakers listed down below, for the vast majority of folks, the Sonos One is the best deal in 2018.

Read the full review: Sonos One

Sonos was one of the first companies to get into the connected speaker business, and as a result has one of the most seamlessly integrated speaker systems on the market. 

The Sonos Play:5 is the company's flagship, and has the 

Unlike solutions which rely on Bluetooth or Google Cast, Sonos' speakers are controlled directly from its own app, which has built in integration for a number of streaming services, including Spotify, Tidal, Apple Music, Deezer, TuneIn a whole range of smaller services.

Since this is a multi-room setup, you can also add additional speakers such as the Sonos Play:3 and Sonos Play:1 to built up a complete surround sound system, but if you want to keep it simple, then you should find the Play:5 to offer more than enough sound. 

Read the full review: Sonos Play:5

The Pure Evoke C-F6 isn't a flashy speaker – its modest (but refined) looks let it slip unassumingly into any decor, although it doesn't boast the premium multi-room options of pricier competitors on this list.

But that's also not really the point of the Evoke C-F6 – it's positioning itself to be the one-room, one-shop stop for all your audio playback needs. There's a dazzling array of audio source options on offer here, with the biggest draws being Spotify Connect, DAB, Internet radio, Bluetooth and old faithful CD playback.

With a solid app letting you control the speaker from across a room, and the Evoke C-F6 offering a warm and natural soundstage from its stereo speakers, it'll take pride of place on whichever bedside table or living room shelf you decide to pop it on.

Read the full review: Pure Evoke C-F6

It's a tough call between this speaker and the Mu-So Qb for the best looking music player on this list, but the Zeppelin is certainly the most striking.

But as with all these speakers, the proof is in the pudding, and the Zeppelin sounds absolutely stunning no matter what volume you play it at. Its bass is distortion free, and its mid-range is nice and punchy. 

It's also backed by a complete swath of connectivity options, so you'll have no problem getting your more obscure apps playing through the speaker. 

The only problem is its price: $699 (£499 / AU$999). But while the sticker price ensures that only serious audiophiles will give it some consideration, it's a lot less pricey than the Mu-So Qb, and you get a similar level of sound quality. 

Read the full review: Bowers & Wilkins Zeppelin Wireless

You might not have heard of it before, but Naim audio is a company that produces some of the most stylish connected speakers in the business, and we think the Mu-So Qb is the best they've put out yet. 

It comes will a full suite of connectivity options including aptX Bluetooth, Spotify Connect and AirPlay, which means all of your music should be supported at its maximum resolution, no matter what device you're using. 

But even if you don't have your phone in hand, the speaker is still controllable using its sleek touch-screen which allows you to access internet radio stations, for example. 

It's got a premium price, but if you pluck for the Qb then you won't be disappointed. 

Read the full review: Mu-So Qb

Not content with dominating the TV world, Samsung now seems to have its sights set on becoming the number one brand for home entertainment audio, too. All this effort has already delivered outstanding results in the shape of both the HW-K850 and, especially, HW-K950 Dolby Atmos soundbars, as well as a range of ground-breaking multi-room wireless speakers.

But, above everything stands the South Korean manufacturer's HW-MS650. No other one-body soundbar has combined so much raw power with so much clarity, scale and, especially, bass, or excelled so consistently with both films and music. It’s the sort of performance that only genuine audio innovation can deliver - and with that in mind, it’s well worth its $450/£599 price tag. 

Read the full review: Samsung HW-MS650 Soundbar

When it comes to stuffing a small apartment with Google Home devices, is too much of a good thing bad? As the Google Home Max proved to us, the answer is no. 

Although absolutely massive, the Home Max makes for a surprisingly versatile addition to a space of any size, thanks to its balanced, awesome sound delivery and Smart Sound function that helps it adjust to any environment you set it in. 

Google’s big speaker is more elegant than it has any right to be, what with clever touches like the moveable resting pad and orientation-friendly touch functions. It’s also appreciated that its looks stand out if you choose to notice it, but blend into the scene during everyday use. 

The only problem? It's just available in the US for now.

Read the full review: Google Home Max

If you're looking for a pair of bookshelf speakers that handle wireless audio as well as having the traditional connections for your vinyl player, check out the KEF LS50 Wireless. While KEF's flagship speakers don't support every wireless standard on the market, they do support Tidal or Spotify, plus standard Bluetooth 4.0.   

In terms of sound quality,  they are staggeringly detailed and their stand-out sonic feature is their holographic imaging and instrumental layering: We could hear exactly where each instrument was coming from and each instrument sounded distinct and never blurry. Soundstage was expansive with good space to the side and above the listener. Resolution is excellent as the speaker can dig for the micro-details that get lost in lesser audio systems.  

If you're an audiophile who wants the convenience of wireless audio - whether that’s directly from internet streaming services like Tidal or Spotify or from a home server - the KEF LS50 Wireless should be at the top of your list. 

Read the full review: KEF LS50 Wireless

Of its trio of new multi-room speakers, the Marshall Stanmore is the middle child. However, that doesn't mean it's the unloved sibling. 

While the larger Woburn is just a little too big for most rooms, and the smaller Acton has a number of connectivity issues, the Stanmore strikes a nice balance between the two with a sound that's big and punchy, without straying too far into 'overkill' territory (although mark our words, it will if you want it to). 

It features its own app for controlling it, but we were fans of how nicely it integrates with a host of other services including AirPlay, Google Cast and Spotify Connect, meaning you can stick to the apps you're familiar with while still controlling your new toy. 

But it's the on-board controls that impressed us the most. You're able to set presets from a number of different services, meaning you can happily switch between pre-defined Spotify playlists and internet radio stations with a twist of a vintage Marshall-styled brass knob. 

It's not got the most refined sound out of the speakers on this list, but the Marshall Stanmore is intelligently designed and simple to use. 

Read the full review: Marshall Stanmore

If we only rated the Apple HomePod on the merits of sound performance, the HomePod would likely hold the top spot on this list. But, as a connected speaker, it has a long way to go.

Overall, it delivers rich, clear sound that will impress anyone who listens to it, and every facet of the way it’s designed and delivers audio has been well thought through. But there are still a few little bumps in there that remove some of the gloss – Siri not being able to search the web, a lack of Bluetooth streaming, or being able to control your Apple TV or iPhone directly from the speaker are omissions that many would like to have. 

Once it builds out these features, we'll definitely revisit it and possibly award it a higher spot on this list. Until then, however, it's a speaker that only serves a niche audience - and even then not very well.

Read the full review: Apple HomePod

Categories: General Technology

LG’s Xboom brand now includes smart speakers and a plethora of glowing LEDs

Tue, 21/08/2018 - 05:38

With IFA 2018 just a mere week away, LG is taking the wraps off its 2018 Xboom lineup of speakers that will include the LG WK9 and LG WK7, as well as the PK3, PK5 and PK7 speakers, the latter of which now fall under the Xboom Go banner.

If some of these speakers look familiar, it’s because they appeared at CES 2018 earlier this year without the Xboom monicker next to their name.

“By expanding our XBOOM [LG's capitalization] brand to include wireless and smart speakers, LG is opening up new possibilities with XBOOM leading our entire home audio business,” said Head of LG's Convergence Audio and Video Business Division, Seo Young-jae in a press release.

While this is more of a branding move than anything else, LG’s new-and-improved Xboom lineup is honestly delivering everything and the kitchen sink when it comes to audio features. The series sports a trio of waterproof portable speakers with Hi-Res Audio support up to 24-bit/576Kbps, as well as a pair of Google Assistant-equipped smart speakers, the LG WK9 with Google Smart Display and the Google Home-esque LG WK7.

Similar to years past, at the top of the range will sit two DJ systems, the CK99 LOUDR Hi-Fi system and 1,800-watt monolith LG OK99 home entertainment system.

Business in the front, party in the back

If you're nervous that all these LEDs might take away from the speakers' sound quality, don't fret. Meridian Audio has partnered with LG to make sure these speakers sound as good as they look. 

The partnership with Meridian Audio extends to LG's soundbar lineup – which includes the Dolby Atmos-equipped LG SK10Y – and could help LG better compete with similarly configured products from Samsung and Sony.

While CES gave us our first opportunity to go ears on with the Xboom lineup, IFA 2018 will give us a second opportunity later this month when the show starts on August 31.

Categories: General Technology

Bowers & Wilkins 600 Series speaker revamp makes flagship features affordable

Mon, 20/08/2018 - 22:47

Bowers & Wilkins 600 Series has long been a go-to entry point for those looking to make the first step into higher-end speaker set ups, but it’s been a long time since the range (first introduced in 1995) has had an update. Today however sees the launch of a sixth revision of the line up, with four new speaker sets and three aesthetically-redesigned subwoofers hitting shops in the coming weeks.

Aiming at home cinema enthusiasts as much as for those looking to upgrade stereo systems, the 600 Series latest edition gets an audio boost thanks to squeezing in high-end tech found first in the companies 800 Series Diamond range.

So, inside each 600 Series speaker, you’ll find the company's clarity-focussed Continuum Cone midrange driver, and a new version of its Decoupled Double Dome tweeter for precise high range sounds. Add in a new paper cone low frequency driver in the top-end 603 speaker, and it’s a lot of bang for relatively little buck – at least when it comes to premium audiophile-aimed stereo sonics.

Super series

All speakers in the revised B&W 600 series range are available in both black and white shades, with a a matte finish on the black speakers and a gloss sheen to the white models.

At the top of the range is the 603 speakers. These tall floor standing models, and make use of the Decoupled Double Dome tweeter, an FST midrange driver with the Continuum Cone, and dual bass drivers. They’re priced at £1,249 ($1,595 /AU$2,185).

If you’re after a set of bookshelf speakers, or more modest rear channels for a home cinema set up, look to the 606 models. Again making use of the Decoupled Double Dome tweeters and a 6.5-inch Continuum Cone, they’re priced at £549 ($700 /AU$960).

The smallest of the range are the 607 speakers, and they’re the cheapest too at £399 ($510 /AU$700). Again making use of the Continuum Cone, this time in a 5-inch configuration acting as the mid and bass driver. 

A centre channel speaker completes the surround sound set up, with the HTM6 taking the role with that Decoupled Double Dome tweeter and 5-inch Continuum Cone combo for £399 ($510 /AU$700).

Lastly there’s a trio of subwoofers – but these don’t feature the new audio tech. Instead, they remain the same as the previous 600 series, but with finishes that complement the new-look 600 speakers, priced at £799 ($1,020 /AU$1,400), £499 ($640 /AU$875) and £399  ($510 /AU$700.

It’s a great sounding line-up, and one that’s been long awaited, with Bowers and Wilkins perfecting the build over several years since the launch of the last series. Available from September, find out more at the Bowers & Wilkins website.

Categories: General Technology

Australia's best cheap headphones, discounts and deals in August 2018

Mon, 20/08/2018 - 12:46

With headphones of all types, colours and styles flooding the market, it’s hard knowing which ones to pick – do you go for the premium model you’ve always wanted, or are you better off just grabbing a cheap set from the discount bin?

Well, it’s worth remembering that cheap headphones are cheap for a reason, so even if saving money is priority we can’t recommend those $2 discount-bin variety that you find all over the world. And, as you’ll find out below, you don’t always have spend a lot of dosh to snag a great set of headphones either.

To save you the time and effort, we’ve put together this dedicated guide to the best bargains on great-sounding headphone. We constantly monitor major Aussie retailers and go a-huntin’ to bring you the most worthwhile deals on a variety of sets – from in-ear buds to noise-cancelling cans – so check out our continually updated list below to discover the best current headphones deals in Australia.

Best cheap over-ear headphones this week Best cheap in-ear headphones this week

The best deals on our favourite headphones

To help you decide which headphones work best for you, we've decided to put together a little buying guide with a list of our favourite recommendations. 

The headphones you'll find here have tons of features to help you to get the most out of your music, or any other form of audio-visual entertainment you prefer, however you like to listen to it.

For the most part, when shopping for noise cancellation headphones we've gotten used to making a compromise between shutting the world out and wanting great sound performance. But no longer. Sony's WH-1000XM2 cans are a great redesign of the already-excellent MDR-1000X and offer not just perfect noise cancellation but also score top marks in sound quality. These headphones easily outclass Bose's flagship QC35 II in terms of both soundscape and feature set.

Read more: Sony WH-1000XM2 review

The very popular and excellent Bose QC35s underwent an upgrade and now come with Google Assistant at your beck and call. For a premium price, not only do you get Bose's world class noise cancellation and good sound quality, you also get a personal butler and an incredibly comfortable set of cans. And with up to 40 hours of battery life, you'll get through any long-haul flight.

Read more: Bose QuietComfort 35 II review

For a little over $100, it's hard to recommend a better sounding pair of 'buds than the 1More Triple Driver in-ears. It's hard to fault the headphones, if you can put up with the rubber cable and the plastic remote. Even that is just us nitpicking. For the price, it's our top recommendation of in-ear headphones if your phone still has a headphone jack or you don't mind using an adaptor.

Read more: 1More Triple Driver in-ear headphones review

If you're a frequent flyer, or commute long distances daily, you'll understand the need for a great pair of noise cancelling headphones. Unfortunately, most of them cost a pretty penny. But not the Plantronics BackBeat Pro 2. These headphones offer not just good sound and shut the world out, but do it at pretty much half the cost of the usual suspects of Sony, Bose and Beats. They also have a useful feature that turns the headphones off when you're not wearing them, saving battery. And did we mention you can pair two devices at once as well? If that isn't great value, then we don't know what else is.

Read more: Plantronics BackBeat Pro 2 review

With headphone jacks fast disappearing from flagship handsets, wireless headphones is the way to go. But not everyone likes the feel of a set of cans on their head and cables, no matter how small, can get annoying. If that's describing you, then true wireless 'buds are the answer to your prayers. While most of them compromise on sound quality, the Jabra Elite 65t not only sound good but offer ambient noise isolation as well. They're an excellent substitute if you aren't too keen on the other-worldly look of Apple's AirPods.

Read more: Jabra Elite 65t review

It's hard to find the Optoma NuForce BE Sport4 wireless 'buds, but if you're after a set of no-frills headphones that don't compromise on sound quality, you'll want to look for these. They do an excellent job of isolating sound when in a noisy environment and boast up to 10 hours of battery. And with a 15-minute quick charge, you'll get an additional two hours of playback out of them.

Read more: Optoma NuForce BE Sport4 review

If you're after more information on headphones in different form factors, take a look at some of our other dedicated audio articles:

Categories: General Technology

Harman Kardon’s new Citation 500 Google Assistant speaker is sleek, smart and punchy

Thu, 16/08/2018 - 22:44

Harman Kardon has introduced its latest smart home speaker, the Harman Kardon Citation 500.

The brand has teamed up with design textile manufacturer Kvadrat to produce an elegant and minimalistic speaker which aims to fit in with the decor of your home as well as providing a dynamic listening experience. And, as with all smart speakers, it’s got voice control (courtesy of the Google Assistant) built in too.

What does it look like?

The Citation 500 is an oblong cylinder that’s small enough to place on a side-table, with a gray or black wool fabric exterior and plastic top panel – Harman Kardon calls it a ‘Nordic’ design – and a touch-sensitive color menu screen.

Features

The Citation 500 features built-in Wi-Fi, Bluetooth, Chromecast and voice control via Google Assistant. Google Assistant is a virtual assistant capable of answering questions, managing tasks, planning your day, and controlling connected media or home devices. Sound-wise it provides 360 degrees of audio playback and 24 Bits/96Khz of HD audio streaming, with an output of 200W.

How much is it?

The Harman Kardon Citation 500 is priced at £549 (which converts to roughly $697 / AU$960) with pre-orders available at the end of September from the Harman Kardon website. The home speaker will also be showcased at IFA 2018.

Google Assistant speakers

The Citation 500 is going up against stiff competition, especially considering its price. The Google Home range offers smart speakers with Google Assistant, and comes in a Mini or Max version. The JBL Link 10 also offers Google Assistant and takes up considerably less space. Both Google Home speakers and the JBL Link 10 cost considerably less than the Citation 500, with the Google Home priced at $129 (£129/AU$199), and the JBL Link 10 costing just $99 (£150, AU$230).

Categories: General Technology

Best headphones under Rs 2,000 in India for August 2018

Thu, 16/08/2018 - 20:52

Some people lose headphones all too easily, while others find them to be very durable. That's why It isn't uncommon to not want to spend too much on a pair of headphones. So why not spend on a budget friendly pair?

This article is the perfect guide to help you choose between options, so that you can purchase the best pair of headphones under Rs 2,000 that are tailored to meet your needs. The 10 pairs listed below offer budget solution without compromising on sound.

Starting from bluetooth headsets to over-the-ear headphones and headsets with a microphone to earpieces without a mic, the list covers every category so that you can choose what fits your bill.

If the price is a non-issue, you can check out our overall list of the best headphones available in the market now.

1More Piston Fit

1More isn't a popular company here in India, yet. However, it does make excellent headphones which are also value for money purchases for consumers. The 1More Piston Fit in-ear headphones are the most affordable in-ears available in the market today which deliver balanced and clear sound. 

The 45-degree angled design of the front cover fits comfortably in the ears, with two extra ear tips you switch between, depending on your ear shape, but some may find the silicon ear tips to be a little flimsy. 

The sound quality is detailed but low-frequency sounds are lacking making the bass appear weak. If you're somebody who values details over bass, then these headphones are made for you.

SoundMagic PL30+ C 

SoundMagic PL30+ C is well-known for its perfectly balanced audio output. There isn't going to be any need for you to fiddle with different equaliser settings to extract the best sound out of the headphones; the company has already done it for you. However, if you are inclined towards a specific type of acoustics, just choose the default equaliser setting for that respective niche and you’re done.

The appearance of the PL30+ C looks quite premium with its metal housing and quality construction. The headphones come in an attractive packaging which consists of a hard case, 5 sets of earbuds and a couple of hooks. 

Sennheiser CX 275 S

Sennheiser is one of the most premium audio equipment manufacturing brands in the world. The CX 275 S is an entry-level offering from the company for the budget consumer. The headphones still manage to offer decent sound output which is a bit more inclined towards the treble.

The Sennheiser CX 275 S fits quite well in the ears and features a composed yet premium build quality. 

SoundMagic E10C

These are another pair of exceptional headphones from SoundMagic. Just like the PL30+ C, the E10C is also tuned quite well with a subtle emphasis on the bass. In our opinion, this is one of best headsets for bass lovers under Rs 2,000.

Moving on to the build quality, the SoundMagic E10C kills it with metal construction and tangle-free wires. The retail package comprises of a plethora of earbuds, premium hard case, clip and a couple of adapters. The E10C is currently available in four attractive color choices.

Sony MDR-EX255AP

The Sony MDR-EX255AP is a decent pair of in-ear headphones with good sound quality. It sports an extensive range of frequency responses and delivers balanced audio output. Little adjustments to the equaliser can reveal the true capabilities of the headset.

Build quality-wise, the mid-range earphones are at par with the competition. The semi-braided wires along with the metal casing look and feel quite premium. With real-silicon earbuds, the Sony MDR-EX255AP fits quite well in the ears.

Sony MDR-XB450

These on-ear headphones are a paradise for bass lovers. With its huge 30 mm drivers, the Sony MDR-XB450 is capable of producing some extreme bass outputs which are quite unmatchable at its price range. However, this extra bass doesn’t mean that the headsets have weak treble. The MDR-XB450 fares quite well in the mids and the highs too.

Talking of the exterior finishing, the Sony MDR-XB450 looks quite magnificent with its flashy metallic housing and well-cushioned ear pads. However, the build quality is not too good for long-term usage as some external glitches tend to appear after a year of extensive use.

Mi In-Ear Headphones Pro HD

These headphones offer great build quality with premium metal housing and sturdy cables. Look-wise, there are few headsets in this price range that can beat the Mi Pro HD.

Xiaomi’s Mi In-Ear Headphones Pro HD is the arguably the best you can get if your budget is Rs 2,000. This is a truly high-end earpiece which is capable of producing top notch sound output as well as unrivaled sound recording ability. The only downside is that the Pro HD requires an extensive burn out period to deliver to its full potential.

Sony Extra Bass MDR-XB50

The Sony Extra Bass MDR-XB50 is another set of bass-oriented headphones from the Japanese company. The earpiece produces exceptional lows with well-balanced mids and highs. The only drawback of this headset is its comparatively lower maximum volume.

The MDR-XB50 is a decent looking product with a glossy metallic finished housing. However, the best part is its true silicon earbuds which fit really well in the ears. Sony also bundles some additional earbuds of different sizes and a carry pouch along with the earphones.

SoundMagic E30 in-ear headphones

The SoundMagic E30 was launched way back in 2013, but still, it is quite relevant to current standards. The earpieces generate a very well-balanced sound output with unmatchable clarity. The best part is that you can enjoy pure music which is not distorted by excessive bass. The E30 focusses more on the treble side while maintaining a composed, yet tight, bass.

When it comes to building quality, the SoundMagic E30 fails to impress. The headphones are made of cheap plastic with sub-standard finishing. The earpieces are designed to be worn over the ears with its cables going around your earlobes. If properly plugged in, the E30 provides exceptional noise cancellation and are quite comfortable too.

Audio-Technica ATH-AX1iS

The Audio-Technica ATH-AX1iS is a great pair of over-the-ear headphones which cost less than Rs 2,000. It offers well-tuned sound output with a somewhat composed bass. These earpieces also feature an inline microphone and volume control keys that work with any Android or iOS device.

Talking about the build quality, the ATH-AX1iS feels quite flimsy and the finishing is not really up to the mark. However, the headset is surprisingly durable and would not break off that easily. Last but not the least, the Audio-Technica ATH-AX1iS fits really well on the ears and you won’t feel uneasy even after extended usage.

BoAt Rockerz 510

This is the only Bluetooth headset in our list, and believe me, it’s a gem. The BoAt Rockerz 510 not only looks awesome but also sports excellent sound quality. The big 50 mm drivers inside the headphones churn out an unmatchable bass.

The build quality of the BoAt Rockerz 510 is outstanding. With materials like faux leather and aluminum combined with good quality polycarbonate, the Bluetooth headphones not only look great but also feel premium. If you are looking for a wireless headset under Rs 2,000, buying this is a no brainer.

Still haven't found what you're looking for? 

Check out our list of the best noise-cancelling headphones or our list of the best wireless headphones available in India.

Categories: General Technology

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