Posts with «audio technology» label

Sennheiser promises 60 hours of listening with its new Momentum headphones

Sennheiser hasn't refreshed its over-hear Momentum noise-canceling headphones since 2019, but that changes today. The company has announced the Momentum 4, a new take on its flagship headphones that includes an exterior redesign, new features and a whopping 60 hours of battery life. What's more, Sennheiser is offering this host of updates for $50 less than the Momentum 3 at its debut. 

First, the design Sennheiser had carried through much of the Momentum line since its introduction is gone. The mix of metal and leather with visible cables has been traded for a more simplified, more plastic affair. The new look is decidedly less premium than previous Momentum models. However, what the Momentum 4 may lack in aesthetics is offset by increased comfort. The company notes the new hinge easily adjusts and doesn't exert too much pressure on your head. Earcups also rotate flat now, which makes storage a bit easier. Another big change is the on-board controls: most of the physical buttons have been replaced with a touch panel on the right side.

Sennheiser

Inside, Sennheiser says it opted for an "audiophile-inspired acoustic system" that relies on 42mm transducers for the sound. The company explains the setup creates "brilliant dynamics, clarity and musicality," plus you can use an EQ, presets and a new Sound Personalization feature to further adjust the tuning. Sound Personalization takes into account your personal preferences and adjusts "the listening experience" accordingly. 

Of course, these are flagship headphones so active noise cancellation (ANC) is on board. The company says its updated adaptive ANC works to maintain sound quality even in the noisiest of surroundings. Transparency Mode is available as well and there's a slider control between it and ANC in Sennheiser's app. In other words, you're not just left with one or the other, so you can mix in a dash of environmental noise if needed. This model can automatically change sound settings based on your location too, a feature Sennheiser first debuted in March.

Sennheiser also offers a feature called Sidetone, which allows you to adjust how much of your voice comes through during calls. It's a tool that helps you feel less shouty and it works on top of automatic wind noise suppression for the Momentum 4's beamforming microphones during voice and video chats. 

Sennheiser

Sennheiser says you can expect up to 60 hours of battery life on a charge, and that's with ANC turned on. A quick-charge feature gives you six hours of use in 10 minutes. To help you conserve battery, the Momentum 4 is equipped with both automatic pausing and automatic on/off. The company says the headphones will power off when you leave them unattended and turn back on when you pick them up.

The Momentum 4 will be available for preorder in black and white color options on August 9th before shipping on August 23rd. The headphones are priced at $349.95, which is $50 less than the Momentum 3 when it debuted in 2019. 

Amazon's Echo is back on sale for a record low of $60

If you missed the chance to pick up an Echo smart speaker during Prime Day last week, you have another opportunity to do so today. Amazon's full-sized Echo is back down to a record-low price of $60, which is 40 percent off its normal rate. The Echo Show 5 is also on sale for $40 right now, which is only $5 more than it was on Prime Day. The Echo Dot, on the other hand, is currently 20 percent off and on sale for $40.

Buy Echo at Amazon - $60Buy Echo Show 5 at Amazon - $40Buy Echo Dot at Amazon - $40

You may just think of Amazon's Echo as a way to get Alexa into your home, but it's a pretty capable speaker as well. We gave it a score of 89 when it came out and it remains one of our favorite smart speakers. We like its spherical design and its bottom light ring that changes colors depending on what it's doing. Inside the Echo are a three-inch woofer and two 0.8-inch tweeters that work together to help the speaker get quite loud and pump out sound with solid bass and powerful mid-range frequencies. It does a better job filling a room with sound than Google's Nest Audio or Apple's HomePod mini, which will be important for those who want to use it as their primary living room speaker.

In addition to asking Alexa to play music from various sources like Spotify or Apple Music, the Echo can be used as a Bluetooth speaker if you prefer. It also has a 3.5mm audio jack, which takes both input and output. Plus, if you buy two of the speakers, you can pair them together to play sound in stereo mode as well.

The Echo can also act as your main smart home hub thanks to its built-in Zigbee capabilities. Instead of buying a separate hub or bridge to connect things like smart lights, switches and more, the Echo can act as the central point in your home. And if you primarily get IoT devices that work with Alexa, you'll be able to use voice commands to control them, too.

Overall, the Echo is one of the best smart speakers you can get at the $100 mark, so it's an even better buy when you can get it for less. If you prefer a device that has a display to show things like weather forecasts and even security camera feeds, the Echo Show 5 is a solid option. It's the smallest of Amazon's smart displays, but that means it works well as a smart alarm clock of sorts. We like its surprisingly solid audio quality and its tap-to-snooze feature, too. As for the Echo Dot, it's the smart speaker to get if you're on a tight budget or want something that allows you to use Alexa voice commands without taking up too much space.

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Android is ready to automatically switch device audio on Pixel Buds Pro

Android audio switching is finally a practical reality — provided you have the right earbuds. Google has started rolling out the automatic toggle to Android devices paired with the Pixel Buds Pro. If your phone or tablet supports Bluetooth multipoint connections, Android will intelligently switch sound from one product to the other using a priority system. You'll switch from your tablet's audio to your phone for an incoming call, for instance, but you won't have to worry about incoming notifications. You can always switch back through a notification if the OS made a mistake.

The feature will expand to JBL and Sony headphones sometime in the "coming weeks," Google said. The functionality will also reach non-Android platforms in the future, although the company didn't provide an exact timeframe. You can enable switching by using Fast Pair to connect your headphones and link them to your Google account.

The concept isn't unique. Apple devices paired with AirPods have offered audio switching since 2020, and Sony has offered a similar approach. It's a welcome addition if you want to use one set of Bluetooth earbuds for all of your Android gear, though, and Google's technology won't restrict you to any one headphone manufacturer.

Ultimate Ears' latest earbuds fit like in-ear monitors

Ultimate Ears brought its in-ear monitor (IEMs) expertise to true wireless earbuds in 2020 with the UE Fits, a set of buds with fancy tech that molds the tips to fit your ears. Despite the interesting premise, the earbuds didn't deliver on a lot of the basics you expect from an audio accessory these days, namely subpar audio and limited features. The Logitech-owned brand is back with a new take on custom-fit buds, only this time the company is making the process more like how you would order a set of IEMs with the UE Drops.

Indeed, the main attraction of UE Drops is the custom fit, which is coordinated via the company's FitKit. Once you place your order, Ultimate Ears will ship you a FitKit that the company says includes the "technology and information" to guide you though the process of taking your "earprint." More specifically, the kit shows you how to take impressions of your ears with an app, just like you would if you were ordering a set of the company's CSX IEMs. A set of eartips are molded to your ears with a warming process that looks similar to the light and heat method for UE Fits, only this time they're attached to a contraption you plug in. You then return the impressions and your pair of UE Drops are built to those specifications. You can expect to receive your pair about 2-4 weeks after the FitKit is received back at the factory. 

Inside, 9.2mm drivers power the sound the UE describes as "revered by music professionals and music lovers alike." There's no active noise cancellation (ANC), but the custom-fitting tips should provide better passive noise isolation than most off-the-shelf earbuds. However, there is a transparency mode, allowing you to tune into your surroundings as needed. Dual beamforming microphones on the water- and sweat-resistant buds are there for calls, plus handy features like on-board controls, in ear detection and wireless charging are here too. 

Ultimate Ears says you can expect up to eight hours of battery life with 14 additional hours in the case. A quick-charge feature offers one hour of use in five minutes. You can check your battery status in the UE Drops app, where you can also choose between sound presets, manage connected devices, configure voice controls and more. 

The UE Drops are now available in the US via the Ultimate Ears website for $449, which means you'll pay a premium for that custom-tailored fit. The company says UE FitKit and UE Drops apps are available for both Android and iOS devices. 

The best Amazon Prime Day 2022 headphone and earbud deals

Amazon Prime Day brings a great opportunity to grab a new pair of cans or wireless earbuds for yourself or someone you love. A plethora of audio gadgets are on sale for a members-only shopping event, including some of the best models from Sony, Bose, Beats, Jabra and others. Now's the time to pick up a pair of active noise cancelling headphones if you've been running your non-ANC cans into the ground, a set of water-resistant earbuds to accompany you on your toughest workouts or a new portable speaker for your backyard setup. Here are the best deals on headphones, earbuds and other audio gadgets we could find for Prime Day 2022.

Sony WH-1000XM4

Billy Steele/Engadget

Sony's excellent WH-1000XM4 headphones are down to a new low of $228 right now. We gave these cans a score of 94 for their powerful ANC, immersive sound quality and multi-device connectivity.

Buy WH-1000XM4 at Amazon - $228

Beats Fit Pro

Billy Steele/Engadget

The Beats Fit Pro are 20 percent off and down to $160. We gave them a score of 87 for their comfortable, water-resistant design, good sound quality and ANC and long battery life.

Buy Beats Fit Pro at Amazon - $160

AirPods Pro

The AirPods Pro with the MagSafe case have been discounted to $170. These remain Apple's best sounding earbuds, and we liked them for their solid sound, powerful ANC and hands-free Siri capabilities.

Buy AirPods Pro at Amazon - $170

AirPods (2nd gen)

The original AirPods are down to $90. While they're a bit outdated at this point, these are still decent earbuds that we liked for their improved wireless performance and good battery life.

Buy AirPods (2nd gen) at Amazon - $90

AirPods Max

Billy Steele/Engadget

The AirPods Max are on sale for $449 right now. These headphones earned a score of 84 from us for their excellent, balanced sound, solid ANC and good battery life.

Buy AirPods Max at Amazon - $449

Sony WF-1000XM4

Billy Steele/Engadget

Sony's WF-1000XM4 earbuds are down to $198 right now. We gave them a score of 86 for their excellent sound quality, good ANC, wireless charging capabilities and improved battery life.

Buy WF-1000XM4 at Amazon - $198

Bose QuietComfort 45

Billy Steele/Engadget

Bose's QuietComfort 45 headphones have dropped to $229, or 30 percent off their normal price. We gave them a score of 86 for their clear, balanced audio, improved ANC and long battery life.

Buy QuietComfort 45 at Amazon - $229

Sony WH-CH710N

Billy Steele / Engadget

Sony's affordable WH-CH710N wireless headphones have dropped to a new low of $68 for Prime Day. These are a great option if you want deep, punchy bass, solid ANC and 35-hour battery life all in a budget-friendly package.

Buy WH-CH710N at Amazon - $68

Samsung Galaxy Buds 2

Billy Steele/Engadget

Samsung's Galaxy Buds 2 have dropped to $100, or 33 percent less than usual. These much-improved earbuds impressed us with their better audio quality, adjustable ambient sound mode and tiny, comfortable design.

Buy Galaxy Buds 2 at Amazon - $100

Samsung Galaxy Buds Pro

Billy Steele/Engadget

Samsung's high-end Galaxy Buds Pro are on sale for $120, which is 40 percent off their normal price. They earned a score of 85 from us for their comfortable fit, wireless charging and good sound quality.

Buy Galaxy Buds Pro at Amazon - $120

Bose 700

Billy Steele / Engadget

The sleek Bose 700 headphones are on sale for $269 right now. We gave these cans a score of 90 for their remarkable noise cancellation, improved, more comfortable design and easy to use touch controls.

Buy Bose 700 at Amazon - $269

Jabra Elite 85t

Billy Steele/Engadget

Jabra's Elite 85t earbuds are on sale for $115, or a whopping 60 percent off their normal price. We like these true wireless earbuds for their strong ANC, comfortable size and wireless charging case.

Buy Jabra Elite 85t at Amazon - $115

Jabra Elite 3

Billy Steele/Engadget

Jabra's excellent Elite 3 earbuds have dropped to $50, or $30 off their normal rate. These already affordable buds earned a score of 88 from us for their impressive sound quality, good battery life, reliable touch controls and comfortable fit.

Buy Elite 3 at Amazon - $50

Jabra Elite 45h

Jabra

Jabra's Elite 45h headphones are half off and down to $50. We like these cans for their solid sound quality, voice assistant access, compact design and 50-hour battery life. 

Buy Jabra Elite 45h at Amazon - $50

Bose QuietComfort earbuds

Billy Steele/Engadget

Bose's QuietComfort earbuds are down to $179. These are some of the company's best true wireless earbuds and they earned a score of 87 from us for their clear sound, powerful ANC and comfortable size.

Buy QuietComfort earbuds at Amazon - $179

Beats Solo 3

Beats

Beats' Solo 3 wireless headphones are 43 percent off and down to $115. These cans have a streamlined design, Apple's W1 chipset and a 40-hour battery life.

Buy Beats Solo 3 at Amazon - $115

Jabra Elite 7 Active

Jabra

Jabra's Elite 7 Active wireless earbuds are on sale for $120, or 33 percent off their normal price. These buds are designed to withstand your sweatiest workouts with their IP57 rated design, plus they have adjustable ANC and four microphones for clear calls.

Buy Jabra Elite 7 Active at Amazon - $120

Sony WF-C500 earbuds

Sony

Sony's already affordable WF-C500 earbuds have dropped to $58, or almost half off their usual rate. These buds have an IPX4 rating, a 10-hour battery life and support for 360 Reality Audio.

Buy WF-C500 at Amazon - $58

Sony SRS-XB13

Sony

Sony's compact SRS-XB13 Bluetooth speaker is down to just $48, which is nearly half off its regular price. Not only does it come in a bunch of fun colors, but this tiny speaker also has a waterproof IP67 rated design, punchy bass and a 16-hour battery life.

Buy SRS-XB13 speaker at Amazon - $48

Amazon Echo

Nathan Ingraham / Engadget

Amazon's Echo smart speaker has dropped to $60. It earned a score of 89 from us for its solid audio quality, attractive design and its inclusion of a 3.5mm audio jack.

Buy Echo at Amazon - $60

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Sony's WH-1000XM4 headphones are on sale for $228 right now

Sony's WH-1000XM4 wireless headphones have been some of our favorites since they first came out in 2020. While the company has since moved on to the XM5, which build upon the solid foundation of the XM4, the 2020 version remains a great options for those who prefer over-ear headphones and want strong ANC in a comfortable package. Thanks to Amazon Prime Day deals, you can pick up the WH-1000XM4 for only $228, which is a new record-low price and $120 off their usual rate. Those who like wireless earbuds more can also snag the WF-1000XM4 buds for only $198 right now, too.

Buy WH-1000XM4 at Amazon - $228Buy WF-1000XM4 at Amazon - $198

We gave the WH-1000XM4 a score of 94 when they first came out. We liked their comfortable design with padded earcups and headband, and the new matte finish they have. You'll be able to wear them for hours on end, and their battery life will support that, too. The XM4 should last up to 30 hours on a single charge, so you could wear them a few hours a day for more than a week before they'll need more juice.

These headphones also excel when it comes to sound quality and ANC. Audio is immersive with excellent clarity and detail, plus these cans support Sony's 360 Reality Audio as well. ANC is strong and adjustable via the companion app, and you can even turn on a feature that will automatically change the ANC levels depending on your location.

Sony added a few new features when it debuted the XM4, namely multi-device connectivity and Speak to Chat. The former lets you connect to two devices at once, switching between them as needed. This feature works quite well as you can seamlessly go from listening to music on your laptop to taking a call on your smartphone. Speak to Chat, when enabled in the mobile app, will automatically pause audio when the headphones' mics sense that you're speaking.

We should note that Sony's new XM5 did dethrone the XM4 as our current favorite pair of wireless headphones. The $398 cans have all of the same features as the XM4, but they have a more refined design, additional mics and even better sound quality and ANC. But those upgrades do come at a hefty price, so if you're willing to skip them, you can get an excellent pair of cans for much less right now.

As for the WF-1000XM4, they are the true wireless earbud equivalents to Sony's over-ear headphones. You'll get a lot of the same features on these buds too, including 360 Reality Audio support, solid ANC, great sound quality and a formidable battery life.

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Sony's new portable speakers are waterproof and better with calls

As it does every year around this time, Sony has introduced new entries in its wireless speaker lineup. The company debuted three new models today, all of which are designed to be used outside thanks to both portable sizing and the proper dust and moisture protections (IP67). The trio is also a part of Sony's X-Series, which features non-circular "X-Balanced" speakers for more sound pressure and less distortion.

First, the largest option in the group is the SRS-XG300. The combination of a tapered cylinder shape and a retractable handle give this speaker more of a boombox-like design in a much smaller package. To give you multiple sound options, the XG300 packs a Mega Bass feature that boosts the low-end response, ClearAudio+ for "the most balanced sound" and Live Sound Mode that simulates the effect of being at a venue. Plus, Sony's Music Center app gives you the ability to adjust the EQ how you see fit and the option of connecting multiple speakers for Party Connect or Stereo Pair modes 

Inside, two X-Balanced speakers, two tweeters and two passive radiators handle the audio while the company's trademark customizable light rings shine on either end. Sony says the XG300 will last up to 25 hours on a charge and you can get up to 70 minutes of use after plugging in for 10 minutes. The company has also included Echo Noise Cancelling for more natural sounding calls should you need the speaker for that purpose. This technology allows two people to talk at the same time without cutting each other off. The XG300 will be available July 12th in gray and black color options for $350. 

Sony SRS-XE300
Sony

Next up is the SRS-XE300. Sony opted for a pentagon shape for this mid-size model, or as the company describes it, an ergonomic "grab and go" design. The XE300 is equipped with what Sony calls a line-shape diffuser that gives the speaker a wider listening area for those X-Balanced drivers by blasting sound more evenly. Sony's Party Connect and Stereo Pair features allows you to sync multiple speakers for more sound and the on-board controls include a microphone mute button for calls. Echo Noise cancelling is onboard, too. In addition to the dust and waterproof IP67 rating, this speaker is also shockproof, adding another later of protection against drops. This speaker gives you up to 24 hours of battery life on a charge and plugging in for 10 minutes will give you 70 minutes of listening time. The XG300 will be available July 12th in gray, black and blue color options for $200.

Lastly, the most compact option of the three is the SRS-XE200. It's smaller than the XE300, but features the same shape and overall design. The only aesthetic difference is the XE200 has an attached carrying strap. Like the XE300, this model packs in a line-shape diffuser for a larger listening area and it's also shockproof in addition to its IP67 protections. You can link up multiple speakers via the company's Party Connect and Stereo Pair setups. Sony says you can expect up to 16 hours of listening and, once again, a 10-minute charge offers 70 minutes of use. For calls, Echo Noise Cancelling is here too, as is a handy mute button among the other on-board controls. The XG300 will be available July 12th in gray, black, blue and orange color options for $130.

Bowers & Wilkins Px7 S2 review: A lot of upgrades at no extra cost

Bowers & Wilkins might be a name many associate with high-endhome audio gear, but the company has been steadily chugging along with headphonestoo. Its latest model, the Px7 S2 ($399), is a completely overhauled version of the PX that debuted in 2019. Bowers & Wilkins tweaked the design while enhancing the active noise cancellation (ANC) and re-tuning the audio for new 40mm drivers. At every turn, this new model is a worthy upgrade over its predecessor, and you won’t have to pay more for the improvements either.

Design

For the Px7 S2, Bowers & Wilkins borrowed elements of both the original PX and the Px7 that contribute to the refined look. The company also slimmed down the overall shape and opted for more cushion in the earpads – all while trimming the overall weight. Finer touches like a silver rim where the earcup meets the earpads gives the S2 a more premium look than its predecessor. The textured surface on both the earcups and across the top of the headband enhances the aesthetic as well.

Physical controls remain, which garners no complaints from me. The truth is buttons are still more reliable than touch controls, even on the headphones that get the swipes and taps nearly perfect. The best touch controls are never 100%, but a button you have to press always is. On the back of the right earcup, there’s a power slider that doubles as the Bluetooth pairing control. Just below, a multi-function button is flanked by the volume controls. This center button accepts single, double and triple presses for play/pause, playing the next track and playing the previous track respectively. When you’re receiving a call, one press accepts while a press-and-hold for two seconds will reject it. Pressing this center button once will end a call as well.

On the left side, there’s a single Quick Action button. By default, it cycles between noise cancellation, Pass-Through (ambient sound) and off. However, if you don’t mind using the company’s app to make that change, you can reassign this button to activate your voice assistant of choice. Unlike a lot of headphones, holding the multi-function button won’t trigger Alexa, Siri or Google Assistant.

When it comes to fit, the Px7 S2 are among some of the more comfortable headphones I’ve tested recently. I have a big head: I take my New Era caps in 7 ⅝. So, it can be tough for a set of cans to remain comfy after an hour or two of wear. The S2 fit tightly on me, which is essential for effective noise cancellation, but it never became too much. Not once did I feel like the rim of the earcup was leaving a mark around my ears, thanks to the updated cushion on the earpads. This isn’t always the case.

Software

Billy Steele/Engadget

The Px7 S2 are Bowers & Wilkins first set of headphones to work with its Music app. Previous models are compatible with its Headphones app, but that software only offers access to basic settings, displayed battery life and provided a collection of soundscapes for relaxing. The Music app has much more to offer as it supports B&W’s speakers: the Formation line, the Panorama 3 soundbar and the Zeppelin.

First and foremost, the software allows you to tweak the EQ settings on the Px7 S2. Unfortunately, the options here are very limited. There are sliders for treble and bass, but nothing for mids or any further fine-tuning. Like the Headphones app, this one still displays a battery percentage and gives you the option of using the software to select ANC, ambient sound or to turn both of those off. You can also manage the priority of the two devices Px7 S2’s multipoint connectivity allows to sync with. As I mentioned, there’s the option to make the “Quick Action” button on the left earcup summon your voice assistant rather than switch between noise settings.

Then there are a couple of handy power and audio management options. First, there’s an automatic standby control that puts the headphones in a “low power state” after 15 minutes of inactivity. Next, there’s automatic pausing powered by the Px7 S2’s built-in wear sensor. The company says you can activate this simply by lifting one earcup, and it gives you the ability to tweak the sensitivity with three settings (Low, Normal and High). During my tests, I actually had to rotate the earcup down towards my neck to trigger this. Completely removing the headphones worked just fine, but the other method could use some fine-tuning. Both the automatic pausing and the standby feature can be turned off if you don’t want to employ them, so there’s no pressure to use either one.

Bowers & Wilkins is already planning an update to the software that will add an in-app music player. This is already a thing for the company’s speakers that are compatible with the Music app, but soon you’ll be able to link a number of streaming services to spin your audio from the same app that organizes your headphones settings. Currently, the app supports Tidal, Deezer, Last.fm, TuneIn Radio, Qobuz, Soundcloud, NTS Radio and Dash Radio.

Sound quality

Billy Steele/Engadget

Among the big improvements on the Px7 S2, Bowers & Wilkins says it built an “all-new acoustic platform” powered by fresh 40mm drivers. The company says these custom-designed units offer low distortion and more accurate reproduction, positioned at an angle in the earcups to keep things sounding as natural as possible. Indeed, Bowers & Wilkins has constructed a truly immersive soundstage that envelopes your ears. The bass is nice and punchy while highs provide depth and vocals cut through even the most chaotic genres.

The Px7 S2 excels with hard rock like Gojira’s Magma and Deftones Ohms. When either band is going all out, you still get finer details like texture in the distorted guitars and the subtle nuances of the drum kit. And it remains a wall of sound throughout, never seeming compressed down to a mess of noise. Softer genres meet a similar fate as Chris Stapleton’s combo of southern rock growl and bluesy guitar picking are nice and thick on top of his backing band. Even 1999’s emo classic Clarity from Jimmy Eat World sounds atmospheric and full. Kendrick Lamar’s Mr. Morale & The Big Steppers showcases the S2’s bass response well, providing some low-end punch while vocals remain crisp and clear among synths, piano, snare and other sounds. Kick drum and deep synthesizer tones get equal room to operate on songs like “N95.” It will be interesting to see if Bowers & Wilkins further refines its sound profile on the upcoming Px8 because what’s here is already impressive.

When it comes to ANC performance, the Px7 S2 is quite good there as well. We’re not talking Bose or Sony levels, but Bowers & Wilkins isn’t far off. The company made big changes to noise cancellation on the S2, using its in-house tech to do the heavy lifting without affecting overall sound quality. It also upgraded the microphones that monitor both the output of the drivers and any environmental noise. The result is some impressive blocking ability, even with things like human voices, which some headphones struggle to counter. I had no problem tuning out the clamor of two kids at home for the summer when it came time to work. Ditto for constant noise like a sound machine or the dishwasher.

Pass-Through, the company’s moniker for ambient sound or transparency mode, gets the job done, but it could use some refinement. Compared to the best natural sound for this feature, Apple’s AirPods Max, the Px7 S2 allows you to hear some of the outside world, but there’s no mistaking that you still have headphones on. Environmental noise is muffled and even when there’s no audio playing it’s not the best for trying to have a conversation.

Call quality

Nearly every headphone company touts improved call quality on new models these days, but the actual results can be hit or miss. For the Px7 S2, Bowers & Wilkins changed both the positioning and the angle of the two voice microphones while boosting noise suppression. The company says these tweaks will allow for better performance “even in the noisiest environments.” Thankfully, those claims mostly hold true.

The person on the other end said I sounded as if I were holding my phone up to my face rather than wearing headphones or earbuds. More often than not, headphones make you sound like you’re on speaker phone, but that’s not the case here. They also noticed the Px7 S2 was adept at cutting background noise, like a blaring TV I had on. Even with all of that, I still wouldn’t recommend these as a great choice for regular video or voice calls due to the fact that the ambient sound isn’t that great and I could feel myself getting a bit shouty at times.

Battery life

Bowers & Wilkins promises 30 hours of battery life on the Px7 S2, but the company doesn’t specify if that’s with active noise cancellation turned on or not. With ANC active, that figure would put this model on par with a lot of the best noise-canceling headphones you can currently buy. Some do more and some less, but the Px7 S2 doesn’t woefully miss the mark on its stated figure. What’s more, at the 30-hour mark of what I’d consider regular use – a mix of ANC and transparency mode for music and calls – these headphones still had 33 percent in the tank according to both the company’s app and the Bluetooth menu in macOS.

The company improved its quick charge feature on the S2, adding two more hours worth of play time when you plug in for 15 minutes. That’s now seven hours compared to five hours on the original Px7. A full charge from zero will take two hours, so if you find yourself empty, this short top off will get you quite far.

The competition

Billy Steele/Engadget

Price-wise, the Px7 S2 stacks up with the latest flagship model from Sony, the WH-1000XM5. However, Sony’s new gem offers a lot more features for the money, including handy Speak-to-Chat that automatically pauses the audio when you talk and both activity- and location-based sound settings that tweak the audio without you lifting a finger. Sony also outperforms Bowers & Wilkins when it comes to noise cancellation, though the gap narrows when it comes to overall sound quality. I still give the edge to Sony for its pristine details and support for both 360 Reality Audio and LDAC on top of its DSEE Extreme upscaling tech. Bowers & Wilkins upcoming Px8 will probably be better competition for the M5 when it arrives later this year, but the company has already confirmed a $549 price tag for that set.

If you’re looking to save some money, and design isn’t a primary concern, you might consider the Bose QuietComfort 45 as an alternative. Last year, Bose finally released an update to one of the most popular headphone models. Improved ANC is the star, but clear and balanced audio, long battery life and trademark comfort are there as well. The QC45 lacks some polish – there’s no automatic pausing and the multipoint connectivity wasn’t seamless during my review. They’re $329 at full price though, which is a considerable savings over the Px7 S2.

Wrap-up

When most companies update an existing set of headphones, the refresh is modest at best. With the Px7 S2, Bowers & Wilkins has basically created an entirely new product. This is no iterative update as the S2 showcases considerable improvements to both ANC and overall sound. A design overhaul takes things a step further, and though these headphones could use a bit of polish, they stack up well with flagship models from other companies. You won’t get a truckload of features here, but Bowers & Wilkins has nailed most of the basics, including the two biggest challenges for headphones. And it did that without raising the price, which is always an excellent finishing touch.

Google's Nest Audio smart speaker is down to $60 right now

Even Google devices are getting discounted ahead of Amazon Prime Day. Wellbots currently has a few Nest gadgets at some of the best prices we've seen. The Nest Audio smart speaker is $40 off and down to $60 with the code EGDT40 at checkout, while the Nest Hub and Nest Hub Max are on sale for $60 (using the same code) and $169 (with the code EGDT60), respectively.

Buy Nest Audio at Wellbots - $60Buy Nest Hub at Wellbots - $60Buy Nest Hub Max at Wellbots - $169

Even though the Nest Audio came out in 2020, we still consider it to be one of the best smart speakers you can get. And if you already live in the Google ecosystem, it's a no-brainer. The speaker has an unassuming yet attractive design, plus great audio quality that's made even better if you pair two of them together and use them in stereo mode. There are better speakers out there if you're mostly concerned with audio quality, but the Nest Audio excels at being a solid music-machine that also houses the Google Assistant. You can use voice commands to add events to your calendar, check the forecast, control smart home gadgets, play specific music and more.

Either of the Nest Hubs on sale are better if you like the idea of having a display to show you all of the information you ask the Assistant to gather for you. The standard Nest Hub is basically a Nest Audio but with an added touchscreen, plus it has sleep-tracking capabilities if you place it next to your bed. We also appreciate that the second-gen version has clearer, louder audio and even speedier Google Assistant performance. As for the Nest Hub Max, it's the one to get if you want the best audio quality possible, plus as big of a screen as you can get on any Nest smart device.

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Beyerdynamic reveals Free Byrd, its first true wireless earbuds

Beyerdynamic is joining the slew of audio gear companies that are making true wireless earbuds. The company's first such buds are called Free Byrd. They have 10mm drivers, active noise cancellation and an audio passthrough mode.

The company says you'll get up to 11 hours of battery life on a single charge. Beyerdynamic also suggests you'll get up to 70 minutes of extra listening after 10 minutes of charging time in the earbuds' case.

There are two microphones in each earbud. Your voice should come through clearly on calls as long as Beyerdynamic holds up to its claim of capturing high-quality speech intelligibility, "even in a noisy environment." Free Byrd is compatible with Fast Pair on Android, while there's Alexa and Siri support. Expect a low-latency mode for games and videos as well.

Free Byrd comes with five sets of silicone earpieces to help you find the best fit. There are also three memory-foam earpieces for use during workouts. The earbuds have IPX4 water splash resistance too.

Beyerdynamic

While some might suggest Beyerdynamic is late to the true wireless party, the company is framing its slowness as a deliberate effort to nail down a good quality product. “We’re proud to have prioritized sound quality over market pressures,” Beyerdynamic CEO Edgar van Velzen said in a statement. “and with this time taken, have successfully achieved a new level of development in sound performance, offering audio enthusiasts the perfect pair of in-ear [true wireless] earbuds that look and feel as great as they sound.”

On paper, there's not a ton here that makes Free Byrd stand out from the crowded pack. Still, they're the first true wireless earbuds from a company with a solid track record for audio quality. A set of Free Byrd earbuds costs $249. They're available starting today in black or gray from Beyerdynamic's website and Amazon.