Posts with «audio technology» label

Beats Fit Pro earbuds are 23 percent off right now

If you've been looking at a set of AirPods but hesitate due to concerns about fit, don't forget about the Beats Fit Pro earbuds. They have the many of the same perks including ANC and spatial audio, but offer a more comfortable design. If you've been hesitating due to the $200 price, you can now pick up a pair at either Amazon or Walmart for $153.11, for a savings of 23 percent.

But Beats Fit Pro at Amazon - $153.11Buy Beats Fit Pro at Walmart - $153.11

The Beats Fit Pro wireless earbuds earned an excellent 87 Engadget review score for their solid around performance. On the comfort front, the "fit wing" tip can bend to a wide range of ear shapes while keeping the buds firmly in place. They also offer physical buttons to answer calls, control volume, play/pause music and skip tracks. 

The sound quality is "balanced and powerful" with punchy bass as you'd expect with Beats earphones, while also offering great clarity. They support Apple's spatial audio, giving you the ability to listen to Dolby Atmos Music content in Apple Music, or TV/movies on Apple TV. They also support Adaptive EQ that adjusts low- and mid-range frequencies depending on ambient sound to keep audio quality consistent. The ANC is powered by Apple's H1 chip and does a solid job of blocking distractions when you need it to.

The regular $200 price is fairly high and we haven't seen them on sale much yet, so the discount is welcome news if you've been eyeing a pair. Keep in mind that the $153.11 price won't show in Amazon until you add it to your cart, but the discount is there. The deal also only applies to the black color model.

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Rode's VideoMic Go II changed my opinion on what a shotgun mic can do

Whenever someone asks “what’s the best microphone” the response is usually “well it depends what you’re recording.” Rode’s new VideoMic Go II, as the name suggests, wouldn’t be suitable for podcasting. Would it?

Very clearly, the VideoMic Go II was designed to sit atop a camera. That’s just a fact, but with USB and 3.5mm outputs and compatibility with Rode Connect – the company’s USB-friendly podcasting app – it turns out this lightweight, $99 mic could be more versatile than it first seems.

If you are looking for a mic for your DSLR, know that the VideoMic Go II has a cold shoe mount, the aforementioned 3.5mm out (which can also be used for monitoring) and it comes bundled with a Rycote shock mount and a windscreen in the box. There’s no secondary/safety/stereo recording here or on-mic gain control, but that’s normal for something in this price range.

Performance-wise, the sound is surprisingly rich for a mic of this size without sounding too “dead.” There’s no notable difference between the audio you get out of the USB port compared to the 3.5mm port bar a little variation in gain. When comparing it against Rode’s VideoMic Me and VideoMic NTG, the VideoMic Go II might well be my favorite of the bunch. It’s natural, focused with just the right amount of ambiance/sense of space.

Where the VideoMic Go II gets more interesting is how it performs in other use cases. When plugged into a computer and placed on a desk the VideoMic Go II sounds just as robust as far more expensive dynamic microphones. So much so it threw me for a moment.

Perhaps the best illustration of this is when I tested it against the $400 Shure SM7B and Rode’s own $99 NT USB Mini. Given that both of the Rodes in this test are condenser microphones and cost about the same, you might think those two would be the nearer match, but it turns out that the VideoMic Go II sounded much closer to the SM7B. This isn’t to say it’s as good as the SM7B (there’s a little more depth in the Shure and a touch more dynamic range perhaps) but given the disparity in price, it definitely wasn’t expected.

This similarity is further compounded when you consider that the different type of capsule – Rode’s condenser versus Shure’s dynamic – alone would typically give them a very different sound. You can hear all three microphones in the sample below. It starts with the Shure, then the VideoMic Go II and then the NT Mini. The transition between the first two is subtle, yet the last one is obvious. Oh, and the VideoMic Go II was about two inches further away from my mouth than the SM7B was.

Of course, this is just one test, in one scenario in one specific room. But for a quick comparison of what a $400 mic can do off the cuff compared to a $99 one, it’s a good starting point. Despite the lack of on-device controls, there are some configurable options via Rode Central. When connected to the app (mobile or desktop) you’ll have the option to tweak the gain level, apply a high pass filter / high-frequency boost and adjust the monitoring volume. It’s less convenient than physical on-mic controls, but still allows you some control over how it sounds or responds to different inputs. (If you're wondering, the audio above starts with the SM7B and switches to the VideoMic Go II at "two condenser microphones").

Given that Rode added compatibility for Connect, and the USB option makes it phone and tablet-friendly, suddenly the VideoMic Go II could very well be a good all-rounder for the price. A mic that has video chops but can also do double duty as a podcast mic (and, therefore an all-purpose computer mic) there appears to be a lot of bang for the veritable buck.

Of course, if you really do need something that records a safety channel, has physical variable gain controls or if XLR connectivity is a must, this isn’t the one to go for. But for most general creator uses? It finally might not entirely “depend on what you’re recording.”

512 Audio debuts its first 'studio-inspried' USB mics for creators

Another year of restrictions means the excuses for not starting that podcast are surely drying up. If your last one was “I can’t find a USB mic I like,” then 512 Audio might be about to ruin your (procrastinator’s) day. The company is unveiling two USB microphones at CES this year along with a podcast-friendly audio interface.

If you do (or plan on doing) a lot of vocal work, the $119 Script microphone might be the one to consider. The vintage styling is based on Warm Audio’s WA-14 studio condenser microphone (512 Audio is a subsidiary of Warm). The Script is dual-pattern (Cardioid/Omni) and the dual 14mm capsules are tuned to vocal work, so the company claims. Thanks to its USB connection, the Script offers zero-latency monitoring via a headphone jack and onboard gain/mute controls.

Should you want a microphone that’s a little more versatile, then the $160 Tempest might be a better fit. Like the Script, there are onboard monitoring and volume controls. The Tempest also offers a larger, 34mm capsule, for those that want a more responsive sound. This model, too, is based on one of Warm’s existing microphones – specifically the WA 47Jr. Though we don’t know if these microphones are just USB versions of the ones they mimic or are simply visually inspired by them (at the very least, the WA14 offers more polar patterns than its 512 counterpart).

512 Audio

With both of the new microphones offering USB connectivity, you won’t need an interface to connect them to your PC, but 512 Audio is unveiling one of their own for those that already have XLR microphones and want to plug them into something a little more podcast friendly than a generic interface.

While there’s no pricing information at this time, the audio interface has two combo ports for the aforementioned XLR mics and or ¼-inch instruments. There’s also a 3.5mm input for phones and other compatible devices. Perfect for introducing a “caller” onto your show or simply for feeding in other audio sources as you see fit. There are two headphone outputs on the front, which is a definite perk for podcasters and even a mute button for the mics which is less common than you might think, and handy in a podcast scenario for talking off-air or avoiding coughs and other unwanted sounds.

Of all the above, the Tempest will be launching first, slated for March this year. The Script will be available in “spring” and the audio interface will come later this year.

Follow all of the latest news from CES 2022 right here!

Shokz OpenRun Pro bone-conduction headphones bump up the bass

I’ve been an avid user of bone-conduction headphones for years and can attest to the lackluster low-end in this form factor. Luckily, things are improving. Along with recently changing its name to Shokz (formerly Aftershokz), the company has delivered on this long-desired feature upgrade to its line of bone-conduction headphones. The new product is called OpenRun Pro ($179.95) and there is a significant boost in bass with this Bluetooth 5.1 headset. In addition, Shokz is renaming its existing product line to tie things together with Aeropex becoming OpenRun and Xtrainerz now called OpenSwim.

For those new to bone-conduction headphones, let me clarify a few things. These still don’t quite measure up to over-ear or in-ear models, since they have an open-ear design. The transducers rest against your cheeks in front of your ears and deliver sound to your inner ear via the bone. It’s a different delivery system for sound that leaves your ears open to the world, which can be a double-edged sword. They’re not great on the subway or in generally noisy environments. Don’t be disheartened, though, as this same design lets you walk, run or bike around and listen to music while still being able to hear the world around you. And with the upgrades we're seeing, the audio experience is better than ever.

Until now, diminished low-end has long been a problem for this form factor. The OpenRun (Aeropex) have good volume levels and a decent frequency response compared to previous models. But now that I’ve tested the OpenRun pro, there’s been a noticeable improvement in the low-end spectrum. I don’t mean that they’re so loud they’re literally bouncing off your cheeks (like the old Titanium model did). These deliver a good sub-frequency to give your tunes more depth without excessive tactile reverberation. My standard listening is techno and electronic music (like this) and it holds up pretty well. The decibel and frequency response specs are the same as before, but acoustic tweaks have born fruit. For bone conduction headphones, the OpenRun Pro sounds great.

Other desirable enhancements in this new model include the fit and charging capability. The over-the-ear curve is more rounded and the side enclosures are 20-percent smaller than before. This makes them feel light and comfortable. The battery life has been bumped up from 8 to 10 hours of listening and you can charge fully in one hour (a whole hour less than before). On top of that, we’re told you can get 1.5 hours worth of listening in five minutes of charging. A great feature when you’re settling in for a workout and hear the headset exclaim “charge me”.

If you’ve just gotten Aeropex headphones over the holidays, don’t fret. I’ve been using these for a long while and have enjoyed the experience. I even feel that while there’s not as much bass, these could be a touch louder in the mid to high range than the new model. 

On top of that, the OpenRun Pro has traded complete waterproofing for better sound. A fine mesh grate covers two vents in front of and below the cheek-based delivery system, changing it to IP55 water-resistant (still more than adequate). The OpenRun (Aeropex) retains its IP67 rating due to its sealed enclosure. If you want to wear these in the shower, then you’re in a good place (but maybe consider OpenSwim if this is a habit).

As of today, the entire line is available for purchase including the new OpenRun Pro ($179.95) with a few new colors (although only black may be available at launch). The fully-waterproof OpenSwim is still $149.95, while the OpenRun ($129.95) will continue to be available at its recently lowered price.

The new OpenRun Pro color options.
Shokz

Follow all of the latest news from CES 2022 right here!

Technics boasts 50-hour battery life in its new EAH-A800 ANC headphones

Panasonic has trotted out all sorts of audio gear since reviving the iconic Technics brand in 2014. Recently, that list includes a smattering of true wireless earbuds and headphones, and at CES 2022, the company has yet another portable device ready to debut. With the EAH-A800, Technics has built a pair of hi-fi-ready wireless headphones with active noise cancellation (ANC) and claims of a whopping 50 hours of use on a charge. 

The over-ear EAH-A800 packs in 40mm drivers that Technics says are the result of its experience building hi-fi audio gear. In addition to a new design and materials for that component, an Acoustic Control Chamber manages air flow to assist with driver performance and bass response. The company has also leveraged capacitor tech from its high-end amplifiers to limit distortion and maintain sound quality. The EAH-A800 supports LDAC for higher quality audio over Bluetooth, in addition to the typical AAC standard. 

Technics/Panasonic

Technics promises "industry-leading noise cancelling" via a dual hybrid setup. An analog filter equipped feed back mic and a digital filter outfitted feed forward mic monitor unwanted clamor inside and out. The EAH-A800 also has Natural Ambient and Attention modes. The difference is that the latter makes it easier to hear voices while the former is a more universal transparency setting. Technics also provides multi-point pairing here, which will allow you to connect to two devices simultaneously over Bluetooth and easily switch between them. 

The company is also making big promises when it comes to call clarity. Using a total of eight microphones, the EAH-A800 employs four to pick up your voice and four more to combat any environmental noise. Additionally, Technics says the feed forward mics are designed and positioned to reduce wind noise. 

Perhaps the most impressive claim on the EAH-A800 is the stated 50 hours of battery life. Technics says you can achieve this figure with ANC on listening to AAC audio. If you are listening via LDAC, the company says you can expect up to 40 hours of play time. Disable noise cancelling on either sound codec and listening time increases by 10 hours. So if you're willing to go without ANC or higher quality audio, you can get 60 hours of use out of these according to Technics. What's more, a 15-minute charge will give you 10 hours of use (ANC on, AAC quality streaming). 

The EAH-A800 will be available in black and white color options in February for $350 (£299/€349). 

Follow all of the latest news from CES 2022 right here!

This portable Bluetooth speaker is powered by light

Last month, Exeger and Mayht announced a partnership to create a portable Bluetooth speaker that's powered by light. At CES, they offered a glimpse at the prototype. 

Swedish company Exeger makes Powerfoyle, a material that can turn natural and ambient light into power. Dutch startup Mayht, meanwhile, is behind a type of audio tech called Heartmotion. It claims to have reinvented "the core of the speaker driver" to allow for speakers that can be more than 10 times more compact than other models without sacrificing sound quality or bass output. According to TechCrunch, Mayht's drivers need less energy than similar audio devices, so solar cells are a seemingly sufficient power source for the speaker.

Details about the speaker's specs remain unclear, such as what percentage of the device's surface is covered in Powerfoyle material. We've seen some headphones that use this tech, including Urbanista’s Los Angeles headphones. Based on our time with those, the speaker will need a decent proportion of solar cells to meet Exeger and Mayht's claim that it has "unlimited battery life" — at least if you don't live in eternal darkness.

Whether the speaker can deliver solid sound quality remains to be seen. The physical size of a driver and the depth of a cabinet are key factors in how speakers generate bass, so it'll be intriguing to hear how Mayht compensates for that.

Follow all of the latest news from CES 2022 right here!

Sony is bringing 360-degree sound mapping to its latest soundbars

When Sony debuted its premium home theater gear for 2021, the company's pricey HT-A9 speaker set had a key feature that its soundbars didn't. It's called 360 Spatial Sound Mapping and it creates "phantom speakers" to help the actual speakers produce room-filling sound. Today at CES, Sony announced that it will offer an upgrade to both the HT-A7000 (7.1.2) and HT-A5000 (5.1.2) soundbars that adds the 360-degree audio mapping later this spring. 

360 Spatial Sound Mapping first uses a combination of Sound Field Optimization tech and built-in microphones to measure the height and position of both a soundbar and rear speakers. Once that's done, the setup creates virtual speakers by positioning sound waves based on the collected location information. Sony says the result is a "wide spatial sound field" capable of filling a room and it promises that everyone will get "the same sound experience" no matter where they're sitting. The company also reminded us that an Acoustic Center Sync feature on Bravia XR TVs will work with the sound mapping to become a center speaker that enhances dialogue. Both the A7000 and A5000 already support Sony's 360 Reality Audio for more immersive music listening. 

Sony

To help you make the most out of the soundbars' new ability, Sony is debuting a new set of wireless rear speakers. Unlike most rear satellites that connect wirelessly but rely on a cord for power, the new SA-RS5 speakers are totally wireless and can be charged out of sight. The company says you can expect up to 10 hours of use when they're fully charged and 10 minutes will give you 90 minutes of play time if you forget to replenish the batteries. They also feature up-firing speakers, wide directional woofers, dome tweeters and dual passive radiators for a more robust soundstage and better clarity. The SA-RS5 can run Sony's Sound Field Optimization with the press of a button so they're easily calibrated with your soundbar each time you reposition them. Lastly, the cylindrical speakers have a flat back side so they'll sit nicely against a wall. 

You'll need a set of rear speakers to employ the forthcoming 360 Spatial Sound Mapping upgrade on the aforementioned soundbars — hence the new model. If you can live without all the bells and whistles of the SA-RS5, the SA-RS3S is also compatible. They're a plain ol' set of two-way rear satellite speakers in comparison, but they'll save you some money over the upcoming model at $350. And based on my experience, they should get the job done just fine. 

The new SA-RS5 wireless rear speakers will be available this spring for $600. That's $250 more than the SA-RS3S that debuted alongside the HT-A7000 last year. 

Follow all of the latest news from CES 2022 right here!

Harman would like to sell you some $1,000 headphones

Not so long ago, the internet was debating what the folks at Apple were thinking charging $549 for the AirPods Max. At CES 2022, luxury audio brand Mark Levinson would like a word. The Harman-owned company (which also owns AKG, JBL and Harman Kardon, and is itself a Samsung subsidiary) mostly known for its high-end home and car audio systems has announced its first wireless headphones: the No. 5909. While they offer everything you'd expect from a premium set, they have a nearly $1,000 price tag that only a select few might commit to. 

The over-ear No. 5909 packs 40mm Beryllium drivers "expertly tuned to the Harman curve." The company explains that "the Harman curve" is acoustic response that it says has taken decades of research to construct. The result here is "incredible acoustic performance" in a set of "reference class" wireless headphones. Mark Levinson says that audio performance meets the guidelines for Hi-Res Audio certification thanks to 24-bit/96kHz signal processing and 40kHz acoustic response. The No. 5909 supports LDAC, AAC and aptX Adaptive wireless codecs via Bluetooth 5.1.

Mark Levinson promises you'll hear details you haven't before, like "the slightest breath an artist takes" or "a hidden harmony." The company explains that the same "world-class sound engineers" that built the luxury brand's amps, turntables and streaming players are behind the tuning of the ultra pricey No. 5909.

Mark Levinson/Harman

Sound quality isn't the only consideration though. The No. 5909 has adaptive active noise cancellation (ANC) with three modes "for premium sound isolation" and an Ambient Aware feature that lets you tune into your surroundings as needed. The company also packed in four microphones for calls that are equipped with a so-called Smart Wind Adaption feature. The materials used to make the headphones are also better than the mostly plastic sets we typically see. The No. 5909 is built with an aluminum frame, painted metallic earcups, leather headband and replaceable leather ear cushions. An included hard shell travel case comes stocked with a USB-C charging cable, USB-C to USB-A adaptor, two USB-C to 3.5mm cables, 3.5mm to 6.3mm adaptor, airplane adaptor and a polishing cloth. Basically, it's everything you'd need to use the headphones on any setup — wired, wireless or while traveling. 

Mark Levinson says you can expect up to 30 hours of use with adaptive ANC active and up to 34 hours with the feature disabled. A quick-charge feature will give you up to six hours of play time in 15 minutes. Via an app for Android and iOS, you'll get some control over the headphones, but the company didn't go into specifics there. 

The No. 5909 will be available in black, pewter and red color options starting today for $999.

Follow all of the latest news from CES 2022 right here!

JBL updates its range of portable speakers for 2022

For every friend who turns up to a party without a bottle in hand, there’s one that turns up with 10, and that’s the friend you should always cherish. JBL is a bit like that, except not at all, but what we’re trying to say is that it has, as usual, rocked up to a trade show with armfuls of new tech. A number of its portable speaker lines are getting an update, including redesigned bodies and internals, as well as a pretty tasty exclusive model just for Sam’s Club members.

First on the line is the JBL Boombox 3 (pictured) which gets a new three-way speaker system, including a racetrack-shaped subwoofer, two mid-range drivers and two tweeters. JBL promises that you'll get deeper bass, more intense clarity and even more powerful sound than before, as well as 24 hours of playtime on a single charge. It’s IP67 water-and-dust-proof, and can be used as a portable battery for other devices. It’ll arrive this summer, and will set you back $500.

JBL

Meanwhile, the JBL Pulse 5 is getting a refreshed design with a larger passive radiator and acoustic volume for deeper bass, as well as a refined woofer for better mid-low frequency sound. It’ll run for up to 12 hours of play on a single charge, and is IP67 water-and-dust-proof making it useful for trips to the beach and pool. Plus, with the vibrant LED light show and ability to pair any number of companion speakers through JBL PartyBoost, you could easily use this to run your own music and light show during a balmy evening. It’ll arrive this summer, priced at $250.

JBL

The JBL PartyBox is getting two different variations, the PartyBox Encore (pictured, right), as well as the PartyBox Encore Essential (left). The former, which is exclusive to Sam’s Club, packs a 100W speaker and a built-in lightshow that syncs to the music you’re playing. As you can see from the image, it’s also equipped with two wireless microphones, enabling that friend who’s really into karaoke to do their thing all night long. Naturally, it’s got IPX4 splashproof design, Bluetooth v5.1 and playback from USB and aux-in, ensuring you’ll have a great night whatever you’re doing. You’ll be able to pick one up from Sam’s Club in the summer for $400.

The Essential version, meanwhile, offers the same basic 100W speaker and lightshow, but in a smaller, more portable body. The battery will run to six hours, and you can connect Bluetooth, USB or aux-in to get the sound out, plus there’s a single wired microphone input for that karaoke friend you like a little less. This model will be available in March for $300.

Follow all of the latest news from CES 2022 right here!

Google's second-gen Nest Hub drops to $60 in New Year's sale

Most of Google's Nest devices went on sale for the holiday shopping season and, while those deep discounts have come and gone, we're already seeing new sales pop up across the web. Both Best Buy and Adorama have the second-generation Google Nest Hub for $60, which is $40 off its normal price and only $10 more than it was on Black Friday. The Nest Hub Max is also on sale for $190, while the Nest Audio and Nest Mini are down to $75 and $25, respectively.

Shop Google sale at Best BuyShop Google sale at AdoramaBuy Nest Hub (2nd gen) at Best Buy - $60Buy Nest Hub (2nd gen) at Adorama - $60

Our favorites of the bunch for most people are the Nest Hub and the Nest Audio. The former is Google's most recent smart display and it earned a score of 89 from us. It has a minimalist design, a lovely 7-inch display, clearer and louder audio than its predecessor and faster performance as well. It's just the right size to fit into any room without taking up too much space, and you can even place it on your nightstand and it will track your sleep. The feature was a bit finicky when we tested it, but as long as it's place precisely, you should get data on your sleep duration, quality, schedule and even snoring information.

The Nest Audio is Google's $100 smart speaker that competes with Amazon's Echo and Apple's HomePod mini. It holds its own against both of those devices and it earned a score of 87 from us for its solid audio quality, charming design, good Google Assistant performance and stereo mode when two of the speakers are paired. It's the smart speaker to get if you care at all about audio quality and already rely on the Google Assistant a lot. The Nest Mini may seem like an attractive option at $25, but you get what you pay for. Like its Amazon counterpart, the Echo Dot, the Nest Mini is an affordable way to get the Google Assistant into a small place but you'll sacrifice quite a bit on sound quality.

The Nest Hub Max is for those who want to go all in on both sound and Google smart devices. It has the best audio quality of them all plus a 10-inch display, gesture controls and the ability to double as a Nest Cam. It would make a good home-base smart display, one that sits in your living room or kitchen so everyone in your family has access to it when necessary.

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