Posts with «author_name|billy steele» label

Jabra's Elite 7 earbuds now support multipoint Bluetooth connectivity

When Jabra debuted its latest flagship true wireless earbuds in August, both models were packed with premium features like adjustable active noise cancellation (ANC) and ambient sound alongside a customizable EQ and in-app fit test. Now the company has added another key feature to both the Elite 7 Pro and Elite 7 Active that may not be as flashy, but it will offer a lot more convenience. Via a firmware update, Jabra has equipped those models with multipoint Bluetooth connectivity. 

Multipoint allows you to connect to two devices at the same time over Bluetooth. This means you can be listening to music or watching a show on your laptop and the earbuds will automatically switch over to your phone when you receive a call. Other earbuds and headphones do this, including Apple's AirPods, but the handy connectivity isn't standard across the board. 

This update also gives Android users the ability to select Google Assistant as their virtual helper of choice in Jabra's Sound+ app. Before now, Alexa was the only option there, although the Elite 7 models would work just fine with your phone's built-in companion. The company says it also made improvements to the MyFit feature that helps you find the proper ear tip size for a good seal, in addition to updates to overall connectivity and performance. We've asked for specifics on the changes for all three of those items, but have yet to hear back. 

The Elite 7 Pro and Elite 7 Active carry most of the same features, like Jabra's smaller, redesigned earbud shape and eight-hour battery life. The key difference is the call quality on the Elite 7 Pro, thanks to what the company calls MultiSensor Voice. That setup uses a combination of traditional microphones with a voice pick up (VPU) unit to keep you sounding clear. On a windy day, for example, the VPU automatically activates bone conduction technology to monitor your voice via the vibrations of your jaw. The Elite 7 Active has a ShakeGrip coating to minimize slips during sweaty workouts that the Elite 7 Pro does not. Both the Active and the Pro are IP57 rated though, so either one is a capable gym and/or running partner. And the last difference is the price: the Elite 7 Pro is $200 while the Elite 7 Active is $180.

If you already own a pair of these, the firmware update is available now through the Sound+ app. 

Shure Aonic 40 review: Decent ANC headphones with impressive battery life

Mid-range headphones are typically an exercise in compromise. In order to reduce prices, companies usually omit a few premium features or opt for cheaper materials. Sometimes there are sacrifices to sound quality or active noise cancellation (ANC) performance. Enter Shure’s Aonic 40: a more affordable wireless model in the company’s noise-canceling lineup and an alternative to the pricier Aonic 50.

At $249, the Aonic 40 is at the top end of what I’d consider mid-range. Thankfully, Shure didn’t cut too many corners when it comes to the feature set. There’s a degree of customization and plenty of tools to worth with. However, the Aonic 40 fails to make an impression in key areas, and needs a bit more polish if it’s going to stand out from the crowd.


Billy Steele/Engadget

Like the Aonic 50 that came before it, the Aonic 40 is mostly black, except for some silver accents where the headband connects to the earcups. There’s also a white version that keeps the silver components but adds tan padding to the earcups and the underside of the headband. Like many other wireless headphones, the folding design of the Aonic 40 allows them to be a compact travel companion. The earcups rotate and fold in towards the headband, so even though the case will take up some space in your bag, it’s at least relatively flat.

The Aonic 40 appears to be an entirely plastic design, but that’s not actually the case. The silver areas are made of aluminum alloy, but they have a flat finish that makes them look less like metal. Shure says the black areas are glass-filled nylon, despite the appearance of plastic. Other headphone companies have pulled this trick, including Bose with its popular QuietComfort line. Shure explains that this material makes the Aonic 40 more durable, but it certainly doesn’t add a premium aesthetic. What’s more, after a couple weeks of what I’d consider light use (barely moving them away from my desk), I’m already seeing light scratches.

Shure did make one design change from the Aonic 50 that allows us to tell the older model apart from its newer sibling. Where the 50 had a visible rotating arm with an elbow, the portion of the 40 that spins is hidden up near the headband. The arms themselves on the Aonic 40 are also curved, twisted to connect the headband to the earcups by running alongside the edge of the earcup.

Billy Steele/Engadget

In terms of comfort, these headphones are just average. I have a big head and the fit is tight. Not oppressively so, but after several minutes I can feel the rings of the earcups pressing into my head. It doesn’t become overbearing, but it’s not exactly enjoyable either. Headphones need to form a tight seal for effective ANC performance. They also need to be comfortable when you wear them for long periods of time.

Like the Aonic 50, Shure went with physical buttons for the on-board controls rather than touch-friendly panels. As such, the Aonic 40 offers a full suite of functionality right on the headphones themselves. The lone button on the left side is for power and Bluetooth pairing. Unlike a lot of the competition, Shure gives you the option to get a battery level check without glancing at its app by double tapping the power button. On the right, there’s a traditional multi-button array with volume controls flanking a centered multi-use key.

The middle button handles play/pause (single press), skipping tracks forward (double press), returning to the previous song (triple press) and summoning a virtual assistant (press and hold). A separate, fourth button on the right earcup toggles between ANC and Environment Mode (ambient sound). Each time you press it, the headphones return to your previous setting for both of those options, which is selected in Shure’s app. You can also bypass them both with a long press on the noise control button.


Billy Steele/Engadget

The Shure Play app is one of the better pieces of headphone companion software I’ve used. There’s a lot available here, and it’s all easy to find. Right up top you get a battery percentage and access to noise control (ANC, Environment Mode and None), along with noise canceling presets and a slider for ambient sound level. While you can’t dial in the ANC precisely, Shure does offer Light, Normal and Max settings. It’s adjustable, albeit not fully customizable. Directly underneath is a guide for button controls, options to tweak prompts/tones, the ability to configure USB connectivity for listening or “conferencing,” battery saver settings and an optional busy light when you’re on a call. That last feature flashes a red light so anyone you’ve notified about it beforehand knows not to disturb you.

The software also houses a more robust equalizer than most headphone apps. Per usual, there’s a smattering of presets, but Shure goes beyond the typical three to five with seven options (Bass Boost, Bass Cut, Treble Boost, Treble Cut, De-ess and Loudness). The company gives you the ability to make your own presets as well, saving them in the list after you build them with the manual EQ tools. You can start from scratch or from one of Shure’s presets, adjusting frequency, gain and bandwidth in addition to moving and plotting points on a sonic curve. For my purposes, Loudness was the best overall setting as it increased clarity for listening at lower volumes. It also made the stock tuning sound better at all times.

Sound quality

Billy Steele/Engadget

With that preset enabled, the Aonic 40 is capable of blasting punchy bass that drones or thumps when a song demands it. There’s also more detail with this preset, as the clarity increases no matter the volume level. Overall, the soundstage isn’t as wide open and songs don’t have the immersive depth that pricer sets offer – especially on heavier music styles. The chaotic metal of Underoath’s Voyeurist and Gojira’s Fortitude are subdued and sound slightly flat unless you’re at full volume. On the other hand, with the delicate acoustic strums on Punch Brothers’ bluegrass masterpiece Hell on Church Street, these headphones really shine. Layered instruments properly convey the airyness of being in the room where five aficionados are absolutely shredding. Similarly, the Aonic 40 highlights the finer details of Navy Blue’s J Dilla-esque hip-hop album Songs of Sage: Post Panic! without sounding overly compressed..

When it comes to noise cancellation, the Aonic 40 does a decent job of blocking out background noise. It’s not on the level of Bose or Sony, but for $250 headphones it gets the job done. The three settings offer options for different scenarios, but I mostly kept it locked on Max. As for Environment Mode, the ambient sound function lets in outside noise just fine. It’s serviceable, but it’s nowhere near as natural sounding as the AirPods Max. Honestly, no other company comes close to what Apple offers in that regard.

Battery life

Shure promises up to 25 hours of battery life with ANC turned on. I was pleasantly surprised when the headphones hit the 30-hour mark and the app was still showing 19 percent in the tank. This battery test was done over the course of a few days, so the headphones were powered off multiple times while I was trying to drain them completely. Around 30 hours is about the best you can expect from noise-canceling headphones, including Sony’s best-in-class WH-1000XM4. What the Aonic 40 doesn’t have that much of the competition does is automatic pausing. As I mentioned, you can set the headphones to automatically power off at certain intervals if they’re sitting idle, but if you take them off and step away in a hurry, the music continues. However, if you find yourself in a pinch due to this, a 15-minute quick-charge feature will give you five hours of use.

Call quality is another area where the Aonic 40 holds its own – so long as you’re in a quiet place. The headphones won’t make it sound like you’re on speakerphone like a lot of earbuds or headphones tend to do. To me, it’s pretty close to what you get when you hold the phone up to your face. If you enter a noisy plac,e though, things change quickly. The Aonic 40 picks up environmental rumbles too well, like the roar of a white noise machine. On the flip side, the ambient sound mode allows you to hear your own voice while you’re on a call, keeping you from becoming too shouty because you can’t monitor your volume.

The competition

At $249, I consider the Aonic 40 to be at the top end of mid-range headphones. They’re not super affordable, but they’re also not as pricey as Shure’s own flagship model or more premium options from the likes of Apple, Bose, Master & Dynamic or Sony. The Razer Opus is a more apt competitor, debuting at $200 in the spring of 2020. Great THX-certified audio, solid ANC performance and a comfy fit left an impression during my review. Plus, Razer is currently selling them for $140, which makes them even more compelling.

If you can live without active noise cancellation, I really like Audio-Technica’s M50x series. The most recent model, the ATH-M50xBT2, arrived with updates like multi-point Bluetooth pairing, Alexa built in and wider audio codec support – all while keeping the trademark design. And at $199, these will also save you some money over the Aonic 40.

That being said, the WH-1000XM4 remains the gold standard for noise-canceling headphones. Sony’s mix of audio quality, ANC performance and nifty features like Speak-to-Chat remains the best you can get, although the likes of Bose and others are catching up. Still, they’re $100 more than the Aonic 40 at full price, but we’ve seen them on sale for $248. If you can catch them at the same price as Shure’s latest model, commit to the 1000XM4.


Shure’s Aonic 40 is a more affordable option in the company’s noise-canceling lineup, offering a host of features and doing some of them well. Impressive battery life, serviceable ANC and a degree of customization are offset by inconsistent audio performance and an overall lack of polish when it comes to finer details like fit and convenience. For those reasons, the Aonic 40 tends to blend into the crowd rather than stand apart.

Recommended Reading: Speaking Simlish

Sul Sul

Twenty Thousand Hertz

This podcast chronicles the fascinating story of how Simlish, the language spoken by characters in the popular game franchise The Sims, was created. And not only the how, but why it worked well and how it became a popular choice for musicians. 

How 'Encanto' explains America

Tom McTague, The Atlantic

"Having watched the new release (twice) with my little one recently — and then listened to its soundtrack on repeat ever since — the message seems fairly clear: America is broken (but don’t worry, all is not lost)," McTague writes.

Caroline Spiegel’s porn revolution

Annie Goldsmith, The Information

The sister of Snapchat CEO Evan Spiegel is preaching the gospel of audio porn through Quinn, an app that offers an aural take on erotica. 

Weber's 2022 smart grill lineup includes gas and pellet options

Grilling season will be here before you know it, so one of the biggest names in backyard cooking is tipping its hand for spring. Today, Weber announced it's 2022 lineup of smart grills with options for cooks who prefer gas or pellet-burning options. No matter the fuel source, all of the new models teased here are equipped with the company's WiFi-enabled Weber Connect technology. With it, you can control and monitor your grill from your phone, keeping tabs on the cooking process while you work on side dishes or relax with guests. 

Weber Connect was first available on the Smart Grilling Hub, but its big debut came on the first-gen SmokeFire pellet grills. The technology not only provides recipes, but it also guides you through the entire cooking process on a step-by-step basis, from how to prepare meat to when to flip and how long to rest before slicing. In a bid to outsmart the competition, the app also provides estimated doneness times so you're not left guessing when that brisket will finally hit 205 degrees Fahrenheit. In 2021, the company brought the technology to its Genesis line of gas grills, offering the same convenience as SmokeFire with a more commonly used fuel source — plus the ability to monitor your propane tank level. 

For 2022, Weber is taking convenience a step further with a range of new Genesis gas grills and a new version of SmokeFire. First, the Genesis lineup of smart grills still feature Weber Connect on top of PureBlu high-heat burners, sear zone, side table, expandable top cooking grate and "Nightvision." As the name implies that last item allows you to see the grilling surface after dark, with motion-sensing LEDs that can illuminate the entire cooking area when you open the lid — including the side tables/burner. The lights are on the reverse side of the handle, with a power button on outside to turn them completely off. Weber says the new Genesis models will come in both three- and four-burner options as well as models with porcelain-enamel or stainless steel finishes. 


For the SmokeFire pellet grill this year, Weber is going all black. Dubbed the Stealth Edition, the black-on-black color scheme nixes the silver accents from the original along the sides of the lid, the side shelf and the handles. Weber Connect is still on board, helping you with everything from high heat searing to low-and-slow smoking. The overall design is the same, except for the addition of an interior light for better visibility. As someone who has used a SmokeFire grill before sunrise and after dark, some built-in illumination is a welcome change. 

Alongside the grills, Weber is also introducing new accessories it's calling Weber Crafted. The collection of tools includes a dual-sided sear grate, flat-top griddle, baking stone (for pizza, etc), roasting basket, wok/steamer combo and rotisserie skewers. Special grates and an insert allow you to swap out the accessories on charcoal, gas or pellet grills. The company explains that these add-ons let you steam, bake, roast and more, and you can do so on the grill rather than having to venture inside. Plus, the new Genesis grills have a compartment and hooks for storing the new goods. No word on pricing yet, but each item will be sold separately when they arrive this spring.

The new Genesis models and the Stealth Edition of SmokeFire will also go on sale this spring. The former will range from $1,049-$2,149 while the latter is $1,599. 

Recommended Reading: 2022 should be a big year for animated films

The post-Spider-Verse revolution feels alive in 2022’s animation slate

Alicia Haddick, Polygon

Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse was a game-changer for animated films. It blended 2D and CG masterfully, creating a new vision for what movies could be. As we venture into 2022, there's a massive slate of films that will continue to push boundaries — including Spider-Man: Across the Spider-Verse (Part One).

The subversive genius of extremely slow email

Ian Bogost, The Atlantic

An email app sends and receives email more like you would snail mail: once per day. Could subversive projects like this provide relief from the instant interaction Big Tech has transformed our lives into? And if they do, will we be content with the results?

Ailing Amazon workers struggle to find COVID tests themselves

Louise Matsakis, NBC News

Amazon was providing on-site COVID-19 testing at its facilities during the pandemic, but with cases surging to all-time highs, the company's workforce is struggling to get what they need to clock in safely. 

Jabra Elite 4 Active review: Checking a lot boxes for $120

I review a lot of true wireless earbuds, so I’m always curious what the next trends will be when companies offer their annual refresh for new products. Over the last few years, smaller sizes, better battery life and hands-free features have become the norm, but there’s only so much you can do on such a tiny device.

In 2021, Jabra set the new standard for affordable wireless earbuds with the Elite 3. At $80, it covers most of the basics quite well.Now the company is improving its mid-range option with the Elite 4 Active. It’s a more workout-focused model, complete with active noise cancellation (ANC) and enough moisture protection for the sweatiest of sessions. Like it did last year, Jabra is seeking to not only make its true wireless lineup compelling in terms of features and performance, but to also make the price more competitive. This $120 model delivers a lot of options that we typically see on earbuds that go for $150-$180.

The Elite 4 Active carries Jabra’s new design that debuted on the Elite 3, Elite 7 Active and Elite 7 Pro last year. Instead of a mostly circular earbud with an elbow that holds the microphones, the company switched to a rounded triangle shape that offers a cleaner look. Most importantly, all of Jabra’s latest earbuds are significantly smaller than their predecessors and the Elite 4 Active continues that trend. The smaller size not only means these buds don’t stick out from your ears as much, but they’re also lighter and more comfy.

I wouldn’t blame you for mistaking the Elite 4 Active for the Elite 3. Aesthetically, the main difference is the outer panel on the 3 is one big button, while that area on the 4 Active is seamless. The button is there, but it’s sealed off. Jabra increased the water resistance to IP57 for this model, and the onboard controls are one area where it had to increase protection. Of course, Jabra has always designed its earbuds with the Active label for workouts. Better sweat protection is usually part of that formula.

Billy Steele/Engadget

The lack of a defined panel or button proved to be an issue for me when accessing the controls. I had to train myself to remember to press in the middle of the earbud as getting too far to the top or bottom wouldn’t register my actions. The outer surface of the Elite 4 Active is completely smooth, without so much as a raised dot to indicate you’re in the right place. Over time I might get used to this, but after a couple weeks of testing, I’m still not nailing it consistently.

Like every other Jabra model, you can tailor the Elite 4 Active to your needs via the company’s Sound+ app. Since this set is Jabra’s mid-range option, you get more features than the entry-level Elite 3, but not quite as much as the Elite 7 Pro or Elite 7 Active. First, there’s ANC and it’s customizable. Notice I didn’t say adjustable. Specifically, the app lets you set a level of noise cancellation during initial setup. You can also tweak the balance if you need more on one side than the other. Jabra will allow you to repeat this process if you need to, but there’s no easily accessible slider like the Elite 7 models.

The company’s transparency mode, HearThrough, can be controlled in the app via a slider. In fact, you can even set what the on-board control for sound mode does (single press on the left side). You can have it cycle through HearThrough and ANC, HearThrough and off or HearThrough, ANC and off. The app also allows you to turn on and off Sidetone, which lets you hear your voice when you’re on a call. Unlike some Jabra models, it isn’t adjustable – just all or nothing. Still, being able to hear yourself so you’re a bit less shouty over Zoom is better for everyone. The company’s own Find My feature returns as well, helping you locate a misplaced earbud if you’re willing to give it the proper permissions. And on Android, you can opt for one-touch access to Spotify if that’s your preferred streaming service.

Billy Steele/Engadget

For a $120 set of earbuds, I wouldn’t blame you for not expecting too much in the sound department. However, Jabra has a track record of solid audio across its true wireless lineup. With the Elite 4 Active, the company maintains its reputation for buds that sound good, but not great. There’s decent clarity and nice detail, but they lack the wider soundstage and depth pricier models from the likes of Sony and Sennheiser offer.

The Elite 4 Active has pretty good sonic range, but big bombastic tracks like Run The Jewels “Mean Demeanor” and Gojira’s “Another World” sound overly compressed. The bass is solid and not muddy, so keeping the energy up during workouts with hip hop, EDM, or isn’t a problem. It’s just that on the whole, songs lack the dimensional punch you can find with a bigger investment. For $120 though, the Elite 4 Active gets the job done in most cases.

If you find yourself yearning to tweak the EQ, you can do that in the Sound+ app via a set of sliders. If one-tap audio changes are more your style, Jabra also offers a collection of presets for quick customization. It’s not the most robust set of options for dialing in the sound, but it’s more than you get on the ultra affordable Elite 3.

One advantage the Elite 4 Active has over the Elite 3 is active noise cancellation. As I mentioned, you can customize the feature to a degree, but it’s not as powerful as what’s on Jabra’s pricer earbuds. Still, the ANC here will help block out some distractions, just don’t expect it to do a lot of heavy lifting.

The Elite 4 Active has four microphones for calls. Jabra says they’re covered with a “special mesh” to reduce wind noise when you’re outdoors. Typically, mileage varies greatly on call quality with true wireless earbuds. Most of the time you just end up sounding like you’re on speakerphone. With the Elite 4 Active, the call quality is slightly better, but still not as good as if you had a microphone closer to your mouth – or even pointed more towards your face. Background noise is reduced when you’re talking, but any environmental roar is distracting when you’re not.

Jabra says you can expect up to seven hours of battery life on the Elite 4 Active, with three additional charges in the case for a total of 28 hours. The company doesn’t specify whether or not that’s with ANC on, but in my tests I managed seven and a half hours with noise canceling active. It’s by no means the best battery life you’ll find in true wireless earbuds, but it’s certainly enough to get you through a workday if you take a break or two. If you run out of juice before you head out the door, a quick charge feature gives you an hour of use in 10 minutes.

At $120, Jabra is offering solid mid-range specs at the same price as some companies’ budget models. What’s more, most of those don’t offer ANC, let alone a transparency mode or customizable sound. Samsung put noise canceling inside of its cheapest true wireless model with the Galaxy Buds 2. These earbuds are tiny and comfy and wireless charging is included, but the ANC performance is just okay. Plus, the Galaxy Buds 2 are only IPX2 rated, so you’ll want to be careful about how wet you get them. Full price they’re $150, but we’ve seen them as low as $100.

If you’re looking to maximize your dollars, I’d suggest looking into Anker’s Soundcore line. You can find a lot of value, and features, for well under $100 there. Plus, the company’s top-of-the-line flagship ANC model, the Liberty 3 Pro, is only $170. And if you’re good with passive noise isolation, Jabra’s own Elite 3 can get the job done for $60.

If Jabra’s new mission is to deliver the same overall quality as its previous earbuds at more affordable prices, I’m here for it. With the Elite 4 Active, as it did with the Elite 3, the company has managed to offer a compelling set of features at a great price. It hasn’t cut corners to do so, improving details like design and fit while maintaining its standard for sound quality. There are some omissions, but all the basics are covered and for the most part done well. Once again, we have more evidence that you don’t need to spend over $150 in order to get a set of good true wireless earbuds.

Doctors and scientists call on Spotify to create misinformation policy

Doctors, health experts and scientists battle COVID-19 misinformation on daily basis. Platforms like Facebook and Twitter have adopted policies in an effort to curtail rampant false claims, but some don't have rules in place. A group of 270 doctors, nurses, scientists and educators have sent an open letter to Spotify following a recent episode of TheJoe Rogan Experience, calling for the streaming service to adopt a clear policy and to fulfill its "responsibility to mitigate the spread of misinformation." 

On the December 31st episode of his podcast, Joe Rogan interviewed Dr. Robert Malone, a virologist who says he's one of the creators of mRNA technology. It's unclear whether that's true. During the chat, Malone made baseless claims about COVID-19, including the idea that "mass formation psychosis" led people to believe the vaccines were effective and the notion that President Biden had withheld data that supported ivermectin as a valid treatment. The episode quickly went viral among both critics and fans as Rogan averages over 10 million listeners per episode. YouTube removed a video of the interview and Malone was recently banned from Twitter for violations of the platform's COVID-19 misinformation policy.

"By allowing the propagation of false and societally harmful assertions, Spotify is enabling its hosted media to damage public trust in scientific research and sow doubt in the credibility of data-driven guidance offered by medical professionals," the letter explains. "[The episode] is not the only transgression to occur on the Spotify platform, but a relevant example of the platform’s failure to mitigate the damage it is causing."

In April, The Verge reported that Spotify was okay with a Rogan episode on which he encouraged 21-year-olds to not get vaccinated. A company source indicated the message wasn't "outwardly anti-vaccine" and he didn't "make a call to action," The Verge's Ashley Carman wrote at the time. Spotify has taken down more explicit examples of vaccine misinformation, including a song from musician Ian Brown and a podcast from Pete Evans. The company has said in the past that it "prohibits content on the platform which promotes dangerous false, deceptive, or misleading content about COVID-19 that may cause offline harm and/or pose a direct threat to public health." And that when something violates those guidelines, it is removed.

However, as this open letter points out, Spotify doesn't have an official misinformation policy like Facebook, Twitter, YouTube and others. The group is asking for the platform to do just that, rather than to directly take action against Rogan or remove the episode in question. They want the company to create rules that would hold podcast creators accountable for the content of their shows.

Spotify paid a reported $100 million to lock down The Joe Rogan Experience as an exclusive podcast in 2020. The show was the most popular on the platform in 2021, both in the US and globally. When Rogan faced criticism over his choice of guests, including another example of pandemic misinformation in an episode with Alex Jones, Spotify CEO Daniel Ek said the platform didn't have editorial responsibility over podcasts.

"We have a lot of really well-paid rappers on Spotify too, that make tens of millions of dollars, if not more, each year from Spotify." Ek told Axios. "And we don't dictate what they're putting in their songs, either." 

Spotify didn't respond to Engadget's request for comment on both the open letter and the company's misinformation policies.

Recommended Reading: The fate of Apple and Google's contact tracing tech

The US digital-contact-tracing debacle

Charlie Warzel, The Atlantic

Unless you live in a few specific states, you likely never got the chance to use the contact tracing system that was the result of an unprecedented collaboration between Apple and Google. As it turns out, there are a few reasons the technology never took off in the US, from privacy concerns among the general public to the inability of the federal government to deviate from its vaccine-or-bust strategy. 

The Athletic set out to destroy newspapers. Then it became one.

Bryan Curtis, The Ringer

The New York Times is spending $550 million on a subscription-based sports media site and its wealth of journalism talent. Not so long ago, its founder told the very paper that bought it he wanted to replace local newspapers, with a plan to "let them continuously bleed until we are the last ones standing." Now the site is part of one of the largest papers in the country.

The epic rise and fall of Elizabeth Holmes

David Streitfeld, The New York Times

Following this week's fraud verdict, a look back at the Theranos executive's decade-long play and some the people she brought along with her.

Spotify will show clickable in-app ads when they're mentioned on a podcast

In 2020, Spotify revealed that it was testing an ad setup that would make promo codes and special URLs during podcast ads a thing of the past. Starting today, those in-app advertisements are starting to roll out. The company says its call-to-action (CTA) cards will begin showing up on its original and exclusive shows when the corresponding ad or offer is mentioned during an episode. 

The new CTA cards will show up in the Spotify app as soon as the ad plays during a podcast on the player interface as well as on the show and episode pages. If you leave any of those places to do something else — like stream music, for example — the ads will display when you return back to that podcast in those three locations. Essentially, Spotify sees this as a way to not only relieve you have having to remember a promo code or specific URL, but it also argues you'll be able to interact with ads or brands you're interested in when you have the time to do so. There's no doubt a simple tap, if you're interested in what you've just heard, is much more convenient than manually typing in the usual info. Of course, the downside is you'll now see ads in the app when listening to certain podcasts — even if you're a paid subscriber. 

Spotify doesn't see this as a potential issue, since even paid users hear ads on podcasts when listening to shows through its app. The advertisements keep podcasts afloat after all, and have turned the medium into a lucrative tool for businesses to promote goods and services. However, some might argue seeing an ad in the app and listening to one during a show are two very different things. Brands will probably be willing to jump on board quickly though since Spotify says the clickable ads have generated twice as many site visits during the early adoption phase than the "traditional" ad reads for companies like Ulta Beauty, Athletic Greens and Squarespace.

The CTA cards are powered by Spotify's Streaming Ad Insertion, a powerful analytics platform for podcast ads that automatically slots in pre-recorded promotional reads in the ideal spot for each listener. This is how the app knows when to begin showing the corresponding card for the ad when you hear it during a show. Of course, Spotify is promoting the CTA method as the first "interactive" podcast ads, and there's no doubt brands will be excited to have a more visible and, most importantly, clickable way to reach audiences. But it will be interesting to see how listeners respond to visual ads in their streaming app, especially those who pay a monthly premium so they don't have to hear them on non-podcast content. 

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

Shure's Aonic 40 headphones offer ANC and custom EQ for $249

Following up on its Aonic 50 headphones that debuted at CES 2020, Shure announced a more affordable noise-cancelling option today. With the Aonic 40, the company offers a similar design to its premium model, maintaining adjustable active noise cancellation (ANC) and on-board controls with slightly more battery life than the 2020 version. 

Though the Aonic 40 will debut at $150 less than its elder sibling did two years ago, the new model doesn't look any less premium. Shure opted for a combination of aluminum and nylon, revising the silver and black or sliver and white/tan color schemes from the Aonic 50. The earcups on the 40 rotate flat and fold inward for easy storage, making them a decent option for travel. 


Shure says you can expect its "iconic sound" alongside a fully customizable EQ via its ShurePlus Play app on Android and iOS. That software will allow you to save any created settings for future access. The app also allows you to choose between three ANC options as well as tweak the Environment Mode (ambient sound). Shure also says the software is equipped with a hi-res music player that works with the Aonic 40. 

As is typically the case with headphones these days, Shure is hyping call quality thanks to dual beamforming microphones. On-board controls will allow you to easily answer those, in addition to volume adjustments and accessing both the ANC and ambient sound options. The company says you'll get up to 25 hours of battery life with active noise cancellation turned on — up from 20 hours on the Aonic 50. Plus, a quick charge option can offer five hours of use in 15 minutes. 

The Aonic 40 is available now in black and white color options for $249.

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