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AlphaTheta, formerly Pioneer DJ Corp, launches its first wireless DJ controller and speaker

AlphaTheta has come out of the gate swinging with its release of the Omnis-Duo all-in-one DJ controller and Wave-Eight speaker today. These two products are the first under the company’s new moniker since changing it from Pioneer DJ, although both brand names are expected to coexist for now. The launch coincides with the NAMM event this week and it’s also the 30th anniversary of the landmark Pioneer CDJ-500.

Both the controller and speaker are brimming with connectivity and battery power, making them an appealing option for mobile DJs. Rekordbox is a necessity right now, either for direct play or file prep and the app comes bundled with the Omnis-Duo controller. Serato DJ Lite support is expected later this summer and the software should already be bundled with the product. The Wave-Eight is more flexible and can work just as well with any audio source that has an RCA output.


The Omnis-Duo ($1,499) is built to be portable, but also packs in some high-end tech. It’s a 10-pound device with fairly reserved and minimal styling that the company says you can fit in a “good-sized” backpack given its 20 x 12 x 3-inch in size. There’s a two-channel mixer flanked by two jog wheels and eight performance pads under each, although those only work for hot cues and have white LED lighting only. On top you’ll find a touchscreen display with an XDJ-style workflow and both light and dark modes. The display is flat and not angled up for easier viewing.

Omnis-Duo all-in-one DJ controller

You get essential controls for volume, EQ, playback, pitch and dedicated ones for beat jump and beat loop. There are also ones to select eight types of beat FX and six types of sound color FX from, but expect some touchscreen coordination to select which channel to apply to.

On the front edge you’ll find both 1/4-inch and 3.5mm stereo headphone jacks. The rear panel displays a wide selection of inputs for USB-A, SD cards and USB-C laptop input next to a USB-C charging port that lets you use either a power bank to top up the battery or an AC adapter. When fully charged we’re told you can expect around five hours of runtime and the system has an eco mode if things are looking grim.

As for wireless connections, there’s a novel Bluetooth input option. People can find the Omnis-Duo in their mobile device settings and connect. If they have files on the phone, the DJ should actually be able to select, load and play files in their set with effects and all. It’s not entirely clear yet, but the other option is likely just normal playback through the controller from a connected Bluetooth device. This is for one user at a time since multipoint is not supported. There's also a wireless output option for connecting to the Wave-Eight speaker using its SonicLink Bluetooth transmitter which connects to the RCA outputs.

And for Wi-Fi connectivity, you can take advantage of CloudDirectPlay to access cloud file storage through a wirelessly connected computer or mobile device running Rekordbox. Additionally, you can use Rekordbox Link Export to directly select and play tracks from a connected device running the app.


The Wave-Eight speaker isn’t quite part of a bundled release, it’s just a great pairing with the Omnis-Duo, given its portability, battery power and wireless capability. This speaker has an 8-inch driver and what the company calls a “Vortex Bass Accelerator” for its output. The 28-pound build includes an extendable handle and casters for luggage-style rolling, plus a couple of convenient grab handles for local lugging.

Wave-Eight wireless loudspeaker

You can mount it on a stand with its pole socket, so it’s a proper PA speaker, and it’s IPX4 rated, so it’s good for the outdoors unless rain really starts coming down. There’s an onboard battery that should give you about eight hours of playtime on a charge and it takes about four hours or more of charging to get back to one hundred percent. Obviously you can use it as a powered-speaker all night long if there’s an outlet nearby.

What makes this speaker interesting is the removable AlphaTheta transmitter with SonicLink technology. Each speaker comes with a transmitter packed into a side panel. They have an RCA input and a USB-C cable. With one speaker, you take the transmitter out and connect it to an RCA output from your audio setup. Then return to the speaker and set it to connect wirelessly via SonicLink. Once connected that way, it should display a green light on the front panel, so you can confirm the status at a distance.

If you have a second speaker, you take that one’s transmitter and pop it into the first speaker via the USB-C port. That will transmit the audio to the second unit where you set that one to connect via SonicLink (and so on). The speakers support left and right for stereo delivery as well via a channel selector button on the back. 

To make things more interesting, each speaker has a variety of audio output settings which include Music, Music (Low Cut), Flat, Flat (Low Cut), Vocal and Subwoofer modes. This means each Wave-Eight speaker can be set as a top or sub. You can set one speaker to a low-cut setting and use another one as its subwoofer accompaniment if you like.

The SonicLink is said to provide a latency-free listening experience, so there shouldn’t be any delay and you can beat match by ear from the output. Of course you can also send audio to a single Wave-Eight via a normal Bluetooth signal and expand to more speakers as you would before. This time, however, you're subject to the normal Bluetooth signal's whims in terms of potential audio delays.

There’s an interesting thing about the Wave-Eight in that wired connections (aside from power) were not mentioned anywhere in the press release. You can use the speakers via Bluetooth or with the SonicLink transmitter from any device that has an RCA output, though. We’ve asked for clarification, but at this point we’re led to believe that it just supports wireless connections. We’re also still curious about the Bluetooth range for these devices, but expect that it falls within the normal range of about 30 feet.

AlphaTheta has chosen an interesting combo of high-end features, wireless connectivity and battery-powered portability for its premier offering. While they may not be cheap, there’s quite a lot built into both products to balance out the equation.

The Omnis-Duo all-in-one DJ controller ($1,499) and the Wave-Eight speaker ($899) are both available starting today.

Omnis-Duo specs:

  • 19.7 x 12.1 x 2.8 inches

  • Bluetooth 5.2

  • Wireless LAN: 2.4Ghz / 5GHz, IEEE 802.11 a/b/g/n/ac

  • Audio codecs: SBC, AAC

  • ~5 hour battery life (47.52Wh rechargeable lithium-ion)

  • ~3 hour charge time

  • Weight: 10 pounds

  • Input:

    • USB-A

    • SD Card

    • USB-C PC/Mac

    • MIC 1: Balanced ¼ TRS

    • MIC 2: Balanced dual ¼ TRS / XLR

    • Bluetooth

  • Output:

    • Master 1: XLR

    • Booth Master 2: RCA / RCA to SonicLink transmitter (Bluetooth, no latency)

    • Onboard Bluetooth output (normal with latency)

Wave-Eight specs:

  • 28 pounds

  • ~8 hour battery life

  • ~4 hour charge time with power off / ~6 hours with power on

  • EQ modes:

    • Music

    • Music (Low Cut)

    • Flat

    • Flat (Low Cut)

    • Vocal

    • Subwoofer

    • *Low Cut mode is intended for use on units that are combined with a WAVE-EIGHT set to Subwoofer mode.

This article originally appeared on Engadget at

Shokz debuts its OpenSwim Pro bone conduction waterproof headphones at CES 2024

Shokz has making Bluetooth bone conduction headsets for years, including a personal favorite: the OpenRun Pro. However, you may have overlooked one of company's more niche variants. In 2019 the company launched a model called Xtrainerz, a bone conduction headset with an IP68 waterproof rating, 4GB of onboard storage and no Bluetooth. This was pitched as an all around training headset with a focus on swimmers. Recently it was renamed OpenSwim, but today at CES 2024 in Las Vegas the company has announced its improved successor, the OpenSwim Pro waterproof headphones.

As with many products being announced at CES this year, the OpenSwim Pro supports Bluetooth 5.3. The big change is that it includes Bluetooth at all, making it a more useful all-around headset and less specifically targeted to swimming or triathlon use. The OpenSwim Pro also has 32GB of onboard storage, which is a healthy bump from the previous 4GB limit.

You get nine hours of battery life (one extra hour from the previous gen) and we’re told that it offers fast charging, although those details haven’t been provided yet. If it matches up to other Shokz models, that would be 1.5 hours with just five minutes of charging, which I’ve found immensely useful. If you’re actively using these while swimming, you can only be submerged for two hours without tempting the limits of its IP68 waterproof rating.

The sound quality for this model should be similar to the OpenRun model, with 8th-gen bone conduction tech. The need for a more enclosed design means it can’t quite match the slightly bassier output of the OpenRun Pro, which uses venting to enhance the low end. This model does have microphones, however, which is a new addition for the OpenSwim series. It certainly seems to be a necessary feature for a Bluetooth headset, so it’s a welcome addition.

The Shokz OpenSwim Pro will be available later in the year, although pricing and a specific launch date have yet to be determined. Those interested in receiving updates can sign up on the Shokz website.

We're reporting live from CES 2024 in Las Vegas from January 6-12. Keep up with all the latest news from the show here.

This article originally appeared on Engadget at

JBL debuts replaceable batteries for its new portable Bluetooth speakers at CES 2024

When it comes to portable Bluetooth speakers, battery life has always been a sticking point and JBL’s latest updates are focused on improving just that. As part of its announcement today at CES 2024 in Las Vegas, the company presented two updated PartyBox models and three new personal portable iterations. Aside from the battery upgrades, they all support Bluetooth 5.3 with LE audio and Auracast for wirelessly connecting countless other Auracast-enabled JBL speakers. Additionally, recycled fabric and plastic play a role in their construction.

The new large-format JBL PartyBox Club 120 ($400) and PartyBox Stage 320 ($600) now include easily swappable batteries so you can party well beyond the boundaries of a single charge. The next-gen personal portables include the midsize JBL Xtreme 4 ($380) and the smaller Clip 5 ($80) and Go 4 ($50), all of which have longer runtimes on a single charge. The Xtreme 4 is also now a more reliable long-term investment with a replaceable battery for serviceability.

JBL PartyBox 120 (left), JBL PartyBox Wireless Mic bundle (center) and JBL PartyBox 320.

It’s been at least a couple of years since we’ve seen a new version of these specific PartyBox models. (The PartyBox 110 was released in 2021 and the 310 came out in 2020.) Many of the general specs remain the same as the previous iterations for both models. They are still IPX4 rated, which means some drink spills or light rain should be OK. You can still do basic wireless stereo pairing with two speakers for left and right output and control themed lighting displays using the JBL PartyBox app.

Although the battery life remains the same as before with up to around 12 hours for the PartyBox 110 and 18 hours for the PartyBox 320, you can now buy additional battery packs and swap them in when needed. This takes some of the worry out of hosting long parties without an outlet nearby. We're still waiting for more info about pricing and availability for the battery packs.

Both of these large-format speakers have Bluetooth 5.3 with LE audio and Auracast – a new Bluetooth feature that allows many devices to join the same audio stream. According to JBL, you can connect unlimited Auracast-enabled JBL speakers together for bigger sound. We’re still waiting for further details, but it would seem likely that you’d connect via the JBL PartyBox app.

The specs list two mic inputs and one guitar input for both of these devices. Previously only the 310 had capability for all three, although it was one mic input and one for dual mic/instrument. If there are indeed now three inputs, it would make sense especially considering the new accessory bundle that’s also being announced.

For those who are into karaoke or just broadcasting their voice to a crowd, there’s also a new PartyBox Wireless Mic ($150) two-mic bundle available now. It’s noted as being compatible with all PartyBox speakers. The mics boast a rechargeable 20-hour runtime with an additional 12-hour dongle attachment and 10-minute fast charging for an additional two hours of use. They're also built to minimize handling noise and have a built-in pop filter to get dodge of unwanted breathing sounds.

JBL Xtreme 4

One of JBL’s larger, yet still personal portable Bluetooth lines is the Xtreme series. It’s big enough to warrant a shoulder strap, easy enough to carry around, yet delivers respectable sound. This year the Xtreme 4 offers much the same as the previous generation. It’s a resilient IP67-rated speaker, so you can take it pretty much anywhere, rain or shine. And you can charge other devices with its onboard power bank via USB.

The new features include an extended battery life of up to 24 hours, plus an additional six if you use the Playtime Boost Mode. It’s a nice jump from the previous 15 hours on a charge. This time around, you can also replace the battery, although it’s not really ‘swappable’. If your battery starts to fail over time, you don’t have to worry about buying a new speaker, you can just replace the battery portion itself.

As with all of today’s new announcements, the Xtreme 4 runs Bluetooth 5.3 with LE audio and supports Auracast. That means you should be able to join up with any other JBL speakers that also have Auracast.

JBL Go 4 (left) and JBL Clip 5.

There’s no word on updated Flip or Charge releases yet, so JBL’s last new offerings today are the extremely portable Clip 5 and Go 4. Both retain the IP67 rating from before, which is useful considering that they’re small enough to clip on things or put in your pocket. Both run Bluetooth 5.3 with LE audio and can also connect with any other JBL Auracast-enabled speakers.

The Clip 5 is said to have increased driver power to help optimize the overall audio and provide consistent bass, at least for its size. It offers up to 12 hours of battery life, plus an extra three hours in Playtime Boost mode.

The tiny JBL Go 4 is the most portable of the bunch, with an updated exterior design and strap. Its audio output remains the same as before, but its battery life is now up to 7 hours, plus an additional two when listening in Playtime Boost mode.

The JBL Xtreme 4, Clip 5 and Go 4 should be available on the company’s website in June 2024 and both the PartyBox Club 120 and Stage 320 will be available on the site in April 2024.

We're reporting live from CES 2024 in Las Vegas from January 6-12. Keep up with all the latest news from the show here.

This article originally appeared on Engadget at

AI joins you in the DJ booth with Algoriddim’s djay Pro 5

Algoriddim’s djay Pro software has always had close ties to Apple and often been at the forefront of new DJ tech, especially on Mac, iOS or iPadOS. Today marks the launch of djay Pro version 5 and it includes a variety of novel features, many of which leverage the company’s AI and a new partnership with the interactive team at AudioShake.

There are several buzzy trademarked names to remember this time around including Next-generation Neural Mix, Crossfader Fusion and Fluid Beatgrid. These are the major points of interest in djay Pro 5, with only a passing mention of improved stem separation on mobile, UI refreshes for the library and a new simplified Starter Mode that may cater to new users on the platform. The updates include some intriguing AI-automated features that put the system in control of more complex maneuvers. Best of all, existing users get it all for free as part of their subscription.

AudioShake and Algroiddim have been working on their audio separation tech (like many other companies) and are calling this refreshed version Next-generation Neural Mix. We’re told to expect crisp, clear separation of elements from vocals, harmonies and drums. The tools have also been optimized for mobile devices, as long as they run a supported OS.

Fluid Beatbrid is perhaps one of the easiest to understand and seems to be an underlying part of the crossfader updates. Anyone who’s used beatgrids knows they’re rarely perfect on first analysis and often take a bit of work to lock in, especially on tracks that need it. Songs with live instrumentation that tend to shift tempo naturally, EDM with varying tempo shifts during breakdowns and even just older dance tracks that tend to meander slightly throughout playback have been pain points. Fluid Beatgrid is supposed to use AI to accommodate for those shifts and find the right points to mark.

Crossfader Fusion is where stems, automation and those beatgrids all come into play. There are now a variety of settings for the crossfader beyond the usual curves. One of the highlighted modes is the Neural Mix (Harmonic Sustain) setting. This utilizes stem separation and automated level adjustments as you go from one track to the next.

For those who enjoy cutting and scratching, there are crossfade settings that use automated curves and spatial effects so, for example, outgoing track vocals can be dropping out as you cut into the next track automatically. The incoming track’s vocals can be highlighted for scratching and as your mix completes the transition, things are blended together further with AI.

There's even an example provided that shows how you can mix across vastly different BPMs, where the incoming song matches up with a slower outgoing track, but its original tempo is slowly integrated during the transition leaving you with the new faster tempo. 

Existing users should be alerted to the update, but newcomers can find djay Pro version 5 starting today at the App Store. While there will continue to be a free version, the optional Pro subscription costs $7 per month or $50 per year and gives you access to all the features across Mac, iOS and iPhone. Support for the app includes devices running MacOS 10.15 or later and iOS 15 / iPadOS 15 or later.

And as a side note, we’re told that djay Pro for Windows users were leveled up in September and will get Fluid Beatgrid in an update for that platform as soon as next week. Newer features like Crossfader Fusion are expected in the near future.

This article originally appeared on Engadget at

The Zwift Hub One trainer offers virtual shifting and broader bike compatibility

Zwift started out as the massively multiplayer online cycling and running app, providing virtual worlds to explore while working out. In 2022 the company joined the hardware market with its own smart bike trainer called the Zwift Hub. Today the company has launched the next generation called the Zwift Hub One ($599). It boasts virtual shifting, the Click handlebar-mounted shift controller and broader compatibility with a variety of bikes. The older model will continue to be available under the name Zwift Hub Classic ($599). Existing users can even upgrade their Hub (Classic) with the Zwift Cog/Click bundle without having to purchase an entirely new trainer.

Support for the Zwift Hub One and Zwift Cog will be part of the 1.50 version of Zwift which should be rolling out between October 11th and 13th this week. You’ll be able to add the Click shifter control under the Paired Devices section of the app. The Zwift Play drop-style handlebar controller should also be able to work concurrently with the Click depending on how many devices you have connected to the app. Its buttons can even be customized to control shifting as well.


Virtual shifting is something that’s usually seen on more expensive standalone trainers like the Wahoo Kickr Bike which don’t use a direct-drive chain setup. With the Zwift Hub One or an upgraded Hub with the Zwift Cog, you can expand your shifting range across 24 gears (at launch). The chain from your bike gets threaded through a single cog instead of a full cassette, which simplifies the setup, can reduce wear and tear and leaves compatibility open to a variety of types and sizes of bike.

The shifting is electronic and controls resistance in the flywheel, so we hope the experience is as good or better than real-world situations, especially under heavy loads. It should be a bit quieter too, since much of the noise comes from your actual drivetrain and not the trainer itself.

With the Zwift Cog using just a single spot to thread the chain through, you no longer have to worry about cassette compatibility when swapping bikes. It can accommodate a variety of widths with the help of spacers, but the other selling point is the “real gear ratio calibration” which is calculated at the first few seconds of each ride. This lets the system compensate for, say, the smaller chainring of a mountain bike, and with 24 gears available it can expand your options beyond the hardware you have. One caveat though, is that if your bike has multiple front chainrings, you’ll want to keep that static throughout your ride, otherwise you’ll throw off the initial calibration.

For those who enjoy riding single gear bikes outdoors, you can pop that bike onto a Zwift Hub One and experience riding hills in Watopia with a full array of gears, assuming you don’t need to tweak the chain length or anything. The Zwift Click controller can be affixed to any type of handlebar (unlike the Zwift Play) and this will allow you to cycle through the virtual gears.


The Zwift Hub One is available today at the company’s website for $599, alongside the Zwift Hub Classic, also priced at $599. Both include a one-year subscription to the Zwift app. At launch, the upgrade bundle including both the Zwift Cog and Zwift Click will be priced at $60 for a limited time. After that it will go up to the normal retail price of $80.

This article originally appeared on Engadget at

The UE Epicboom delivers a balance of power and portability

It’s been a little while since Ultimate Ears (UE) released an entirely new speaker model and this one slots right into the existing lineup between the Megaboom and the Hyperboom. Continuing with the whimsical hyperbole, this latest model is called the Epicboom and it’s available starting today at the company’s website for $350. Now that it’s here, it seems obvious a speaker was missing from the UE lineup. It pumps out a bit more volume than the Megaboom, but is still more portable than the larger Hyperboom party speaker.

The UE Epicboom is like a double-wide Megaboom in size and shape, and it still provides 360-degree sound. It does seem that the two 1.5-inch mid-high transducers are on the rounded sides with passive radiators along the front and back. This enhances the surround sound vibes if you’re listening to it head-on. Inside, the Epicboom packs a 4.6-inch woofer for a more rounded bass experience down to 50Hz, at least. And just like the Hyperboom, it has an adaptive EQ that supposedly helps provide the best audio output possible for your space.

There’s an outdoor mode available, which seems to drop the low end down a bit in favor of the mid to high end output so it can be heard more clearly at greater distances. The speaker has Bluetooth 5.2 and in keeping with tradition, the speaker claims up to 180 feet in range (in the best line-of-sight conditions possible I assume). The Epicboom definitely has a robust range and worked throughout my apartment without the sound dipping out, which is commendable.

As usual, the speaker is fully waterproof with an IP67 rating. Go ahead and plop it in the pool if you like. It’s a rugged box of beats that will fit into a backpack although it will take up a good deal of space at 6.3 x 4.6 x 9.4-inches and 4.36 pounds. You shouldn’t have to worry about battery life much either, since it's rated for up to 17 hours and there's an LED battery indicator just above the +/- buttons. Unlike the Boom and Megaboom, there’s no charging dock accessory for the Epicboom. It has a single USB-C charging port along the back and no aux inputs.

Photo by Jon Turi / Engadget

The speaker is slightly chunky and unless you’ve got big mitts, the rounded edges makes it a little bit difficult to grab and hold by hand. There is a carrying strap of course, and if you hate having a loose loop dangling about your device, you’re in luck. This flattened strap uses a small magnet to help keep it in place along the back. It's heavy nylon (like seat belts) and although it has a loop, it takes some fiddling to pull it apart. I found myself just grabbing the strap as it is to haul it around.

NFC, a long lost Ultimate Ears feature, has returned with the Epicboom. It works for users with Android 8.0 or later, but sadly there's no support for iOS. The speaker has multipoint connectivity allowing you to pair up to eight devices and this can help speed up the process immensely. It also helps to future proof the speaker, as aging devices can sometimes be difficult to pair with and NFC is a great backup plan.

Photo by Jon Turi / Engadget

You can use the PartyUp feature in the Boom app (which gets an update today) to play music on the Epicboom plus any other Hyperboom, Megaboom and Boom models nearby. There are also a variety of pre-set EQs including Signature, Bass Boost, Game/Cinema, Podcast/Vocal, and a new Deep Relaxation mode. I didn't get a chance to test the new app experience yet, so I can't provide any more details in that regard.

If you’re an Ultimate Ears fan and want to upgrade your output, but still have a speaker that’s relatively easy to bring along when you’re out and about, the Epicboom could be right for you. It seems to have a more spacious sound than the Megaboom models and its audio output definitely covers some ground for a device this size. It’s not quite the powerhouse party output of the Hyperboom, but it's a decent upgrade from the Megaboom 3. People in the United States, Europe, and Asia-Pacific regions can order the $350 UE Epicboom starting today on the company's website and other retailers will begin selling the product on September 22nd. 

Product Specifications

  • Size: 6.3 inch (L) x 4.6 inch (W) x 9.4 inch (H)

  • Weight: 4.36 lbs / 1.98 kg

  • Bluetooth version: 5.2 

  • Bluetooth range: 180 ft / 55 meters

  • Battery life: Up to 17 hours

  • Charge time: < 3 hours (with 5V/0.5A or more than 0.5A adapter)

  • Drivers: Two 1.5-inch active mid-high frequency transducers and one 4.6-inch woofer

  • Maximum Sound Pressure Level (SPL): 94 dBC(normal) and 95 dBC (outdoor)

  • Frequency range: 50Hz to 20kHz

  • Rating: IP67 

  • Sustainability factors: 100% post-consumer polyester fabric mesh, 59% post-consumer recycled plastic

This article originally appeared on Engadget at

Marshall premieres its Motif II ANC earbuds with a big bump in battery life

Today, Marshall has opened up pre-orders for its newest active noise canceling earbuds: the Motif II ANC. It’s actually the first headphone or speaker product released by Marshall Group, a new venture combining the core Marshall Amplification company and Zounds, which has been producing the headphones and speakers under the company’s name since 2010. These earbuds boast some big advances over the last gen (2021), with improved battery life and quick charging at the forefront. You can pre-order the Motif II ANC ($199) from Marshall’s website today and the product will be shipping on September 12th.

Plenty of features remain the same as before, so existing Motif users can do a cost-benefit analysis to decide if they’re ready to upgrade. There’s still the 6mm dynamic drivers pushing out tunes within the 20Hz - 20kHz frequency range. You get touch controls for core operations like play/pause, skip and noise control (ANC and transparency mode). The Bluetooth range of approximately 33 feet still persists although the Motif II buds now have Bluetooth 5.3 and will support Bluetooth LE Audio (LC3) with future updates.

Photo by Jon Turi / Engadget

The sound of the new Motif II should also be essentially the same as before, although, to be honest that’s just based on specs since I haven’t tried the first-gen model. The buds fit snugly in my ear (at least) and provide a thick bass experience and the rich and familiar Marshall sound profile. The active noise canceling works well to block out most environmental noise like a subway or crowded bar, letting only some voices slip through as distant chitchat.

The IP rating is also unchanged with an IPX5 water resistance for the earbuds and IPX4 for the charging case. That means these buds are fine for a normal workout, but not great to dunk in the sink. And the charging case itself should be treated with a little more care. You can also still charge the case wirelessly, which leads us to one of the biggest upgrades of the Motif II: battery life.

Photo by Jon Turi / Engadget

The new Motif II has a total of 30 hours playtime assisted by the charging case (10 more than before) and with ANC enabled. Without that feature turned on, you should be able to get up an impressive 43 hours total. The individual buds have standalone playtimes of six to nine hours depending on whether you use ANC or not.

While the previous full-charging time was three hours, it’s been halved to just one and a half hours via USB. Additionally, there’s a fast charge setting you can turn on through the app which will get you a whole hour more than previously. That means in 15 minutes of charging you should get about two hours now, which is eternally useful.

You'll also get the Spotify Tap feature with the Motif II ANC. You can access the Spotify with a double tap and long press of the touch controls on your earbuds without needing to pick up your phone. The details for this touch feature and all the others are found in the Marshall Bluetooth app, along with all the other features and some touch customization.


Marshall's Motif II ANC earbuds cover all the essentials and provide a great listening experience without overcomplicating the product. Long battery life is a core necessity for many and these buds shine in that regard. The minimal black exterior with gold capped ends keep them visibly subtle and that signature sound profile is worth a listen for those who are unfamiliar. Pre-orders for the $199 earbuds are open today at the company's website and they should be shipping out on September 12th, which is rapidly approaching.

This article originally appeared on Engadget at

Orange Amps' portable Bluetooth speaker shines by sticking to the basics

If you’re looking for a portable Bluetooth speaker that puts natural-sounding analog audio at the forefront, then you’ll enjoy the Orange Box. As long as you don’t have too many other requirements, that is. Orange has been making guitar amps since the 1960s and it’s apparently not changing the formula to compete against commonplace plastic Bluetooth speakers with all the mod cons. I’ve personally come to enjoy the bohemian design and bright orange exterior, which is a refreshing change from what you’d usually find. You do have to deal with losing some useful features and it’s less rugged than some other portables, but the audio quality is a standout.


The hardware elements and iconography from the company’s long history of amps and speakers have been merged into this portable battery powered version. The orange Tolex (vinyl) exterior, logo badge, speaker mesh, wood framing, dials, toggle switches, indicator lights and other details are a perfect match with the brand’s existing stable of products. The mechanical ‘thunk’ of the on/off toggle is satisfying, while the domed orange power light seems pleasantly retro.

Photo by Jon Turi / Engadget

There are manual volume and EQ dials on the top panel. The bass and treble start out flat in the 12-o’clock position, letting you boost or lower those levels as desired. The dial positions are a little hard to read, though, unless you’re standing directly above them since the position dot on the dial is near the bottom. The Bluetooth control has a blue light that flashes when it’s in pairing mode and does double-duty as a pause/play control. You’ll also find an orange overload indicator light, which could become a common sight if you like to play your music loudly, especially with heavy bass.

Aside from that, there’s a 3.5mm minijack on the top and an DC charging port on the back. You can charge the 2,600mAh battery for up to around 15-hours of playback or you can just run it while it’s plugged in. Next to the domed power indicator is a battery level light that’s red as it's charging, green when it’s full and flashes red if the battery is at 10 percent or lower, with nothing in between. Like any speaker, if you’re planning a long outing, you should keep the power cable handy. I tested the speaker at a relatively high volume for an hour, plus 10 hours at medium and two overnight stretches powered off. This got me to the 10-percent warning and seems par for the course in regards to battery life.

Photo by Jon Turi / Engadget

If you plan to travel with your speaker, you may want to consider getting the $60 Gigbag carrying case since there’s no IP rating or waterproofing for the device. You’ll just have to trust Orange Amps’ build quality. Although we haven’t seen the bag in person, I expect it should at least help keep the speaker dry and clean when you’re not using it. There’s a shoulder strap option as well, and while the Orange Box is portable, it’s still over 6.5 pounds. You could always save some money though, since it does fit into a backpack easily enough.


The best part about the Orange Box is its warm and bright output. There’s both digital Class D and A/B analog amps that deliver crisp and punchy front-facing sound from the 4-inch sub and dual 2-inch high frequency drivers. There’s a relatively wide frequency range from 35Hz to 20kHz and aptX support is a huge plus, especially if you have access to hi-res streaming. Most styles of music sound good on the Orange Box, but the speaker really shines with songs that have live instrumentation or anything that can benefit from an analog touch. Some types of modern digital music didn't come across quite as well here, so it's worth testing your types of tunes before buying.

The 50-watt speaker puts out enough volume to work well as a personal boombox in the park or around the house. It’s fairly loud for its size and can handle small outdoor get togethers well if you just need background music. The output has decent bass that does reverberate through its case, especially if you’re near to it. Although when testing on a large windy rooftop area, it didn’t project as much if you’re 15-20 feet away.

I didn’t notice any distortion when pushing it to the max, but that overload light is a subtle hint to always check your levels. You’ll see the light flashing quite often if you enjoy loud music. It’s only when you have the overload light on constantly that you could get distortion and potentially damage the drivers. If that does happen, you do have the benefit of contacting an authorized repair center instead of having to cut your losses.


Some features that many have grown used to using aren’t available on the Orange Box and if you just want something to play tunes, it’s not a big deal. However, there’s no app for the speaker and it doesn’t support multipoint or pairing with a second Orange Box for more sound. It won’t go to sleep even if you’ve disconnected Bluetooth, so the battery may slowly drain if you leave it on all night without charging. And if you’re used to watching the battery levels, it will be a bit of a mystery until you’re at 10 percent power. Plus, since there’s no USB charging, you'll want to keep track of the power cable that came with the device.

On the plus side, there’s obviously the analog amps on board and aptX support sweetens the deal. The Bluetooth 5.0 range is as good or better than some other speakers in this category. Also, if you need a tiny DJ monitor, there’s no processing delay when using the 3.5mm input jack, so you can mix by ear if needed. For eco-conscious consumers, the authorized service centers and replacement parts on offer until 2030 means you can actually repair the speaker if something happens to it. It’s a proper piece of equipment that you should be able to enjoy for a long time.

Photo by Jon Turi / Engadget


While I wouldn’t quite call it an audiophile speaker, it’s certainly for analog or Orange Amp enthusiasts. I know the design isn’t new since the Orange Amps style has hardly changed since the ‘60s, but for me it feels like a refreshing change of pace. I can imagine lots of people with those turntables in luggage cases hooking up the speaker (although make sure you have good needles people). Sure, it's a bit chunky, you shouldn’t leave it out on the porch in the rain and you’ll need to keep track of the specific charging cable, but that’s doable.

It’s hard to say if the sound or style will appeal to everyone, but it’s great to have another option out there, especially one that’s built and sold by a brand with a legacy. At $299 the Orange Box isn’t terribly expensive and it feels less disposable than many of the products out there. The Orange Box, its $60 Gigbag carrying case and the slightly larger non-portable sibling the Orange Box-L ($345) are all currently available from the Orange Amps website. Oh, and you can also get them in black if that’s your preference. I know Furry Vince Noir would.


  • Style: Orange peel Tolex, acoustically transparent grille

  • Drivers: 1 x 4-inch bass driver, 2 x 2-inch high frequency drivers

  • Amplifiers: 1 x 30-watt sub, 2 x 10-watt full range

  • Frequency Range: 35Hz - 20kHz

  • Weight: 3 KG / 6.62 LBS

  • Connectivity: Bluetooth 5.0, 3.5mm aux input

  • Codecs: aptX, AAC, SBC

  • Battery: 2,600mAh, 3 hours to full charge, 15-hour runtime

  • Extras: Vegan-leather carry strap, 3.5mm aux cable, 19.5V power supply

This article originally appeared on Engadget at

Shokz OpenFit delivers open-ear audio without bone conduction

The team at Shokz has made a name for itself in the bone conduction headset market over the past several years and they’ve decided to change things up a bit this time around. Today, the company announced its newest headphones and while it's still an open-ear design, it’s not bone conduction. The Shokz OpenFit Bluetooth earbuds ($179.95) are called “air conduction” in a twist on the brand’s bone conduction brethren. Like many open-ear buds before them, they are positioned just outside of your ear with an over-the-ear hook to keep them in place. As a lifestyle headset, they work well, keeping your hearing open (to some degree), staying in place when you move about and are easy to wear for long periods of time. 

The OpenFit seems to bridge the gap between the audio quality of in-ear buds and the situational awareness of bone conduction. They definitely deliver better audio (including bass) than the bone conduction models and still let you hear some of what's going on around you. Sure, they're not quite a replacement for in-ear buds, but that wasn't really the goal. All that said, I found that they can be hit or miss with dance music, since there's an issue with handling hard hits on some low frequency sounds. 

Externally, these start off on the same page as most similarly designed earbuds. They come with a charging case, fit over your ear with dolphin arc hooks and to the passer-by, won’t appear unusual. They’re matte black (or beige), made with a soft silicone exterior and feel very lightweight. It’s not outlandish to say you could forget you’re wearing them. They’re definitely lighter and more comfortable than the single-unit bone conduction models Shokz sells, and it’s nice not to have a band around the back.

Photo by Jon Turi / Engadget

Like many earbuds, Shokz has graciously included touch controls including double-tap and long-press interactions. They respond well to your touches and taps, plus you can customize the functionality in the iOS or Android apps, although the latter won’t be ready at launch. You can use a single bud if you want and keep the other inside the charging case without issue, although you will be limited to that choice’s touch-control setting.

While Shokz’s previous offerings were primarily geared toward fitness (the OpenComm series aside), the OpenFit is pitched as more of a lifestyle product. They're something you can wear as you go about your day without leaning on digital transparency modes to hear the world. The earbuds themselves are IP54 rated so you’re good if you do work out in them, but the charging case is not. You’ll want to try to remember to wipe them off before stowing them to keep everything in good working order.

The OpenFit and its ear hook seem to work well at keeping them in place, too. I wouldn’t worry about them falling off if you’re running around, lifting weights, stretching or doing physical activities. It may seem like they could, since they’re not wedged into your ear, but so far I’ve found them to stay put. 

Photo by Jon Turi / Engadget

As for specs, the Shokz OpenFit earbuds run Bluetooth 5.2, have a frequency response of 50Hz - 16kHz, support AAC and SBC codecs and there are 18 x 11mm customized dynamic drivers inside for the output. The battery life of the buds are rated at up to 7 hours of listening on a charge, with the case said to expand that up to 28 hours of playback. As with previous Shokz headsets, you get an hour's worth of juice with just 5-minutes of charging. That's great if you notice a low charge before heading out on a run with just OpenFit and a smartwatch or phone.  

One of the frequent issues with bone conduction headsets has been the lack of bass. Shokz came a long way towards cracking the case with their latest OpeRun Pro headset. The OpenFit aren't bone conduction, so it was easier for the company to deliver a pumped up low-end profile.

If you’re a Shokz fan, you’ll probably enjoy these, especially for casual daily use at lower volumes. They work well for music and spoken word, and unlike the bone conduction models you’ll have better luck hearing your music if you’re in a busier environment. Although, keep in mind these are still open-ear models, so your listening experience isn’t totally isolated.

I've worn these while going to the store and doing other errands. If you keep music playing at normal or low volumes, you can enjoy tunes while also listening to and conversing with cashiers and other people around you. While you can take phone calls with a double tap, I chose to ditch them with a long press when interacting as a courtesy.

Photo by Jon Turi / Engadget

You can even ride your bike while wearing these and still hear what’s going on around you if you’re careful with the volume. Bone conduction headphones (the Shokz OpenRun Pro specifically) are a more optimized situational awareness headset though, and visibly leave both ears open in case local laws have restrictions.

If you’re the type of person who enjoys cranking up your tunes, there are some caveats. The overall listening experience does offer rich bass, along with good mids and highs for this form factor. But if you tend to listen to dance music or hip hop, you may notice an issue with the handling of some very low-end kick drums. On some songs, mostly with hard hitting bits at low frequencies, you may notice a crunchy edge to those beats. If you get the opportunity to test them first, I’d bring something along these lines to check your experience.

Listening to The Dave Brubeck Quartet’s “Three to Get Ready” was clear and pleasant, with a natural sound and smooth basslines. The UMC’s “Some Sepak Ill Thoughts” generally sounded good with a slight crunchiness on a specific ultra-low bassline section. Listening to both D.I.T.C.’s bass-heavy “Thick (Environmentally Friendly Version)” and the 4/4 techno of Ryan Elliot’s “Fermi II” both surfaced the kick-drum crunch a bit. Radiohead’s “Reckoner” was a pleasant listen throughout. Obviously it depends on the music and only seems noticeable on certain punchy and low frequencies.

Photo by Jon Turi / Engadget

The app that Shokz released for OpenRun Pro in 2022 will now also work with your OpenFit earbuds and it’s relatively essential, since there are touch controls that you’ll want to customize. The iOS version will be available at launch, with the Android version arriving at a later date. Using the app, you can select from EQ presets or create your own, customize the touch controls, control playback and view battery levels for each earbud as well as the charging case.

There are two types of touch controls available, which are double tap and press-and-hold. You can select from pre-set combinations, which seem to cover enough options to satisfy most people. They’re a mix of play/pause, previous/next, voice assistant and lastly volume control (which is only available for the press-and-hold interaction).

The standard EQ preset seems to be the most common choice for most listening. Vocal and treble boost are similar, while the bass boost just increases the prevalence of low-end but not its power necessarily. Obviously you can use the custom option to find your own sweet spot.

Photo by Jon Turi / Engadget

Overall, these sound good for the form factor and Shokz fans that enjoy an open-ear experience may appreciate the move away from bone conduction for a change. For casual everyday use, the fit and audio experience is much improved, while still offering a degree of situational awareness. The issue with certain low-end frequencies and drum kicks is my only quibble with an otherwise solid listening experience. 

Shokz OpenFit earbuds are available starting today at the company’s website, as well as Amazon for $179.95 in both black and beige options.

This article originally appeared on Engadget at

Orange Amps offers analog warmth with its first line of Bluetooth speakers

It seems that guitar amp companies making Bluetooth speakers could be the newthing. UK-based Orange Amps has just launched a duo of Bluetooth speakers called the Box and Box-L. The first is a battery-powered portable model, while the latter is a wired option that’s more of a homebody. Both echo the design of this iconic brand’s guitar amplifier and speaker series, using the same colors, logo and control panel style. The specs hint at decent stereo sound in the $300-$350 price range with Bluetooth 5.0, aptX support, a Class D amp for the subwoofer and Class AB analog amplifiers to help the full-range drivers produce a warmer sound. There are some deviations from what you'd expect, however, like the absence of USB charging, a front-facing only design and the lack of any weatherproofing or IP rating.

The Orange Box is the slightly smaller of the two models at 11 x 6.9 x 6.7-inches and 6.6 pounds with a vegan-leather carrying strap. You can choose between the classic orange exterior or a black version and it's priced at $299 (£275). There’s a 4-inch subwoofer powered by a 30W Class D amp and a pair of 2-inch full-range drivers powered by dual 10W Class AB analog amplifiers for a warmer sound.

The Orange Box portable Bluetooth speaker.
Orange Amps

The specs for the battery-powered Box list a charging time of three hours until full and a runtime of 15 or more hours. It also lists a 2,600mAh li-ion battery, so we’re interested in a real world test. There’s no USB port, so you’re stuck with the DC19.5V charging cable that comes in the box.

The wired model is called the Box-L and it’s slightly larger at 13.8 x 7.9 x 7.9-inches and 9.6 pounds. It’s also available in orange or black and priced at $345 (£315). As mentioned, there’s no onboard battery, so it’s more of a sedentary beast. You can expect a slightly beefier sound, however, with a larger 5-inch subwoofer powered by the Class D amp and two 2-inch full-range drivers powered by dual 10W analog Class AB versions.

The Orange Amps Box-L wired Bluetooth speaker.
Orange Amps

Both models have a 50W RMS output and a frequency range of 35Hz - 20kHz, so we expect they’ll probably have a decent amount of bass. They also support Qualcomm aptX for high resolution audio, alongside AAC and SBC.

The general physical design is the same for both the Box and Box-L. At the top you get a control panel with knobs and switches, much like those found on the brand’s line of guitar amps. There’s a power toggle, battery indicator light, knobs for bass, treble and volume adjustment, as well as a 3.5mm aux input. In addition, there’s a Bluetooth pairing button that does double duty as a play/pause control and a small audio limiter light to let you know if you're driving the system too hard. The company claims to support the right to repair and will offer replacement parts in case you just can’t help yourself from pushing the speaker too hard and break something.

Both models are available today in the USA, UK and the rest of the world at the Orange Amps website as well as Amazon. Although, in Australia you may have to stick with ordering through either Amazon or the company’s regional distributor Australis Music Group. The portable Orange Box is priced at $299 (£275) and the wired Orange Box-L is $345 (£315).

This article originally appeared on Engadget at