Bluetooth ▪ July 24

L to R: UE Mini (review), Roll (review), Boom (review) and Megaboom (review), JBL Charge 2+(review) and Charge 2 (review), Bose Soundlink III (review) and Soundlink Mini 2 (prev review)
Best Bluetooth speakers

There’s nothing like having a summer moment free to listen to your favorite music with your friends. The combination of portable Bluetooth speakers and great music apps like Apple Music with Beats 1 radio can make this an instant spontaneous event as long as you’ve got the right gear. There are tons of Bluetooth speakers around but we’re cutting through the noise and signaling the best from three top brands today: Bose, UE and JBL.

In last year’s exhaustive holiday season Best Bluetooth Speaker Review, I gave the title of best speaker to the JBL Charge 2 for having nearly the best sound, cylindrical portability, great looks, long battery life and the ability to charge your phone for around $120. JBL has updated their game with the Charge 2+ but both Bose and UE have really doubled down on their product functionality this year. It is going to be a tough call… expand full story

Bluetooth ▪ July 22

If you were wondering why manufacturers seemed to be rather slow in launching HomeKit-compatible devices, it may all be down to Apple’s stringent security requirements. Forbes reports that manufacturers are finding it hard to incorporate the extremely secure encryption standards demanded by Apple in order to achieve MFi certification for their products.

Apple is requiring device makers using both WiFi and Bluetooth LE to use complicated encryption with 3072-bit keys, as well as the super secure Curve25519, which is an elliptic curve used for digital signatures and exchanging encrypted keys.

While mains-powered WiFi kit is coping, the processing workload in battery-powered Bluetooth LE devices is leading to extremely slow response times, say manufacturers …  expand full story

Bluetooth ▪ July 8

We’ve reviewed a great many Bluetooth speakers over the years – I half-suspect Seth has built an extension to his home out of them. I’ve generally not been tempted myself. If I’m at home, I’m either streaming to the hifi in the living-room, or playing through the (wired) B&W MM-1s in my office. If I’m out & about, I’m listening through my B&W P5 headphones.

But there are times when you get chatting with friends about music and you all try to listen to an example on the iPhone speaker, and that doesn’t really cut it. A very portable speaker with a decent enough volume level for a few people to hear would be handy.

While I’m generally pretty fussy about sound quality, this scenario isn’t enough to justify investing in anything expensive, but this one looked the part and for $55 (down from $99) it seemed worth a listen …  expand full story

Bluetooth ▪ June 23

Earlier in the year, the Bluetooth SIG appointed an Apple employee as secretary of the board. The two institutions are developing their relationship further today with the announcement that Apple is now a Promoter Member of the Bluetooth Special Interest Group. This is the highest level with the organization and gives Apple voting rights.

Promoter members get voting rights on Bluetooth corporate matters and a guaranteed seat on the board of directors. Current promoter members Ericsson, Intel, Lenovo, Microsoft, Nokia and Toshiba ‘unanimously welcomed’ Apple to the position.

This means that Apple will now have significant influence over the technological roadmap for Bluetooth in cooperation with these other companies.

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Bluetooth ▪ June 17

Earlier this week we noted that Apple has refreshed the Beats by Dre wireless Beats Powerbeats 2 earbuds with new colors aimed at Apple Watch Sport users. Today, Apple has updated its Beats headphones website to promote the new line of headphones along with a new price: $179, which is $20 less than the previous price at $199.

With its onboard storage for music and Bluetooth connection, Apple is promoting these headphones as a way to tap into listening to music with the Apple Watch without the need of a connected iPhone. Even with the ties to Apple and the new Apple Watch-centric marketing campaign, the new earphones will still work with other Bluetooth media players.

We noted earlier today on 9to5Toys that some retailers are offering as much as $50 off of the wireless headphones, and Amazon is selling the accessory at various discounted prices ranging from $169 to $189.

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Bluetooth ▪ June 16

Friends have often expressed surprise at the fact that I continue to use wired headphones. My beautifully-portable and much-loved Bowers & Wilkins P5 headphones go with me almost everywhere, while my Master & Dynamic MH40s are my go-to headphones in the living room.

Friends know my aversion to visible cables, and I’m usually an ‘any excuse for a gadget’ type guy, so why, they ask, do I continue to wear wired headphones? There have been a couple of reasons for that. First, the ‘yet another device to charge’ factor – to add to my Macs, iPad, iPhone, bike cam, GPS and now Apple Watch.

Second, the sound quality of Bluetooth headphones hasn’t compared well to wired ones in my experience. I’ve tried a bunch of Bluetooth headphones in the store, but none persuaded me. However, designing with wood and leather is always a good way to catch my attention, so I thought I’d try House of Marley’s Liberate XLBT over-ear headphones …  expand full story

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