Amazon announces Echo, a dedicated, Siri-like speaker system for quick information

Amazon today announced a new hardware product called Echo. It’s essentially a speaker unit dedicated to being a voice-control system. It kind of sounds like Siri but in a speaker for a single room instead of in your iPhone, iPad, or Apple Watch.

You can set alarms, control music, ask about the weather, search the web, ask questions, and access local news. It streams content via Bluetooth and WiFi, and connects to the Fire Phone (if you have one, lol), iOS via the browser, Android, and desktop computers via the web. Instead of “Hey Siri,” you say “Alexa” to start speaking the device. You’ll need a Fire OS/Android device to take full advantage, but music should work fine via iOS.

The whole concept is very futuristic, and it’s unclear how beneficial this will be to people with voice-controlled phones. But, hey, this comes from the developers of a faux-3D phone and delivery drones, so this is not completely out of left field. The Echo is $99 for Amazon Prime users, $199 for everyone else, and (for some reason) you need an invitation to receive the honor to buy one of these untested things.

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Review: Naztech’s Koncert Boomstation bluetooth speaker has a battery that won’t stop

It’s no secret that we’re fans of Bluetooth speakers here at 9to5Mac. So, naturally, it was exciting to a see a Bluetooth speaker from Naztech, the Koncert Boomstation, enter the scene. Combining a traditional Bluetooth speaker with a backup battery for your devices and a speakerphone makes for one interesting product, and I’ve been putting the device through its paces for the last few weeks. Let’s take a closer look.

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Bose introduces new SoundLink Mini portable Bluetooth Speaker & QuietComfort noise-canceling headphones

Update: You can now pick up the SoundLink at Amazon

Bose had a little event today at Grand Central Station just footsteps away from the Apple Store to announce and demonstrate their new portable products.

We’ve rated the Best Portable Bluetooth Speakers on the market (TL;DR: Overall winnerBest ValueBest soundBest Portable/SoundApps/Updatesmore) but clearly there is some room for the $199 Bose SoundLink Mini Bluetooth speaker at the top end. Bose gave us a listen and I don’t think I’ll ever be the same after hearing such rich sound out of a small device (which weighs about as much as an original iPad and can be stowed away in a coat pocket). It certainly gives the much larger Logitech Boombox a run for its money in volume and edges it in clarity. The downsides are that it is bigger/heavier than the Beats Pill or the Logitech Mini Boombox, it charges via a proprietary AC adapter and it isn’t Bluetooth 4.0.  The sound quality will make those little things melt away, I promise.

The Soundlink speaker will be released on July 11th but pre-orders begin today at Bose retailers.

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Bose also introduced a new level of noise canceling headphones called the QuietComfort 20 and 20i. We got to put some on and hear aircraft level noise disappear while noise canceling features were activated. Bose also has a mid-level noise cancellation mode that can be activated with a switch on the cord and still allows you to hear voices and other important noises you might want to be alerted to. Music is amazing as you’d expect and the buds fit incredibly comfortably in my ears.

The QuietComfort 20 and 20i headphones will be available starting in the summer of 2013 for $299.95.

Both products are highly recommended. Details in the Press release that follows…

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Review: Belkin Thunderstorm iPad case brings home theater quality sound to the iPad

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With its Retina display, unmatched ecosystem of HD video content, and AirPlay streaming capabilities, the iPad is undeniably one of the best experiences for watching video on a mobile device. The one glaring omission from Apple’s recipe for the perfect mobile video experience, however, is the absence of quality, front-facing speakers. The result is a sound experience that doesn’t quite live up to HD content on the iPad’s best in class Retina display. With several newer devices (see: Galaxy Tab 2, HTC One) adding front-facing, stereo speakers, audio performance is clearly one area Apple is falling behind, and its competitors have certainly taken note.

At CES we first got a look at Belkin’s solution to the problem: A $199 iPad case with integrated front-facing ported speakers that aims to offer a home theatre-like experience right in your hands. Belkin is about to release a new Lightning version of the ‘Belkin Thunderstorm Handheld Home Theater’, so we thought the time was right to give you the full run down on how the product performs… Read more

Mega Review: The absolute best portable Bluetooth speakers you can buy

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TL;DR: Overall winner (updated), Best Value, Best soundBest Portable/Sound, Charger tooApps/Updates, more

Spring is finally here and it is time to bring our music and speakerphones outside. There’s no better way to enjoy sound outside than with a portable bluetooth speaker. But as Jordan noted to me during our CES coverage, there must be 100,000 Bluetooth speakers to choose from including a growing horde of no name brands OEM’ed from fly-by-night Chinese companies.

We’re here to help you pick the right speaker with the right features on the right budget. (Update: We’ve since reviewed the JBL Charge and Bose Soundlink Mini, both of which merit attention.) Read more

THX sues Apple over iMac, iPhone and iPad narrow profile speaker design

Images from Patent no. 7433483

Apple has found itself on the wrong side of another patent lawsuit. Lucasfilm-owned THX sued Apple yesterday over a claimed infringed patent relating to the speaker designs found on the new iMacs, iPhones, and iPads.

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Patent no. 7433483, filed in 2008 by THX, protects “narrow profile sound systems” that shoot sound out a “narrow sound duct.” The exact patent description reads as follows:

A narrow profile speaker unit comprises at least one speaker outputting sound towards an internal surface and through a duct with an output terminus, such as a slot, having a narrow dimension, effectively changing the cross-section of the speaker’s audio output wave. A pair of speakers may face one another, outputting sound towards a common output slot. Multiple pairs of speakers may be used to form an inline speaker unit for increased sound output. A slotted speaker unit may include multiple speakers facing the same direction, towards a groundplane or reflecting surface, and having parallel apertures for allowing sound radiation. The speaker units may be integral with or attached to electronic appliances such as desktop computers or flatscreen devices, or may be used in automobiles or other contexts.

THX was founded in 1983 as a division of Lucasfilm and was re-booted in 2001 as an independent company. Apple and THX have never had friction in the past, and, just two months ago, THX released ‘THX tune-up’. It’s an app that allows you to adjust your “TV, projector and speakers” all from your iPhone or iPad.

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Review: NYNE’s NB-250 rubberized Bluetooth speaker, ultimate portability meets superior sound quality

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California-based audio accessory maker NYNE is getting ready to show off its latest line of bluetooth speakers, docks, and home audio products at CES next week, but for the past month I’ve already had the chance to play with one of its latest creations- the NB-250 water-resistant Bluetooth speaker.

There is a ton of competition among Bluetooth speaker manufacturers, but a couple have been able to make their way to the top of the majority of recommendation lists, including our own. NYNE’s main competition in my eyes is Logitech and Jawbone, two well-known accessory makers with high-quality, sub $150 bluetooth speaker products on the market. After having hands on time with both the $140 Jambox from Jawbone and the $99 UE Boombox from Logitech, NYNE’s NB-250 does have a few things going for it. First is design…
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