speaker Stories January 11, 2018

There are some brand looks you recognize at a glance, and Marshall is one of those. Black casing with rounded edges. Black speaker grille with gold surround. And, of course, the brandname in gold script across the front.

Marshall speakers and amps are as closely associated with rock bands as the electric guitar. From buskers on the street with a single unit to banks of speakers on the stage of big band concerts, it’s hard to picture the scene without that Marshall name.

So when the company offered a range of AirPlay speakers, it would have been impossible to resist trying one out …

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speaker Stories May 27, 2016

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Amazon was first with its Echo Wi-Fi speaker — a dedicated, standalone hub for its Alexa virtual assistant software — and now word has it Apple is working on a similar product for Siri. The several reports this week detailing Apple’s plans followed Google’s unveiling of its competitive Home hardware and Assistant platform at its Google I/O developer conference earlier this month. But what exactly will Apple’s competitor look like? And how will its reported plans for a Siri SDK play into its approach?

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speaker Stories December 2, 2015

Sonos Play 5 Lead 16-9

A couple of months ago we took an in-depth preview look at the Sonos Play:5 all-in-one wireless speaker ahead of its release as the company unveiled its new Trueplay speaker tuning feature. The new Sonos Play:5 (2nd gen, $499) has since launched in stores and Apple Music streaming will be supported from December 15th. I’ve spent a few weeks testing a pair of new Play:5 speakers to see how it performs. The short answer is that it delivers on its promise of providing premium sound, but here’s how it compares to the cheaper Sonos Play:1 ($199) and mid-sized Sonos Play:3 ($299): expand full story

speaker Stories October 8, 2015

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Bowers & Wilkins, maker of the iconic Zeppelin speaker and its AirPlay sequel Zeppelin Air, today announced an upgraded model with even more horsepower and features: Zeppelin Wireless ($700). The original $600 Zeppelin redefined “high-end iPod speakers” at a time when Bose and Klipsch had established a $300 to $400 price ceiling, successfully upping the ante in both sound quality and industrial design.

Zeppelin Wireless retains B&W’s classic elongated football shape and five-speaker concept, but now relies entirely on wireless streaming for audio, boasting Bluetooth aptX, AirPlay, and Spotify Connect support. Backed by 150 Watts of amplifier power, a new twice-as-powerful digital signal processor upsamples all inputs to 24-bit/192kHz resolution, promising to deliver greater accuracy, lower noise, and enhanced dynamic range through an audiophile-quality DAC. The speakers and enclosure have been upgraded, as well…

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speaker Stories June 8, 2015

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Mashable has conducted an interesting interview with Tim Cook on the eve of WWDC, one of Apple’s largest events of the year. Although WWDC is known for its product announcements, Apple will announce the next versions of iOS and OS X as well as a streaming music service, the interview revolved around Apple’s efforts on company employee diversity.

Asked about the lack of women at keynotes, Cook says “you’ll see a change tomorrow”. This suggests that women will indeed feature more prominently at Apple’s presentation. In the last ten years, the number of women at Apple’s events comes in at the low single digits, most recently Christy Turlington Burns. Apple’s developer sessions have better gender diversity in their speakers but these are viewable only by registered developers, not the general public.

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speaker Stories January 23, 2015

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AirPlay isn’t dead as a wireless speaker standard, but it’s not exactly healthy: many models have been discontinued, and new releases have all but stopped. Having previously gone all-in with AirPlay, Danish designer speaker maker Libratone is now rolling out updated versions of its circular Loop, tube-shaped Zipp, and triangular Live systems that augment AirPlay rather than ditching it. The new Libratone Loop ($500) modestly tweaks the prior version to add Bluetooth 4.0 support — a feature that radically increases Loop’s compatibility. Though its high price tag will continue to keep this model out of reach for most consumers, long-awaited and substantial discounts on the prior-generation models (Loop here, Zipp here, Live here) may bolster their appeal.

Having tested the new Loop, my personal feelings are mixed: I applaud Libratone for consistently releasing speakers that look distinctive, working both as design objects and audio systems, but the MSRPs remain somewhat hard to justify given the sonic performance…

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speaker Stories January 9, 2015

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Along our CES 2015 journey we stopped over at The House of Marley to take a look at some of the new gear they have launching this year. If you’re not familiar with the company, they create a wide range of audio accessories which are crafted from natural and recycled materials. In the video below, we took a closer look at the Legend ANC headphones and Chant Mini Bluetooth speaker…

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speaker Stories January 6, 2015

CES 2015: Moshi launches chic new AirPlay speaker Spatia

Although Apple’s AirPlay wireless speaker technology has pretty much faded out of public view, there are still companies producing new designs to support the standard. Moshi today announced Spatia, a particularly attractive design combining respectable speakers, amplifiers, and fancy external materials including metallic and fabric accents. Standard AirPlay features such as lossless audio streaming and router-free Wi-Fi Direct are included, enabling Spatia to operate independently or on an existing Wi-Fi network.

The all-in-one system contains twin 1-inch tweeters, two 2.75-inch drivers, and a 4-inch downward-firing subwoofer, notably in a housing with a stand that keeps all of the speakers floating above the surface of a table. Moshi hasn’t compromised on the audio processing hardware, either, as it includes two DSP chips and two Class-D amplifiers to separately drive the high/mid and low frequencies. Audio can be adjusted by a Spatia speaker app, downloaded for free from the App Store. Moshi has not yet announced pricing or an availability date for the speaker.

9to5Mac’s CES 2015 coverage brought to you by:

speaker Stories December 29, 2014

IMG_20141229_133347Note, I originally was going to review this in early 2015, but Amazon is having a pretty insane 1-day deal on it and I love it sooo…

Fugoo is the best Bluetooth speaker you’ve probably never heard of. I got mine after a few readers (and PR folk) rightfully noted its omission from our Best Bluetooth Speaker of 2014 list. I have been listening to it ever since and yep, it should be among the top and for $135, it is a no-brainer… expand full story

speaker Stories December 20, 2014

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I’ve reviewed a lot of iHome clock radios over the past nine years. They weren’t all formulaic, but there was a very clear evolutionary line from the original 2005-vintage, iPod-only iH5 to the iPad-ready iDL95 released last year: take two speakers, stick a clock in the middle, center a dock on the top, then make the enclosure sort of flat but pleasantly curvy. iHome had a winning general concept and look, which it updated annually with small feature, color, and shape tweaks. But its new $120 model iBN10 breaks the mold in several ways.

The dock’s gone, the clock has been glammed up and shifted to the right, and there are four speakers inside, rather than the standard two. iBN10 is also atypically handsome, built and billed as an “executive music system” by discarding the faux metals that iHome’s midrange speakers have become known for, and adding speakerphone functionality. This isn’t iHome’s first Kleenex box-sized speaker, but it’s definitely the most sophisticated.

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speaker Stories November 6, 2014

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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speaker Stories November 10, 2013

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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speaker Stories June 4, 2013

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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speaker Stories May 5, 2013

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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… expand full story

speaker Stories April 6, 2013

Updated for 2015! The Best Bluetooth Speakers review has now moved here! 

IMG_5990 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.) expand full story

speaker Stories March 16, 2013

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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speaker Stories January 1, 2013

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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… expand full story

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