speakers Stories August 2, 2018

I love music, and am perfectly happy to pay for good-quality audio – but $279 for a speaker which delivers only ok audio quality doesn’t sound like a great deal.

However, music isn’t what the Humu Augmented Audio Cushion is all about …

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speakers Stories July 5, 2016

Kanto YU5

Back in May I published a post highlighting my voiceover and podcasting setup. In that post, I noted that I had recently switched from the KEF Egg Wireless Digital Music System to the Kanto YU5. While that may seem like an odd choice given how ridiculously good KEF’s drivers sound, I noted that the added flexibility made possible by the YU5’s connectivity options is what convinced me to make the switch.

The Kanto YU5 offers Bluetooth connectivity along with auxiliary input and stereo RCA inputs. The speakers also offer dual optical inputs, a subwoofer output, and traditional non-proprietary speaker connections. There’s even a USB-port to be found on the back of the cabinet, although it’s used for charging only.

Needless to say, the amount of versatility offered by these speakers is a big reason as to why I considered them in the first place. In this area, the Kanto YU5 delivers well.

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speakers Stories May 22, 2016

iphone-7-four-speakers

An unusual iPhone 7 leak is making the rounds today, showing some changes that have not be seen before. An Italian case manufacturer is showing a potential chassis design that features ‘four speakers’ and new layout for the rear camera and flash, including a hole for a larger aperture (via NowhereElse). As pictured, there are two speaker grilles cut into the top of the case and another two grilles on the bottom side.

This is not corroborating with previous leaks, that showed an iPhone 7 design near identical to the existing iPhone 6s. The rearrangement of the flash is particularly unusual although the larger camera hole has been suggested by previous leaks. As expected, the case leaks do not include holes for a 3.5 mm headphone jack which is rumored to be going away for the iPhone 7 — Apple will rely on Lightning connector and Bluetooth wireless headphones for audio output ..

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speakers Stories April 22, 2016

KEF Egg

The KEF Egg digital wireless speaker system certainly lives up to its name. The shape of the speakers are a peculiar half-egg shape that make you question whether or not you should take them seriously.

A quick listen, and that question is answered with authority. Despite the peculiar look, these speakers mean business in the sound department.

Not only do these speakers sound good, but they also work well in a variety of different environments and with a variety of sources. KEF Egg is a Bluetooth speaker, a Hi-Fi USB speaker, and features traditional optical input as well. This means that the Egg works well in a bedroom, an office environment, or even in the living room.

At $499, these speakers are anything but cheap, but if you’re searching for a pair of flexible speakers possessing high-end sound, then the KEF Egg might be worth saving up for. expand full story

speakers Stories February 9, 2016

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After launching in public beta last December, Sonos has revealed that it will officially add support for Apple Music to its connected speaker lineup tomorrow, February 10th. We had an opportunity to go hands-on with Sonos support for Apple Music when the beta was announced last year and noted that in some cases, using Apple Music through the Sonos Controller app is better than Apple’s own app.

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speakers Stories January 25, 2016

iPad Pro speaker system

Even the source Nowhereelse is unsure about this one, but it’s certainly interesting to imagine. A purported blueprint illustration of the upcoming iPad Air 3 tablet claims to show four speakers, not two, planned for the updated 9.7-inch tablet, as well as a possible camera flash for the first time. Apple focused on the larger iPad Pro and upgraded iPad mini 4 last year, and an upgraded iPad Air 3 is expected sometime this year.

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speakers Stories January 12, 2016

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A new patent awarded to Apple today suggests that the company’s audio plans for future iPhones may go beyond reportedly ditching the 3.5mm headphone socket in favor of Lightning and Bluetooth. The patent is very densely-worded, but seemingly describes a method of getting higher-quality and higher-volume audio from speakers built into slimmer devices.

Apple’s statement of the problem is clear enough.

Given the area constraints imposed on many portable electronic devices, it is increasingly difficult to provide high-quality audio sound output and pickup without hindering the ability to make portable electronic devices smaller and thinner. Consequently, there is a need for improved approaches to provide high-quality audio sound output and/or pickup from portable electronic devices as they get smaller and thinner.

The language describing Apple’s proposed solution is less clear, but from a combination of this and the accompanying diagrams, I at least have a working theory of what is being suggested …

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speakers Stories December 4, 2015

Beats Pill+

At the start of the week we saw Apple officially pull the plug on Beats Music after using it as the foundation for Apple Music which includes a streaming radio station dubbed Beats 1 as a salute. On the hardware front, Apple is totally marching forward with the headphone and speaker business it acquired after buying Beats for $3 billion a year and a half ago. The first totally new product to come from Apple under the Beats brand is the recently announced Beats Pill+ ($195, reg. $229), a portable Bluetooth speaker that recharges over Lightning like iPhones and iPads.

The Pill+ marks Apple’s first real step back into the speaker business since briefly entering it in with the iPod Hi-Fi from 2006 to 2007; aside from color variations and wireless models, all other Beats hardware has been designed before the Apple move. Still, Apple’s new portable speaker resembles previous versions of Beats hardware more than you might expect from the iPhone maker in 2015. There’s even a companion Pill+ app for both iOS and Android. And even though this is clearly a Beats-branded product and not purely Apple, there’s something for fans of both to like, but is it the best speaker in its class?

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speakers Stories December 3, 2015

Beats Pill+ top

Apple’s new <a href="http://www.amazon.com/gp/product/B016QXV2QK?qid=1449202644&ref_=sr_1_1&keywords=beats%252520pill%25252B&tag=n003f1-20&sr=8-1" target="_blank">Beats Pill+</a> Bluetooth speaker

Apple may have outsourced Black Friday discounts on its products to other retailers this year, but it’s not staying completely out of the promotion game during the Christmas shopping season. Starting today Apple is bundling $60 gift cards that can be used toward Apple Music memberships with almost all Beats headphones and speakers purchased from Apple for a limited time. The promotion specifically pushes Apple Music memberships as it can pay for almost 6 months of access, but the $60 credit can be used toward iTunes, iBooks, and App Store, and Mac App Store purchases and subscriptions as well. expand full story

speakers Stories November 3, 2015

zeppelinwireless-1

I don’t envy any vendor of legitimately premium audio accessories made for Apple’s devices. After established audio companies including Bose, Klipsch, and Bowers & Wilkins demonstrated that Apple device owners were willing to pay $300, then $400, then $600 for all-in-one speaker systems with increasingly better sound quality, Beats by Dre materialized, hooking people on expensive, stylish, and sonically underwhelming alternatives. Between Beats and the Bluetooth revolution, it seems clear that the speaker market is all about flash and convenience rather than audio quality… right?

Of course not. There have always been low-end, mid-range, high-end, and ultra-premium audio options; Beats has succeeded at capturing (a lot of) low- to mid-priced customers. By comparison, the respected British speaker maker Bowers & Wilkins focuses on the upper end of the scale. It literally established the high-end Apple speaker category with its original Zeppelin back in 2007, then refreshed it with AirPlay support as Zeppelin Air in 2011.

Now that another four years have passed, B&W has returned with another “even better” sequel: Zeppelin Wireless ($700). Having spent years touting its atypically upscale design and components as alternatives to low-fidelity speakers, the company is offering a compromise to broaden the new Zeppelin’s appeal. Despite packing speaker and amplifier hardware that’s in the same league as B&W’s $800 A7, Zeppelin Wireless includes a key feature — Bluetooth — only found in its entry-level $350 model T7. But the new Zeppelin still has AirPlay, for those who care, as well as Spotify Connect. So while the price tag may limit the number of people who can afford this new all-in-one speaker, its feature set has broad appeal…

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speakers Stories October 26, 2015

Beats Pill+

Apple TV 4 isn’t the only new hardware coming out of Cupertino today. Announced earlier this month, the new Beats Pill+ is now available to order for $229 in black or white finishes. The new portable Bluetooth speaker is the first new design to come out of Beats since Apple bought the headphones and speaker company last for $3 billion last year in part to use its Beats Music service as the foundation for Apple Music. The rechargeable speaker uses a Lightning port and cable, the same as iPhones, to power up for up to 12 hours of use. expand full story

speakers Stories October 12, 2015

phantom-1

I’m a strong advocate of the philosophy of buying the right thing once. My view is for any activity you care about a lot, it’s cheaper in the long run to buy an expensive product that will keep you happy for a great many years – maybe even for a lifetime – than a cheap product you’ll end up wanting to replace a few years down the line. Buy cheap, buy twice, as they say.

My hi-fi system is a great example. When I was a lot younger, I splashed out on a Bang & Olufsen hi-fi system that was more than twice the price of everything else I tested. Twenty years on, it now looks like an extraordinarily good value. It’s so old it has a cassette deck (yes, really!), but all it took to bring it back up to date was the addition of a simple Wi-Fi audio receiver to add AirPlay support.

Standalone Bluetooth speakers have therefore been of very limited interest to me – and I’d never have dreamed that one could ever replace a proper hi-fi system. So I was intrigued by one that claimed it could: the Devialet Phantom. As if that wasn’t enough to capture my interest, Devialet is a company with a serious reputation when it comes to high-end audio: they make the amps B&W uses to demo their speakers at audio shows. And yes, I’ll admit that part of what made me want to try it was my profound skepticism that any Bluetooth speaker could be worth $1,990 … expand full story

speakers Stories September 8, 2015

Moshi Spatia

Apple’s AirPlay wireless audio protocol didn’t really take off in standalone speakers, but that doesn’t mean every company has abandoned it. Moshi’s Spatia, which recently launched after first being unveiled at CES 2015, relies on AirPlay for wirelessly streaming and playing audio from iTunes and iOS devices. Spatia packs five dedicated drivers and two amplifiers behind a fabric speaker cover to deliver impressive sound within a standout design. AirPlay has some well-known benefits and issues, so is it worth investing $399 in a speaker that depends on Apple’s sometimes-shaky technology? expand full story

Rdio adds support for more connected speaker systems & smart TVs

Popular music streaming service Rdio is today announcing an expansion of its support for connected speaker systems and smart TVs, including Google’s new Google Cast for Audio platform introduced earlier this year. 

In addition to supporting speakers that integrate Google’s Cast for audio platform, the music service is now available on Harman/Kardon, Denon, and the DTS Play-Fi Whole-Home Wireless ecosystem featuring leading brands such as Definitive Technology, Phorus, Polk Audio and Wren. The company also noted that it’s now available on Samsung smart TVs and arriving soon on smart TVs from LG and Hisense.

Previously Rdio was only available on Sonos speakers and setup boxes like the Apple TV and Google Chromecast.

Rdio is available free with ads or as an ad-free service for $9.99/month unlimited or on certain devices for $3.99/month with a limited number of on demand songs per day.

speakers Stories August 31, 2015

airplay

One of the downsides of being early adopters of new technology is that we tend to buy the best system available at the time, only for a better one to come along later. I’m sure we’ve all been there.

That was the case for me with wireless audio. I wanted, many years ago, to be able to stream music to two other rooms in the house. I invested in a couple of Logitech Streambox Booms, which did the job. My Mac acted as a music server, and I could stream both my music library and Internet radio to the Logitech boxes.

But it was a clunky setup, a scrollwheel used to select artist, album and track in much the same way as the original scrollwheel iPod – though viewing only one line at a time. AirPlay, when it came along in 2010, was a markedly better solution, but also came with a far higher price-tag.

However, the upside of Apple neglecting AirPlay is that there are a lot of heavily-discounted discontinued products around. It was only when writing that opinion piece that I noticed just how low prices on these had fallen. That means that you can now put together a multi-room AirPlay setup for way less than it would have cost when the system was launched …  expand full story

speakers Stories August 26, 2015

Zeppelin-Air-C3lc

I love AirPlay. It’s simple and elegant. It also means that my elderly but much-loved B&O Ouverture hifi system (with BeoLab 6000 speakers) – which is actually so old that it has a cassette deck – needed only a low-cost WiFi audio receiver to allow it to wirelessly stream music from my MacBook Pro. One $40 add-on and a 20-year-old hifi became bang up to date in its capabilities.

With my particular setup, AirPlay does exactly what we expect of Apple products: It Just Works. I open iTunes, select ‘B&O’ from the speaker output menu, and anything I play in iTunes – whether from my own music library or streamed from Apple Music – plays through the hifi, while system sounds continue to play through the Mac speakers. My partner can stream her own music from her iPad or iPhone just as readily.

I’d previously tried a Bluetooth audio receiver, and the difference between that and AirPlay is night and day. No pairing. No worries about distance. No interference when someone walks between the Mac and hifi. No system sounds emerging at deafening volumes though my hifi speakers.

But despite my own happy experience of it, AirPlay is not without its problems …  expand full story

speakers Stories August 23, 2015

apple-college-kids

The new school year is rapidly approaching, and that means stocking up on supplies and the latest tech to be ready for class by early next month. Since we’re tracking the latest deals from around the web incessantly over at 9to5Toys, and reviewing the best in tech for your Mac, iOS, and Android devices on 9to5Mac and 9to5Google, we’ve rounded up the team to put together a gift guide with our top picks for gear, supplies, apps and more to get you through the year. expand full story

speakers Stories June 30, 2015

9to5Mac_6S8

For fall 2015, Apple is preparing an “S” iPhone upgrade that superficially preserves the exterior designs of the iPhone 6 and iPhone 6 Plus, but includes a collection of major internal changes. In May, we reported that this new “iPhone 6S” line would debut this fall with a Force Touch, pressure-sensitive display as one of its marquee features. Now, a proven source familiar with Apple’s supply chain has provided us with the most extensive look yet at Apple’s next iPhone, sharing the first photos of the iPhone 6S’s external metal casing, plus an in-depth look at the new iPhone’s internals. Today, we’re focusing on the exterior of the next iPhone, which appears to refute a number of potential changes that some have speculated were destined for this model.

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speakers Stories June 28, 2015

Screen Shot 2015-06-28 at 15.10.57

Update: Apple has confirmed in a statement to Buzzfeed that Apple is working with Sonos to get Apple Music available on the connected speaker system by the end of the year. Original story below.

Apple Music senior director Ian Rogers — ex Beats Music CEO — has announced on Twitter that integration with Sonos for Apple Music is coming as soon as possible. Although Beats Music did have native support on the popular internet-connected speaker system, there have been no announcements about a partnership with Apple Music so far. In the tweet, Rogers confirms that there will be no Sonos integration at launch.

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speakers Stories June 12, 2015

beats

According to a new report from Variety, Beats was developing a line of Sonos-like speakers before it was acquired by Apple. When the Apple acquisition occurred, development of the connected speakers was stopped, according to the report. Some of the engineers that were working on the project were moved to other teams, while others have since left the company.

The line of speakers that Beats had planned was originally slated to launch before the 2014 holiday season. While the company already offers several Bluetooth-based speakers, the company wanted to develop a new line that combined Bluetooth, WiFi, and NFC technologies to allow for more seamless playback. Beats was planning a large, living room speaker that was reportedly going to be priced at around $750, as well as several smaller, more affordable options.

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speakers Stories May 20, 2015

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Apple’s plan to manage upcoming HomeKit-compatible accessories could revolve around a new iOS app called “Home,” according to sources familiar with the app. Introduced at last year’s Worldwide Developers Conference, HomeKit is an Apple initiative designed to encourage accessory makers to integrate “connected home” accessories such as Wi-Fi garage door openers, smart thermostats akin to Nest’s Learning Thermostat, and wireless door locks with iPhones and iPads. Using Siri or the Home app, users will be able to remotely control parts of their homes directly from iOS devices…

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speakers Stories April 15, 2015

apple-watch-accessories

Over the past fifteen years, I’ve seen certain commenters pick the same fight literally every time Apple releases another device: “are accessories really needed for _____?” Fill the blank in with “iPod,” “iPhone,” “iPad,” “Apple TV,” or “Apple Watch” and you’ll see how the answer has eventually turned out to be “yes” every time. Even though I’ve tested virtually every type of Apple accessory out there, I couldn’t help but shake my head when companies first announced cases for the Apple TV’s remote control. Crazy, right? But there were eventually behind-TV mounts, Bluetooth keyboards, and universal remote controls that became truly handy for even Apple’s least-accessorized device.

Now the Apple Watch is coming, and despite Apple’s focus on its purely aesthetic customizability — including welcoming third-party band makers to the party — the “is this necessary?” comments are appearing again. “Nothing like a faux carbon fiber decal on your watch to convey your sense of good taste,” said one commenter, who separately opined that “every protective product listed here is the modern day equivalent of plastic-covered furniture.” To be honest, I personally agree with the first sentiment, but I’m not the target market for stickers. And I can still remember some people describing iPhone cases as plastic-wrapped furniture, back before Apple started selling them, too. So who’s actually right here, a handful of anonymous commenters acting as arbiters of universal style, or consumers looking to have fun customizing their new toys to their personal tastes?…

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speakers Stories March 26, 2015

techspecs2top

As I noted in Part 1 of How-To: Decode Apple’s Tech Specs pages before buying a new Mac, Apple has designed the Mac purchasing process to be easy: pick a model, pick the good, better, or best configuration, hand over your cash, and enjoy your computer. Since most people get confused by tech specs — bullet points filled with numbers and acronyms — Apple downplays them in its marketing materials, leaving customers to sort through the details and figure out what most of them mean.

But these specs are really important when you’re shopping for the right Mac for your current and future needs. So I’ve created this How-To guide to walk you through each of Apple’s Tech Specs pages using clear explanations, hopefully enabling you to properly understand what you’re about to buy. Part 1 focused on the “big 5″ Mac specs you really need to know about, and this Part 2 looks at the rest — generally things that remain the same in a given model, regardless of the configuration you choose…

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speakers Stories January 7, 2015

iHome debuts speakers, headphones, iPhone + iPad cases for Disney’s 2015 Cinderella blockbuster

Just ahead of Disney’s release of Cinderella, the highly anticipated live action movie version of the classic 1950 animated film, Apple accessory maker iHome today took the wraps off of a collection of elaborate new iPad and iPhone accessories.

(Photo credit: Benjamin Hendel)

The star of the collection is this model replica of the new Cinderella Golden Coach, which is currently on display at DisneyWorld in Orlando, FL. iHome’s upcoming version is called the Carriage Bluetooth Speaker, a highly intricate, sub-$70 version with a mesh, globe-shaped speaker in the center. As our photos show, the level of detail in the Golden Coach is really impressive, including faceted gold that almost looks bejeweled.

iHome has also developed a pair of Cinderella headphones, complete with a jeweled blue butterfly on the side – key to the movie – and noise isolating earbuds with blue jeweled sides and fabric cabling. Both feature in-line microphones and remote controls.

 

Finally, there are also some bespoke iPad and iPhone cases, including a quilted iPhone flip case with golden accents and a hand strap, a butterfly-laden iPhone 6 hard shell, and a quilted purse-like case for the iPad with a golden strap.

Disney’s Cinderella will be released in theaters on March 13, with the new lineup of iHome Cinderella accessories to follow.

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