Category Archives: audio

Child Angel Keeps an Eye on Children



British Inventors Project

Continuing GNC’s coverage of the Gadget Show Live and the British Inventors’ Project, Child Angel is one of the smallest and most advanced child tracking device on the market. Made to be attractive to the child and easy to use in an emergency, the Child Angel wrist-mounted tracker provides accurate location monitoring by combining GPS, GSM and Wi-Fi hotspot triangulation.

Child Angel keeps children safe in three ways. First the parent can view the child’s location on a map using the Child Angel app on their smartphone or tablet (both iOS and Android). Second, the child can send a “Help Me!” alert by taking off the bracelet and third, an alert is raised if the child leaves a geo-fenced SafeZone.

The battery life is about 48 hours and the Child Angel can easily be recharged through the micro-USB. The Child Angel bracelet is available in different colours and can be customised with personalised covers, too.

The Child Angel should be available soon with a retail cost around £100.

Child Angel


Doddl Cutlery for Children



British Inventors ProjectChild-friendly products are fertile ground for inventors and it’s no surprise to see a number of ideas presented at Gadget Show Live as part of the British Inventors’ Project. Here is Doddl, a cutlery (flatware) set for children that has uniquely shaped handles to help the child hold the knife, fork and spoon.

Doddl improves co-ordination and control while promoting independent eating and develops motor skills, eventually easing the transition onto adult cutlery.

Doddl

Doddl will be pre-ordering on Kickstarter from Sunday 3rd May (though there is an older campaign on CrowdShed). Make eating a Doddl!


SafeSip Stops Spills



British Inventors ProjectSafeSip is a reusable drinks cover that fits almost any glass, mug, cup or can to stop spills. It’s a simple product that has myriad uses with children, the elderly, during travel, on picnics or in places where a liquid leak would be disastrous.

Made from food-grade silicone rubber, the SafeSip can be pulled over a wide range of drinking vessels, including fizzy drink (soda) cans, with a straw pushed through a self-closing hole in the SafeSip. It’s dishwasher safe, works with both hot and cold liquids, and comes in eight different colours. Another great product from the British Inventors’ Project at the Gadget Show Live.

SafeSip

The SafeSip is currently crowdfunding at CrowdShed.


EasiSpread Heated Butter Knife



British Inventors ProjectThe next invention from the British Inventors’ Project at the Gadget Show Live continues the culinary theme and aims to fix the eternal problem of spreading butter straight from the fridge. Introducing the EasiSpread heated butter knife.

The first implement in the EasiChef range of kitchen utensils, the EasiSpread heats the leading edge of the knife to a little under 40C, softening the butter and making it much easier to spread on bread or bagel. The knife is heated electrically and the built-in battery can be recharged in the optional EasiDock charging unit. The blade itself is detachable and dishwasher safe, and it is expected that additional implements will be available in the future, including a heated ice cream scoop. I’d buy that version – nothing worse that chiselling out ice cream at -25C when the fancy takes you!

EasiSpread


SousChef Kitchen Assistant



British Inventors ProjectThe second concept product in the British Inventors’ Project at Gadget Show Live is the SousChef from Ben Rawls. The SousChef is designed to circumvent the issues typically encountered when trying to use technology in the kitchen, mainly that it’s wet and messy. The SousChef projects information onto the kitchen work surface and uses infrared (IR) feedback to detect the owners interactions with the projected image. As there’s no direct contact, the SousChef doesn’t get wet, messy or damaged. There’s a built-in ultraviolet (UV) light that sterilises kitchen utensils as well.

SousChef


BASE Sends Photos to Pictures



British Inventors ProjectGNC’s Gadget Show Live coverage kicks off with two concept product ideas entered into the British Inventors’ Project. First up is Kristina Parkes’s BASE which “enables new forms of connection between distanced people, creating a tangible channel of communication through a system utilising flexible displays and remote app-based transmission.”

BASE Shelf

In plain English, you send photos from your smartphone using an app to Polaroid-style flexible displays in a friend’s or relative’s home. It’s a neat idea that builds on the impact of Instagram to keep family and friends together, and the display shelf concept shows BASE as attractive and functional. The video below demonstrates the concept well.

 


Bose Soundlink Color Bluetooth Speaker Review



bose soundlink colorI’ve been playing around with the Bose Soundlink Color Bluetooth Speaker and, truth be told, I think I’m in love.

The Soundlink Color packs an incredible punch despite its compact design. It weighs only 1.25 pounds, making it the perfect audio solution for travel and everyday use. The upright, rounded design allows for crisp, clear sound that projects throughout the room. While it doesn’t beat the quality of higher-grade professional speakers, the Soundlink Color is perfect for the average music lover, with exceptional sound quality considering that it connects via Bluetooth.

Pairing your smartphone, tablet, or computer with the Soundlink Color couldn’t be easier. Just turn on the speaker and it will begin searching for nearby Bluetooth devices within a 30-foot range. When it pops up as an available connection on your device, just hit connect and you’re good to go. The speaker will guide you through the process with voice prompts so you’ll be connected in no time. The Soundlink Color can connect to up to two Bluetooth devices at a time, so you can easily switch between different sources of audio. In addition, the speaker remembers the last eight devices it’s been paired with to make connecting even easier.

The Soundlink Color’s rechargable lithium ion battery boasts an impressive 8-hour battery life, so you’ll get plenty of listening time before its time to charge up. This makes it the perfect choice for camping, traveling, or casual listening wherever you are. You can charge the speaker using the included wall adapter or via USB.

True to its name, the Soundlink Color comes in an assortment of colors: red, mint, blue, white, and black. I bought the black model, and it is quite attractive. One of the first things I noticed when trying it out is just how sturdy this little speaker is– you can feel the durability. The durable rubber casing protects it against dust, dirt, and damage, without compromising on style or performance.

You can purchase the Soundlink Color for $129.95 on the Bose website or at an electronics retailer near you.


Creative SB Inferno Gaming Headset Review



Creative Logo

Earlier in the month on GNC, I reviewed Creative’s E1 Portable Amplifier, which improved the listening experience for headphone wearers. To go with the E1, I have the Creative SB Inferno Gaming Headset, aimed squarely at gamers with a detachable flex mic and in-line controls. Priced at a penny under GB£40, the Inferno sits at the lower end of Creative’s range so expectations need to be set appropriately. With all this in mind, let’s take a look.

The Inferno headset comes inside a mainly black and red box with a transparent window on one side, showing off the goods inside, all held neatly in place with a lightweight plastic moulding.

Creative Inferno Box

Inside the box, there’s the red-infused SB Inferno headset. From the outer shells to the inner driver covers and the audio lead, it’s all red. It’s a good strong red which may not come across in the photos.

Creative SB Inferno in Red

The Inferno has a TRRS 3.5 mm jack (that’s the one with three black bands) and works out of the box with smartphones and tablets. For more old school devices with separate sockets for headphones and microphone, then there’s a splitter in the box too. Sadly, this doesn’t carry the red colouring and is boring black but on the plus side, the Inferno works with Sony’s PS4, connecting into the controllers.

Interrupting the red cable is the in-line control for adjusting the volume and turning the microphone on and off. With no controls for pause / play or FWD / RWD, it reminds us that the Inferno is primarily a headset for gaming rather than music listening.

Inferno Inline Remote

The flexible boom mic plugs into a socket on the left had ear cup and there’s a little shim to ensure correct insertion. It’s easily detached when not required – just pull.

Inferno Flexible Mic

But enough of the features….what is the Creative SB Inferno HyperX like to use? To start with, the headphones are very comfortable to wear. The headband is a little bit too plastic for my taste but it does make the Inferno lightweight and doesn’t exert too much sideways pressure on the head. The cloth padding on the band and the ear cups is good and I wore the Inferno for several extended sessions without ear soreness. The Inferno has what I would describe as “snug” closed cups, meaning that the cups fit neatly over the ears and there’s not much movement inside the cup. I like this but it obviously depends on the relative size of your ears.

Sonically, I used the headphones for gaming, music and IP telephony. Overall, I thought that the Inferno provided even, balanced sound to the extent of being unexciting but the Creative headset is a clear step up from the average junk out there. With music listening, much of the sound came through but it certainly could have been a bit richer – it simply didn’t have the “wow” factor and was too flat for real appreciation. A little bit more bass and more depth across the board would be a big improvement.

As I’ve said in reviews before, these headsets are great in office. One minute you are listening to music, the next minute you are taking a phone call with no need to fumble around taking the headset off while picking up the phone. Voices were clear and callers could hear me well.

For games playing, the headset was good with the action coming across clearly from bullets to bombs. Machinery clanked away and steel screeched against concrete. Again a bit more oomph in the bass department would have been an improvement but there’s enough clarity to hear noises off. For the gamer, this can mean the difference between fragging or being fragged.

Overall, the Creative SB Inferno is right on the money. At an RRP of £39.99, the Inferno delivers nicely to the price point giving a decent gaming headset. It’s not for audiophiles but it doesn’t set out to be sonically superior, so I think the Inferno would have a good claim to be the best entry-level gaming headset.

Thanks to Creative for providing the review headset.


Creative Sound Blaster E1 Portable Amplifier Review



Creative Logo

Creative products always induce a little nostalgia with me as the Creative Sound Blaster Pro was the first ever upgrade that I bought for my PC. Looking back from today and the state of digital audio, it’s hard to imagine that most PCs only went “beep” back in the late 1980s and early 90s. Once I’d installed the SB Pro, I had glorious multichannel stereo sound, and incredibly, Wing Commander II had speech. Look it up kids.

Creative E1 Box

Returning to the 21st century, on review here is the Creative Sound Blaster E1 Portable Headphone Amplifier, a battery-powered amplifier supporting high impedance headphones, combined with a USB DAC sound card. In other words the E1 lets you used studio-quality 600 ohm headphones with smartphones, tablets, laptops or desktops. Pretty much anything with a 3.5 mm socket or a USB port and it works fine with lower impedance headphones, so let’s take a look.

What’s in the box? Simply, everything that you need to get going in the scenarios outlined above. There’s the E1 amplifier itself plus two bright red cables; a 4 pole (TRRS) 3.5 mm jack audio lead and a USB to micro-USB cable. The first cable is needed for tablets and smartphone listening and the second when using the E1 as a sound card (DAC). Bring your own headphones though.

Creative Sound Blaster E1

There’s a hint of red detailing on the E1 too but you have to look pretty hard to see it. Of course, there’s assorted instructions, warranty and disposal leaflets too.

Creative Sound Blaster E1

Glancing over the amplifier itself, the E1 is a lightweight plastic unit with a clothing or belt clip on the back. One end takes the music audio inputs, either digital via micro-USB or analogue through a 3.5 mm audio socket. The other end has the two 3.5 mm audio sockets, one for a set of headphones and one for a microphone or second set of ‘phones. On the side, there’s a power switch, a volume slider, a multi-function button and a small LED.

Creative Sound Blaster E1

Enough of what it looks like….what does it sound like? Pretty good actually. I used the E1 in both configurations, first taking an input from a smartphone or tablet and in this instance I was using a Nexus 9 tablet and a OnePlus One smartphone, both with high bit rate mp3s and Spotify. I’m not a total audio geek, so I don’t actually have any high impedance headphones so the testing was done using Sennheiser earbuds and recent edition 414 headphones (the ones with the yellow earpads).

Listening to the E1, there’s no dramatic difference from the source but it does tend to ameliorate the worst aspects of compressed digital audio, reducing the high frequency tinniness and giving it a slightly warmer feel. It particularly worked well with Spotify and other low-bit music sources, smoothing out the treble.

If worn conveniently, the E1 has a built-in microphone to enable hands-free calling. Call comes in, press the multi-function button, take the call. Callers reported that they could hear me well as long as the E1 was close. Clipped to my shirt was fine.

Using the E1 as a sound card is simply a case of plugging in the E1 to a spare USB port via the red cable. I tested with a Windows 8.1 Toshiba laptop, an 8.1 HP tablet via a dock and a Samsung Chromebook, and in all cases it worked out of the box. In this configuration, the presentation of the sound was good and generally superior to the audio provided by the laptop or tablet, especially when listening to Spotify.

Generally, background hiss was kept to a minimum and was only noticeable in the earbuds when I went looking for it, e.g. by putting the source volume down low and increasing the volume on the E1. With the source volume at a normal level there’s no problem and is unlikely to be noticeable with on-ear headphones.

In case anyone is wondering, it’s not possible to use the E1 as a mixer with two sources. Plugging in a 3.5 mm audio jack disconnects the micro-USB input. Sorry.

The E1 works well out of the box, but where it delivers in spades is with the full driver and app package which is downloaded from Creative’s web site. Once installed the software gives tons of extra controls over the E1, in particular allowing the audio response to be customised.

SB Studio

One of the best features is the equaliser which adjusts the frequency response. There are a bunch of presets with the usual suspects from classical to pop and rock, and its also customisable to personal preference. I liked this.

SB Studio

Overall, the E1 portable amplifier does what sets out to do, making compressed audio sound better, whether from an analogue 3.5 mm source or a digital USB connection. The extensive range of features from hands-free calling to audio equalisation is impressive and for those people who live in their headphones, it’s worth considering. The RRP is £39.95 in the UK or $49.99 in the USA.

Thanks to Creative for the loan of the review unit.


aiFi is a Stackable, Configurable Speaker System at CES



Aifi logoWith the invention of portable media players and earbuds, music listening moved from an inherently social event to an isolated experience. The problem has only been exacerbated over time, as boomboxes and portable stereo systems have fallen out of favor with consumers. aiFi is a new speaker system that’s looking to bring music back out into the open.

Scott met with Fredrik from aiFi. Fredrik explained that aiFi is a unique speaker system that can be used in multiple ways. One aiFi speaker works just fine on its own. But when it’s stacked with another aiFi speaker or setup with two or more other aiFi’s, the speakers will configure themselves, depending on the location of each aiFi. For example, stacking two aiFi’s will increase the bass response of each unit. Or, three aiFi’s could be placed together to create a sound-bar system for TV viewing. aiFi speakers accept input thru either bluetooth, optical line-in or standard audio line-in, so these speakers can be used with nearly any type of sound source.

Interview by Scott of F5 Live: Refreshing Technology for the TechPodcast Network.

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