Auro 3D Immersive Sound

Auro 3DDon and Todd get a demo of Auro 3D‘s immersive sound experience which until recently was only available in movie theatres. The newly launched consumer version of the Auro 3D audio system adds a height component into the sound mix, giving the equivalent of 9.1 sound. Coming from a digital cinema background with over 150 theatres already using the system, Auro 3D is being introduced into home theater, gaming, mobile and automotive markets.

Especially watch this video if you want to see Don and Todd looking like smurfs while discussing the merits of smooth jazz and alcoholic beverages….

Interview by Don Baine, the Gadget Professor and Todd Cochrane of Geek News Central for the TechPodcast Network.

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Korus Portable Wireless Speakers

Korus LogoTodd and Don interview Nortek‘s Rob Halligan about the new wireless speaker system called Korus, which instead of using wifi or Bluetooth, uses SKAA, a wireless hi-fi audio standard that won CES Innovation awards in 2010 and 2011. The benefit of SKAA is low latency and greater range, but the downside is that it’s not built-in to any smartphone, tablet or media player. This is solved via a dongle, the Korus Baton, a SKAA transceiver which comes in USB, Apple Lightning and Apple 30 pin variants. Plug it in to the PC, Mac or Apple device and you are good to go. An Android version is expected later in the year.

Using SKAA rather than wifi or Bluetooth also means that there’s no faffing around with SSIDs or pairing with PINs; it’s simply a case of pressing a button on the wireless speaker and the speaker locks onto the nearest Baton. Press the button again and it moves onto the next.

Korus currently have two speaker units for sale, the V400 and V600, priced at a penny shy of US$350 and $450 respectively on the Korus shop at www.korussound.com.

Interview by Don Baine, the Gadget Professor and Todd Cochrane of Geek News Central for the TechPodcast Network.

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Minimalist Momentum Headphones from Sennheiser at CES

Sennheiser LogoSennheiser are usually my headphone manufacturer of choice when it comes to music, so I’m always interested in the latest news from the German team. To be honest, it’s not massive news but when the headphones look as good as these, who cares?

For CES, Sennheiser have updated their “minimalist urban” headphones, the Momentum On-Ear with three new colours; high-gloss black, classic brown and intense red. Nice. The ear pads and headband have been finished in Alcantara, a high-tech soft-touch material produced in Italy. Alcantara provides a combination of suppleness, durability and breathability that makes it popular in the fashion, interior design, and automotive industries, and the use of the material by Sennheiser makes the headphones very comfortable for long listening sessions. The headband is made of brushed stainless steel. All round, they look great.

Momentum On-Ear

Audio-wise, the On-Ear is driven by Sennheiser’s proprietary 18-ohm transducers, delivering the usual Sennheiser experience of incredible clarity and detail with a slight bass emphasis. The closed, on-ear design ensures reliable isolation from external noise for a great listening experience on the move, even in noisy urban environments.

The Momentum On-Ear headphones feature a single-sided detachable cable with in-line remote and microphone for Apple devices to control music playback, and to make and receive calls on the go.

With the three new colour versions, Sennheiser has reimagined this essential, cool design in richer, more subtle tones,” said Charles Cha, Product Manager at Sennheiser. “Where the Momentum On-Ear headphones first showed their playful and extroverted character, the new versions are a more discrete revelation of luxury that hints at their superb performance.

The MSRP seems to be US$299 but they currently seem to be on-sale in the Sennheiser store for $199.

I want.

HP Goes Large with the Z1 at CES

HP logoHP has announced the second generation of its Z1 high performance all-in-one workstation, with a 27″ ten-point touchscreen running Windows 8. The Z1 G2 is aimed squarely at power users, featuring 4th Generation Intel Xeon and Core processors, and RAID storage options paired with the latest NVIDIA Mobile Quadro GPUs for the best graphics performance. It also comes with Intel Thunderbolt 2 ports.

Since its launch in 2012, the highly acclaimed HP Z1 has opened the eyes and ears of customers hoping to solve business problems no longer being met by current vendors,” said Jim Zafarana, vice president and general manager, Commercial Solutions Business Unit, HP. “Today’s professionals demand high-performance products that are serviceable and easy-to-use, all wrapped in a sleek and elegant design.

HP Z1 G2

The Z1 G2 comes equipped with Thunderbolt 2 connectivity, for data transfer speeds four times that of USB 3.0. That’s nippy. To round out the high spec, the Z1’s audio capabilities aren’t too shabby either with dual-tone, front-facing speakers and DTS Studio Sound Audio. Overall, this is a beast of a machine.

The new HP Z1 G2 workstation is expected to be available in late January, with prices starting at US$1,999.

Cambridge Audio DacMagic Plus and StreamMagic 6

Cambridge Audio LogoI think it would be fair to say that Cambridge Audio has successfully moved from being a budget hi-fi brand into a solid middle tier player with several of their products receiving praise from audio and home cinema magazines. Consequently, I was interested to see what Cambridge Audio was demonstrating at CES this year, especially as it’s a British company. Scott has the interview.

The DacMagic Plus is a digital-to-analogue converter that will take the digital output from a games console, PC or smartphone, analyse and upscale the signal and then produce a clean analogue signal vastly superior to that produced by the original device. Let’s be honest, the DAC in your average games console or PC probably cost pennies to the OEM so it’s unlikely to be hi-fi quality. The DacMagic Plus has a pair of digital inputs, both optical and co-axial, plus USB input for high data rates (24 bit). There’s also an optional Bluetooth adaptor which uses the new AptX high quality codec. Output is to headphones, phono (RCA) and XLR.

The StreamMagic 6 is a new network music player that streams from a wide variety of sources – PC, uPnP, DLNA, Internet radio, Pandora – and it connects to the network either by ethernet or wireless-n. Cambridge Audio provides an on-line music portal which lets the audiophile choose their listening selection from a PC or tablet before sending the playlist to the StreamMagic. This neatly avoids the problem of poking around thousands of tracks on a tiny screen trying to find the ones you want. Round the back, like the DacMagic Plus, two digital inputs can take signals from sources such as smartphones or music players.

Overall, two great products that are definitely worth checking out.

Interview by Scott Ertz of F5 Live.

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Sennheiser Unveils High End Headphones

Sennheiser is one of the big names in headphones, so it’s not unsurprising that a few of the latest models were released at CES. Nick hears the latest for sound buffs from Eric.

First up are the HD 700s, an open headset approaching reference standard. With a wide soundstage, angled transducers give it a sound experience similar to listening to a speaker array; other features are designed keep the sound as pure as possible. These headphones are aimed at audiophiles who want to hear every nuance of the recording. Pricey at around $1000.

Next are the HD 800s, a futuristic-looking headset that takes audio purity and quality to an amazing level. Every detail has a purpose in the design, giving unparalleled acoustic reproduction for the total audio purist. Even more pricey at around $1500.

And finally, the Sennheiser Amperior brings the world-famous HD 25s to portable devices by optimising the impedance to give superior sound from a smaller unit. Suitable for all MP3 players, Apple iPods and iPhones, the Amperior comes with an inline remote and mic. Available from March for around $350.

Interview by Nick DiMeo of F5 Live.

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Sony Connects Up At CES

Sony LogoSony‘s CES focus this year is on electronics, content and network services combining to deliver high quality entertainment anytime and anywhere. Supported by a slew of product announcements, new connected devices range from TVs, Blu-ray players and A/V receivers through to tablets, smartphones and PCs and on to camcorders and mobile music players. Sony is combining these with online services for music, video and game delivery, creating a great user experience (as they say). TVs, PCs, smartphones and tablets are key to this experience as the four main devices used for entertainment.

Sony is committed to designing technologies for every aspect of consumer entertainment – in or out of the home, on the go, in the air, at work, at play, or wherever life takes you,” said Kazuo Hirai, Executive Deputy President, Sony Corporation. “When these products are combined with Sony Entertainment Network (SEN), which offers innovative services like Music Unlimited and Video Unlimited, as well as PlayStation Network, the user experience is truly unmatched and only made possible by a company like Sony.”

The Bravia TV line has been expanded in all three areas; entry level BX, step-up EX and flagship HX. Brightness and contrast levels have been increased and picture quality improved with Sony’s X-Reality and Motionflow video technologies. In particular the latter helps to reduce blur caused by rapid camera movements which is often a problem with LCD screens. Sony is sticking with the Google TV platform with a new network player and Blu-ray player featuring Google TV. Certain Bravia models will link seamlessly to these devices to provide Google TV features directly on the TV.

Sony Xperia ion smartphoneSony’s Vaio range of computers will continue to be updated with more entertainment feature and new designs that fit with consumers’ needs and increasing mobility. At CES, Sony will be demonstrating new technologies and prototypes for a range of technologies including glasses-free 3D.

In the smartphone space, the Xperia brand has done reasonably well, but increasing the smartphone share in North America is now one of Sony’s highest priorities. Sony Ericsson will be subsumed into Sony Mobile Communications and all new phones will carry Sony branding. The latest addition to the Xperia line-up is the Xperia ion, Sony’s first LTE smartphone coming with an HD 720p display and aluminium body. Also new is the Xperia S which comes with 3D image capture.

Sony Bloggie LiveOn the imaging front, no less than 13 new Handycam camcorders are being unveiled. A new image stabilisation system called Balanced Optical Steady Shot has been developed that controls the complete optical path from lens to sensor as a single floating unit. This reduces handshake blur by up to 13 times compared to the previous models. There’s a new camcorder model with a built-in video projector that has improved brightness and enhanced audio. The trusty Bloggie range now has a “Live” model which will live stream HD video over a Wi-Fi connection and there’s an unboxing over at sister channel TPN.tv. Of course, Sony has a bunch of new Cybershot digital still cameras.

Z Series Audio MP3 PlayerFinally, it wouldn’t be CES if Sony didn’t announce a Walkman or two. The new Z series of MP3 players comes with an application interface and connectivity to both Sony’s Music Unlimited and the Android Market. Content can be played from Z series devices either wirelessly using DLNA or via HDMI to Bravia TVs. To further improve the audio experience, no less than eleven new Balanced Armature earbud-style headphones are now available as well.

That’s it – a quick overview of the products on show at CES by Sony and they all look like fun.

Olympus LS-100 Audio Recorder

Olympus has announced the latest addition to its popular LS series of digital recorders with the addition of the LS-100 linear PCM audio recorder. Aimed at musicians and audio enthusiasts, it comes with a combination of professional interconnects, high quality sound recording, multitracking and extra features in a convenient pocket size.

Olympus LS-100 Audio RecorderIt’s an impressive little device with a matching list of features

– two internal 90-degree directional stereo condenser microphones with a frequency response of 20 Hz to 20,000 Hz and capable of capturing sound pressure levels up to 140 dB (which is about as loud as you’d really want to get).

– uncompressed 24 bit/96 kHz Linear PCM digital recording saved to the internal 4GB memory or on SD (up to 2GB) / SDHC (up to 32GB) / SDXC (up to 64GB) cards.

– separate audio and system circuitry to keep the signal clean.

– low cut filter at either 100 Hz or 300 Hz to eliminate low frequency background noise.

– two quarter-inch XLR / standard phone combo jacks, supporting phantom power at 48/24 volts to power high-quality external microphones.

– 8 track multitracking, with independent volume and pan control.

– tuner and metronome.

– Lissajous measurement which shows the phase difference betweenthe left and right mics.

– direct CD mastering.

– 2″ LCD screen and all-metal body.

The Olympus LS series has been a favourite of musicians, artists and music lovers, and the LS-100 is an evolution in this series designed with the working musician, specifically, in mind,” said Amy Leslie, Sr. Marketing & Business Development Manager, Olympus Imaging America Inc. “For songwriting sessions, band rehearsals, live performances, broadcasting, or really anything that requires the highest quality of audio recording, the LS-100 is an ideal, all-encompassing recording solution.”

Nevermind all that, it just looks cool. Full details on the LS-100 are here and it will be available from all good stores in February 2012 for $399.

Polk Audio Delivers Wireless Surround Sound

Todd talks to Al Baron from Polk Audio which has introduced an incredible 82 new products in 2010. Polk Audio provides high quality audio components for a range of different of environments.  Not just the home, but auto, marine and outdoors.

A couple of highlights from the year includes Wireless Surround effects speaker which replaces the rear speakers with single unit. As it’s wireless no cables are required except for power. Available now for $399.

Continuing the surround sound theme, the PolkAudio SurroundBar delivers surround sound from a single unit and pairs well with flat screen TVs to give a big audio experience with minimum of fuss. There’s just one cable from the TV to the speaker. Starts from £349.

PolkAudio also have a range of subwoofers that are wireless ready so they can start off wired and then be converted to wireless with the addition of $99 module. Very easy to use and keeps your investment going for that little bit longer.

Finally, Al talks about the Blackstone TL series of compact home theatre speakers. These are small powerful speakers for home audio that pack a punch and give big sound from a small box. A 5.1 home theatre system runs $499 upwards.

All products are available now.

Interview by Todd Cochrane of Geek News Central.

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Blue Microphones Announces Yeti Pro & Mikey For Flip HD

John Maier from Blue Microphones (www.bluemic.com) introduces the Yeti Pro USB 24-bit 92k microphone, which retails for $249. Maier also introduces a Mikey model that works with current Flip camera models that are equipped with a Flip Port. The new Mikey Flip product should be available by Spring 2011 and will retail for $69 dollars. The Mikey flip brings some needed audio improvement to the flip video camera and I really look forward to it’s availability.

Interview by Todd Cochrane of Geek News Central.

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