Category Archives: headphones

3D Sounds Labs Keeps Audio in Place at CES



3D Sound Labs LogoStereo headphones have been around since the middle of the last century and 3D audio in headphones from the 1990s. Impressive as the spatial effect from 3D can be, the sound is still always relative to the listener as the headphones are on the wearer, whereas speakers position the sound relative to the room or other space.

Until now, that is. 3D Sound Labs new headphones keep sounds in their place, even as the wearer moves their head. Scott finds out more from Maxime Sabahec of 3D Sound Labs on how their headphones keep sounds still.

The 3D Sound One headphones use motion sensors to understand the position of the wearer relative to the sound stage. The embedded gyroscope, accelerometer and magnetometer send information back to the PC via Bluetooth which then adjusts the positions of the sound in real-time as the person moves. This realism increases the immersive experience and while it’s good for movies, it’s great for VR.

The 3D Sound One headphones are available now for US$299 from Amazon and the 3D Sound Labs website.
Scott Ertz is a software developer and video producer at F5 Live: Refreshing Technology.

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Style and Function with New Philips Headphones at CES



Philips LogoPhilips has a range of new headphones, each addressing different consumer needs, from the runner to the fashionista. Daniele listens in with Steve Punter of Philips to find out more about the latest ‘phones.

First up are the new Wireless Freedom sports earphones, which are Bluetooth wireless headphones so there’s no cables to get tangled in gym equipment or yank out earbuds. Perfect for runners, they’re light with a four and half hour battery life. US$69

Next is the new Everlite range, lightweight “gravity-defying” on-ear headphones, that look great and fold-up neatly for toting around. With a built-in mic, these work well with smartphones, and have colours to match the latest iPhone models. US$49

Finally, the new noise-cancelling headphones have Active Shield Pro which can cancel up to 99% of the outside noise. Along with Bluetooth and a 15 hour battery life, the headphones have a touch sensitive pad on the back of an earcup which controls the playback and volume of the music. US$169

All these headphones will be on sale over the coming months.

Daniele Mendez is a video producer at F5 Live: Refreshing Technology.

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Lola from Blue are Headphones with Nothing to Hide



Blue LogoHeadphones may seem simple enough on the outside. But to discerning ears, a set of headphones’ ability to accurately reproduce sound is crucial to the enjoyment of the material. Sure, a cheap set of earbuds might be fun for consuming audio during a bus or train trip. But when you really want to feel the audio you’re listening to, you go to that trusty set of big headphones that sound great. Many companies have produced high-end headphones over the years and microphone manufacturer Blue is the latest to enter this space.

John Maier from Blue stopped by the booth to talk with Jamie and Nick. John showed off the new Blue Lola headphones. Lola headphones are ergonomically designed to have a great feel. They use a custom 50mm driver to provide full audio performance. The headphones’ physical design was inspired by a Formula One racing car’s suspension so the ear cups stay level regardless of the size/shape of the wearer’s cranium. Blue’s Lola headphones are expected to retail for $249.

Jamie Davis is the host of Health Tech Weekly which can be found at HTWeekly.com. He is a nurse, paramedic, and health journalist.

Nick DiMeo is an audio engineer and show host at F5 Live: Refreshing Technology.

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Kuai Biometric Headphones at CES



Kuai LogoActivity tracking wearables are commonplace but most are bracelet-style devices. Kuai have taken a different approach, incorporating sensors into sport headphones worn during physical activity. Jamie finds out more about the Kuai multisport biometric headphones from Carlos Marco, CEO and founder.

The headphones are earbuds with over-the-ear hooks to keep them in place during sport. The headphones have several sensors, including a heart rate monitor and an accelerator, and transmit the data to a nearby smartphone by Bluetooth. After calibration, training programmes can be loaded and adjusted to suit the individual. The smartphone app shows the usual statistics such as heart rate, calories burned, distance travelled and so on. The  app includes a coaching programme which can encourage the wearer “to go further” through the headphones. The headphones are waterproof too and there’s a selection of eartips for different situations, such as outdoors or swimming.

Kuai is taking pre-orders at US$149 for the headphones which will be available in April. The full retail price will be US$199 so get in early for a bargain.

Jamie Davis is the host of Health Tech Weekly at HTWeekly.com. He is a nurse, paramedic and health journalist.

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Altec Lansing Headphones at 2016 CES



in_ear_sport_front_black-1024x512Scott Ertz interviews Jill Byeff, marketing for Altec Lansing. They discuss Altec Lansing’s latest innovative line of headphones and earbuds.

They discuss the new DVR DJ style headphone. The headphone has a built-in 1080p 30 frames per second video camera that has 8 gigabytes of memory built-in as well as an SD card slot to increase video recording capacity. There is also an app that allows the headphones to stream video back to a smartphone or tablet. The DVR headphones will sell for $199 and be available in Q2.

They also talk about the Freedom True Wireless Bluetooth earbuds. These earbuds are waterproof, have a 100 foot Bluetooth range, and even have built-in GPS so you can use a “find my earbuds” feature in an app in case you misplace them. Their earbuds are priced from $29.00 to $99.00 depending on features.

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View the Future With Vuzix iWear Video Headphones



Vuzix logoVuzix is a leading developer of smart glasses and video eyewear. Their products are designed to let you view the future. They make watching a video, or playing a video game, more portable and exciting than ever before.

Daniel spoke with Director of Consumer Sales for Vuzix, Mike Hallett at CES 2016. They talked about the amazing Vuzix iWear Video Headphones. They come in two versions: an HDMI version and a wireless version.

The newest version is the iWear Wireless Video Headphones. They are the second generation of the iWear Video Headphones that Vuzix released last year. The new version is completely wireless.

Both versions of the iWear Video Headphones offer a virtual, private, personal, home theater that you can take on the road with you. They each give you a virtual 125 inch screen as viewed from 10 feet. They have full 3D capabilities, full headphones, and video. One unique thing about them is that they have been designed so the weight of the product rests on the back of your head (instead of on your face like other products do). This provides users with a more comfortable experience, whether they are using the product to watch a movie or to play a video game.

The iWear Video Headphones are available on the Vuzix website for $499.99. The new version of the iWear Video Headphones will be available in the summer of 2016.

Daniel J. Lewis dares you to get started in podcasting with The Audacity to Podcast.

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Audio-Technica Shows Off Headphones at CES 2016



Audio-Technica LogoThe headline above will be no surprise to anyone, but Audio-Technica are debuting enough new headsets at CES 2016 to keep any audio junkie happy and with about a week to go, Audio-Technica have revealed what’s in store for CES visitors.

To start with, there’s new SonicPro headphones coming out for turntable and Hi-Res Audio listening plus a new version of the highly-regarded ATH-MSR7 headphones, which won the Reviewed.com and USA TODAY 2015 Best Headphones of the Year award.

Next up, over-ear noise-cancelling headphones at under $100 will be announced at CES, complementing Audio-Technica’s recently introduced Bluetooth QuietPoint active noise-cancelling in ear headphones ATH-ANC40BT.
ATH-ADG1X Gaming Headset

For gamers, Audio-Technica is introducing its best gaming headsets ever, with the closed-back ATH-AG1X and the open back ATH-ADG1X. These are both premium models providing great gaming-centric features and delivering an immersive sonic experience that draws listeners completely into the gaming environment.

ATH-WS1100iS Bass HeadsetFor music lovers on the go, Audio-Technica’s Solid Bass headphones are pretty hard to beat. The six smartphone-compatible models include the recently introduced over-ear ATH-WS99BT and in-ear ATH-CKS55XBT Bluetooth wireless headphones. Making their debut at CES 2016 are the over-ear ATH-WS1100iS and in-ear ATH-CKS1100iS Hi-Res Audio compliant headphones, plus the ATH-CKS990iS and ATH-CKS550iS in-ear models.

ATH-2000Z High Fidelity HeadsetFinally, for the audiophiles, Audio-Technica is introducing no fewer than five(!)  headphones in its High-Fidelity series: the ATH-A2000Z, ATH-A1000Z, ATH-A990Z and ATH-A550Z closed-back headphones and ATH-ESW990H portable wooden on-ear headphones. All incorporate a host of significant upgrades to deliver extraordinary audio performance. Seriously, five new headphones!

For more info, Audio-Technica are at Booth 20656, South Hall Ground Level, Las Vegas Convention Center.


Mpow Cheetah Bluetooth Headphones



Mpow Logo

I’ve been looking at a few Mpow gadgets recently and so far, they’ve all done well, giving great performance for not much money. Next in line are the Mpow Cheetah Bluetooth 4.1 Sports Headphones to give them their full title. These are sport-oriented headphones, with a neckband to keep them in place. Let’s see if these are worth putting on the Christmas list for the January fitness programme.

Mpow Cheetah BoxThe Cheetah comes in a small grey box that has a curious soft touch finish to it. While it feels pleasant, it’s actually quite hard to see what’s inside the box as black headphones on a grey background doesn’t work well. Getting into the box is another matter too: there’s a hidden magnetic flap which will keep you guessing for a few minutes.

Once inside, the Cheetah headphones are coiled neatly on top. These are the boring black ones though they are available with yellow, pink, blue and green highlights. Taking them out and removing the tray reveals a small instruction booklet, USB charging cable and three sets of silicon earbuds (small, medium and large). Looking at the left and right ear pods, the features are not unexpectedly sparse and the leftside one has nothing. The right pod has all the controls, including volume rocket, multifunction button, mic, indicator light and microUSB charge port. Unlike the Swift, the door over the charge port has a small flap which makes in much easier to get your fingernail under.

Mpow Cheetah In BoxCharging is straightforward and takes about two and half hours from flat. There’s a red light on during charging which changes to green when the battery full. Similarly, the Bluetooth pairing is simple: hold down the multifunction button for five seconds until the Cheetah enters pairing mode and do the usual on the smartphone. Job done.

To get the headphones on, you untwirl them and put them round your neck before popping the earbuds in. To start with, I found the Cheetah headphones very uncomfortable – the earbuds just didn’t fit right. Then I realised I was wearing them the wrong way round. Twit. Once the headphones are in the correct ears, they’re much more comfortable. The neckband is sufficiently strong to keep them in place short of being physically ripped from your head, but it never feels like your head is in a vice. The neckband also keeps them round your neck if you need to take the headphones out for a few moments.

Mpow Cheetah ReversePressing the multifunction button powers up the headphones. A voice announces “Power on” and “Your headset is connected” but doesn’t give battery time. The volume rocker works as expected for sound levels, and long pressing the volume buttons is supposed to skip forwards and backwards. On my phone, it skipped forwards ok, but skipping backwards didn’t work properly – it would only go to the beginning of the track, not the previous track. The multifunction button played and paused the track.

For calls, the Cheetah has various tricks, including double pressing the multifunction button for last number redial, and long pressing the – volume rocker to mute calls. In use, callers came through clearly and people said that they could hear me well. As with the Swift, the Cheetah announces the phone number of the caller.

Mpow Cheetah ControlIn terms of audio quality, Mpow has again proved that it can deliver great sound at low cost. As with the Swift headphones, I listened to a selection of tracks using a OnePlus 2 smartphone playing from a range of music services, some streamed, some downloaded. There was good presence and clarity, with reasonable high frequency reproduction and effective bass. I did feel that the Cheetah needed a bit of volume to perform at its best but even with that, these are good headphones. Perhaps not as good as the Swift but considering these are aimed at the sporting activity, they’re outstanding value priced at around US$25 or GB£19.

If you are looking for headphones to wear when working out, running or cycling, the Cheetah headphones are perfect. Sound quality is good, they aren’t going to fall off and at the price, you aren’t going to be too bothered if they get trashed by accident. Just make sure that you put them on the right way round.

Thanks to Mpow and Patuoxun for the review Cheetah Bluetooth 4.1 sport headphones.


Mpow Swift Bluetooth Headphones Review



Mpow LogoWhen it comes to headphones, I’m a firm believer in that you get what you pay for. Undoubtedly there are diminishing returns above a certain price point but the bundled headphones that used to come with mobile phones were complete rubbish in terms of both their build quality and audio characteristics. Fortunately, those days are past and most respectable manufacturers provide usable headphones.

On review here are the Mpow Swift Bluetooth 4.0 wireless headphones which are marketed as “sweatproof, jogger, running, sport…earbuds…with AptX mic hands-free calling”. With an RRP of GB£30, they are often found for sale at about half that, say GB£15, which is a fantastic price for Bluetooth wireless earbuds….if they sound good. My daily listeners are Sennheiser CX300s, so the Swift’s have got their work cut out here. Let’s take a look and first up is a short unboxing video.

As can be seen from the video and the pictures, the Swift headphones are of the earbud type, with a loose ribbon cable connecting the two ‘buds. The cable doesn’t grip the neck like some models and the ribbon cable keeps tangles to a minimum. The headphones come in a good range of colours, with a choice of black or white for the body and then a selection of highlight colours, including blue, yellow, magenta, green and pink.

Mpow Swift EarbudsBeing Bluetooth headphones, the Swift earbuds are quite big on the outside of the ear containing the wireless electronics, rechargeable battery and the mic for hands-free calling. On the left headphone there’s a covered microUSB port for charging that comes with a personal warning that fingernails are required to get the port cover off. The coloured flash on this headphone doesn’t do anything, whereas over on the right, it acts as an action button, turning the headphones on and off, play / pausing music and taking calls. There’s also a volume rocker and microphone on the right side. When doing some activities with the action button, there’s a voice confirmation such as “Power on” or “Connected” which can be handy when trying to figure out what state the headphones are in.

Mpow Swift EarbudsWhile all the buttons worked, I disliked using the buttons, partly because I have big fingers and the buttons are small, but mostly because I don’t like the sensation of the earbud moving within the ear when I tried to press the buttons. YMMV, as they say.

Bluetooth pairing was so straightforward, it’s hardly worth mentioning…hold down action button, select Swift on phone in Bluetooth settings, job done.

Standard earbuds are notorious for falling out during the movement and with the extra weight on the headphones, one might think that the Swifts would drop out of the ear at the slightest twitch. Fortunately Mpow has this covered with a couple of retaining options.

Mpow Swift EarhooksFirst, the Swift headphones come with three sizes of earbud for small, medium and large earholes. Second there are three sizes of ear loops that catch on the inner part of the ear and finally there are hooks which lock into parts of the ear for a really firm hold. Both the loops and the hooks easily slip over a round section on the headphones. For retainability, the hooks are impressive, though you do need to spend a little time get them in the right place the first time. Once locked behind a suitable part of the outer ear, they easily keep the Swift headphones in place, even while running. Obviously they’re still going to come out if something catches on the lead (which is a good safety feature) but short of deliberately taking the Swifts out, they’re staying in. For extended listening, I did find the Swifts a little more tiring than other earbuds, possibly simply because of the extra weight.

Mpow Swift Earbud with hookFinally, it brings us to audio quality and Mpow may force me to re-evaluate my initial premise that you get what you pay for as the Swifts are really very good. I listened to a selection of tracks using a OnePlus 2 smartphone playing from a range of music services, some streamed, some downloaded. There was good presence and clarity, and while the high frequency wasn’t perfect the bass was effective without being overpowering. Seriously, the Swifts weren’t far off the Sennheiser CX300s, which surprised me.

There’s the additional benefit of being able to take phone calls with the Swifts too.  When a call comes in, the Swifts announce the incoming phone number which is a great feature for when the phone is in the bag or otherwise out of view. Callers generally said that they could hear me clearly but it was obvious that I was hands-free.

Overall, the Mpow Swift headphones are great value. They seem well made, sound great and stay in the ear, even when exercising. At GB£15, they’re not throwaway but you aren’t going cry too much if you damage or lose them during sport. Recommended if you are looking for Bluetooth sport headphones.

Thanks to Mpow and Patuoxun for the review Swift Bluetooth 4.0 wireless sport headphones.

 


3-D Printed Headphones Are Here



3-D headphonesAs more and more people are consuming audio like music and podcasts on the go, the need for headphones has increased. But many headphones are either easy to lose or they stop working after a short period of time. I know I’ve been stuck many times over the years having to face a long bus ride with a fully charged media player and a portable set of headphones that no longer work, no matter how much I manipulated the audio cord and connection jack. Now, getting that next pair of headphones might be as simple as firing up the nearest 3-D printer.

These headphones are the work of designer Maxime Loiseau and they use an innovative design in terms of an electronic device being created with 3-D printing. The process uses what’s called “roll to roll” manufacturing, making the parts very thin. In fact, these 3-D printed headphones are made from only eight pieces, where a typical set of phones could require up to 50 individual parts.

Since these headphones are made with “printed electronics,” there’s need for only one wire for each headphone. And if you’re worried that these headphones will sound weak, don’t. The speakers are made with piezoelectric cells that provide quality comparable to traditional headphones.

The headphones are powered by Bluetooth and they use a lithium-ion battery. The battery is also made as part of the 3-D printing process. These headphones were presented during New York Design Week 2015. They are likely to go thru some tweaking and modifications before hitting the production line. Check out this video to see the production process in action.