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.

Kingston HyperX Cloud II Headset

Kingston LogoKingston Tech followed up their popular HyperX Cloud gaming headset earlier this year with the Cloud II, which brought a newly designed USB sound card audio control box with 7.1 virtual surround sound to the already impressive feature set of the original HyperX Cloud headset. GNC favourably reviewed the first HyperX Cloud back in December.

Kingston HyperX Cloud II Control UnitThe new control box has independent audio and microphone volume control plus a central toggle for the surround sound 7.1. The Cloud II headset generates virtual 7.1 surround sound with distance and depth to enhance the gaming, movie or music experience. Shoot them before they shoot you!

At launch, the Cloud II headset offered choice of two colour finishes, red and gun metal (grey). There’s now a third option, pink, which is presumably intended to appeal to female gamers.

Kingston HyperX Cloud II headsetWhatever your opinion of “pinking”, it’s good to see that Kingston is looking outside of the stereotypical gaming audience.

In other good news, the Cloud II has taken up the price point of the original and is priced at a little under GB£80. The original Cloud still available too but it’s now priced below £50, making the latter a real bargain.

Sennheiser Momentum On-Ear Ingress Editions

Sennheiser LogoAnother bargain for GNC readers in North America and Europe. There’s 25% off the Ingress editions of Sennheiser’s Momentum On-Ear headphones with the checkout code IngressPromo2015.

Sennheiser Momentum On-Ear IngressUsing UK prices, the 1st gen Momentums were originally £170 and are currently on sale at £130. A further 25% brings them down to only £97.49, which is a veritable bargain for headphones of this standard.

The discount will be available from 15 May to 31 May 2015 and the promotion is running in Germany, UK, France, Belgium, Netherlands, Sweden, Finland, Canada and the United States. Prices will vary.

Sennheiser Headphones at Gadget Show Live

Sennheiser_aiAt Gadget Show Live, I had the chance to chat with Michael from Sennheiser about their current headphone range including the Urbanites and the latest iteration in their classic Momentum series. The second generation Momentum M2 maintains the original’s high fidelity while improving the headphones’ comfort. The Momentum Wireless is ideal for the traveller with Sennheiser’s active noise-cancellation technology, NoiseGard, and the AptX codec for high definition wireless transmission.

Having previously reviewed the Momentum On-Ears and being extremely impressed with the audio, I imagine the over-ear version is even better.

Momentum M2

 

 

Sennheiser is Three Time Winner of Red Dot Award

Sennheiser URBANITE seriesSennheiser has had three of their products win the Red Dot Award for product design. The Red Dot award saw almost 5,000 entries, from 56 countries, in 2015. Submitted products in 31 different categories are evaluated on their degree of innovation, ergonomics, product periphery, functionality, durability, self-explanatory quality, formal quality, symbolic and emotional content and ecological compatibility.

Sennheiser SPORTS headphonesSennheiser’s URBANITE series impressed the Red Dot jury with their robust and fresh design. The on-ear model URBANITE and the over-ear model URBANITE XL deliver a rich bass sound. They have stainless-steel hinges, a robust folding and sliding mechanism, and super soft ear pads. Together, this ensures great durability and maximum comfort. The color-coordinated, fabric-covered headbands round off their urban look.

Sennheiser earned another Red Dot award for the new models of its SPORTS series (which was launched at CES in January). All four SPORTS models, the MX 686 SPORTS, CX 686 SPORTS, PMX 686 SPORTS, and OCX 686 SPORTS feature reinforced, tangle-free oval cables, with cable sleeves that reduce structure-borne noise.

Sennheiser WirelessThe Red Dot jury especially liked the SPORTS series rugged ergonomic design that conforms to the body while securing maximum freedom of movement. They deliver excellent sound and provide individual comfort for indoor and outdoor activities. They are made with high-tech materials that ensure comfort, are water resistant, durable, and provide maximum hygiene.

Sennheiser’s new digital wireless models, the RS 175, RS 185, and RS 195 also received a Red Dot award for functional aesthetics and clear design. Their ergonomic shape and around-ear design ensures excellent wearing comfort (even for long periods of use).

The RS 195 can help address specific personal hearing needs. Dedicated pre-sets and modes can increase speech intelligibility and tailor the sound to the user’s preferences to enhance the listening experience.

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.

Adidas and Monster Join Forces at CES

Adidas logo

Many well-known brands bring exciting new products to market during CES. And sometimes, some of those brands will team up and double the excitement. That’s exactly what happened when Adidas and Monster got together to create a new line of headphones and earbuds.

Nick had a chance to talk to both Johan and Kevin from Adidas. They both gave a breakdown of this new line of listening devices. There’s everything from full over-the-ear headphones to bluetooth-enabled wireless earbuds that link up with the Micoach smart watch from Adidas.

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

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Monster DNA Headphones with Art by Chris Nunez

Monster logoWould you like to wear headphones that look as great as they sound? Monster has what you need. Monster’s DNA Pro over the ear headphones have a realistic sound profile, a sleek design, and are comfortable to wear. The variety of colors and artwork provide you with a wide selection. Pick one that best fits your style!

Nick had the opportunity to speak with Chris Nunez, who is a judge on the Ink Master show that is on Spike TV. Chris Nunez is a well known tattoo artist and the owner of Handcrafted Tattoo and Art Gallery that is located in Miami, Florida. His design for the Monster DNA headphones was very popular.

The Monster DNA headphones come with a stylish carrying case and a Monster cleaning cloth. The headphones deliver live, studio quality sound with passive noise isolation. The headphones have pillow-soft Advanced Noise Isolating cushions which let you comfortably wear them for hours. It keeps noise out and also prevents your music from disturbing others.

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

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Sennheiser Momentum Wireless Headphones

Sennheiser LogoSennheiser have always been one of my preferred headphone brands and I previously reviewed the Momentum On-Ears for GNC. Consequently, I was very interested to hear that a second generation of Momentum headphones were on their way with both Bluetooth wireless and noise-cancellation features. Marlo chats to Scott Houston from Sennheiser about the Momentum Wireless.

The new Sennheiser Momentum Wireless takes the original Momentum and updates it for listening on the move. No tangled wires with Bluetooth wireless; environmental sound kept to a minimum with active noise cancellation; integrated microphone to take calls without removing the headphones, improved padding for extended listening and folding arms to pack the headphones away neatly. Overall, it looks like a tidy package.

Of course, this doesn’t come cheap with the Sennheiser Momentum Wireless costing US$499 or GB£379 from Sennheiser’s web store.

Interview by Marlo Anderson of The Tech Ranch for the TechPodcast Network.

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