Ion Audio Gets The Party Going at CES 2015

Ion Sound Experience

The great thing about Ion Audio is that they concentrate on fun audio products: seriously, who else puts a speaker in plant pot? At CES, Ion has continued in the tradition of fun with two products for two very different environments. Todd listens in with Wendy Fortin, Ion Product Manager.

First up is the Block Party Live, a 50W PA speaker on luggage wheels complete with light show. No really, there’s a light dome on top that projects coloured lights. Music can be streamed via Bluetooth and there’s an Apple and Android app to control the lights. Available now for $199.

Coming inside, the Sound Shine are wireless stereo speakers with built-in LED lighting. Screwed into a standard lamp holder the two speakers can either work as independent mono speakers or can be paired up for stereo sound. As with the Block Party, music is streamed via Bluetooth and both the music and light output can be controlled via an app for both Android and Apple devices. Available in Q1, $69 buys a single lamp and $129 gets a pair.

Interview by Todd Cochrane of Geek News Central for the TechPodcast Network.

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Acoustic Research Expands its Speaker Collection at CES

Acoustic Research SpeakersAcoustic Research has expanded their speaker series with the launch of four new indoor/outdoor speakers for Spring of 2015. The new lineup includes quality Bluetooth speakers at prices to fit any budget and style. The names of the new speakers are: Hatteras, Glendale, Pasadena, and Orleans.

The Hatteras speaker is $219.99. It is a high-power outdoor Bluetooth stereo speaker system that provides both style and functionality and that can be used all year round. The Hatteras speaker is a 2015 CES Innovation Awards Honoree winer. The design was inspired by America’s lighthouses. This speaker is 2 feet tall, is weather and UV resistant with 40 Watts of yard-filling power. It can illuminate parties with 360 degrees of area lighting and multiple settings.

Acoustic Research Glendale and Pasadena speakers

The Glendale and Pasadena speakers are from Acoustic Research’s Premier Series. Each delivers 10 Watts of full-range audio performance for crystal clear sound both indoors and outdoors. They are equipped with Bluetooth technology. Both speakers can be powered via AC. The Glendale is capable of running on AA batteries, while the Pasadena features a built-in rechargeable battery. Glendale will be available for $199.99 and the Pasadena will be available for $99.99.

Acoustic Research Orleans

The limited-series Orleans, which is $99.99, features big, bold, three-way sound. You can stream and control your music from your devices using Bluetooth wireless technology or the built-in Aux Input for other wired sources. The Orleans features 10 Watts of high-quality, full, rich, audio performance and has a power span of 10-12 hours using AA batteries.

Visit Acoustic Research in the Central Hall at Booth # 10406 at CES.

BRAVEN Showcases BRAVEN Balance at CES

BRAVEN BalanceBRAVEN introduces a Blutetooth speaker that is ideal for those who have active lifestyles. It is called the BRAVEN Balance. It comes in six lively colors: Raven, Alpine, Raspberry, Electric, Sunset, and Periwinkle. This is the newest Bluetooth speaker with bass optimization technology from BRAVEN.

The BRAVEN Balance features an anti-slip exterior for easy carrying even when it is wet. It is capable of surviving accidental spills or drops and has an IPX5 waterproof rating. That makes this speaker perfect for both indoor and outdoor use. It is suggested for use in fitness studios, on-the-court- in the locker room, or on the deck.

BRAVEN Balance has a low profile, ultra-thin design with outstanding sound quality and room filling bass. It also comes with BRAVEN Balance Technology, a proprietary bass optimization system that pumps out deep, rich sound even at lower volumes. The speaker features a built-in 4400mAH battery that can charge your mobile device. This speaker can also transform into a hands-free speakerphone with a built-in noise-canceling microphone.

The BRAVEN Balance will be available in Q2 of 2015 for $149.99. Visit BRAVEN at Booth # 5116 in the North Hall at CES 2015.

JVC Mobile Showcases its 2015 Product Line at CES

JVC logoJVC is highlighting 21 new products that incorporate the latest technology and convenience benefits to create a more entertaining driving experience. They have sixteen new in-dash receivers, four new speakers, and a subwoofer amplifier. These new products bolster an impressive lineup of more than 60 products.

All of the new receivers replace the 2014 models with stylish design and improved ergonomics. All touch screen equipped models enable the user to position icons for their most-used functions according to their preference. Drivers can swipe a finger on the screen to control volume and media selection on select multimedia receivers. If the vehicle is equipped with factory steering wheel controls, they an be integrated to control all the new JVC receivers.

JVCShow15-2

JVC Mobile’s new receivers expand on their integration with Android-based smartphones to provide a level of integration comparable to that of the iPhone. With the JVC Music Play app, CD and Digital Media receivers can now control audio selection and playback on stored media on select Android devices through a direct USB connection.

Apple phone integration remains a strong point of JVC Mobile receivers with support for music control over USB connection or via Bluetooth. It also offers direct access to Siri Eyes Free Mode for safe, audible, delivery of Web-based information.

Fourteen of the 16 new receivers include a built-in app to access Pandora Internet Radio through a connected device. Most of the receivers feature iHeartRadio. The new receivers include Free Lossless Audio Codec (FLAC). For MP3 or WMA-encoded audio, the Digital Track Expander helps to restore higher frequencies that are lost when music is compressed.

The HX line of speakers features a lighter and more flexible speaker cone and improved midrange reproduction throughout the four new models. The new single-channel amplifier benefits from a parallel drive MOSFET power supply to improve power while maintaining linearity.

Visit JVC at Booth # 1771 in the North Hall at CES 2015.

Juno Audio Announces Viotone M One Speaker at CES

Juno Audio logoJuno Audio announces the release of the Viotone M One at CES 2015. It is the only speaker in the world that utilizes the natural shape and wooden resonance of a violin to recreate music the way it was meant to be heard.

The Viotone M One’s patent pending InstruSound technology features special electro-acoustic engineering inside the body of the violin to breathe new life into the music that we love. The violin used for the speaker is made from 300-year-old wood and is produces through the expertise and experience of multiple craftsmen and a master artisan.

Juno Audio Viotone M One

It takes an entire month to handcraft the violin and each Viotone M One is built to order based on customer specifications. The unique design features an 8” high preformance Kevlar cone with neodymium motor assembly that is topped by a titanium dome tweeter for balanced, powerful, sound. Ceramic solid state transducer is integrated within the violin’s perfectly crafted body and the entire enclosure is powered by 3 separate amplifiers, each with dedicated DSP “tuning” totaling 1500 watts.

Visit the Juno Audio at Venetian Suite #29 – 116 at CES 2015.

BRAVEN Debuts BRV-PRO at CES

BRAVEN BRV-PROBRAVEN unveils the BRV-PRO at CES 2015. The BRV-PRO is a modular, rugged Bluetooth speaker that has been designed for the most adventurous outdoor enthusiasts. Described as a “versatile, tank-like” portable speaker, the BRV-PRO has the power to wirelessly blast HD music in any outdoor environment. It is durable enough to withstand dust, water, and drops.

The BRV-PRO delivers full HD sound and powerful bass in a compact, IPX7 waterproof design shielded by aircraft grade aluminum. It can be customized with versatile attachments that extend its adaptability. The BRV-PRO features a built-in 2,200mAh rechargeable battery that doubles as a power bank to charge USB devices. It can be outfitted with a solar charging panel for virtually endless music and power.

The BRV-PRO can be armed with several accessories. The BRV Glow Deck is an LED pad that doubles as a mini-lantern. The BRV Stack Plate Multiplier is a linking mechanism that allows for stacking multiple BRV-PRO speakers to wirelessly multiply music. There is also a GoPro compatible action mount for cameras and a Qi Wireless Charging pad (which powers up all Qi-compatible wireless charging devices.)

Visit the BRAVEN BRV-PRO and the BRV ecosystem of accessories at Booth #5116 in the Las Vegas Convention Center North Hall during CES 2015.

SuperNova – A Bluetooth Speaker and LED Light Show

ThinkGeek SuperNovaThinkGeek, my favorite place to shop when I’m on a quest to obtain the perfect gift for the geeks in my life, has launched something new and interesting. The SuperNova Light Cube LED Bluetooth Speaker comes from their GeekLabs Division. It could definitely put a little extra fun into your celebrations.

The SuperNova Light Cube LED Bluetooth Speaker combines a powerful Bluetooth speaker with a brilliant LED light show. It features a total of 36 different patterns. There is a high-fidelity Bluetooth speaker in the base of the SuperNova. Music can be played wirelessly via a Bluetooth-enabled device or through the standard audio port.

On top of the speaker sits the most visually dynamic part of the SuperNova. It is a cube with an array of LED lights and prisms. Each light prism simultaneously transmits, refracts, and projects the LED light below it. People can chose from among the 36 patterns and select the one that they feel best fits the mood.

It is also possible to have SuperNova’s LED prism array going without also having music playing. This allows people to enjoy some peace and quiet and still have the sensory experience of the multi-colored, changing, LED show. The SuperNova is available now at ThinkGeek for $99.99.

Libratone Zipp Wireless Speaker Review

I first came across Libratone at the The Gadget Show earlier in the year where their colourful hi-fi speakers with interchangeable covers stood out against the more run-of-the-mill Bluetooth speakers. On the back of my interview, Libratone kindly sent me a Zipp, a portable wireless AirPlay speaker, to further my education in their products. Let’s take a look and a listen.

Libratone Zipp Box

The Libratone Zipp is very much fashioned in iStyle but takes a welcome break from monochrome with interchangeable coloured covers. The Zipp comes with three covers in the box from three collections and the supplied Zipp came with the “Funky collection” – pepper black, plum purple and pineapple yellow. Additional covers are £39 which may seem expensive but the covers aren’t felt or fleece, they’re Italian wool. Here’s the Zipp in its different clothes.

Libratone Zipp Magenta

Libratone Zipp Mustard Strap

Changing a cover is easy – just unzip the cover, carefully remove it, fit the the new cover and zip it back up. There’s a small frame which fits around the control panel but it clips in firmly and helps get everything lined up. The panel’s neatly hidden behind the leather carry strap.

Libratone Zipp Mustard Strap Up

As a wireless speaker, the Zipp uses wifi rather than Bluetooth to stream music and until relatively recently, you would have needed Apple products to use AirPlay. Android users can now join the party as the Zipp now provides a DLNA interface which several music apps now support including Robin Davies’ 2player, which I used for this review. Sadly, many don’t, including Spotify, which is a shame.

The speaker can work in two modes, DirectPlay and WiFi Play. In the first, the speaker creates its own little wifi hotspot and the smartphone or tablet connects to the hotspot. This mode is used both for initial configuration and for playing music away from home, say, at a friend’s BBQ. With the WiFi Play mode, the Zipp connects to the same wifi network as the music-playing device, which is the way you’d use the Zipp at home.

Setting up the Zipp is a little fiddly but otherwise straightforward and only needs to be done once. Libratone’s free app helps with this but the steps are broadly turn on the Zipp, connect to the Zipp’s wifi hotspot, enter the main wifi key and restart the Zipp. It’ll then connect up to the main wifi network and the speaker will be available for music output.

Libratone App 2player Erasure

Obviously the Zipp is only a single unit, although it has an amazing capacity to fill a room. Libratone have developed a set of acoustic tricks called “FullRoom” which let the Zipp’s tweeters and drivers expand the sound, but you need to tell the Zipp where it is in the room to take full advantage. The Libratone app helps with that too. You can hear the impact of some of the changes if you fiddle with the settings while music is playing but much of the change is subtle.

Voicing Position

In addition to setting the spatial characteristics, the type of music can be enhanced through preset equalisations such as “Easy Listening” and “Rock the House”.

Aside from the interchangeable covers, the other cool feature is that the Zipp is portable and has a built-in battery which Libratone says will last about 4 hours playing music over wifi and twice as long using a cable. I didn’t try running the Zipp very long from a lead but the time seems about right for wifi. The Libratone app helpfully shows the battery level so you know when to recharge. There’s a small bag included in the box but Libratone could do with a dedicated Zipp carrying bag as it’s heavy to lug around – it’s portable but it’s not a travel accessory.  I liked the liberty that this gave as I moved the Zipp between rooms and was able to have music in rooms that didn’t normally have sound without using headphones.

Libratone Zipp Panel Libratone Zipp Top Control

The pictures above show the panel on the side and the top-mounted controller. The USB port on the side-panel can be used to power the music player (and for configuration when using Apple devices) when using the 3.5mm jack for the audio feed.

Generally the Zipp worked well. I did have the occasional problem with the Zipp not being recognised either as an output option in the 2player app or by the Libratone app when trying to change the FullRoom config. Usually a restart of either the app or the Zipp itself would sort it out but it’s a bit irritating when the dropout occurs halfway through an album. To be fair, the issue could lie with my wifi network or with the music app itself and I’ve no experience with other AirPlay devices for comparison. For now, it’s something to be aware of.

As a reminder, Android users needs to confirm that the apps that they want to use with the Zipp are AirPlay or DLNA-compatible. Unlike Bluetooth speakers, where the driver is at lower level and makes almost any app capable of outputting sound to a wireless speaker, the apps needs to be DLNA-aware to use the Zipp wirelessly. Searching the Play Store reveals several good apps that can be checked for full compatibility.

So….does the Zipp sound good? In short, it’s very impressive with music retaining clarity and detail even at higher volumes and the Zipp has a surprising amount of volume for such a small unit. Obviously any single speaker unit is going to be lacking in comparison with hi-fi separates but the Zipp knocks into a cocked hat any of the speaker docks that I’ve heard. Finally, it’s absolutely, definitely the best portable speaker that I’ve ever listened to. At GB£369, it’s not cheap but if you have a bijou pad that needs filled with sound, you should give the Zipp a listen. It looks great too.

Thanks to Libratone for the loan of the Zipp.

Tego Power Portable Speaker and Power Grid for Travelers

CERA Wireless Portable Speaker Tego PowerTego Power has two portable products that may be very useful for people who will be doing some traveling this summer. The CERA Wireless Portable Speaker is a small speaker with a big sound. The Power Grid offers on-the-go charging for mobile devices.

The CERA Wireless Portable Speaker boasts version 3.0 Bluetooth Technology. It offers superior sound quality from up to 33 feet away. It is possible to daisy chain multiple CERAs that will all play at the same time. Voice notification informs the user when CERA powers on, enters paring mode, and when the pairing is complete.

Each speaker weighs just 5.5 ounces. They come in red, black, or white. You can buy a three-pack for maximum value (and choose any combination of colors). CERA can achieve up to 7 hours of playback with a rechargeable Lithium Ion battery. These colorful portable speakers have an illuminated touch control panel that intuitively displays playback options.

Tego also has a Power Grid. It can automatically charge devices once they are connected to it. This 4,200 mAh dual output power bank can fully charge a smartphone twice and can be connected to multiple devices. It automatically powers off when it has not been in use for more than seven seconds. It has integrated LED lights that indicate the charge level.

The Power Grid comes in black, pink, green, and blue. You can purchase them in a three-pack (with any color combination) for maximum value. Each Power Grid has twin USB ports to accommodate two devices at the same time. You can also connect the Power Grid to a wall outlet so that it can charge itself as well as two additional devices.

Libratone Speakers at The Gadget Show

Danish audio specialists Libratone are relative new kids on the block, being established in 2009/10, but they’re making a strong impression with their colour co-ordinated hi-fi wireless speakers. I took the opportunity to learn more about Libratone’s range from Tom at The Gadget Show.

Libratone Speakers

Libratone ZippLibratone works with both Apple and Android devices supporting a range of protocols, including AirPlay, Wi-Fi Direct and DLNA, Libratone has four models in the range;
– the Lounge, a soundbar to go below a flatscreen TV
– the Zipp, a cylindrical speaker which is both AC and battery powered
– the Loop, a freestanding or wall-mounting round speaker
– the Live, a freestanding three-sided dipole speaker

All the speakers have removable covers that can be changed to suit the decor, either fitting in discreetly or standing out as a feature. Although it’s difficult to assess the audio quality in an exhibition hall, the demo I heard was suitably impressive and if you are in the market for this kind of product, I would definitely give them a listen.