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.

 

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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Altec Lansing Brings new Waterproof Speakers to CES

Altec logo

Electronics and water. Two things that just don’t go well together. And while it’s easy enough to keep your electronics dry at home, what about those times when you’d like to play some music or listen to a podcast at the beach or next to a swimming pool? Altec Lansing has a new line of waterproof bluetooth speakers that you can use virtually anywhere.

Scott had a chat with Jill from Altec Lansing. Jill showed off an impressive array of products from the company’s “jacket” line. Starting wit the Mini h2o Jacket ($39.99) going all the way up to the Boom Jacket ($199.99), these speakers are wireless, waterproof and highly durable. All of these speakers are also designed to float, so no worries if they’re dropped into the ocean or knocked into a pool. Altec Lansing even put these speakers thru a series of tests, including fire and bullets. And each time, the speakers came thru, still working as expected.

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

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Denon Brings Innovative new Professional-Grade Gear to CES

Denon logoNo doubt there’s a big focus on consumer-focused products at CES. But there’s still much to be found at the show that’s specifically aimed towards professionals. Denon is a great example of one company that’s not here to sell wearables or kids’ toys.

Nick caught up with Eric from Denon. Eric demonstrated several of Denon’s new products that are specifically designed for use by audio-video integrators. The first is the Solutions series bluetooth-enabled receiver. It’s a box that transmits audio via bluetooth and can easily be integrated into a pro-grade sound system.

Next up is the Denon Envoy, a 360-watt chargeable PA speaker that comes loaded with different input options. Envoy can stream audio from a bluetooth-connected smartphone, it can play media from a built-in SD card slot or it can be connected to a standard external mixer. Envoy’s battery will run for up to 12 hours on one charge.

The last piece of gear in the demonstration is the DN300Z rack-mountable media player. This device is designed to play any type of media a user might have on hand. It’ll play CD’s, bluetooth streams, files from SD cards or USB sticks, even AM/FM radio. This unit would work great in situations where it’s necessary to play back multiple media formats in a hurry.

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

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AAMP of America Auto Upgrades

Aamp of AmericaTechnology moves on quickly and while most people get a new smartphone every other year, buying a new car doesn’t happen nearly as frequently. As a result, in-car technology can get out of date quickly, particularly with respect to entertainment and communication. Fortunately, AAMP of America can help out with this; Todd talks with Jeff Smith to find out what’s hot in auto upgrades.

With over 4,000 dealers, AAMP provide a wide range of after-market upgrades, with rear-view cameras and parking assistance being very popular, including dynamic parking lines. To keep up with manufacturer offerings AAMP does its own design and development to make sure its own products match or exceed the OEM products. Watch the video to learn more about AAMP and their approach to innovation.

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

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Samson Meteorite Falls Into CES

Samson LogoAudio specialists Samson today announced the new Meteorite, a USB condenser microphone for capturing high-quality recordings on a laptop or desktop. Meteorite is perfect for podcasting, creating audio for YouTube videos and recording music on your favourite software or apps, and to top it all, looks great.

Samson Meteorite

The Meteorite will be better than any computer’s internal microphone and soundcard, which is often provided at the minimum possible cost. The Meteorite’s studio-quality 14 mm capsule and dedicated audio conversion path provides a smooth, flat frequency response to capture the natural characteristics and dynamics of speech.

The Meteorite mounts to a magnetic base that lets you tilt and swivel the microphone to customise its positioning to your exact preferences. You can even take the microphone off its base and speak directly into it for recording or communicating in crowded noisy environments, and when combined with the iPad using Apple’s Lightning USB Camera Adapter or Camera Connection Kit (for 30-pin), the Meteorite is a great for recording on the go too.

The Metorite is priced at only $39.99 and to find out more visit Samson at CES South Hall 1, booth 21935.

I want one purely because it looks cool!