Thorax Concrete Hifi Unit

Concrete has always been a popular product, but it’s not what you think of for display purposes – marble and solid wood come more readily to mind. Increasingly, designers are turning to this relatively cheap material with some very attractive polished concrete artifacts and recently I saw a lovely kitchen worktop in the material.

In this mode there is Thorax by Kompatibel Design, a modular hifi unit in concrete.

Thorax Concrete Hifi Unit from Kompatibel Design

Concrete is a good choice for a hifi unit, as the high density and consequent mass makes it less vulnerable to vibration. Of course this is only still an issue if you listen to vinyl records: if you’ve gone all digital, it’s not really a concern. Nevertheless, it’s a pretty impressive piece of furniture and while the aesthetics may not suit everyone, it certainly makes a statement.

The are three basic modules, “O”, “C” and “E” which can be joined to make the desired configuration. The picture above shows and “OEO” config and there are more shots on the website. In a nice touch, the concrete can be coloured to match a particular decor.

Price on application. Promotional video below.

(My German isn’t what it should be so apologies for any mistakes in translation.)

BTR006 Bluetooth Audio Receiver Review

BTR006 Bluetooth ReceiverA2DP Bluetooth rarely comes as standard in cars except on prestige marques, but most new vehicles at least come with a 3.5 mm audio socket on the audio system for plugging-in mp3 players. If you want a quick and cheap way to upgrade the car’s audio to Bluetooth, take a look at he BTR006 Bluetooth Stereo Receiver.

The BTR006 is a small plastic rectangle just a few millimetres deep (45 x 33 x 8 mm). It has only one button for on/off, an activity LED, a DC power socket and a 3.5 mm audio jack on the end of short lead. It’s a doddle to use: charge up, connect the jack into the 3.5 mm audio socket, pair with smartphone and starting playing music from your smartphone through the audio system. Simples!

Audio quality is perfectly acceptable given that it’s Bluetooth anyway and the receiver successfully paired with every device I tried it with. The receiver supports both Bluetooth 2.1 with both A2DP and AVRCP.

There’s an internal battery that’s good for 12 hours according to the spec, which is probably about right based on my experience. I get a whole week of podcast listening which means somewhere over ten hours based on weekly commute and other travel. Contrary to some reviews, it is possible to charge and use the device at the same time. The confusion arises as connecting the charger does turn off the BTR006, but turning it back on again lets the receiver charge and play at the same time.

One of the best features is that it automatically powers off when the Bluetooth connection is lost for a few minutes so the battery doesn’t run down when the car is parked and not in use. Obviously the receiver has to be turned back on, but that takes seconds to do.

BTR006 Installed in Car with Velcro

Unless there’s a convenient nook or cranny in your vehicle, the BTR006 will hang down from the audio socket, especially as the lead isn’t very long. Of course, the easy solution is to use Velcro, with a small strip on the back of the BTR006 with a matching strip on the dashboard. The BTR006 can be easily detached for charging at home or in the office via the supplied USB charging cable. Here’s what it looks like installed in my car….yes, I probably should have cleaned the dash before taking the picture.

Note that the BTR006 does not have a microphone so it’s not possible to use it for hands-free calls but regardless this is an excellent buy to play music through your car’s audio system via Bluetooth.

Available from Amazon for around £15 or $28 – just search for BTR006. Disclaimer – I bought this device personally.

Audi-Branded IDAPT Charger

Both Todd and I are fans of IDAPT products; our reviews of the i4 and the i1 Eco are elsewhere on GNC. They’re great products that reduce the number of chargers, cables and general clutter lying around the house.

IDAPT has also shied away from only offering their products in black and white, with the i4 available in a raft of finishes, from solid colours through to funky patterns. Admittedly, they cost a bit extra over the black and white versions but at least they’re an option.

Taking this further, I recently noticed that IDAPT has created a few promotional versions in conjunction with Audi. I snapped this one up from ebay last week. Apart from the graphic, it’s a standard i4 universal charger, with three charging points on the top and a USB socket on the side. There’s a second version featuring a rev counter but I’ve not seen one of those at an affordable price.

IDAPT Audi

I subsequently found the Audi Merchandise Shop but the chargers don’t seem to feature there at the moment.

Perhaps IDAPT could offer a version that you could customise yourself, maybe with pictures of your family or similar. For a device that is often on display in a hall or study, it would be a nice touch.

 

Veho Mobile Gear at The Gadget Show

Pebble Power PackVeho probably isn’t the first name that springs to mind when thinking about gadgets but they have a sizeable range from miniature video cameras to digital photo frames and Bluetooth headsets. In the UK, their products are sold in the main big boxes – PC World and Currys.

On Veho’s stand at Gadget Show Live, I played with a USB microscope which showed magnified images on the PC screen. Perhaps a little limited with just two magnification levels (20x or 200x) but good fun nevertheless.

In this interview, James Farmer from Veho takes me through some of the Veho range, including their Muvi miniature DV cameras, Pebble portable battery packs and Mimi wireless speakers. I really liked their Pebble range of battery packs as they had a lovely smooth shape, like the original Palm Pre.

 

SoundMatters foxL Pocket Speaker

Soundmatters foxL speakerSoundMatters show off to Jeffrey and John their range of small speakers, suitable for travel and the home.

First is the world’s best pocket-size speaker (allegedly), the foxL. Weighing a little over a pound, the smart idea was to incorporate the battery into the speaker itself and use it as the bass driver. The foxL comes in three versions; wired, Bluetooth and Bluetooth with the Apt-X codec for CD quality sound. Priced at $149, $199 and $229 respectively.

New later in the year is a mini sub-woofer which delivers 25 watts to give a big sound from a small package. It uses two parallel metal plates to push out the lower frequencies. Expected in late spring or early summer it will retail at $149.

Interview by Jeffrey Powers of Geekazine and Andy Smith of Geocaching World.

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Sennheiser RS 220 Cordless Audiophile Headphones

RS 220 Audiophile Wireless HeadphonesCordless headphones rarely have audiophile sound quality because of the data compression technologies used to transmit the music to the headphones, but Sennheiser‘s new headphones resolve this by using a lossless technology to transmit the sound. Eric Palonen gives Todd and Jeffrey more detail.

The Sennheiser RS 220 are cordless audiophile headphones, based on the reference HD 650 headphones. The wireless transmission technology is based on lossless Direct Sequence Spread Spectrum (DSSS) implementation. The charging base has both digital and analogue inputs.

The RS 220s will be available from March for $599. For comparison, the HD 650s are $499.

Interview by Todd Cochrane of Geek News Central and Jeffrey Powers of Geekazine for the TechPodcast Network.

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Philips Introduces New AirPlay Line

AirPlay is a standard introduced by Apple, but it has been picked up by many audio hardware makers to get their products integrated with the Apple and iTunes ecosystem.  Philips is introducing a whole new line of AirPlay-compatible products from entry-level all the way up to the high-end of audio.

Philips has a stand-alone speaker with built-in WiFi and a WPS button to easily connect to your home router and you can control them through an app of your PC, Mac, or mobile device.  They are also introducing a new pair of headphones that are towards the high-end of this category as they made from premium materials like leather, memory foam, and have a durable, cloth-lined wire.  You can see both products in the video below and also visit Philips online to get more info.

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

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Zimri Speakers Brings Incredible Wireless Sound

zimri speakers logoZimri Speakers was recently at the Consumer Electronics Show to display their latest line of speakers.  They have a full range beginning with tiny bluetooth speakers that can be used with a laptop or even tablets and smartphones.  What sets their speakers apart is both battery life and the lack of distortion, even at the highest levels.

Moving up the line from the smallest speaker already mentioned, Zimri’s next entry is nearly identical, but has a slightly bigger body for better base and also an SD Card slot, allowing it to be a stand-alone music player.  Zimri also offers battery packs that can not only recharge your speaker, but also your mobile device.

You really have to watch the video below to get the full concept of Zimri Speakers.  The demo of the bluetooth range, especially in a crowded and noisy CES show filled with other  bluetooth devices, is absolutely amazing.  For more information you can visit Zimri Speakers.

Interview by Nick DiMeo of F5 Live.

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The High End of Sound with California Audio Technology

California Audio Technology, known as CAT, work with third-party hardware vendors in the home theater field to produce some of the best sound quality available.  They were recently at the Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas showing off their latest top-of-the-line 2 channel audio speakers.  These aren’t speakers for the feint of heart.  Each tower weighs in at 120 pounds.

CAT makes more than simple tower speakers though, they precision-make each speaker and can design them for almost any installation, including hidden in-wall speakers.  Their custom-made speakers can be found anywhere from homes, to music studios, to mega yachts.  All of that massive weight comes in handy to prevent any speaker vibration, which is a common issue in cheap speakers.

To really understand everything that goes into these speakers you will really need to watch the video below for an in-depth explanation of how they are milled and how they work.  You can visit them at their web site.  CAT speakers are on the market now, but if you have to ask the price….well, you know how that saying ends.

Interview by Nick DiMeo of F5 Live.

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Zipbuds

Zipbuds Do your headphones get tangled up in your pocket or purse?  Are you frustrated by having to spend time untangling them everytime you go to use them?  Then you may want to take a look at Zipbuds. Zipbuds are headphones where the cords zips up like a zipper and so the two cords become one and doesn’t get tangled up. Zipbuds come in two styles in ear and over the ear. The over the ear style has two models a lower end model and a higher end one. The lower end model comes in five colors and the higher end model comes in three colors. The earbuds come in eight different colors. They are made of PET plastic and aluminium and are environmentally friendly. They are available thru the Zipbud Web site and Amazon starting at $20.00. They have gotten great reviews on Amazon as far as how they sound and work. So if you are in the market for headphones that don’t get all tangled up you may want to take a look at some Zipbuds.

Interview by Courtney Wallin of SDRNews for the TechPodcast Network.

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