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.

FiiO E6 Headphone Amplifier Review

The FiiO E6 is small headphone amplifier designed to improve the listening experience from personal music players and smartphones. With a couple of equalisation settings, the E6 can enhance the bass range to counteract the high-frequency tendencies of digital compression.

FiiO E6 in Retail Packaging

In the box, there’s the E6 itself, two clips for attaching the E6 to clothing, a USB charging cable and two stereo 3.5 mm cables, 12 cm and 75 cm. For hooking up iDevices, an Apple connector-to-3.5 mm jack is available to buy. There’s also a small instruction manual.

FiiO E6 Contents

The E6 is 40 x 40 x 9 mm, approximately the size of an Apple Nano. The main features are a mini-USB port for charging, two 3.5 mm stereo sockets (one in, one out), a volume rocker and an on/off slider. There’s a small LED on one side, but until the E6 is powered up, you might mistake it for a reset hole.

The E6 is quite light as the case is plastic. Coincidentally, the finish was a good match for from my Sansa  player and could easily be mistaken as a complementary accessory, but clearly that feature depends on your particular mp3 player!

Sliding up the on/off switch turns the E6 on, with a blue LED illuminating the silver corner. The volume rocker switch turns the volume up and down and as this is an amplifier, it’s possible to exceed the volume of the original device, so mind your ears. The battery life is given as around 10 hours which would be in line with my experience of the E6.

On the back, there’s a small pinhole LED showing the equalisation – off, red, blue and lilac. Each further upwards push of the on/off switch steps through to next setting. According to the manual, the four settings are equalisation off, 3 dB boost, 6 dB boost and -3 dB boost, i.e. reduction, but the effects are more subtle than simply amping up or amping down.

Generally, the equalisation boosted the bass while reducing the treble and while my personal preference was for the first setting, both were very acceptable. The equalisation was done well, in that while the balance of frequencies was being adjusted, the clarity was still there. Although reduced in significance, the higher frequencies weren’t muddied and the overall impression was of greater warmth.

A small amount of background hiss was only noticeable between tracks when using the earbuds in quiet surroundings. When using over-the-ear headphones, it couldn’t be detected.

Currently priced at £18.99 from Advanced MP3 Players, the E6 is an inexpensive personal amplifier. It might have a budget price but the E6 punches above its weight, counteracting the tinniness of digitally compressed sound with depth and feeling.

Most of testing was carried out with Sennheiser CX-300 earbuds, Sennheiser eH1430 headphones and a Sansa e250 mp3 player.

Thanks to Advanced MP3 Players for the loan of the E6.

JayBird Headphones for Sport

JayBird SportsbandTo be honest, I’d never heard of JayBird headphones until I came across them on the DAD Audio stand at Gadget Show Live. However, having listened to their pitch, I’d consider a pair for use at the gym or during sport. Why? Because JayBird specialise in headphones and earbuds that are sweat-proof and difficult to dislodge.

On show were two Bluetooth headsets, the Sportsband and the Freedom. As you might expect, the Sportsband is a traditional headband model with modern styling (shown left), whereas the Freedoms are earbuds (show below) with a twist.

Jaybird FreedomsKeeping earbuds in during exercise is a constant problem, and the Freedoms solve this problem but having a cunning in-ear hook that latches onto part of the ear. This ensures that the earbuds stay in the ear no matter how active and sweaty the wearer gets.

If you are in the UK and are interested in picking up a pair, JayBird headphones are sold online by DAD Audio. Both models are currently £99.

To learn more, listen to my interview with Stephanie at the Gadget Show Live.

WOWee ONE Portable Speakers at The Gadget Show

Portable speakers were much in evidence at Gadget Show Live, though frankly some had the acoustics of a tin can rather than than anything close to hi-fi. Fortunately the WOWee ONE range of portable speakers tend towards the latter and while I doubt that musical purists will be impressed, those of us who simply want our tunes out-and-about will be satisfied.

WOWee ONE Pro

There are three models in the WOWee ONE line-up; the Classic, the Slim and the recently announced Pro (shown left). Although there is a conventional speaker included, all of these portable speakers are designed to vibrate the surface they’re lying on to produce sound using a unique gel pad on the bottom of the WOWee ONE that helps transmit the vibration from the speaker to the surface.

The Classic and the Slim need a cabled input (3.5mm jack) but the new Pro can make a wireless Bluetooth connection with a smartphone. The Pro also has a mic and can pair as a handsfree kit. With built-in rechargeable batteries, expect to get 10 hours of music from the Slim and the Pro but double that to 20 hours for the Classic.

I listened to both the Classic and the Slim at the Gadget Show and I though the sound was great for an impromptu party. The Classic seem to have the edge in the quality and range, probably because of the greater mass. Prices are a penny shy of £50, £80 and £130 for the Classic, Slim and Pro respectively.

I interviewed Magnus Hammick and he told me more about their products.

Waterproof Your Gear With Liquipel

Liquipel LogoNanotech waterproof coatings have been quite the fashion at CES this year but Liquipel‘s offering is a little bit different. Todd and Steve learn more from Kevin Bacon of Liquipel.

Liquipel have developed a nanotechnology-based liquid-repelling coating for electronic devices that makes the device waterproof for short periods of immersion. This sounds pretty much like ever other waterproofing technology on the market…except Liquipel can waterproof gadgets you already own. Woah!

For only $59, you can send Liquipel a phone or mp3 player and they will waterproof it for you. At the moment there’s a restricted list of devices that Liquipel will coat but the list includes some Apple, Motorola, Samsung and HTC devices. The list of approved devices will expand over time and if you have a particular need, you can get in touch with them.

Watch the video if you want to see an Apple iPhone get dunked in water!

Interview by Todd Cochrane of Geek News Central for the TechPodcast Network and Steve Lee of Waves of Tech.

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Motorola MotoACTV GPS Fitness Tracker and MP3 Player

motoactvThese days when we think of Motorola we think of some of the hottest Android phones on the market, but the hardware maker does more that just smartphones.  Last month at the Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas they unveiled the MotoACTV, a new Fitness Tracker and MP3 player.

The MotoACTV can be worn on your wrist like a watch or hooked to your bike handlebars like a cycling computer.  It will keep track of  just about everything an athlete could ask for – how far you have gone, how many calories you have burned, the number of steps taken, and can even hook up, via Bluetooth, to a heart-rate monitor.  All of the data is then uploaded to a web site where you can keep track of everything for days or months at a time.  If all of that isn’t enough, it also has a built-in MP3 player and will even track how you do during different songs.  In addition, it as built-in WiFi, so your data can be automatically uploaded when you arrive home.

The Motorola MotoACTV comes in 8 GB and 16 GB versions, which retail for $249 and $299 respectively.  The device is available now and you can learn more by visiting Motorola.

Interview by Jeffrey Powers of Geekazine.

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Lil’ Wiz Vibration Speaker

Lil' Wiz Vibration SpeakerCourtney introduces her favourite “party-in-a-pocket”, the Lil’ Wiz. It’s a mini vibration speaker that converts any flat surface into a loudspeaker.

There are two Lil’ Wiz models – the first is a basic MP3 player and takes microSD cards ($79). The second has Bluetooth and will stream music from any Bluetooth-equipped smartphone or tablet, both iOS and Android ($99).

Both have rechargeable batteries, though it’s not clear how long the battery can be expected to last. A special mount connects the Lil’ Wiz to glass or other smooth hard surface to use a window as a speaker.

I can’t imagine the Lil’ Wiz provides audiophile levels of sound but it seems to be a fun device for some impromptu music.

Interview by Courtney Wallin of SDR News.

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SiriusXM Lynx Satellite and Internet Radio Receiver

SiriusXM Lynx Satellite RadioSiriusXM is best know for their in-car satellite receiver head units but the latest Lynx unit combines satellite with Internet radio and an mp3 player. John finds out more with Sirius sales manager, Paul Truman.

The Lynx SiriusXM receiver combines the traditional head unit with features more usually found on a personal media player. Large touchscreen – check, mp3 playback – check, Internet radio – check, wifi and Bluetooth – check, rechargeable battery – check.

But one really clever feature most media players don’t have is the ability to go back in time. Not literally, but your favourite stations are constantly being recorded so that if you tune in and discover you missed the start of the programme, you can simply rewind the stream to the start of the show.

To cap it off, the unit is about the size of a paperback. Sweet.

Interview by John of F5 Live.

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Music in the Morning with the iShower

iShower Bluetooth SpeakerAt last year’s CES, iDevices showed off the iGrill, a Bluetooth-enabled cooking thermometer. This year, they’re back with iShower, a waterproof speaker. Andy and Don tune in with Jonathan Conelias from iDevices.

As with the iGrill, the iShower is Bluetooth-enabled, playing audio from iOS, Android and Blackberry phones. In fact, any device that can stream music via Bluetooth will work with the iShower and up to five devices can be paired. Naturally the iShower is waterproof, making it suitable for the shower, swimming pool and beach. Buttons on the iShower can control the music, skipping backwards and forwards through the playlist.

The iShower’s rich sound speaker cuts through the noise of the shower and in good taste, there’s no microphone. If you were thinking of taking a phone call in the shower, think again. A mounting bracket is supplied and complementary accessories such as a mirror make this a complete shower solution.

The iShower will be available from March both online and in good retail stores with an MSRP of $99.99.

Interview by Andy McCaskey of SDR News and RV News Net, and Don Baine, the Gadget Professor.

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Vertix Raptor Helmet Communicator

Vertex Raptor II Helmet Communicator

Veteran biker, Andy “Hog” McCaskey, checks out Vertix‘s Raptor helmet communicator. Let’s roll!

Vertix Raptor-i is a Bluetooth-based helmet communication system that brings together phone, intercom, radio and music player functions into a single unit. It’s perfect for any activity where wearing a helmet is the norm including motorcycling, motorport and skiing.

A microphone and speaker are fitted inside the helmet and Raptor unit goes on the outside. The unit’s controls are designed to be operated with gloves on and a remote control will be available in a few month’s time. Noise-cancellation and auto-gain control to ensure that voices can be heard clearly even at speed.

For the intercom function, two Raptor units can be paired together so that rider and pillion can talk or two riding buddies can chat between bikes.

The MSRP for the Vertix Raptor-i is $160 and it’s available now.

Interview by Andy McCaskey of SDR News and RV News Net.

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