Fitness Technologies announces world’s first plug-in AM module for free access to AM radio

UWater K9We’ve grown accustomed to exercising with music — dating way back to a walkman, and continuing though the era of the MP3 player and now the smartphone. But strapping the increasingly large screens to our side or arm is becoming more difficult. Today’s five inch screens simply aren’t conducive to this.

This year at the Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas, which kicks off next week, Fitness Technologies will be showing off its new waterproof module that brings MP3s along with AM and FM radio to the active person.

“Until now, the only choices for AM on-the-go were bulky, old fashioned AM/FM transistors or limited Internet radio access via smartphones using data plan minutes and requiring expensive protective cases, too big for many lifestyle activities. “We saw a need to combine AM broadcasting with our existing waterproof line of FM and MP3 micro players”, stated Opher Pail, President of Fitness Technologies, Inc.  “We have many customers over 55, a group comprising the lion share of AM talk radio and news audiences, and we are very pleased to enhance their audio experience with our easy to use, affordable, new plug-in AM module”, the company announces today.

You can check it out on the company’s web site and, if you’re planning to attend the show, then you can stop by booth 6826 and check it out.

Moxytronix CordCruncher Earbuds Review

Moxytronix‘s CordCruncher earbud headphones are the latest attempt to defeat that bane of modern life, knotted and twisted audio cords. These tangle-free headphones solve the problem by using a secondary rubber tube to retract and hold the cords when not in use. Cunning.

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The headphones come in a small pack, with three pairs of different-sized interchangeable earbuds. I would imagine that anyone who is used to wearing earbuds will have no problems here. The CordCrunchers are available in a range of colours, included a very hot pink which the photos below completely fail to reproduce – it’s a gamut thing.

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The picture above shows the CordCruncher in the retracted state with all the cord inside the rubber tube – it’s only about 18″ long. To use the headphones, hold the jack end and pull on the earbud cords, drawing the leads out of the tube to a full length of over 3 feet. The picture below shows the Crunchers with the cords extracted. The zigzag gives a clue as to how the cord “crunches” up inside the tube.

Headphones extracted

To pack the earbuds away, hold the jack in one hand and then pull the black collar away from the jack. The rubber tube is latex and stretches enormously until the cables are back inside. Gently relax and everything concertinas back up to the original length, tucking all the cables away. It’s not that easy to explain, so here’s a video.

After using the CordCrunchers for a week or two, I can confirm that they actually work and tangled cords are a thing of the past. I carried these round in my sports bag during testing and I never had a single tangle. Yank them out, stick them in your ears and get to work.

Sonically they’re not the greatest earbuds ever and in comparison with Sennheiser CX-300s, the sound is muddy and poorly defined. To be fair, the CX-300s cost about twice the price and audio fidelity isn’t the main reason for buying the CordCrunchers. However, I hope that Moxytronic do consider a higher end model in the future for those who demand more.

Pricewise, they’re around US$25 and here in the UK, they’re being sold by Advanced MP3 Players for a £19.99 in a range of four colours (pink, green, black and blue).

Finally, my six year-old daughter thought they were cool, which is probably more to do with the pinkness than anything else.

Thanks to DAD and Advanced MP3 Players for providing the CordCrunchers for review.

Amazon — Buy an app, get a free MP3

amazon logo

While it has not been largely publicized, Amazon has a deal going on right now for Android customers and music lovers. The online retail giant is offering a trade-off — buy an app and get a free song.

The deal is not exactly temporary either. It began back on February 13, 2013 and will run through December 31, 2013. Customers need not do anything to qualify — simply purchase an app from the Amazon Appstore for Android and then, shortly after making the purchase, you will receive an email from the company that includes a code for $1 credit to Amazon MP3. The code is good until 11:59 PM PST on January 31, 2014, so you have plenty of time to decide on your song.

As many of you likely know, Amazon offers a paid app every single day as its “Free app of the Day”. As it turns out, these also count, meaning you need not even spend anything to land your MP3 credit.

Sharkfin Self-Molding Earbuds

Custom-fit earbuds and headphones can be scarily expensive because the price often includes high quality sound drivers as well as the custom moulding. Advanced MP3 Players have come up with a product that solves this problem by adding a molding to already-owned earbuds – the Sharkfin Self-Molding Earbuds.

Sharkfin Self-Molding Earbuds Retail Pack

Inside the somewhat Spock-esque package are two small pots of self-molding silicone that when mixed together will set in about 5 mins. There’s a choice of two colours at the time of purchase, white or gray.

Silicone Pots

The idea is that you mix the silicone together, wrap a small roll of the material round the outer part of the earbuds, pop the earbuds in your ears, then knead the silicone into the auricle (or pinna) of the ear, before leaving to set. Here’s a video of the process.

Once set, you have a pair of earbuds or headphones customised perfectly to your ears that stay in place even when you are working out.

Naturally in the interests of research for the readers of GNC, I used the Sharkfins on a pair of Sennheiser earbuds. There’s sufficient molding material to do three fittings, so if the first one doesn’t work out, you get a second chance….which you’ll probably need. On the first one, I didn’t get sufficient coverage on the earbud itself and the molding came away from the earbud. The second time I was more successful.

Here’s a picture of my earbuds with the molding in place. I admit it’s not that pretty and it would have looked better with white earbuds but they definitely stay in your ear. I never knew my ear was so wiggly!

Ear Moldings

Another tip from the fitting would be to keep them in your ears a bit longer that the suggested 5 mins. The silicone was still quite soft at 5 mins, but had firmed up nicely by 10 mins. Leave for a few hours to make sure it really sets.

Any downsides? Depends on your point of view….I think I might be too self-conscious to wear these in any circumstances other than at the gym or running. Putting in the expanded earbuds takes a little getting used to, but once they were in, they were in. Finally, the silicone didn’t stick to my earbuds which meant that the moulding was easy to remove when I wanted my earbuds back to normal. That may be a positive or negative.

The Sharkfin Self-Molding Earbuds cost just £4.99, which I think is a good deal. If you try them out and don’t like them, you aren’t out a lot of money. Similarly, if you break your headphones at the gym, it’s not going to cost much to replace them.

Overall, a good idea at an excellent price that suffers aesthetically but if function wins out over form, these are for you.

Disclosure – the Sharkfin Self-Molding Earbuds were provided free of charge by Advanced MP3 Players.

Amazon Cloud Player App Finally Available for iOS

Amazon Cloud Player has been available for Android devices since it launched, but today Amazon announced that the music app is now available for iPad and iPhone.  That’s great news for iOS owners, especially given that the other big player in this field, Google Music, is also not available for Apple’s mobile platform.

Amazon Cloud Player offers 5 GB of free storage for your MP3’s.  Customers can not only store the music they purchase through the Amazon MP3 Store, but also upload their existing music to the service.  Additional storage is available at tiered rates, which are pretty reasonably priced.  New users can sign up for the service over at Amazon.  The app is available now through the iTunes Store.  The app is free for iPhone, iPad, and iPod Touch and requires iOS 4.3 or higher.  Amazon Cloud Player is also available for Android and on the web.

iPhone and iPod touch

Stanton SCS.4DJ Digital DJ Mixstation

SCS.4DJ MixstationIf you’re a DJ, you probably know the name Stanton, purveyors of DJ hardware. If you’re not a DJ, you probably still know the parent company, Gibson, of the guitar fame. Either way, we’re in good company here. Todd and Steve mix it up with Darrin “B-Side” Young from Stanton.

On show is Stanton’s SCS.4DJ Digital DJ Mixstation, a self-contained digital controller that has its own built-in computer and mixing software. The Mixstation is Linux-based with proprietary software that takes advantage of the unit’s features.

The music itself is all digital (.mp3, .wav, .aac) and USB storage can either be plugged in temporarily or else more permanently fitted on the underside in media bays.

Some of the cool toys include a 4″ hi-res colour LCD screen, display of the current track’s beat and wave form, media browser and automatic synchronisation between tracks (beat match). There’s also an auto DJ feature that takes a playlist and beat matches between the tracks. Nice.

Available now for $499 from over 500 retailers nationwide.

Interview by Todd “TC” Cochrane of Geek News Central for the TechPodcast Network, and Steve “Surfer” Lee of Waves of Tech.

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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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Cambridge Audio DacMagic Plus and StreamMagic 6

Cambridge Audio LogoI think it would be fair to say that Cambridge Audio has successfully moved from being a budget hi-fi brand into a solid middle tier player with several of their products receiving praise from audio and home cinema magazines. Consequently, I was interested to see what Cambridge Audio was demonstrating at CES this year, especially as it’s a British company. Scott has the interview.

The DacMagic Plus is a digital-to-analogue converter that will take the digital output from a games console, PC or smartphone, analyse and upscale the signal and then produce a clean analogue signal vastly superior to that produced by the original device. Let’s be honest, the DAC in your average games console or PC probably cost pennies to the OEM so it’s unlikely to be hi-fi quality. The DacMagic Plus has a pair of digital inputs, both optical and co-axial, plus USB input for high data rates (24 bit). There’s also an optional Bluetooth adaptor which uses the new AptX high quality codec. Output is to headphones, phono (RCA) and XLR.

The StreamMagic 6 is a new network music player that streams from a wide variety of sources – PC, uPnP, DLNA, Internet radio, Pandora – and it connects to the network either by ethernet or wireless-n. Cambridge Audio provides an on-line music portal which lets the audiophile choose their listening selection from a PC or tablet before sending the playlist to the StreamMagic. This neatly avoids the problem of poking around thousands of tracks on a tiny screen trying to find the ones you want. Round the back, like the DacMagic Plus, two digital inputs can take signals from sources such as smartphones or music players.

Overall, two great products that are definitely worth checking out.

Interview by Scott Ertz of F5 Live.

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Sennheiser Unveils High End Headphones

Sennheiser is one of the big names in headphones, so it’s not unsurprising that a few of the latest models were released at CES. Nick hears the latest for sound buffs from Eric.

First up are the HD 700s, an open headset approaching reference standard. With a wide soundstage, angled transducers give it a sound experience similar to listening to a speaker array; other features are designed keep the sound as pure as possible. These headphones are aimed at audiophiles who want to hear every nuance of the recording. Pricey at around $1000.

Next are the HD 800s, a futuristic-looking headset that takes audio purity and quality to an amazing level. Every detail has a purpose in the design, giving unparalleled acoustic reproduction for the total audio purist. Even more pricey at around $1500.

And finally, the Sennheiser Amperior brings the world-famous HD 25s to portable devices by optimising the impedance to give superior sound from a smaller unit. Suitable for all MP3 players, Apple iPods and iPhones, the Amperior comes with an inline remote and mic. Available from March for around $350.

Interview by Nick DiMeo of F5 Live.

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Sony Connects Up At CES

Sony LogoSony‘s CES focus this year is on electronics, content and network services combining to deliver high quality entertainment anytime and anywhere. Supported by a slew of product announcements, new connected devices range from TVs, Blu-ray players and A/V receivers through to tablets, smartphones and PCs and on to camcorders and mobile music players. Sony is combining these with online services for music, video and game delivery, creating a great user experience (as they say). TVs, PCs, smartphones and tablets are key to this experience as the four main devices used for entertainment.

Sony is committed to designing technologies for every aspect of consumer entertainment – in or out of the home, on the go, in the air, at work, at play, or wherever life takes you,” said Kazuo Hirai, Executive Deputy President, Sony Corporation. “When these products are combined with Sony Entertainment Network (SEN), which offers innovative services like Music Unlimited and Video Unlimited, as well as PlayStation Network, the user experience is truly unmatched and only made possible by a company like Sony.”

The Bravia TV line has been expanded in all three areas; entry level BX, step-up EX and flagship HX. Brightness and contrast levels have been increased and picture quality improved with Sony’s X-Reality and Motionflow video technologies. In particular the latter helps to reduce blur caused by rapid camera movements which is often a problem with LCD screens. Sony is sticking with the Google TV platform with a new network player and Blu-ray player featuring Google TV. Certain Bravia models will link seamlessly to these devices to provide Google TV features directly on the TV.

Sony Xperia ion smartphoneSony’s Vaio range of computers will continue to be updated with more entertainment feature and new designs that fit with consumers’ needs and increasing mobility. At CES, Sony will be demonstrating new technologies and prototypes for a range of technologies including glasses-free 3D.

In the smartphone space, the Xperia brand has done reasonably well, but increasing the smartphone share in North America is now one of Sony’s highest priorities. Sony Ericsson will be subsumed into Sony Mobile Communications and all new phones will carry Sony branding. The latest addition to the Xperia line-up is the Xperia ion, Sony’s first LTE smartphone coming with an HD 720p display and aluminium body. Also new is the Xperia S which comes with 3D image capture.

Sony Bloggie LiveOn the imaging front, no less than 13 new Handycam camcorders are being unveiled. A new image stabilisation system called Balanced Optical Steady Shot has been developed that controls the complete optical path from lens to sensor as a single floating unit. This reduces handshake blur by up to 13 times compared to the previous models. There’s a new camcorder model with a built-in video projector that has improved brightness and enhanced audio. The trusty Bloggie range now has a “Live” model which will live stream HD video over a Wi-Fi connection and there’s an unboxing over at sister channel TPN.tv. Of course, Sony has a bunch of new Cybershot digital still cameras.

Z Series Audio MP3 PlayerFinally, it wouldn’t be CES if Sony didn’t announce a Walkman or two. The new Z series of MP3 players comes with an application interface and connectivity to both Sony’s Music Unlimited and the Android Market. Content can be played from Z series devices either wirelessly using DLNA or via HDMI to Bravia TVs. To further improve the audio experience, no less than eleven new Balanced Armature earbud-style headphones are now available as well.

That’s it – a quick overview of the products on show at CES by Sony and they all look like fun.