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.

Sonivo Easy Speaker-SBS-120 Review

Sonivo Easy Speaker-SBS-120 Sonivo Easy Speaker-SBS–120 use Near Field Audio (NFA) to produce its sound.  No wires, no bluetooth or wi-fi required. The speaker is small with dimension of 5“ by 2.75” by 2″ approximately and it is available in black and white. You are also supplied with a USB mini cable for charging the device and a 3.5 mm to 3.5 mm cable to be used with devices that do not have external speakers.

To use the Sonivo Easy Speaker-SBS–120 you simply turn the speaker on by the small switch on the side. Then you start the music on your device and lay the device on top of the Sonivo . There are two speaker icons on the top of the Sonivo Easy Speakers-SBS–120, to get the best sound you want to line up where the sound is coming out of your device with the two speaker icons. I tested it using my Samsung Galaxy Nexus and found that if I set the phone right in the middle of the speaker it didn’t pick up the sound, however if I moved the phone over so that the speaker icon on the Sonivo Easy Speaker lined up with the place where the sound comes out on the Galaxy Nexus it worked great. With the HTC One I simply laid it down on the Sonivo Easy Speaker and it worked. The one problem I did run into with the HTC One is that at one point I kept on hearing a buzzing noise and the audio was distorted. I solved the problem by moving the device back a bit and turning the volume down.

Once I figured out where to set my devices on the Sonivo Easy Speaker, I started to enjoy it. It did increase the volume of the device quite a bit. Not surprisingly there is no bass, but the treble is quite good. If you are looking for a small portable speaker that you can easily carry with you when you travel then you might want to take a look at the Sonivo Easy Speaker-SBS–120. The Sonivo Easy Speaker-SBS–120 is normally available at MobileFun for $25.49 however at this time they appear to be sold out. If you provide your email they will notify you when one is available.

Review of the Verizon Jetpack 4G LTE Mobile Hotspot MiFi 5510L

Verizon MiFi I have been thinking about getting a portable mobile hotspot for a while. There are two basic reasons I have been looking for one. The first is I occasionally have coffee at a local Starbuck kiosk in a Kroger near me and it does not have any Wi-Fi service. At those coffee shops that do have Wi-Fi service it is often slow or the service just stops working altogether for no apparent reason. The second reason is because of security. I have listen to enough Security Now and read enough about using public wi-fi to know it is not the most secure environment. Before you say it, I know I could simply use my phone as a hotspot and tether my device to it. I have done that before, but it quickly killed the phone’s battery and to be honest I rather have a device that is specifically made for this purpose.

There were a couple of things that I was looking for in the device itself, first obviously it needed to work in my area of West Virginia. This automatically removed any Tmobile devices or services such as FreedomPop neither which work in my area. The second thing I was looking for was something that didn’t require a contract. I am already dealing with enough contracts and didn’t want to deal with another two-year contract. I wanted something that I would pay for on a weekly or monthly basis.
I ended up picking up the Verizon Novatel Jetpack Mifi 5510.With the Verizon Novatel Jetpack MiFi you can buy plans by the week or by the month. A single week plan cost $15 for 250MB, 3GB for $60.00 a month and 10GB for $90.00 a month. The first thing you have to do is activate your device, which requires you to type in a 20 character number which is printed on the back of the sim card, which is the size of my thumb nail in light blue ink. The first time I called the numbers especially all the zeroes ran together so I ended up hanging up, writing the number down and then calling back. After that the activation went fine. When you do the activation make sure you have a way to write down the number they give you.

The Jetpack 5510e is rectangular in shape with rounded corner. It is made of hard plastic. Some people complain that it feels cheap. Personally I think it feels fine, but I don’t have anything else that I can compare it to. The back is easy to open and the battery is replaceable. Unlike some portable wi-fi devices the Jetpack Mifi 5510 has no microSD slot or external antenna port. There is an LED screen on the front and on the home screen you can see the battery life, notifications, signal strength and number of devices connected. You can also change screens to see the Wi-Fi name and password, software updates and more importantly data usage. You can change screens and make selections using the function keys on the device. These function keys can be a little finicky but not too bad once you get use to it. Once I activated and register my device I was able to connect and my iPad mini with no problem. I used it for about 30 minutes to test it and it was great.

There are a some problems with the Jet Pack 5510. First it is an US only device, so if you need something for overseas travel this is not the device for you. Second like I said before some people think that it feels cheap and the function keys are finicky. I read some of the comments on the Verizon site and some people were trying to use this as a replacement for their home or office network, that is not what this device is for , first it would be way too expensive and second it is not built to run 24/7. After using it twice now this week I have to say I am overall happy I purchased it and went without a contract.

beatpower Speakers

Beat-Power If you start looking for portable speakers for your iPhone or iPod you quickly notice that most companies have a one-size fits all policy. Fortunately there is a company that thinks differently, beatpower.  beatpower policy is to create speakers for different types of people. They have a category of speakers that are made for people who are more fashion conscious. Another category for those who like things to look more traditional. A third category for those who want their speakers to have the same design quality as their iPad or iPod and a fourth category for the audiophile. All speakers no matter what the category are bluetooth enabled and most have a microphone installed.

The final category that was shown was the beatbox which is a hi-fi system for the home. The beatbox is covered with hand-stitch leather in various colors. It has optical wireless and bluetooth capability. It also has two USB charging ports which you can use to charge your iPhone or iPod. The Beat Block comes with a remote control that allows you to control the treble and bass that is coming out of your iPhone or iPod.

You can take a look at the various speakers available at the beatpower website. The prices for the various speakers will run from $29.99 up to $199.00. For more information about availability you can send an email to sales@beat-power.com. They are also working on an e-shop, which should be coming soon.

Interview by Todd Cochrane of Geek News Central for the TechPodcast Network and by Nick DiMeo of F5 Live.

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Portable Google Nexus 7 Desktop Stand Review

I was asked to review the Portable Google Nexus 7 Desktop Stand by MobileFun.co.uk. When I received the package, I unboxed it and then tossed the box across the room. This was a mistake, since the instructions are on the sides of the box. After trying to figure it out without the instructions for a couple of minutes, I had to walk across the room to get the box. Once I read the directions, I had one of those “of course moments”. The stand comes fold in a carrying bag. To unfold it you have to push the center button at the top of the stand and then pull out the legs to angles you want. You can extend the legs out to increase the number of angles. There a two small feet at the bottom that you pull out to set the tablet on.

5

The stand is black and silver. It feels sturdy and well made. It is made of hard plastic and metal. I do have a couple of complaints about it. The first is I wish the feet that you set the tablet on were a little wider. The second is occasionally the stand gets stuck at an angle and you have to pull a little harder on the legs. These are two small complaints and wouldn’t stop me from recommending the purchase of this stand. It is perfect for anyone who is looking for a sturdy stand that you can easily carry with you.  MobileFun.co.uk also has a lot of other accessories for the Nexus 7 including the Nexus 7 case  which are worth taking a look at.

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.

TVman Wireless DTV Tuner by Dediprog

TVman Do you want to watch over the air TV on your laptop or tablet while traveling, then the TVman Wireless DTV Tuner by Dediprog maybe what you are looking for. It is a digital TV receiver that allows you to watch over the air TV. It transfers the signal to any computer or tablet by Wi-fi. So there are no extra wires to carry around. The cord is the antenna. Because it doesn’t depend on 3G connectivity you get a full high def signal. Unlike other options available now which depend on the 3G signal and are often compressed. Dediprog distributes the product themselves and also  through other vendors. They expect to sell it in the US for around $100.00. It is available now in Japan and South America. They hope to have it available in Europe within 3 months and the US by end of the year.

Dediprog also showed off a second item which combines the wireless DTV tuner with 3G. The device can be used as a mobile hotspot or a digital TV receiver. Dediprog is trying to build partnerships with various mobile service providers which would provide the 3G connectivity. They also need to get FCC approval for both devices.

Both products are small enough to fit into a man’s front pocket. You carry them with you and as long as there is an over the air signal available you can watch TV. Not sure how long the battery last or how far the wi-fi signal travels. I expect you need to be in the same room as the device, but that is an assumption on my part. Both products will works with Android, iOS and Windows. I would love to get a hold of the device to test it, to see what kind of signal it picks up

Interview by Todd Cochrane of Geek News Central and Steve Lee of Wave of Tech

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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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Built To Tylt Designs for Smartphones

Built to Tylt logoAt CES‘s Digital Experience, Andy talks with Built To Tylt about their funky designs for smartphones and other portable gadgets. Check their website as these guys have got some great stuff.

The Tylt Band is a smartphone car charger made of a colourful flat silicon rubber cable that is nearly impossible tangle. Micro-USB and Apple connectors are available there’s an extra standard USB socket near the base of the cable for plugging in another device.

Tylt also have two portable battery packs, the Zumo and the PowerPlant, with 1500 mAh and 5,200 mAh batteries respectively. The Zumo is intended for the emergency smartphone charging, whereas the larger PowerPlant can part charge a tablet or recharge a smartphone several times.

Finally, if you are an iPhone owner, you might be interested in Tylt’s new iPhone cases, one of which comes with a lens cover to protect the camera and another that has a built-in kickstand (kickband?) to angle the iPhone for movie watching.

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

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iRig Mic Cast

iRig Mic CastFirst let’s look at the problem, you want a microphone you can easily carry with you everywhere you go, so that you are ready at anytime to do an interview or record a lecture. It needs to work with your iPhone or iPod Touch and it has to sound great. The solution to this problem maybe the iRig Mic Cast

The iRig Mic Cast is a small microphone that plugs directly into the headphone jack of your iPhone, iPod Touch or iPad, It is small enough that it can fit easily into a pocket or purse. It is a Unidirectional microphone which minimize background noise. It produces crystal clear audio quality. There is a stereo mini jack which allows you to attach a headphone enabling real-time monitoring. There is a small switch which allows you to set the recording for close up or at a distance. It has a bumper which allows it to work with most cases. There is a small stand included so you can set the iPhone or iPod Touch on a table. Two programs are included with the iRig Mac Cast, the iRig Recorder and the VocaLive. iRig recorder is an easy to use recording an editing application. VocaLive is a multi-effects processing app for the iPhone or iPod touch great for vocal musicians.

iRig Mac Cast is coming out in early spring 2012 and will be available for $39.99 through electronic and music retailers. It is made by IK Multimedia. IK Multimedia is a music technology company that has been in business since 1996. They develop music and audio software and hardware that takes advantage of today’s technology.