Felt Audio Introduces a Bluetooth Modular System at CES 2013

Felt Audio I love the idea of Bluetooth audio there are no tangled wires, however I have never found a Bluetooth headset that I liked. To me they’re uncomfortable and hard to use. I prefer regular ear buds, but I hate untangling the wires every time I want to use them. So when I saw the newest Felt Audio product I was intrigued. Felt Audio has created a Blue tooth modular system that connects to any Bluetooth device. What makes this device unique is that the cables retract into the modular system. So when you’re finished with your phone call or listening to your music  the cables simply retract back into the device. You can have this device in one pocket and then have your smart phone or tablet in a completely different pocket that is more secure. You can control your phone calls and music directly from the device. The system will sync to any bluetooth device within 3 second. If you prefer to have everything together Felt Audio also makes a case that you can use to attach the device directly to your smart phone. When it is attached to your phone’s you can use it to recharge your phone.

Felt Audio also introduced what they call the world’s smallest speaker system at CES 2013. It also works through Bluetooth. It has omnidirectional microphone so you can use it in a meeting or any group. You can use the speaker either attached to the smart phone or separate like the modular system. It will connect with any Bluetooth device within three-seconds. You can clip the speaker to your belt or you can use the included stand and place it on a table.

Both the Bluetooth modular system and the speaker will be available in April for $99. The first 5000 customers who purchase the modular system from the Felt Audio website will receive a free case. You can preorder either the modular system or the speakers through the website now. It appears to be well made and I like the way to looks. As soon as I have some money available I’m going to preorder the modular system. Once I have it I will give you my review on how it works in the real world, but for now just the idea intrigues me.

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

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Underneath The Pringles Tree

PringlesPringles are running a Pringles Tree competition in December and each day you can open a virtual Pringles can to reveal the prize within. The prizes are inexpensive but there seems to be a good chance of winning as I’ve picked up a Pringles Speaker and a voucher for 7digital already. Other prizes include on-line games and receipes.

The Pringles Speaker arrived yesterday and it’s much better than I expected. The idea is that the speaker is inserted into the top of a Pringles tube once the contents have been munched. Powered by three AAA batteries (supplied), the sound quality and output is surprisingly good. For sure it’s not hifi and the bass isn’t great but for an impromptu party, it’s perfect. Plug in your mp3 player or smartphone and away you go.

Pringles Speaker

There’s 11 days left of Pringles Tree. Get popping, though it looks like this promotion is for UK residents only.

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.

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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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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Connected Wireless Speaker by Sharper Image

Sharper ImageWe all want to listen to music while we are in the kitchen or bathroom, but for most of us counter space is at a premium. Sharper image has a solution for this problem. At CES 2012 Steve Lee of Netcast Studio spoke with Don of Sharper Image about their newest product the connected wireless speaker. It takes up very little space and is designed specifically for the kitchen or bath. You can either plug it into any AC outlet or it also works through the installed lithium batteries. There is between 3-4 hours of playback time on a fully charged battery. Once it is plugged in or started it will connect wirelessly to your Bluetooth enabled device including a smart phone or tablet. You can also take a call directly from the device with its built in microphone. It should be available in May or June for about $49.99 online at the Sharper image Web site or through various retailers. This should be a great product for the kitchen or bath.

Interview by Steve Lee of Netcast Studio

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IRIS 9000 – Use Siri From Dock

IRIS 9000

IRIS 9000

ThinkGeek has put out a new device for your iPhone 4S. The IRIS 9000 dock with remote.

So you are at home. You plug in your iPhone 4S to charge and sit down to relax. You forget that you need to schedule that appointment in your phone, however, the phone is way over there. What do you do?

The new item, slated for Q1 2012, is a remote system that lets you shout at your phone for answers. You press the remote and ask Siri a question, the speaker system will broadcast the answer to you.

The remote does not have a microphone in it. The “built-in mic” says it can pick up your voice from a distance. So you may have to yell at the top of your lungs if you are in the other room.

Hey Siri! Where’s my wrench?

It’s a great way to keep your schedule set. It might also be a great alarm clock when you have the phone plugged in, and not lying on the bed next to you. This is only for 4S models. Price: $59.99

 

REVIEW: Jabra Freeway Hands Free Bluetooth Speaker

I have an older car – with no Bluetooth and definitely no MP3 player. It hasn’t been a big deal – I have been using my iPhone through a device that sends an FM radio signal. But now I can take all those wires away and use this Jabra Freeway Bluetooth speaker. A pretty impressive device that was awarded the best of CTIA wireless in 2011.

Jabra Freeway Front View

Jabra Freeway Front View

The Good Stuff – Jabra Freeway

Let’s answer the “What is the FM button for” question. Well, it simply turns this device into a FM tuner. You can listen to the voice through the built-in speaker, or through the radio on a tuned frequency. Great for if the whole car needs to hear a conversation.

The Jabra Freeway charges on a Micro-USB plug. The device can be affixed to the visor of your car (or wherever you want to put it). Turn the power on and you hear a voice say “Jabra on – Ready for pairing”.

The pairing process on iPhone is pretty standard. Turn on Bluetooth and choose the Freeway. Key in the pin (if necessary) and the device will pair.

When you have to answer a call, just hit the button with the phone receiver on it. Need to hang up – do the same. Volume buttons on the bottom to turn up and down the audio and a mute button if sirens are piercing outside.

Even though it’s pretty big for a Bluetooth hands-free unit, the contour does make it work so you can place it on the visor without blocking the vanity mirror. However, the speaker will also do double-duty. Whereas most hands-free units only take the phone calls, you can play music right through this unit. Turn on the FM button and your music will transfer over.

Like most units nowadays, you can charge in a couple hours and be on standby for days. Even with moderate to heavy usage, you might have to re-charge once every 6-7 days.

Since the unit is most likely right above your head, I can talk to someone while my windows are rolled down. Everyone I talked to through the unit has said there was no issue in hearing me. That is the best test of the Jabra Freeway.

The Not So Good Stuff – Jabra Freeway

I wasn’t completely impressed with the speakers in the unit. There was a noticeable clip (a buzzing sound) when I was listening to either music or someone talking to me with the volume around 70-80%. I had to turn down the speaker a bit to make the clipping sound go away.

The devices’ wire clip to the visor causes a bit of concern – especially since this is a bigger unit. If I am driving down the highway with the windows rolled down, then get a blast from the sun – causing me to whip the visor to the side window – I could see that unit go flying into the cross-traffic. A piece of velcro could be the answer, since I don’t see a person moving this unit around too much.

There are a lot of voice commands in this unit. Other hands-free units let me say “Call – [person]” once I press the button. You have to learn the commands – although by asking for help, the unit will give you a list of options.

There is no pause or stop button for the music. You have to press voice and then say “Pause”. Would have been better with just the button.

The Verdict

It does have a couple flaws, but the device is pretty good. This is a unit that sells for $129.99, so the price might be the tipping point to saying no. After all, I don’t need a device to play my iPod music as much and I can get a hands-free bluetooth unit for $50 or less.

If the Freeway was to drop below $100 and fix the speaker clipping, then it will be worth it. Otherwise, if you need a nicely designed unit with a larger speaker, then the Freeway is for you.

Disclaimer: I did receive a unit from the company. This is a unbiased review of the Freeway.

iGo For You On-The-Go

Tom interviews Ross from iGo, which will probably be familiar to anyone who’s traveled on business. These are the guys who provide all the portable power equipment to keep your gadgets charged up – I’ve even got a few bits’n’pieces from them – and at CES, they were showing off a few of the their latest toys.

First up was a portable speaker ($19.99) that runs for a couple of hours off a pair of AA batteries and works with any device that has a 3.5mm jack. Next was a folding device stand ($14.99) designed to hold a smartphone or PMP at an ideal angle for viewing video. Then there is KeyJuice keychain battery ($19.99) for emergency charging of your iPhone, iPod or iPad. Also shown were wall and car USB chargers, each with two USB ports. Finally, they offer iPad docks and keyboards, though they’re not shown in the video.

Interview by Tom Newman of The Fogview Podcast.

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