Category Archives: headphones

Nothing ear(1) ANC Wireless Earbuds PreSale Saturday



Earlier this week, Carl Pei’s new tech startup, Nothing, launched its first product, the ear(1) wireless active noise cancelling earbuds for a very competitively priced US$99 / GB£99.

Long time GNC readers will likely recognise Carl Pei’s name as one of the two founders of OnePlus, leaving the smartphone brand last year to start this new project with the financial backing of Google Ventures (now GV) along with a number of private investors, including Tony Fadell, creator of the iPod, and Casey Neistat.

The ear(1)s have comprehensively managed to step away from comparisons with other wireless earbuds with a unique design and a transparent charging case. Carl Pei said, “Nothing ear (1) is a breath of fresh air in a cluttered and indifferent market, setting the tone for our connected digital world to come. It marries advanced technology, precise engineering, and groundbreaking design at an unbelievable price.

I have to admit that when I first saw the design, I thought the NOTHING ear(1) logo on the side of the earbuds was actually a small LCD display that would, say, show the tracks being played or the podcast being listened to. Sadly this isn’t the case but it would be really neat if it did.

In terms of specs, the ear(1) earbuds have active noise cancelling, wireless charging, IPX4 water resistance (sweat and splash), in-ear detection, over five hours of battery life and 34 hours of listening with case recharging. The 11.6mm drivers have been tuned by the audio nerds at Teenage Engineering for balanced bass, mid, and treble performance. Bluetooth 5.2 provides wireless connectivity. Nothing provides a complementary app to customise the audio experience of the ear(1)s and to help you find them when they’ve fallen down the back of the sofa.

If, like me, you missed the keynote launch during the week, the event is available on YouTube for viewing – the Sound of Change.

However, what you might not want to miss is a presale of the ear(1)s over at nothing.tech at 1400 BST on Saturday 31st August for purchasers in the UK and US. It is a limited drop and I don’t know exactly how the sale will go down, but it’s probably worth registering on the web site in advance.

If you miss this opportunity, the ear(1) earbuds will be going on general sale from 17 August, though there will be some other opportunities to get in on the hype through a couple of fashion sites like HBX, Mr Porter and Kith. Clearly, the ear(1)s are for the cool kids.


Ear 1 Coming From Nothing



Ex-OnePlus founder Carl Pei’s latest venture, Nothing, has revealed that there’s not long to go before their first product, Ear 1, arrives in June. Described as true wireless earbuds, the final design hasn’t yet been revealed other than through a teaser poster and clues from Carl, “Ear 1 combines notes of transparency, iconic form, and refined functionality. It is the starting point that will define the artistry, confidence and craftsmanship that will carry our products and services for years to come.” Looks a bit like something out of Monument Valley (the game, not the location), if you ask me.

In his blog post, Carl muses on the journey so far and the direction of travel and there are definite echoes of OnePlus, “But more than that, we believe the earphones market was begging for differentiation, a space where we can elevate design and deliver value from day one. ” Where have we heard that before?

The Ear 1 has been designed in partnership with Stockholm-based teenage engineering who have been designing and developing highly acclaimed audio equipment for over ten years.

Intend as the first of many products, Ear 1 is only the beginning, the first step in a long and exciting journey ahead, and Carl jokes about the next model being the Ear 2. I’ve been a fan of OnePlus for years and I’m hoping to see similar success with Nothing. No doubt the Ear 1 will be well designed, sound great and come with a competitive price tag.

Not long to go to find out.


OnePlus Nord Launches Tomorrow



A reminder that there’s a launch event tomorrow (Tuesday) by OnePlus, with full reveals of both the mid-range Nord smartphone and new wireless headphones, Buds.

As ever, there has been a ton of leaks around the devices, some intentional, some less so. Many of the details have been disclosed already, such as the use of Qualcomm’s Snapdragon 765G chipset, which means 5G, and that the Nord will include four cameras, two of which are for selfies. Of course, the big unknown is the price which is heavily hinted to be under US$500 for the Nord.

Regarding the Buds, it’s looking like there will be three colour options; black, white and a light blue with lime highlights. A total listening time of 30 hours is expected, but that includes three recharges in the battery case. From the leaks, Dolby Atmos could be on the cards too, which would be impressive at a price point of rumoured to be under US$100, based on the CEO teasing a price of $XX.XX for the Buds on Instagram. There’s more on the design of the Bugs over at the OnePlus forums.

As the world is still paralysed by Covid-19, OnePlus are going with an online AR (augmented reality) event to debut the new gadgets. If you want to watch the event at 10am EST / 1500 BST / 1600 CEST, there are two options.

  • Option 1: Livestream on OnePlus website at https://www.oneplus.com/global/nord/AR.
  • Option 2: Using the OnePlus Nord AR App available forAndroid or iOS. Install the app, then launch the app and follow instructions to setup your avatar and the app. You might need to accept a few permissions. Close to the launch time, launch the AR app and start the immersive AR experience.

Make sure you have a good internet connection to have a consistent streaming experience.

If you missed out on the Nord  pre-orders, OnePlus have confirmed that they will be continuing the tradition of pop-up stores, albeit again through a virtual on-line pop-up store.


Get Some Sleep with Kokoon Relax Headphones at CES



Sleep deprivation seems to be the curse of the 20th Century but for most people, the problem is simply living busy lives. According to NHS Choices, 1 in 3 people in the UK are affected by insomnia, with 50% of respondents in a recent survey by Mintel reporting struggles with sleep. All of us will have occasionally experienced those nights, lying awake, unable to switch off, but usually we’re back to ourselves the next night. However, for some, getting to sleep can be a clinical problem that needs help beyond getting to bed early.

For those people, there are CBT (cognitive behavioural therapy) techniques that can help with the problem. Tim Antos was one such sufferer and it was his experience of guided audio relaxation techniques that encouraged him to setup Kokoon with the mission to help people relax and sleep easier. After attending many sessions at a sleep clinic he “wanted to make all this knowledge, all these great tools I learnt in the sleep clinic more accessible to the everyday consumer to use on their own terms”.

Developed with staff at Europe’s largest sleep laboratory, the Kokoon Relax headphones combine bio-sensing with adaptive audio within an ergonomic noise cancelling headphone to provide personalised, bespoke assistance to help people switch off and relax. Simplistically, that means it uses EEG sensors to monitor brainwaves, motion and heart rate, and adjusts the sounds depending on how sleepy the wearer is.

The Kokoon app features techniques, tracks and concepts developed with sleep professionals to optimise the chances of falling asleep. The app helps insomnia sufferers by delivering a customised content experience developed for the individual using the sensor data gathered from their body and environment. For example, as the wearer falls asleep, the audio changes in response, fading out the content and introducing white noise to mask out disturbances. The system also tracks what helps someone doze off, then personalising content for greater effect.

On top of this, the Kokoon Relax headphones have been designed with comfort as a priority. There’s no point getting to sleep only to be woken up by uncomfortable headphones digging into the scalp. The Flexmould Comfort patented design helps Kokoon headphones conform to the shape of the user’s head, and by using high quality natural fibre fabric, air flows easily through the ear cups to keep the wearer’s ears cool and comfortable (I often get hot ears). The ear cushions are detachable for washing too.

The Relax headphones can be used just like any other Bluetooth 4 headphone. With great sound from 40mm electro-dynamic drivers, it makes them ideal for listening to music and watching movies whilst travelling, or simply relaxing in a busy place. And at only 350g or 12oz they make the perfect travel companion with folding earcups and a carry case is included too. There’s a choice of two colours, black or grey.

The Kokoon Relax headphones are now shipping internationally from Kokoon.io for US$349 / GB£315, and there are some new year offers on. They can also be purchased from Amazon.com and selected retailer.


Hidizs Sonata HD DAC Review – USB C to 3.5 mm



There’s no doubt that USB C is the new standard for smartphones, tablets and laptops and it replaces a plethora of legacy ports, including all the annoying variants of USB. In addition, USB C supports digital audio and several device manufacturers have decided to remove 3.5 mm audio sockets from their phones and tablets. Google, OnePlus, Samsung, Huawei and LG all have at least one model which only has USB C.

This is not good news if you have invested in high-end headphones or earbuds that connect via a cable. Yes, manufacturers typically include a USB C to 3.5 mm adaptor for the devices but my experience is that the sound quality isn’t that great – frankly, it’s rubbish.

Both my smartphone (OnePlus 6T) and tablet (Huawei Mediapad M5) are USB C only devices, and as an owner of some half-decent headphones, I’d been looking to improve the audio experience. I came across a recommendation for the the Hidizs Sonata HD DAC Cable II so I thought I’d try it out. I ordered via Amazon.com to be shipped to the UK, so it set me back about US$45 in total.

The Hidizs DAC comes in small zipped case typical of audio goods. Inside there’s the Sonata DAC cable itself, plus a USB A to USB C converter for use with laptops and PCs that don’t have the newer type of USB. It’s also needed for flashing the firmware, but more on this later.

First impressions are that this is a good product – the cable has lovely plaiting and the socket is metal….but we’re not here to look at the Sonata. What does it sound like?

Brilliant. The difference between the Hidizs DAC cable and the Huawei OEM one was easily noticeable. The sound was much clearer, with greater clarity and really opened up the performance.  Very impressed and would definitely recommend the Sonata if you have any kind of quality headphones. I tested with a range of headphones from Sennheiser to 1more, both over-ear and in-ear.

Using the USB A to C converter gives the benefits of the DAC over whatever penny chip was used in a PC or laptop. Windows 10 picked up the DAC on insertion and resetting the audio output to the new device yielded much better sound across the board too.

Finally, the Sonata 3.5 mm input is a TRRS type and supports headphones with a microphone, meaning you can take phone calls when you have your headphones on, as long as there’s a mic on the ‘phones. Interestingly, the firmware can be updated too and if you don’t use the phone function, the output audio quality can be enhanced further to 24bit/192kHz. I didn’t actually try to flash the firmware…

Overall, the Hidizs Sonata HD DAC Cable II is a big improvement over the cables provided in the box with smartphones and tablets sporting USB C. Recommended.

There’s more in the video below.

 


Lizn and Hear the Conversation at CES 2018



True wireless earphones have been around for about eighteen months and products are beginning to innovate away from making the earphones technically better and physically smaller. As an example, Lizn‘s “hearpieces” are wireless earphones but also have some properties of a hearing aid. Todd listens to Michael to find out more.

The clue to Lizn’s USP is in the name itself – it’s a play on “listen”. C’mon, keep up. As well as being discreet Bluetooth wireless earphones, the earphones have directional amplification to help the wearer hear conversation in difficult circumstances. The dual microphones use advanced sound processing to enhance the consonants in speech which helps understanding in noisy environments.

The earphones come in three different colours, ruby red, caffe latte and anthracite grey. They’re on pre-order for US$149 with an expected retail price of $199, and should be available in April.

Todd Cochrane is the host of the twice-weekly Geek News Central Podcast at GeekNewsCentral.com.

Become a GNC Insider today!

Support my CES 2020 Sponsor:
30% off on New GoDaddy Product & Services cjcgeek30
$4.99 for a New or Transferred .com cjcgeek99
$1.00 / mo Economy Hosting with a free domain. Promo Code: cjcgeek1h
$1.00 / mo Managed WordPress Hosting with free Domain. Promo Code: cjcgeek1w
Support the show by becoming a Geek News Central Insider

Audeara “Hearing Test” Headphones at CES 2018



We’ve covered Audeara’s headphones on GNC before but they’re so interesting that they’re worth a second shout as it’s CES and all manner of advanced technology is on show.

Audeara are the world’s first full fidelity headphones with an built-in hearing test to protect user’s ears and deliver a completely personalised listening experience.

Everyone has a degree of hearing loss. Not just as a result of every loud gig they’ve been to, every busy street they’ve walked down, or every police siren that’s ever gone past but also damage can be sustained purely by listening to their headphones too loud. More and more young people have some loss of hearing, with an increasing number with the same hearing health usually associated with a 60 year old.

Audeara headphones can be used to test and retest hearing over a lifetime and adapt music to the user’s individual needs. They make music better, not louder, and provide perfect sound as it’s personalised for each person’s hearing. The first time the headphones are worn, the user undertakes a hearing test – the results of which, are subsequently stored in the headphones themselves. The headphones use this hearing profile to adjust the sound signal as it passes through them. They adjust the right ear differently from the left, making sure each part of the signal reaches the user’s brain in a way that’s heard as a perfect reflection of the intended signal.

What makes the Audeara headphones especially powerful is that all the technology is inside the headphones themselves. After the first test, the app isn’t required again unless the user wants to retest. This means headphones are no longer passive magnets for signal conversion, instead, they’re sophisticated tools for personalised sound reproduction.

The A-01 headphones are on pre-sale for AU$399 (that’s Australian dollars) with delivery expected in February 2018.

There’s video explaining the technology here.