A good surround sound system makes the difference between just watching TV and a home cinema experience. The only snag is that it’s all too easy to end up with wires and cables everywhere.
For something neater, there are wireless speaker systems, though even then it’s hard to get a decent level of audio quality. Fortunately Damson are bringing Dolby Atmos to wireless home cinema speaker systems in their new S-Series.
The S-Series is the first wireless modular home cinema speaker system to support Dolby Atmos, enabling sound to be precisely placed and moved anywhere in a three-dimensional space, including overhead. This brings entertainment alive all around you, delivering moving audio with greater clarity and depth.
With the S-Series powered by Damson’s wireless network, JetStreamNet, users are able to seamlessly connect and expand sound throughout their homes. JetStreamNet has the capability to connect up to eight speakers. This means users can place the wireless speakers in a variety of arrangements, or in individual groups, to stream sound throughout different rooms. Each speaker has a range of up to 50 metres (approximately 150 feet), which goes far beyond the power of any ordinary wireless speaker system in the market.
The S-Series: Home Cinema system with Dolby Atmos features a soundbar, subwoofer, 2 S-Cubes and a Dolby Atmos Speaker, allowing the system to decode all Dolby formats, including Dolby Digital Plus, Dolby TrueHD and Dolby Atmos, providing cinema-level audio experiences in a powerful, compact, and elegant package.
Available for pre-order for US$799.99 / GB£799.99 / €849.99, the S-Series Home Cinema system will be the most advanced wireless speaker system for home entertainment to date while staying affordable for consumers.
The Solo E600 and E500 speakers are portable wireless speakers with built-in batteries (8,800 mAh / 8 hours) and both Bluetooth and wi-fi connectivity. They also look good so I’m thinking that these are speakers for your patio or garden, rather than for throwing in a picnic basket or rucksack. They really are beautifully designed in powder-coated stainless steel (and available in Space Grey, Gold or Charcoal Black).
Interestingly, the speakers have a graphic equaliser built in, so music can be tuned even further to add more bass, mid-range or treble to music. This can also help any deficiencies in the audio caused by Bluetooth transmission or mp3 compression.
The Solo series produce a precise acoustic sound that is designed to pamper the ears with an enhanced 360-degree 3D sound engine which is combined with the DPAC (Dual Pressure Air Compression) technology creating a super bass system. This breakthrough patented Dual Pressure Air Compression Technology – “DPAC”, innovative driver configuration, combined with air pressure, delivers a full-range sound with deep low bass and astonishing clarity of sound in an ultra-compact size. With the help of DSP Enabled, this additional digital processing power, it is possible to implement supplementary audio processing features that provide a means of modifying the sound of the music being listened to, resulting in an amazing, more dynamic sound.
Powered by an 8,800 mAh built in battery, the Solo range is 100% portable with no compromise in sound performance with a max output up to 200 watt. With an array of sounds that spread in wide directional waves and circulate within the room, users can and immerse themselves within this powerful, spherical and precise, clear, quality of sound wherever the speaker is positioned in the room. Unlike conventional 360-degree sound, the Solo ranges enhanced 360 degree optimised sound flows not only left to right but top to bottom and the multi and omnidirectional sound gives the impression of being in a multi speaker environment.
The Solos are going to launch on Kickstarter shortly, so no details on pricing but if you are at CES, check them out in Eureka Park.
Smartphone cameras have developed incredibly over the past few years and broadcast quality video can be obtained from even mid-range phones. Audio can still let the side down as the built-in microphones simply can’t hear clearly from six feet away. To solve this problem, Samson Technologies have developed the Go Mic Mobile, a professional wireless microphone for mobile filmmakers, journalists, podcasters and vloggers.
Announced today at CES, the Go Mic Mobile will be available in with three different microphone configurations – dynamic handheld, lavalier and shotgun. The compact unit wirelessly mixes HD digital audio on two channels from up to 30 m away and connected via cable to both iOS and Android devices, the Go Mic can operate for up to six hours on battery power. For convenience, the receiver can be mounted on the back of a smartphone using the supplied bracket or fitted to the shoe mount on a DSLR.
“Our goal is to provide passionate creators with a wireless system that delivers superior, clean audio while on-the-go,” says Sean Meagher, Samson’s Director of Marketing. “The Samson Go Mic Mobile continues the evolution of our highly portable microphones as creative consumers like filmmakers and journalists increasingly demand more mobile options.”
For the techies, the Go Mic Mobile uses uncompressed, low latency audio and can operate up to 30 m on the 2.4 GHz frequency band. Frequency response is 10 Hz–22 kHz with a bitrate of 48 kHz which is better (in theory) than CD quality sound. The receiver also includes a switchable 1/8” headphone/mic output with volume control for monitoring or connecting to an analogue input.
The Go Mic Mobile is expected to go on-sale in May 2017 for US$199.
Samson are at CES 2017, Booth #21427 in the South Hall.
Earbuds have evolved significantly from the wired junk that came with early smartphones to quality sound via Bluetooth and AptX codecs (and price tags to match). The apex of totally wireless earbuds has been challenging but in the last few months there have been Kickstarter campaigns and even Apple finally has their AirPods. A couple of weeks ago the team at Syllable sent me the D900 mini, a set of wireless earbuds complete with a cool charging case and blue LEDs. I’m in heaven, I thought. Let’s take a closer look…
Right from the start it’s apparent that the D900 mini is well designed and cleverly made. Take the charging case. There are small pogo pins in the cradle for each earbud. Placing an earbud lightly into the case lights up the blue LEDs to indicate the battery level of the case. It’s only when you close the lid of the case onto the earbuds, pushing them down onto the pogo pins, that the earbuds recharge. The lid is kept shut with magnets. All very smart.
The D900 mini comes with three sizes of eartips, a microUSB charging cable and a small suede-effect pouch. As usual, I needed the largest to fit my ears. All the sizes come with retaining hooks to help stop the earbuds falling out. The D900 mini earpieces do point forward slightly too but overall I found the fit was good and I was able to wear the headphones comfortably for nearly an hour, perhaps a little less.
There is a little weight to them so they never quite disappear from your consciousness. While the D900 mini is bigger than the standard earbud, it’s not so much that anyone really notices. With a woolly hat on, they’re completely invisible and the hat keeps them in too. Perfect for long winter walks. Having said that, I didn’t have any problems with the earbuds falling out once I had them in properly. As ever with earbud fit, YMMV.
The earbuds have only one button and that’s effectively the whole of the top surface. Pressing this turns on the earbuds, confirmed by a few tones, and a long press on the left bud will get them into pairing mode – the left earbud is considered the master. I had no problems getting the D900s connected up. (Syllable was even spelt right this time). Once paired with my OnePlus 2, they worked as any Bluetooth headset. Obviously with only one button per ear, the controls are fairly simple. Short presses on the button stops / starts music playback and accepts calls. Long presses reject calls and turn the earbuds off.
Battery life is somewhere between 90 minutes and two hours, which seems short, but given the tiny size of each D900 mini earbud, it’s pretty good. The charging case keeps the earbuds charged up so the D900s tend to be fully charged when starting to listen to music. The charging case is supposed to recharge the earbuds from four to six times. That seems about right be I didn’t exhaustively test this as I didn’t always run the headphones flat.
In terms of audio quality, the D900 mini is as good as any wireless Bluetooth headset I’ve listened to, especially in a quiet room, with good detail, rich sound and solid base. Yes, you will notice the difference against a pair of wired Sennheisers, but for (relatively) low cost wireless headphones, the sound is really good. The D900s are supposed adjust the frequency response to emphasise the bass even at low volumes, though as an engineer, what impressed me most was that both earbuds remained in step – I never once encountered one earbud playing behind the other. Really clever stuff.
Problems? I encountered a couple of minor problems with the D900 mini. Sometimes, particularly when outside, the bass would disappear resulting in a very thin sound. I never quite figured it out but I have a suspicion that it was noise cancellation or frequency adjustment not quite behaving as intended. The other issue I encountered was that sometimes the audio would drop out between one, other or both earbuds for a few seconds. It would always come back and faded in gently rather than just exploding back in, which was a better experience. I noticed that this tended to happen at the beginning of a listening session, so I’m not sure if this was some part of frequency setting or power level calibration. To be fair these were all minor niggles.
Overall, these earbuds are astonishing especially when the price is GB£40 from Amazon.co.uk (US$50 from Amazon.com). Certainly there are a few flaws but the D900 mini is incredible considering the engineering challenges, the technology and the sound quality. If these are first gen products, I can’t wait for the next iteration.
I’ve been looking at a few Mpow gadgets recently and so far, they’ve all done well, giving great performance for not much money. Next in line are the Mpow Cheetah Bluetooth 4.1 Sports Headphones to give them their full title. These are sport-oriented headphones, with a neckband to keep them in place. Let’s see if these are worth putting on the Christmas list for the January fitness programme.
The Cheetah comes in a small grey box that has a curious soft touch finish to it. While it feels pleasant, it’s actually quite hard to see what’s inside the box as black headphones on a grey background doesn’t work well. Getting into the box is another matter too: there’s a hidden magnetic flap which will keep you guessing for a few minutes.
Once inside, the Cheetah headphones are coiled neatly on top. These are the boring black ones though they are available with yellow, pink, blue and green highlights. Taking them out and removing the tray reveals a small instruction booklet, USB charging cable and three sets of silicon earbuds (small, medium and large). Looking at the left and right ear pods, the features are not unexpectedly sparse and the leftside one has nothing. The right pod has all the controls, including volume rocket, multifunction button, mic, indicator light and microUSB charge port. Unlike the Swift, the door over the charge port has a small flap which makes in much easier to get your fingernail under.
Charging is straightforward and takes about two and half hours from flat. There’s a red light on during charging which changes to green when the battery full. Similarly, the Bluetooth pairing is simple: hold down the multifunction button for five seconds until the Cheetah enters pairing mode and do the usual on the smartphone. Job done.
To get the headphones on, you untwirl them and put them round your neck before popping the earbuds in. To start with, I found the Cheetah headphones very uncomfortable – the earbuds just didn’t fit right. Then I realised I was wearing them the wrong way round. Twit. Once the headphones are in the correct ears, they’re much more comfortable. The neckband is sufficiently strong to keep them in place short of being physically ripped from your head, but it never feels like your head is in a vice. The neckband also keeps them round your neck if you need to take the headphones out for a few moments.
Pressing the multifunction button powers up the headphones. A voice announces “Power on” and “Your headset is connected” but doesn’t give battery time. The volume rocker works as expected for sound levels, and long pressing the volume buttons is supposed to skip forwards and backwards. On my phone, it skipped forwards ok, but skipping backwards didn’t work properly – it would only go to the beginning of the track, not the previous track. The multifunction button played and paused the track.
For calls, the Cheetah has various tricks, including double pressing the multifunction button for last number redial, and long pressing the – volume rocker to mute calls. In use, callers came through clearly and people said that they could hear me well. As with the Swift, the Cheetah announces the phone number of the caller.
In terms of audio quality, Mpow has again proved that it can deliver great sound at low cost. As with the Swift headphones, I listened to a selection of tracks using a OnePlus 2 smartphone playing from a range of music services, some streamed, some downloaded. There was good presence and clarity, with reasonable high frequency reproduction and effective bass. I did feel that the Cheetah needed a bit of volume to perform at its best but even with that, these are good headphones. Perhaps not as good as the Swift but considering these are aimed at the sporting activity, they’re outstanding value priced at around US$25 or GB£19.
If you are looking for headphones to wear when working out, running or cycling, the Cheetah headphones are perfect. Sound quality is good, they aren’t going to fall off and at the price, you aren’t going to be too bothered if they get trashed by accident. Just make sure that you put them on the right way round.
When it comes to headphones, I’m a firm believer in that you get what you pay for. Undoubtedly there are diminishing returns above a certain price point but the bundled headphones that used to come with mobile phones were complete rubbish in terms of both their build quality and audio characteristics. Fortunately, those days are past and most respectable manufacturers provide usable headphones.
On review here are the Mpow Swift Bluetooth 4.0 wireless headphones which are marketed as “sweatproof, jogger, running, sport…earbuds…with AptX mic hands-free calling”. With an RRP of GB£30, they are often found for sale at about half that, say GB£15, which is a fantastic price for Bluetooth wireless earbuds….if they sound good. My daily listeners are Sennheiser CX300s, so the Swift’s have got their work cut out here. Let’s take a look and first up is a short unboxing video.
As can be seen from the video and the pictures, the Swift headphones are of the earbud type, with a loose ribbon cable connecting the two ‘buds. The cable doesn’t grip the neck like some models and the ribbon cable keeps tangles to a minimum. The headphones come in a good range of colours, with a choice of black or white for the body and then a selection of highlight colours, including blue, yellow, magenta, green and pink.
Being Bluetooth headphones, the Swift earbuds are quite big on the outside of the ear containing the wireless electronics, rechargeable battery and the mic for hands-free calling. On the left headphone there’s a covered microUSB port for charging that comes with a personal warning that fingernails are required to get the port cover off. The coloured flash on this headphone doesn’t do anything, whereas over on the right, it acts as an action button, turning the headphones on and off, play / pausing music and taking calls. There’s also a volume rocker and microphone on the right side. When doing some activities with the action button, there’s a voice confirmation such as “Power on” or “Connected” which can be handy when trying to figure out what state the headphones are in.
While all the buttons worked, I disliked using the buttons, partly because I have big fingers and the buttons are small, but mostly because I don’t like the sensation of the earbud moving within the ear when I tried to press the buttons. YMMV, as they say.
Bluetooth pairing was so straightforward, it’s hardly worth mentioning…hold down action button, select Swift on phone in Bluetooth settings, job done.
Standard earbuds are notorious for falling out during the movement and with the extra weight on the headphones, one might think that the Swifts would drop out of the ear at the slightest twitch. Fortunately Mpow has this covered with a couple of retaining options.
First, the Swift headphones come with three sizes of earbud for small, medium and large earholes. Second there are three sizes of ear loops that catch on the inner part of the ear and finally there are hooks which lock into parts of the ear for a really firm hold. Both the loops and the hooks easily slip over a round section on the headphones. For retainability, the hooks are impressive, though you do need to spend a little time get them in the right place the first time. Once locked behind a suitable part of the outer ear, they easily keep the Swift headphones in place, even while running. Obviously they’re still going to come out if something catches on the lead (which is a good safety feature) but short of deliberately taking the Swifts out, they’re staying in. For extended listening, I did find the Swifts a little more tiring than other earbuds, possibly simply because of the extra weight.
Finally, it brings us to audio quality and Mpow may force me to re-evaluate my initial premise that you get what you pay for as the Swifts are really very good. I listened to a selection of tracks using a OnePlus 2 smartphone playing from a range of music services, some streamed, some downloaded. There was good presence and clarity, and while the high frequency wasn’t perfect the bass was effective without being overpowering. Seriously, the Swifts weren’t far off the Sennheiser CX300s, which surprised me.
There’s the additional benefit of being able to take phone calls with the Swifts too. When a call comes in, the Swifts announce the incoming phone number which is a great feature for when the phone is in the bag or otherwise out of view. Callers generally said that they could hear me clearly but it was obvious that I was hands-free.
Overall, the Mpow Swift headphones are great value. They seem well made, sound great and stay in the ear, even when exercising. At GB£15, they’re not throwaway but you aren’t going cry too much if you damage or lose them during sport. Recommended if you are looking for Bluetooth sport headphones.
Thanks to Mpow and Patuoxun for the review Swift Bluetooth 4.0 wireless sport headphones.
Another bargain for GNC readers in North America and Europe. There’s 25% off the Ingress editions of Sennheiser’s Momentum On-Ear headphones with the checkout code IngressPromo2015.
Using UK prices, the 1st gen Momentums were originally £170 and are currently on sale at £130. A further 25% brings them down to only £97.49, which is a veritable bargain for headphones of this standard.
The discount will be available from 15 May to 31 May 2015 and the promotion is running in Germany, UK, France, Belgium, Netherlands, Sweden, Finland, Canada and the United States. Prices will vary.