Sound Guys https://www.soundguys.com Headphones and Bluetooth speaker reviews Wed, 17 Jan 2018 20:21:17 +0000 en-US hourly 1 https://wordpress.org/?v=4.9.1 https://www.soundguys.com/wp-content/uploads/2017/03/cropped-android-chrome-192x192-32x32.png Sound Guys https://www.soundguys.com 32 32 8CC434 http://charged.io/wp-content/uploads/feed/aa-mascot-192x192.png http://charged.io/wp-content/uploads/feed/aa_icon_feed.svg Plantronics BackBeat 500 Review https://www.soundguys.com/plantronics-backbeat-500-review-15682/ https://www.soundguys.com/plantronics-backbeat-500-review-15682/#respond Wed, 17 Jan 2018 20:21:17 +0000 https://www.soundguys.com/?p=15682 Quick pairing and solid sound with limited comfort

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Listening to your gut is good, but occasionally misleads us. Apparently, the only thing that my gut is good for is producing excess flora.

Initially, I was put off by the look and feel of the Plantronics BackBeat 500. I was expecting this to be an an easy review. One where I save everyone’s time and say, “Meh, look elsewhere.” After using these during two flights back from CES, it’s apparent that the Plantronics BackBeat 500 bring more than just dessert to the table.

What’s Inside

Plantronics BackBeat 500 headphones Bluetoooth MultiConnect pairing headphone jack portable

A 3.5mm cable, cloth carrying pouch, and the headphones are included. The bear necessities, the simple bear necessities.

Aside from the headphones, a 3.5 mm cable with reinforced stress relievers, a micro-USB charging cable, and a cloth carrying pouch are included.

Build & Design

Plantronics BackBeat 500 headphones Bluetoooth MultiConnect pairing headphone jack portable

A plastic exterior cheapens the look and feel of the headphones.

Anodized aluminum rails buttress the headband. The rest of the materials feel cheap. A rubberized control panel material (left ear cup) will transform into a perfectly discolored yellow-white in no time. Choosing a matte over a glossy finish, however, is a wise choice. Fingerprints aren’t visible and scratches are less likely to occur. The included cable is a nice touch. Though the cord itself is a bit meager, the connectors feel hefty.

Ears of all shapes and sizes will rest comfortably against the memory foam ear pads.

At first.

Supra aural designs rarely receive praise for comfort. The BackBeat 500? They too fall short. After rocking these for 30 minutes, the helix becomes a hotbed of pain. Unfortunately, no amount of memory foam padding can assuage the newtons of applied force. The discomfort is hard to look past and if you have glasses, just no.  Thankfully, the headband sits free of pressure points. Plus, the unit is incredibly light. Think the Manny Pacquiao of headphones: featherweight and packs a mean left hook … directly to the ear lobes.

Plantronics BackBeat 500 headphones Bluetoooth MultiConnect pairing headphone jack portable

The rotating socket feels fragile, a cause for concern regarding durability.

For $80, it may be asking too much for a palatable design. The round ear cups make for an incongruous pairing with the adjoining angled headband. At first, it looks like two designs were Frankensteined together. On the flip side, functionality is great. Basic playback and volume controls wrap on and around the left ear cup. Housed laterally on the right ear cup are the power and callback switches.

The BackBeat 500 can lay flat for a bag. Though, the rotating ear cup  joints are tenuous. Throw these into a crowded backpack with caution. Important to note: The headphones have a sporty look to them, but sporty they are not. Plantronics has stated  that these are not sweat-resistant. In fact, the company advises against using these for any kind of exercise. The FIT model of the BackBeat 500 does include a P2i coating though.

Connectivity

Plantronics BackBeat 500 headphones Bluetoooth MultiConnect pairing headphone jack portable

Bluetooth pairing is excellent and the cable is stronger than it looks.

Here’s where things get good.

Bluetooth 4.1 and MultiConnect make the BackBeat 500 quick to pair. Connection is rarely interrupted and never came to a full-stop while testing. With headphone jacks on the decline, the ability to pair with multiple devices simultaneously has become less of a luxury and more of a necessity. Plantronics uses the typical Bluetooth range up to 10 meters. Though, I did start to experience drops and crackles closer to the seven meter mark.

If the battery conks out, Plantronics provides a backup cable. The cable lacks a mic and remote but does the job of physically linking the headphones to a source device.

Battery

Plantronics BackBeat 500 headphones Bluetoooth MultiConnect pairing headphone jack portable

On the rubberized left ear cup, users can control playback options.

Plantronics boasts that the BackBeat 500 are able to function for 18 hours before requiring a recharge. These accompanied me, without fail, during two return flights from Las Vegas to Chicago, with an intermediary stop in Phoenix. I was yet to hear a battery life warning after 12 hours of playback.

It would be nice to see more Bluetooth headphones implementing a USB C charging method. But in the case of the BackBeat 500, the cut corner is a logical one given the affordable pricing. Plus, for how light Plantronics has kept the headphones, its stamina is impressive.

Sound Quality

Plantronics BackBeat 500 headphones Bluetoooth MultiConnect pairing headphone jack portable

Memory foam lines the headband and ear cups. Though the material is nice, it doesn’t actually do much for comfort.

Powered by 40mm drivers, the sound is good for $80. There aren’t going to be any socks knocked off by mind-blowing sound quality or bass, but they do everything well. Soundstage is to be expected, enclosed but not claustrophobic.

Lows

Regina Spektor’s “Fidelity” experiences appropriate low reproduction. Vibrations are subtle but tangible. Pre-chorus bass is steady and low. A bit more dimension would have been nice. It occasionally falls flat, especially when drum heads are hit. Things occasionally bleed sloppily into the mids. Fortunately, lows linger just enough, leaving a pleasurable ghostly feeling to carry listeners through the chorus.

Mids

Plantronics BackBeat 500 headphones Bluetoooth MultiConnect pairing headphone jack portable

Mids are paid the least attention in the BackBeat 500 sound signature.

Vocals take a bit of a hit, in favor of the bass and treble. Spektor’s ability to simultaneously convey fragility and strength is lost with the BackBeat 500. During the pre-chorus in “Fidelity,” the vocals fell to the wayside in favor of bass rendition. Even during the chorus, Spektor’s disappointment and heartbreak is drowned out by the lows. A true loss.

The verses experience a redemption of the mids, since the bass doesn’t step in with the same rude strength.

Highs

It’s neck-in-neck, deciding what receives more attention, the highs or lows. After listening to “Fidelity” on repeat for about 30 minutes, it sounds as if the highs are reproduced in a more detailed manner than the lows. The snares are present and quick. Though there are moments when it sounds as if the mic was dressed in doubled up windscreens, they are a pleasure to listen to.

Conclusion

Plantronics BackBeat 500 headphones Bluetoooth MultiConnect pairing headphone jack portable

Plantronics’ BackBeat 500 pair quickly and are equipped with a lithium polymer battery for 18 hours of playback.

There are shortcomings to the Plantronics BackBeat 500, sure. For me? I don’t expect that I’ll grow to admire, rather than admonish, the aesthetic any time soon. But for the consumer who just wants a pair of Bluetooth headphones for short stints, say a quick train ride, these are a fantastic option at an affordable price. That said, if you plan to watch movies with these, keep looking. I’d recommend the Audio Technica ATH-M40X for a similar price or the Photive BTH3 ANC headphones for half the price.

Plantronics BackBeat 500 headphones Bluetoooth MultiConnect pairing headphone jack portable Plantronics BackBeat 500 headphones Bluetoooth MultiConnect pairing headphone jack portable Plantronics BackBeat 500 headphones Bluetoooth MultiConnect pairing headphone jack portable Plantronics BackBeat 500 headphones Bluetoooth MultiConnect pairing headphone jack portable Plantronics BackBeat 500 headphones Bluetoooth MultiConnect pairing headphone jack portable Plantronics BackBeat 500 headphones Bluetoooth MultiConnect pairing headphone jack portable Plantronics BackBeat 500 headphones Bluetoooth MultiConnect pairing headphone jack portable Plantronics BackBeat 500 headphones Bluetoooth MultiConnect pairing headphone jack portable Plantronics BackBeat 500 headphones Bluetoooth MultiConnect pairing headphone jack portable Plantronics BackBeat 500 headphones Bluetoooth MultiConnect pairing headphone jack portable

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Best of CES 2018 https://www.soundguys.com/best-of-ces-2018-15662/ https://www.soundguys.com/best-of-ces-2018-15662/#respond Wed, 10 Jan 2018 10:56:19 +0000 https://www.soundguys.com/?p=15662 We took to the show floor to find the best audio CES 2018 had to offer.

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It’s January again, and that means another stroll through Las Vegas to see all the most exciting new audio products that should hit the market in 2018. After scouring the exhibitors for interesting products, we chose four standouts (and one company) to receive our most interesting-looking honor: the SoundGuys Best of CES award. Made of over 20 pounds of laser-etched glass, these cool-looking accolades serve as an unreasonably cumbersome statement that we, the SoundGuys, love those that earned them.

Because of the largely iterative nature of many product releases at this show, we tried to highlight products that we felt would stand the best chance of making a strong impact at the consumer level this year. Without further ado, here’s the best audio you can find at CES 2018.

Sennheiser HD 820

Stealing the audio show was the Sennheiser HD 820. It seems unfair, but these cans were easily the stars of CES 2018—how could we not geek out over this one?

Prior to the release of the HD 820, the HD 800 was the best dynamic headphones available for less than a small fortune. Crafted by revered headphone engineer Axel Grell, the HD 800 borrow design elements from aerospace engineering and were groundbreaking for their implementation of the world’s largest dynamic transducers.

The HD 820 are a welcome stablemate to the legendary HD 800, released in 2009. As most audiophiles and enthusiasts will agree, these are the greatest thing since sliced bread, assuming that sliced bread is dynamic headphones. Departing from the traditional open-back form, the HD 820 are outfitted with a curved Gorilla Glass panel to protect each transducer. If you’re worried about the fact that most closed-back headphones sound a little worse because of their sealed chambers, don’t be: The panels reflect sound waves emitted from the transducers into absorber chambers to lessen overall resonance.

Both Adam and Lily tried these out first-hand, and came away with glowing praise—and why wouldn’t they? These cans are incredible. While they’ll need some serious amping to get the most out of them (300Ω), if you’re plunking down the cash for the HD 820, you probably are fine with spending a little extra.

According to Sennheiser, the HD 820 will be available early summer 2018 for $2,399.95/€2,399 (MSRP).

Shure RMCE USB Cable

For those who are avid followers of SoundGuys, as we expect all of you are, you may remember our Best USB-C headphones list. TL;DR: They’re mostly terrible.

A photo of the Shure RMCE USB-C cable, shot at CES

With one cable, Shure dominated the USB-C in-ears category. Smart.

While we begrudgingly highlighted the JBL Reflect Aware and Libratone models as the best true USB-C earphones, it was only a matter of time before another manufacturer figured out a better solution. Shure’s launch of a USB-C cable that can connect to any of its IEMs with interchangeable cable hookups makes almost its entire lineup of legendary in-ears credible USB-C headphones with a great pedigree.

Consequently, by default, this means that as of publish, the SE215, SE315, SE425, SE535 and SE846 models are all the best USB-C headphones available. We’ll probably wait to update the best list until we get to use this cable, but even if the cable merely works without any headaches—Shure’s got it in the bag.

Audeze iSine LX

Audeze may not be a household name, but audiophiles are well acquainted with the brand. Planar magnetic enthusiasts can regale you with tales of when they tried the LCD-4, EL-8, or Sine headphones, but even the most hardcore audiophile might not know that Audeze also makes in-ears.

At roughly half the cost of the previously-cheapest set of in ears Audeze offered, the iSine LX are the most affordable model in the iSine line at $200. While that’s not quite as low as Monoprice’s competing units, these definitely look more fun.

A manufacturer photo of the Audeze iSine LX.

A “budget” set of planar magnetic in-ears, the Audeze iSine LX makes super high-end audio a little more accessible.

We wanted to highlight these for readers because they bridge the gap between what many consider “excessively expensive” and “accessible, but a little spendy.” The iSine look may not be for everyone, but the Audeze sound is definitely is. Sure, too many budget cans fall flat (unlike their sound signature) but the Audeze iSine LX is a credible set of entry-level audiophile in-ears.

LG SK10Y

Another notable update arrived to the CES floor: The LG SK10Y sound bar. A 5.1.2 channel 550W system, and includes a wireless subwoofer. A product of a collaboration between LG and Meridian audio, this soundbar stands as the most credible hi-res soundbar coming to market this year. 

Aesthetically, the sound bar is fitted to rest perfectly under LG OLED and Super UHD TVs. As with many unveiled products at CES, the sound bar is Google Assistant-enabled, and can communicate with other smart products like smart plugs, or connected lights. Want to watch a movie, but don’t feel like getting out of your comfy chair to turn off the lights? Just bark orders at your soundbar! If talking to your home theater system is weird to you, the LG SK10Y also offers Chromecast support for other integrations. 

A manufacturer's image of the LG SK10Y soundbar

LG’s SK10Y soundbar has a lot to offer, including hi-def playback, Atmos, and more.

While just about everyone and their grandmothers were offering Alexa or Google-integrated speakers, where the LG SK10Y stands alone is in its audio quality and audio processing. Thanks in part to the partnership with Meridian, the SK10Y can decode extremely high-bitrate audio, and reproduce it faithfully. Additionally, the unit is compatible with lossless file formats if you’re a perfectionist, and the soundbar does a fantastic job with spatial imaging.

So why is this worth your time? Adam and Lily were fortunate enough to tour LG’s booth. Even in a convention environment, they found themselves impressed by the sound bar’s ability to blanket listeners, and the lesser-used 3D-sound features (like “Bass and Space”) are actually quite cool. If the SK10Y is anything like its predecessor, it’ll come in around $1,000, but official pricing has yet to be announced. Either way you’re getting one hell of a return on your investment.

Sony

It seems a little weird to be honoring a company and not a singular product, but this is a special type of circumstance. Said circumstance is Sony’s showing at the CES show floor this year: they’ve got a lot of entry-level models hitting the market that press their advantages in the consumer space, and while they’ve lagged a bit in the past: they’re coming back.

A photo of Chris from SoundGuys wearing a Sony MDR-1AM2

Sony’s efforts this year are rock-solid, even if no one single product stole the show.

Where a lot of audio companies decided to cram a voice assistant into an existing or otherwise uninspiring audio product, Sony decided to press their advantage in Bluetooth products with a slew of products, including IPX4 truly wireless earbuds. Additionally, they debuted a new generation of digital signal processing for a 3.1 channel soundbar that’s convincing enough to emulate 7.1.2 channel audio for Dolby Atmos certification, a short-throw projector with glass-tube tweeters, and updating a successful model of audiophile headphones with the MDR-1AM2.

In short, they took risks; not drastic ones, but risks nonetheless. Sure, it may not sound all that exciting to you if you’re not a fan of truly wireless earbuds, entry-level audiophile gear, or esoteric home theater solutions, but Sony put forth a commendable effort this year.

Addendum

This year’s show saw a lot of really cool audio products, but these are what we decided to be the best. There are plenty of really awesome items that didn’t make this list, and that’s largely due to the fact that our focus was narrowed to stuff that consumers are going to care about, and not specifically enthusiasts. Additionally, we saw a ton of cool microphones that producers are going to love, so stay tuned for that.

We’ll be covering CES 2018 both here and on our YouTube channel, and every so often on our Instagram account @realsoundguys. Thanks for reading, and as always:

Happy listening!

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Polk Audio Command Bar Announced at CES https://www.soundguys.com/polk-audio-command-bar-announced-ces-15566/ https://www.soundguys.com/polk-audio-command-bar-announced-ces-15566/#respond Wed, 10 Jan 2018 01:00:05 +0000 https://www.soundguys.com/?p=15566 The Command Bar is the first voice voice-controlled sound bar with built-in Amazon Alexa Voice Service

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The Polk Audio Command Bar was announced at press conference in Las Vegas to conclude day one of CES 2018. It is the first voice voice-controlled sound bar with built-in Amazon Alexa Voice Service. Sound quality is loud and rich, according to Polk Audio, and serves as an excellent home theater solution. The sound bar will be available to the U.S. in the spring 2018 for $299.95 and will be available in the UK, Germany, and Australia later in 2018.

Hardware includes far-field microphones, which allow for easy master volume control. Polk Connect Skill grants users control of the bass, sound modes, source selection, and mute toggling via voice commands. Also supported or a full range of home skills. Voice commands can control the lights, locks, and HVAC and other Amazon Alexa-supported music services. It can even read books from audible.

Polk Audio Sound Bar Command Bar Home Theater Kevin Dufand president, Sound United, states, “For the past year, we worked to develop a sound bar that profoundly changes how we interact with the home entertainment experience.”

Two full-range drivers, tweeters, and a ported, wireless 6.5-inch subwoofer deliver a dynamic sound. Though the sound bar may reach great volumes, a duck button on the remote control lowers playback volume, making it easier for Alexa to register voice commands. Adjustable EQ settings are accessible and can be changed depending on the context.

A dedicated HDMI port—compatible with 4K HD TVs—means that the sound bar is compatible with Amazon Fire TV devices and other streaming hardware. The rear panel is outfitted with a built-in USB port that can power various devices. Additionally, Dolby and DTS surround formats create an immersive home theater experience.

The company will announce additional music service support later in 2018.

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Creative announces Super X-Fi headphones and dongles https://www.soundguys.com/creative-announces-super-x-fi-headphones-and-dongles-15585/ https://www.soundguys.com/creative-announces-super-x-fi-headphones-and-dongles-15585/#respond Tue, 09 Jan 2018 00:00:10 +0000 https://www.soundguys.com/?p=15585 Surround sound for your headphones

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Today Creative is announcing a new way to experience audio. They’re calling it Super X-Fi, which is an expansion on the X-Fi technology that you’ll find in some of their home audio products, but this time they’re taking their spatial recreation techniques to headphones. Soon after CES this week Creative will be launching a crowdfunding campaign to gauge interest in a few product options.

The first is a dongle with the Super X-Fi technology already built-in so you can attach your favorite pair of headphones, second is either an over-ear pair of headphones or in-ears with the dongle already attached, and the third is a premium flagship pair of over-ears that will be announced some time in the future. But what’s so unique about Super X-Fi?

how do you get that same experience without hiring the Royal Philharmonic to play in your living room?

Well if you’ve ever listened to a live orchestra or performance, you know that it sounds drastically better than listening to that same piece in a pair of headphones. So how do you get that same experience without hiring the Royal Philharmonic to play in your living room? One way is to use multiple speakers placed strategically throughout the listening area – aka surround sound. Sound coming from different directions can trick your brain into thinking that there is more space available then there actually is. In headphones we call how well a pair can recreate spatial cues soundstage, and that in a nutshell is what Super X-Fi technology accomplishes.

But there’s more to the technology then just recreating the direction sound is coming from. A big part of how you hear sound is also dependant on your ears. They didn’t evolve to look the way they do just for looks. They evolved to funnel sound down into your ears, and these slight physical differences between humans changes how something sounds to you. Thats a big problem to overcome, but luckily Super X-Fi also takes this into account as well.

It’s all very complicated, but luckily none of the headache gets passed onto the consumer

By means of complex algorithms and AI, Super X-Fi combines real-time information about your head and ear shape with the dynamics of the headphones you are using in order to create an audio map. It’s all very complicated, but luckily none of the headache gets passed onto the consumer. The process is simplified greatly thanks to an app that you can download on your phone. Just take pictures of your head, select the kind of headphones you’re using, and you’re good to go.

This seems like promising technology so if you’re interested in turning your headphones into a surround sound system, make sure to keep an eye out for the crowdfunding campaign for the Super X-Fi headphones and dongles when Creative decides to set it live.

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More Alexa-powered smart speakers are coming, thanks to Qualcomm https://www.soundguys.com/qualcomm-platform-certified-amazon-15577/ https://www.soundguys.com/qualcomm-platform-certified-amazon-15577/#respond Mon, 08 Jan 2018 23:01:29 +0000 https://www.soundguys.com/?p=15577 Qualcomm and Amazon have just announced that Qualcomm’s Smart Audio platform has been qualified by Amazon for the Alexa Voice Service.

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Wireless speakers are increasingly common in today’s homes, and the search for greater product differentiation is already pushing companies to pack smart assistants into their speakers. Ecosystem developers Google and Amazon already have their reference designs on the market, and more and more manufacturers are launching their own products too.

Smart speakers development is more specialized than designing a regular speaker, which prolongs development times and pushes up costs. To expedite product launches, Qualcomm and Amazon have announced Qualcomm’s Smart Audio platform is now qualified for the Alexa Voice Service. This means Qualcomm’s platform is certified by Amazon to contain all the building blocks necessary to support Alexa for everything from media streaming to custom skills.

See also:

Best Bluetooth Speakers of 2017

“We are pleased to be the first fully certified single vendor end-to-end AVS platform and to be able to combine our proven audio capabilities into a fully integrated smart speaker reference platform with AVS to meet the requirements of customers seeking to rapidly create innovative, voice-controlled smart speakers and networked audio products,” said Qualcomm Technologies International senior vice president and general manager of voice & music Anthony Murray in a press release.

There are two tiers of certification offered by Amazon for Alexa. The first is really just a bare minimum applied to single products that means they technically work with Alexa, but don’t have to support all the feature well. The second qualification tier is much stricter, as it encompasses a wider range of possibilities from reference platforms. Qualcomm’s platform is the first end-to-end solution to achieve this level of certification.

Qualcomm’s Smart Audio platform, unveiled last year, includes support for up to six far-field microphones, always-ready wake-word detection, and integrated Hi-Fi audio playback complete with amplifier. The platform offers developers a quad-core CPU for running applications, an Adreno GPU if they need a display, a Hexagon DSP for efficient audio processing, Bluetooth 4.2 and LE, aptX HD codec, Wi-Fi, Fluence noise cancellation technology, AllPlay for multi-room networking, and even Quick Charge 2.0 support for portable speakers.

Qualcomm

The platform also offers a Google version, which runs on Android Things. This includes support for Google Assistant and the Cast for Audio standard.

With certification under its belt, Qualcomm can now position its Smart Audio platform as a heavily customizable reference for smart speaker developers. The all-in-one nature of the platform should also help to accelerate time-to-market and keep product development costs down.

Qualcomm’s certified Smart Audio platform will be available to its partners in Q1 2018. The first consumer products powered by it could appear within the first half of the year.

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Qualcomm wants to triple Bluetooth headphone listening time https://www.soundguys.com/qualcomm-bluetooth-qcc5100-chip-15571/ https://www.soundguys.com/qualcomm-bluetooth-qcc5100-chip-15571/#comments Mon, 08 Jan 2018 23:01:09 +0000 https://www.soundguys.com/?p=15571 Qualcomm's new low-power QCC5100 audio SoC is promising big battery life and performance improvements for Bluetooth headphones and hearables.

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Two major issues always come up in any discussion of Bluetooth headphones — sound quality and battery life. Today, Qualcomm is aiming to solve these problems with its newly unveiled QCC5100 series of low-power audio SoCs.

The QCC5100 is a fully integrated Bluetooth audio solution, packing in a Bluetooth radio, Class-D headphone driver, a 192 kHZ / 24-bit codec, hybrid Active Noise Cancellation (ANC), sensor processing, and aptX HD technology, into a single chip. The new design boosts power efficiency, processing capabilities, and supports new use cases.

See also:

Understanding Bluetooth Codecs

Qualcomm states the QCC5100 series can help reduce power consumption by up to 65 percent over previous chips, and estimates playback time could triple when compared with today’s Bluetooth devices. In fact, the power consumption can get so low that OEMs introducing even a few LEDs to their designs could double the power consumption. Qualcomm demonstrated the QCC5100 playing back audio over aptX and consuming a little over just 5 mA of current. This is an extreme use case, but just goes to show the capabilities of Qualcomm’s integrated solution.

The new Bluetooth chip is also compatible with Qualcomm’s TrueWireless technology. This allows stereo earbuds to be connected together completely wirelessly, with your phone or music player simply connecting to the master earbud. There’s an interesting new optional software feature available which automatically selects the earbud with the largest remaining battery capacity to act as the master, thereby ensuring the longest possible battery life too.

On top of the battery life improvements, Qualcomm has doubled up on the processing capabilities of its new chip. There’s now a dual-core 32-bit application processor configuration running at 80 MHz, backed up by a dual-core Qualcomm Kalimba DSP clocked at 120 MHz. Qualcomm’s previous high-end design was a single AP and single DSP design. The chip also comes with embedded ROM and RAM, with support for external flash too.

This big boost to processing power makes this Qualcomm’s most powerful Bluetooth SoC. It’s designed to enable its hardware partners to do much more on device. While one of the APs runs the necessarily Bluetooth code, developers are free to use the second core to handle sensor data or whatever they require. The dual DSP setup also gives developers more power to play with for audio and on-device voice processing.

“This breakthrough single-chip solution is designed to dramatically reduce power consumption and offers enhanced processing capabilities to help our customers build new life-enhancing, feature-rich devices,” said Qualcomm Technologies International senior vice president and general manager of voice & music Anthony Murray in a press release.

Along with longer battery life, Qualcomm's new chip supports virtual assistants, noise cancellation, and true wireless earbuds.

The QCC5100 rounds off its feature set with the company’s Hybrid ANC technology, with both feedforward and feedback capabilities— a sought-after feature to help block out unwanted background noise. The ANC is its own processing unit, so it doesn’t require any DSP time. There’s also low-power wake-word detection for smart assistants, along with the TrueWireless and aptX HD capabilities mentioned earlier.

Designers could use the chip in a number of new use cases. Qualcomm expects these to range from fitness headphones with built-in tracking sensors to hearables complete with voice assistant capabilities.  It could be great for higher-end wireless solely-music-focused headphones too.

Qualcomm is planning to showcase a number of reference designs for its partners in the first half of 2018, and states that it already has some customers for its new chip. We’ll have to wait a little longer to find out who.

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Libratone announces TRACK+ Wireless in-ears at CES https://www.soundguys.com/libratone-announces-track-wireless-in-ears-at-ces-15605/ https://www.soundguys.com/libratone-announces-track-wireless-in-ears-at-ces-15605/#respond Mon, 08 Jan 2018 17:00:33 +0000 https://www.soundguys.com/?p=15605 Stylish neckbuds with active noise cancelling

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It seems Libratone has been hard at work over the past year because on top of partnering with Google to launch USB-C headphones along with the Pixel 2 they’ve also been developing an entirely new product that just got announced today. The new TRACK+ Wireless in-ears come with adaptive noise cancelling that you can increase or decrease in strength based on the sounds of your environment.

Like the Q-Adapt line of headphones before them these seem to be geared towards the commuter that wants a stylish pair of ANC headphones. Design-wise these kind of look as if Libratone ripped the earbuds off of their Q-Adapt in-ears and attached it to a neckbud-style of headphones, so if you liked those then you’ll like these as well.

You’ll get four levels of active noise cancelling, a feature that Libratone calls CityMix

The neck piece attached to the ‘buds is pretty flexible as well making for a comfortable listening experience while you’re out. You’ll get four levels of active noise cancelling, a feature that Libratone calls CityMix. It also comes with Hush mode, which essentially mutes what you’re listening to and uses the tiny noise cancelling microphones to let you pass through audio from the outside, allowing you to stay aware of your surroundings without ever taking off the headphones.

On top of that these also have an IPX4 water-resistance rating so if you find yourself in a rainstorm you won’t have to worry about them getting damaged. They’re also sweat-resistance if you decide to bring them with you on your next workout. The new TRACK+ Wireless headphones will be available in Cloudy White or Stormy Black color options for $199 when they go on sale early this year.

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Jabra Releases Elite Franchise at CES 2018 https://www.soundguys.com/jabra-releases-elite-franchise-ces-2018-15548/ https://www.soundguys.com/jabra-releases-elite-franchise-ces-2018-15548/#respond Mon, 08 Jan 2018 17:00:30 +0000 https://www.soundguys.com/?p=15548 The new suite of Jabra Elite products offer improved voice and sound quality

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Jabra enters Q1 2018 with the Elite franchise unveiled at CES in Las Vegas. This family of headphones and earbuds are aimed to meet user needs without sacrificing quality.

The lineup includes the Elite 45e, Elite 65t ,and the Elite Active 65t. They are compatible with popular virtual assistants such as Alexa, Siri, or Google Now. Jabra is one of the first to enable Amazon Alexa on-the-go to play music, hear the news, check weather status, and control smart home devices.

Jabra Elite Suite 65t Active 65t 45e Sport Wireless BT True Wireless

(From left) The Jabra Elite 65t, Elite 45e, and Elite Active 65t all aim to deliver optimal sound and voice quality without compromise.

Elite 45e

“Engineered for the best voice and music experience,” according to Jabra, the Elite 45e earphones are intended for users who require uncompromising voice and sound quality. With an around-the-neck design, the 45e are lightweight and comfortable. They will be available in early April at USD/EUR $99.99.

Elite 65t

Next up, the Elite 65t are designed to deliver the best true wireless voice and music experience. This is Jabra’s third generation of true wireless earbuds. One-touch access is compatible with the aforementioned virtual assistants. Battery life clocks in at 15 hours with the proprietary cradle.

“With the Elite family, we now offer headsets for every choice of wearing style, use case and price point,” — René Svendsen-Tune, CEO at Jabra

Elite Active 65t

With a slightly different design but same battery life as the Elite 65t, the Elite Active 65t focus on users looking for a true wireless companion during workouts. Grippier material, an accelerometer and IP56 certification are the standout features. Both the Elite 65t and Elite Active 65t will be available early April priced at USD/EUR 99.99 and 189.99 respectively.

The company, headquartered in Copenhagen, conducted research asserting that users focus on calls (58% of users each day), music (53%), and voice control (35%). Released in 2016, the Jabra Elite Sport Wireless set the stage for the Elite product suite. Forthcoming Elite products implement tailored microphone configurations. This ensures that users are always heard, regardless of the context.

“With the Elite family, we now offer headsets for every choice of wearing style, use case and price point,” Jabra CEO René Svendsen-Tune. Each Elite product is backed with a two-year warranty against dust and water ingress. Additionally, Jabra’s Sound+ app allows for a personalized music experience.

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House of Marley drops three new products at CES 2018 https://www.soundguys.com/house-of-marley-drops-three-new-products-at-ces-15601/ https://www.soundguys.com/house-of-marley-drops-three-new-products-at-ces-15601/#respond Mon, 08 Jan 2018 14:00:52 +0000 https://www.soundguys.com/?p=15601 Durable audio gear with a good cause.

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When it comes to making you feel good about the product you’re buying, few companies do it like House of Marley. Since their 2012 CES debut the family of legendary artist Bob Marley has been continuing to spread the joy of music with products made from recycled materials, and giving proceeds of the profits to good causes along the way. This year House of Marley returns with three new rugged products that stay true to the company vision: the No Bounds speaker, No Bounds Sport speaker, and the Uprise headphones.

No Bounds Speaker

The first product to be unveiled is a small Bluetooth speaker similar to the popular JBL Clip 2. And like the Clip 2, the No Bounds speaker was designed for adventures. It has an IP67 build meaning it’s dust resistant and waterproof so if you drop it in a pool or a river you won’t have to worry. Unless you don’t get to it in time and it sinks to the bottom, then you’re on your own. Made of recycled plastic lightweight cork, the No Bounds speaker is perfect for hanging out poolside or even attaching to your pack on a day hike thanks to the built-in carabiner clip up top. House of Marley claims you’ll get a sold 10 hours of constant playback out of this. You’ll be able to pick it up later this year in April for $69.

No Bounds Sport speaker

If you want bigger and better sound and don’t mind sacrificing some portability, then the No Bounds Sport speaker might be for you. You’ll get the same IP67 dust resistant and waterproof proof that you’ll find in the smaller No Bounds, but because of the slightly bigger size House of Marley was able to incorporate some nifty features into this one. For one you’ll get 360-degree sound so you can hear your music plainly regardless of where you’re standing in relation to the speaker, but even more interesting is that it comes with optional storage in the base. Build materials include their signature REGRIND cork and REWIND upcycled fabric made from hemp and plastic bottles, and you’ll also get a battery life of around 12 hours here. The No Bounds Sport speaker will be going on sale just in time for summer this May for $119.

Uprise Wireless Headphones

The last product to be announced are a pair of Bluetooth in-ears meant to be your new gym buddy. These ‘buds feature over-ear hooks to keep them from falling off while you exercise and even come with fin tips for extra security if you tend to have trouble with fit. Like any self-respecting pair of workout headphones these have sweat and weather resistance in the form of an IPX5 certification. As always these are also made of recycled materials, this time in the form of recycled non-toxic silicone and wood fiber composite resin. If you want to make these your next pair of workout ‘buds you’ll have to wait until June of 2018 and be willing to spend $99.

As part of the company’s efforts to remain socially conscious, House of Marley is also partnering with the non-profit One Tree Planted. So some of the money gained from each House of Marley item sold this year will go towards planting new trees. Not a bad way to honor the vision of Bob Marley.

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SOL REPUBLIC returns after two years with 3 new products https://www.soundguys.com/sol-republic-returns-after-two-years-with-3-new-products-15603/ https://www.soundguys.com/sol-republic-returns-after-two-years-with-3-new-products-15603/#respond Mon, 08 Jan 2018 14:00:36 +0000 https://www.soundguys.com/?p=15603 Guess who's back.

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Remember SOL REPUBLIC? After two years of no new products,SOL REPUBLIC is determined to make a splash this CES with three brand new pairs of wireless headphones. They’re dubbed the Shadow Fusion, Soundtrack Wireless, and Soundtrack Pro Wireless headphones and they give consumers three different ways to listen to music wirelessly.

Shadow Fusion

First there’s the Shadow Fusion, a wireless set of neckbuds that’s less of a new product and more of an impressive update to the previous Shadow Wireless. The flexible rubber neckband on those were designed using data from NASA regarding the shape of the human neck, so hopefully some of that versatility found its way into these. SOL REPUBLIC ditches the rubber for a more premium feeling fabric which also happens to be IPX5 certified, meaning it’s sweat and rain resistant. The earbuds also feature small magnets so they’ll connect to each other when not in use. Battery life is not yet specified but if it’s anything like the original Shadow Wireless these should last for at least 8 hours of constant playback. They’re set to go on sale sometime in Q2 of this year and will run you $149.

Soundtrack Wireless & Soundtrack Pro Wireless

These two headphones are so similar that we’re just going to group them together into one section here. The Soundtrack Wireless are a pair of wireless on-ear headphones designed with portability in mind. They can fold at the hinges for easy storage on the go and come with a built-in microphone and on-board controls for controlling music playback and answering phone calls. You can expect plenty of bass here and an impressive 20 hour battery life to boot.

If you want to kick it up a notch then the Soundtrack Pro Wireless headphones might be for you. These are slightly larger over-ears but keep the same minimal and portable design, with hinges for folding them down to a more compact size. Memory foam cushions should allow for comfortably long listening sessions, but we’ll have to wait to try them out ourselves before we can give them our stamp of approval. Because of the larger size SOL REPUBLIC is able to squeeze in larger 50mm drivers along with a bigger battery, so you can expect up to 24 hours of constant listening here.

Both models will be available starting in Q2 of 2018 and will retail for $169 and $249, respectively. Will you be considering the new offerings from SOL REPUBLIC?

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