Archive for Accessories

The Bass Egg Project on Kickstarter wants to create a good reverberation speaker

Reverberation speakers can be found everywhere these days. Instead of producing audio themselves, they transmit vibrations onto a large surface that acts as the actual speaker. The models you find tend to be cheap, novelty gadgets made more for the geek factor of having a device that turns surfaces into speakers than to actually produce good sound, and the Bass Egg project is all about changing that.

The project creators claim to want to build a reverberation speaker that is the “(…) “best in class” reverberation speaker, our goal was to develop a product with the following attributes: Small and Portable, Sleek, Wireless and Easy to Use, and Durable.” Whether or not they succeed remains to be seen, but they might just be onto something here. I have a reverberation speaker on my desk right now, the Mighty Boom Ball, and while it’s fun to play around it, it can’t match the sound quality of my mm28 portable speaker (which, for the record, is much much bigger). For a speaker that’s dependent on a surface to be a success, it has to provide better a better sound/size ratio that traditional portable speakers.

Kickstarter is a site where you can pledge a project to help fund it, meaning you’re not legally guaranteed the resulting product if the project fails. However, the Bass Egg is apparently ready for production, and might ship as early as January. With a Kickstarter price of $95 and a retail price of $120 though, it better be worth it.



Sony’s Smart Wireless Headset pro combines MP3 player and wireless headset dongle

Smart Wireless Headset pro Sonys Smart Wireless Headset pro combines MP3 player and wireless headset dongle

Sony is one of the few companies still in the MP3 player game, and it’s trying its best to keep that part of the business afloat. With smartphones and tablets becoming more and more popular, making MP3 players into mobile device accessories might be the only way to save the product category in the years to come. That’s the idea behind the Smart Wireless Headset pro as well, and it bridges the two categories in a new and at least somewhat interesting way.

The Smart Wireless Headset pro is essentially an advanced Bluetooth A2DP adapter merged with an MP3 player. On its own it’s an 18 gram MP3 player that plays music off a microSDHC card for about 12 hours before the black and white OLED display goes dark. When connected to a Bluetooth device it’s a wireless dongle that allows you to cut at least part of the cord between your device and headphones. When connected to an Android device, it also gains a nifty SMS/email notification system on the built-in display and via text-to-speech. Finally, there’s an FM radio.

This is definitely a hybrid device, and by that I mean that its selling point is its ability to do several things, rather than do one thing well. There’s no mention of aptX codec support for the Bluetooth stream, which means it falls short of some other Bluetooth adapters for that functionality. MP3 and Wav as the only supported music formats, along with a ton of other missing MP3 player features, also makes this a poor straight out substitute for something like the Sansa Clip line. Finally, SMS and email notifications in the age of smart watches like the Pebble is a novelty at best.

Perhaps the biggest nail in this device’s coffin however is the price. $129 for a hybrid device really stretches things when you can get a Clip Zip, Jabra Clipper, and $56 towards a Pebble for the price of this jack of all trades, master of none. I think $59 or $69 is the absolute max that Sony should charge for something like this, and instead it’s charging those two prices combined. That’s Sony for your though, constantly coming up with at least half decent ideas whose obvious shortcomings are less of an issue than the Apple-esque price.

[Sony via Engadget]

Samsung brings back the Pebble, is now an MP3 player that syncs with a smartphone

s pebble Samsung brings back the Pebble, is now an MP3 player that syncs with a smartphone

Remember Samsung’s Pebble MP3 player? In what is a surprising move to say the least, Samsung brought back the design and the name yesterday during its Galaxy S III smartphone announcement. The new S Pebble is classified as an accessory to the S III, and is essentially a 4GB screenless MP3 player that has the ability to sync directly with the S III as well as a computer. The controls are a mix between switches to control power and shuffle, and touch buttons on the front of the player (yeah, touch buttons…ugh). The tiny player is said to do 17 hours on a single charge, and sync via the 3.5mm port.

You may be asking why on Earth anyone would want such a device, or perhaps you’re already angry because Samsung has essentially taken a feature that exists on devices with USB host (assuming the MSC-enabled player you plug into it doesn’t try to charge off it) and made it a proprietary accessory. The idea of this device is that people who do activities where a 4.8-inch smartphone is unsuited – like running – can leave their phone at home and bring the S Pebble instead. There aren’t any features like pedometers or other sports related sensors in the thing though, it’s just an music player. With Samsung releasing a new Music Hub service with cloud syncing and iTunes Match-like  functionality, it makes some sort of sense that they’re enabling the player to be synced directly from a phone that has all of this, instead of assuming that all music comes from a computer.

As long as they keep the price low I don’t see any problem with leaving this device unhated for now, but I fear that this is going to be another overpriced official accessory like all accessories Samsung and other first parties have ever released. If that’s the case, I have a feeling that I’m going to be struck with a sudden and uncontrollable need to bring my Galaxy  S II, USB host cable, and Sansa Clip+ around with me and politely inform people that Samsung didn’t just invent the wheel.


Sony SA-NS500 Review

006 5 560x280 Sony SA NS500 Review

While we may be a little partial here at ABI to some great sounding headphones paired with a clean sounding DAP on the go, there are surely those times when you just want to share your tunes with everyone around you. Those of us that don’t venture into the iOS world have a little harder time pairing up to a speaker dock, but there are still some choices out there. This is when the Sony SA-NS500 portable speaker comes into play. A portable speaker rated up to 8 hours of operation without being plugged in, 4 tweeters spreading 360 degree sound, and an upward firing woofer packaged in a….dare we say eye catching design, is sure to land on our radar. To top it off, the NS500 is DLNA compatible, Airplay compatible, and is set up for Sony’s Party Streaming feature to spread music around your house in different rooms wirelessly. How does this intriguing package stack up to the dime a dozen companion speakers out there? You’re going to have to read on to find out. Continue reading…

FiiO E17 “Alpen” is out, the E7′s big brother

fiioe17 FiiO E17 Alpen is out, the E7s big brotherA few years after FiiO introduced their unique, feature-packed E7 portable headphone amplifier and USB sound card, they revamped the concept, resulting in the freshly hatched E17.

A lot of tech is packed into the fancy brushed metal housing with the familiar two-color OLED display. Inputs and outputs certainly are on the more versatile side of things: two parallel 3.5mm headphone outputs, an S/PDIF input (presumably both optical and coaxial), a line input, FiiO’s proprietary 18-pin port (working with their L7 dock and E9 desktop amp), and of course a standard USB input. The E17 supports 24/96 over USB and 24/192 over S/PDIF, so audiophile dogs and bats won’t complain about lacking treble.

Several sound adjustments can be done in the E17′s firmware: bass, treble, gain level, and – sometimes miracles do happen – pan/balance. It seems FiiO did read our E7 review, and the included rant about audio balance missing on almost all portable devices nowadays. I, for one, am very grateful that they added this basic – yet for some people very important – feature.

The E17 should go for about $150, which definitely is a fair price, considering all the included features and the nifty metal housing.


The Digizoid ZO2 is (almost) released

zo2 The Digizoid ZO2 is (almost) releasedPutting it subtly, one could say I’m a rabid fanboy of the Digizoid ZO ‘portable subwoofer’. It is basically the best bass boosting headphone amp available.

The first version of the ZO wasn’t without some flaws, though, as I wrote in the review linked above. Being very good listeners, Digizoid took many improvement suggestions by users into account for their freshly updated model.

On the audio side of things, the new ZO2 should have less background hiss, should be better EMI/RFI shielded, the 32 processing steps should be more evenly spaced, and there should be no more clicks and pops at turning the amp on or off. The new housing is rubberized instead of glossy plastic, and the ZO2 now has a volume control, so it can be used with line-level outputs as well. Battery life is slightly improved, and a low battery indicator as well as improved shutdown handling have been added.

The ZO2 can be preordered from Digizoid – expect my review of it soon-ish.

FiiO E6 Portable Headphone Amp Review

 fiio e6 main FiiO E6 Portable Headphone Amp Review

FiiO is a Chinese audio company that should need no introduction by now. Among all the headphone amp, soundcard, and cable manufacturers they are probably the one with the best bang-for-buck ratio, consistently delivering high quality products for a very fair price.

Their older tiny portable amp model – the E5 – is still quite popular among users, and seriously well performing for its $20 price tag. Let’s see if FiiO could up the ante a notch with the E5’s recently introduced successor, the E6. Continue reading…

SOL Republic announces new headphone lineup

SOL 560x372 SOL Republic announces new headphone lineup

I know that most people around these parts aren’t exactly fans of Monster Cable. It’s easy to see why, but what interest would you have for a company that was only partially involved with Monster? SOL is hoping a lot.

The VP of marketing for Monster Cable, Kevin Lee, has co-founded a new company called Soundtrack of Life (SOL) Republic. Engadget recently spent some time with SOL’s prototypes and came away pretty impressed with the build quality and design among other things. There are a couple variations depending on your preference for in-ear models or cans. For $60, you can get the Amp in-ears with another $40 ($100 total) bringing you up to the HD version. Meanwhile the on-ear headphones, the Tracks, will set you back $100 for the normal version and $130 for the HD model.

The Amp in-ears are a nicely designed model that are pretty straightforward. You get a right angle jack that’ll run the cord up to the iPhone controllable remote. The cords themselves are circular, and not flat like seem to be the trend now-a-days. The Tracks also have  a pretty under-styled design for the entry level being mostly glossy black ear cups with a matte headband. If you jump up to the HD model though, you buy yourself a little brushed metal treatment.

While the in-ear Amps weren’t available for listening, Engadget was able to throw the Tracks on their ears for a couple minutes to dish out some thoughts. It seems as though SOL, with their Beats by Dre ties, don’t stray far from that sound signature as there is a strong emphasis on bass. Actually, an “exorbitant amount of bass.” When advancing up the food chain to the HD models, the Tracks “got a bit clearer: there was better extension in the highs and the mids were clearer, all with the same amount of bass.”

Press release after the jump. Continue reading…

Kickstarter project wants to revolutionize cable clips

Kickstarter is a site where people can present their ideas and have everyday consumers pledge their monetary support to the project, normally in terms of pre-ordering the final product. The money from these pledges will then be used to realize the project, essentially elimination the risk of bringing something to market by financing the startup with future sales. One of the projects that are currently looking for support is the Klinggon (not to be confused with the alien race from Star Trek), a new take on the old cable clip. It consists of a rubber bit that holds the cable and has a strong neodymium magnet on the back which matches up with a magnetic back part that goes on the other side of your clothes.

Compared to existing crocodile clips the Klinggon can attack to any flat area of clothing, whereas a clip requires an edge to attach to. That means that the Klinggon is especially useful for tight clothing like sports gear, which is incidentally the exact type of clothing in the two example photos on the project page. Magnets like that can easily take some pulling on before losing their hold, so I honestly think this is a solution that could work well. Perhaps not something that everyone would find a use for, but for others it might be invaluable. Pledging $25 (+$15 if shipped internationally) to the project will earn you your own Klinggon once it has been made, and with $11,000 raised out of a funding goal of $15,000 with 31 days to go it’s a pretty safe bet that this one will make it.


FiiO E6 unveiled: E5 plus 1

fiioe6 FiiO E6 unveiled: E5 plus 1

With the new FiiO E6 being announced, the popular and inexpensive FiiO E5 headphone amp seems to get its well deserved retirement.

While the E5′s housing was basically a blatant ripoff of the 2nd generation iPod Shuffle, FiiO went with a unique and rather fetching design on their new offering. The E5′s all-metal housing got replaced by a plastic one on the E6, resulting in half the weight. Contrary to the sturdy metal clip on the E5, the new clip looks rather flimsy, being made of transparent plastic – but on the positive side it is removable. Technical specs appear to be basically the same for both amps, but the E6 sports an improved bass boost and gain switch with three variable settings. It still has the same digital volume control as the E5, which should provide good sound without crackling or channel imbalance. Let’s just hope FiiO ironed out the one obvious flaw the E5 had: background hiss with sensitive IEMs.

For less than $20 the E5 was pretty much the best bang for the buck as far as portable amps go, outperforming many more expensive toys. It measured and sounded well, and could drive most headphones without issues. Let’s hope the new E6 will continue this heritage of affordable quality.

[MP4Nation Blog]