Archive for Reviews

Yurbuds Ironman Review

001 4 520x781 Yurbuds Ironman ReviewOne of the more difficult types of headphones to find on the market are ones for training and gym use.  There are high end buds for analyzing music, and full size bass heavy cans for pumping out thundering levels of low end to leave your body shaking.  But finding a good quality set of headphones to sound great, stay in place, and be durable for some light running or intense workout sessions is a chore.  There simply aren’t many to choose from on the market.  Enter the Yurbuds Ironman series earbuds.  While I and most people here stay far away from “marketing” claims and endorsements, these had me intrigued.  There wasn’t a big name behind them, and the focus was on the fit and comfort for grueling training sessions.

Can they keep up with a grueling training schedule, or do they fall flat like most others?

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Ortofon e-Q5 Review

ortofon e q5 main Ortofon e Q5 ReviewOrtofon Denmark is best known for being a seasoned manufacturer of cartridges and stylus tips for both DJ turntables and home hifi record players alike. Less known in Europe and America is that Ortofon’s Japanese daughter brand has quite the different gear line-up to offer for the Asian market. Not only does Ortofon Japan provide everything from amps to speakers for an upper class home hifi system, lately they also entered the portable audio market with two in-ear phones, first the e-Q7 and now the e-Q5.

While other brands often jump on the profitable IEM bandwagon with a “me too” attitude, adding yet another pair of generic phones to the unmanageable pile of models a customer has to wade through, Ortofon Japan sure entered this market in style. The e-Q7 and e-Q5 use neither dynamic drivers nor balanced armatures, as found in 99.9% of all other in-ear phones available. They use a newly developed technology instead, a hybrid of aforementioned transducer designs, a so-called “moving armature”, or “single pole armature”, manufactured by Yashima Electric. This kind of speaker features a diaphragm as in a traditional dynamic driver, but instead of being driven by a voice coil, it’s driven by a miniaturized armature ‘motor’. While regular balanced armatures rest between two magnetic poles, the Ortofon driver is surrounded by a single magnetic field, thus the “single pole” moniker.

Generally speaking, dynamic drivers are often said to have a more full-bodied, more substantial sound, with better soundstage – while armatures are said to have better precision and speed, yet are often thinner sounding (thus the reason for multi-armature IEMs with crossovers, to beef it up a bit).

Let’s see if Ortofon Japan managed to combine the best of both worlds in their moving armature equipped e-Q5. Continue reading…

Basshead Showdown: Denon AH-C551 vs. Hippo VB vs. Klipsch S4

bassheads unite Basshead Showdown: Denon AH C551 vs. Hippo VB vs. Klipsch S4

Does your car’s trunk make more noise than its motor? Does standing on the epicenter of a medium earthquake give you that warm, fuzzy feeling in your stomach? Does your 5.1 sound system consist of five subs and one tweeter?

If the answer to any of the questions above is ‘yes’, then you might want to read forum member Illusion’s shootout of three of the most popular basshead IEMs currently available. Fret not, Illusion knows what he’s talking about. His review is not about bass quantity alone – it’s about overall quality/musicality, with special focus on our beloved earth-shattering subharmonics. All three phones reviewed are around the $80 price range – well worth the price of admission, compared to the uncontrolled, bloated midbass you get from some shabby $20 Skullcandy fart cannons, or similar.

If you’re not afraid by now, head over to the forum thread for the full review, while I listen to some Dubstep on my Etymotic ER-4.

B&N Nook Color Review

DSC03530 520x312 B&N Nook Color Review

The old forms of media have seen better days.  Newspapers are losing subscribers daily to internet blogs and internet media that provide up to the minute information impossible to be delivered in the classic format.  No longer do people need to wait for the paper to be delivered in the wee hours of the night to their doorstep.  Barnes and Noble (as well as others) has noticed this trend and is focussed on bringing content to users the way they have become accustomed to.  Over a year ago they launched the first Nook, an e-ink reading device to deliver books, newspapers and magazines to their customers in an instant.  The device sold well and launched B&N into the emedia segment. But, using the e-ink display had its drawbacks.  Page load times are noticeably slow, magazines and newspapers looked disappointing at best, and there was still a vast amount of information and content to be consumed that an e-ink display simply cannot bring to the table  Fast forward to today and they decided to give users another choice in the market, the Nook Color ($250).  How does the new ereader fair in this increasingly intense market?  Is the lcd screen trade-offs worth it while reading books?

update: Barnes & Noble just launched version 1.1 which adds pinch to zoom in the web browser among many other things.  In real life use, the pinch to zoom does not equal the smoothness of the iPad or other Android phones.  Hopefully it will get ironed out when they update with Android OS 2.2 which brought many performance enhancements to the Android platform.  The overall feel since the update has greatly improved.  The UI is more fluid and natural, while the web browsing has been improved when scrolling and general responsiveness.

Read the full review at our new site NothingButTablets and their Tablet Forums.

Samsung YP-Q3 Review

P1020788bis 520x390 Samsung YP Q3 Review

Editor’s Note: Lebellium is our Samsung Moderator based out of France and English is not his first language, so the grammar and wording in this review is not perfect. Please refrain from grammar trolling in the comments and enjoy the content of the review. Lebellium really knows his stuff when it comes to Samsung and is well connected to the product teams there. He moderates our Samsung forums and does an incredible job- so please have that understanding while you read this review. Thanks! – Enzo/Grahm

After more than a year and a half Samsung finally launched the successor of the Q2, the YP-Q3. Mp3 players enthusiasts have never been interested in the “Q” series but despite its numerous flaws, the Q2 was a bestseller, probably thanks to its low price. While the Q2 was based on the Q1, one can’t say the Q3 is based on the Q2. Actually, Samsung changed so many things that this new device is closer to the R0 than to the Q2. I really wonder why it still belongs to the “Q” series but Samsung series names never made sense after all. On the paper it looks like an interesting audio device but is it really? I’ll try to answer in this in-depth review.

Please note this review is based on firmware 1.31. At the time you are reading it, a new firmware may have been released.

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tma1 main AIAIAI TMA 1 Review

While “AIAIAI” sounds a bit like a Spanish Flamenco-related exclamation to me, they’re in fact a relatively new headphone company from Denmark. They started out with street/fashion phones and IEMs – quality products though, way above the level of generic Skullcandy or WESC toys – and in the meantime they put their efforts in creating a high quality DJ headphone, the TMA-1.

The stunning minimalist design of the phones, conceived by Danish design studio KiBiSi, and of course the name as well, is what got me interested in them. “TMA-1” stands for “Tycho Magnetic Anomaly 1”, the name of the monolith in Arthur C. Clarke’s sci-fi novel “2001: A Space Odyssey”. Can’t really get more awesome than that, methinks.

Hard-boiled headphone veterans’ alarm bells might go off after that introduction: Stylish design? Cool name? Made for DJs? Those must sound bad; those must be style over substance. At first I was a bit wary myself – but fret not: AIAIAI definitely made sure that the TMA-1 sound as good as they look.

Read on for the in-depth review.

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Cowon J3 Review

cowonj3 main Cowon J3 Review

“Good news, everyone,” as Hubert J. Farnsworth would say.

One might believe not much has changed since Cowon released the S9. On paper, the J3 is basically the same player, just with and additional MicroSD slot and a speaker. Fans of Cowon players already know: the company is usually trying to reinvent the wheel with every new player – changing hardware layout, user interface, and general design cues willy-nilly, as if there’s no brand recognition to worry about.

So Cowon actually trying to improve on a winning player like the S9, trying to go an evolutionary route rather than the ‘revolutionary’ way is something that doesn’t happen very often. Whoever read my reviews of the Cowon O2 and V5 video players knows what I’m talking about – the latter is in many aspects worse than the former, even if it has the same basic form factor and feature set premise. No evolution, no building on tried and proven interface aspects, Cowon starting from scratch once again, and failing.

The J3 however is a very different beast. It took all the good aspects of the S9’s design, hardware- and firmware-wise, and made them better, seemingly organically and effortlessly. The form factor is an improvement, the tactile buttons are better placed and have a better feel to them, the interface is even more responsive, and easier to operate. The additional MicroSD slot is a godsend, and the battery life is even better than on the S9.

No need to play the suspense card and the old “read on to find out” teaser – the J3 is simply the best player Cowon ever made. Be my guest if you still want to read on, though.

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Beyerdynamic T 50 p / T50p Tesla Review

t50p main Beyerdynamic T 50 p / T50p Tesla ReviewBeyerdynamic’s naming scheme for headphones generally uses the prefix ‘DT’, which since the 1930ies stood for the cute retro description ‘dynamic (measuring) telephone’. Recently they introduced a new range of phones, not targeted towards professional studio applications, but aimed at the luxury home-user market. Those phones are the T 1, T 5, and the T 50 p, which I’m going to review. The ‘T’ stands for Edison’s adversary, Nikola Tesla – or, more precisely, for the SI unit of magnetic field strength, named after him.

According to Beyerdynamic’s marketing department this means, “Under the name of Tesla technology, Beyerdynamic has bundled a range of features to improve the sound and increase the efficiency of the headphones. Put simply, the magnetic ‘drive’ of Tesla headphones provides double the performance of conventional models, which is an increase in efficiency [...] This is because the efficient Tesla converters do not just provide exquisitely precise and detail-rich sound: their degree of efficiency also compensates for the low performance of mobile players. With the T 50 p, devices that often sound too quiet are given a boost in performance that can only be compared with the spontaneous acceleration and overwhelming torque of an electric car.

Interestingly, on the one side we have headphone manufacturer Ultrasone, who brags about their ‘ULE (Ultra Low Emission) Technology’ which claims to reduce magnetic death rays emanating from their headphones – on the other hand we have Beyerdynamic, claiming to have the beefiest magnets ever in their new series of phones (and that their magnetic radiation isn’t harmful in any way). Who is right? Who is wrong? Does it even matter for real life applications, or is it all just a marketing gimmick? You decide.

Anyways – I was never one that gave much for such bold advertising claims. Let’s see how they perform in reality.

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HeadAmp Pico Slim Portable Amp Review

img 2377IMG 2377 HeadAmp Pico Slim Portable Amp Review

I have been enjoying the original Pico for over three years now and it’s a great portable amp which I have no plans of ending our relationship any time soon. Knowing first hand the overall quality that Justin Wilson, owner of HeadAmp Audio Electronics, puts into HeadAmp products I decided to sign up early for the Pico Slim to reduce the size of my portable amp and see if going with a digital potentiometer would make a difference for me. So I became interested to sign up to the pre-order and  received it about 11 months later, I have been using it now for a few months (5/14/09 received 04-19-2010). Sure that seems like a long time to most people but in the beginning this was a concept that moved to a prototype and finally went into production, so this long wait time should not be the case with normal orders, but I have to say that this might be my last venture with pre-orders.

Contrary to what others have written, I like the overall performance of the original Pico more to my liking, although there is a size difference but not a problem for me and the channel matching difference may not be as good on paper but very difficult to notice a difference unless you listen at extremely low levels. Without further delay let’s discuss the Pico Slim.

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Kibano Digiplayer/Digispiller Audio Book Player Review

digispiller 11 520x390 Kibano Digiplayer/Digispiller Audio Book Player Review

Audible and similar services are great for those who understand English and have the tech know-how to get it all working, but that is actually a rather small part of society. A lot of people still rely on CDs for audio books, and it’s not easy bridging the gap between old tech and new tech. A new concept from my home country of Norway however might be the solution: it’s a player designed to play back audio books off of magnetically attached  memory cards, and among some of the key features are on-card bookmarks, an FM transmitter and an internal speaker. Enter the Kibano/Lydbokforlaget Digispiller, or Digiplayer in English.

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