March 14, 2012

User review: V-Moda M80 headphones

jm m80 User review: V Moda M80 headphonesForum member Jörgemeister took the time to write up a nice in-depth review of the near-full-sized closed-back V-Moda M80 headphones.

Hollywood-based V-Moda are known for usually taking a bit of a style-over-substance approach to headphone design, but with the M80 they obviously got the sound aspect right as well – next to the flashy design with changeable ear pad covers and removable cables.

While one of their first products, the V-Moda Vibe (which I reviewed ages ago – back when I was young, stupid, and slightly less caustic in my posts) sounded nice for the median quality available back in the days, they certainly had bad build quality and durability issues. With the M80 however it seems that V-Moda tackled that problem as well, delivering a well built and flexible phone with quality materials.

Sounds interesting? Check out Jörgemeister’s full V-Moda M80 review in the forums.

March 8, 2012

B100 confirms: iriver releases interesting devices as well

iriverb100 B100 confirms: iriver releases interesting devices as well

While the E40 posted below isn’t anything overly exciting, iriver shows with the B100 that they still have some tricks up their sleeve.

Noticeable is the rather unusual 3:2 aspect ratio of the 480 x 320 pixel 3.1 inch capacitive TFT touch screen – it’s smack in the middle between the usual 4:3 and 16:9 aspect ratios, and it reminds of the higher end Palm PDAs of yore. That screen makes perfect sense on the B100, since it’s one of the very few (non-Android) portable media players that supports useful ebook formats – ePub and PDF, not just the usual plain text files.

While the B100 doesn’t play HD movies or sports an HDMI output, it still supports a lot of useful video formats in standard definition – MKV, MP4, and even MPEG Transport Streams are a few of those, next to the usual variety of AVI, WMV, and the like.

On the audio side of things we find iriver’s usual SRS sound enhancements (when will they switch to the far superior BBE bundle… nudge, nudge, wink, wink), an EQ with lots of presets, and FLAC, APE, and Ogg Vorbis playback, next to the MP3 and WMA standards. MP4/M4A/AAC support appears to be missing on the B100, though. It is unclear if the B100 sports gapless playback.

Other features are the usual FM radio, voice and radio recorder, image viewer, and a cheesy user interface that seems to come straight from the Cowon design department, sporting slogans like “romantic”, “lonely”, “relax”, and the like. One thing I’m missing on the B100 are tactile buttons. There’s only two of them, to change volume (and a “home” button on the front, which hopefully can act as a play/pause button). I wish the B100 at least had as many buttons as the Cowon S9 or J3 – that would make it a lot more practical to use on the go.

The B100 comes in puny sizes of 4 and 8 GB – but expandable via MicroSDHC cards up to 32 GB. Synthetic battery benchmarks claim a life of 36 hours for audio and 8.5 hours for video – not bad, if that turns out to be close to real life usage.

So far the B100 isn’t officially released in Europe or America, but I’ve seen it pop up in shady and not-so-shady import outlets and flea markets going for $120 to $240.

[iriver Global - thanks to TDS101!!!!!!!! for the tip]

March 5, 2012

E40 confirms: iriver is still alive

irivere40 E40 confirms: iriver is still alive

Remember those guys that in 2003 brought us the innovative H100 series player with optical S/PDIF output, and two years later the sturdy H300 “Soviet iPod” (as CNET called it) with changeable cover designs?

Yeah, they didn’t make many waves lately. They quietly released a lot of players, but they mostly went under the radar. The new E40 shows that they still stubbornly hold on to touch interfaces without tactile feedback, and the 220 x 176 pixel screen is right at home in a top quality player from 2005. Same goes for the supported video formats, which are MPEG1 and the proprietary/elusive/dead SMV container.

On the positive side, battery life on the E40 appears to be very good – 51 hours for audio playback is claimed. It also uses a standard MiniUSB port – not quite the MicroUSB port one would expect nowadays, but everything is better than some proprietary plug. Transfer protocol of choice is MSC, which is great as well. Next to iriver’s usual SRS sound tweaks, the E40 sports an equalizer with lots of presets, FM radio, recording (radio and voice), and an image viewer which is about as useful as a video player on the tiny low-res screen.

That being said, the price is right for what you get – the 4GB version goes for about $50 and the 8GB one for $70. No, it doesn’t have an SD slot.

[iriver Global - thanks to Splashback for the tip]

February 28, 2012

Samsung’s new Galaxy Player differs by either 0.2 or 0.8 inches from its ancestors

sgs42 Samsungs new Galaxy Player differs by either 0.2 or 0.8 inches from its ancestorsIt’s called the Galaxy Player S Wifi 4.2, so its name should be a dead giveaway that it’s slightly larger than the 4.0 and slightly smaller than the 5.0. Also, it’s white/grey-ish instead of black.

Other than that, there really aren’t any big differences to spot between the various models. They all have the same 800 x 480 resolution (in an IPS variety on the 4.2, contrary to Samsung’s usual AMOLED screens), same 1 GHz processor speed, same Android 2.3 operating system, same codec support, same connectivity options, and so on. The new 4.2 still seems to lack HDMI output – an issue users have criticized as one of the biggest shortcomings of the 4.0 and 5.0, and a major drawback of an otherwise nicely specced PMP.

The 4.2 comes with 8 or 16 GB of internal memory, and of course a MicroSD slot to add some more. Its battery holds 1500 mAh, so let the speculations about its run time begin. No release date or street price have been announced yet.

Oh yeah, before I forget it – the 4.2 comes preloaded with some random game. This seems to be a big enough deal to mention it in the specs sheet of the press release.

[Samsung press release via Engadget]

February 21, 2012

Got root? The Cowon Z2 already does.

z2 root Got root? The Cowon Z2 already does.As usual with Android devices, it was only a matter of time until someone gained root access to the Cowon Z2. This time however it happened before the Z2 actually hit the market outside of Korea.

iAudiophile forum member Gungr spent some hours figuring out how to open up the Z2, so you don’t have to. So far it’s a bit of a lengthy procedure, involving setting up the Java and Android SDKs, editing info files, and some more in-depth wizardry. I’m sure a neatly packed, easy to install, rooted ROM update will follow shortly.

I don’t think I have to count the advantages of having root access on an Android device: official Android market access, ad blocking, backing up or deleting superfluous system apps, over/underclocking the CPU, and so on.

So, if you’re the lucky owner of an imported Z2, run, don’t walk over to iAudiophile and check out the instructions on how to make the most of your Z2.

[iAudiophile Cowon Z2 root access hack by Gungr]

February 2, 2012

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…

January 30, 2012

Sticks with clips: Sony announces the B170 series of players

sony b170 Sticks with clips: Sony announces the B170 series of players
Besides sporting a more edgy case design, the B170 series looks very much like the B160 series Sony released last year (which itself looked exactly like the two year old B150 series, sans the clip on the back). The three-line LCD display on the new one looks even tinier than before – or maybe that’s just because it isn’t hidden behind a ‘seamless’ glossy plastic cover as on its ancestors.

There’s nothing new or exciting as far as the B170′s specs go – it’s the exact same as all the other B-series players before it. It plays MP3 and WMA, sports the usual bass booster and ‘Zap’ (intro scan) button, and is rated at about 18 hours of playback time. A three minute quick charge should give 90 minutes of playback time, and a full recharge only takes 70 minutes. A USB plug is hidden under the B170′s cap, so one doesn’t need to bring an extra cable for file transfers or charging. I assume MTP is the transfer protocol of choice here, as with all other Sony players, but usually they can be easily changed to MSC transfer mode, if one wishes to do so.

The B170 comes in 2 and 4 GB varieties – without expansion slot, of course. Its retail price hasn’t been announced yet, but I guess it won’t cost an arm and a leg.

[Sony press release via Engadget - thanks to Peaceful1 for the tip.]

January 29, 2012

Yurbuds Ironman Endure Pro – Dry Mic Review

017 2 560x280 Yurbuds Ironman Endure Pro   Dry Mic Review

Not long ago, I got my hands on some sport focused earbuds from the team over at Yurbuds. Designed for athletes, by athletes. The idea behind the Yurbuds team is to give users headphones that won’t fall out under the most grueling conditions. Unfortunately, I was extremely disappointed in the performance of the headphones, not being able to get a comfortable and stable fit. The sound quality wasn’t up to par either, but clearly the idea behind the brand is focused on the fit and comfort. I was hoping round two would bring some much needed improvements to the lineup, as I truly liked the focus from the Yurbuds team to provide active individuals with another choice in the under developed world of quality active headphones.

Well, recently Yurbuds contacted me to review their newest addition to the lineup, the Endure Pros. The new design adds an over the ear stabilization loop as well as a 3 button mic and remote to control your media. They sound like welcome improvements, but can they topple the Sennheiser MX 85′s from the active headphone throne? Let’s read on to find out… Continue reading…

January 24, 2012

Cowon released the D3… no wait, this time it’s called the Z2

cowonz2 Cowon released the D3... no wait, this time its called the Z2About a year after their first foray into Android fields, Cowon released the Z2 Plenue in Korea – indirectly admitting the earlier D3 being a beta product… one that customers paid dear money for.

The Z2 is basically the exact same product as the D3 with a few hardware flaws ironed out. The Z2′s 1GHz Telechips Cortex-A8 processor isn’t quite as outdated as the D3′s 750Mhz ARM11 (although it’s still far from what’s usually built into Android devices nowadays), and it has 512MB Ram, which is quite a bit more useful than the D3′s paltry 170MB (usually 60MB free). Gone is also Cowon’s proprietary 32-pin port – the Z2 sports standard MicroUSB and MicroHDMI ports. While this is generally a great update, it might however mean the Z2 doesn’t do S/PDIF-out anymore, as found on the D3′s proprietary port.

The Z2′s screen is a 3.7″ 800 x 480 AMOLED one, just like the D3′s – let’s hope Cowon used one with a real RGB subpixel matrix this time, not an inferior Pentile one. I also hope they got hardware-accelerated video contrast ratio right this time – I’m still hoping for a fix for this glaring bug in the D3… Still available on the Z2 is one of the D3′s best features over almost all other Android devices out there – plenty of tactile buttons, making usability on the go quite a lot easier than touchscreen-only controls. Battery life on the Z2 still isn’t great – 22 hours for music, 8-9 hours for video. Let’s hope those synthetic benchmark numbers are somewhat close to real-life performance.

Continue reading…

January 21, 2012

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.