Archives For Audio

When Google recently held their big event, I was surprisingly interested in the new Chromecast Audio dongle announcement. I’d lost interest in the original Chromecast over the past year, instead meeting my streaming needs via the Roku platform, with a little Amazon Fire TV and Samsung Smart TV thrown in for good measure. That first generation Chromecast had sat unused for a few months.


I jumped onto Google Play the day they announced the $35 Chromecast Audio and ordered myself one to try out. It came two days later and the family has been enjoying it for the past week.

The full potential remains to be seen because multi-room streaming—similar to what a Sonos system can do—is promised “in a few months.” However, I wanted to try it out as an alternative to Bluetooth speakers and our 2008-era Sony S-Air wireless speaker system.

Summary: I like it. Continue Reading…

In other Amazon Echo news, the companion iPhone app has been rechristened. Where “Amazon Echo” once lived, I now find “Amazon Alexa” — curious, no? CNET’s John Falcone reasonably wonders if this signals additional Alexa-capable hardware in the pipeline. Indeed, Amazon has opened the voice-powered platform up to third parties and this might be a nice, centralized place to interact with those devices. Further, with indications of new Fire TV models and Fire OS 5 headed to existing devices, I could see the streamer’s generic voice search rebranded and unified under Alexa with an additional interface via this app. Not to mention, Amazon clearly has all sorts of crazy gadgets under development.



So the big news is that Amazon Echo is now available for all to purchase, with a July 14th ETA. And, instead of going mass market at $200 as originally presented, it arrives at an even more palatable $180 (having dropped the physical remote). Considering a decent Bluetooth speaker could run that much or more, the voice-controlled, multi-function Echo is really a fantabulous deal when you consider all it offers.

When originally introduced as an Amazon Prime exclusive in limited numbers for $99, I picked up two. Back then, it didn’t do a whole lot — it was largely a silo-ed experience that I mainly used as a voice-controlled alarm clock and iHeartRadio terminal. But the product team has been iterating at a furious pace, bringing native Pandora, Hue control (!), and Audible integration… with promises of more to come and a developer SDK.

Continue Reading…

Sonos CEO: ‘We would embrace Apple Music’


By way of a pulled Apple Store listing, it appears we’ll soon see an addition to the Ultimate Ears Boom speaker line in the form of a new UE Boom “Roll” — the design is clearly flatter and disc shaped, with an integrated lanyard. We were delighted with the original UE Boom when reviewed back in July and this update brings a smaller form factor with fresh styling to the line, perhaps competing with the newly announced Bose SoundLink Mini II. The Apple Store’s specs and pricing were somewhat suspect… as they closely resemble those of the Boom. So we’re just going to have to stay tuned for more info from Logitech Ultimate Ears.

Digital Media Bytes

Dave Zatz —  June 5, 2015


Insteon’s Apple HomeKit-compatible hub drops support for many Insteon products.
So will the new Hub Pro eventually support the same devices currently supported by the product formerly known as the Hub II? We don’t know. Insteon’s not saying. We have to imagine that this is not what long-time Insteon users expected or hoped for.

DISH and T-Mobile flirt with the idea of a merger… but Ergen doesn’t always seal the deal.
Mr. Ergen envisions selling bundles of video and wireless service to better compete with cable and telecom rivals who are banking on their broadband businesses for growth. Mr. Ergen has had near brushes on deals with MetroPCS, Clearwire, Sprint, Hulu and DirecTV, and in each case, he walked away empty-handed.

Amazon Echo does what Sonos can’t with native Audible streaming.
Since Amazon owns Aubilde, there’s no account linking or setup required. Simply say “Alexa, read [book title]” to begin listening to a book in your library, or say “Alexa, read my book” to continue listening to your most recent audiobook.

New 800 Lumens Philips Hue bulb incoming?

Get Two Free Audible Books

Dave Zatz —  March 3, 2015

audible-trialAmazon’s Audible is currently running a nice promotion — 2 free titles of your choosing, with no further commitment. Of course, they hope you’ll stick around beyond 30 days, at which point a $14.95 monthly fee kicks in. But, it could be well worth it assuming the same “Gold” plan I’m on. Beyond 1 credit/book per month, I also receive NYT and WSJ daily. Audible is supported by a variety of apps and platforms; I generally stream iPhone to car speakers over Bluetooth, although downloads are also an option… to overcome the glaring absence of Sonos integration.


  • Includes two free audiobooks with your free trial.
  • Choose from 150,000+ best sellers, new releases sci-fi, romances, mysteries, classics, and more.
  • After 30 days, get 1 book each month, $14.95/month
  • Cancel easily anytime. Your books are yours to keep, even if you cancel.


While our home has hosted a pair of Amazon Echo ($99-199) connected-speakers-with-benefits for several weeks, I’ve yet to write much. As my thoughts continue to coalesce, Amazon just hit me with news of an update. Joining the existing I Heart Radio and Amazon Prime voice-controlled apps are Spotify, Pandora, and iTunes. However, whereas I Heart Radio and and Prime Music are native apps that live solely within Echo and the cloud, these newcomers stream to Echo via a Bluetooth-connected iPhone or Android. The addition of voice for transport controls is surely nice-to-have, but it’s not in the same league by requiring another device in the mix and without being able to verbally summon a specific artist or playlist as I do with Prime Heart. Continue Reading…