Archives For Audio

Don’t know what sort of stockings you’re sporting this time of year, but here are a few decent deals on some low ticket items that might interest you.

Aukey USB Charger – $6
I replaced an older, bulkier two-port Anker model with this little guy back in February and have been pleased. It’s unobtrusive in the kitchen, travels well, and simply does what it’s supposed to do. Use code FORMOM32 to knock $2 off and it’s shipped free via Prime. If you need more power (for iPads) or faster charging, this somewhat larger Anker is also on sale for $9.

Anker SoundBuds Slim – $20
I’ve been rocking these since December and use them more frequently than my Apple AirPods (for music) given the customizable fit (see the multiple options above) and comparatively superior blockage of ambient noise. Decent sound, decent battery life, and fairly quick recharging. I also appreciate the

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Sonos Takes On Apple Homepod

Dave Zatz —  January 26, 2018

The delayed and seemingly incomplete, or at least limited and locked-in, Apple HomePod has arrived… for pre-order, anyway.

Digital Trends reports that the new $349 connected speaker’s sound really shines, besting all comers in fact. But, to fully appreciate Siri’s soundtrack, one must also subscribe to Apple Music. On the flip side, connected speaker pioneer Sonos recently integrated Amazon’s more adept Alexa voice control with Google Assistant waiting in the wings. Further, given 80 linked services, Sonos natively streams just about everything… including the aforementioned Apple Music. So while a single Homepod may sound better, Sonos is generating some well deserved publicity by offering up two Play One speakers (in black or white) for the price of a single Apple speaker (also in black, err space grey, or white) – essentially a limited time $50 discount.

Personally, having cycled through a number of Sonos and Bose devices, I’ve concluded my hearing is about as good as my vision and I’d probably be content with a few $99 refreshed Amazon Echoes for music playback and even more extensive Alexa interaction. Although our single remaining Sonos Play:1 has stayed strong, playing nature sounds and lullabies remotely, on command each and every day in our daughter’s room.

As rumored, a newly public Roku will be expanding their portfolio to include audio. And, first up is a Roku-powered “smart” soundbar produced by long-time partner TCL.

This product will take advantage of the Roku OS to deliver a superb entertainment experience. It will offer premium sound, while taking advantage of Roku Connect to connect to other AV devices, and new voice controls accessible through the Roku Entertainment Assistant. Although the TCL Roku Smart Soundbar will be compatible with any TV, it will be even better when combined with TCL Roku TVs by extending hands free voice and audio capabilities to the TV for more control and entertainment functionality.

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Well will you look at that… While Sonos’ April FCC filing turns out to be rather pedestrian, a brand spanking new, though heavily redacted (until February 28th) FCC filing confirms one new connected speaker with integrated voice control:

The EUT is 802.11 a/b/g/n (HT20) Client Device. Product model S13 is a high-performance all-in-one wireless smart speaker and part of Sonos’ home sound system. S13 adds integrated voice control functionality with far field microphones. Moreover, the device will support multiple voice platforms and music services, allowing customers to effortlessly control their music on Sonos.

So, not only will Sonos be gaining voice control from Alexa-powered hardware and apps, the streaming pioneer will also bring native hardware integration. From the included imagery, there will obviously be a mic button (or, more likely, touchable surface like the Play:5) – on what I assume is the first refresh of their entire speaker line. But will the speaker(s) also provide always-listening capability like Amazon, Google, and Apple? And which voice services, beyond Alexa, might we expect?

I can’t tell you if this is an entirely new model or replaces an existing one, but with CEDIA around the corner, perhaps the wait won’t be long…

No surprise, other than the delays, that Sonos is poised to drop their highly anticipated voice control. And we’re talking weeks, not months. While the connected speaker pioneer had previously suggested integration with multiple services, as they do music, I believe I can confirm Alexa as their sole, initial partner and that the Skill, accessed via Amazon hardware, may launch as a public beta (perhaps given a frustrating early implementation, per one source). Although, like Variety, we also wonder if new mic-enabled hardware is en-route … although it’s seemingly more likely they intend to stick with software integrations. In any event, the competition is about to heat up with the Siri-powered Apple HomePod and a more acoustically-focused Amazon Echo with whole-home aspirations on our fall agenda.

Bose is prepping a pair of Bluetooth speakers that shift the Soundlink line into a new, vertical orientation. Visually, the Bose Soundlink Revolve looks quite similar in form to the Amazon Echo while the Revolve Plus is more like a larger Google Home given is bulbous shape. And both share some resemblance to the Amazon Tap – due to its optional charging stand. The speakers, providing at least 10 hours of juice, will be offered in both black and grey, with the smaller model clocking in at 2.2lbs and the slightly larger model tipping the scales at 2.9lbs (with handle). Beyond music and podcast duties, like the original line of Soundlink speakers these also feature speakerphone capabilities with integrated mic and similar top-mounted button including volume, power, bluetooth, aux, and mic. Sadly, there’s not yet any confirmation of Alexa voice assistant or WiFi integration — perhaps maintaining the distinction between Bose’s Soundlink and the more Sonos-like Soundtouch lines.

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3 Weeks With Apple AirPods

Dave Zatz —  February 14, 2017

I admit it. I was one of those skeptics who initially mocked the wireless Apple AirPods ($159). But quickly changed my tune upon release.

And, having picked up my own pair of AirPods a few weeks back, I stand by my reassessment. They’re inferior in most ways to the wired Bose QuietComfort earbuds tips and Plantronics Voyager Edge that they replace. Yet the Apple experience, in totality, is far greater than the sum of its parts. It’s hard to articulate exactly why, but I’m taking more phone calls and listening to more audio with Apple.

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