Beats by Dre Pill portable Bluetooth speaker officially drops, we take one per the Dr. and go ears-on (video)
It’s official. Aside from letting loose its first set of headphones post-Monster for the Executive types, Beats Electronics has set its sights on nabbing the portable Bluetooth audio crown from Jawbone’s Jambox. You’ll recall this hitting the FCC a bit ago, but today the Dr. is officially ready to offer you it’s remedy for on-the-go wireless audio with its $200 Pill, an NFC-equipped portable Bluetooth 2.1 speaker. Coming in your choice red, black or white, the cylindrical system is loaded with a quartet of 1-inch drivers, and supports codecs including Apt-X and AAC. An internal battery is said to provide about seven hours of listening at around 75-percent volume (80 decibels), and the unit can be charged via its Micro-USB input. Notably, an auto-off feature turns the unit off after 30 minutes if no audio is streamed to it. As you’d expect, the Pill features a front-facing on-board mic for use as a speakerphone, physical volume buttons and power button, as well as a 3.5mm input if you’d like to play sans Bluetooth. We’re also pleased to notice that the diminutive system also features a 3.5 output if you’d like to send the audio out to another audio ware. The Pill comes with a 3.5mm to 3.5mm cable, a USB to Micro-USB cable for charging with an included wall adapter and, lastly, a carrying shell case that can be hooked to a bag.
We’ve been able to spend about an hour with the system, and we’ve frankly come away very impressed. The unit feels very sturdy, with a stiff metal grille and soft-touch coating around the rest of its exterior. It feels very comfortable to hold in a hand, and will easily fit in a jacket pocket. Actually, one of our only initial complaints is that the included carrying shell doesn’t leave any room for the included cables. All of the buttons have a soft, slightly clicky tactility, which also aids to its premium feel. Using it initially alongside one of Beats’ on-hand Jamboxes in a wired A/B comparison, the Jambox came out sounding like a distorted, rumbling mess up against the pill — we even had a rep bring out a second unit confirm that it wasn’t a dud. If that wasn’t enough, the Pill also managed to get much louder, staying fairly clean (in comparison), and without rumbling on the table as the Jambox did very slightly. As a triple-check measure, we later came up with a similar outcome with our in-house unit of Logitech’s $99 UE mobile boombox — a speaker we find comparable in sound, if slightly better, than the Jambox.
Neil Young isn’t shy when it comes to embracing new technology, something he put beyond question with his latest appearance on The Late show with David Letterman. The artist took the opportunity to reveal plans for his high-fidelity Pono music service. The aim is to tackle the poor quality in which he believes most people receive their music these days — the humble MP3. Young’s offering would comprise a three-pronged approach, including a music store with high-resolution recordings, a digital-to-analog style conversion technology, and portable hardware to listen to it all with. The simple intention is to offer music as it was originally intended to be heard, but at this time there’s no detail as to what this actually entails (sorry specification fans).
According to Rolling Stone, the big three labels are interested, and the goal is to unify, rather than diversify, the quality of recorded content. The Pono players (that yellow wedge you see above) will serve up your existing catalog, but you’ll likely need to re-buy some of your collection if you want the holistic experience. With no cards fully on the table, we’re at the ransom of Young’s celebrity endorsements, which all claim that the benefits are tangible. Young, of course, says “You can’t get better than this, this is what they do in the studio,” but until we get some details, or ears on, everybody knows this is nowhere.
Just in time for Halloween, Jarre’s new Aeroskull dock embodies 70 watts of total power in a human-like cranium, complete with a pair of speaker-packing shades. Jarre is showing off the colorful chrome tune machine in black, white, blue, green, orange, pink, purple and yellow finishes, with a matching IR bone remote to boot. With a tinted lens appearance, the permanently affixed sunglasses actually contain two 15-watt speakers, with a 40-watt subwoofer occupying the skull’s rear. The lofty £349 (about $565) sticker price will net you some of the latest technologies, including Bluetooth audio support and a standard 3.5mm audio input, but Apple’s new Lightning port is notably absent, with a good-as-dead Dock Connector mounted up top, instead. With 70 watts of power and Jarre’s backing, this seemingly bizarre rig may actually offer decent performance. You’ll need to wait until its October ship date to see for yourself, but if a skeletal sound system is on your list of must-haves, you can rest in peace knowing that you have but weeks to live (with your current spirited setup).
The Beats by Dr. Dre badge has usually been attached to headphones and the occasional laptop or smartphone. We’ve never really seen it attached to dedicated speakers, however, and that’s where both an FCC filing and a sighting at UK retailer HMV’s online store raise a few eyebrows. The House that Dre Built appears on the edge of launching the Beats Pill, a Bluetooth wireless speaker with four drivers and a shape that more than explains the medicinal name. While we don’t know just how much of that signature Beats thump we’ll get, we do know from the FCC that the Pill can serve as a speakerphone, carries an aux-in jack and will last for a typical 8.5 hours on its USB-rechargeable lithium-ion battery. There’s also signs of a red version of Beats’ Mixr headphones coming at the same time. HMV has publicly scoured its pages of any trace of a ship date or price for the Pill, but cached copies point to a £170 ($276) price and a release around September 28th — not necessarily trustworthy figures, but they may be in the ballpark. Our only question is whether or not we’ll get a dose of the Pill in the US.
By now, you’re probably familiar with Apple’s latest earbuds. But are they an improvement over their arguably disposable predecessor, you ask? You bet. Still, they’re not going to win out over high-end or even mid-range audio options. That’s to be expected, though — the EarPods do sound better, and, well, they cost 29 bucks and ship with all of the devices Apple announced today. The attractive white ‘buds are packaged in a plastic case that’s quite similar to the enclosure that Apple introduced with its previous-gen step-up set. They’re very lightweight, not that you had any doubts, and appear to be durable enough. The “one size fits all” design worked well in our ears — it wasn’t a snug fit by any means, but we didn’t fear that they’d fall to the ground with the slightest movement.
You’ll net the best performance in quieter settings, considering that they don’t isolate sound like some other options on the market, and if you’re a frequent air traveler or often find yourself working in noisy environments, you’ll probably want to consider other options. That said, folks who don’t need the absolute best or want to save up for a better solution should find these to be sufficient — we didn’t have a chance to do any in-depth testing and analysis, but expect that to come after we’ve had a chance to digest all of today’s new gadgets. For now, you can take a closer look in the hands-on gallery just below.
Remember that fancy-looking DDJ-AERO we saw from Pioneer recently? Well if that was a bit too “buttony,” or perhaps just too expensive for your beginner DJ pockets, how about that which you see above? Announced today, this is the DDJ-WeGO an (or is that another) all-in-one DJ controller — squarely aimed at the cheaper end of the market. With a suggested retail price of $399, it’s Pioneer’s cheapest controller to date, and comes bundled with Virtual DJ LE software. For your money, you get two platters and a mini-mixer, FX buttons, a choice of five colors (white, black, red, green or the pictured violet), as well as some built-in LED effects that help you learn to mix (the lights get brighter as the pitch of the two songs gets closer, etc.). On a more practical level, the unit is compact, USB-powered, and has a built-in audio-interface (no extra sound card required for headphone monitoring). You can get your spin on from next month, at the aforementioned quad-benjamin price-point, or tease yourself with the PR past the break.
Load and start track A. Load, and start track B on the next down beat. Adjust pitch / speed of track B to keep in time with track A. Now you know the very basics of DJing, you might want some hardware to practice it on. Fortunately, for you beginners, Denon has just released the MC2000 DJ controller. An entry-level device that should get you (and your tracks) up to speed. Along with the plug and play USB device, you’ll get a copy of Serato’s DJ Intro mixing software (for which it was specifically designed) to get you started. If that’s not for you, or perhaps you’ve already earned your spinning stripes, and are looking for something compact, no problem — full MIDI output means this can work with other software options too. There’s a basic two-channel mixer snug between the pair o’wheels, and all the usual buttons for hot-cues and loops etc. As is fast becoming standard, the audio interface is built-in, making the hook-up at parties and gigs a much simpler — and less computer-bothering — affair. If has ticked your boxes, it’ll be available from October, commanding an estimated £269 / €325 / $299 out of your record budget when it does so. In the meantime you can cue-up the promo video after the break.
Aw, wouldn’t you look at the cute little… wait. Right, there’s a Chrome OS update. At its heart, the upgrade to Google’s cloud-based platform introduces a streamlined app list that both occupies less space and carries an internet-wide search box. It’s also possible to save files directly to Google Drive, and audio can now play through either HDMI or USB. Don’t lie to yourself, however: the real reason you’ll rush to update your Chromebook today is newly added support for custom wallpapers, which guarantees all-day, everyday viewing of your most favorite dog in the whole wide world. Or at least, a nice change of pace from Google’s run-of-the-mill backdrops. Isn’t it so sweet?
Along with your first day at school, and (for the boys at least) growing your first peach fuzz mustache, many of you might also never forget your first Sound Blaster soundcard. In the present day (unless you’re blessed with youth) only the Sound Blaster can be enjoyed again, and today Creative introduces its new Z-series. The latest PCI-Express cards use the firm’s Core3D quad-core sound and voice processor and come in three variants: the Sound Blaster ZxR, the Zx and the Z. As you might have guessed, the more letters, the higher up the food chain it is. The flagship ZxR ($249.99) boasts a 127dB SNR, sockets for swappable Op-Amps, 80mW into 600 ohm headphone pre-amp, plus RCA / optical connectivity (via additional daughter board) and an external “ACM” control module for less fiddling around the back of your machine. You can save yourself $100 with the Zx model, if you don’t want the ZxR’s “DBpro” daughter board, and the Z edition saves a further $50 at the expense of the external controller. Want to dive into the full specifications? Plug in to the PR after the break.
Biostar Hi-Fi Z77X gives audiophiles 7.1-channel analog sound, overpriced cables thankfully optional
There haven’t been many choices in PC motherboards for audiophiles — the ‘real’ kind that might see even a good dedicated sound card as slumming it. Biostar wants to fill that untapped niche with the Hi-Fi Z77X. Along with run-of-the-mill expansion for an Ivy Bridge- or Sandy Bridge-based desktop, the board’s built-in 7.1-channel audio flaunts six 3.5mm analog jacks, an amp and the kind of exotic-sounding language that leads audio addicts to buy $2,000 cables they don’t need. We’re talking “metal-oxide film resistors” and “non-polarized electrolysis electric audio capacitors,” here. Whether or not the changes have an appreciable impact on sound quality, listeners are ironically left out of S/PDIF audio, which exists only as a header on the board unless buyers spend a little more on parts. That said, if we assume the as yet unknown price isn’t stereotypically high — and that audiophiles don’t mind a big, potentially noisy desktop as a home theater PC — the Hi-Fi Z77x could be a treat for those who want to wring every nuance out of music and movie soundtracks.
It’s hard to believe, but the last the last time we covered a major firmware update for Canon’s 7D DLSR the iPhone 4 was still fresh in our minds. Now, nearly two years later, Canon is offering up a bevy of new features for the camera with its soon to be released — and free — 2.0.X update. To start, folks who shoot RAW will be pleased to know that they can shoot up to 25 continuous frames (17 in RAW + JPEG) in burst mode — that’s up from just 15 previously. You’ll also be able to edit images captured in the format straight from the camera, as well as set a maximum limit of 6400 (up from 3200) for its Auto ISO mode. If that wasn’t enough, Geotaggers should know that Canon is also going to make its GP-E2 GPS module (originally introduced with the 5D Mark III) 7D-compatible. Lastly, videographers are getting a nice bump in the audio and multi-camera shooting departments; you’ll be able to manually control the mic-input with a choice of 64 volume levels (like the Mark II) and an updated sub-menu interface will allow the first four characters of your videos’ file names to be changed. The update won’t be available until early August, but you’ll find full details and a video demo at the source link below.
Aside from the PlayStation Move Racing Wheel and Wonderbook, Sony has one more accessory to show off at E3 — the Pulse Wireless Stereo Headset Elite Edition. Naturally, we hunted down this peripheral aimed at all-things audio to check it out for ourselves. The PWSHEE is the company’s second full-on PS3 headset to date, expanding on what it offered with its Wireless Stereo Headset from last year. As we’re told, the headset is also ushering in a new Pulse moniker for its PlayStation oriented ear-blasters, although there’s no word on what we can expect down the line. For now, this unit packs a lot on paper for its $150 price, touting key features like 7.1 virtual surround sound, PS Vita and cellphone compatibility (thanks to a detachable cable with inline remote / mic), BassImpact technology for massive low-end pulse (get it?), audio profiles, higher-fidelity drivers than the WSH and hidden noise-cancelling microphones for chatting. Does it have the potential to live up to its hype and one-up its $80 predecessor? Join us past the break for our initial impressions.
As the world of digital DJing offers those who spin increasingly individual configurations, there’s still a dedicated crowd who like to keep it strictly “ones and twos.” Denon hears this, and is hoping to snag some of those faithful with its latest SC2900 DJ media player. From the tease video (after the break) it looks like it’s pitting itself against Pioneer’s CDJ900 and CDJ2000 models. There’s a 7-inch platter (Denon’s first without a motor,) jazzed up with LEDs for cue and marker points. This can be used to get hands on with CDs (audio and MP3,) USB drives, music direct from the companion “Engine” software (i.e. hosted on a Mac or PC,) and shared media from other compatible networked players. Other goodies include four hot cues, native support for Traktor (and other) DJ software over MIDI, a “slip mode” made popular by the CDJ900 for keeping tracks in the mix even when scratching, and library browsing via iPad (though we’re not sure if it’s anything more than that). Pricing and availability should get played out soon, in the meantime you might want to start boning up on those old DMC routines.
If you’re looking for something new to wrap around your noggin this coming season, then put it on your radar that Denon will be bringing 11 new sets of headphones to store shelves this August. That number might seem like quite a lot to digest, but it becomes a lot easier when broken down by category. First is the Exercise Freak lineup, a wrap-around earbud design that sells for $149 and will be available in black, blue and yellow. Beyond that, the company has three additional lineups — the Music Maniac, the Urban Raver and the Globe Cruiser — and each will be available in earbud and over-the-ear form factors. The Music Maniac headphones ($349 and $499) are designed to cater to audio purists with an acoustically flat signature. Most notable about the Music Maniac lineup is the top shelf Artisan model, which rings in at a healthy $1,199 and pits itself against other audiophile mainstays such as the Sennheiser HD800 and Audez’e LCD2. Meanwhile, the Urban Ravers ($249 and $399) place a heavy emphasis on bass, whereas the Globe Cruisers ($179 and $499) feature noise cancellation. As a nice touch, each of the models feature built-in microphones and volume controls.
Android and PlayStation Vita owners have felt the Music Unlimited love on their respective devices for quite some time now, but the Spotify / MOG / Rdio competitor has finally made its way to the App Store, bringing with it yet another option for streaming music on iOS. The free app appears to be optimized for iPhone and iPod touch (though it’s also compatible with iPad), and will enable on-the-go jammin’ with a $4-per-month Basic subscription over 3G, 4G or WiFi connections. You can pull in tunes from the millions of tracks in Sony’s collection, or access songs on your PC using the Music Sync service. The app is currently only available in the New Zealand App Store, but it’s expected to hit other Music Unlimited countries soon. For now, you can hit up the source link for the Kiwi App Store preview, or head over to the Music Unlimited site to sign up.
iHome makes hoards of different devices and docking stations for the iPhone and other Apple products. The company has unveiled its latest offering called the iP76. This product is an LED color changing tower stereo speaker that packs in Bluetooth for connecting to the iPhone and the iPod.
The device has a docking station on top the charge your iPhone or other iPod while it plays music. The tower speaker has 16 multicolor LED light clusters to create cool light effects and has for high-performance speakers inside. The changing colors look a lot like an old-fashioned jukebox to me.
The device will be available in July retailers nationwide for $199.90. The speaker also has the ability to send video from the device out of the TV thanks to integrated component video outputs.
Audio-Technica has been quiet on the noise-cancelling headphones front for some time, but today it announced a new set of sound-nixing cans, the ATH-ANC9. While earlier ATH models block out 85 percent of outside noise, the new version ups the ante to 95 percent. Also new are three Tri-Level Cancellation modes, each tailored to drowning out sound in a particular environment (airplanes, noisy office and libraries, for example). This over-the-ear set has 40mm drivers and an input sensitivity of 100 dB to make the music you choose to hear sound nice and clear. The ATH-ANC9 comes with two detachable cables, two adapters and an AAA battery. It’s available now for $349.95 on the Audio-Technica website and at other retailers. Get the full details in the presser below.
Were you eying Bowers & Wilkins’ P5 headphones, but put off by the initial $300 (now $250) sticker price and not so inclined to the in-ear C5? Someone at the company heard you, as we’re now getting the P3 for a more affordable $200. What changes when you pocket the extra cash? You’ll get aluminum and other hallmarks of buying the British outlet’s audiophile gear, but the cost trimming brings a special “ultra-light acoustic fabric” instead of sheepskin leather and a more portable folding design instead of the pivoting earcups found on the P5. Bowers & Wilkins is light on performance details, but it promises that the design will be comfortable for long listening sessions, and there are both universal and Apple-friendly in-line remotes to make your phone calls and skip tracks. Black- and white-hued versions of the P3 should be hitting American shops in June.
Many in the Windows Media Center community were afraid that Windows 8 would mark the end of Media Center, while others thought it would be like Notepad — present, but unchanged. In the end both were wrong as Microsoft announced Media Center would be available as an add-on to Windows 8. Until now though, we didn’t know exactly how that process would work. Steven Sinofsky outlined on the Building Windows 8 blog how users will be able to use Add Features to Windows 8 in Control Panel and purchase the same great Media Center experience that was included in Windows 7 Premium and Pro. The price is still unannounced but is expect to be “in line with marginal costs” — whatever that means. The price paid will cover the royalties for the required codecs to support broadcast TV and DVD playback (DVDs still won’t play in Media Player). One codec that will be supported in all version of Windows 8, but will require the computer maker to license the codec directly, is Dolby Digital Plus. So yeah, something else that was included in Windows 7 for free. We’re glad it’s there, but wish we’d get something new for the new premium price. Like most, we’ll probably hold on to our Windows 7 HTPC a little bit longer.
Braven the company formerly known as Spar has launched a new line of Bluetooth speakers in the form of the Braven Six. The new Braven Six series of 3 Watt stereo speakers are equipped with a subwoofer and 3.5-mm audio in and out jacks.
Together with a USB port which can be used to power your smartphone and recharge it using the Braven Six battery. That is equipped with enough juice to keep tunes pumping for up to 20 hours with the Brave 650.
Another great feature of the aluminium clad, is the ability to daisy chain more than one together. Watch the video below to see its features in action.