Speakers and heaphones and DABs, oh my!

Subject: General Tech | February 9, 2016 - 03:10 PM |
Tagged: portable speakers, OTONE, Inateck, headphones, Fugoo, audio

The Inquirer put together a list of their favourite audio products so far this year, perhaps the list will not match yours but perhaps there is a product named which you have not heard of yet.  From portable speakers to earbuds that wrap around your wrist when you are not using them they cover a variety of products.  Check out the list and see if any of these products are worthy of spending your hard earned money on.

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"THOUSANDS OF NEW audio products are released every year. Sometimes the big names are the best, but at other times there are hidden gems waiting to be discovered. Here's our guide to the headphones, speakers and other audio gems that will float our boat during 2016."

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Source: The Inquirer

If want great audio and don't care about the price; HiFiMAN HE-1000

Subject: General Tech | January 22, 2016 - 01:47 PM |
Tagged: hifiman, headphones, HE-1000, audio

HiFiMAN have been producing mid level and high end audio products for quite some time, straddling the line between affordable and audiophile quality.  The HE-1000 are of the aforementioned audiophile level, at $3000 you really have to have discerning ears to want to pick up these cans.  The headset is quite pretty, built with leather, wood, and aluminium with soft cloth for the earcups and a window blind design on the exterior which HiFiMAN claims has a positive effect on the audio quality.  techPowerUp tested these headphones out, you can read the description of their experience in the audio soundstage these headphones create in their review ... or not.

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"HiFiMAN is constantly developing their planar technology, and today, we will take a look at their latest state-of-the-art headphone. It is dubbed the HE-1000 and features a nanometer thick diaphragm, leather headband, and milled aluminum. We take HiFiMAN's most audacious and pricey headphone for a ride!"

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Source: techPowerUp

G.Skill makes a move into the gaming headset market

Subject: General Tech | January 4, 2016 - 11:16 AM |
Tagged: SV710, SR910, gskill, gaming headset, audio

G.Skill have been focusing on the peripheral market recently, releasing a gaming mouse and keyboard and now a pair of headphones, the SR910 and SV710.  Hardware Canucks recently put up a video review of the two headsets, which are almost identical apart from the external controls.  The SV710 has a very large inline volume controller that was not well received while the SV910 has a larger control hub that sits on your desktop and allows individual control over the drivers in the headset.  Unfortunately they were not overly impressed with the design and performance of the headsets and the less expensive stereo SV710 model was preferred over the more complex and expensive SR910.

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"G.Skill has entered the audio segment with its SR910 and SV710 gaming headsets—and that's a big step for a company still finding its feet outside its core market."

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V-MODA lets you add a personal touch with their Crossfade Wireless Headset

Subject: General Tech | December 15, 2015 - 03:43 PM |
Tagged: audio, v-moda, crossfade wireless, wireless headset

Considering the way that Beats and other headsets seem to sell based on the recognizable and rather colourful look of their headsets side panels, V-MODA has created product to try to compete on that level.  When you order your headset you can choose between a wide variety of 3D printed side panels in a variety of materials and designs up to and including solid platinum for a mere $27,000 or so.  For the less financially gifted there are other precious metals, fibre, aluminium and steel side panels to place your design on.  V-MODA offers a variety of designs that can be etched on the sides or you can even upload your own design, though as you do authorize V-MODA to use the design make sure it is yours to use. 

The remaining question is how the headsets sound, both while wired and over Bluetooth.  They are based off of the Crossfade M-100s which may be familiar to you, otherwise you can read what Techgage thought of the sound in their full review.

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"Are you in the market for some high-end wireless headphones but crave something a little different? V-MODA may have something of interest. With a range of 3D printed customizable headphones available in a variety of materials, including metal, the Crossfade Wireless certainly has our ears perked."

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Source: Techgage

Soundcards are no longer an easy sell ... can the ASUS STRIX Soar tempt consumers?

Subject: General Tech | December 7, 2015 - 05:50 PM |
Tagged: STRIX Soar, sound card, audio, asus

Ever since the NFORCE2 chipset's onboard audio codec we have seen a huge increase in the quality of integrated sound on motherboards and we have hit a point where you no longer need a soundcard for general usage.  This has sparked an interesting competition among soundcard makers, searching for a way to make their product relevant to users.  We have seen the return of tubes, programmable and replaceable OPAmps, powered headphone ports and a variety of other features.

ASUS has released the STRIX Soar 7.1 PCIe card recently and Kitguru got a chance to review the board.  It certainly looks as pretty as the cards which come with high end motherboards and is thin enough not to encroach on systems with multiple cards already installed but does it offer compelling reasons to purchase the card?  Kitguru gave it their "Must Have" award so there must be something attractive about the card, check out the full review to hear more about it.

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"Today we look at the most affordable of the STRIX sound cards, the Soar. Although it has much the same hardware and features as its bigger brothers, it is more affordable which could be the real kicker in convincing potential buyers."

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Source: Kitguru

Bose's 2015 SoundTouch speakers; is name recognition enough?

Subject: General Tech | November 12, 2015 - 03:22 PM |
Tagged: audio, bose, SoundTouch 10, wireless speaker

Bose has recently released a monaural wireless speaker, the SoundTouch 10 and at the same time refreshed their existing SoundTouch 20 and 30 speakers.  The chances are that the Bose name is enough for you to either desire or dismiss the speakers immediately, regardless of what the product actually is.  For those who do not immediately cringe away from the brand, this speaker utilizes the Waveguide technology found on new Bose products to attempt to compensate for the monaural design of the SoundTouch 20.  They have incorporated a remote into the package as well as support for streaming from sources such as Spotify or Pandora.  The speaker requires mains power, you won't be taking this on the road as it does not have a battery inside of it as many wireless speakers do.  If you are interested you can drop by NitroWare to check out the full review.

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"Bose's 2015 SoundTouch speakers offer internet music streaming connectivity, precision audio design and ease of use. With the compact SoundTouch 10, Bose is trying to appeal to an audience who may be new to the brand. Does Bose's efforts warrant your hard earned money? We discuss this in a preview of these new speakers."

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Source: NitroWare

Another Video About the Early Days of PC Audio

Subject: General Tech | November 3, 2015 - 09:22 PM |
Tagged: sound blaster 16, Sound Blaster, pc gaming, Creative, audio, ad lib

About two weeks ago, we highlighted a video by “The 8-Bit Guy” about the earliest computer audio implementations. It focused on the engineering side, how a series of channels, made up of square waves, triangles waves, noise, and occasionally PCM recordings, could be mixed to generate sound.

This video discusses a similar era from a slightly different perspective. Beep is a documentary video and book series that started on Kickstarter. This segment is an interview with Rich Heimlich, the person behind the company Top Star. They did third-party QA for video game companies. He was approached by Martin Prevel, a professor at Université Laval in Quebec, who had the idea of an add-in sound card. It used the Yamaha YM3812 sound chip, which you might remember from The 8-Bit Guy's video.

The interview delves into the more business aspects of the industry, though. For example, one of Ad Lib's biggest issues was that PCs did not have a lot of room for expansion. It was difficult to convince the consumer to give up a whole ISA add-in slot for audio. Heimlich remembers a strong consumer backlash against dedicated audio that they needed to overcome. Gamers needed to choose between sound, clock, storage, and so forth. Beyond that, the PC, with software like LOTUS 123, brought hardware that wasn't just considered “a toy” into the home. It brought a huge wave of hardware in, but it wasn't considered a serious gaming platform until titles like Myst came out for them.

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At some point, Creative noticed this whole situation. They contacted Rich Heimlich and showed them the “Killer” (later “Sound Blaster”) card. The switch in power from Ad Lib to Creative was interesting, which Heimlich says had nothing to do with the digital audio feature, since that was not even used until two years after Creative surpassed Ad Lib in market share. He attributes it to the initial problem, which is a lack of add-in card real estate. The Sound Blaster had a GamePort, which let users justify filling that socket with both audio and a joystick port, which would be two sockets with Ad Lib's solution. It was also cheaper than the Ad Lib.

The interview goes on to discuss the Ad Lib vs Creative war to their next-generation product, Ad Lib Gold vs Sound Blaster 16. He alleges that, since Creative had better connections within Yamaha, they kept Ad Lib's card out of certification until Sound Blaster 16 was in the market. It then continues to talk about reverse-engineering “Sound Blaster-compatible” and so forth. It then continues for a while, even talking about OS/2 at the end of it.

It is definitely worth a view.

Source: Beep

"The 8-Bit Guy" Discusses Game Audio

Subject: General Tech | October 22, 2015 - 02:34 PM |
Tagged: pc gaming, audio

Over the last couple of months, we highlighted the work of The iBook Guy because it's very interesting. He also announced a rebrand to “The 8-Bit Guy” because he hasn't published an iBook video “in quite some time”. If you have been a long time follower of PC Perspective, you'll know that we have a history of changing our name to slightly less restrictive titles. Ryan initially named this site after the K7M motherboard, then Athlon motherboards in general, then AMD motherboards, then PC Perspective. I guess we shouldn't cover mobile or console teardowns...

Anywho... back to The 8-Bit Guy. This time, his video discusses how old PCs played (or, more frequently, synthesized) audio. He discusses the early, CPU-driven audio, which were quickly replaced by dedicated sound cards in the 1980s. They could drive audio waves that were either square, triangle, noise, or PCM (microphone-sampled). These four types were combined to make all of the music and sound effects of the time.

This brings us to today. He notes that, with today's modern computers having so much storage and RAM, we end up just mixing everything as an audio file and play that. This is where we can expand a little. Until around the Vista era, sound cards have been increasing in voice count. One of the last examples was the Creative SoundBlaster X-Fi. This card implemented their EAX 5.0 standard, which allowed up to 128 voices in games like Battlefield 2, and that was about it. When Microsoft released Vista, they replaced the entire audio stack with a software-based one. They stated that sound card drivers were a giant cause of bluescreen errors, and thus almost everything was moved out of the kernel.

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At around this time, voice limits were removed. They don't make sense anymore because mixing is no longer being done in hardware. Nowadays, even websites through Web Audio API can play thousands of sounds simultaneously, although that probably will sound terrible in practice.

Audio processing doesn't end here, though. Now that we can play as many sounds as we like, and can do so with complete software control over the PCM waves, the problem is shifted into an algorithmic one.

This is an area that I, personally, am interested in.

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See the source and demo at my GitHub

Earlier this year, I created a demo in WebCL that rendered 20,000 - 30,000 sounds on an Intel HD 4600 GPU, with stereo positioning and linear distance falloff, while the system's main NVIDIA GeForce GTX 670 was busy drawing the WebGL scene. The future goal was to ray-trace (high frequency) and voxelize (low frequency) sound calls based on the environment, to simulate environmentally-accurate reverbs and echoes. Over the summer, I worked with a graduate student from Queen's University to offload audio in the Unity engine (I preferred Unreal). We have not yet introduced geometry.

At this year's Oculus Connect, Michael Abrash also mentioned that audio is interesting for VR, but that it needs to wait for more computational horsepower. A lot more. He also discussed HRTF, which is the current way of adding surround to stereo by measuring how an individual's ears modify sound depending on location. It gets worse if sounds are closer than a meter away, or the actual user's ears differ too much from the experiment subject.

Anyway, enough about me. The 8-Bit Guy's videos are interesting. Check them out.

Patriot's new gaming headset, the Viper V360

Subject: General Tech | October 21, 2015 - 01:49 PM |
Tagged: patriot, Viper V360, gaming headset, 7.1 headset, audio

Patriot has expanded into the gaming headset market with the Viper 360, which has two 40mm Neodymium drivers and two 30mm sub-drivers which use software to emulate 7.1 surround sound.  The earcups have the volume control, a button to toggle the Ultra Bass Response feature and a switch to turn the large LED lights on and off, should you desire a glow in the dark head for some reason.  The frequency response matches the competition at 20Hz- 20KHz, the two sub-drivers are enabled in UBR mode and do add some vibration along with more bass volume.  At $60 it is reasonably priced and the the two year warranty should ensure you get your money's worth.  Check out the full review at Modders Inc.

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"Patriot is known for its memory and mobile products, and has just recently started selling peripherals. It might seem like an unusual jump, but their new headset proves that Patriot is prepared to expand and succeed in this new market. Patriot's initial headset offering is the Viper V360, a virtual 7.1 capable gaming peripheral that plugs in via USB."

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Audio Corner

Source: Modders Inc

Cooler Master Pitch Pro Earbuds are great when you are on the go

Subject: General Tech | September 11, 2015 - 02:40 PM |
Tagged: audio, cooler master, CM Storm Pitch Pro, gaming headset

Cooler Master's CM Storm Pitch Pro earbuds come with a bit more options than many others that are for sale, the splitter and airplane connector are good inclusions for the traveller.  They use 10mm neodymium drivers which will have some trouble with bass but are about as big as is feasible for inserting into your ears.  As you might expect, Kitguru was not overly impressed with the inline microphone though it is certainly good enough for casual usage.  Check out their reveiw here.

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"Back in 2013, Cooler Master launched the CM Storm Pitch gaming ear buds and at the time, they were positively received, we even gave them our ‘WORTH BUYING’ award. Now here we are two years later with Cooler Master launching the revamped CM Storm Pitch Pro ear buds. Are they worth a purchase?"

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Audio Corner

Source: KitGuru