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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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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Source: KitGuru
Author:
Subject: General Tech
Manufacturer: Grado

Handcrafted in Brooklyn, NY

First impressions usually count for a lot, correct?  Well, my first impression of a Grado product was not all that positive.  I had a small LAN party at my house one night and I invited over the audio lead for Ritual Entertainment and got him set up on one of the test machines.  He pulled out a pair of Grado SR225 headphones and plugged them in.  I looked at them and thought, “Why does this audio guy have such terrible headphones?”  Just like most others that have looked at Grados the first time, I thought these were similar to a set of WWII headsets, and likely sounded about as good.  I offered my friend a more “gaming friendly” set of headphones.  He laughed at me and said no thanks.

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The packaging is relatively bland as compared to other competing "high end" headphones. Grado has a reputation of under-promising, yet overperforming.

I of course asked him about his headphones that he was so enamored with and he told me a little bit about how good they actually were and that he was quite happy to game on them.  This of course got me quite interested in what exactly Grado had to offer.  Those “cheap looking” headphones are anything but cheap.  While the aesthetics can be debated, but what can’t be is that Grado makes a pretty great series of products.

Grado was founded by Joseph Grado in 1953.  Sadly, Joseph passed away this year.  Though he had been retired for some time, the company is still family owned and we are now seeing the 3rd generation of Grados getting involved in the day to day workings of the company.  The headquarters was actually the site of the family fruit business before Joseph decided to go into the audio industry.  They originally specialized in phonograph heads as well as other phono accessories, and it wasn’t until 1989 that Grado introduced their first headphones.  Headphones are not exactly a market where there are massive technological leaps, so it appears as though there has been around three distinct generations of headphone designs from Grado with the Prestige series.  The originals were introduced in the mid-90s then in the mid 2000s with the updated “i” series, and finally we have the latest “e” models that were released last year.

The company also offers five different lines of headphones that range from the $50 eGrado up to the $1700 PS1000E.  They also use a variety of materials from plastic, to metal, and finally the very famous wood based headphones.  In fact, they have a limited edition Grado Heritage run that was made from a maple tree cut down in Brooklyn very near to the workshop where Grado still handcrafts their headphones.

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That townhouse in the middle? That is where the vast majority of Grado headphones are made. Not exactly what most expect considering the reputation of the Grado brand. (Photo courtesy of Jonathan Grado)

I was sent the latest SR225e models to take a listen to some time back.  I finally got to a place where I could just sit down and pen about my thoughts and experience with these headphones.

Click here to read the entire Grado SR225e review!

Powercolor has a soundcard; check out the Devil HDX

Subject: General Tech | July 30, 2015 - 02:19 PM |
Tagged: devil hdx, powercolor, audio, sound card, opamp

Yes, PCIe soundcards are still being made and Powercolor's Devil HDX is up for review on Overclockers Club.  As with most new cards this one features three OPAMPs which can can be removed and swapped with another to change the sound that is sent to your headset or speakers.  On the back are a 124db rated 6.3mm headphone jack, left and right RCA jacks, Coax output, and an optical output.  The daughtercard sports 5 standard analog 3.5mm jacks to give you 7.1 surround sound support if you have the speakers for it.  It is about $160 so make sure you have ears that are good enough to deserve high end sound, for many users this might be a bit of overkill.

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"Setup as a stand alone solution, the Devil HDX gets to play in the best of both worlds with 124dB rated performance from the parent card and the option of running 7.1 sound through the addition of the daughter card. Here is my only beef with the Devil HDX. I know these are options that add cost, but when cultivating a brand it would just add to the package."

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teSports Shock 3D 7.1, virtual surround to hear them sneaking up on you

Subject: General Tech | July 14, 2015 - 07:37 PM |
Tagged: thermaltake esports, Shock 3D 7.1, audio

teSports Shock 3D 7.1 has two 40mm drivers with a 20Hz-20KHz range that can emulate 7.1 sound for positional audio when you are gaming.  In addition to gaming, eTeknix listened to a variety of audio sources and found the headset to be useful for listening to music and movies. The earcups will take some breaking in but once your ears have shaped them apparently these are very comfortable to wear.  If you don't mind virtual surround sound and are looking for  a gaming headset that is under $100 then take a peek at the review.

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"TteSports products have been a popular choice with gamers around the world for many years now, the companies unrelenting focus and dedication to the gaming scene has seen them produce some of the best performing and some of the most competitively priced peripherals on the market today and hopefully, we’ll be seeing a repeat of that again today."

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Source: eTeknix