Kingston's new HyperX member, the Cloud II Pro gaming headset

Subject: General Tech | January 28, 2015 - 05:14 PM |
Tagged: audio, kingston, hyperx cloud II pro, gaming headset

Kingston's HyperX Cloud II Pro Gaming Headset can work as just a normal over the ear headset thanks to the removable microphone and 3.5" jack but provides more functionality when you use the inline 7.1 audio DSP connected to a USB port.  The speakers are rated at a frequency response of 15Hz–25,000 Hz and the microphone at 50–18,000 Hz but be aware that the quality of your voice is significantly better when not connected via USB.  The 7.1 audio emulation software works as advertised although the reviewer at Modders Inc prefers to use stereo.  Check out the full review right here.

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"Two years ago, I walked into the Emperor's Ballroom in Caesar's Palace hotel in Las Vegas Nevada wearing khakis and a golf-shirt, feeling woefully underdressed for the venue as I did not exactly pack a ball gown nor do I look good in one. The room had high ornate coffered ceilings, triumphal arches, elaborate carpeting and real marble floors, all …"

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Source: Modders Inc

Steelseries colourful Siberia Elite Prism headset

Subject: General Tech | January 9, 2015 - 02:27 PM |
Tagged: audio, gaming headset, Siberia Elite Prism, steelseries

Don't worry if the orange ring on the Steelseries Siberia Elite Prism headset turns you off as that is an LED which can be changed to one of 16.8 million colours which will shift or breath in time to your music.  The headset has a frequency response of 16-28000 Hz and the unidirectional microphone is retractable for when it is not in use.  The headset uses 3.5mm jacks and comes with adapters to allow you to plug it into a variety of mobile devices or into the USB soundcards which ships with the device when you are using it on a PC.  The soundcard is not as good as a dedicated DAC but does add functionality to the headset as well.  The noise cancellation will be appreciated in noisy environments but the headset is not for the completely antisocial as there is a 3.5mm jack on one earcup to allow a friend to plug in and share your music if you so desire.  You can see MadShrimps full review here.

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"Siberia Elite Prism is a slight improvement over the original Elite version which features better comfort for the ear-cups, a new, more flexible microphone, a slightly different color scheme for the white version but also a better design of the top frame. The bundled sound card can be used with PCs and laptops via USB, but the Elite Prism also comes with the necessary cables in order to connect the headset on analog to sound cards and mobile gadgets. SteelSeries Engine 3 makes configuration possible with a custom equalizer and many more…"

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Source: MadShrimps

CES 2015: Calyx Audio PaT USB DAC and Headphone Amp for PC and Mobile

Subject: General Tech | January 6, 2015 - 06:51 PM |
Tagged: mobile, headphone amplifier, DAP, DAC, ces 2015, CES, audiophile, audio

For the audio enthusiasts at CES this year Calyx Audio (Korean maker of audiophile-grade audio components) has a new prototype to show along with last year's Calyx M music player, and for an audiophile product the pricing is very aggressive.

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Render of the Calyx PaT (dimensions in mm)

The PaT is a similar product in some ways as Calyx Audio's existing $199 USB DAC called the "Coffee", but this unit will be much smaller and will cost half as much at $99. And the reduction in price and size is only half of the story as the PaT also works with mobile devices as an outboard DAC/headphone amp. Apple iPhones and iPads will be supported, and Android devices with USB audio-out support as well (probably via USB OTG).

The PaT supports up to 16-bit, 48kHz files (AIF, M4A, PCM, OGG, and MP3) and will also control track playback and volume via hardware control buttons on the unit. The PaT requires no external power or battery, taking what little juice it needs directly from the connection to your mobile device. As for amplification, in typical Calyx fashion even this miniature board is using a discrete class A/B headphone amplifier. Since the PaT relies only on the power passed through the USB connection it is only capable of outputting 0.8 V, which by comparison is slightly lower than an iPhone 5 which outputs about 0.9 - 1.0 V.

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The tiny prototype PaT in action

The PaT may be just a working board at this point, but the company has scheduled the release for February 2015, when the devices will be available in various colors of thin aluminum enclosures.

In the world of computer audio much more attention has been focused lately on advancements in sound, with special shielding and isolation on motherboards, special gold-plated USB ports for DACs, and customizable op-amps a trend. While the market for dedicated sound cards isn't what it once was, high-end PCI-E and USB cards from Creative (Sound Blaster) and ASUS (Xonar) are still widely available. Most of these products are for desktop users, but there is a growing number of portable devices that allow mobile users to experience great sound, too. For myself, great sound means faithful reproduction of 2-channel music, and it's nice to see attention paid to that area without the added effects of digital signal processing (DSP). Calyx seems interested only in engineering products that play back music as close to the source as possible, and I can't argue with that!

The Calyx PaT is scheduled to launch in February for $99, but like most high-end audio components it will take a little research to track it down. The USA distributor of the Calyx brand has a website with product and contact information here.

Coverage of CES 2015 is brought to you by Logitech!

PC Perspective's CES 2015 coverage is sponsored by Logitech.

Follow all of our coverage of the show at http://pcper.com/ces!

Source: Calyx

Time to upgrade your alarm clock?

Subject: General Tech | December 11, 2014 - 02:56 PM |
Tagged: audio, bluetooth, clock

The Edifier Tick Tock Bluetooth alarm clock will remind the older readers of the windup alarm clocks of long ago but this one has a few new capabilities.  Apart from the digital display and 5 programmable alarms it is an FM radio with a pair of omnidirectional 4W speakers with a frequency response of 90Hz-20kHz.  That gives it much better sound quality than your average clock radio although the bass is poor, understandable considering the size of the drivers.  In addition to the FM you can input audio via an auxiliary input or pair it with a Bluetooth device so you can also fall asleep listening to the Tick Tock.  It is currently in stock on Amazon for $50 and might make a good gift.  Check the review at Madshrimps if you know someone who needs help with their sleeping patterns.

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"Do not be deceived by the mousy look of the retro Edifier Tick Tock Bluetooth retro alarm clock; thanks to the dual drivers, it is able to produce decent quality sound without distortions and at pretty high volumes. The bass is a little on the low side which is perfectly understandable but considering the overall size of the device, we cannot consider this as a negative point."

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Source: MadShrimps
Author:
Subject: Motherboards
Manufacturer: Asus

A Step Up for FM2+

I have been impressed by the Asus ROG boards for quite a few years now.  I believe my first encounter was with the Crosshair IV Formula, followed by the CH IV Extreme with that crazy Lucidlogix controller.  These were really outstanding boards at the time, even if one was completely overkill (and not terribly useful for multi-GPU via Lucidlogix).  Build quality, component selections, stability, and top notch features have defined these ROG products.  The Intel side is just as good, if not better, in that they have a wider selection of boards under the ROG flag.

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Asus has had a fairly large hole in their offerings that had not been addressed until fairly recently.  The latest AMD APUs based on FM1, FM2, and FM2+ did not have their own ROG member.  This was fixed in late summer of this year.  Asus released the interestingly named Crossblade Ranger FM2+ motherboard for the AMD APU market.

FM2+ motherboards are, as a rule, fairly inexpensive products.  The FM2+ infrastructure does not have to support processors with the 219 watt TDPs that AM3+ does, instead all of the FM2+ based products are 100 watts TDP and below.  There are many examples of barebones motherboards for FM2+ that are $80 and less.  We have a smattering of higher end motherboards from guys like Gigabyte and MSI, but these are hitting max prices of $110 to $120 US.  Asus is offering users in the FM2+ market something a little different from the rest.  Users who purchase an AMD APU will be getting much the same overall experience that the top end Intel based ROG customers if they decide to buy the Crossblade Ranger, but for a much lower price.

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The bundle is functional, but not overly impressive.

Click here to read the entire Asus Crossblade Ranger Review!

 

Well done virtual 7.1 surround from Corsair's H1500

Subject: General Tech | November 27, 2014 - 04:01 PM |
Tagged: audio, corsair, H1500, gaming headset, 7.1 headset

Corsair's H1500 Dolby 7.1 headset has a pair of 50mm drivers with a response of 20Hz to 20kHz which uses software to emulate 7.1 and 5.1 Dolby surround as well as simple 2.0 audio.  The headset comes with software but not a dedicated soundcard which is why they were able to keep the price to $70.  Benchmark Reviews used the headset in Battlefield 4 and found it quite useful in preventing enemies from sneaking up from behind them with a knife though the stiff padding and narrow head band did tire them out after a while.  Music and movies also sounded great after a little tweaking of the equalizer and the noise cancellation feature on the microphone was effective at reducing background noise while speaking into the mic.  Overall if you want a good set of surround headphones are on a bit of a budget the H1500 are worth adding to your short list of possible purchases.

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"Longevity is very important in any industry. It is extremely likely that, when the longevity moniker is affixed to an organization's label, consumers can buy with confidence. Corsair is one of those labels that can has been doing it well since 1994 and in this industry, 20 years is a VERY long time. Whether you are buying a power supply or a gaming mouse, you know that if it wears the Corsair logo, it is a quality device that will withstand the test of time and perform brilliantly."

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Roccat Kave XTD 5.1 Digital, seriously loud surround sound

Subject: General Tech | November 12, 2014 - 06:09 PM |
Tagged: audio, roccat, Kave XTD 5.1, gaming headset

The name implies that the Roccat Kave XTD 5.1 Digital headset provides virtual surround sound but in fact it has three 40mm driver units in each earcup, giving you front, rear and centre channels though you can use the provided software to switch to stereo sound if you prefer.  The earcups are leather over foam which makes them quite comfortable although they could get warm after extended periods of time and the microphone boom is removable for when it would be in your way.  They also have noise cancellation and the ability to pair with a phone over Bluetooth and an integrated sound card, all part of the reason that the headset is $150.  Modders-Inc were impressed by that soundcards four speaker plugs on the rear allowing you to switch between sending 5.1 signal to the Kave XTD or to external speakers.  Audio reviews are always very subjective as it is difficult to rate perceived sound quality for anyone but yourself but you should still check out Modders-Inc's take on the software and hardware in their full review.

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"Overall I thought the Roccat Kave XTD 5.1 Digital headset is a solid performer. The audio quality from the headset is excellent. At just slightly under full volume the headset is LOUD!"

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Source: Modders Inc

Earphones without the flashy colours and branding

Subject: General Tech | October 27, 2014 - 02:33 PM |
Tagged: audio, Takstar, HD5500

Some people still prefer headsets with a simplistic design and understated branding as opposed to models with colours bright enough to pass for emergency beacons and a logo large enough to be spotted from orbit.  Takstar understands this and even offers their product for less money than their ostentatious competitors, but that is only half the story as they still need to sound good.  It has a variety of connection options, a 1/8" adapter designed for mobile devices as well as a larger 1/4" connection for use on stereos.  On a mobile device the bass is lacking, which is more because of the lack of power as the headsets sounded much better on the 1/4" plug from a more powerful source.  Do not expect a miracle from $75 circumaural headphones but for the value conscious you should take a look at TechPowerUp's review.

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"Takstar is well-known for their bang-for-the-buck headphones, and today, we take a look at their HD5500s. Priced at $74.50, these headphones are for mobile users who want a solid and well-sounding pair of headphones. We take the HD5500s for a spin to see if they can live up to such expectation."

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Source: techPowerUp

Tesoro Kuven.pro; mythical helmet or 5.1 surround headset?

Subject: General Tech | October 8, 2014 - 04:29 PM |
Tagged: audio, Tesoro, Kuven.pro, gaming headset

The Tesoro Kuven.pro 5.1 gaming headset uses multiple speakers in the earcups to provide 5.1 sound as opposed to emulating it via software.  While this does have the advantage of bypassing the occasional issues caused with software emulation, placing speakers so close together inevitably causes its own confusion, though not enough to put Legit Reviews off of them.  The controller that comes with the headset allows you to adjust the master volume as well as the volume of each channel separately and mute the microphone but does not function as an equalizer.  Overall Legit Reviews described the sound as flat, a negative listening to music but an advantage when gaming, which is what this headset is for.  The earcups are also rather comfortable, making this a good choice for the gamer who spends long nights gaming and needs to ensure they don't bother the neighbours.

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"Today we’re looking at a true 5.1 gaming headset from the likes of Tesoro Technology, an up and coming gaming peripheral company based in Northern California that’s been around since 2011 and not to be confused with the petroleum refining company Tesoro Corporation. The headset is officially called the Kυνέη.pro, in the Greek spelling of the mythological Helm of Darkness owned by Hades, the Greek god of the underworld. However, Tesoro also spells the product name as Kuven.pro."

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Plantronics updates their RIG Surround headset

Subject: General Tech | September 24, 2014 - 05:24 PM |
Tagged: audio, plantronics, RIG Surround

It feels like a while since Plantronics released a new headset into the currently crowded marketplace but the 2014 version of the Plantronics RIG Surround has some interesting changes from the previous model.  The RIG Surround mixer used to be a simple volume and balance control but has now been upgraded to what is essentially an external soundcard with extra functionality.  It is best used with a cellphone as the mixer can give you better sound from your cellphone as well as enabling you apply EQ profiles and answer your phone with a single button push.  When connected to a PC the lack of an analog passthrough means that the sound you hear will be dependant on the mixer and not the soundcard in the PC which can reduce the audio quality somewhat but you can bypass it and plug the RIG directly into your PC to enjoy the full capabilities of the headset.  The microphone is removable for when you do not need it which also helps portability.  Check out Legit Reviews opinion on the new version of the RIG right here.

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"We are very excited to be taking an early look at the upcoming Plantronics RIG Surround. It’s not only because Plantronics has a stellar reputation, but because we’ve had great firsthand experiences with their other gaming headsets. The Plantronics RIG Surround primarily consists of two components – a headset and an external sound card called the RIG mixer that also allows gamers to attach their smartphone and use the setup like a home call center."

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