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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Corsair Unleashes Corsair Gaming RGB Keyboards, RGB Mice, and Headsets

Subject: General Tech | September 22, 2014 - 01:22 PM |
Tagged: audio, input, corsair, K95 RGB, K70 RGB, K65 RGB, M65 RGB, H2100, H1500

Corsair is launching a new website focused on their gaming products, along with new products and a contest.  The contest has a grand prize of a complete system while three runners up will get a set of Corsair peripherals including the ones announced below.  Those colourful peripherals below include three different keyboards ranging from the largest with additional macro keys to the smallest with no numpad.  There is a new mouse and a pair of headphones, with the H2100 offering wireless performance while the H1500 will still need an umbilical.  Check the hole list after watching their lauch video.

Fremont, CA — September 22, 2014 — Corsair, a leader in PC hardware, today launched Corsair Gaming, a new division within the company dedicated to the elevation of PC gaming and the development of high-performance PC peripherals. Forged from Corsair’s engineering know-how and developed alongside eSports professionals and gaming enthusiasts, Corsair Gaming products are driven by a philosophy of performance, style, and comfort. Corsair Gaming’s first salvo is the immediate world wide release of the much-anticipated range of RGB keyboards and mice.

“For 20 years, Corsair has equipped gamers with high performance, precision hardware to build their dream PCs. Corsair Gaming now introduces new ways for PC gamers to optimize how they play,” said Andy Paul, Corsair President and CEO. “We’ve brought together our engineering expertise and our passion for gaming to build a line of products that delivers performance, customized for however you play.”

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K95 RGB, K70 RGB, and K65 RGB Gaming Keyboards
With their color-customizable, 16.8 million color backlighting, the K95 RGB, K70 RGB, and K65 RGB are the headliners of the Corsair Gaming brand. All three keyboards use only German-made Cherry MX RGB mechanical key switches as part of an exclusive-to-launch partnership with Cherry.

Each key switch is built with the exacting precision of Cherry’s self-cleaning, corrosion-proof Gold-Crosspoint electrical contacts, and with over five billion sold, Cherry MX mechanical key switches are the premier choice of professional gamers and enthusiasts who demand uncompromising reliability and performance. Combined with Corsair Gaming’s distinctive aircraft-grade aluminum baseplate, Cherry MX RGB key switches deliver a professional-level gaming keyboard that ensures both consistency and accuracy with the touch of every key.

The K95, K70, and K65 RGB keyboards exhibit Corsair’s hallmark features: sleek design, ultra-precision components, and sturdy aircraft-grade aluminum construction that guarantee long-lasting performance.

Powerful Corsair Utility Engine (CUE) software enables the creation of unlimited lighting effects and macros, from solid colors that can highlight key groupings, to smooth gradients, dramatic waves and captivating ripple patterns. These customization options let gamers match their PC system lighting, find gaming keys faster, and provide critical visual feedback for executing in-game objectives.

Corsair Gaming understands that gamers demand choice when it comes to their hardware, so the K95, K70 and K65 RGBs cater to you every need – including size. All three support complete macro programmability on any key, with the K95 RGB offering an additional array of 18 dedicated macro keys and dedicated media-keys. In contrast, the compact 10-keyless K65 RGB removes the number pad and media keys for a desk-space-saving design, while the K70 RGB offers the standard keyboard layout and media keys that has already made its predecessor the choice for serious gamers.

  • 100% German-made Cherry MX RGB mechanical Red, Blue or Brown key switches (K65 RGB available with Red key switches)
  • 16.8 million multicolor per-key backlighting for virtually unlimited customization
  • Corsair Utility Engine (CUE) enables users to create and customize their own lighting patterns, animations, and macros
  • Aircraft-grade black anodized brushed aluminum for superior rigidity
  • 100% anti-ghosting with full key rollover on USB
  • Onboard memory stores performance and lighting settings
  • Two-year warranty
  • K95 RGB: $189.99 MSRP
  • K70 RGB: $169.99 MSRP
  • K65 RGB: $149.99 MSRP (available exclusively from Best Buy in the US, and other retailers worldwide)

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M65 RGB Gaming Mice
The M65 RGB gaming mouse – available in black or white – continues Corsair Gaming’s focus on RGB color customization. This high-end gaming mouse goes beyond the industry standard with built-in three-zone 16.8 million color backlighting. Housed on a durable aluminum unibody chassis, the 8,200 DPI, gaming-grade laser sensor helps gamers make their mark, with a sniper button ensuring the most critical of shots stays on target. Charging the battlefield with a rubber-grip metal high-mass scroll wheel, eight programmable buttons, and adjustable weight turning zones, the M65 RGB mouse balances precise control and intelligent tracking with innate comfort and style.

  • Three-zone backlighting with up to 16.8 million colors for virtually infinite customization
  • Custom-tuned 8,200 DPI gaming-grade laser sensor for pixel-precise tracking
  • High-capacity Omron switches rated for 20 million clicks for years of precise triggering
  • Aircraft-grade aluminum baseplate for light weight and durability
  • Adjustable weight system helps set the center of gravity to match play style
  • Eight strategically placed buttons, including a dedicated sniper button with improved positioning
  • On-the-fly DPI switching to instantly match mouse speed to gameplay demands
  • Two-year warranty
  • $69.99 MSRP

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H2100 and H1500 Gaming Headsets
The Corsair Gaming H1500 and H2100 Headsets are part of Corsair’s new line of high-performance gaming equipment. Joining the K95, K70, and K65 RRB Keyboards and M65 RGB Mice, the H1500 and H2100 Headsets fully immerse gamers – and their ears – in battle. In both wired and wireless options, the Corsair Gaming Headsets offer Dolby 7.1 surround sound for accurate positional audio that captures the acoustic environment of every moment of gameplay. The H1500 keeps gameplay closer to the system, while the H2100 enables gamers to play for over 10 hours with up to 40 feet of unrestricted movement, combining epic audio and optimum comfort without the hassle of wires.

  • Genuine Dolby 7.1 surround sound for complete immersion
  • Micro-fiber wrapped memory foam earpads for comfortable gaming sessions
  • Advanced unidirectional noise-cancelling microphone
  • Oversized 50mm neodymium drivers for crystal clear audio
  • H2100 headset offers wireless freedom up to 40 feet and over 10 hours per charge
  • 2-year warranty
  • $79.99-$99.99

Source: Corsair

It's a roundup in your ear

Subject: General Tech | September 9, 2014 - 03:07 PM |
Tagged: audio, roundup, earbuds

For those who prefer to leave their circumaural headsets at home and travel with earbuds, sooner or later they sustain enough damage that you need to shop for a new pair.  The least expensive model that is easily available is a decent choice but for those with specific requirements there is a round up over at The Inquirer of what they feel the best earbuds currently on the market are.  From those who like to listen to audio while swimming to those who want their earbuds to look fancy or even glow in time with the music, this round up has them all.

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"RATHER ANNOYINGLY, we find ourselves in the market for some new earphones more often than we'd probably care to admit, whether it's because we left our last pair on the bus, stood on them, put them in the wash by mistake, or because we've managed to dodge all of the above but we've had them for years, and the audio quality has declined over time, something that shouldn't really happen, but it does."

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Source: The Inquirer

Diamond's Xtreme Sound XS71HDU looks good but how does it sound?

Subject: General Tech | August 14, 2014 - 03:00 PM |
Tagged: audio, diamond multimedia, Xtreme Sound XS71HDU, usb sound card, DAC

The Diamond Xtreme Sound XS71HDU could be a versitile $60 solution for those with high end audio equipment that would benefit from a proper DAC.  With both optical in and out it is capable of more than an onboard solution, not to mention the six 3.5-mm jacks for stereo headphones, 7.1 surround support with rear, sub, side, mic, and line in.  The design and features are impressive however the performance failed to please The Tech Report who felt that there were similar solutions with much higher quality sound reproduction.

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"We love sound cards here at TR, but they don't fit in every kind of PC. Diamond's Xtreme Sound XS71HDU serves up the same kinds of features in a tiny USB package suitable for mini-PCs and ultrabooks. We took it for a spin to see if it's as good as it looks."

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