Is iFi Audio the best choice for a name, let alone a tiny DAC?

Subject: General Tech | April 28, 2017 - 02:19 PM |
Tagged: audio, DAC, iFi Audio, nano iDSD LE

As you can see from the comparative size of the RCA jacks, the iFi Audio nano iDSD LE is a very small DAC, especially as they have squeezed a 1000 mAh battery inside for portable usage.  Don't let the tiny package fool you, the device supports a wide variety of signals including PCM from 44.1 to 384 kHz/16-32 bit, DSD 2.8, 3.1, 5.6 and 6.2 MHz/1 bit, DXD 352.8, 384 kHz/24 bit.  TechPowerUp reviewed the DAC with both HiFiMAN Edition S headphones and Sennheiser IE-800s in ear headphones, take a look right here.

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"iFi Audio's nano iDSD LE is a little DAC/amp with big ambitions. It packs all the knowledge from the bigger DAC/amps in iFi's huge portofolio of products into a small package. Despite being small, it still features RCA line-outs, a very respectable headphone amplification circuit, and a 1000 mAh battery."

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Audio Corner

 

Source: TechPowerUp

Sounds like a roundup, headphones and speakers galore

Subject: General Tech | April 18, 2017 - 04:22 PM |
Tagged: audio, Fugoo, sennheiser, jabra

Over at The Inquirer is a roundup of new audio devices they have seen and were impressed by.  They cover headphones, bookshelf speakers and wireless speakers with interesting features that might tempt you to open your wallet.  If you are planning an outdoor party now that the weather is starting to change, the Fugoo XL speaker offers waterproofing to ensure a shower won't ruin your day as well as a reinforced casing if you tend to be hard on your electronics.  They also list several in-ear headphones, including a wireless model from Sennheiser which might attract fans of a certain phone.

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"IT'S BACK for 2017, our never quite ending (that is to say regularly updated) guide to the best speakers and headphones that you can get your paws on, including some familiar names and some that could save you a ton by being awesome noobs. Keep checking back, we'll be adding more as the year progresses."

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Audio Corner

Source: The Inquirer

Rosewill expands into audio with a pair of earbuds

Subject: General Tech | March 24, 2017 - 03:37 PM |
Tagged: rosewill, EX-500, EX-700, earbuds, audio

Earbuds do not seem as popular as gigantic RGB sporting over the ear headsets, but there are still a few who prefer a more subtle approach to mobile audio.  The Rosewill EX-500 and 700 look similar but hide some differences inside.  The EX-500 uses a ceramic driver and a 10 mm dynamic driver while the EX-700 has a balanced armature driver and an 8mm dynamic driver.  That means there is a difference in impedance, 33 Ohm and 26 Ohm respectively though both retain a range of 20-40 kHz.  TechPowerUp tried both of these $40 earbuds out, read on to see what differences they found in the audio.

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"The recently launched Rosewill EX-500 and EX-700 aim to take on the usual brands that dominate the price range by offering high-quality craftsmanship coupled with a nice accessories pack and - of course - better sound. We listen closely to see whether they can hold up on these promises."

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Audio Corner

Source: TechPowerUp
Subject: General Tech
Manufacturer: Logitech

Introduction and Specifications

The G533 Wireless headset is the latest offering from Logitech, combining the company’s premium Pro-G drivers, 15-hour battery life, and a new, more functional style. Obvious comparisons can be made to last year’s G933 Artemis Spectrum, since both are wireless headsets using Logitech’s Pro-G drivers; but this new model comes in at a lower price while offering much of the same functionality (while dropping the lighting effects). So does the new headset sound any different? What about the construction? Read on to find out!

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The G533 exists alongside the G933 Artemis Spectrum in Logitech’s current lineup, but it takes most of the features from that high-end wireless model, while paring it down to create a lean, mean option for gamers who don’t need (or want) RGB lighting effects. The 40 mm Pro-G drivers are still here, and the new G533 offers a longer battery life (15 hours) than the G933 could manage, even with its lighting effects disabled (12 hours). 7.1-channel surround effects and full EQ and soundfield customization remain, though only DTS effects are present (no Dolby this time).

What do these changes translate to? First of all, the G533 headset is being introduced with a $149 MSRP, which is $50 lower than the G933 Artemis Spectrum at $199. I think many of our readers would trade RGB effects for lower cost, making this a welcome change (especially considering lighting effects don’t really mean much when you are wearing the headphones).Another difference is the overall weight of the headset at 12.5 oz, which is 0.5 oz lighter than the G933 at 13 oz.

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Continue reading our review of the Logitech G533 Wireless 7.1 Surround Gaming Headset!

Listen to the colours! Tt eSPORTS Cronos 7.1 headset with RGB

Subject: General Tech | March 6, 2017 - 02:30 PM |
Tagged: Tt eSPORTS Cronos RGB 7.1, thermaltake, gaming headset, audio

Yes, it has happened; RGB-itis have spread to gaming headphones and if you are one of the infeected you can grab Thermaltake's Cronos RGB 7.1 Headset to show off your symptoms.  The LEDs on the ear cups support 256 different colours and as a bonus also provide Virtual 7.1 surround sound.  The headset is powered by 40mm neodymium magnets, with a reasonable 20Hz-22kHz frequency range.  Pop by Bjorn3D for a look, they were impressed with the audio quality of this ~$70 headset to say nothing of the glow they felt when wearing them. 

It is a pity that Tt did not take the opportunity to brand this as their new Synethsesia line.

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"Today we’ll be looking at a recent addition to the roster of gaming headsets produced by Tt eSPORTS, the Cronos RGB 7.1 Headset. If you’re familiar with Tt eSPORTS’ line of headsets then you may already be familiar with the previous iterations of the Cronos that comes without RGB lighting."

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Audio Corner

Source: Bjorn3D

The Genius SP-925BT bluetooth speaker, the sound is larger than the price tag

Subject: General Tech | February 17, 2017 - 05:09 PM |
Tagged: audio, SP-925BT, genuis, Bluetooth Stereo Speaker

If you are looking for an inexpensive bluetooth speaker that you won't worry about taking to the beach or other places it is at risk of harm, the $30 Genius SP-925BT is not a bad choice.  It features two 50mm speakers and a passive sub-woofer, with a 1500mAh battery.  In addition to Bluetooth 4 connectivity there is also a 3.5mm jack to connect devices without a radio.  Modders Inc tried a variety of audio sources and found the quality and volume perfect for sharing you music with a crowd of people.

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"Bluetooth technology is rendering wires passé in a world where using a mobile phone is an essential part of daily life. Staying connected no longer requires continuous tethering of devices to cables, so why shouldn’t audio listening enjoy the same freedom as well?"

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Audio Corner

 

Source: Modders Inc

Do you like turtles? Upgrade your online banter with the Turtle Beach Stream Mic

Subject: General Tech | February 6, 2017 - 02:46 PM |
Tagged: turtle beach, microphone, audio, Stream Mic

Upgrading your microphone from the one found on your gaming headset can make a significant difference in the way you sound online.  Being able to do so for around $50 and to be able to use the same device on your PC, Xbox and PS4 might just convince some that the upgrade is worth it.  The Turtle Beach Multi-Format Stream Microphone can be transferred between devices with a simple switch and it will run without any drivers.  It also has a a built in headphone amplifier so you can move your headset with you without unplugging.  Drop by eTeknix for a look at it.

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"While many of us only need a standard headset with a simple boom mic, there’s a growing demand for higher quality microphones for both gamers and streamers, on Twitch, YouTube Live and much more. Turtle Beach are not the first to make a dedicated streaming microphone, but they are one of the more affordable options too, and their new Stream Mic comes with support for Xbox One, PlayStation 4 and PC, making it a tempting solution for the multi-format gamer and streamer."

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Audio Corner

Source: eTeknix
Subject: General Tech
Manufacturer: Qualcomm aptX

Introduction

Bluetooth has come a long way since the technology was introduced in 1998. The addition of the Advanced Audio Distribution Profile (A2DP) in 2003 brought support for high-quality audio streaming, but Bluetooth still didn’t offer anywhere near the quality of a wired connection. This unfortunate fact is often overlooked in favor of the technology's convenience factor, but what if we could have the best of both worlds? This is where Qualcomm's aptX comes in, and it is a departure from the methods in place since the introduction of Bluetooth audio.

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What is aptX audio? It's actually a codec that compresses audio in a very different manner than that of the standard Bluetooth codec, and the result is as close to uncompressed audio as the bandwidth-constrained Bluetooth technology can possibly allow. Qualcomm describes aptX audio as "a bit-rate efficiency technology that ensures you receive the highest possible sound quality from your Bluetooth audio device," and there is actual science to back up this claim. After doing quite a bit of reading on the subject as I prepared for this review, I found that the technology behind aptX audio, and its history, is very interesting.

A Brief History of aptX Audio

The aptX codec has actually been around since long before Bluetooth, with its invention in the 1980s and first commercial applications beginning in the 1990s. The version now found in compatible Bluetooth devices is 4th-generation aptX, and in the very beginning it was actually a hardware product (the APTX100ED chip). The technology has had a continued presence in pro audio for three decades now, with a wider reach than I had ever imagined when I started researching the topic. For example, aptX is used for ISDN line connections for remote voice work (voice over, ADR, foreign language dubs, etc.) in movie production, and even for mix approvals on film soundtracks. In fact, aptX was also the compression technology behind DTS theater sound, which had its introduction in 1993 with Jurassic Park. It is in use in over 30,000 radio stations around the world, where it has long been used for digital music playback.

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So, while it is clear that aptX is a respected technology with a long history in the audio industry, how exactly does this translate into improvements for someone who just wants to listen to music over a bandwidth-constrained Bluetooth connection? The nature of the codec and its differences/advantages vs. A2DP is a complex topic, but I will attempt to explain in plain language how it actually can make Bluetooth audio sound better. Having science behind the claim of better sound goes a long way in legitimizing perceptual improvements in audio quality, particularly as the high-end audio industry is full of dubious - and often ridiculous - claims. There is no snake-oil to be sold here, as we are simply talking about a different way to compress and uncompress an audio signal - which is the purpose of a codec (code, decode) to begin with.

Continue reading our review of Qualcomm aptX audio technology!

Looking for quality desktop speakers? Perhaps Audioengine's HD3 would fit the bill

Subject: General Tech | January 18, 2017 - 02:25 PM |
Tagged: audio, speakers, Audioengine HD3, Audioengine

We have seen a lot of headset reviews but lately there have not been many reviews of desktop speakers which some of us still use.  CPCR have offered up a change of pace for those looking for some new stereo speakers with their review of Audioengine's HD3 powered desktop speakers.  They contain a Burr Brown PCM5102 DAC as well as a OPA2134 amp if you do happen to have a set of high impedance headphones you might have occasion to utilize.  Those components do come at a cost, the MSRP is $399, but if that doesn't immediately scare you off you should take a look at their full review.

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"When it comes to premium desktop computer speakers, few manufacturers on the market match the level of Audioengine when it comes to sound quality. Over the years, we’ve had the opportunity to review the Audioengine A2+ and the Audioengine A5+ which were outstanding speakers that are simply unmatched by other computer speaker manufacturers..."

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Audio Corner

Pioneer and Onkyo Release Dolby Atmos Soundbars

Subject: General Tech | January 5, 2017 - 06:13 PM |
Tagged: soundbar, Pioneer, Onkyo, DTS:X, DTS:Neural, Dolby Atmos, CES 2017, CES, audio

I really like audio.  That is one area that I think is still lacking in the PC world, but it is improving from years past.  There are some interesting and exciting developments that have been rolled out over the past year with the biggest being Dolby Atmos and DTS:X.  These audio formats so far have been limited to several dozen titles on Blu-ray and through VUDU.  The selling point of these new formats is a more three dimensional component to the audio.  Dolby Atmos requires the user to have two speakers pointing towards the ceiling at an angle towards the listener.

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Two very obvious things are needed to support these audio formats; a receiver that supports the decoding of Atmos/DTS:X, and a set of speakers that conform to the physical specifications for pointing audio towards the ceiling.  There are specialty speakers right now that feature the upward firing drivers, but they are not common.  Users could craft their own setups by utilizing speakers of their choice and positioning them at the correct angle themselves.

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Onkyo and Pioneer (a subsidiary of Onkyo) have announced two sets of soundbars that provide not only the upward firing drivers required for Atmos/DTS:X, but also the ability to have full surround without the use of rear speakers.  The Onkyo FS-EB70 and the Pioneer SBT-A500 are both three piece units which provide high quality sound in a very small package.

The units each come with their own receiver/amplifier that provides multiple inputs from a variety of sources as well as extensive wireless functionality.  They support a variety of streaming audio apps, but any kind of streaming video will require an appropriate smart TV or Blu-ray player.  The receiver is very low profile with a proprietary audio connection for the speakers.  Perhaps most impressive is that these small units have four HDCP 2.2 compliant HDMI input ports.  Many midrange receivers only feature three inputs that are 4K and HDR compliant.  They also feature a handful of legacy connections for older audio gear that a user may not want to get rid of.

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The small powered subwoofer is wireless, but promises to pack a pretty decent punch.  The sound bar itself features two speakers per side and on the center channel.  The upwards firing drivers are single in their configuration per side.  The bar is very low profile so obviously the drivers are not terribly large.  It will easily fit underneath any TV and is wall mountable.

The units look essentially identical and Pioneer has their MSRP at $1,000 US.  The Onkyo version does not have a price listed, but we can expect it to be higher and probably utilize some higher end components in the receiver portion.

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Next generation PC parts are coming down the way that will feature support for higher resolutions through HDMI as well as Atmos and DTS:X.  This looks like a good set of soundbars that offer performance and expansion capabilities well beyond what other, less expensive products can provide.  Personally I can’t wait to try such a setup in my remodeled basement with a real racing rig and a 49” TV that I haven’t used in a year.  Audiophiles will likely want to create their own setups by mixing and matching components, but for those not interested in that and only want a solution that works well out of the box these look to be pretty solid implementations of the technology.

Click here to read the entire press releases with in-depth specifications.

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