Subject: Mobile | May 10, 2017 - 05:11 PM | Ken Addison
Tagged: windows, sony, qualcomm, mdr1000x, CSR Harmony, bluetooth, aptX, a2dp
Recently, to prepare for a long plane flight I bought a pair of Sony MDR-1000X Bluetooth noise canceling headphones. While I won't get into the specifics of these headphones other than that I have been really satisfied with them, when I returned from my trip I wanted to start using them at the office.
Seemingly that would be easy, as these headphones feature a 3.5mm input, but I am frequently walking around the office and I wanted to fully utilize the wireless features. While I could have just used any Bluetooth adapter compatible with Windows, I wanted to test out one of the features of these headphones — AptX technology.
AptX is an alternate Bluetooth audio codec from Qualcomm which aims to feature higher audio quality. Sebastian took a look at a pair of AptX-enabled headphones earlier this year, and I have wanted to check out the technology ever since.
After receiving the USB adapter, I first installed the CSR Harmony software from the Azio website. This is a piece of software that sits on top of the Windows Bluetooth Stack and enabled advanced Bluetooth features, including AptX, on certain Bluetooth chipsets.
Once the software was installed, I plugged in the device and found a new Bluetooth icon sitting in my Windows tray.
From here, you can simply right click the icon and search for a new Bluetooth device.
Once I put the headphones into pairing mode I was able to pair to them successfully.
And, that's it! Once you are successfully paired to an AptX device, you should see this popup from the Windows tray confirming that AptX is working. From here, you can use the headphones just like you would with any Windows audio playback device.
This certainly isn't a review of AptX audio quality, I will defer to Sebastian's analysis for that in which he calls the headphones he tested "audiophile-approved Bluetooth."
For a $12 investment, it seems like a no-brainer for users who already have an AptX-enabled device that they use on their smartphone.
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.
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.
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.
Subject: General Tech | January 5, 2017 - 10:02 PM | Sebastian Peak
Tagged: wireless, headphones, CES 2017, CES, bluetooth, aptX
On the high-end audio side of things Audio-Technica has added to its wireless headphone lineup with both on-ear and in-ear models featuring aptX technology for high quality Bluetooth audio.
ATH-DSR9BT and ATH-DSR7BT headphones
The high-end ATH-DSR9BT and ATH-DSR7BT are Audio-Technica's first wireless headphones with their new Pure Digital Drive system:
This new technology keeps the audio signal completely digital from the audio source to the headphones’ drivers, without the need for D/A conversion stages that typically degrade the sound quality. Traditionally, the digital signal goes through a series of steps that process and transform the wireless signal. This presents several opportunities for distortion in audio quality. Our Pure Digital Drive technology eliminates the opportunities for disruption and distortion that occur in the conversion stages, providing users with a high-quality listening experience.
SonicFuel ATH-AR3BT headphones
Other new models include a "high-performance/high-value" offering in the SonicFuel ATH-AR3BT on-ear headphones, a compact folding design with a new dynamic driver "to deliver richly detailed sound" that the company says "sets a new value standard for high-performance on-ear wireless headphones" at its $119 MSRP.
ATH-CKS990BT and ATH-CKS550BT in-ear monitors
In-ear options ATH-CKS990BT ($199) and ATH-CKS550BT ($119) in the Solid Bass series feature "Dual Magnetic Field drivers with Multiple-Transition diaphragms for improved sound", and will provide better wireless functionality and better controls than previous models.
All of these new wireless headphones and in-ear monitors will be available this spring.
Follow all of our coverage of the show at https://pcper.com/ces!
Subject: Networking | June 10, 2016 - 08:11 AM | Scott Michaud
Tagged: bluetooth 5, bluetooth
The fourth version of Bluetooth was released almost six years ago now. Its main focus was lower power, which was very important at the time. Bluetooth and WiFi were major energy sinks for mobile devices, and smartphones were taking off. This was also during the first wave of tablets.
The Bluetooth special interest group has now announced Bluetooth 5. The headlining features are
double range and quadruple speed for low-powered Bluetooth connections. (Update, June 13th @ 1:15pm: Bluetooth's PR agency contacted me, said the source's numbers were backwards, and asked me to update to the correct ones. It's double speed and quadruple range for low-powered Bluetooth connections.) This is obviously useful for a data communication protocol, although it is difficult to tell whether low bandwidth was an issue for many devices. It is not exactly something that hardware vendors would publicly complain about.
They also intend to allow certain services to operate without pairing. The open letter says that it is intended to be used with “beacons” and “location-based services” but fails to elaborate. Instead, it points to their Discover Blue: London event on June 16th, so I expect that will be expanded upon there. Part of me is concerned that connectionless could turn into “operates without user control,” but, ultimately, the device is responsible for what it executes. There shouldn't be a way that a protocol, without the OS being involved, could force an interaction -- at least not without a backlash against the OS for permitting it.
Again, we'll find out more in about a week, on June 16th.
Subject: General Tech | December 11, 2014 - 02:56 PM | Jeremy Hellstrom
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.
"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."
Here is some more Tech News from around the web:
- Speedlink Gantry Portable Bluetooth Speaker @ eTeknix
- Astro A38 Gaming Headset @ eTeknix
- Noontec Zoro II HD Fashion Hi-Fi Headphones Review @ NikKTech
- Arctic P614 BT Bluetooth Headphones @ Kitguru
- Corsair Gaming H1500 USB Gaming Headset @ eTeknix
- Asus Xonar U5 5.1 USB sound card @ Kitguru
Subject: General Tech | January 21, 2014 - 02:51 PM | Jeremy Hellstrom
Tagged: audio, bluetooth, wireless audio
Wireless speakers are being advertised everywhere, from TV commercials featuring Beats Audio shaped like a pill you really don't want to take to the floors of CES. Such a glut of products is a good thing for consumers, assuming they are able to determine the best speaker for their usage. The Inquirer took a look at over 10 different portable speakers, from the Q-bopz Green which uses a suction cup to attach to any glass surface to the Scosche Boombottle which claims to be able to handle any weather you might need to listen to music in. Most use Bluetooth though NFC is utilized as well, check out which one is right for you and your travels.
"BLUETOOTH SPEAKERS have replaced the now somewhat redundant 'i-dock', as the market has become saturated with an army of wireless boom boxes in all shapes, sizes and prices due to people prefering to use their smartphones and tablets for audio playback."
Here is some more Tech News from around the web:
- CM Storm Ceres 300 Gaming Headset @ Modders-Inc
- X2 Saturn 5.1 Gaming Headset @ Funky Kit
- OZONE Rage 7HX 7.1 Surround Headset @ NikKTech
- Tt eSPORTS Cronos Gaming Headset @ Kitguru
- Tt eSPORTS Cronos Gaming Headset Review @ TechwareLabs
- X2 Aurel Noise Cancelling Headphones Review @ Techgage
- MP4Nation Brainwavz S1 @ techPowerUp
Subject: General Tech | September 9, 2013 - 07:24 PM | Jeremy Hellstrom
Tagged: wireless audio, speaker, bluetooth, audio, antec, AMP SP1
One of the best features about the Antec AMP SP1 Bluetooth speaker is that it recharges via USB which means you can skip the power cord and not have to buy batteries all the time, though you will have to remember to charge it. It has a 3.5mm jack for direct connection as well but it is easily paired with any Bluetooth capable device with an easily accessible button on the top, between the volume control. The LED on the side not only indicates successful pairing but also gives you an idea of the status of the battery. Drop by Legit Reviews to get an idea how it sounds.
"Antec has been a popular brand for high-performance computer components and accessories for the PC upgrade and do-it-yourself (DIY) markets since 1986. Times are certainly changing in the PC industry and many companies are evolving in order to stay relevant. Antec noticed that the market was changing and in 2012 they introduced a new global electronics division called Antec Mobile Products or A.M.P with the goal of putting state of the art mobile and audio technology into the hands of every user. AMP has introduced a number of headsets, USB power banks and even a speaker. Today, we’ll be looking at the AMP SP1 Bluetooth Speaker, which is the companies first and only speaker solution."
Here is some more Tech News from around the web:
- Antec SP1 Portable Wireless Bluetooth Speaker @ Benchamrk Reviews
- TDK A360 Wireless 360 Speaker @ NikKTech
- WaveMaster Two White Stereo Speakers @ Kitguru
- Thermaltake BAHAMUT External Sound Card Review @ OCC
- Razer Tiamat 2.2 Gaming Headset Review @ Madshrimps
- Kingston HyperX Gaming Headset @ eTeknix
- TteSports Console One Headset @ eTeknix
- Razer Kraken 7.1 Surround Sound Gaming Headset @ Custom PC Review
- CM Storm Pulse-R Aluminum Gaming Headset Review @ Techgage
- Plantronics GameCom Commander Gaming Headset @ Kitguru
- a.m.p iSO Noise-Canceling Bluetooth Headphones @ NikKTech
- SteelSeries Siberia V2 Heat Orange USB Headset @ NikKTech
- CM Storm Pitch Gaming Earphone @ Kitguru
- Turtle Beach PX22 PC, Xbox & PlayStation Gaming Headset @ eTeknix
- Netgear Powerline Music Extender XAUB2511 @ Kitguru
Subject: Motherboards | November 2, 2011 - 03:42 PM | Jeremy Hellstrom
Tagged: x79, gigabyte, bluetooth 4.0, G1-Assassin 2, X79-UD7, X79-UD5, bluetooth
Gigabyte is going crazy with the wireless options available to you in their X79 series of motherboards.
With Bluetooth 4.0 available your iPhone 4S will be able to connect seamlessly to your Gigabyte motherboard. The biggest improvement in the new standard is the power savings which it enables, something that iPhone 4S users are desperate for. In fact if the attempt to standardize 3D glasses over Bluetooth 4.0 succeeds then one of these motherboards will be perfect for building a system connected to a 120Hz 3D monitor.
As well, Gigabyte has extended their WiFi support to a dedicated card which sports dual antennas, one for WiFi and one for Bluetooth. They also support the new Bluetooth Smart which is designed to work with a large variety of single use devices. Your blood sugar monitor, house thermostat, security systems and smart watch could all connect to these motherboards as easily as your phone, headset or other Bluetooth devices.