The SoundBlaster Play 4 is a DAC, a plug in device to USB or USB ‘C’ that improves the sound quality of music and indeed of the spoken voice be in from a phone call or any other source. As a plus it can also improve your voice be it a phone call or any other connection with other people. In the simplest of terms a DAC is a Digital (to) Analogue Converter.
The SoundBlaster Play 4 measures 5x1.5x.8cm and has a 3.5mm headphone or earbud connection at one end and the other end has a hard wired 8cm lead ending in a USB ‘C’ plug, an adapter for USB ‘C’ to USB is included in the box, this would add 2.5cm to the length. A lot of Notebooks and most Tablets compromise audio; I have even seen a Tablet without a 3.5mm socket.
A pair of good quality speakers sold as ‘True Wireless Speakers’ which they are but they can also be used with RCA sockets, Optical, 3.5mm socket and even USB stick. Or course you still need power but by default when you power on they will default to receiving their signals via Bluetooth. Here they can also be used separately should you wish to.
The speakers are each 23x15x24cm the last figure the depth allows for connection of the power cable. Each speaker weighs 3.3 kilos. While there are controls on top of each speaker, they can also be controlled from your phone or other unit and there is also a remote control supplied. The User Guide suggests ramping the volume to maximum on the speaker and assuming your SmartPhone as the input then turning the volume down from that.
Rather than rising from your favourite armchair, why not ask Alexa to carry out tasks.
The Alexa influence continues to spread its net wide as our households become more reliant on smart technology. The latest member of this Amazon family to be released into the wild, and make its way to my home, is the 4th Generation Echo Dot.
It is rare for me to form an instant like or dislike and even rarer for this not to change during the course of the review period. This arrived as I was trying to stream something via a notebook that has adequate speakers when it is on your lap or desk, if you walk to the door you lose the context so as soon as I unpacked the Creative Pebble I plugged it in, instant plug and play and I could clearly hear even outside the room.
The Pebbles are 12cm across, 12cm tall and 12cm from back to front, however they are not round and in places are far less than that. A triangle might describe them better as the speakers are angled at 45 degrees. The left unit is hardwired to the right unit. The right unit has a wire emerging from the back to link to the left unit and another also hard wired that goes to the USB ‘C’ port.
While this may look like just another speaker I can assure you it is not. Just hear the sound quality from any of a range of sources and you will understand, be it Bluetooth, Ethernet, Wi-Fi, Optical or even a USB Stick. It is not cheap but if it was then I would know there was something wrong, this is quality.
The Pulse Flex 2i measures 18x12x9.5cm and weighs 1530grams. The top has controls for back a track, forward a track, play/pause/on/off, - volume and + volume. In front of this are the numbers 1-5 these allow you to preset various things like a favourite over the air radio station. The rear has external connectors for USB ‘B’, Ethernet and Service in one line, below this another line of connections Headphones out, USB in, Optical In and Analogue In.
For under twenty pounds, this next product uses German technology to add speaker output to a computer.
Founded in 1974, the company Jöllenbeck is the driving force behind the Speedlink brand of devices that cover gaming. computers, office, sound and accessories for PCs tablets, camera and smartphones. I have recently had the opportunity to check out the Speedlink Daroc product which is a set of stereo speakers.
This is a DAB and FM radio with presets, it is also a speaker for those who want output from the ‘Aux’ input plus it also has ‘Alexa’ built in. This oval unit has another big plus the ability to run from its internal battery for up to fifteen hours.
I called it oval as it has rounded corners but in truth it is a 10cm cube when in use. The height when switched off is only 8cm. The on/off mechanism is simply by pushing down in the centre of the top and this releases the unit to show the display, push down again from any mode and the display disappears and it becomes 10x10x8cm. On first switch on you should be given the option to set your language of choice.
Offering to deliver music where ever you go is the next product under review.
With its goal to "free the sound", Libratone has set about creating wireless technology enabling music that can be enjoyed anytime and anywhere in the home and its surrounding area. The result of this work is the Zipp 2 device which is the subject matter of this review. The Libratone Zipp 2 is a portable cylindrical, tower speaker with attitude.
While not a familiar brand to me, the Kurbis is a German speaker system.
The Kurbis is a Bluetooth Bookshelf speaker system that forms part of the Thonets & Vander's catalogue of audio products. For those not familiar with the company, Thonets & Vender is a German organisation originally founded, in Berlin, during the middle of the last century, by Hannes Josef Einrich using his telecommunication experience gained during the Second World War.
Early this year I told you about the Google Home Hub, now Google have launched another range of products. I will start with probably the smallest the Google Nest Mini (2nd Generation) that is truly small but it has a big sound with twice the base of the first generation offering.
The Google Nest Mini is round with a 9cm diameter and is 4cm thick; there is a choice of four colours: chalk; sky; coral or charcoal. There are three touch controls on the device volume down, volume up and mute. The only physical connection is the 1.5 metre long micro USB to mains plug. The initial setup requires the Google Home App which is available on the iOS or Android store. Once setup is completed you can run the Nest Mini totally from your voice so the phone does not need to be present.
A recent very noisy event at an iconic London institution had me see a range of audio items one such was this soundbar from Orbitsound and if you delve through the Gadgetspeak archives you will find other such reviews from them.
This recent offering has Airsound and Airamp technology. Airsound means wherever you place the unit in the room you get surround sound. Airamp is an active amplifier which increases clarity and reduces distortion. You can connect to it by Wi-Fi or Bluetooth the setup for these is via an iOS or Android App. The third choice is via optical and the required lead is supplied in the box. There is also an option to listen via Aux input.
Taking a more basic approach is a speaker system from Edifier.
Joining the ranks of Edifier speaker system product line-up is the company's R980T offering. This speaker system is made up of two wooden encased boxes covering the role of active and passive units. Various permanently attached and floating leads are provided for connecting purpose along with a User Manual covering different languages for carrying out the straightforward set up process required by this speaker system.
This is an alternative to in/on ear offerings ideal when ‘small’ is required, great for personal listening. The battery should last up to six hours so ideal for studying as a clue to when to take a break, two hours to recharge it and also your own personal battery.
It is a 6.5cm cube with sound coming from the top and both sides. The rear has 3.5mm socket for Auxiliary input, a micro USB socket for charging and an on/off button with LED in it. The bottom has four tiny feet to stop the possibility of the case scratching anything it sits upon. This is primary a Bluetooth unit and linking to your SmartPhone is simple, once paired when turned on it will immediately find your device.
Edifier adds some additional input methods to its latest speaker system.
The latest speaker system to arrive in the Fereday household for review is the Edifier XM3BT, This combination of letters and a number, is a piece of kit, that consists of a pair of satellite speakers and a toe-stubbing subwoofer if care is not taken with its positioning. when setting up this product As can sometimes happen, the set-up of this speaker system did require some re-arrangement of my computer and home audio layout in order to check out this kit.
Out of the neck of a unicorn music was meant to flow, or so it was claimed.
The unicorn is a legendary creature with a single large, pointed, spiralling horn protruding from the beast’s forehead. According to ancient legend the unicorn’s horn had the power to cleanse poisonous water and make it fit to drink merely by being placed in it. Further beliefs attached to the unicorn’s horn include the ability to heal wounds. It was also believed that the unicorn could only be captured and tamed by a virgin.
Music plays a big part in my life and while earbuds may help pass the time on a journey a decent set of headphones or as here a 2.1 speaker system in the home gives a far more rounded sound and may even take you to the performance as laid down by the musicians. My favourite Genre is Jazz and then small groups and a live performance.
This is a small 2.1 system as it has a sub-woofer to enhance the base and a pair of speakers for the rest of the sound range. While I have a pair of quality – large – speakers these days you do not need huge units and nor do they need to be expensive these at the time of writing are only 80 Euros (around £70). The sub-woofer is a virtual cube at 26cm. The speakers are 18x11x11cm so easily fit on a shelf or window sill. The two speakers have a single hard wired lead of 1.
Adding to its extensive range of audio products, Edifier has released its M1390BT model.
This M1390BT piece of kit is a 2.1 speaker system. It offers users a choice of PC, AUX and Bluetooth connectivity. Included in the box, keeping the two satellite speakers and sub-woofer box company, is an 3.5mm to 3.
A cylindrical speaker with speakers on the side and top, it should withstand some water as getting in to charge it or insert a 3.5mm lead (if not using Bluetooth) is far from easy, to say the base is a tight fit is quite an understatement.
It is 14cm tall and circular at 7cm. At the top of the back of my blue unit is an orange loop so you could walk along with it over a finger – it weighs 477 grams – below this in orange is a large ‘O’ then a raised rib and below this a large ‘X’. I have just described all the controls and as it can do all the normal things like answer phone calls move forward or back a track etc. certain combinations need to be followed.
While this bar does not serve alcohol, it does deliver an audio experience.
Think Edifier, think speaker systems and it is but a small step to switch focus on to the company’s S50DB Active Speaker System or to give the product’s its common name of Soundbar. Measuring 114 cm in length with a depth of 14cm, this soundbar can be positioned on the floor or wall-mounted to deliver its audio output to its audience. Accompanying the soundbar in this package, you are meant to find a fibre optic cable, 3.5 mm jack to dual RCA audio cable, dual RCA to 3.
Next in line to deliver my favourite music is the Edifier S1000DB product.
Multimedia speakers come in a variety of shapes, sizes and weights. In the case of the S1000DB product from Edifier, it was the weight of the two units that caught my attention and was a defining factor. I should have guessed from the early sight of the courier struggling with the multimedia speaker product perched on his trolley as he approached along the path to my front door.