Microsoft is continuing its regular monthly updates this month, with a number of changes to both of its Surface tablets. The “Patch Tuesday” updates are rolling out immediately and for Surface Pro users they’ll include some improvement in Wi-Fi connectivity and stability. There’s also a video driver update to improve Skype and a specific OpenGL bug in Adobe Photoshop. Finally, there’s an update to enable the PXE boot feature, an option that administrators typically use to install a copy of Windows across a network. There’s no sign of the updated Wacom driver for improved sensitivity in desktop apps.
Surface RT owners will get a driver pack with the latest update that includes a specific improvement in the speaker volume. Owners have…
Sony may have unveiled a slew of new audio products back at CES 2013, but the company has been relatively quiet when it comes to launching ones that are compatible with Apple’s novel Lightning connector. That being said, it looks as if folks in the Land of the Rising Sun will soon be able to pair their current-gen iOS device with a dock from the PlayStation maker, thanks to the recently announced SRS-GC11IP. Pictured above, this little 0.8W speaker isn’t loaded with fancy features like Bluetooth 4.0 or WiFi, but it does offer convenient functions such as an alarm clock and AM / FM radio — these, of course, go along with the ability to also play tunes straight from a Lighting-ready iDevice or, with the proper RDP-NWC11 model, a new-era Walkman and many different smartphones. Whether we’ll ever see the as-yet-unpriced tubular peripheral hit other markets, well, that still remains to be seen, with Sony only going so far as to listing it as “coming soon” on its Japanese website.
Gallery: Sony RDP-NWC11 speaker dock
Gallery: Sony RDP-NWC11 speaker dock
Long before the advent of the Jawbone Jambox, there was a portable speaker that was decently rugged, had tremendous battery life and amazing sound, and that was the Tivoli PAL. The PAL boasted an audiophile pedigree and an auxiliary input that made it a good partner for early iPods, but the introduction of decent stereo Bluetooth streaming made it fall behind somewhat in convenience when the Jawbone and its ilk came around.
Recently, however, Tivoli has updated the PAL with the PAL BT, a model that does offer A2DP Bluetooth stereo streaming, alongside the built-in AM/FM radio and auxiliary inputs found on the original. And if you’re in the market for a portable, powerful speaker with great sound, there’s nothing quite like it out there.
- Rated for 16 hours max battery life
- Built-in AM/FM tuner
- Bluetooth/Auxiliary connections
- Weights 1.92 lbs
- MSRP: $ 299.99
- Product info page
The PAL BT is frankly the best looking portable speaker available. My review unit was in glossy white, so the faceplate matches the rear casing, but those looking for a splash of color can opt to get it in a gloss black, blue or red finish up front, too. The styling is somewhat retro without feeling kitschy, and the ports and antenna are all easily accessible on the back, and protected by water and dust-resistant flaps.
The face of the speaker is dominated by the speaker grill itself, and also the large tuner dial for the built-in AM/FM radio. These are visually appealing, but more than that, the knobs and dials are actually very pleasantly textured and turn with a very satisfying amount of resistance. It sounds silly to complement a speaker based on the design and build of its controls and knobs, but when you use the PAL, you’ll notice immediately that attention was paid to their design.
The rectangular form factor isn’t the most portable among portable speakers, but it’s still a small, light device that is easily thrown into a carry-on or larger luggage.
Tivoli has a great reputation for delivering high-quality sound in a relatively affordable package. I’ve seen other reviewers knock the PAL BT for its sound quality-to-price value ratio, but to my ear, after extensive use and comparison with the Jambox and other Bluetooth speakers, the PAL still defends the reputation of its non-Bluetooth predecessor very well.
The Tivoli PAL BT is a mono speaker which might cause some potential buyers to hesitate, but that shouldn’t be a factor in anyone’s decision-making process. Sound separation in most portable Bluetooth speakers is dismal as it is, so they’re hardly “stereo” anyways. And the high-quality mono audio from the PAL BT even holds up pretty well when you crank up the volume (and it goes a lot higher than most of its competition, too, which is why it’s well-suited to backyard BBQs and other outdoor activities).
Battery life is another place where the previous PAL excelled, and the PAL BT is great there, too. Rated for 16 hours, you’ll get less depending on volume and whether you’re actively connected over Bluetooth, but no one would be disappointed by the duration of its battery no matter how you’re using it. I’ve been using it as my workday soundtrack next to the computer, and I often forget it’s a wireless speaker because of how long-lived it is. Plus, Tivoli equips the PAL BT with a user-replaceable internal rechargeable battery, so you could theoretically carry a back-up.
The Tivoli PAL BT is pricier than its non-BT version, and for bass-heads who actually like the exaggerated lows of companies like Beats and Bose, the sound might disappoint. But for audiophiles looking for a speaker that’s relatively affordable, long-lasting and still a category leader in terms of sound quality, this is a perfect device, especially as we head into beach, park and picnic season.
The Jambox (or its many equivalents) is fine, but I much prefer the experience of visiting second-hand shops around the city in hopes of finding a tower speaker relic that smells musty but still has a richness of sound and vintage appeal. Now a new Kickstarter project wants to help make sure proper speakers (the kind with removable cloth covers built strictly for sound first and style second) can easily take advantage of Bluetooth.
The Vamp is a little cube that has old-school positive and negative speaker cable connectors, along with 3.5mm audio input in case your device doesn’t have Bluetooth, a micro USB port for power and an on-off switch. It offers an internal rechargeable battery good for over 10 hours of use, and can be plugged in for continuous power as well. One of its most impressive tricks is a built-in magnet that pairs with a supplied metallic disc to attach to any vertical surface for convenient placement.
The problems the Vamp addresses that other Bluetooth stereo receivers don’t include style, affordability and sound. It offers high-quality mono audio, which is intended to be used with speakers made for high-quality sound output. It’s expected to retail for £45 (and is available via Kickstarter pre-order for £35), and maybe best of all, it doesn’t require a constant external power source, unlike a lot of similar options. You could actually take it with you to a friend’s house and wire their existing setup for Bluetooth sound, without an electrical engineering degree or access to the back of their home audio receiver.
The Vamp is created by UK-based product designer Paul Cocksedge, who has worked on products for BMW, Swarovski, Sony and Hermes. Some of his past work is exhibited in the Museum of Modern Art in London. Cocksedge and his studio have worked on sound amplification projects in the past, include gadgets that naturally enhance sound from mobile devices like iPhones. The Vamp looks to be their first proper electronic device, but working prototypes have already found favor with early reviewers.
The Vamp claims to have sound quality that’s “richer and more textured” than the standard Bluetooth portable speaker available, and it looks to go quite a bit louder as well. Quality concerns aside, it’s a nice, relatively inexpensive way to upcycle speakers that in many cases have only gotten better with age, and are being rudely pushed out by younger models.
http://cnet.co/14a9zzV Bowers & Wilkins’ compact and wireless Z2 replaces the Zepellin Mini. Video Rating: 4 / 5Related Posts:
I’m in love. The Vers 1Q is a smallish, cube speaker. It costs $ 119 and its simplicity is the biggest draw. With a single speaker and easy connectivity, this little speaker easily fits into anyone’s life. Plus, much to my surprise, it actually sounds pretty damn good.Features
- 6.5W, 2-inch speaker
- 10-hour battery that charges by mini USB
- 3.5mm input/output
- Available in different colors
- MSRP $ 119
- Shipping in early December
- Product page
… simply put, a speaker is the sum of its parts. There isn’t a magic ingredient. The formula involves the combination of speaker, amplifier and volume/density of the cabinet. This is where the Vers 1Q wins.
The 1Q employs a quality, single driver inside a wooden casing with a good amount of volume. The 2-inch speaker easily handles the mid-range wonderfully and is a tad bright with the highs. Surprisingly, there’s a touch of bass from the 1Q, likely due to the ported cabinet. This mono setup, while seemingly rudimentary, is far superior than using two smaller speakers. The single speaker in the 1Q more than holds its own, and, in a small space like a bedroom or cubical, the audio is pleasantly loud and mostly accurate.The Vers 1Q is a Kickstarter…
… success story. Launched on the crowdsourced site in July, the company experienced a huge demand, acquiring $ 194k in preorders, although they were only looking for $ 10k. And now, just several months later, the company is preparing to ship the 1Q. It helps that Vers is not new at the hardware game. The company has been building and shipping clever iOS device accessories for some time now. Want something a little more multifunctional than the 1Q? Look at the Vers 1.5R, a fantastic-looking radio and alarm with a top-mounted Dock Connector port.The Vers 1Q makes a perfect gift…
… for nearly anyone. At $ 119 it’s rather affordable but more importantly, very unique. The 1Q is not the traditional plastic nonsense sold by big box electronic stores. A fallen rap star is not endorsing the 1Q. The casing is made of wood and available in several different finishes. It sports Bluetooth connectivity but also a 3.5mm jack and comes with a cable. Don’t worry about pairing the speaker with your phone. Just plug-in the cable and rock out. The 1Q even features a 3.5mm out which can be used to string together another 1Q, forcing the two speakers into a stereo mode with each speaker representing a different channel.Related Posts:
That larger JBL speaker dock looks familiar, doesn’t it? Near the end of September, Harman gave us a peak at it’s latest consumer audio products. Curiously, however, a slew of new iOS-focused speaker docks were shown off, each lacking a Lightning connector. Today that’s changed, as JBL has announced a duo of systems that are equipped with Lightning docks — the first that we’re of. To start, the larger system is dubbed as the OnBeat Venue LTE ($ 200). This unit is essentially a Lightning-enhanced version of the 30-pin loaded Venue we recently spent time with, featuring the same 30 watts of power and Bluetooth connectivity with Apt-X support. Like it’s sibling, the dock can be set flush with the front, and better yet, you’ll even be able to dock your iPad Mini into it. Sizing things down a bit is the OnBeat Micro, a $ 100 bedside system that’ll play nice with the iPhone 5 and the new iPod Nano. While it doesn’t benefit from Harman’s Bluetooth know-how (a pricing consideration, as we’re told), it’s loaded with a rechargeable battery for quick bouts away from wall power.
Based on a quick listening session, we can report that the Venue LT sounded very full and clear. Even with the optional bass- or vocal-boosts enabled, it didn’t seem like the speakers were having trouble pushing out a high level of volume. The Micro on the other hand sounded decidedly tinny, which we’re frankly not surprised about given the size. Both systems are compatible with JBL’s MusicFlow app as well, giving you some extended options for tweaking the EQ. Both rigs felt fairly sturdy, but we were immediately able to notice some niggles with the Lighting connector. Our iPhone 5 and Harman’s iPad Mini and iPod Nano clicked into place easily with the connector, but the hinge it’s built on is very loose without any tension. A slight knock could potentially send an iOS device leaning forward, which would have us concerned in a party situation (the problem is more apparent on the Venue). Secondly, the docks won’t play nice with common cases like Speck’s CandyShell, so you’ll need to have your devices naked before docking. JBL noted the quirks, stating that they have little control over the behavior of connector itself, as it’s is supplied by Apple.
JBL expects that the OnBeat Venue LT and Micro will be the only Lightning-packing speaker docks for at least the holidays, so check out the press release after the break for more details if you’re interested. As for us? We’d say the Venue LT is definitely worth a look, but we’d just as easily pass on the Micro given the myriad options out there for smaller Bluetooth-equipped speakers.
Libratone’s speakers are normally crazy expensive. This one is just temporarily insane. Plus it’s got a direct mode for when you’re outside of Wi-Fi range, and a built-in battery, two things rare on an AirPlay speaker.Long Version Features:
- Interchangeable felt covers in multiple colors
- 4-8 hour battery life
- Excellent, 360-degree sound that easily fills a room
- Carrying strap actually awesomely useful
- Wired or AirPlay connectivity
- Available: Now
- MSRP: $ 449.00
- Product page
… Libratone’s most affordable AirPlay speaker, and maybe the best one available on the market right now when you consider affordability vs. sound quality and features. It boasts four to five hours of battery life, which is admittedly less than its Bluetooth competitors like the Jawbone Big Jambox, but it also has much better sound. Plus it escapes the usual limitations of Apple’s AirPlay media streaming protocol by providing a direct connection mode, which is very easy to set up and use.
You’ll get less battery life in direct mode or wireless mode, but on the plus side you can also plug in via 3.5 mm audio cable (or USB audio with iOS devices) to extend battery life.Buy the Libratone Zipp for…
… the audiophile in your circle who wants to get on board with wireless music but isn’t happy with Bluetooth quality and has a ton of Apple products. With Mountain Lion, you can even stream audio from web-based services like Rdio or Pandora from your Mac, so this isn’t limited to iOS device owners, though it’s definitely perfect for those folks, too.Because…
… this is an AirPlay speaker that has it all, that doesn’t drop out, and that looks good (and can change its looks). Most decent AirPlay speakers will cost you somewhere around $ 400 anyway (the Audyssey Audio Dock Air is a excellent example), but the Libratone brings a lot to the table for its extra $ 50, even if you’re just looking at the direct AirPlay connection feature. It’s a bit bulkier than the Big Jambox and similar alternatives, but those who appreciate good sound will forgive it the added girth.Related Posts:
Many of my Kickstarter dreams have come tumbling down in disappointing or non-shipping products, which isn’t a knock against the site; that’s a risk I fully accept and take with every project. But without a doubt, the Hidden Radio Bluetooth speaker was one I was really looking forward to. Now, I’ve spent some time with it, and I find myself with mixed feelings about this portable audio accessory.Short Version
Since the Hidden Radio first debuted on Kickstarter way back in November, a lot has changed in the world of portable device speakers. Things have gotten better; a lot better, in fact, with stuff like Jawbone’s Big Jambox coming along and basically making everyone fall in love with it. For the Hidden Radio, long overdue according to its original manufacturing timeline, and with specs that in some areas actually fall short of those originally promised, time has not been good for this little upstart. But it is a capable, and for now, cheaper alternative to some of the market leaders.
- 15-hour battery life.
- Works with both wired and wireless connections.
- Omni-directional speaker ensures 360-degree sound coverage.
- Good-looking piece of kit.
- Sound quality is not segment-leading.
- Volume control gimmick is cute, but turning it down also muffles audio in a way that software volume reduction doesn’t.
Let’s start with the Hidden Radio’s strengths: it’s a very good-looking device, one that can live happily among a variety of decors, and one that feels particularly at home with Apple hardware. I’ve got the matte black version, and in both closed and open mode, it’s beautiful (check out the gallery below). Plus the design is sensible: when the cap is twisted shut, power is locked off and the speaker grille itself is protected from the elements. The columnar shape is also fairly compact and portable, though it might be less portable (and is definitely less rugged) than say, a Phillips ShoqBox.
The other notable part of the design is the grippy pad on the bottom, which is designed to hold the Hidden Radio in place as you twist the cover open and shut to control power and volume. That part performs its task well, though as you can see in the gallery photos below, the grippy portion picks up dirt and dust very easily and will require frequent cleaning to maintain its stickiness.
The bottom does have one major failing though: in what looks like an effort to keep things ‘hidden,” the ports for both microUSB (charging) and 3.5mm stereo input are housed in a recessed circular crevice in the bottom of the device. It’s nice for keeping things out of the way in theory, but in practice it’s very difficult to get the microUSB cable in and out, and I’m not sure the aesthetic benefits outweigh the drawbacks.
The Hidden Radio originally promised 30 hours of battery life for streaming music. It ships with 15, which is good, but obviously not as good. That 15 hours still puts it on par with the Big Jambox, and better by five hours than the more size-comparable original Jambox. Hidden also promised Bluetooth speakerphone functionality, which both the Jambox and Big Jambox offer, but that didn’t make it to the final product. An FM radio is included, but not the promised AM/FM capabilities. It’s understandable that reality would cause some changes, but when a project raises $ 938,771, far above its original $ 125,000 goal, it becomes more of an issue.
Still, the Hidden Radio does pair easily with devices, and the twist-on, twist-off feature is very convenient. Also 15 hours is a lot of juice, and plenty for most users, and the FM radio is a nice touch. The original Kickstarter may have over-promised, but that shouldn’t really reflect much on the product taken as a standalone device. Still, if a pre-release notice from an established listed a number of features that didn’t make the shipping unit, they’d definitely be called on it.
This is the big area for all Bluetooth speakers, and I have to say that I’m less impressed with the Hidden Radio in this regard than I was expecting to be. Audio quality was originally one of its selling points, but it lags behind the leaders in this space. The sound is fine, and the 360-degree nature of the speaker means that it’s good for background music at small gatherings, but audiophiles will be disappointed. And sound quality deteriorates quickly if you use the hardware volume control by twisting the cap down, making stuff sound like it’s underwater – this speaker performs best if kept at full volume, with changes to auditory level controlled from the phone. Sound did seem to improve over time, however, as the speaker got broken in.
At $ 149, the Hidden Radio is a good little speaker that trades significantly longer battery life for slightly worse audio quality when compared to the Jawbone Jambox, but I’d be less eager to recommend this product at its regular stated selling price of $ 190 (in black and silver; $ 180 in white), which it climbs up to after November 15. But in a crowded market, selling features like resistance to the elements and new, more powerful designs have emerged to make standing out largely on the basis of a volume control gimmick a little more difficult, once you’re at or near price parity.Related Posts:
Bluetooth portable speakers come in many styles and sizes, and some are just wonderful. But when audiophiles go aquatic, options become much more limited.
Enter the ECOXBT waterproof speaker. It’ll take you from the pool to the lake to the beach and back again with no trouble at all.
It floats speakers to the surface of the water, and just in case I wasn’t clear before, it’s entirely waterproof.
The speaker has standard audio input via a 3.5mm jack, along with Bluetooth, though the company didn’t specify the range. It shouldn’t be an issue floating by a boat or a dock, but brave ocean explorers may have issues if they venture far from shore.
Of course, this could be solved with a LifeProof iPhone case.
The ECOXBT has battery life for 10 hours of playback time, and has controls on top for power, pairing, and volume. As an added bonus, a waterproof mic is integrated into the speaker, for which there is also an “answer/end” button.
The launch date is somewhat questionable, considering that summer is over. Pick one of these up for $ 129 here.Related Posts: