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Mittwoch, 29. Oktober 2014

Review: Hercules WAE NEO - take the Disco with you!


Recently I received an intriguing funky speaker called "WEA NEO" from Hercules which is a sub-brand from the french company Guillemot. WAE stands for "wireless audio experience" and represents a whole line of different wireless/Bluetooth speakers, the WEA NEO being the top model of the whole line. Although I was aware of the brand before, I must confess that I haven't heard any speaker from Hercules yet. Now this has changed and I would like to show you where this speaker "shines" in the truest sense of the word.

Montag, 27. Oktober 2014

News: Binaural speaker recordings

When I had the idea of doing "fidelity-tests" of various speakers, I quickly noticed that it wouldn't be that easy to achieve really representative results.

Apart from room acoustics etc. the microphones have a too strong self-sound, to really allow valid results. I had tested more than half dozen different handheld recorders, from Olympus to Yamaha and Zoom. And all of them sounded so different that I doubt they would allow any neutral results.
To give it another try, I lately ordered a Zoom H5 and an optional XYH-6 capsule as I hoped these would give me significant improvements over the "cheap" Zoom H1 recorder that I am currently using, but in the end, the results were even worse. Not only did both mic-capsules emphasize treble too much, they did roll-off with low frequencies too strong, and there was a noticable divergency between left/right channel with the sound being not centered as it should be. Both microphones had a different bias towards left or right, therefore I sent both back totally disappointed.
Currently it seems as if I was still at the very beginning to find a better but still affordable recording solution which would allow the most neutral and flat recording.

You can hear some of my previous test-recordings here. In this case the JBL Charge 2 was recorded with all recorder/microphone combinations in the same room with the same settings/distance etc. As the XYH-6 capsule supports 2 different directional patterns, I did recordings with both, you can also check out the original track for comparison:

Excerpt of the original track:
 

Zoom H1:
 

Zoom H5:
 

Zoom H5+XYH-6 90°:


Zoom H5+XYH-6 120°:
 

I think it is pretty obvious that all the used microphones have a different sound, there is even a noticeable sound-difference between the 90° and 120° setting of the XYH-6 capulse. I also tried a recording with my current measuring microphone the MiniDSP UMIK-1, but so far I am still in the process to include the calibration file into the recording procedure and will post it as soon as I managed.

At the same time, I had also ordered a Roland CS-10EM binaural microphone. I wanted to try out something new and although these microphones are not really suitable for neutral direct recordings of a speaker, they seem perfectly suitable to record how a speaker would sound in a particular room thanks to a rather neutral sound. You have to wear headphones to hear how the sound was meant to be, or you can try playing it back through speakers with a crosstalk cancelling filter like "Liveaudio" from the Mini Jambox.

To understand better how the listening situation was, what kind of room etc, I also did a photo of each listening position, so that you can see what I heard when I did those recordings wearing the microphones inside my ears. I am curious what you think about this kind of audio-demo, and if I should continue using it in future for further speaker comparisons too. I did not normalize the recordings, so the difference in loudness you hear is real and represents the real situation.

Again I used the JBL Charge 2 (my current portable reference despite all the distortion issues, it is one of the best sounding portable speakers which can be already had for 129€) and recorded it in different rooms and positions from different distances, please have a look (and don't forget to listen through headphones):



Equally to the JBL I also tried recording some further speakers inside the shelf in the living room, I wonder if you can hear the difference in sound between all of them. I think that especially the increased stereo-separation of the EVA Blu and the Bose compared to the JBL Charge 2 and the mono Play:1 is pretty obvious:



Please let me know what you think about these recordings. Does the binaural effect work for you? Do these recordings sound more real than the previous ones I did? Which listening position does represent the most realistic situation for you?

Please leave a comment if you have further ideas!

Donnerstag, 23. Oktober 2014

News: B&O vs. B&W - fight!

Some will probably already have noticed two new and really interesting Bluetooth speakers, the T7 from Bowers & Wilkins and the BeoPlay A2 from Bang & Olufsen. I am not sure if this is pure coincidence that two companies release their first portable Bluetoothspeakers nearly the same day.



I won't go much into details and further tech specs, as you will find all information on their dedicated sites, but both speakers will cost exactly 349$/€ thus making them directly comparable and putting them a step above current offerings from Bose, Infinity or whatever.
The big difference I see between both is that Bang & Olufsen really tried to make a portable speaker with an own grip, 360° sound, a 24 hours battery life and USB-charging of external devices while B&W was rather trying to copy existing concepts and make their own version out of it.

I would really love to hear both side by side and prepare a detailed comparison.

Update: The B&W T7 should arrive tomorrow, while I haven't got any shipping confirmation from B&O yet. According to B&O support, the Beoplay A2 should arrive on Friday, so stay tuned for some detailed comparison between both!

Montag, 20. Oktober 2014

News: Bluetooth speakers "play different" - BenQ eVolo and Mass Fidelity Core

One might think "not another Bluetooth speaker" every time a new model is announced.
Indeed the whole Bluetooth speaker market started becoming quite a bit boring. There are units costing less than 20$, others costing close to 1000$ or even more, colorful ones, swimming ones etc.
But there is hardly any innovation visible. Some Bluetooth speakers still refuse any quick re-pairing to already known devices...

But two recently announced Bluetooth speakers managed to catch my attention. They are both portable, which means they will run from a rechargeable battery, and they are both pretty compact to really deserve the term "portable".

Freitag, 10. Oktober 2014

News: Speaker fidelity tests

I wanted to try out something new to allow for an even better judgement of a speaker's sound quality. Please let me know if you have some further ideas suggestions or wishes, so that this test could evolve to something helpful maybe.

Mittwoch, 8. Oktober 2014

Pimp my JBL Charge 2 - protection tweaks for transport


A portable speaker which can be easily damaged during the first transport is pretty useless. I am not the only one who thinks that the unprotected passive radiators of the JBL Charge 2 are the weakest part of the speaker, so some owners already came up with some tweaks to protect their new gadget.

Dienstag, 7. Oktober 2014

Review: Infinity One - Premium wireless portable speaker


I must confess that the Infinity One was the most awaited speaker I wanted to try lately. My request for a review sample directly from Harman was denied with the statement the Infinity One not to become available outside the U.S. I am not sure if they might change their mind, but even in the U.S. availabilty still seems quite a bit limited.
At least my good old friend is dependable as he took the risk of ordering one overseas paying some premium taxes and import fees. But this is what you are ready to pay for a "Premium wireless portable speaker", which the Infinity One is called according to the Infinity site.

Donnerstag, 25. September 2014

Review: Bose Soundlink Colour - now we're talking!



The latest Bluetooth speaker from Bose is also the most affordable one, costing just $129,- or a bit more in Europe with €139,-. The new Soundlink Colour is not just a stripped down version of the bigger Soundlink III or the Soundlink Mini, as it rather seems to introduce an own new category of fashionable and colourful portable speakers for Bose which are more suitable for real outdoor use than the previous Soundlink versions. Let's have a look how much features and sound Bose has managed to squeeze into their cheapest Soundlink.

Montag, 22. September 2014

News: Bose Sounddock XT - the dock is dead, long live the dock!


So far I haven't even noticed any announcements about the new Sounddock XT, but today during my visit at the Bose store they already had one on display and I could have a look at it.

The design is pretty funky, not that old school as the previous models. I couldn't have a listen unfortunately as I still have my old trusty Iphone 4, while my wife got her Iphone 5 with lightning-connector only. The Sounddock is not equipped with Bluetooth, with so many speakers currently supporting multiple connections through Bluetooth, Airplay and even dock or Micro-USB simultanously, I am pretty surprised to see the Sounddock XT being just equipped with a lightning connector. This limits the usage to Apple-devices only, which is a pity.
Overall I really like the looks of the Sounddock XT, at the same time it got pretty cheap compared to the old Sounddock models.

According to the Bose salesman the new one is not as powerful in base, but to tell the truth, the old one was already a bit owerpowering, maybe the new one sounds more balanced now. I will have a listen next Thursday when I will be returning my review sample of the Soundlink Colour.


Mittwoch, 17. September 2014

News: The new Bose Soundlink Colour - because paint is beautiful!



Bose announced the new Soundlink Colour, a completely new speaker with quite a different design than the Soundlink Mini but also cheaper and more colorful. It should become available worldwide during the next week(s). Biggest improvement seems to be charging through USB, it also seems to have track controls, at least it looks as if you could play/pause music, not sure how to skip tracks though. The Soundlink Colour supports multipoint pairing with 2 devices to quickly switch from one to the other. A pity it doesn't seem to support pairing with another speaker for wireless stereo as so many recent speakers already have this great feature included.

I have no clue how the new one might sound, but it looks quite a bit more rugged and portable than the Soundlink Mini which rather looks good on the shelf at home, than on a sandy beach. The new one seems to be better suitable for transport due to its flat form factor it is also slightly lighter, but I have yet to see it in person to be able to judge the difference in size between both.


Despite all the beautiful colors, I think I like the white one most. As soon as I can get my hands on one, I will of course compare it to the Soundlink Mini. Let's hope the new one is not just a cheaper trimmed down version, but will also have some ace up its sleeve especially regarding sound, maybe loudness, clarity etc...

I prepared a simple and rough 3d-sketch according to the specs the Soundlink Colour is not that small. It is about 60% larger in overall capacity than the Soundlink Mini and already reaches more or less the size of the JBL Charge 2: