Category Archives: Audio

Austell&Kern XB10 – Hi Resolution Bluetooth Adapter – Review – Ideal for iOS, android & more

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Austell&Kern XB10 is a Premium Bluetooth Receiver/High Definition Adapter. Put simply it turns any pair of headphones, or speaker, into a wireless design, but retains, and even boosts the sound quality. The Austell&Kern XB10 retails for £149.

Austell&Kern are a specialist audio manufacturer. Astell&Kern believe in the power of music and so strive to provide the original sound without distortion. Their portable and home audio products offer the exact presence with tiny details bit for bit, exactly as it was recorded

The XB10 is the first bluetooth receiver/adapter to support new Qualcomm aptX HD technology. This means it includes a 24bit, high-power DAC so that it transforms smartphone sound and at the same time drives headphones harder. It even supports high-quality balanced headphones

Key Features / Specifications

– Dimensions 50 mm x 50 mm x 12.3 mm
– Weight 23 g
– Bluetooth Version Bluetooth 4.1, Class2
– Bluetooth Profile A2DP (multi), AVRCP, HFP, HSP
– Frequency Band 2.4 – 2.4835 GHz ISM Band
– Range Maximum of 10 meters
– Operating Temperature – 10°C to 45°C
– Codec SBC, AAC, aptX™, aptX™ HD
– Port 2.5mm Balanced / 3.5mm Unbalanced
– Output Level 2.5mm Balanced : 1.8Vrms / 3.5mm Unbalanced : 0.9Vrms
– Battery Type 350mAh 3.7V lithium polymer rechargeable battery
– Approximately 5 hours for music playing and phone calls
– Standby Time Up to 300 hours
– Charging Time Approximately 2 hours
– Charging Method Micro USB 5Pin (charging 5V 2A)

So what is APT-X HD? Qualcomm® aptX™ HD audio ensures your Bluetooth® wireless enabled device can deliver High Definition (HD) audio. It preserves sound data through the audio transmission, resulting in a ‘better-than-CD’ listening experience.

With aptX HD, you can enjoy listening to your music at the highest audible quality when using a wireless device. APT-X HD is indistinguishable from high resolution audio. APT-X HD enables 24-bit music quality over a Bluetooth® wireless connection. To achieve the HD sound you need a compatible music player/phone as well as the XB10.

APT-X HD is found on several smartphones. In fact the LG G5 was one of the first to feature this tech. So what does the XB10 sound like and how well does it perform. Well I paired it to my iPhone 7 Plus, Huawei Mate 9 and my friends LG G5. I then plugged my Oppo PM-3 and Sennheiser HD598 headphones into the XB10. I would have loved to have tried a pair of balanced headphones with the XB10 as the sound was phenomenal using the XB10 on all 3 of the different players. The XB10 powered both headphones with such ease.

Apple iPhone 7 Plus – the XB10 has the Apple AAC codec and sounds terrific. This is such a good solution for using your existing wired headphones without wires.
Huawei Mate 9 – The Mate 9 has the standard APT-X and again sounded really good.
LG G5 – This has APT-X HD built in so transmitted 24 bit bluetooth sound to the XB10. Truly stunning and so good this is the end of wires!

So are there any negatives. Just one. Its range is limited to 10 metres, but in reality if using the APT-X HD you do need to keep the music player/phone nearby as the bandwidth used is much higher than standard bluetooth.

Video Review

To really appreciate this dynamite piece of tech, you need to watch the video.

Conclusion

Useful Links

Austell&Kern XB10 latest pricing & more info on Amazon

More headphone & audio reviews on gavinsgadgets.

PS. Note this was not a review sample or loan unit.

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Plantronics BeatBeat Pro 2 – Flagship Bluetooth Headphones – My Review

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Plantronics BackBeat Pro 2 Bluetooth headphones review. Welcome to my next bluetooth headphone review. This Plantronics BackBeat Pro 2 are the new flagship bluetooth headphones from Plantronics. They have replaced the original BackBeat Pro headphones which were excellent in their own right.

Key Features / Specifications

– Bluetooth 4.0 + EDR, HSP 1.2, HFP 1.6 (Wideband)
– Up to: 24 hours of listening time, six months’ DeepSleep
– Rechargeable, non-replaceable lithium-ion battery
– Charge Time: Up to 3 hours
– Wireless Range: Stream music up to 100 metres (330 feet)
– Multi-Point: Yes
– Microphones: Dual microphones with DSP
– A2DP: Yes
– Voice Alerts: Status alerts for remaining battery
– HP Drivers: 40 mm dynamic drivers
– In the box: BackBeat PRO 2 headphones, micro-USB charge cable, 3.5mm cable, travel sleeve
– Weight: 0.64 lbs / 289 grams

Bluetooth headphones seem to be getter better and better. Everyone wants a slice of this market, and it seems wired headphones are quickly being relegated to the bin. So it should come as no surprise that Plantronics decided to update and improve their original BackBeat Pro headphones.

So how did Plantronics improve the Pro 2’s over the original. First of all, the BackBeat Pro 2 are approximately 50g lighter. The reduction in weight makes a huge difference to the overall comfort. Next, the design of the headphone cups is now rectangular in style. This provides a better fit over the ear and this also adds to the improved comfort. The next improvement is the sound quality. The BackBeat Pro 2 still have deep bass but with more control, but now the mids and treble are improved too. This creates a wider soundstage, clearer vocals and more detail in the mids. Or in simple language, these sound fantastic and are wonderful to use over very long periods. The bass is enhanced so if you prefer a flatter sound, these aren’t for you. Personally, I have enjoyed listening to these with every genre.

However, its not just the sound quality that make these headphones special. They are firmware upgradeable but you need a mac or pc for this and if you find you are on firmware 1.8 you definitely want to upgrade it to v1.9 or above as the difference is noticeable and makes the headphones rock solid when it comes to holding the bluetooth connection. Firmware v1.8 had a few issues. I originally tried to update the firmware on my Mac, but the updater wouldn’t work. I had to use a friend’s laptop!

There is an iOS and android app that provides a help menu and a few other options. The BackBeat Pro 2 allow you to move around up to 100m away and still maintain a connection. Other features like stopping the music automatically when removing them from you head, and restarting the song when you place them back on is rather neat. Call quality was good on these too. The headphones have all the controls you could dream of as listed in the key features.

One of the aspects I like is being able to use the bluetooth connection with or without active noise cancellation. At home, in the peace and quiet, I don’t need noise cancellation. In terms of noise cancellation the BackBeat Pro 2 managed a reasonable job of removing noise but they are not as good as the Bose QC35.

Video Review

Now watch the video review to learn more about the headphones.

Conclusion

The Plantronics BackBeat Pro 2 correct some of the weaknesses of the original BackBeat Pro’s. There are more comfortable and fit better. More importantly, they sound incredible. Highly recommended.

Useful Links

Plantronics BackBeat Pro – more info & latest pricing on Amazon
The original BackBeat Pro headphones on Amazon
Link to all my headphone reviews on gavinsgadgets.

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PS. Note this was not a review sample or loan unit.

BeatsX Wireless Headphones – My Review – Are these the best Beats Headphones to date? & vs AirPods?

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BeatsX Wireless headphones went on sale on Friday 10th February 2017 on Apple’s website. They are available in grey, white, blue and black and cost £129.95.

The Key Features / Specs

– Experience authentic, clear sound
– Up to 8 hours of battery life
– Fast Fuel, a 5-minute charge gives you 2 hours of playback
– Lightning to USB-A charging cable (short length cable in box)
– Pocket-sized carrying case
– Unique Flex-Form cable provides all-day comfort and easy pocket portability
– Eartip options provide a personalised fit and secure-fit wingtips available in box offer added stability
– Class 1 Bluetooth
– Apple W1 Chip
– RemoteTalk allows you to take calls with a built-in mic, play music, adjust volume and activate Siri
– Charges from a lightning port, short cable provide in box
– Noise isolating

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How To Setup

They instantly set up using the new Apple W1 Chip and iOS 10. Just power on and hold near your iPhone, a notification box appears, tap connect and after that you have simultaneously connected to your Apple Watch, iPad and Mac. This means no more pairing with your other Apple devices as the pairing is synced across using iCloud. The only exception is the Apple TV for some reason which will need manual pairing as will any non Apple device.

The Sound Quality

Apple describe the BeatsX sound as “authentic, clear sound with optimised noise isolation for an immersive listening experience. An innovative acoustic design delivers a clean treble response and distortion-free bass for the most natural tonality across a broad range of genres.”

Seriously, are the BeatsX possessing a natural tonality across a broad range of genres? Well, blow my socks off, because these are the first Beats headphones that have a more natural tonal response. That means there is soundstage separation (medium), there is treble and decent midrange, something that is missing off many older Beats products. And these do deliver a decent punch too.

In fact, I tried these with every genres including pop, rock, classical, dance, jazz, blues, new age and many more. The BeatsX did a stellar job with all of these plus provided a good amount of noise cancellation.

Also as these have the Apple W1 chip, the bluetooth connection range is crazy long and without any signal dropouts.

UnBoxing, Video Review and Comparison versus AirPods and other Bluetooth Headphones

Now its time to watch the next part of my review. This includes a quick unboxing, sound test, comparison with AirPods and other headphones.

Conclusion

The BeatsX are somewhat of a surprise sonically as the midrange and treble are not lost to the bass line. In fact they sound really good. With the iOS benefits of instant pairing across all Apple devices, music controls and more, these are highly recommended and for many will be preferred over the superb AirPods.

Finally, I just want to say a quick thank you to the excellent customer service at the Apple Store in Plymouth.

Useful Links

BeatsX earphones at Apple – More info
Beats headphones on Amazon

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PS. Note this was not a review sample or loan unit.

Pump-Audio Mix vs V2 In Ear Headphones Review & Comparison

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Pump-Audio was originally founded in 2014 by entrepreneur Adam Blair. Today the company is quickly becoming known as a high quality headphone producer in the UK and across the World.

PUMP Headphones are specifically designed for lovers of dance music.

Today I am going to be reviewing the new and soon to be released Pump-Audio Mix In Ear headphones versus the current V2 In Ear Headphones.

Key Specifications

Pump-Audio Mix In Ear

– Weight: <15g
– 3.5mm gold connector jack
– In line microphone & volume control
– Frequency range: 12hz – 28khz
– Sensitivity: 102dB (+/- 3dB)
– Passive Noise Isolation
– Silicone and Memory Foam earbuds

Pump-Audio V2 In Ear

– Frequency range: 16hz – 24khz
– Sensitivity 102db (+/- 3db)
– Impedance 18 ohms
– Passive noise isolation
– Silicone and Memory Foam earbuds
– Weight <15g
– 3.5mm gold connector jack
– In line microphone

The Review

Conclusion

If you love dance music, the Pump-Audio Mix and V2 headphones dig deep with the bass but not at the expensive of the treble. As the new Mix headphones have a wider frequency range the extra top end is slightly more refined. The Mix also has volume controls on the in line remote over the V2. Recommended for dance music fans.

Useful Links

Pump-Audio
Pump-Audio on Amazon

Note – PS. Note these were a review sample supplied by Pump Audio

AirPods – Is Apple now the Number One Headphone Manufacturer in the World? – The Data is In!

AirPods

I recently reviewed the new AirPods from Apple. To read the review, Click HERE to find out why I was blown away by these and still am.

Tim Cook went on record to say AirPods were a runaway success and based on my views and others, it does not surprise me that these are so successful.

“Now according to a report by Slice, the AirPods made up 75% of all sales in the USA in December 2016. Before the launch on December 13, Beats occupied 24.1 percent of online revenue for wireless headphone sales, according to the report, with Bose following behind with 10.5 percent, then Plantronics and Jaybird with 7.8 percent and 7.45 percent respectively.

For the period after the launch, Apple suddenly became the dominant wireless headphones brand, moving from having no share at all to occupying 26 percent of the market. Revenue derived from Beats wireless headphones dropped down to a 15.4 percent market share during the same time, and though Jaybird and Plantronics dropped down to below 3 percent each, Bose managed to improve its standing to 16.1 percent.”

So it seems and comes as no surprise that out of nowhere, Apple is likely to soon be, if it isn’t already the number one headphone manufacturer in the world!

Source – Appleinsider

Apple AirPods – My Review – The Wire Free Headphone Paradise

AirPods

Welcome to my review of the Apple AirPods.

The AirPods are probably one of the most anticipated products from Apple since it removed the headphone jack on the iPhone 7 and 7 Plus. Judging by the 6 week waiting time many people are buying these.

I have already experienced Apple’s new W1 chip that is found inside the AirPods with the new Beats Wireless Solo 3 headphones. The W1 chip performs miracles with the connection process, locking on to the audio and then not dropping out any audio ever along with a huge distance possible from the iPhone. So my expectations were really high with the new AirPods.

Setup Process and Configuration Options

Just open the lid of little charging case the AirPods come in, and a message will pop up on your iPhone asking to pair. Tap connect, and voila. The AirPods will get renamed with your name. If you want to give them a different name, though, you can change it at any time via the settings app.

Now the AirPods are paired to your iPhone , via iCloud, the pairing syncs across all your Apple devices. Neat.

AirPods

So now whenever you pull your AirPods out of the charging case, they instantly turn on and connect to your iPhone, Apple Watch, iPad or Mac. Audio will automatically play as soon as you put them in your ears and pauses when you take them out. The controls work by using Siri. To adjust the volume, change the song, make a call or to get Siri to do anything else, just double-tap to activate to bring up Siri. You don’t need to say “Hey Siri”, just talk.

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If you head over to the settings app, tap bluetooth, then look for the Airpods in the list, and tap on the “i” you can now do the following –

– To change the AirPods name, open the settings app from your iPhone’s home screen. Tap on Bluetooth. Tap on the current name of your AirPods under My Devices. Tap on Name. Edit the name.

– By default, double tapping the AirPods activate Siri. Again in the settings you can switch between Siri, Play/Pause, or to disable double tap function. That’s all you can do at the moment in terms of the double tap functionality.

AirPods

In the settings app you can also tell the AirPods which side you would like the mic to work. Normally, both mics are on, but you can just have the left or right side if you desire. I would recommend leaving this setting alone, as the AirPods will decide where the best signal is coming from.

Do they fall out? No they don’t no matter how hard I tried. The AirPods use optical sensors and a motion accelerometer to detect when they’re in your ears and automatically routes the sound and also engages the microphone. And when you’re on a call or talking to Siri, an additional accelerometer works with beam forming microphones to filter out background noise and focus on the sound of your voice.

Battery life is 5 hours of listening time on one charge. The case is a charging case and provides up to 24 hours of charge. A 15 min charge provides 3 hours of listening time.

Audio Quality / In Use Experiences

I have now used the AirPods for 8 hours. The 5 hour battery life is correct. I got 5 hours 15 mins on my first charge. Recharging them in the case was a speedy affair and I did check that the claim of a 15 min charge provides 3 hours of music. Impressive.

The AirPods are more comfortable than the EarPods. I am not sure why, but it might be because they are marginally lighter and sit better in my ears.

The charging case is smaller than I expected, which is great as it will easily fit in any pocket.

The AirPods have a stronger, fuller bass line that the EarPods and sound good with all genres. The mid and treble are average, but certainly not dull or recessed. The soundstage is middle of the road. The AirPods do sound better than the EarPods. The maximum volume is plenty loud enough for me.

At £159, there are headphones that sound better, but there are none that offer all the connectivity, flexibility, size, style and wire free convenience. The AirPods do not drop bluetooth connection and that in itself is remarkable.

I watched a number of YouTube videos and watched a TV programme. The voices were in sync. Walking down a very busy main road, I was still able to double tab and ask Siri a question. I used Siri to raise or lower the volume, skip tracks and more. It is worth noting, Siri can only change tracks with the official music app from Apple. Using Amazon Music or a third party music player app called Neutron, Siri could not skip to the next track.

I also tried the AirPods with my MacBook Pro with Touch Bar. And as if by magic, the AirPods were showing up ready to select. Double tapping to bring up Siri to change tracks using iTunes work fine, albeit it is faster to manually press the next track on the Touch Bar. The AirPods sound superb when connected to the MacBook Pro.

When it comes to noise cancellation, the AirPods have none. You can use just one AirPod. If you take one of the AirPods out of your ears, the music stops. If you then ask Siri to play the music, it will now play through the other AirPod in mono. So if you wanted to listen to a podcast, and just use one AirPod at a time, you could manage 48 hours worth of battery life.

Overall, the entire package is beautiful to behold and a pleasure to use. The music quality is about 7.5/10.

Video Review

In the video below, I try and shake the AirPods out of my ears, unbox and reveal more about these little gems.

Conclusion

A superb product from Apple. Wire free headphones are the future. The future is now. Highly recommended.

Sennheiser HD 598 cs Headphone review – Are these the best headphones made by Sennheiser? Also Sennheiser HD 598 cs vs 598’s

Sennheiser HD598 cs vs 598 SE

Welcome to my review of the Sennheiser HD 598 cs headphone.

The Sennheiser HD 598 cs are not the first pair of Sennheiser headphones that I have reviewed or used. In fact I have reviewed the Sennheiser HD 598 SE, HD 518 and Momentum Wireless 2.0. To recap on these reviews – Click HERE.

I have also owned the amazing HD 600 headphones.

I currently own the Sennheiser HD 598 SE headphones which are on open back version. This means sound leaks, so whatever you are listening to, everyone can dance to your tunes as well. So for commuting on public transport these are not ideal as you can also hear everything going on around you. But at home, in private, these are splendid and provide a massive detailed soundstage.

The Sennheiser HD 598 cs are a closed back design. This means you music stays private. I had not heard of this model until Amazon had it available as a Black Friday special deal of £89.99. It seems Amazon got Sennheiser to make a special version of the HD 598 SE (open back) headphones. Except, after a bit of digging it seems that the HD 598 cs could be the new Sennheiser HD 569 closed back headphones in disguise. In the useful links, at the end of this review, I left a link to the HD 569’s. See what you think. They look really similar and have the same ohm and SPL figures.

But there are more differences between the open back and closed back models. From a physical point of view, they look identical. However, the technical specifications are different. The 598 SE have an impedance of 50 ohms, whereas the 598 cs are 23 ohms. The 598 SE SPL is 112db whereas the 598 cs are 115db. These 2 technical specs mean the 598 cs version are considerably easier to drive from a phone, MP3 player, or any device for that matter and go louder faster and easier.

The open back 598 SE have a wider frequency range at 12 – 38,000 Hz. The 598 Cs are 10 – 28,000 Hz. The closed back version have a more punchier bass than the open back version, but these are not bass heavy headphones. I would classify them as bass perfect headphones at their price point.

So from a physical point of view there are differences. The 598 cs use velvet type ear cushions whereas the open back 598 SE use a velour material for the ear cushions. See photos. Also the headband on the 598 cs seems less cushioned (its not) but it doesn’t have the air suspension cushioning as the 598 SE. Also the 598 SE have the name Sennheiser embedded in the headband.

Sennheiser HD598 cs vs 598 SE

Sennheiser HD598 cs vs 598 SE

Photo above. 598 cs (closed back on left) and 598 SE (open back on right).

Another small difference is the fact that the 598 cs drivers seem to be slightly angled. Also the ear cups are finished differently. See below.

Sennheiser HD598 cs vs 598 SE

On the bottom is the 598 SE (open) and the speaker grill is perforated to allow the sound to spill out. On top the 598 cs (closed) has a material like finish.

Specs aside, what matters is how these sound. After 100 hours burn in the Sennheiser HD 598 cs absolutely rock. Because they are easier to drive they sound ace straight out of my iPhone 7+ and MacBook. They are so dynamic, engaging and incredibly musical that you just want to listen to every song you ever owned again and again. The 598 cs also rock out with so much ease and have tons of volume from both my iPhone 7 and MacBook.

In case you are interested, the Sennheiser comes with a HD 598Cs headset/ 1.2m cable with 1-button remote/ 3.5mm straight plug; 3m cable/ 6.3mm straight plug. The HD 598 SE have a 1.2m cable with a 3.5mm plug but without the 1 button remote.

In the title I asked “are these the best headphones made by Sennheiser?”. I am going to say yes in the context of most people will love these and more importantly afford them. You don’t need any fancy equipment, amps or dacs. At 23 ohms and with a sound pressure of 115db these are super efficient. Therefore, all you need is your current phone. You then will get the superb Sennheiser sound across the entire sound spectrum, mid, treble and bass. The headphones are not genre dependant either. They just rock with anything and don’t ruin the music.

Looks like I will be needed my Apple Lightning to 3.5m headphone adapter for a while longer!

These are more than recommended, these are probably the first headphone that is a must buy from me so long as you can cope with a wired connection. Even if these cost £150, they would be worth every penny.

Useful Links

More info on the Sennheiser HD 598 cs and the latest pricing
More information and the latest pricing on the Sennheiser HD 598 SE Open Back
More information and the latest pricing on the Sennheiser HD 569 closed back headphones

Groov-e Portable Karaoke Boombox Machine with CD Player and Bluetooth Wireless Playback – Review

Boombox

Welcome to my review of the Groov-e Portable Karaoke Boombox Machine with CD Player and Bluetooth Wireless Playback. The recommended retail price is £69.99.

Video Review

The Key Specifications

– Bluetooth Wireless Playback
– CD Player: CD, CD-R/RW Compatible
– Karaoke: CD+G Compatible
– Flashing LED Party Light Effects
– LED Display
– Automatic Voice Control
– Echo Control
– Master and Microphone Volume Controls
– Program/Repeat Function
– Skip/Search Function
– 2 x Microphone Inputs
– RCA Audio Output
– Composite Video Output
– Carry Handle
– Speaker Power: 2 x 1W
– AC Power: Mains Cable
– DC Power: Batteries: 6 x C Size (not included)

Groove photos

What’s in the Box

– 1 x Groov-e GCPS923 Karaoke Boombox
– 2 x Microphones
– 1 x CD+G Karaoke Disc with 10 Songs
– AC Mains
– RCA Audio Cable
– RCA Video Cable

Groove photos

The Lowdown

Groov-e have brought out a brand new Karaoke Boombox. It features 2 microphones and a pre-loaded disc, the days of Stars in their Eyes can be revived through a smartphone screen.

The Groov-e Karaoke Boombox is compatible with CD+G Karaoke discs. However, all your current CD’s can be used too. If you are a person without any CDs you can use the Bluetooth wireless playback from any compatible device, such as a mobile phone or tablet. This mean you can sing along to the song with the lyrics displayed on your device. For those who prefer the bright lights of the big screen, the lyrics can be displayed on your TV using the video-output function.

With a second mic, duets become a reality. In a dark room the integrated flashing LED party lights adds a bit of fun.

Conclusion

The Groov-e Karaoke Boombox is fun product and would make an ideal present. I can see this appearing in many Christmas stockings!

Useful Links

For more information and the latest pricing on Amazon UK – Click HERE.

Oppo HA-2 vs Oppo HA-2 SE – All The Differences – Hardware & Sound Quality

Oppo compared

Oppo have just released the Oppo HA-2 SE which I reviewed yesterday. Click HERE to read the Oppo HA-2 SE review.

However, what you all wanted to know is how does the Oppo HA-2 SE differ to the original award winning Oppo HA-2. First up, check out the video below to see what’s different on the hardware and accessories.

Video Comparison

Sound Quality

So the Oppo HA-2 has the DAC and the HA-2 SE has the new DAC. The new DAC provides a much lower noise floor, which means sensitive IEMs are unlikely to hear any hiss. Also the “SE” now has 32 bit audio instead of 24 bit.

But specs are all well and good, but what matters is the sound quality. So what I did was test both devices using my Oppo PM3 headphones using the 3 tracks below. I have highlighted the audio differences with each song.

Track 1 – Dancing on the Edge, The Louis Lester Band – Down River

The Oppo HA-2 lacks the sparkle in the treble that the HA-2 SE possesses. The HA-2 is more dynamic and provides a slightly wider sound stage.

Track 2 – Bastille – All This Bad Blood – These Streets

The HA-2 SE has better clarity and definition. The original HA-2 feels muddied sometimes. I think the differences I am hearing is due to the lower noise floor, allowed the HA-2 SE to produce better treble and mid range across the track.

Track 3 – Offenbach: Les Contes D’Hoffman (Disk 1) – Prologue: Glou! Glou! Je Suis Le Vin!

The HA-2 SE once again has the edge over the HA-2. The precision in handling all the frequencies and scaling is slight ahead of the HA-2. I also prefer the mid and treble and overall musicality from the HA-2 SE. The vocal parts from this track felt more realistic from the HA-2 SE over the HA-2.

Conclusion

The Oppo HA-2 SE with its new DAC improves the musicality, dynamics, treble, detail and reduces the noise floor too. The Oppo HA-2 SE provides a decent update over the original HA-2 and consequently is highly recommended. I like the HA-2 SE so much over the HA-2 that I spent the whole weekend listening to all my favourite music!

Useful Links

All my Headphone, DAC and Audio Reviews
Oppo HA-2 Review
Sennheiser HD 598 SE headphone review
Oppo PM-3 Headphone review
Oppo PM-2 Headphone review
Oppo HA-2 SE on Amazon UK

Oppo HA-2 SE Portable Headphone Amp DAC – Review

Oppo HA-2 SE review

Welcome to my review of the Oppo HA-2 SE. The Oppo HA-2 SE is the upgraded version of the legendary Oppo HA-2, that I reviewed back in February 2015. Click HERE to read the original review of the Oppo HA-2.

Since Oppo released the HA-2, the world of personal audio has exploded. However, the improved Oppo HA-2 SE remains in a class of its own. Read on to find out why.

The Basics

– It is a Portable Headphone Amplifier and DAC
– High-resolution USB DAC for Apple/Android/PC/Mac
– Two gain settings for optimal headphone matching
– Mobile power bank for charging your phone
– It looks gorgeous and sounds fantastic
– It has Oppo’s VOCC fast charging. Only 90 mins to recharge the HA-2 SE.
– The HA-2 SE is improved by upgrading the DAC from the ESS Sabre32 Reference ES9018-K2M chip to the new ESS Sabre32 Reference ES9028-Q2M

Video Review

Oppo HA-2 vs Oppo HA-2 SE – What’s Different? I have a dedicated post highlighting all the differences between these models Click HERE..

The Design

Before I go to discuss the specifications and sound in more depth, lets take a look at the box and its contents. The Oppo packaging is top notch. Everything is neatly organised in the box which includes the Oppo HA-2 SE itself, the VOCC charger, a short lightning cable, a OTG micro USB to micro USB cable, a 3.5mm to 3.5mm cable, 2 rubber bands for securing it to another device and detailed instructions. The Oppo HA-2 SE simply stands out as a solid, well built and gorgeous looking device (see photos and video). It does not need a case as it is bound in leather.

The Specifications

Full specifications –

– Dimensions (W x H x D) 68 x 157 x 12 mm
– Weight 175 grams
– Frequency Response 20 Hz – 200 kHz
– Audio-in Level 1 Vrms
– Line-out Level 1 Vrms
– Recommended Headphone Impedance 16 Ohm – 300 Ohm
– Maximum Headphone Output Power 300 mW into 16 Ohm,220 mW into 32 Ohm, 30 mW into 300 Ohm
– Headphone Amplifier Impedance 0.5 Ohm
– Output Jacks 3.5 mm stereo headphone
– 3.5 mm stereo line-out
– Input Ports Analog: 3.5 mm stereo audio-in
– Digital: USB A for iPod / iPhone / iPad; USB micro-B for smartphones with USB OTG feature and computers.
– DAC Chip ESS Sabre32 Reference ES9028-Q2M
– Input Format Stereo PCM, Stereo DSD (DoP v1.1 or native)
– PCM Sampling Frequencies 44.1 kHz – 384 kHz, 16 / 24 / 32-bit
– DSD Sampling Frequencies 2.8224 MHz (DSD64), 5.6448 MHz (DSD128), 11.2896 MHz (DSD256, native mode only)
– Profile USB 2.0, USB Audio 2.0
– Included Accessories Power Supply Unit (Rapid Charging Charger)
– USB A – USB micro-B data and rapid charging cable
– USB A – Lightning data cable (for Apple devices)
– USB micro-B to micro-B data cable (for Android and other smartphones)
– 3.5 mm – 3.5 mm stereo audio cable
– Silicone rubber band (2 pieces)
– User guide and warranty documents
– Battery Built-in Battery type 3000 mAh lithium polymer rechargeable battery
– Battery Operation Time Approx. 13 hours for analog source via Audio-in; approx. 7 hours for digital sources via USB
– Charging Time Approx. 1 hour 30 minutes

Oppo HA-2 SE review

The Technology in More Detail

Ok, so what makes the device really special. The Oppo HA-2 SE is a Hybrid Class AB Amplifier with integrated circuits and discrete transistors. Oppo uses hand-picked and matched parts for the discrete transistors. The output transistors are biased to operate in their most linear range for the critical small signal, and deliver their full potential when power is required. This was most noticeable for when I was listening to music that scaled up suddenly.

The Oppo HA-2 SE is “MFI” Apple certified and is compatible with the latest iPhone 7 and iPhone 7 Plus, iPod, and iPad, meaning it can be use the digital audio output via the supplied lightning cable. The HA-2 SE does not need the Camera Connection Kit. I tested the HA-2 SE with an iPhone 7 Plus and the iPad Air and all worked as advertised. In fact with Apple removing the headphone jack on the iPhone 7, this is the perfect solution for bringing back the use of the 3.5mm headphone jack and at the same time providing an improved audio experience.

Android – The HA-2 SE’s micro-USB input port works with Android devices that support USB OTG (USB On-The-Go) and USB Audio Class. A special USB OTG cable is supplied with the HA-2 SE to facilitate the connection. When used with a compatible Android device, the HA-2 SE can support the device’s built-in music app, tones and notifications. Additionally, a high-resolution music playback app can use the HA-2 SE as its external DAC to play lossless PCM and DSD audio files eg USB Audio Player Pro app for android.

Audio-In and Line-Out – The HA-2 SE has a 3.5 mm Audio-In port to support portable music players that do not have a USB-compatible digital output. While the HA-2 SE is used with one of its USB digital input ports, the 3.5 mm jack acts as Line-Out for the USB DAC.

And now on to the crown jewels of this device. ESS Sabre32 Reference DAC – The DAC is one of the most important components for digital audio playback. The ES9028-Q2M DAC chip used in the HA-2 SE is the latest flagship mobile DAC developed by ESS Technology. With the ESS patented 32-bit Hyperstream™ DAC architecture and Time Domain Jitter Eliminator, the SABRE32 Reference DAC delivers an unprecedented performance for mobile applications. The performance and quality of this DAC is outstanding and a noticeable improvement over the DAC used in the original Oppo HA-2.

Asynchronous USB DAC – The HA-2 SE can bypass the smartphone’s built-in DAC and headphone amplification circuit that are often cost-constrained. The asynchronous USB DAC input of the HA-2 SE also works with PC and Mac computers to replace the built-in sound card and support high-resolution audio playback with PCM up to 384 kHz 32-bit (the original HA-2 only supported PCM up to 384 kHz 24-bit) and DSD up to 12 MHz (DSD256).

Clean Signal Path – There is no DSP (Digital Signal Processor) in the HA-2 SE. Volume control is operated by a combination of the DAC chip’s internal digital volume control and an analog potentiometer (the volume knob). Bass boost is performed by pure analog audio circuits. By avoiding re-digitising the audio signal for volume adjustment or bass boost, the HA-2 SE provides a clean signal path for the audio. And the difference is noticeable in playback.

Bass Boost – HA-2 SE offers a Bass Boost function. With Bass Boost off, the HA-2 SE delivers a ruler-flat frequency response; with Bass Boost on, the HA-2 SE adds force and impact to the sub-bass region without muddling the important mid- to high-frequency bands. In reality, I found I didn’t need the bass boost, although I can’t deny it wasn’t fun to use at times.

Two Gain Settings – The HA-2 SE offers two gain level settings for optimal headphone matching. The High Gain mode is capable of driving large power-hungry headphones, delivering up to 300 mW into 16-Ohm headphones. The Low Gain mode is intended for sensitive In-Ear Monitor type earphones. With the new DAC in the HA-2 SE this makes a big difference with sensitive IEM headphones, removing the background hiss that did occur with the previously DAC.

Rapid Charging – The HA-2 SE features patented VOOC rapid charging technology from OPPO. Using the supplied rapid charger, the internal battery can be quickly and safely charged to 75% capacity in about 30 minutes. It only takes approximately 90 minutes to fully charge the battery. A quick charge gives the HA-2 SE up to 13 hours of operation time.

Mobile Power Bank – The HA-2 SE functions as an external battery pack to charge your mobile device.

The Sound Quality

So what really matters ultimately is how does the Oppo HA-2 SE sound. For this test I used the following headphones: Sennheiser HD598 SE and Oppo PM-3. Genres used – Jazz, Blues, Pop, Rock, Female Vocal. I used my Apple iPhone 7 Plus and iPad Air as the source. I had zero issues with connectivity. The Oppo HA-2 SE has Apple’s MFI certification and includes a lightning to USB small connector.

Sally Barker – To Love Somebody/Dear Darlin – With both headphones the vocals, guitar and the extra detail extracted by the HA-2 SE was exquisite. Sally Barker’s voice sounded so delicate and emotional. Plus the new ES9028-Q2M DAC seem to extract so much detail. The Oppo PM-3 headphones with the HA-2 SE were such a magical pairing listening to Sally Barker’s voice.

Adele – Rumour Has It/ Lovesong – vocals, drums, instruments and the beat – all so well captured and played. The musicality of the HA-2 SE was present in abundance. Good speed and attack and sound stage. Again comparing the 2 headphones, both sounded excellent but if I had to pick my favourite for these sounds it once again goes to the Oppo PM-3.

Paloma Faith – Can’t Rely on You – punchy, musical and a superb presentation. Plenty of bass but not overkill. The bass boost is nuts and so powerful in the sub bass, I had to turn the volume down. A similar discovery occurred again with the Oppo PM-3 headphones. With this new Sabre DAC and the HA-2 SE the combination is electric. My Sennheiser HD598 SE felt totally outclassed by the Oppo PM-3.

Yolanda B Cool & D Cup – We No Speak Americano – even without the bass boost, the Oppo PM-3 were being phenomenal. Of course, I had to flip the bass boost mode too, and bass freaks will love it in this mode. Again, a detailed musical presentation. Vocals are so good. The timing is astonishing too.

The Louis Lester Band – Downtown Uptempo/ Sweet Mary Jane – such great musicality, beat, bass, vocals, wide soundstage, instruments clearly placed in different positions. If you get this device, you must listen to Sweet Mary Jane – you will be blown away at just how good this track sounds across all headphones. But if you want to be transported in audio nirvana, you need the Oppo PM3 headphones.

Queen – Bohemian Rhapsody – what’s not to like. Superb presentation again.

Bastille – Weapon/ the Driver – the electronic sounds and fast beat really well delivered. Great vocals again and tons of attack.

Nicola Benedetti – The Lark Ascending – mesmerising delivery. Frighteningly amazing. Brought my hairs up on my arms. The music scales up as the drama unfolded too.

Sound Quality Takeaway – The new ESS Sabre32 Reference ES9028-Q2M DAC is a musical beast. It provides superb vocals, separation and low floor noise and made me want to listen again to all my music. Each time I listened to the Oppo HA-2 SE I was hearing my songs in a new light.

Final Thoughts

There are many portable headphone amp dacs available now. However, none match the Oppo HA-2 SE for its style, looks, flexibility, portability and sound quality. At £289 its an absolute tremendous recommendation. I totally LOVE IT !!

Useful Links

All my Headphone, DAC and Audio Reviews
Oppo HA-2 Review
Sennheiser HD 598 SE headphone review
Oppo PM-3 Headphone review
Oppo PM-2 Headphone review
Oppo HA-2 SE on Amazon UK

Polk BOOM Swimmer Duo – Waterproof, Dirtproof & Shockproof Bluetooth Speaker Review

Polk Boom review

Welcome to my review of the Polk BOOM Swimmer Duo. The Polk BOOM Swimmer Duo is a great bluetooth speaker. I am having a blast using it and it has replaced all bluetooth speakers in my home. Now watch my review to find out more, and watch it dance too! The recommended retail price of the Polk BOOM Swimmer Duo is £49.99.

Video Review

The Polk BOOM Swimmer Duo Lowdown

Waterproof – The Polk BOOM is IPX7. That means it can be immersed in up to 3 feet of water for 30 minutes. Take it to the pool, ocean, and even the shower. Bottom line — just soak it and boogie away.

Dirtproof – Completely sealed from dirt, dust, mud and sand, the Swimmer keeps all filth out and your favorite tunes on full blast wherever you adventure. Journey on!

Shockproof – The Swimmer’s rugged rubberized exterior is built to absorb the drops inherent in any great adventure. Leave your worries at the door and don’t worry about dropping it.

Key Specifications

– Power Ouput: 2.5 Watts
– Battery Type: Lithium-ion Polymer 3.7 V, 430 mAh
– Battery Charge Time : 2 hrs at 0.5A
– Frequency Response: 220Hz – 20kHz
– Signal-to-Noise Ratio: > 75 dB
– Transducer: 30 mm full-range suspended within 45 mm passive-radiator
– Bluetooth Version: v4.1
– Bluetooth Support: A2DP v1.3, HFP v1.6, HSP v1.2, AVRCP v1.5, SPP v1.2
– Bluetooth Transmitter power: 8 dBm
– Bluetooth Transmitter Frequency Range:2.402 – 2.480 GHz
– Battery Life – 8 Hours
– Link 2 for stereo
– Answer calls, end calls, adjust volume and tracks

Final Thoughts

When I first got my Polk BOOM Swimmer Duo my expectations were blown away from the moment I turned it on. The sound is loud and punches way above its weight. Its versatility from being waterproof, dirtproof, shockproof and attachable to clothing, walls, chairs and more make it a clear win and recommendation.

Useful Links

Latest info and pricing on Amazon UK – http://amzn.to/2dFGYg7

Polk Boom review

FYI – Video/Photos shot/filmed on a Honor 8.

Tech Addicts Podcast – The Next Episode is Live – Pixel, Oppo & Bluedio

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Tech Addicts Podcast is back again with new episode starring Gareth Myles, Jay Garrett and myself. Tech Addicts is released every 2 weeks.

To listen to the latest episode subscribe by searching “Tech Addicts” within your favourite podcast app, iTunes, Google Play Music Podcasts or use the URL “mobiletechaddicts.libsyn.com/rss” to add directly.

Or listen below using the in-built player. Have fun listening!

Beats Solo Wireless 3 – The New Headphones with Apple’s W1 Chip – My First Impression

Beats Wireless Solo 3 with Apple's new W1 chip

My Beats Solo 3 Wireless headphones arrived yesterday. I was very excited to open the box and test these for a number of reasons. Firstly, the packaging and presentation is first class. When you open the box, the headphones themselves are folded inside a protective case. Lift the case out and you get the cables and extras that come with the headphones.

Beats Wireless Solo 3 with Apple's new W1 chip

The second reason was to see what difference the Apple W1 chip made to the bluetooth process, setup, sound and real world usage.

Beats

I had watched the videos from Apple showing how the AirPods that also have the W1 chip, just connect by opening the protective case. I honestly did not believe it would work “magically” as shown, but the Beats Solo 3 Wireless headphones did just connect to my iPhone 7 “magically”. I simply pressed the power on button on the headphones, a big notification instantly appeared from the bottom of my iPhone asking if I wanted to connect. I tapped “connect”. And that was it. The first connection was over in a second. Not only that it named the Beats “Gavin’s Beats Solo 3” as you can see.

Beats Wireless Solo 3 with Apple's new W1 chip

Not only does it pair instantly, every time I have turned it on and off and on again, it connects like a bullet. But it doesn’t stop there. Now that I have paired it to my iPhone, it is now paired to my Apple Watch, iPad and MAC using iCloud. So neat.

Beats Wireless Solo 3 with Apple's new W1 chip

So what do these £249 on ear headphones sound like? Well, not £249 headphones IMO. More like £150 headphones but I am still burning these in. Over the last hour, they have improved a lot. At the moment they do not sound as good as my Sennheiser Momentum Wireless 2.0 or B & O Beoplay H5 headphones. They have improved since the last hour and I am listening to them as I type this and I am noticing better mids and treble occurring. Once I have burnt these in for 50 hours, I will let you know my final thoughts on the audio quality. However, it is worth remembering part of the pricing is paying for the Beats branding and the Apple W1 processor and included technology.

The headphones have controls on the left earcup to activate Siri, take and receive calls, control your music and volume. They feature dual beaming microphones for clearer calls. Siri worked perfectly, but I need to test voice calls to see how they perform. One feature of these headphones is the 40 hour battery life from one charge, and the quick charge option that gives 3 hours playback after a 15 min charge from a low battery.

So have Apple invented bluetooth. No. But they have made the experience amazing. This is by far the quickest and easiest pair of bluetooth headphones I have ever paired, used and connected. Also, the signal has not dropped, not even once, not even for a blink of an eye.

My final thought is this – “Why are you wasting your energy, plugging headphones into a 3.5mm headphone jack or lightning port?”. Wireless is the future and the future is now!

Bluetooth Headphones on Amazon

Bluedio V (Victory) Pro Patented PPS 12 Drivers Wireless Bluetooth Headphones – Review

Bluedio Victory

Welcome to my review of the Bluedio V (Victory) Pro Patented PPS 12 Drivers Wireless Bluetooth Headphones.

With the removal of the headphone jack in the new iPhone 7, wireless headphones are going to explode in popularity. In fact in the last 12 months, 53% of all headphones bought were wireless.

The Bluedio V headphones use patented technology so I do recommend reading the key features and specifications below.


Key Features / Specifications

– PPS 12 Exclusive Acoustics Technology specially built with 12 drivers. Paired with a carefully designed compound cavity these headphones will accurately reproduce every frequency, ensuring an immersive, DEEP and POWERFUL BASS.
– Transcendent S/PDIF Optical Transmission. HD sound is available through the professional S/PDIF Optical Transmission audio jack. Combined with 24bit@48kHz audio resolution, this enables the transmission of the highest quality DIGITAL sound.
– Lossless Aptx transmission Aptx coding-decoding will recompile the high-quality audio to bring you a rich listening experience. With downward compatibility, not compressed and partially compressed audio (such as MP3, aac & flac) can also be clearly transmitted via Bluetooth.
– Share music wirelessly between two headphones. Automatically connect two pairs of Victory headphones by simply entering pairing mode and enjoy all your favourite music with your friends.
– Touch controls. Simply touch, swipe and drag your finger across the ear cup to change volume and skip track.
– Bluetooth version: 4.1 – Bluetooth operating range: up to 10m
– Frequency range: 2.4GHz-2.48GHz , Frequency response: 10Hz-22,000Hz
– SPL – 112db
– Drivers: 50mm x 2; 30mm x 2; 20mm x 8
– Impedance: 42Ω (50mm); 32Ω (30mm); 32Ω (20mm)
– Bluetooth profiles: aptx®, A2DP, AVRCP, HSP, HFP
– Digital audio decode format: IEC-61973, PCM(24bit@48KHz)
– Audio supported – AAC, APT-X, APT-X Low Latency, SBC & Fastream
– Optical music time: about 40 hours
– Bluetooth music/talk time: about 25 hours , Standby time: about 1000 hours
– Charging time: 2.5 hours for full charge
– Headphones dimensions: 17.6cm*9cm*18.8cm
– Headphones weight: 446g
– In the box – Bluedio Victory Bluetooth headphones , 3.5mm audio cable ,6.3mm patch plug,User manual Carrying case with a buckle, USB charging cable, Pouch for cables ,Optical audio cable with adapter
– Note 1. Gently push the On/Off button to enter pairing mode, and you will see the red and blue light flash alternately.
– The 3.5mm audio jack on both two sides of the headphones are useful; while the S/PDIF input jack is on the right ear cup.
– The aptx low latency profile is closed by default because iOS and some Android devices don’t support it. If necessary, please contact our customer service to download the specified App to open it.

The Technology

Bluedio invested 1 million yuan in purchasing BK Acoustics test equipment which comes from Denmark. The aim of this was to create the perfect environment, zero noise room, to create the best timbre sound from these new patented flagship headphones from Bluedio. Their 12 driver setup is patented too.

Bluedio Victory

Each headphone has 6 drivers, making a total of 12 drivers for these headphones. Above is the breakdown of one side, and below the internal tech driving the setup.

Bluedio Victory Tech

As a surprise and rather unsual, Bluedio added the option to connect these digitally using a S/PDIF optical connection and supply the cable too.So you connect these directly to the optical out of a CD player for example. The Bluedio V (Victory) also supports AAC, APT-X, APT-X Low Latency, SBC & Fastream. You can also connect another Bluedio headphone wireless to another and share the music.


Build Quality & Operation

Bluedio Victory

The Bluedio V (Victory) headphones are built like tanks, and are also heavier than most at 446g. The extra weight is noticeable and takes a while to adjust to it. The headphone cups swivel up into the band, which is different to most headphones that fold. The right ear cup has touch controls for adjusting the volume, and changing tracks. You can also make phone calls from the headset.

Bluedio Victory


Sound Quality

I have connected these to my laptop, chromebook, Wileyfox Swift, Samsung Note 7 and iPad. I have tried all genres. On first listen, I found the sound strange. The 12 driver setup was reproducing music differently to what I was used to. Plus the sound seemed too sharp. At this point I was ready to return these but I was too busy to sort out. So I decided to give these another shot, left music playing for about 10 hours to burn the drivers in, and then had another listen. Oooh. Much better now. In fact, the longer I have owned these the more I like listening to them. They don’t do floppy sound, the reproduce accurate and powerful bass (not floppy bass) and have a great soundstage. A word of warning. These go so bloody loud they could blow your ears off. So make sure before you hit play, make sure you have the bluetooth volume very low. Important to remember this. The Bleudio also support APT-X low latency but to turn this feature on, you need to email Bluedio who provide an app, the turns this on.

Conclusion

The Bluedio V(Victory) PPS 12 Driver Patented Wireless Bluetooth headphones are a surprise package. The sound good and can go very loud if required. The only caution is their weight at 446g. However, I like these and consequently are recommended.

For more info and the latest pricing on Amazon – Click HERE.

The Best Bluetooth Wireless Headphones of 2016 – My Reviews

So you have just got the new phone and want to buy some new wireless bluetooth headphones. Below are my reviews of the best bluetooth wireless headphones of 2016. These headphones also are fantastic with many other devices too.

Useful Links (Amazon)

Bose Quietcomfort 35 Wireless Headphones
Sennheiser Momentum Wireless 2.0 Headphones
B & O Beoplay H5 Wireless Headphones
LG Tone Platinum APT-X HD Hi-Res Bluetooth Headphones
Samsung Gear IconX headphones

The Reviews

Below are the links to the individual reviews of each of these headphones. Each review also includes a video too.

Bose Quietcomfort 35 Wireless Headphones Review

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Sennheiser Momentum Wireless 2.0 Headphones Review

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B & O Beoplay H5 Wireless In Ear Headphones Review

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LG Tone Platinum APT-X HD In Ear Wireless Headphones Review

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Samsung Gear IconX – In Ear Wireless & Wire Free with Heart Rate Monitors Headphones Review

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For more bluetooth and all my headphone reviews, click HERE.