Category Archives: Audio

Braun Audio returns with the reinvention of its classic LE speakers from 1959 – full info

After 28 years away from the audio category, Braun Audio marks its return with a timeless reinvention of its classic LE speakers from 1959.

The LE range comprises of three speakers, the LE01, LE02 and LE03, and will be available to purchase in black or white from October. The perfect combination of form and function, the range is eye-catching without being intrusive: offering the perfect balance of unparalleled performance in a minimalist form, showcasing the rigour of German craftsmanship. The clear, precise Braun sound of today has been achieved through the implementation of a bespoke developed DSP (Digital Signal Processing) pipeline in conjunction with high power ARM computing cores. It is then hand-tuned in Germany by a world-class audio engineering team.

As the LE 1 of 1959 utilised audio technologies widely upheld to be the best available of the time, the reimagined LE series leverages the cutting-edge of today’s advanced audio technologies. Balanced Mode Radiators (BMRs) used in the new LE speakers are key to delivering their exceptional audio reproduction. BMRs uniquely combine wide vertical and horizontal dispersion to deliver a near 180-degree soundstage, meaning that the units are always easy to position without the worry of a specific sweet spot of traditional speakers. Custom designed ultra-low-profile woofers, with powerful neodymium motors and rigid lightweight aluminium cones, offer a highly detailed and transient bass performance aligned with bespoke passive bass radiators. Rather than simply use off the shelf, motor-less, passive bass radiators, Braun’s engineering team has developed bespoke, high-mass and high-excursion, parts that tune the speakers to deliver exceptionally deep and punchy bass within the LE range’s slim cabinet design.

These have a dual progressive linear-suspension construction for increased control and reduced distortion. In conjunction with the LE range’s woofers and passive radiators, the use of BMRs enable truly roomfilling performance for each model of the new LE speakers. With latest generation class-D amplifiers and switching power-supplies, BMRs and low-profile aluminium high-excursion woofers mated to customised passive bass radiators, the Braun LE range delivers 21st century audio clarity, sound dispersion and bandwidth commensurate with the timeless, slim-form LE loudspeaker design.

The LE speakers have multi-room functionality, as well as ability to be wirelessly stereo paired. Individually, when positioned in landscape mode, LE01 and LE02 will perform as perfect integrated stereo speakers. When in portrait orientation, using floor stands or wall mounts, they can be configured into a stereo pair with each speaker assuming single audio channel duties (left or right). Placement EQ settings in the mobile app will tailor the playback dependent on where the speaker is in the room to achieve the authentic Braun sound. The Braun Audio app, available for iOS and Android, will also allow for additional manual fine-tuning to deliver preferred levels of bass and treble. The LE series offers more than a premium sound experience. With the Google Assistant built-in, you can play music, find answers on Google Search, manage everyday tasks and easily control smart devices around your home – just by using your voice.

The range features the latest solution for voice control performance: TalkTo by DSP Concepts. TalkTo utilises Multichannel Acoustic Echo Canceller software, which cancels out noise from the speaker so the microphones can accurately hear the user’s voice. This works in conjunction with the TalkTo Adaptive Interference Canceller, which cancels out noise produced by sources external to the speaker e.g. an air conditioner or television set. While voice assistants offer many modern conveniences, there are times when privacy is required.

Exemplifying Braun’s values of honest design, the LE range has been engineered to ensure voice control is always on your terms. Each speaker has a dedicated privacy button that physically disconnects the microphones, guaranteeing complete peace of mind. When privacy mode is enabled, the button and LEDs on the front of the speaker illuminate and are subtly visible from anywhere in the room.

With Chromecast built-in, the LE range supports over 300 streaming services, while regular software updates ensure system longevity. Each speaker’s premium machined aluminium casing is beautiful to the touch, while being highly durable. Their simple, minimalist button configuration and LED sequences are intuitive and embody the perfect blend of aesthetics and utility. This considered design extends to accessories like wall mounts and floor stands, which elegantly resolve cable management and offer the flexibility of placement around the home.

My review will be coming in due course.

Sony unveils WF-1000XM3 its truly wireless flagship noise-cancelling earbuds – Full Details incl video

Sony’s flagship noise-cancelling headphones, the WH-1000XM3 are the best noise cancelling/hi res wireless headphones on the market. Now Sony is adding another member to the family in the form of true wireless earphones.

Sony took the naming convention from the WH-1000XM3 and called its new flagship earphone the similarly Sony WF-1000XM3. Sony is promising the same quality as its WH-1000XM3.

So how do these new true wireless earphones work. Well a pair of external microphones are located on each bud and feed external noise to the dedicated QN1e noise-cancelling chip. This chip is an upgrade on the WH-1000XM3’s QN1 chip, where it intelligently blocks out background noise and ambience.

This chip is responsible for 24-bit digital-to-audio conversion.Sony has also adopted Apple’s AirPod connection arrangement, whereby both buds connect directly to the device, instead of one bud connecting to the device, and then the other buds connects to that bud. This should provide a stable connection.

6 hours battery life, 3 more full charges from the case, providing 24 hours in total. A 10 min quick charge provides 90 mins usage.

Price. Expensive. Around $230.

Image credits – Sony

Powerbeats Pro vs AirPods vs Samsung Galaxy Buds

Welcome to my review and comparison of the Powerbeats Pro wireless earphones. These are then compared to the AirPods and Samsung Galaxy Buds.

Airpods

– physical size – smallest, weight 4 grams each airpod case is 40 grams, one size fits all, may not fit you , only in white.
– no need to tap, just say Hey Siri , use Siri to raise volume etc.
– charging, qi wireless an option, 5 hours or 3 hours of calls, case holds total 24 hours battery life, can get a version with a qi wireless case, lightning cable otherwise.
– quick charge – 15 minutes in the case equals up to 3 hours of listening time4 or up to 2 hours of talk time.
– connection Apple H1 headphone chip, AirPods use optical sensors and motion accelerometers to detect when they’re in your ears. Whether you’re using both AirPods or just one, the H1 chip automatically routes the audio and engages the microphone. And when you’re on a call or talking to Siri, an additional speech-detecting accelerometer works with beamforming microphones to filter out external noise and focus on the sound of your voice.
– ease of use – easy pairing on Apple gear, than synced over icloud to all other Apple gear, quick switching, pairs to android, easily too with button, can use individually
– noise cancellation – none.
– audio quality – clear and crisp, good for audio books, voice calls excellent, very low latency.
– Cost £170 without qi case , £200 with the case.

Powerbeats Pro

– physical size – largest of bunch, huge case, Ear tips with four size options, in black and other colours soon, comfy due to design, wont fall out.

– press and hold Beats button on either side for voice assistant
– no need to tap , hey siri built in, other voice assistant like those on android, just press the Beats button.
– Charging – no wireless charging – 9 hours time , 5 mins quick charge gives 1.5 hours battery, Lightning to USB-A charging cable
– connection again Apple H1 headphone chip enhanced phone call performance and call handling from either earbud, easy pairing on apple gear, syncs across icloud
– ease of use – adjustable, secure-fit earhooks for lightweight comfort and stability
– reinforced design for sweat and water resistance during tough workouts, each side has exact same controls
– passive noise cacellations
– voice clarity on calls is excellent, the best of 3
– audio quality the best of all 3. balanced sound with a slight bass , very low latency
– Cost £220

Galaxy Buds

– physiscal size – middle of the road, ear tips in box, and wing tips, dont need them as comfy to wear and stay in.

– press and hold touch button for voice assistnat
– charging – either using cradle with usb a, or qi charging , 15 mins gets 1.5 hours
– connection – 6 hours , then another 7 hours with case
– connection – excellent, occassionally drop , easy pairing with samsung app, app does fimwares, had two, equaliser options, dynamic is best, and ambient sound option as well.
– ease of use – touch controls, can be configured, splash resistant
– passive noise cancellation
– poor voice call clarity outside
– good audio, some latency, more on some phones than others.
– cost £130 although deals are even lower

Video Review

Conclusion

The Powerbeats Pro are the best wireless earphones that cover all the basics and provide a good audio quality. Recommended.

Useful Links

Powerbeats Pro Latest info & pricing on Amazon UK

AirPods latest info & pricing on Amazon UK

Samsung Galaxy Buds latest info & pricing

Sennheiser debuts its first wireless gaming headset, the GSP 670 – Full Details

The low-latency technology, developed by Sennheiser, ensures that you experience a stable, uninterrupted near-zero delay connection that you can always rely on for PC and PlayStation® 4. Thanks to additional Bluetooth® connectivity, the headset can be paired simultaneously to compatible devices such as smartphones or tablets. Pick up calls at the touch of a button and get seamlessly switched back to the low-latency connection and your game when you hang up.

The speaker system of the GSP 670 combines over 70 years of audio know-how, while fulfilling the needs of a modern gaming headset. The result is a warm deep bass without compromising the mid-range and high frequencies. This allows you to hear every detail and react even faster. Customize the sound to your liking with the Sennheiser Gaming Suite and turn on 7.1 Surround Sound for the ultimate audio experience.

With over 20 hours run time over Bluetooth® 5, and 16 hours using the low-latency connection, the battery life of the GSP 670 will last for even the longest gaming session. In case the GSP 670 runs out of battery, you can simultaneously game and charge for uninterrupted game play. The USB quick charge allows for two hours of wireless usage after only seven minutes of charging.

The GSP 670 features the best in class microphone. Developed in house the advanced noise-cancelling microphone minimizes background noise. The flexible boomarm can be adjusted to any head shape for optimal pick up, ensuring that you will be transmitting in broadcast quality. To mute, simply lift the boomarm and you’re off the air.

Sennheiser Headphones on Amazon UK.

iFi Audio xCan Portable Power Amp vs iFi Audio xDSD Portable DAC Amp – Review & All the Differences!

Welcome to my review and comparison between the iFi Audio xCAN and xDSD.

Intro – What are they?

xCAN is a dual-mono portable headphone amplifier with up to 1,000mW of power per channel plus it also includes bluetooth. It retails for £299.

xDSD is portable headphone amp DAC that can playback high-quality digital audio file formats. Hi-Res True Native playback for all music formats from MP3 to DSD512, PCM768 and 2xDXD. It retails for £399.

Connections

xCAN – digital SPDIF or via analogue 2.5/3.5mm jack connection. iFi’s S-Balanced technology means that you gain the advantages of a balanced connection even when using an unbalanced one.

xDSD only 3.5mm jack using iFi’s S-Balanced® circuit delivers maximum performance from single-ended and balanced headphones alike. You can connect to Apple devices using the CCK Lightning to USB adapter. The design of the xDSD allows for a secure fit. See video below for more info. The 3.5mm coaxial/TOSLINK combo SPDIF input allows connections to older DAPs and CD players.

Extra Features

xCAN 3D+® opens up your music to give you the spaciousness of a live-concert atmosphere. and XBass Ⅱ® analogue bass correction system corrects headphone/speaker bass response to deliver a more natural sound to the midrange frequencies.
xDSD has 3D+ and the original XBass+

xCAN uses the parent company AMR’s Global Master Timing® (GMT)/ Memory Buffer System. solves the problem of digital SPDIF jitter.

xCAN USB C to charge
xDSD micro USB to charge

Bluetooth

xCAN – ESS Sabre 44.1/48k 16-Bit (AAC, aptX, aptX LL and SBC)
xDSD – AAC & APT-X

Battery

xCAN – 18 hours, 12 hours with bluetooth
xDSD 10 hours

Power

xCAN upto 1,000mw in balanced at 32 ohms, 6 volts max too (3 volts in s balanced mode/ 600mw)
xDSD upto 500mw but at 16 ohms, 270mw at 50 ohms, remember xCAN was 1,000mw at 32 ohms so significantly more powerful. Max voltage 3.8 volts.

Weight

xCAN / xDSD both weigh 127g

Sound Quality

xCAN the extra oomph really make the xCan squeeze every last drop out of your headphones. From my Fiio FA7 and AKG and Sennheiser HD600, all sounded excellent. Excellent bass extension, seperations and more. Genres from dance, classical and jass , rock all handled with aplomb. Like everything, all depends on the quality of the source, but then there is bluetooth. This is a good sounding option, iFi have gone to a lot of trouble to get the best sonically. Not all Bluetooth is made equally. Highly convienant having bluetooth. Having the Xbass and 3D+ really is a godsend too. Some headphones like my AKG really benefit from a slight bass boost.

For an extra £100.

xDSD gives you a decent DAC with good amp but not as powerful as the xCAN. However, partnering both together will bring a big smile on your face.

Of course, if you want a great DAC but extreme power to drive any headphone, iFi Audio have you covered with the micro iDSD Black Label, with a max of 10 volts, 4,000mW of power at 16 ohms. This costs £599, is much bigger but still portable.

Video Review and Comparison

Conclusion

The iFi Audio xCAN is a fantastic portable headphone amplifier and highly recommended. If you need a decent DAC and amp then look no further than the xDSD.

Useful Links

For more information and specs, click on the respective links below.

xCAN on Amazon UK
xDSD on Amazon UK
Micro iDSD Black Label on Amazon UK

BenQ treVolo S – Portable Electrostatic Bluetooth Speaker REVIEW – Redefining sound!

Welcome to my review of the BenQ treVolo S Portable Electrostatic Bluetooth Speaker. The BenQ treVolo S retails for £149 / $199.

It is the world’s smallest portable Bluetooth speaker featuring Electrostatic Speaker Technology. Electrostatic speakers deliver superb clarity and accuracy. The vertical dispersion of the entire thin-film diaphragm offers bi-directional sound projection for a more detailed audio performance and accurate delivery of natural, crisp and clear sounds. The dual amplifiers and dual woofers finish the sound off.

Key Features / Specs

– Unique electrostatic speaker technology
– Dual 12w woofers and dual amplifiers
– Lossless music playback via USB connection
– Several playback modes – duo mode (pair two treVolo S for stereo sound), standard and non distorted 3D sound
– NFC
– USB DAC/charging
– Batteries last up to 18 hours on a charge
– Bluetooth 4.2 with AAC codec support
– Input Types‎ – 3.5 mm stereo input / USB audio‎
– Key Definition‎s – Power, BT pairing, Volume +, Volume -,3D (mode), play/pause‎
– LED Indicator‎ Power key : Red LED x1; Green x1 ,BT Pairing Key : Blue LED x1‎
– Dimension‎s 96.3x 157.5 x 63.2mm (Closed)‎
– Weight 1kg‎

After removing the treVolo S from its packaging, I was pleasantly surprised at the solid construction. The electrostatic speakers open out from the sides of the speaker (watch video to fully appreciate the design, operation and sound)

There are a few ways to connect to the speaker. NFC for quick pairing, standard bluetooth or via USB for the highest quality sound. There is an android and iOS app available to assist with linking another speaker together and well as quickly toggling between standard and non distorted 3D sound.

As the treVolo S uses electrostatic speaker technology, (this is normally found in high-end speaker systems), this means it has a really low distortion rate that is only one-tenth of the rate of conventional speakers. There is also no cabinet resonance. One of the key sound characteristics of electrostatic speakers, is the natural and spacious sound. Listening to a variety of genres with the treVolo S and this sound quality is obvious from the get go and a joy to listen to.

Genres auditioned. Classical, jazz, blues, rock and pop. Listening to some of my favourite classical pieces, the treVolo S has an wonderful transparency and emotion. Clear vocals and mid range with just the right amount of bass. Female jazz singers sounded superb. With rock and pop, once gain great clarity with just the right amount of bass. These do not have a V shaped sound with over compensated bass. The treVolo S is designed to play high quality lossless music, yet even via bluetooth its reproduction is beautiful.

As a tip for placement, do not push these back against a wall. Electrostatic speakers emit sound from both sides, so leave some space behind and place speakers at ear level when listening.

Video Review

Conclusion

Gorgeous sound and design. Highly recommended. 9.5/10.

Useful Links

BenQ treVolo S on Amazon UK – Click HERE
BenQ treVolo S on Amazon US – Click HERE.
BenQ website

Fiio BTR3 Review – Bluetooth Headphone Amp for converting wired into wireless headphones!

Welcome to my review of the Fiio BTR3 Bluetooth Headphone Amp adapter and USB DAC. The Fiio BTR3 retails for £61.99.

The Key Features

– integrated clip

– small size

– upgradeable firmware

– all available Bluetooth codecs supported

– good sound

– mic for calls

– voice assistant support

Video Review

Latest pricing on Amazon UK and more info click HERE.

iFi Audio micro iDSD Black Label DAC Review – A Power Beast

Welcome to my review of the iFi Audio micro iDSD Black Label DAC. The iFi Audio micro iDSD BL labels retails for £599.

Key Features

– Burr Brown chipset plays high resolution music files natively, including Octa-DSD512, PCM768, and Double DXD
– Up to 10V, 4000mW of power
– Built-in iEMatch for sensitive in-ear monitors and Bit Perfect sound
– Portable with up to 12 hours of playback
– 1.5A SmartPower USB to charge your smart device
– 3D+ and XBass+
– AMR Global Master Timing femto-precision clock system upgraded for ‘super low’ phase-noise and jitter
– MQA support

Video Review

Conclusion

The iFi Audio micro iDSD BL is one hell of a DAC and amp that is able to drive any headphone to decent levels. As a desktop device it works extremely well, yet it can be used as a portable device that lasts 12 hours on battery. Highly recommended.

For more info and the latest pricing on Amazon UK, click HERE.

Meze Empyrean Headphones Review – One of the Best Headphones in the World!

Welcome to my review of the $2,999 Meze Empyrean Headphones.

Key Specifications & Features

– Drivers – Rinaro Isodynamic Hybrid Array
– Style – Open Circumaural
– Frequeny range – 4 – 110,000 Hz
– Impedance Ohms 31.6
– Nominal SPL 100 dB (1 mW/1kHz)
– Max SPL 130db

Some background behind the Meze Empyrean headphones and what makes them special. Meze Audio collaborated with Rinaro, and in doing so created lightest and most advanced planar magnetic drivers in the world.

The Empyrean Driver combines individual switchback and spiral-shaped voice coils. This unique shape allows sound to be targeted with more accuracy around the natural form of the ear. The frame is fiberglass infused ABS. The driver is a hybrid magnetic array, symmetrically placed on each side of the diaphragm, with neodymium magnets specifically arranged into a hybrid array to create efficient isodynamic magnetic field required for a uniform activation across the whole diaphragm surface.

The diaphragm is manufactured from a custom developed isotropic thermally stabilised polymer with a conductive layer. End result is an ultralight yet rigid diaphragm has been achieved. The switchback coil is more efficient at reproducing lower frequencies and is positioned in the upper part of the driver. The spiral coil is more efficient at reproducing middle-high frequencies and is positioned directly over the ear canal enabling more direct sound waves to enter the ear without any time delays. Total harmonic distortion (THD) measures under 0.1% in the whole frequency range. Upper-frequency limit of audio reproduction is a massive 110,000 Hz. They are also ultra efficient at 100db@1mw/1kHz , meaning you get the high performance without needing amplification.

They are also a patent pending isodynamic hybrid array driver, which is a world’s first in planar magnetic headphones.

The rest of the headphone comprises of anatomically designed ovate earcups and an anthropometric earpad design. The Isomagnetic ear cup attachment utilises the demagnetising field generated by the driver to hold the ear cup in place whilst also redirecting the magnetic field back into the driver and improving driver efficiency. Patented ferromagnetic plates channel the magnetic field back into the driver, increasing output.

The pressure distribution wings consist of a carbon fibre headband and leather headrest and is the most comfortable headphone I have ever worn. The main skeleton of the headphone is made from a single piece of sculpted aluminium, that takes 20 hours in a CNC machine. The entire headphone is hand assembled.

The testing process used amps from Audio GD, iFi Audio, Fiio BTR3 and a Honor View 20 smartphone. Tidal and tracks on my computer covering every genres were listened to. The main focus was with the following music –

– Orff Carmina Burana – Live from the Forbidden City – Shanghai Symphony Orchesta
– Diana Krall – Various
– Norah Jones – Varios
– Badflower – Ok I’n sick
– Bruce Springsteen – The Live Series
– Gary Clark – This Land

As mentioned before, the comfort of these headphones is off the charts. The most comfortable pair of headphones I have ever worn.

The sound experience. I am calling it an experience because that is exactly what the Meze Empyrean create. You sit back, forget you are wearing headphones and get absorbed into the music. Timing is phenomenal, fast, quick. The soundstage is large, precision placement of voices and instruments. Vocals sound inviting, dynamic and expressive. It didn’t matter what I chose, everything was a delight to hear. Mids and treble were delicate, not too forward either. There was no harshness in the treble. Bass was deep and dynamic and quick.

Opera is not a genre I listen to a lot, but the Carmina Burana was wondeful to listen to. In fact I had only planned to listen to the first track, but ended up listening to the entire album.

Another aspect of these headphones is just how easy they are to drive. Obviously, better amplification improves the overall performance, but with modest amps these still sounded excellent.

Video Review

Conclusion

The Meze Empyrean are in a class of their own. Not only are they one of the best headphones in the world, they are easy to drive, look magnificent, but they are so comfortable you could wear them for as long as you wanted. Verdict – just buy them!!

Useful Links

Meze Empyrean on Amazon UK
Meze Audio Website

Honor View 20 – Audio Review – Bluetooth, Loudspeaker and 3.5mm Headphones all tested

Welcome to my audio review of the Honor View 20.

My audio review will focus on the following aspects –

– Bluetooth quality and codecs

– Loudspeaker quality

– System Audio options

– 3.5mm headphone jack and recommended headphones to use

Don’t forget to check out my dedicated camera review and future posts on the Honor View 20.

Audio Review

Useful Links

Honor View 20 is currently on offer at Amazon, the 6gb and 8gb version, with a Honor Magic Watch included free of charge Amazon UK.