Category Archives: Audio

Focal Spark Wireless Earphones Review

Welcome to my review of the Focal Spark Wireless earphones. The Focal Spark Wireless earphones retail for £89.99.

Key Features

– Lightweight and comfortable
– Fastening system for sports use
– Available in Black, Silver & Rose Gold
– Exceptional performance / price ratio
– 3-button remote control with omnidirectional microphone – works with windows, android & iOS
– Bluetooth 4.1
– Impedance 16 ohms
– Sensitivity 103db
– Battery – up to 8 hours

Main Review

Conclusion

Focal have produced a lovely wireless earphone, using their hi-end audio pedigree.

Latest pricing on Amazon UK

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iFi Audio xDSD Review – Bluetooth Hi-Res DAC & Amplifier with MQA

Welcome to my review of the iFi Audio xDSD. The iFi Audio xDSD retails for £299.

Key Features/Specifications

– Wirelessly connect any smartphone or digital audio player to wired headphones.
– APT-X and AAC Bluetooth streaming receiver.
– USB type A OTG/CCK connector.
– 3.5mm coaxial/TOSLINK combo S/PDIF input.
– Sensitive IEMs are super quiet using iFi Audio Cyberdrive circuit design (incorporates the iFi exclusive OV4627 ultra low noise FET input Op-Amp and W990VST digitally controlled stepped attenuator) which puts the analogue volume under digital control.
– Natively playback Hi-Res audio with iFi Audio signature Burr Brown digital to analog converter chip. Supports native PCM 384, quad DSD 256, and MQA.
– 3.5mm balanced output works with single ended connections and cuts crosstalk in half.
– XBass – cleans up and restore a rich, deeper bass line.
– 3D Matrix- recreates the recording’s original sound field.
– Two modes – speakers or headphones.
– Up to 10 hours battery life.
– MQA included. Stream Tidal with ease.
– True Native® playback of all music formats from MP3 to DSD512, PCM768 and 2xDXD.
– Separate power input (micro USB) to charge its own internal battery, it does not draw from your smartphone
– Dynamic Range > 113dB (A)
– Output power – 2.82V/500 mW @ 16 Ohm, 3.7V/270 mW @ 50 Ohm, 3.8V/48 mW @ 300 Ohm, 3.8V/24 mW @ 600 Ohm
– Line out Level – 2.1V @ 0dBFS
– Dimensions 95(l) x 67(w) x 19(h) mm
– Weight 127g

Main Review

Conclusion

The iFi Audio xDSD is a cracking versatile piece of kit and highly recommended.

iFi Audio xDSD on Amazon UK

Huawei Mate 20 Pro Audio Review – Bluetooth, Loudspeaker, USB C Earphones, DACs & Dongles

Welcome to my Huawei Mate 20 Pro Audio review. This review looks at the audio quality covering bluetooth, loudspeaker, the included USB C earphones and USB C to 3.5mm dongle, using other USB C dongles and DACs and which headphones are best.

Key Audio Features

– 32-bit/384kHz audio
– Active noise cancellation with dedicated mic
– Bluetooth 5.0, BLE, SBC, AAC, aptX, aptX HD, LDAC and HWA Audio
– USB 3.1, Type-C 1.0 reversible connector, USB On-The-Go
– DivX/XviD/MP4/H.265/WMV player
– MP3/eAAC+/WMA/WAV/FLAC player

So how does all the above specs translate into audio quality. Lets take a close up look now.

If you wish to get a Huawei Mate 20 Pro and all accessories, check out the options on Amazon UK

Yamaha MusicCast 50 Wireless Multiroom Speaker with Amazon Alexa & AirPlay – Unboxing & First Impressions

Welcome to my unboxing and first impressions of the Yamaha MusicCast 50 wireless speaker with Amazon Alexa voice control built in. The Yamaha MusicCast 50 retails for around £449.

The MusicCast 50 offers a wide range of options to listen to your favourite sounds with ease. It can be used as a standalone speaker, paired, or acting as surround speakers with a compatible MusicCast AV receiver or sound bar. The MusicCast 50 is one of the new speakers from Yamaha released in August 2018. Other features include –

– Music streaming services built-in
– MusicCast multi-room technology
– Alexa voice control compatibility* (*Availability varies by region)
– High-Resolution Audio
– Connect to a TV for upgraded sound
– Stereo pairing (requires 2 units)
– Ability to be used as surround speakers with an AV receiver or sound bar* (*Select MusicCast models only)
– Soft-touch, simple presets for instant playback
– Alarm

Built in streaming services include Spotify, Deezer, Tidal, Pandora, Napster, SiriusXM and qobuz. Apart from the multi-room options, Yamaha provide an app that allows full control of the speaker, its nultiroom options and more. MusicCast takes the headache out of multi-room audio. Simply connect all MusicCast devices to the same network and start sharing audio throughout the home. Apart from built in WiFi, it has bluetooth and Apple AirPlay. With all this functionlity, this really makes this speaker a great offering. It also puts out a respectable 70W of music.

Video

Conclusion

The Yamaha MusicCast 50 is an extremely powerful wireless speaker. It is extremely versatile too offering tons of different ways to connect to it, Amazon Alexa voice control, bluetooth and AirPlay. It is also available in black and white finishes.

Buy from Amazon UK – Click HERE.

Yamaha MusicCast 20 Wireless Speaker with Amazon Alexa & AirPlay – Unboxing & First Impressions

Welcome to my unboxing and first impressions of the Yamaha MusicCast 20 wireless speaker with Amazon Alexa voice control built in. The Yamaha MusicCast 20 retails for around £199.

The MusicCast 20 offers a wide range of options to listen to your favourite sounds with ease. It can be used as a standalone speaker, paired, or acting as surround speakers with a compatible MusicCast AV receiver or sound bar. The MusicCast 20 is one of the new speakers from Yamaha released in August 2018. Other features include –

– Music streaming services built-in
– MusicCast multi-room technology
– Alexa voice control compatibility* (*Availability varies by region)
– High-Resolution Audio
– Stereo pairing (requires 2 units)
– Ability to be used as surround speakers with an AV receiver or sound bar* (*Select MusicCast models only)
– Soft-touch, simple presets for instant playback
– Alarm

Built in streaming services include Spotify, Deezer, Tidal, Pandora, Napster, SiriusXM and qobuz. Apart from the multi-room options, Yamaha provide an app that allows full control of the speaker, its nultiroom options and more. Apart from built in WiFi, it has bluetooth and Apple AirPlay. With all this functionlity, this really makes this speaker a great offering. It also puts out a respectable 40W of music.

Video

Conclusion

At £199, the Yamaha MusicCast 20 represents great value for money. It is extremely versatile too offering tons of different ways to connect to it, Amazon Alexa voice control, bluetooth and AirPlay. It is also available in black and white finishes.

Buy from Amazon UK – Click HERE.

Focal Clear Headphones Review – £1,400 of Audiophile Nirvana

Welcome to my review of the Focal Clear Headphones.

The Key Features

– Low Impedanceat 55 ohms so easier to drive
– 104db sensitivity
– Frequency – 5Hz to 28kHz
– Leather and microfibre perforated headband
– 20mm memory foam cushion with a perforated micro fibre fabric
– The ‘M’-shape Aluminum/Magnesium (patent pending) dome with a new copper voice coil

Music Tracks Used for Review

– Wynton Marsalis and Eric Clapton – Play the Blues Album , Careless Love – Epic, Moving, great separation

– Seasick Steve – You Can’t Teach an Old Dog New Tricks – husky voice sounded wonderful.

– Amy Winehouse – I heard Love is Blind – wonderful guitar strings, vocals, layering, hidden depths of the music.

– Katie Melua & Eva Cassidy – What a Wonderful World – awesome vocals and piano.

– Michael Buble – Cry me a River – scale and drama, excellent vocals and bass impact.

– Bastille , Bite Down – Great attack, moving.

– Audiomachine – The Lions Heart – impact, scale, bass, drama, superb performance.

– Philip Glass – Symphony no 8 (2005) – great soundstage, scale and drama. Excellent mids, treble and bass. Instruments clearly defined.

The Focal Clear headphones provides remarkable dynamics over the entire audio spectrum; bass that is always controlled, even at high volumes, and exemplary linearity in the high-end.

There appeared no sibilance or distortion with the Focal Clear headphones.

Video Review

Conclusion

Totally mesmerising to listen too. Focal have hit the perfect balance between detail and musical tone. My advice, book a world cruise and take these with you. Plus they come with a luxurious case, with high class finish, comfort, and decent accessories. Highly recommended.

Useful Links

Focal Headphones on Amazon UK
Focal Website

Sony WH-1000XM3 Wireless Headphones Review + Comparisons with other headphones

Welcome to my review of the brand new Sony WH-1000XM3. In my review I am going to compare these to the older Sony WH-1000XM2 and Bose QC35ii. The Sony WH-1000XM3 retail for £329.

I will also document the differences between these new Sony headphones and the older version.

Key Features

– Industry leading noise cancellation so the music sounds even better
– Amazing battery life of 30 hours and super quick charging so you’re never without your headphones
– Improved design to make the 1000XM3’s even more comfortable and lightweight
– High resolution audio packed with technology and features to give truly authentic sound
– Even smarter technology to keep your hands free and give you total control with Google Assistant
– 30 hours battery life. 10 mins quick charge provides 5 hours battery life.
– New Sony QN1 processor
– 40mm driver unit, dome type (CCAW Voice coil)
– DSEE HX music upscaler software
– 3.5mm Stereo Mini Jack
– Frequency Response wired – 4Hz-40,000Hz
– Frequency Response via bluetooth 20Hz – 20,000Hz (44.1kHz Sampling) / 20Hz – 40,000Hz (LDAC 96kHz Sampling, 990kbps)
– Frequency Response via active operation 4Hz-40,000Hz, passive operation included.
– 3.5mm Headphone cable is 1.2m, OFC strands, gold-plated stereo mini plug

Review

Sony is back with an update to the Sony WH-1000XM2. On paper the updates don’t seem extensive, but in reality the new WH-1000XM3 blows it away.

Firstly, Sony has improved the earcups and headband. The earcups are larger and more comfortable. The headband has more padding over the head, although it does make the headphones look cheaper. However, removing the steel from the previous model reduces the weight by 40g. This makes a difference and improves the overall comfort.

But headphones are about sound quality and in the case of these Sony headphones, also the noise cancellation. This year Sony introduces a processor into the headphones. And Sony does not disapoint with these headphones.

This year Sony has introducsed a processor into the headphones, called the Sony QN1. The Sony QN1 processor boosts the range of frequencies from which noise-cancellation occurs. This allows control over the sounds you can block while listening to your music.

The QN1 processor has a 32-bit audio signal processing. Add this to the headphones 40mm driver with its Liquid Crystal Polymer diaphragm. This allows for handling heavy beats and at the same time can reproduce a full range of frequencies up to 40 kHz. Even if you don’t have high-resolution music, DSEE HX intelligently upscale compressed music files giving your music a clear, rich sound. Sony’s LDAC codec transmits approximately three times more data than conventional Bluetooth, which enable the high-resolution audio content. The 1000XM3 on-ear headphones are packed with technology to get the most out of your music.

The WH-1000XM3 also comes with a high res audio cable to provide an incredible a wired listening experience.

Other options on these headphones include smart settings by adaptive sound control to optimise listening settings automatically based on your listening behaviour and environment. This also allows customisable controls based on your own preferences. The equaliser option is available using the Sony headphone connect app (works with Android and iOS). The app also provides firmware updates.

Touch controls. The Sony WH-1000XM3 include touch controls. By placing your hand on the headphone housing, you can quickly communicate with the outside world, without having to take your headphones off or adjust the volume too and a quick double-tap enables hands-free calling. And now, with the google assistant, you have an ideal control and get access to even more information by using your voice.

For me the QN1 processor makes a large improvement to the sound and noise cancellation to the point that it makes the older Sony WH-1000XM2 sound dull! That’s crazy.

What’s in the Box

– Sony WH1000XM3 Headphones
– Plug Adaptor for In-flight usw
– Headphone cable (approx. 1.5m, OFC strands, gold-plated stereo mini plug)
– USB Cable C
– Carrying Case
– Operating Instructions

Review

Conclusion

The Sony WH-1000XM3 are truly an amazing headphone and a leap forward from their previous model. This is a must buy headphone!

Buy Sony WH-1000XM3 on Amazon UK
Buy previous model Sony WH-1000XM2 and saves some money via Amazon UK

Sony WH-1000XM3 vs Bose QC35II

Previous Headphone Reviews

Sony MDR-XB70BT Extra Bass In-Ear Bluetooth Headphones Review – Feel Your Music!

Welcome to my review of the Sony MDR-XB70BT Extra Bass In-Ear Bluetooth Headphones. I decided to look at something less audiophile in design, yet with tons of fun. After testing the Sony MDR-XB70BT I can say these are an absolute blast if you want deep bass that makes your sense/feel your music.

Key Features

– High-quality wireless freedom: Enjoy deep punchy bass while maintaining sound clarity across the spectrum
– Convenient neckband design: Slim and lightweight with music/calls controls in the band
– Hands-free calls: Clear voice with built in mic and HD Voice support
– 9 hours battery life. EXTRA BASS sound with deep, punchy low end
– Additional earbud sizes included for individual fit
– 12 mm (Dome Type) driver type
– 4 Hz-24,000 Hz Frequency Respone
– 9 hours battery, 2.5 hours to fully recharge

The Sony MDR-XB70BT normally retail for £75, although at time of writing this review there were on offer for £52. Worth checking out the current price as it does vary.

Video Review

Conclusion

Bass lovers will love these earphones. In fact, many more people might enjoy these too.

FYI. The next headphone to be reviewed next week is the new Sony flagship, the WH-1000XM3 with comparisons to the Bose QC35ii and the older WH-1000XM2. I also have some Hi-Fi audiophile headphones being reviewed soon too.

Pick up the Sony MDR-XB70BT on Amazon UK Click HERE.

Focal announces 3 new premium Hi-Fi speakers – Kanta N°1, Kanta N°3 and Kanta Center

The Kanta family has expanded: Focal is delighted to unveil its entire range of high-fidelity loudspeakers. After the resounding success of Kanta N°2 in October 2017, the French acoustics brand has launched three new Premium Hi-Fi loudspeakers: Kanta N°1, Kanta N°3 and Kanta Center. Once again, their DNA is marked by the impressive performance achieved by exclusive Focal technology. These three new products will be showcased to the public for the first time at the CEDIA Expo show on September 6, 2018.

Since the launch, Kanta N°2 has been widely acclaimed by the press and won numerous awards. This Premium loudspeaker has become a market leader thanks to technologies forged by Focal Research: a Flax cone combined with a Beryllium inverted dome tweeter provides exceptionally clear and precise sound rendering. Its bold design has also seduced music lovers, proving yet again that, at Focal, design is a close ally of acoustic performance.

A STRUCTURED OFFER With the launch of Sopra four years ago, Focal provided an allround solution and extremely coherent sound architecture; today it goes one step further with Kanta. This range of loudspeakers is now made up of four models and is designed for music lovers who love listening to their sound systems, as well as for film fans searching for a Home Cinema set-up with a striking design. They contain the same technologies as Kanta N°2: a speaker driver with flax cone, an IAL 3 Beryllium tweeter that combines the IAL (Infinite Acoustic Loading) and IHL (Infinite Horn Loading) tweeters, features, a TMD (Tuned Mass Damper) suspension and an NIC (Neutral Inductance Circuit) motor.

Kanta N°1 is the Premium solution for rooms under 269 square ft² (25m2). This discreet loudspeaker is particularly suited to a bookcase setting. When positioned in an enclosed space such as this, or near to a wall, a piece of foam can be slid into the port, which will have the effect of optimising the bass. It can also be installed on a stand. UK retail £4,499.

Kanta N°2, launched in October 2017, best displays its potential in rooms measuring 269 to 431 ft² (25 to 40m2). UK retail £6,999.

Kanta N°3 is the gold standard of this line. Generating power and bass that are structured and generous, this will be the perfect choice for larger rooms of up to 861 square ft² (80m2). The technological innovations in these speaker drivers make it possible to recreate neutrality in the midrange with higher definition. The latest generation IAL tweeter reproduces the tiniest details with clinical precision. UK retail £8,999.

ENJOY A HOME CINEMA EXPERIENCE WITH KANTA Finally, Kanta Center (UK retail £2,299) is the ideal complement to a traditional system, regardless of the configuration considered for the front and rear loudspeakers within the Kanta range. Indeed, its ability to reproduce the vocal range with extreme neutrality, at both low and very high volumes, makes it a formidable weapon in any premium Home Cinema set-up. Whatever the film’s background noise, film fans will be surprised by the sound clarity and speech intelligibility, both of which are far superior to the norm. For a top of the range Home Cinema configuration, the Sub 1000 F subwoofer, also featuring a flax cone, is the ideal addition. Its extended infrasound frequency response, its high SPL capacity and its stable tonal balance, even at very high volume, will immerse you deep into the heart of the action. When combined with a set of classic loudspeakers, Kanta Center and the Sub 1000 F form an extremely structured system, which will provide cinema lovers with a fully immersive experience. The sound finesse, treble precision and bass generation will certainly set tongues wagging. And in a system linked up with the 300ICW4 in-ceiling loudspeakers, the most exacting film fans will enjoy an incredible 3D audio experience in Dolby Atmos, DTS X or Auro-3D. Guaranteed to blow you away…

1MORE Triple Drivers Earphones Review – THX Certified – Sound so powerful it’ll blow your mind!

Welcome to my review of the 1MORE Triple Driver earphone.

The Key Specifications

– Model – 1MORE Triple Driver IE E1001
– Impedance – 32 ohm
– Sensitivtiy – 99db
– Frequency Range – 20-40,000 Hz
– Cable – Enameled Copper Wire
– THX Certified
– 3 Drivers. 1 x dynamic driver and 2 x dual balanced armatures
– Patented “triple-layered” design in dynamic drivers with dual PET layers and inner aerospace metal layer for clear human voice
– Expertly tuned by four time Grammy winning sound engineer Luca Bignardi

The 1MORE Triple Driver earphone is made from an aluminium alloy, making them lightweight and comfortable. In the box there are 9 different sets of ear tips. 6 x silicone and 3 x foam, although the ones fitted by default worked great for me.

The earphones were the first THX certified earphones. The are also Hi-Res. They have won at least 12 media awards and recommendations and 17 international design awards over 4 years. That’s quite an impressive feat.

Opening the box, reveals a beautiful presentation. As we all know, presentation shows good attention to detail, but these are earphones, so sound is what ultimately matters. And OMG, the 1MORE Triple drivers delivery sound with authority and depth. I used these with an iPhone 6S, Samsung Galaxy S9, iPad Pro 10.5, Shanling MO and Shanling MO/Q5 combo. I listened to every genre and watched a few movies on Netflix using my Galaxy S9.

The 1MORE Triple drivers have lovely bass with good treble and mids. Being THX certified makes using these for movies ideal too. I listened to rock, jazz, classical, blues, dance and more with these earphones and just loved the presentation and quality. When I used them with even more powerful amplifcation the treble and mids were so clear.

Now have a look at my video review for more thoughts and a closer look.

Video Review

Conclusion

The 1MORE Triple driver earphone is highly recommended. It delivers satsiying sound across the entire spectrum and shows why the 3.5mm headphone jack will continue to live on. These have replaced all my existing wired earphones too!

Useful Links

Latest pricing on 1MORE Triple Driver Earphones on Amazon UK