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All posts tagged "audio"

Friday, October 21, 2011

The Sweet Sound of Quality: Win a Set of $399 Audioengine A5+ Speakers

Posted by Jason Dunn in "Digital Home Events" @ 09:00 AM

I may be selling these sites and working full time for HTC now, but who says I can't have a little more fun giving away a great prize before I go? Last week I posted about the new Audioengine A5+ powered desktop speakers; the generous folks at Audioengine have offered up a set of these new speakers for a contest. With dual inputs (3.5mm and RCA, the latter of which is easily converted to an addition 3.5mm input with a cable) and a USB charging port, the A5+ speakers are a great companion to an endless variety of devices: desktop computers, laptop computers, tablets, smartphones, and yes, even the humble Zune. Ringing in at $399 USD, these are high-quality speakers that I guarantee will blow you away.

How do you win this contest? Simply post a comment to this discussion thread (one entry per person) telling me what your current audio solution for speakers is and how the Audioengine A5+ speakers will be better. One winner will be randomly selected from amongst all the entries and they'll get to chose either a set of black or white A5+ speakers. Due to the size and weight of this prize, it will only be shipped within the continental USA. The contest will remain open until Friday the 28th at 12 PM mountain time (GMT -7).

Best of luck everyone, and I look forward to reading some interesting entries. :-)

UPDATE: The contest is now over, and the winner is ITforSmallBiz. Thanks to everyone for entering!

Wednesday, October 12, 2011

Considering Wireless Speakers For Your Home Or Office?

Posted by Brad Wasson in "Digital Home Talk" @ 12:00 PM

"iHome manufactures dozens of Apple-oriented audio devices, ranging from headphones to speaker docks. The AirPlay-capable iW1 wireless speaker is by far the company's most advanced product, but its $300 price tag pits it against some tough competition, including the Sonos Play:3. Most people will stream music to the iW1 over their Wi-Fi network using Apple's AirPlay technology, or by docking an iOS device using the provided USB cable. But you can connect any audio source to the speaker using a 1/8-inch cable."

Making decisions about speakers is never an easy proposition. There are just so many options, performance levels, designs, and price points. If you are interested at all in the pro's and con's of various speaker systems, you will know that there is a lot of reading that can be done to form an opinion, and reviewing audio is somewhat subjective. If you are in the market for a wireless sound solution then the iHome iW1 speaker would be worth investigating. MaximumPC has evaluated the unit, and provided some comparison points with other systems, like the Bowers & Wilkins Zeppelin Air. The rechargeable battery in the iHome unit provides a useful and somewhat unique feature, but you'll have to hit the Read link to "hear" the whole story.

Wednesday, June 29, 2011

Home Theater In a Box: Reviews Of Three Recent Products

Posted by Brad Wasson in "Digital Home Talk" @ 04:00 PM

"If you're not ready to go whole hog with discrete components, Blu-ray home theater systems-also known as home theater in a box systems, or HTiBs-are an easy and affordable alternative."

Several years ago I purchased a Panasonic home theater in a box (back before Blu-ray and HDMI, mind you), and I have to say that I sure got a lot of mileage out of it. These convenient packages can be very cost effective solutions in many circumstances, but they are not for everyone. Gizmodo has posted a review of three recent systems: the Harman-Kardon BDS 800, the Sony BDV-HZ970W, and the LG LHB976. These systems range from about $500 to $1500, so you would expect a fair bit of variance in performance. Then again, you might be surprised to find out that, in the author's opinion, in this case cost is not always an indication of best overall price/performance.

Friday, April 1, 2011

Use the iPhone as an Audio Recorder for Your Video DSLR

Posted by Lee Yuan Sheng in "Digital Home Hardware & Accessories" @ 08:00 AM

"If you’ve shot any video on a DSLR you already know it’s not ideal. The form factor of the camera isn’t made for video and the need to manually focus on a moving subject can be tricky. One of the weakest parts is the camera is its microphone."

Audio is an important part of videos and movies, but the recent video DSLRs only treat audio like an afterthought. My own GH1 as auto-gain which cannot be turned off, and you can imagine how annoying it can be. So is using the iPhone a case of replacing a mediocre solution with another? Surprisingly, despite the poor quality of the iPhone's microphone (the author admits as much) the ability to move it off-camera does bring quite a few benefits, namely, no camera operation noise. There are also a couple of good recommendations in the article for those looking at better quality solutions without breaking the bank, so go check out the article!

Sunday, February 27, 2011

Altec Lansing InMotion Air Wireless Bluetooth Speaker System Reviewed

Posted by Jason Dunn in "Digital Home Hardware & Accessories" @ 01:00 PM

"Every year the gadget world is swamped by new buzz words, technological breakthroughs or product types that we simply must buy into. For music fans the must-have gadget is a dock and the buzz word it must now have is 'AirPlay' - Apple's wireless streaming connectivity capable of supporting lossless audio. So can we take a wireless speaker with none of this functionality seriously? Actually yes..."

Bluetooth-based speakers tend to be more on the "suck" side of the spectrum than the "awesome" side, but it seems Altec Lansing has pulled a rabbit out of their hat here and delivered a system that actually allows Bluetooth-transmitted audio to sound good. Go figure! If you've got a Bluetooth device and want to listen to music without having to connect it to a speaker dock, this looks like a good solution.

Friday, February 25, 2011

24-bit Audio: Why Better is not Always Better

Posted by Hooch Tan in "Digital Home News" @ 02:00 PM!5768446/why-24...e-bad-for-users

"Apple and other digital retailers are planning to offer 24-bit audio to consumers. It should be an easy sell; recording studios use 24-bit, it's how the music was mixed, and it's how the consumers should hear it. Right? Wrong. 24-bit audio might be the staple of recording studios, but there's a reason it should stay there."

Does everyone really need 24-bit audio? I am sure tha audiophiles will respond with a resounding yes, but us mere mortals have been living with 16 bit audio for quite some time. Sure, there is a market for better fidelity, but when many of us use stock earbuds or speakers, that extra quality might be lost. Of course, there are also other applications like playing music through your fancy home theatre or Beats headphones.

I think we have already reached the "good enough" point with 16-bit audio. It has served us well for decades and if we have been willing to live with lossy codecs on top of that, I do not think there is an appreciable enough jump in quality that 24-bit will be the next must have. That being said, I can easily see everyone switching to 24-bit audio simply because that is what is offered. If there is no increase in cost, why not? Storage is becoming less of a problem, and as for streaming, connection speeds have long outstripped what is needed for high quality audio. Unless, of course, you are worried about something like Usage Based Billing, in which case, you probably will lag behind and become some sort of backwater user in a backwater country.

Wednesday, August 11, 2010

College Students Willing to Pay More for Upgraded Laptop Audio

Posted by Chris Gohlke in "Laptop Thoughts News" @ 12:00 PM

"A study conducted by Dolby Laboratories pegs the fulcrum of change on the shifting notebook shopping tastes of the back-to-school crowd. Specifically, the survey cites the mindsets of college students as the harbinger of increased focus on punchy audio and media capability in notebooks. In a survey of 300 college students and 300 non-college students, the latter reported that they would likely spend $719 on a PC with an ideal audio setup; college students, however, tapped out at a Benji Franklin higher, $824."

Of course the reasoning behind this is pretty obvious. For many college students, their laptop is more than just their computer, it is their home entertainment system, so paying a premium for something that does the job is certainly in order. Still, no matter what the upgrade, nothing is going to beat a set of external speakers.

Friday, April 16, 2010

Everything You Always Wanted to Know About Cables?

Posted by Reid Kistler in "Digital Home Hardware & Accessories" @ 05:00 PM

"Everyone has had the experience of staring at the back of a machine, device, or gadget, scratching their head, gazing in bewilderment at some unfamiliar cable port. In this massive guide to the bizarre world of plugs and cables... we'll explain nearly every modern connector for computers, TVs, and audio equipment, including which ones to use when you have choices, and which ones you can easily adapt to fit others."

Until all equipment becomes wireless, connecting the gear in our Digital Homes will depend upon a variety of cables. has put together a "Giant Cable Guide" intended to help sort through the various types of cables and connecting ports that might be found in the typical home. The Guide is broken down into five categories of cables - Display, Proprietary, Peripheral, Audio/Video, and Networking - and includes advice on preferences (e.g.: when possible, use S-Video instead of Composite Video), adapters / converters, and methods that can be employed to add additional outlets to a given type of port. I found the article somewhat basic (or skimpy) overall, but it might still be a useful reference.

Tuesday, April 13, 2010

Jake Ludington's Audio and Video Answers eBook on Sale for $7

Posted by Jason Dunn in "Digital Home Events" @ 08:44 AM

"PC Audio and Video are frustrating. Over the years of writing my Digital Lifestyle newsletter I've answered hundreds of reader questions on everything from common Windows XP frustrations to specific issues in dealing with audio and video problems. Eliminating the frustrations quickly so you can get back to watching video, creating home movies, archiving your music collection or simply enjoying your computer is the primary aim of this ebook: Audio and Video Answers."

Jake Ludington is one of the most experienced digital audio/video guys I know - I go to him for answers when I'm stumped - and he's discounting his 200 page eBook from $47 down to $7 for a short time...the sale price ends on April 16th. If you'd like to expand your knowledge of digital audio and video, I'm certain this is worth your $7.

Monday, December 21, 2009

Scotty, Warpia My A/V - or Perhaps Video Only?

Posted by Reid Kistler in "Digital Home Hardware & Accessories" @ 09:00 AM

"Source R&D, a premier technology provider, announced today the availability of the Warpia Wireless USB Audio/Video (A/V) Display Adapter based on Wireless USB technology from Wisair, a leading provider of single-chip based Wireless USB solutions. The A/V Set enables users to enjoy watching and sharing any PC and Internet content wirelessly on a Flat Screen TV, projector or monitor, including HD movies and streaming Internet video."

This is a computer-to-display wireless kit that uses an USB adapter / transmitter at the computer, and a receiver / adapter at your display. It seems like primarily a business presentation product, but most computers have DVD, or even Blu-ray players, so home use is also possible. Note that Warpia sells two similar products, available either direct or from select resellers: one is video only, while the other provides both audio and video. User feedback, on Amazon, is very good for the A/V version, but mixed for the video only version, albeit with only a handful of users for either. In any event, be certain to select the model that fits your needs should you decide to purchase! Would this, or a similar product, have any appeal to you for home use?

Wednesday, October 7, 2009

Hands on with the Myine IRA Internet Radio

Posted by Don Tolson in "Digital Home Hardware & Accessories" @ 08:00 AM

Product Category: Internet Radio (streaming audio)
Manufacturer: Myine
Where to Buy: [affiliate]
Price: $129.99 USD
System Requirements: WiFi connection to the Internet (either 802.11g or n); Stereo system or powered speakers with analog AUX input via RCA jacks or stereo 3.5mm jack.
Specifications: Main unit is 50.8mm (2in) x 152.4mm (6in) x 76.2mm (3in), 726g (1.6lb); Remote is approximately 85mm (3.4in) x 40mm (1.6in) x 2mm (0.08in); Screen is 67mm (2.6in)


  • Very simple to set up and use;
  • Huge station list which is updated automatically, with up to 40 storable as favorites;
  • Sound quality is very good.


  • Volume output is on the low side (depending upon station);
  • Menus are difficult to read from "couch" distance :-);
  • Can only access the menus using the remote.

Summary: Although diminutive in size, the Myine IRA (Internet Radio Adapter) packs a fully WiFi capable, Internet browser which can select and stream clean, stereo audio from a list of over 11,000 stations around the world. Whatever your music or information preference, you can enjoy it from the comfort of your own living room/den/entertainment room over your existing sound system. It literally sets up in seconds. Read more...

Friday, February 6, 2009

Sonos' Newest Bundle Reviewed

Posted by Hooch Tan in "Digital Home News" @ 10:30 AM

"The Sonos mesh network is independent of any other Wi-Fi network you might be operating, so you don’t need to worry about music clogging up the pipes of your data network. The new hardware is backward-compatible with older Sonos products: We merged the new ZP120 (the self-amplified model), the new ZP90 (the passive model), and a second controller into our existing Sonos network without a hitch."

For a few years now, Sonos has been plugging their flapship product, the Multi-Room Music System. Maximum PC has had the lucky opportunity to review the latest bundle to be released, the Sonos Bundle 150. It looks like Sonos has listened to complaints regarding their older products and have worked towards addressing most issues. Their ZonePlayer now has the capability of producing a wider range of sound with a bit more output and some more codec support has been added. Of note is free subscriptions and access to and Pandora! Rich, tasty, multi-room music is here, but at a price! I'm already saving up. It'll be quite an upgrade from my personal FM broadcasting network I'm using right now.

Tuesday, January 6, 2009

Cringely Looking For Wireless Audio Standard

Posted by Hooch Tan in "Digital Home News" @ 09:00 PM

"What’s missing here is a de facto wireless audio standard for televisions. Look on the back of any of these new TVs and you’ll find a forest of connections but none of the audio is wireless. There are RCA jacks, minijacks and optical, but no wireless. How much could it cost to add one more audio option? Not much – generally less than $10 in manufacturers’ cost."

Robert Cringely is lameting the fact that there isn't a standard for wireless audio. While there are various ways to transmit audio wirelessly, there is no standard like there is for video cables and audio cables for inside the house. Having dealt with finding a way to stream music and audiobooks to my bedroom wirelessly, I can sympathize. While I settled for the "low-tech" solution that is an FM transmitter, that technology does not provide the fidelity or capability of what a home theater deserves. He does concede to comments that HomePlug may be a feasible solution, but dismisses it owing to cost. However, earlier in the article, he notes that even sophisticated audio solutions are high in cost, owing to economies of scale. If HomePlug were to be fully embraced, I'm quite sure it would drop in cost. There are possibilities like Shoutcast and other streaming that could use an existing wireless network as well. Has anyone found a cost effective solution to provide 5.1 or 7.1 audio for a home theater?

Thursday, December 4, 2008

Sanyo Releases Internet Radio

Posted by Hooch Tan in "Digital Home News" @ 08:00 PM

"The SANYO R227 will make your life easier by finding you the stations you want to listen to while you pretend to work. As Sanyo’s vice president, Tom Van Voy states, the device needs no tethering to a computer. It seems that it has an own database for Internet stations. Oh, and it looks quite ugly. You have to wait until January to get one for $169.99."

Living in a digital household means being able to listen to your music collection all over the house. Over the years, I've experimented with a wide variety of music streaming solutions, including Internet Radios, old laptops and PDAs. While Internet radios are a great way to stream music while using relatively little power, I've found them too expensive for what they offer. Also, if I want to stream my own music, I need to set up something like a shoutcast station. In the end, I found the best solution for me is a low-fi solution; my server plays music through mpd with a web interface and it broadcasts on an FM transmitter. This solution allows anything that can pick up an FM signal (which is still a LOT of stuff) can play my music. Just have a radio in the kitchen? No problem! Like to sing in the shower? No problem! Out in the yard raking leaves? No... well, you get the picture. Has anyone found a good, low cost solution for in home streaming? Solutions like the Sanyo R227 are great, but hit the wallet.

Friday, October 17, 2008

I've Got CPU Cores to Spare...Why Won't Somebody Use 'Em Smarter?

Posted by Jason Dunn in "Digital Home Talk" @ 03:39 PM

I was synchronizing music over to my SanDisk Sansa Clip today, and I configured Windows Media Player 11 to transcode the music to 128 kbps WMA files from the original 256 to 320 kbps music files. 128 kbps WMA files still sound pretty good for rock/pop music, and at the gym sound fidelity isn't quite as critical as is it at home. What surprised me was how poorly the Windows Media Encoder used my multiple cores. It did better than some programs because it was using two cores to transcode a single MP3 file, but what it should have been doing is multi-threaded encoding, where one core is assigned the task of transcoding one file, and have all four CPU cores transcoding the audio. Just like using FTP to download a bunch of files, even if you have restricted bandwidth or CPU cycles, efficiencies can be gained by processing multiple files in parallel.

Saturday, July 12, 2008

Do All MP3 Players Sound Alike?

Posted by Adam Krebs in "Digital Home Talk" @ 08:45 AM

"Recently I read a review of an mp3 player where the author purposely chose not to discuss sound quality because, in the author’s words, 'The chosen player has a great deal to do with how you access your music, but very little to do with how it sounds…' That got me thinking. Do all mp3 players sound alike? They are all digital, so it’s the same 1’s and 0’s playing the music, so how can there be a difference in sound quality? I have tested some mp3 players myself and have noticed drastic differences. I have trouble believing that mp3 players don’t influence sound quality that much. They have different components, circuitry, software and build tolerances, so how can there not be a difference?"

Mobility Site's Steve Laser writes on a very important topic in the portable media player discussion. I seem to recall that in 2001 when the iPod came out, other players on the market were focusing on more faithfully recreating their digital sound and used higher-quality audio parts and software decoders. The iPod on the other hand, was more focused on affordability and battery life, and went the "walkman" route in supporting a technology that was "good enough" for most people. Laser poses the question to audiophiles and tech reviewers from around the net, with surprising variance in their responses.

Tuesday, June 24, 2008

Denon's $499 Ethernet Cable Vs. Walmart's $0.49 Coat Hangar

Posted by Tim Williamson in "Digital Home Hardware & Accessories" @ 06:00 AM

"High-end audio company Denon will be offering an Ethernet cable that will break the bank as it costs a whopping $499. What makes this 1.5 meter ultra-premium link cable so special? It was apparently designed for the audio enthusiast, constructed from high purity copper wire and high performance connection parts to form the AK-DL1."

Okay, so they didn't really test Denon's top of the line, 1.5 meter, $499 dollar Ethernet cable against a Walmart $0.49 coat hangar, but it would really be interesting to see how they compare! I guess I'm not clear on the purpose of super high quality Ethernet cable (either the bits get from one place to the other, or they don't, right?), so this seems slightly redunkulous to me, but maybe some of you audiophiles out there could clue me in on the practicality of cabling made to this standard.

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