Plantronics Gamecom 777

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I am so confused.

I thought the Beats by Dr. Dre were the best headphones, and they’re $350.

But I’m liking these Gamecom 777s more – and they’re only $100.

Design


These things are RUGGED. When you use them, they feel more metal then plastic. There’s no squeaking, and I feel like they’re well build and well put together. All of these things I couldn’t feel with the Beats by Dre.

A microphone comes out from the headband of the headphones, which is a genius idea and the perfect way to conceal the microphone when not in use. The inline audio and mute control is very helpful, and can often come in handy.

There’s one thing I don’t like about these headphones – the open-ear design. All sound leaks through a TON, so don’t expect ANY privacy from these. It’s nice because when someone is trying to talk to you, you aren’t totally spaced out. But it’s also a bit annoying to the people around you who might want to listen to their own soundtrack.

Sound Quality

When it comes to headphones, this is really what it boils down to. And my god, I’d choose these any day over Beats. These have dolby surround sound technology, and through USB an included small box will convert standard stereo sound into full on dolby surround sound. If you remember my post about the new dolby technology and how it brings the music out of your ear and puts it around you? You can feel that in these speakers. Thanks to the 7.1 technology, stereo sound turns into extremely immersing rich sound. It’s amazing. Much better than the beats by dre.

Overall, the sound quality is just plain stunning and amazing.

Comfort

With these headphones, you are getting the luxury experience.

The pads are a soft, smooth fabric, as opposed to the plasticy rubbery earcups on the beats. The earcups distribute pressure really nicely, and you can keep these on without any discomfort for hours on end. The earcups are extremely spacious, which is also a nice addition. Overall, these things are extremely comfortable and don’t give you the same aches that the beats do.

Value

If you’re looking for a nice new pair of headphones, whether it’s for gaming or not, you should DEFINITELY consider the gamecoms. If you are thinking of getting beats, slap yourself and wake up out of the mainstream daze. The gamecom 777s are $250 cheaper than the beats, and give you more sound quality and a higher value of sound technology from Dolby. They also deliver a much better build quality and an extra feature such as a boom microphone extending out from the side. When you are buying beats, you are really paying $300 for fancy marketing a d nice big b on the side.

If you are looking for an extremely high-quality pair of ruggedized headphones, look no further than the Plantronics Gamecom 777s. You can get them here for $100.

Also, thank you Plantronics for sending me these for review!

Using AirPort express for AirPlay alongside a Time Capsule

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You may remember that a long time ago I reviewed the Time Capsule. It’s a wonderful wireless AP, and all of my data is totally safe.

But the Time Capsule doesn’t have AirPlay. On AirPort extremes and expresses, there is a headphone jack, and when connected, you can wirelessly stream your music to your speakers from your iDevice.

I’ve had an airport express for a long time, but I stopped using it when I got my time capsule. After hearing about the AirPlay improvements, I decided to break the thing out.

The AirPort Express creates its own WiFi network, and if I’m connected to that then I won’t be able to backup to my time capsule. Luckily, it is now possible to plug the AirPort Express directly into the Time Capsule, and have them both work as the same wireless network. This means that I can stream music AND backup at the same time!

With this all settled, you will now see the AirPlay icon appear on all of your devices. From this point on, it’s all extremely easy. Just tap the icon and up pops a menu of all AirPlay devices on the network. Tap the speaker system you wish to stream to Voila, we have wireless music!

If you’re on a computer, however, you can only stream your music from iTunes. That is, of course, unless you have an app called AirFoil.

This allows any application on your computer to output sound to your AirPlay speakers.

However, there’s a small issue.

There is a two second delay between when you cause the sound to happen and when it actually comes out of your speakers. On the iDevices, the movies are in sync because they are decoupled 2 seconds back. When you change the volume on your computer, you will see the small notification popup, yet you won’t hear anything for two seconds. Quite annoying.

For videos, AirFoil has included the “AirFoil Video Player.” I don’t know if it’s very good, as I can’t even get it to work without freezing and crashing.

In general, this system is simple and functional. But if you’re trying to stream content from your computer, you will notice an extremely distinct delay. It’s not like that audio quality isn’t good, so all audio (including pandora and other streaming services) work fine.

AirPort Express

AirFoil

Altec Lansing Muzx Ultra

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These headphones have single balanced armature technology which delivers great sound quality without any distortion or noise.

Altec Lansing is known for making high quality sound products, and that doesn’t end with speakers.

In addition to theyre speaker systems and docks, Altec Lansing has a series of earbuds too.
They have many different versions, but here Altec Lansing has sent in for review the Muzx Ultra.
The thing that is special about these headphones is that they have a technology called “single balanced armature.”
I still don’t exactly know what it means, but one thing that I do know it means good sound quality.
The Muzx Ultra deliver clear, piercing hi’s and mids that are not to displease. I noticed details in my songs that I hadn’t previously taken note of. There was absolutely no noise except for the noise coming from your music.
In addition to the sound, the SnugFit design is an extremely welcome addition.
These headphones have 26 dB of passive noise isolation, which is great for blocking out everything else around you while trying to listen to your music.
It’s also handy because it means you don’t have to turn your music up as high to block the other sounds out.
The design of the headphones takes away all the possibilities of breaking.
On the earbud there is a small enforcement coming from the bottom to support the cable so it doesn’t bend and break off of the speaker itself. The cable is made of a very slippery plastic coating so you don’t have to deal with friction noise from the cable rubbing against something, which is also a nice addition.
The headphones also have music controls partially up the cable, with a microphone included for your convenience, however I did notice that the controls and microphone were oddly high up the cable.
And look at that, they even threw in a soft case! Don’t want to get these babies dirty or full of crumbs in your backpack, so it’s a very nice and extremely handy addition.
However I did find one bad side to these headphones.
Where’s the Lows?
I mean, I said that they had amazing, piercing highs and mids.

But that’s one downside to single balanced armature technology. In a direct message she sent me, she said:

Balanced armature earphones are used for the best hi & mids, not lows.

So I can’t exactly say I wasn’t caught totally off guard, but it’s a letdown when your hardcore dubstep doesn’t have the same punch as you’d expect.

Overall these are great headphones, that are extremely well made, have great, clear, hi quality sound, and can keep out all of that other sound that you don’t want ruining your listening experience.
The price tag on these is $99.95, which in my opinion, is a bit high for earbuds.
However, single balanced armature technology is a pretty expensive technology at the moment and people are raving about how thanks to these headphones, you can get single balanced armature technology at an affordable price. So can’t complain too much!

If you’re interested in buying a pair, click here to be directed to the product page at Altec Lansing.

Top 3 Trends at CES 2011

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CES 2011 was awesome. It was my first CES and I had a blast (but my feet didn’t). I befriended everyone at Eye-fi, met Altec Angel, got a free headset, took 1000 pictures, played a 3D racing game, and became an exhibitor for a booth for a few hours (more on that in the next post). Here are the things I saw that were extremely trending.

Number 3: Mobile
Mobile was as expected,a huge trend at CES. There were new phones announced by different makers, 4G technology, high res displays, and more.

A subtrend of this area would be accessories. There were headphones, mobile speakers, docking stations, backup batteries, a LOT of stands, and a lot of cases.

Number 2: Tablets
Tablets tablets and more tablets!

I got a chance to play with the Galaxy Tab (which I personally didn’t like) the BlackBerry PlayBook (which I loved, more on that later), and I played around with a lot of crappy android tablets.

Many companies all around the world are trying and failing to enter the tablet market. They all use android which is good for apps, but the devices themselves are TERRIBLE! The biggest mistake I saw was the use of resistive touch screens. Basically, instead of electrical content triggering a touch point (which takes the lightest touch) you have to “touch” hard enough to press two plastic sheets together that are over the screen. When I picked one up that had been made in china and tried to use it like I could my phone, iPad, iPod touch, or any other touch device I had, I thought it was broken. After PRESSING on the screen I could get a result.

Another problem is that the creators of these things were making them powerless. They had android 1.6, a 400 mhz processor, a terrible touch screen, poor design, bad graphics, terrible cameras, it was all just terrible.

I think that the tablet situation will be similar to the one with the iPod, where one vendor will rule over all others (in this case Apple).

AND NOW… FOR THE NUMBER ONE TREND AT CES….

NUMBER ONE:

There was so much 3d it was crazy.

Optoma had their whole booth all about 3d. All about 3d projectors and technologies.
Intel’s whole booth (which is quite large let me have you know) was all about their 3d processors which could drive 3d graphics to a 3d tv.

There were 3d cameras, 3d tvs, 3d camcorders, 3d monitors, 3d phones, 3d that you didn’t need glasses for, 3d that made you confused, and 3d that didn’t work. There was a LOT of 3d!

CES was an extremely cool event, but there wasn’t much eye-popping stuff. Everything was mostly just improvement on other things. 3D was big last year too, but here it’s being moved to more devices and more applications.

Dolby Ok, go event

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I recently attended an event at dolby labs with Ok, go there. If you don’t know who Ok, go is, look at this video. I bet you’ve seen it somewhere sometime…. Now why is ok, go at dolby? Well, lets think. Ok, go=music. Dolby=sound. Music, sound, see the connection? The real reason the band was there is because dolby took their latest music video “this too shall pass” and converted it into 7.1 surround sound. They didn’t just expand the two tracks of stereo over all 8 speakers, but they actually got the individual microphone clips and used those to create a quality surround sound experience. The video was played back in full surround sound and quite high volume in the dolby labs theatre, which features some of the best in dolby surround sound technology. If you watch the video and say “I could totally imagine this on dolby surround sound!, ” then you’re wrong. You can’t imagine it. You have to hear it to believe it. It is scary how music can literally invade you if you have the right quality and the right system. If I had this theatre in my house and I played this at the same volume level, the neighbors would call the police who would come to my door for sound violations. The event was fun, as we crowded into the theatre and watched the video without the left and right channels (they had a server error, welcome to a PC dependent company). Then, Ok, go came on stage and did some Q&A with the audience. They emphasized how they are welcoming open source music and how they think that everybody should be able to take songs and remix them to their likings. They also talked about how they really aren’t too crazy about illegal downloads of their songs and it’s really the music labels that go crazy, as ok, go is more on the music side of things than the business (which will really come in handy for creating some great songs). What happened was we crowded into the theatre, they played the video without the left and right channels (server error) and then Ok, go did some Q&A. Every couple of questions they would play a song then get back to the Q&A. And when we were almost out of time they played the video this time with all channels included. Dolby said that they were interested in taking music and upping it into dolby surround sound as it gets publicity for everyone. Dolby gets publicity for converting artists’ music, and the artists get publicity because dolby wants to show off their amazing surround sound technology using their music. Now in addition to Ok, go there was something else extremely great there. Dolby Home theater four is not available to the public yet and who will be vending it is not known either. All of this information will be announced at CES2011. But I was lucky enough to get a preview of the software anyways. Dolby Home Theater v4 can do two exceptionally amazing things: it is able to take computer speakers and extreeeeeeeemely amplify them and it is also able to take standard stereo headphones and make them sound surround soundy. First of all would be computer speaker amplification. He played us a video without dolby on, then he turned it on.  It is amazing the difference. My mother is hard of hearing and without dolby on couldn’t hear the video at all. With it on she could. I think that this is great especially if you are on a train or on a bus. You can’t hear the video/music at all, but with dolby on you can. In addition to amplifying it can make it feel like the sound is coming from a wider range than tiny speakers inside of your computer. It can also boost dialoge in particular, so you can hear voices extremely clearly. The speakers have to be tuned to work best with the speakers which is why the software must be shipped with computers instead of a download. Each computer will have the software a tiny bit different to match the speakers. In addition to this amazing internal speaker improvement, they have added capability that you can use standard stereo headphones to make them like surround sound headphones. I was with my family and a family friend (Same one that did the ergonomics video of the magic mouse) and Kevin (a sound engineer) played for us a channel check. What it does is says “front left. front right. center. back left. back right.” through the corresponding channels. Without dolby turned on, you could barely hear a difference between each one. but with dolby turned on you wanted to look behind you to see who was saying that. The scary part about this is how it actually works. Here is a picture of vivienne’s reaction:

wait...What? Huh? How?!

As you can tell this is extremely perplexing. We have six channels going in through two speakers. I must make note that these aren’t special headphones at all. These headphones aren’t even made by dolby. These are just normal headphones. Now another thing in addition to this is that it can take the sound out of your ear and put the sound around your ear. Dolby makes it sound more like you are in a room, less like sound is being shoved into your ear. Usually using headphones if fatiguing, but dolby solved that problem. Having surround sound in your own personal speakers allows movies to have much more character and much more impact. It sounds more…. real. It’s amazing how people are cramming in 6 speakers into headphones, when really all you need is dolby. :) If you are at CES 2011, I highly suggest you head over to the dolby booth and try this stuff out. Dolby has some great stuff planned and they really know what their doing when it comes to their sound. Here’s a couple of pictures from the event.

iPod Nano

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The iPod nano hasn’t felt much love from me so far. Lets get into the details.

Design

The iPod Nano features a very small and portable design. They tiny little screen has a black bezel that goes across the front of the screen. Apple decided not to totally flatten it out and give it edge to edge glass (which would have been a nice touch, would it have killed you to do that apple?). They turned the screen into one of touch, and makes it very difficult to use if you have sausage fingers. One of my main complaints would be the font size. I have pretty good vision and it hurts my eyes to look at the screen for too long. The iPod Nano has three buttons on it: Volume up, volume down, and lock (Apple is slowly doing away with the hold switch). The iPod Nano has a clip on the back which is an intersting addition. Ads show the nano being clipped onto shirts, bags, pockets, etc. The problem I have with this whole clippy intention is that the way they want you to wear it displays album artwork (or pedometer stats or whatever else for that matter) to everyone around you. I know it’s nice to show off what $1.29 music you were able to afford, but I really don’t need to know what music you are listening to. The nano comes in grey, black, blue, green, yellow, pink, and red.

Interface

The iPod nano has it’s own software which isn’t iOS but has a very similar interface. As you can tell by the picture on the left is has icons and pages and a wallpaper, but it doesn’t have any apps. You can rearrange all of the icons around on the home screen. Instead of having an app for all music, there are different icons on the home screen for songs, artists, playlists, now playing, genres, etc. The interface inside of the apps is like a shrunken down version of that from iOS. One interesting feature would be that the screen is able to rotate to fit whichever way you have the iPod clipped, but to do this you have to put two fingers on the screen and spin them around whichever way you want to have the screen oriented. It’s a bit disappointing that they couldn’t have at least thrown in an accelerometer to take care of this.

Sound Quality

I was personally a little disappointed with the quality of sound on this device. I found it to lack some of the higher ends, and while it still delivers full sound doesn’t pack that higher punch that other iPods do.

Value

The iPod nano goes for $149 for the 8GB version or $17o for the 16GB version. Personally, I think it’s a little bit of a rip off as the iPod shuffle goes for $50, and the nano is a shuffle with an FM tuner and a touchscreen. Personally, I think that this was a bad decision by apple as a touch screen interface on such a small device is very difficult to navigate, and believe it or not there are still people who just want to listen to music but definitely like having a screen and really don’t need 16o GB of storage space.

iPod nano

Beats by Dr. Dre studio

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Well, the Solo HDs weren’t so hot. At all. But lets check out the original beats, the studios. Throughout this I will be comparing the headphones to their main competitor, bose.

Design

Like all beats products, these are nice. They feature smooth curves that give the bose style envy. Unlike bose, the exterior is reflective and streamlined. One of the biggest differences is how at the ear cups instead of having odd and obvious joints, you can’t see the joint one bit. This adds a much smoother aesthetic to it.

However, this cannot be defined as lightweight headphones (which luckily they aren’t). Unlike the Solo HDs, they are quite large and heavy and take up a lot of room. These headphones are great for thigns like airplane, car, or train rides, but I wouldn’t go on a run or hike or bicycling with these things. The Solo HDs were light and small, but that is one of the biggest trade-offs to headphones. Smaller size results in smaller sound, which results in degraded sound quality. And hence, the studios don’t have that same sound quality problems as the Solo HDs.

Features

Unlike the Solo HDs, I can actually include a section about features for these headphones!

A key feature would be the noise isolation. No, not active noise cancellation, just isolation. This is where the bose take the gold. The beats by dr. dre studio headphones do indeed have a form of noise cancellation, but it only blocks out the lower end of the sound spectrum. For example, I can still hear a car horn, unlike the Bose. But playing music also blocks out a large amount of sound on top of that.

Value

For $350 MSRP ($300 at an Apple store) it’s quite an expensive purchase. For so much money, you might as well get Bose. They are great headphones, as long as you can fork out the money.

Beats by Dr. Dre Solo HD

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These are some of the highest quality headphones on the market, competing with Bose. Here’s a full review of the headphones.

Design

Attractive and minimalistic design

The Beats Solo HD are some stylin’ headphones. They boast a very well put-together minimalistic design that will make skullcandy jealous. It features a tri-fold design so that it can easily be stored into the soft case.

The headphones detach from the cable so that Monster didn’t have to mess around with cable management in their case.

The Beats by Dr. Dre Solo HDs are on-ear headphones so they rest on your ear instead of going over your ear. This does a good job of keeping the music from leaking out, so you won’t bother the others around you.

The ear cups of the headphones pivot to cover your ear more evenly and comfortably.

These headphones are very lightweight and feel light on your head. They are great for people on the go with a busy and on the move lifestyle.

Sound quality

Sound is the most important aspect of headphones. If there is no sound, then what’s the point? The Beats by Dr. Dre series is all focused on sound quality, but these headphones are a broken link in the chain of sound satisfaction (like what I did there?). Compared to many headphones on the market they are above average, but some of the bose headphones really come out on top with this one. The sound from the headphones has quite the emphasis on bass. The bass tends to drown out everything else, which tends to take away from the value of these headphones.

Value

These headphones sell for $220 MSRP which is a bit expensive for headphones of this quality. These headphones seem like $100, and $220 is a lot to ask for for the sound quality these headphones deliver. I’m afraid I’ll have to mark these as a DNB, or Do Not Buy unless you can find them for under $150.


The new iPod nano and why I don’t like it

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So today apple announced a chutzpah of new stuff (as expected) including a new apple tv, a new iPod touch, a new iPod nano, and a new iPod shuffle. I’ll cover those in a later post, but for now I want to talk about the nano.

What apple did with this design really stood out to me, and not in a good way. First of all, they got rid of the buttons and replaced it with this extremely tiny excuse for a touchscreen, and got rid of the camera and curved edges and put a clip on it. So basically, it is an iPod shuffle with a touchscreen. But my big problem is the clip…

So lets say you have it clipped to your shirt like that picture. If you want to change the song you either have to bend your head over to see the screen and look like an idiot or you have to unclip it and attempt to hold the awkwardly shaped thing to change your music. So then why don’t you just put it in your pocket? Why include the clip? The only other function is to show EVERYBODY ELSE IN THE WORLD what music you are listening to at the moment. But to tell you the truth, nobody really cares what you listen to other than you. So that eliminates the clip. And what’s with the form factor of this thing?! It is a square that barely fills the palm of your hand, and it doesn’t look like it would be very fun to try to hold.

Oter than the clip, the other thing is how they tried to make it an iPod touch-like interface with homescreens. But instead of having apps, ou have things like albums, playlists, genres, etc. Why?! This interface might be cool if you wanted to use apps on it, and if you want apps go get yourself an iPod touch. it is 1/3 bigger (and is so much more confortable to hold) and boo hoo, you can’t tell the world what you are listening to. Oh, darn. That’s too bad.

I mean, nobody really cares about your music! It’s nice to know you are currently listening to the black eyed peas (I guess that explains why you, sir microsoft employee, are line dancing in the middle of your stores [traitor using iPods, don't worry I won't tell. ;-J ]) but nobody cares at all! It’s just an iPod shuffle with a screen. A smaller, less functional iPod touch. Something along those lines.

If you disagree or have anything more to add, comments are welcome. :)