Inateck Headphones Roundup Review

Introduction


Picking the right headphones can be quite tricky, but with a great range of versatile and reasonably priced headphones in their range, it seems the Inateck has got you covered. Today we’ll be taking a look at three of their latest sets, all of which come targeted at a slightly different part of the market. Hopefully, we’ll be able to help guide you in which ones offer the best performance, features and value for money to suit your own needs.

Inateck produces a huge range of products, such as mobile accessories, USB hubs, hard drive docks, laptop bags and so much more. They’ve had great reviews in the past and their brand continues to grow in popularity, so I’m looking forward to testing out these headphones today. In the eTeknix office, we have their new Aries Dynamic Driver In-Ear Headphones (BH1101), the Taurus Wireless Sport Headset (BH1001) and the more affordable Wood In-ear Hi-Fi Headphone BH1105’s. They all have some a little unique about them too, so it’ll be interesting to see which  ones offer up the best options and performance overall given their respective price ranges and target audiences.

Aries Dynamic Driver Headphones

“Built in modern aluminum-housings and classic premium genuine wood, Inateck Aries BH1101 likes more like a work of art. 22 cored anti-oxidized cooper wire can better extend its service life. Furthermore, the PU Aluminum Foil cable makes it sturdy and tangle free.”

Wood In-ear Hi-Fi Headphone

“What is the most important thing to headphones? A well-rounded and clear sound! BH1105 is not only superbly balanced but also offers awesome bass, trebles and ear protection. The Zebra Wood pumps up your sound to an orchestral-like level. Bring a concert with you wherever you go.”

Taurus Wireless Sport Headphones

“Inateck Sport Bluetooth headset-BH1001 provides a comfortable, curved fit. Its magnetic design allows the two ear buds attract with each other, forming a circle that could hang on your neck to avoid falling down or losing when you finished exercising.”

The packaging on the headsets/headphones is pretty simple, with a minimal waste box and some stylish representations on the front.

Around the back, quite simple again and a few major specifications on the Aries and Taurus boxes.

Netatmo Welcome Home Camera With Facial Recognition Review

Introduction


We see all kinds of cool gadgets pass through the eTeknix office, but the Netatmo Welcome is something I’ve been really looking forward to testing. We first saw the product demoed at CES 2015, but in a busy trade show environment, it can be tricky to get a really good look at a product. The Welcome is a relatively simple device, it acts as a home security camera, but with a twist. Most of you will be familiar with the kind of security cameras that you fit to the wall, as full on surveillance equipment, the welcome is a much more casual device that than.

Pop the welcome in your house, it detects when someone comes home, sends a message your smartphone via a custom app, tells you who is home, be that your kids, your partner, or an unknown face.

You can tune into live video feeds or view recorded footage to make sure your kids remembered to wipe their shoes when they got home, or whatever you need to double-check.

Sounds pretty cool right? What about when you’ve got someone unwelcome in your house?

The packaging is pretty straight forward, showing the welcome camera as well as the accompanying mobile app, which is available for Android and iOS.

On the side of the box, you can see some of the major features of the Welcome. There’s facial recognition, notifications, privacy customisation, night vision and more. An important aspect though is that there are no monthly fees what so ever, so you can use the app and features free of charge!

The Welcome camera its self is very nicely design, a slim vertical cylinder shape with a brushed aluminum finish that oozes high-quality.

There’s a wide field of view camera towards the top. It features a HD sensor, high sensitivity for low-light condition and it’ll make easy work of seeing what is going on in your house.

Towards the bottom is a small LED indicator, as well as a small Netatmo logo.

There’s very little around the back, just a microSD slot, MicroUSB port for main power and an RJ45 port for those who want to use the device wired, although wireless technology is built-in.

There’s an 8GB ADATA MicroSD pre-installed in the back of the Welcome, but you could always upgrade this if you feel the need for more storage.

The top and bottom of the Welcome are finished with glossy white plastic. The whole unit has a good amount of weight to it, it feels robust overall and the minimalist design means that you’ll find it incredibly easy to operate.

Luxa2 Lavi S Wired & Wireless Headphones with External Speaker Review

Introduction


Luxa2 are well-known for their premium grade mobile products, but today, we’ve got something a little more unique from them, a set of headphones that also act as speakers! The Lavi S are packed full of features, with the option to use them as a wired headset, wirelessly via Bluetooth, as on ear headphones, or as a mobile speaker to share your music or make hands-free calls. This interesting mixture of features certainly caught our attention, so I’m really eager to test them out and see how well they perform.

The Lavi S are very well equipped, with a pair of powerful 40mm drivers for the headset component, then another 40mm driver for the loud-speaker. There’s a built-in 1000mAh rechargeable battery for wireless usage, which can offer 30 hours headset use or 3 hours speaker use, on-headset controls for media control, a foldable design and more!

Check out this quick guide courtesy of Luxa 2 for a quick look at some of these features.

In the box, you will find the headset, a male-to-male  3.5mm cable for wired usage and a micro USB to USB cable for charging the headsets internal battery.

First impressions of the Lavi S are promising, a mixture of high-quality plastics and soft-touch rubber grip coatings, that give the headset a good quality look and feel.

Down the left side, you’ll find the drivers have an open back design, which is handy given that there is a speaker on each side! The headband is extendable, allowing for a more comfortable fit on a wide range of head sizes. The headband feels pretty strong and it holds firmly in place once adjusted.

On the side of the right ear cup, you’ll find a wide range of controls. There’s the headset/speaker toggle switch, an LED indicator, and a power/pairing button.

Further round the same side, you’ll find volume up and down buttons, the DC IN for charging the headset, a line-in port for the 3.5mm cable and a pin-hole microphone; that’s a lot of buttons and features for just one side of a headset!

The left driver is the same overall design, but it doesn’t have a plethora of control switches around the edge.

The padding on the ear cups is a soft leather, that provides a comfortable fit over your ears and it’s close-fitting enough to help dampen ambient sounds.

The headband has a soft rubber padding, it’s not a lot, but it’s surprisingly comfortable and helps hold the headset firmly in place on your head.

The top of the headband has a nice black rubber coating, that looks really nice and it is also hard-wearing.

Finally, the headset has a foldable design, which makes it a lot easier to store the headset on your backpack between uses.

Club3D Multi Streaming Transport Hub and Docking Station Review

Introduction


There is no doubt that playing games and working is filled with a lot more joy and pleasure when you have more than one monitor connected. You need to use ALT+TAB a lot less to view everything, can have source code on one screen and the result on another, or just keep an eye on your instant messages and emails while you’re gaming. It’s all possible and once you got used to it, then you’ll miss it immensely when you don’t have it.

It can however end up costing you even more that you need a graphics card with just the right amount of outputs and connectors to match your monitor and this is where Club 3D comes to your rescue with two devices in the Sense Vision series. The MST-HUB is a multi-stream transport hub that morphs your one DisplayPort into three and the Y-cabled Docking station that takes one mDP and one USB 3.0 port and turns it into two mDP ports, three USB 3.0 ports, and one Gigabit Ethernet port.

The number of supported displays depends on the bandwidth available. The MST hub is using the ST Micro STDP 4320 which supports DisplayPort 1.2a specifications with support for up to 21.6Gbps of bandwidth. How much you have depends on your output device. With this kind of bandwidth at your disposal, you can easily run four full HD monitors at 60Hz and 32-bit colour depth and still have extra bandwidth to spare, and that from a single onboard connector.

The Club 3D MST hub can help with more, for example if you got a 4K monitor of the cheaper kind that only can do 30Hz. You can use the MST hub and resolve this by combining two screen resolutions of 1920×2160 at 60Hz to obtain a native 3840×2160 60Hz resolution by using two DisplayPort cables. This is particular useful of you only have one display port out to begin with and no way to attach two DisplayPort cables to your system, doesn’t help if the monitor has it.

Even if you don’t have a DisplayPort capable monitor the MST hub can help you, but you will need adapters to connect them. The Club3D MSTY Hub is a DP++ device which means that it can actively convert the DisplayPort signal to other types of display interfaces. An active adapter isn’t required, a passive is enough with this hub. Just keep in mind that passive adapters have a resolution limitation of 1920×1200.

AMD created Eyefinity with up to 6 displays, but Club 3d takes it to the next level as you only need a graphics card with two DisplayPort connectors and two of these MST hubs to achieve just that, being able to connect 6 monitors for the ultimate multi-screen setup.

Ultrabooks and notebooks also become more powerful with each generation, but the often only come with one display port. With the MST hub, you can easily connect multiple monitors to those and best of all, you only need to unplug one cable when you take your system with you on the go.

Features

  • Standards compliance/support:displayport v1.2a, displayport v1.1a,VESA DDM
  • Standard,HDCP V2.0,DisplayId,and EDID V1.4
  • Supports main link rates of 5.4 bps(HBR2),2.7 bps(HBR)and 1.62 bps(RBR) from source
  • Supports 1/2/4 lanes of main link for RX side
  • Supports three DP++ output port, or two dual-link DVI ports, or the combination of ports
  • For DP 1.2a source,supports DP1.2a MST multi video/audio steams
  • Supports 1.1 source, supports ViewXpand
  • Supports DP-DP Bypass mode
  • Supports AUX-CH enables SBM and I2C mapping over AUX between the source/sink and device
  • Dedicated I2C slave for main processor to access the device
  • Supported output resolution: up to 2560X1600@60Hz each monitor in DP1.2 MST and up to FHD/1080p in DP1.1 or DP 1.2 SST. With DP resolutions up to FHD (4K x 2K) @60Hz, 24bpp, but limited by DP bandwidth).
  • Input pixel data depth 6/8/10/12 bits and supports output pixel format RGB444
  • Advance WideEye SerDes technology
  • Adaptive Sync technology

Creative Sound Blaster X7 Deskop DAC & Amplifier Review

Introduction


A lot of attention gets put on high-end displays and graphics, but while technology has made great advances in pushing graphics to 4K monitors, 3D displays, and all kinds of other cool stuff, I see a lot of people neglecting their audio experience, be that as part of their home cinema setup, or their desktop audio. While I must admit that motherboard technology has made huge advances, with many brands such as MSI and Gigabyte for example, putting high-end audio hardware directly onto their motherboards, I have yet to hear one that was comparable to a standalone unit.

Audio Performance
  • Signal-to-Noise Ratio (DAC): 127dB
  • Signal-to-Noise Ratio (ADC): 123dB
  • 24-bit recording sampling rates: 44.1, 48, 96, 192 kHz
  • 24-bit playback sampling rates: 44.1, 48, 88.2, 96, 176.4, 192 kHz
  • Stereo Direct Playback at 24-bit / 44.1, 48, 88.2, 96, 176.4, 192 kHz
  • Surround Playback at 24-bit / 44.1, 48, 88.2, 96 kHz
  • Dolby Digital Decoding
Frequency Response
  • 20 Hz – 90 kHz (24-bit/192kHz)
Maximum Power Output
  • 50W + 50W (4Ω, 1kHz, 10% THD)¹
  • 38W + 38W (4Ω, 1kHz, 10% THD)²
  • 27W + 27W (8Ω, 1kHz, 10% THD)¹
  • 27W + 27W (8Ω, 1kHz, 10% THD)²
Rated Power Output
  • 37W + 37W (4Ω, 1kHz, 1% THD)¹
  • 35W + 35W (4Ω, 1kHz, 1% THD)²
  • 22W + 22W (8Ω, 1kHz, 1% THD)¹
  • 20W + 20W (8Ω, 1kHz, 1% THD)²
Total Harmonic Distortion
  • 0.05% (1kHz, 4Ω, 33W)¹
  • 0.05% (1kHz, 4Ω, 30W)²
¹ Requires upgrade to high power AC-DC adapter (24V 6A)
² Using bundled AC-DC adapter (24V 2.91A)

Creative and their Sound Blaster range have a lot of years experience in the audio business, unless you’ve been lost on a desert island for the last couple of decades, you will have heard of them and many of you have either owned or used their products in some context at least once. I’m seeing more and more desktop AMP and DAC hardware in recent years and as the music industry continues to push away from crude quality MP3’s that plagued early MP3 players years ago, higher bitrate audio files, high-quality audio streaming services and a whole lot more are now offering up audio in up to 24-bit/192kHz high-resolution formats.

If you’re investing £300+ into a 4K monitor and god knows how much more in graphics cards, a CPU and other components, is it really too much to set aside another £329.99 to get your audio on par with the rest of your setup? That’s what I hope to find out today.

First, let’s take a quick look at a full walkthrough with Ryan Schliepier of Creative, at the level of features included in this setup, because if I were to put them into writing, I’ll be doubling the size of this review; prepare to be blown away by the feature set on this unit!

This is a premium grade product, so as you would expect, it comes with virtually every kind of connection you could possibly need. One thing that did really surprise me is that the unit comes with five power cables, FIVE! No matter where you are in the world, you shouldn’t have a problem plugging this thing in.

All the cables that are included are of a high quality and will help you get this thing plugged in and setup from day one.

This funny looking thing is a headphone stand and we’ll take a close look at how that works in a few minutes.

The unit is very nicely designed and while it is quite big, it’s not so big that it would be imposing on your desktop. The shape of it also means it takes up less cubic space on your desktop and aesthetically speaking, it’s a lovely looking bit of kit.

As you saw in the video above, the unit has a great range of connections. On the front panel you’ve got a gorgeous volume dial, which was infinite rotation in either direction, rather than a lock to lock volume dial. There’s headphone jacks for both 3.5mm and 1/4″ and a microphone line-in for those who like to use a dedicated mic. Then you’ve got the power/Bluetooth and SBX control switches. In the middle there’s some ventilation, behind which you’ll find two beam-forming microphones.

On the right side, you’ll see a small NFC logo, you can tap your phone or any other NFC compatible device and immediately sync up the audio through the unit. This is great for playing songs from your phone or tablet, but it can also be used to make hands-free calls via the built-in microphones and your own speakers or headphones.

Around the back, we see a plethora of connections. You’ve got options for 4ohm and 9ohm impedance for two bare wire terminals and RCA/Jack outputs for 5.1 setups. There’s stereo line in, optical passthrough and USB, not forgetting the built-in Bluetooth support; if you’ve got anything audio related, you can connect it!

All the fittings are of a premium quality, with gold-plated ports and high-quality screw fittings for the wire terminals.

At the top, there’s some passive cooling holes and two small holes for mounting the headphone stand.

The headphone stand is optional and is perfect for keeping your favourite set within easy reach.

Down the left side, you’ll find a USB Host port, perfect for charging your phone or even your headset.

On the underside, there’s a removable cover, behind which you can see some of the workings of the AMP/DAC. Here you can see the removable op-amps, which you can replace yourself if you have the money and the desire to do so.

Overall, this is one stunning looking setup and no, the headset in the picture isn’t included in the bundle, but I figured a Creative brand headset would look nice on the stand.

MEElectronics Rumble AF80 Bluetooth Headphones Review

Introduction


Listening to your music on the go is hardly a new trend, we’ve had portable audio since the introduction of devices such as the Sony Walkman; the biggest change in recent years is easily with how we listen to music on the go. Mobile devices act as MP3 players, they offer music streaming services, gaming, movies and of course the least used feature on most people’s phones these days, actual phone calls. Sure all these things can be enjoyed to a certain extent via the built-in speakers and microphones on your device, but for music, movie and games, that may not be the ideal solution. There are many audio solutions on the market for mobile products, such as speaker docks, headphones, headsets and more that all offer ways to expand your audio experience. The latest headset from MEElectronics is packed full of features that make it very appealing to a wide range of users. The headset features wireless technology via Bluetooth, NFC connectivity, a built-in microphone, rechargeable battery, multimedia controls and more!

MEElectronics may not be the first name you think of when purchasing a new headset, but they’re quickly earning a good reputation for creating great quality products and I’m very excited to have my first review sample from them. I’m eager to see how this headset performs and to see if the headset lives up to the hype, so let’s get right to it and see what MEElectronics have to offer to the mobile audio market.

In the box, you’ll find everything you need to get you started. There’s the headset (obviously), a protective pouch to keep them scratch free when not in use, a 3.5mm cable for backwards compatibility with older phones, as well as with none wireless ready devices such as portable games consoles and media players. Finally, there’s also a USB to Micro-USB cable which can be used to charge the built-in battery.

The overall design of the headset is sleek and stylish. The headset itself is quite slender and lightweight, which should bode well for prolonged usage and comfort.

The glossy black exterior of the headband is backed with a warm red, while the ear cups are trimmed with a silver highlight. There’s a microUSB port on the right ear-cup for the charging cable and an optional 3.5mm jack on the left for the AUX cable.

All the major controls are located directly on the side of the ear cup, giving you quick and easy access to the multimedia controls.

The headband has been given a soft rubber coated padding for extra grip and comfort; it shouldn’t slip off your head while walking around. The ear cups are a little small, but they come with a thick and soft padding that feels very comfortable to the touch; they’re designed to be on-the-ear when worn, rather than over-the-ear.

Helping to provide a better fit are the ear cup mounts, a small pivot at the back allows them to move a few degrees in each direction, so they should feel comfortable on any head shape.

The headband is expandable and foldable; just pull the drivers in and they’ll fold up nice and small; this makes them easier to fit into the included protective pouch.

Overall a very stylish set of headphones, a nice mixture of glossy finishes, soft finish padding and unobtrusive control switches.

Inateck BP2001 Wireless Stereo Bluetooth Portable Speaker Review

Introduction


Inateck may not be a common brand name, at least not yet, but they’ve got a great range of low to mid budget products that certainly caught our attention. While many of us love the high-end flagship products, sometimes we just need something affordable, that does the job we need with ease; the Inateck wireless Bluetooth speaker we’re reviewing today is one of those products. It’s got a fairly straight forward job to do and it’s not likely a product you need to put much thought into either. If you need a stand for your tablet, but you also need a wireless speaker to enjoy your music, or hands-free calls in the office, at home or wherever, then you’ll most likely be looking at this device or something similar on a popular shopping site such as Amazon. So just what do you get for your money?

The Inateck Wireless Bluetooth Speaker is a nicely designed unit. It has a hard black speaker grill on the front of its extra wide design, as well as a little bit of silver trim around the edge and around the control switch on the front.

The wide design makes the Inateck ideal for mounting your smartphone or tablet on the top of the speaker. There’s a hard rubber slot that runs the full width of the device for maximum compatibility with a wide range of devices. There’s also a small cut-away in the middle, which makes accessing the home button on tablets such as the iPad a whole lot easier.

There is only one control on the front of the device, which can be used to play or pause music (via Bluetooth), answer or reject calls, or redial the last number on your paired device.

The base of the speaker is wider than the top, giving a little extra stability to the speaker, but it’s not so thick that you couldn’t chuck it in your backpack.

Around the back, you’ll find a fold out speaker bracket and the I/O ports.

There’s a master power switch on the back to help save power, an AUX line-in jack and a DC5V port for charging the built-in battery.

The speaker bracket is very handy, as putting a 10″ tablet on the top of the speaker in portrait mode could make the whole setup prone to tipping; a problem easily solved by deploying the bracket.

Included in the box you will also find a USB to Micro-USB cable, which is perfect for keeping the speaker charged, as well as a 3.5mm cable for connection devices such as MP3 players.

Oculus Rift DK2 VR Covers Review

Introduction


While I love reviewing all the latest and greatest hardware, such as the Oculus Rift DK2, every now and then I like to stop and appreciate the smaller accessories that can improve my day-to-day desktop usage. The Oculus Rift is a fantastic bit of kit, but it does suffer from one seriously profound problem; it gets really dirty after a few hours of use!

When you strap on the Oculus Rift you have a thick foam padding pressed up against your face, this means that skin flakes, hairs and general dirt and sweat get worked into the material and to make matters worse, you can’t take the material off and clean it. Think about the exhibitions and gaming events where many people try on the headset all day, by the end of the day you’re pressing hundreds of people’s sweat into your face… no thank you!

VR Covers does exactly what they sound like, they provide you with a cover that will help keep your Oculus Rift nice and clean, but it has a few extra perks to it too. The covers are removable, washable and also aim to improve the overall comfort levels of wearing the headset. It may not sound like the coolest thing ever, but this is a big win for those who have, or plan to invest in a VR headset.


http://player.vimeo.com/video/107940800/
VR covers come in a neat little protective bag which has a velcro strap around the neck to keep them tucked away neat and tidy; perfect for traveling.

In the bag you’ll find three sets of VR Covers, which are all the same, it’s just handy to have a few spares when the others gets dirty.

They’re fairly simple things, a sort of banana shape when folded out. They’re made from two layers of 100% cotton that is nicely stitched together.

There is a small VR Cover logo stitched onto one side.

Speedlink Gantry Portable Bluetooth Speaker Review

Introduction


It’s no secret that mobile phones lack impressive audio. There have been many developments in the mobile market over the years, with phones getting better bass, louder speakers and more. However, it’s still not enough to satisfy the needs of someone like myself who loves to blast out a few albums every day. My phone (a Sony Xperia Z1) sounds pretty decent, but without headphones it’s really not a great way to listen to music.

Today I’ll be taking a look at the Gantry, a mobile Bluetooth speaker with NFC support from Speedlink. It promises to offer a big performance boost for your mobile audio, while being significantly more portable that a full-size dock. It features a USB rechargeable battery and a downward firing bass speaker port for extra punch.

Specifications

  • Active wireless Bluetooth speaker
  • NFC function for easy Bluetooth pairing
  • Bass-reflex Downfire function for powerful bass
  • Integrated Li-polymer battery
  • Wireless range of up to 10m
  • Integrated microphone for hands-free phone calls
  • Up to 5hrs’ battery life – USB chargeable
  • Charging and audio cable included
  • Rubberised coating

In the box you will find the speaker, a simple user guide, a 3.5mm male-to-male cable and a USB to microUSB charging cable.

The Gantry comes with a red mesh finish on the front, behind which you’ll find a pair of small stereo speakers.

On the base of the unit are four rubber grips to prevent it sliding around your desk, as well as four small holes that will help push better bass levels.

There is an NFC tag built into the right side, just tap your compatible phone against it and it’ll pair up the Bluetooth.

Around the back you’ll find the AUX line-in, a microUSB charging port and a master power switch.

On the top you will find the volume, skip track and a multifunction play/pause/answer call button.

Noontec Zoro II HD Mobile Headphones Review

Introduction


Noontec may not be as common a brand name as Beats, or Bose or many other fancy audio hardware brands, but they’re certainly gaining in popularity with a steady pace. When I reviewed one of their early products here on eTeknix, the original Noontec Zoro, I was far from impressed with the overall sound quality of their product. Sure the headset looked stunning, but the high price tag wasn’t backed up by premium performance. Today I’m hoping to see and hear a big improvement from the company. I’ve seen a few other Noontec products over the last few months that certainly had some merit, so perhaps the company have brushed up on their technology and made some much needed improvements.

It’s important to mention that Noontec market themselves as a fashion audio brand. Their headphones are designed to be a lifestyle choice for those who feel that their headset needs to look as good as they do. Personally speaking, I’ll wear the ugliest headset on the market if it offers me the best performance, hopefully Noontec can combine great performance with their already well-tailored designs.

The Zoro II HD comes equipped with a 4-pole 3.5mm connector for use on mobile devices, and it even comes with a built-in microphone, making it an ideal choice for use with your smart phone. You can use them to listen to music, but you won’t have to take the headset off to make/answer a call.

The on-cable microphone comes with support for a range of modern phones and the ones listed below will fully support that built-in answer call button and microphone with no issues.

The cable is completely detachable from the headphones and comes equipped with a tangle-free flat cable and a built-in microphone with call answer button.

The Zoro II HD come in a choice of four colours, although we’ve got hold of this rather fetching metallic purple; very pretty.

The headband is lightweight, but surprisingly durable.

The drivers are mounted on a pivot joint to provide a nice comfortable fit on your ears. There’s a 3.5mm port on the bottom of one of the ear cups to connect the included cable.

The headband padding is nice and soft and finished in a bright blue. It contrasts nicely with the purple finish, but most importantly it’s also very comfortable on your head.

The headband extenders are great for adjusting the fit, but they can also be folded inwards; perfect for storing the headset out of the way. When you need to use the headset again, they snap back into place firmly, no chance of them folding up when you don’t want them to.

The ear cups have a foam interior and a soft leather padding. The headset fits snug on your ears and stays comfortable even after a couple of hours usage.

Overall, a very nice looking headset. So let’s plug it in and find out how it performs.

Wavemaster Moody 2.1 Rev 2 Speaker Review

Introduction


It was just over a year ago that we reviewed the Wavemaster Moody 2.1 speakers and I absolutely loved them. For their price range, I thought they looked great, sounded superb and offered great value for money, which is why I awarded them with our Bang for Buck award, as a reflection on them being a great return on investment.

Now the team at Wavemaster have taken their speakers and made a few minor, but potentially important tweaks to their design and performance, and while they’re being launched under the same name as the old model, this is officially the revision 2 model of the Moody 2.1 speakers which I’ll be reviewing today.

Specifications Rev 2

  • Speaker drivers: subwoofer 16,5 cm bass driver, satellites 7 cm wide range drivers with phase-plug
  • Amplifier: integrated with 3 separate channels
  • Output power (RMS): subwoofer 35 Watt, satellites 2 x 15 Watt
  • Frequency response: subwoofer 30 – 150 Hz, satellites 150 Hz – 20.000 Hz
  • Input sensitivity: subwoofer line-in 500 mV, remote line-in 250 mV
  • Cable remote: with on/standby function, volume control, headphone jack (amplified) and line-in
  • Satellite speakers: with compact design (wall mountable), detachable front covers and 3m connection cable
  • Subwoofer: wooden cabinet with bass reflex technology, bass control, treble control and main power switch
  • Power supply: internal, 100-240 Volt ~ 50/60 Hz, 0.7A max., Standby Power <0.5 W (230V)
  • Connection: 3,5 mm mini stereo plug or RCA
  • Dimensions (WHD): Satellites =  90 x 145 x 103 mm, Subwoofer = 245 x 248 x 275 mm

The speakers come in a nicely designed box with a bunch of high quality images of the speakers on each side, great for those who are shopping for them in a retail store as it gives you a clear indication of what you’re buying.

In the box you’ll find two satellite speakers, a sub woofer, cabled controller, owners manual, RCA to 3.5mm cable and a 3.5mm to 3.5mm cable.

Silverstone SST-EB03 Desktop Headphone Amp & SST-EB01-E DAC Review

Introduction


When it comes to kicking back and enjoying your favourite albums, having a great set of speakers or a set of high-end headphones can really make or break the experience. Of course for many people out there, the £20 set of headphones they got from their local electronics store will be more than enough, offering them many hours of happiness when needed, but there are certain people, myself included, that demand a lot more from their audio equipment. While some like to use the term Audiophile to describe those who love premium grade sound components, I don’t think you have to take it that seriously just to want the best quality from your music, much in the same way you don’t have to be a complete TV nerd just to want a quality HDTV.

Desktop PC audio has certainly improved over the last few years, many motherboard manufacturers are including higher quality audio components directly onto their motherboards; sure there are some lovely sound cards out there, but with GPU’s often dominating the PCIe slots in our systems, it’s getting difficult to find the room for a large sound card. The devices we’re looking at today offer two solutions to improve your audio, the first would be the EB01E, a powerful XMOS XS1 TQ128 DAC which supports Asynchronous USB 24bit / 192 kHz audio. If all of that was nonsense to you, let me put this as simple as possible; you connect the EB01-E to your PC via a digital connection (USB, Optical or Coaxial) and then connect your speakers to the EB01-E and it will provide you with improved audio quality.

The EBo1-e uses the TI PCM1798 Digital Audio Converter (DAC), this is the part that takes your digital signal and converts it to analogue. It supports a maximum resolution of 24-bits, with USB, optical and coaxial line in and RCA out for easy compatibility with most speaker and headphone systems.

A high quality audio decoder such as this is ideal for bringing new life to the humble MP3’s you may have in your collection, but they’ll really pull their weight when you’re listening to something such as FLAC and other lossless audio formats.

  • High quality DAC with improved performance
  • Classic SilverStone Ensemble exterior design
  • Easy one touch button for USB, optical or coaxial input
  • Support highest format of up to 24-bit/192kHz
  • Utilizes premium XMOS XS1 TQ128 USB decoder for accurate sound reproduction
  • Includes TI PCM1798 D/A converter for producing high quality analog signal
  • Includes TI NE5532 OP amp for optimal analog output

The EB03 is a headphone amp, it provides an extra powerful punch to drive your headphones way beyond the limits of what your on-board audio and even most soundcards could do; the EB03 can easily run any set of headphones from 16-600 ohm. It features a standard 6.3mm stereo jack on the front and an RCA bypass connection on the back, so you can still run your speakers without having to disconnect the device.

It features two chip sets that process the signal to provide a powerful, distortion free signal for your headphones of choice, which can be controlled via a simple to use independent volume dial on the top of the unit.

  • Premium amplifier designed to deliver full sound to headphones
  • Classic SilverStone Ensemble exterior design
  • Extra RCA bypass connection included for easy pairing with additional device
  • Studio-quality IC with THAT 1646W16-U & 1512S14-U
  • Independent volume control knob

Both the EB01-E and the EB03 come really nicely packaged with a quick run-down of the major features on the box (see above) as well as a small image of each product.

Both are really well packaged in soft foam blocks and plastic wraps, so the aluminium finish should reach you in perfect condition.

In the box with the EB03 you’ll find a manual, RCA to RCA pass-through cable, RCA to 3.5mm cable and a power adaptor.

In the box with the EB01-E you’ll find a manual, software install CD-Rom, RCA to female 3.5mm cable and a good quality USB cable.

Wavemaster Stax 2.1 Speaker Review

Introduction


Today we see the return of Wavemaster in the eTeknix office, it’s been a few months now since we last got to take a look at one of their products, so were more than happy to try them out once again. When the brand first entered the UK market we tried out their MX3+ 2.1 speakers and Moody 2.1 speakers, both of which were fantastic sounding and great value for money, something that earned each product one of our eTeknix awards, so I’m hoping that winning formula will be repeated today with the new Wavemaster Stax 2.1 speaker system.

Priced at around £50 here in the UK the speakers are hardly the play thing of the enthusiast music listener, but they’re still entering a very competitive section of the market. With brands such as Creative, Logitech, Trust & Genius all offering their own hardware for around the same price, much of which is very good given the price and they’re already more established brand names, so the Wavemaster is going to need to stand out a little bit for people to make the leap from a brand they’re more familiar with. Of course if the performance is anything near as good as we heard with the last two Wavemaster speakers we tested, then the Stax 2.1 speaker system has nothing to worry about.

As you can see from the specifications below the speakers themselves only have tiny 25.4mm drivers, but they’re backed up by a 13cm bass driver, which again isn’t especially big, but it should pack a good enough thump for most users and the sub and speakers output 26 Watt and 2 x 10 Watt respectively. There are a few other features here, but I want to show them in more detail in a moment.

  • Speaker drivers: subwoofer 13 cm bass driver, satellites 2,54 cm wide range drivers
  • Amplifier: integrated with 3 separate channels
  • Output power (RMS): subwoofer 26 Watt, satellites 2 x 10 Watt
  • Frequency response: subwoofer 30 – 150 Hz, satellites 150 Hz – 20.000 Hz
  • Input sensitivity: subwoofer line-in 500 mV, remote line-in 250 mV
  • Cable remote: with on/standby function, volume control, headphone jack (amplified) and line-in
  • Satellite speakers: with slim design (wall mountable), metal stands and 3m connection cable
  • Subwoofer: wooden cabinet with bass reflex technology, bass control, treble control and main power switch
  • Power supply: internal, 100-240 Volt ~ 50/60 Hz, 0.7A max., Standby Power <0.5 W (230V)
  • Connection: 3,5 mm mini stereo plug or RCA
  • Dimensions (WHD): satellites =  Ø 100 x 205 mm, subwoofer = 180 x 280 x 265 mm

The Stax come neatly boxed and for once they include a UK plug, no big deal for most I know, but their last models featured European connectors and required the use of an adaptor.

Included in the box, aside from the obvious speaker set is a simple user manual, a 3.5mm male to male cable and an RCA to 3.5mm female cable.

Speedlink Jugger 2.1 Speaker System Review

Introduction


Today I’ll be taking a look at the new Speedlink Jugger 2.1 speaker system, a budget friendly solution for those who want to give their multimedia an extra kick and bigger sound, but that don’t want to stretch their budget too far.

With 16 years industry experience, Speedlink have already sold over 10 million sound systems, making them one of Europe’s leading brands for multimedia solutions, and this is especially true for the PC and gaming markets. With that experience, they’ve no doubt got plenty of knowledge and experience, so I’m expecting to see much of that reflected in the product we’ll be taking a look at today.

Priced at around £45 Inc. shipping here in the UK the system is obviously not enthusiast grade audio equipment, but it’s priced just right to go head to head with systems from Wavemaster, Logitech, Creative and similar brands who all have products around the same budget, and many of those products are pretty good too (for this price), so it will be interesting to see how the Jugger 2.1 holds up and how well it holds up to Speedlinks own words about its performance (see below).

“Take your games’ sound quality to the next level and transport yourself to a powerful dimension in sound with the JUGGER 2.1 Subwoofer System. It combines the quality of cutting-edge audio technology with the high standards you place on your speakers’ performance. The high-volume subwoofer with its superior quality driver unit and wooden housing delivers powerful, gutsy bass. Experience spectacular sound effects, such as bombs going off or shots being exchanged, in all their glory. The JUGGER 2.1 Subwoofer System won’t just get gamers’ hearts racing: besides the high-fidelity sound of action-packed gaming scenarios, it’s perfect for action movies and music. Simply connect the system to your PC, games console or TV, and use the practical desktop remote to connect an MP3 player, a microphone or a gaming headset.” – Speedlink product page.

As you can see from the specifications below, the Jugger 2.1 outputs 35 Watt RMS with a peak of 70 Watt, so they should be pretty loud for a desktop solution, plus combining that with a subwoofer for some added thump.

  • Active 2.1 speaker system
  • 35 Watt RMS output power, 70 Watt peak power*
  • powerful subwoofer with a wooden housing and high volume for extreme bass
  • satellite speakers angled for optimal audio projection and with metal grill protectors
  • separate practical volume and bass controls on the subwoofer
  • on/off switch and auto power-saving mode for zero power wastage
  • practical desktop remote with connectors for rapid switching between additional audio sources, a microphone or a set of headphones
  • impressive symphony of sound for games – perfect for multimedia use
  • easy installation
  • rubber feet for acoustic decoupling
  • audio adapter cable (1m) for connecting to a PS3, Xbox 360 or TV
  • dimensions: subwoofer: 190 × 210 × 210mm (W × D × H), satellites: 130 × 105 × 130mm (W × D × H) x 2

The speakers come really nicely packaged with a carry handle built into the box, making them very retail friendly. On the front of the box you’ll find that they’ve been listed as compatible with TV, PC, PS3 and Xbox 360, but of course they’ll be compatible with any device that has AUX ports or a 3.5mm connection.

In the box I found not one, but two quick install guides, handy. I also found a wired controller, AUX to 3.5mm cable and AUX pass through to female 3.5mm cable, pretty much everything you should need to hook his up to your PC, TV, Blu-ray player or similar audio enabled device.

Noontec Rio In-Ear Headphones Review

Introduction


Today we take a look at the Noontec Rio in-ear headphones and having previously reviewed the Noontec Zoro wireless headphones and giving them a big thumbs up I was excited to review the Rio earphones. On paper the Rio offers high quality sound in an attractive package and I’m keen to see what they can do.

In ear headphones are more popular than ever, in fact it is safe to say that personal audio is more popular than ever with the market saturated by mobile audio devices such as Tablets, portable gaming devices, mobiles, mp3 players and more. So it can really be important to have some person headphones that are not only great in terms of performance, but also comfortable and of course affordable.

So without further delay, lets get right to the good stuff and see what the Rio have to offer.

High quality packaging seems to be the norm for Noontec. The Rio comes with a small zip up hard case to store the earphones and spare tips in, you can also get any jack adapters or Bluetooth dongles in there too as there is enough room. The blurb on the inside cover promotes high end audio clarity and the window on the box teases you with what’s on offer.

The fold open front cover has magnets to stop it flying open, attention to detail in the packaging is high, it’s not just looks in this regard. You also get additional ear tips in each size.

We are given plenty of room inside the pouch but ultimately all that storage space comes at a cost. putting this case in your pocket will create bulk and is best suited to a bag to transport around in. A soft pouch may have been a nicer pocket friendly option.

Noontec Zoro Wireless Bluetooth Headphone Review

Introduction


Up until recently I had never heard of Noontec as a brand, had I not been shown more details then these headphones would have passed me by otherwise! I have listened to RF and bluetooth headphones in the past and the technology just wasn’t good enough back then to offer high enough quality music or for audio to be in sync with what’s happening on screen for those who watch movies or play games.

I checked the details of the Zoro on the Noontec website which labels them as “Fashion” headphones (I’ll come to this later on) and that they also have a HD version which appears to have a $20 lower RRP but is an older model.

The majority of buyers who are looking for wireless headphones today will no doubt be using them on their smartphones and tablets, so for the bulk of this review I will be basing my findings from a Samsung Galaxy Note 2 which is the best of both worlds, better known as a phablet. I’ll also be adding additional thoughts on the performance when connected to a Hi-Fi amplifier with the supplied cable.

Will this new Noontec model offer a solution to those issues or will they disappoint, let’s find out!

The Zoro comes neatly packed in a folding cover box. Without focusing at the logo or brand name you could be forgiven for mistaking the headphones on show as a pair of Beats by Dr Dre, they have clearly taken some inspiration from the good Dr, not necessarily a bad thing for attracting a wider audience.

The presentation is good, not excessive but not cheap looking or feeling either. These headphones can be bought for around £40 and I feel the packaging and presentation quality exceeds what other headphones offer in this price range.

In the box are the headphones, 3.5mm detachable ribbon cable and a soft satin pull lock pouch. The ribbon cable, for when you don’t want to connect wirelessly.

Bayan Audio StreamPort Universal Audio Streamer Review

Bluetooth audio streaming devices are a common sight amongst many homes and even in cars where stereos handle hands free connections through the technology. Now in its fourth version, the capabilities and quality of Bluetooth has improved drastically and rather than the somewhat grainy on poor quality audio that we used to experience, the standards have improved drastically with high quality audio now the standard and connectivity much easier.

More recently there has been a newer technology being incorporated in to the likes of mobile phones, making wireless streaming, sharing and connections so much easier than before. NFC or Near-Field-Communications is a wireless standard that allows mobile phones to establish connections with other NFC enabled devices, simply by bringing it within close proximity of the device (around a few centimetres depending on the device). NFC itself is not used to stream audio to the StreamPort as it has a very low transmission range and its top speed is 424kbps. The integration of NFC is more to make the task of connecting a mobile device to the StreamPort much more simplified and quick with the process done purely by sitting the NFC enabled phone on top of the StreamPort to establish the Bluetooth connection without any further interaction required.

We’ve taken a look at one of Bayan Audio’s products before, namely the Bayan 7 iPod Speaker Dock and it won us over with its great looks and great audio that had definition and clarity right through the range, which for us at eTeknix is a key factor – we love clear sound. I’m not a massive audiophile, however I like my sound to be good with definition clarity and volume at both the high and low ends of the scale. These factors may not play the same major part in a product of this nature as it does not reproduce the audio itself, leaving that to a third party system, but more importantly decoding the audio signal that it receives over Bluetooth to give a good source feed to the playback system.

Inside the box alongside the StreamPort that we’ll look at a little closer on the next page, Bayan Audio include a USB mains adaptor with UK and EU plugs, along with a USB cable to power the unit as well as a 3.5mm to 3.5mm and 2ch RCA cable for flexibility in connecting the unit to a variety of audio systems. A user manual also gives information on getting the system working and how to pair it with Bluetooth and NFC enabled devices.

Luxa2 F1 Free Size Headphone Review

Thermaltake are one of the biggest names in the PC market, not only are they well known for their PC chassis design, power supplies and other components, but they also spawned another company known to many at TteSports who have gained a great reputation in recent years for some of the best gaming peripherals on the market, but lesser known here in the UK is there other brand, Luxa2, who make mobile friendly products and audio solutions and I’ve been waiting patiently for quite some time to get hold of a pair to see what they have to offer.

“LUXA2, a Division of Thermaltake, was created in 2009, with characteristics of simplicity, luxury, and unique lifestyle. The core design theory of LUXA2 starts from simple shapes blending with luxury elements, which create the unique lifestyle for different segments within the society such as Creative Pro, Mobile Blogger, Leisure Seeker, Hip Newbie, Entertainment Junkie, and Apple’s Mac Lovers.” – LUXA2

When it comes to mobile products, appearance is vital and many people care just as much about how they look while wearing headphones as they do about their headphones sound, which is in my opinion a silly way of doing as I’ll always pick audio quality over style, but that’s just me.

“LUXA2 represent an emerging trend of “individuality” in the world. Not only do people need function, but they also need aesthetic appeal. This is what LUXA2 has achieved. Exquisite craftsmanship with aesthetic and elegant design style is a promise and commitment from LUXA2. Thus, the Simplicity, Luxury and Lifestyle of LUXA2 creates a Uniquely You.” – LUXA2

LUXA2 are playing to a tough crowd, from their own worlds we know they’re targeting the hipster, Apple loving, trendy and self proclaimed cool people of society, a scene of which you could say contains people who are often picky about the products they’ll use, let alone be seen using.

The LUXA2 come nearly boxed in a fairly straight forward box, with a clear panel that gives us a sneak peek at the design, nothing particularly standout so far though so let’s get them out the packaging and take a closer look.

The headphones are hard-wired from both the left and right ear cups, with a Y split cable.

The cable is rubber coated and while it might not look much it’s enough to prevent cable noise traveling up to the ear cups. The jack plug is 3.5mm gold plated, but the large body on it could prevent usage on smartphones with a recessed socket.

The ear cups and the side of the headband are finished in a high gloss plastic, which if I’m honest feels really cheap to touch, it rattles and squeaks endlessly while your handling them and it doesn’t feel particularly durable either.

There is a push / pull length adjustment on each side with a simple metal strip divider and this should help you find a good fit. The headband features a firm foam lining and this is makes for a nice overhead fit, it also helps keep the headphones from slipping off your head.

The ear cups are an “on ear” design and features some durable padding that gives a nice fit over the ear, but it’s not overly comfortable and I find that ear covers like this often need to be worn in to provide the best fit. The drivers can be rotated inward, this partly helps give a good fitting angle but it’s also more comfortable if you wear the headphone around your neck between listening.

Performance

Given the more mobile nature of these headphones I decided to take them out for a spin with my iPad, I’ve had quite a big of walking to do this last week and it was a great opportunity to get out into the sun and listen to some music along the way. My taste is music is extremely varied and I had enough time to throw quite a lot of albums at these headphones and overall I have to say I wasn’t terribly impressed, but not completely disappointed either.

The bass on these drivers is really thick and rich, more than I would expect from an over ear design and if you’re a fan of bass heavy music such as dance, dub step, or just generally any kind of electronic club type music then you’ll get a lot of joy from these headphones.

Yet that is where the fun ends in my opinion, as I love heavy metal, rock music, jazz and all kinds of stuff and the EQ bass tones really scrub out the mid and high tones when things really get going, as if the driver can’t respond in time to loud and heavy bass tones. This is generally something that plagues most over ear design headphones though and it’s not even that uncommon within this price range, but it could certainly be better.

Listening to podcasts and audiobooks is good though, since there is little bass there the audio quality is silky smooth. This led me to discover that if you can EQ the bass down a fair bit, push the mid and high tones a little and you’re not at high volumes, you can coax a nice tone from these drivers, but in all fairness, you really shouldn’t have to tweak like that just to get something acceptable.

Final Thoughts

Overall a fairly sub par performance here today, the headphones are not “bad” as such, they’re just not as good as they could be for this price range. They may only be £35 shipped here in the UK but for that kind of money you can get some incredible sound quality from competing brands and just as much, if not more style, as well as far superior build quality.

If you can pick up a pair of these at around £20 then I would say they’re reasonably good value for money, so long as your more inclined to heavier bass tones and electronic music at least. Should you wish to listen to high volume death metal or other intensive music then you may want to look elsewhere. The way I see it, a pair of headphones should be suitable for all kinds of music, regardless of your own tastes.

LUXA2 F1 headphones do look good though and while I don’t like the choice of materials used in their construction they do look nice and trendy when you are wearing them, they’re glossy, relatively smart and look more expensive than they actually are for the most part, that is at least until you handle them, at which point they feel a little sub par.

So a mixed bag here really, on one hand we have good bass performance and decent style, on the other we have shaky all round audio performance and lack luster construction, I think overall I can safely say I don’t really like the F1 headphones.

Pros

  • Stylish
  • Lightweight
  • Good Bass

Cons

  • Distort at higher volumes
  • Sub par construction
  • Could be cheaper

Gigabyte Fly Headphones Review

Gigabyte is not known for their audio product, but that’s mostly because they’ve never really dived into that part of the market. Gigabyte is a brand I’m sure most of you are more than familiar with and have earned them selves on of the best reputations in the industry for high performance PC motherboards, not to mention some of the most popular budget friendly motherboards too.

Gigabyte is no stranger to the world of peripherals though and products like the Krypton mouse have already proven themselves to be some of my favourite gaming mice on the market, which proved to me that Gigabyte is more than capable of making things out side of the motherboard market. Yet other than two pairs of fairly standard PC desktop speakers, audio is a new area for them and it will be interesting to see what they have to offer.

Priced at around $50 they are not overly expensive, a suitable price range for your average consumer and so long as they have decent performance and style they could be an interesting contender for this section of the market.

The box for the Fly features a large window panel that gives us a clear view of the headset.

Around the back we have a much more detailed run down of some of the features:

  • DJ headset driver units for heavy beats
  • 79 grams for long time wearing* (without cables)
  • Rhombus pattern headband design
  • Blocks outside noise with soft leather ear cushions

In the box I found a simple user information leaflet and the headphones themselves. With two on-ear drivers, a thing headband and a hard-wired cable the set looks pretty snazzy and it’s seriously light weight too, although first impressions are that it’s also well constructed and the thing headband feels a lot more durable than it looks.

The headband is barely a millimeter thick and this makes it super discreet and it’s quite literally the other end of the scale from most other headsets which features a thick band, or large plastic mold.

The jack plug is a little bulky given the slimline design of the rest of the set but it’s also very durable and that’s never a bad thing as this is often the first area to fail on headphones.

The cables are sleeved in bright blue vinyl and combined with the blue accents on the headphones, the bright brushed steel looks and the soft leather it gives the set a very chic retro look, very cool looking indeed.

The ear cups are finished with soft leather-like material that is very comfortable because there is a little bit of rotation in the drivers, as well as a clever slide adjustment where the headband goes deeper inside the ear cup, you can get a really good fit on your head that is both comfortable and good at blocking out ambient noise.

Performance

It’s incredible how light these headphones feel on your head, but that’s mostly because there is hardly anything there, this is one of the thinnest headbands I’ve ever seen and this is possible because of the reinforced steel construction and its more than strong enough to provide a snug fit over your ears. This snug fit really helps bring out the bass frequencies and given their light weight there is certainly nothing light about the bass heavy drivers. High frequencies are crystal clear too and while it looses some of the mid tone warmth that I like a lot, you can get a little of this back by tuning down bass and treble on your EQ, it’s not perfect, but it’s a sound that’s pretty well suited to a wide range of music.

Things can get a little muddy sounding at high volumes, but generally only when listening to extremely intense music at volume that would be considered uncomfortable (or inadvisable as the case may be) and it’s nothing out of the ordinary for most headphones in this price range.

Final Thoughts

The sound is a little clinical overall and while it does suit a multitude of styles quite well, it’s strong point is bass heavy music such as Dubstep, Dance and pretty much anything electronic. But given the funky blue vinyl coating on the cables I think this is a headset well suited to the trendy music loving, style conscious consumer which is pretty much everything I am not.

Gigabyte have a strong first entry to the headphone market here and I personally hope they follow it up quickly with something else, there is room for improvement here with the EQ and drivers, there is definitely potential for greatness if they get the balance right here. I would also love to see a full over ear design with less focus on compact design and more focus on a fuller sound experience but when it comes to a slim, light weight and highly mobile product I think Gigabyte offer something as good or better than most anything on the market for this price range, even more so for anything within this size and weight category.

I wouldn’t feel comfortable paying $50 for them personally, but that’s only because I know they’re not really ideal for my kind of music tastes and I’m the sort of person who looks anything but cool when I try to pull of something trendy like this, yet that is no fault of Gigabyte and I still think they have a great product here.

If you can get them just a little cheaper than $50 and you need light weight headphones with a heavy bass line, the you would be wise to check out the Fly.

 

Antec Mobile Products A.M.P. dBs Headphone Review

Antec are one most established names in the PC component industry, well regarded for the chassis designs, CPU coolers and of course power supplies, but more recently they’ve been gaining a new reputation, one for mobile products and while it seems every company ever is bringing out a range of mobile products, Antec’s previous attempts stand out a little more than most.

There is no doubt that there is a mobile boom going on and while the current generation consumes mobile devices, there is little sign of the market slowing down any time soon, so it makes sense than companies like Antec would want to get in on the action. We’ve already taken a look at several Antec Mobile Products (AMP) in other reviews and you can check those out here and here (links open in new tab).

So with mobile well covered, high end mobile speakers, Bluetooth headsets and rechargeable USB hubs already ticked off, what about the more straightforward solution that is audio? Well that’s exactly what I’ll be looking at today with the Antec Mobile Products dBs headphones, a simple enough pair of in-ear headphones.

Priced at around £25.00 from most major online retailers, they’re not terribly cheap or expensive, but it’s still a fair investment for a set of good quality in-ear headphones. Silver, Grey, Green, Black and Pink editions are available, but the ones were looking at today are a very funky pink.

The dBs come nicely packed in a colour matching box, so in this case a pink box and there is little on the front other than the product name and a simple product photo.

The box folds out at the back for an international translation run down of the basic spec, nothing fancy really and mostly just marketing stuff.

In the box I found a couple of light booklets that cover use and warrant of the headphones, the headphones them selves and two extra pairs of ear buds, making three pairs in total, each of a different size to ensure you can get a good fit for your ear shape.

Also tucked away in the box is a simple clip, perfect for keeping the headphones pinned to your clothes, prevent them dragging on the floor if you take them out of your ears for a moment.

The ear buds are clear and made from a easily moulded rubber that provides a really nice fit, they’re also nicely shaped meaning they fit into your ear well and sit relatively flush thanks to the compact drivers. They’re close backed too and this helps block out external noise, but also prevents sound leak from the headphones.

The cable is colour matched to the headphones and features a nice high quality braided cable that joins onto a nice quality 3.5mm gold plated jack plug.

Performance

Obviously these being headphones they’re as simple as plug and play with any 3.5mm headphone jack socket. I did my initial testing on my PC and after an hour of listening to some of my favourite tracks I found these to be very favourable indeed. The bass is really rich and that’s obviously helped by the fact the drivers are of an in-ear design and I wasn’t expecting to be able to get as much low end thump from something within this price range. They hold up fairly well after a push on the lower EQ, with +6db at 70Hz really helping to thicken the sound, but anything more than that and things get washed out and distorted, which is pretty common for most any driver or speaker under a £100.

The high notes are really clear and while things are a little hollow in the mid ranges this is nothing that you won’t find on most any other in ear headphone, but the mixture of punch bass and clear high makes for a powerful sound that is well suited to everything from pop music to heavy metal. I took them out for a spin with my MP3 player too and I’ve found they’re well suited for audio books and podcasts, so all round a pretty versatile pair of headphones that shouldn’t let you down no matter what you listen to.

Final Thoughts

These aren’t the best headphones ever, they were never going to be, but they are however really good in their own right and for £25 you can do a lot worse and I doubt you could do much better on the same budget as things doing really get interesting in the in-ear headphone market until you get to prices well over double the price of the dBs.

The style is really nice too and while personally I’m not that fond of the pink set, they overall quality and finish on them is really nice. It’s all put together well, there are no loose components, the cable is nicely braided and that should keep it protected but also adds a nicely style touch and the colour matching of the drivers, cable and jack plug looks good too. There are plenty of decent colours to choose from and overall you should be able to find something that suits your style.

They’re versatile in terms of what music they can handle and the price is highly reasonable, but overall I guess I can’t really fault them, Antec promised really good quality headphones at a reasonable price and that is exactly what they delivered on, perfect for those who need a cool looking set of headphones that won’t let them down in terms of build quality or performance, making the dBs excellent value for money.

 

Wavemaster Dakota Headphones Review

It makes me very happy today to have another Wavemaster product back in the office and after the big success that we had testing their Mx3+, Moody and Moby products, I have high hopes of seeing similarly high performance for a low cost from the products were looking at today.

On the test bench are the Wavemaster Dakota headphones, I have two pairs to play around with but other than colour they’re technically the same headset, one is black, the other is white and with a price of around £25 they’re set to be affordable audio products aimed at the general consumer audio market, where you expect them to be significantly better than the junk you find bundled with a lot of audio products but also significantly cheaper than enthusiast grade hardware. Of course at this price range, I’m not going to be expecting the most earth shattering performance from these headphones, but £25 is still a tidy investment for headphones and I’ll still expect to see good build quality, decent audio performance and some style, anything else will be a welcome bonus in working out the value for money on this set.

Wavemaster has not long launched here in the UK, but they’ve already proven them selves to be one of the most popular audio brands in Germany and that trend seems to be continuing here in the UK as places like Overclockers.co.uk  have started to stock and promote their products.

As you can see below, the Dakota headphones come in a tidy looking box, with a really nice level of presentation, not too fussy and so far the first image of the product gives a promising impression.

In the box I found a simple information leaflet and of course, a pair of hardwired headphones, which as you can see come with the Wavemaster logo across the top of the headband.

The headphones feature a full braided cable, with a nice high quality 3.5mm jack plug on the end, both of which should help improve life expectancy of the product by reducing wear and tear.

The black edition of these headphones features a soft looking matte finish and it’s a nice change from the usual shiny and cheap looking plastics of headsets within this range, but more importantly there is a lovely hint of red fabric on the inside of the headband as well as some soft padding here that helps provide a comfortable fit.

Each ear cup is mounted on a spring loaded 90 degree swivel joint, push / pull snap-lock height extenders and just enough flexibility to allow a nice fit no matter how big or small your head is.

Inside the ear cups you will find a soft fabric covering over the drivers, while the outer part is covered in a fairly tough but not uncomfortable padded leather.

 

There is a nice ergonomic shape to the headphones and the swivel mounting arm for the drivers are mounted at an angle, this helps keep the side of the headband closer to your head, unlike many headphones that stick outfar beyond your ears and make you look a bit stupid.

Here we can see the white edition, still featuring the red accent on the headband, but covered in a chalk white matte finish that looks absolutely lush.

It matches up really nice with the while leather too and personally I think these look far better than the black pair, although both do have their charms.

The back of the ear cups features a few bumps and ridges to add to the design, as well as a small Wavemaster logo in the centre.

The while pair also uses the soft look matte plastics of the black pair, although they appear (in my opinion) to look of a higher quality in white, although I do fear they could be harder to keep looking clean in white.

Fit and comfort

Headphones are meant to be mobile, so it only seemed fit that I took these out for a spin, and I’ve spend the last week with them chucked in my backpack and ready to rock. When out walking they’re surprisingly comfortable and then haven’t felt like they were slipping off my head once, nor to they feel like they’re clamped to my head and overall I think they’re remarkably comfortable for short to mid term use. That isn’t to say they’re not suitable for say 6 hours usage in one go, they are, but like any headset in this price range they might become progressively more uncomfortable after long periods of time.

Audio performance

This is where Wavemaster have proven them selves before and I already know they can make a well balanced audio driver and the same is true here, the sound is incredibly balanced and low, mid and high tones feel and sound independent and distortion free even when things get loud and heavy. there is a deep bass to the headphones but it doesn’t feel overly heavy and is a little more reserved than a lot of headphones in this price range, this is a good thing and the warmth of the mid ranges and the super clear high tones makes for a very pleasant listening experience no matter what kind of music you choose.

I’m a big death metal fan, but I also love a lot of instrumental jazz fusion, classic rock and every now and then something with a wub-wub, so I like a headset that can meet those demands without heaving the change my EQ everytime I change the album, but the flat EQ given from these drivers means I never have to worry about such things.

Final Thoughts

Given that these headphones cost just £25 I am absolutely stunned with their performance, ok they’re not as good as the headphones I use about the house, but they do cost £175.00 less and they still sound pretty darn good regardless. The sound quality is fantastic and they also pack enough punch for those who love their music loud (although I wouldn’t advise testing the maximum out, yikes!). Even at high volumes they still sound true and clear and you can still make out the finer details of your music at low volumes too, making these handy for a multitude of listening environments.

Their super comfortable for general day to day use and given that they fold up neatly and are well built, I don’t feel worried about throwing them into the bottom of my backpack when I’m out and about. If your sat on the train, bus, or any form of transport, they’re idea for hooking up to your media player, tablet, smartphone or other device to enjoy a few games, movies, albums or what ever takes your fancy.

They also hold up really well when your walking around and I’ve managed a couple of miles on foot without any issues from the headphones, but if your planning on using them for when your out jogging, running or cycling I’d advise you invest in some properly secured sports headphones as they will tend to slip if your bouncing around a lot.

While sound quality is the most important factor for me, especially since I don’t care about the style of my audio equipment, so long as it performs and performance clearly isn’t an issue here. The next big actually is style and the performance is matched by some fantastic styling and design, they look great, they feel great, they sound great and the price is half what I would have expected, an easy choice for our Bang for Buck Award.

Wavemaster DAKOTA Performance Stereo Headphone – White @ OCUK

Wavemaster DAKOTA Performance Stereo Headphone – Black @ OCUK

Hercules Wireless Audio Experience W.A.E. Portable Bluetooth Speaker System

I’ve had something a little different to play around with this week and as much as I love sitting indoors and playing with new gadgets, it’s always great when you get something that allow your to break away from your desk and get out into the sun.

I have with me the Hercules Wireless Audio Experience Bluetooth Speaker System, a fairly straight forward looking device, essentially just a wireless speaker with a big carry handle on the top, perfect for taking with you when you’re looking to kick back out in the sun. While I would exactly condone carrying something like this on a walk, on the bus or some other play like that, it is designed for trips to the beach, picnics, hanging out in the garden, that sort of thing, the latter of those I planned to test extensively.

Wireless audio is nothing new, but it’s certainly a trend that is gaining some popularity, given the increasing demand for digital music and the amount of people who play their music from their phone. Now we all know that music on a mobile phone speaker has almost always sucked pretty badly, even my phone which touts high quality speakers from “beats” and all that other marketing garbage still sounds god awful when I play music through it at any reasonable volume levels. So it’s obvious that the only way around this is an external audio device.

So lets jump right in and see what the WAE speaker has to offer.

  • Bluetooth 3.0 A2DP
  • 10 m range
  • Android dedicated application
  • Frequency response: 80 Hz – 20,000 Hz
  • Power: 15 W RMS
  • Battery life: 12 hours
  • Power supply: 12 V/1.6 A
  • RoHS, CE, FCC, Bluetooth® compliant
  • Speaker dimensions : 340 (D) x 140 (W) x 120 (H) mm

As you can see from the specification above, the WAE packs a decent, if somewhat limited feature set. It’s got a decent wireless range (speaker to phone range) and its compatible with Bluetooth technology. Pictures can be deceiving though, and the speaker isn’t as small as it might look, with measurements of 34 x 14 x 12cm it’s not something you can just store easily in your average back pack, not least if your planning on having other items in there too.

The whole device is finished is glossy plastics that do give it a nice shine, with a clean and well designed, if someone simplistic appearance. the front panel is a hard plastic mould and features small square cut-outs which are fabric backed, perfect for letting the hidden speakers work their magic.

The front control panel is straight forward enough, you have volume up, volume down, a battery indicator and a power switch, They’re all nicely designed, but it shouldn’t take a genius to work out how to control the device and that is of course a good thing, simple but effective.

Around the back we have another hard plastic mould that is styled similarly to the front panel, but instead of smaller square cut-outs we have two larger bass ports, these should help add depth to the sound, unfortunately there is no way of sneaking a speak at the drivers or speaker cones, but if I’m honest, I doubt they’re anything special.

The back features a simple input panel with a control switch, audio line in for those who don’t need to or want to use the Bluetooth features and a power line-in port for the included power cable. This cable can be used to power the device if you so wish, but any time the device is connected to the mains outlet it will also recharge the device, it is a portable speaker after all.

Setup & Installation

Setup was pretty straight forward, the speaker didn’t have any charge when I took it out of the box, but I was able to complete the setup process with it connected to its mains charger. The first step to setup was to download the WAE controller app, which is available for both Android and iOS.

The app is super easy to use and it managed to find and pair up with the speaker on my first attempt. Once installed your presented with options to either stream music that is stored on your device, such as the audio from YouTube, MP3’s or radio.

The speaker is fully controllable from the app, allowing you to adjust volume, equalizer and more to your liking.

The app was able to use my 3G and Wi-Fi to browse from a huge selection of internet radio stations from around the world and it didn’t take long to search through them for a few popular favourites such as Kerrang, Radio 1, XFM and countless others

Performance

This speaker is said to be able to run for 12 hours on mid volume, I was able to keep it in the garden and use it at a more than comfortable listening volume for about 6 hours, turning it up on occasion when something cool came on and overall I’m pretty impressed with the sound. Sure it’s not going to touch my amp and custom speaker setup that I have in the house, but for something you can carry around with you it still packs a nicely balanced sound with a reasonable amount of bass. It’s distortion free at high volume, but I expect that wouldn’t do much favours for the battery life.

It’s a great little product and it’s size lends its self well for use at BBQ’s, trips to the beach and anywhere else where you want to take your music with you, but don’t want to listen to it on the pokey little speakers found in modern smartphones.

The only thing that concerns me is the construction, the device feels solid enough but the carry handle is moulded plastic and I’m not sure its all that strong. It’s more than enough to carry it around a little, but I would exactly be running and jumping with it in my hand (not that you would need to of course). The chassis plastics are nice to look at, but they’re not super strong and I fear it would smash if knocked over or bumped, not something I fancy testing, but something to be careful of.

That being said, I’m not expecting this to be an ultra durable, all terrain boom box, it’s a stylish little number that is meant for relaxing and enjoy some music, which is something its highly capable of. The battery life is great, it’s easy to recharge and it works not only with a wide selection of mobile devices but also anything with a 3.5mm jack plug, such as your iPod.

The RRP on this set is around £90 and that is far too high in my opinion, but it is on par with competitor products of similar spec, so maybe its just me that thinks that’s expensive. However, this is a modern world we live in and a quick google can find you one from some popular online retailers for a little over £50 and as far as I’m concerned, that’s pretty good value for money.

I don’t have an award for the WAE speaker today, that’s not to say it’s bad in any way, because it’s not, but it didn’t blow me away either. If you can pick one up for around £50 and you need a fairly powerful, easy to use and portable music solution then you would be daft not to at least consider this stylish offering from Hercules.

Co:caine City Beat Headphone Review

Today I’ll be taking a look at the stylish City Beat headphones from co:caine. Let’s get this out of the way early to help prevent too much giggling, yes I am aware that their name sounds like a drug and silly as that may seem, it’s actually rather clever marketing. All we’ve done since we got these headphones is talk about the product to people because of their name, very clever if you ask me. Yet when it comes to people talking about a product, it can’t just be because it has a silly or clever name, their needs to be something to back that up, quality, price, performance, style, any of these things and the more of them the better.

So with their trendy and provocative brand name, as well as the product name “City Beat” it’s pretty clear (at least to me) that these are a fashion accessories, my past trendy headset experience sets alarm bells off in the back of my head as that also often implies that more attention has gone into the style than the audio quality, but we shall find that out shortly.

The City Beat headphones have an RRP of just under 50 Euro and that’s a pretty reasonable price by any standard for a set of trendy and cool headphones. We’ll be looking at two colour choices from them today, the Neon and the Monkey Green, but there are a range of cool designs to choose from on their site, so it shouldn’t be hard to find a colour or style that is to your liking.

Audio is a massive industry and portable audio solutions are bigger than ever these days, the ever-increasing demand for music on the go with Mp3, mobile phones, tablets, laptops and more, the demand for good quality headphones is essential. So too is the demand for headphones that look good, especially given you could find them on your head or around your neck for most of the day.

  • Speaker 40 mm
  • Frequency range: 20-20.000 Hz
  • Impedance: 32 Ω / channel
  • Weight: 135 g ( w/o cable )
  • Cable Length: 1,2 m
  • Connector: 3,5 mm Mini Phono Plug

Wavemaster MX3+ 2.1 Speaker System Review


In the office today I have a set of MX 3+ 2.1 speakers, a budget friendly audio solution from popular German audio company Wavemaster. Their brand is ever-growing in popularity here in Europe and the company seems intent on making a bigger push into the market with their latest range of products, with the aim of providing high quality solutions that don’t cost the earth, but do they have what it takes to battle it out with some of the other big names in the audio industry, or even just the general consumer side of the market that is currently dominated by brands like Logitech and Microlab?

Wavemaster have been around for quite some time now, but have been in their current form since HMC took over the company and trademark back in 2009.

“Constantly developing a complete new branding and product line. Wavemaster is one of the multimedia brands with the longest market experience and we strive to make it one of the leading trademarks in Central Europe,”

  • Satellites: 2 x 7 cm full range drivers
  • Subwoofer: 13 cm bass driver
  • Integrated amplifier with 3 separate channels
  • Amp performance (RMS): 50 Watt
  • (subwoofer 30 Watt, satellites 2 x 10 Watt)
  • Frequency response: subwoofer 30 – 150 Hz, satellites 150 Hz – 20.000 Hz
  • Cable remote with ON/OFF function, volume control, headphone jack and line-in
  • Satellite speakers with compact design (wall mountable) and detachable front cover.
  • Subwoofer in wooden cabinet with bass reflex technology, bass control and main power switch.
  • Connection: 3,5 mm mini stereo plug or Cinch
  • Measurements (WHD): Satellites = 82 x 178 x 98 mm,
  • Subwoofer = 170 x 280 x 253 mm

As you can see from the specifications above, this is a fairly compact solution with a slim style vertical sub, a pair of compact satellite speakers and an in-line controller that make them perfect for home computer and desktop applications. Of course, their range is wider given that the speakers feature a simple 3.5mm jack plug that will ensure their compatibility with everything from TVs, games consoles, computers, phones, portable music players and anything else that features an audio output.

Wavemaster Moody 2.1 Speaker System Review

Today I’ll be taking a look at a mid-price range 2.1 speaker system from Wavemaster, a popular German audio company that seems to have big ambitions for the rest of Europe, including the UK. Priced at around €69 they’re certainly priced well enough to attract a lot of general consumers. This is something that has caught the attention of the German markets where they are proving a popular choice on Amazon.de and today we hope to find out why they’re proving so popular.

Wavemaster might not be a company you have heard of, which makes sense given their German origins as a company, not to mention the fact  a lot of our eTenix readers are from both the UK and US.

“In April 2009, HMC took over the Wavemaster trademark and are constantly developing a complete new branding and product line. Wavemaster is one of the multimedia brands with the longest market experience and we strive to make it one of the leading trademarks in Central Europe,”

I wasn’t expecting any ground breaking features when it comes to the Moody, at least not in this price range, but the system does come well equipped with all the basics required by 99% of consumers, and should come with everything (in terms of features) that you will really need for day to day use.

  • Satellites: 2 x 7 cm full range drivers
  • Subwoofer: 16,5 cm bass driver
  • Integrated amplifier with 3 separate channels
  • Amp performance (RMS): 65 Watt
  • (subwoofer 35 Watt, satellites 2 x 15 Watt)
  • Frequency response: subwoofer 30 – 150 Hz,
  • satellites 150 Hz – 20.000 Hz
  • Cable remote with ON/OFF (standby) function, volume control, headphone jack, line-in and microphone-in
  • Satellite speakers with compact design (wall mountable) and detachable front cover
  • Subwoofer in wooden cabinet with bass reflex technology, bass- and treble control and main power switch
  • Internal power supply (230 Volt)
  • Connection: 3,5 mm mini stereo plug or Cinch
  • Measurements (WHD): Satellites = 90 x 145 x 103 mm, Subwoofer = 245 x 248 x 275 mm

As you can see from the specs we have full range drivers, a large 16.5cm sub woofer, 3 separate channels and 65 Watts of performance that should add up to a powerful sound from the Moody system. Given their price tag is a bit above the usual budget range models I will be looking for a decent level of build quality, audio performance and as a bonus, some style. So lets take a closer look at what the Moody have to offer and hope that I come away more happy than moody.

Asus O!Play Mini Plus Smart TV Set-Top Box Review

Media players are something that we only look at from time to time, and we have seen a few that are a little rough around the edges and feel like they have been released without the software side being fully tested or completed, or in other scenarios are let down by low specifications that lead to an inability to fully playback high definition content. That said though there are a number of devices out there that are able to deliver just as they say they would and in some rare cases give more than expected.

Typically when we hear the name Asus, we automatically think of motherboards, graphics cards, laptops and all-in-one systems to name but a few products, however they also have a line of home media players that offer up sleek simple designs and a suitably affordable price tag.

The O!Play Mini+ may be a small device, but it does a boast a wide range of features including full support for high definition content streamed from either a USB device, memory card or network location, access to internet services such as Facebook, DailyMotion, Picasa, Flickr, YouTube and most notably of all full access to Netflix.

Kicker Cush Headphones Review

This is the first time I’ve used a set of Kicker headphones and while I haven’t heard how they perform, I have heard of the brand and I’m hoping that stands for something. There are no shortage of choices when it comes to headphones, with something to offer for every price range imaginable on the market your sure to have a hard time picking the ones that are right for you.

Music is a big part in my life, I have music on almost endlessly through the day, when I’m out and about I have my MP3 player with me and when I’m not working I’m making music as a guitarist, mastering audio files and finally gaming on an evening with my headphones on. So a good set of earphones is very important to me, so what can the Cush headphones offer me? lets take a quick look at the specifications.

The Cush have 54mm drivers, which for headphones is pretty large in general, this is usually a good sign that you’ll get powerful sound but its by no means a guarantee of it.

“Featuring an ultra-lightweight design and thick over-the-ear cushions, Cush Headphones allow for long-lasting comfort and remarkably detailed acoustics with a lavish fit. With 54-millimeter speakers and a max output of 118 decibels, these headphones are sure to provide the legendary bass response and tonal accuracy for which KICKER is known.” – http://www.kicker.com/cush_headphones