Wednesday, November 27, 2013

Review: August SE50 - A 'Tivoli' costing only a fraction?

August International sent me a sample of their new tabletop radio SE50 for a review.
As I have heard lots of different radios, I thought I might give the SE50 a try, as it is a very inexpensive unit that even includes bluetooth streaming for under 40$. At the same time it is quite classy looking due to a faux-wooden design. In Germany you'll have to pay a little bit more, as you can find it on for around 45€.
A comparable Tivoli One radio with bluetooth will cost you more than 200$ and you'll only get mono sound. Is the high price for the Tivoli really justified? Let's find out.

Thursday, November 21, 2013

Minirig and the new Minirig Subwoofer

I must confess that I have not heard the Pasce Minirig yet, although I have only read positive reviews about it so far.

The Minirig is a compact but powerful mono speaker with very loud and clear sound, according to most who own it. The speaker has a built in rechargeable battery but no wireless mode, it only works wired. But you can also daisychain several speakers to push output even further.

Now Pasce finally lounched the new Minirig Subwoofer which should push the whole system a step further. The Sub is claimed to provide bass down to 48Hz (+/-3dB) which is quite impressive regarding the size.

Soon Pasce will provide a whole 2.1 system consisting of 2 Minirigs and 1 Subwoofer together with all needed splitter-wires, so that you get real stereo-sound.

The whole set reminds me a lot of my mighty and meanwhile sold Thinkoutside Boomtube (formerly Virgin Boomtube Ex) which was quite an impressive 40 Watt speaker system when launched (the volume dial went to 11!), but due to all the wires it was hardly portable anymore once set up. If you wanted to reposition it, you had to disassamble everything again or you needed at least 3 hands.

The fine thing with the Boomtube was that for transport you could screw the satellites on the sub for transport. A pity this is not possible with the Minirigs. At least Pasce could have built in some magnets that held the satellites in place. Though they will probably come up with some special carrying bag with place for everything.

The Minirig 2.1 could become a serious contender in the crowded boombox market, but it comes at a price, as the whole system will cost you about 350£. You can get a Klipsch KMC-3 for 299£, which I am sure will blow the Minirig out of the water regarding bass response and loudness although nerd factor seems to be higher with the Minirig set of course!

Here you can see the whole Minirig system in action thanks to Digital DJ Tips:

Friday, November 15, 2013

Audiorecording through microphone - Olympus LS5 vs. Yamaha PR7 vs. Zoom H1

My initial idea of recording different speakers under the same conditions had the goal to give objective results and maybe help others in their decision which speaker sounds better etc.
But it turned out not to be that easy.

The biggest challenge would be to create a controlled enviroment, so that recording of different speakers over time with directly comparable results was possible. But this would imply an own recording room, maybe even acoustically optimized and a controlled recording procedure with fixed positions for speakers, microphone etc, similar to that Dpreview is doing with their test-scene to allow the comparison of different cameras.
I am not sure anything like that has ever been done with speakers. There are lots of speaker-measurements in various Audio and Hifi-magazines, but I have never seen audio recordings of them.

To really allow perfect results such a recording should be done with the best possible recording-equipment that is able to record even the finest sound-nuances. This does not only mean lots of effort and time, but also costs. I have no idea if something like a microphone with linear frequency response exists at all. Here you can see the (claimed) frequency response of the Zoom H1 microphones:

When I started doing my recordings I tried out different audio-recorders. Although the Zoom H1 is overall very popular, I assume this is probably because it is one of the cheaptest, therefore I wanted to try some other ones and added the Olympus LS5 and Yamaha Pockettrack PR7 to my test. 
In the following Video I recorded the Sonos Play:1 with all 3 recorders and also mixed in the original recording (from 2:39), so that you can compare which recorder comes closest. I am really not sure, first I thought the Zoom H1 sounded best, but compared to the original recording it also sounds most different. Of course the speaker also distorts the original signal, so the sound characteristics of the speakers adds up to the characteristics of the microphone, not to mention the acoustics of my room, which is not optimized by any means for such a recording.

Still I would like to know which recorder you think gives the best representation of the original recording.
Maybe some of you even own the Play:1 and could listen to the original track through their speaker and compare to the recording. The original track is "Get Back" from "Silent Partner" and is taken from the Youtube Audio library to avoid any copyright issues.
The final idea would be to create a kind of "database" where all speakers can be selected and compared. Unfortunately I am afraid that my know-how is not high enough, and I don't have the money for that. You would also need to have contacts to Hifi-dealers that might lend you speakers for a recording session etc....

Maybe someone else will do this once, so far you have to be satisfied with my amateur-ish approach.

Wednesday, November 13, 2013

News from Philips/Woox Innovations

Philips was facing quite a bit of financial and structural problems during the last years. The planned acquisition through Funai was finally cancelled and Philips seems to have decided to found a new subidiary for its multimedia products called "Woox Innovations". So far the term "wOOx" was mostly used by Philips for speakers with passive radiator design.
I wonder if new launched products will still carry the "Philips" branding, or already be marketed as "Woox", as there are some interesting products coming.

I already reported about the Philips DS9800W/10 Airplay speaker several times and did a short review and comparison with the Parrot Zikmu speakers. Overall the Philips Soundsphere are pretty fine sounding speakers, with only some software flaws, but also hardware issues. I experienced the popular blinking red LED on my own set as well, but it could be fixed for free during the warranty period. Since then the speakers have been working well, with only some rare crashes.

My biggest wish was always to get the speakers in different colors than black and finally Philips seems to bring a new revised version to the market named DS9830W, which really looks gorgeous in white:

Not sure if something changed with the hardware, I assume they still sound the same, but Philips now added Spotify-connect support, so that the speakers can directly stream songs from Spotify without the need of any further device running.
A pity they didn't add additional inputs like HDMI for example, to allow connection of TV sets etc. The DS9830W should be available soon for 799$/€.
If you can live with black and don't need Spotify, I would grab the old version, which can already be had for under 300$! Soundwise they blow any B&W Zeppelin or A5 or A7 out of the water, just pray that your set doesn't brake out of warranty.

HDMI is probably left for the more expensive and even more funky looking version Fidelio Soundsphere PS1/12:

This speaker only supports Bluetooth (though with Apt-X), but has also HDMI inputs and is claimed to produce "virtual surround" sound. The PS1/12 is more powerful with 2x100 Watts instead of 2x50, but both speakers still seem to need a speaker-wire inbetween.
The PS1/12 will be offered for about 2500 bucks, and although I would love to hear them, I definitely cannot afford them. For 2500 you already can get some high quality audio stuff, the price seems a bit utopic for me. If they come down for under 1000 (or under 300 like the DS9800) I might have another look maybe.

Tuesday, November 12, 2013

Review: Sonos Play:1 - smallest yet best?

I have kept an eye on Sonos for several years now. I have heard the Play:5 in a store, I had the Play:3 at home for my own testing and I was quite impressed by the Sonos system as a whole, like the ability of pairing 2 speakers into a stereosystem without any needed wires inbetween, but neither of their speakers really impressed me that much to actually feel the need of buying one of them.
The Play:3 although overall quite nice sounding became really flat and dull at lower volumes. I tried it in my bathroom, in my kitchen, but it only really worked at higher volumes in my large living room, until it started to struggle again above 70% of its volume.

Monday, November 11, 2013

White TDK A33 and the new smaller TDK A26

During shopping last Saturday I discovered the white TDK A33 in a store. It looks pretty slick and elegant in white, and if I still had the need for such a speaker, I would probably choose it in white. Although I know the sound of the A33 quite well, I compared it in the store to some other speakers, like the new Harman Kardon Esquire and the cheaper A33 blew the Harman Kardon out of the water.

Haven't known this white model even existed I tried to Google it and found even another new model from TDK, namely the A26 "Trek":

It looks similar to the big version, but is pretty slim with 2.5cm and seems to rather compete with Jambox or JBL Charge costing 99$ on In Germany it is quite a bit more expensive for 129€ and it is not available yet.

If the A26 sounds nearly as good as the A33 it is definitely a winner and a much better choice over the JBL or Jawbone offerings.

Friday, November 8, 2013

IK Multimedia iLoud - the best portable speaker?

IK Multimedia had already announced both iLoud speakers more than half a year ago. Finally the speakers seem to have become available.
There is a big version with 40 Watts of power as well as a smaller more portable mini version.
The big one already seems to be in stock at the US amazon store, the german amazon store lists both, but only with an availabilty of 1-2 months.

IK Multimedia talks big to have produced the best sounding portable speaker so far. They claim to have bought all portable speakers available with the goal to produce one better and louder sounding. They market the speaker as music monitors for serious listening that should also please real audiophiles. There is a Mic/Guitar Input at the back, so that you can gig around on the go and use the iLoud as a monitor.

IK Multimedia also posted some interesting comparison videos on youtube, where you can see how the bigger iLoud fares against the UE Wireless Boombox, the BIG Jambox and the Bose Soundlink. I have no idea how real the videos are, but they seem rather authentic, as I recognize the sound signatures of the other speakers quite well (especially the muffled Bose Soundlink). Have a look:

There is already a review of the bigger version available on iLounge, and they liked it quite a lot.