Friday, June 26, 2015

First Impressions: Marshall Kilburn & JBL Xtreme... and the winner is?

It was a stressful evening. I got the Marshall Kilburn from my friend and wanted to concentrate on this next, prepare some preview video or even a full review. But arriving at home the JBL Xtreme was standing in front of my door.
I already had a short listen to the Kilburn together with my friend where we did some switching between the RIVA Turbo X and the Kilburn, and although quite a bit fuller sounding than the RIVA, the Kilburn didn't really manage to knock my socks off, but when I turned on the JBL I immediately knew this is going to be more fun. Suddenly the Kilburn started sounding a bit honky and tinny. Both are not neutral speakers like the RIVA for example, but the JBL is simply tuned for more fun. It is a bass-monster, very powerful, louder than the Kilburn, louder than the RIVA Turbo X and probably as loud as the Beats Pill XL (RIP), but with the difference, that the JBL still sounds punchy and powerful with lots of bass at maximum volume and the bass sounds like bass, not as if someone was knocking on wood. I couldn't notice any stronger distortion at maximum volume, and although there was some slight dynamic processing, it was not as extreme as on the JBL Charge 2 or on the Infinity One. The JBL Xtreme is a real party machine. Take it to the beach and crank it to the maximum, it will still sound impressive. They claim 40W but from AC-power, I tested if it became any softer from battery and although there is a slight difference in loudness when run from AC-power, I had to check several times to really hear the difference, it is by far not as pronounced as on the Harman Kardon Onyx for example. The JBL Xtreme gets just slightly louder maybe 1-2dB when plugged in, but it doesn't reduce bass or deteriorate sound by any means.
Everyone who is already in panic looking for some substitute for his Pill XL, because he sent it to Apple already, don't look any further. Even if you are still undecided if you are really going to send it in, just take the 300$ from apple and order the JBL Xtreme immediately!
Now the Megaboom really became an expensive toy.

Meanwhile I managed to prepare a short introduction of the Kilburn and soundcheck between Kilburn and the Xtreme, as well as a full review for the Xtreme here.

Please have a listen and let me know what you think:

And the winner is? I think I must have a bit more listen to the Kilburn...

Wednesday, June 24, 2015

News: and speaker comparison tool (beta)

Dear readers&friends,

Maybe some have already noticed, but oluvsgadgets is now reachable through its own domain:

I would also like to give my trusty readers the ability to try out my speaker comparison tool.
There is still some work to be done with this speaker audio database, but many will hopefully appreciate the ability to test it already now in an unfinished state. There are some bugs, and some features like "real volume" is not working properly yet, as well as "volume guide". The tutorial links at the top "how to use the tool" and details about the "recording setup" are also just placeholders so far and when everything is finished there will be an introduction video published on Youtube to make it really official.

There are currently more than 30 different speakers added, I also have measurements for nearly all of these speakers, but I have to edit and prepare them first before being able to add them to the database. I will also work on the description for each speaker, but as I am continuously adding more and more speakers (next will be the Marshall Kilburn for example and the JBL Xtreme shortly after), I have little time to work on all the small details now, therefore I would like you to try everything out as is.
The tool only works on desktop systems so far, as there seems to be a limitation with Android and iOS which are not able to play 2 videos simultaneously.

I hope you will enjoy it, feel free to play with it. I am not really sure yet, how good the tool will work and how much acceptance it will gain. But I hope it will become helpful at some point.

Here you go:

yours, Oluv

Thursday, June 18, 2015

Review: JBL Charge 2+ where's the plus?

It's time for an update of the JBL Charge 2. After Bose added "II" to their new Soundlink Mini, Sony made an X33 out of the old X3, now JBL added a "+" to the new JBL Charge 2 which in contrast to the other two seems to be the better portable speaker for the upcoming summer especially because of its claimed water resistance. I thought I will do a detailed review of the Charge 2+ but after trying it out, I would say that it is the same speaker as it was before without the "+". Not much has changed or improved at all, therefore if you are really interested in all the details about the JBL Charge 2+ you can also read my original review of the JBL Charge 2, just simply ignore all my ranting about any distortion or DSP issues of the first version, as the JBL Charge 2+ has none of those problems. But when buying a Charge 2 you can always check if the latest firmware is installed. The latest firmware (1.4.1) finally fixed all problems for the Charge 2 as well and made both sound and perform virtually identical. If you have a JBL Charge 2 with the latest firmware, in reality you have a JBL Charge 2+ just without the alleged water resistance. The JBL Charge 2 can be meanwhile found for much less (Deutsche Telekom started offering it for 88€ recently), therefore I would rather go for the old unit, as I don't really believe any of the JBL Charge 2+ water resistance claims. If you are still interested jump in to read what has changed or what hasn't changed at all between the two.

News: Class A speakers - Braven BRV-PRO, UE Roll...

It is quite rare that iLounge gives an "A"-mark for a speaker, which according to them would mean "highly recommended". Now 2 recent releases got an A with the Braven BRV-PRO which got a straight flat A, the highest mark for any portable speaker (only some few other portable speakers received an A from them so far, like the JBL Flip, the G-Project G-Boom, Soundfreaq Sound Kick, id America TouchTone and the Soundfreaq Pocket Kick (you can find my own review of the Pocket Kick here btw). The other one being the UE Roll, which although just an A- is still highly recommended and impressive.

Of course I would like to test both speakers and give you some real unbiased opinion on them, but the Braven BRV-PRO costs 178€ here in Europe, when I could get two JBL Charge 2 for the same price with the recent offer from Deutsche Telekom. The UE Roll costs even 129€ in Europe and given that this is a European product, I find it questionable that it should only cost 99$ in the US. In this case I would definitely rather choose another Denon Envaya Mini instead.

Therefore folks, probably no review from me on these highly recommended speakers as I am not going to spend 300€ for these toys, but will rather invest the money in something more serious like the new JBL Xtreme, which in fact is already on order... This one will probably get a "C" on iLounge btw, just like the JBL Charge 2 which only got a "B+" from them. But I want to hear real music, not play lasso with my speaker or fetch it with my dog!

Of course any first hands-on experience on these is highly appreciated, feel free to comment if you already heard them and find them really that great!

Tuesday, June 16, 2015

News: JBL Xtreme available for preorder for 299€

The JBL Xtreme is already listed for preorder on the European JBL Site and should be available from 25.6.
There are new details regarding power and battery, and this Xtreme thing will have a 10.000mAh battery built in, which is obviously necessary to power the 40Watts amp.
The battery indicator is similar to the one on the Infinity One, but it was moved to the front now (clever!) As visible from the other product images the JBL Xtreme has an own kind of zipper to protect the ports. They finally seem to take water protection more serious with the Xtreme than with the Charge 2+, which has the ports completely unprotected.

Could be a real beast of a speaker, making the UE Megaboom sound funny...

Sunday, June 14, 2015

Review: Bose Soundlink Mini II - lots of improvements and still on top?

The original Bose Soundlink Mini was released nearly 2 years ago and managed to change the current portable Bluetooth speaker market completely. While most compact portable speakers prior to the Soundlink Mini pretended to sound good with phony claims like "the JAMBOX delivers shimmering highs and thumping lows that you can literally feel - the richest sound all in the palm of your hand" 
or even more exorbitant the Beats Pill which cost exactly the same: "the Beats Pill produces powerful sound [...] enjoy soaring highs and deep, booming bass" it was finally Bose to show what kind of "thumping lows" was really possible to squeeze out of enclosures that small. The Soundlink Mini was not perfect though and many complained about the "thick" sound and still seemed to like their Jamboxes more. Others complained about the lack of handsfree or USB-charging. But the huge success and what probably became the most popular portable speaker on the market, the Soundlink Mini managed to sell more than 10 million units according to some sources. Recently the Soundlink Mini II hit the market and it seems as if Bose didn't try to revolutionize this model but rather improve on numerous aspects in detail.
Let's see if they managed and if the Soundlink Mini II is really worth an upgrade.

Friday, June 12, 2015

Review: Sony SRS-X33 - who is going to be killed this time?

When I reviewed the "Bose Soundlink Mini-killer" Sony SRS-X3 nearly one year ago, I was quite taken with it because it was the first smaller portable speaker that achieved a similarly full-bodied sound as the Bose Soundlink Mini. No other speaker so far, managed this. And the SRS-X3 even did some things better than the Bose, because it was less boomy overall but had better and less directional treble response at the same time while the Bose is rather missing any upper treble at all.
The SRS-X3 was not perfect though, it suffered from considerable intermodulation distortion at levels already close to half volume. Bass reduction at higher levels as well as strong dynamic compression was pretty obvious and last but not least the battery life was a joke if you really wanted to use it at higher levels.
Shortly after the SRS-X3 the JBL Charge 2 was announced and the JBL managed to top the Sony by nearly all aspects. Unfortunately the JBL suffered from some initial DSP-processing issues, which finally were fixed with the latest firmware now. But the JBL Charge 2 made the Sony SRS-X3 obsolete thanks to a much more consistent sound across the whole volume-range, a punchier more dynamic sound and much better battery life.
Now Sony came up with the successor to the quite popular X3, which managed to find lots of fans in the meantime. Let's see if the new Sony SRS-X33 can kill the old X3 or even kill all the competition.

Wednesday, June 10, 2015

News: JBL Xtreme coming soon - blown up JBL Charge 2?

Mediamarkt Netherlands posted another interesting video showing a supposedly new speaker similar to the JBL Charge 2 or rather Infinity One: the JBL "Xtreme". Similar to the JBL Flip 3 the JBL Xtreme will be water proof and have the ability to connect with multiple speakers wirelessly thanks to JBL connect, but what makes it extreme, is either the extreme sound quality as claimed in the video, or the fact that it can charge 2 devices at once!

It looks a bit as if this model was indeed based on the Infinity One with quite a similar form-factor and the same carrying lugs at the top. Instead of the useless rear drivers from the Infinity One JBL/Harman seem to have included tweeters this time as the blueprint rendering below would suggest. Maybe they finally noticed the overly strong intermodulation distortion of the Infinity One as well? This is what you get when little fullrange drivers are pushed too hard to deliver both high and low-end at the same time!

With all those new releases this is going to become a pretty interesting summer if all these videos are not fake but really showing leaked upcoming JBL products. No price nor availabilty yet, but the JBL Xtreme could be a new benchmark even outperforming the Infinity One among most other contenders in its class.

Thursday, June 4, 2015

News: Bose Soundlink Mini II released

Not quite surprising 2 years after the announcement of the original Soundlink Mini, Bose just revealed the new Bose Soundlink Mini II, sucessor of the maybe most popular portable speaker worldwide that I reviewed here (although in German). According to some rumors the Soundlink Mini managed to sell about 10 million times, quite impressive for a little battery driven speaker.
Interestingly it seems as the Soundlink Mini II just appeared in some European Bose-stores so far and can be ordered from there immediately, but it is not listed in the US-store yet and they don't seem to know even any release-date. In the meantime it has appeared on the US-site for preorder as well.

The new model looks just like the old one, but it is available in black or white now. It gained some new features like speakerphone that was missing on the original model, voice prompts (probably the same as on the Soundlink Colour), it can finally be charged through MicroUSB and battery life seems to have been slightly improved, but no other obvious changes so far. I am not sure if the new one will really sound much different, there is not a single word about changes in sound etc.

To tell the truth I was expecting something completely new, more rugged maybe, water proof or whatever, but it seems as if Bose just tries to sell the same speaker again only with some new added features that were simply lacking from the original.
As soon as I can get my hands on a unit, I will check out if the sonic qualities have indeed improved over the old Soundlink Mini, if not the Soundlink Mini II will have to fight against some strong competition with the JBL Charge 2+, Denon Envaya Mini or the upcoming RIVA S.

Tuesday, June 2, 2015

News: Finally! JBL Charge 2 - 1.4.1 firmwarefix

Finally with the latest firmware the JBL Charge 2 manages to be what it should have been from the very beginning back in September, when it still suffered from teething troubles.
Until now I couldn't fully recommend the JBL Charge 2 without reservations, as the issues were too disturbing and it remained rather a "also-ran" speaker among all the others.
In the meantime there was lots of discussion on Youtube regarding all those problems with many users complaining about their units still to distort, while others claimed to have no problems at all. There were theories established about serial-numbers which would indicate when the unit was manufactured and when it would be without issues. I was enjoying all this similar to reading a crime thriller.
Then finally someone from Japan came up with an undocumented trick to check the currently installed firmware on his JBL Charge 2. He finally claimed that only the latest firmware "1.4.1" would fix all problems, while all firmwares below suffered from this or that DSP-issue.