Thursday, April 3, 2014

2014 Annual Headphone Shootout Part 1: Over The Ear

It's March Madness time. And that means it must be time for our annual Headphone Shootout. We have some excellent products from some great manufacturers as usual. Price points range from $100 up to $1300. Due to the increase in popularity, we are adding a wireless category to go along with our usual over the ear, and in ear categories. We will be starting first with the over the ear category. Stay tuned for the other two categories. Now, let the fun begin!

First up is the Over the ear models. We have some great models in the Soul Transform, Audio Technica ATH-M50x, Fang Wang 3000, Audio Technica ATH-OX7AMP and Sennheiser Momentum. They are all wired over the ear models except for the Audio Technica ATH-OX7AMP and Soul Transform which are an on the ear model. Although the Soul Transform felt more like on over the ear model.  The Audio Technica ATH-OX7AMP also has a built-in headphone amp.  The Fang Wang 3000 also has a built-in headphone amp for bass boost as well as Active Noise Cancelling.  MSRP's range form $100 to $300.

The Soul Transform came in a nice looking packaging with photos of the product, and its features and specs. Opening the box showed a great looking pair of headphones, along with the owners manual, and soft case. Materials used were mostly plastic, with cloth earcups. They are designed for use when exercising. The quality of materials as well as fit and finish was good. And the plastic was made to be flexible to be able to withstand a lot of abuse. The cloth earcups are removable and washable. MSRP is $100.


Features and specs:
-Lightweight On Ear design
-Breathable Polyurethane Headband
-Removable and Washable Moisture Wicking Earpads
-Tangle Free Cable with In-line Controller
-Weight:  Approximately 150g
-Cable length: 1.2m / 49 inches
-Operating Keys: Answer/end, volume


Listening proved these to be great performers.  Fresh Air V: Creatures of Levania had nice low bass extension with good authority.  The flute had good air and was fairly smooth.  Gershwin: Rhapsody in Blue had a nice sized soundstage, and pleasantly great resolution in all of the instruments.  The imaging was very good.  The bari sax had discernible woodiness.  Junior Wells: Why Are People Like That, had nice bass extension that played with authority although was a tad muddy.  The vocals sounded natural and the harmonica was really dynamic.  Justin Timberlake: Sexyback, had good deep bass with lots of authority.  Vocals had good texture, and the snaps were nice and dynamic.  Listening proved that they were great performers, and sounded much better than $100 pair of headphones should, and would give models costing close to double their price a run for their money. 

The Audio Technica ATH-M50x came in a great looking package with photos of the product and it's features and specs. Opening the box revealed the headphones, owners manual, soft case, 1/4" adapter, and multiple detachable cords. Construction was mostly made with plastic. The quality and fit and finish was very good. MSRP $239.

Features and specs:
  • Proprietary 45 mm large-aperture drivers with rare earth magnets and copper-clad aluminum wire voice coils
  • Critically acclaimed sonic performance praised by top audio engineers and pro audio reviewers
  • Exceptional clarity throughout an extended frequency range, with deep, accurate bass response
  • Circumaural design contours around the ears for excellent sound isolation in loud environments
  • 90° swiveling earcups for easy, one-ear monitoring
  • Professional-grade earpad and headband material delivers more durability and comfort
  • Collapsible for space-saving portability
  • Detachable cables (includes 1.2 m - 3.0 m coiled cable, 3.0 m straight cable and 1.2 m straight cable)
  • Top choice for studio tracking and mixing, as well as DJ monitoring and personal listening
  • Also available in white (ATH-M50xWH) and limited edition blue (ATH-M50xBL)

  • TypeClosed-back dynamic
    Driver Diameter45 mm
    MagnetNeodymium
    Voice CoilCCAW (Copper-clad aluminum wire)
    Frequency Response15 - 28,000 Hz
    Maximum Input Power1,600 mW at 1 kHz
    Sensitivity99 dB
    Impedance38 ohms
    Weight285 g (10 oz), without cable and connector
    CableInterchangeable cables: detachable 1.2 m - 3.0 m (3.9' - 9.8') coiled cable, detachable 3.0 m (9.8') straight cable and detachable 1.2 m (3.9') straight cable
    Accessories IncludedProtective carrying pouch, 6.3 mm (1/4") screw-on adapter



    The Audio Technica ATH-M50x is a true Studio Monitor design. The earcups fully rotated 180 degrees, and also flipped over. The Audio Technica ATH-M50x has the features that studio and audio engineers as well as DJ's look for. They were also very comfortable to wear, and easy to adjust. I loved the detachable cables. Not only were they detachable, they were very high in quality. Two cables were included. One was standard, and one was longer and coiled. The soft case was quite nice as well.  They were very comfortable to wear with the soft leather ear cups.

    Fresh Air V: Creatures of Levania had nice bass extension and played with good authority with excellent low level dynamics.  The flute was clean with good air and very good resolution.  Gershwin: Rhapsody In Blue, threw a big soundstage.  Imaging was very good, and the brass was smooth.  The clarinet was really clean, the piano sounded natural, and the bari sax had good texture.  Junior Wells: Why Are People Like That, the bass had really good extension and played with authority.  The vocals had nice texture, and the harmonica had nice harmonics and was very dynamic.  The soundstage was nice and wide.  Justin Timberlake: Sexyback, had very good low end extension that played with lots of authority.  The vocals sounded very natural with very good imaging, and were smooth with nice texture. 

    Next up is the Fang Wang 3000 Active Noise Cancelling headphones. They use four separate mics for the best performance. The large earcups fit over your ears and are very comfortable. Not only does the built-in battery power the Active Noise Cancelling, it also has another setting and provides a powered bass boost.

    Features and specs:
    -4 way noise cancelling
    -Duo Jack for pass through listening
    -6db active bass boost
    -Hardshell case


    The Fang Wang 3000 came in a nice looking box with photos of the product, along with its features. Opening the box revealed a great looking product. It was mostly made of plastic with some metal. Quality of materials, as well as fit and finish, were very good. I really liked the use of metal hinges, to fold them smaller in size. I also liked the semi-hard zippered case that gives excellent protection. Also included was the owners manual, 1/4" adapter, and airplane adapter.

    Fresh Air V: Creatures of Levania, had good output from the good bass extension.  Flute was really clean and smooth, with very good resolution.  The soundstage was fairly big with good imaging.  Gershwin: Rhapsody in Blue had a big soundstage, clean clarinet, and smooth brass.  Imaging was very good and the piano sounded very natural.  The resolution in all of the instruments was very good.  Junior Wells:  Why Are People Like That, bass had good extension.  Vocals had nice texture, and the harmonica was really clean and had good resolution.  Justin Timberlake: Sexyback, had nice low end bass that had nice punch and authority.  Vocals had nice harmonics and were very natural sounding, and were quite dynamic.  Imaging was quite good as well.

    Testing out the bass boost proved to provide more than bass boost.  While it does boost the bass, it performed more like a regular headphone amp or loudness button.  Moving the switch to bass boost actually amplified the other frequency ranges.  This did increase the level of noise, it was minimal.  texting the Active Noise Cancelling feature proved it performed as advertised for the most part.  The 4 way system using 4 microphones worked well.  They claimed 95% reduction in ambient noise.  Like all other active noise cancelling systems, they filter out and remove the low end frequencies.  The Fanny Wang 3000 was no exception.  It did not remove all of the background noise, just the low frequencies.  And while 95% seemed a bit high, they did perform very well.

    The Audio Technica ATH-OX7AMP is an on the ear model with a built-in headphone amp. It is smaller in size then the other models in the shootout. But while they are physically smaller in size, they are designed to NOT be so in sound. Having a built-in headphone amp is a unique feature.

    Features and specs:
  • 40 mm drivers for clear & natural high fidelity sound
  • Built-in high-output headphone amplifier provides more clean power and volume for greater detail, clarity and faster dynamic response 
  • Includes two detachable cords – one regular and one with in-line mic, volume & controller for smartphones and music players like Android phones, iPhone, iPad and iPod 
  • Flat, tangle-free cords 
  • Padded headband conforms to the shape of your head to provide a stable fit for a better listening experience 
  • Carrying pouch included



  • The Audio Technica ATH-OX7AMP came in a nice looking box with pictures of the headphones as well as its features and specs, as usual. Also included was the owners manual, battery, two cables (one of which has built-in mic and smartphone controls), and soft case. Quality of materials was very good, as well as fit and finish. Materials used were mostly plastic with some metal. The leather ear cups were very soft and comfortable. Wearing them was also very comfortable.

    Fresh Air V: Creatures of Levania, had nice bass extension and authority.  The flute was very smooth and clean with very good resolution.  Low level dynamics were very good.  They also threw a nicely wide soundstage with good imaging.  Gershwin: Rhapsody In Blue, gave a very big soundstage with excellent imaging.  Brass was smooth without being overly brassy.  The piano was natural, very dynamic, and had nice texture in the bari sax.  Junior Wells: Why Are People Like That, bass had very good depth with good output.  Vocals sounded extremely natural with very good texure.  The harmonica was really clean with great resolution and dynamics.  Justin Timberlake: Sexyback, the bass was punchy with good authority.  Vocals sounded natural with very good harmonics and texture.  Resolution was very good!

    Testing the built-in headphone amplifier revealed an amp that worked very well.  It boosted all of the frequencies and not just the bass.  While it did as advertised, purists would more than likely tend not to use it as it also introduced more noise into the sound.  Sitting in a quite room I can see it not being used.  But if you are in a loud environment and need to increase the volume, I can see using it.

    Last but not least is the Sennheiser Momentum. The Momentum's are an over the ear design. While they are an ordinary design, they are far from ordinary. Sennheiser managed to make an extremely durable product that also looks amazingly elegant!

    Features and specs:
  • Connector Jack 3.5 mm
  • Impedance 18 Ω
  • Frequency response 16 - 22000 Hz
  • Sound pressure level (SPL) 110 dB
  • THD, total harmonic distortion < 0.5 %
  • Contact pressure 2,8 N
  • Ear coupling circum-aural
  • Cable length 1.4 m and1.2 m - unilateral - detachable
  • Transducer principle Dynamic, closed
  • Weight 190 g
  • Load rating 200 mW

  • The box gave a good idea of the premium product it is. Packaging was premium with high resolution photos of the product along with features and specs. Opening it revealed the owners manual, and the brown semi-hard zippered case. Inside the case was custom molding in the case to hold the Momentum's perfectly. There was also a small compartment to hold the extra cable and 1/4" adapter. I liked the detachable cable, and two cables were included. One was a standard cable, and the 2nd cable has a built-in mic and controls for your smartphone. Materials used were excellent in quality, comprising of plastic, metal, and exquisitely soft leather on the ear cups. The cables also twist to lock into place, so they won't accidentally be pulled out.

    Listening to Fresh Air V: Creatures from Levania showed excellent low bass extension with very good authority.  The flute had excellent resolution even being able to hear tonguing.  Soundstage was nice and wide, while imaging was also nice.  I loved the texture in the strings thru the crescendo.  Gershwin: Rhapsody in Blue, soundstage was absolute huge with excellent imaging and very dynamic.  Piano was very natural.  The resolution in all of the instruments was very good.  Percussion was nice and crisp.  Junior Wells: Why Are People Like That, Bass had excellent extension with good output.  Vocals had very good texture and sounded extremely natural.  The harmonica had excellent resolution and dynamics.  Soundstage was big and imaging was spot on.  Percussion was crisp.  Justin Timberlake: Sexyback, low end extension had good depth, delivered nice dynamics with good punch.  Imaging was really excellent, with very good texture in the vocals.  They sounded natural with excellent harmonics.

    All of the products in this part of the shootout sounded great.  I must say I was pleasantly surprised with the performance of the Soul Transform at their low $100 price point, with them being focused for workout duty.  After all, just because you are working out doesn't mean the sound should be overlooked.  The Audio-Technica ATH-M50x provided the great sound that sound engineers and enthusiasts have come to expect.  The Fang Wang 3000 while providing good sound, provided additional useful features such as the bass boost and Active Noise Cancelling.  The Audio Technica ATH-OX7AMP provided a truly unique feature having a built-in headphone amp.  Many enthusiasts employ a headphone amp to give that extra power to better power the drivers.  Here Audio Technica has built this directly into the headphone.  And last but not least the Sennheiser Momentum provides the stellar sound we are accustomed to hear from them.  And the ivory earcups are just stunning!  Based on their design, features, quality, and performance, the Soul Transform has earned our Recommended Award.  The Audio Technica ATH-M50x and Fanny Wang 3000 have earned our Highly Recommended Award, and the Audio Technica ATH-OX7AMP and Sennheiser Momentum have earned our Editor's Choice Award.  For more info and complete specs, check out their website at www.soulelectronics.com, www.audio-technica.com, www.fannywang.com, and www.sennheiser.com.



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    Monday, March 17, 2014

    Install Bay 100 Amp 1440 Watts Max Output Power Supply Review

    Electronics are always getting better. Often times it seems it is out of the old and in with the new. The same is true with car audio. Newer features, better designs, is usually what is found on newer models. It tends to be difficult to find a use for old 12 volt gear. But with a simple 12 volt power supply, it would be easy to resurrect some old car stereo gear. Enter the Install Bay IBPS100 100 Amp 1440 Watts Max Output Power Supply.

    Features and specs:

    • + 100 Amp Power Supply
    • + 1440 Watts Max Output
    • + DC Output Voltage 13.2/13.6/14.4V
    • + Typical Efficiency >93%
    • + 13 AMPS Max AC Current @ 108VAC
    • + Input Range 105-135 VAC 60 HZ.
    • + Built-in 4 stage Smart Charger
    • + Deck mount converter
    • + UL- CUL approved
    • + Quiet fan cooling
    • + Overtemp protection
    • + Reverse polarity protection
    • + (PFC) Power Factor Correction: A More Efficient & Cleaner Power Supply
    • + 11 LBS/5 KG
    • + Width: 7.2" / 183 MM
    • + Height: 3.5" / 89 MM
    • + Depth: 10.5" / 267 MM
    The Install Bay IBPS100 is the largest of their power supplies, which came in 35, 55, 75, and 100 AMP versions. The power supply had great heft, and appeared to be a solid one. Build quality and fit and finish were very good.  It reminded me of a large computer power supply. It also had a simple layout. All of the connections, as well as far 40 amp fuses were on one end. On the other end was the power cord that plugs into the wall, and the fan.  It was a simple, efficient, easy to use design.


    Connecting the Install Bay IBPS100 was very easy. There was a single power, single ground, both of which can accept up to a 4 gauge wire. And with a 100 amp capacity, it can handle multiple amps. Just use the position and negative connections, and plug it in the wall. Whether you are just using a deck and powering some speakers off of the deck, or you are also using multiple amps, it's 100 Amp capacity will handle a lot!

    The Install Bay power supple also performed in spades. Deck, stereo amp, and sub amp were sufficiently powered. It's 100 amp capacity provided a lot of headroom. Most won't need that much capacity, but I thought the able capacity was very welcoming. The current supplied allowed the amp to play at their best.

    I could not be happier with the performance of the Install Bay IBPS 100 Amp power supply. Install Bay makes excellent car installation products. And using it can really bring 12 volt car audio gear to life. You can find it online for under $350, which is a good value.  Based on it's design, features, quality and performance the Install Bay IBPS 100 Amp 1440 Watts Max Output Power Supply has earned our Editor's Choice Award. For more info and complete specs, check out their website at www.shurikenonline.com.




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    Wednesday, March 12, 2014

    Shuriken HPS AGM Battery SK-BT60RT and T-Spec v10 Series Power, Ground, and Speaker Wire Review

    When it comes to car stereo, it is all electrical. It all starts with your vehicles electrical system. That means you want good quality wiring, and a good battery. Not all wiring and batteries are created equal. Enter the Shuriken SK-BT60RT High Power Series AGM Battery and T-Spec v10 Series Wiring.

    Features and specs:
    Shuriken High Power Series AGM Battery SK-BT60RT:


  • + Compact size
  • + Absorbed glass mat technology
  • + Can be mounted in any position
  • + Can be discharged and re-charged 100’s of times
  • + Reversed positive and negative terminals for different hook ups
  • - 1500 Watts
  • - 60 AMP Hours
  • - 37.5 LBS / 17 KG
  • - Width: 9” / 229 MM
  • - Height: 8” / 203 MM
  • - Depth: 5.5” / 140 MM


  • T-Spec v10 Series 8 AWG Power, Ground, and 16 AWG Speaker Wire:


  • > Meets CEA and ANSI specification for wire gauge
  • > Full virgin copper construction
  • > High strand count for maximum flexibility
  • > Ultra-flexible PVC blended jacket
  • > BC-5W2 marine compliant


  • The quality of components and construction was very good for the Shuriken HPS AGM SK-BT60RT . The external housing was the typical plastic found in other batteries. The terminals were sturdy. Fit and finish was very good. The same was also true for the T-Spec v10 power, ground, and speaker wire. The jacket for both was a very flexible plastic. Trimming part of the jacket to the wire revealed a very high quality wire. Not only was it virgin copper wire, but it was a fine high thread count as well. I was impressed.



    Not all wire is created equal. Cheap wire will appear to be a certain gauge, but when you strip back the jacket, you find that the jacket is extra thick, and the actual wire is smaller.  It also will not have as high of a thread count. In the picture below you can see the cheaper fewer strand wire on the left, and the T-Spec v10 high strand count wire on the left.  As long as the thickness is the same, the wire will handle the same amount of current.  But the higher thread count does give better flexibility which can be important in the install.  It is easy to forget just how important the wiring is. It's a lot like a freeway or highway. A two lane highway cannot handle the traffic level that a four land highway can.  A thinner gauge wire can't handle the current that a thicker gauge can. So when you buy cheep wire, you don't get the same level of performance, and you sell yourself short. The installation in working with the wire can also be more difficult.  As the saying goes, you get what you pay for.

    The battery is also an important part of the equation in your electrical system. Ever wonder why you get diming headlights? The power and current that the bass is needing is not being met. The car takes power to run, and when driving at night, that includes the headlights.  When your stereo system is requiring current than is available, this is seen at night.  Bass takes more power to produce. So the headlights suffer and briefly dim during the bass beats. Some people will add a capacitor, to give instant power on tap to the subwoofer, to help with the problem.  To better help and get rid of the problem, a high performance AGM battery can be used.

    The Shuriken HPS AGM SK-BT60RT is a high performance AGM type battery. This high performance type of glass mat battery can discharge very quickly so it will perform like a large capacitor. And since it does not use acid, it is low maintenance. There is no need to add water. This also gives additional mounting options. Without having to worry about acid leaks, you can actually mount it on it's side. It works great as a primary battery under the hood, or as a 2nd or 3rd battery trunk mounted for monster stereo systems.

    Metra Electronics continues it's objective to provide quality products through it's family of brand names. That includes Shunken & T-Spec. With both the Shuriken SK-BT60RT and T-Spec v10 wire, they are designed to bring out the best of your stereo components. They will not be a weak link. The T-Spec v10 power and ground wires provides lower powered amps the current they need. And with Shuriken HPS AGM SK-BT60RT, current is discharged to the amps quickly. The common flickering headlights to the bass beats is not a problem for me. MSRP on the Shuriken SK-BT60RT is $249, with $159.95 for power/ground wire and $119.95 for the speaker wire.  Based on their design, features, quality and performance, the Shuriken HPS AGM SK-BT60RT has earned our Editor's Choice award, and the T-Spec v10 series wire has earned our Highly Recommended award. For more info and complete specs, check out their website at www.shurikenonline.com and www.tspeconline.com.






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    Monday, February 17, 2014

    Enerplex Jumpr Max Power Bank and Kickr IV Portable Solar Charger Review

    Going green is a huge topic. And it is a good thing. Fortunately, there are some manufacturers that make some great products to support that movements to provide clean energy. Enerplex provides a one/two punch in the Kicker IV and Jumper Max. They charge our portable devices, and do so with solar power.


    Features and specs:

    Kicker IV:
    Power:
    6.5 Watts Unregulated
    6.0 Watt, 5 Volt System regulated
    1.2 Amp Output (STC)
    *STC- Standard Testing Conditions
    Dimensions:
    Product Open: 774mm (30.5˝ ) x 185mm (7.3” ) x 2mm (0.08” )
    Product Folded Size: 225mm (8.8˝ ) x 185 mm (7.3” ) x 18mm (0.71” )
    Product Packaging: 266.7mm (10.5˝ ) x 190.5 mm (7.5” ) x 50.8mm (2.0” )
    Weight:
    Product: 290.3g (0.64 lbs.)
    Product with Packaging: 368.5g (0.81 lbs.)

    Jumper Max:
    -10,000 mAh battery capacity
    -Input: DC 5V/1A Max (Micro-USB)
    -Dual USB Outputs: DC 5V/1A, DC 5V/2A (USB-A)
    -Can charge tablets such as the Kindle Fire HD, iPad 3, and iPad Mini
    -Can charge multiple devices at the same time!
    Jumpr Max Charging Capabilities:
    • Samsung Galaxy S4- 3.4 charges
    • iPhone 5/5S- 6.1 charges
    • Google Nexus 7- 2 charges
    • Kindle Fire HD- 2 charges
    • iPad 3- 1 charge
    • iPad Mini- 1.95 charges
    Dimensions:
    Product: 123.3mm (4.8˝) x 77.05mm (3.0˝ ) x 17.57mm (0.7˝ )
    Product Packaging: 216mm (8.5˝) x 115.3mm (4.5˝) x 32.2mm (1.27˝)
    Weight:
    Product: 192g (0.42 lbs.)
    Product with Packaging: 258g (0.57 lbs.)

    Both products come in standard paper packaging and had a clear plastic window to see the product. The products were mostly plastic. Quality of components as well as fit and finish were good. Included with the power bank were manual, cable, and connectors. And the Kicker IV came with the cable, and cloth bands to hold it secure.

    I really liked the large power bank. At 10,000 mah, it was good for about 3 charges to my HTC One cell phone, and almost a full charge for my Samsung Galaxy Note 10" tablet. And just bigger than a cell phone, it is not too big in size. It would be a tad bulky in a pants pocket. But it would store well in a purse or a car glove box.

    The Kicker IV is an awesome portable solar panel! I really liked the way there were 4 panels. The way it is designed, they fold onto each other to make a more compact size. A single connection on the side is where you attach the cable. One end plugs into solar panel and the other end plugs into the portable device. The solar panel provides enough current that it charges your device as if it was plugged into a wall outlet, and it is enough for small devices such as a cell phone, Nintendo DS or Kindle.

    The big one two green punch is using the two devices together. I plugged in the power bank into the solar panel to charge, and left it out in the sun to charge for a day. Once charged, I can use the power bank to charge my portable devices. After the power bank is depleted it is back onto the solar panel, and the cycle continues.  Here in Arizona, we get a lot of sun.  It is a perfect fit here.  I am also an avid camper as an Assistant Scoutmaster.  If you have a cell phone, camera, or GPS in the outdoors and no outlet nearby, the Kicker IV has you covered. And even with a nearby outlet, it's free clean power!

    I was very impressed with the performance of both devices. They work absolutely great on their own. And together they provide on excellent portable green power solution! And they are fairly priced at $129.99 for the Kicker IV and a MSRP of $69.99 for the Jumpr Max. Based on their design, features, quality and performance, they have both earned our Highly Recommended award. For more info and complete specs, check out their website at www.enerplex.biz.


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    Sunday, December 29, 2013

    2013 Editor's Choice Awards

    2013 has been a great year. And with it there have been some excellent products! Not all have been award worthy. But the best find themselves earning our Editor's Choice Award. To further recognize these well deserving products, we publish our Annual Editor's Choice Award. These are the best of the best in their categories that came across my desk this year.

    ACS T1 Custom In Ear Monitors

    http://www.stereowiseplus.com/2013/04/2013-headphone-shootout-part-2-iems.html

    Adata XPG SX300 SATA3 256GB mSATA Drive
    http://www.stereowiseplus.com/2013/03/adata-xpg-sx300-sata3-256gb-msata-drive.html

    Audio-Technica ATH-AD900X Headphones
    http://www.stereowiseplus.com/2013/06/audio-technica-ath-ad900x-open-back.html

    Kenwood Excelon DNN990HD Connected Navigation Entertainment Car Receiver
    http://www.stereowiseplus.com/2013/08/kenwood-excelon-dnn990hd-connected.html

    Kingston HyperX 16GB DDR3-1600 Laptop Memory
    http://www.stereowiseplus.com/2013/03/adata-xpg-sx300-sata3-256gb-msata-drive.html

    Kingston Wi-Drive 128GB Wireless Drive
    http://www.stereowiseplus.com/2013/12/kingston-wi-drive-128gb-wireless-drive.html

    Magellan SmartGPS 5295 Car Smart GPS Receiver
    http://www.stereowiseplus.com/2013/12/magellan-smartgps-5295-review.html

    Monster Diamond Tears Headphones
    http://www.stereowiseplus.com/2013/04/2013-annual-headphone-shootout-part-one.html

    Onkyo LS-B50 EnvisionCinema Soundbar System
    http://www.stereowiseplus.com/2013/11/onkyo-ls-b50-soundbar-with-wireless.html

    Otterbox Defender Series Cell Phone Case
    http://www.stereowiseplus.com/2013/06/otter-box-defender-series-and-commuter.html

    Otterbox Defender Series Tablet Case and The Latch Accessory
    http://www.stereowiseplus.com/2013/12/otterbox-defender-series-samsung-galaxy.html

    STM Jet Roller Wheeled Laptop Bag
    http://www.stereowiseplus.com/2013/03/stm-jet-roller-wheeled-laptop-bag-review.html

    SVS PC13-Ultra Cylinder Powered Subwoofer
    http://www.stereowiseplus.com/2013/12/svs-pc13-ultra-subwoofer-review.html

    Velodyne vTrue Headphones
    http://www.stereowiseplus.com/2013/04/2013-annual-headphone-shootout-part-one.html

    ViewSonic's VP2770-LED Monitor
    http://www.stereowiseplus.com/2013/05/viewsonic-vp2770-led.html

    Westone 4R In Ear Monitors
    http://www.stereowiseplus.com/2013/04/2013-headphone-shootout-part-2-iems.html

    Westone UMX3 In Ear Monitors
    http://www.stereowiseplus.com/2013/04/2013-headphone-shootout-part-2-iems.html


    As you can see, there have been some excellent products! Click on the links for their full review. And not just products, but innovations as well. It has me excited for the future. I can't wait for what 2014 will bring. Stay tuned for more coverage of great products and great manufactures. And thanks for reading and following us!


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    Sunday, December 22, 2013

    Kingston Wi-Drive 128GB Wireless Drive Review

    There is more and more need for storage capacity on our portable devices. Whether it be pictures, video, music, or games, our portable devices are being used more and more for all of the above. All of this takes up memory, and some devices don't have the capability to use memory cards. Enter the Kingston Wi-Drive.

    Features and Specs:

    F E AT U R E S / B E N E F I T S
     
    >>Capacities1 — 32GB, 64GB
    >>Dimensions — 121.5mm x 61.8mm x 9.8mm
    >>Wireless Network Interface — Wi-Fi 802.11g/n
    with wireless security (WPA/WEP)>>Rechargeable Battery — up to four hours of
    continuous use
    >>Local Storage2 — wirelessly transfer files to and
    from the Wi-Drive App and the Wi-Drive hardware
    >>Bridged network connection option — allows
    you to access the Internet while using Wi-Drive’s
    content3
    >>Cable miniUSB to USB cable included
    • User can upload files and content from their
    PC/Mac to the Wi-Drive using the USB cable
    >>Convenient — pocket-sized for easy
    transportability
    >>Guaranteed — one-year warranty
    >>Free Wi-Drive Apps4 with Additional
    Features — downloadable at Apple's App Store,
    Google Play and Amazon Appstore
    >>Customizable Device Name (SSID)
    >>User selectable Wi-Fi priority list when there are
    multiple APN/Key available>>File Support5 — Wi-Drive can store any file type,
    but playback and viewing is based on the files
    that are supported by the moblie device.

    General file format support6:
    • Audio: MP3, WAV
    • Video7: m4V, mp4 (H.264 video codec)
    • Image: jpg, tif
    • Document: pdf

    >>Operating Temperature — 32°F to 122°F
    (0°C to 50°C)>>Storage Temperature — 14°F to 158°F

    The Kinston Wi-Drive 128GB came in an attractive looking box with pics of the device and it's features. Opening the box yielded a wrapped Wi-Drive, USB cable, wall adaptor, and owners manual. The Wi-Drive was made mostly of black plastic. But the quality as well as the fit and finish was very good. We recently reviewed the Kingston MobileLite which is a similar device. I like the design and quality of this Wi-Drive much better. It feels better put together, and has a more sleek, elegant look. It looks like a more premium device.

    Using the Wi-Drive was rather simple. It is like having your own personal Cloud!  First you would download and install the application on your portable device, and run the program pairing it with the Wi-Drive. Once that is all done, now you are ready to start enjoying all of the additional content. Will you are limited by the capacity of the Wi-Drive, 128GB really is A LOT of capacity!!

    Performance of the Kingston Wi-Drive was just as I anticipated. Music, photos, and content on the device was simple to access and played great. The wall adapter had a USB connection, and there is a USB cable included that attaches to it to charge the drive. This same cable can be used to attach the Drive to your computer to transfer content.  Transferring the content was easy. Viewing or listening to it through the Wi-Drive on your portable device was just as easy.

    The Kingston Wi-Drive had me pleasantly unsurprised. Unsurprised, as it has the quality and performance that is up to the reputation that Kingston has made for itself as a clue chip manufacturer. With an MSRP of $179.99 it is a tad pricey, but worth it for the additional capacity it gives you. They also have lower capacities of 64GB and 32GB available, which is still a lot of additional content.  It is well built, and I love the design! Based on it's design, features, quality , and performance, the Kingston 128 Wi-Drive has earned our Editor's Choice Award. For more info and complete specs, check out their website at www.kingston.com.




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    Saturday, December 21, 2013

    Onkyo TX-NR626 7.2 Channel Network A/V Receiver Review

    There is a lot that goes into a surround sound receiver. Long gone are the days of a surround sound receiver just providing surround sound from your video source. Now they provide audio processing, video processing, and wireless connectivity, to name a few. Even entry level receivers provide additional functionality. But if you are willing to pay a bit more, you will get a lot more. Enter the Onkyo TX-NR626.

    Features and Specs:

    Amplifier
    # Channels7.2
    Power Watts/ch95W (8ohms 20-20kHz, 0.08%, 2 Channels Driven, FTC)
    Power (8ohms 20-20kHz 0.05%) /Ch -
    THX Certified-
    Continuous 6ohms Rated
    Certified 4ohms Performance-
    All Discrete Circuitry
    3-Stage Inverted Darlington Circuitry✓ (Front & Center Channels)
    PUSH-PULL Design-
    Independent Block Construction (Amp/Preprocessor)-
    Toroidal Transformer-
    Independent Power Supply-
    Bi-amp Capability For Front-
    Processing
    DOLBY DecoderTrue HD, DD Plus, PLIIz
    DTS DecoderDTS-HD Master Audio
    Dolby PLIIz
    ONKYO GAME Surround Modes
    THX Processing Mode-
    Audyssey DSX-
    Audyssey Dynamic EQ
    Audyssey Dynamic Volume
    Direct/Pure Mode- / ✓
    Music Optimizer✓ (Advanced)
    192K/24 Bit DACs✓ (Burr-Brown)
    VLSC-
    isf Certified Calibration Control-
    Connectivity
    Audio I/O6 / 0
    Phono Input
    Digital Audio IN (OPT/COAX)1 / 2
    Digital Audio OUT (OPT/COAX)-
    Composite I/O5 / 1
    Component Video I/O1 / 1
    Front-Panel A/VL / R / V
    Front-Panel Optical-
    USB InputFront
    HDMI I/O6 / 2
    HDMI Support for 3D, Audio Return Channel and CEC
    HDMI Support for Deep Color, x.v.Color, LipSync
    HDMI Support for DVD-Audio, SACD, Multichannel PCM
    PC Input (15 pin D-sub)-
    Component Video Upconversion-
    Analog To HDMI Upconversion✓ (from 480i/576i)
    1080p Upscaling✓ (Marvell Qdeo)
    4K (up to 4096 x 2160) Upscaling✓ (Marvell Qdeo)
    4K Passthrough
    Multi-Channel Input-
    Analog Pre-OutsSubwoofer (x2)
    Speaker A/+B-
    Powered Zone2
    Zone 2 Line Out
    Zone 2 Video Out-
    Zone 3 Line Out-
    U-Port-
    iPod Ready✓ (via optional DS-A5)
    Airplay Ready✓ (via optional DS-A5)
    HD Radio-
    Supports Onkyo Remote App✓ (iPod touch/iPhone and Android-Powered Devices)
    Internet Radio Capable✓ (Pandora, Spotify, Rhapsody, Sirius/XM, Slacker, last.fm, Aupeo!, TuneIn)
    Streaming Audio From PC / Network✓ (DLNA, Home Media)
    Streaming Audio From USB memory
    Wireless Network✓ (Wi-Fi-Certified)
    Bluetooth✓ (Built-in)
    Integration Access
    RS-232-
    IR Input-
    Ethernet
    ONKYO-RI System Control
    12V Trigger-
    Miscellaneous
    Pre-Pro/Learning Remote- / ✓
    Back-Lit Remote-
    On Screen Remote Programming
    Bi-directional Remote Setup via GUI-
    Activity Based Remote-
    Color-Coded Speaker Terminals
    Auto Speaker Calibration W/Mic.✓ (Audyssey MultEQ)
    OSD Out✓ (Advanced "Home" GUI)
    Solid Aluminum Front-
    Warranty2 YEARS
    Amplifier Section
    Speaker Impedance
    All Channels115 W (6 ohms, 1 kHz, 0.7%, 2 channels driven)
    Front L/R95 W (8 ohms, 20 Hz-20 kHz, 0.08%, 2 channels driven, FTC)
    115 W (6 ohms, 1 kHz, 0.7% THD, 2 channels driven)
    Center95 W (8 ohms, 20 Hz-20 kHz, 0.08%, 2 channels driven, FTC)
    115 W (6 ohms, 1 kHz, 0.7% THD, 2 channels driven)
    Surround L/R95 W (8 ohms, 20 Hz-20 kHz, 0.08%, 2 channels driven, FTC)
    115 W (6 ohms, 1 kHz, 0.7% THD, 2 channels driven)
    Surround Back L/R95 W (8 ohms, 20 Hz-20 kHz, 0.08%, 2 channels driven, FTC)
    115 W (6 ohms, 1 kHz, 0.7% THD, 2 channels driven)
    Video Section
    Component Video Frequency Response
    Video1 Vp-p/75 ohms (Component)
    0.7 Vp-p/75 ohms (Component PB/CB, PR/CR)
    1 Vp-p/75 ohms (Composite)
    Tuner Section
    FM/AM Preset Memory
    FM87.5 MHz–107.9 MHz
    AM530 kHz–1,710 kHz
    General
    Dimensions (W x H x D)
    Weight21.6 lbs (9.8 kg)


    The receiver came well protected in a standard box with pictures of the receiver, with it's features and specs on the box. Opening the box revealed a well protected receiver, surrounded in Styrofoam. Also included was the remote, owners manual on CD, batteries, and mic. The materials used in the construction was mostly metal. The quality of construction was good, as was it's fit and finish. The Onkyo TX-NR626 was put together well, and also had a good weight to it.

    Reading the manual, this Onkyo TX-NR626 is far from entry level, and is loaded with features. Let's start with the more standard receiver features: 7.2 channels for dual sub outs, 95 watts per channel, Dolby TrueHD and DTS-HD Master Audio, 192K/24bit DACs, 6 HDMI inputs, 2 HDMI outputs. Then there are the more advanced features like built-in Wi-Fi and Bluetooth, 3D ready, 4K pass through and 4K scaling, zone 2 line out, powered zone 2, Audyssey multEQ, Dynamic EQ and Volume, and MHL. Then there is the remote application for iPhone and Android. AS stated, the Onkyo TX-NR626 is pretty loaded with features.

    Some of the features are common in a receiver, like the 95 watts a channel and 7 channels of amplification. Powered 2nd zone means you can devote 2 of the 7 channels to a 2nd room like a den. I did like the dual sub outs. While most don't use dual subs, using 2 can correct some room acoustics like nodes. Six HDMI inputs means you have room for plenty of components. The two HDMI outputs is also handy. You can have the main output for your big screen, and the 2nd for the front projector for when you want to go really big!

    The built-in Bluetooth and Wi-Fi are very cool features. Now you can access your online music accounts like Pandora and Spotify. You can also access content on your portable device through Bluetooth. Add MHL and now you can access the video content on your mobile device through the TX-NR626. Onkyo takes it even a step further with their remote application. By downloading and installing the app on your iPhone or Android device, you turn your device into a remote control for the receiver.

    The Onkyo TX-NR626 also has the Marvell Qdeo chip built-in. This is one powerful little chip. It is actually a video processor. Thanks to this chip, the receiver is able to do great looking upscaling up to 1080p and beyond to 4K. While 4K displays are rare, at least your receiver will be ready for the day when you have one.

    The Audyssey Trio of features in Audyssey MultEQ, Dynamic EQ, and Dynamic Volume, are very useful features. MuliEq helps to correct the sound based on room acoustics, Dynamic EQ constantly adjusts the frequency response and surround levels, for true loudness correction. Dynamic Volume monitors the volume in real time, optimizing the dynamic range while maintaining the desired sound level. All of this helps to ensure the best possible sound.

    Now it is time to see how it all comes together and performs. Connecting and setting up the receiver was very simple. I loved the updated GUI, which made set up a cinch. And of course with the included wireless mic, setting up the tuning and crossovers was just as easy. It was just a matter of plugging in the mic and running the program with the test tones. The receiver did all the work. While the results were not dead on, they were actually pretty close...close enough for all but the most demanding listeners.

    Listening to the tuner was ok. Living in a rural area, there aren't a lot of stations that come in well. There are only two stations that came in solid. That's the same performance I get out of my cell phone. I would have expected better tuner response.

    I really liked the extra features on the TX-NR626. It's built-in Wi-Fi worked great for internet radio. Pandora and Rhapsody are there.  To access Spotify it will need to be a premium account. Bluetooth worked good as well, as I was able to pair with my cell phone and listen to my content stored there. Connecting an MP3 player through the USB connector was also easy. Navigation was simple, and it sounded great.

    HDMI switching worked great. I loved having all of the inputs. Having a cable box, blu-ray, PS3, Xbox, and Wii, I still had room left over. Switching between sources worked well without any glitches.

    Video also looked excellent on my flat screen.  Blu-ray looked the way blu-ray should. Colors were well saturated with good resolution and contrast. The Qdeo processor seemed to do a great job. DVD doesn't magically upscale to the same quality as native blu-ray, but DVDs did look good. Blu-rays were beautiful. I only wish I had a 4K display on hand to test that upscaling. But at least you know you are covered when you do eventually take that plunge.

    The audio side of things also come out well. Dolby True HD and DTS-HD master Audio came through with all of their aural bliss. To be honest, I was not expecting a lot from the amplifier section. Not that it is bad, just not as good as I am used to with their upper tier series. When it comes to amplifiers, I like to use the horsepower and torque analogy. Horsepower doesn't do everything. Torque does matter. And watts per channel, like horsepower, isn't the whole story. While the TX-NR626 doesn't have the same headroom as their upper tier series, I was still impressed. The TX-NR626 provided plenty of power, even for high volume listening. Movies were dynamic with plenty of resolution. Imaging was very good, and the soundstage was sufficiently large. Music had the same level of performance. The level of transparency at it's price point was quite good. Styx Renegade had nice vocals with very good texture and timbre. Resolution was also very good. Vocals were also pleasantly smooth. Percussion was crisp and clean, with good punch in the drums. Rusted Roof: Send Me On My Way had similar performance. The acoustic guitar was crisp with nice resolution. The Flute was really clean with good air. Percussion was really clean. The vocals sounded really natural, smooth with good texture, and threw a nice big sound stage, and good dynamics. The drums had nice midbass extension. There were multiple DSP Modes as well, although I am more of a purist and don't usually use them. But they did work and were fun.

    The Onkyo TX-NR626 is an amazing receiver at it's price point. It is a mid level receiver for Onkyo. It features so much more than Onkyo's entry level models, and yet doesn't have near the build quality or have the robust amplifier section of their upper tier. Yet at the $599 MSRP price point it can't be touched. In bang for the buck, Onkyo delivers a TKO! Onkyo hit it out of the park! The Onkyo TX-NR626 is worth every penny, and then some. This fun receiver performed very well, and even got me singing along to the music. After all, isn't that kind of experience that it's all about? Based on it's design, features, quality, and performance, the Onkyo TX-NR626 has earned our Highly Recommended Award. Kudos to Onkyo on this engineering achievement. For more info and complete specs, check out their website at http://www.onkyousa.com/Products/model.php?m=TX-NR626&class=Receiver&source=prodClass


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