Saturday, June 18, 2016

JBL Xtreme Portable Bluetooth Speaker Review

It’s summer time! Usually that means it’s time to head to the pool! It is nice to take a dip and cool off, but it’s a lot more fun to hit the pool when you have some tunes. Enter the JBL Extreme. It’s a wireless speaker that is also water resistant, so it’s safe around your pool.

Features and specs:
·         Bluetooth Wireless Streaming
·         10,000mAh high capacity rechargeable battery
·         Speakerphone
·         Splashproof
·         JBL Connect
·         JBL Bass Radiator
·         Audio Specifications
·         Signal-to-Noise Ratio
·          
·         80 dB
·         Frequency Response
·          
·         70Hz – 20kHz
·         Speaker Specifications
·         Transducer
·          
·         Woofer 2 x 63 mm
·         Dimensions
·         Height
·          
·         126mm
·         Width
·          
·         283mm
·         Depth
·          
·         122mm
·         Weight·          
·         2112g

The JBL Extreme came in a nice printed box with photos of the speaker and its specs and features. Opening the box revealed a well protected device held in place in custom sized Styrofoam. Pulling out the speaker, I was extremely impressed! It felt like a Tank, being very well made. It appeared to be mostly plastic with some rubber, and a blue cloth knit kind of cover. Quality of materials used was excellent, as was the fit and finish. It’s JBL’s premium portable Bluetooth speaker, and it shows. The speakers are hidden underneath the blue cloth, except for a passive radiator that can be seen on each end. Also included is the owner's manual, charging cord and shoulder strap.


I love the clean, simple look of the JBL Xtreme. It’s a blue cloth covered cylinder, with the controls on top. Also on top are the loops to attach the shoulder strap for taking the Xtreme on the go. Also on the back are the connections for power, auxiliary in, multiple USB ports, and a service port. All of these connections sit behind a water resistant zipper. It isn’t waterproof, but it appears JBL takes it’s being water resistant seriously.

I also noticed it is a completely sealed system. Pushing in one of the passive radiators caused the other one to push out. JBL apparently cut a lot of thought into its design. After all, the amazing look is not worth much if it doesn’t sound good. But I have a feeling JBL managed to do some audio wizardry in the JBL Xtreme. Let’s see if I’m right.

The JBL Xtreme did not disappoint with its sound!  It sounded very natural with everything I threw at it.  Journey: Don't Stop Believing provided lots of energy and texture in the vocals, keyboard sounded natural.  Percussion was crisp and the kick drum had nice impact.  Michael Jackson: Don't Stop Till You Get Enough, percussion was crisp and clean with great dynamics.  Vocals were silky smooth with excellent harmonics.  There are A LOT of different instruments in this track, and they all come thru loud and clear. Kick drum had nice impact and low end extension and output.  No Doubt: Hella Good, had very good impact and kick in the kick drum, that played with good authority.  Purcussion was very dynamic and crisp and clean.  Stefani's vocals sounded natural and sexy as they should.  I had to do a double take look at the passive radiators.  They were really working, with in and out excursion.  If I didn't know any better I would think they were actively powered bass drivers.  It provided great bass output for its size.  And to test the other side of the spectrum I turned to Fresh Aire II: Going to Another Place.  The percussion was really crisp with excellent dynamics.  Piano sounded really natural, and the flute was really clean with good air.  Imaging was good.


I'm still floored with the great sound that came out of the JBL Extreme.  It's designed to be outdoor friendly and pool friendly with its splashproof rating.  The included shoulder straps make it portable.  And not only does it get sufficiently loud, it does so with great sound!  JBL also managed to through in some additional great features, like the ability to use it as a speakerphone, and the 10,000mAh battery that can be used to charge your cellphone.  On top of that it is well made to provide years of use.   The $299 MSRP is a good price.  Based on its design, features, quality and performance, the JBL Xtreme Portable Bluetooth Speaker has earned our Editor's Choice Award.  For more info and complete specs, check out their website at www.JBL.com.


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Saturday, June 11, 2016

Prepper Segment Part 4: Enerplex Jumper Slate 10,000mAh Portable Power Bank Review

Last but not least, is the Enerplex Jumpr Slate power bank. Enerplex makes excellent power options for cell phones and tablets. And the Enerplex Jumper Slate has a huge 10,000mAh capacity. For those preppers preparing for the potential crap hitting the fan, this will give you off the grid power for your communications. With its huge capacity, you could charge your cell phone several times.

Features and specs:
  • Dual 2.4 amp outputs allow users to charge two devices, even tablets, at once 
  • Charges smartphones, tablets, cameras, GPS, MP3’s and more. 
  • Binder holes to easily place in folders and planners 
  • Red Dot Design Award Winner 
  • ·         Product Dimensions: 213mm(8.39")/139.6mm(5.47")/6.67mm(0.26")
  • ·         Additional Information: User manuals, data sheets, and other supporting documents can be found in the 'Downloads and Support Tab'
  • ·         Battery Capacity: 10,000 mAh
  • ·         Battery Type: Lithium-Polymer
  • ·         Recharge By: Micro USB
  • ·         Input: Micro USB Port
  • ·         Output:  dual USB Ports
  • ·         Power Output: 2.4 Amps
  • ·         Warranty: 1 Year

The Enerplex Jumpr Slate came in a simple clear plastic box so you can see product. I like the slightly soft finish to it. Materials used in the construction were mostly plastic. Quality of materials used was very good, as was the fit and finish. Also included was a USB charging cable.

I loved the design of the Enerplex Jumpr Slate!   It has a huge 10,000mAh battery capacity, yet it is very thin! There are holes punched through it on its side, so it is perfect for a student to hold it in a 3 ring binder or planner. It can charge a cell phone 3-6 times, depending on the size and battery capacity of your phone. So it is also a perfect item for your bug out bag! Also include one of Enerplex’s solar panel systems, and you have a never ending source of power for your cell phone or tablet.

Using the Enerplex Jumpr Slate proved very simple. There are green LED’s to monitor it’s charging so you know when it’s fully charged. On the one side are all the connectors for the micro USB to charge it, the two USB connecters to chare your devices, as well as the power button and the green status LED’s. It has a high power outputs to quickly charge your devices. Thanks to the dual UBS outputs, you can actually charge two devices at the same time.


The Enerplex Jumpr Slate power bank worked as advertised. And when you think about it, that’s probably one of the best compliments you can give a device!  I was able to charge multiple phones at the same time, and charge them multiple times, confirming the capacity of the Jumpr Slate and getting the full capacity out of it. With an MSRP of $99, it is a great value. It is also an absolute must for any bug out bag.  For the perfect portable device power solution, pair it with one of Enerplex’s portable solar panels. Based on its design features, quality and performance, the Enerplex Jumpr Slate has earned our Highly Recommended Award.  For more info and complete specs, check out their website at www.goenerplex.com.  


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Prepper Segment Part 3: Eton Field Radio Review

Next up is the Eton Field Radio. It does not have the versatility as the Eton FRX5. It does not have all of the extensive power options as the FRX5, such as solar or hand crank. But it will work on D size batteries, so as the name of the product states, it can be taken out in the field for all of your radio listening needs.

Features and specs:
• AM/FM/SW bands 
• FM with RDS (Radio Data System) 
• Dial-in-dial coarse/fine digital tuning 
• Treble/bass control 
• RF gain control 
• Wide/narrow bandwidth selection 
• 50 memory stations 
• External AM/FM/SW antenna connections 
• Local/DX switch 
• Rich orange LCD display 
• Line-in/line-out and headphone jacks 
• FM telescopic antenna 
• Carrying strap 
• Reset/lock button 
• Power supply: 7V DC adapter or 4 D batteries (sold separately) 
SHORTWAVE BANDS AM 520 – 1710 kHz FM 87.5 – 108 MHz SW 1.711 – 29.999 MHz

The Eton Field Radio came in a nice looking box with photos of the pictures and its features and specs. Opening the box showed a well protected product. Materials used were mostly plastic. But the quality of materials used were very good, as is the fit and finish. It felt in hand like a well made product. Also included was the power cord and owners manual.

Having experience with Eton’s products, I was excited to see how the Field Radio would perform. I was pleasantly unsurprised at the performance of the Eton Field Radio. It performed very well, as is Eton’s reputation for excellent products. I loved the fact that is also has inputs on the back for external FM on SW antennas. So if you’re serious about pulling in those stations and have a roof mounted antenna, it will plug right in.

Even without using an external antenna, the built-in telescopic antenna worked very well, as did the tuner. Living out in the country and surrounded by mountains, radio reception is difficult. It’s a perfect environment to weed out quality tuners from the basic. Stations that typically come in, come in crystal clear. And stations that typically come in, came in crystal clear. And stations that typically don’t come in were able to be tuned in and sounded good.  With the digital display there is even a signal strength meter, so you can see the signal strength of the station you are trying to pull in.

The Eton Field radio also came with the controls to get the best result from your reception, such as a selectable gain, and for the best sound, with adjustable bass and treble. I also like some of the other options, like presets, alarms, and multiple timers. The connectors on the side for a line in, line out, and headphones are also cool.


The Eton Field Radio is a great product. And being able to receive communications from all over thanks to the short wave tuner capability is very cool. For those preppers preparing for a potential time when crap hits the fan, the short wave can provide news from all over so you are in the know.  With an MSRP of $189, it is a good value.  Based on its design, features, quality, and performance, the Eton Field Radio has earned our Highly Recommended award. For more info and complete specs, check out their website at www.etoncorp.com.


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Sunday, May 22, 2016

Prepper's Segment Part 2: Eton FRX5 All Purpose Quad Power Charging Radio Review

When it comes to making the Swiss Army Knife of portable radios, it doesn’t get much better than the Eton FRX5. Eton is known for making these high quality radios. And the Eton FRX5 is definitely cut out of that mold. With a light, radio, and multiple charging options, it seems to do it all.


Features and specs:
• AM/FM/NOAA weatherband
• S.A.M.E. and NOAA Weather Alerts
 • 2000 mAh Rechargeable lithium battery
 • Digital tuner and display
 • Rechargeable lithium battery
 • 5V 2.1A USB output
 • High efficiency solar panel charging
 • Hand crank power
 • Rugged and IPX4 splashproof
 • Bright, long-lasting LED flashlight
 • Red emergency beacon
 • Ambient light with dimmer
 • DC power input via included micro-USB cable
 • Glow-in-the-dark locator
 • Illuminated buttons
 • AUX-IN jack
• Headphone jack
• Alarm clock

The Eton FRX5 came in a nice looking box with photos of the product and specs. Materials used in the construction was mostly plastic, and the quality of the materials was good. Build quality and fit and finish was also good. It felt like a well made product, which is a very good quality to have, especially for an outdoor product. Also included was the owner's manual, and a micro USB charging cable.

Having previously reviewed Eton products, we were excited for the opportunity to do more for them. The Eton FRX5 did everything well, and the owner's manual was easy to follow. The built-in flashlight was sufficiently bright. And I liked the fact that it had 2, one standard flashlight mounted on the side, and a dome/ambient light on the top.  Pressing the light button cycled it from the dome light to the flashlight, to off.  Both of the lights also had glow in the dark trip around the light.  Holding onto the light button will also allow you to change the brightness of the flashlight or dome light.  There is even a red emergency beacon that can be activate.

The tuner was also easy to use, being able to change from AM to FM to Weather Band.  The digital display makes it easy to see the tuning frequency, and the tuning knob and volume knob make it easy to tune and adjust the volume.  The antenna stores flush into the body of the unit, and is easy to pull out and rotate to pull in the best signal.  The built-in tuner worked well, and was able to pull in AM, FM, and Weather band stations fairly simply.  The built-in speaker worked well and sounded as good as expected. 

One the side of the unit is where you find the connection ports.  This is where you would connect a power cord to the unit to charge the internal lithium ion battery.  Below that microUSB connector is a standard USB connector, where you would attach a cable to charge a cell phone with the unit.  Next to these connections are also two 3.5mm jacks.  These allow you to connect a mp3 player to the unit to listen to your tunes thru the FRX5, or to listen to the radio or your connected mp3 player thru some headphones.   

And I love the multiple charge options!  If you are charging the device, whether be from the charge cord provided, the solar panel, or the hand crank, the display will show the charging indicator is lit.  This tells you that the FRX5 is charging.  And no matter your environment, you will be able to charge the device thanks to the hand crank!  If you have some AAA batteries, that would be a simpler option.  But remember that dreaded feeling you feel when your cell phone battery dies, and you realize you don't have your charger cable with you?  Yeah, you won't have to worry about getting that feeling with the Eton FRX5.  You will always have a source of power.


Some products appear so great, they seem too good to be true.  The Eton FRX5 provides that same feeling, only it is true!  Not only that, it is well made, and performed very well!  If you do any camping, or just want to be prepared for potential emergencies, the Eton FRX5 is a must have.  And being water resistant, there is no concern for having it outdoors. With an MSRP of $150, it is priced right and will be money well spent.  Based on its design, features, quality, and performance, the Eton FRX5 has earned our Editor's Choice Award.  For more info and complete specs, check out their website at www.etoncorp.com.


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Tuesday, May 17, 2016

Preppers Segment Part 1: Nite Ize Inova T4R High Power LED Rechargeable Flashlight

As an Eagle Scout, I still try to always “Be Prepared.” Now days, there’s another group of people that also follow the same motto. They are called Preppers. With their increase in popularity, we decided to do a Preppers Segment this spring. And we wanted to do it on some gear we all could use. Gear that Preppers would want to have in their “bug out” bag. So if crap hits the fan, you can just grab your bag and bug out.

The products that we received are a high power flashlight from Nite Ize, a compact all in one radio, from Eton, a larger field radio from Eton, and a large 10000 mAh power bank from Enerplex. The flashlight is the Nite Ize Inova T4R, an LED lithion ion high powered flashlight.  The portable all-in-one is the Eton FRX5. It’s a radio with weather band and a built-in flashlight, and can be changed via cord, batteries, solar, and hand crank. It can also be used to charge your cellphone. The Eton Field Radio is a larger radio, that does not have all of the charging options, but includes a shortwave radio. Last but not least is the Enerplex Jumpr Slate Power Bank. It is a large 10,000 mAh battery pack. This will be able to charge your phone multiple times. So if you find yourself off the grid for a couple weeks, you’re still covered for your communication.

We will start with the review of the Nite Ize Inova T4R flashlight. Next will be the Eton FRX5, followed by the Eton Field Radio. Last, but not least, will be the review of the Enerplex Jumpr Slate Power Bank. So make sure to check back over the next couple of weeks for the rest of the reviews.

The Nite Ize Inova T4R is a great high power LED Lithion Ion flashlight. Rated at up to 571 lumens, it’s definitely bright! The hard aluminum is very durable. It’s water resistant. And it has multiple brightness settings.  MSRP is a reasonable $149.

Features and specs:
·         LED Color: White
·         Lumens: High - 571 | Medium - 178 | Low - 27
·         Run Time: High 1 hour 50 minutes | Medium 7 hours | Low 50 hours
·         Effective Range (up to): 728ft (222m)
·         Battery Type: 1 Rechargeable INOVA Lithium Ion battery included - rechargeable hundreds of times
·         Recharging Time: 3 hours for full recharge
·         Tactical Mid-Body Switch activates High, Medium, Low, Strobe, and Momentary High Modes
·         T4R Kit Includes:
o    T4R LED Flashlight
o    INOVA Lithium Ion Rechargeable Battery
o    Low-Profile Charger - Spring loaded rollers hold flashlight securely while offering ease of removal and insertion - with 2 mounting fasteners
o    Quality AC Power Supply - 100v - 240v / Interchangeable International Plug compatible (Click here for more details)
o    DC / Vehicle Power Supply - ensures secure connection to DC vehicle receptacles. Built-in fuse provides electronic protection.
·         Individually laser engraved with a serial number for identification
·         Impact-Resistant Head protects optical system
·         Mineral Glass optical window has a double-sided anti-reflective coating and a Teflon® seal to withstand environmental pressures
·         High-powered energy efficient 33,700 hour LED
·         Electronically controlled for uniform light output
·         Patented optical system - machined aluminum reflector for optimal thermal management and beam projection.
·         Uniform focused spot with flood beam pattern
·         Aerospace-Grade Aluminum Body from solid bar stock with military-spec, Type III hard coat anodized finish
·         Aggressive knurling for positive grip
·         Color Available: Black
·         Shockproof, crushproof, and water-resistant construction
·         O-Ring ensures seal integrity and threads are anodized for reliability
·         Dimensions (Length x Diameter): 7.90" (20.32cm) x 1.10" (2.80cm) | 1.40" (3.56cm) Head Diameter
·         Weight: 8.81oz | 250g
·         Limited Lifetime Warranty USA



The Nite Ize T4R High-Powered LED Flashlight came in a nice looking printed box with photos of the product with its features and specs. Materials used in the construction is mostly aluminum. Quality of materials was excellent, as was the fit and finish. Also included was the wall and car charger.

The Nite Ize T4R was easy to get charged. I loved the design of the charger. Just slide in the T4R and the two contact points on the base make contact with the two contact points on the flashlight. And the indicator light will let you know when it’s fully charged. Using it was just as simple. The rubber power button will turn on the power as well as take you through the difference power settings and strobe.

The Nite Ize T4R is made from a solid bar stock, and it shows. It is one serious flashlight. It feels very solid in hand and well made. Unscrewing the rear cap gives access to the user replaceable battery. I saw there is also a rubber ring around the end of the threads to seal water out of the battery compartment.

And this is where my confusion lies. According to the specs, the Nite Ize T4R is only IPX4 rated for water resistance. This means it is only rated water safe with splashes. While being built like a tank, the water rating would be its weak link. Being rated against splashes is all that’s really needed. I just expected a bit more with its superb build quality. And I’m surprised it isn’t rated higher, especially with the rear rubber seal ring. Thanks to the rubber sear ring, I personally would not have any concerns with using it in foul weather or around water.


Using the Nite Ize T4R was a joy. The flashlight was easy to cycle through the brightness settings. And boy was it bright! I was also glad to see that the battery life was better than its rated times. I actually got 2 hours and 26 minutes on the highest brightness setting!  I would have no problems relying on the Nite Ize T4R on a daily basis, or in my bug out bag. Based on its design, features, quality and performance, the Nite Ize Inova T4R has earned our Highly Recommended Award. For more info and complete specs, check out their website at www.niteize.com.


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Thursday, May 5, 2016

Monster Elements Black Slate Wireless Over The Ear Headphones

Monster has a new soon to be released product in the Monster Elements Black Slate Over The Ear headphones. They already have the 24K, but Monster has expanded it. They created the elements series with the addition of the other colors, namely the Black Slate, Gold, Rose Gold, Platinum and Black Platinum. And they are now wireless with each color available in over the ear, on the ear, in ear, or floating speaker. They are scheduled to be available in June, but wanting to be included in our annual shootout, Monster sent over a pair of the Black Slate over the ear, with a MSRP of $400.

Features and specs:
Not yet on their website, but will be soon.

In Monster fashion, the Black Slate came shipped in a great looking color box with photos of the headphones and their specs. They were well protected, being shipped in their soft zippered carry case, that was held in a molded plastic insert. Materials used in the construction was mostly plastic with some metal and were excellent. The fit and finish are also excellent. The monster Elements are a top of the line series for Monster and it shows! They felt very well made in hand. I LOVE the metallic sparkle look of the Black Slate! And the memory foam earcups make them comfortable to wear.


Following the instructions was easy, and in no time at all I had the Monster Elements Black Slate charged and paired to my HTC One M9.  And as usual they also came with a separate audio cable.  So if the batteries die or you are wanting to listen to a non-wireless device, Monster has you covered.  The wireless performance was also very good.  I was able to go over 50 feet away with multiple walls between me and my HTC One M9, and the sound was perfectly clear.  I also really liked the touch sensitive Swipe Control, being able to control the music by moving my finger across the top of the earcup! It worked very well! Of course being able to listen to high res audio thru the USB Audio connection is also very cool. But how did they sound?

David Bowie: Let's Dance, kick drum was deep and played with very good authority and impact. Wood knocker was very woody and revealed a very wide soundstage. Percussion was nice and crisp. Vocals were the way Bowie should sound with excellent resolution in the timbre. Journey:Don't Stop Believing, piano sounded very natural, vocals were smooth like honey, with excellent resolution and texture. Kick drum had great depth, impact, and played with authority. Also Sprach Zarathustra: revealed a very nice rumble that was really deep and with really nice authority. Trumpets were really clean and silky smooth throwing a really wide soundstage. Imaging was excellent. Tympani played with excellent dynamics, impact and detail from the pad of the drum. Junior Wells: Why Are People Like That, the vocals had excellent resolution and texture.  Bass had excellent depth and authority. Piano sounded natural. Percussion was crisp, with nice dynamics and impact. Harmonica had excellent dynamics and harmonics. Gershwin: Rhapsody In Blue, the clarinet had excellent resolution, woodiness and air. You could hear the breathing technique. Piano sounded very natural. Cymbals were very dynamic and crisp. Horns were smooth like honey and not brassy, with excellent harmonics. Bassoon had excellent texture and low end extension. Soundstage was wide with depth. Imaging was also very good.   
The Monster Elements Black Slate are an amazing product, with the excellent Monster sound!  They are very well made, very durable, and in true Monster fashion, provide an excellent sound with excellent performance of its other features. Monster continues to solidify its place in the headphone industry.  If you don't know headphones, with a purchase of a Monster product, you will get a great sounding product.  And with their excellent build quality, they will last a long time.  based on their design, features, quality, and performance, the Monster Elements Black Slate Wireless Over The Ear Headphones have earned our Editor's Choice Award.  For more info and complete specs, check out their website at www.monstercable.com.


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