Monday, July 30, 2012
Otter Box was kind enough to send us a Commuter Series case for the Samsung Galaxy Nexus. Previously I had a similar case for the Galaxy Nexus. Is the Otter Box Commuter Series as bulky as the Defender Series cases? How does it stack up to the competition? Hopefully I can answer those questions for you.
The first thing I would like to point out is that the Commuter Series case comes with two piece that connect to the phone. The first piece is an impact absorbing silicone, basically a rubber(ish) cover. This rubber shell has covers for the headphone jack and the micro usb port which helps to keep all that pocket lint out of there. The second piece is a hi-impact polycarbonate shell which is the hard plastic piece. The plastic outer shell has a very nice looking brushed back with Otter Box etched into the bottom of it. The silicone shell goes on first as you can see in the pictures and then the hard plastic goes on after. I noticed it’s not as easy to put the outer plastic shell on as other cases I’ve tried, but I am not in the habit of removing my cell phone case very often either. You’ll also get a screen protector. I spent $11 for a screen protector at Verizon when I got the phone. The only real issue we have with the included screen protector is its size. It does not cover the entire face of the phone. It will get you by for a while, but you should probably consider picking up a screen protector that will cover the entire face of the phone at some point.
The inside shell fits nicely over the phone and after the outer shell is also on the phone you can definitely feel how much more sturdy it makes the device. The galaxy nexus is a slim phone and by itself it’s a bit slippery. The commuter case is that nice balance between protection and bulk. It does add a little to the depth of the phone, but it’s not overly bulky. I don’t worry too much about dropping the phone. I wasn’t sure at first if I would like the covers over the micro usb and headphone jack, but after I got used to them it’s nice having them there. I keep my phone in my pocket a lot, so those extra covers have helped keep unwanted lint and dust out of the ports. The bevel around the screen adds a layer of protection to help prevent screens from shattering. If you had that happen then you know how nice this feature is. It’s very easy to pass over all of this in just a glance because it looks like almost every other case out there. I just wanted to point out how much thought Otter Box has put into the design and quality of this product.
Whether on purpose or on accident, I have dropped my phone several times while I’ve had this case and my phone is still in perfect condition. One thing I would also like to point out is that the 4 corners of the phone are exposed with a thicker silicone. If you’ve ever dropped a phone, then you probably know that it almost always lands on or bounces to a corner. The thicker silicone corners of the Otter Box Commuter Series case add even more shock absorption to those corners.
The Otter Box Commuter Series cases are the perfect balance of protection and size. The current price of this case is around $22. Trust me when I say this, it is money well spent. You will not be disappointed with the design and build quality of the Otter Box Commuter Series case for the Galaxy Nexus. Based on their design, and build quality the Otter Box Commuter Series case has earned our Highly Recommended award. For more info and complete specs, check out their website at www.Otterbox.com.
Saturday, July 21, 2012
Music can be such an enjoyable part of our lives. But sometimes, location and installation can be difficult. Putting a pair of speaker at a location not already prewired can be difficult. It could mean running a lot of unsightly wire. Enter the Blue Aura WS80i. They are wireless stereo indoor speaker system. With them, there is no need for the wire runs for the speaker wires.
Their features and specs:
2-Way Powered Active Speaker
Product Height: 235 mm
Product Width: 150 mm
Product Depth: 215 mm
Product Weight: 4.0000
Frequency Response: 45 Hz - 22k Hz
Tweeter: 1" Soft Dome Ferro-Fluid Cooled
Woofer: 4.5" Pa;per Cone
Crossover Frequency: 3k Hz
Amplifier Power: 2x25 W + 2x25 W
Amplifer Type: Class D
Wireless Range: 25 m
Sub Out: N/A
Connector Type: N/A
Remote Control: Yes
Impedance: 8 ohm
Enclosure: MDF Enclosure Covered in Faux Leather
The quality was very good. The Blue Aura WS80i came shipped double boxed. The product box was a standard attractive looking printed box. It had pictures of the product and also included some specs. Opening the box revealed a styrofoam top, with slots for the other parts such as the remote, and wireless dongle. Taking the styrofoam top off showed the two speakers wrapped in plastic. Taking off the plastic wrapping revealed.
Pulling the speakers out revealed a very unique speaker. The sides of the speakers were wrapped in faux black leather and stitched. I liked the elegant look it gave. The bottom had a black foam pad, so as to not scratch any surface you set the speaker on. On the rear you can see the metal plate of the built in amp, and on the front is a black aluminum grill. That protects the 4.5 inch and 1 inch drivers. Build quality as well as fit and finish was very good. Set-up was very simple, and the included instructions were easy to follow. I had the WS80i set up, plugged in, and linked up with the Bluetooth dongle in no time. One item to note, was there was a missing cable. Depending on the configuration, and source material being used, the Bluetooth dongle will need to be plugged in. There was a power adapter included for it, but there was no usb cable to go from the power adapter to the Bluetooth dongle.
I must say I was very impressed with their performance. Fresh Aire III: Tocatta was very crisp and clean with very good resolution. The flute had a good amount of air, and the drums were tight and provided good bass extension. Twilight soundtrack: Super Massive Black Hole, provided a lot of energy. Vocals sounded a tad warm but still natural. This track has a lot of energy, and the WS80i delivered it well. There is a lot of midbass and bass in the track. And while it was apparent that no subwoofer was being used, the 4.5 inch driver did extremely well for its size. Michael Jackson: Don't Stop Til You Get Enough, had great resolution in the guitar. Vocals came through natural with sufficient depth and texture. Imaging was pretty good.
I was equally impressed with their wireless performance. They are listed at 25m distance, and they went well above that! Having a 3600 square foot home, I set it up in the master bedroom in the upper corner of the house. Not only was I able to get signal anywhere in the upstairs, I also got signal anywhere in the downstairs as well!
At the end of the day, I was pleased with the Blue Aura WS80i. Their build quality was very good, and they gave an elegant look and styling with the faux leather sides. And for wireless speakers, they gave a nice full sound that had a lot going. Mids and highs were crisp and clean, and the bass output was very good for their size. And they liked to play loud! At an MSRP of $599 I think they are fairly priced for what you get. Based on their design, features, quality, and performance, they have earned our Highly Recommended award. They are definitely worthy of being on your short list of models to heck out. For more info and complete specs, check out their website at blueaura-audio.com.
Sunday, July 8, 2012
Most people have had no experience of hearing a subwoofer. It could have been in your home surround system, car stereo, or maybe just at the movie theater. Subwoofers help make the sound so much fuller. Sometimes though, there is a lack of space. Subwoofers after all can take up a lot of space. Subwoofers after all can take up a lot of space. Transducers, however, provide a similar effect, but require less space. Up for review today is the Earthquake Shell ShoXX shaker for gaming.
The Earthquake Shell ShoXX is a shaker designed for gamers. It is designed with a transducer to be mounted under your seat. And then it has a class J amp to power it. The transducer is not a speaker, so it does not output sound. Instead, it is a shaker motor that vibrates back and forth, simulating the low vibration that you feel with a subwoofer.
It's features and specs:
-Advanced Digital Class J amplifier
-Neodynium based shaker motor
The Earthquake Shell ShoXX came well packaged and double boxed. Opening up the initial box revealed the typical printed boxes with pics and info on the product. Opening the box revealed two other boxes. One held the transducer and it's power cord, the other held the digital amp for the transducer.
Build quality of the transducer was absolutely solid. It had some great heft to it, and the fit and finish was very good. The amp was in a gaming style camouflage plastic case. I was initially surprised at the plastic case for the amp. But then realizing it would more than likely end up being mounted to a desk, plastic would be just fine. And it did feel well put together. I have seen Earthquake products before, and they always seemed to be high quality and solidly built products.
The included instructions were easy to follow. It helped make the installation simple. It was just a matter of mounting the transducer and amp, then running the wiring. Simple. The wiring instructions did not include instructions for wiring it to a 5.1 system, but it was easy to figure out.
I have to say, I was skeptical of how well it would perform...just the whole transducer idea. But, WOW, was it cool! It gave a whole new experience to gaming, and I am used to using a subwoofer! There were easy controls to adjust the output level. If you turn it up over halfway, explosions are massive! And in battling the large demon/monster, you could actually feel their breathing. Very cool! And the way it felt.......PERFECT!!! Earthquake really nailed it with the Shell ShoXX! One potential problem is it may not be for everyone. With the high output, the Shell ShoXX could be a little distracting. You can turn it down and the explosions are not as big, but then again that demon/monster breathing which could be felt that I thought was sooo cool...is also gone. I thought it was best at a higher output level, and gave a new experience to gaming. It also could be used for audio music!
The transducer just added to the experience. At an MSRP of $595, it is not a cheap system. But you do get what you pay for, and oh it is worth it! If you are one that likes to get their game on, this Shell ShoXX from Earthquake is a must to check out. Based on it's design, features, quality, and performance, it has earned our Editor's Choice Award. For more details and complete specs, check out their website at www.earthquakesound.com.
We’re reviewing the 16GB Kingston DataTraveler Elite 3.0 today. Most USB drives out right now are only USB 2.0. Today we’re pleased to present you with a faster alternative to portable storage. If you have a motherboard with USB 3.0 slots on it then read on. If you don’t then maybe now is a good time to pick up an add on card.
Capacities: 16GB, 32GB, 64GB
Speed:USB 3.0: 70MB/s read, 30MB/s write. USB 2.0: 30MB/s read, 25MB/s write
Convenient: capless design with slider; no cap to lose
Guaranteed: five-year warranty, free technical support
Customizable: Co-Logo program available
Dimensions: 2.7185" x 0.8504" x 0.437" (69.05mm x 21.6mm x 11.1mm)
Operating Temperature: 32°F to 140°F (0°C to 60°C)
Storage Temperature: -4°F to 185°F (-20°C to 85°C)
This 16GB drive comes in a small package but it boasts some nice features. Right on the front you can see that they claim 70MB/s read and 30MB/s write when connected to a USB 3.0 slot. We’ll give that a test to see if it holds true. Other then that there’s not much else to point out except the 5 year warranty they’ve stamped on the front. It’s always nice to see a company stand behind their products. 5 years is definitely a long time and we’ve got to hand it to Kingston for backing their products so strongly.
The drive is very lightweight which is nice, but if you’re looking for something durable then this is not the drive you’re looking for. The housing is all plastic with a little sparkle in the gray. The drive slides open and the first thing you might notice is the blue color on the inside of the drive’s tip.
Blue is used to help distinguish that this is a USB 3.0 drive. You should start to see a lot more of this as more and more USB makers provide USB 3.0 drives.
So how fast is the drive? We fired up ATTO and CrystalDiskMark to find out. We almost always see conservative numbers on Kingston’s packaging and today is no exception. ATTO shows performance topping out around 84.5MB/s read and 31.9MB/s write.
CrystalDiskMark shows pretty much the same thing, but the average read is 86MB/s and the sequential write is averaging 38.09MB/s.
We were very pleased with the performance of the drive. As you can see it definitely delivers what’s advertised. We’re not looking at Synchronous NAND SSD drive performance here, but it is definitely a big step up at nearly 3 times the read speed from what we had with any USB 2.0 drive. The current price tag for this 16GB model is a mere $21.99 over at Newegg. At this price point there’s really no reason to keep those older USB 2.0 drives around. USB 3.0 is here for the masses now and Kingston is there to deliver. Based off of the performance, build quality and price point we’re giving the Kingston DataTraveler Elite 3.0 our Recommended award. For more info and complete specs, check out their website at www.kingston.com.
Sunday, July 1, 2012
German Maestro M-Line MS 654010 and MS 654010 Active 3-Way Component Speaker System Review by Jeff Roy
There are a lot of choices when it comes to car stereo speaker systems. There are some great companies that make some great products. And one of the best manufacturers are German Maestro. Up for review today is their M-Line 654010 3-way component speaker system.
For those of you who have been fans of car audio for years may know the name MB Quart. They used to be one of the best car audio manufacturers, until they sold to Maxxsonics. Manufacturing was then shipped overseas to cut costs. But not to be stopped, the old management was able to find funding and German Maestro was created. Much of what was MB Quart...the German plant, most of management, and their key employees, are now German Maestro.
We recently reviewed their MS6508, which is a 2-way system in their M-line. Today we are reviewing their MS 654010 and MS 654010 Active, their top of the line series. And their 3-ways are the best of the best. Using their top technologies, such as Ultrasphere with the tweeters and nano technology on all of their drivers, the performance is impressive.
I prefer 3-way systems. Not only do they tend to be more dynamic, it is also easier on the drivers themselves. Having a dedicated midrange helps so the tweeter does not have to play down lower then it maybe should, and it also takes some of the duties away from the midbass, so it can focus just as a midbass. Not only is the sound improved, but if you push your speakers it can also help extend their life span.
Their features and specs:
-Diameter T/W: 1.6" (40 mm) / 4" (10 cm) / 6.5" (16 cm)
-Power Handling: 90 W RMS / 295 W Max.
-Frequency Response: 28 – 32.000 Hz
-Impedance: 4 Ω
-Crossover Frequency: 209 / 2.350 Hz 12dB / 12dB / 12dB / 12dB
-Sensitivity: 86 dB (1W/1m)
-Tweeters based on exclusive UltraSphere™-Technology with inverted two-piece titanium dome and extremely powerful neodymium ring magnet system. Dome nano-ceramic coated.
-Tweeters based on exclusive UltraSphere™-Technology with inverted two-piece titanium dome and extremely powerful neodymium ring magnet system. Dome nano-ceramic coated.
-Very powerful and linear running 4" midrange driver in CTC-Technologie (Concerted Thermal Compensation)
-Very powerful and linear running 6.5" midbass driver in CTC-Technologies (Concerted Thermal Compensation)
-M-Line X-over with MultiMOUNT installation system (MMS) and 4-step/3-step attenuators for perfect High- and Midrange- adjustments
-Manifold installation material included
-Presented in an attractive M-Line hard-top case
The system came well protected. And I have never seen this level of presentation. They came shipped in a hard aluminum case. The initial thought was...WOW! This is awesome!!!
Packaging was even better then the MS 6508s. Opening up the aluminum case revealed the tweeters, mid, midbass drivers and crossovers, each with their own cutout space for it. Also included was the owners manual, install instructions, and hardware. Looking over the individual drivers revealed top quality components manufactured with the best materials. Build quality and fit & finish are excellent!
The solid tweeter was shipped with a black plastic cap to further protect the tweeter surface. Removing the cap revealed the coated titanium inverted dome. It was large for a tweeter, with a powerful Neodymium magnet. This was designed to handle a lot of power, and the wiring supports it. Tweeters usually come with small 20 gauge of higher wiring. Instead, German Maestro uses a 16 gauge wire. Such a large gauge wire on a tweeter is a big statement. The back was stamped 6 ohm, and Made in Germany. Protection of the tweeter comes from either two thin bars that go across the surface, or a black mesh grill.
The 4 inch midrange and 6.5 inch midbass are also very solidly built components. The mids and midbasses are shipped protected, being screwed into the surface ring and covered with the grill for protection. The guys at German Maestro take pride in their top of the line products, and it shows in all the little details.
I wanted to have a better look at the drivers, so I took off the grill and unscrewed the driver from the surface ring. Looking at the rear, the cast aluminum basket is relativity thick and solidly built. On the back was printed 4 ohm and 90 watts power handling. It was obvious that neodymium was the material used for the magnet, as to the small size of magnet structure under the cast basket, I really like the use of neodymium. Magnets can be much smaller, giving you a shallower driver for more install options.
I also liked the drivers design. The gloss black basket gave an elegant look. When it comes to installation, I like options. The terminals give you options, they were gold plated, and allowed for bare wire or a teamed connector. The tinsel heads were well secured at both ends, with a high quality solder at the terminals and glued at the speaker cone. The spider was also of high quality, and was well attached to the basket. The cone was a black polypropylene, as could be seen from the back. It was well coated on the front with their tan colored nano-ceramic coating, and had an excellent quality surround. There was a generous amount of adhesion applied to attach it to the basket to not only provide the good excursion, but to also handle doing so for years.
The quality of the crossover network was the same as the other drivers: excellent! I liked the elegant look that carried over to it, with the light tan/off white sides to match the coating of the driver cones. The clear plastic top cover was also a nice touch. I liked being able to see into the crossover, and look at the clean beard layout, and quality components. There are 4 levels of tweeter attenuation and 3 levels for midrange. I also liked the ability to install the crossover either vertically or horizontally.
Installation was included in the equation as well. The manual was well written and included pictures and diagrams. Large cutout stickers were also provided. These would be applied to the mounting surface, and then you would just cut down the line. A set of German Maestro stickers are provided to show you are a fan, which can be applied to your car windows.
Performance is absolutely phenomenal. We recently reviewed their MS 6508 model, and I was taken back from their performance. The German Maestro MS 6508 sounded amazing. And the German Maestro MS 654010 takes the performance up a notch even further. The highs were a bit cleaner, the mids were fuller and smoother, and the midbass had more impact. Dynamic passages came through even more dynamic. The entire sound was improved over their 2-way system.
Now enter the MS 654010 Active system, same tweeter, same midrange, and same midbass drivers. There are just no passive crossovers. You will need two additional items. The first is an active electronic crossover. The second is six channels of amplification. The tweeters, midranges, and midbasses will need their own channel of amplification.
How did they sound? Wow!! I will put it this way. If any of you readers have ever upgraded from speakers powered by your receiver, to adding a dedicated amplifier, you understand the difference in sound. If you think about it...that means going from around 10 watts a channel, to say 50 watts or so per channel, depending on the rated power of your amp. The extra power really wakes up the performance of the speakers. Going to an active system is similar. You don't lose anything with using passive crossovers, and the speakers have more power, with each driver having its own amplifier channel.
Junior Wells: Why are people like that. The piano was very natural sounding. Vocals had excellent timbre with texture you could really hear. The harmonica was very dynamic and smooth. Imaging was excellent!
Star Wars Trilogy: The Throne Room. This is one of my favorite songs. I immediately heard the wonderfully large soundstage. The intro with the horns sounded so clean, it gave me Goosebumps! The horns had excellent resolution and pitch definition without sounding too brassy. Imaging was again excellent, and the percussion was dynamic and crisp. The flute had good air.
Gershwin: Rhapsody In Blue. This song again portrayed the excellent imaging and large soundstage performance. As a musician, I love hearing all the MS 654010's amazing resolution that revealed such details as being able to hear the woodiness of the reed on the clarinet. Dynamics were excellent, with no noticeable coloration in the wonderful harmonics. Even in quiet passages with the piano, you could still hear great details and its natural tone.
Puccini: Turondot - Nessun Dorma! The German Maestro MS 654010 speaker system showed off just how real and lifelike vocals can sound. Resolution and texture in the vocals were excellent! The imaging was so good, you could actually hear the subtle differences in direction as he changes directions of his singing....either center, slightly left, or slightly right.
No Doubt: Hello Good. What can I say....the song title says it all. After all, that's just how the MS 654010 system sounded! They were very dynamic, with smooth and natural sounding vocals. The midbass drivers provided tight bass and good low end extension. The mids and highs were stunning!
Michael Jackson: Don't Stop Til You Get Enough. Resolution was again amazing. All of the instruments could be heard with great details. I heard details I had never heard before in the song. The percussion was dynamic and crisp. The trumpets were so clean!! With the German Maestro MS 654010 3-way speaker system, they sound so amazingly good, I will never get enough! Take a bow German Maestro!!!
The best analogy I can think of in rating the sound and overall design, quality, and performance is diamonds. But think about it. When it comes to color, colorless is the best. And the highest colorless rating is a D. No A, B, or C. If the German Maestro MS 654010 were diamonds, I would give them a D color rating. They are not perfect, and there may be better......but I have not heard a better speaker system. Period!
If you are looking for the best of the best, the German Maestro MS 654010 is it. And if you want the even more improved sound of an active system, the MS 654010 Active is it. While the MS 654010 Active is not yet available in the US, the MS 654010 can be used in an active system. You would just not use the included passive crossovers. At an MSRP of $2,500, the MS 654010 3-way component system is not cheap. But you do get what you pay for. The quality and attention to detail is #1. And the synergy it yields in the aural bliss they provide will have you hearing your music like you have never heard it before. If there was an award above our Editors Choice Award, this model would have earned it! Based on their design, features, quality and performance the German Maestro MS 654010 and MS 654010 Active have easily earned our Editor's Choice Award. For more info and complete specs, check out their website at www.german-maestro.de. Reference gear used: Kenwood Excelon DNX-9980HD Multimedia Receiver, Alpine Type-X SPX-13PRO component system, Kicker 15" Solo-Baric L7 subwoofer, Zed Audio Leviathan III 6 channel full range Class D amplifier, JL Audio XD600/6 full range Class D 6 channel amplifier, Vibe Audio Black Death Bass 1 Class GH subwoofer amplifier, AudioControl DQSX Electronic Crossover/Equalizer.