Monday, November 20, 2017

2017 Annual Holiday Gadget Gift Guide

Thanksgiving is almost here, which means it must be time for our annual Holiday Gadget Gift Guide. So if you are looking for some gift ideas, hopefully we can help. This year we tried to include some focus on smart home products. And they are from some great manufacturers. They are Elite Screens Yard Master 2, JBL Link 200, JBL Link 300, Next Book Flexx11A, Royale Moon, and Sound Blaster KatanaX.


The Elite Screens Yard Master 2 is an outdoor screen. If you like to entertain, and this includes watching movies outdoors, an outdoor screen like Elite Screen’s Yard Master 2 is a must have. The Screen is portable, and easy to assemble. You can also use a 2-Way screen material for more viewing options.  MSRP for the 120" 16:9 screen is $234.  Review is scheduled for the week ending 12/3/17.

The JBL Link 200 is a wireless speaker system that is also a Google Home product. It’s small and portable. Being water resistant also gives more usage options. So while it’s perfectly home in your home, the JBL Link 200 can also be used poolside, or anywhere else outdoors.  MSRP is $199.95. Review is scheduled for week ending 11/26/17. 

When it comes to memory for your electronic devices, Kingston has you covered.  It started for them with computer RAM memory sticks.  And while they still provide those memory sticks, not they also provide storage for all of your other electronic devices, such as SD cards for digital camera's and camcorders, and microSD cards for smart phones.  They also have flash drives for your computers and smart phones.  Now they have extended this to your iPhone with their new DataTraveler Bolt to store all your phone's photos and videos.  MSRP is $89.99 for the 64GB model.  Review is scheduled for week ending 12/17/17. 


Next is the JBL Link 300. A member of the JBL Link family, it is a Google Home device. So, if you are looking for the weather, or for a show time, just ask the JBL Link 300, and Google will answer. The JBL Link 300 is not water resistant, so it’s home is in the home. The JBL Link 300 is part of the JBL Link family, so it can be linked to any of the other Link products. Link several together and you have a whole home system.  MSRP is $249.95.  Review is scheduled for week ending 12/3/17.

If you are looking for a tablet, Nextbook gives you bang for the buck. Especially the Nextbook Flexx11A. It’s a 2 in 1 tablet with a detachable keyboard. So you can use it with or without a keyboard.  MSRP is $229.  Review is scheduled for week ending 12/10/17.

It’s time now for the Royale Moon. The Royale Moon 3D Mobile Theater is a portable theater with the dual 1080p displays and headphones, you can enjoy your movies and gaming anywhere. Thanks to the foldable design, they are easily portable.  MSRP is $799.99. Review is scheduled for week ending 12/10/17.

Last but not least is the Sound Blaster KatanaX. The Sound Blaster KatanaX is a high quality soundbar with a separate subwoofer. With its multiple inputs and Bluetooth connectivity, the KatanaX provides a lot of options to give you great sound. And I love the LED light show they provide to enhance the gaming experience.  MSRP is $299.99.  The review can be found here:  http://www.stereowiseplus.com/2017/10/creative-sound-blasterx-katana-multi.html


This year’s gift guide has provided some great products. Don’t forget to check back in for the full reviews for any of the products you may be interested in. And hopefully these will give you some gift ideas. Any of these products would make for a great holiday gift.  Thank you for reading, and Happy Holidays from our family to yours.


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Sunday, October 29, 2017

Creative Sound BlasterX Katana Multi-channel Gaming Soundbar Review

I love how advanced TV’s are getting. They’re flat, with amazing 4K resolution available. Many will also let you go online for content as well. Bottom line, they look great visually but picture is only half of the presentation. Good sound from that small space is hard to do. Enter the soundbar. Today we will be covering the Creative Sound BlasterX Katana.

The Creative Sound BlasterX Katana is a great looking system. It is actually a 2 piece system that encompasses a sound bar and a separate subwoofer. And fun was part of the equation, with its selection of colors to choose from for ambient light. Will be a great feature for gamers. So it’s actually quick versatile, being able to be used as a traditional sound bar, for a gaming system, or for a stand alone music system.

Features and specs:
Dimensions (H x W x D)
Soundbar: 60.0 x 600.0 x 79.0 mm (2.4 x 23.6 x 3.1 inches), Subwoofer: 333 x 130 x 299 mm (5.1 x 11.8 x 13.1 inches)
Weight
Soundbar: 1.5kg (3.3 lbs), Subwoofer: 4kg (8.8 lbs)
System Configuration
2.1 system
Bluetooth® Version
Bluetooth 4.2
Bluetooth Profile
A2DP (Wireless Stereo Bluetooth)
Supported Codecs
SBC, AAC
Connector Type
Bluetooth, AUX-in, USB FlashDrive, Headset out, USB Audio, Mic-in, Optical-in
Color
Black
Remote Control
Infrared
Design
Tri-Amplified Design


The Creative Sound BlasterX Katana came in a nice looking color printed box, with photos and specs of the system. It was well protected in the box, and came with the instructions, remote, power cord, and multiple USB cords as well. Materials used for the construction was metal and plastic on the sound bar. The subwoofer appeared to be a laminate on wood design. Quality of materials used was very good as was the finish. It’s the quality I have come to expect of Creative.


Setting up the Creative Sound BlasterX Katana was very easy. There is the one control panel on the back, with all the connections clearly labeled. The only connection type that I would have liked to have seen that was not there is HDMI. Hooking it up to my cable box then an optical cable was simple. And trying out other devices like an mp3 player and smartphone with the other connections and Bluetooth was just as simple.

Creative has a long history of experience with audio products. So the performance should have been no surprise for me. But it still sounded better than I expected! Watching a college football game, the vocals were very clear, intelligible and distinct. The cheer of the crowd came through loud and clear through a very large and surprisingly deep soundstage.

Watching the mining colony scene in Guardians’ of the Galaxy, the highs were crisp and clean during the glass breaking, plasma shots, and explosions. Mids were warm, detailed, with a lot of resolution. The midbass from the sound bar was also better than expected. The same can be said for the small subwoofer. It had good low end extension and provided output without being distorted or muddy. The same can be said for the sound of them. Listening to music through the analog input. Dynamics were very good, as was the imaging. The soundstage was large and much deeper than expected. Vocals were very smooth with great harmonics and texture. Highs were crisp and clean without being overly bright. Mids were smooth and not overly warm. Bass had good detail and depth with sufficient low end extension.


I truly enjoyed the Creative Sound BlasterX Katana has large amount of versatility. As a traditional sound bar, it will add significantly better sound to your TV, without the need of a lot of wiring. I was not able to pair my HTC One M8 with it through Bluetooth, but sometimes there are compatibility issues between devices. Flash drives and using the analog connector is a great way to listen to music through the Creative Sound BlasterX Katana. The ambient LED lights also make it fun for gaming.

Creative has a long history of delivering great audio products. This tradition continues to go strong today, which the Creative Sound BlasterX Katana are proof of it. The sound bar will fill even a large room with great sound. Only when turned up nearly full blast does it sound a bit strained. Otherwise, the sound is very good. If you are in the market for a sound bar, the Creative Sound BlasterX Katana should be on your short list. Based on its design, features, quality and performance, the Creative Sound BlasterX Katana has earned our Highly Recommended Award. For more info and complete specs, check out their website at www.us.creative.com.


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Tuesday, October 24, 2017

Blue Sadie Premium Headphones with Built-In Audiophile Amp Review

Blue is a big name in sound products, especially microphones. Now they do headphones, and have been for a couple years now. Their first model was a game changer in the Blue Mo-Fi headphones. Now their updated model is the Blue Sadie. It has the features that are liked, only updated.


Features and specs:


  • Built-in audiophile amplifier for true high-fidelity sound on any device
  • 50mm drivers custom-tuned for a superior soundstage
  • Refined personalized fit for superior comfort
  • Sealed over-ear design for immersive isolation
  • Racecar-inspired multi-jointed headband design keeps earcups parallel at all times for superior comfort and sound
  • Powers on and off automatically when headphones are opened and closed
  • Rechargeable battery provides up to 12 hours of playtime; Sadie continues to play music even when battery has no charge

DRIVER SPECS


  • Type, and physical size: 50mm, fiber-reinforced dynamic driver
  • Impedance: 42 ohms
  • Frequency response: 15Hz-20kHz
  • Enclosure details: Sealed enclosure with tuned damping materials

AMPLIFIER SPECS


  • Output power: 240mW
  • THD+N: 0.004%
  • Frequency response: 15Hz-20kHz
  • SNR, self noise: >105 dB
  • Noise: < 20 uV
  • Battery capacity: 1000mAh

HEADPHONE SPECS


  • Weight: 444 g (15.67 oz)
  • Outer dimensions (closed): 21cm x 14cm x 12cm; 8.27” x 5.51” x 4.72
  • Outer dimensions (open): 18cm x 29cm x 12cm; 7.09” x 11.42” x 4.72”

INCLUDED ACCESSORIES


  • Soft case with cable storage pocket
  • 1.2-meter audio cable with Apple iPhone/iPad controls and microphone
  • 3 meter audio cable
  • 1 meter USB charging cable
  • 3.5mm to 1/4" adaptor



The Blue Sadie came in a great looking printed box with photos of the headphones, and its specs. Opening the box revealed a well protected headphone sitting in a custom molding. Materials used in the construction was mostly plastic and metal, with leather earcups and headband, padded with memory foam. The Quality of materials used was very good. The fit and finish is excellent. The Blue Sadie are premium headphones, that is built like a tank and it shows! Also included was a standard cable, cable with in-line remote, charging cord, and owner’s manual.

I absolutely lover the design of the Blue Sadie. When Blue designed their headphone, they started from the ground up, totally thinking out of the box. And the design shows! The design of the headband with the multiple joints, provides a headphone that gives you the perfect fit. The built-in headphone amp gives the extra power boost needed for the best sound when you are listening to a low power device, like a smartphone. I also really like the 3 different setting for the built in amp and pass through, on and bass boost.
 



For song selection, we thought we would mix some new school with some old school.  We'll start with twenty One Pilots: Heathens, then go to Kansas: Carry On Wayward Son, and Fresh Aire: Going To Another Place.  Twenty One Pilots: Heathens, vocals were very smooth, natural sounding, with very good texture and resolution.  Piano sounded very natural with good harmonics.  Percussion was extremely crisp and very dynamic. Bass was extremely full, very deep, tight, and played with tons of authority.  Kansas: Carry On Wayward Son, vocals were smooth as honey with very good harmonics and texture.  Kick drum had very good extension, impact, and played with a lot of authority. Keyboard had very good resolution and was not bright.  Cymbals were crisp and dynamic.  Soundstage was quite large and imaging was very good.  Fresh Aire: Going To Another Place, strings were extremely crisp and clean with very good resolution and dynamics.  Piano was very natural with very good tone.  Flute was very smooth with tons of air and resolution, easily being able to make out the tonguing technique.  Drums had very nice low end extension with a very full sound that was tight and played with lots of authority.  I liked the large soundstage with excellent imaging.


Blue's Sadie had a very neutral overall sound as well.  The MSRP is $399, which is quite a bargain!  Their new from scratch design with a very unique headband with multiple pivots gave a perfect fit every time!  It also has a built-in headphone amp that while giving a slight improvement to the sound, it mostly gave a big boost to the volume.  And it also has a bass boost setting that worked well.  The bass boost did only work with the built-in amp engaged.  Kudos to Blue for another excellent product!  based on their design, features, quality, and performance the Blue Sadie has earned our Editor's Choice Award.  For more info and complete specs, check out their website at www.bluemic.com.



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Klipsch Reference Over Ear Bluetooth Headphones Review

Klipsch is a brand that has a history of providing quality products that is almost a century long. If you don’t know a lot about a product you are buying, and you find that Klipsch has a model, more than likely it is a very safe bet to be a quality product. The same can be said for their headphone line. Up for review is their Klipsch Reference Over Ear Bluetooth headphones. They are also value priced at only $249 MSRP.

Features and specs:
  • Unique 40mm Klipsch Balanced Dynamic Drivers
  • Up to 20 hours of battery life
  • Integrated mic with cVc®
  • aptX and AAC high-definition Bluetooth streaming
  • Removable Ear Cushions
  • Removable Flat Tangle-Resistant Passthrough Cable
  • Foldable Design
  • Hard Shell Zip Carrying Case

·         Style:   Closed-Back Over-Ear

·         Driver Design:  Patented Klipsch Balanced Dynamic (KBD)

·         Driver Components:   Full Range KG-L40

·         Driver Diameter:  40 mm

·         Mic/Remote:  cVc® 6.0 Integrated Microphone & Controls

·         Cable:   48" Tangle-Resistant Flat Cable

·         Frequency Response:  15Hz-20Hz Sensitivity (1mW) 110 dB

·         Power Handling:  100 mW Impedance (1kHz) 32 ohms

·         Input Connections:  3.5 mm

·         Battery:  400 mAh, 20 hr

·         Weight: 272g

·         Colors:  Black, White

·         Includes: • Reference Over-Ear Bluetooth® Headphone • Travel Case • 40" Micro-USB Cable • 48" Passthrough Cable

·         Bluetooth® Specifications • Version: Bluetooth 4.0 • Profiles: Multipoint A2DP, AVRCP, Multipoint HFP • A2DP Codecs: SBC, AAC®, aptX® • Range: Up to 10m (33 ft.) • Input Rating: 5V DC, 0.5A • Battery Status: iOS Battery Status Monitor
   



 The Klipsch Reference Over Ear Bluetooth headphones came in a great looking printed box with photos and specs of the headphones. Opening the box revealed a really nice hard Zipper case. Materials used was mostly plastic with a leather like covered headband, and earcup covers with memory foam. Quality of materials used was very good, as was the fit and finish.  Included in the box was a wired tangle free cable and charging cord, as well as the owners manual.  I also liked the detachable earcups so they can be replaced if needed.


For song selection, we thought we would mix some new school with some old school.  We'll start with twenty One Pilots: Heathens, then go to Kansas: Carry On Wayward Son, and Fresh Aire: Going To Another Place.   Twenty One Pilots: Heathens, vocals were natural and were only a tad bright.  percussion was very crisp with good dynamics.  Keyboard had nice harmonics.  Bass was clean with good depth and authority.  Kansas: Carry On Wayward Son, vocals were very smooth with very nice harmonics.  Keyboard sounded natural.  Kick drum had some depth and authority.  Percussion was very dynamic.  And it threw a nice sized sound stage.  Fresh Aire: Going to Another Place, strings were really crisp and clean with very good resolution.  Piano sounded very natural.  Flute was really smooth with a lot of air, and good resolution with the breathing.  Drums had nice low end extension with good impact.


The Klipsch Reference Over Ear was also accurately priced at $249.  It had a tad warm, smooth, and refined sound to it.  I was able to walk around my house in the same fashion as before, with only the occasional hiccup.  So Bluetooth performance was good.  Going outside and attempting to walk to the corner, I started getting some hiccups at about 40 feet.  And at about 50, it disconnected.  So still good performance. And we knew the Klipsch Reference Over Ear would give a refined sound we have come to expect from Klipsch.  Based on their design, features, quality, and performance, the Klipsch Reference Over Ear has earned our Recommended Award.  For more info, and complete specs, check out their website at www.klipsch.com.


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HiFiMan HE400S Planar Driver Headphone Review

Up for review today is a pair of headphones I am pretty excited about. It is the HiFiMan HE400S. HiFiMan does not use the traditional dynamic drivers in their headphones. Instead they use a planar driver. Planar drivers are typically not very efficient, and are usually found in expensive models. But with the HE400S, HiFiMan is bucking this trend, as they are very efficient as well as only $299 MSRP!
Features and specs:
Frequency Response : 20Hz – 35KHz 
Sensitivity : 98dB
 
Impedance : 22 Ohms
 
Weight : 350g
 
Cable Length : 1.5 m
 
Plug : 3.5mm/6.35mm
  

The HiFiMan HE400S came in a nice printed hard cardboard box with photos of the headphones. When I opened the box, I found the headphones well protected in a custom foam cutout. The materials used were mostly plastic, with some metal and soft plastic in the headband. The detachable cable is braided cloth covered. Quality of materials used was good, as was the fit finish of the headphones. The quality of the cables is excellent. The build quality of the headphones was just a tad under what I would expect at the price point. But given what they were at this price point, I was excited. I'm sure they had to cut some corners to fit the HE400S in this low price point. They also had a black painted metal mesh on the exterior of the earcups that allowed you to see the planer driver inside.


For song selection, we thought we would mix some new school with some old school.  We'll start with twenty One Pilots: Heathens, then go to Kansas: Carry On Wayward Son, and Fresh Aire: Going To Another Place.   Twenty One Pilots: Heathens, vocals were very smooth, natural, with excellent texture and resolution.  Piano sounded very natural, with nice low level harmonics.  Percussion was extremely crisp with very good resolution.  Bass was tight, with good impact, extension, and authority.  Soundstage was quite large with excellent imaging.    Kansas: Carry On Wayward Son, vocals were silky smooth with excellent harmonics and texture.  Keyboards sounded natural, and the cymbals were crisp and dynamic.  Kick drum had good impact and played with some authority.  The soundstage was big with very good imaging.  Fresh Aire: Going To Another Place, strings were extremely crisp and clean with excellent resolution of the strings.  Piano sounded very natural with very good natural tone.  Flute was extremely smooth like honey, with lots of air and plenty of resolution to hear the tonguing technique.  Drums had nice depth and impact, and played with some authority.  Soundstage was big with very good imaging.


The HiFiMan HE400S with it's price of $299 is a great price.  It's the first headphones that I have seen that uses a planar driver at this low of a price.  And the overall sound was pretty neutral.  It's headband design also made it very comfortable, especially with the soft velvet earpads.  The detachable cables were very high quality.  But the plastic earcups did seem a bit cheap.  I guess to get a planar driver at this point...some corners had to be cut.  The HiFiMan HE400S also performed better than expected at their price point.  I loved the cable quality, and the sound quality of the highs and mids.  I just would have liked to have heard a little more output in the bass, and see a slightly better build quality in the earcups.  I knew the mids and highs were going to be exceptional with the planar driver.  With sound this good at their entry level product, I can only image what a mid grade or upper level product would sound like! Based on their design, features, quality, and performance, the HiFiMan HE400S has earned our Highly Recommended Award.  For more info and complete specs, check out their website at www.hifiman.com.


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Sennheiser HD 630VB Hi-Res Audio Headphone Review

Sennheiser needs no introduction as a headphone manufacturer. Their products keep getting better and better. But so have our audio demands, especially with the new Hi-Res Audio. So Sennheiser has upped their game yet again for Hi-Res Audio.  The new Sennheiser HD 630VB is designed for use with Hi-Res Audio.

Features and specs:

·         Wearing style-  Headband 

·         Ear coupling-  Circumaural 
·         Jack plug-  3.5 mm (straight) 
o        Cable length-  1.2 m 

o       Transducer principle-  Dynamic Closed 
o       Bass Boost-  +/- 5dB at 50 Hz 
·         Impedance-  23 Ω 

·         Frequency response (Headphones)-  10-42,000 Hz 
·         Sound pressure level (SPL)-  114dB (1 kHz/1Vrm) 
o       THD, total harmonic distortion

o       Contact pressure-  5.5~6.8N 
o       Weight w/o cable-  400g 

Microphones

·         Frequency response (Microphone)-  100-10,000Hz 

·         Pick-up pattern-  Omni-directional 



The Sennheiser HD 630VB came in a great looking color printed box, with photos of the headphone and it’s features and specs. Materials used in the construction was mostly metal, with some plastic. The earcups and headband uses leather and memory foam. Quality of materials used is excellent. The same is true for the fit and finish. The build quality is excellent. The cable is also very high quality. Unfortunately it isn’t detachable, which is a bit surprising at its price point. Also included is a hard zipper case and owner’s manual.
      I love the design of the Sennheiser HD 630VB. They are a DJ design with the swivel earcups that also fold in for easier storage. The headband is comfortable, as is the memory foam and leather earpads. I love the metal construction. But as a bit of a bass-head, I love even more the Bass boost controls. I can’t wait to try it out!
     For song selection, we thought we would mix some new school with some old school.  We'll start with twenty One Pilots: Heathens, then go to Kansas: Carry On Wayward Son, and Fresh Aire: Going To Another Place.   Twenty One Pilots: Heathens, vocals were very natural with excellent texture and resolution and were just a tad bright.  Piano was natural with nice tone.  Percussion was very dynamic and crisp.  Bass was extremely full, had excellent extension, very good impact, and tons of authority.  Kansas: Carry On Wayward Son, vocals were extremely smooth with excellent harmonics, resolution, and very natural sounding.  Keyboard sounded very natural, crisp, and clean.  Cymbals were very dynamic. Kick drum had excellent low end extension with almost chest pounding impact with tons of output.  Soundstage was large with very nice imaging.  Fresh Aire: Going To Another Place, strings were so crisp and clean they were life-like and highly dynamic.  Piano was very natural sounding with excellent harmonics.  Flute was silky smooth with tons of air, and plenty of resolution to hear the tonguing. Bass was surprisingly very deep, very full, very clean, and really hit so well that I could actually feel the vibration in the earcups!

      With an MSRP of $499, the Sennheiser HD 630VB is a premium product, and the build quality shows.  I was just surprised that the cable was not detachable at this price point.  The sound was just a tad on the warm side overall.  And I really liked the controls built-in on the right earcup.  I especially liked the bass boost dial where you can choose the amount of boost to your personal preference.  I loved this ability.  But having it on the max setting often times gave a bass that while loud was slight muddy.    The good thing is it has a dial, so when it happens, turn down the bass a little.  Based on their design, features, quality, and performance, the Sennheiser HD 630VB has earned our Editor's Choice Award.  Kudos to Sennheiser on another excellent product.  For more info and complete specs, check out their website at www.sennheiser.com.


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