Wednesday, November 27, 2013

Onkyo LS-B50 Soundbar With Wireless Subwoofer Review

Sound comes in all shapes and sizes. If the sound from the speakers in your TV isn't good enough, the simplest option is to get a soundbar.  Soundbars also come in different shapes and sizes. As the saying goes, you get what you pay for. Cheap is usually just But if you are looking for a good quality soundbar, the Onkyo LS-B50 EnvisionCinema Soundbar System could be for you.

Features and specs:
DOLBY DecoderDolby Digital
AuraSphere DSP for 3D Sound
SRS TruVolume-
3 Dedicated Sound Modes✓ (Movie/Music/News)
Bluetooth✓ (version 2.1 +EDR)
Analog Audio Input✓ (1/8" - 3.5 mm)
Digital Audio IN (OPT/COAX)1 / 1
Digital Audio OUT (OPT/COAX)-
Front SpeakersFull-Range Cone Drivers (x6), Ring Tweeter (x2)
SubwooferWireless Bass Reflex
Cabinet Type-
Pre-Pro/Learning RemoteFull Function
Preset Remote Control Codes for Most TV Brands
Learning Capable Remote-
IR Flasher Sends TV Commands to System Components
Wall Mountable
Warranty2 YEARS

The Onkyo LS-B50 EnvisionCinema Soundbar System came in a good looking yet odd looking box. It was a fairly plain looking white box with printed pictures and features of the system. I say it was odd looking due to the shape. Rather than being square or rectangular, it was in the shape of the product. It just wasn't expected, but it worked.

Opening the box revealed a well protected product protected in Styrofoam. Pulling out the components revealed the long narrow soundbar, and the detached subwoofer. The materials used in the construction is mostly plastic, which is ok. The quality was very good, as was the fit and finish.  They had a good heft to them as well, which usually means a good build quality. They were put together well, and had an excellent look for the finished product, for both the speaker array of the soundbar and the detached subwoofer. The speaker array consisted of 6 front firing speakers (two tweeters and 4 midranges). At the very middle is the power LED, and remote sensor.  Next to the power LED and sensor on each side is the ring tweeter.  And on the other side of the tweeter are two midranges with a small port between them to improve midbass response.  On each end was another speaker, for a total of 8 speakers in the soundbar.  The subwoofer consists of a single down firing driver. I liked the gloss black trim on the soundbar that gave it a bit of an elegant look in it's styling. The subwoofer had the elegant glass black finish for the enclosure, matching the soundbar. The driver consisted of a paper cone. Fit and finish of it's components are also very good.  I must say that I am impressed with the use of ring tweeters, which give a wide dispersion. The tweeters also have a diffuser in front of them to help smooth the frequency response in the highs.  Also included was the owners manual, small remote control, and some cables.  An IR extender was also included incase you plan on storing it in a cabinet...nice touch.

Onkyo makes some nice sounding surround sound speaker systems. With those systems cost being less than the $699 MSRP for the LS-B50 sound bar system, I had high expectations. I am hoping to see there is a nice synergy of design and components. This system is designed for someone who wants better sound than the speakers built into the flatscreens, but without all of the wires that you find with full surround sound systems.  The design is of a 3-way system, with separate tweeters and mids in the actual soundbar, and then the separate wireless subwoofer. I liked the fact that it had multiple digital as well as analog inputs.  It also had a USB input as well.  So not only does it handle the sound for you TV, it also does double duty as a music system for a portable device like your MP3 player, or play music you have stored on a flash drive. Now it is time to see if the truth is in the pudding.

After hooking up the Onkyo LS-B50 in my bedroom to my flatscreen, it had found where it was meant to be. Gone was the thin, shallow, and lack of resolution sound that came out of my TV. I was quite impressed. The Onkyo provided crisp and clean highs, and smooth midrange. The great sound did not stop there. It was also wide and fairly deep, throwing a big wide soundstage.  My bedroom was on the large size, and it was pleasantly filled with sound.  The buttons on the top of the soundbar worked well, as did the very small remote control.  You can change the volume, level of output on the subwoofer, inputs, as well as sound mode.  One thing that I thought was missing was some type of display to tell you what sound mode you are in.  I thought some form of display would be nice for that.  However when I hooked up my flash drive I noticed that there are some LED's on the top of the soundbar next to the buttons.  I just was not able to see them and tell which mode I was in without looking at the controls on top of the soundbar.  The Bluetooth function worked.  It was a little finicky getting it to connect to my laptop, but it did work, and sounded great.

The Onkyo LS-B50 sounded great with TV and movies.  But I thought it sounded even better with music.  Resolution was very good, and vocals sounded natural with good timbre and texture.  Piano also sounded very natural.  Percussion was crisp and clean.  The harmonics provided was impressive. Imaging was also very good, and just as with the TV and movies they threw a nice big soundstage.  I could easily tell which songs were better transfers at higher resolutions, as the LS-B50 provided the finer details and resolution very well.  Onkyo delivered a very musical product here.  You will just have to make sure that if you use a flash drive, the music is not stored in a folder, as it would only play individual songs on your flash drive.  I threw about 15 songs on an empty flash drive and stored them as individual mp3 files. I was able to play them and skip forward or backward from song to song.

The wireless subwoofer also seemed to blend very nicely with the soundbar. The subwoofer was tuned very well. It played deep, but not more than it was meant to. And it's output filled the room as well, making my floor vibrate with it's power. Not only did it give good output and play with authority, it also provided good impact as well.  It was fairly dynamic. At times it did get a tad muddy, but that was when you really pushed it.  Just keep in mind it is just a single 6.5 inch driver.  It played very well for it's size.  Comparing it to my reference ZVOX 580 soundbar, the Onkyo LS-B50 provided a much wider soundstage, thanks to the two side firing drivers.

I must say I was pleased with the Onkyo LS-B50 EnvisionCinema Soundbar System. Not only are they an attractive speaker system, they provided an excellent sound as well. As stated previously, Onkyo delivered a very musical product here.  Kudos to Onkyo.  And elegant design would fit in with any d├ęcor. At an MSRP of $699, they are not cheap. However the Onkyo LS-B50 EnvisionCinema Soundbar System is further evidence that you do tend to get what you pay for. If you are in the market for a premium soundbar, this Onkyo deserves to be on your short list. Based on it's design, features, quality and performance, the Onkyo LS-B50 has earned our Editor's Choice Award. For more info and complete specs, check out their website at  

Read more!

Sunday, November 17, 2013

Sigma Speedster LED Light and Stereo Rear Light Review

Sigma makes some innovative products. Here in Arizona, the heat in the summer takes some adaptation. To those that like to hit the trails this is often done at night. Doing so means that a bright light is required. Enter the Speedster LED Light and the Stereo Loop Light System. Whether your riding is done on the trail or street, these two products will have you covered.

Features and specs:
Extremely high light output: 230 lumens
Outstanding core visibility with additional peripheral light for increased safety
3 Modes: power-, standard- and energy-saving mode
Burn time: 2.5 h (Power-), 4.5 h (Standard-), 9.5 h (Energy-saving mode)
6-stage battery indicator
Integrated lithium-ion rechargeable battery
Integrated USB port
Quick release bracket with horizontal adjustment
Tool free click mount compatible with oversized bars
Click switch with tactile ON/OFF response and switch on protection (double click)
Weight: 180 g

Two 1/2 Watt high power LEDs
Excellent visibility thanks to the new SIGMA LOOP-LIGHT-SYSTEM
Burn time permanent: approx. 20 h,
flashing: approx. 40 h
Two-stage battery indicator
Tool-free, easy to change batteries
(incl. 2 x AAA RTU NiMH rechargeable batteries)
Quick release bracket with vertical adjustment
Tool free installation with either o-rings
or zip ties
Click switch with tactile ON/OFF response
Weight: 70 g

The Sigma Speedster came in a combination paper and clear plastic package. It was attractive looking with it's features and specs printed. The clear plastic allowed you to see the product. The materials used are metal and plastic. The quality as well as the fit and finish was excellent! Also included with the Speedster was the owners manual and a charger mount. The Stereo Loop Light System is made of plastic, and the fit and finish and quality is also very good. The Stereo also included the owners manual, mount and charging cable.

Using the Speedster and Stereo was very easy. Two quick presses of the power button on the Speedster turns it on. Additional presses cycles it through the brightness levels of low, medium and high. Holding the button turns it off. On the Stereo, just a simple press of the power button cycles it through constant on, fast flashing, slow flashing, and off. Mounting with the included brackets was also easy.

As I expected the performance was very good. The Speedster is rated at 80m. I would not give it that for a low setting. But at full power, I would say that is about right. The LED was really bright! The Speedster threw out a lot of light and worked very well. And I liked that it has an internal lithium battery. The Stereo was also very bright, helping others to see you and know you are there. It was easily visible at over 80m. Turn it on flashing and it will really draw attention to your presence.

While the Speedster and the Stereo are sold separately, together they make a perfect one/two punch. Together they provide the safety for your seeing where you are going, and the safety of helping others see you are there. With an MSRP of $84.99 for the Speedster and only $29.99 for the Stereo, they are a great value as well. Based on the design, features, quality and performance, the Sigma Speedster and Sigma Stereo has earned our Highly Recommended Award. For more info and complete specs, check out their website at

Read more!

Audiofly AF78 Dual Driver IEM Monitor Review

Smart phones make it is so easy to take our music with us everywhere. But often times the included earbuds just don’t cut it. If you like music, why not have it sound good. And with the built-in mic, it will work as hands free as well.  Up for review today is a premium IEM from Audiofly, their AF78.

I really like the Audiofly AF78 due to their unique design. When it comes to IEM’s, there are two different types of drivers: dynamic and balanced armature. To make a long discussion short, most cheap earbuds and many nicer IEM’s use a dynamic driver. The dynamic driver produces excellent low end bass, and also has good mids and highs. The balanced armature usually does not have the same low bass output and extension found in the dynamic drivers. They do however provide a better mids and high frequency performance. The Audiofly AF78 uses dual drivers, one for the highs and one for the lows.  There are a lot of manufacturers that make dual driver IEM's.  And the Audiofly AF78 is the only model that comes to mind that uses dual drivers, with both a dynamic and balanced armature driver.

Features and specs:

Driver Type9mm Dyn/Balanced Armature: Custom articulated dual drivers with crossover for incredible separation and beautiful detail in the high end with lush well-defined response in the lower and mid frequencies.
Magnet Type Neodymium: Audiofly headphones use a neodymium magnet for longevity; the alloy has a unique crystalline structure that has a greater resistance to being demagnetized.

Frequency Range: 18-22KHz: The AF78 has an extended frequency response across the entire spectrum with a range of 18Hz - 22Khz for a massive soundstage with impressive detail and separation.

Cable Length 1.2m: Our high spec AudioflexTM flat braided cable not only has kevlar reinforced conductors, but a CorduraTM brand Nylon outer sheath for superior strength and amazing durability.

Plug Type 3.5mm gold plated: We use gold plated plugs not because they look good, but because gold is the best conductor with the greatest resistance to corrosion giving you better sound transmission that is durable.

Impedance 16 Ohms: The AF78's dual drivers have a low impedance of 16 Ohms. This is ideal for low powered devices like iPods® and iPhones® giving enough headroom so they have no trouble producing plenty of volume.

Sensitivity 108dB at 1kHz

The Audio Fly AF78 came in an attractive box with color photos of the product and its specs and features. When I opened the box I saw a product in premium packaging that was well packaged. I could tell this was Audio Fly’s flagship product. The materials used, as well as build quality and fit and finish was very good. I like the cloth Kevlar cable, and the quality connections. I also like all the accessories.  Also included is the round storage tin that Audiofly likes to use. It isn’t fancy, it does work.  The next question is how does this all come together in its sound?

Fresh Air II - Going to Another Place:  the flute was really clean with a lot of air.  The percussion was pleasantly crisp and not tinny sounding.  The piano also sounded very natural.  The drums were also dynamic with great midbass extension.

Junior Wells - Why Are People Like That:  the vocals were really life-like with excellent timbre.  The piano also sounded natural.  I especially liked the harmonica solo that showed off some great dynamics.  And the bass had some great low end extension.

No Doubt - Hella Good: impact and low end extension in the kick drum at the beginning of the song was very good.  The percussion was also crisp and very dynamic.  Vocals had excellent timbre and natural sounding.  Overall the resolution of all the instruments was very good.

Justin Timberlake - Sexyback: had nice low end extension and output.  The snaps were dynamic and the vocals were smooth and natural sounding.  It also provided a big soundstage with great imaging.

Techmaster P.E.B.- Activate, and Time To Jam:  the sound of the dual drivers were impressive, and to truly test the bass output of the dynamic bass driver, I turned to Techmaster.  I was not disappointed.  Bass output and extension was superb.  I tend to like a lot of bass, and its output was just the way I like it.....LOUD, yet also very clean.

Since the Audiofly AF78 has the built-in call handling feature, I thought I would test it out.  Using my HTC EVO 3D cell phone I put it to the test.  My cell recognized it once they were plugged in.  I received a call, and simply pressing the button answered the call.  To the person on the other end of the call, I was easy to hear.  I was not too tinny sounding, and didn't sound like I was 1,000 miles away. 

Audio Fly has proven they are a true contender in the premium IEM market, with their AF78. And with its superior design, other manufacturers should be taking notice. For those in the market for some premium IEM’s you would be disappointed not to give them a listen. Based on their design, features, quality and performance, the Audio Fly AF78 has earned our Highly Recommended award. For more info and complete specs, check out their website at

Read more!