Xbox Wireless Headset review: $99 set with engineering wins, first-gen stumbles

Tomorrow, March 16, Microsoft will launch its first official, Xbox-branded pair of headphones—a far leap beyond the cheapo, one-ear headsets packed into original Xbox 360 consoles. Headphone expectations have changed a lot since those days, and potential buyers have to weigh crucial elements like sound isolation, microphone quality, voice-chat volume management, and device compatibility before spending $100 and up.

While the Xbox Wireless Headset isn’t my de facto pick for the product category, it’s certainly a solid option for its $99 price. Plus, I’ve been looking for a reason to catch up with other gaming-specific headphones I’ve recently tested. Hence, this review compares the XWH with a few options for PC and console gamers in search of versatile, high-quality headphones.

Nifty dials, dual source support

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#gaming-culture, #headphones, #wireless-headphones, #xbox-one, #xbox-series, #xbox-wireless-headset


Headphones without headphones—we test Lucyd Lyte Bluetooth sunglasses

Lucyd Lyte is a pair of $150 sunglasses which includes speakers and mic suitable for use in making phone calls or listening to podcasts. This isn’t a category of device I was aware of at all before a PR rep reached out to offer a review unit—but once I knew it was a thing, I very much wanted to test it.

The Wayfarer style that I tested is a neutral, unremarkable style unlikely to get much attention whether negative or positive. They look nicer than gas station sunglasses but without any particular style cue to lead a viewer into thinking they’re an expensive designer brand. There’s no visual cue to the onboard audio, either—the frames are a touch on the thick side, but unlike Bose Frames there’s no telltale shape to give the extra functionality away.

Lucyd Lyte paired with my Pixel 2XL phone quickly and easily. The instructions recommend a two-hour initial charging period; when factory-new and after the initial charging period, the phones are both on and in pairing mode—all you need to do is open the pairing menu in your phone and select “Lucyd Lyte.”

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#bluetooth, #bluetooth-headphones, #exercise-headphones, #headphones, #sunglasses, #tech


Apple releases results from hearing health study

Was back in 2019, Apple launched Research. The app was the latest effort by a company looking to take a more serious approach to user health, built (naturally) around data collected from the iPhone and Apple Watch. The app debuted with four studies: heart health, women’s health, movement and hearing.

Today, the company is issuing results from the latter, conducted alongside the University of Michigan School of Public Health, a day prior World Hearing Day. Hearing loss is an issue the company has looked to tackle, due in no small part to its large — and growing — involvement in the headphone category.

Headphones have, of course, become a common source of long term hearing loss as the technology has proliferated. The company has also built noise level readings into its mobile operating systems, to offer notifications of loud environments. That info is also built into the health app, showing off both headphone levels and environmental sound levels – the latter of which can be a subtler source of hearing loss.

According to the study of “thousands” of participants in the U.S., a quarter of those involved encounter more than the WHO’s recommended daily limit of environmental sound exposure. 50% of those in the survey work or worked in in a loud environment. The numbers remain reasonably high, even as many or most have transitioned to a work-from-home setting during the pandemic.

“Even during this pandemic, when many people are staying home, we’re still seeing 25%of our participants experiencing high environmental sound exposures,” University of Michigan Associate Profession Rick Neitzel says in a release tied to the news. “The results of this study can improve our understanding of potentially harmful exposures, and help identify ways that people can proactively protect their hearing.”

Ten-percent of those surveyed, meanwhile, exceed the recommended limit for weekly headphone exposure, while a quarter reported ringing in their ears a few times a week or more.

#apple, #apps, #headphones, #health, #hearing


$200 Puro Pro hybrid over-the-ear headphones are almost perfect

Last December, a representative for Puro Sound Labs offered me a review sample of the company’s flagship Bluetooth hybrid headphones. Her timing couldn’t have been better—I had surgery scheduled for January 8 that would put me on the couch all day, every day, for two weeks straight with nothing to do but watch movies and television (ideally without driving my wife and kids insane).

The Puro Pro is an over-the-ear design, which can be connected to audio sources via Bluetooth 5.0 pairing or a simple headphone cord. It offers just about any feature you might dream up for a pair of headphones: safety volume limiting (configurable for either 85dBA or 95dBA), 30+ hour battery life, content control via buttons on the left can, active noise cancellation, and even an inline mic for phone calls.

At $200, the Puro Pro costs more than I’d normally spend on a pair of headphones for watching late-night TV and flying on the occasional airplane (my two primary use cases). But after spending several hours per day with the Puro Pro for a couple of months, I would drop the cash in a heartbeat.

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#audio, #bluetooth-5-0, #bluetooth-headphones, #features, #headphones, #tech


Sennheiser partners with Formlabs for customized headphones

3D printing has come a long way over the course of the last decade, but questions about mainstream adoption still linger around the technology. Medical devices have been a pretty compelling use case — they’re not really mass produced and require a high level of personalization. Clear orthodontics are a great example of something that falls in that sweet spot — in fact, dental in general has been a big application.

Audio, too, holds a lot of potential. Imagine, for example, a set of headphones custom designed for your ears. The technology has been available on high-end models for a while, courtesy of molding, but 3D printing could unlock a more easily scalable version of that kind of luxury.

This week, Sennheiser announced a partnership that will utilize Formlabs technology to print custom earphones. Specifically, the headphone maker will be using the Form 3B, a printer design for use with biocompatible material that has largely been utilized for dental applications. Product specifics haven’t been revealed, but the audio company’s Ambeo division will be using the tech to create custom headphone eartips. Users would be able to scan their ears with a smartphone and send that to the company to get a tip printed.

Image Credits: Sennheiser

“Our technology collaboration with Sennheiser seeks to change the way customers interact with the brands they love by enabling a more customized, user-centric approach to product development,” Formlabs audio head Iain McLeod said in a release.. “Formlabs’ deep industry knowledge and broad expertise in developing scalable solutions enable us to deliver tangible innovations to our customers. In this case, we are working with Sennheiser’s Ambeo team to deliver a uniquely accessible, custom fit experience.”

The product is still very much in the prototype phase. And while such a partnership seems like a no-brainer for headphone makers going forward, there are some big questions here, including pricing and scalability. Clearly such a product would come at a premium over standard headphones, but not at so high a cost that supersedes such novelty.

The release calls it “an affordable and simple solution is now available to mass 3D print custom-fit earphones.” What, precisely, it means by affordable remains to be seen.

#3d-printing, #formlabs, #hardware, #headphones, #sennheiser


iFixit tears down Apple’s $550 AirPods Max headphones

As is a custom at this point, online repair kit and tool vendor iFixit tore down one of the latest Apple products and assessed its repairability. In this case, the product is the ultra-expensive ($550) AirPods Max over-ear noise-canceling headphones.

Most of the interior components are about what you’d expect in a high-end pair of wireless headphones, but the machinery is highly intricate, and there are many, many screws.

iFixit found that the Lightning port is particularly difficult—though not impossible—to reach, which is unfortunate, given that this is one of the parts most likely to fail. The part is also critical to the device’s ability to function, since it’s the charging port.

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#airpods, #airpods-max, #apple, #headphones, #ifixit, #tech


Samsung’s Galaxy Buds Pro are a solid AirPods alternative

I suspect it will be a while before I get excited over wireless earbuds. It’s not for a lack of trying on the part of manufacturers. In fact, quite the contrary. The category actually matured quite quickly, compared to various other verticals in the consumer electronics space. The truth is, most major hardware makers have gotten pretty decent at making a pair of wireless buds — many for pretty cheap.

Samsung’s been in that category for a while now. I’ve liked the last several models I’ve tried from the company. The sound quality has been good, they’re generally pretty comfortable — a good experience, all around. In fact, one of the issues I’ve raised the last couple of times is the fact that Samsung didn’t offer its own equivalent to products like the AirPods Pro and Sony WF-1000XM3 (though that latter reference is starting to become a bit dated).

It’s a hole in the lineup now filled by the Galaxy Buds Pro, which slot in the high end, above the Galaxy Buds Live and Galaxy Buds+. The naming conventions could be streamlined a bit, but it’s a small complaint in the grand scheme. At $199, the Pros are $30 more than the Live and $50 more than the Pluses. More importantly, it puts them at $50 less than the AirPods Pro – their clearest analogue.

Image Credits: Brian Heater

And like Apple’s Pro buds, the Galaxy Buds are very specifically designed to operate with Samsung’s devices. You can still pair them with other Android handsets, but you’re going to lose key parts of the software integration. This honestly seems to be the way things are headed, with practically every smartphone company also manufacturing their own headphones. And certainly Samsung’s got enough market share that such a play makes sense.

If you do want to use them on another Android device, you can pair them by downloading the Galaxy Wearables app. You can pair them manually without the app, but you’ll lose a bunch more features in the process. Like past Galaxy Buds models, there’s no physical button on the case for pairing.

After several generations of devices, Samsung’s certainly got the foundation in place. And its purchase of Harman/AKG in 2017 has clearly played a key role in its ability to create some quality audio accessories. All of that comes into play here. Samsung’s made some solid choices on the design front. The charging case is remarkably compact. I was actually a bit surprised when I opened the package. It’s not nearly as long as the AirPods case, though it is a bit thicker. In any case, it’s certainly compact enough to carry around, unlike, say the Powerbeats Pro.

The battery claims are pretty impressive, given the size. The company rates the buds at five hours each and 28 hours with the case. Turn off active noise canceling and Bixby (I’ll let you guess which of those two I won’t miss) and the numbers bump up to eight and 20 hours, respectively. I will say that I was able to confidently bring the headphones with me on one of my lengthy morning sabbaticals without worrying about packing the case. That’s not something I can say about every wireless earbud.

Image Credits: Brian Heater

The headphones sport an 11-millimeter woofer and 6.5-millimeter tweeter. I found the sound to be an overall good mix, whether listening to music or a podcast. If you’re so included, you can also fiddle with the equalizer in the wearable app. It features six presets, rather than sliders, so it’s an imperfect science. But I didn’t really feel the need to mess around in there much.

The active noise canceling is solid, as well (okay, I admit it, Bixby is the one I’d drop in a heartbeat). I wasn’t really aware at how good a job it was doing drowning out street noise until I switched it off — this can be accomplished with a long press on the side touch panel or through the app. By default the former switches between ANC and transparent mode, skipping the off mode in the middle. Like the equalizer, you an adjust the level of ANC here — either high or low.

If you’re a Samsung true believer, Seamless Switch can be enabled, allowing you to, say, switch between a tablet and a phone when a call comes in. Other neat Samsung-specific features include the ability to use the buds as a kind of makeshift lavalier mic while recording video on the Galaxy S21. The SmartThings app can also be used to find misplaced buds. All in all, Samsung is clearly building up its ecosystem here.

Image Credits: Brian Heater

The design of the buds themselves has been streamlined since the extremely bean-like Buds Live. The company says they were designed to minimize contact with the ear, to help relieve pressure. It’s a shame that everyone isn’t able to try every earbud on before buying — how they fit in your own ears is obviously an extremely personal thing.

I found, however, that one of my ears tends to ache when wearing them for a prolonged period — not an issue I’ve had with either the AirPods Pro or Pixel Buds (the Powerbeats Pro are also great in this respect). I found myself fiddling with them semi-regularly and triggering the touch mechanism in the process (this can be turned off by default in the app).

Most of my issues with the Buds Pro are pretty minor. They’re a worthy update to the line and a great pair of headphones if you’re a Samsung user.

#ces, #ces-2021, #hardware, #headphones, #samsung, #wearables, #wireless-earbuds


Bose’s latest sleep-centric earbuds mostly do the trick

It’s been a strange year for sleep. For me, levels have fluctuated between too little and too much, but have – more often than not – tended toward the former. 2020 gave most of us no shortage of excuses for sleep deprivation, from personal stresses to larger societal concerns.

And, thankfully, the past few years have seen no shortage of technological solutions to the problem of sleeplessness. Of course, the underpinning issues can be hard to isolate and even harder to treat. There’s no silver bullet. That’s the lesson I keep relearning at this job – no single piece of technology is going to cure all of my ills. (I’m sure it’s nothing that years of extensive and expensive therapy can’t fix.)

Sleep headphones are, in and of themselves, not an entirely new phenomenon. Bose got into the space in earnest back in mid-2018, offering one of the more polished (and pricey) approaches to the category. The company went in an entirely different direction than, say, Kokoon, which offers an over-ear solution.

The Sleepbuds are – as the name suggests – fully wireless earbuds. This second generation allows Bose to address some of the bigger issues with the original – include some major battery complaints. That was a pretty big strike against a $250 pair of headphones with, quite literally, one job.

The battery and connections complaints, I can state, off the bat, seem to have been addressed. The units I’ve been wearing to sleep off and on for a few weeks now haven’t had any major connection issues to speak of (assuming you keep your phone near your bed and all that entails), and the battery generally gets me through a full night bit a bit under 20% remaining. After you wake up, you toss them in the case and let them charge for the next several hours.

Image Credits: Bose

All told, the build is solid, as you’d expect/hope from the company name and accompanying price point. I really dig the design of these things, overall, from the illuminating metal charging case with its sliding lid to the earbuds themselves. As someone who finds the slightest irritants a major hurdle to falling asleep, I was pleasantly surprised by how unobtrusive the buds are. They slip on comfortably and stay flush with the ear, so nothing gets snagged. The soft and rubbery wings also do a great job keeping them in place.

The buds biggest limitation is actually by design. Like the originals, the Sleepbuds II only work with the included app. This is used to pair them, locate them and offers Bose’s library of music. The company generally does a good job curating its own sleep sounds, ranging from nature sounds like rain and wind to self-selected ambient tracks. I got in the habit of listening to the sounds of the ocean while reading Moby Dick each night. A pretty good way to fall asleep, all told.

I appreciate the decision to hamper the functionality to some degree – I suspect I would probably start listening to podcasts and TV shows on the thing, left to my own devices (so to speak). But I would love to see what the buds could do with, say, binaural beats or some other ambient selections. Ultimately, I think giving the consumer choice is ultimately a net positive.

That said, the headphones are well-tuned for their limited (but expanding) library of sounds. There’s no active noise canceling, but the passive cancelation of the buds themselves plus the on-board sound do a good job blocking out things like environmental noise or snoring. They’re probably no match for, say, construction noise, but do a good job with subtler barriers to sleep. They’ll also likely be a good choice for long flights, when we start doing those again.

There are a handful of headphones currently positioned for the sleep market, but Bose’s look to be the most polished package at the moment. The price will understandably be a barrier for many – and the limited sound library could be a dealbreaker for some. But if you have the money – and find getting and staying asleep tough – they’re well worth exploring.

#bose, #hardware, #headphones, #reviews, #sleep, #sleepbuds


This is not a review of Apple’s new AirPod Max headphones

I’ve had Apple’s AirPod Max headphones for less than 24 hours, so there is no way I would attempt to write a review of any sort. But I do have some of those oh so popular these days “first impressions” to share. Mostly on build quality, but I’ll throw a few first listen thoughts at you too.

These are thoughts that I have now that may change or get reinforced as I continue to evaluate them over the next week or so. So consider the below a sort of draft review that I’m publishing my early notes on. A ‘proto review’.

First, they’re gorgeous. The earcups are beautiful. The band is incredibly sturdy. The netting feels like a high-end piece of furniture. The stems are insane, with a precision pull out mechanism that acts like a hand-crafted car piston. 

The netting, the ear pads, the clever (though now somewhat common) magnetic centering and clasp. The tuck and roll of the earcup covers providing an invisible seam as they attach to the body. The single piece of aluminum each of the ear cups is made of. How high quality is the build here? Like, this shouldn’t ship for $550 high. Judging from execution alone, the AirPod Max feels like it should be more expensive if anything. 

There is a tradeoff here that I feel I must mention even in this early review, though: These things are heavy. If you do not like heavy headphones, do not buy the AirPod Max. They are intense, definitely demand being listened to while sitting essentially straight up or leaning back (if you’re actively walking around the house picking up kid’s clothes and toys from the floor, for instance, they tend to want to shift forward from their own weight). These clock in at 386g — over 100g heavier than a pair of Beats over ears. If you have very high end headphones, you may be expecting this kind of weight, most people I think will not be. More on this as I keep using them and trying out adjustments.

There is also a distinct dearth of articulation present here. The piston-style extruding earcups are clever and have wow factor, but there is a limited spring back style articulation of the cup itself which means no folding them inward on themselves like the Bose QCII or Sony MX headphones are capable of. Hence that case I guess.

The controls are fine so far, the crown feels almost exactly like an Apple Watch crown, with maybe slightly more tension. The Siri functions work totally fine, either with a long press of the crown or a ‘Hey Siri’. The earcups have precision detection of position so you can pause by simply lifting one cup.

Taking the headphones off and setting them down turns them off, there is no power button. This feels super natural and nicely Apple-ey. Just put them on to use and take them off to stop.

They charge from any power brick though none is included. Apple says that you’ll get 1.5 hours for 5 minutes of charging but there is no overall fast charge. It’s basically two hours with any USB brick no matter the wattage.

The lack of an included 3.5mm cable means that you have to add $35 to the price to get to a place where you’re comparing these with a Bose or Sony option for seat-back systems on planes and general capability. Speaking of travel…

The lack of real folding options on these, the material in the netting and the pretty definitive ‘one way’ these are meant to articulate means that I do not see these being a regular travel companion for me, on initial pass. Oh, and the case is just as ridiculous as it looks. Sorry. The construction here is just as dodgy as the MagSafe Duo. It feels cheap, and like it will dirty easily, not exactly what you want from a ‘travel case’. And it looks like a butt.

The sound is impressive. Don’t worry about this being in the Beats region of a bass-heavy crowd pleaser. Though there is plenty of low end, this is a more nuanced affair, with crisp delivery across the spectrum. I’ve watched movies, listened to music and had phone conversations, all sounded great. The spatial audio feature, for one, is greatly improved by the larger drivers and enclosed environment. Audio panning and positioning from Atmos content is very cleverly done and if you’re watching from an iOS device it really does feel like you’re in a large sound environment with a strong center positioning at the screen. They feel like you’re listening in a room with no headphones on at all, it is really beyond impressive.

Ok, that’s it for now, more as I continue to check them out. Shortly: super high quality, very heavy, sound solid so far.

For those of you interested, I will test latency with a corded setup but I haven’t been able to yet.

#airpods, #audio-engineering, #disc-jockey, #headphones, #mass-media, #tc


Apple’s new AirPods Max over-ear headphones cost $549

This morning, Apple made a surprise announcement: it has started taking orders today for its long-rumored over-ear headphones bearing the AirPods brand. Called AirPods Max, they take design cues from existing Apple products and use several internal sensors and microphones to deliver “computational audio” features.

Priced at $549, AirPods Max are fully wireless headphones, and they use Bluetooth aided by Apple’s custom tech to connect to audio sources like an iPhone or a computer. They come with a “Smart Case” that protects the headphones for storage and puts the headphones in a low-power sleep mode. Additionally, the case has a Lightning port, allowing users to charge the headphones with an included Lightning to USB-C cable.

The above-mentioned sensors include an optical sensor, a position sensor, a case-detect sensor, and an accelerometer in each ear cup, and a gyroscope in just the left ear cup. There are also nine microphones. One is devoted exclusively to voice pickup, while the other eight are used for active noise cancellation; two of the mics perform double duty.

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#airpods, #airpods-max, #airpods-studio, #apple, #apple-h1, #headphones, #tech


Review: Wireless headsets from Logitech, Audio-Technica, SteelSeries, HyperX and more

With the amount of time you’re spending at home these days, you deserve a better headset. A wireless one that works with your computer and maybe your console as well, with a mic for calls and great sound for games and movies. Fortunately there are a lot to choose from, and I’ve tested out your best options.

I asked the leading audio and peripheral companies to send over their flagship wireless headset, with prices ranging from about $100 to $250. Beyond this price range returns diminish swiftly, but right now that’s the sweet spot for comfort, sound, and usability.

For years I’ve avoided wireless headsets because there were too many compromises, but I’m pleased to say that the latency has been eliminated and battery life in the ones I reviewed is uniformly excellent. (NB: If the wireless version feels too expensive, you can often get wired ones for $50-100 less.)

To test the headphones, I used them all for a variety of everyday tasks, from video calls to movies and music (with only minimal EQing to get a sense of their natural sound) to AAA games and indies. None require an app to work, though some have companion software for LEDs or game profiles. I have a fairly large head and medium-sized ears, for what it’s worth. All the headphones are rather bulky, though the angle I shot them at individually makes them look huge — you can see in the image up top that they’re all roughly the same size.

None of these headphones have active noise cancelling, but many offer decent physical isolation to the point where they offer a “monitor” feature that pipes in sound from the outside world — useful if you’re playing a game but waiting for the oven to preheat or something. Only the first set has a built-in mic, the rest have detachable ones of generally solid quality, certainly good enough for streaming and chatting, though for broadcast a separate one would be better. All these headphones use a USB-A style dongle, though the 7P/7X also has a USB-C connector.

SteelSeries 7P/7X – $149

The 7P and 7X headsets, designed with the PS5 and Xbox Series X in mind (as well as PC) respectively, are my first and most unreserved recommendation.

The standout feature on these is, to me, a truly surprising sound with an almost disturbingly broad stage and clarity. I almost couldn’t believe what I was hearing when I put on some familiar tracks I use for reference. This isn’t a 7.1 simulation or anything like that — but no doubt the gaming focus led to creating a large soundstage. It worked!

I also found the headphones to be very comfortable, with a “ski goggle” strap instead of a per-band adjustment that lets them sit very lightly as well as “remembering” your setting. The spacious earcups rotate for travel or comfort.

The built-in mic is unobtrusive and stows away nicely, but if you’re picky about placement it was a bit floppy to adjust. Many of the other headsets have nicer mics that completely detach — maybe that’s a plus for you but I tend to lose them.

My main issues with these are that the controls feel cheap and not particularly well laid out. The bottom of the headset is a jumble of ports and buttons and the volume dials don’t have much travel — it’s 0 to 100 in one full swipe. (Volume control is independent from system volume.)

The dongle is different from the others in that it is itself USB-C, but with a USB-A cable attached. That’s good for compatibility, but the cable is three feet long, making it kind of silly to attach to some laptops and whatnot. You could easily get your own short cord, though.

At $150 I think these are an easy recommendation for just about anyone looking at that price range.

Audio-Technica AT-GWL – $250

Devin Coldewey / TechCrunch

The high price on these is partly because they are the wireless version of a headset that also comes wired, so if you want the solid audio performance and comfy fit, you can save some money by going wired.

The sound of the AT-GWLs is rich and naturally has a focus on the upper-mid vocal range, which makes voices in media really pop. I did find the sound a bit confined, which hitting the “surround” setting actually helped with. I know that this sort of virtualization has generally been frowned on, but it’s been a while since these settings have been over the top and distortive. I found surround better for games but not necessarily for music, but it’s very easy to switch on and off.

The headphones are light and adjusted with traditional, no-nonsense metal bands, with a single pad on the top. I would say they are the lightest-feeling pair I tested, with the SteelSeries and Razer coming in just behind owing to some extra weight and bulk. Despite being compact, the AT-GWLs felt airy but not big. The leather-microfiber combo cups are nice, and I think they’ll break in well to provide better isolation over time.

Where they fall short is in the interface. First, a note to Audio-Technica: Turn down the notification noises! Turning the headset on, the mic on or off, or hitting the system-independent volume max produces loud, surprising beeps. Too loud!

Second, the buttons and dials are stiff, small, and same-feeling. Lifting a hand quickly to turn down the volume (maybe after a huge beep) you may very easily mistake the power switch for the volume dial. The dial also doubles as a button for surround mode, and next to it is a microscopic button to turn on and off the sound of surroundings. It’s a bit of a jumble — nothing you can’t get used to, but considering how nice other headsets on this list made their controls, it has to be said.

HyperX Cloud II wireless – $100

Devin Coldewey / TechCrunch

HyperX (owned by Kingston) wasn’t exactly known for audio until fairly recently, but its previous Cloud headset got the crucial Wirecutter endorsement, and it’s easy to see why. For less money than any of the other headsets in this roundup, the follow-up to that headset (which I’m wearing right now) has excellent sound and isolation.

I was surprised to find a soundstage nearly as wide as the 7P/7X, but with more of a focus on the punchy lower register instead of on detail and placement. My music felt big and close, and the atmosphere of games likewise, more immediately present.

The Cloud II’s controls are simple and effective. The volume dial, tied directly to the system volume, is superb: grippy, with smooth motion and just the right amount of friction, and just-barely-there clicks. There are two good-size buttons, the power one concave and the mic mute (which gives different sounds for muted and active) convex.

It’s unfortunate that they’re not as comfortable, for me anyway, as the others on this list. The cups (though a bit on the warm side) and band are perfectly fine. It’s that there’s little rotation to those cups, meaning there’s no play to accommodate the shape of your head. I don’t know, maybe it’s just my big dome, but they were noticeably tighter at the front of my ear than the back, so I was constantly adjusting or trying to twist them.

I’ll say this: if they add a bit more adjustment to the cups, these would be my default recommendation over the 7P/7X. As exciting as the SteelSeries sound is to me, the Cloud IIs seem more like what people expect and $50 cheaper.

Logitech G-733 – $130

The matte texture of the G733s had a weird interaction with my camera — they don’t look speckly IRL. Devin Coldewey / TechCrunch

These are Logitech’s streamer-friendly, color-coordinated, LED-sporting set, but they’re better than the loud design would suggest.

The sound is definitely gaming-forward, with a definite emphasis on the low end and a very central, present sound that was a lot like the Cloud II.

To be honest, I was not expecting the G733s to be very comfortable — their stiff plastic look suggested they’d creak, weigh down my ears, and crush my noggin. But in fact they’re really light and quite comfy! There’s a lot of play in the positions of the earcups. The fit is a little odd in that there’s a plainly inferior version of the 7P/7X’s “ski goggle” strap that really only has four settings, while the cups slide up and down about two thirds of an inch. It was just enough to accommodate my (again, apparently very large) head.

The mic boom is rather short, and sadly there is no indicator for when the mic is on or off, which is sometimes a minor inconvenience and sometimes a major pain. You can tell from the sound the mute button makes, though.

The volume dial is nice and smooth, though the “clicks” are really far apart. I like the texture of it and the mic mute button, the power button not so much. But it works.

The colors may not be to everyone’s liking, but I have to hand it to Logitech for going all the way. The headset, mic, and even the USB dongle are all the same shade, making it much easier to keep track of them in my growing pile of headphones and widgets.

Logitech Pro-X – $200

Devin Coldewey / TechCrunch

Currently Logitech’s most premium set of gaming headphones, the Pro-X abandon the bright, plasticky look of its other sets and goes for understated and black.

The sound of the Logitech is big and very clear, with almost a reference feel in how balanced the bands are. I felt more presence in the mid-lows of smart bass-playing than the other sets. There is a “surround” feel that makes it feel more like you’re in a room of well-configured speakers than headphones, something that I think emerges from a de-emphasis of the center channel. The media is “out there,” not “in here.” It’s not a bad or a good thing, just distinct from the others.

The controls are about on par with the Cloud II’s: A nice frictiony volume wheel controlling system volume, a nice mic toggle button, and a fairly meaty on-off switch you’re unlikely to trip on purpose.

Also like the Cloud IIs, there is no rotation to the earcups, making them less comfortable to me than the ATs and SteelSeries, and Logitech’s cheaper G-733s. A larger head than my own, if that’s possible, would definitely feel clamped. I do think these would wear in well, but all the same a bit of play would help a lot.

The external material, a satinized matte plastic, looks truly lovely but is an absolute fingerprint magnet. Considering you’ll be handling these a lot (and let’s be honest, not necessarily with freshly washed hands), you’re going to need to wipe them down rather more than any of the others I tested.

Razer Blackshark V2 Pro – $180

Devin Coldewey / TechCrunch

The understated Razer Blackshark V2 Pro soon became my go-to for PC gaming when the SteelSeries set was attached to the PS5.

Their sound is definitely gaming-focused, with extra oomph in the lows and mid-lows, but music didn’t sound overly shifted in that direction. The soundstage is full but not startlingly so, and everything sounded detailed without being harsh.

The Razers look heavy but aren’t — it varies day to day but I think they’re definitely competing for “most comfortable” with the A-Ts and SteelSeries. The cups feel spacious and have a nice seal, making for a very isolated listening experience. Adjustment is done with the wires attached to the cups, which is nothing special — I kind of wish this setup would let you adjust the cant as well as the height. The material is like the Logitechs — prone to fingerprints, though a little less so, in my experience.

Their controls are very well designed and laid out, all on one side. The protruding (system-independent) volume knob may seem odd at first but you’ll love it soon. The one big notch or click indicates exactly 50%, which is super useful for quick “calibration,” and turning the knob is smooth yet resistant enough that I never once accidentally changed it. Meanwhile there are conveniently placed and distinguishable buttons for mute and power, and ports for the detachable mic, charge cord, and 3.5mm input.

I’m hard pressed to think of any downsides to the Blackshark except that it doesn’t work with consoles.

#audio-technica, #gadgets, #gaming, #hardware, #headphones, #hyperx, #logitech, #ps5, #reviews, #steelseries, #tc, #xbox


Noise-canceling headphones that pair big sound with sweet silence

I never thought I’d need a pair of serious noise-canceling headphones. I don’t mind hours of droning white noise on international flights and generally don’t like feeling like my head’s been locked in an airless tomb, so I’ve always used open headphones that let ambient sound in. But 2020 broke me.

I’ve always preferred the hushed, mild chatter of a coworking space to the distractions of home (no offense to my wife who has to be on Zoom all day, every day!). Stranded without the productivity-inspiring hum of a lot of people doing their own thing in one space together, I suddenly needed quiet in a serious way. And I was ready to invest in it. 

We’ll focus on over-ear headphones here because if you need the absolute best noise canceling money can buy, chunky ear-hugging headphones are always going to blow earbud-style options out of the water. And after you listen to any of these picks, you’ll agree with us when we say the same goes for sound quality.

Sony WH-1000XM4 laying on table

Image Credits: Taylor Hatmaker/TechCrunch

Sony WH-1000XM4

Sony’s line of premium wireless over-ear active noise canceling headphones has been regarded as the cream of the crop for a minute now and that title is very well-deserved. At $350, Sony’s new Sony WH-1000XM4s aren’t cheap, but from the quality hard-sided case to the solid build quality, you’ll definitely get what you paid for here. Full disclosure: The previous generation of these headphones are what I opted for back in the beginning of the pandemic and I’ve recommended them to many friends with similar needs since.

The sound quality on these is a joy. If you’re the kind of audiophile that wouldn’t be caught dead in a serious listening session wearing white earbuds, you’re in for a treat. Set-up on the Sonys was painless and the app is actually useful, providing fine-tuned EQ adjustments, sound profiles and a slider that dials the intensity of the noise-canceling up or down, though cupping your hand over the earphone also allows ambient sound to pass through. These headphones also went loud if you’re a fan of listening to big music at full volume (I am).

This pair of headphones does a lot of things right. The music quality is excellent, the noise canceling is eerily good, even with no music playing. A few little quality of life perks makes this pair even more appealing than its already very appealing predecessor (the previous version now makes for a great value). Something very subtle also seems to have changed with the fit here, and the M4s did feel less pinchy on the top of my head than the M3s. Sony also added multi-device pairing and a new ear-detection sensor with this generation so they pause automatically when you remove them, which I personally find to be a totally necessary feature. Sony also improved the call quality for the M4s, but it isn’t their strong suit.

Other strikes against the Sony WH-1000XM4s? There aren’t many, but these headphones like most in their class are kind of heavy. You probably can’t wear them for five hours at a time without wanting to take a little break, but they work really well for hourlong bursts of total silence when you really need to put your head down at work. If you aren’t a fan of Sony’s characteristically punchy, bass-forward sound, you might look elsewhere. They have a classic chunky over-ear headphone design which probably won’t excite anybody but it’s still a good look. And if you’re someone who plans to take long calls on their over-ear headphones, you might want to look elsewhere.

If you need absolute top tier noise canceling to drown out whoever you’re sharing your makeshift office with these days, this is the pair of headphones you want. The fact that music sounds so incredible is just icing on the cake.

Verdict: Top-notch noise-canceling with incredible sound

Bose Noise Cancelling Headphones 700

Image Credits: Taylor Hatmaker/TechCrunch

Bose Noise Cancelling Headphones 700

Between this pair of headphones and the Sonys, anyone who doesn’t mind the sensation of over-the-ear headphones should find something to like. The noise canceling on the Bose 700s is top-notch, offering Bose’s signature accuracy and crisp sound along with the ability to totally hush the world around you.

These sounded great for a feature rich pair of wireless do-it-all headphones. Bose’s neutral, clean sound is lighter on the bass than Sony and feels slightly less vibrant, but if you’ve liked Bose headphones in the past you’ll probably be more than happy here too. 

The Bose pair is a bit of a departure from the norm design-wise. Rather than extending in the middle of the headband, this pair has a kind of stalk on the side of the earcup that slides up or down. The sizing mechanism probably isn’t going to make or break the headphones for anybody, but it does give them a different look, feel and balance when compared to traditional, chunkier designs. Touch controls were very responsive and you can toggle between noise-canceling modes using a set of mirrored buttons on the earcup. They also get a respectable 20 hours of battery life, which is really quite a lot though 10 hours less than the Sony pair if extreme longevity is a concern.

Bose Noise Cancelling Headphones 700

Image Credits: Taylor Hatmaker/TechCrunch

Set up was a little rocky with these as I thought they sounded muddy and awful, but really they just needed a firmware update. Unfortunately, Bose requires you to sign up for an account to use the app and set up your headphones, which is silly and really off-putting but ultimately probably not a meaningful hurdle for most people. I also got an error message with a second firmware update the app prompted me to download and had to mess around with things to get them to connect again which was annoying but did resolve eventually. Without that update I wasn’t able to make EQ adjustments, so be sure to check that if yours don’t ship with the latest update. It’s worth noting that you don’t get full EQ sliders after the update, just bass, mids and treble. That’s either going to bug the hell out of you or be a total non-issue. 

The Bose 700s cost $340 now on Bose’s website, with a light “soapstone” color variant marked down to $300. If you’re not into standard black headphones and would prefer some lighter options this is probably a great option. We tested a silver review unit that had a kind of futuristic vibe, paired with the smooth, matte material on the headband. Bose’s pair is sleek and modern, offering something a bit more eye-catching, especially in its non-black color variations.

If you’re using your noise-canceling headphones for frequent phone calls, this Bose pair is well-regarded in terms of its mic and call quality, though the new Sony pair has made strides there too. Both the Bose pair and the Sonys come with an aux cable to extend their use beyond the already impressive battery life that each boast. Both also connect to Alexa, Google Assistant, and Siri if you’re the spoken commands type.

For anyone who likes Bose’s signature clean sound and needs a pair of headphones with excellent noise canceling and a good mic, this pair of headphones is a very solid choice.

Verdict: Another great pick for serious noise-canceling needs

If you can’t stand big, ear-hugging headphones, don’t fret — we’ve got some earbud-style noise canceling recommendations coming soon. But if you’re open to over-ear headphones and you need awesome sound and top-notch noise canceling, none of these will disappoint.

Sennheiser PXC 550-II

Image Credits: Taylor Hatmaker/TechCrunch

Sennheiser PXC 550-II

Sennheiser’s PXC-550 II might not be vying for the title of absolute premium noise-cancelingest headphones, but they emerged as a dark horse in our testing. Like the others on this list, Sennheiser’s noise-canceling headphones are wireless with an over-ear design, but that’s where the similarities end.

While the Bose and Sony pairs feel expensive and substantial, the Sennheiser PXC 550-IIs are relatively plasticky — but that might actually be a good thing. The noise canceling here is totally adequate for normal needs, but not top-of-the-line extreme like the other two picks. It mutes background noise within reason rather than transporting you to an eerily totally silent realm, and that’s probably sufficient for a lot of people. The sound quality notably good for the lower price range ($200 from Sennheiser, at the time of writing), defined by Sennheiser’s signature clean, clear style. If you’ve liked Sennheiser sound in the past, you’ll like it here.

Where the Sennheisers really shine is day-to-day use. I found myself reaching for this pair more often than not during my testing, which was surprising given that I have quite a few higher-end pairs of headphones laying around. The reason? For one, they are made of plastic; they’re light and wearing them for very extended periods of time (many hours at once) was comfortable. Pairing and set-up was a breeze.

Sennheiser PXC 550-II headphones on table

Image Credits: Taylor Hatmaker/TechCrunch

I was also surprised by how much I liked the mechanism for turning the PXC 550-IIs on: Rather than feeling around for a tiny button usually proximal to other tiny buttons, you can actually twist the headphones on and off with a satisfying click. I thought this would be a gimmick but it’s super convenient and it feels nice to know your headphones won’t be burning any battery life by accident. There’s also a small battery indicator light that gives you an idea how much juice is left, a feature that might seem vestigial to some people but I personally found it super useful.

The knocks against the PXC 550-IIs? The less premium feel isn’t for everyone. They charge via an outdated micro-USB port, which is annoying because generally it meant toting around an extra cable. The headphones can also pair to more than one device at once, which is cool but did result in a British AI voice repeating “phone one connected, phone two connected” in a maddening monotone more than I cared for.

I’m not sure what it is about these Sennheisers, but I really fell in love with them. In spite of using a pair of Sony WH-1000XM3s as my day-to-day headphones, I’ll probably pick a pair of these up too eventually. They’re just that charming — and for $150 less than our other picks, they’re a great value too.

Verdict: All-day noise canceling headphones with crisp sound and a great price

If you can’t stand ear-hugging headphones, don’t fret — we’ve got some earbud-style noise-canceling recommendations coming soon. But if you’re open to big ol’ headphones and need top-notch noise canceling paired with incredible sound, none of these picks will disappoint.

#hardware, #headphones, #noise-canceling, #tc


Marshall Major IV wireless headphones offer great sound, plus 80+ hours of battery life and wireless charging

Marshall’s new Major IV headphones ($149.99) combine lightweight comfort with wireless charging, and up to 80 hours of playback for an iconic headset that’s affordable and flexible. At home or on the go, these are a great option with unique features that you won’t find anywhere else in the headphone market.


This is the fourth iteration of Marshall’s Major on-ear wireless headphones, and they offer a number of improvements new to the lineup, including a new folding clip design that makes them even more compact when packed for travel – and that allows them to rest comfortably on a charging pad to enable another new feature, wireless charging using the Qi standard.

Marshall has also greatly improved battery life, advertising an insane 80 hours of usage time on these, way up from the 30+ promised in the last generation. They still feature square earcups with that iconic Marshall look, but the detail on each is flat instead of pebbled faux leather (that remains on the headband). The multi-directional control knob is also carried over from past Major designs, and there’s a 3.5mm socket for wired sound, and for sharing your audio connection out to another headset.

In the box, there’s a coiled 3.5mm for that vintage Marshall amp feel, as well as a USB-C cable for wired charging, which will provide a full 80+ hours of use from 3 hours – or 15 hours from just 15 minutes with a new quick charge feature.

Design and performance

The design of the Major IV is classic Marshall aesthetic – which is great news. They look fantastic, with the iconic logo in script on both earcups. As mentioned, the earcup face is now smooth and matte, which looks great, and there’s a silicone edge on each which helps keep the right earcup in place when placed on a wireless charger.

Image Credits: Marshall

These are compact, over-ear headsets that rest comfortably, and that comfort is helped by the lightweight materials used in their construction. Despite feeling very light, they feel like they’re made of quality materials thoughtfully constructed, and should last a long time in terms of durability.

Marshall’s multi-directional controller is both an attractive cosmetic detail in gold, and a smart control interface that offers intuitive manipulation of audio playback and volume.

Sound-wise, the Major IV provides great audio quality for a headset in this price range. The bass is rich, and the highs are clear. There’s no noise cancelling at work here, so you will get a decent amount of audio bleed-in from your surroundings, but they do a decent job of sound isolation for an over-hear set. And the sound quality is made all the better because of the class-leading battery life Marshall has managed to pack into the Major IV. 80+ hours is just astounding, and it means you’ll likely be able to go at least a week or two without even thinking about a charger while using these actively.

Bottom line

Marshall has really delivered an amazing value with the new Major IV. Combining style, performance and quality into a headset that also has amazing battery life and unique wireless charging capabilities is a true achievement – and perks like 3.5mm wired audio sharing just round out the package. These are a great everyday wear headset that you won’t want to go anywhere without.

#audio-engineering, #components, #electrical-engineering, #gadgets, #hardware, #headphones, #headset, #inductive-charging, #marshall, #reviews, #tc, #wireless, #wireless-charging, #wireless-headphones, #work-from-home-gear


Shure’s Aonic 50 wireless noise cancelling headphones offer best-in-class audio quality

The noise-cancelling over-ear headphone category is an increasingly competitive one, and consumers have never been more spoiled for choice. Shure entered the market this year with the Aonic 50, a premium-priced headset ($399) that offers active noise cancelling, Bluetooth connectivity and USB-C charging. Shure’s reputation for delivering top-quality sound is definitely part of the package, and there’s a lot more to recommend the Aonic 50 as well.


Shure offers the Aonic 50 in either black or brown finishes, and they have physical controls on the right ear cup for volume, turning noise cancellation on and off, power, activating voice assistances and skipping tracks. There’s a USB-C port for charging, and a 2.5mm stereo connector on the left ear cup for using the included cable to connect via wire, which allows you to use them even while the internal battery is depleted or the headset is powered down (albeit without active noise cancelling obviously).

The Aonic 50 also comes with a round, flat carrying case – the ear cups swivel to fit in the zippered storage compartment. This takes up more of a footprint than the typical folding design of these kind of ANC headphones, but it’s less bulky, too, so it depends on how you’re packing them whether this is good or bad.

Shure offers a mobile app for iOS and Android called ShurePlus Play that can provide EQ controls, as well as more specific tuning of both the active noise cancelling, and the environmental mode that pipes in outside sound. This allows for a lot of customization, but with one major caveat – EQ settings only apply when playing music via the app itself, which is an unusual and disappointing choice.

Design and performance

Shure’s Aonic 50 excel in a couple of areas where the company has a proven track record: Sound quality and comfort/wearability. The ample faux leather-wrapped padding on both the headband and the ear cups make them very comfortable to wear, even for longer sessions, which is great for work for home practicality. I often forgot I had them on while moving around the house, which gives you an idea of how well they fit.

As for sound, Shure has aimed for a relatively neutral, flat tone that provides an accurate recreation of what the original producer intended for any track, and the results are great. Music detail is clear, and they’re neither too heavy on bass or overemphatic on treble. This is a sound profile that audiophiles will appreciate, though it might not be the best for anyone who’s looking for a bass-heavy soundstage. That said, bass-favoring headphones are easy to find in this category, so Shure’s offering, with its clear highs, stands apart from the field in the ANC arena. To be clear, the bass is excellent, but overall the market has moved towards muddy, artificially enhanced bass vs. true rendering, which the Aonic 50 delivers.

The button controls on the Aonic 50 are well-placed and cover the spectrum in terms of what you’d want to be able to control right from the headset. USB-C charging is much-appreciated in an era where that’s far and away the standard for most of the mobile devices in your life, as well as many computers. The included stereo cable is a great addition for when the battery runs out – but Shure’s advertised 20-hour or so battery life estimate is accurate, so it’ll be quite a while before you have to resort to that as long as you remember to charge once in a while.

If there’s one place where Shure’s performance falls a bit short, it’s in noise cancellation. The ANC does a decent job of blocking out unwanted environmental sound, but it’s not quite up to the standard of the like of Bose or Sony’s top-end ANC headphones. It still gets the job done most of the time, and the trade-off is better sound.

Bottom line

As I said above, people looking for active noise cancelling headphones are spoiled for choice these days. But the Shure Aonic 50 offers something that discerning audio pros won’t be able to find from alternatives including those from Bose or Sony, and that’s an excellent soundstage and sound quality that just can’t be beat. Wearability is also tops, which makes these a great options for audiophiles who want a wire-free, sound-blocking solution for a home office.

#android, #audio-engineering, #audiophile, #bluetooth, #gadgets, #hardware, #headphones, #headset, #mobile-devices, #noise-cancelling, #noise-cancelling-headphones, #noise-reduction, #reviews, #shure, #sony, #sound, #tc, #work-from-home-gear


B&O’s BeoPlay H4 headphones offer great looks and comfort, but no noise canceling

It’s easy to be smitten with the H4 at first sight. They’re a great-looking pair of headphones — one of the best I’ve seen. They sport a simple, streamlined design that feels both like an homage to older models, but modern enough to avoid the nostalgia trap.

They’re comfortable, too. Like crazy comfortable. I say this as someone who is prone to dull earaches after wearing most models of over-ear headphones for an extended period. Since Bang & Olufsen sent me a pair to test a while pack, I’ve been wearing them for hours on end, prepping for a write-up during Work From Home Week.

The headphones sport an abundance of padding on the rim of their perfectly round cups. My ears sit snuggly inside, with none of the padding pressing on the ear — something that’s often a source of pressure after extended wears. They’re fairly lightweight — that helps. At 8.3 ounces they fall in between the Bose QuietComfort 35 II (8.2 ounces) and Sony WH-1000XM4 (8.96 ounces).

Image Credits: Brian Heater

The cups are covered in leather — either matte black or limestone (kind of a cream) — coupled with a large brushed metal plate sporting the B&O logo. It complements the concentric circles. The right cup sports a volume rocker, power/pairing switch and a port for an auxiliary cable. The ear cups sport a nice, smooth swivel that should work well with a variety of different head sizes.

The sound is good. It’s nice and full — though B&O leans a bit too heavily on the bass for some tests. They’re not quite as egregious as other units, but it’s very noticeable, particularly with traditionally bass-heavy genres like hip-hop. If you’re looking for fuller, more true-to-life music replication, you’re going to want to look elsewhere.

The absence of active noise canceling is a pretty big blind spot for a pair of $300 headphones in 2020. Even if you think you don’t need the feature, trust me, there are plenty of times you’ll be glad you have it. Take my working from home adventures over the past six months: They just started construction directly outside of my window, and it’s the worst. The Bluetooth, too, is decent, but walking around my apartment, I found them quicker to cut out than, say, the Sonys.

Image Credits: Brian Heater

There are units with longer battery life, too. Given that the H4’s are collapsible and don’t have ANC, though, I’m guessing the company isn’t really targeting frequent fliers here. With a rated battery life of up to 19 hours, though, they’ll get you through a day of home use, no problem.

#bo, #bang-and-olufsen, #hardware, #headphones, #work-from-home-gear


Shure’s SRH1540 headphones can upgrade your home setup with quality sound and all-day comfort

We’re going checking out a range of different headphones on TC this week and next as part of our ‘Headphone Week’ series, and today I’m checking out the Shure SRH1540 ($499). These aren’t new – they’ve been a stand-by among audiophiles in their price range for years now. But there’s a great reason for that: They offer fantastic sound quality and value, as well as amazing comfort and wearability.

The basics

The SRH1540 from Shure are closed-back headphones that provide premium sound suitable either just for people who really like high-quality audio, or for those who actually have to work with audio on a regular basis, including sound engineers and podcast producers. They manage to produce a soundstage that’s very comparable to what you get out of open-back headphones, albeit with less noise leakage (great for shared work-from-home offices).

In the box, Shure includes not one but two cables, as well as a spare set of the Alcantara-covered ear-ads. They come with a hard-sided plastic carrying case, and a threaded adapter for using them with a 6.3mm audio jack (the cable is 3.5mm out of the box).

Design and features

Shure’s design with the SRH1450 is all about comfort and quality. The headphones are extremely lightweight – but don’t let that fool you into thinking it’s made of cheap materials. The frame uses aircraft-grade aluminum and carbon fiber to offer the most strength without creating something that’s going to weigh heavy on your head for long listening sessions.

The Alcantara material used in the earpads is also very durable, while offering a pleasantly soft-touch feel. There’s ample padding in the cups, too, and they rest lightly on your head while providing necessary give to accommodate a number of different head and ear shapes.

Shure uses a dual-connector cord design here, with each gold-plated end of the headphone side clipping in securely. They’re color-coded for accurate placement, and the cable itself is kevlar-wrapped to ensure the cord will last a long time. There’s a twin backup in the box as well just in case.

Sound-wise, these are excellent headphones that should please even the most discerning audiophiles, especially when paired with a DAC or USB audio interface like the Focusrite Scarlett 2i2 I mostly tested them with. They provide an amazing level of clarity and detail, and great bass without being totally overwhelming or washing out the soundstage. I’ve long used open-back headphones as my standard wired cans for audio editing and all-day wear, but the SRH1450s have converted me.

Bottom line

These are an amazing choice for anyone looking to spend a bit of money (but not too much, in the world of premium audio equipment) in order to get a pair of headphones that offer great sound quality along with durability and all-day comfort. The one caveat to keep in mind is that they aren’t really at all sound-isolating, though they’re better in this regard than open-back headphones.

#audio-engineering, #audio-equipment, #audiophile, #electrical-engineering, #electronics, #gadgets, #hardware, #headphones, #reviews, #shure, #tc


‪CBP seized a shipment of OnePlus Buds thinking they were “counterfeit” Apple AirPods‬

U.S. Customs and Border Protection proudly announced in a press release on Friday a seizure of 2,000 boxes of “counterfeit” Apple AirPods, said to be worth about $400,000, from a shipment at John F. Kennedy Airport in New York.

But the photos in the press release appear to show boxes of OnePlus Buds, the wireless earphones made by smartphone maker OnePlus, and not Apple AirPods as CBP had claimed.

Here’s CBP’s photo of the allegedly counterfeit goods:

And this is what a box of OnePlus Buds looks like:

A photo of a box of OnePlus Buds that CBP mistook for Apple AirPods.

(Image: @yschugh/Twitter)

The resemblance is uncanny. We reached out to a CBP spokesperson for comment but did not hear back.

According to the press release: “The interception of these counterfeit earbuds is a direct reflection of the vigilance and commitment to mission success by our CBP Officers daily,” said Troy Miller, director of CBP’s New York Field Operations.

If only it was.

#airpods, #counterfeit, #headphones, #oneplus, #security


Bose’s music-playing sunglasses are back

Glasses/sunglasses with built-in speakers have been a thing for a shockingly long time now. They’ve never been particularly popular, mind, but at the very least, they’re an interesting enough concept for companies to continue taking a sporadic stab at the category, whose primary appeal seems to be not being forced to purchase both glasses and headphones.

Bose may have put its AR ambitions on the back burner, but the company is still very much into the idea of sunglasses that play headphones. In fact, it’s back with three new models: the Tempo, Tenor and Soprano. The new additions follow the original Frames launched back in 2018.

Image Credits: Bose

The Tempo is the more premium of the trio, with a bulky temple/earpiece that also sports the charging port. The music is designed to fire toward the ear, while keeping it unobstructed, so you can hear the world around you. That’s good for alertness, obviously, but a mixed bag when it comes to actually, you know, being able to hear what the speakers are playing. Especially in an urban environment.

The Tenor and Tempo feature smaller 16mm speakers in each ear and a stated five hours of battery. They’re otherwise distinguished from one another based on size and design. There’s UV protection on all of the models. They’re available today, priced at $249.

Image Credits: Bose

Bose also announced two pairs of fully wireless earbuds. The more notable of the two are the QC Earbuds, which adopt the company’s flagship QuietComfort banner, owing to the company’s on-board noise canceling. Between that and the $279 price tag, the buds are positioned to take on the AirPods Pro and Sony’s own excellent noise-canceling models.

Image Credits: Bose

The simply named Sport Earbuds, meanwhile, are priced at $179 and feature a new locking mechanism to stay in place while working out. Both models are up for pre-order starting today and will begin shipping before the end of the month.

#bose, #earbuds, #hardware, #headphones, #quietcomfort, #wearables


Sony WH-1000XM4 headphone review

There was a mixed reaction among the TechCrunch staff when Sony’s WH-1000XM4 were announced the other week. There was excitement among those looking for new headphones and disappointment for those who’d recently purchased a different pair. The product’s predecessor are pretty universally regarded as some of the best over-ear headphones you can get for the price point, so the biggest question, really, was what the new ones bring to the table.

So let me just say this off the bat. If you own the WH-1000XM3, congrats. You purchased a very good pair of headphones — ones that rightfully helped unmoor Bose from its long-standing position as the default frequent traveler purchase. And no, you don’t need to rush out and upgrade if yours are still hanging in there.

The original headphones entered the world pretty fully formed, and after two years, this refresh is more of a refinement of an excellent product. But the additions do go a long ways toward maintaining Sony’s spot as the reigning champion of noise-canceling, over-ear Bluetooth headphones. The 1000XM4 are hard to beat.

The new headphones more or less look exactly the same as their predecessors. They’re not the most striking pair of over-ear headphones for your money (that award may well go to Sennheiser or Bang & Olufsen). I appreciate the relative simplicity versus the comparable Bose Quiet Comfort model. Honestly, when it comes to things like long-haul flights, the less flashy, the better.

The headphones are surprisingly light — something I noticed the first time I had the opportunity to try the M3 during a meeting in some board room with Sony execs a couple of years back. The new units have a bit more padding and are extremely comfortable. I say that as someone who has a tough time with over-ear headphones for whatever reason. As I write this, I’ve been wearing the headphones for the better part of four days.

Image Credits: Brian Heater

There have been breaks in the marathon, of course. The nature of the form factor means they’re not really ideal for, say, going for a walk or falling asleep. The former is especially the case of late here in New York, where it has routinely hit temperatures in the 90s. For noise canceling all of the annoyances of home, however, they’re terrific. And when we all start flying in planes again, they’ll be excellent for that, too (thanks in no small part to the inclusion of a 3.5mm headphone jack for that seat-back entertainment).

The other element that has allowed for nearly uninterrupted usage is the ability to pair the system with two devices simultaneously. This has, frankly, been a big pain point for a number of headphones I’ve been using of late, requiring the user to get into the device settings and manually select the headphones. Using the iOS app, I paired the M4 to my phone and desktop top, and I’m able to switch seamlessly between sources. You’d be surprised by how liberating that feels. Just make sure your sound level is comparable on each device or you’ll be in for an unfortunate blast.

Like the M3, the sound quality is excellent, offering a full audio picture, regardless of genre. The sound is honestly pretty comparable to the previous model, and that’s perfectly fine. Nura’s truly excellent sound profile technology retains the top spot for me, but these new Sonys offer excellent audio for a pair of everyday headphones.

Once again, the real centerpiece, however, is Sony’s truly excellent noise canceling. The feature was the M3’s real secret weapon against Bose dominance in the category. The new models take things up a notch by detecting ambient sound some 700 times per second via the system-on-a-chip and actively adapting to counteract this. The system also features the addition of Noise Canceling Optimizer. On the face of it, the feature works similarly to noise optimization on other systems. Hold the button down and it sends an audio signal into your ear, meowing things like seal quality and atmospheric pressure (for planes, primarily) to offer up a more customized found profile. It adds up to some truly excellent noise canceling and an overall great audio experience.

There are a bunch of other nice features throughout that may or may not be helpful in your specific scenario. For instance, I found myself  immediately disabling Speak to Chat, which pauses playback when you speak. A nice feature in theory, but I live alone, so the only time it would trigger is if I coughed, laughed or unconsciously found myself singing along to the music. More useful for my own needs however is a feature that lets in ambient sound when you cover the right ear cup with your hand. Ambient sound fed into headphones through a mic still sounds a bit unnatural, but it does the trick.

Image Credits: Brian Heater

I also found myself turning off location tracking, because, quite frankly, enough of my gadgets already know where I am. Also, the addition of noise that adapts based on familiar locations is nice, but not really worth the trouble for me — especially these days when I’m leaving my apartment significantly less than I’d care to admit. And besides, I just really don’t like seeing that location tracking icon in the corner of iOS 11.

Google Assistant and Alexa are built in, as well, but again, not features I tend to use much in a pair of headphones. I’d say I shut them off to save battery, too, but with a stated life of 30 hours, I’ve honestly been fine on that front. Charging via USB-C, meanwhile, will get you an impressive five hours of playback in around 10 minutes.

At $350, they’re priced the same as their predecessors — which is to say, they’re not cheap. But you’d be hard pressed to find a better pair of wireless over-ear headphones in their class.

#bluetooth-headphones, #hardware, #headphones, #reviews, #sony, #wh-1000xm4


Sony’s excellent over-ear headphones get smarter

Sony knows how to make a great pair of headphones. The WH-1000XM3 are one of the best received pairs of over-ear models in recent years. Two years later, the company is ready to unveil their successors, which sport a number of smart connected features.

In fact, the WH-1000XM4 bring all sorts of nice upgrades to the line. Unsurprisingly, a number of them are smart features that more fall into the category of nice to have, rather than essential, but there are a few core updates, as well.

For starters, there’s improved noise canceling, courtesy of the two mics on each ear. Sony says the on-board system-on-a-chip is capable of processing noise 700 times a second, along with a built-in algorithm that’s capable of adjusting the adaptive noise canceling in something akin to real time.

Perhaps the most interesting tidbit here, however, is a feature the company says is capable of “rebuilding” audio lost to compression — a pretty constant presence in the time of streaming everything. The technology was a joint venture with Sony Music Studios Tokyo. I’m definitely excited to hear how it actually sounds in practice — companies tend to make some big promises with these sort of lossless restoring technologies, to limited effect.

Image Credits: Sony

There’s 360 audio on-board, as well, of course. That’s been a big pet project for Sony — and one the company is going to really start pushing with the arrival of the PlayStation 5 later this year. The headphones support both Google Assistant and Alexa and utilize Google’s Fast Pair feature to get the connection up and running immediately. There’s also a feature that will let you ring the headphones when you misplace them.

Other notable additions include a Speak-to-Chat feature that turns down the music when you talk, adaptive sound for location you can pre-program and automate music pausing when you take them off your ears. That last bit will save on battery life. Sony promises up to 30 hours on a charge, though, so you should be good to go for a while. And when you’re in a pinch, 10 minutes of charging gets you five hours of playback.

The headphones up are for pre-order now and will hit retail mid-month, priced at $350.

#hardware, #headphones, #sony


VCs and startups consider HaaS model for consumer devices

I’ve been following consumer audio electronics company Nura with great interest for a few years now — the Melbourne-based startup was one of the first companies I met with after starting with TechCrunch. At the time, its first prototype was a big mess of circuits and wires — the sort of thing you could never imagine shrunk down into a reasonably-sized consumer device.

Nura managed, of course. And the final product looked and sounded great; hell, even the box was nice. If I’m lucky, I see a consumer hardware product once or twice a year that seems reasonably capable of disrupting an industry, and Nura’s custom sound profiles fit that bill. But the company was unique for another reason. A graduate of the HAX accelerator, the startup announced NuraNow roughly this time last year.

Hardware as a service (HaaS) has been a popular concept in the IT/enterprise space for some time, but it’s still fairly uncommon in the consumer category. For one thing: a hardware subscription presents a new paradigm for thinking about purchases. And that is a big lift in a country like the U.S., which spent years weaning consumers off contract-based smartphones.

That Nura jumped at the chance shouldn’t be a big surprise. Backers HAX/SOSV have been proponents of the model for some time now. I’ve visited their Shenzhen offices a few times, and the topic of HaaS always seems to come up.

In a recent email exchange, General Partner Duncan Turner described HaaS as “a great way to keep in contact with your customers and up sell them on new features. Most importantly, for start-ups, recurring revenue is critical for scaling a business with venture capital (and will help appeal to a broad set of investors). HaaS often has a low churn (as easier to put onto long-term contracts).”

#business-models, #consumer-electronics, #consumer-hardware, #duncan-turner, #economy, #eric-migicovsky, #events, #extra-crunch, #gadgets, #hardware, #hardware-as-a-service, #hbo, #headphones, #market-analysis, #marketing, #marketing-strategy, #merchandising, #netflix, #smartphones, #spotify, #startups, #subscription-services, #techcrunch-early-stage, #wearables


Bang & Olufsen’s Beoplay E8 Sport offer the best sound in workout-friendly true wireless earbuds

Bang & Olufsen is taking its excellent track record for delivering maximum quality, natural-sounding audio and wrapping it in a sports-oriented package with the Beoplay E8 Sport ($350). These totally wireless earbuds come with a long list of great features, including IP57 water resistance, 30 total hours of battery life including up to seven hours on a single charge, and transparency mode for external audio pass-through.

The basics

The E8 Sport is a new version of the three-generation E8 totally wireless earphone that Bang & Olufsen has produced for a while now. It’s the first in the series to feature sport-specific water and sweat-resistance. That’s not to say you couldn’t probably get away with using the existing E8 headphones for exercise (I definitely have), but the the E8 Sport’s IP57 rating, you can be confident they’ll stand up to a run in the rain or any amount of sweat, since they’re technically able to be fully submerged in shallow water for as long as 30 minutes.

These aren’t for swimming, however; that water resistance gets you durability, as well as the option to quickly run them under water to clean them off if you so desire. It’s basically a peace-of-mind feature, but a welcome one.

The E8 Sport also includes a new more rubberized exterior finish, a charge case that offers just slightly less reserve power (only by around 30 minutes) but that provides USB-C and wireless charging as well as 23 hours of backup battery life on top of the seven contiained in the earbuds themselves.

You’ll also get four different sizes of silicone earbuds, as well as one set of Medium Comply memory foam tips, and there are three sets of different sized silicone fins that provide a bit more anchor stability in your ear for when you’re using these while running or doing other vigour exercise. The Beoplay E8 Sport is available in two basic colors, including a pastel turquoise called ‘oxygen blue’ and black. There’s also a new special edition created with partner On, the Swiss running brand, which features a contrast color grand and gray design.

Inside, Bang & Olufsen has used mostly the same internals as you’ll find in the standard, non-sport E8 – which means you can expect the same great sound that B&O is known for.

Design and performance

The E8 Sport is a new approach to design for Bang & Olufsen, featuring a more rugged, rubberized exterior vs. the smooth finish of the E8. The case of the E8 is also finished in leather, but the E8 Sport is likewise rubberized plastic. Both feature narrow ridges in their construction as well, which helps with grip, especially when there’s sweat involved.

Unlike a lot of other sport-specific products, the Beoplay Sport E8 still manages to feel mostly understated and refined, however. The buds themselves are pretty low profile when in the ear, and the black version especially will definitely fly under the radar. The ‘oxygen blue’ version has a little more flare, but still presents softer rather than bold or bright.

Inlaid on the face of each bud is an aluminum ring, along with the B&O logo overprinted on the touch-sensitive button faces. The overall look definitely distinguishes them from the standard E8, but doesn’t venture so far afield that you’re left wondering whether they were actually made by the same company.

Performance-wise, the E8 Sport lives up to all its promises, providing long-lasting battery life, excellent passive sound isolation, remarkably clarity and sound separation and a super secure fit. I used them in a variety of different situations, including during 30-minute plus runs, and they offered great connection quality and sound throughout. Especially for a set of sport buds, I was really impressed by the sound quality – normally, I find that in this category manufacturers sacrifice quality for muddy bass, but not so with the E8 Sport.

That’s what really makes these great: They’re all-around earbuds that you can use for exercise, in all weather conditions, and for quiet enjoyment at home, too, thanks to their supreme audio quality. If you want one set of wireless earphones that can do it all, without compromises, these are it.

The B&O app allows you to fine-tune the sound profile to your preferences, as well, and you can easily control playback and access the built-in transparency features using the touch-sensitive earbud control surfaces. All of this works whether you’re in the middle of a run or a conference call, and the call quality is excellent, too. In my testing, people I spoke on the phone with said it was a vast improvement over even using the handset held up to my face, and even approached the sound quality of my podcast (where I use pro audio equipment).

Bottom line

The wireless earbud market is very crowded and getting busier all the time, with plenty of options at a variety of price points. Bang & Olufsen has already delivered what I consider to be the best audio quality on the market with their current third-generation E8, and the new E8 Sport provides all that great sound along with awesome durability, too.

#bang-olufsen, #consumer-electronics, #gadgets, #hardware, #headphones, #iphone-accessories, #reviews, #tc, #wireless-earbuds


OnePlus’s fully wireless earbuds are unexceptional, but at least they’re pretty cheap

OnePlus’s first fully wireless earbuds just aren’t very good. It doesn’t give me joy to say that. OnePlus is a fascinating company that has produced some really great handsets at prices that don’t break the bank — and that’s precisely what gave me high hopes for the Buds. But they’re just not good.

They don’t look good, they sound bad and they’re not particularly comfortable. What they are, however, is pretty affordable, at $79 here in the States. Such a price point would have been a tremendous selling point only a few years ago, but the fully wireless earbud category has made some great strides of late, in addition to being downright flooded by cheap brands.

There are a handful of features it’s fairly easy to forgive for not being present at the sub-$100 price point. Active noise canceling for one, and wireless charging for another. And there are some good points here, as well: primarily the stated battery life of seven hours on the Buds and up to 30 hours with the case included. There’s fast charging through USB-C, with up to 10 hours in 10 minutes. I was also pleasantly surprised by the Bluetooth range.

Beyond that, there aren’t a whole hell of a lot of reasons to recommend the Buds, beyond sheer brand loyalty. If you do, for some reason, feel the need to go along with OnePlus here, don’t by the Nord Blue. Seriously. I don’t care if it matches your new budget phone, the color scheme is atrocious. Kind of an electric sky blue accented with a sickly greenish-yellow. I’m not sure I’ve seen that exact color scheme outside of a 1980s boogie board.

The product feels cheap and plasticky throughout. The case has a matte finish and the Buds themselves have a kind of high gloss that seems like it ought to belong to an altogether different product. According to the press material, the product “Looks as good as it sounds.” Which, fair enough, I guess.

As for the sound itself, the company says it’s “Un-BEAT-able,” a not so subtle reference to the extreme reliance on a pumped-up bass to seemingly compensate for other aspects of the listening experience. I suspect, too, that a lot of the less-bassy musical nuance is lost with the inability to get a tight seal. OnePlus really ought to consider silicone tips for a future iteration.

It’s worth mentioning here, however, that a future software update should make the Buds better in a few ways, including additional touch gestures and Dolby Atmos Support — though the latter will only work with the OnePlus 7 and 8 handsets, again limiting the Buds’ appeal. 

There’s a lot OnePlus ought to consider for the next generation. Meantime, there are plenty of better alternatives to recommend before these Buds.

#hardware, #headphones, #oneplus, #wireless-earbuds


Grado unveils its $420 Hemp Headphone

Grado has a new pair of their signature headphones on the way, and between the pricing, hemp-infused wooden body and pot leaf insignia, it’s clear they’ve got their eye on a very particular customer.

The Brooklyn-based audio brand known for their rich, open-air sound has a pretty established lineup at this point, but over the past few years they’ve been playing around more with limited editions that use different types of wood and composites to house their audio components. The Hemp Headphone’s swirly, psychedelic body is a composite of maple wood and “highly compressed hemp,” the company says.

The Hemp Headphone is mainly innovating on a look, though Grado likes to talk about how the different materials they use can mean important subtle difference to the sound profile of each release, something that’s probably made their limited-edition product line a fun one to experiment with. Nevertheless, there really isn’t much new on the tech side.

Last year, the company ventured into wireless tech with the GW100, a fairly clunky attempt to bring Bluetooth to their on-ear headphone line. Though Grado has played around with more mainstream pursuits like the GW100 and its in-ear headphone line, the company’s most impressive efforts have always catered to their die-hard fans who are likely more at home with XLR or phono outputs than Bluetooth.

Grado headphones are an acquired taste with a build that’s been fairly relentless in its lack of comfort and a design that’s firmly at odds with today’s big trend in over-ear and on-ear headphones: noise cancellation. The open-air cans let in plenty of sound and let out as much, something that doesn’t make them a great choice for the office and tends to keep the headphones in the tight niche of at-home listening. In the midst of quarantine, at-home listening has become a bit more inclusive of a niche though.

Grado’s Hemp Headphone is available for pre-order today, retailing for… $420.

#grado-labs, #hardware, #headphones, #tc


Bang & Olufsen’s latest Beoplay E8 fully wireless earbuds offer top sound and comfort

Bang & Olufsen has an excellent reputation in home audio, and its original Beoplay E8 fully wireless headphones were a category leader when there was barely a category to lead. The company recently launched the third version of the E8, a new generation of hardware that comes with a number of improvements for better audio quality and convenience, including wireless charging, up to seven hours of continuous use on a single charge, and the latest Bluetooth standards for improved audio quality, operating distance and latency.

B&O’s latest wireless headset is a must-have for sound quality enthusiasts as a result, providing all-day comfort and wearability, excellent passive sound isolation and rich, sophisticated audio performance that does a good job of rendering the low end but without sacrificing any detail at higher frequencies, either.


The design of the actual Beoplay E8 buds hasn’t changed much since the original version – but in this case, that’s a very good thing, because the original design has remained one of my all-time favorites for fully wireless in-ear buds. You get a small, sleek bud with a rounded face and touch-sensitive surfaces for manual control.

B&O have made some updates to the design, including getting rid of a irregular nub that stuck out somewhat from the otherwise circular sides of the original, and on the black version I tested, what was once an inner silver-colored metallic accent band on the face now has a shiny black finish. The overall effect is to make them even more understated and attractive.

While the originals also offered great fit, in my use it seems like B&O have improved the physical design on that scale, too. Whereas before I would occasionally have to reseat one or the other of the buds to get a proper noise isolating seal, the E8 3rd generation seems to just fit properly one they’re in, no matter how long you wear them.

The last thing to mention regarding design is the case. It’s somehow both smaller and more pocketable than the case for the original, but also includes wireless charging so that you can set it down on any Qi-based wireless charging pad (the same kind that works with modern iPhones and Android devices) and have it charge both the case, which contains additional battery capacity for the buds (bringing total play time to up to 35 hours, per B&O), and the buds themselves. The case is wrapped in a pebbled leather finish that feels fantastic, and a magnetic clasp ensures it stays closed while in transit. Magnets also help you make sure your buds are properly seated in the case to charge.


The first point to make about the 3rd generation Beoplay E8 is that they sound fantastic. By just about every measure, they are the best-sounding wireless earbuds I’ve used, including the AirPods Pro and Sony’s WF-1000MX3, both popular options. The E8 manage sound separation and clarity that is sure to please even hardcore audiophiles, and they sound great regardless of what kind of music you’re listening to, but they excel with high-quality, lossless recording formats.

In terms of sound isolation, the Beoplay E8 are also outstanding performers. They don’t have active noise cancellation, but their passive blocking is extremely good at keeping out ambient noise. So much so that it’s good B&O included a transparency feature (accessible by tapping the left earbud) to pipe in ambient sound, which is great for when you want to be more aware of your surroundings. Sound isolation and comfort both get even better when you make use of the included Comply memory foam eartips that ship with the Beoplay E8, which is an excellent bonus since generally speaking, Comply tips require an additional purchase for just about every other set of earbuds.

The E8 is also a great headset for making calls, thanks to onboard mics that provide clear vocals mostly free of background noise. And because they feature both aptX and use Bluetooth 5.1, they’re also excellent for watching video and taking video calls on both mobile devices and computers, without any real noticeable lag.

Bottom line

Bang & Olufsen make premium products, and they come with premium price tags – at $350, the Beoplay E8 3rd Generation is no exception. But for that money, you’re getting premium build quality, great aesthetics and class-leading sound. For those who want the best audio possible in fully wireless buds, these are the ones to get. They’re fantastic for all-day wear for a work-at-home lifestyle, and offer great portability and sound transparency for taking with you on the go, too.

#airpods, #android, #bang-olufsen, #bluetooth, #electronics, #gadgets, #hardware, #headphones, #headset, #iphone, #mobile-devices, #qi, #reviews, #smartphones, #sony, #tc, #wireless, #wireless-earbuds, #wireless-headphones


Jabra’s Elite Active 75t earbuds offer great value and sound for both workouts and workdays

Technology improvements over the past few years mean that most fully wireless earbuds are a lot better than they used to be. That has led to something of a narrowing of the field among competitors in this arena, but some of the players still stand out – and Jabra have definitely delivered a standout performer with its newest Elite Active 75t fully wireless earbuds.


Jabra’s Elite Active 75t is a successor to its very popular 65t line, with added moisture resistance designed specifically for exercise use, as indicated by the ‘Active’ in the name. At $199.99, these are definitely premium-priced – but they’re a lot more affordable than many of the other offerings in the category, especially with their IP57-water and sweat resistance rating.

The Elite Active 75t also feature an esteemed 7.5 hours of battery life on a single charge, and their compact charging case carries backup power that adds up to a total of 28 hours potential run time across a single charge for both. The case charges via USB-C and also offers a fast-charge capability that provides 60 minutes of use from just 15 minutes of charging.

While they don’t offer active noise cancellation, they do have passive noise blocking, and an adjustable passthrough mode so that you can tune how much of the sound of the world around you you want to let in – a great safety feature for running or other activities.

They use Bluetooth 5.0 for low power consumption and extended connection range, have an auto-pause and resume feature for when you take out one earbud, and include a 4-mic array to optimize audio quality during calls.


Jabra has accomplished a lot on the design front with the Elite Active 75t. Their predecessor was already among the most compact and low-profile in-ear wireless buds on the market, and the Elite Active 75t is even smaller. These are extremely lightweight and comfortable, too, and their design ensures that they stay put even during running or other active pursuits. In my testing, they didn’t even require adjustment once during a 30-minute outdoor run.

Their comfort makes them a great choice for both active use and for all-day wear at the desk – and the 7.5 hours of battery life doesn’t seem to be a boast, either, based on my use, which is also good for workday wear.

Another key design feature that Jabra included on the Elite Active 75t is that both earbuds feature a large, physical button for controls. This is much better and easier to use than the touch-based controls found on a lot of other headsets, and makes learning the various on-device control features a lot easier.

Finally in terms of design, the charging case for the Elite Active 75t is also among the most svelte on the market. It’s about the size of two stacked matchboxes, and easily slides into any available pockets. Like the earbuds themselves, the case features a very slightly rubberized outer texture, which is great for grip but, as you can see from the photos, is also a dust magnet. That doesn’t really matter unless you happen to be tasked with photographing them, however.

One final note on the case design – magnetic snaps in the earbud pockets mean you can be sure that your headset buds are seated correctly for charging when you put them back, which is a great bit of user experience thoughtfulness.


It’s easy to see why the Jabra Elite Active 75t is already a favorite among users – they provide a rich, pleasant sound profile that’s also easily tuned through the Jabra Sound+ mobile app. Especially for a pair of earbuds designed specifically for active use, these provide sound quality that goes above and beyond.

Their battery life appears to line up with manufacturer estimates, which also makes them class-leading in terms of single charge battery life. That’s a big advantage when using these for longer outdoor activities, or, as mentioned, when relying on them for all-day desk work. Their built-in mic is also clear and easy to understand for people on the other side of voice and video calls, and the built-in voice isolation seems to work very well according to my testing.

In my experience, their fit is also fantastic. Jabra really seems to have figured out how to build a bud that stays in place, regardless of how much you’re moving around or sweating. It’s really refreshing to find a pair of fully wireless buds that you never have to even think about readjusting them during a workout.

Bottom Line

Jabra has done an excellent job setting their offering apart from an increasingly crowded fully wireless earbud market, and the Elite Active 75t is another distinctive success. Size, comfort and battery life all help put this above its peers, and it also boasts great sound quality as well as excellent call quality. You can get better sounding fully wireless earbuds, but not without spending quite a bit more money and sacrificing some of those other advantages.

#bluetooth, #gadgets, #hardware, #headphones, #headset, #iphone-accessories, #jabra, #reviews, #sound-cards, #tc, #wireless-earbuds


Report: Apple’s over-ear headphones have no left- or right-ear assignments

Among other things, Apple’s AirPods are known for the ability to detect when an individual earbud is or isn’t in your ear and start or stop playback accordingly. A new report from 9to5Mac claims that a similar feature will be offered in Apple’s upcoming over-ear headphones, but the headphones will instead detect whether they are placed on our head or lowered around your neck.

The publication cites “people familiar with the matter” who have detailed some of Apple’s plans. The report also refers to the headphones as “AirPods Studio.”

This product was previously described in some detail in a report in Bloomberg. That story said Apple is testing two versions of its over-ear headphones: one intended for sports and fitness use, and the other with a more “premium” feel with leather-like fabrics. Further, Bloomberg’s sources said that Apple will make some components of the headphones modular—so, for example, wearers could replace the ear pads as they wear over time.

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#9to5mac, #active-noise-cancellation, #airpods, #airpods-studio, #apple, #bloomberg, #headphones, #tech


Apple plans to introduce over-the-ear headphones with replaceable parts this year

Bloomberg’s Mark Gurman and Debby Wu have penned yet another report revealing inside information on Apple’s product plans, citing people familiar with the matter. Today’s report is all about headphones: Apple is developing over-ear headphones and plans to introduce them later this year.

According to Bloomberg’s sources, Apple is developing two versions of the headphones. One would be fitness-oriented, with breathable materials and perforations, similar in some respects to fitness-focused Apple Watch bands and accessories. The other would aim for a premium feel, with “leather-like fabrics.” Interestingly, the sources claim that Apple will make some components of these headphones modular. The headband padding and ear pads are attached to the headphones with magnets and are replaceable.

That’s obviously important because earpads are sometimes the first part of high-end headphones to go and need replacing, but also because it opens up opportunities for users to buy and install aesthetic customizations. It also means users could switch between the premium and fitness configurations as needed, provided they have purchased the attachments for both configurations.

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#airpods, #apple, #beats, #bloomberg, #headphones, #tech


Apple said to be working on modular, high-end, noise-cancelling over-ear headphones

Apple is said to be developing its own competitors to popular over-ear noise-cancelling headphones like those made by Bose and Sony, Bloomberg reports, but with similar technology on board to that used in the AirPod and AirPod Pro lines. These headphones would also include a design with interchangeable parts that would allow some modification with customizable accessories for specific uses like workouts and long-term wear, for instance.

The prototype designs of the new headphones, which are set to potentially be released some time later this year (though timing is clearly up in the air as a result of the ongoing COVID-19 crisis, and Apple’s general tendency to move things around depending on other factors), are said to feature a “retro look” by Bloomberg, and include oval ear cups which connect directly to thin arms that extend to the headband. The swappable parts include the ear pads and headband cushion, both of which are said to attach to the headphone frame using magnetic connectors.

These will support Siri on board, along with active noise cancellation and touch controls, but most importantly for iOS and Mac users, they’ll also feature the simple connection across multiple devices that are featured on AirPods and some of Apple’s Beats line of headphones.

Apple has already released Beats over- and on-ear headphone models with AirPod-like features, including cross-connectivity, and that feature onboard noise cancellation. The Bloomberg report doesn’t seem to indicate these new models would be Beats-branded, however, and their customization features would also be new in terms of Apple’s available existing options.

Bloomberg also previously reported that Apple was working on a smaller HomePod speaker as part of its forthcoming product lineup, and a new FCC filing made public this week could indicate the impending release of a success to its PowerBeats Pro fully wireless in-ear sport headphones.

#airpods, #apple, #apple-inc, #audio-engineering, #beats-electronics, #electrical-engineering, #federal-communications-commission, #gadgets, #hardware, #headphones, #iphone-accessories, #noise-cancelling, #noise-cancelling-headphones, #powerbeats-pro, #siri, #sony, #tc