Category Archives: Audio

Gadget Man – Episode 111 – Cashless Society

The cashless society is economic model that removes physical money from our wallets and replaces it with fully digital transactions. So, we no longer carry banknotes and coins, instead we carry our traditional bank cards or mobile devices. These transactions can be made in our home currencies (in my case Pound Sterling), an international currency or even a digital currency such as Bitcoin or Ethereum.  When using our traditional currency, we can completely remove a ‘standard’ bank from the equation and use alternatives from Paypal or Amazon.

Gadget Man 111 - Cashless Society

Apple Pay and Google Pay give us access to our bank accounts to transact contactless payments using our mobile devices and also track our payments using linked cards, thus attempting to give us the best of both worlds. The sting in the tail is the utterly endless opportunities to spend at will which will surely lead to intervention by governments to protect individuals from spending above their means.

Consequently, cashless and contactless systems give us greater power to transact business quickly and painlessly. However, whilst online and large businesses can easily transfer to these systems, there is a great danger of smaller businesses being completely crowded out either by lack of infrastructure or lack of funds.

Yesterday, I was interviewed by Tony Gillham at BBC Guernsey about the cashless society and how businesses in remoter islands in the Bailiwick, such as Alderney, can continue to transact business in a rapidly cashless world.

Listen in by clicking the link above. If you have a comment, please feel free to add your opinions below. Don’t forget to like and subscribe and I look forward to hearing from you soon.

Bowers & Wilkins PX – Headphones with show-stopping noise cancelling audio and aptX-HD® Bluetooth™

I spend a lot of time working in a shared office space, so it’s important to be able to shut out unwanted background noise when I want to be able concentrate.  So, when a pair of Bowers & Wilkins PX Headphones landed on my desk for review, I was excited to find a high end pair of phones that would completely remove background noise from my workplace, but also provide with a superior Bluetooth™ Audio experience, enhanced by aptX-HD® technology.

The B&W PX headphones are predominantly Bluetooth™ driven, although you can connect up manually using a 3.5mm jack cable supplied with them. Thus, they must be paired to each device and this proved fairly straightforward using the supplied instructions. In order to make full use of the noise cancelling an personalised experience, it was also necessary to download the B&W PX app which is available for both iOS and Android. In my case, I downloaded the Android app to run with my Sony Xperia XZ Premium. The app itself was developed in conjunction with Coderus who very kindly worked with me on the app for my Tesla road trip last year, so I was looking forward to both testing the headphones and also reviewing their app at the same time.

After downloading the B&W PX app, I set about trying out the different environmental settings available and I have to say I was immediately impressed. I was able to choose my desired audio profile and also the noise cancellation settings. As noise can sometimes prove an issue here in the office, I got stuck in straight away with testing these features.

 

Noise Cancellation

The headphones are activated by simply placing them on your head and immediately after the noice cancellation kicks in.

Initially you are given three customisable options for noise cancellation, allowing you to pick Office, City or Flight, these three option will give you a preprogrammed cancellation profile based on the background noise you are likely to experience in each of these modes. Interestingly, City worked best for my office. The settings automatically pick the most common voice passthrough settings for the headphones, either off (my preferred setting), Natural or Amplified. All three settings worked great and I liked being able to filter out general noise and still be part of a conversation.

Other options include ‘Wear Sensor’, so when placed on the head, the phones automatically switch on and connect to bluetooth with further adjustment using the ‘Sensitivity’ options.

Aside from the Environment filters, the app also shows you the current battery and firmware status. Yes, we live in a world where improvements to the operation of the headphones can be rolled out to owners, something I experienced with the Tesla Model S.

If you are lucky enough to own a modern Qualcomm compatible mobile device, you can also take advantage of the aptX-HD which is another name for High Definition Bluetooth® wireless audio. This will improve the sound quality of the headphones giving you 24bit sound quality over Bluetooth.

Bowers and Wilkins PX
Bowers and Wilkins PX

Comfort

Without doubt, these are the most comfortable headphones I have ever worn, these absolutely reek of quality and fit brilliants over my ears. Even switched off, they still muffle ambient noise brilliantly.

Real World Use

As expected of a set of high end headphones, the sound quality was rich and bright with great bass and treble production. When testing out audio equipment I am particularly fond of playing Metallic Spheres by The Orb, featuring Dave Gilmour, an album which cries out to be played on high end audio equipment.

I wasn’t disappointed. The B&W PX headphones picked up the layered soundscape of the album majestically and I was happy putting them through their paces more than once during my review.

In Summary

Bowers & Wilkins have produced a superb set of high end Bluetooth Headphones. They have excelled on all fronts, from the excellent build quality, superior sound quality to the intuitive app which makes synchronising the phones a doddle. If your budget stretches to around £329 and you want to listen to music as the artist intended, the B&W PX Bluetooth Headphones are a perfect option available in Space Grey or Soft Gold.

Matt Porter
The Gadget Man

 

Gadget Man – Episode 108 – Why we should care about what our data is used for?

Facebook MobileFollowing on from the ongoing  Facebook / Cambridge Analytica scandal, I was invited to be a guest on James Hazell’s show on BBC Radio Suffolk. We talked in depth about how social networks and apps are using our data.

Please listen in by clicking the ‘play’ button above. Don’t forget to Like, Subscribe, Comment and Share.

Continue reading Gadget Man – Episode 108 – Why we should care about what our data is used for?

The Gadget Man – Episode 106 – Unused Kitchen Gadgets

I chatted to Mark Murphy at BBC Radio Suffolk this morning as part of a discussion about Kitchen Gadgets that have fallen out of use.

We have all bought something for the kitchen to help us cook or prepare food and consequently found that although useful, they end up sitting in a cupboard, in a draw or on top of a kitchen cabinet.

Listen into the audio stream to find out what I thought and how I placed my foot in my mouth at a well known shopping channel.

 

CES 2018 Special – Orbitsound The Dock E30 Speaker

Orbitsound The Dock E30
Orbitsound The Dock E30 Speaker

Today at CES 2018, Orbitsound have announced the launch of their latest Airsound™ product in the form of The Dock E30.

The Dock E30 brings their unique Airsound™ technology and true stereo audio to a new device good looking enough to be the the audio centrepiece of your home.

Featuring wireless Qi charging, USB Type C connectivity, Bluetooth aptX audio and of course WiFi connectivity via Orbitsounds own app which gives uncompressed audio quality, coupled with audio connectivity via 3.5mm AUX and Optical connectivity, The Dock E30 sets new standards for home audio utilising their unique Airsound technology which gives a true stereo experience whilst eliminating the need for a audio sweet-spot. Mobile devices can sit securely on the device in a unique  multi-device ‘groove’.

The Dock is designed with detachable magnetic front grille in a variety of colour schemes. As we other Orbitsound products, its design is restrained and neutral to allow it to sit comfortable in any setting. Listeners should be able to both enjoy the look and the superb sound provided by the device.

Orbitsound The Dock E30
Orbitsound The Dock E30

Orbitsound Managing Director – Dan Fletcher said “Over the years, we have been refining and improving all aspects of our loudspeaker designs, constantly working to create even more realistic sound from practical sized loudspeakers. The Dock E30 leverages our latest work in acoustics; achieving unbelievable bass from a small box and superb clean spatial sound from our patented Airsound technology. Together with new high performance wireless technologies for Bluetooth and WiFi, our ‘Dock’ is a device that I am extremely proud to have created, and am looking forwards to using every day.” 

Airsound was developed by Orbitsound founder Ted Fletcher who has worked in the music production industry for many years and is particularly famous for his work with Dusty Springfield and The Who. The technology is present in all Orbitsound products and sets it apart from the competition.

The Dock E30 Speaker can be extended further by the additional of a 54 wireless subwoofer where higher volumes and bigger audio is required.

I’m a big fan of Orbitsound and I’m looking forward to seeing device soon.

Orbitsound ONE P70W – Connected Speaker Review with All-in-one Airsound, Subwoofer, Wi-Fi and more!

It is always particularly interesting to test technology that has been developed by leaders in their particular sector, so I was very excited about visiting Orbitsound in London to have a demonstration of their ONE P70W Speakers.

Orbitsound ONE P70W - All-in-one Airsound with Subwoofer and Wi-Fi and more! review by Matt Porter, The Gadget ManOrbitsound was founded by Ted Fletcher, the inventor of Airsound™ technology. Ted has been working for many years as a  musician, audio engineer, electronics designer and studio designer, to give the listener a more realistic, more immersive sound experience. These years of experience in the industry led to the release in 2017 of the Orbitsound ONE P70, the worlds first multi-orientation speaker, meaning regardless of where you stand, it sound remains the same.

Orbitsound ONE P70W - All-in-one Airsound with Subwoofer and Wi-Fi and more! review by Matt Porter, The Gadget Man
The controls for the Orbitsound ONE P70W are found at the side of the speaker

The P70W is designed in such as way that it can be shelf or wall-mounted. It has a narrow design (700mm wide x 173mm deep x 77mm high), this allows for comfortably mounting below a flat screen television or on a wall as a ‘party’ speaker. It’s built from wood and steel and can be purchased in matte black, bambo or bone white weighing in a 5.1kg.

Orbitsound ONE P70W - All-in-one Airsound with Subwoofer and Wi-Fi and more! review by Matt Porter, The Gadget ManSound is provided by two (front and top) 2″ ‘Orbitsound MK4 drivers’, a Sub-bass low-profile 5.25″ driver and 2X2 Airsound Orbitsound MK4 drivers. By positioning the main speakers both front and top mean that sound production is maintains regardless of how the speaker mounted.

Connectivity is provided by Bluetooth, Optical cable, 3.5mm stereo jack and the Wi-Fi. The Wi-Fi feature is the most impressive as it allows streaming of audio from a variety of sources without the loss of quality associated with Bluetooth, effectively allowing for uncompressed playback of music. It also allows for multi-speaker / multi-room playback with perfectly synchronised sound and zero delay. This is achieved by using the Orbitsound Smartphone app (Android and iOS) which supports streaming providers and internet radio stations and allows you to ‘group’ sets of speakers to create one virtual speaker. When I was given a demonstration of this at the Orbitsound offices, 3 separate speakers, both wall and shelf mounted were grouped together using the app. I was then asked to close my eyes to try and decide where I thought the sound was coming from. It was unearthly as it sounded like it was coming out of thin air, very impressive!

Orbitsound ONE P70W - All-in-one Airsound with Subwoofer and Wi-Fi and more! review by Matt Porter, The Gadget Man
The Orbitsound App running on Android. Streaming from Tunein

The app currently supports TuneIn, iHeartRadio, Spotify, Tidal, Napster, Apple Music (iOS only) and of course your own device stored music. If you are absolutely focused on using other services such as Google Play Music or Amazon, then you can of course stream using Bluetooth. I used the speak in conjunction with my Amazon Dot, as well as my iMac and Xperia XZ Premium, all worked flawlessly.

I was also able to connect the speaker to my Freesat HD box using the supplied optical cable. This worked great, although the Freesat box had a bug with Netflix which meant it would only broadcast Dolby sound. This was a simple configuration on the Freesat box and all was working again.

The speaker comes with very nicely designed remote control and you can also use you own remote control using the speakers ‘learning mode’. I was able to control the speaker using my TV remote within a couple of seconds of setup.

The people at Orbitsound definitely had the environment in mind when they designed the P70W as it is built to power-down  components that aren’t used, but power up instantly when required.

Orbitsound ONE P70W - All-in-one Airsound with Subwoofer and Wi-Fi and more! review by Matt Porter, The Gadget ManQuite a bit of thought has gone into small details on the P70W with the inclusion of reversible LED information display and Orbitsound badge. This might seem small things but they count as you really wouldn’t want to be showing off your new speaker to friends and have the badge upside down. integrated wall mounting and 200mm VESA bosses and bolts are included to allow you to get going straightaway with unnecessary visits to AV stores to buy mounting kits. There is also a protective sleeve for the speaker, to protect it when not in use.

The speaker also comes with a standard power cord, aux cable, quick-start guide and safety and warranty information, all packaged up in a very smart box. The useful inclusion of a carry handle was helpful too, as I carried a demonstration unit to the train station.

The Orbitsound P70W feels like a speaker that can fit many needs, be that as a Sound-bar for your TV, a party speaker for gatherings of people and the facility to extend your listening experience to multiple speakers. The smart design of the speakers means that it they would sit very comfortably in a professional or public environment. The whole family has really enjoy the quality and versatility of the speaker and we’ll be sad to see it go.

At £399, the Orbitsound P70W is great value for buyers looking for a richer smoother sound regardless of their position in the room.

Sony Xperia XZ1 Review – The Super Slow Motion, 3D Capture, HDR Video, Smartphone #gadgetroadtrip

In the lead up to the East West Road Trip in October I was looking for a smartphone to enable me to document the trip both with photographs and video and was particularly keen to live stream the video where possible. 

Initially I was looking to live-stream the trip using a 360° camera, unfortunately this didn’t come off and I was faced with a last-minute race to find an alternative literally 2 days before we were departing! 

Fortunately, I was offered the Sony Xperia XZ1 phone with 30gb of data from EE. This solved by data anxiety problems immediately and having used Sony Xperia devices in the past, I was confident they would step up to the plate with image and video quality. 

Sony are an extremely well-established tech companies, in fact for many years they were ‘the’ tech company of choice and it’s no secret the mobile phone market is dominated by two other big tech brands, so I was interested to see how the XZ1 would differentiate itself in an ultra-competitive industry. 

Out of the box, the Sony XZ1 is a sleek, smooth, black device, with Gorilla Glass 5 front facing glass and deep black aluminium at the back, a departure from the super-sized XZ Premium from earlier in the year which was covered from and rear in glass.  With dimensions of 5.83″ x 2.87″ with a thickness of 7.4mm, this is not the most gigantic handset and its smooth edges make it comfortable to hold, although it is very smooth, so hold on tight! Aside from black, the device is also available in Moonlit Blue, Warm Silver and Venus Pink, so plenty of choice. 

The phone is preloaded with the Google Android™ O (or Oreo) operating system and Sony have been very sensitive by not trashing the ideals of the OS by avoiding in the addition of their own ‘enhancements’ in the most part. 

The phone packs a very bright 5.2″ TRILUMINOS™ display driven by BRAVIA® TV technology given HDR compatible playback X-Reality™ producing 138% of standard display colour spectrum, the companies experience in the display market really comes through. The display is noticeably brighter and colour more natural that other phone displays and playing HDR video from YouTube, Netflix or Amazon Prime is incredible. X-Reality™ intelligently removes noise and from videos produces exquisite results, it really is impressive. Some people would criticise the use of a Full HD screen HDR screen instead of the perceived standard of UHD and above, but I would beg to differ, having tried both UHD and 4K mobile devices, I see no real benefits, even when using VR Goggles. 

The beating heart inside of the device is provided by a Qualcomm® Snapdragon™ 835 Processor, positioning the phone in the same bracket at the competition. In addition, storage comes as 4GB of RAM and 64 GB of super-fast UFS internal memory with support for an addition of a up to 256GB micro SDXC. It’s pleasing that support for additional memory has been included with the phone, although it’s quite fiddly adding and removing both Sim card and SD cards with the phone, but on the plus side it’s very accessible. It should be noted that around 9.5GB is used up by preinstalled firmware and applications. 

Click here to Buy the Sony Xperia XZ1 via Amazon

The phone is powered by a 2700 mAh battery, featuring Smart Stamina 3.0 and Qnovo Adaptive Charging which prolongs the life of the battery by ensuring it is charged quickly and safely with the addition of  Qualcomm® Quick Charge™ 3.0.  I’ve come across battery charge management in the past with electric cars and particularly the Tesla Model S, this too allows for quick charging, but upon reaching around 80% full, charging speed is tapered off to ensure the lifetime of the battery. Sony does a similar job with the Xperia XZ1 by intelligently noting owners charge habits and adjusting the charge rate of the phone if for instance you are sleeping and don’t begin using your phone until 7.15am. It is also possible to use the phone to charge other devices using an Android OTG adapter, but in fairness mobile phone battery is at such a premium that use of it for anything other than for the phone itself is rare. 

With normal use the phone easily provides a days use with something left over at the end and this will be using all of the phones features, even some of the cooler ones which I will talk about later. Charging is provided by a Qualcomm® Quick Charge™ 3.0 charger and USB Type C socket. 

Sony Xperia XZ1 reviewed by Matt Porter - The Gadget ManMoving on the the front and rear cameras, Sony has yet again infused the phone with their high quality optics and sensors. The rear facing 9MP Motion Eye™ camera with 1/ 2.3” Exmor RS™ with 1.22μm pixel pitch. The lens is a 25 mm wide G Lens F2.0. Sony again use their own BIONZ™ for mobile image-processing engine to give superb results. There’s a ton of features such as Predictive Capture (motion / smile), Autofocus burst, x8 Digital Zoom, HDR Photo, 0.6 sec Quick Launch & Capture, Predictive Hybrid Autofocus, Anti-distortion shutter, Triple image sensing technology, SteadyShot™ with Intelligent Active Mode (5-axis stablisation) and 4K recording at 30fps. 

However, the ‘pièce de résistance’ is the inclusion of a 960 fps Super slow motion video capture. This is achieved by the inclusion of addition hardware installed directly into the camera sensor in the form of hyper fast dynamic memory which allows for raw footage to be saved directly into the sensor and then drip feed and standard speed back to the standard hardware. Due to the colossal amount of power required to pulling 960 frames per second, the sensor only actually captures .18 of a second at 720hd, stretching it to around 6 seconds of footage.

 

This is called Motion Eye technology and personally I’m looking forward to seeing how this develops for the future, because it’s really impressive. As expected, you need bags of light to capture at this speed, so it works best outside in daylight, I also noticed light flicker in my office due to the refresh  rate of our lights. Normal lighting does not cause his problem though. 

The front facing camera is a saner 13MP 1/ 3.06”  Exmor RS™ for mobile image sensor with 22mm wide angle lens at F2.0, again Sony includes it’s proprietary SteadyShot™ 5-axis stablization technology. 

Sony Xperia XZ1 reviewed by Matt Porter - The Gadget ManThere is one simply AMAZING feature included with the XZ1 which is the 3D Capture mode. This uses software developed by Sony, utilising both processor and camera to allow you to 3D scan objects, share them and even have them 3D printed. It takes a little practice and Sony actively limit the modes available to give you time to get used to simple scans until you are ready to scan ‘freehand’. My initial results were ok, but I soon became adept in scanning some great objects, from peoples’ faces, heads, food and any other object I could think of. This is a tipping point in this industry, no longer do you need super expensive scanners and solutions, you can now use your Sony Xperia XZ1 (and now XZ Premium) to scan 3d objects. It truly is incredible. 

Sony Xperia XZ1 reviewed by Matt Porter - The Gadget ManSony has chosen to stick with traditional Xperia design, this means that the trend of big screens and no bezels isn’t a feature of this phone, instead the phone packs stereo speakers at top and bottom of the phone which in landscape mode gives supreme stereo sound, making use of the Qualcomm® aptX™ HD audio features, the phone can ‘upscale’ lower quality audio to a near uncompressed sound when streaming across Bluetooth. There are a host of other features such as High-Resolution Audio, DSEE HX™, LDAC, Digital Noise Cancelling, Clear Audio+,  S-Force Front Surround, Stereo Recording and Sony’s Virtual Phones technology. The speaker volume has also been increased by 50% over previous models. 

Gaming wise, the phone is going to be able to handle pretty much everything thrown at it at the moment due to it’s highest end spec, but also included is PS4 integration using Remote Play. this allows you to connect to your own PS4 remotely and play your installed games, you can even pair a PS4 gamepad if that appeals. 

The phone retails at £599 off contract, but at the time of writing there are some pretty appealing deals including some nice add-ons, but in the UK you are still looking above £50 per month for two years and more if you want better data allowance. 

Sony Xperia XZ1 Review by Matt PorterAlthough the XZ1 doesn’t pack the 4K display of the XZ Premium, the screen is quite possibly richer, especially in HDR mode, the sound it great and performance very very quick. In a world where it is perceived we only have two choices, Sony have yet again produced a solid handset capable of sitting amongst the best. 

I did end up streaming a fair amount using the Sony Xperia XZ1 during and after the trip and found it to be a very capable device and coupled with an effectively limitless amount of data, it worked well.

On a side note, EE’s 4G network is very impressive and we were able to live stream both through Glencoe and arriving at Ardnamurchan, they pretty much had us covered.

Matt Porter 

The Gadget Man 

 

The Gadget Man – Episode 105 – On the Sofa with Sarah Lilley at BBC Radio Suffolk

As I continue to ride the wave of euphoria of completing the 1200 mile east to west  Gadget Road Trip with my lifelong friend Andy. Today I joined BBC Radio Suffolk’s Sarah Lilley on the Sofa in Ipswich and explained how the challenge came about and how it felt to drive 1200 miles in an Electric Car and why I love Gadgets!

I also talked about how I met Vanessa, how I listen to music and an ill fated trip to Tunisia in 1996.

Listen in to the stream, bookmark the site, we have a LOAD of reviews coming up over the next few weeks, so stay tuned!

Edifier M1380 2.1 Speakers, a compact alternative.

Edifier M1380 2.1 Speakers are a smart choice for students

For the past few weeks I have been testing the Edifier M1380 2.1 Speakers with Subwoofer and Satellites.  As a music fan, I’ve always been a fan of external speakers both PC’s and MP3 players, so when a set of Edifier M1380 speakers arrived at my office, I was eager to give them a try.

The M1380 speakers come with a high quality 5 inch subwoofer bass unit, two satellite tweeters and a wired controller for both muting  and controlling the volume. Bass is adjusted by a control knob on the side of the subwoofer with a 3.5mm audio line-in cable and speaker out connectors for the tweeters.

The subwoofer feels weighty, which gives you confidence that the bass reproduction is going to be good in addition, the build materials feel sturdy. The subwoofer outputs 12W, it’s not up to ‘block party’ standards, but it’s perfectly loud enough to please someone as a second set and is complimented by the the tweeter speakers outputting at 8W each.

The satellite speakers are elevated to a height of 6 inches. This gives the sound the freedom to travel rather than be adsorbed by surrounding furniture and is crisp and pleasant to listen to.

The speakers have been balanced with each other, meaning they work together to produce a rich, pleasant sound and don’t interfere with each other by over-saturating different frequencies.

Edifier M1380 2.1 Speakers Controller
The speaker controlller and earphone socket is useful for computer users

The speaker volume is controlled via a small table mounted dial and mute switch. I like this kind of set up as it allows to to easily adjust the speaker volume by sitting the controller next to your keyboard if you are using them as PC speakers. It also offers a headphone socket, allowing you to plugin your favourite pair without having to reach around behind the speaks and fumble around.

Edifier are very good at producing attractive audio equipment and the M1380 continues this with a modern, matte black setup which would fit in most surroundings and not look out of place.

The price point for the speaker system is around the £49 mark, this feels like great value for such a quality product. If you are looking for a cost effective set of speakers which would suit students heading off for university, these are a great choice.

Matt Porter
The Gadget Man

The Gadget Man – Episode 101 – WannaCry – WannaCrypt – Eternal Blue – What Happened and What to Do?

Following my previous post which can be found here, I talked this morning to Mark Murphy on BBC Radio Suffolk about WannaCry and the effect it has had on the NHS, what needs to be done to stop it happening again and what we can do to protect ourselves.

To read and in depth article on how to protect your computers from such attacks, click here

PLEASE ensure your computers have all their updates installed and make sure you have Anti-Virus software installed.