How can audio progress in today’s market? With digital streaming, the proliferation of High Resolution audio slowly making inroads and the advancement of wireless technologies to take advantage, there’s increasing demand for quality.
Audio-Technica’s answer is the ATH-DSR9BT: the first over-ear headphones to ditch the digital-to-analogue (DAC) conversion process and deliver a true digital signal from source to drivers. The company calls it Pure Digital Drive technology.
Which sounds all well and good, but what does this actually mean? Without a DAC there’s no analogue conversion in this proprietary process and therefore no added distortion for the most accurate reproduction. No conversion means no compromise. And with aptX HD compatibility it’s possible to benefit from formats up to 24-bit/48kHz via Bluetooth (24-bit/96kHz wired).
Ahead of the official DSR9BT announcement – which is set for CES in early 2017 – we were given the opportunity to preview these digitally-focused headphones at a Japanese preview event. Here’s how they stack up.
Audio-Technica DSR9BT preview: Design
Audio-Technica does stress that each new product is built from the ground up, with the DSR9BT no different. However, these new cans do take at least some design inspiration from the earlier MSR7 model – a wired set of over-ears that we’ve long praised for balanced delivery, comfortable wear and well considered price point.
With the DSR9BT in the hand the grey finish has understated appeal. Well, it’s more interesting looking than black anyway. Shame that there’s no brighter colour accents to be found, though, with only the silver sheen of the outer earcups acting as a notable point of differentiation. And we’re not talking shimmery, bling silver like you’d find on Monster headphones: the Audio-Technica cans look sophisticated.
To take full advantage of their wireless nature there are on-headphone controls too. A jog switch for volume adjustment sits next to a touch-sensor to start/stop or accept calls. On the other earcup is the Bluetooth on/off switch to command the built-in battery for wireless listening; if that depletes then it can be recharged via micro-USB – or this port can be used for wired listening at high quality, as there’s no 3.5mm jack.
The controls make sense but are the headphones’ aesthetic weak point: their plasticky finish doesn’t look or feel premium, while the finish lacks cohesion with the rest of the materials. Metal buttons might be to excess, perhaps, but at this £450-500 price point the material choice ought to be better (there’s no final price just yet, all we’re told is “under £500”).
There’s nothing to criticise about the quality of the earcups though. The light grey leather-like finish is well padded for optimum comfort, complete with threaded finish, while the depth of the earcups avoids them pinching or pressing on the ears too much. Even the “left” and “right” markings of the MSR7 have been moved to the insides of the DSR9BT, which looks much neater.
Audio-Technica DSR9BT preview: Sound
Comfort is one thing, but with headphones such as these it’s audio quality that ultimately makes the biggest impact. Here’s where that Pure Digital Drive tech comes into play. Unlike other headphones the DSR9BT include what Audio-Technica calls a “Dnote chipset”, which commands four voice coils in the headphones’ 45mm drivers for optimum dynamics and clarity.
How that translates into audio is interesting because it gives a true interpretation of the recording. Those who are looking for the warmth of analogue might not appreciate that, but what we found is how critical the source material is. Being in Japan we were naturally drawn to Babymetal (but of course) from the available playlist which sounded like a flat wall of sound. There’s something to be said for production standards there: these headphones are so detailed that they’ll highlight any shortcomings.
Get an exceptional quality recording, however, and results soar to great heights. We dabbled in the known classics, such as Hotel California, which shows the power of a quality recording. Winding the clock forward to 2016 with a slice of Adele’s latest album showed how well the DSR9BT can handle vocals, rich with reverb, in delivering the nuances of a top production. There’s ample bass, too, but the delivery isn’t overdone as it is with so many headphones on the market these days.
Because there are tiers of quality standards, the DSR9BT headphones also feature a trio of LED on the side of one earcup. One represents aptX HD quality, the other aptX (standard), the last AAC and SBC. It’s a subtle way of visually showing the quality of incoming audio. Saying that, it’s not especially clear how this system works without knowing about it in advance – and who reads a manual?
Furthermore you’ll need the necessary source device to get the utmost quality. Our preview session was with an LG G5, given its aptX HD compatibility. Not all phones, for example, are capable of delivering the highest quality. But even if you don’t dig into Flac file playback or tuck into Tidal for your streaming, you can expect decent audio delivery.
If comfort, top audio quality with well considered balance and wireless listening are your priorities then the Audio-Technica ATH-DSR9BT are future standard-setting audiophile headphones. If the potential near £500 price tag gives you the fear, however, then the similar ATH-DSR7BT (which has one voice coil, rather than the four) ought to be priced near the £300 point with a potentially wider market appeal.
If you believe WikiLeaks, someone is trying to silence founder Julian Assange. The truth-through-disclosure group is claiming that a “state party” has cut Assange’s internet access at the Ecuadorian embassy in London. It isn’t naming the culprit at this stage, but does say that it has “activated the appropriate contingency plans.” In other words, Assange might not be completely isolated — however, he probably won’t be communicating quite so freely in the foreseeable future.
It’s tempting to pin the cut on the US, which alleges that WikiLeaks is supporting Russian attempts to manipulate the presidential election through database hacks. If you deny Assange his voice, you deny him a chance to skew the vote, right? However, it’s not certain that this is the case. WikiLeaks didn’t respond to the BBC’s requests for comment, and the embassy says it “cannot disclose” what’s going on. Assuming the cut was deliberate in the first place, there’s no guarantee that it was both a government-backed operation and that the US was behind it. Simply speaking, we need more evidence to reach a definitive conclusion.
Julian Assange’s internet link has been intentionally severed by a state party. We have activated the appropriate contingency plans.
— WikiLeaks (@wikileaks) October 17, 2016
Source: WikiLeaks (Twitter)
The Screen Actor’s Guild – American Federation of Television and Radio Artists has announced that it will advise its members appearing in video games to take industrial action on Friday, October 21st. It’s the culmination of a pitched battle between the union and the video game industry over how artists are compensated. SAG president Gabrielle Carteris said that despite months of negotiations, the pair haven’t reached a fair agreement to cover actors appearing in “the most popular games in the world.”
The issue centers around how performers aren’t compensated for appearing in games the same as they would for movies. In the words of Carteris, this is a “highly profitable industry” and that the strike is a way for SAG to secure for actors the “benefits they deserve.” In addition, Deadline Hollywood explains how developers frequently use non-union labor or union labor for non-union jobs, causing consternation. Finally, voice actors feel that they’re getting a raw deal, being forced to scream for hours on end without breaks — which can cause permanent damage to their voices.
A lawyer representing the other side issued a statement saying that he was “disappointed” to learn of the strike action. He adds that SAG’s posturing may not be entirely worthwhile since it represents less than a quarter of all video game performers. In addition, the coalition of video game firms said that performers currently earn more than $100 per hour, plus benefits, with many bringing in a lot more. Finally, it was noted that companies are actively looking to “reduce the burdens on performers” to ensure vocal stress doesn’t become a thing.
Negotiations between the two parties are set to continue for the next few days in the hope of coming to resolution before the walkout begins.
Via: Deadline Hollywood
Source: PRNewsWire, SAG-AFTRA
We got our hands on LG’s Android Nougat-equipped V20 last month and found a solidly built (if somewhat conservative) new flagship device. Now that the V20 is getting ready for its public debut on October 28th, we can finally nail down how much this thing costs: at launch, a full retail price V20 can be yours for a cool $769.
That price comes from T-Mobile’s pre-order page so your mileage may vary depending on your carrier and plan. On AT&T, for example, it’ll end up costing around $830 total if you go for the AT&T Next Every Year plan and pony up the $35 monthly installments for 24 months.
The V20 packs a 5.7-inch Quad HD main display (plus a second display for notifications), Snapdragon 820 processor, 4GB of RAM, 64 GB of storage and a two-camera setup that combines an 8-megapixel wide-angle sensor with a second 16-megapixel sensor. So, at the lower end of the pricing options, that puts LG’s first Android 7.0 Nougat phone roughly on par with a 64GB iPhone 7 (and, for what it’s worth, the V20 comes with a headphone jack). On the other hand, it’ll cost you about $120 more than a baseline Google Pixel with comparable specs. Either way, expect that $769 price to translate to the rest of the market and look for Engadget’s full review when we’ve had a chance to play around with a final production model.
Booking the cheapest flight can be daunting. Should you book from an airline’s site or go with something like Expedia? Plus, there’s the trick of using Chrome in Incognito Mode can usually save you a few bucks. Of course none of those tell you when is the best time to buy tickets. That’s what Google Flights is hoping to do.
A Google Flights update is rolling out today that will notify users when the price of a flight is expected to increase. A card will pop up that say how much the cost will go up and in how many days. This is in addition to sharing tips on how to lower a ticket price by showing nearby airports and alternative dates.
The flight information is based on historic data so it might not be 100 percent accurate. Still, if you’re booking a big trip and you want to get the best possible price this is another trick you can use to get where you’re going without emptying your bank account.
It would seem that the company really wants you to go on vacation. In addition to the new Flights features, last month it introduced Google Trips to help you find interesting things to do while you’re away. As for this latest feature, the update is rolling out now and should be available to everyone within the next few weeks.
Source: Google Flights
What do you do when your most well-known creation gets transformed into a hate symbol through bigoted memes? For Matt Furie, the creator of Pepe the Frog, you fight back with memes of your own. Furie announced last week that he’s teaming up with the Anti-Defamation League, which labeled Pepe as a hate symbol last month, to promote positive messages of the frog under the #SavePepe hashtag.
“As the creator of Pepe, I condemn the illegal and repulsive appropriations of the character by racist and fringe groups,” Furie wrote in a statement. “The true nature of Pepe, as featured in my comic book, ‘Boys Club,’ celebrates peace, togetherness and fun. I aim to reclaim the rascally frog from the forces of hate and ask that you join me in making millions of new, joyful Pepe memes that share the light hearted spirit of the original chilled-out champion.”
To kick things off, Furie depicted Pepe’s “alt-right election nightmare” for the comic site The Nib, which I’d wager is pretty close to his own experience of seeing the character co-opted by hate groups. Even though Pepe was originally held up as a slacker icon, it become a symbol of anti-Semitic and racist imagery for the alt-right movement online. Pepe even popped up in images shared by Donald Trump and his son, which prompted Hillary Clinton’s campaign to point out how it’s being used as a symbol of racism.
While there’s still a long way to go to reclaim the character, it’s intriguing to see Furie essential fight meme fire with meme fire. And hopefully the new messaging will actually take off with the kinder side of the web.
Source: Time, ADL
This post was done in partnership with The Sweethome, a buyer’s guide to the best things for your home. Read the full article here.
Small homes are fragile ecosystems. Throw in some clutter, and a small space becomes chaotic, cramped, and generally unpleasant. But when everything’s in harmony and organized, even the tiniest space can feel expansive. To find pragmatic solutions that work for tiny-home owners as well as renters who can’t rebuild their space, we reached out to a number of small-space experts for their advice. Some of our picks come directly from these experts or existing Sweethome guides; other recommendations are the result of more than 60 hours of collective research and testing. The following items will help you maximize your space, no matter what your square footage.
Air mattress for guests
The Sound Asleep air mattress is supportive and tall, with excellent customer support.
Entertaining overnight guests in a small home can be challenging. After looking at 21 options that included a camping pad and a futon, we determined that the SoundAsleep Air Mattress (also available in queen) is the best solution for most people. It’s the top recommendation on Sleep Like the Dead, too. The mattress comes with its own pump and a dial to automatically inflate to optimum firmness or deflate completely for storage. The flocked top sits 19 inches above the floor, making getting into and out of bed much easier.
But what really sets the SoundAsleep apart is exceptional customer service. The mattress comes with a one-year warranty, which should cover any leaks you may get (and all air mattresses are susceptible to them). Reviewers rave about their experiences with the company, and Sleep Like the Dead’s 97 percent satisfaction rate reflects that.
The Breville Control Grip takes up a fraction of the space of a full-size blender. Photo: Michael Hession
Many small kitchens don’t have the room to stow a full-size blender or food processor. The Breville Control Grip can pureé soups, blend smoothies, emulsify mayonnaise, and even chop small quantities of nuts or whip cream (with the right attachments). After testing seven models, we found the Breville had the strongest motor and the best range of speeds, and was the only one with a handy gasket at the base that will keep the blade cage from suctioning to the bottom of the blending container (common with stick blenders).
If you think you’ll use an immersion blender pretty infrequently (once a week or less), we also like the Cuisinart CSB-75 Smart Stick 2-Speed Immersion Blender. It produces chunkier pureés and smoothies than the Breville, and doesn’t come with any chopping or whipping attachments, but we found the Smart Stick performed as well as, if not better than, spendier models in our test.
The Hoover Air Cordless stick vac does great work as an upright and as a handheld. Photo: Liam McCabe
One of the great benefits of living in a small apartment is that you have a lot less space to vacuum. After spending 35 hours researching 50 cordless vacuums and 20 hours testing the top contenders, we have found that we prefer the Hoover Air Cordless 2-in-1 BH52120. It’s one of the most powerful and versatile cordless floor vacuums we tested. It handles like an extension of your arm when cleaning floors, and the actual vacuum part pops out into a stand-alone hand vacuum with a variety of accessories for cleaning upholstery and narrow stairs.
In our testing, an 11- to 15-minute battery life was plenty long enough to clean an entire 800-square-foot apartment in one charge. And because it’s wireless, you can use it in your car, too. Just make sure to clean it if you notice any loss in suction power. Clogs do occur from time to time and will dramatically reduce performance if unaddressed. But at least it’s easy to clean because it comes apart at all the major joints where gunk likes to accumulate.
Sonos is easy to use and sounds great. Photo: Michael Zhao
The Sonos Play:1 is designed to fill your whole house with music—allowing you to play different music and podcasts in each room. But it’s great for small spaces too. The benefit to this type of speaker over a Bluetooth or Airplay speaker is that it doesn’t depend on your phone as an audio source. So you can just choose what to play, then move around freely, take calls, watch videos, or whatever, with no disruption to the music being played. We’ve tested every system worth trying and Sonos remains the best one. It supports more streaming services and has a more streamlined search than anything else, and every speaker Sonos offers sounds amazing. The Sonos Play:1 is an affordable entry point to the system that sounds great on its own, but even better as a stereo pair. These speakers may be small, but they’re loud enough to fill almost any room in a small apartment with great sound.
The Vornado 660 keeps air circulating without hogging precious floor space. Photo: Marshall Troy
If you need a fan, the Vornado 660 is hard to beat. At about 12 inches wide and 13 inches tall, the Vornado 660 has a small footprint but can create a 100-foot-long airstream. With horizontal and vertical airflow positions, it can easily blast any corner of a room. User reviews also note that the 660 makes virtually no vibration or mechanical noise, and in our guide to fans, our reviewer found that the lowest of its four settings is whisper quiet. The 660 isn’t cheap, but it is one of the most powerful fans we’ve found in its class. The consensus in most user reviews is that it’s worth the money.
This guide may have been updated by The Sweethome. To see the current recommendation, please go here.
You buy a kid-proof tablet to give young ones a safe environment to play their favorite games and videos, so wouldn’t it make sense to buy a tablet from an outfit making all that content? PBS thinks so: it’s introducing the Playtime Pad, a self-branded Android slate (technically made by Ematic) that serves as a showcase for all its educational programming. It comes preloaded with over 25 PBS games and 120 videos, as well as preloaded PBS apps for streaming and creative play. Your children can watch Ready Jet Go without asking you to download something first, which might be important when they’re looking for something to do in the middle of a road trip.
Thankfully, parents have full Google Play access — you can download more apps if your kids want to watch Netflix or play a favorite game. PBS is shy on the specs for the tablet, but we wouldn’t expect a powerhouse between the 7-inch screen and 16GB of storage. You do get front and back cameras, however, and the rugged design should (hopefully) survive the inevitable round of drops and bumps. More importantly, it’s affordable enough that you might not panic if Junior does smash it to pieces. The Playtime Pad will sell for a modest $80 when it goes on sale November 6th, and you can pick it up at both Best Buy, Walmart’s website and PBS’ own store.
Meat alternatives are becoming a holy grail for food producers — not just to tap the growing vegetarian and vegan market, but also because animal farming is resource intensive. Even so, people who would prefer something that hews close to the taste, texture and smell of meat don’t have a lot of options. The Impossible Burger, which uses plant proteins to create a “meaty” patty, remains exclusive to only four restaurants in New York and California. However, Beyond Meat is taking its own plant-based protein straight to your home, with a burger you can buy in supermarkets.
Beyond Meat has been researching the idea of building protein products out of plants for more than seven years. It eventually settled on a formula that uses pea protein with some canola and coconut oil to create a slightly fatty, cholesterol-free patty that’s even the right shade of red thanks to the addition of beet juice. It actually changes color as it cooks too — something I got to see in action at Mother of Pearl in New York, where Beyond Meat held a special tasting to celebrate the burger’s release.
Each uncooked quarter-pound patty is round and reddish-pink right out of the package. The current formula contains methylcellulose derived from vegetables for binding, so it can’t be easily reformed into meatballs or other beef products the way a package of ground meat can. The patties held their shape very well on the griddle and began to change color, with a small ring of grease collecting under each one.
The chef holding the demonstration that day noted that that one difference between meat products and the Beyond Burger is that this doesn’t have levels of doneness, so you can’t have it rare, medium or well done. It’s either cooked or not cooked, which takes three minutes per side. Beyond Meat specifically recommends you don’t eat it raw for “your safety and satisfaction.” There is no soy, gluten or tree nuts outside of a bit of coconut oil, making the Beyond Burger safe for people with allergies.
The burgers were first served naked, without buns or toppings, to give attendees a taste of the product itself. The pieces I tried certainly tasted like beef, nailing that savory greasiness you’d expect. It hewed closest to the flavor profile of a well-done patty, with some light char to it. However, I tend to prefer my burgers medium for taste and texture reasons.
Indeed, the texture is the most damning thing here. While I found the Impossible Burger to be softer and chewier than beef, Beyond’s patty lands at the other end of the spectrum. It’s tough, though not impossible to eat. It was also inconsistent: Some parts seemed more gamey than others, like cheap ground meat you’d buy with a higher level of gristle. Those bits were still edible, but they threw off the mouthfeel.
Now, most people don’t eat burger patties by themselves. To actually be called a hamburger, it needs to be on a bun, maybe with some toppings. So Beyond Meat arranged to have chefs from three New York restaurants take a stab at the Beyond Burger. I got to try two of them, each showcasing the plant patty in different ways.
The concoction from Freud, an Austrian eatery in Greenwich Village, was probably the most traditional of the group. The white cheddar on top kept it from being vegan; the other ingredients were caramelized onion jam, sauerkraut and dijonnaise. The whole thing came on a brioche bun. It was good, with the slight sweet and sour taste of the toppings complimenting each other well. But the gaminess of the patty remained. But that’s not to say I couldn’t be fooled into thinking it was animal meat; in the context of those ingredients, it reminded me of an elk burger.
The other dish I got to try was from Ainsworth Park, an establishment best described as an upscale sports bar. So it’s funny that the chef opted for a slightly less traditional pita for the bread. But the rest of the ingredients were a little more what you’d expect: a baked onion ring, BBQ sauce and some blistered shishito peppers. I wasn’t a fan of the pita, but its toughness compared to a standard bun actually helped the Beyond patty by creating a more consistent texture throughout each bite. The difference between the Beyond Burger and a standard beef patty became less obvious, making the pita a good choice for “tricking” yourself into thinking you’re eating animal flesh.
Unfortunately, none of these restaurants have any plans to put the Beyond Burger on their menus. You’ll have to assemble these creations yourself — or come up with a few of your own by paying $6 for two patties. That’s expensive compared to standard beef, but on par with other organic options, which often run between $4 and $6 a pound. Right now you’ll find the Beyond Burger at select Whole Foods locations in nine states, including Colorado, Utah and New York. And, with poultry-producer Tyson Foods purchasing a five percent stake in the company this week, that small selection of stores will only grow.
Source: Beyond Meat
While there are already a handful of devices that claim to improve our sleep quality, one little startup from Hong Kong’s Brinc IoT accelerator thinks that it can do a better job. Kello is a sleep trainer that comes in the form of an internet radio alarm slash Bluetooth speaker slash home automation hub, and unlike some of the competition, it doesn’t use any bed sensor, clip-on device nor wearable to track the user’s sleep activity. Instead, it’s all about leveraging “simple, effective and scientifically proven techniques” from specialists to help us sleep faster, wake up better and ultimately change our lifestyle.
Admittedly, I was skeptical at first, because surely the more tracking data the better? Antoine Markarian, Kello’s CEO and Deezer’s former Head of Devices, disagrees. “You have this connected mattress, you know that you woke up six times, but what are you going to do with [this data]?”
Maybe he has a point. What’s more important is to actually tackle the root of the problem: It could have something to do with one’s irregular bed times or bad habit of staring at the smartphone while in bed (which suppresses the release of melatonin, the hormone that makes us sleepy). Similarly, it turns out that hitting the snooze button in the morning only makes us sleepier: You’re effectively confusing your brain just as it’s switching between the wake-up phase and sleeping phase, therefore it’s actually harder to wake up the second time you hit the button, plus the super short periods of sleep serve no purpose to your well-being. So basically, we also need to rely less on the snooze button.
To solve these issues plus other sleep-related pain points, Kello Labs surveyed over 10,000 people and ended up with six default (and rather self-explanatory) programs for its device: “Bedtime Alert,” “Fall Asleep Fast,” “Fight Jet Lag,” “Power Naps,” “Wake Up Earlier” and “Snooze Less.” These work alongside each other, and more will be added at a later date.
The most important feature here is perhaps the “Fall Asleep Fast” program, which can be toggled with a long press on the Kello’s shell. This is basically a breathing exercise that uses both the LED display and soothing music — be it from the preloaded library, Deezer, Spotify, Soundcloud, Tidal or even just muted — to slow you down to the ideal six breaths per minute. The startup claims that this will make you fall asleep 2.5 times faster than usual (provided that you leave your phone to a side, of course). “Power Naps,” on the other hand, simply “plays the right music for the right amount of sleep” for a quick charge during the day.
As mentioned earlier, regular bed times also contribute to high quality sleep. To help us achieve this, “Bedtime Alert” tells you via both the app and the device’s LED screen — in the form of a starry sky — when it’s time for bed. When you’re ready, just tap Kello to check in, so that it logs your bed time for future adjustment.
As a jet-setter, I’m a fan of the “Fight Jet Lag” program. A week before your trip, simply tell the companion app where you are, where you’re going, when you’re going and how long you’re staying there, and it’ll set reminders for sleeping plus daylight exposure to help you adjust to the new time zone, in order to minimize jet lag. It’s worth noting here that you’re not expected to bring Kello with you on your trip, as these reminders will be served by the app alone, but personally I think I would like to bring the device with me — I’ll just have to throw the power adapter into the suitcase as well.
This leaves us with “Wake Up Earlier” and “Snooze Less” for the mornings. The former lets you set a personal wake-up goal, so that Kello can shave off a few minutes from the previous alarm time every day to let you slowly adjust. This is apparently more effective than trying to jump directly to your new desired wake-up time, as you may just end up snoozing your way back to your current one.
Speaking of which, “Snooze Less” is a gamification program that limits the number of time you can hit the snooze button (which is just the shell on Kello) each week, so if you want, you can save up snoozes as a reward for the weekend. For those who are up for a challenge, you can even set it to play bizarre music or even motivational speeches after the first snooze, but this might not go down well for those who share a bedroom with someone else.
As a bonus, Kello comes with a USB port (5V/1.5A) on the back to let you charge up your phone over night. For those who want to dabble with home automation, Kello also supports IFTTT, SmartThings and Philips Hue, meaning you can set it to automatically turn on the lights and even brew coffee when the alarm goes off, or assign the shell’s double-tap input to toggle other actions — be it for locating your phone, toggling the air conditioner, adjusting the thermostat, turning on the TV and more.
As with all fitness products, Kello ultimately requires self-discipline from the user. After all, its goal is to change your lifestyle for better sleep. If you think this is something that will suit you, it’s currently available on Kickstarter for $109 per unit, with the color options being “Mint Green,” “Cerulean Blue” and “Pearl Grey.” Expect it to deliver in March next year.