Audio

Apple Intros urBeats3 Earphones

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Apple Intros urBeats3 Earphones

Customers get a new Beats earphone option-- the urBeats3, equipped with a Lighting connector for use with iDevices lacking a headphone jack, namely the iPhone 8, iPhone 8 Plus and iPhone X, as well as the iPhone 7 and 7 Plus.

Apple says the urBeats3 earphones feature a "fine-tuned acoustic design" for an "exceptional listening experience." The package includes a variety of eartip options for a custom fit, together with secure-fit wingtips for a more secure fit during workouts. Colour options include silver, gold and black to match the new iPhone model colours.

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The Smart Assistants of IFA 2017

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The Smart Assistants of IFA 2017

Voice-controlled smart assistants were everywhere at IFA 2017, as multiple companies took a stab at putting such capabilities, be it through Amazon Alexa, Google Assistant or Microsoft Cortana, in a piece of hardware.

Surprisingly, while the show took place two assistant makers announced a partnership-- one allowing Alexa and Cortana to play nice with each other. Thus, Cortana users will be able to summon Alexa to shop on Amazon, while Alexa users get access to Cortana features such as calendar management and location-based reminders.

But back to the actual product offerings. On the Alexa side, Logiech UE Boom and Libratone Zipp wireless speakers get the Amazon assistant via update, as will the Bragi Dash earbuds. DTS also had a number of Alexa-enabled products, including the Phorus PS10 wireless speaker, Onkyo Smart Speaker P3 and Pioneer Elite Smart Speaker F4.

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FCC Filing Reveals Sonos Smart Speaker

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FCC Filing Reveals Sonos Smart Speaker

The grapevine has previously suggested Sonos is working on a voice-controlled speaker, and now we have proof in the shape of a filing with the US Federal Communications Commission (FCC).

First discovered by Zatz Not Funny, the filing describes "product model S13," a "high-performance all-in-one wireless smart speaker" featuring "integrated voice control functionality with far field microphones." It also "will support multiple voice platforms and music services, allowing customers to effortlessly control their music on Sonos."

As such, one can imagine a wireless Sonos speaker with support for a wide range of smart assistants, including the obvious likes of Alexa, Google Assistant and Siri. The FCC filing also includes an image of a new UI replete with a prominent microphone icon. This might either be a simple button or a touchable surface, like the one found in the Play:5.

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Monster Headphones Get Voice Control

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Monster Headphones Get Voice Control

Monster joins forces with Speak Music to presents its first voice-powered headphones-- versions of the Elements, Clarity HD and iSport Freedom V2 Bluetooth headphones making part of the MonsterTalk sub-brand.

The headphones allow users to tell their headphones what music to play and ask for a particular song, genre, artist or playlist, providing a "truly hands-free listening and control experience." One can also use voice to access streaming services such as iHeartRadio, Spotify and Tidal, as well as NPR news briefs and iTunes local music.

Providing such functionality is Melody, a companion app promising a seamless listening and control experience across multiple music platform. The Melody service does need a wifi connection, instead using cellular data. To get started, users need to download the free Melody app, follow the on-screen tutorial and pair the Monster headphones with the app via Bluetooth.

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Rapid Growth for DAB Radios

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Rapid Growth for DAB Radios

According to GfK, H1 2017 sees "rapid" growth in DAB+ receiver sales across Europe, in good part driven by the Norwegian switchover from FM to DAB+, as well as the development of digital radio markets across the continent.

The research covers Belgium, Denmark, France, Germany, Italy, Norway, The Netherlands, Sweden and Switzerland. It shows sales ae up by 30% Y-o-Y for H2 2017, reaching 1.1 million audio home systems, tuners, receivers, clock radios, portable radios, radio recorders and aftermarket car radios.

As mentioned earlier, Norway was a key sales drivers-- the country sees H1 2017 sales grow by 192% Y-o-Y. Digital Radio Norway says overall sales total 4.1m, and 78% of Norwegian households own one or more DAB+ sets.

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Alexa Arrives on Ultimate Ears Speakers

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Alexa Arrives on Ultimate Ears Speakers

Two more speakers get integration with the Amazon voice-controlled assistant-- the Ultimate Ears Boom 2 and Megaboom speakers, at least when paired with the Android version of the companion app.

To summon Alexa, users simply need to press the Bluetooth button and issue a voice command with anything Alexa is capable of doing. However, it does involve some limitations. First off, as mentioned earlier it is only available on the Android app, specifically through the exclusive "Just Tap and Ask" feature.

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Tivoli Celebrates Summer With Transparent PAL BT

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Tivoli Celebrates Summer With Transparent PAL BT

Tivoli presents a more summer-y version of the PAL BT Bluetooth speaker-- the PAL BT GLO, a transparent version complete with an internal LED, making it ideal for nighttime parties.

The LED is complete with adjustable brightness level, allowing it to serve as a campfire, candle or full moon substitute. Otherwise the speaker is identical to the non-transparent version, being able to play both AM/FM radio stations and music from any Bluetooth-enabled device.

Power comes from a rechargeable battery Tivoli says lasts for up to 10 hours.

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Balmain Presents Special Edition Beats

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Balmain Presents Special Edition Beats

Apple teams up with French fashion label Balmain for a pair of special edition Beats headsets-- namely the Powerbeats 3 wireless headphones and Studio over-ear wireless headphones.

The two special edition headphones feature a Safari colour with metallic gold accents and Balmain labeling. Also included with the headphones is a matching suede case complete with Balmain plaque and coin zipper pull.

"The Beats/Balmain collection delivers premium sound and exquisite design reflective of Balmain's iconic style," the company says. "The Beats Studio Wireless headphones are finished in Safari color with metallic gold accents to represent Olivier Rousteing's dreamlike vision of an urban safari."

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Smart Speakers, Crime Stopper?

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Smart Speakers, Crime Stopper?

Smart speakers might be able to do more than mere voice-based home control-- ABC News reports an alleged assault could have turned ugly if a smart home device did not inadvertently call the police.

The incident happened in a town outside of Albuquerque, New Mexico, where one Eduardo Barros was house-sitting a home with his girlfriend and daughter. According to the police, the couple got into an argument that got physical. At one point, Barros threatened to kill his girlfriend with a firearm, asking her "did you call the sheriffs?" An unspecified smart speaker connected to the house surround system picked up the message, recognised it as "call the sheriffs," and proceeded to do exactly that.

Thus, following the spot of Minority Report-style crime prevention, the police arrived at the scene. The girlfriend and daughter were saved, and crisis negotiation and SWAT teams managed to take Barros into custody after an "hours-long stand-off."

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Porsche Design Builds Speaker in 911 Exhaust Port

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Porsche Design Builds Speaker in 911 Exhaust Port

Porsche Design presents a wireless speaker ideal for aficionados of all things Porsche-- the 911 Speaker, a Bluetooth-enabled device built within the exhaust port of the Porsche 911 GT3.

The Porsche 911 GT3 features a distinctive pair of exhaust ports wrapped in a rounded, trapezoidal housing. As one might expect, the 911 Speaker features the same aesthetic, only the exhaust ports push the audio of the user's choice, instead of the roar of an H-6 engine.

It offers 60W output and 24 hours of battery life, together with aptX Bluetooth support and construction in "Porsche-grade" aluminium. Customers can also pair two 911 Speakers to create a stereo setup, or use them in Party mode with the speakers playing the same music in separate rooms.

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The Next Smart Speaker Maker: Samsung

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The Next Smart Speaker Maker: Samsung

A perhaps obvious name is throwing the gauntlet in the smart speaker arena, the Wall Street Journal reports-- Samsung is working on an Amazon Echo rival powered by its digital assistant, Bixby.

Codenamed "Vega," the project is hampered by Bixby itself. After all, Samsung is still working on an English language version of the assistant. In fact, while Samsung used Bixby as a Galaxy S8 selling point, the flagship smartphone had to launch without support for English voice commands.

Currently an English language version of Bixby is available in preview form, but the WSJ says a full release is "unlikely before the second half of July."

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