Wednesday, February 1, 2017

CES 2017



Fifty Years of Showcasing Consumer Electronics….

© 2017 BOB SKIDMORE ALL RIGHTS RESERVED

BOB SKIDMORE

CORRESPONDENT


As is the case at the start of every new year, manufacturers, retailers, entrepreneurs and the media gather in Las Vegas for the largest exhibition of consumer products of its kind. This year was no exception with over 3800 exhibitors and 165,000 plus attendees in attendance. What made this a very special event was the commemoration of fifty years of existence since the first exhibit in 1967. The first show was held in New York City in collaboration with the New York Hi-Fi Show, and yes, I was there for that event too. I’m reporting on just a few unusual items from the show since CES has literally thousands.

In recent years, we’ve seen the auto industry join the array of exhibitors. This year we saw the addition of Nissan and Honda. 


Toyota unveiled the Concept-i, a concept car for the year 2030. It utilizes a single wide-screen, 3-D, full-color Head-Up display that blends into the interior with plenty of gee wiz gadgets for sure. http://toyota.us/2j92IT7


For the water sports enthusiast, the PowerVision’s underwater drone,  known as PowerRay, is a drone that can navigate 30 meters below water and uses sonar to assist in tracking fish. With its built-in wi-fi, PowerRay sends alerts back to the user’s smartphone on land that fish are nearby. It will even capture 4K video and pictures. Preorders for this $3000 tool start in February. http://bit.ly/2ittDud


LG introduced the “W”, a/k/a WALLPAPER, an unbelievably thin 65˝ or 77˝ 4K OLED flat screen. It’s so lightweight that it attaches to the wall with magnets and is designed to look like you’re watching TV through a window or picture on the wall. No price, release date or web link were available at press time.


In wearables, MOTIV introduced the ultra light titanium Smart Ring. This ring is designed to be worn constantly since it maintains a 3 – 5 day charge. This ring measures active minutes, heart rate, calories burned, distance, activity type, sleep duration, resting heart rate and steps. It works with iPhone ios 9.0 or later and charges in less than ninety minutes. Available by preorder at $199 in rose gold and slate gray. http://bit.ly/2jFXI7m


CMRA presented their solution to an upgraded camera for the Apple Watch. Incorporated into a sleek looking watchband that 007 would be proud of, are two HD cameras. One is aimed frontwards (2 mega pixels) for selfies and the other outward (8 mega pixels) for general use. An all day battery can capture 100’s of photos or up to thirty minutes of video per charge. LED indicators indicate when either camera is in use. Available by preorder with a Spring delivery target date. Preorders include an $80 discount and free charging dock. $249.00 MSRP. http://getcmra.com/


Vuzix introduced a pair of sunglasses that appear to be headed where Google left off. These glasses pair up with Android devices and display what’s on the screen in the right lens. You can watch videos, get directions and read text messages. The glasses are voice controlled or by a touch pad on the right stem. The left lens is for snapping photos with the built-in camera. Availability third quarter and price TBA. http://bit.ly/2jhlb22


Kodak, who reintroduced the Super 8mm camera at last year’s show, did it again by bringing back EKTACHHOME film. This classic film will be offered for both still photography and Super 8mm motion picture film formats. Professional Ektachrome, a color positive film, will be available in a 135-36x format. Availability of both products is expected sometime in the fourth quarter of 2017.


DOK Solutions introduced a new docking product known as the DOK Talk CR25. It’s a device that’s compatible with every smartphone brand and charges up to any five portable media devices. USB Beam Forming Technology incorporates multiple microphones that “hear” from across the room. SCD technology adjusts current flow to ensure proper charging and includes surge protection. DOK teamed up with Amazon to allow playing songs from Amazon’s Prime Music, Spotify, Pandora, iHeartRadio and TuneIn.  It can also manage your Amazon Echo and like Alexa it can answer questions, read audio books, and offer news, traffic and the weather. It gives information on local businesses, provides sport’s scores, schedules and much more. The CR25 can serve as a timer too. MSRP $189 - Shipping April 2017. http://bit.ly/2iNPaur

Robots were all over the show as were many products integrating the use of Amazon’s ECHO Alexa, voice control modules. Watch for future Alexa integration in many name brand products. CES was again a huge success!

Images: By the manufacturer or Google Images

Bob Skidmore is a freelance writer, who may be contacted at bob.thegadgeteer.skidmore@gmail.com, or followed at twitter.com/bskidmore for the latest gadget industry news. He does not represent, or endorse any of the products he reviews and his opinions are solely his points of view and not those of the manufacturer. The manufacturer generally supplies products at no cost for the articles and no other compensation is received. THE GADGETEER is highly selective as to products he feels worthy of review so as not to waste the reader’s time, thus the reason for many superior ratings. In some cases news services and press releases made available to the GADGETEER are used to compile this column.

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Sunday, January 1, 2017

JBL Flip Bluetooth Speakers



A Portable Speaker For Smartphones, Tablets & TV’s

© 2017 BOB SKIDMORE ALL RIGHTS RESERVED

BOB SKIDMORE

CORRESPONDENT


The sound that emanates from a smartphone, tablet or computer is often less than desirable, especially if you’re listening to your favorite music. World-renowned JBL, a leader in speaker technology, has an interesting solution.

The JBL Flip 2 and 3 are small cylinder shaped portable speakers with a wide volume range. They easily connect to Bluetooth devices wirelessly, but include a mini input jack when Bluetooth is unavailable. On/Off, volume and an indicator LED are mounted on the side panel. The model 3 is even splash proof. All models are available in various colors and an optional travel case is available.

(TIP: Splash proof means it’s protected against rain, spills and the manufacturer claims you can even clean it with running tap water, something I have not tried.)

I tested the Flip 2 and found it to work very well for the intended purpose. When connected with a smartphone it serves not only as a speaker, but also as a microphone, allowing two-way communication when taking phone calls. This is ideal for conferencing a call with a group of people, making it a perfect small meeting room solution. As a portable speaker it easily connects to tablets, computers, portable satellite radio receivers and TV’s. Since some of these devices do not feature Bluetooth, a mini jack is provided. 

In a previous column, I discussed the Behringer HA400 distribution box. http://bit.ly/2gMj7Mb Either Flip will easily connect to it making it an easy way to provide TV sound close by without disturbing others. I used it between the pillows while watching late night TV. I’ve also used it as an external speaker for my laptop. The volume range and sound quality far exceeded the computer’s built-in speaker system. Since both models include a built-in battery, the mobility factor is greatly enhanced.

(TIP: Battery life is about 10 hours. Charging is possible with the included wall charger. In any power mode the speaker should not be covered up. It needs proper ventilation to prevent possible damage caused by over heating.)

The Flip 2 and 3 are great solutions to extending and improving the sound intensity of your devices. They are very durable, small, lightweight and portable making them ideal for use even by sound and video professionals. The applications are simply endless. FLIP is a sound solution to your listening experience!

GADGETEER’s RATING: ★★★★★

MSRP:  $69.95  ~ $79.95 ~ Travel Case $24.95

For more information go to: http://www.jbl.com/flip/

Graphic credits: Amazon

Bob Skidmore is a freelance writer, who may be contacted at bob.thegadgeteer.skidmore@gmail.com, or followed at twitter.com/bskidmore for the latest gadget industry news. He does not represent, or endorse any of the products he reviews and his opinions are solely his points of view and not those of the manufacturer. The manufacturer generally supplies products and press releases at no cost for the articles and no other compensation is received. THE GADGETEER is highly selective as to products he feels worthy of review so as not to waste the reader’s time, thus the reason for many superior ratings.
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Thursday, December 1, 2016

BEHRINGER HA400 ~ A Sound Solution

A Sound Solution.

© 2016 BOB SKIDMORE ALL RIGHTS RESERVED

BOB SKIDMORE

CORRESPONDENT


If you’ve ever wondered how to distribute sound from your smartphone, iPad, TV or other device and not disturb others, the BEHRINGER HA400 may be the answer. Now, before you say, “but there’s Bluetooth”, know that many flat screens and other devices do not offer Bluetooth as an option.

The HS400 is a small amplifier with four ¼ inch phone plug outputs and one input.
Phone plug adapters are readily available to convert to mini or RCA configurations. 


It easily distributes sound to multiple or various individual devices such as headphones and portable speakers, or even a recording device. It offers the capability of up to four listeners to enjoy the sound content from various electronic devices. It also allows you to hard-wire small portable speakers such as the JBL FLIP, a speaker system I will review in a future column. Each output is amplified and individually controlled by its own volume control.

(TIP: Many flat screen TV’s offer an audio output independent of and not controlled by the speaker’s volume control. This allows for the HA400 to function with or without the sound emanating from the TV it’s connected to and is not affected by the TV’s volume control. If you do not have such an output a headphone jack will suffice. In this scenario the volume control will affect the signal going to the HA400. Since the HA400 has amplification this will not be a deterrent allowing for a low volume TV setting.)

The HA400 is powered by a supplied 120~240vac 12 volt adapter making it a worldwide product. Its small size, 2.5 x 5.2 x 7.5 inches, easily packs for travel. It’s lightweight at only 14.4 ounces. The sound quality is outstanding!

Applications include accommodating up to four headphone listeners. It is very handy for the hearing impaired and for late night TV watchers to avoid disturbing neighbors or other family members. The addition of plugging in a small speaker and placing it by your pillow eliminates the need for wearing a headset thus giving you the freedom of movement. Remember, you can still retain a low sound volume on your TV thus giving you a surround sound effect if your TV has an independent output jack. I find the BEHRINGER HA400 a quality German product that meets or exceeds expectations. It could be a peacemaker in your household or with your neighbors! It’s also suitable for musicians needing to distribute a full mix to band members and it aids the hard of hearing.

GADGETEER’s RATING: ★★★★★

MSRP:  $41.99

For more information go to: http://bit.ly/2foOg6c


Graphic credits: Behringer, Google Images

Bob Skidmore is a freelance writer, who may be contacted at bob.thegadgeteer.skidmore@gmail.com, or followed at twitter.com/bskidmore for the latest gadget industry news. He does not represent, or endorse any of the products he reviews and his opinions are solely his points of view and not those of the manufacturer. The manufacturer generally supplies products and press releases at no cost for the articles and no other compensation is received. THE GADGETEER is highly selective as to products he feels worthy of review so as not to waste the reader’s time, thus the reason for many superior ratings.

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Tuesday, November 1, 2016

Shure MV88 iPhone Microphone


A Professional Microphone For Your iPhone.

© 2016 BOB SKIDMORE ALL RIGHTS RESERVED

BOB SKIDMORE

CORRESPONDENT


Recording, like a pro, use to be quite the challenge. Not only did you need an extensive list of costly equipment, you also need the knowledge to go with it. Since the introduction of the iPhone with a lightning connector and Shure’s MV88 iOS Digital Stereo Condenser Microphone, professional recordings by the novice are even achievable.

The MV88 is a small stereo condenser microphone that plugs into your iPhone’s lightning connector.

(TIP: The iPhone 5 is the first iPhone to incorporate a lightning connecter. It replaces the previous thirty-pin connector found in older models used to interface various accessory items. Thirty-pin to lightning connector adapters lack the proper contacts to make adaptation possible.)

The MV88 rotates for flexible positioning making it easy to mount on a stand or camcorder and retain a proper pickup angle. Since iPhones do not include any mounting capabilities, I found the Arkon Tripod Adapter with phone holder the perfect companion. 


This adapter features a female quarter-twenty threaded interface making it easy to affix to a mic stand, or shoe adapter for camcorder mounting. http://bit.ly/2du9Jh4 . You might also find a small tabletop tripod such as the Targus 6˝ TG-CT7, a useful tool. http://amzn.to/2eBtRMe

The MV88 will work with most recording apps, however, Shure offers the ShurePlus MOTIV mobile recording app at no cost through the App store. 


What’s nice about this app is that it’s configured around the MV88’s features. You can select various pickup patterns that are totally adjustable in stereo widths of 60, 75, 90, 105, 120, and 135 degrees. 


A low-frequency cutoff filter is included to eliminate the rumble caused by environmental noises such as wind. Left-right channel swap is possible. It flips the left and right audio channels to match video that is recorded when the microphone is reversed in certain phone/tablet positions. You can record uncompressed audio at multiple bit sample rates. The MV88 also works well as a back-up audio recording when shooting videos. Placing the iPhone closer to the sound source may result in better sound quality. Since these recording are all digital in nature, syncing to video during postproduction editing should be a snap.

Other features include: 36 db adjustable gain; presets to automatically adjust gain; eq, and compression; 5-band equalizer; limiter; compressor and much more. Editing and saving to a camera roll, iTunes and Dropbox are all possible.

(TIP: Be sure to put your iPhone into the “Airplane Mode” prior to making a recording to avoid having the ring and other data notifications from being recorded. It’s also advisable to shut down all other apps so as to conserve battery life.)

The MOTIV product line is extensive and includes other microphones and accessories. I was certainly impressed with the MV88. I used it to record a jazz artist’s memorial service and jam session in a very poor acoustical venue surrounded with glass panels. The results were outstanding and gave the sound of a multiple microphone pickup making it possible to master a CD for distribution. The design is so simplistic that this microphone easily satisfies the needs of both the novice and the professional. You simply use as many or as few of the features as you understand or require, and the results will still be outstanding!

(TIP: When you upgrade to a new iPhone you might consider holding on to your old iPhone as long as it is lightning connector compatible. It could make the perfect stand-alone recorder with all the MOTIV features.)

GADGETEER’s RATING: ★★★★★

MSRP:  MV88 $149.00 ~ Arkon Tripod Mount $14.95

For more information go to: http://bit.ly/1U4fsFu

Graphic credits: Shure; Amazon; Google Images

Bob Skidmore is a freelance writer, who may be contacted at bob.thegadgeteer.skidmore@gmail.com, or followed at twitter.com/bskidmore for the latest gadget industry news. He does not represent, or endorse any of the products he reviews and his opinions are solely his points of view and not those of the manufacturer. The manufacturer generally supplies products and press releases at no cost for the articles and no other compensation is received. THE GADGETEER is highly selective as to products he feels worthy of review so as not to waste the reader’s time, thus the reason for many superior ratings.
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