GRACE NOTES

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Leslie Shapiro  |  Sep 21, 2015  |  3 comments
For most of the country, summer coming to a close signals that it’s time to put away your outdoor gear and head to the gym. In Florida, it signals the best weather to get outside and play. The temps are cooling off, humidity is dropping, and it’s the best time of year for cycling. When two Bluetooth speakers that are water-resistant and shaped to fit in a bicycle waterbottle cage showed up at my house, I decided a speaker shootout was called for. The JBL Charge 2+ and the Scosche boomBottle+ are both next generation products. Let’s see which one is going to become a permanent feature on my bike ride.

Leslie Shapiro  |  Sep 07, 2015  |  0 comments
When Optoma, a home-theater projector company, and NuForce, an audio company joined forces, I’ll admit it I was initially confused. NuForce made nice, niche audio products, and Optoma is mainly only doing projectors. What would their combined efforts produce? Light-emitting earbuds? Projectors with built-in speakers? But it actually makes sense; Optoma purchased NuForce to be able to provide both excellent video and audio to consumers, and they’ve kept the high quality that you would expect from NuForce. How do two new pairs of earphones, the NE750M and the NE800M from Optoma NuForce sound? Let’s find out.

Leslie Shapiro  |  Aug 17, 2015  |  0 comments
Everything needs to be enhanced these days to stand out from the crowd—everyone needs a schtick. Potato chips need wacky truffle-oil flavoring, cars need a carbon fiber wrap, and well, most celebrities keep their plastic surgeons on speed-dial. Even headphones need a hook to make a splash in the over-saturated market. While the Plantronics BackBeat Sense wireless headphones look like ordinary headphones, they are packed with enhancements, including knowing when they’re on or off.
Leslie Shapiro  |  Aug 03, 2015  |  2 comments
Apple has just released the 6th generation version of the iPod touch, with up to 128GB of built-in memory and the same A8 processor as the iPhone 6. It’s a gorgeous device with a 4-inch Retina display, all sleek and shiny and desperately trying to fit in. The question is: in 2015, with nearly 65% of Americans owning a smartphone, who needs it?

Leslie Shapiro  |  Jul 20, 2015  |  0 comments
Face it: life can be hard for our favorite gadgets. I love my gear, but admittedly, I’m not as gentle with it as I should be. The Samsung Galaxy S6 Active was made for people exactly like me. I lead an active life, and my electronics need to be up for the challenge. I ride my bike almost daily, kayak, and hike as often as I can – either along a mountain creek or along the beach. I need my phone (which these days is my camera, music player, and laptop too) to stand up to the rigors of dirt, water, rugged terrain, and less glamorously, sweat. I took the Galaxy S6 Active along this summer to see if it was as active as I needed it to be.

Leslie Shapiro  |  Jul 06, 2015  |  1 comments
Standards and guidelines are a good thing. Just ask anyone who’s ever had an 11-inch long Footlong from Subway. (Subway, interestingly enough, claims that “Footlong” is a descriptive name not intended to be a measurement of length. Seriously?) As audiophiles, we need to make sure that what is called Hi-Res music, is indeed high-resolution, and not just a descriptive name. The Producers & Engineers Wing of The Recording Academy (who presents the Grammy Awards) has come up with a set of production guidelines for high-resolution music. (In full disclosure, I’ve been a voting member of The Recording Academy for over 30 years.)

Leslie Shapiro  |  Jun 15, 2015  |  0 comments
Choice is good. My laptop can convert to a tablet. My hiking pants convert to shorts. My car converts to a stargazing roadster. And my Torque t402v on-ear headphones convert to over-ear headphones. Even better than that—the sound converts from balanced headphones to bass-heavy beasts.
Leslie Shapiro  |  Jun 01, 2015  |  2 comments
While I like to think that every single product in my home should be beyond audiophile quality, the reality is that in some places, I want a product that sounds okay but more importantly, does its job very well. Sure, I could set up the most amazing home theater to use as an alarm clock, but the reality is that I just need a really good alarm clock at my bedside. Thankfully, the JBL Horizon Bluetooth clock radio just showed up at my house. I’m not saying that I’m a gear snob, but I would much rather wake up to a JBL logo than a Timex logo. Just sayin’.

Leslie Shapiro  |  May 18, 2015  |  3 comments
Rdio isn’t new to the highly competitive streaming music market, but they just announced a new price structure that’s garnering some big interest in the music industry. Aiming for the cost-conscious consumer, Rdio has initiated a plan that’s just $3.99 per month, Rdio Select, for an ad-free experience with unlimited skips and 25 downloads. This makes it the cheapest commercial-free subscription streaming service. How does that compare to what they’ve offered before, and why should we care?

Leslie Shapiro  |  Apr 20, 2015  |  0 comments
Good news for audiophiles who like to take control of their music. A while back we reviewed a rather unique pair of in-ear monitors, the Torque t103z (MSRP $180). While they were a really good-sounding earphone, what made them stand out were the interchangeable passive filter valves—patented by Torque as PAVT, Passive Acoustic Valve Technology. When Sound&Vision initially reviewed the t103z, there were only three filter options. Now, we get a chance to listen to three new offerings from Torque Audio. For choosy music lovers (and who here isn’t?) this is great news.

Leslie Shapiro  |  Apr 06, 2015  |  10 comments
In the late 1960’s and early ‘70’s, psychologist Walter Mischel conducted a series of tests at Stanford University. The basic premise put a 4-year-old preschool child in a room with an adult, and two marshmallows. The adult explains that he has to leave the room for about 15 minutes. The child can eat one marshmallow while the adult is gone, but if the child waits until the adult returns, the child can eat both marshmallows. While the basic test is interesting enough, it’s the follow-up that proved most intriguing. The children who showed the most self-control/self-discipline by waiting until the adult returned grew up to have significantly higher SAT scores, lower BMIs, more self-control and self-discipline, and in general, were more successful in life. As music lovers, we failed the marshmallow test.
Leslie Shapiro  |  Mar 16, 2015  |  1 comments
It’s Saturday night! And you know what that means! Once again, you can be the life of the party, creating killer mashups from your killer playlist. The problem, of course, is Ted, who delusionally thinks his killer mashups are more killer than yours. But now you can resolve that issue once and for all. You can whip out your Braven Fuse portable mixer and show him who’s da bomb.

Leslie Shapiro  |  Mar 02, 2015  |  0 comments
It’s rare to be able to mention a feature that’s found on an Android device that wasn’t featured first on an iPhone, probably with a sleeker presentation. Somehow, however, IR remote control ability seems to have been left out of iPhones, even though it was rumored to be included on the iPhone 6. Samsung, LG and HTC all have managed to include IR blasters on their phones, yet Apple devotees have been out of luck if the want to control their home theaters, until now.

Leslie Shapiro  |  Feb 16, 2015  |  3 comments
I was recently working in an anechoic chamber for a few days and the ambience in there (actually, the lack of any) really got me thinking about ambient sounds. Anechoic chambers aren't just silent—it's the absence of any return energy that makes them so unnatural, and after a few hours, downright uncomfortable. You become aware of sounds your own body makes, especially your heart beat in your ears. It’s such an unusual space because it doesn’t really occur in the natural world. Standing on the sandy plain of a desert comes close, but even there, one would hear the movement of air over the ground, and distant ambience. A true anechoic experience almost never happens in our daily lives.

Leslie Shapiro  |  Feb 02, 2015  |  0 comments
It’s rare for a product to “wow” me right out of the box. So I surprised myself when I let out an audible “Ohh” as I opened the box containing the Harman/Kardon Soho Wireless headphones. They just oozed class and elegance—in fact, I’m reminded that I had a similar reaction to the Harman/Kardon Esquire Mini Bluetooth speaker. Black leather, stainless steel, and a hefty dose of panache. Could the Soho Wireless possibly sound as good as they look?

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