iClever 2-in-1 Bluetooth Adapter Hardware Review

iClever 2-in-1 Bluetooth Adapter Hardware Review

Jun 30, 2017

When it comes down to it, I truly love my wired headphones.

Don’t get me wrong; the relative freedom that one gets from a pair of wireless headphones is beyond par, but I do love t wired pairs, and I am far from a an audiophile. For me, a bluetooth adapter — a receiver — is priceless.

Still, there are times when a bluetooth transmitter is called for; probably not as often as the other type, but still useful to have. This is where iClever looks to be of use… with its Universal Bluetooth Adapter. What it looks to do, obviously, is to do both parts of the adapter work.

The review unit we received was wrapped in its retail accoutrements, and contained the triangular adapter, metal 3.55mm male to male metal piece, USB charging cable and documentation. The main piece is easily palmable. It’s black and grey (with with text), and has a micro-USB port, volume buttons and audio port nestled on the sides, plus a pairing button and a prominent power button on the front face. There are also led lights hidden near the power button, and a switch to go from transmission to reception.

Now, the real life usefulness will be apparent to anyone that uses bluetooth adapters for multiple peripherals. As noted already, not every piece does everything. To, say, transmit audio from a TV to a set of bluetooth earphones, you’d need a bluetooth transmitter to pipe the sounds to the headphones. On the other hand, if you wanted to take your favorite pair of traditional wired headphones and connect them wirelessly to a bluetooth enabled tablet, you’d need a bluetooth receiver puck.

Ah… you get it now. This does both.

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Pairing it was relatively easy, and I was able to do it without reading the documentation. First, we got it to work as a receiver tethered to wired headphones. The sound quality was better than decent, and there wasn’t any discernible delay.

Next, we put it through the paces as a transmitter, plugged into a TV and then paired via bluetooth to a pair of bluetooth headphones. Again, it worked well and kept a charge over time.

As a last test, I decided to do a puck-to-puck connection; I already had a bluetooth transmitter plugged into the TV for use with bluetooth headphones. Can this unit connect to that adapter and provide TV audio to a wired headset?

Yes. Now, it did take a bit of time to connect the two adapters, but when they finally synced, the setup worked flawlessly, with no noticeable lag.

As noted, the great aspect about these is having a piece that can be used as an all-purpose wireless accessory. It is very portable, and can be charged via micro-USB cable. It can be wirelessly tethered to multiple targets at the same time. In a lot of ways, it’s just what the doctor ordered.

And then, there is the price: $19.99. Nice to have, doesn’t break the bank, and is easily transported in the pocket.

EARIN M-1 Wireless Earbuds Hardware Review

EARIN M-1 Wireless Earbuds Hardware Review

Jun 30, 2017

The wireless — truly wireless — earbuds thing has all but shed the “fad” status, especially with more and more reputable manufacturers coming to market with their own unique takes on the concept.

Earin has its M-1 Wireless Earbuds, and we were happy to give them a go.

The review package we received reflects the product in its retail setting. There’s the two earbuds, a cylindrical charging pod, earphone tips and extras, and a micro-USB charging cable. 0.12 oz / 0.57” x 0.79”

Getting the unit ready to go is fairly intuitive; slide them into the charging unit, and plug that into a power source. When the whole setup is full the LED light changes from red to and it’s time to go.

The charging pod did require a degree of precision with regards to insertion of the buds. My first attempt to pair both buds was unsuccessful, but after recharging, I was able to pair the right piece to the left master, and it worked as advertised most of the time.

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Ah… there were a few hiccups with regards to connectivity. There were times the set lost connection with each other, and it was a bit hard getting them back up and running.

If I were to whine, it would be about the barrel charger. It’s a fantastic idea in theory, but I didn’t like the fitting process, as I always felt as though I was putting to much force with regards to snapping the earbuds in and even taking them in. The slide-in mechanism and the LED light help indicate proper placement, but a bit more give would probably be welcome.

If the true test of a product’s efficacy is a struggle to nitpick, this set is good to go. It is sleek, works almost better than advertised, and the portability and usability of the buds and their charging case is admirable.

YEVO 1 Truly Wireless Headphones Launch

YEVO 1 Truly Wireless Headphones Launch

May 24, 2017

Wireless headphones — truly wireless ones — are growing in popularity, and Swedish-based YEVO lab is throwing its hat into the burgeoning ring with its new flagship offering: the YEVO 1 Wireless Headphones.

Yes, it’s worth mentioning again… these are true wireless headphones that incorporate bluetooth technology and near-field magnetic induction.

YEVO Labs founder and president Andreas Vural mentions the products appeal. “We look to uncover the future of audio at YEVO Labs and pride ourselves in pushing the boundaries of technology,” he says. “YEVO 1 not only changes the way people will experience audio, it connects with our customers’ personal individuality and unique style.”

The new headphones are available now for $249 online.

Jabra Elite Sport *Truly* Wireless Headphones Hardware Review

Jabra Elite Sport *Truly* Wireless Headphones Hardware Review

Mar 31, 2017

Now, if truth be told, the truly wireless headphones thing probably has, well, that company to thank. Even still, if any company can be expected to do it well based on reputation alone, Jabra is probably it.

Yep, the Jabra Elite Sport Wireless Earbuds are truly, really wireless, and arrive with high hopes.

So, the review package we got reflects the unit in its retail presentation; inside the familiarly colored box, we get the two individual ear pieces, a matching charging case, ear gels and hooks plus a micro-USB charging cable.

The earbuds themselves are quite small — each is hardly bigger than a bottle top. Both are black, and the relative heft of each piece somewhat betray their functionality.

The charging case is compact enough to be a great carrying utility, and is just big enough to fit both pieces securely. It’s easy to miss the micro-USB charging port at first glance; the whole system easily fits in the palm of the hand.

Upon closer inspection of the individual buds, the controls become a bit more apparent. The right piece serves as master, with power and pairing buttons; the left has the volume toggles.

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Simple and to the point, and pairing was a cinch.

Now, at the heart, these are sport/fitness accessories, and the companion application Jabra Sport underscores this. This app providers a conduit to review gathered information, as also provides coaching and other goodies, like a built-in Cooper Test.

Using it was a blast. It took a while to tweak the fit, but then, for audio, it was great. I was also able to use it as a speaker phone, and a great surprise was the ability to use the right piece singly, as the left piece daisy-chains to the right.

Most of my concerns had to do with the mechanical: proper fit and such. It took a bit of experimentation to get a comfortable fit initially, after which it was smooth sailing. I was surprised with how securely it fit; I wasn’t able to dislodge it “naturally” doing regular use, but the ability to use the one without the other, while great, left me a bit nervous.

All in all, I loved it. It does a lot of things very well, and looks good doing them. It isn’t a cheap solution, but hopefully the eye sweat warranty assuages the price somewhat.

House of Marley Liberate XLBT Wireless Headphones Hardware Review

House of Marley Liberate XLBT Wireless Headphones Hardware Review

Feb 21, 2017

House of Marley. That Marley.

The legendary name is beginning to develop a bit of a following in the audiophile sphere. What’s not to like? Great construction, wireless options and beautiful sound.

Our wishlist is demanding.

This is what the new-ish Liberate XLBT Bluetooth Headphones have to live up to.

The review package HOM sent us reflected the piece in its retail housing; in the box, there is the headphones themselves, audio cable (hint, hint) and a nifty fabric carrying bag.

The headphones are a solid fit in hand, but not hefty. The band is framed in metal, but with soft leather on the interior; the insides of the cups are framed similarly. Said cups are attached to the frames by a jointed assembly held together by screws, and there are fabric and wooden accents sprinkled throughout.

The one cup houses the controls — power, volume, skip, pair/phone — as well as audio input and microphone. On the other, there is input for micro-USB charging.

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Trying the set on revealed a more-or-less comfortable pair; the band is wide, and also has a sliding mechanism for adjustments. The unit can also fold up, making it easier to put it in the carrying bag.

Pairing it to an audio bluetooth source is intuitive; as soon as we got that, we were able to test the sound quality. Like other HOM pairs, the sound is crisp, even at reasonable distance. In fact, we were notable to ascertain much of a difference between the wired (yes, it can do that) output and wireless output.

It also worked well as the answering end of a phone.

One big gripe for me is the construction. After a fortnight of consistent use, I found that the screws which secure the ear cup to the frame were loosened; sure enough, they fell out completely shortly thereafter, leaving the cup to dangle uselessly from the main band by only cable.

Replacing them seems to delay the inevitable, as it happened again.

This issue (which seems to be a design flaw) mars what is otherwise one of the best sounding, comfortable headphones we have looked at. We’ll update with HOM’s response to this; hopefully, we received a bum review unit.

BRAVEN 105 Active Bluetooth Speaker Hardware Review

BRAVEN 105 Active Bluetooth Speaker Hardware Review

Dec 24, 2016

The Braven 105 Active Bluetooth Speaker is small. It’s meant to be though.

Ah, so let’s see if good things can come in small packages…

We received the orange unit to test (pardon… “sunset” per Braven parlance, with six more colors to pick from); it is indeed small, and quite portable, coming in at 3.8 x 3.8 x 1.3 inches and weighing 7 ounces. The entire surface supports its waterproof promise, with three rubber buttons on the circumference. It actually takes a little bit of doing to reach the rubber-sealed section that houses the micro-USB port, audio-jack and reset hole. This whole area is tidily hidden by the removable mounting plate attached to the unit by an elastic strap.

The retail box also has a micro-USB cable, mounting accessories and documentation; the unit boasts a rechargeable 800 mAh lithium ion battery, 8 hours play time and certified water resistance.

And how does it work in real life? Charging is an intuitive process, using a power source to the micro-USB slot via cable. Pairing is easy too, using the power button. It works as expected, in wireless fashion, to output audio from the Android devices we connected it to. The audio quality is surprisingly vibrant, especially when one considers its size. We didn’t quite get the advertised 8 hours of playback in testing, but it easily surpassed 6.

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Portability is one aspect that allows this piece to shine. It’s great for bike rides, and works well as a miniature boom box.

My biggest whine is related to the back panel. The efficacy of the solution makes sense, but it is not that easy to make it to the back innards of the unit.

What it might lose in ease of access, it mostly makes up in portability and functionality. It’s size lends its potential use in any number of scenarios: with laptop, phone, heck…. as an Amazon Echo Dot output speaker… it works, and works well.

Fidelity-wise, it probably wouldn’t make a serious audiophile bow, but it does hold its own in its niche category.

BRAVEN BRV-1M Bluetooth Speaker Hardware Review

BRAVEN BRV-1M Bluetooth Speaker Hardware Review

Aug 29, 2016

Braven and “wireless sound” are all but synonymous, and as such, were happy to check out the new BRV-1M Rugged Wireless Speaker.

The review package that Braven sent us highlights a product that exudes a readiness to go; in the box, one gets the speaker itself, charging cable, male-to-male audio auxiliary cable, an optional strap, bike plate, hex tool and documentation.

The main unit itself looks remarkably compact, particularly in its red finish, and the exterior extends further proof that this thing isn’t opposed to hanging out in the elements, come what may. It has a defined rugged look, with the design seemingly a bit more concerned with function and durability than with looks. There are plenty of black accents, seals and hard surfaces, such that it doesn’t feel that one’s investment would be ruined by an errant drop. The top surface houses volume, advance and power buttons, while the covered back has charging port, output port, audio in slot, plus buttons for battery and reset.

Braven makes these in grey and black (in addition to the red we tested). Officially, the speaker comes in at 6.4 x 1.5 x 2.8 inches and weighs
Weight: 1.2 lbs

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We found that pairing and usage to be collectively intuitive; anyone who has paired a bluetooth device to an audio source should have no problem working with this. Charging is accomplished via the included micro-USB cable (plus extra adapter); when juiced and paired, we had a chance to try it out with music. It streams clear, and does get loud. It did sound hollow with instrument-y music at high volumes, but overall does the job with reasonable fidelity. It works well with wall barriers within the stated range. We got 11+ hours of wireless usage, just under the advertised 12.

As a wired device, it showed an even tighter adherence to quality, piping in the music slightly cleaner.

The unit has yet another function; it works well as an emergency charger for mobile devices. I was able to power a device, even while using the bluetooth functionality. I was also able to operate phone calls thanks to the hidden microphone, though I readily admit I preferred such action on the phone.

We did some minor drop-testing — on carpet, because I’m a wuss, and it didn’t break a sweat.

In a nutshell, it’s another pertinent piece from Braven. It does more than a few things well, is made for the outdoors and isn’t scared of water.

Can one ask for more?

Jabra Halo Smart Bluetooth Headphones Hardware Review

Jabra Halo Smart Bluetooth Headphones Hardware Review

Jul 28, 2016

Jabra is a well-known entity when it comes to slick, effective Bluetooth accessories, and it is also a company that is seemingly unwilling to rest on its laurels. That combination usually leads to interesting products at set intervals, and we don’t pretend to not be eager to check out its current offerings.

In the Halo Smart Wireless Headphones, Jabra has a consumer-grade product that looks to enhance one’s usage of mobile peripherals via Bluetooth technology. It looks to be durable, technologically savvy and maby even indispensable.

The review package that Jabra sent us reflects the product in its retail manifestation: the headphones, charging cable and extra ear bud pieces. The headphones themselves are in neckband form, with mostly black hard plastic for the exterior. The earbuds are connected to each end of the curved neckband via rubberized cable, and can be held in place by magnets on the neckband. The main piece houses volume and power/pairing button on the one side, and a discrete microphone assembly on the other. The band also stashes a covered micro-USB charging port and a full-fledged rechargeable battery inside.

The neckband is interestingly crafted: quite flexible, but fairly durable at the same time. The whole unit is exceptionally light — officially, the set comes in at 1.34 oz — and the neckband itself is reasonably svelte 5.6 x 5.6 x 1.4 inches.

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The unit promises 17 hours talk time time and an astounding 22 days of standby time. Toss in the advertised water and wind resistance, and we were ready to get going.

Pairing is easy; using the incorporated Bluetooth 4.1, the unit pairs with most receptive electronics easily. As a pair of headphones, they work faithfully, and we didn’t discern any problems across walls inside of the advertised 10 feet, and even a little beyond. As a telephony accessory, they work well too; when connected to an Android device, one can invoke Google Now by tapping the microphone button.

The optional Jabra Assist app (which works with several other Jabra pieces) is the perfect cherry on top, adding some functionality such as battery monitoring, device location, information readouts and more. At $79.99, they are a bit of an investment.

All in all, another compelling device from an industry leader.

Jabra Announces Halo Smart Wireless Stereo Headphones

Jabra Announces Halo Smart Wireless Stereo Headphones

Jun 8, 2016

Premium accessory house Jabra just announced a new arrival to its wireless headphones line: the Halo Smart Wireless Stereo Headphones.

The new piece incorporates some interesting elements, the topmost of which are the ability to switch easily between listening to music and taking calls.

Jabra Halo Smart delivers a superior call experience thanks to high-quality microphones with integrated wind-noise protection, enhanced voice capabilities via a dedicated Google Now/Siri button and immersive, full-spectrum sound through its 10mm speakers. With the addition of up to 17 hours talk time or 15 hours of music listening with just one charge, Jabra Halo Smart is intended to be used all day, every day.

Built-in intelligence

The intelligence of Jabra Halo Smart lies in its ability to let the user manage calls, music and media with just one device. According to recent Jabra insights*, 79 percent of users would like to have one set of headphones for both calls and music, but believe the call experience on most music devices is poor. Jabra Halo Smart allows you to accept a call by separating the two earbuds as they rest around your neck, and use one earbud for phone calls or both for listening to music. It also lets you access Siri or Google Now at the touch of a button and keeps you connected and informed in a number of ways. A subtle vibration in the neckband alerts you to incoming calls, while Android users can expect readouts of calendar notifications, emails, text messages and social media messages.

Jabra SVP Calum MacDougall talks about the need for a great experience. “We are all doing more with our smartphones than ever before, whether it’s making and taking calls, listening to music on-the-move or watching a movie clip during a break,” he says. “So we wanted to develop a set of wireless headphones that deliver amazing sound whatever you’re doing whether taking calls or listening to music.”

To help promote the new hardware, Jabra will be hosting a Facebook livestream; folks can get questions answered, watch a demo and even look to win one via giveaway on June 9th.

The piece is slated to cost $79.99, and will be available at best Buy later this month.

Kinivo URBN Premium Bluetooth Headphones Review

Kinivo URBN Premium Bluetooth Headphones Review

Feb 26, 2016

Kinivo usually does its thing well, and we expected the same with its URBN Premium Bluetooth Headphones.

The review unit we received reflects the item in its retail presentation; in the box, one gets a zip case with carabiner. The case is semi-hard, and contains the headphones, male-to-male audio cable and micro-USB charging cable. Everything fits together neatly, and the addition of the carry case is a nice touch.

The headphones possess a similarly black finish, with hard plastic exterior parts and soft material for the ear cups. The head band is jointed (which allows for the folding and storage), has a sliding mechanism that allows for adjustment and also has soft material on the inside crown; the right side incorporates toggles for power, volume, play/pause, forwarding and such. At the bottom of that right side, there are also ports for charging and the aforementioned audio cable, plus a useful LED light that gives one an indication of the unit’s charging status.

Altogether, it looks nice physically, and is seemingly well fused out of the box.

To get going, one needs to charge the unit, and this can be accomplished with the included micro-USB cable; when it is ready to go, the LED light turns to solid green. The next step is to pair it to a Bluetooth-enabled audio source, and this should be easy to anyone who has ever paired two Bluetooth devices together: toggle on, search and pair.

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We put the unit through the paces. Audio comes out crisply, without any discernible interference, though with distance and walls, clarity did decrease (as to be expected). It re-pairs automatically, and keeps a strong connection when in range. It came close to the stated hours of continuous streaming on a charge. To this admittedl non-audiophile’s ears, it did sound like a bit more base could be had, but the sound output is pleasing none-the-less.

The added wired functionality is an added bonus; using the supplied cable and built-in port, one can use the headphones wired to a suitable device when the unit isn’t charged, or when one simply wants to do so. The music fidelity is just as clean.

All in all, one does get a a nice, portable unit for a decent price that works well with mobile devices both wirelessly and otherwise.

Dog & Bone Locksmart Mini Wireless Padlock Hardware Review

Dog & Bone Locksmart Mini Wireless Padlock Hardware Review

Feb 24, 2016

Yes, we are becoming more connected. It’s where we are headed… a logical destination of sorts. Items like the kickstarted Dog & Bone Locksmart Mini Padlock are clearly on the roadmap.

The review package was provided by the manufacturer, and reflects the item in its retail packaging; we got the red version, charging micro-usb cable and a card with software download instructions.

The padlock looks like, well, a regular padlock; it consists of a U-shaped shackle, and a prominent body characterized by a defined soft rubber coating. At the bottom, it has a charging port right about where one would expect the keyhole. It also packs a power button protected by a rubber cover. Officially, it comes in at 3.98 x 2 x 0.94 inches (with a 0.24″ steel shackle) and 5.64 ounces.

Altogether, it has a solid feel in hand, strong yet agile, and, at first glance, definitely looks the part.

There isn’t a lot by way of formal instruction, but the companion LockSmart app (hosted on Google Play) more or less confirms the next logical step: charge the unit. The aforementioned LED light works to notify one when this is successfully done.lock1

But said app’s major purpose is to serve as control center for the hardware, which it connects to it via Bluetooth. The app is clean, and fairly straightforward. The app hints at a lot of the functionality to be found. First, one has to create an account and then pair the two together, and this can be done by using the aforementioned power button. Once paired, it is easy to unlock the unit by using the prominent Unlock button on the app.

There is a bunch of secondary utility to be found, for instance, in the Settings tab. here, there’s access options, showing one can use the default tap to run things, or use fingerprint or passcode. One can also monitor the padlock’s power levels (it’s rated to go two years without needing to be charged), and one can also toggle power saving mode for more conservative power usage. One also keep an eye on firmware too.

One cool thing a user can do is to give access to others. Using the “Share” tool, it’s possible to invite other users to get access to the lock, which makes it great for use with a lock that has several designated users. The associated “Activity Log” allows one to see who is accessing it when.

Altogether, it’s a pretty nifty solution. It did act temperamentally at times, and the assumption is that that was due to bluetooth restrictions… which might be the biggest drawback. Still, for a simple, cost-effective concept that just works, this one feels like a reasonable choice.

Vicks SmartTemp Thermometer Hardware Review

Vicks SmartTemp Thermometer Hardware Review

Feb 11, 2016

The more mobile we become as a civilization, the more we get to see connected devices. Yes, it does take a while for critical mass to be achieved with regards to some solutions, but there are several that make plenty of sense in present times.

The key is using one’s smartphone and/or tablet as a hub of sorts… not only to maybe power the peripheral, but definitely to collate and manage data on the go.

When it comes to the special category of health connected devices, there are several products on the market. Still, what is more crucial to healthy living and medical diagnoses than a thermometer? And, when it comes easy-to-understand health vicks7solutions, what has better cachet then Vicks?

With the Vicks SmartTemp Wireless Smartphone Thermometer, one gets said company potentially bringing a useful product to market.

The review package we got reveals the product in its retail manifestation; it’s tightly wrapped, with the thermometer itself, paperwork and a cover. The thermometer itself look much like a home use medical thermometer, with a slightly bulbous top that tapers into a probe. One pertinent detail, there isn’t a digital display on this. The surface is covered in hard plastic, and there is a battery compartment built in, and a prominent power button at the very top. It feels well fused and intuitively easy to handle, and is also bluetooth-enabled.

The thermometer uses an app for connectivity, and this app — Vicks SmartTemp Thermometer app on Google Play — is really the base of all operations. It’s a clean app, and surprisingly functional; it allows for one to link to the device via aforementioned bluetooth, and to create separate profiles, which is perfect for families. One can also select from three body locations, and then one can get to checking heat.

The thermometer beeps to signal completion, and it uses bright colors to denote healthy temperatures. When a temperature is taken, one can attach extra data, like symptoms and medications. The app itself has a reference chart, and allows for temperatures to be taken in both centigrade and fahrenheit.

The “on” button can be preclude one-handed operation, but the biggest drawback probably derives from its biggest attribute: app connectivity. See, with no display, the unit truly needs the companion app, and really can’t be used without it. Bummer, if one’s device is out of reach or out of commission.

Still, it works remarkably well, and is great as self-help unit. It is quite simple to use, and easy to depend on.