Beats by Dre Solo3 Wireless Headphones Review

Headphones are a dime a dozen these days… you can get headphones from $20 to $600.  Choosing headphones is personal, and everyone has a preference, whether it’s on-ear, over ear, in ear, noise cancelling or not… and of course sound quality comes into play big time.

I had a chance to test out my first pair of Beats by Dre headphones, these are the Beats Solo3 Wireless.  Beats are slick looking, popular, and expensive… so are they worth the hype? Let’s find out. Continue reading “Beats by Dre Solo3 Wireless Headphones Review”

B&O Beoplay H9 ultra premium headphones review

Bang olufsen beoplay H9In a world where it’s not unusual to spend a couple hundred dollars on premium How fheadphones comes news that ultra premium headphones may be the next big thing.

Bang & Olufsen have brought out a pair of luxe wireless headphones that costs about three times what premium phones do. Do they sound three times as good or feel three times as comfortable? I received a pair of B&O Beoplay H9 headphones for testing and review for a few days to find out. Continue reading “B&O Beoplay H9 ultra premium headphones review”

Rowkin wireless earbuds are Apple Airpods competitor

Ever since Apple announced it was removing the headphone jack from its new iPhones, the world is going crazy for completely wireless earphones. Apple’s Airpods are both a trendsetter and the gold standard when it comes to wireless headphones or earbuds. But plenty of competitors have come on the market to compete with them. Most notably, Samsung released its IconX headphones for Android phones and devices. But there’s also another option. Rowkin makes a competing set of earbuds it markets as “the world’s smallest”. While Rowkin wireless earbuds are definitely small, and cleverly designed with a rechargeable case, how well do they hold up during real-life testing, and how do they compare to Apple or Samsung’s models? I received a pair of Rowkin earbuds for testing and review. Here’s what I found after spending several weeks with them.

Continue reading “Rowkin wireless earbuds are Apple Airpods competitor”

Samsung Gear IconX wireless earbuds review

Until now truly wireless earbuds have been a bit of a myth. ‘Wireless’ has meant that the phones will connect with Bluetooth, so they don’t need a connector between the phone and your device, but they often come with a wire connecting the left to right earbud. While that’s been an ok option, some people find it distracting and annoying to have a cable flapping around your neck while doing certain activities. Enter Samsung’s new Gear IconX earbuds. With not a wire in sight, these earbuds are among the first to be totally and truly wireless. The small thumb-sized earbuds wedge right into your ears for a good slip-free fit, and connect seamlessly and wirelessly to your Samsung device whenever you pop them in. Continue reading “Samsung Gear IconX wireless earbuds review”

Amazing technology in sports headphones

xs_Red_Jabra_Sport_Coach_Lifestyle_01-970-80They may be just small speakers for your ears, but there’s a dizzying array of headphones out there. From on-ear, to over-ear and ear buds, to wireless, there are all kinds of different specialized headphones available to consumers.

Recently a new category of headphones has emerged: Sports headphones. Let’s take a look at what they’re designed to do and the special features that makes them perfect for athletes and active types.

What are ‘Sports’ headphones?


There’s not much mystery in buying a Sports headphone; for the most part, the word will appear prominently on the package. Sports headphones are made to adapt to many active situations, and often have the following characteristics:

-water/sweat resistance
-cushioned foam holding earbuds in, or clips, loops or bands that can help keep headphones from falling out of/off of your ears
-noise cancellation/sound isolation
-wireless options

But sports headphones also come with some pretty high tech options, like the ability to read your hear rate via your ear canal, in-ear coaching or workout instructions and the ability to block out your gym’s noise. To read about the cool new features, read the full article I wrote for Best Buy’s Plug In blog.

 

Review: Sony MDR-XB950BT wireless over-ear headphones

Headphones are very personal. After all, of all the electronics we use, headphones are worn closest to you, right inside your ear canals in some cases. That’s why people are so passionate about their headphone choices, and it explains why a headphone loved by some will be unpopular with others; headphones are almost like electronic jewelry, so tastes and preferences are as varied as the designs.Sony MDR-xb950BT square headphones

I recently got a pair of the catchily named Sony MDR-XB950BT wireless Extra Bass headphones. What they lack in nomenclature, and maybe looks, they more than make up for in sound quality.

Sony MDR-XB950BT – What’s in the box?

The packaging is cool. The box opens up like a book, with the headphones displayed carefully and attractively inside. Inside the front cover of the book is a small hidden compartment where you will find your charging cable, auxiliary mini cable (if you want to forgo the wireless connection), as well as the necessary manuals and paperwork. That’s it.

About the Sony MDR-XB950BT

The headphones are wireless, using Bluetooth or NFC technology to connect to your smart phone or device. The headphones also feature and electro bass booster, a 40 mm driver unit which reproduces natural and powerful base, according to Sony.
The headphones will give you approximately twenty hours of play time from four hours of charging.

This is just a sample; Read the full review on the Best Buy Plug-In blog.

Watch the video review here:

 

Parrot Zik3 Headphones Review

parrot 3Just when I thought I’d seen it all when it came to headphones, I found myself surprised again! The Parrot Zik3 over ear wireless headphones seemed at first glance to be headphones like any other. It wasn’t until I started reading into and experimenting with all the amazing features these headphones have, that I realized how truly unique and revolutionary they are.

Set up: Parrot Zik3 Wireless Headphonesimg_1006

I give high marks to companies whose products are very easy to set up. No one wants to fuss with Wi-Fi or Bluetooth connections and multiple attempts at getting their new toy working. Fortunately Parrot has it figured out. Once these babies are out of the package, you’ll need to install the rechargeable battery, then fully charge them before first use. The battery compartment is accessed by a hidden magnetic compartment in one of the ear covers. Once they’re fully charged, all you need to do is go to your smartphone’s Bluetooth menu and connect them. My phone found the headphones on the very first attempt, and they connected instantly. I was ready to rock out!

It’s worth taking note that these headphones can only connect to one device at a time. Some other wireless headphones are able to connect to multiple devices at once, allowing you to have both your tablet and your phone connected at the same time, for example. But not in this case; fair warning.

Comfortable and padded: Zik3 Headphones are easy to wear

One of the things I hate the most about over-ear headphones is that they are often very uncomfortable; either instantly or after an hour of use they press on your ears and lead to achiness and itchiness. Not so with the Parrot Zik3. The earpieces are well padded, and large enough so that they fit comfortably around your ear without touching or pressing down on it. Even the headband is nicely padded for additional comfort. Another nice feature; the headphones will fold down flat so they can be stored away, or packed for easy travel.Zik 3 control

Control the headphones with touch

The Parrot Zik3 are controlled via a brilliant smart touchpad on the right ear cover. Drag your finger up or down the cover to adjust the volume. Tap it to play or pause or receive a phone call. This function is extremely responsive and works marvelously.

Features that are made for travel

Parrot Zik3 are an ideal pair of over ear headphones for traveling, thanks in particular to one of their great features; noise cancellation. These headphones, when paired to your smart phone or device, allow you to set different levels of noise canceling. For example, you can set them to block out any and all outside noise electronically. Meaning if someone else in the room is watching TV, kids are playing, or an airplane is droning on in the background, you can mute this outside noise and focus on your music, podcasts, TV, or whatever you’re listening to.

Similarly, if you do need to hear what’s going on outside those headphones, such as if you do you have little ones you need to keep one ear on, or you’re walking around in a high-traffic area and need to stay alert, you can set the headphones so that you can hear conversation, noise, and talking around you along with your music. It’s a great effect, and it sounds really neat to have your ears sealed inside these over ear headphones, but still be able to hear a conversation going on next to you. Parrot-Zik-3-Wireless-Headphones

The Zik 3 also have an optional cable to connect directly to your smart device so that if you are on the road and want to preserve battery life, you can.

Parrot Zik 3 – Neat features

These headphones have a unique ability to allow you to adjust the music you’re listening to. Using the Equalizer function, you can adjust the levels of bass or treble, and give the music a different sound. You can choose ‘pop’, or ‘punchy’ sound,  or to put the focus more on the vocals. Whatever way you like to hear your music, these headphones allow you to adjust for it easily by selecting your option with the touch of your smart phone screen.

Another setting called Concert Hall allows you to adjust what I can only describe as the size of the sound in your ears. Selecting ‘living room’ for example gives you a more direct and intimate sound then the concert hall setting which provides a much bigger more 360° sound picture. It’s a neat effect that’s hard to describe, but fun to play with. Parrot’s website explains it like this: “The Concert Hall effect externalizes the music and reproduces the sound of a real stereo system. Several concert hall acoustics are reproduced for a harmonious and more natural listening experience, which also reduces tiredness during long listening sessions.”

Make and receive phone calls with Parrot Zik3

The Zik3 phones are able to work with your cell phone; no longer do you need a microphone and cables to make or receive calls with your headphones. These headphones have all of that built in. To receive an incoming call, you just tap the touchpad on the right ear cover. Music is muted and the built-in microphone picks up your voice. The headphones also have a caller identification feature you can enable where the headphones will use your phone’s directory to announce who’s calling so you don’t need to pull out your phone. I found the headphones were perfect for conference calls, allowing me to take notes without cords snaking across my desk.img_1008

More smart features: music stops if you take them off, starts when you wear them

Parrot has developed a ‘movement recognition algorithm’ which allows the headphones to react to your head movements.  Pull the phones off your ears and put them around your neck to stop the music or switch off a call. When you’re ready to resume, put the headphones back over your ears and the music or podcast starts up again. Never miss a thing!

Also handy; when starting up, the Parrot Zik 3 will automatically connect to the last device it was connected to. You can disable this feature if you use more than one device with your Parrot Zik. The Zik 3 also has an auto-off timer you can set, so if you’re they type who’s bound to forget your headphones are powered on, these will automatically shut off for you to save battery life. Speaking of battery life, these headphones are rechargeable via USB, and of course you can use them with a mini cable if you don’t want to go wireless.

Overall: Parrot Zik 3 Review

I really, really like these headphones. They’re very comfortable, they sound great, and the adjustable features mean you can fine tune any music or audio to your own personal listening preferences.  I think the  noise cancelling feature is one of the most useful; being able to block out noise in the comfort of the home is smart, and it’s also clever to be able to let in some of that external noise when you’re on transit, or walking in the street.

I also like the fact these phones fold flat for easy travel and transport too. I short, I’d definitely buy these as my next pair of headphones.

For more info, check out Parrot’s website. The Zik3 retail for $399 USD, and come in a variety of cool colours.

 

Cool Glow headphones are a technological attention grabber

IMG_8243When these arrived this week, I was in no rush to test them; after all, I test quite a few headphones each year, and for the most part they’re all vastly the same. Indeed, direct out of the box these Glow headphones look pretty much like any other. While they have a nice long cord, there’s a huge controller disc in the middle of the set up, which is big, bulky, and kind of gets in the way. Not to mention the fact it feels rather cheap.

IMG_8289But once I unwrapped these headphones and got them plugged into my music and started playing, I was blown away! The color laser light that emits from these headphones is strong and bright and very noticeable. It casts quite a glow around you. These are definitely what you might call “look at me” headphones.

The set I tested are red but Glow are also available in green or blue. Using an app that’s available for these headphones you can also control the glow pattern, from having them always on, or always off, to “pulsating” with either the beat of your music, or just off and on .IMG_8265 Turns out a feature that would have pulsated the Glow to your heartbeat is not an included feature in the model I tested.

The controller I mentioned, though definitely big and bulky, serves several purposes. It’s a five way remote control that does what you’d expect, including allowing you to change volume and skip tracks as well as snapping photos from your smart phone. But it also acts as a remote control for photo taking too, giving it a nice extra function.

I like that Glow headphones’ earpieces have a hook design that holds them securely in your ears, and as you would expect there are different size attachments so you can fit them to you.

While the sound seems rather tinny and a bit hollow and not what I’d call high-quality, that’s probably OK, since I’m pretty sure these headphones are meant for a younger crowd that isn’t as demanding when it comes to sound quality.

I suspect these will be a popular item this holiday season, as they’re like nothing else on the market right now, particularly when it comes to headphones. I see Glow being a huge must-have for teens and kids in particular.

The Glow headphones originated on Kickstarter, but will be available in Canada exclusively from Bell.    You can also find them here.

To have a look inside the package, watch my short unboxing and test video.

Travel Gadgets & 5 Top Travel Tips

tech talk 3We all look forward to travel in the busy summer season.  With the number of travellers climbing, and delays inevitable, it’s a good idea to bring along some tech to keep you sane, entertained and connected while on vacation, whether it’s a plane trip or a road trip.  This week on CTV Morning Live I shared some good gadget picks, as well as my top travel tips.

Top Gadget Picks:

Comfy Noise-eliminating Headphones

marley

On CTV Morning Live, I showed off some headphones.  House of Marley’s Over-ear “LIBERATE” Headphones ($99) are soft and plush with a good sound, retro styling, and ability to block out airplane drone and angry toddlers.

Jabra_Revo_Wireless_image_1440x1440px_06Ditto for the Revo wireless headphones by Jabra.Going wireless is huge for air travel; no cords getting caught up in the seatbelt, or getting tangled when you get up to use the washroom.

If over-ears seem too bulky, my personal favourite headphones are the Monster Adidas in-ear headphones, because they block out noise like a boss, and are ultra comfortable to wear.

Adapter/Router Powerpack by Satechi

smart_travel_router_angle_lan_web

When travelling abroad, it helps to have a variety of plugs available to recharge your gadgets.  An interesting take on that is a versatile, compact adapter kit from Satechi that doubles as a wireless router and signal booster for your hotel internet.  The Satechi Smart Travel Router / Travel Adapter with USB Port adapts to fit into four of the most common plug configurations used around the world and has different modes for your wireless networking.

I also shared my 5 Top Tech Travel Tips on CTV Morning Live:

tech travel junePack extra headphones.

Headphones get lost, break, or you forget them, and of course without them, you can’t listen to music, TV or watch movies.  Stash an extra set of small earbuds in your carry on and you wrap them up with a handy Cord Taco to keep tangles at bay.

Bring your cables.

Beat delays by bringing your charging cable, plug and/or an external battery pack to supply juice through the longest flights or most annoying delays.  Never put them in checked baggage, as they sure won’t help you in the plane’s underbelly.

Preload TV shows, movies and podcasts at home onto devices.

Airport and hotel wifi is notoriously slow, and can be tedious to set up (nevermind having to give out personal info to get the connection).  Save time and frustration by filling your device with content you can watch all trip long.

Always carry-on your electronic devices.

They’re expensive, sometimes have personal info on them, and let’s be honest, it would be devastating to lose them or have them stolen from checked luggage.  Carry them on no matter how heavy that makes your carry-on bag.

Stash all your cables and accessories in one zippered bag.

It keeps them all in one place, makes them easy to find and keeps them from getting tangled up in the rest of your luggage. Of course, carry that bag on too as insurance.

If you’ve got a great travel gadget tip, I’d love to share it.  Post yours in comments.

tech talk june1

Amazing and Chic Wood Accessories for your High Tech Gadgets

There’s a new trend I’ve noticed in accessories for your high tech devices; they are going much more rugged and raw.  Wood is all the rage right now when it comes to cases, covers and gadgets.  Read all about it below, or watch the segment on CTV News by clicking here. (You’ll be redirected to the CTV site)

Screen Shot 2014-11-22 at 2.18.40 PM

Lumberjack plug
Ilovehandles.com

Screen Shot 2014-11-22 at 2.37.05 PM
The lumberjack plug is a great example of where adding small touches of wood can really make a difference. Yes, it’s your standard USB plug, but instead of plastic or metal, it uses a nice soft wood; just enough to warm it up. It’s not only a nice touch if you prefer more natural materials, but it looks less sterile, and it’s something that’s just a bit different from a regular charger. iLovehandles also makes my new favourite organization accessory (as seen in the video) Paperback notes that stick to the back of your phone for reminders, grocery lists, etc. Yes, it’s not technically wood, but it is paper, and we all know where that comes from, right?

Wood headphones
Mezeheadphones.com

Screen Shot 2014-11-22 at 2.37.37 PM
Wood headphones sounds like a contradiction in terms, but these headphones from Meze are a great example of adding natural materials to technology. The company says the wood in these headphones makes for a richer sound when listening to music or other audio. While I don’t think I’m enough of an audiophile to fully appreciate the resonance wood headphones would provide, I love their soft feel, and warm richness, just as a fashion statement alone.
Wood iPad sleeves:
Grovemade.com

grovemade
When I first got my iPad, I searched high and low for a really great case. I wish I had known about these sooner. Grovemade makes these very flexible wood skins, with a soft fabric lining that will hold your iPad securely in place, and keep it protected.
Coffee Maker
Canadiano.co

Canadiano coffee maker in Walnut
Canadiano coffee maker in Walnut

Just one more example of the way many of us are looking to nature, instead of to technology to enrich our lives. This coffeemaker from Canadian company Canadiano, is very similar to the old-fashioned pour over filter set ups that many of our parents grew up with, but instead of ceramic or plastic, this one is a natural wood. The company says that over time, the wood will delicately infuse your coffee, and as such they offer this coffeemaker in a variety of woods, like walnut, cherry and birch.  It brews a cup of coffee that reminds me of the French press style. You need to let it settle because there will be a wee bit of grit in the coffee, but it gives you that bold richness that you expect from coffee that’s been made by soaking in the grounds.
Wood iPhone dock:
Valliswood.com

Screen Shot 2014-11-22 at 2.34.23 PM
I first found Valliswood on Etsy. Mario, who makes these beautiful solid wood iPhone docks in a variety of configurations is a one-man operation. The docks he handcrafts are great because they can be configured to any phone or tablet style, the cords run through the middle and out and nicely carved niche in the bottom, so the wood dock sits flat.  Docks like this are a really great way to bring more wood into your office workspace; a little bit of the outdoors indoors.

Bamboo Lap desk
iskelter.com

Slate-go-lapdesk-main1-510x652
One of my pet peeves working with a laptop has been it gets really hot. Whether it’s on a table surface, or on your lap, it heats up constantly. The bamboo lap desk from iskelter is loaded with lots of giant holes, which allows airflow to keep both your lap and your laptop cool.
Wood Cell phone covers

keywaydesigns.com

keyway 6_-_Jatoba_Black_1024x1024
Keyway Cell phone case

 

Many people go looking for a shiny slick case for their new phone.  Others wish for a simpler time, and for them, there’s wood cases by Canadian company Keyway. They make wood and wood hybrid cases for all varieties of cell phone, which lets you keep a rustic and raw look for your tech.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Is there a wood tech accessory you love?  tell me about it in comments below.