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Audio Reviews

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Sonos Playbase review: The speaker to rule the living room

Let me start this off with the obvious: Sonos is a pretty legendary name these days. The company's product portfolio is pretty simple and easy to navigate, but each item serves a few specific purposes that help potential buyers decide which one to purchase. The selection of speakers, soundbars, and amps all fulfill different audio needs, whether you want a multi-room setup like Artem and/or a stellar surround sound experience.

But in order to reach those who do not wall-mount their televisions, Sonos has come up with its own version of a soundbase. The Playbase (heh) is aimed squarely at those people.

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Plantronics BackBeat 500 review: Budget headphones have a new challenger

I am not an on-ear headphones person so it's difficult for me to review them objectively without saying how much I dislike the idea and pressure they exert on my ears. Oddly, that's not the case with the BackBeat 500, the newest release from Plantronics. I don't hate them and I can manage wearing them for a couple of hours without wanting to rip them off my head. That's a good start.

I've reviewed many of the brand's headphones over the years including the in-ear BackBeat GO 3 and the big over-ear BackBeat Pro+ and Pro 2, and I've spent some time with the on-ear BackBeat Sense, so I do know what to expect: better value for the money than most brands, good sound quality, and nice design and build.

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Vizio SmartCast Crave 360 review: An admirable stab at a Sonos alternative

When you hear the name Vizio, you usually would think of TVs. Perhaps some of you may even know of its soundbar product line. Whatever your knowledge of the likely-to-be LeEco-owned Vizio may be, we need to discuss this speaker. The Crave 360 is an odd thing that looks like an Amazon Echo, has Google Cast built in, and tries to be a viable Sonos alternative.

But does it succeed in its attempt at the latter? Not quite. However, it is still a nice-sounding, multi-room speaker that has a little bit extra that sets it apart from its run-of-the-mill cousins.

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V-Moda Forza and Forza Metallo review: The most comfortable in-ear headphones I've ever used

Wireless headphones may be the craze these days, but manufacturers are still producing plenty of wired headphones, and for good reason. Wired headphones sound better than their cord-free counterparts, don't require any fiddly pairing, and most importantly, never need to be charged. V-Moda, makers of some of my favorite headphones I've tested to date, has decided to jump into the in-ear headphone game with their own line of fitness oriented headphones and I've spent the last few weeks testing them out. 

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Plantronics BackBeat Pro 2 review: The most bang for the buck wireless noise canceling headphones

The market for wireless noise canceling headphones has been booming over the past couple of years. One day, we were struggling to find one pair of headphones that offered both Bluetooth connectivity and noise cancelation, the next there were more choices than we could fit in one Amazon result page. Plantronics, Bose, Sony, Sennheiser, B&O, and more brands are coming on the market with their own take on the matter and the options can be a little confusing for everyone.

Do you go for the trusted noise cancelation of the $349 Bose Quiet Comfort 35, pay the extravagant sum of $499 to get a new Beoplay H9, believe the hype over the $399 Sony MDR1000X, or prefer the well-known $350-400 Sennheiser Momentum 2.0 or its newer offering, the $399 Sennheiser PXC 550?

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Amazon Echo Dot 2nd gen review: A delightful and cheap way to get started with voice assistants

Amazon's Echo success took me a little by surprise. It seemed like we went overnight from questioning the idea of a voice assistant in a speaker to almost everyone owning an Echo and companies rushing to add Alexa support for their services and products. Part of what seemed like a quick success is due to the Echo Dot, the smaller cheaper version that you can sprinkle around the house in places where you don't care about excellent sound quality.

The second generation Echo Dot builds on that. Unlike the first one, you can order it directly from Amazon without having to use another Echo.

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Grace Digital CastDock X2 quick review: A weird little nook for your Chromecast Audio

As a kinda, sorta well-known technology journalist, I get a lot of pitches for hardware to review. More often than not, I just ignore these emails (sorry PR people) because I simply get too many of them. On occasion, someone pitches an interesting thing, and I'll take a closer look at it. Such was the case with the Grace Digital CastDock X2. I thought at first it was a Cast enabled speaker, and I bet that's what you thought just now too. Well, it's not. This is literally a dock for your Chromecast Audio, and that makes it just weird enough to warrant a quick hands-on here.

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Bose QuietComfort 35 review: Superb quiet and comfort come with a high price and some compromise

I am an in-ear earphones kind of person. I find them small, portable, with enough noise-cancellation, even if passively, and comfortable to wear for hours and hours without any head pressure or weight. Over the years, I gravitated toward the Sennheiser C and CX series for their tiny earbud size and it became more and more difficult to adapt to larger sets. But I kept wanting and yearning for a nice pair of big cans, maybe because of their popular appeal and visually imposing presence around me, maybe because they felt like they could provide a richer and better sound, maybe because some of them offered active noise cancellation, and maybe it was just the fact that they looked cool.

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Plantronics BackBeat GO 3 review: A worthy upgrade with divisive fit and sound quality

Plantronics makes some of my personal favorite Bluetooth headphones and headsets. Although I use the BackBeat Fit while running and exercising, and the BackBeat Pro+ when I'm at my desk, the BackBeat GO 2 spends the most time of them all in my ears and around my neck. I wear it and listen to music and podcasts while walking, doing chores around the house, shopping, or performing any repetitive activity that doesn't require my utmost attention.

But the GO 2 headphones aren't perfect. Their size and weight balance could be better, their battery life should be around 4 hours but is now less than 3 hours after a couple of years of constant use, and their charging case is too small and kind of unreliable.

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Libratone One Click review: Sophisticated styling, smooth sounds, and spiffy straps

This pretty little thing is the Libratone One Click. Designed by Danish engineers, with characteristic Scandinavian simplicity, it's a speaker that has caught the attention of everyone I've shown it to. Sure, it looks nice, but how does it sound? Read on my friends, and you'll find out.

What's in the box

  • The speaker: It measures 4.7”×1.6”× 8” and weighs 2lbs with a 3" woofer, 1" tweeter and a passive driver.
  • MicroUSB charging cable: No proprietary cord or charger. Sweet.
  • Two different handles: A short one and a longer one, more on those later.
  • Instructions and warranty info: In several European languages!

Notable features

  • Water resistant: IPX4 rated - splash proof.
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