CES 2016 - Sennheiser's booth was a very alluring audio enthusiasts paradise, but they were showing off far more than just fancy and expensive headphones. They're pioneers in VR audio.
The most interesting and significant technology that they demonstrated was their proprietary 3D algorithm for they developed for games. The game demo they had running was called EDEN and was mostly a barren landscape rendered with Unreal Engine 4. In that hilly landscape though are a swathe of dinosaurs that are stomping about to help demonstrate what a 3D audio landscape sounds like. And it's a remarkable difference. What this algorithm does is work with HMD's to give an illusory feeling of aural freedom. So when you move your head around, the audio changes appropriately. This is a far cry from typical sound encoding for games.
The API they've created is able to easily calculate those changes, which will likely be a bit more computationally intensive than in the past. This middleware will hopefully make its way to game developers soon, and it would be cool to see a partnership with AMD so they could use their TrueAudio technology to use the GPU to do those calculations. The demo was a bit sparse and it could definitely have used a bit more interactivity, but it was a good first showing of what'll eventually be available. The future of audio is looking bright, such as it did back when Aureal and Creative were battling it out with their a3d and EAX API's.
CES 2016 - Computer audio has been somewhat stagnant lately, with even Creative letting the audio chipset they developed for the Sound Blaster Z line carry them over in the discreet audio world for awhile. But that hasn't stopped them from continually upping the game in the field of audio.
For their next trick, they're bringing 15.2-channel sound, and Dolby Atmos certification, to the living room in the form of a sound bar. That's right, a premium sound bar device that lets you enjoy what's usually reserved for theaters or the incredibly willing audio enthusiast.
The X-Fi Sonic Carrier is more than just a way to enjoy Atmos enabled content, which is where there's more positional data encoded in the source than there probably is in real-life, but it's also a complete home entertainment solution aiming to take on the living-room entertainment space. And the positional audio from one bar is actually pretty convincing too.
CES 2016 - Audio is a precarious subject for a lot of reasons. Not everyone can tell the difference between two different sets of headphones and sometimes audio-quality isn't the first thing on some peoples minds when it comes to building PC's. But then you try a $55,000 set of headphones and you wonder where they've been all your life.
Sennheiser is now on to their second generation of Orpheus headphones, using the original 1991 model as inspiration, they crafted the ultimate audio experience. And no, the price-tag doesn't color the experience, they're actually that good. It's overwhelming, so much so that someone actually cried while listening to the Orpheus.
They feel expensive in your hand, and I placed them gingerly on my head, careful to avoid bending them too far. But there's no actual need to fret, because these are made to be used and actually listened to. I put them on with Hotel California playing through them, which has a huge variety of sounds to help showcase just what they're capable of. Once they're on, you get blown away by the huge sound-stage, something that extends into what might be described as natural. It's not like you're sitting at a concert, no, it's much more than that. It's like you're literally in the music itself somehow, if you close your eyes. It just envelopes and it's never harsh and I certainly never wanted to take them off.
CES 2016 - Beyerdynamic has a good showing at CES this year with a new product that just launched, the DT 1770 PRO, as well as a much improved version of their halo product, the T1, which I took the chance to sit down and relax to some tunes while the world wizzed by.
The second generation of the T1 improves on a lot of the areas that astute audiophiles have been complaining about since they came out. First on that list are a removable cable system based off of mini-XLR that allows for customized cabling from your favorite third party. IT's a huge step forward even just for the piece of mind given that cables connections are the first to wear out anyway.
And inside they've reworked the drivers completely to give it a slightly different, but overall better sound profile. The top-end is slightly rolled-off but the low-end is perhaps even more smooth and just a bit more present. The result is a more fun headphone that doesn't completely sacrifice the neutral flavor that they're known for. Even on the loud show-floor, the sound was good on a variety of material. Subtelties in the works of Dvorak couldn't be discerned with such loud ambient noise, but even then the sound is leagues better than Apple Earpods.
CES 2016 - Another interesting announcement from the trade show in Las Vegas this year comes in the form of EVGA's new 'Pro Audio card'.
Joining the recent announcement of a laptop that was designed fully in-house, EVGA says that this card targets gamers and audiophiles, but the name isn't finalized just yet. It's likely that the specifications aren't finalized as the name isn't even decided just yet , so stay tuned for updates.
We do have a little bit of info on this card though, with EVGA saying that this card is set to contain "State of the art audio fidelity" and "True analog engineering for lifelike audio reproduction." As for specifications and form, the company says it will providing a 130dB+ signal to noise ratio and being released in two modes - as a PCI Express x1 add-on card and an external USB.
CES 2016 - Adding to it's award-winning Cloud headset lineup, Kingston HyperX has announced that a console headset will be joining the ranks, coming in the form of the HyperX CloudX, set for release in late Q2 2016.
Offically licensed and destined for the Xbox One, this headset will connect directly to your Xbox One through a 3.5mm Aux plug, providing audio and sound in one. Alongside an in-line volume control, this headset also boasts memory foam ear cushions, a leather-padded headband and hard carry case.
While this product is based initially on the Cloud II headset design, the CloudX comes packaged with a different conection setup, a hard carry case and an in-line volume control unit without the need of a virtual 7.1 surround-sound card. If you're after one of these for yourself, you're going to have to wait for a confirmation on pricing.
CES 2016 - Powered by a total of 7 processors with 14 cores, the X-Fi Sonic Carrier soundbar by Creative contains 15 drivers and it's a monster.
Currently priced at $1750 for pre-order and set to be $5000 on release, this product's internal structure is CNC machined and supports connections through Wi-Fi, Bluetooth and wireless speaker links, allowing users to link up an additional four subwoofer units as they see fit. Operating in a 15.2 configuration, the drivers offer an 800 watt RMS total rating, featuring drivers in an 11-front/side and 4 up-facing configuration.
Supporting up to 4K (60fps) video content playback, this system allows for online music streaming service integration from companies such as Spotify and Pandora, while servicing video giants such as Netflix, Hulu plus and HBO GO. If there was is a soundbar holy grail, this has got to be it.
If you're looking at an audiophile level all-in-one speaker system, this collaboration between AKG and Grammy winner Quincy Jones might just be the thing for you.
The Q200 features six speakers within and has been dubbed part of the Quincy Jones signature collection, joining the N90Q headphones which were released one year ago. This speaker system contains six drivers within, powered by 300W amplifiers and claims to "fill any room with exceptional volume and unbeatable studio-quality sound."
Featuring connection options through AirPlay, DNLA, Bluetooth, analog, optical and phono preamp integration, the speaker further contains the ability to run Spotify Connect Technology. Compatible with Smartphones and tablets, simply connect through Bluetooth or Wi-Fi and play music to your hearts content - this is crucial as there are barely any controls on the speaker system itself, meaning you're going to have to run everything through your device.
Ever wanted to worship your favorite audiophile brand but often find yourself stuck outdoors with no way to protect a $500 pair of lovingly crafted headphones? JBL has just announced its waterproof and rugged Clip 2 and Charge 3 portable speaker products to solve this issue.
The Clip 2 comes with Bluetooth streaming capabilities, a built-in carabiner, a IPX7 waterproof rating which means you can submerge it in water, and the ability to daisy chain speakers together for extra sound. While also containing an integrated 2.5mm AUX cable sound input, this speaker is coated in fabric material and comes with a rubber housing to ensure its own safety.
The Charge 3 is packed with a 6000mAh internal battery and also comes with an IPX7 waterproof rating. In addition, this product comes packed with daisy chain abilities through 'JBL connect', allowing you to connect any JBL connect certified speaker in line with this device. This speaker is also rated at a higher bass threshold, offering what JBL calls its 'bass radiator'.
Interested in playing music all around your house from a single central device? Harmon Kardon is here to make that happen with its OMNI+ series of speaker products, encompassing the Omni 10+, 20+, 50+, Bar+ and Adapt+ models.
Featuring Bluetooth and 2.4GHz/5GHz wireless connectivity, the Omni 50+ is further rated as IPX5 splashproof and is marketed towards indoor or outdoor applications. Built as an expandable system, you're able to start with any single OMNI+ speaker and expand your range throughout the house as you see fit. Further supporting Apple WAC, these speaker systems can be controlled by the Harmon Kardon Controller app for Apple iOS and Google Android smartphones or tablets, further allowing for speaker group or individual controls (per room) as you see fit.
This amazing technology and connectivity comes at a price, with Harmon Kardon asking for $249 for the 10+, $349 for the 20+, $499 for the 50+, $999 for the Bar+ and finally $199 for the Adapt+ which contains input and output capabilities. These products will hit the market in Summer 2016, avaialble here.