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Posts Tagged ‘audio’

Google Releases Android O Developer Preview with UI & Audio Improvements, Better Performance, etc…

March 22nd, 2017 No comments

Nearly exactly one year after Android N developer preview release, Google has now announced the release of Android O developer preview in order to get feedback from the developer community before the official release of Android 8.0? Oreo? in Q3 2017.

So what’s new so far in Android O? Here are some of the changes:

  • Background activity limits –  Automatic limits on what apps can do in the background for implicit broadcasts, background services, and location updates.
  • Notification channels –  New app-defined categories for notification content for better control from the use, as user may only block or change the behavior from one channel, instead of applying the same behavior to all notifications from a given app. For example, a News app may have notifications for Technology, Sports, Politics, International, etc…
  • Autofill APIs – Platform support for autofill, where users can select an autofill app, similar to the way they select a keyboard app, with the app securely storing  addresses, user names, and even passwords.
  • PIP for handsets and new windowing features – Picture in Picture (PIP) display is now working on phones and tablets, so users can continue watching a video while they’re answering a chat or hailing a car. Other window features include overlay window and multi-display support.
  • Font resources in XML – Apps can now use fonts in XML layouts as well as define font families in XML — declaring the font style and weight along with the font files.
  • Adaptive icons  Icons that can be displayed in different shapes, e.g. round or rounded square based on a mask selected by the device. Animated interactions with the icons are also supported.
  • Wide-gamut color for apps – Android developers of imaging apps can now take advantage of new devices that have a wide-gamut color capable display.
  • Connectivity 
    • Support for high-quality Bluetooth audio codecs such as LDAC codec.
    • Wi-Fi Aware support, aka Neighbor Awareness Networking (NAN), allowing to discover and communicate over WiFi without an Internet access point
    • Extension of ConnectionService APIs to enable third party calling apps integrate with System UI and operate seamlessly with other audio apps.
  • Keyboard navigation –  Better use of “arrow” and “tab” navigation key for systems connected to keyboard such as Chrome OS with Google Play.
  • AAudio API for Pro Audio –  Native API designed for high-performance, low-latency audio.
  • WebView enhancements –  Multiprocess mode enabled by default, and new API for errors and crashes handling.
  • Java 8 Language APIs and runtime optimizations  – New Java Language APIs, such as java.time API. Android Runtime is up to 2x faster on some application benchmarks. 

Google has provided system images for Nexus 5X, Nexus 6P, Nexus Player, Pixel, Pixel C, and Pixel XL devices. You’ll find more details about the preview on Android Developer website.

Categories: Android, Chrome OS Tags: Android, audio, battery, google, oreo, sdk

$32 Bluetooth 4.1 Audio Transmitter and Receiver Comes with S/PDIF Ports, a 3.5mm Audio Jack

March 20th, 2017 7 comments

As I browsed through DealExtreme new arrivals, I found a type of device I had not noticed in the past: a Bluetooth Audio transmitter and receiver that come with optical SPDIF input and output, as well as 3.5mm AUX port, and sells for $31.99 shipped on DX.

Let’s have a look at the hardware first

  • Audio In & Out – 3.5mm AUX port, SPDIF IN, SPDIF OUT
  • Buttons – Tx/Rx mode selection, SPDIF/AUX selection, multifunction button
  • Connectivity – Bluetooth 4.1 with 10 meters range; use aptX low latency audio
  • Power Supply – 5V via micro USB port
  • Battery – 350mAh rechargeable battery good for 15 hours on a charge; Charging time: 2 hours
  • Dimensions – 6 cm x 6 cm x 1.84 cm

The little device ships with a micro USB Cable for charging, a 3.5mm AUX cable, an optical TOSLINK cable, an RCA Cable, and a user manual.

TX mode allows you to connect your devices without Bluetooth such as older TVs, computers without Bluetooth, MP3 players, etc… to Bluetooth speakers using one of the three provided cables.

RX mode allows you to play audio from your smartphone or tablet to your audio systems lacking Bluetooth or WiFi connectivity such as wired headphones, car stereo, or home stereo system.

There aren’t any reviews on DX yet, but the product is also sold on Amazon US, with users’ reviews generally positive, except one person complaining that

Description states “continuous use” with cable and directions state “Do not leave charging cable connected “

So you can’t leave the micro USB cable attached all the time, which can be a pain. However, another reviewer claims that “it also supports working while charging; you can plug in or unplug the external USB power charger any time you want“, so go figure.

If you only care about a specific use case, there are cheaper options. For example, I’ve been using a Bluetooth FM transmitter in my car, which I bought for about $10 in order to listen music from a micro SD card or my smartphone. I’ve been using for several months, and it works well enough provided you are happy with “FM radio” audio quality.

Categories: Audio, Hardware Tags: audio, bluetooth, spdif

Avegant Glyph a Headphone with Two DLP Projectors Acting as Your Own Portable Home Theater

March 7th, 2017 2 comments

I reviewed my first and only Android VR headset last year, and while it was fun to use for short periods, I found it very uncomfortable to my eyes and head for periods of usage over 15 minutes, and would definitely not watch an entire movie on such device. Avegant’s engineers worked for a headset for the military that had to be used for long periods of time, and they found they could adapt their product for consumer use and create Avegant Glyph, and alternative to VR headset that looks like a stereo headset, but also includes two 720p DLP projectors placed right in front of your eyes, hereby creating your own private, and portable – home theater.

Avegant Glyph specifications:

  • Resolution – 1280x720p per eye via 2 million micro-mirrors
  • Aspect Ratio – 16:9
  • Field of view – ~40° diagonal
  • Diopter Adjustment – +1 to -7 range
  • Adjustable IPD, and projectors vertical position.
  • Head Tracking – 9 Axis IMU
  • Video & Audio Input – micro HDMI
  • Audio-Only Input – 3.5mm TRRS (standard AUX)
  • Frequency Response: 20Hz-20kHz; Dynamic Range: 95 dB
  • USB – 1x micro USB port for charging
  • Battery – 2,060 mAh Li Ion battery with up to 4 hours video playback, and unlimited passive audio
  • Dimensions – 190.5 x 190.5 x 101.6 mm
  • Weight – 411 grams

The device weight is about the same as the virtual reality headset I used, but I can still believe it might be more comfortable due to the different weight distribution. It’s also not a standalone device, so you need to connect a source via the micro HDMI port and/or audio jack, which in many cases means purchasing a XXX to micro HDMI adapter. The Glyph firmware can be upgraded for “enhanced features and capabilities”. Beside watch 2D and 3D movies, it can also be used for 3D gaming, flying drones, private mode while connected to laptop, etc…  Note that contrary to VR headset, you still have peripheral vision, which may be an downside since it’s less immersive, and an upside, as you are still aware of the environment around you.

Charbax interviewed a company’s representative as they showcased the Glyph at Mobile World Congress 2017.


Avegant Glyph first started to sell in the US last year, and some larger blog already reviewed it, such as Wired and Engadget, and while they really liked the video and audio experience, they still found it to be a little uncomfortable to use for longer duration, although it was an improvement over VR headsets. Customer feedback on Amazon, where is it sold for $499, is positive on average, but with many mixed reviews, possibly because the company made some adjustments to their product since they fist launched it. You’ll find more information on Avegant website.

Netgem SoundBox is a Speaker with Built-in Set-Top Box Features

February 25th, 2017 1 comment

Netgem, a company specializing in Connected TV & Home, has sent a press release about profit growth, and two new “innovations int its smart home roadmap” with voice control with Amazon, and SoundBox, a connected speaker which embeds set-top box technology.


Netgem does not sell directly to consumers, but instead sell its products and solutions to service providers, and they have not provided a great deal of technical details. But we still know the company has improved Netgem Home Platform, a cloud service allowing the deployment and management of multi-screen features, content discoverability, with support for multi-room, multi-source music service through technology from Voxtok.

SoundBox will then offer both video and audio service, and be controlled by voice using Amazon Alexa. The SoundBox will be customized for each Telco to adapt to the needs of local markets.

A few more details may eventually surfaced on Netgem’s SoundBox product’s page. They’ll also demonstrate their solutions at Mobile World Congress 2017.

MacroFAB FX Development Board is an Open source Audio Electronics Prototyping Platform (Crowdfunding)

January 31st, 2017 No comments

A couple of years ago, I wrote about a Linux multi-effects guitar pedal, and if you are interested in such audio projects, another company called MacroFab, specializing in manufacturing & assembling PCBs & electronic device, has now designed open source FX development board for audio electronics prototyping, that can be used for audio effects “guitar” pedals, and let you design your own tones.

Key features of FX development board:

  1. Potentiometers
  2. 9V battery holder
  3. ¼” Input and output jacks connected to breadboard
  4. True bypass 3PDT switch
  5. User selectable power supply connections
  6. Dual solderless breadboards with power rails selectable by jumpers
  7. Adjustable 9 V power supply
  8. Power supply with 2.1 mm dc input jack for use with AC-to-AC wall wart; +/- 15 volt @ 200 mA power supplies with over-current protection; +1.25 to 9 V @ 150 mA adjustable power supply; Split voltage rail (1/2*9 Volt Rail) @ 15 mA for use as a virtual ground

The board can be used for audio applications by guitar FX designers, electronic audio hobbyists, and music creators, but also for any kind of electronics projects. The company will provide pedal templates and schematics available for download on fxdevboard.com site. The company also encourages makers to design their own PCB after prototyping, and send them the gerber files for manufacturing.

FX Devboard project has now launched on CrowdSupply where the company aims to raise at least $25,000. A $150 pledge should get you the board with a power adapter, but if you want a case and a wire jumper kit, you’ll need to pledge $190. Delivery is planned for April 14, 2017, and while shipping is free to the US, it adds $20 to the rest of the world.

LG TONE Wireless Bluetooth Speakers & Earbuds Get Charged with a Neckband

December 29th, 2016 No comments

Battery powered Bluetooth speakers are very common, and Bluetooth earbuds even more, but both are normally designed for different use cases. Last year ZAGG decided to bring both into a single product that you wear around your neck: Flex Arc Wireless Bluetooth earbuds + speakers now selling for about $56. The obvious advantage is that it includes larger battery than you can fit in earbuds and most Bluetooth headsets.

LG TONE Studio

LG TONE Studio

ZAGG will soon be getting some competition as LG has designed two Bluetooth audio products leveraging your neck with LG TONE Studio (HBS-W120) equipped with a Hi-Fi DAC, 4 speakers, and two earbuds, and LG TONE Free (HBS-F110) with 2 “true wireless” earbuds that can be storage and charged in their neckband. The latter can also vibrate for incoming calls and text messages. An extra charging cradle is also provided for use cases when the neckband might not be convenient.

lg-tone-studio

LG TONE Free

LG will officially unveil both products at CES 2017, so we should learn more about them in a week time, possibly including how much they actually cost.

Via Liliputing

Categories: Audio, Hardware Tags: audio, bluetooth, ces 2017, lg

You Can Buy AirPods-like Wireless Bluetooth Stereo Earbuds for $16 and Up

November 30th, 2016 9 comments

Most Bluetooth headsets on the market actually come with some sort of wire or holding mechanism, which may not always be convenient, for example I can’t use mine comfortably while lying down on the bed. But that to electronics miniaturization, companies have recently started to offer truly wireless Bluetooth earbuds, including Apple’s yet-to-be available $159 Airpods. This morning I noticed two similar products in new arrivals list, first with $59.99  QCY Q29 mini Earburds on GeekBuying, and then even cheaper, but not quite as good looking (and likely not so good sounding), “FreeStereo Twins Wireless Bluetooth v4.1 In-Ear Headset w/ Mic” on DealExtreme going for just $22.25 including shipping.

qcy-q29-earbudsLet’s start with QCY Q29 earbuds specifications:

  • Connectivity – Bluetooth 4.1 with HFP, HSP, A2DP, AVRC protocols support; up to 5-10 meter range
  • Built-in Microphone
  • Charging port – pogo on earbuds, micro USB to storage/charging box
  • Battery – 45mAh for up to 12 hours per charge; Charging time: one hour
  • Dimensions – Earbud: 17 x 25 x 29mm
  • Weight – 5.3 grams per earbud

QCY Q29 earphones ship with three pairs of silicon earcups, a charging cable, a charging box, and an English manual. You’ll be able to answer/reject call, lsiten to music, and all the things you’d normally do with a Bluetooth headset. The earbuds are also available on other shops such Banggood (now with 18% discount coupon), and Amazon US where you can also buy individual earbud for $13.5 in case you lose one. Reviews are generally positive on Amazon, but one person did mention that “Was ok but don’t stay in the ear well“, so I’m not sure it’s suitable for running for example…

cheap-airpods-clone

The cheaper noname version shown above with all accessories has a shorter battery life:

  • Connectivity – Bluetooth 4.1 with support for SP / HFP / A2DP / AVRCP; up to 10 meter range
  • Embedded Microphone
  • Charging port – pogo on earbuds, micro USB to charging dock
  • Battery – LiPo battery for up to 3 hours talk time, 5 hours music , 55 hours in standby mode; Charging time: 3 hours
  • Misc – Not waterproof
  • Dimensions – Earbud: 2.7 cm x 1.8 cm x 2.7 cm
  • Weight – 9 grams per earbud

The earbuds also ship with three pairs of silicon earcups, a charging cable, a charging dock, and an user’s manual in English and Chinese.

You’ll also find various “true wireless stereo earbuds” on Aliexpress for various prices, and one pair that could be interesting is X1T earbuds selling for $15.99 and up.

x1t-true-wireless-earphone

$49 Dashbot Car Dashboard Assistant is Powered by C.H.I.P Pro Allwinner GR8 Module (Crowdfunding)

November 18th, 2016 2 comments

Most companies specializing in development boards may sell a few accessories for their boards, but usually leave product design to their customers. Next Thing Co. does that too, but the company also produces some products like PocketCHIP portable Linux computer & retro game console, and more recently Dashbot, a voice controller assistant for your car’s dashboard powered by CHIP Pro module.

dashbot

Dashbot hardware specifications:

  • CPU Module – CHIP Pro with Allwinner GR8 ARM Cortex A8 processor @ 1.0 GHz, 512MB NAND flash, 256 DDR3 RAM, 802.11 b/g/n WiFi, Bluetooth 4.2
  • External Storage – micro SD slot
  • Display – Red LED display
  • Audio – 32-bit audio DSP for beamforming & noise suppression; fairfield audio pre-processor with 24-bit ADC; high fidelity MEMS microphone array (106 dB dynamic range)
  • USB – 1x USB host port
  • Power Supply – 5V via USB port or 12V via power port (aka cigarette lighter) + backup LiFePo4 battery
  • Dimensions – 84 x 60 x 28 mm

The bot runs mainline Linux, source code will be available, as well as hardware design files making open source hardware (likely minus CHIP Pro module itself). Once you’ve stuck the magnetic adhesive mount to the dashboard, and placed Dashbot on top, you can connect it to your car stereo via Bluetooth or your car’s auxiliary jack. Wait what?  My car does not have any of those two connection methods… But no problem as the company also offers a Retro Pack adding an FM transmitter and cassette adapter for older cars.

dashbot-connection-guideThe main goal of Dashbot is to keep your smartphone in your pocket, and control it with your voice in order to keep your eyes on the road. But you’ll still need your phone, and after installing Dashbot app on your Android 5.0+ or iOS 10+ smartphones, you’ll be able to tell Dashbot to start playing music from online services like Spotify, Soundcloud, Google Play Music, and others, or tell it to “go home” and it will show the directions from Google Maps on the red LED display, and of course you can also answer phone calls, and reply to SMS.

Dashbot “AI powered hands-free car kit” launched on Kickstarter a few hours ago, has already raised over $50,000, and I’m confident it will surpass its $100,000 funding target. A $49 pledge should get you Dashbot, a power port for your cigarette lighter and an AUX cable, but if you have a car with a stereo that does not come with Bluetooth nor an AUX IN jack, you can get the Retro Pack for $65 with an FM radio/cassette player adapter. They also have rewards with an OBD-II dongle, and bundles with multiple Dashbots. Shipping adds $9 or more depending on rewards and destination, and delivery is planned for July 2017.