YOUR TO FILM, TV, MUSIC, GAMING & LIFE TECH ESSENTIAL GUIDE
ISSUE 189 Jul ’20
FILM & TV
ISSUE 189 Jul ’20
ISSUE 189 Jul ’20
GREATEST R EVER TV
WHAT H W VINYL
INSIDE: STACK ’S 50 ALL-TIME GREAT TV SHOWS
HOW ISOLATION HAS BOLSTERED BLACK WAX
YOURMONTHLYMUSIC GUIDE TOWHAT’S IN-STORE AT hot
YOURMONTHLYMUSIC GUIDE TOWHAT’S IN-STORE AT
INCASE products MacBook Pro 16” (2020) and awesome
MEMBER EXCLUSIVE COMPETITION
ELEVATE YOUR TV SOUND.
BOSE TV SPEAKER The Bose TV Speaker is a small soundbar that clarifies speech and improves overall TV sound. Designed with simplicity in mind, a single connection to your TV has you up and running in no time. And with Bluetooth ® compatibility, you can wirelessly stream your favourite music or podcasts.
Bose and Bose TV Speaker are trademarks of Bose Corporation. The Bluetooth® word mark and logos are registered trademarks owned by Bluetooth SIG, Inc. and any use of such marks by Bose Corporation is under license.
Founder Nic Short Editor-in-Chief Paul Jones Film & TV Editor Scott Hocking CONTRIBUTORS
I can remember a time when one set of headphones performed an all-rounder role, shoehorned into as many different uses as possible. All that has changed in 2020: there are earbuds designed specifically to endure energetic sessions at the gym; headphones that deviate from over-ear, on-ear, closed back and open; and noise- cancellation technology that removes ambient sound to provide a bona fide cone of silence for the listener. All of these can be found on the shelves at JB, but if you’ve been out of the buying cycle for some time or can’t decipher what’s best for your needs, facing that wall of tech in-store can be an intimidating prospect. That’s where the idea of putting together a STACK guide to headphones and earbuds first arose; a guide that demystified confusing tech parlance and broke down the sound barriers, offering recommendations along the way. This quickly snowballed with the inclusion of portable speakers, a few pages of soundbars and turntables, too, and before long we’d created a mini audio guide that we hope you will find extremely helpful. And as we wait for all the delayed big cinema blockbusters to arrive (see what’s coming on page 50), what better time to catch up on some classic TV shows you may have missed, or revisit some old favourites? We’ve compiled a list of 50 shows that we believe to be among the greatest of all-time, so why not take advantage of JB’s B2G1F offer on all single TV series this month and create the ultimate TV archive. See you next month! Paul Jones, Editor-in-Chief
The large print giveth, the small print taketh away. “I hoped todaywould be a good day.Hope is a dangerous thing.”
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LIFE TECH NEWS
THIS IS THE PLAYSTATION 5
SEE SPOT, SEE SPOT AT HOME R ecent internet sensation Spot the robotic dog – although we reckon it looks more like a giant grasshopper – can now be bought by anybody… for a price. You could previously lease a Spot from its maker, Boston Dynamics, but now you can lay down a mere US$74,500 and take one home, to hug, pet, squeeze, caress and even possibly name George. Seriously though, Spot is quite the marvel, and was designed for tasks that may be dangerous for us squishy human beings to perform. It’s already been used for bomb disposal, to carry out tasks at decommissioned nuclear sites, and was also recently recruited by Singapore authorities as a social distancing park patrol pup. Versatile it might be, but at that price we may just make do with sticking some googly eyes on our Roomba for now.
T he next generation of upon us, and Sony have now unveiled their entry, the PlayStation 5. It will come in two forms, one with a disc slot – allowing for physical games as well as playing everything from CDs up to 4K Ultra HD discs – and one with no slot, which is designed exclusively for downloaded content. It’s a striking looking machine, and will be quite large – a purposeful design decision to allow better airflow for the gaming hardware is almost
internal components, whether installed upright or laid flat. Amongst the up-to-the-minute processing tech that’s inside sits an ultra-high speed SSD (Solid State Drive). Described by one developer as “screamingly fast”, it’s set to more or less do away with in-game loading screens. Meanwhile, the new DualSense controller is promising us previously unexperienced levels of physical – or “haptic” – feedback as players. Basically, this means the classic rumble feature can
be finely controlled for the smallest of blips to almost trying to shake itself from your grasp. Coupled with triggers that can have their tension altered to suit their use in-game, it’s set to add immeasurably to the gaming experience. With format-exclusive titles including new Spider-Man , Gran Turismo , Ratchet & Clank and Horizon games, there’s a lot to look forward to when the PlayStation 5 arrives before year’s end.
P hotographs are cool and all, but they do tend to be very flat. So, what if you could easily have them go 3D on you? That’s the aim of a free new app for Android and iOS called LucidPix 3D Photo Creator . Not only does the app utilise your camera to take photos for third dimensional conversion, it also allows you to convert existing photos. Results tended to vary when we tried it out, with some of our stored images looking rather cool with the effect added, others coming out really quite broken and some making us feel downright woozy. But hey, LucidPix is free, so if you want to relive the days of those little lenticular cards that you scored in the Corn Flakes, here’s your chance! TAKE YOUR PHOTOS TO ANOTHER DIMENSION
Pavilion Gaming Laptop A force to be reckoned with
C lassic Greek philosopher Plato clearly had an ear for a good melody, stating that music “gives soul to the universe, wings to the mind, flight to the imagination, and charm and gaiety to life and to everything”. It’s a sentiment as relevant today as it was 2,400 years ago – life is just better when it’s accompanied by music. Modern technology has made it possible to enjoy the tunes you love in outstanding audio quality whether you listen to them at home, in the garden or when you’re out on the bounce. And it’s not just music either. Maybe you’re a cinephile who wants the best in home entertainment audio from the prized films in your collection, or one of the 30 per cent of Australians that listen to podcasts on a monthly basis. This month in Life Tech, we’re going to take a good look at headphones, portable speakers, soundbars and turntables.
Dolby TrueHD – Proprietary format of lossless audio delivery that supports up to eight audio channels Driver – The round part of a speaker that usually looks somewhat like a cone DTS – Another proprietary format of audio compression DTS-HD Master Audio – A lossless
A2DP – An easier way of saying “Advanced Audio Distribution Profile”, this is the standard protocol for streaming audio via Bluetooth ANC – Short for “Active Noise Cancellation”, this uses electronics to reduce background noise AptX – Advanced system that allows transmission of high resolution – or quality – audio via Bluetooth Bandwidth – The range between the highest and lowest frequencies in an audio track Bluetooth – A widely-used standard that allows wireless interaction between electronic devices Channel – A single track of audio, so if something is listed as having “5.1 sound” for example, it has five channels of standard audio (usually front left, centre and right and rear left and right) plus one of sub-bass for a subwoofer. Digital optical – Also known as TOSLINK, this is a system that uses a single cable to transmit digital quality audio from one device to another Dolby Atmos – Lossless (all frequencies of the original sound mix are present) multichannel (up to 128) audio processing that moves sound above as well as around the listener, via dedicated up or down firing speakers. Dolby Digital – Proprietary format of lossy – meaning some frequencies are removed – audio compression
proprietary format of audio delivery DTS:X – Multichannel audio that aims for a similar “sound bubble” effect to Dolby Atmos, but without requiring dedicated extra speakers HDMI – An initialism for “High Definition Multimedia Interface”, a system used for video and audio transfer between, usually, home cinema devices HDMI ARC – Short for “Audio Return Channel”, this is a system whereby a television can send 5.1 channel audio backwards through an HDMI cable to an audio receiver, instead of using a separate cable HDMI CEC – Allows control of several HDMI connected devices from one remote HDMI eARC – Newer system much like HDMI ARC – the added ‘e’ is for “enhanced” – which is capable of sending uncompressed audio, including Dolby Atmos and DTS:X, to a receiver or soundbar Midrange – A speaker that transmits middle frequencies from 200 to 2,000 Hz Passive radiator – Also known as a “drone cone”, this uses sound trapped inside a speaker enclosure to add to the bass that you hear
Pre-amp – Otherwise known as a preamplifier, this takes a weak signal – such as from a microphone – and amplifies it
RCA – Old school analogue audio and video connections originally developed in the 1940s
Signal-to-noise ratio - The amount of desired sound that’s present compared to any unwanted sound Subwoofer – A bass speaker that carries very low frequency sounds that even a woofer can’t deliver Surround sound – Audio that literally surrounds you, either by way of front, side and/or rear speaker placement, or created virtually True Wireless – Completely cordless Tweeter – A treble speaker, which carries higher frequency sounds above 2,000 Hz Woofer – A bass speaker, which carries lower frequency sounds below 200 Hz
LIFE TECH FEATURE
MUSIC EARS Looking to upgrade your listening gear? We’ve got you covered – well, your ears anyway. 1979 was an exceptional year in entertainment. At the movies, Ridley Scott unleashed Alien , The Warriors were fighting their way back to Coney Island, and former doctor George Miller put Mad Max behind the wheel. In music, London was calling The Clash and Led Zeppelin released what would become their last studio album. It was also the year that Sony unveiled its latest gadget that would go on to conquer the world – the Walkman. Clipped to the belt, it was the first true personal stereo. And with it came the need for upgradeable portable headphones – the industry took off! Today, headphones are a crucial everyday device that we use when we walk the dog, exercise, work, tidy the house or fall asleep while listening to music or podcasts. Choosing the right pair is essential, but where do you start? Walking into any JB searching for a pair can be a daunting task with so many styles on offer. Well, STACK is here to help. If you don’t know your wireless from your true wireless, or your open back from your closed, this is the guide you’ve been looking for.
What’s it all about? For many, the one-pair- fits-all is not always a viable option – a pair of noise-cancelling headphones you use for
On-ear headphones The clue is all in the name. On-ear headphones are smaller and lighter and thus more portable than over-ears. They fit tight over the ears and, like open-backs, the sound is more exposed to ambient noise.
that later), and keeping the music very much in your ears.
Open-back, as the name suggests, permits some sound to enter through the earcup so you’re more aware of what’s happening
around you. These tend to give the user a more natural sound. Being bigger headphones, you get bigger drivers (speakers), and yes,
travelling won’t be much use in the gym. Having multiple pairs for different applications doesn’t have to break the bank. Take
you guessed it, bigger sound.
some time to consider your needs. Earbuds are perfect for when you’re getting active, but traditional over-ear headphones are what you’ll want for the full audio experience. So what are the options? Let’s take a look... Over-ear headphones The classic headphone design totally surrounds your ear, providing a snug fit. Over-ear headphones have two versions – closed- and open-back. Closed-back keep the party on the inside with very little noise spill, isolating a lot of peripheral sound (if you want to go one better, you’ll need noise cancelling – more on
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FEATURE LIFE TECH
Blutooth 5.0 Why is Bluetooth 5.0 important to you? Using smart devices and
In-ear headphones The ubiquitous earphone or earbud is designed to fit right into your ear canal, providing an often immovable
investing in a pair. Noise cancellation technology was originally designed for long distance pilots to aid concentration and communication, before making its way
headphones/earbuds that are Bluetooth 5.0-enabled will give you the benefits of
less power usage and thus increased battery life. Bluetooth 5.0 is four times faster than its predecessor; you can connect two devices – headphones, in this instance – to the one device, pairing is quicker and use at a distance much greater, so you don’t experience that annoying drop out if you move to another room without your smartphone.
to consumer technology. While it won’t eliminate all ambient sound completely, a good set of noise cancelling headphones, wireless or true wireless earbuds, will go a long
proposition. As such, this style is particularly popular in the fitness and active sector. Easy to stow away in a pocket or bag, earbuds are also extremely convenient. And they won’t mess up your hairstyle or dislodge glasses. So what’s the deal with wireless and true wireless earbuds? Are they not the same thing? No. Wireless earbuds are joined via a cord, but that cord doesn’t connect directly to your device. Think of it as a necklace with an earbud on each end. True wireless, on the other hand, is exactly that – the earbuds are powered individually and, ingeniously, use the carry case they come in as an additional power pack, keeping you going for longer. Should I go wired or wireless? This is strictly a matter of personal preference
way to blunting traffic noise, aircraft engines or that distracting office banter, leaving you to listen to your music – or noise-cancelled silence – in peace. What about the sound? The sound quality of a pair of headphones or earbuds is totally subjective. We can’t emphasise that enough. What sounds incredible to you might conflict with the opinion of somebody else. A budget pair may suit the needs of an occasional user, while others will strive for the highest fidelity irrespective of the price. But remember, you don’t always have to spend a fortune to get a good quality pair.
but wired headphones are, by and large, more popular with musos, studio and sound engineers and audiophiles. Bluetooth has come a long way since its introduction 20 years ago when the connections and sound were appalling, and can now comfortably compete with its wired counterparts. Wireless is favoured for many reasons: you won’t accidentally rip them off your head reaching for your phone and they don’t snag when you’re exercising. For our busy lives, wireless offers the ultimate in convenience. Many headphones come with a wired option as standard in the box these days, so you can have the best of both worlds. I’ve heard a lot about noise-cancellation. Is it worth it? Well that really depends. If you frequently use public transport or fly, where noise is at an optimum, then perhaps it’s time to consider
A Little Hearing History
It was German company
Beyerdynamic who produced the first dynamic headphones – the DT-48s – designed for use in the home in 1937.
US musician John Koss had
an idea to design a pair of headphones to use with portable phonographs. However, once he arrived at the final product, he decided to market them as stereophones, developing the same design and look we still see today.
Engineer Nathaniel Baldwin is credited with developing the first pair of headphones in his kitchen in 1910, but failed to interest investors. That was until the US Navy picked up on it and ordered 100 pairs.
The humble Walkman ushered in a new
design of lightweight foam headphones that, along with the 3.5mm
jack, led the way in the explosion of personal headphones.
LIFE TECH FEATURE
THE CLASSIC Embodying the classic design generally associated with headphones, the over- or on-ear versions offer complete comfort, significantly larger drivers (speakers) for better sound and, in some cases, noise cancellation to take you away from the hustle and bustle of life. The following are our picks offering quality and reliable performance.
Bose 700 If you’re talking design, the Bose 700s are the crème de la crème. Sleek and smooth lines, the soft touch silicone material that cover the ear cups and headband scream luxe. But it doesn’t just end on aesthetics – the touch control technology is second to none and amongst the best we’ve tested, with excellent response whether it’s raising or lowering the volume, skipping a track forward or engaging with the voice assistant control that supports Alexa and Google Assistant. There are 11 levels of noise cancelling, from full blocking and opening the door to full ambient sound. The 700s are rounded off with 20 hours of battery life and exceptional precise sound performance.
Pioneer S3 Entry level wireless headphones don’t have to mean a compromise on sound. These Pioneer on-ears have generous 40mm drivers, so you’ll be sure to catch all the bottom end of today’s chart topping hits. Pioneer has opted for a round rather than oval shape, which provides ample deep housing for acoustic formation. You will get up to 25 hours of continuous playback, with a 10 minute quick charge enabling an impressive four more hours of play time. A single button handles playback, hands-free calls and voice assistance. Users can also pair the S3 with two devices, so you can monitor calls on your phone while enjoying music from your laptop or tablet.
Nuraphone Melbourne-based Nura has designed a pair of headphones that combine both in- and on-ear headphones in one unit. The cups themselves have a soft gel earbud protrusion that fit neatly and comfortably right into your ear canal. Are you looking for deep audio customisation in your headphones? You’ve found it. Once connected via Bluetooth, the Nura app, through audio tests, learns how your ear listens to music and then offers a suite of options to personalise your very own hearing profile – get the music exactly how you want it. The Nuraphones also come with effective active noise cancellation (ANC) that can be deactivated using a toggle so you can hear your surroundings.
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FEATURE LIFE TECH
Sony WH-CH 710N If you want distraction-free listening on the go, you should give these on-ear headphones a try. The battery holds 30 hours on a full charge, with a quick charge feature providing one-hour battery life after only ten minutes of charge time. On the right earcup you will find the multifunction control for voice assistance and ambient sound mode if you want to take in your surrounds. The oval earpads are comfortable, and the light all-plastic body means weight won’t be much of a factor, even though it packs a 30mm driver for great bottom end response. Complete with noise cancelling technology, the swivel design enables the headphones to be packed flat.
Audio-Technica’s 900BT iteration of A-T’s wireless, noise cancelling headphones are first-rate from several angles. They utilise a digital hybrid noise cancelling tech – which ensures mighty ambient sound reduction – and there are touch and swipe controls built into the earcup. The earpads have been lovingly crafted from memory foam! Powerful 40mm drivers deliver superb audio reproduction, a switchable hear-through function allows you to quickly tap out of your musical reverie and into real-life conversation with ease, and a neat fold-flat design means portability is a cinch.
Sony WH1000 XM3 If primo noise cancellation is the road you wish to tread, pump up your kicks for the WH1000 XM3s as these are a great choice when it comes to weeding out every bit of ambient sound that wants to infiltrate your listening experience and spoil it. These over-ear beauties feature Sony’s new HD QN1 processor, which is four times more effective than its predecessor, while new Adaptive Sound Control and Atmospheric Pressure Optimisation automatically adjust noise cancelling and ambient sound based on your activity. There’s also the infinitely clever and easy-to-activate Quick Attention tech: just cover the right cup with your hand, and the volume instantly drops to allow you to interact with the world.
Bose QuietComfort Bose’s already incredible QuietComfort wireless over-ear headphones have been given a top-notch upgrade: they now come with Google Assistant built right in, so you don’t have to clap eyes on your phone to kick all your digital goals. Simply press and hold the Action button, and get yapping. In addition, Bose’s acoustic noise cancelling technology is right up there with Sony’s: it incessantly measures, compares and reacts to the hubbub outside your head, then reacts with the opposite signal. A quick 15-minute charge will give you 2.5 hours of play, but you can charge these corrosion-resistant but soft-as-butter headphones up to 20 hours.
LIFE TECH FEATURE
visit stack.com.au The Compact True wireless earbuds offer maximum comfort, complete portability and good battery life. Earbuds have come a long way in the short time that they’ve been on the market, and are now at a more affordable price point. These are four of our picks!
Audio-Technica ATH-CK3TW Lightweight, comfortable to wear, stylish, quality sound and all for a great price? That’s exactly what Audio-Technica have here. Ergonomic and minimalist, the ATH-CK3TWs reproduce audio with exceptional power, space and detail, along with touch control in each earbud, water-resistant performance, total Bluetooth connectivity, Siri and Google Assistant compatibility, Clear Voice Capture technology for clarity of calls, and low-latency Stereo Plus technology for uninterrupted streaming. Six hours of charge with 24 hours held in the case, they come with four sizes of thin, flexible silicone eartips that will ensure you get a hermetically-perfect fit! Marley Liberate Air Eco-consciousness comes with gorgeous aesthetics here – these ear buds feature Marley’s instantly recognisable natural bamboo wood fibre inlays, with additional recyclable aluminium and recycled plastic all sustainably sourced – as well as top- drawer features: seamless wireless connectivity, nine hours of battery life (with up to 32 hours per case charge) and G-Sensor Ear Housing Touch Control – all in a water- and sweat-resistant product that meets international CE standards. High quality materials, nature-conscious production, and innovative design make Marley a brilliant choice for your next pair of earbuds. Sony WF-XB700 Like your bass? Well, these come loaded with two words: Extra Bass, and they won’t disappoint. According to Sony, you’ll get nine hours from a single charge – we actually got around 11 and the charging case holds an additional 18 hours. Simplicity is key with the snug fitting, splash-proof WF-XB700s that have a single button on each bud that controls volume, pause and track skip, etc. You can take calls and they also support voice assistance. It’s impossible to understate the sound quality on these – the bass isn’t overpowering but it fills out a song and you can crank these right up without any distortion. A magnificent set of earbuds at a price you won’t need to lie about. Skullcandy Indy Evo The Indy is Skullcandy’s most beloved product, and for its new Evo iteration they’ve raised the bar in all lanes. First off, the Evos include that rapid-fire, two- hours-from-ten-minutes charge feature also shared with the Push Ultras. Full charging is where we see an enormous improvement: the individual earbuds now have a battery life of six hours (up from four), and 30 hours total (up from 16) using the case. You also get the excellent Tile tracker tech, along with sweat and dust resistance. Lastly but not leastly, these babies include Skullcandy’s Fearless Use Promise, which means that if any part of the product is lost or damaged, they’ll replace it at a discount!
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Waterproof. Sweatproof. Workout-proof.
Elite Active 75t
• Earbuds designed for secure, active fit with grip coating • IP57-rated waterproof, dust & sweat resistant • Fast charge and up to 28 hours battery life • 4-microphone technology for crystal clear calls
LIFE TECH FEATURE
Uniquely designed for any physical activity, sport earbuds and headphones will fit tight, boast excellent audio to support your pounding workout soundtrack, are sweat-proof and feature easy communication options so you don’t have to take them out to talk to someone. Here are our four picks that hit the brief!
JBL Under Armour Project Rock True Wireless
Dwayne Johnson is a man who knows a thing or two about fitness and this is reflected in the design of these True Wireless earbuds. Housed in a smart aluminium charging case that clips to a belt or bag, these comfortable, snug-fitting earbuds will remain in place throughout even the most strenuous of workouts. An excellent overall sound for the size, the earbuds are waterproof and offer two transparency modes, so you’re always aware of what’s going on around you and can communicate easily without removing them. Throw in call-making functionality and you have the perfect pair for your workout.
Jabra Elite Active 75T Jabra, through mixing materials with design, has produced a small inobtrusive earbud that matches the demands of any vigorous workout. As such they are water and sweat proof, dust resistant and feature a rubberised coating that enables a secure fit and prevents them from slipping out of position. There are 7.5 hours of battery life from a single charge and 28 hours in the charging case. Controls are mapped to both left and right buds with a handy transparency mode for dropping out of your fitness playlist to hold a conversation. Quality sound with an emphasis on low end round off what is essentially the perfect fitness earbud.
JBL Under Armour Sport Wireless Train If wearing earbuds while you’re working out isn’t your thing, these on-ear JBL Under Armour headphones are an excellent alternative. Well built to survive being thrown into
a gym bag, the headband clamps tightly to the head to prevent them from falling off during exercise, but the extra padding on the ear cups prevents them from being uncomfortable. Controls are accessed via large non-slip buttons, and you can pause your workout soundtrack to chat with a single touch. A warm and consistent sound with just the right amount of bass, you can stay active with 16 hours of battery life.
Skullcandy Sesh Evo The Sesh Evos are very affordable and still deliver great bang for your clams. Tile tracker – check! IP55 sweat-and dust-resistant rating – check! Separate EQ modes for movies, music and podcasts – check! The Sesh Evos boast the compact, no-stem design which many prefer, and you can control volume, track-skip, calls, assistant and EQ modes – without ever having to get your mitts onto your phone. Intuitive and super lightweight, the Sesh Evos offer an effortless intro to all things truly wireless.
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LIFE TECH FEATURE
RAISING THE BAR
Soundbars are certainly not a new addition to home theatre, but with more performance developments in this space, the unobtrusive soundbar is fast becoming the perfect audio solution for many households.
Did You Know? Lee De Forest formulated an early design for an audio amplifier in 1906, but it was the years following the Second World War that saw big developments in amps. Pivoting off the technological advancements made during the war, the vacuum tube Williamson amplifier, released in 1946 was cutting edge, delivering unsurpassable high quality sound and setting the benchmark for audio amplification.
How do they connect? It’s easy. If the TV you’re connecting to is an older model without a HDMI port, then you can connect via an optical cable (generally supplied). TVs with HDMI ports will get better sound quality, but even better, if the TV has HDMI ARC or even HDMI eARC, an improved version found on newTVs, you’ll be able to control the volume using your remote. In the channels You would’ve heard of 3.1, 5.1 and even 7.1. Confused? Think of channels as individual speakers, so a 5.1 would be a right and left front speaker, a right and left rear speaker, a centre speaker making the 5, and a subwoofer which is represented by the 1. For the best sound, you’ll want to look for a soundbar that supports Dolby Atmos or DTS-X, audio formats that are quite new in this space. These provide upward facing speakers that bounce the sound off the ceiling giving full, enveloping audio. Thus if you see Dolby Atmos/DTS:X 5.1.2, the final number refers to the quantity of upward speakers. Music lovers Soundbars can provide a great alternative to a dedicated Bluetooth movie player, too. Smarts Yes, some soundbars support voice control for Google Assistant and Alexa.
What is a soundbar? In short, a soundbar is a tube or a box that contains a series of speakers and is designed to either sit under your television or be wall- mounted. While TV screens are increasing in size, the units themselves are getting thinner and thinner. Consequently, in-built TV speakers are reducing in size and this is where the humble soundbar comes into play. They are easy to install, simple to connect and offer an extensive range of choices for all budgets. Why would I need one? While we all appreciate a banging audio accompaniment to our favourite movies or games, setting up a convoluted surround sound system may not be practical for the space you live in and buying multiple speakers can be an expensive exercise. Soundbars are inconspicuous, will fit in most home spaces, and produce great sound. your purchase. If you intend to set up your soundbar in a large room, opt for one with more grunt. Conversely, if you’re pitching it for a bedroom, you won’t want to blow the door off! Soundbars are often complemented with a subwoofer as part of a package. These subwoofers – a speaker that delivers low end so all the punch and rumble in a film reverberate through your sternum - are generally wireless so can be positioned anywhere around the house. OK, I’m in. What’s next? Consider the size of your room. This will dictate
SONOS ARC Compensating for consumer preference for larger TVs in 2020, the brand new Arc is a longer soundbar at 55 inches and comes with voice control for Google Assistant, Alexa and AirPlay 2, for seamless integration into your smart home ecosystem of choice. A stylish, curved design, the Arc can be wall-mounted or sit beneath a TV. Support for high bandwidth sees the company introducing Dolby Atmos for the first time, and with Arc’s whopping 11 high performance drivers for upwards, forwards and sideways audio, the true cinema sonic experience here is astounding. ARC/ eARC, a port most TVs now ship with as standard, allows the Arc to talk directly to the TV, eliminating the need for multiple remotes, but if you have an older TV, Sonos include an optical cable. Connect a Sonos One and add a Sonos Sub for the complete surround sound set-up that’s at the top of its class.
POLK MAGNIFI MINI Good things come in little packages, and this indeed applies to the Polk Magnifi Mini, a perfect solution for an apartment or bedroom set-up (just warn your neighbours). The sturdy soundbar comes with a wirelessly connected subwoofer, a remote and features three connection options: AUX, optical for older TVs, or HDMI ARC for newer TVs so you can control the volume from your TV remote. For the soundbar, Polk has squeezed in six drivers here and the results are impressive. Despite its size, Magnifi Mini puts out a lot of noise, ably assisted by the sub. A broad balanced sound, the soundbar has a Night Mode that lowers the bass to stop waking the
house and also has a feature called VoiceAdjust that allows users to raise the dialogue in a film or TV show. If you’re searching for a budget level soundbar that punches well above its weight class, this one has to be on the list.
Did You Know? The most expensive amplifier created was made by Italian designer Andrea Pivetta. It stood at 2.4m high, weighed 1.5 tons and belted out a whopping 120,000-watts of power. The price? US$2.2 million.
SAMSUNG Q800T The Q800T has been engineered to adapt to your living space, with Samsung’s Acoustic Beam technology making use of the ceiling and room surfaces to create effects previously impossible to achieve from a soundbar. A wireless subwoofer adds to the convenience, as does built-in voice assistance, and Bluetooth connectivity for two devices. The Q800T can work with any pre-existing devices you have, although to get the best out of the impressive onboard technology such as Q-Symphony, level up with a compatible QLED from Samsung such as their flagship Q905T 8K. Normally when a soundbar is in use, the TV speakers become secondary at best. However, Q-Symphony enables seamless working between compatible QLED speakers and the Q800T soundbar to deliver a deeper sound immersion. Add to this compatibility with Samsung’s SmartThings App and you have your smart home entertainment covered.
SONY HT-G700 Fresh out of the factory, the stylish HT-G700 comes complete with a wireless subwoofer that can be positioned anywhere within the room. On the back there’s an HDMI in, HDMI ARC/eARC out, and the option for optical connection - the unit has three speakers. Utilising Sony’s Vertical Surround Engine wizardry, the soundbar decodes Dolby Atmos and DTS:X to accurately simulate height and surround sound with excellent effect. On the petite remote included with the package there are a number of presets that work exceptionally well. Cinema mode switches the soundbar into impressive, punchy room-filling sound that best accompanies a movie or a TV show, while the music setting is optimised for streaming tunes. An adjustable voice mode will lift or decrease dialogue while a night setting provides sound that is still easy to hear, but lacks the bass. The HT-G700 is the complete all-in-one package that performs remarkably well.
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LIFE TECH FEATURE
ON THE MOVE! There is nothing quite like taking your music mobile, whether that extends to soundtracking your BBQ catch-up, a beach party or providing beats for a picnic in the country. Wireless speakers have come a long way since the advent of the smart device, matching excellent sound quality with the convenience of portability. Easy to use and connect, the portable speaker has become an essential device for the modern household.
How do they work? The portable speaker contains an internal battery that can hold anywhere between 10 to 24 hours of play time when fully charged. They connect in one of two ways; Bluetooth or Wi-Fi. Once connected, you’re ready to stream your tunes. Bluetooth - Connecting a portable speaker to Bluetooth is a simple exercise. Select Bluetooth on your smart device, press the pairing button on your speaker (on many units, this isn’t even required – it does so automatically) and wait for the reassuring “Bluetooth connected” message. Fire up your music streaming channel of choice, and away you go. Wi-Fi - With portable speakers that offer Wi-Fi connectivity, it’s possible to connect multiple speakers across the home network. These speakers can also be isolated to play different music in opposing rooms around the
house. Obviously, the portability is dictated by the range of your home Wi-Fi network but you can get a wireless speaker such as the Sonos Move (see below) that connects via Bluetooth and Wi-Fi, offering complete versatility. Protection - An important consideration when buying a portable speaker is where it’s likely to be used. If it’s just kicking around the back garden then you probably won’t need to consider protecting it. However, if the speaker is being used to drive a bush rave or a fishing trip, it’s definitely worth searching for a model that is dust- and splash-proof, so look out for an IPX rating. The higher the rating, the more protected the device. The Smarts - For ultimate control, you might want to consider a speaker that has voice assistant compatibility so you’ll never need to get out of your chair or leave your hammock again. With various models offering support for Google Assistant, Alexa and Siri, it’s never been easier to cue up a song.
There’s a plethora of portable speakers available on the market. Here’s four of our favourites you can grab in-store.
MARSHALL KILBURN II Designed to replicate the company’s famous guitar amps, the speaker delivers everything you would expect from the Marshall name. A rugged build, a pairing button, volume, bass and treble dials sit on the top of the unit, while a cool black and velvet carry handle – reminiscent of a guitar strap – adds an extra dash rock and roll. It’s possible to link multiple users to the speaker, too, so you and a friend can trade track for track. You’ll get up to 20 hours of rocking power from a single charge and at 2.5kg, you can lug it everywhere. But what about the all-important sound quality? For its size, the Kilburn II kicks out a huge sound that can be customised with the bass and treble dials. This is one of the best Bluetooth speakers we’ve tested – just make sure Ace of Spades is the first track you play on it.
Did You Know? When the Sharp VZ-2000 Boombox hit the street in 1982, it really turned heads. Not only could it play cassettes, it included a record player that could play both sides without having to take the record out and turn it over.
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FEATURE LIFE TECH
THE HOUSE OF MARLEY GET TOGETHER
The Get Together is quite a different proposition in the portable speaker space. For starters, it’s larger than standard and the company has used as many eco- friendly materials as possible in its construction. As for the speaker itself, the design is simple; a volume up/down, Bluetooth and power buttons are situated on the top with an AUX input, a charging MicroUSB B port, and a very handy universal USB port for charging portable devices on the rear of the speaker. You get two woofers, two tweeters and a passive radiator in the back for the bass. Sound-wise, the Get Together delivers a solid performance with an ear for the bass. Better for the environment and great for the budget.
THE BOSE PORTABLE SPEAKER We’re in top shelf territory here. The Portable Speaker – with a purported 12-hour charge – can be added to an existing Bose ecosystem within the home, or taken on a road trip. A quality build, the controls are located on the top of the unit and a rubber grip at the base will keep the speaker stable on all surfaces. Voice support through Google Assistant and Alexa will allow an easy transition to your smart home ecosystem; a mute button affords instant privacy. As for the sound, you’ll be casting your eyes at its diminutive size in disbelief. The 360-degree speaker throws out a huge sound, delivering the goods across dance as much as it does metal. Throw in the Bose Music app to adjust your settings, and this premium product ticks all of the boxes.
SONOS MOVE The Sonos Move also takes the party into the VIP lounge. Untethering from Sonos’s standard Wi-Fi protocol for chaining speakers throughout the house, the Move features both Wi-Fi and Bluetooth connectivity. An elegant oval shape, the Move is suitable for any environment. As you would expect from a quality brand like Sonos, Move nails the sound, operating as efficiently in a large open space as it does in a small room in the house, providing an excellent balanced output tested across a multitude of different musical genres. The Move is the ideal speaker for both indoors and out and simply adapts to an existing Sonos system, with the additional bonus of voice command supports – Google Assistant, Alexa and even Siri through AirPlay 2. It’s also worth noting that Sonos has updated its app for an all over better user experience.
ULTIMATE EARS HYPERBOOM From the Wonderboom 2 to the Boom 3 and Megaboom 3, Ultimate Ears has been evolving their acclaimed Bluetooth speakers to take on an ever expanding range of spaces and needs. This land grab heats up with the arrival of the HYPERBOOM. Weighing in at 5.9kg, and 364 mm high, it’s like a well-stocked food truck ready to cater for any party. A nice feature is the inclusion of two Bluetooth inputs for DJ collaborations. You also get customisable EQ, from extra bass to cinema sound. There is no doubting the overall bottom end response here. So much so, an optical input has been included so the HYPERBOOM can even take on the job of a soundbar if you’re after some room-shaking rumble while viewing or gaming. There’s also a 3.5mm auxiliary input plus a USB-A output for charging during playback. All these and the power service port are housed behind a tidy weather door that also doubles as a pull out strap for portability. With 24 hours of battery life, this is the Bluetooth speaker that can handle just about any space – or party!
LIFE TECH FEATURE
SETTING A RECORD
The great vinyl renaissance continues to gain momentum and it’s not hard to see why. In short, there isn’t a better way to enjoy music; the albums are pieces of handheld art to be scrutinised and admired and the sound infinitely better than compressed audio. Even the ritual of removing the record from the sleeve, placing it on the platter and dropping the needle into the groove is a satisfying process. Playing vinyl demands your full attention – it’s the complete sonic experience.
Alongside a good amp and a set of speakers, the other essential part of the vinyl equation is a turntable. The two most popular systems you’ll find in
Caring for your turntable
Belt-Drive As the name suggests, belt-driven turntables connect the platter (where you place the record) to the motor via an elastic belt. The advantage here is the belt acts as a buffer and absorbs vibrations from knocks to the surface where the unit sits or to the turntable itself, and it tends to be favoured by home hi-fi enthusiasts. The belt will need to be replaced eventually through wear and tear, and DJs avoid belt-driven because you can’t play records backwards. Direct Drive On a direct drive turntable, the platter is connected directly to the motor adding higher torque, which means it starts up faster than a belt-driven model. Along with the ability to spin a record in reverse, the fast start-up and variable speed pitch control on some models make them popular with DJs. Without the elastic belt component, direct drive turntables are also more reliable and certainly more durable. 2020 are what’s known as belt-driven and direct drive. But what is the difference? Allow us to elaborate...
Look for a secure platform to put your turntable on, away from consistent vibrations. There’s nothing worse than that crackle and fuzz when a dirty stylus skips and fumbles over your prized vinyl, so that’s the first thing that needs maintenance. Clean the stylus regularly with a carbon fibre brush designed specifically for the job, and for the sake of your prized record collection, change it after approximately 3,000 hours of use. Make sure you carefully calibrate your anti-skate counterweight to avoid unwanted damage to your records. If you hear your belt slipping when you start up your belt-driven turntable, it’s time to swap it out. Finally, always keep the dust cover down when your turntable isn’t in use.
But what sounds better?
Like anything in audio, sound quality is totally subjective. There are some who argue a belt- driven turntable’s ability to absorb vibration leads to a cleaner, more accurate sound representation. Conversely, if you’re chasing sound consistency that won’t deteriorate through excessive wear, direct drive could be what you’re looking for. Talk to friends and, most importantly, try to test out both belt and direct drive turntables before making a final decision.
Did You Know? The world’s first gramophone that played a flat disc made of shellac and rubber – and the forerunner to the modern turntable – was patented by Emile Berliner. Berliner also invented the microphone.
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LIFE TECH FEATURE
SETTING A RECORD continued
Audio-Technica LP60XUSB Not everyone who gets into buying – or collecting – records is keen on becoming an audiophile. But if you are keen to experience the delights of playing vinyl and have a limited budget, the LP60XUSB is just what you need. You’re getting a
name you can trust for a price that won’t break the bank. This one is a belt- drive and fully automatic, so you just have to drop the record onto the platter and hit start; the arm will drop into place and then lift up when the side is completed. You can also convert your vinyl to digital files via the USB output and a built in pre-amp. This is the entry level model you’ve been looking for.
Audio-Technica LP120 XUSB We’d pitch the dependable LP120 as an entry level turntable, but with enough functionality to appeal to the intermediate user, too. From a great brand name in audio, the well-designed and engineered direct drive turntable features a professional platter and a removable dust cover. The headshell can be easily swapped out for a higher grade stylus and caters for all records – even those old 78s! Complete with a built-in phono pre-amp (this basically amplifies the signal from your turntable to a level compatible with the standard AUX input on your stereo), the USB ports mean that all of your golden vinyl can be converted to digital files so you can listen to your music on the move!
Did you know? Jamaican native DJ Kool Herc is
widely accepted as the progenitor of hip- hop. At a party in 1973, Herc, wanting to extend the instrumental break on a track, used two of the same records. Once one break neared its conclusion, he cued up the second and voila, the breakbeat was born.
PRO-JECT DEBUT RECORDMASTER Finished in retro walnut veneer, the European-made belt-driven Debut RecordMaster is pitched more at the
enthusiast market (although that shouldn’t deter beginners looking for a great turntable to kick off with) and will require a little more to set it up. But boy, it’s worth it! A solid build design with a sleek aesthetic, it caters for all records including 78s. It ships pre-fitted with a quality Ortofon OM10 cartridge for excellent sound, comes with a pre-amp, and also features the ability to put all your vinyl onto a PC for all access.