Review: The Marshall Woburn II packs modern sound, retro look

Review: The Marshall Woburn II packs modern sound, retro look
Marshall speakers stand out. That’s why I dig them. From the company’s headphones to its speakers, the audio is warm and full just like the classic design suggests.
The company today is announcing revisions across its lines. The new versions of the Action ($249), Stanmore ($349) and Woburn Bluetooth ($499) speakers now feature Bluetooth 5.0, an upgraded digital signal processor and a slightly re-worked look.
Marshall also announced a new version of the Minor wireless in-ear headphones. The wireless headphones were among the company’s first products and the updated version now features Bluetooth 5.0 aptX connectivity, new 14.2 mm drivers and 12 hours of battery life. Marshall also says the redesigned model will stay in place better than the original model.
It’s important to note that the company behind these Marshall speakers and headphones is different from the company that makes the iconic guitar amp though there is collaboration. The Marshall brand is used by Zound Industries, which also operates Ubanears.
The models produced by Zound Industries stay true to the Marshall brand. I’ve used several of the products since the company launched and I’m pleased to report that this new generation packs the magic of previous models.
The company sent me the new Woburn II speaker (pictured above) and it’s a lovely speaker. This is the largest speaker in the company’s line. It’s imposing and, in Reddit-speak, an absolute unit. It’s over a foot tall and weighs just under 20 lbs.
The speaker easily fills a room. The sound is warm and inviting.

The Woburn II features a ported design which helps create the rich sound. Bass is deep though doesn’t pound. Mid-tones are lovely and the highs are perfectly balanced. If they’re not, there are nobs mounted on the top to adjust the tones.
I find the Woburn a great speaker at any volume. Turn it down and the sound still feels as complex as it does at normal listen volumes. Crank the speaker to 10, drop the treble a bit, and the speaker will shake walls.
Don’t be scared by the imposing size. The Woburn II can party, but it is seemingly just as happy to spend the evening in, playing some Iron and Wine.
Sadly, the Woburn II lacks some of the magic of the original Woburn. The new version does not have an optical input and the power switch is a soft switch. It’s just for looks. The first Woburn had a two position switch. Click one way to turn on and click the other to turn off. It was an analog experience. This time around the speakers retain the switch, but the switch is different. It’s artificial and might as well be a power button. When pressed forward, the switch turns on the speaker and then snaps back to its original position. The clicking it gone. I know that seems like a silly thing to complain about but that switch was part of the Marshall experience. It felt authentic and now it feels artificial.
Like past models, the speaker is covered in a vinyl-like material and the front of the speaker is covered in fabric. Don’t touch this fabric. It stains. The review sample sent to me came with stains already on the fabric.
The Woburn II is a fantastic speaker with a timeless look. At $499 it’s pricy but produces sound above its price-point rivals. I expect the same performance out of updated Action II and Stanmore II speakers. These speakers are worthy of the Marshall name.

Source: Gadgets – techcrunch

Skullcandy aims upscale with two new headphones

Skullcandy aims upscale with two new headphones
Skullcandy has always been an odd brand. Aimed at a younger, hipper audience, the headphones always featured wacky graphics and a lower price point. Now, facing competition from multiple players, they’ve decided to step up their game in terms of quality and style.
Their two new models, the noise-cancelling Venue and the bass-heavy Crusher 360, are designed to hit the Bose/B&O/Sony quality point while still maintaining a bit of Beats styling. The Venue are the most interesting of the pair. They are true over-ear noise-cancelling headphones that cost a mere $179 — more than $100 less than Bose’s best offerings.
The Venue’s noise cancellation was excellent, as was the sound quality. The headphones were solidly built and last for two five-hour flights, a first for me when it comes to wireless or wired noise-cancelling headphones. Usually in almost every model I’ve tested I’ve had to charge or change the battery after about eight hours. This is a vast improvement.
As for audio quality, I was quite impressed. Having heard earlier Skullcandy models, I went in expecting tinny sound and muddy bass. I got neither. What I got was a true sound without much modification and very nice noise cancelling. In short, it did exactly what it says on the tin.
One peeve is the size of the headphones and the case. Most headphones can fold up to a smaller package that is unobtrusive when it hangs off your back or sits in your lap. These headphones come in a massive, flat case that is not imminently portable. If you’re used to smaller, thinner cases, this might be a deal breaker. That said, the price and sound are excellent and the Venue is a real step up.

Then we have the Crusher 360. These are also well-made headphones that collapse into a slightly smaller package than the Venue. They also offer what Skullcandy calls Sensory Bass and 360-degree audio. What that means, in practice, is that these things sound like a bass-lover’s very effusive home theater system on your head.
The Crusher, like the Venue, is wireless and lasts about 30 hours on one charge. They don’t have noise cancelling, but what they do have is a set of haptics inside the ear cups that essentially turn bass events into wildly impressive explosions of sound. You can turn this feature up and down using a capacitive touch control on the side of the headphones and, if you’re like me, you probably will be using that feature multiple times.
How do they work? Well, the bass these things pump out is almost comical. While I don’t want to completely disparage these things — different ears will find them pleasant if not downright cool – the Crushers turn almost everything — from a drama to a bit of dubstep — into a bass-heavy party. I used these on another flight and heard every single bang, boom and bop in the movies I watched and, oddly, I found the added bass response quite nice in regular music. If you like bass you’ll like these. If you don’t, then you’d best stay away.
The headphones cost $299.

Skullcandy isn’t the audiophile’s choice in headphones. That said, their efforts to improve the brand, product and quality are laudable. I avoided the company for years after a few bad experiences and I’m glad to see them coming back with a new and improved set of cans that truly offer great sound and a nice price. While the Crushers are definitely an acquired taste I could honestly recommend the Venue over any similarly priced noise-cancelling headphones on the market, including Bose’s businessperson specials. These headphones aren’t perfect, but they’re also not bad.

Source: Gadgets – techcrunch

Review: The V-Moda Crossfade II Wireless headphones look and sound beautiful

Review: The V-Moda Crossfade II Wireless headphones look and sound beautiful
Damn. These are good looking headphones. The V-Moda Crossfade II Wireless could be the best looking headphones available. Better yet, they sound good, too.
As the name suggests, this is the second generation of this series of headphones from V-Moda. The drivers are different and the company improved on the build quality. The originals were already one of my favorite headphones and the followup is even better.

Here’s what I like:
The build quality of these headphones is superb. The V-Moda Crossfade II Wireless headphones feel like they’ll last a lifetime. I have headphones from Bose, Definitive, Denon, Shinola, Audeze and more and none look or feel as good as these. They’re comfortable. Even on my large head, they fit nicely and I’m able to wear them for hours at a time without issue.
The headphones sound great, too. To be clear, they’re not the best sounding headphones available, but the sound is on par for the price. The sound stage is full and wide with great separation between the channels.
The V-Moda Crossfade II Wireless are most comfortable with the mid tones found in rock, country, jazz and pop. That’s not to say low and high tones are absent; they’re present but not noteworthy. The headphones are balanced nicely with a preference to sounds in the middle of the range.
I always use a few tracks to test headphones. Save Tonight by Eagle-Eye Cherry is one of them. The track is mixed in a way that produced a narrow soundstage. On headphones the audio can be either muddled or clean. On these headphones, it’s closer to clean but not perfect. The lyrics come across clear while the instruments are a bit blended. 4 Non Blondes’ What’s Up sounds fantastics. You can hear the strumming of the guitars and feel the emotion of the band. The Cranberries’ Linger is more of the same. It’s just lovely on these headphones.
The wide soundstage is put on display for Look At Me Now. Busta sits in the middle and his lyrics flow in the middle while the beat comes in from the sides. Reproduced correctly, it’s an immersive experience and these headphones do it correctly. Meek Mill’s Dreams and Nightmares is another great example. These headphones put Meek in the center of the stage while the piano tracks sits on the side of the stage. The headphone’s tuning makes the track a stunning example of properly tuned headphones.
These headphones get loud. They’re among the loudest headphones I’ve tested. And since the headphones lack active noise cancelation, that’s a good thing. I’m pleased to report, there is very little distortion when the headphones are at their max volume.
Wireless battery life is excellent. V-Moda claims 14 hours. I used these headphones for several days and never found the bottom of the battery. That’s good enough for me.
Here’s what I don’t like:
The headphones lack on key feature: They keep playing when taken off. That’s a big no-no and an unfortunate miss from V-moda. It’s not a dealbreaker, though. These are wireless headphones and therefore they have a limited battery life even though they have great battery life. Such headphones need to have the ability to stop playing audio when removed from the head.
Bottom line:
The headphones are available in several colors through retailers or buyers can use V-Moda’s customizer to build a custom pair. Want a set of headphones with 14k gold plated side plates? That’s an option though it adds hundreds to the cost. Platinum headphones? That’ll cost $26,000.
I love the V-Moda Crossfade II Wireless headphones. These are great headphones and I whole heartily recommend them. At $350, they punch above their weight class. These are solid headphones with a build quality that seem like they’ll last longer than other options.

Source: Gadgets – techcrunch

Anker’s Spirit earbuds are wireless and waterproof

Anker’s Spirit earbuds are wireless and waterproof
Anker, a battery maker turned accessory house, recently released the $39 Spirit X earbuds under their Soundcore brand. Aimed at runners and other heavy sweaters, the earbuds are completely waterproof under the IPX7 rating, a classification that means it can stand up to 1 meter of submersion.
What this means is that you get a surprisingly cheap and rugged set of workout earbuds that you’re not afraid to get a little dirty.
I tested a pair and found them quite nice for running. The rubber ear hooks kept them in place and the sound quality was not horrible, especially compared to my previous pair of Philips corded headphones. The sound quality, while a bit muffled, is what you’d expect from a standard pair of sports headphones, and the rubber earbuds stayed in place quite nicely. The company claims the headphones have a 12-hour battery life, which is about right — I used them for a few days and saw little change in the battery level.
A small flap on the bottom of the control bar hides a micro USB port for charging and there are three buttons — volume up, track advance and volume down. There are no voice prompts, but there is a built-in microphone for calls.
These are not swimming headphones. The IPX7 rating means they’ll stand up to sweat and rain but not a few dozen laps in the pool. An aqua-phobic nano-coating keeps the drops out of the inside of the headphones and should let you keep trucking long after other headphones have rusted out.
Long thought of as a bargain Amazon brand, Anker is expanding its reach and understanding of the market. By building inexpensive gear for those who don’t mind a slight trade-off in audio quality, they’ve hit an interesting spot in the headphone market. While this won’t beat your high-end over-ear headphones with all the trimmings, sometimes a $40 pair of daily wear earbuds is all you need.

Source: Gadgets – techcrunch