Applause TV – 12/11/2014
Topic: Holiday Toys
Segment starts around 13 minutes.
Before you go to the International CES you get a lot of email – and I mean literally thousands of emails from people trying to entice you to their booths. Audio-Technica’s invitation to visit their booth said I would get custom fitted for a free pair of ATH-CKX5iS Sonic Fuel in-ear headphones and I figured – why not.
First I have to admit that I am not a huge fan of in-ear headphones. Usually my ears get tired and sore and, especially when I fly or do yard-work, I prefer the noise insulation provided by over the ear headphones. That being said for day to day usage especially with a phone I crave a pair of comfortable in-ear headphones.
There was a lot of ‘pomp & circumstance’ surrounding the presentation of these headphones – first you made an appointment then a specialist took you over for a custom fitting. What it really is: They have 3 sizes of in-ear cups for each ear and you try and find the right one. It is an unusual process. How do I know what is going to feel good in my ear in 10 minutes? Is it supposed to be tight or loose? And while it is a great idea it is this unusual process that they were trying to sell – that you can spend a few minutes getting your headphones to fit better.
Once they sized my headphones (which took 90 seconds). I got to try them. The first thing I noticed were these little extruding crescent shapes that kept the headphones from falling out of my ear. You can’t feel them but they do they job so well at first is is a little disconcerting because they balance in a way that it feels that they WILL fall out of your ears (but they don’t they just float there and are very snug – in a good way).
Sound wise these are amazing headphones – a full rich sound. And the ‘custom fit’ blocks a ton of sound. So much that you can’t have a conversation with them on – you get that muffled “my god my voice is so loud in my head” feeling when you talk while wearing them. With phone calls I have had mixed results – some say the microphone sound is great others say it is just OK.
Overall – these are really good headphones. And remember I am biased against in-ear headphones and I found them very comfortable with a great sound quality. But they do take a few moments to get used to because they are so ‘unusual’.
For me to a review a product it has to stand out. And when I passed the display of these adorable little speakers at the International CES I couldn’t help but be drawn over. But would I really like it? Are they any good? I asked the guy at the booth to tell me something special about his products and he told me that for every Panda speaker they sell they donate money to Pandas International. (I asked what happens when you purchase a Penguin and he told me they aren’t partnered with any Penguin charity yet…)
The GOGroove Groove Pal speakers come in two sizes the original full size model and the newer GOGroove Groove Pal junior. For little speakers they actually have a pretty big sound!
The full size GOGroove Groove Pal (we tested the Panda of course) has a retractable 1/8″ audio jack (this feature works very well) and an internal lithium battery (that charges via USB). It is not just very cute but it has a very big sound and the first thing we all thought of was having it not just for our iPhones but also for our laptops.
The smaller size GOGroove Groove Pal junior (we tested the Penguin) uses AAA batteries and a self contained (but manually wound) 1/8″ audio jack. It is also cute (thought the cord is slightly more cumbersome but it does wrap inside) and also has a pretty good sound.
On a scale of 1-10 the GOGroove Groove Pals get a 10 for cuteness and the full size I give an 8 for sound and the junior a 6.
That being said for the price ($35 & $16 respectively) you can’t go wrong – only thing missing was Bluetooth.
I must admit the SleepPhones product itself wasn’t the first thing that caught my eye at the International CES in Vegas. It was the guy in the sheep outfit standing in front of the booth. However I’m glad he beckoned me over!
SleepPhoness, marketed as “pajamas for your ears”, is a soft headband with integrated speakers. It comes in 2 versions the ‘Original’ wired version and a wireless Bluetooth version. To be honest – I was really excited to try the wireless version (sleeping with cords scares me). The wireless Bluetooth version is very easy to use and quite convenient. The speakers aren’t overly large – the battery sits at the back of the head and is small, soft, and not too heavy. I have no idea how long the battery lasted because it did the job – it lasted long enough to get me to sleep and keep me asleep. I also like that you can use it as a sleep mask.
So how is the sound? Its not big and booming, its not sharp and tinny – it is a nice sound – a pleasant sound. The company is very smart – they have a free iPhone app designed with sleeping sounds and music.
For those looking for sleep time headphones this product is a no-brainer.
It also makes a GREAT gift because most people would love getting one but not know to look for it in the first place.
I have to start by saying: You have no idea how awesome this toy is! It’s not really a toy but playing with it and using it gives you that rush you get when you were a child playing with a new toy. I have had the Bass Egg for several weeks now and it is still just as wonderful and magical as the moment I saw it demonstrated at the 2014 International CES.
Simply put – the Bass Egg turns anything you place it on into a speaker. And not just a regular speaker – a pretty loud speaker and, depending on the surface, a more often than not pleasant and enjoyable listening experience. The unit itself is very small (thought quite heavy). When you think about it – it is pretty much an internal rechargeable battery and a speaker driver that touches surfaces via a rubbery foot. You can connect audio sources via a cable or Bluetooth and for me personally that’s the only way to use it is with my iPhone via Bluetooth.
If you hold it in your hand you can hear a little noise from the vibrations but when you place it on a nice wood table (in my experience the more boxy and the better the wood the better) it just booms into life. I love listening to classical with it because you can’t tell where the music is emanating from and it just seems to be everywhere. The more bass the better and boy does it make your surfaces vibrate. We have had such fun with it – touched it to doors – windows – glass tabletops (wow). You have to be careful with cheap metal cause it kinda rattles and buzzes. It’s winter here in Cleveland so I haven’t been able to follow their suggestion and try it on the hood of my car (or a boat). I did try on the garbage bucket in my office it was very nice – they also say it is great on a cooler.
This device is a game changer. It makes you rethink how you carry and use speakers. It makes you rethink how you listen to music. How often can technology really influence your behavior like this? And I say this in a good way. It’s so small that I need to remember to just always have it with me. I don’t know how long the batteries last but I have charged it (via USB) regularly and it hasn’t died on me yet.
Most importantly – everyone – and I mean everyone who sees it in person wants one. And for $99 why shouldn’t you get one?
If you walk around the International CES show in Vegas you will see a lot of people selling headphones. It is a real zoo – with each company trying to do something to make themselves stand out from the others and regretfully most of the time the approach is more stylish than functional. The moment I saw the Boomphones Phantom however, I knew I was going to love them. They are big headphones. I love that. Very comfortable on the head and really cover the entire ear with soft ear cups. Just plugging them in you get a nice sound even before you add the bells & whistles.
And these are impressive bells & whistles – these really are some gee-whiz headphones. First, they have an internal lithium battery pack (recharges via USB) that when switched on gives an amazing bass boost. In fact everyone I demonstrated them on has asked if they were noise cancelling. Nope – hey are just well insulated and very loud (potentially crazy loud). But wait there is more. If you take the headphones off and hit the bomb symbol that is over the left ear cup they turn into pretty good speakers. I don’t mean to downplay the quality of the speakers – the headphones themselves are just SO good that the speakers are just speakers (also nice and loud). And then you remember that a moment ago they were just headphones! It is the ultimate in multifunction audio device. Headphones bundled with speakers. Brilliant! While I am sure that they were designed for younger and hipper audience than myself (kids sharing their tunes) I do enough work on a laptop to see the instant advantage of having loud speakers bundled into really good headphones.
But wait there is more! The headphones are attached via a removable cable – and it comes with two cables: A regular 2-pin cable and A 3-pin cable that has a microphone and volume control which makes it phone friendly. Even better in speaker mode the Boomphones Phantom can be used as a speakerphone – one that you can actually hear! The only thing that could have made this product better would have been Bluetooth but they sell another product (the Pocket Speaker) for that purpose and I will have to be sure to review it soon!
At $150 you really can’t beat the price for the quality.
This is meant to be an “almost review” or “not quite review” of the AfterShokz Bluez. I was lent a set to demonstrate on Applause but I was asked not to write a review as a new model (the AfterShokz Bluez 2) is coming out this Spring (and to wait and review those instead). So out of respect for the company I will not be doing a review of these headphones.
That being said – I wish they would let me! Because this is an awesome product and I cannot wait to get my hands on the AfterShokz Bluez 2 when they are released.