Archives For Audio


Those following closely know the original Vizio 5.1 “soundbar” was one of the best tech purchases I made in 2013. Unlike traditional soundbars, in addition to being paired to a subwoofer, the Vizio also includes a pair of rear channel speakers (that connect to the subwoofer, which communicates wireless to the soundbar) to provide a true surround experience. Taking into account I’m no audiophile, I’ve been very pleased with the sound quality. Further, I appreciate the lack of clutter with this solution in conjunction with its understated style. Oh yeah – it also quite capably streams Bluetooth audio. Retail was somewhere in the neighborhood of $330, but I picked mine up for a mere $230. Of course, with any amazing value like this there must be some catch. Indeed, the Vizio shipped with a limited number of inputs. Enter 2014… Continue Reading…

Sirius XM Raising Rates In 2014

Dave Zatz —  December 18, 2013 — 9 Comments


It’s that time of year. No, not holiday shopping. Rather, annual rate increase notices. And, next up is Sirius XM, who just hit me with a letter that indicates my online streaming add-on will increase from $3.50/mo to $4/mo. A fifty cent increase is pretty insignificant, yet these sorts of notifications may motivate folks such as myself to examine our usage scenarios and competing offerings. As it turns out, I mostly listen to Sirius XM in the car and would probably get more phone, tablet, Sonos enjoyment by re-upping with a more customizable Internet Radio service like Slacker… for the same $4. (It also looks like my satellite rate will eventually go up, but not quite yet as I agreed to an annual package.)

20 TVs tested: Which sets can pass surround sound to a sound bar?


By way of the FCC, we learn that Dr. Dre intends to up the ante with the Beats Pill XL. Like Jambox, they’ve supersized their initial portable Bluetooth speaker design for bigger sound (at a bigger price). Whereas Jambox styling was once fresh and fun, I find it a bit garish these days… and, by contrast, dig the original Pill’s rounder aesthetics. Although from the limited imagery, it’s hard to tell how the Pill XL scales. Continue Reading…


Within the last week, both Sonos and Nest released new products. And, while each is somewhat compelling in its own right, I can’t say I’m in the market for either.

First, Nest has beautified and modernized another mundane home appliance. But the connected Nest Protect smoke and carbon monoxide detector runs a lofty $129 and, with 5 existing detectors, I don’t care enough to spend the kind of money needed to outfit my house. Further, unlike the Nest Thermostat, there’s no potential energy savings to offset and perhaps mentally justify the cost. Lastly, for reasons unknown, my Nest Thermostat has a tendency to reboot and the motion sensor hasn’t been very responsive — neither of which motivates me to entrust my safety to Nest, despite the Protect’s imminent UL endorsement.

Sonos, by comparison, has released a $199 speaker… which almost makes the multi-sensor Nest Protect appear a reasonable proposition. But Sonos has never been inexpensive and the connected speaker market has featured outrageous pricing across the board these last few years. But ya gotta pay to play, and like my TiVo Mini, I’ve been willing to drop the cash on the best solution irrespective of a company’s profit margins. If I hadn’t recently outfit a couple more rooms with the $299 Play:3, I’d have saved some coin and went with the new and more attractive Play:1.

But what if these two companies hooked up… Continue Reading…

Unannounced Sonos Play:1 wireless speaker already on sale for $199.99


For a few short hours last week, Apple TV software update 6.0 was available. However, due to a variety of glitches, had been pulled. The patched software has made its triumphant return today, featuring iTunes Radio along with a few playback and synchronization enhancements. While iTunes Radio is frequently compared to Pandora, it feels more like a platform to merely sell tracks – given prices displayed all over the place. And if I wanted to listen to music through my TV, I’d head over to the way more visually stimulating VEVO — MTV for the digital age. Of course, Airplay remains unrivaled… although Google’s $35 DIAL-powered Chromecast dongle looks real promising. But I’m still holding out hope for a more powerful aTV, sporting a full fledged app store and the ability to take advantage of iOS’ new gaming controller API – I think you know where I’m going here. Folders for ‘My Apps’ versus the current Roku-esque clutter would also be an appreciated enhancement.

From the release notes: Continue Reading…