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Accessory Review – AMBEO Smart Headset

Background

The AMBEO Smart Headset has become, and will probably remain, one of my all-time favorite wired headsets. It has caused me to reconsider my feelings on the headphone jack. For a long time, I use to feel that the headphone jack was the single most useful audio feature a product could have, and now, I’m not so sure that’s true.

As everyone knows, Apple removed the headphone jack from the iPhone 7 and later, causing wide-spread controversy, both in and outside of the audio-file world. I even remember saying that if Apple ever removed the headphone jack from products like the iPad and Mac, it would be a sad day indeed; but I’m not ashamed to admit that I might be wrong. You can do things with Lightning and USB-C ports that would be impossible with the standard 3.5 MM headphone jack. Not only can you play high-resolution audio, there are also headsets that can provide you with noise cancellation, all without the need for extra batteries. You can purchase headsets that have an equalizer as well, allowing you to tailor the audio to your exact taste. Because the connection is digital, any changes you make to the audio will affect everything on your device, including any screen reader you might be using, such as VoiceOver for iOS. If that’s not enough, you can buy headsets that allow you to record in binaural (or 3D) audio.

What is binaural audio? Binaural (or 3D) audio is a method of recording that replicates how the human ears hear audio. The result is that when played back through stereo headphones, you almost feel as though you’re in the room, or crossing the street, depending on where the recording takes place. You can find lots of examples of binaural audio on YouTube, SoundCloud, and other similar places. iAccessibility even records it’s UnboxCasts in binaural audio. Mix together noise cancelation, a system-wide equalizer, the ability to play high-resolution audio, and you’ve got all the ingredients to make a headset I want to have in my life. You’ve got… the AMBEO Smart Headset.

Features

The AMBEO Smart Headset features Sennheiser’s signature sound, along with Apogee’s proprietary Soft Limit and mic pre-amp, making for an extremely natural and noise free recording. Not only does the headset feature the ability to cancel noise and record binaural audio, it also allows you to hear your environment using the same microphones used to make recordings. You can choose between three levels: reduced level, which brings in a little background, while still mostly hearing your music; natural level, which is meant to let you hear your surroundings without any amplification; and amplify level, which amplifies the volume of your surroundings, bringing them to the forefront of what you hear. You can customize all of this using the Smart Headset app, available for free in the App Store. The app is mostly accessible, with the only major issues being the “Getting started guide” and manually adjusting the EQ curve when using the Custom preset in the equalizer. The headset also features a microphone on the right cable, meant for talking to Siri and taking calls.

Layout and Controls

Exploring the headset from the top, one will first find the earbuds. These earbuds are an in-ear style. This means they require you to have a good seal to achieve the best sound quality. Attached to the earbuds, you will find a set of medium silicone ear tips. Other sizes are included in the packaging. You can buy tips from lots of companies, and in various styles, if the default ear tips cause you discomfort during use. For example, I ended up purchasing some memory foam ear tips, which not only improve sound isolation, but also made the earbuds stay in my ears better. The earbuds also feature both the binaural microphones and the ear hooks (They sit behind your ears) that  help with stabilization when the earbuds are in your ears, the microphone on the right cable, and nothing else until you reach the rectangular controller. The first thing you’ll find on the top left side of the controller if you are wearing the earbuds in your ears, is the Smart slider. By default, the slider changes the microphone level from Natural level to Reduce level. You can change the function of the slider in the app. You can choose to have it mute and unmute the telephone microphone, open Voice Memos, launch the Smart Headset app, open the camera, open an app called Meta Recorder, and open an app called FilmicPro. I haven’t used Meta recorder and FilmicPro, as the AMBEO Smart Headset will work with most any recording app. Finally, you can have the Smart Slider toggle a feature Sennheiser calls “Interact”. While I don’t use this feature on a regular basis, I definitely think it’s extremely useful. When you turn it on, the headset will lower the volume of any audio that’s playing, and pass your environment through using the binaural microphones via the Situational Awareness feature. The Smart Slider is textured so your finger doesn’t slip off during operation. This slider is a spring-loaded slider, meaning that when you slide it all the way up, it will slide back to its original position. Just below the Smart Slider, you’ll find a little LED light. It changes color depending on the status of the microphones, and it will also indicate if you’re recording is distorting. Below the LED is the volume up button, the multi-function button for manually bringing up Voice control, Siri, managing calls, and media playback. Below this you’ll find the volume down button, and the rocker switch. The rocker switch is used for controlling just how much of your surroundings you hear, and whether or not noise cancellation is enabled. Again, you can customize the levels that the switch cycles through in the app. When you adjust the switch, the headset speaks the setting you’ve landed on. The speech sounds like audio recordings, rather than text-to-speech. The voice Is easy to hear and understand. You can choose to disable voice prompts in the app. You may want to do this if you use the headset a lot. Below the control is the rest of the cable that terminates in a lightning connector.

Recording

Recording with the AMBEO Smart Headset is just as easy as you mmight expect. Open Voice Memos with the headset connected, and tap on the Record button. That’s it. You’re making your very own binaural recordings; straight on to your iPhone, iPod touch, or iPad.

Voice Calls

When making voice calls with the AMBEO Smart Headset, I have found that the microphone on the cable is really quiet. It also sounds like the headset is noise reducing some background hiss created by the microphone. The audio is downsampled to 16 kHz. As most HD voice calls don’t go beyond that sample rate, this is not usually an issue. Some apps however, will allow you to transmit in binaural, using the microphones on the earbuds, rather than the microphone on the cable. TeamTalk is such an app. Other apps such as WhatsApp, use the binaural microphones when recording voice messages, but they aren’t recorded in binaural. That, I assume, is dependent on the codec and sample rate used by the app.

Situational Awareness

One of my favorite non recording features of the AMBEO Smart Headset is the Situational Awareness feature. As mentioned above, the headset uses the binaural microphones to allow you to hear your surroundings. Latency doesn’t exist when using this feature. That means that what you hear sounds very natural. Other than some microphone hiss, I can’t tell a difference between how my surroundings sound through the headset, and how my surroundings sound without the headset in my ears.

Noise Cancelation

The Noise Cancelation feature on the AMBEO Smart Headset is pretty good, but I wouldn’t say that it’s the best noise canceling headset out there. It does a good job at canceling noises like the rumble of a car ride, airplanes flying over, etc. I can still hear some conversation, though I do hear a difference when noise cancellation is disabled. I’m not sure if this is because the noise cancelation uses the binaural microphones, rather than microphones on the inside of the earbuds, but I don’t notice much of a suction feeling in my ears when using the feature. Using different styles of ear tips can improve sound isolation, which can assist the noise cancellation feature in blocking out external noise.

Sound

One thing you’ll want in a set of earbuds is great sound, and the AMBEO Smart Headset doesn’t disappoint. The sound is Rich and detailed, and nothing sounds over emphasized to my ears. I haven’t yet found a genre of music that doesn’t sound amazing over the AMBEO Smart Headset. When you play back binaural audio on the earbuds, it’s almost as though your ears have been transported to wherever the recording has taken place. Remember that sound is subjective, so you may experience the sound of the earbuds differently. As mentioned earlier, with the equalizer found in the Smart Headset app, you can Taylor the sound to fit your taste.

Conclusion

With the features the AMBEO Smart Headset offer, the quality of the recordings, and the sound, I would call the Smart Headset my, almost perfect, do everything wired headset. The only weakness they have in my opinion, would be voice quality for tasks such as phone calls and FaceTime. If you are searching for a great sounding pair of earbuds that are lightweight, comfortable, sound great, and can Make high-quality binaural audio recordings, give these a look. You can pick them up for $199.95 US at Amazon and other dealers.

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Accessory Review: Powerbeats Pro

Introduction

When Apple announced the Powerbeats Pro in April, I was excited. I had had my AirPods for around two years, and was noticing that my use time between charges was getting shorter and shorter. Also, they didn’t stay in my ears as securely as I would like, causing a reduction of sound quality as they moved around. I had purchased covers that would go over them to help with the fit and sound, but I couldn’t simply drop them in the case for charging, or put them in my ears when I needed them because the covers did not fit in the case. That ease of use, of course, is one of the selling points of the AirPods. I have dropped covers more than once, but somehow managed to not lose them for extended periods of time. Talk time, that is, the amount of time the battery lasts while you are using the AirPods in a call, wasn’t quite long enough for me either. Yes, I could use one AirPod at a time, switching them out as needed, but being used to earbuds and headphones with a wire connecting them, it was always easier to just have both buds in my ears, and I’ve gotten use to that. This led me to use my AirPods in the same way, putting both of them in my ears, even if I was just using them for a call. Then, something happened. I started coming across articles in my newsfeed speculating about new AirPods with a longer talk time, and grips to help them stay in your ears. Hey Siri support, and lower Bluetooth latency were also discussed as possible features. Could these new AirPods be what I was looking for? I wasn’t quite sure, but I was going to keep them on my radar.

The AirPods were finally announced and as we all know, they don’t have any grips, but they do have the lower latency, longer talk time, and Hey Siri support. They also have wireless charging, but that isn’t something I am all that fussed about. I seriously considered buying them anyway, even though I would still have problems with them staying in my ears. Before I had decided what I was going to do, Apple announced the Powerbeats Pro in April. They had everything I wanted in wireless earbuds. Ear hooks to help them stay in my ears, silicone tips to help with sound isolation, sensors to detect when you insert them in your ears so they can play and pause music, Hey Siri support via the H1 chip, and physical buttons to manage audio playback and answer/end phone calls. If that wasn’t enough, they have a rated play time of 9 hours, and talk time of 6 hours. Naturally, all of these features come at a price. In this case, it’s $249.00 in the US. Some might say that $249 is a lot to spend on wireless earbuds, especially considering that noise canceling is something the Powerbeats Pro does not do, but I didn’t care. I bought them. I’ve had them for a few days now, and I thought I’d post my initial impressions.

Packaging

The box features an outer sleeve that, when removed, reveals the box with the charging case resting in an indention on top, with the earbuds inside. This acts as a sort of removable lid. Under this, you’ll find printed instructions, the lightning charging cable witch I believe to be black rather than white, and a circular plastic container containing multiple sizes of replaceable tips.

The Case

Several reviews talk about the size of the charging case for the Powerbeats Pro, and I see why. It’s not exactly small when compared to the case of the AirPods, and it is a bit baulky, but it’s not really been an issue for me so far. The case is a clamshell style, with magnets to help keep it closed. There is a tactile Beats logo on the top of the case, and a rounded flat section on the bottom. Opening the case will reveal the earbuds. The “system button”, for pairing to non Apple devices, is located inside the case, on the bottom edge if it is facing you.

Connection and setup

The setup process matches that of the AirPods. For more information on setting up the Powerbeats Pro and AirPods, you can visit the Beats website, and for the AirPods, check out this Apple article. When switching devices, the Powerbeats Pro play a slightly different sound than the AirPods, but everything else is the same as you would expect. Interestingly, VoiceOver describes the Powerbeats Pro as AirPods when checking the battery status with the battery widget in iOS. This, however, is likely a bug which will be fixed in a future iteration of the operating system. 

The Earbuds

One of the first things you’ll notice about the earbuds when removing them from the case are the ear hooks on each one. These hooks are flexible, so you can adjust them to best fit your ears after you’ve inserted the earbud. The buds are made from a smooth feeling plastic, and are really light when placed in the hand. They feature two physical buttons. The volume button is on the top of the bud, and there is a Beats logo button on the side for managing audio playback and calls. You can also use the Beats logo button to bring up Siri, or another virtual assistant on non Apple devices. Because each bud features the same controls, you can use them independently of each other, or together, depending on your preference.

For charging, there are magnets that help guide the buds in place inside the case, making it really easy to remove them from your ears and drop them in the case to charge.

The earbud is mounted at a bit of an angle to assist with insertion and help with comfort, but it makes it a little more complicated for me to pull them from the case and put them in my ears. This may become easier as I use them more.

Removing and attaching the ear tips can be a bit of a challenge as well, as they will bend if you apply too much force when putting them on the earbuds. It helps to turn the tips inside out, grab the stem, and push it on the bud. Fold the tips back down, and you should be good to go. The Powerbeats Pro come with 4 different sizes of ear tips. The largest tips seem to work the best for me.

Sound

Before I describe the sound, let me start off by saying that sound is very subjective, and what I like or dislike about the sound of the Powerbeats Pro may differ from what you experience.

I’ve read some reviews that talk about how the Powerbeats Pro have a treble push, and that is definitely the case. It took me a while to get used to it when I first started listening to them. Beats is known for it’s bass, and you do get a great deal of it with the Powerbeats Pro, but it’s nice and controlled. The sound isn’t as thin as the Beats Solo 3 which are on ear headphones, and I found that to be a pleasant surprise. It does sound like there is a bit of a dip in the lower mid range, but all in all, these are great sounding wireless earbuds, and I really enjoy listening to them. I’ve listened to several different musical genres on them, and haven’t yet found any that sound bad on the Powerbeats Pro. I also didn’t experience any noticeable distortion when I set the volume to max.

Call quality is also pretty good. They sound very similar to the second generation AirPods. They support Wideband audio for calls, which is a must for me in Bluetooth headphones or earbuds.

If there was one thing for me to complain about regarding the sound, it would be that the Powerbeats Pro sound best with the Beats ear tips. I tried the tips from my AMBEO smart headset (the factory ones and the memory foam tips I bought to replace the factory tips,) but I was unable to get the same level of sound isolation that I do with the Beats tips.

Speaking of sound isolation, while they won’t block out all sound, they do block out enough for me to clearly hear what I’m playing, at least in a somewhat loud environment. That’s exactly what I want.

Battery Life

While the earbuds are rated for 9 hours per bud for audio playback, and 6 hours per bud for calls, I feel as though I get slightly longer than that, though I haven’t actually tested this. What I can say for sure, is they do last a lot longer than my AirPods ever did.

Conclusion

While the earbuds aren’t the easiest to pull from the case and insert into my ears, they take everything I loved about my AirPods to the next level. If you are looking for an amazing pair of wireless earbuds, and especially if you have Apple devices, I highly recommend the Powerbeats Pro if you routinely listen to music, podcasts, etc.

They are available in Black, Ivory, Moss, and Navy.

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iA Cast iA Cast Weekly

#iACast 78: Headphone Showdown

On this episode of the iA Cast, Michael, Jason, Aleeha, Allison, Scott, and Matt discuss all of the headphones we use All podcast panelists use their equipment for recording, so each person will sound differently based on what they use.

Here is the news for this episode.

Here is what each person used for this episode.

Please give us feedback by emailing feedback@iaccessibility.net, or by following us at twitter @iaccessibility1. You can also tweet our hashtag at #iACast.

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iA Cast iA Cast Weekly

#iACast 28 – The Future is NOW

This podcast was recorded on December 1, 2016, and it is hosted by Michael Doise. Accompanying Michael on this episode is Jason Earls, and Jessica Smith.

This episode covers the following topics:

  1. Black Friday/Cyber Monday DealsIn this segment, we discuss our holiday spending and deals we found interesting.
  2. W1-Enabled HeadphonesIn this segment, we discuss Beats and Apple’s AirPods.
  3. Directv NowAll three of us subscribed to AT&T’s new Directv Now service. Listen to us compare its accessibility and ease-of-use to other services, and hear our opinion on the service as a whole.
  4. Why Unlimited Data isn’t Always GoodIf you can stream Directv Now as much a you want as an AT&T cellular subscriber, why isn’t that good for consumers? What about consumers with other networks? What about other services that want to compete with Directv Now? Hear us discuss these issues and more.
  5. iAccessibility NewsCheck out iAccessibility.net for all the details on app betas, our training program, and more.

We sincerely hope you enjoy the content covered in this episode of our podcast! We have more content in the editing process, and we can’t wait to share it all with you soon! Thank you for listening!

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iAccessibility’s top devices of 2016

Many of our staff members wrote articles about their favorite device of 2016. In this post we are going to give you a link to each of them.

  • Michael Doise’s post about AirPods.
    The first post was from Michael Doise. He talked about Apples brand new
    AirPods.
  • My Favorite Device Of 2016 Bose QC35’s
    Rich posted the next post, talking about some cool new headphones from Bose.
  • My Pick For Best Tech of 2016? Beats Solo 3
    Next up, Jason wrote a post about the Beats Solo 3 headphones. The first thing Jason focuses on right off the bat is the battery life of the Beats Solo 3’s. Check out the article for more information.
  • Jessica’s Favorite Device of 2016!
    Jessica wrote this really interesting post about the Ring Video Doorbell Pro If you’re looking for a security camera for your home or apartment, you might be interested in this post.
  • Ashley’s fav device of 2016
    I, Ashley, wrote about the Amazon Echo Dot. I received my Dot at the end of 2016 so I had a short time to explore the Dots capabilities before I published my post. I suggested some great Alexa skills in my post.
  • Carlos’s Favorite Device of 2016
    Carlos wrote about the Smart Battery Case from Apple that originally came out for the iPhone 6s in 2015, but was then updated in 2016 to work with the iPhone 7
  • Matt’s favorite Device of 2016 iPhone SE
    Matt decided that the iPhone SE was his favorite device for 2016. Read his article to find out more and why he picked this phone as his favorite.

Witch of these devices is your top pick? Let us know in the comments.

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My Favorite Device Of 2016 Bose QC35’s

My Favorite Device Of 2016

As we start 2017, we are at the start of a year where I know we will see new developments in all types of technologies. From smart phones to tablets to audio and more. But in this post, I want to look back at 2016. We saw lots of cool devices introduced including new watches, phones and even a low-cost Braille display being announced. If however I had to choose one device that I use every day that I bought in 2016, it would have to be my Bose Quiet Comfort (QC) 35’s active noise canceling Bluetooth headphones.

First Impressions

The first time I tried these on at a Best Buy I was very impressed. From the build quality to the sound, I was like “wow.” Even with active noise canceling turned off, in wired mode, the headphones had great bass and highs. I also liked in Bluetooth mode, you had controls on the side for play/pause, using Siri, volume and the ability to skip tracks.

ANC-Active Noise Canceling

When turning on the ANC, it was just me and music. This is great for when you are in planes or cars and have a lot of engine noise in the background and you want all of that to just disappear. In my opinion, Bose truly has the best ANC technology.

Unboxing

When I did get a pair of these in October 2016, taking them out of the box, Bose includes everything you need. You get the headphones, a micro USB cable for charging, a detachable cable to use them in wired mode and a very sturdy case to put them in when transporting them.

How to Operate the Headphones

All the controls are on the right earcup. You have a micro USB port to charge the battery. You have three physical buttons on the side. They are volume down, a multifunction button, which acts as play/pause and skipping tracks, as well as using Siri and a third button, which is volume up. A single tap of the multifunction button will pause the music. A double tap will skip forward, while a triple tap will go back to the previous track. You can also hold down these buttons to rewind and fast forward within a track. Hold the button in until you hear a beep to engage Siri.

On the top of the right earcup is a slide switch. A sound indicates when the headphones are turned on while another sound indicates when the headphones are turned off. The headphones also feature text to speech. It can pair with two devices at a time. When using them in Bluetooth mode,

And you turn them on, you get the battery level announced as well as what device or devices it is going to auto connect to.

The Case

The case has a pocket for holding all cables. The earcups of the qc35’s which are made out of a very soft comfortable material, , fold down into the case and lie flat.

ANC

As stated above, I love this feature. I fly a lot as well as travel in cars. I love being able to not have to hear the sounds of engines in the background and just focus on the music. These headphones I feel really have to be worn and listened to to get the full appreciation of there sound.

Cons

Two cons I would have to say at this point because afterall no product is perfect, is that I wish you could use the headphones with ANC turned offf sometimes. For there are times where your working and don’t want to have ANC turned on while using them in Bluetooth mode. The only way around this is to use a wire mode and turn power off. I hope Bose can address this in the future. Battery life is 20 hours using Bluetooth and ANC and 40 hours using ANC with a wire. I charge these at least once a week over the past few months. It is also worth noting that when the battery dies, you can use these in wired mode with no Bluetooth or ANC.

Calling

You can make calls from the headset. You can hold down the multifunction button to engage Siri and make calls. In my tests, callers said I sounded clear to them.

Price

The headphones cost $350-pricy but worth every $. With great sound, great ANC and battery life, your getting great value and performance for the price.

For more information, check out the Bose website at

www.bose.com

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Product Review: Apple AirPods

When preorders went live for Apple’s iPhone 7 and 7 Plus, I acted fast! I knew I wouldn’t miss the headphone jack, because removing it would pave the way for more advancements in technology. With this in mind, it is no surprise that I was also among the first to order Apple’s new AirPods! I received them on Monday, December 19 – 2 days before the original estimate! I excitedly unboxed them, and paired them. Now that I have had some time to test functionality, here is my impressions and review.

What’s in the box?

  • The AirPods in their Charging Case
  • Documentation
  • Lightning Cable

Note: The box is shrink wrapped, unlike some newer products from Apple. Also, the box has a tactile image of the AirPods, which is something I always enjoy.

Setup

As many other reviews point out, pairing the AirPods with an iPhone or iPad is quick, painless, and somewhat magical. Simply open the lid of the case while it’s near your device, and an interface similar to Control Center will appear, asking you to connect. Once paired, you can see the battery level of the case and the AirPods themselves. Now, not only are your AirPods paired with the device you’re using, but they are also paired with all other devices connected to your iCloud account. The only omission, at least for now, is the Apple TV. The reasoning for this is that the Apple TV is generally a shared device, so the AirPods must be paired like traditional bluetooth devices. Hopefully this will change soon!

Pairing with traditional bluetooth devices is made possible with a pairing button located on the back of the AirPods case. This button also allows you to reset the AirPods, if you need to start the pairing process over like I did.

Wait, it wasn’t a seamless experience?

Well, it would have been, had I not been on a phone call at the time of initial pairing. Sound quality seemed strange to me, and I could not get the AirPods to show up on other devices. Initially, I went to Settings > Bluetooth, and forgot “Yessie’s AirPods,” but the next time I tried to pair them, the panel said, “Not your AirPods.” I could have connected anyway, but I wanted to have the experience Apple intended. So, I reset the AirPods.

To complete a reset, open the case (with the AirPods inside) and hold down the pairing button for 15 seconds. Then, the interface I mentioned above should appear. From there, it’s smooth sailing.

Look and Feel

Apple is going wireless, and the AirPods show it off beautifully. If you are used to traditional Apple headphones, these will be an easy adjustment for you, as the AirPods are simply a pair of EarPods with the cables cut off. They look and feel almost exactly the same. Even if the EarPods fall out of your ears, these may not. As it turns out, one major reason EarPods fall out of people’s ears is because of the cables. Who knew? Personally, I never had issues with EarPods staying in my ears, and this remains true for the AirPods. I did, however, have a scary moment where one fell out of my ear while doing house work. I would advise extra caution around trash receptacles or anything with a drain, especially for us low vision and blind folks.

Connectivity

The AirPods link together using Apple’s new W1 chip, and maintain two simultaneous bluetooth connections to your device. They remain perfectly in sync, which is really magical. The AirPods are said to have bluetooth 4 with some “special sauce,” but all that matters is that it seems to work really well. They have improved range compared to other bluetooth devices, and they have less audio imperfections. This is great, because for them to be worthwhile, these need to rival the usefulness of traditional or lightning headphones. In my testing, I would compare the range of the AirPods to that of my wireless, not bluetooth, headset with a USB receiver. I am very impressed, and I have not experienced any disconnections, like with traditional bluetooth audio devices.

Functionality

The AirPods can be charged from 0% to 100% in just 30 minutes, and each AirPod can last 5 hours on a single charge, or 2 hours of talk time. The case provides 24 hours of charge, which means these should easily get you through any long commute, or multiple short commutes with no need for lightning cables. When the case does need to be charged, you can easily do so with the included lightning cable, or one of the many others you undoubtedly have lying around. If you ever find yourself in a hurry, a quick 15-minute charge in the case provides the AirPods with 3 hours of listening time, or 1 hour of talk time. You can quickly check the charge of the AirPods, as well as the case with the same interface that pops up when you open the lid. When both AirPods are in the case, they’re listed as “AirPods: X%.” When one is removed, however, they show up as their separate left and right channels respectively. Additionally, you can check the level of your AirPods while you’re using them in the Batteries Widget on your iPhone. It will even tell you if you are using the left or right AirPod, which is a nice touch.

The AirPods can be used independently as a mono headphone, or together as a stereo pair. Switching between mono and stereo audio works really well in my testing. Just take one out of the case, and put it in your ear. You’ll hear it connect, and you can immediately start playing audio. As soon as you remove the second AirPod from the case, it will begin playing audio and you can put it in your ear for a great stereo sound. Removing either one will pause the audio, and you can press play again to continue playing in mono, or put the other headphone in your ear to continue listening in stereo. I love this feature, as it makes it very easy to quickly hold a conversation with someone without the distraction of audio playing in your headphones. Note: You can change any of these behaviors in Bluetooth settings, and even rename the AirPods.

Seamless Switching

On a recent podcast, I mentioned how I love my Plantronics Voyager Edge for its ability to maintain a simultaneous connection to both my iPhone and Apple Watch, and to switch between them as needed. The AirPods are advertised to do the same, without the need to manually pair to each device. However, in my testing, this has been far from consistent.

The AirPods refused to appear as an audio option on my Apple Watch until I restarted. Once I did, the watch connected to them and VoiceOver’s audio came through the AirPods instead of the watch. However, once I switched back to my phone, and tried switching back to the watch, I was unable to get audio to go through the AirPods again. Attempts to connect through Control Center on the watch often failed, which is a huge disappointment.

Additionally, I noticed that with only VoiceOver running, the AirPods would lose connection to my phone when I set it down. I would have to go to Control Center and remind them that they were supposed to be connected. This is also disappointing.

Music Playback

Music playback with the iPhone works really well. It sounds great – slightly better than the EarPods. I can definitely see myself using these quite a bit for listening to music on the go. My only problem? Siri is not a good replacement for actual buttons. I would like volume controls, and a way to skip tracks. Right now, you can only play/pause, and activate Siri by tapping the AirPods. What’s worse is that you have to tap really hard for Siri to activate, and it’s hard to know exactly where to tap. I’m hoping this will get easier with time, but it would be nice if Apple would give us some additional controls for music playback.

VoiceOver Latency?

Admittedly, I am not the best judge of latency, seeing as how I don’t continuously use VoiceOver. However, I will say that when paired with an iPhone, the AirPods are very responsive. I don’t notice much lag at all when typing long messages, or using VoiceOver. Is it as good as wired headphones? I don’t think so, but each person will form their individual opinion about latency. I’ve heard everything from, there’s no latency, to VoiceOver is very sluggish. There are also many factors to keep in mind when testing latency – the device used for testing and the particular use case are two examples of this.

I would also like to point out that MacBooks before 2015 are not setup to support newer standards of bluetooth, so latency is much worse on those machines. Additionally, they do not support wide-band audio, so any calls will have very poor audio quality. This is not the fault of the AirPods.

Conclusion

Apple’s long-awaited AirPods are finally here, bringing with them the wireless future Apple promised! At $159, the price is cheaper than most comparable wireless earbuds, and the functionality is much improved. Of course, this is more true for those of us in the Apple ecosystem, and who interact with Apple devices on a daily basis. If you are an Android user, for example, there are probably better options available for purchase. If you don’t plan to use these with an iPhone, iPod, iPad, or Apple Watch, I would recommend looking elsewhere. I have had a few issues with AirPods when it comes to switching between devices and with losing connection when no audio is being streamed, which is disappointing. However, I feel most of this is caused by long-standing bugs with Bluetooth in iOS, which will hopefully receive more attention now and actually get fixed. As for the AirPods themselves, future updates may include additional functionality – I am hoping for more music controls. With all this said, I believe the AirPods are a great first-generation product. There is room for improvement, but software updates should do the trick! I recommend these to any iOS user who is searching for well-integrated truly wireless earbuds. Embrace the wireless future with me, won’t you?

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Welcome to Trekz Titanium by Aftershockz

The title of this article is essentially what is said when you power on Aftershockz’ newest bluetooth headset the Trekz Titanium. In the past, we have typically blogged about apps and have written about platforms like the Echo, but we really haven’t talked much about headsets until now.

What makes these headphones so special?

All Aftershockz headphones are bone conduction headphones, which means that they sit on your cheekbones to send sound to your inner ear. The headphones vibrate your cheekbone and that sends the audio to your ear. The Trekz Titanium is the smallest and most flexible headset from Aftershockz that will fit most anyone’s head including my big head.

Since your ears are not covered, you can use these headphones to listen to music, audiobooks, or any other audio content while walking outside, ro while doing an activity that requires hearing. This is because of the fact that the headphones do not keep your ears from hearing what they normally hear, and you can still be aware of your surroundings.

Drawbacks

The Trekz Titanium has a 6 hour battery, which does not last long compared to many other headsets. I have not found this to be an issue as they can be charged fully within an hour and a half. Depending on your head and ears, the headset may not be the most comfortable for you, so adjust each side so that it is on your cheekbone instead of your ear. While the audio quality on this headset is good, it is not what you will get from an in ear solution like the LG Tones or the Beats or Bose headphones. I can honestly say that I have heard better and worse on a bluetooth headset.

Conclusion

I have found that the Trekz Titanium was a wonderful purchase that I made at #nfb16 from the folks at A T Guys. The headset can be purchased for $130, which is pretty standard for a bluetooth headset. The Trekz Titanium comes in many different colors, and I totally recommend the blue ones.

All in all this is a worthy headset for users that like to listen to music while moving around their area on foot. It keeps you alert while providing adequate sound quality for what you are listening to.

Aftershockz Trek Bone Conduction Headphones at A T Guys