Amazon’s colourful new Echo brings the rainbow into your home

Fill your home with music AND colour with the latest range of Amazon’s smart speakers aimed at younger audiences looking brighter than ever.

Amazon are launching a new line of Echo speakers aimed specifically at kids. Their new Echo Dot Kids Edition will give kids access to loads of child-friendly content on the Smart home speakers.

Based on the third-generation Echo Dot speakers that released late last year, the speaker will feature better sound quality and enhanced design on previous Dots. The Kids Edition speaker will be available in two colours: frost blue or a fantastic looking rainbow fabric.

The speakers will offer kids voice-controlled access to content fit for children. It will be able to respond to questions, play voice-based educational games, and there are podcasts aimed at children. The Echo Dot Kids Edition also comes with a years subscription to FreeTime Unlimited, offering over 1,000 kids audiobooks from Audible, Alexa skills from Sony and Disney, and more content aimed at kids.

So that kids are getting the right content for their age, parents are able to select an age bracket for their child so that the Echo Dot only shows content appropriate for that age. Parents can also block specific content, limit how long it can be used, and decide when Alexa will respond.

The Amazon Echo Dot Kids Edition ships later this month with a 2-year guarantee against breakages. It will cost $69.99 but will be available for $49.99 in a limited time promotion.

Bose speakers are getting smarter with Google Assistant

More and more speakers are getting voice control AI as music tech gets interactive and Bose are the latest to get in on the trend.

Google and Bose have announced that they are joining forces to bring voice-control power to more home speakers. Starting this week Bose are bringing Google Assistant to their line of smart speakers and soundbars to make them smarter and more interactive.

Bose speakers getting the voice-controlled artificial intelligence will be able to tell it to play music, find answers to your questions on the web, manage tasks and your planner, control smart devices and even more. As with other Google Assistant powered devices all functions are activated by simply saying, “Hey Google”.

Bose speakers with Google Assistant support will include: Bose Home Speaker 500, Bose Soundbar 500 and 700, and a new compact smart speaker that they will launch later this summer – Bose Home Speaker 300.

If you already own one of these Bose smart speakers or sound bars, it’s easy to get the Assistant set up. Your speaker and soundbar will automatically receive a software update introducing the Google Assistant as a voice assistant option. You can go to “Voice Settings” for the device in the Bose Music app, select the Google Assistant and follow the guided setup process.

And if you are purchasing a Bose smart speaker for the first time, you’ll be able to select the Assistant right at set up.

Marshall’s new portable speakers look like little guitar amps

Marshall have expanded their Bluetooth speaker line-up with 2 new awesome-looking additions to the range.

Last year the most notorious guitar amp/stack makers went beyond the guitar to launch a portable speaker for playing music on the go. The Kilburn speaker provided a great sound for a Bluetooth speaker than can be taken anywhere at a decent price for a quality build like Marshall.

Now it’s getting one bigger and one smaller sibling to turn Marshall’s solo Bluetooth speaker act into a portable music family. The Tufton is a larger speaker offering a more hefty sound that you can one the go with it’s simple pull up handle. The smaller Stockwell II is an upgraded version of the slightly miniaturised speaker offering.

The mini Stockwell II offers a lot for a small package pushing out multi-directional sound so that, whether you’re inside or out, you’ve got an exceptional music experience from a pint-sized package. It offers over 20 hours of playback from Bluetooth devices so the party doesn’t end all night.

The steel grille on the outside makes the Stockwell II look like a gnarly amp but also keeps it’s insides protected from wear and tear on the road. It is also IPX4 water-resistant so it can take a bit of rain or a bit of beer spillages and keep the music going. Just like a guitar amp, you can use control knobs to adjust the volume, bass and treble of your sound.

The Tufton is a much more formidable offering packing a bigger sound inside it’s much bigger frame. The Tufton prides itself on a rich low-end capable of frequencies down to 40 Hz from its 40w woofer and has a much bigger output capable of up to 102 dB sound. Beyond it’s power the Tufton and Stockwell II are mostly comparable.

Whilst the speakers bear the hallmarks of Marshall’s guitar amps’ and stacks’ aesthetic they are actually produced by Zound Industries.

The Stockwell II is available for £219.99 and the Tufton will set you back £349.99. The original Kilburn II comes cleanly in the middle, available for £269.99.

Devialet’s 900 watt, wireless Phantom Reactor speaker review

Devialet revolutionise the amount of power you’d expect to be possible in the size of their speakers. We got to experience that first hand.

We’ve been wanting to get our hands on a Devialet speaker since we first saw their incredible, face-melting Phantom speaker in 2015. In 2016 they launched their tour de force; the Gold Phantom with 4,500 watts of bone-rattling power. With this year’s launch of the more compact Phantom Reactor (still capable of an incredible noise) we put it to the test to hear for ourselves how Devialet have been changing the speaker game.

The Phantom Reactor takes things down a notch from its predecessors but still packs an impressive 900 watts of pure, un-distorted power. Coming in at the size of a slightly deflated football with it’s clean, ‘fresh-out-the-mothership’ aesthetic – the fact that this small speaker can push out so much sound is truly special.

We lugged it down to our large open studio downstairs to test it out at full volume with plenty of space. The first thing we noticed when we plugged it up and switched it on was the quality. Considering it has a big sound it sounds good. Really good. Probably the most impressive thing about our time with Devialet’s speaker is just how consistent the quality is whether it’s at the highest possible volume and shaking the walls or playing at its quietest depths.

With 900w behind it, the speaker is more than capable of filling a room with sound and the sound it produces travels better than any speaker of this size we’ve heard. When the Phantom Reactor is emitting music it travels distance, moving above, below, and around surfaces so it feels like it’s next to you even when you’re 20 metres away.

Whilst it’s a powerful speaker, it really is – when we were playing it full volume it felt like it needed just an extra notch of volume. Don’t get me wrong, it plays music *loudly* and is more than enough for a party, gathering, or any other reason you could have for loud music. Perhaps I’m tainted by my love of ear-bleeding levels for music, and the knowledge of its far louder older brother – the Phantom Gold.

It just felt like it needed one extra bar on the volume-up button. Me and a colleague were able to talk without raising our voices whilst standing next to it at full volume. I suppose it’s personal preference, and the context you’re using a Phantom Reactor in, as to whether that is a good feature or a small shame.

The Reactor is multi-directional but I found the sound was at its best when you’re standing anywhere in front of it’s geometrically carved sound hole. When standing anywhere on either side of it’s Heart Bass Implosion (HBI) panels the sound feels a little less enveloping but still brilliant.

Speaking of it’s HBI panels, they’re a truly amazing piece of technology. They are what allows for Phantom speakers to push out such large-sounding, incredible bass levels from such a small compact device. It makes for a truly impressive low-end and it also makes it look hella cool when it’s sides are shaking out of their casing.

Connecting your device up for playback is simple and intuitive. You can easily cast music from a Bluetooth device, plug it up with an auxiliary, or connect it to the internet for Airplay connectivity from the majority of major online casting features.

The companion app for the speaker brings all of its connectivity into one place however I was a little dissappointed in the features of the app. It lets you control the gain with total precision but there are no EQ settings which is a real shame as it would be nice to customise the levels to your preferences or to match the music you’re playing. The app does however have a very unique setting that lets you adjust the latency when connected by aux… which is pretty neat.

When it comes to the build of the the Reactor it’s a solid piece of equipment, it weighs a lot thanks to the sheer amount of kit inside it that creates its giant sound. The plastic coating feels tough and thick whilst metal panels on the side give it a robust, cold touch eliciting yet more of its alien allure.

All in all Devialet make a product that is quality and at times shocking with what it’s capable of. I feel like the majority of the awe lies in the original Phantom speakers but at a much smaller price the Reactor offers a lot of bang for it’s buck. Whether you would choose it over a similarly priced hi-fi system? That’s up to you.

The Phantom Reactor is available at 600 watts for £990 or the 900 watt version that we tried for £1,290. Both are sure to fill the home as an impressive sound system.

Find out more and get your own Phantom from the Devialet website.

Beats by Dre are taking on Apple’s Airpods with wireless earbuds on May 10th

Beats, the Apple owned headphone makers and music shakers, are taking on one of their parent company’s most divisive products.

Beats by Dre have become one of the most notorious headphone manufacturers around the world in the past 10 years. Since acquisition Beats has become synonymous with Apple, the Dr. Dre brand being Apple’s flagship online radio station.

Beats have now announced the release of their first wireless earbuds. The PowerBeats Pro will start pre-order sales on the 3rd of May and will be available a week later, says Apple. At first they will be available only in black before releasing three other colour options later this summer.

The PowerBeats Pro will use the same technology as Apple’s own wireless earbuds – AirPods. For a slightly increased price on the AirPods, Apple promise that the sound quality will be better on Beats’ alternative. They will use the same H1 chip that launched in the latest version of Apple’s AirPods and will feature the same wireless functionality.

Apple’s AirPods have been criticised in the past for being an expensive investment in tech that is so easy to lose. The PowerBeats Pro earbuds will feature a hook to hang onto your ear making it much less likely that they might slip out and get lost. Considering the increased price this is a vital feature.

For $250 you can pre-order Beats’ PowerBeats Pro from the 3rd of May and purchase them in shops from the 10th.

This device takes Spotify offline and looks like an iPod Shuffle

Get your vibe on wherever you are, regardless of your internet connection with the Mighty Vibe player taking Spotify offline.


Back in the days of music players thriving, smartphones not providing every tech need, and before 3G gave us web access wherever we are portable players were all the range. The Mighty Vibe is a new player that oozes nostalgia of the days of the tiny iPod Shuffle.

Online music streaming has proliferated through to pretty much everyone with internet access and even the slightest enjoyment of music. As our phones get bigger and our love for streaming all the music around the world gets stronger Mighty Vibe is looking to take us back to the days of simple, portable, offline music.

The device is the size of the old iPod Shuffle, which was a small square with playback buttons and no screen for any Generation Z readers. It can hold over 1,000 songs which it downloads from Spotify and presents a compact solution to taking music out without using data – great for going running as modern smartphones are often too chunky to clip onto armbands/shirts.

The Mighty Vibe refreshes itself each night to make sure that its library is up to date with the music you love. It will last you over 5 hours of music streaming when you’re out and about. It’s pretty durable as well so you don’t need to worry about the elements as it’s drop-proof and water resistant.

Here’s everything that makes the Mighty Vibe player great:

  • No signal, no problem – music stored offline so you can listen while working out without your phone
  • Redesigned antenna allows expanded Bluetooth playback range & stronger connectivity
  • Works w/ Spotify Premium
  • Pairs w/ Bluetooth headsets & speakers (and wired, 3.5mm headset jack) and clips onto clothes for extreme flexibility
  • Syncs 1,000+ songs from your Spotify library
  • Wakes itself up each night & automatically refreshes your synced music through the new Stay Fresh feature
  • Delivers over 5 hours of battery life
  • Features drop & water resistance
  • Playlist Selector button allows for easy playlist scrolling

You can get 10% off the Mighty Vibe Spotify Offline Player now and nab it for just $76.99.

Facebook are working on their own voice-powered AI

It was only a matter of time before Facebook joined the trend with their own artificial intelligence voice assistant.

Facebook want to start talking back to their 2.3 billion users around the world by developing their own virtual assistant. Mark Zuckerberg has been interested in AI for a while, pledging to build on the ‘Jarvis’ AI back in 2016. Now he’s looking to take on Amazon’s Alexa and Apple’s Siri directly with the development of Facebook’s own voice-controlled AI.

Reported first by CNBC, the artificial intelligence is under development by the social media giant’s tech division responsible for their virtual reality, Oculus headsets. It has reportedly been in the works since early 2018 though there’s no information on when they plan to make it public.

According to two employees who left Facebook in the past few months, a team in Redmond, Washington are leading the design of their new AI assistant. Facebook’s director of AR/VR and Facebook Assistant, Ira Snyder, is leading the development.

It’s not yet clear how Facebook will use the AI. It will undoubtedly be implemented in their recently launched Portal speakers but there is a massive amount of potential in voice control with Facebook itself. It could enhance and expand on the platform, even result in a heavier multimedia approach.

The team have reportedly been in contact with vendors of the smart speaker supply chain to discuss their plans. A spokesperson speaking to Reuters said: “We are working to develop voice and AI assistant technologies that may work across our family of AR/VR profucts including Portal, Oculus, and future products.”

Amazon are making their own version of Apple’s AirPods

Amazon are creating their first Alexa wearable which looks to take Apple’s controversial yet popular AirPods head on.

According to a new report from Bloomberg, Amazon are producing wireless earbuds as the first in a new range of Alexa products. According to “people with knowledge of the plans, the headphones will look and act similar to AirPods and come with built-in Alexa functionality.

Amazon’s earbuds sit inside the ears rather than clipping on, a design that made AirPods unique but also led to criticism. Users complained that the already small earbuds were easy to lose as they were capable of slipping out of the ear, a fatal flaw when they cost $159 for a pair.

With voice control users can use the Alexa earbuds to order products online, search and listen to music, find out the weather and news, and more that Alexa is typically capable of. The people who shared the information say gesture controls will include tapping to pick up and end calls and switch between songs.

Amazon have refused to comment or confirm the details. Whilst we have no official information yet it’s likely that Amazon’s earbuds will be available for cheaper than Apple’s AirPods as their products often do.

IKEA are making the power of Sonos speakers cheaper

IKEA and Sonos are working together to create a new brand of powerful yet ‘affordable’ speakers to be revealed soon.

IKEA is the Swedish department store known for everything from flat pack furniture to authentic meatballs. They’re hoping, through an alliance with Sonos, that they can also soon make a name for themselves as quality smart speaker makers at a price that won’t offend your bank accounts.

With the incredibly catchy name ‘SYMFONISK’, we have been waiting to hear more for a long time and at long last we have some details. We now know that ‘SYMFONISK’ will actually be the name of a range of speakers. They will be revealed between the 9th – 14th April at Tortona 32 in Milan as part of a light and sound exhibition named FEEL HOME.

Together Sonos and IKEA have revealed a book-shelf speaker prototype with modern connectivity and multi-functions. Thought we don’t know much about the speaker it seems like it offers up a similar package to most modern smart speakers but they’re touting how affordable it is in particular.

 



IKEA’s business leader for IKEA Home Smart, Björn Block says: “Together with Sonos we wanted to combine our home furnishing knowledge with their expertise in creating great sound experiences for every room of the home, and in Milan we want you to experience the real difference that sound and light makes in your life.”

He continues: “For IKEA, the smart home is not about gadgets, it’s about making life at home better with solutions that create a better atmosphere, make you live a more convenient life and make you feel safe. The collaboration with Sonos is a great example of this, offering affordable high-quality sound in combination with a great design piece that we hope will find its way into the many people’s homes.”

IKEA partnered up with Sonos at the end of 2017 promising exciting new products that have only recently come to light. Last year the iconic furniture makers revealed a partnership with Teenage Engineering, the company behind the incredible OP-1. They are expected to launch the unique products from that range in June.

The speakers are expected to launch this August but we’ll get a much better scoop on what to expect next month.

Apple AirPods 2 rumours: Deeper bass and more sensors

The follow up to Apple’s popular wireless earbuds are on the way and we have new rumours about what they might feature.

A report from My Smart Price has suggested some of the new features we can expect from Apple’s 2nd generation of AirPods. The AirPods are expected to launch later this year, though details of what they’ll be introducing are scarce there are new rumours to get excited about.

The information given to My Smart Price comes from one of their ‘trusted sources” so may not be real. They say that the Airpods 2 will look pretty much the same in appearance but with a new coating to improve grip. A useful addition considering the high cost of the tiny and easily lost earbuds. It’s apparently a similar coating Apple plan to use on the “high-end” iPhone 11.

The audio quality will reportedly be improved thanks mostly to an improved bass response making for superior low-end playback. They will also include advanced sensors, according to the source, potentially for health features like heart rate monitoring. Their extra features will come at a price as the earbuds are expected to cost $200, $41 more than the 1st generation.

The ‘trusted source’ has also given information on Apple’s AirPower wireless charging pad. The AirPower will launch this Spring according to the source alongside Apple’s wireless charging case for their first generation of AirPods. The wireless charging pad will offer wireless charging to the latest iPhones with “exclusive features”.