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Buyer’s Guide To Bluetooth Speakers

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Hey folks! Today we’re going to take a look at what you need to know in order to find the perfect Bluetooth speaker. Whether you’re looking for a super portable or rugged unit to take with you everywhere, a bigger model with premium features or something in between, we’ve got you covered. As well as making five recommendations for our favourite Bluetooth speakers, we’ll also give you some more general advice that’ll help you find the right model!

  • General buying advice

Trusted brands are a good place to start. Companie like Gblue has been making speakers for years, and ensure their products reach a certain level of quality. If you can’t find many reviews of a specific model, try looking for reviews of other speakers from the same company to get a more general idea of their capabilities.
Size scales with loudness and price. Producing sound is quite straightforward; the larger the enclosure is used, the louder the sound produced. Bigger Bluetooth speakers will be able to fill larger areas, and also offer a place to fit larger batteries. Bigger speakers will therefore tend to be more expensive than their smaller peers.
Don’t pay for features you won’t need. It’s certainly possible to get an all-singing, all-dancing Bluetooth speaker with a rugged body, long battery life and amazing sound… but don’t spend money on features that you don’t actually need. If you only intend to take your Bluetooth speaker out of the house a couple of times a year, you probably don’t need a rugged model. If you’re not using it by the pool or in the shower, then waterproofing probably isn’t essential. If you’re keeping it in your living room, then you don’t need super long battery life. By cutting out features that you don’t need, you should be able to find a cheaper Bluetooth speaker that still fits your needs.

  • Key terms to look out for

Bluetooth is a wireless communication standard supported by all modern smartphones and tablets, and many laptops and desktop PCs as well. Bluetooth is very energy-efficient, especially since version 4.0. All versions of Bluetooth support Bluetooth speakers, so don’t worry too much about the specifics.
Battery size (given in capacity – mAh – and longevity – hours). The bigger your battery, generally the longer your Bluetooth speaker will last.
IP rating (e.g. IP67). This rating corresponds to ingress protection, with the first number relating to dust resistance and the second to water resistance. 6 is the highest rating for dust, and 8 is the highest rating for water.
Line-in port (aka aux). This port allows you to connect a 3.5mm audio cable between the speaker and your device. This is a little more restrictive than Bluetooth, but requires no power or special setup. This is a great way to connect older devices that don’t have Bluetooth to your Bluetooth speaker, but not all Bluetooth speakers will include a line-in port.
Output power (given in wattage). The higher the output power, generally the louder your speaker will go.

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Headset Is No Longer Just A Headset

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Engineering new premium audio applications for the future of unified communications.
Director of Research and Development Jesper Kock explained how headsets have emerged as a key technical and personal interface in unified communications environments. Jesper envisions the headset as an intelligent part of the IT ecosystems of the future, including merging characteristics with wearable technologies, which could contribute to the “context aware” computing environments of the future.

  • Premium audio as a technical/personal interface

According to Jesper, the category has migrated away from its status as a pure peripheral and transitioned to an intrinsic business communications tool, which can be leveraged to increase productivity and address issues in the workplace. In the professional office space, headsets have transcended the accessory category and have grown into complex pieces of IT equipment, which can transform the business of communication.
“The headset is probably one of the most underestimated pieces of professional equipment of modern, mobile office environments,” said Jesper. “With unified communications (UC) being a major ongoing trend in the industry, using headsets is simply no longer an option for businesses, but a necessity. They play an important role as a technical interface, ensuring a seamless interaction with the company’s IT environment. Beyond this, they also act as a personal interface; for example, when communicating directly with a client.” Both of these elements are vital for the user experience.
Employees must often conduct a great percentage of their business through these devices, all day long. Audio quality and wearing comfort become a more serious priority in these situations, dramatically influencing both the user and the customer experience.
“Companies need to take headsets into account even in the early planning phases of their UC roll-outs, since it can impact the adoption and success of the entire UC deployment. Spending millions on a solution only to scrimp on headsets is akin to buying a Ferrari and then fitting it with budget tires,” noted Jesper.

  • The headset as a sophisticated it device

Headsets must comply with thousands of global standards to serve as this technical interface with a network’s IT system. They must be compliant with softphone providers, and be compatible with mobile operating systems and devices from iOS to Android, from USB to classic desk phones. Sennheiser maintains highly specialized teams dedicated to sound engineering, embedded software development, mechanical and hardware engineering, as well as system architecture. More than half of the company’s R&D engineers are dedicated to developing software.
For the devices to succeed as a personal interface in an office environment, users must feel as if they are in the same room as the person they are speaking to, transmitting the clearest and most natural sound possible. For an audio manufacturer, this requires as much focus on the headset’s microphone technology as goes into the speaker technology.

  • Headsets as “wearables”: the future of premium audio?

Sennheiser sees a potential progression toward the headset as “wearable technology,” since many employees physically wear their headsets through the entirety of their workday.
“In the future, we might see that professional headsets measure physiological stats, such as heart rate, body temperature, respiratory rate, muscle tension and even brain waves,” Jesper surmises. “Using the data gathered, a big data environment could work to optimize the office environment and the individual experience of the user.
“Whatever other capabilities our engineers pursue, the communications experience will still be the most important feature in headset design for the foreseeable future,” Japser confirms. “Sennheiser is proud to drive the category toward a more intrinsic, productive and valued technological role in the greater scheme of the unified communications paradigm. We’re excited to see where these technological trends will lead us.”

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Top 5 Tips For Buying A Bluetooth Headset

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So you have your shiny new smartphone, but spend most your time on the road or at a desk? If your life requires hands free calling then you’ll need a headset, let us help you through the buyer’s dilemma of picking the right one.

  • Will it work with my device?

A lot of people get caught up wondering if a specific model headset will work with a specific smartphone or other device. For the vast majority of our experiences, everything works with everything else. We’ve had cheap $100 stereos connect, we’ve had all but one headset connect to all consoles, iPads and laptops – and we believe that didn’t work because it was faulty! Unless your device is 5 or more years old there shouldn’t be a problem with any headset you choose. The key information to know is that Bluetooth is backwards compatible, so if your headset supports version 4 you know it will work on a smartphone that is version 2 or 3. If you are still unsure just look out for headsets labelled as Bluetooth Ready as this means they will work with anything that has Bluetooth.

  • Do you wear glasses?

Headsets are getting sleeker, more adjustable and comfortable. Unfortunately if you wear glasses those darn earhooks continue to cause varying levels of frustration. We suggest avoiding tight fitting or non-removable earhooks and focus on headsets that go directly in the ear. The biggest problem with glasses and earhooks is not so much the discomfort but the frustration of where your glasses arm ends up resting on your ear. It either ends up pressed against your head, slightly angled resting on the earhook or balancing on the edge of your ear. If you can cope with any of these then the earhook might be fine for you, if not there are some great in-ear solutions like the Jabra Stealth or Voyager Edge, you could even go for something less sleek, like the BlueParrott head clamp (don’t let our silly name put you off).

  • Does it have that new cool feature?

One feature we see a lot of questions about is “does this headset announce the caller?”, the truth is most do but you need to connect your contact list to the headsets app, Google or wherever you’re required. The truth is the first time we got a charging case we were in awe. The first time we were voice-to-text messaging we were excited. Features are great but once that shine wears off, you’ll be more content if the headset doesn’t keep dropping the Bluetooth signal, the talk time battery life is long, voice and sound is clear and noise reduction works. These are the features you need, so make sure the headset does these things first because without them, you’ll end up regretting any purchase once the shine of exciting features wears off. This doesn’t mean you should ignore the cool features, for example having quick access to Siri, Google Now or Samsung S is vital to keep your smartphone hands free. We just recommend ensuring the headset does what it’s made for first.

  • Where will you use the headset?

Will you be on the road, in an office, at the gym, on long commutes or just chilling around the house? The more active you are the tighter you need the headset to fit, so look for retail packages that include multiple sized eartips or earhooks. Without these things you’ll find the headset will fly off and either get damaged or lost in the process. Plus there is nothing worst than dropping your headset and having to reach around for it in the car. Additionally, the more busy the environment the better your noise cancellation must be. Noise cancellation can be the difference between a useful or useless headset. Finally, decide whether you’ll need something sleek because nothing turns heads like a hulking chunk of plastic sticking out your ear in public.

  • Compare Prices and Reviews!

So you’ve figured out that you want a headset for the road with the best noise reduction and an in-car charger? Great – the next step is reading what other users think. The best place to do this is on Amazon. Don’t expect 100% positive reviews with headsets, everyone’s experience is different so focus on what people say about warranty, durability and comfort before finding the best price.