The Wrap – Cutting the cord on sound

You take audio where you go, and your options are bigger than ever. Find out how with an all-audio five minutes, covering Bang, Beats, Samsung, Sonos, Apple’s AirPods reviewed, and more.

Transcript

It’s the first week of April, and you’re tuned into The Wrap, Australia’s fastest technology roundup, and if you’re listening to this on a pair of earphones plugged into your phone, you might not realise you have options.

There’s more choice than ever these days, as audio companies look to keep us connected, but unencumbered, making it possible to keep your tunes, your sounds, and your podcasts like this one, but without the cords.

It’s not that cords are bad, but we’re in the cordless generation, and you have options if you want to skip the cord and go totally modern.

That’s not exactly a new thing: take a quick wander around the web or your local electronics store and you’ll see just that. There are a lot of choices in personal audio, from small to medium to big without a cord connecting you to a phone… and this week there are a few more.

Beats is the obvious one, with the Apple-owned brand adding to the wireless world with the Powerbeats Pro, fitness-focused earphones that cut the cords entirely.

Much like the AirPods — you know, Apple’s white wireless earphones that look a little like cordless toothbrush heads in each ear — the Beats Powerbeats Pro offer the look of the regular Powerbeats — which we’re told will stick around — but without the cables.

They’ll cost $350 in Australia, and will be ambidextrous, meaning the controls work on either side, and they’re not alone in terms of what’s new in wireless sound.

JBL has a couple of new headphones in Australia, both supporting Amazon Alexa and Google Assistant, encouraging you to talk to your headphones to get things done.

They’re still mostly for music, but the new aluminium-finished JBL Live 400 and 650 are wireless headphones, made for folks who want to spend below $300 to have sound fit on and around their ears wirelessly and easily.

You can always spend more than this, and earlier in the week, Bang & Olufsen announced a pair of headphones that would force you to, collaborating with luggage brand Rimowa for some special edition cans that came in a metal case. As you do.

They hit the $1300 price point, making them positively not cheap — not cheap at all — and five hundred bucks more than the regular pair of Bang & Olufsen H9i, which outside of the look and the case are identical.

But special editions rarely have logic, and are all about that: being special.

There are also new soundbars along the way from Samsung, with its Q series soundbars offering Dolby Atmos, the 3D sound technology that fires audio around you, using your room to make it feel like the sound is everywhere all from a speaker near a TV.

And if you don’t yet have a speaker in your life, you might want to wait, because the Sonos and IKEA collaboration Symfonisk is looking like it’ll see release later this year. We don’t know pricing, but it marks the first time you’ll find a real speaker — not just a fake showroom one — in an IKEA store. Crazy.

That’s one product we’re getting a lot of questions about, but one of the most requested reviews we’ve had recently is Apple’s latest earbuds, the AirPods 2. Now they’re not technically called that — Apple doesn’t add the “2” on its AirPods, only the iPhone and iPad — but that’s what they are: the second-generation AirPods.

And you know what? Even though they’re the second-gen, they have a lot in common with the first-gen: they look the same, they feel the same, and if it wasn’t for a new chip and charging case, we’d swear they were the same.

That new chip means you can talk to Siri on an iPhone more directly, though the AirPods can work with an Android, too. No Siri there, sadly.

As for audio, the sound is great if you’re in a quiet room, but less so if you’re in public. It’s not that it’s bad, but the design hasn’t changed, so the AirPods let quite a bit of sound in and out, meaning you need to turn them up to account. That’s not good for your ears, though we’re not sure anyone will care.

The AirPods have become a bit iconic, and the new version — which replaces the old one — is basically an improvement for wireless connectivity and Siri control. There’s also a wireless charge case, meaning you can charge them alongside an iPhone on a wireless charge pad.

Of course, if you don’t want to upgrade, you can just buy the case by itself, which is a quaint little upgrade for folks happy with their AirPods already.

Frankly, there are better wireless earphones out there if you look, but if you want Apple’s earpods in a wireless design, the AirPods offer more of the same with just enough improvement to matter.

And that’s it for this edition of The Wrap, Australia’s fastest technology roundup. These stories and more can be found at pickr.com.au, and The Wrap appears every Friday at PodcastOne and Apple Podcasts. We’ll be back next week for more technology in five, but until then have a great week. We’ll see you next time on The Wrap. Take care.

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