Australian technology news, reviews, and guides to help you
Australian technology news, reviews, and guides to help you

The Wrap – Spatial Audio & New Gear Aplenty

This week on The Wrap, finish off Mobile World Congress with 5G, fast chips, and new smart devices, plus the latest gear coming to your life, including cameras, earphones, and a speaker made for spatial audio. All in five.

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It’s the beginning of July 2021, the middle of the year is here, and you’re listening to The Wrap, Australia’s fastest technology roundup, and as a tech show overseas draws to a close, all we can do is watch from afar, because we are in lockdown.

Mobile World Congress saw some pre announcements last week, but there was more this week, with 5G still centre stage. You won’t get a boost of 5G from a vaccination, but you may see more reach as telcos improve the towers and reception. Telstra noted its 5G network is covering 75 percent of Australians, while 4G is in reach of almost everyone at 99.4 percent.

5G isn’t the only talk at a conference for mobility, with Qualcomm showing off the next fast chip it has in its arsenal, the Snapdragon 888 Plus coming to phones at the end of the year, while Samsung showed off what we can expect from its next wearable, at least with how it works.

Samsung’s announcement kicked off what would be a week of accessories of sorts, because that’s what the wearable is, even if it’s one for your wrist. While Samsung has previously used its own Tizen OS, this year will see it replaced with Google’s WearOS, which will include apps that look more like what they do on your phone, and even have a way of designing watchfaces for developers. There’s no word on the watch itself, but that’s expected in the next couple of months with a Samsung Unpacked event.

Lenovo also announced a few accessories of sorts, with some tablets that can stand up by themselves thanks to a kickstand as the company looks back at an old Lenovo tablet design, as well as a new smart clock.

That’s Lenovo’s take on the Google Nest Smart Display made small. Made for right next to your bed, even. With a 4 inch display and speaker, it’s a tiny bedside smart speaker, and this time will support a wireless charging pad. No word on price in Australia, but we’re expecting around the hundred mark when it launches later on.

Dell had an accessory not long after, handy for folks working from home looking for a better webcam for their remote working world. It’s a webcam modelled off a properly big camera, coming in the Dell 4K Ultrasharp webcam, which not only brings more resolution, but also some tricks to keep you centred and brightly lit in the frame. That’s more than you can say for your regular laptop camera, we’re sure.

Of course, there’s always a real camera, and there’s another of those this week, as Nikon launches the Z FC, a camera that looks more like a Nikon from the 1980s, the Nikon FM2. While we’re not sure the new camera will be as beautifully built, Nikon is taking that old film camera and modelling its digital camera on the retrolicious style, with controls up stop, a leather textured body, and 20 megapixel sensor with support for 4K video capture.

And there was quite a few accessories for your ears, too, but we call them earphones.

Campfire Audio launched a couple of bright and bold earphones, though they’re wired. We don’t see many of those anymore, but the Honeydew and Satsuma earphones definitely stand out, both at under $400. Meanwhile, Sennheiser launched a pair of truly wireless earphones that do away with the cords entirely, because that’s what most people expect, in the $200 Sennheiser CX True Wireless, which aim to be balanced and well-priced.

And there’s something else in the wireless earphone world coming from a brand you may not have heard of, Nothing — that’s the name — set to launch on July 27. We’re not quite sure what Nothing will launch, but the early rumours are it’s “something” big.

We doubt it will be quite as big as a speaker we’re checking out, though, as we put a 360 degree speaker from Sony through its paces.

You might have heard about this whole surround sound music thing that’s going around. Sony calls it 360 Reality Audio, and has for some time, while Apple calls it “spatial audio”, and there are now music services that deal in it. You don’t need special headphones or speakers for it, because it’s a new way of engineering music to sound more dimensional. However the better the headphone and speaker, the more impact it makes.

And Sony’s RA3000 is a speaker built specifically for 360 sound, though it comes with some catches.

It’s a tall and chunky cylinder that’ll set you back nearly $500, with a few speakers inside, two of which are designed to send sound ricocheting around your room, creating the feeling of dimensional sound.

However it doesn’t work with every music service, playing the 360 sound from Tidal, but not from Apple Music because Apple Music doesn’t support Chromecast. If Sony had thrown in AirPlay, that might have been a yes, but that’s not the case.

When you do get music to work, the sound is big and bold and balanced, too, but the 360 audio can be hit and miss. Some tracks were brilliant, and yet others fell flat, sounding like they were played through a wall.

The thing is spatial audio sounds great through headphones, but we’re not sure the speaker really nails it the same way. It’s just not there yet, but might be in version two when all the kinks have been ironed out.

Maybe next year when spatial audio has been around for a bit, but right now, we’d stick to a good pair of headphones you already love.

For now, you’ve been listening to The Wrap, Australia’s fastest technology roundup. A new episode can be found every week at Listnr, Spotify, and Apple Podcasts. Otherwise, have a great week, and we’ll see you next time on The Wrap, and take care.

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