This week on The Wrap, hear all about the latest in sound, with a new soundbar from Sonos, Sony’s latest headphones, Google’s truly wireless noise cancellers, and the death of Apple’s iPod. All that and more in five.
For the middle of May 2022, this is The Wrap, Australia’s fastest technology roundup, while there have been weeks so far that felt a little slow as far as technology news and releases go, this week was not one of them.
Lots of stuff from lots of makers as high-end audio maker Astell & Kern launched new pricey earphones and a digital to analogue converter for folks who like their portable audio just that much better than normal, handy because a legend of the portable audio world also ended this week.
You probably don’t think about the iPod much these days, but you certainly won’t from now on, because Apple has ended that product this week.
It didn’t come as much of a surprise, mind you; the only iPod left in circulation was the iPod Touch, and that’s basically like an iPhone 5 minus the mobile technology. These days, any and every phone can work as a media player, and while the iPod Touch was a great little not-quite-iPhone for kids and others, you’re probably handing off an old phone or iPad to your kids, so that matters a little less.
Apple’s other iPod models have been missing in action for ages, and so whether you loved the compact Nano, the positively tiny Shuffle, or even the original wheel-based model, the whole line of iPod devices are now retired, and so is the name.
But that may not matter. We are all using phones these days, or maybe even tablets and computers, and we may even be using earphones and such, too.
There’s a new pair of those coming alongside a new phone in the coming months, as Google talked up lots of things at its Google I/O conference this week. Mostly online, there will be physical things on the way, including a mid-range 5G Pixel 6 model the 6a with a slightly higher than midrange 749 dollar price in Australia, plus some Pixel truly wireless earphones that bring noise cancellation to the range. That’s a first for Google, and something the Pixel Buds have needed, with Australians seeing this new model, the Pixel Buds Pro, in the next couple of months for around 300 dollars locally.
Google also talked up some changes to Android, search, and even hinted at its first wearable in ages, a circular watch that would be on the way later, but the phone and the earphones were where much of the attention was.
And this week, that should hardly come as a surprise, because a lot of the focus was on sound.
Sony added to the pile with an update to its 1000X headphone series, a noise cancelling headphone model that first came out in 2016, and has been updated fairly regularly since then. The last model was the WH-1000XM4, and it has won a Best Pick from us every year for the past two years.
This year, there’s a new model that could take its place, as the WH-1000XM5 takes the spot of the XM4. New to this one are improvements to active noise cancellation with more mics and hardware analysing what’s heard, plus a shift in design, a change to the headphone driver build, and the ability for the app to tell you if the sound is too loud.
They won’t be cheap, with the WH-1000XM5 expected to cost 650 bucks in Australia, but we’re hoping to have a review real soon to tell you if they’re worth it.
And Sonos also managed to get in with some sound stories this week, and it’s not just a few new colours for one of their speakers. Oh, that’s definitely a part, but more interesting is a soundbar on its way out to Australia made to be more cost effective.
If you’ve ever cursed your TV because the sound wasn’t that great, that’s kind of normal. TV sound typically isn’t amazing, and is why upgrading what you hear with a speaker system is often the suggested move. The price, however, is where that can hurt.
With the Sonos Ray, the maker of multiroom isn’t just trying to give you a way to enter its multiple speaker system, but also improve the TV sound for under $500 in Australia.
The speaker is small and built to sit under or in front of most TVs, providing amplified sound with decent bass, but without some of the extras more expensive soundbars offer. You won’t find the 3D spatial sound of Dolby Atmos waiting here like you can on either the Sonos Arc or recent Beam models, but it will deliver lots of sound all the same, and over optical audio.
There’s also no microphone, so you can’t call on Google or Amazon Alexa like you can with others, and means you miss out on Sonos’ other announcement: its own voice assistant coming to Sonos speakers with a microphone.
That is many of them – the Sonos One, Beam, Move, Roam, Arc, and Sonos Five – with the man who plays Gus Fring from Breaking Bad and Better Call Saul, Giancarlo Esposito, lending his voice to talk back to you from your Sonos when it rolls out.
We say “when” because Sonos isn’t rolling out his voice to Australians just yet. We take a bit more testing, and the first places to get Sonos Voice working will be the US and France, though the company says more voices are also on the way.
For now, you’ve been listening to The Wrap, Australia’s fastest technology roundup. A new episode can be found each week at Listener, Spotify, and Apple Podcasts. For now, have a great week, and we’ll see you next time on The Wrap. Stay safe, stay sane, and take care.