Category Archives: iPod

Cambridge Audio Sonata NP30

Sonata NP30 Cambridge Audio have been lurking in the streamer business for years but have been hard pressed show any appearance on the shop shelves. Now it looks as if they are finally getting to a shop near me with their recently announced Sonata NP30 Network Music Player. The apparatus is neatly designed yet slightly on the conservative side of the front panel fence.

On the spec side the player offers 24-bit/96KHz playback of Flac and other formats through its Wolfson DAC, streaming from a variety of sources – wired and not.

As with everything else on this planet, the device can be remote controlled from the ever present iPad/iPod/iPhone.

a-JAYS Four

Swedish headphone company a-JAYS have long been the producer of some very nice earplugs. With the a-JAYS Four they ad a microphone and inline remote control for use with Apple iPod/iPhone. And now it comes in white.

Well, all is not iPods. The a-JAYS are formidable earplugs in their own right. They sound incredibly good and are very nicely built. With the Four model they add a microphone and a miniscule remote control with multi-click features placed inline on a no-twist ribbon cable. The mic/remote combo is built specifically for the Apple iPhone but also works with other telephones, such as my [company issued] Blackberry Curve.

There are no downside to speak of. The connector is a 90° mini jack which is not exactly a super intelligent solution. Accidentally pulling the cable will damage either the cable or plug, or worse, the connector on the phone.  The earphones come in a nice little box that doubles as storage for the assorted earpieces. The problem is, however, that if you switch for smaller plugs, the originals don’t fit in the box. It would have been nice to have room for the default plugs. These are very small issues, though. The plusses are a perfect fit [in my ears, anyway] and really, really good sound quality. Binaural recordings from B&W Society of Sound’s Accidental Power Cut Sessions sound like nothing you have ever heard before. Frequency response is relatively neutral, favouring acoustic music without sacrificing bottom.

Bang & Olufsen Beosound 8

bosound8Bang & Olufsen has joined the iPod dock wagon and done it in as much style as one has come to expect. Equally expectable is the lack of vision in as much as the Beosound 8 does not support wireless audio streaming. Instead Bang & Olufsen relies on external devices for streaming, such as the Apple Airport (which they explicitly mention) or presumably anything with a Toslink connector such as Logitech Squeezebox.

A bit more novel is that support for Apple’s iPad. Anything Apple will fit in the connector. Drop in an iPad and you have yourself a pretty nice transistor radio with room adapting sound processing. Nice. Less nice, of course, is the fact that anything not Apple, is pretty much left out to dry.

As iPod docks go, this one looks good. Incredibly good, in fact. But iPod docks are legion. Did someone say “been there – done that”?

Wireless iPod dock for Sonos

sonos-wireless-dock_w500Sonos today announced  a wireless dock for Apple iPod Touch and iPhone. The dock allows you to stream music from your iPod to Sonos devices across your home. Sonos already has an analog line-in that can be streamed. Adding the iPod lets you only wish for one extra thing and that is a streamable digital input. Couldn’t be far away, I am sure.

Naim UnitiQute

NaimQute The people who gave us the NaimUnity last year have gone and done it again. This time with a cute little device aptly and cleverly named The UnitiQute. The main difference from the NaimUnity is the absence of a CD transport. In other words, the UnitiQute is for those who don’t care about perloid plastic discs or those who have a plenty of sound elsewhere and needs an extension.

The front is sleek and minimalistic and very Naim.  The back panel abundant with connectors for all things digital and a few analogue for good measure. The UnitiQute streams from internet radio stations and from network storage devices, be it a regular NAS or that equally sleek Naim HDX in the living room. In addition to networked music, the UnitiQute plays music from attached devices, such as iPods and USB harddrives.

Flac support of up to 24bit/96KHz puts it well in the clear with the competition. With a built-in amplifier yielding 30W of smooth niceness it is fairly self contained and should fit any small living area. Put an HDX in the study with your Focals, a Unity in the living room and a Qute in the bed room and your retirement is pretty much secured.

Apple Airport Express

Apple Airport Express The Apple Airport Express is not new by a long shot, 6 years in fact, but it does sport a nice feature making it worth mentioning anyway, a feature I failed to mention when commenting on Apple TV: They act as a remote output through what Apple has aptly named Airtunes. You can select Airports and Apple TVs around the house when playing songs from iTunes and have them play through one or more simultaneously. What is more, it has a Toslink connector buried inside the miniscule output jack for a purely digital connection to your sound system, should it support it. Actually, the Toslink connector is much preferred over the analog output due to excessive and quite audible hum from the built-in power supply.

Apple Airport Express There are a few catches. You cannot kill a connection initiated by one computer from another, i.e. you cannot start your music from the computer in the office and then when you get to the kitchen, take a computer there and select another song. This can be a major hassle [to be very diplomatic] if you use more than a few computers. Also you are pretty much limited to playing music via iTunes. There are a few hacks out there allowing you to route sound from other applications to an Airport, such as Airfoil from Rogue Amoeba, but these tools are compromises. Particularly latency is a big issue, especially when watching video and routing the sound elsewhere. Applications competing for the Airtunes connection is another issue adding to the brew of annoyances. Having to manually kill a connection made by Airfoil to open one for iTunes is certainly not befitting my workflow.

Setting up an Airport is straight forward. With it comes a setup application that browses the network for Airports and lets you connect to whichever one you like and configure it. Should you have special needs in terms of authentication protocols or topologies it lets you handle that too, albeit considerably less elegantly.

The Apple Airport Express costs next to nothing so if you already use iTunes, this is a really cost efficient means to a distributed music system. Airtunes has some design flaws but works remarkably well considering.

Bowers & Wilkins P5

Bowers & Wilkins P5 British hi-fi deluxe company Bowers & Wilkins have spawned a first born of a new family of products – headphones. People have cried for years and begged for the mighty islanders to get on with it and build a pair. Now they have. Specs are sparse at the moment, as are all sorts of availability data. But the photos are portents of good things coming this way. Indeed.

Efforts has been put into verbatim sound reproduction instead of meaningless enhancements that could never fit two persons anyway, let alone thousands. The ear pads are semi-closed to allow some ambient sound to pass and covered in leather. The cable has an inline iPod remote control and, what is quite a rarity, the cable is user changeable. If that means that there is an optional remote-free cable is unclear but that would definitely be something to hope for.

Sonos ZonePlayer S5

sonoss5 Sonos have ruled the streaming kingdom seemingly for eternities now but have been subjected to more and more frequent bashings for stubbornly sticking to less than standalone-friendly ZonePlayers. In others words: Why don’t they make a real standalone player for the kitchen (or wherever this makes sense)? Now they have… The ZonePlayer S5 is one such thing. A monolithic heat fan from appearance; a well spec’ed transistor radio beneath.

Each driven by a D-class amplifier of unknown grandeur 5 drivers form the bessel. One of these is a 3½” center positioned subwoofer [remember 3½” floppy disks? Woof!]. Otherwise it appears to be spec’ed like its brethren ZonePlayers. Like these the S5 can be controlled by the dedicated CR100 or Cr200 controllers, or from a PC or an iPhone.

Parrot RKi8400

Parrot RKi8400 There are many more or less curious ways to get digital sound into your car many of which involve some sort of iPod connectivity. With this car sound system, Parrot have brewed themselves a concoction that raises itself above the rest, at least in terms of user experience.

All the standard stuff such as FM radio, Bluetooth hands free  and Bluetooth audio streaming (A2DP), and MP3 playback from memory card is there, in a 4x50W package. On top of that it can play music from an iPod. Not through some old fashioned analogue jack but through a genuine iPod dock that lets you browse music complete with album covers and track information on a built in colour display. Nice.

Sony NAS-Z200iR and CMT-Z100iR

Sony CMT-Z100iR Now we are back to some bona fide digital news. Sony just announced a new system consisting of a media streaming apparatus called NAS-Z200iR. As to why Sony have chosen to use the term NAS in the name is a bit of a conundrum, since the device does in fact not have any storage to share. What it will do, however, is receive music from a DLNA compatible server (meaning pretty much everything), host an iPod in a docking station or play a CD. It even has an old fashioned AM/FM radio for when the internet radio stations are not enough. How about that?

On a curious note aside, the NAS lets you control an iPod from a wireless remote roughly twice the size of an iPod Touch. I know, I know. You get speakers and amps and stuff. But still. If you look past all that.

At the same time Sony announced another device called CMT-Z100iR. It looks roughly like the big sister NAS, but instead of having everything remote controlled, controls are mounted on the base of the iPod dock. This one comes in white as well. Pretty cool looking too.

Specs have not been revealed yet for either device. Can’t be long, though.

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