The Blazar by Beacon Audio

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The Blazar by Beacon Audio is the largest bluetooth speaker they make and it packs quite a punch. This is a high end portable bluetooth speaker system with a less-than-high end price.

The nitty-gritty: The Blazar is an approximately three and a half inch cube that weighs in at just under four and a half inches. The body is constructed out of a single aluminum outer shell with rubberized top and bottom. Playback controls are found on top, with raised shapes in the rubber to indicate buttons: up/down for volume control, left/right for skipping and scrubbing, and the center button for play/pause. The back has two auxiliary ports (one for in, one for out), the “share” button, power slider, USB charging port, and indicator lights. The sides are dedicated to speaker grilles for the two 50mm drivers, and the bottom has a built-in pedestal underneath which houses the 60mm bass driver. The front of the device is fairly clean, showing only a logo and the microphone holes.

Bluetooth connection is very straightforward: turn the device on and press and the up button on the top until there’s a beep and the LED light flashes to indicate pairing mode. Then you just find “Blazar by Beacon” in your bluetooth devices list. It’s always convenient when devices have an easy to find bluetooth name. Bluetooth connectivity is only 2.1, which is fine, but 4.0 is ubiquitous (and cheap) enough that there’s no reason Beacon shouldn’t have included it. 4.0 saves energy and is often more reliable.

IMG_4075The Blazar includes NFC to make connecting with NFC enabled devices practically effortless: just place your phone near the speaker and wait for the connection dialog to pop up. While this popup showed very quickly for us (within 3 seconds), actually connecting to took a couple attempts. Still, this is a useful feature that saves us the trouble of navigating menus, and it’s possibly fast enough to connect while receiving a phone call to quickly enable speaker phone use.

The Blazar also includes the ability to connect a second blazar unit to use the pair as left and right channels. We didn’t have the opportunity to test this feature out as we were only sent one unit, but the idea seems pretty straightforward: put both speakers into pairing mode, press and hold the share button on the back until they connect and each will announce which direction they’re being used as. Then you just connect your phone and boom, stereo bluetooth speakers. Look ma, no wires!

With both in and out auxiliary connections, you can use traditional 3.5mm cables to connect and to daisy chain other speakers.

Playback controls are situated on top, and should be familiar to most: up and down arrows control volume, left and right buttons control both skipping forward and back, as well as scrubbing through media by holding the buttons. The center button will play or pause, and holding the button will put the device into pairing mode. There is a disturbingly loud beep when turning the volume to max, however. This really should be a lot lower, both in volume and tone.

Build quality for the Blazar is very solid. The single aluminum piece that surrounds the four sides and tough rubberized top and bottom make for a sturdy piece of kit that will no doubt take the odd bang or small fall without too much issue. The larger drivers give the device a satisfying but not encumbering heft. The playback buttons are built into the top using a single rubber surface, which will provide durability over time. The rubberized bottom give it a nonslip grip on pretty much any smooth surface

The sound you get from the Blazar is pretty exceptional considering how small this thing is. You get a great response from the full frequency range at all but the loudest volumes. As with almost any speaker this small, cracking the volume to the max will result in some rather muddy mid tones. Overall, the sound quality exceeds expectations: High frequencies don’t sound like they’re from an empty tin can, nice flat mids that keep everything audible, and bass that actually thumps. I suspect the use of three separate drivers, one of which is dedicated to bass frequencies, is what keeps the sound surprisingly clean.

IMG_4073The Blazar will more than fill small to medium size rooms, and in fact will easily get too loud for practically any bedroom or bathroom—rocking out in the shower is no problem here. In fact, this speaker should cut the mustard for many small get-togethers.

Battery time is reported at 10-12 hours of playback time, and while we haven’t put that claim completely to the test, we have run the device at 50% volume for most of the workday without any signs of stopping. Despite the longevity of battery life, we would liked to have seen some kind of battery indicator.

The Blazar by Beacon Audio includes the same functions you find in most bluetooth speakers these days. What sets it apart is the looks and the sound. You’re getting a very competent sound system from this little box, and a whole lot more sound than you might expect. Set a just over a hundred dollars, you’re getting a lot of boom for your buck.

Check out Beacon’s page for the Blazar here.

 

The Phoenix 2 by Beacon Audio

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The Beacon Audio Phoenix 2 is the followup to their hit original (at least in terms of the now massive bluetooth speaker market). The first Phoenix was a sturdy and reliable kit with a handsome but unassuming exterior. This followup product brings over the best features of its older sibling and adds some nifty new ones.

The nitty-gritty: The Phoenix weighs in at a light 3.6oz in a 3 inch tapered cube and comes in four colors; red, white, blue, and black. Playback and bluetooth control sit at the top and uses a dpad-like control scheme with the usual suspects: volume up and down are right and left respectively while doubling as the forward and back controls. Down is the play/pause button, and up is the function button. The back of the device has a 3.5mm auxiliary-in port, micro USB charging port, and an on/off slider. The sides have speaker grilles, while the front is pretty simple with just a logo and mic holes. The bottom of the device is built as a pedestal for the bass driver to aim downwards. The Phoenix 2 is priced at $59.99 retail.
Connection via bluetooth is very straightforward: turn the device on and press and the up button on the top until there’s a beep and the LED light flashes to indicate pairing mode. Then you just find “Phoenix 2 by Beacon” in your bluetooth devices list. I am appreciative when device makers properly name their bluetooth devices. I hate having to search through indecipherable gibberish device names hoping to pick the right one. With The Phoenix 2, the name on the box is the name it goes by. I was able to connect via bluetooth with zero issues. The speaker uses Bluetooth 2.1, which is unfortunate; the 4.0 spec uses significantly less battery on both ends and seems generally more reliable.

Playback controls are contained on a directional single button at the top of the device, and have a satisfying click that can be felt and heard. Volume, scrubbing, and play/pause work as expected, but I was left wanting with the function button. The button, which shows the company logo, essentially functions only to pair the device. I would have liked to see this button also open Siri or OK Google functionality and answer phone calls.

The build quality is quite nice, especially for the price point. The exterior is plastic with a soft touch rubber coating for nice grip. The indicator LEDs are built into a bezel around the control button which makes for a subtle appearance. Unlike most bluetooth speakers, the speaker grilles use a pleasant cross pattern cutout and uniform black packing for a nice change of pace. The cube-shaped box will fit in with pretty much any decor (unless you’re in a Victorian mansion). Our review unit had a minor gap between the top section and the rest of the housing, but you have to be looking at the unit from directly above.IMG_4069The combination forward/back and volume up/down sometimes get confusing: skipping forward or back is a single click, while holding adjusts the volume. If you’re used to turning your speakers or phone up by a single click, you’ll be in for a bit of a surprise when you try that here.

The sound out of the device is better than expected, but with the compact size of the device, don’t expect to see a hair trick. Sound is delivered via three drivers, two 40mm drivers out the sides and a 50mm bass driver that is just above the built-in platform at the bottom for optimal acoustics. You can turn the speakers up to fill a medium-sized room, but maxing out these small drivers will inevitably bring with it some distortion and the lows and mids tend to get muddy.

At middle volumes, this speaker performs well across the frequency range with audible mids, highs that don’t get tinny, and lows that are surprisingly full from such a small package. As you can expect, The Phoenix 2 sounds great when faced with vocal and acoustic performances, but struggles slightly with low headroom pieces that span the frequency range.

Battery time is reported at 8-10 hours of playback time, and while we haven’t put that claim completely to the test, we have run the device at 50% volume for most of the workday without any signs of stopping. Despite the longevity of battery life, we would liked to have seen some kind of battery indicator.

The Phoenix 2 is a respectable piece of kit with clear intentions: a wireless speaker that will move around with you, mostly at work or at home, but isn’t really intended for being constantly on the move. The speaker sounds great and is easy to use, and is priced competitively for the specs it offers.

Check out The Phoenix 2 on Beacon Audio’s website.

RAVPower Dual USB Travel Charger

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RAVPower brings to the market some of the most innovative and useful accessories for your everyday life and all the gadgets in it. RAVPower has recently released a new product to help power your mobile lifestyle. The RAVPower Dual USB Travel Charger features two iSmart power USB ports in a pocket-size package that can go with you anywhere. The built in wall plug helps to make this charger super portable, and the iSmart USB plugs will automatically detect the maximum charging rate of your devices to charge as fast as possible without damaging any of your device’s sensitive electronics.

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At only three ounces and two inches square, you can throw the RAVPower Dual USB Travel charger in your backpack or purse along with a cable so that you can juice up your smartphone or tablet wherever you are. And at 24 watts, you can be confident your devices are charging at full speed, even power-hungry devices like the iPad or other tablets and large USB powered devices.

Olloclip 4-IN-1 Photo Lens for iPhone 6 and iPhone 6 Plus

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Like its predecessors, the all-new 4-IN-1 Photo Lens delivers a wealth of creative options, including the ability to capture and share creative angles not possible with the native phone lens. It features four quick-change photo lenses (fisheye, wide-angle and 10x and 15x macros) in one compact design that weighs in at less than an ounce.  Though similar to those available with larger DSLR cameras, these lenses are sized small enough to fit in a pocket, purse or hand. And because of olloclip’s patented design, the lens system clips on and off your device in seconds with no extra mounting plate or case needed – allowing the lens system to also be shared with friends on like devices.

This redesign of its patented lens system features three key new innovations:

  • Front and rear-facing camera design — to capture the perfect selfie or any favorite moment in fisheye, wide-angle or 10x & 15x macro.
  • One lens system containing four unique lenses — works with both iPhone 6 (4.7 inch) and the larger iPhone 6 Plus (5.5 inch).
  • Wearable pendant — makes this the first wearable smartphone lens.

The growing popularity of the selfie and improved quality on the front-facing camera were the impetus for this product line renovation. Continuing its trailblazing efforts in mobile photography, olloclip has not only designed a more versatile photo lens, the company has once again set the bar on creative multimedia possibilities that can be achieved using a smartphone.

Order the Olloclip 4-IN-1 Lens for iPhone 6 & iPhone 6 Plus
Visit Olloclip’s Website

Five Products That Are Way Too High Tech

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Technology these days has invaded almost every part of our lives, whether we like it or not. Even our refrigerators are WiFi enabled. But it seems as though some device manufacturers have gotten a little too trigger happy when it comes to creating products that follow this trend. Some things probably don’t need to be “connected” or high-tech. This author personally feels that the following items definitely fit comfortably in that category. Let’s do it: [Read more…]

Pebble Steele Smartwatch Review

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The Pebble Steele Watch is the second iteration of the Pebble Smartwatch. The Pebble allows you to receive notifications from your Smartphone and even run apps that have been developed for the Pebble Smartwatch. At DailyAppShow we were excited to get our hands on the watch and see what all of the hype was about. Check out the video below for our impressions and how to use the Pebble Steele Smartwatch.

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Purchase the Pebble Steele Watch
Visit Pebble’s Website